Friday, March 07, 2008

Petition for better transit

By now, I'm sure you've heard the story of Patricia Eales. Frustrated with GO's on time performance, she organized a petition calling for GO to improve its on time performance, offer partial refunds when trains are more than 20 minutes late, and to better warn customers when delays are occurring. So far, she's received 8000 signatures.

While I think that petitions are a great way to get your wishes on the agenda of decision makers, this particular petition asks for things which are already coming, aren't practical, or will do more harm than good - aside from better warning people about delays. That's a no brainer, and all the transit agencies should adopt an email or an SMS messaging system to warn customers of delays of more than 20 minutes.

GO's on time performance can be summed up in three categories:

Equipment Problems
It's no surprise that GO's equipment is aging, but the first batch of a full fleet of new locomotives are currently being phased in. In addition, older coaches are constantly being refurbished. Since this is an already ongoing project, a petition would be a moot point here.

Staffing Problems
To address staffing problems, GO will begin replacing CN crews with Bombardier crews this summer. The new contract will have financial penalties if crews are unavailable, and while its impossible to tell how much of an improvement we'll see, remember this: Bombardier also holds the maintenance contract. If they screw this one up, they run the risk of losing both.

Track and Signal Problems
Infrastructure problems are where it gets a bit dicey. CN owns most of the rails and signals that GO uses, and in my opinion, as long as this continues, GO will never be in charge of its own destiny. Could GO purchase the infrastructure and lease them back to CN? I think its an idea worth looking at.

The refund proposed by the petition also concerns me, as the money will have to come from somewhere, and we all know it would come from the farebox.

I'm not suggesting that commuters have to sit back and take whatever is thrown at us. We have a right to expect a certain degree of reliability from our transit agency, but I think that GO is doing more than anyone else to expand, upgrade and improve (except for the Georgetown Line - the dropped ball of the network). Just like having to leave earlier in a snowstorm, we have to have a little bit more patience in the winter. It'll be summer soon, though at this rate there will be piles of snow left in July.

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