Tuesday, January 22, 2008

News Roundup

501 Follies

After being mysteriously omitted from the agenda, the TTC Staff report on the problems facing the 501 Queen streetcar has appeared on the commission's website. Aside from the various "no brainer" recommendations (such as enforcing turning and parking restrictions), three stand out. Staff is recommending that the current directive of keeping cars on time by short turning them be abandoned in favour of completing more full trips, that relief operators be stationed on the line so that staff can take breaks without taking cars out of service, and that the route be split up into several parts in order to make it more manageable.

I am a firm believer that people don't like to transfer, no matter how perfectly timed those transfers are. As a result, we need to find ways to make long routes work well. I think that we need to consider putting transit rights-of-ways on four lane roads - a concept which automatically precludes on-street parking.

TTC Operator Safety

A report published by The Toronto Star revealed what I suspected all along:

TTC operators, due to being assaulted and witnessing deaths on a much more regular basis than we would like to admit, are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders in numbers much higher than we would like to admit.

Not only do we have to protect the operators from being assaulted for a dispute over pocket change, we have to protect passengers from track level injury and even from becoming involved in fare disputes. TransLink in Vancouver has seen all transit vehicles declared fare paid zones, shifting the responsibility for fare collection from the operators to roving fare inspectors. In London, some tube stations are equipped with platform screens that only open when a train is at the platform. Here in Toronto, plastic shields to protect operators are expected to be installed in the coming years.

There are many best-practices around the world, but sadly, all are useless unless we admit that there is a problem.

The Kitchen Report

The Kitchen Report on financing public transit and transportation suggests that municipalities in the region should introduce tolls on major corridors in order to pay for transit improvements, as property taxes simply cannot pay for these improvements without massive increases. I do believe that people are generally supportive of taxes if they can clearly see where their money is being spent, but I think the report is best discussed in a full post.

Clothes Lines

The Province of Ontario is set to review land-use covenants - agreements between homeowners and developers - in order to allow the hanging of clothing outside. While the homebuilders may argue that these agreements are necessary to keep property values from tumbling (like in a dryer), using clotheslines are a great way to cut down on electricity use. However, the planning implications of this decision could reach far beyond the laundry room. It would be interesting to look at what is permitted in a particular neighbourhood, as I'm sure that most people are unaware that municipal by-laws are not the only restrictions placed upon their property.

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