Jun 18, 2010

DRT surveys Ajax riders about route changes

Durham Region Transit is inviting Ajax bus riders to provide their two cents about recent route changes.
DRT made numerous changes to routes in May in response to the closure of Fairall Street for construction. The street is often used by buses to travel from the GO station to other parts of Ajax
.
The changes are meant to be temporary, but DRT is conducting a survey where the feedback might result in permanent changes to some routes.

Due on July 15, the survey is available online at durhamregiontransit.com or riders can pick up a copy from their bus driver. They can be returned to any bus driver, faxed to 905-666-6193 or mailed to: Durham Region Transit, 605 Rossland Rd. E., Box 623 Whitby, Ontario, L1N 6A3.

Link:  Durham Region Transit surveys Ajax riders about route changes

Jun 12, 2010

Bye-bye bus bays: Ottawa cutting out stops

The City of Ottawa is on a mission to eliminate bus bays that are scattered throughout the city in an effort to encourage more people to use public transit.
The city is currently doing restoration work along Greenbank Road between Baseline and West Hunt Club, including taking out the divots in the curb where buses can pull out of traffic to take on and drop off passengers.

The elimination of these bays is part of a policy the city implemented before the 2001 amalgamation, said Bay Councillor Alex Cullen, chair of the city’s transit committee.

“The city originally thought (bus bays) would be a convenient way to pick up and drop off passengers … but the buses get marooned, particularly during rush-hour traffic, and this throws them off their schedule,” Cullen said. So the city has been removing the road features when the time comes for major reconstruction.

College Councillor Rick Chiarelli does not agree with elimination of the bus bays. “We built those for a reason: so the buses could pull in and cars could keep going.”

While the intent of the policy change was to encourage people to take the bus, Chiarelli said, he does not think this is the right way to do it. Removing the bus bays will only slow other vehicle traffic, he said, which might make buses more attractive by comparison, but “I don’t think you can punish people into taking the bus.”

Cullen said the city had received some letters from drivers who thought the removal of bus bays was an inconvenience, but maintaining the reliability of the city’s transit system would be a priority.

“I think it’s important that our transit system work well, and the short inconvenience that cars will have to go through when a bus stops is minor,” Cullen said.

Rick Zarzosa, chief engineer of the city’s transit priority section, said the bus bays were being removed as part of roadway reconstruction throughout the city.

A few bus bays on Meadowlands Drive have already been removed, and those on Bronson Avenue, Hunt Club Road and March Road are next on the list.

Zarzosa said he could not provide an exact number of bus bays in the city.

“Without the bus bays, we save money on the transit-operation side and the on-winter road maintenance,” he said, adding that fewer buses were required when time was saved and buses kept to their schedules.

Link: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/bays+City+cutting+stops/3133908/story.html#ixzz0qdyyHVzt



Jun 3, 2010

TRANSIT FARE MEDIA FIASCO AT DRT

On June 1st the stores at the Pickering Go Station were closed due to construction and won't open again for some months.

One major problem is that the store that sold all Durham Region Transit passes and tickets has closed and now DRT has advised that the only places to buy passes and tickets for riders using the GO Station is at the Pickering City Hall, on Glenanna north of the 401 or at the Pickering Recreation Complex which is also north of the 401 on Valley Farm Road.

Customers who come into Pickering on the GO Trains or Buses will now have to make a special trip to one of the 3 locations above to purchase fare media. This will no doubt cause some angry complaints from customers who wonder why something cannot be set up at the Go Station even if only for a few hours per day. Not only will some of these passengers have to make the extra trip but they will have to pay full fare to do so for one of the trips that won't originate at the Go Station.

The City Hall is only open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. but the other locations are open 7 days per week and the Recreation Centre has the longest hours. Surely DRT could come up with some way to sell tickets and passes at the GO Station if only on a part time basis.

Mar 12, 2010

Bus route pitched for Scugog Island

The operators of the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino are hoping daily transit service to the Scugog Island gaming hall is in the cards.

The Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation have forwarded a formal request to Durham Region Transit officials, requesting that consideration be given to extending service to the gambling facility in the near future.

The transit provider has been seeking input from the public in recent weeks as it considers its options for future expansion through its long-term transit study.

In a letter to Scugog councillors dated Feb. 9, the Mississaugas council states the First Nation community and other area residents "have always had a need for a bus route that extends service to Scugog Island."

Such a service would provide residents with a connection to other areas of Durham and beyond where they could access medical appointments and other daily needs such as commuting to work and school, said the Mississaugas officials.

The letter, signed by Chief Tracy Gauthier and councillors Della Charles and Kelly LaRocca, also requests that transit officials consider routing a bus northbound on Island Road -- directly past the Great Blue Heron casino -- to the northern tip of Scugog Island before looping around to serve residents on the island's eastern shoreline.

"Such service could be extended in a number of permutations, but we believe that a case could easily be made to support a route that runs at least twice daily during the week and on weekends," state Mississaugas officials.

The Mississaugas also subtly reminded transit officials that a small portion of the revenues from the Scugog Island gaming hall are shared with Scugog and Durham.

"Given the strong partnerships that we have developed with the Region of Durham and the Township of Scugog, particularly since the advent of the casino and the distributions that flow there from, we hope to forge new ways of improving upon the lives of our constituents on both a short- and long-term basis," wrote the councillors.

A call placed to Mississaugas Chief Gauthier for further comment was not returned. A copy of the letter already included in the Scugog council agenda was instead faxed to the Star.

When preliminary work on the strategy began 18 months ago, no concerns were raised by the Mississaugas of Scugog Island or any other First Nation groups, said Durham transit's Phil Meagher.

Follow-up attempts were also made to contact the groups, but no messages were returned, said the transit system's deputy general manager of operations.

Last month, continued Mr. Meagher, DRT officials received a couple of calls from the Scugog Island First Nation requesting "bus service to the Great Blue Heron casino and also some sort of bus route on the island."

Preliminary work on bringing transit service to Scugog Island began in 2007. However, said Mr. Meagher, DRT officials were handcuffed by provincial regulations that clearly state gambling "employees and customers can't ride on the same bus together."

That stipulation has hampered the plan to date, he said.

"We know there's probably a need up there. It's a matter of money and how to implement the service and the (provincial rules)," said Mr. Meagher.

"If I put a bus on the island, do I avoid the casino?" he asked.

At some point in the future, Mr. Meagher noted, he forecasts some sort of resolution which would perhaps allow for two trips each in the morning and afternoon to the island.

"But I'm not sure when that would happen," he added, stressing a business plan would still have to be drafted and endorsed by Regional council.

As for the idea that the casino's cash contributions could influence any decisions, the deputy general manager of operations said that fact has no bearing on transit decisions.

Scugog Ward 3 Councillor Lynn Philip Hodgson, who represents Scugog Island residents, applauded the idea os a bus to the island.

"I'd certainly support it," he said, noting it was time for transit officials to "take a good, serious look at it.

"But the problem is, of course, money -- can we afford it and will there be the ridership," said the Ward 3 councillor.

He noted, however, that there were some "growing pains" when transit was initially introduced to Port Perry a few years ago.

"It started off very slowly and with very few riders, but it started to grow when word got around," said Coun. Hodgson. "It would take some time for word to get out there."

durhamregion.com | Bus route pitched for Scugog Island.

Mar 11, 2010

Mar 1, 2010

Halton council ponders regional transit system

An amalgamated transit system possibly serving Halton’s four communities of Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills will be studied by regional staff.

Halton’s council has directed the works department to consider including an integrated regional transit system into the multi-billion dollar master plan it is developing for transportation projects over the next two decades.

Staff hopes to complete the master plan, dubbed The Road to Change, by the end of the year. Public information centres are scheduled for late March.

Currently, transit service in Halton is handled at the local municipal level, with Burlington, Oakville and Milton all operating separate systems. Halton Hills does not have a conventional transit system, but regional planning documents envision the town could have a small six-bus system by 2031 to service the approximately 25,000 extra people coming to Acton, Georgetown and area hamlets between 2015-31.

In the past decade, both York and Durham regions have created regional transit bodies, taking over the bus services offered by their local municipalities.

“I’ve been an advocate for looking at this (regional transit system) for some period of time,” said John Taylor, vice-chair of council’s planning and public works committee and a Burlington regional councillor, in an interview.

“Milton has a fledgling system, Burlington and Oakville have more sophisticated systems. Can we find a way to find efficiencies?” he asked. “I think we should have the facts in front of us.”

Taylor said a Halton regional transit system would be an intermediate step. The ultimate aim should be a seamless, GTA-wide transit system similar to what is available in Vancouver and its suburbs, he said.

Taylor’s Oakville colleague, Allan Elgar, was more circumspect of a regional transit initiative, in regards to the cost.

“Who’s going to pay?” asked Elgar in a separate interview. “I don’t believe Oakville is interested in subsidizing Halton Hills and Milton in this initiative.”

Elgar was referring to a point raised often by Oakville’s regional council members, that residents and businesses in their town, due to the higher assessment value of their properties, pay approximately 42 per cent of the property taxes that end up at the region though Oakville’s population is only 37 per cent of Halton’s total.

Elgar said Oakville Transit has also moved to a grid-based transit system designed for people to get around the town, while Burlington’s and Milton’s transit agencies still operate radial systems focused on getting commuters to GO stations.

Taylor responded to Elgar’s concerns by suggesting a regional transit system could operate like Halton’s waste collection division, with local municipalities determining the service levels they desire and paying the region accordingly.

While Halton’s transportation master plans have traditionally focused on building more roads — $1.1 billion is projected for such projects over the next 11 years — transit has been at the forefront of other regional plans.

Included in the recently passed amendment to Halton’s Official Plan, ROPA 38, is a target of having 20 per cent of all peak period trips made by transit by 2031, with automobiles used for 70 per cent of such trips and walking, bicycling and other “active transport” modes used 10 per cent of the time.

Reaching that target will require a massive sea change in both the attitudes and behaviour of Halton commuters as well as the level of transit service offered to them. In 2006, only five per cent of peak period trips were made by transit and two per cent by active transport.

The region’s plans depend on the province continuing to invest heavily in inter-regional transit, including the planned electrification of the Lakeshore West GO train line and a bus rapid transit line on dedicated lanes on Dundas Street between Halton and Kipling Station in Etobicoke.

With such investments, the region hopes 42 per cent of peak period trips made outside Halton will be made by transit in 2031. Only 11 per cent of such trips within Halton would be made by transit. Combined, the two add up to the 20 per cent transit target.

That target is not unique to Halton, as York Region, Ottawa, Waterloo Region and Markham are all aiming for the same percentage by 2031.

In the GTA, York has been the forefront of investing in a regional transit system, beginning its York Region Transit (YRT) in 2001. Over the past five years, YRT’s ridership increased 33 per cent, from 13.8 million to 18.3 million, while the region’s population only grew about 13 per cent, according to a Metroland York news report.

York’s privatized rapid transit system, VIVA, expects to be running its buses on dedicated lanes in three years, two years before a TTC subway extension to York in Vaughan is scheduled to be completed. Metrolinx, the province’s transit planning agency, and York are also planning for an extension of the TTC subway to Richmond Hill.

However, that increased level of transit service in York costs money. In 2010, property taxpayers there can expect to cover about 57 per cent of YRT’s $160-million budget this year, according to York’s budget documents. That equates to an approximate $89 per capita investment by York’s one million-plus residents. The region is projecting a YRT ridership at just over 20 million this year.

The investments haven’t had a skyrocketing effect on property taxes in York, however. That region averaged 2.725 per cent annual hikes in property taxes for regional services over the past four budgets. Halton averaged 1.5 per cent over the same period.

In Halton, which has a population just under half that of York, the three local transit systems recorded a combined ridership of 4.4 million, only a quarter of YRT’s ridership. That was split between Milton Transit with 102,000, Burlington Transit with 1.86 million and Oakville Transit with 2.44 million.

Halton residents, however, will pay less per capita for local transit this year, from a low of approximately $14.45 in Milton to a high of $74.50 in Oakville, according to 2010 budget documents listing net expenses divided by the municipalities’ estimated populations.

About one-third or more of the transit budgets in Halton is picked up by ticket fares and other revenues, something that often receives criticism from some residents who complain about seeing empty buses plying local streets.

However, determining what’s a good cost-recovery ratio for a transit system can lead to broader discussions around council tables about other programs offered by municipalities, such as recreation and leisure programs. For example, library boards in Halton receive property taxes almost equivalent to the transit systems, but have minimal cost recovery through user fees, according to budget documents.

The construction and maintenance of non-growth related roads in the region is almost fully subsidized by property taxes. While the subject of toll roads was recently brought up by members of Halton’s planning and public works committee, the discussion didn’t lead to recommendations.

Even with the amount local governments plan to spend on roads, Elgar said money won’t solve traffic jams, especially with population in Halton and around the GTA projected to continue growing in the coming decades.

“The more roads they build, it doesn’t mean the congestion will be less,” Elgar said.

If the region achieves its 20 per cent transit target, automobile trips would increase about 28 per cent by 2031 from 2006, according to statistics from the region’s transportation consultant. By reaching only a 10 per cent peak period transit split, automobile trips would increase 60 per cent over that time span.

Based on existing trends, on top of the $1.1 billion Halton Region has budgeted for transportation projects between now and 2021, it could expect to pay an additional $787 million between 2021-31, the vast majority on roads. An enhanced transit plan, based on the 20 per cent transit target, would cost $812 million over the same time period, with a greater percentage spent on transit though the majority would continue to go to roads.

The public information centres for the region’s transportation master plan, The Road to Change, are scheduled as follows (drop-in starts at 6:30 p.m. followed by presentation at 7 p.m.):

• Burlington - Tuesday, March 23 at Mainway Arena (auditorium), 4015 Mainway

• Halton Hills - Thursday, March 25 at Mold-Masters SportsPlex (Hall), 221 Guelph St.

• Milton - Tuesday, March 30 at the Milton Sports Centre (Banquet Room), 605 Santa Maria Blvd.

• Oakville - Wednesday, March 31 at the Halton Regional Centre (auditorium), 1151 Bronte Rd.

InsideHalton Article: Halton council ponders regional transit system.

Feb 23, 2010

Toronto transit union calls Liberal MPP's attack on TTC workers pathetic

The following statement is issued by Bob Kinnear, President of Toronto's transit workers' union, ATU Local 113, in response to the private member's bill introduced by MPP David Caplan to declare the TTC an "essential service" and thereby substitute binding arbitration for collective bargaining.

"Since the Liberal government assumed power over six years ago, there has been a total of 52 hours in TTC service disruptions due to job action by our union. That's an average of about one minute per day during Liberal rule. Let's compare that minute to the much greater daily delays endured by TTC riders because of the McGuinty government's unwillingness to restore provincial financial support for TTC operations that was taken away by the Conservative government of Mike Harris nearly 15 years ago.

"Every single day, TTC riders put up with service delays, mechanical breakdowns, and vehicles that are so crowded they have to leave riders stranded at bus stops for as long as 20 minutes. There are also the regular fare hikes that greatly exceed both the rate of inflation and any increase in TTC workers' wages. All these problems are the result of a provincial government that wilfully turns a blind eye to the financial stresses on public transit in Ontario's capital city. As is well-known, the TTC is the least-subsidized urban transit system in North America. That may be good for taxpayers outside of Toronto but it's bad for TTC riders.

"It is a pathetic political ploy by a former McGuinty Cabinet member to try to deflect attention away from his government's chronic negligence of environmentally-friendly public transit by attacking the legal rights of transit workers.

"I would be happy to publicly debate Mr. Caplan on which has caused TTC riders more inconvenience: the 52 hours of service disruption due to union job action during the Liberal reign, or the 52,000 hours of service cutbacks, delays, breakdowns and higher fares that can be, at least in part, attributable to lack of provincial operating funding by the McGuinty government during this same period."

Kinnear added that the union will soon be conducting a series of Town Hall meetings in Toronto at which front-line TTC workers will meet with TTC riders face-to-face to air complaints, share concerns and determine what the workers can do to improve the customer experience.

"We will commit to improving those service areas over which we have control," said Kinnear. "But we cannot take responsibility for all those areas of service problems over which we have absolutely no control. That is the responsibility of governments, including the provincial government."

NOTE: Bob Kinnear is in meetings this afternoon and will not be available for media interviews until late afternoon or early evening.

For further information: Bill Reno, (416) 223-7366

AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, LOCAL 113 | Toronto transit union calls Liberal MPP's attack on TTC workers a \pathetic.

Feb 18, 2010

Collingwood's transit system tops 100,000 riders

"Collingwood's transit system is on a roll.

Colltrans saw an increase of more than 18,000 riders in 2009. Ridership jumped to 110,877 riders in 2009 from 92,857 in 2008.

In 2006, the municipality spent more than $1 million - in government funding - to purchase three accessible buses as part of an overhaul of its transit system. The municipality also added more bus stops and shelters, which would be served by three routes.

In 2007, ridership was around 67,000.

Ed Houghton, president of Collus and executive director of public works, said the goal for 2009 was to increase ridership to 100,000.

'It was a pleasant surprise,' Houghton said. 'I think last year, we were just establishing new routes.'

Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier feels the municipality has listened to the public when it comes to the transit system.

'I think we've gone out and done public consultation,' he said.

Carrier said the next step is getting more high school students to ride the bus.

He said the town should work with the schools and provide a free pass for students so they can get used to the service.

'I think it's still an opportunity to get them to be public transit users,' Carrier said.

Last year council also increased the hours of the service by 30 minutes in the morning (6:30-7 a.m.) and to 9 p.m., in the evening. The sixth month trial is set to expire next month.

During the trial period, the 6-7 p.m., period has seen the largest amount of riders, with an average of about 10.

Houghton said he will be making a presentation to council next month on the future of the extended hours.

The morning period only averages about three riders, but in conversations with bus drivers - it's an important service for those using it. He said people working at the hospital or nursing homes use the service.

'I would have thought there would be more,' Houghton said.

Houghton said they are brainstorming some new programs in an effort to get more riders, especially students.

'We're playing with different ideas of how we can get more riders,' he said.

Houghton said there has been preliminary talk about partnering with Wasaga Beach and connecting the two transit systems.

Carrier feels the town will have to expand the service to a fourth bus and provide transit to the soccer fields at Fisher Field."

Collingwood's transit system tops 100,000 riders:

New TTC customer service czar an infrequent rider

"The newly appointed head of a blue ribbon panel advisory panel tasked with improving customer service at the TTC has acknowledged he only uses the transit system a couple of times a week.

The TTC said Wednesday that Steve O'Brien — the general manager of One King West Hotel & Residence located at the corner of Yonge Street and King Street — will chair the panel.

O'Brien has 30 years of experience in the hospitality business and has served on a number of customer service councils, the TTC said.

Speaking after a public meeting of the TTC on Wednesday, O'Brien said he was born and raised in Toronto and often used the TTC in his 'younger life.' But he said he now only takes the TTC a 'couple of times a week' to get around the city.

O'Brien said he lives in Milton and takes GO Transit to his workplace, a 575-unit complex.

The head of the union representing TTC workers was quick to seize on O'Brien's admission.

'I think you have to experience [the TTC] in order to know how to address it,' said Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. 'And it's clear — very clear by Mr. O'Brien's comments — that he is completely unaware of the issues that transit workers face, and quite frankly, the public face.'
No payment

O'Brien — who won't be paid for his work with the TTC — maintained he is qualified to lead the panel, noting that staff at his hotel are unionized.

He said he didn't anticipate any clashes with the TTC union.

'Both the management and the union understand that this is something that needs to be addressed. Customer service can be improved and most likely should be improved,' he said.

'It's not just all about, you know, the staff. It's about the customers, it's about awareness, it's about ... working together. It's about understanding and appreciating everybody. We'll see what happens.'

O'Brien is to work with TTC staff to appoint the rest of the members of the panel, which will likely include TTC officials, members of the public, business leaders and transit experts.

The panel is expected to produce a report by June 30 on how to raise the level of customer service. It will also draft a customer bill of rights.

The commission met Wednesday afternoon to discuss a number of issues, including details around creation of the panel and a report on customer service.

The move to create the panel comes after a barrage of negative publicity for the commission, part of which stemmed from rider frustration over the conduct of some its frontline staff."

CBC News - Toronto - New TTC customer service czar an infrequent rider:

Feb 12, 2010

Durham bus driver describes fiery Ajax car crash

It was like a scene out of a movie for Durham Region Transit bus driver Bob Williamson when he witnessed a spectacular accident at the Westney Road and Taunton Road intersection in late January.

"I saw the car hit the truck and fly through air the and flip upside down," said Mr. Williamson, a Whitby resident. "Before it stopped on the road, it was on fire."

The collision happened on Jan. 22 at about 10:30 a.m. when Mr. Williamson was driving the 915 Taunton bus. He had about 15 passengers on board.

"It's hard to describe. When you see it in the movies, it's a fun thing ... when you see it in real life, it's oh my God, it's actually happening."

The driver immediately asked his dispatch to report the emergency and then he moved his bus out of the way of traffic.

A former fire inspector, Mr. Williamson did what came naturally. He grabbed the fire extinguisher located behind the driver's seat and got to work. Other Good samaritans at the scene, including an OPP officer who happened to be in the area, also helped.

Three other people armed with fire extinguishers helped Mr. Williamson keep the fire at bay until the Ajax fire department arrived. Others helped the two men inside the car to get out.

"We had the flames right down to nothing, but as soon as we backed off, it flared up again," said Mr. Williamson, adding everyone who helped did a great job.

Once the Ajax fire department arrived, firefighters quickly got the fire under control.

Ajax Deputy Fire Chief Mark Diotte said he's not surprised the fire extinguishers weren't enough to put out the fire, but it certainly helped to prevent the fire from growing.

"In my experience, people who are trained with fire extinguishers will attempt to extinguish," he said. "It's generally human nature they want to help."

The key to any fire, though, is to contact the fire department as soon as possible, which occurred when DRT dispatch placed the call.

Mr. Williamson has been a bus driver for 20 years and his fire inspector days ended in the early 70s, but he said he still felt comfortable taking on the fire.

"It was instinctive, hey, there's a fire, go and do it ... besides the fellow was still in the car, I didn't see how they could get him out, but they did."

Sergeant Nancy van Rooy of the Durham Regional Police said there were no serious injuries in the crash. Both men in the car were 20 years old and from Ajax; the dump truck struck by the car was driven by a 52-year-old man from Stoney Creek.

"So far police have not laid charges, but charges may be pending," said Sgt. van Rooy.

Martin Ward, manager of transit operations for DRT's Westney division, said Mr. Williamson is being commended along with other employees who have recently done something exceptional. He added this isn't the first time drivers have acted quickly.

"The drivers call probably two or three times a month and get 911 stared for different accidents, they're like road watch," said Mr. Ward.

Besides traffic accidents, bus drivers also encounter medical emergencies such as seizures and they even keep a look out for missing persons when police are looking for someone.

In 2008 bus driver Rob Rowland was the first to discover a house fire in Ajax.

"He went and banged on the door and got everybody out," said Mr. Ward.

DRT also has a policy that lost children can get a ride home at no cost.

"If you see a bus, it's as good as a moving telephone booth in an emergency," said Mr. Ward.

And as for Mr. Williamson, he has a new nickname at work.

"We just refer to Bob as Firefighter Bob."

durhamregion.com | Durham bus driver describes fiery Ajax car crash.

Feb 5, 2010

Ajax doesn't owe the Region a penny more

To the editor:

It was just a matter of time before jolly Roger Anderson gathered his regular benefactors at Durham Region to see if they could pull off a heist on our casino.

We already donated a perfectly good bus service plus ancillary buildings to the Region. They have now returned rattling their tin cups.

Here's a suggestion for our regional councillors and all the other folks in Durham who have already had a chance to agree on this - Mr. Anderson and friends must re-visit officially the question of an elected Regional chairman, plus fair representation for Ajax, and maybe Ajax council might review the situation. I also note that some of our regional folks want a more stringent check of prospective councillors in case they have broken any laws. That makes even more sense to have a chairman elected at large. He or she can then be equally interrogated.

Personally I think the members of council who are looking for a handout should take care that Ajax does not make a charge to them for all the extra tourists/visitors we attract to our little goldmine on the lake. Stick to your guns Steve, not a penny more.

John Haste

Ajax

newsdurhamregion.com | Ajax doesn't owe the Region a penny more.

Jan 28, 2010

Counterfeit fare? New gadget plays gotcha

The TTC has begun testing a new fare box system expected to eliminate counterfeit Metropasses and tokens.

The device has been mounted on only one bus so far – on the 31 Greenwood route. Another pilot will begin on the Pape bus next month.

The hope is to roll out the $5.3 million system across the entire TTC by the end of 2011.
HOW IT WORKS

1. The rider swipes a Metropass through the reader, which detects the magnetic strip and provides information on a readout for the driver on what kind of pass (student, regular, etc.) is being used.

2. The rider drops a token into a slot. Like those at subway stations, the machine is calibrated to read security features built into the token. If it isn't authentic, the machine will spit it back out.

3. If the fare isn't authentic, the driver has discretion to ask for cash, or radio for a supervisor to be dispatched to the location, with the possibility of calling police.

Counterfeit fare? New gadget plays gotcha - thestar.com.

Jan 24, 2010

Bus driver extinguishes flames after car flips in Ajax

A Durham Region Transit bus driver used his onboard fire extinguisher to put out flames when a car flipped and caught fire after colliding with a truck in Ajax Friday.

It happened at roughly 10:30 a.m. at the Westney Road and Taunton Road intersection.

"Our driver witnessed the accident happen and the car flipped in the intersection and caught fire," said Phil Meagher, deputy general manager of operations for DRT.

The 915 Taunton route driver had his supervisor call emergency services before helping at the scene.

"He used his onboard fire extinguisher to extinguish the fire before emergency services arrived," said Mr. Meagher.

Sergeant Nancy van Rooy of Durham Regional Police said a nearby OPP cruiser also responded. Ajax Fire and Emergency Services showed up shortly after to fully extinguish the fire. Durham police and EMS also responded.

Everyone was able to get out of the vehicles, though one person was bleeding from the head and was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to hospital.

"It doesn't look like injuries are life threatening and terribly serious," said Sgt. van Rooy.

There appeared to be little damage to the green dump truck, but the burgundy sedan that flipped was crushed in the front and fire damaged.

Durham police are investigating the collision and the intersection was closed temporarily.

Mr. Meagher said DRT employees always try to help when something like this happens on the roads and bus drivers have been witnesses to accidents in the past.

"We're sort of the second set of eyes and ears for emergency services when we're out there," he said.

newsdurhamregion.com | Bus driver extinguishes flames after car flips in Ajax.

Jan 18, 2010

Bombardier Flexity Streetcar in Vancouver - First Look!

Light rail construction vexes Sheppard businesses

Construction of a new streetcar line could drive customers away and sap revenue, business owners on a stretch of Sheppard Avenue East say.

The city officially broke ground in December on the 14-kilometre light rail line, which provides streetcars a dedicated right of way between the Don Mills subway station and Meadowvale Road.

The project is part of Toronto's Transit City plan, which will add dozens of kilometres of streetcar lines across the city — particularly underserved areas in the outer reaches.

But Sam Bawab, the owner of Seven Star Electronics on Sheppard near Birchmount Road, said the impact of construction is already affecting his bottom line.

"The bigger businesses are already taking over our clientele," he said. "I think it will cause probably traffic jams and it might affect my business drastically — especially in this economy, right?"

Coun. Joe Mihevc, who sits on the TTC board, admits businesses will be inconvenienced during the line's construction, which is scheduled to conclude in 2013.

"It's short-term pain for long-term gain," Mihevc said. "People like the product, and they like the dream at the beginning. The problem is that construction period — how to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible."
St. Clair line plagued by delays

However, construction on the city's most recent light rail project has been anything but quick and painless. Work that began on a dedicated streetcar line on St. Clair Avenue West in the fall of 2005 was plagued by delays.

The most high-profile stoppage came because of a court-ordered suspension on construction following a legal challenge mounted by advocacy group Save Our St. Clair. The group argued that the project would create gridlock and eat up parking spaces vital to the neighbourhood's survival.

The suspension was later overturned, and construction continued on the line, which is expected to be completed by the spring. But costs have ballooned and businesses have complained bitterly about the drawn-out construction.

Katherine Varvatsoulis, the owner of Katherine's Hair Artistry on Sheppard, is well aware of what happened on St Clair. She said she is simply hoping for the best as construction ramps up outside her business.

"Yeah, [construction] concerns me, but I just wonder if there's anything we can do about it. I don't think so," she said.

The city has learned from the St. Clair experience, Mihevc said, adding planners could have never predicted the difficulties that emerged.

Council has commissioned an independent review of the St. Clair project, the results of which will be presented to the TTC at a meeting on Wednesday.

And Toronto will strive to consult with the public over the Sheppard construction, Mihevc said.

"Year One, Year Two — every month you need to update people [so] they continue to buy into the vision of what you're trying to do and that they are brought along each step of the way so they know exactly where they are in the construction process," he said.

"Light rail is how the city of Toronto is going to become an even better city. There's things that we've learned in the process to do better. That's good. Let's incorporate them, and let's get on with building Sheppard, Eglinton and Finch."

Considered the city's most ambitious plan in a generation, Transit City relies heavily on expanding and adding streetcar lines as opposed to building new subway routes as a means of upgrading the public transit service.

Building streetcar lines is cheaper and quicker than building subway lines, with an estimated price tag of $30 million per kilometre of track. Subway routes can cost more than $100 million per kilometre.


CBC News - Toronto - Light rail construction vexes Sheppard businesses.

Jan 8, 2010

Wiring to blame for fire on Oshawa bus New Year's Eve

A Durham Region Transit bus came to an abrupt stop on New Year's Eve.

A fire broke out in the engine compartment of the bus, just before 8 p.m. on Dec. 31, in the Eulalie Avenue and Ritson Road area of Oshawa.

"We believe it was electrical in origin. Wire shorted out," said Peter Chatoff, the deputy general manager, maintenance and equipment.

There were passengers on board, but no one was injured, Mr. Chatoff stated. "The smoke didn't enter the passenger compartment."

A damage estimate hasn't been determined yet, he added, as DRT is waiting for an appraisal.

"We believe it's repairable," he stated.

"We're contacting our peers in the industry to see if they've had anything of this nature," Mr. Chatoff said.

The bus, manufactured by New Flyer, was ordered in 2006 and delivered in 2007.

DRT has 30 of the buses and "we went through the group," he said, adding insulation to wiring was added to prevent a similar incident happening again.

New Flyer representatives are expected to come and inspect the bus, he said.

Similar New Flyer buses were kept off the road until they could be inspected and preventative modifications could be made, Mr. Chatoff said.

The New Flyer bus is "probably one of the most common models in transit. It's a bread and butter bus."

PS: DRT also had a fire at the Ajax garage yesterday. Apparently the coffee truck caught on fire while it was in the garage. They aren't having much luck lately.

newsdurhamregion.com | Wiring to blame for fire on Oshawa bus New Year's Eve.

Jan 4, 2010

Obama's distracted driver Executive Order in effect

On Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood marked the effective date of President Obama's Executive Order on distracted driving, which will prohibit more than four million federal employees from texting behind the wheel while working or while using government vehicles and communications devices.

Sec. LaHood also unveiled a new national television PSA and Website, www.distraction.gov/, this week to get the word out on the dangers of distracted driving.

"Every time we climb into the driver's seat, we all have a responsibility for keeping our roads safe by putting away cell phones and other distractions," said Sec. LaHood. "I am proud that the federal government is leading by example, and encourage others to think about how they can set a safety example in their communities whether it's through employee policies, safety awareness campaigns, or just making sure your teen driver knows the risks."

On Oct. 1, 2009, following a national two-day summit on distracted driving, President Obama signed Executive Order 13513, "Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving," directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles; when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving; or while driving privately owned vehicles when they're on official government business.

The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job.
Following the fall summit, Sec. LaHood directed all 58,000 USDOT employees to comply immediately with the President's Executive Order.
Obama's distracted driver Executive Order in effect - News - METRO Magazine

Jan 2, 2010

All Londoners Will be Within a Mile of a Charging Station by 2015

London England mayor Boris Johnson launched a new plan called the Electric Vehicle Delivery Plan for London that will allow all Londoners to be within one mile of an electric vehicle charging station in five years.

The plan calls for the installation of 25,000 charging points at public, residential and commercial spaces by 2015 in order to encourage the addition of 100,000 EVs within the city ASAP.  The city government is doing their part by committing to add 1,000 EVs to the Greater London Authority fleet over five years.

This is another aggressive move by the city to clean up their transportation.  The city successfully instituted congestion pricing in 2003, added hybrid double-decker buses, converted the Scotland Yard fleet to hybrids and air-powered vehicles and is testing state of the art fuel-efficiency technology.

With its track history, I have little doubt the city will meet its EV goals and can only hope that their ambition will rub off on the rest of the world's major cities (and small cities, and suburbs...).