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.

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...).