Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cheap ways to increase capacity

I was on the subway today, and there was a young girl, probably in her mid teens, who stood in the narrow doorway of an H6, literally refusing to move. On top of all that, she gave attitude to everyone who bumped into her. It got me thinking of a few ways to reduce crowding and dwell times without building a new subway line.
  • Make the signal and computer upgrades to allow for automatic train control. It will allow trains to run closer together, and more consistently. Consistency is the key. It's wasted space if one train is running behind schedule due to crush loading and the next train is empty. The new system doesn't HAVE to eliminate any jobs, and all the cool cites like Vancouver and Montreal do it...
  • Buy more of the new subway cars which are open from end to end. This will hopefully spread crowds out much better, avoiding situations where one end of the train is crush-loaded, while the other end is empty.
  • Remove the dividing wall between the doorway and the seats next to the doorway. This will discourage people from standing in the doorway by removing the wall that they tend to lean on.
These are just a few suggestions, but as I said before, we don't have to dig any new subway lines to make them work.


How "Service Standards" Can Kill Transit Improvements

While I have high respect for Steve Munro and all he's done to further the transit issue in Toronto, he and I don't normally see eye-to-eye.

Except for today.

His latest post talks about how minimum densities and projected ridership standards (which lead to caps on how much the TTC is willing to subsidise the service) can result in places which desperately need service going without because they fall just under the standards. The blue night network is a perfect example.

The last 106 runs tend to be full on club nights, so there is a demand for blue night service to York University, at least on some days of the week. In addition, the campus is far from existing Blue Night routes on Jane and Finch. It's a long walk, and even more intimidating at night, considering the forests you would need to walk past. Clearly, there's need and a demand...

But (and this is a generalisation) the two main arguments against sending Blue Night service to York U are the ridership standards and the distance to other corridors. The Keele corridor doesn't have much ridership above Finch, and the Steeles corridor is mostly industrial in that area. It doesn't meet the minimum densities necessary for night service. Also, York University's night ridership is heavy, but not really year round. As for distance, it is conceivable to walk 15 minutes from the campus to either Jane or Finch, so it doesn't meet the minimum separation.

This is just a single example, but its occurring across the city. If we hold all new services to the current standards, we won't see very many new routes. Perhaps we need to move towards a loss leader mentality where we build service to encourage new riders from the start, not wait until after they've settled into car-based lifestyles to bring transit to them.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

High-speed train route is first step

High-speed train route is first step
February 26, 2007
Brendan D. MacDonald

Now that we have made the environment a priority issue for policy-makers it is time to embark on concrete solutions to tackle the emissions contributing to climate change. Transportation accounts for a majority of the carbon dioxide emissions in our society, but few of us would be willing to give up the convenience of quick and easy travel from point A to point B in the name of reducing our emissions. So how can we maintain the current level of speed and convenience without burning copious amounts of fossil fuels? The answer: High-speed trains.

Although the average population density across Canada is not sufficient to support high-speed trains, there are regions within Canada that could comfortably support them. The best example is the "corridor" between Windsor and Quebec City. Most of this route follows Highway 401, which happens to carry the most traffic of any highway in North America. Not only would a high-speed train route along the corridor displace cars travelling along the 401, but we would also reduce the amount of flights between cities along the route such as Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. Short flights between these cities are the worst for carbon dioxide emissions because planes burn most of their fuel during takeoff and landing.

The high-speed trains Canadians love to ride when travelling in Europe are powered by electricity. The beauty of operating our transportation system on electricity is the flexibility available for its source. We can generate electricity from any number of carbon dioxide free sources, including hydro, wind, solar, and, yes, even nuclear.

It seems that as we get more educated about nuclear power we are starting to realize that it may not be as evil as we once believed.

The convenience of high-speed trains is something that cannot be overlooked. VIA Rail currently operates train service along the corridor, but it is underutilized. The trains we have now run on diesel fuel and they are sluggish compared to their modern-day counterparts.

If the tracks are upgraded and converted to allow for electric trains, we could install trains that run at speeds around 350 km/h and could compete with planes for quick travel between cities. These track upgrades would also provide jobs, and a high-speed train route would serve as an incentive to expand local mass transit systems. There would also be the potential for increased tourism to the region.

It is likely that we will need many different approaches to tackle the climate change problem.

What we need to do is start right now with proven technologies and concrete solutions such as high-speed train routes.

Brendan D. MacDonald is a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at the University of Victoria, and a member of the Institute for Integrated Energy Systems.
Many people argue that we are not Europe, and with our country being so vast, it the comparison is not reasonable. This dissenting view is only true if we're looking at travel from Toronto to Vancouver. With railways paralleling almost every major highway in Ontario, high speed passenger rail is a no-brainer if we want to reduce congestion along the medium-distance (around 600 km or less) inter-city corridors.

Major airports are usually found on the edge of cities, simply because that's the only place where space is available. Anyone wanting to get to the financial centre of the city must make their way to the airport on the outskirts, fly to their destination, then make the trip into the city to get to their final destination. These secondary trips eat up valuable time, and don't even get me started on airport security.

Driving to and from neighboring cities is often less expensive and more convenient than flying, but it precludes the traveller from accomplishing anything along the way. Add to that the unpredictable nature of congestion, and it quickly becomes frustrating and unproductive.

High-Speed Rail is the only method of travel from city-centre to city-centre that is relatively unobstructed. It is much less frustrating than driving, and when implemented correctly, can be as fast as flying. It's no solution to transcontinental travel, but for the Québec to Windsor corridor and the Calgary to Edmonton corridor, a 300 km/h train can move people faster and more efficiently than any other method.

My vision for a High-Speed Rail network for the corridor isn't just bullet trains barreling down the line between here and the nation's capital. It's a transit plan that covers all the bases.

High speed trains using the newest and fastest equipment providing express service between Toronto & Montreal, between Toronto & Ottawa, and between Ottawa & Montreal. This line will compete with the airlines, and offer first class amenities. Top speeds will be greater than 300 km/h. In the TGV network, the success of the Thalys (pictured right) allowed Air France to simply buy train tickets for their Brussels to Paris passengers. The newest french TGV trains can even top 550 km/h, making it possible to commute daily between Montreal and Toronto. Any name for the service would have to be a French word, as things sound much faster and more luxurious in French.

High speed local service will make the stops and follow the routes that VIVA currently makes in the corridor. Some routes will be electrified, and will either use TGV style trainsets, or high speed locomotives pulling standard coaches (like the Amtrak HHP-8, pictured right). Routes which are not electrified will use Bombardier's Jet Train technology - a 5000 HP gas turbine locomotive pulling regular coaches. The added speed will decrease the travel times and increase customer satisfaction.

For the many existing lines which don't have service, modern interurban service will be introduced. Using Bombardier TALENT (pictured left) or other diesel multiple unit trains, these routes will stop at every community along the tracks. This will give people living in more rural parts of the corridor access to railway connections.

Finally, auto train service should be offered, where passengers can drive their cars onto railway cars, get a comfortable seat aboard the train, then drive off when they reach their destinations. Such services have been successful in Europe and in North America, and even operate in the Channel Tunnel.

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City's future rides on better transit -Toronto Star

City's future rides on better transit
February 26, 2007

Few areas of public policy are more important, on so many fronts, than transit and transportation. Yet few issues have been so poorly addressed, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. The fast and efficient movement of people and goods represents the lifeblood of the region's economy. And that vital circulation is being steadily squeezed by traffic gridlock. It is estimated that congestion robs the economy of more than $2 billion yearly through late deliveries and lost work time.

Better public transit is also key to advancing an environmental agenda. Cars and light trucks generate 12.5 per cent of the country's greenhouse gases. Convincing more drivers to leave their vehicles at home and ride public transit would promote a green agenda while easing gridlock.

Finally, transit and transportation networks play a major role in determining our quality of life. Ever-lengthening commutes can undermine an individual's health and well-being, yet people across the GTA are spending more time than ever travelling between home and work.

Problems in transit and transportation are approaching crisis proportions because population growth in the GTA has far outstripped the expansion of vital highways, streets, subways, bus routes and streetcar lines.

And it will only get worse, with an additional 3 million people expected in the area over the next 25 years.

Thus it is with good reason that this challenge is an important focus of Toronto Summit 2007, a two-day meeting starting today that will bring together 400 civic leaders from business, labour, government and the non-profit sector. The goal of the meetings, organized by the Toronto City Summit Alliance, is to study issues ranging from poverty, waterfront redevelopment, housing, culture, taxation, diversity and education with the aim of developing an updated action plan for the Toronto region.

Transit and transportation are to be addressed tomorrow, with a focus on what must be done to get the GTA moving.

Fundamentally, it is a question of money. Capital funding for the Toronto Transit Commission has increased, but only enough to replace old buses and subway cars and undertake modest expansions, such as the streetcar right-of-way on St. Clair Ave. W. The first leg of this controversial line opened just last week, and Toronto should move aggressively to create more of these sections of dedicated track throughout the city.

Dramatic transit expansion is needed if Toronto is to come close to meeting its needs. That means major spending on subway construction.

The provincial government has already set aside $670 million for expansion of the Spadina subway line to York University and beyond in Vaughan. To get construction started as quickly as possible, it is important that the March 19 federal budget include at least a similar amount in support of this project. Ottawa must also take steps to create a National Transit Strategy, detailing long-term federal support, and funding, for Canada's public transit systems. Stable, predictable financing is vital to any orderly, steady expansion of public transit and highway systems.

To that end, Ottawa and Queen's Park should give large urban areas a one-cent share of the sales-related taxes collected within their borders.

Finally, the province should give the new Greater Toronto Transportation Authority wide latitude to plan and develop transit networks throughout the area. This agency should be granted the clout, plus the funding, needed to undertake new construction and expanded services.

Cities in the GTA, including Toronto, should yield much of their planning power in transit matters to the new agency. Only then will a comprehensive commuter system emerge. That would mean, for example, the TTC would be responsible for planning and operating only those lines that ran within the city, such as a streetcar line on, say, Parliament Street. The GTTA would be responsible for transit between the various jurisdictions. Provincial funding would then flow to each agency accordingly.

Hopefully, the Toronto Summit 2007 leaders will succeed in advancing this agenda. A prosperous economy, a cleaner, greener environment and a healthy populace over the coming decades all very much depend on it.
It's foolish to think that people will voluntarily give up their cars. In my opinion, the only way we can get people out of cars is to let gridlock progress to unimaginable levels, while building a transit system under the 10-20-20 principle (10 minute maximum walk, 20 minute maximum wait, 20 minute maximum ride to rapid transit).

It's foolish to think it can happen overnight, and its also foolish to think we can do it without a national transit strategy. But, we have to get away form the defeatist attitude that so many notable community members have. It cannot be subways or nothing, and it should not be funding or nothing.

We may be restricted without federal funding, but we are not and must not become impotent without it.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lower Bay

Though diversions and construction cause us inconvenience, they sometimes uncover glimpses into our past and long forgotten artifacts.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Dundas Track Project 2007

As you may have heard, the TTC will be reconstructing streetcar tracks along the 505 route between Broadview and Howard Park this summer. This means service disruptions along the route between April and November. Many media outlets are declaring this work an attack on the residents of Regent Park, who will see service along Dundas removed for a good part of the construction project. Here's two main reasons why the media needs to take a breather (but they won't, because they're the media).
  • Once completed, the route won't need to be reconstructed for another 25 years, or whenever the street physically collapses.
  • If the tracks were left to deteriorate and a streetcar actually derailed, who would the media blame for 'endangering the lives of Regent Park residents'?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Picture-perfect plazas? - National Post

Picture-perfect plazas?

Adam McDowell
National Post

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tenants have come and gone at the strip plaza on the northwest corner of Bathurst Street and Wilson Avenue --Szechuan King out, Starbucks in--but one thing has stayed the same for at least two and a half decades: It looks like hell.

The owner of Marky's Restaurant and Delicatessen, which has remained at its double-width storefront on the Wilson Avenue side all that time, is fed up with the ugliness.

Because the units in older strip plazas are under separate ownership, Erez Karp explains, most deteriorate when someone refuses to pay for improvements. Karp has disputes with his neighbours but refuses to name names. For example, he says he's the only owner at his strip plaza with a snow removal contract. "There are people who don't pull their weight."

Now help is on the way -- maybe. Enter Councillor Howard Moscoe with a preliminary plan to crack down on owners who let strip plazas crumble. Ask him what he'd like to fix and the Wilson Heights area is the first that comes to mind: "Just drive along Wilson Avenue from Bathurst on west.

"Strip plazas always deteriorate to the lowest common denominator," Moscoe says, echoing Karp's analysis of the problem. "What happens is, the merchants in the plaza realize the plaza's deteriorating. They try to get together to get some paving. There's always two or three guys in the strip who say, 'I don't have the money. I?m not participating.' "

Moscoe proposes to create mini-business improvement areas that would group the owners together and collectivize responsibility for appearances. He says the plan is still in the detail hashing-out phase; it's only public now thanks to a scoop by the Town Crier. He says he'll spend a couple of weeks circulating it for feedback before he formally presents it to the city's licensing and standards committee. The plan "would allow those merchants and property owners who want improvement to impose their will on the deadbeats," the preliminary document says.

"I've wanted to do this for many years, but we didn't have the authority to do it," Moscoe says. The City of Toronto Act, legislation that gave the city new powers when it came into effect on Jan. 1, will allow him finally to do something, he says, adding: "What I'd like our staff to do is evaluate the cost of the city coming to do the work and put it on the [plaza tenants'] tax bills ? to help themmake the decision" to improve their property.

The city's union labour, of course, "is enormously more expensive" than using private contractors for the same job, as Moscoe points out. "And if they don't pay, we take the business."

That kind of talk worries Karp. His fear is that the city will download the cost of the cleanup to the mini BIAs, which would divide the bill equally among its members instead of trying to figure out which particular owner should pay. "It doesn't seem just or fair. We should each bear responsibility for our own actions."
Strip malls are good for our urban environments. Rather than drive to the large big-box store, these small plazas can be closer to the residential areas, giving residents that opportunity to walk to the corner store. However, when left to decay, they can have the opposite effect. They can make an area seem much more run-down and dangerous than it actually is (the typical concrete jungle).

Some might argue that the BIA concept are like a mafia, while other might argue that they are more like a co-op. It all depends on your view of individual responsibility, and how much influence the collective should have on your personal decisions - but I believe that one dissenter should not prevent a clear majority from improving the attractiveness of the area. When a homeowner refuses to care for his property, the municipality can enter onto the land, do the work and bill the owner. Why shouldn't we subject businesses to the same standards?


Public transit in GTA needs federal boost, Tory says - Toronto Star

Public transit in GTA needs federal boost, Tory says
February 21, 2007
Jim Wilkes
Staff Reporter

John Tory says it's time Ottawa drops some serious cash on public transit in the GTA.

Standing near the City Centre Transit Station at Mississauga's Square One Shopping Centre, the provincial Conservative leader said the federal government must start paying its share of transit projects in and around the Toronto area.

"This is a sincere request on my part that the federal government should join the province and the municipalities to make sure that these vital transit projects – vital to the environment, vital to families, vital to the economy – should get funded and get going in the GTA," Tory said.

"People will not be able to ride on transit and get out of their cars and help the environment and help the economy if there isn't a transit option available," he said.

"We need the federal government to come to the table, so we can get on with these transit projects."

Among the pending transit projects are the subway extension to York University, Mississauga's rapid transit plan – including a bus rapid transit plan along Highway 403 and Eglinton Ave. – and Brampton's Acceleride program, which have local and provincial funding but are awaiting delivery of federal dollars.

"I ride public transit in Toronto regularly and I find that's it's a better way to get around, quite frankly," Tory added.

"I think what we need to do is make sure that option is available to more people in more municipalities."

Tory said the McGuinty Liberals have done "precious little" for public transit other than "a couple of HOV lanes and a little bit of odds and ends here and there ..."

A Liberal staffer wandered among the sparse media turnout distributing a press release trumpeting its party's investment in public transit, including $160 million towards the Mississauga and Brampton transit plans.
I am not a conservative. In fact, being called a communist doesn't bother me anymore. But, could a conservative premier convince a conservative prime minister to help us out?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All clear on St. Clair - Toronto Star

All clear on St. Clair
Supporters cheer first completed leg of streetcar line
February 19, 2007
Debra Black
Staff Reporter

A band of hearty souls with balloons, signs and noisemakers celebrated the opening of the first stretch of dedicated streetcar line on St. Clair Ave. W. yesterday, cheering at each stop.

The dedicated track, which now runs from the St. Clair subway stop at Yonge St. west to Vaughan Rd., is only partially finished.

Ultimately, plans call for the $65 million dedicated line to run 6.7 kilometres across St. Clair to Gunns Rd., just west of Weston Rd. and Keele St. in the city's west end.

TTC officials say it will take at least another two construction seasons before the entire line is built, complete with streetscaping, sidewalk improvements, pedestrian crossings and new light standards.

But some supporters of the new line didn't want to wait to mark its birth.

"It's a great day to see this in place," said Tony Turrittin, a spokesperson for the St. Clair Initiative for Public Transit.

"With the right-of-way you get reliable service all the time and the traffic is flowing well. We're thrilled. The ride is smooth, safe, fast and comfortable."

Turrittin was joined by about 20 other SCRIPT supporters and Councillor Joe Mihevc yesterday for the commemorative ride.

"It was wonderful," added Elizabeth Cinello, also a SCRIPT member.

"I was standing in the middle of the streetcar and you look out the window and it's clear – just tracks in front of you – no cars. We really wanted to mark this day because it was the first day the streetcar rode the right-of-way. For us it was like a birthday."

This is the city's second dedicated streetcar line.

The first, which runs on Spadina Ave. and along Queens Quay, has been a hit with residents and business.

Initially many in the Spadina-Queens Quay area opposed the plan, worrying about the construction's impact on business and the neighbourhood.

But once the line was up and running, much of the criticism melted away.

Similarly, the St. Clair line has not been without controversy.

It became the centre of a battle that divided the community

It also became an issue during last year's municipal election, pitting candidate and onetime mayor John Sewell, who was opposed to the dedicated line, against Mihevc, the incumbent, who was in favour of it.

Opponents of the line – a group called Save Our St. Clair – said the dedicated track would disrupt local traffic patterns and hurt area business.
I rode the 512 along the ROW earlier this evening. It took ten minutes to travel between St. Clair and St. Clair West stations, and with the ROW in place, that time will be consistent at all times of the day. This means that the rush hour running time for that stretch is almost cut in half (from my personal experiences). In addition to all that, aside form stops to let passengers out, we only stopped at a single traffic light.

Isn't efficiency a wonderful thing?

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

TTC security projects shelved - Toronto Star

TTC security projects shelved
`Feds need to come on board' with more funding, Giambrone says
February 17, 2007
Paul Moloney
city hall bureau

TTC security projects aimed at protecting passengers, employees and preventing a possible terror attack have been shelved by Toronto's budget committee.

Councillors on the committee pulled the funding, arguing Ottawa is not doing enough to help pay for the $5.8 million required for subway cameras and $14.4 million to place cameras on the fleet of 1,500 buses.

"The feds need to come on board," TTC chair Adam Giambrone said yesterday. "That point needs to be very clearly made. They really overlooked Toronto."

The TTC wants to be able to obtain high-quality images so individuals can be identified later if the need arises, Giambrone said, adding that kind of record can be invaluable in investigating a terrorist attack.

"The goal is to get an image of people entering the system," he said.

Transit systems around the world have been boosting security measures in the wake of bombings in London in 2005 and Madrid in 2004. Fifty-six people were killed in London and 191 people died in Madrid. On Thursday the trial for 29 defendants charged in the Madrid train bombings started. This week, an Al Qaeda faction called for attacks on Canada and its oil-production facilities.

In Ottawa, the federal government has introduced the Transit-Secure program to try to prevent what occurred in Madrid and London from happening on Canadian soil.

The first round of funding was announced last November. But officials at the TTC – North America's third-largest transit system – were shocked when it was revealed the agency would receive only $1.4 million of $35 million worth of security-related projects submitted.

At the time, then-TTC chair Howard Moscoe described the federal government's decision as "spit in the eye ... A slap in the face ... Like handing a bum a dime and saying, `Go buy a cup of coffee.'"

Councillors would like to see the federal government cover 75 per cent of the cost and, by shelving the funding yesterday, voiced their dissatisfaction.

Ottawa has indicated it's prepared to take a second look at the TTC's request when a new round of funding opens for the Transit-Secure program, which was announced in mid-2006 and runs to the spring of 2008, said TTC interim chief general manager Gary Webster.

"We will be eligible to submit (a funding request) and we have told them we'll be submitting," Webster said in an interview.

Currently, there are about 1,000 cameras throughout Toronto's subway system, which has 69 stations including those on the Scarborough rapid transit line.

The cameras are located at each collector booth and at security points where problems have developed over the years, Webster said.

The TTC would like to add another 1,500 closed-circuit TV cameras at entrances and exits, stairwells and other locations that TTC security and police believe require greater surveillance.

"We've looked at every station layout, and we've identified where those cameras should be," Webster said.

Giambrone points out that Toronto's security needs aren't as acute as other centres.

"It's a different culture here. We're not the United States. We're not Europe."

While putting the security projects on hold, the budget committee is recommending that the TTC receive $717 million for various capital projects this year. A final decision will be made by city council next month.
I don't understand why the federal government can order Toronto to install metal detectors and baggage searches on the Toronto Island Ferry, but they won't be willing to help pay for security cameras on the TTC. Edmonton Transit System received nearly twice the security funding that we got, though their system ridership is less than 10% of ours (funny how Alberta tends to vote Conservative). Do we need any more proof that the federal government doesn't care about people who live in the traditionally leftist cities?

Every day, I wonder more and more about how much better off we might be if the Greater Golden Horseshoe became a province, or even some sort of city-state.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

My Love / Hate relationship with the U-Pass

It's student council election time here at Ryerson, and I was just approached by Chris Drew, who is running for VP Finance & Services. He mentioned the U-Pass in his pitch, which brought back some fond memories of this proposal.

Essentially, if a student referendum yielded a "Yes", then all students would be charged $500 in additional tuition, and all students would receive a metropass each month for the 8 month semester. This would be a special metropass for students only, and would not be transferable.

Here's my two cents.
  • My opinions on the amount of tuition I am charged are beyond the scope of this blog, but I will say that lower tuition fees must be offset by higher taxes or reduction in services. We as a society can make that choice, but only after the ramifications are understood. The student groups who organized the protest last week ignored the other side.
  • Many Ryerson students commute from the 905, and walk from Union Station to campus. The inability to opt-out of this proposal has been a sticking point, but it can be mitigated if the pass is transferable. I try to walk as often as possible, so a metropass would be better off in the hands of one of my numerous family members who live downtown.
  • Any proposal should only be a stopgap until the fare card is operational. Then, college and university students should get access to discounted prices, but should also have to renew their privileges yearly - unlike seniors who tend not to revert to middle aged.
In the spirit of full disclosure, my good friend Noble Hove is running for the faculty of community service representative under the Ryerson Students Union party - the same as Mr. Drew. They'll call it a "slate", but honestly, who are you trying to fool? A group of people running for political office under the same banner is a party.


VIA Rail Canada

I know the media has to simplify things, but VIA Rail does not use CN crews on any of its trains. All of their staff is in-house.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

When is a parking spot not a parking spot?

When it's actually not a parking spot. Case in point:

The cars parked behind the sign are parked legally. The cars parked in front of the sign are parked illegally. I call this a "make-a-spot." Not only is it illegal, its a disaster waiting to happen. The aisles in parking lots are wide enough so that emergency vehicles can maneuver between parked cars with ease. These illegally parked cars make the aisles narrower.

There are three GO stations in Brampton. Mount Pleasant station is about half full on most days, but being on the very edge of town, most passengers heading to that station are heading in the opposite direction of their commute. From what I've observed, people don't like to go backwards in order to go forwards. Brampton was completely full when it had three parking lots, and now that it only has two, the parking situation is even worse. Bramalea is the only centrally located station which has parking left - about 60 to 75% full on most weekdays.

At many other GO Station across the GTA, parking is a serious issue. In many cases, the train stations are located in the oldest, most dense parts of the city, where there's simply no room to build another parking lot. So what can we do?

At some of the stations, Bronte in particular, the idea of parking structures has floated around. While expensive, and possibly a source of chaos when everyone tries to leave at once, its a good idea to add more parking without taking up more room at the train station. My only hope is that it be always build underground, as station buildings should be easily seen from the street. The other solution is to build park n' ride lots at all transit terminals, and increase local transit connections to and from the GO Station.

Lets say I live near Credit Valley Road and Glen Erin Drive in Mississauga, and I want to get to Streetsville GO Station for the 7:25 train. By transit, this will take 30 minutes. By driving, less than 10 - if I can find parking (in the case of Streetsville GO Station, nearby parking, as the station building is a good 500 metres from the street). Why can't I drive to the Mississauga Transit terminal at Erin Mills Town Centre (less than 5 minutes), be guaranteed a spot, and take an express bus to the GO station?

GO floated a variant on this idea a while back, saying that if the local transit agencies weren't willing to do it, they might be. Regardless, someone should do it because it needs to be done.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

News Roundup

The TTC is a big ticket item this budget year. According to the Toronto Star, about half of the city's capital budget is earmarked for the TTC. I'm all in favour of higher spending on capital projects for transit, but according to Kyle Rae (Ward 27, Toronto Centre - Rosedale), the city is becoming a transit agency, with a few other functions on the side. Clearly, the city cannot function on solely property taxes. Regular funding is needed.

Transport Canada says that all ferries need to have passengers board in single file lines, pass through metal detectors and have their bag inspected. Miller is asking for an exemption, because the Toronto Island Ferry system is fundamentally different than the inter-provincial ferries this order is trying to regulate. I wonder what will happen to Vancouver's Seabus, which is considered to be part of the regular TransLink network.

We thought we were safe, but we actually weren't. Previously, CN and the union representing CN conductors reached a deal which would keep commuter trains running in the event of a strike (which could happen as early as tonight). However, its now been reported that CN conductors assigned to passenger service can still walk off the job with three days notice. GO will release details of their contingency plan later today.

In other news, CN has not bid on the new tender to operate GO transit trains. The reports say that they just weren't interested, but I think that they really haven't been interested since the early 1970s.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Brampton Project - My Commentary

I'll admit, the Brampton Project's episode on Brampton Transit did have some flaws. One can expect that in the snow, buses will not run on schedule. But, that in itself is not enough to dismiss it as being invalid.

The video was meant to be a social commentary on living in the suburbs. The truth is that you cannot live in the suburbs without a car. Service is not frequent enough, and does not take you close enough to your destination. I believe that public transportation is critical to the viability of our urban spaces, the future of the environment, and our own health and safety. Brampton transit is the fastest growing system in Canada, but it has a long way to go.

The Brampton Project was trying to prove that without a car, mobility in Brampton is impossible. If it were a bright summer day, the results would have been the same.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

An artist rendition: TTC makeover ideas

Craig Cal of Spacing has some pretty good ideas on how we can improve the TTC. While the vast majority of these suggestions are excellent, some run counter-productive to the objective of getting more people to use transit. I can clearly see a downtown bias in his writings, which is fine, but we need to think of a regional transit solution. Not everyone lives downtown and works downtown, so we need effective transit solutions in the suburbs as well. Here's my refined version of his list.

1) Service, Service, Service
  • Purchase more modern buses and streetcars which are environmentally friendly, accessible, and right for the job. This means that smaller buses should be used on routes which travel deep into neighborhoods (we need more of these), and larger buses used on routes with high ridership. Streetcars should be used downtown, while trolley coaches should be used on midtown routes. Alternative fuels should be used whenever possible.
  • Create an LRT and BRT network throughout the city and the suburbs.
  • Improve and amalgamate the para-transit services across the GTA. A rider with disabilities should be able to get to where they need to go, even if it means crossing borders.
  • Extend existing subways wherever practical, because building stub lines (like building the York U subway as LRT instead) is a waste of money. Build rights-of-way for downtown streetcars, and consider radical solutions such as the Queen Street Promenade.
2) Design, Art, Aesthetics and Architecture
  • Re-design the interior of the subway stations to give each one a distinct personality. You should be able to identify a station simply by looking at the colour scheme and the platform artwork. Of course, there will be throwbacks to the historical designs of the stations.
  • Art should be in every station, and it should not be an afterthought. Each subway station should be a design in itself.
  • Bus terminals and stops should get the same treatment subways stations will get. Buses are less attractive than rail cars, but the facilities don't have to be.
  • Make schedules easier to access, be it by online trip planner, printable spreadsheets, phone-based service, or other means. Also, service updates should be delivered by text message and by email.
  • Fastrack the implementation of the fare card, and install top up machines at stations. This will do wonders to get rid of the lineups.
3) Amenities, Accessibility, Comfort and Sustainability
  • Continue working towards making every station, bus route and facility accessible. In the end, the wheelchair logo should be un-necessary, as the whole system will be accessible.
  • Add more washrooms, and clean them (and the system) frequently.
  • All stations should have plenty of garbage cans, seats and passenger information displays.
  • All vehicles should have GPS receivers to interface with the passenger information displays.
4) TTC Staff
  • Give the TTC operators a retro, 1930s type uniform. It evokes feelings of a time when the trains ran on time, and can serve as a tourist attraction.
5) Marketing, Advertising, Merchandise
  • Get better marketing. Hopefully Giambrone will be less lame than Moscoe.
  • Install street banners like York Region has done.
  • Everyone loves souvenirs.
6) Fares and Payment Methods
  • Fare card, fare card, fare card.

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The Brampton Project - Episode 2

If you've ever been on Brampton Transit, you'll appreciate this.

Adeel can be reached here


Thursday, February 01, 2007

News Roundup

New streetcars, no new fare hikes

The TTC has voted to pursue a 1.5 billion, 10 year plan to replace the current fleet of streetcars with 200 new light rail vehicles. If everything goes according to plan, the first new vehicles will begin arriving in 2010. At the same meeting, they voted not to consider a fare hike to balance the operating budget. I guess we can have our cake and eat it too.

Possible CN Strike

CN conductors will be in a legal strike position at midnight, February 9. There are several proposals that would keep those assigned to GO service on the job, but if all those fail, trains on all but the Milton line will not run. Buses will not be sent to replace the trains, as there are no spare buses in the fleet. You can try to catch one of the regularly scheduled bus runs, or take local transit. You don't have to drive because the trains are not running!

In the mean time, GO is putting a plan together to address the bad start to the new year. Hopefully it will help minimize problems, but some problems simply cannot be fixed. To the letter to the star a few weeks ago, saying how "switch problems have been happening for twenty years, and they should have been fixed by now," I have this to say:

You've been leaving your car outside every winter, and you still have to clean off the ice and snow every morning. Why haven't you fixed that problem? You've had twenty years too...

The Big Delay

The Blogosphere is somewhat of a community, which is why I passed this story along to Transitrider. Here's his coverage, with more here. Here's a recap.

The 5:45 train leaves Union on time, and has just left Weston heading westbound towards Etobicoke North. Unknown to the engineer, vandals - nay, saboteurs - had placed a barrel filled with water and ice on the rail. The engineer, already slowing for the station, puts the train into emergency. The train strikes the debris fast enough to get it lodged underneath the cab car, but due to the quick reaction, not fast enough to cause a derailment. The train has to be terminated where it stops, and plan is to accommodate passengers on an extended 6:45.

However, plans don't always go well.

CN and Toronto Police consider the line a crime scene, and as a result, the line can be opened in time. The 6:45 is delayed for two-and-a-half hours, making it a three and a half hour delay for passengers on the 5:45.

If you have any information about this, call Toronto Police, CN Police or Crimestoppers.

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