Saturday, August 25, 2007

A $100M plan to ease gridlock in 2 years or less - Toronto Star

A $100M plan to ease gridlock in 2 years or less
August 25, 2007
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

The region's new transportation authority is urging Queen's Park to put rubber to the road and fund $100 million worth of quick-start transit projects that could be implemented within two years.

Among the proposals:
  • Bike racks on all buses.
  • Installing 1,000 weatherproof bike lockers across the region.
  • A new transit terminal in Markham.
  • Creating an online trip planner service to make it easier to use transit across city borders, plus a "carbon footprint" calculator.
  • Expanded GO train and bus service on the Lakeshore, Milton and Georgetown lines.
With a provincial election looming, the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority wants the government to commit to seven such proposals.

Getting them off the ground signals that the GTTA understands the urgency of reducing congestion on Toronto area roads, said chair Rob MacIsaac.

"We really want to show people we're moving quickly. We want to make a difference to people travelling throughout the region," he said in Mississauga yesterday.

The priority projects would all be implemented within two years and represent only a fraction of the Liberal government's $12 billion commitment to regional transit by 2020.

Some of the proposed projects, such as the transit expansion, were already on the books. If Queen's Park funds the GTTA's recommendations, those improvements would move up the list.

Other proposals, such as the plan to install bike lockers, are new.

The lockers could be made compatible with the Presto "smartcard" the GTTA is launching, which will allow users to travel easily across the various regional transit authorities without having to pay an array of fares.

"If this $12 billion is for real, then $100 million can be for real right now," York Region Chair Bill Fisch told the board.

Although it has no capital budget of its own, the GTTA has approved spending $1.5 million out of its $8 million operating budget to design two Web-based tools it says would improve customer service.

The online trip-planner would allow riders to plan the best cross-border routes and connections when they are travelling between the region's various transit services. And a personal carbon footprint calculator would raise their awareness of the impact of their travel choices.

The projects have been designated as priorities following a meeting last month in which transit authorities from around the region presented their individual wish-lists to the GTTA.

But some board members didn't agree entirely with the rushed list.

Durham Region Chair Roger Anderson noted that none of the recommendations extended into his region, and he disagreed with cycling initiatives.

"I understand the quick-win scenario, but if you've got $1.8 million to spend I think you can find something better to spend it on than bike racks," he said.

He added that the expansion of Hamilton municipal bus service to that city's airport does not qualify as a regional initiative.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion also argued that if the GTTA is going to expedite GO Transit expansions, then more parking at GO stations needs to be part of the plan.

But Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger told the board it was fitting that the GTTA's first outing focus on transit rather than cars.

Several projects that did not make the quick-win list include kickstarting certain bus and rail rapid transit projects that are on the agenda for the coming decade.

The include bus links to Hamilton and GO Transit for the underserved Waterdown area; and new VIVA/GO terminals at Concord and Unionville.

Meanwhile, the GTTA approved studying a proposal to move Toronto's intercity coach terminal from Bay and Dundas Sts. to a Harbour St. site south of Union Station.

Toronto Councillor Norm Kelly has replaced Councillor Brian Ashton as the city's other political representative on the GTTA.
While I'm glad that the GTTA is identifying projects that can be done quickly and inexpensively, rather than holding out for the flashy super-projects, I'm disappointed that they still haven't gotten past regionalism and supporting car culture. Durham Chair Rogers Anderson, and everyone's favorite grandmother, Hazel McCallion do not support cycling projects and are calling for larger parking lots at GO stations.

Mayor McCallion, please walk from the entrance of the Streetsville GO Station parking lot to the station building, and then tell me that larger lots are a good thing. Unless you're planning to build a large multi-use development above those parking lots, then it will only pave more paradise and encourage car use. We need to improve transit connections to GO stations.

Further, the Durham Chair has been complaining about the lack of projects in his region, and has been suggesting that Hamilton should bear sole responsibility for connecting its airport to the transit grid.

Chair Anderson, what ever happened to the greater good? I've always stayed one step short of supporting the amalgamation of all the transit systems into one large system, but unless this squabbling stops, it might be the only overcome the "me first" attitude we've held for so long.

We've got a long way to go, and I hope the destination that the transit network arrives at is the one that will save us from gridlock.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007 re-launch

I decided to give a refresh, and it's now sporting a cleaner, less cluttered look. I would like some feedback, so please don't hesitate to leave a comment. I've backed up the old layout, and I'm willing to switch back if there is enough demand.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Who needs a car?

About a month ago, my computer's motherboard died for the second time. Of course, the writing had been on the walls for several weeks, so I was able to backup everything. I was in the market for a new machine, and was seriously considering a Mac. With rumours circling about new Macs to be announced shortly, I decided to wait, and when they did come out, I was sold. I had two choices. I could purchase the computer in Brampton at a Best Buy or Future Shop, but they weren't receiving any in stock until the end of the month. My other option was to shop at one of the official Apple re-sellers downtown. With that option, I could have it a week after he announcement, but I would have a more difficult time getting it home.

So it really broke down to one question: Can you carry a computer home on the subway?

My first instinct was to bring a friend, but through clever marketing, Apple ships out the most expensive models first, forcing the "gotta have it now" crowd to up-sell. Not being able to accomodate a 24-inch iMac (or willing to pay for one), I decided to pre-order the 20-inch model.

One week ago tomorrow, at 3:30 PM, I got the call to pickup my order. Having to wait three weeks for rumours to be officially confirmed or denied was tough, and I simply couldn't wait overnight. But could I get from my home in Caledon to Queen & Broadview by the shop's 6PM close?

By taking sidestreets that I hadn't been on in half a decade, I managed to make it to Kipling Station by 4:45, and bolted into the subway. With a delay on the line that was cleared just as we approached the backup of trains, and a 504 car stuck behind a left turning driver at Broadview and Danfroth, I managed to arrive at the shop at 5:20.

Now, the 20-inch Apple iMac comes in a box 23 inches by 22 inches by 9 inches, and weighs around 20 pounds. It may be light in comparison to furniture, but it is an awkward box to carry. I recall that as I finished at the checkout, the clerk asked me if I needed help taking it out to the car. I thought "do you know who I am?", but in retrospect, I realize he was warning me. I managed to get the box about 20 feet down the sidewalk before I had to either switch hands or put it down to rest. I managed to get it to the streetcar stop and struggle up the stairs, but i then had to navigate the crowded car. Dragging it down to the subway was easier, but I still could only travel about 20 feet before I had to set it down. I can easily carry much more than 20 pounds, but the forces are much larger when those 20 pounds are supported only by a small handle.

As I headed back to the west end, I realized that I needed to make a pit stop, but would never feel comfortable leaving a several-thousand-dollar object out in the open without a firm grip on it. There must be something psychological, but most men are effectively defenseless when they are busy in the restroom. After making some phone calls, I couldn't find anyone downtown who would be able to accommodate me, so I decided to hold it and fend off the stares of people who knew what I had bough, despite it being in a plain brown box.

I arrived at Kipling without any delays, and carried it upstairs - in 20-foot intervals.

That day, I set out to discover if one could use the subway to carry cargo. The fact that I am updating this blog on an iMac is proof of concept, but far from proof of practicality. The TTC simply wasn't designed to transport people with cargo, but for those who are patient and are dedicated to the urban experience, it can be done.

For those looking for a mac and wanting to shop in an environment that isn't as claustrophobia inducing as the Apple Store, I bought the computer at Carbon Computing, 772 Queen Street East.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

What fare is fair?

I believe that ridership is more affected by service frequency and speed than by fares, but new fares and much easier to implement than new service. Most cities in the GTA use a time-limited transfer, where paying a single fare gives you hop-on, hop-off privileges for two hours or so. This would be the first step for Toronto to do, but what more can be done to give riders more bang for your buck?

Being able to travel from Long Branch to the Toronto Zoo on a single fare is already a bargain, so I'm not proposing to change that. What needs addressing is the fare paid to cross the border between the 416 and 905. Currently, you must pay full fare to do this, and this clearly must be reduced to give riders more value. The way I see it, we have two options:
  • Your first fare gives you two hours of unlimited transfers. When you want to transfer to or from the 416, you pay half-fare, and get a fresh two hours (allowing you to hop-on, hop-off for two hours on either side of the border). This option gives you more time to complete your trips before your transfer privileges expire, but it comes with higher fares.
  • Your first fare gives you two hours of unlimited transfers on all systems in the GTA. You can transfer two or from the 416 for free, but your original two hours continue from the time you boarded. This option lowers the fare for cross-border travelers, but you trade off some of the hop-on, hop-off privileges.
So which fare is fair? You decide. I've setup a poll on the right hand column of the blog to vote on one of three options, and I'd love to hear comments.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Longer Wait for Buses in Fall - Guelph Tribune

Longer Wait for Buses in Fall
Doug Hallett, Guelph
(Aug 7, 2007)

Guelph Transit says it can no longer manage to provide 30-minute bus frequency during peak travel periods and so will revert to 40-minute frequency next month.

"Overall customer demand has increased while traffic patterns have made it increasingly difficult to deliver connections on time," says a new report from Guelph Transit to city council.

It says 40-minute service intervals in the peak times will address longstanding customer complaints that buses fail to meet their connections in St. George's Square, forcing riders to wait 30 minutes for the next one to arrive.

As of Sept. 2, there will be 40-minute service from 7:15-9:15 a.m. and from 1:15-7:15 p.m. Outside of those hours, 30-minute service will be maintained.

Population growth in the city over the years has made it necessary for Guelph Transit to extend its routes, the report says. And "with the addition of more stop signs, stop lights and other traffic calming measures, the ability to sustain 30-minute service has been increasingly difficult."

Aside from ensuring connection times are met, the report says 40-minute service will mean increased schedule accuracy, will give bus drivers more time to complete their routes and could reduce the need for extra buses on various routes.

As well, it says, "our aging and disabled population often feel stressed and hurried to embark, disembark or make their transfer to a connecting bus." The 40-minute service interval will allow these people "to feel more comfortable riding conventional bus service during peak periods."

The change to a 40-minute service standard is one of several outlined in the report. Other changes, which also start Sept. 2, include:

* a new 54 Arkell route to meet needs in the area bounded by Arkell, Victoria, Clair and Gordon roads. This bus will connect riders with service into the University of Guelph

* Improvements in service to the U of G on the 51 Gordon route, made possible by time efficiencies on that route made possible by the new 54 Arkell route

* Better connections at the U of G from the perimeter route

* changes to the 52 University/Kortright route, including "express" routing at certain times of day to go along with continued 15-minute service on this route on weekdays.
I think that Guelph has the wrong idea here. Other than the fact that having less frequent service in the peak periods doesn't make sense to me at all, I believe that increasing frequencies are more important than co-ordinating transfers, mainly because increasing frequencies also minimizes the amount of time you have to wait at a stop for a connection. This service change may be more convenient for seniors, who generally are able to devote more time to their daily activities, but the agency runs the risk of turning away the rest of the population. University students are a key demographic that need to be attracted to transit early, as this is the age where they form habits which will last for the rest of their lives.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

A Spiffy Gardiner

Spacing has posted a follow-up to a Toronto Star article published yesterday about how other cities around the world have dealt with their elevated urban highways. I don't believe that the Gardiner Expressway itself is a barrier to the waterfront - the barrier is the barren urban wasteland under the Gardiner. I've been to Québec, where the underside of a section of Autoroute 440 just below the old city is a breathtaking artist haven. If we spiffy it up and make it a destination itself, in addition to improving the transit links from the subway stations to the waterfront, we can encourage people to make the trip down from the core.

Happy civic holiday to all, and here's a fun fact.
Today is:
  • Simcoe Day in Toronto
  • Colonel By Day in Ottawa
  • Heritage Day in Alberta & Kingston, Ontario
  • British Columbia Day
  • New Brunswick Day
  • Regatta Day in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador (on Wednesday, weather permitting)
  • Natal Day in Nova Scotia
  • Saskatchewan Day
  • Discovery Day in the Yukon (in two weeks).
  • An un-named day off in Prince Edward Island, Nunavut & Manitoba.
If your local area has a different name, feel free to comment.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Don't rely on spell check...

Here are the words of Superior Court Justice Joan Lax's comments in her recent ruling on the City of Toronto's permission to appeal the Ontario Municipal Board's earlier decision on the development plans in the Queen West Triangle, near Queen & Dufferin:
“The board’s reasons are devoid of any discussion of the Planning Act, Provincial Policy Statements and the City’s Official Plan as they apply to these lands.”

“The board provides no rationale or analysis to support its conclusion that the projects where in the public interest.”

“The board failed to consider whether the projects are contrary to broad city policies that support a mix of uses as reflected in the Official Plan. The Board Reasons are deficient in justifying its decision and provide no indication that the Board considered this or had regard to whether the projects were consistent with the Planning Act or provincial policy.”
Need I say more about the OMB?

Thanks to Spacing and Eye Weekly for their coverage.

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