Dec 31, 2009
On Sunday, TTC cash fares go up 25¢, or 9%, to $3, and a Metropass jumps from $109 to $121, a 10% increase.
These are hefty hikes. Is the TTC worth the extra money? The short answer is no. I visited New York over Christmas, where the subway costs $2.25 (US), and takes you all over town, 24 hours a day. By comparison, we are getting hosed.
Transit users here probably wouldn’t begrudge the TTC a steep fare hike if we saw improvements. But six years after David Miller won re-election as the “transit mayor,” turning down the mayor’s traditional seat on the Police Services Board to take a seat on the TTC, in what way is the transit system better?
The other night, after the city hall press gallery’s Christmas party at the Hard Rock Café, I waited at midnight for the 505 Dundas streetcar westbound with Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and John Barber of The Globe and Mail. Mr. Barber flagged a cab. That left two of us. Mr. Pantalone told me he is running for mayor. We waited some more.
“People used to love and respect the TTC,” said Mr. Pantalone. “What happened?”
“Back then,” I replied, “the TTC used to show up on a regular basis.”
In fairness, the streetcar soon rumbled up, and we got home safe. And isn’t it nice to have a deputy mayor who takes transit after midnight?
Still, we just don’t have the transit system we once did. Compared with 1980, the year Mr. Pantalone first won election to City Council, today’s TTC is dirtier, more crowded and less reliable. Major improvement appears a long distance away.
“You’re packed in like a sardine and you’re paying more for all of this,” says Patricia Sinclair, who lives on Finch Avenue East in Scarborough and does not drive. Ms. Sinclair has launched a group called “Save our Sheppard” to protest the new streetcar right-of-way on Sheppard Avenue East, the first bit of the Transit City plan.
“We want them to go back to their original plan for a subway on Sheppard East,” she says. “The Spadina [light rail] line goes 12 km an hour. Is that rapid transit? We’re being hoodwinked.”
There is some good news for transit users in Toronto. Yesterday, I tested the new streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Avenue West, from Dufferin Street to Yonge Street. The streetcar came promptly, filled quickly, and ran smoothly.
In another spot of good news, university students -- who apparently lobbied the TTC pretty hard -- will see the price of their transit pass actually drop next year, from $109 right now to $99 in September, 2010.
But overall, the TTC predicts that the fare hike will discourage use. A record 473 million people will have ridden the TTC by midnight tonight (up from 467 million in 2008). Once the fare goes up, in 2010 just 462 million people will ride the Rocket, the TTC estimates. The fare hike will generate $36-million. The TTC also says its costs will rise 6% in 2010, but it will provide no new service.
Am I the only guy who finds it wacky that, even as our mayor professes to fight global warming, we expect transit use to drop?
Over the long term, the TTC predicts that subway and light rail expansion (on Sheppard, Finch and Eglinton avenues, Jane St. and Don Mills Road) will bring in an additional 175 million riders by 2021. If this does come to pass, Mr. Miller will indeed look like a hero. But I would like a better transit system before then.
The other day Councillor Karen Stintz (Eglinton-Lawrence) described being stuck on the Yonge train in a tunnel southbound for 20 minutes, with no one explaining the delay. She decided then to run again for council, because, “we have to fix this.”
Transit users are looking forward to very specific proposals from all the mayoral candidates as to how they will improve public transit within their term of office."
Is the TTC worth $3 a fare? - Posted Toronto
This text, Fleet Safety: Standards and Practices – Safe Fleet Operations for the 21st Century by Jack Burkert, offers both an overview and the “How to” of motor fleet safety, with over 300 pages of easy-to-read standards, solutions and applications.
Included are case studies direct from the author’s 30-plus years of safety management experience, guidance on best management practices, driver training content, accident investigation and prevention, regulatory compliance, insurance and claims, and emerging standards of performance across the loss control and risk management spectrum.
Copies are available through MMTA for only $49.95. Interested companies can view the Table of Contents, read excerpts, or complete an order form online at www.mmtanet.com/mmta.asp?c=655.
The book has been adopted as the official text of the certification and safety education program of the Texas Motor Transport Association and is being distributed to clients and policy holders by a major commercial vehicle insurer.
Burkert has been deeply involved in safety activities since 1975, teaching drivers, managers and executives the benefits and techniques of fleet safety. Testimony before Congress, lecturing at hundreds of seminars, making presentations on fleet safety at over 500 conventions, as well as offering much sought after expert testimony in litigation matters, he has authored multiple books on fleet safety for trucking and passenger transport.
Dec 24, 2009
Dec 22, 2009
But some councillors fear such a deal will cost taxpayers millions, possibly tens of millions more, in exchange for unionized trade workers giving up the right to strike.
Transit City, a $10 billion program and key project of Mayor David Miller, is expected to transform the city over the next 10 years with 120 kilometres of new streetcar lines. The games have added an unprecedented urgency for the TTC to get at least the Scarborough-Malvern line built on time.
Toronto Councillor Doug Holyday said if costs on such a big project went up by only 1 per cent, it would mean an extra $100 million.
"Unions aren't known for giving away things for nothing," Holyday said. "And the right to strike is the power behind the union to a great extent. I'm sure if they're giving up the right to strike, there's something in it for them."
However, Councillor Adam Giambrone, the TTC's chair, insisted that fears of increased costs are unfounded.
"We need the work to be done on time and on budget, and the agreement ensures there will be no delays or extra costs due to labour shortages or disruptions," he said in an email. "The building trades, in exchange, get guaranteed work that allows them to invest training and apprenticeships for young people in Toronto neighbourhoods."
A no-strike deal became possible after changes to construction legislation in Ontario, said Jay Peterson, business manager of the Central Ontario Building Trades, which represents about 70,000 construction workers.
The next round of bargaining for new contracts begins next year, Peterson said.
"Potentially, any union could go on strike and upset Transit City," he said. "That would be terrible for our city and our workers. So we're looking to give away our right to strike so that we can count on seamless construction no matter what happens next year."
During the last bargaining round three years ago, labourers went out on strike, he said.
"Labourers are very important in the application of concrete, working hand-in-hand with the carpenters. So if we had one union like that go out, everything may grind to a halt in a couple of weeks. That would be terrible."
Councillor Peter Milczyn, a TTC commissioner who voted against negotiating such a deal with the Central Ontario Building Trades, said such a major initiative should have included background on whether other no-strike deals have led to higher costs.
Milczyn objected to the handling of the issue, in the form of a one-page memo from Giambrone that was approved in a 7-2 vote with no discussion.
"This came out of left field," he said. "This is not a good process to follow."
Holyday echoed Milczyn's concern that more information is needed on how so-called Project Labour Agreements have worked.
"There should be quite a bit of background information on something this big, and what the effect has been on the overall costs where it's been used before. Maybe it's good. But to go into this blind would be a mistake."
The provincial government has committed to fund the first three streetcar lines to be built under the Transit City program.
A spokesperson for Transportation Minister Jim Bradley referred questions to Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency.
Metrolinx said it is aware of the issue but didn't know the TTC would be dealing with it Wednesday. The transit body has yet to come up with a position on it.
The TTC didn't have a no-strike clause during construction of the $1 billion Sheppard subway line. A three-week strike in 1998 by operating engineers and heavy equipment operators brought work on the line to a standstill.
Dec 19, 2009
When the Region took over public transit in 2005, part of the deal was that all transit assets, including buses, garages and more, would be transferred to the Region.
Ajax and Pickering transferred transit buildings or leased them to the Region in 2008. However, the transfer of a bus garage on Raleigh Avenue in Oshawa is still outstanding. The issue now has a sense of urgency because the facility is slated for a multi-million dollar upgrade with the creation of Hwy. 2 rapid transit bus system using provincial funding.
"We need to get the garage in the name of the Region either in a lease or transferred to us or we potentially lose the funding for the bus rapid transit," said senior solicitor for the Region, Matthew Gaskell.
That's why Region and Oshawa staffs recommended a lease agreement where the garage would be leased to the Region by the City for $1; the Ajax Transit ticket terminal was also leased for that amount. But Oshawa councillors balked, instead pairing the issue with the debate over $8.6 million in unfunded liabilities, including employee pensions and benefits, carried over from the Oshawa Transit Commission.
On Nov. 23, they passed a motion that said if Durham dropped the request for $8.6 million, it could rent the depot to the Region for 25 years at a cost of $1. The other option Oshawa considered was leasing the depot for $440,000 a year for five years, with options to renew the lease.
After a heated debate, primarily among Oshawa councillors and the mayor, Regional councillors voted on Wednesday to send the issue back to Oshawa council and once again request the $1 lease. If Oshawa doesn't agree, Regional Chairman Roger Anderson said DRT will start looking for a new site for the garage because it won't risk losing the provincial dollars.
Coun. Brian Nicholson, one of the Oshawa councillors who voted to pair the two issues together, accused the Region of using threats and intimidation.
"I don't believe that's the way to treat a member municipality," he said.
However, Oshawa Mayor John Gray disagreed. He was opposed to pairing the unfunded liabilities issue with the issue of the lease and said the City's solicitor advised council against doing that. However, he was outvoted.
"If the Region abandons the site, we would continue to have ownership and we would end up with a derelict building on a brownfield," he said.
Brownfield land is land formerly used for industrial purposes, requiring environmental clean up before it can be redeveloped.
As the mayor spoke during the council meeting, Coun. John Neal shouted him down.
"I'm asking for the mayor to stand up for Oshawa," he said.
This earned a rebuke from Mr. Anderson.
"Coun. Neal, if you want to fight with your mayor at home, you can do your fighting with your mayor at home."
Ultimately, councillors voted 23-4 in favour of punting the issue back to Oshawa council, with Coun. Neal, Coun. Nicholson, Coun. April Cullen and Coun. Robert Lutczyk voting against it. Mayor Gray indicated he's been meeting with local councillors and he's hoping they'll accept the deal this time around.
As for the issues of the unfunded liabilities, the Region wants the issue to go to arbitration and so far Oshawa is refusing.
Mayor Gray argues that Oshawa shouldn't have to pay because the municipality contributed a slew of new buses while other municipalities contributed aging buses or none at all, in the case of Whitby, because its transit was contracted to a private company.
But Mr. Anderson points out that in 2008, Pickering agreed to pay the unfunded liabilities for its former transit workers. However, that $210,700 tab was far smaller than Oshawa's.
"Obviously you don't get $9 million in unfunded liabilities by paying your bills," he said.
Dec 16, 2009
The deal that sees an end to what was close to a month-long shut down of public transportation in the city of London, Ontario, sees a total compensation increase of 13.2 per cent – wage and benefits – for unionized workers with the LTC. The agreement covers a 45 month period, LTC officials said.
ATU Local 741 officials said the deal was given a 72 per cent affirmative nod from its members.
"While many issues remain to be addressed, from violence in the workplace and understaffing, to the city's chronic under funding of public transportation in London, sufficient progress has been made to get the buses back on the road," said an officials ATU Local 741 statement.
Work will begin preparing the equipment for service Tuesday morning (Dec. 15) with some form of limited service possibly resuming as soon as the weekend.
Transit officials have asked for the public's "patience and understanding" as full service is restored on a progressive basis.
While efforts are being made to restore transit service, there will be a four- to five-day delay before any buses are back on the road, with full service not anticipated for approximately three weeks, LTC officials said.
"The delay provides the necessary time to complete required servicing and inspection of a sufficient number of buses to start-up and maintain a limited (modified) service. It is expected that the return to full service will take approximately three weeks," LTC officials said.
Updates regarding the details surrounding the return of bus service will be made available through public service announcements and on the LTC website (see link below).
For those with monthly, weekday and semester bus passes, a refund cheque will be issued for the period of no service or a credit will be applied towards the purchase of a January, 2010 bus pass, but individuals must present their November pass. Credit applying to the tuition-based bus pass program will be provided as is detailed in the contracts with respective student councils.
Dec 13, 2009
That's Durham Region's response to the offer from Oshawa to settle a dispute over a bus garage owned by the City.
What's at stake is $82.3 million in provincial money the Region could use to build a bus rapid transit system along Hwy. 2.
Durham and Oshawa have been haggling over the transfer of a bus garage on Raleigh Avenue since the Region took over operation of transit services in 2006. At the heart of the issue is 'unfunded liabilities.'
The Region wants Oshawa to cough up $8.6 million to cover things such as employee pensions and benefits. The City says those costs are now the Region's responsibility.
Oshawa council, on Nov. 23, passed a motion that said if Durham dropped the request for $8.6 million, it could rent the depot for 25 years at a cost of $1. The other option Oshawa considered was leasing the depot for $440,000 a year for five years, with options to renew the lease.
Regional council's finance committee on Wednesday approved a staff recommendation that said the Oshawa offer should be "rejected."
Regional Chairman Roger Anderson has previously said, "We're adamant that they have to give the land to us for $1, we will not rent that property at market value. (Regional) staff have been instructed to start looking for sites."
On Wednesday, Mr. Anderson stated, "If Oshawa doesn't see the rationale of signing a lease for $1 a year, we as a group will have to spend money to buy land and build a garage. If we don't, we don't get the $83 million."
For the bus rapid transit system, the Region needs to have depots in both the east and west end of Durham. A lease has already been reached with Ajax for land, at $1 for 25 years.
Under the rules set out by the Province, the Region either has to own or have a lease agreement in place for all facilities, or it doesn't get any money.
If Oshawa holds firm, the Region would "have to invest some money in (land) acquisition. We can't lose that $83 million," Mr. Anderson said.
Buying land in the Bowmanville area would cost somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000 an acre, Mr. Anderson stated.
It would cost about $25 million to upgrade and expand the two depots.
Oshawa Councillor Joe Kolodzie proposed the option with "nominal rent for 25 years" provided the Region drops its claim to unfunded liabilities.
"I don't support it. I hope the committee defeats it and moves forward," Coun. Kolodzie said. "It's not my position, it's the Oshawa position and I have to bring it forward."
Ajax Mayor Steve Parish said a compromise could be reached, with the City agreeing to the transfer of the Raleigh Avenue garage to the Region, and the matter of the unfunded liability referred to binding arbitration.
"If that's put forward to Oshawa, as a sensible middle ground, no one loses face," he said, adding the alternative is "protracted litigation."
The Oshawa position is "wonderful and makes great press, but it doesn't get the Region the premises. We'll all look like asses and we'll be asses."
The matter now goes to Regional Council on Dec. 16.
Dec 12, 2009
A recommendation going to Regional Council on Dec. 16 calls for almost all transit fares to remain the same. A single adult fare would remain at $2.90.
The only fare increase proposed is the U-Pass for UOIT and Durham College students. It would rise to $63 per semester from the current $60 a semester. The increase would start on Sept. 1 of next year.
During a meeting of Regional Council's finance committee, Jim Clapp, the Region's finance commissioner, said, "As the finance guy, keeping the fares to same, that was a tough, tough thing to do. I agree with Ted (Galinis, general manager of Durham Region Transit), this is not the year to increase fares. Perhaps it's wise to keep them where they are."
DRT is planning no service enhancements in 2010, Mr. Galinis told the finance committee.
The only change being proposed is a summer U-Pass program in 2010. It's a four-month pilot project and the pass would cost $80 for each student.
Dec 9, 2009
Dec 4, 2009
With a fleet of almost 1,000 buses providing 95.3 million rides annually on 168 routes, Calgary Transit is a significant new partner for Nova Bus and will help consolidate the company's growing presence in Western Canada.
The vehicles will be used to both grow their fleet and replace aging, less fuel-efficient buses, enabling Calgary Transit to provide enhanced service to the community.
At stake is the spending of millions of dollars in a city hit hard by the recent recession. Metrolinx, the body appointed by the Province to oversee massive transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area, has offered Durham Region $83 million to get moving on a rapid bus transit project along Hwy. 2. As part of that plan, the Region wants to build two bus depots in the east and west ends of the region at a cost of $25 million each.
In the west, Ajax has offered up land for the depot at a price of $1 per year. For that amount, they will see new construction and new jobs in the town.
The story is a little different in Oshawa. The Region wants the bus depot to be expanded at the current location on Raleigh Avenue but six of the City's 11 councillors are asking for a little more rent than Ajax requested. Oshawa councillors want $440,000 a year in rent, a figure the Region is balking at. Regional Chairman Roger Anderson has made it very clear that if the rent isn't $1, it will look in either Whitby or Clarington for the depot.
The six councillors are using the depot as a carrot to persuade the Region to back off an $8.6-million legal claim against Oshawa to help pay for employee pensions and benefits for transit employees. In 2006, transit systems were uploaded to the Region and the Region claims the $8.6 million is owed. The City counters the Region is now responsible for transit and it should bear those costs.
That fight will likely end up in the courts and should not in any way derail the expansion of the new depot, which will bring $115,000 a year in tax revenue, new construction jobs and new employees to operate the facility.
Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who is also vice-chairman of Durham Transit, is the voice of reason in all this when he notes it would be a real blow to Oshawa if it lost this deal because of a conflict over the $8.6 million.
He's right. Unless Oshawa council acts now, the city could lose this long-term project. The repercussions could affect the entire Region by delaying the rapid transit project if a site other than the existing Oshawa depot has to be found. Rezoning requests and public meetings could drag the project on for some time.
We urge Oshawa council to rethink its position and make it clear to the Region the two issues can be dealt with separately for the greater good of the community at large.
Dec 3, 2009
Oshawa Regional Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who is also vice-chairman of Durham Region Transit, says the project could go to Whitby or Clarington, if Oshawa doesn't extend an olive branch.
"It would be a real blow to Oshawa if we lost this deal because people are being foolish," he said. "Other municipalities seem to be able to do things by the book, why can't Oshawa?"
At the root of the issue is a disagreement between Oshawa and the Region, over "unfunded liabilities."
In 2006, municipalities across Durham uploaded their individual public transit systems to the Region, creating an amalgamated system. Now, the Region is looking to Oshawa for $8.6 million to cover things such as employee pensions and benefits -- costs, the City argues, that should be the Region's responsibility now.
At the same time, the Region received an $82.3-million provincial grant as part of the Hwy. 2 bus rapid transit project.
The plan is to spend $25 million of that updating and expanding the existing transit depot on Raleigh Avenue in south Oshawa and build another depot in Ajax.
Ajax has already agreed to lease land to the Region for $1 a year and Oshawa was expected to follow suit -- until the debate over liabilities started. Now, the City is using that as leverage.
At its Nov. 9 meeting, Oshawa council passed a motion from Councillor Brian Nicholson that gives the Region an ultimatum: drop the fight for the $8.6 million and pay $1 a year to lease the depot property, or else pay market value for the land, about $440,000 a year or $10 million over the 25-year lease term.
Coun. Nicholson said his motion lets everyone walk away happy.
"If you want $10 million in free rent, give up your $9 million claim. Or, pursue your claim and pay for the property, I think that's fair," he said. "If they expect us to give them the $10 million in free rent and still pursue the other $9 million, that's a potential loss to Oshawa taxpayers of $19 million. I don't know how any councillor could justify that."
Regional Chairman Roger Anderson said there is a deadline to spend the provincial cash. If Oshawa won't work with the Region, he said other locations will be considered.
"We're adamant that they have to give the land to us for $1, we will not rent that property at market value," he said. "(Regional) staff have been instructed to start looking for sites. They are looking for land that is serviced and ready to go ... we know Clarington has some. Oshawa Mayor John Gray said Oshawa stands to lose $115,000 a year in tax revenue, and jobs, if the depot goes elsewhere.
"We're also going to be stuck with a vacant, derelict building on a brownfield site," he said. "Members of council are playing poker with this issue, and we're going to end up being the losers."
The motion from Oshawa council will be dealt with by the Region's finance committee on Dec. 9.
Dec 2, 2009
Ontario has a plan that, by 2020, 1 of every 20 cars on the road should be an electric vehicle. To encourage drives to adopt hybrids and electric vehicles, a new license plate is being offered for green vehicles.
Vehicles bearing the new plates will be eligible for a number of special perks, including use of recharging stations and special parking spaces. But the most compelling benefit the new plates will offer is allowing vehicles to use carpool lanes, even if there's just one person in the vehicle. The carpool lane benefit extends until 2015.
In the past, when other municipalities and government agencies have allowed benefits like this, the value of the perk has sometimes been as much as several thousand dollars on vehicle resales. This is another way to encourage matters in order to reach a goal like 5% hybrid or electric vehicles in little more than a decade.
Dec 1, 2009
Seventy-five riders from the GTA began using the Presto card on Monday as part of a pilot project initiated by Metrolinx, the regional transit agency.
The credit-card sized pass is machine-readable and reloadable and will eventually work on all public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area.
Users can load money onto the cards online, by phone or at participating stations.
Those currently enrolled in the pilot project can use their cards at three GO Transit stations — Union, Oakville, and Bronte. Some Oakville Transit buses are also equipped to read the Presto card.
The only Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) station that takes the card is Union, although the program will be expanded to include other major stations in the coming months.
Reader deducts fare automatically
The vice-president of policy and planning of Metrolinx said using the card is easy.
"So you arrive at the station, you tap on to a little register," Leslie Woo told CBC News. "It deducts automatically from your card that you registered with a certain amount of money … and you're on your way and that's it. No transfers, no metal, no paper."
In the next three weeks, 500 people will begin testing the Presto Card, Woo said.
The program will be steadily expanded over the next few months to include a number of stations and transit agencies.
Coming by Spring 2010:
* Oakville Transit.
* Burlington Transit.
* GO's Lakeshore West Georgetown and Milton rail lines.
* TTC's Bloor/Yonge College, Dundas, Queen’s Park, St. George, St. Patrick stations.
Coming by Fall 2010:
* Mississauga transit.
* Brampton transit.
* GO Transit's Lakeshore East, Barrie and Richmond Hill GO rail lines and bus routes.
* Hamilton Street Railway.
* TTC's Kipling and Islington stations
By the winter of 2011:
* Durham Region Transit
* York Region Transit
* GO Transit's Stouffville GO Rail line and all remaining GO Bus routes
* The TTC's Don Mills, Downsview and Finch Subway stations.
Ottawa's OC Transpo system is also expected to begin using the card system by the winter of 2011. The province has awarded a $250-million 10-year contract to management consultant company Accenture to design and implement the Presto card system.