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


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