Saturday, December 29, 2007

Streetcar doored by would-be thief - Toronto Star

Streetcar doored by would-be thief
December 29, 2007

A thief carrying a box of stolen goods attempted escape using a taxi, but was foiled when he opened the door into an oncoming TTC streetcar, police say.

Not only was the suspect arrested for theft, but he was also ticketed for opening a door into traffic, said Sgt. Ralph Brookes.

The incident happened around 8 a.m. Saturday, near Dundas St. and Dovercourt Rd., when the suspect stole a box from a commercial truck making morning deliveries and then ran for the cab, throwing the box in the vehicle’s trunk.

The streetcar damaged the cab’s door, ending any chance of escape for the hapless thief.

“One of the issues we have in this city is when people open doors into traffic,” Brookes said, adding, “Streetcars can’t swerve.” Police didn’t know what was in the box.

No major injuries were reported in the accident.

Streetcars - fighting for truth, justice and the Canadian way.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

The winter of my mobile discontent

Those who know me well know that I am strong opponent of the way the mobile phone industry operates in Canada. There are only three true players, all of which offer roughly the same services for the same prices. I'm sure the industry will argue that there is competition and customer choice, but without one company innovating and raising the bar, the only choice is to whom I want to pay my exorbitant mobile phone bill.

My opinions are not based on observations from a distance. They are based on ongoing experiences which have frustrated me for more than a year, have involved three large corporations, and in my opinion, has resulted in no one being held accountable for the poor customer service I have experienced.

In August of 2006 I purchased a Sony Ericsson phone from Wireless Wave on the Rogers Network (names have not been changed, as those three entities are encouraged to contact me to refute what I say here and finally resolve this ongoing issue). The "white screen of death", an unresponsive state which many Sony Ericsson uses may be familiar with, forced me to send the phone in for service in March. When it was returned to me, the repair centre attached a technical bulletin explaining that it was normal for the phone to behave that way for up to 20 minutes during its normal use, and suggesting that maybe I was to blame. 

When you shut off a car's engine after a typical drive, is it normal to have to wait 20 minutes before you are able to continue your trip? And if I was to blame, why is it that the phone had to be sent back after two months for the same problem when I continued not doing what Sony Ericsson said I was doing.

Either way, one month later, the third "white screen of death", combined with a complaint to the head office, prompted Wireless Wave to buy back to handset. I replaced it with a top-of-the-line Sony Ericsson - one which no poor reviews existed, even from a then Rogers employee. That was in June of 2007, and last month, I discovered that there must be serious quality assurance problems at everyone's favorite Japanese-Swedish conglomerate.

It has been more than one month since I sent my current mobile phone in for service, and due to some fancy bookkeeping by Wireless Wave, it was sent to their third party repair centre rather than back to the factory. But, I suspect it won't matter, as the authorized Sony Ericsson repair centre doesn't seem to have the ability to diagnose and repair the problem anyway. 

As I stated before, of the three companies involved, not one has taken responsibility for this customer service nightmare. 

Wireless Wave, at least in Brampton, has offered me nothing more than the bare minimum level of service. They take my product, send it to repairs, call me when it returns, and that's about it. However, I must commend the Erin Mills Town Centre location for its quality of service, kindness of its staff, and general responsiveness to my concerns. Having said that, I cannot excuse the loaner phone policy - a subject that I will return to shortly.

Sony Ericsson has offered nothing but token attempts to fix my phone thus far, and has a "software update should fix it" attitude. On than the speed at which you respond to customer complaints, I have not been satisfied with your product or your repair services. I understand that Sony Ericsson is a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson, but this experience has jaded my opinion of both companies.

Rogers Wireless also has a role in this debacle. They are content with passing any hardware malfunction off to the manufacturer, but in then end, it was they who certified the device and it is they who accept my monthly fees. When someone purchases a mobile phone, they purchase both a handset and the service. Some purchase a bare-bones phone, while others purchase advanced handsets to suit their unique needs. Regardless, it is a Rogers-branded phone and Rogers must take some responsibility when a Rogers-branded phone malfunctions.

Wireless Wave has offered my a loaner phone every time I have had to return a handset for service, but their collection of loaned phones offer bare bones communication. I purchased an advanced phone because I use advanced features in my personal and professional life. I may not be very important in the scope of the world, but I have a list of 200 contacts that I synchronize between my phone and my computer regularly. Since my loaner phone does not have that ability, I am not getting the full experience of the Rogers-branded service I bought into. If a soccer mom with five children gets into an accident, it would be irresponsible for an insurance company to only pay for the rental of a subcompact. Similarly, it is irresponsible for a company who sold you a $500 phone to expect you to repeatedly accept a $100 replacement for months on end. Both Wireless Wave and Rogers Wireless are responsible in this respect.

Perhaps when I begun writing this post it was about the mobile phone industry. However, it appears to have turned into a post about customer service in general. Either way, I hope that these companies shape up, as I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels as if they don't care.


Friday, December 21, 2007


This celebrates my 200th post on this blog, and I hope I have the pleasure of writing 200 more!

Here's a news roundup:

GO bus drives, station agents and clerical staff have been in a legal strike position since the tentative settlement reached earlier in the month was rejected, but according to the union president, Denis Tanham, union members won't walk out over the Christmas holidays and will offer 48 hours strike notice. Durham-based bloggers like Karem Allen have some interesting comments on the issue, as Durham Region's transit options rely very heavily on the Highway 2 GO bus corridor.

Condominium sales accounted for 52% of all new home sales in Toronto for the year 2007, suggesting that this past year was "The Year of the Condo". I was going to praise this as a sign that sustainable densities and development concepts are beginning to take a strong foothold in the minds of Toronto citizens and developers, but aside from parts of northeastern Scarborough, there is no greenfield development occurring in Toronto. This dilutes the figure, but it does show that things are starting to change. Hopefully we will see the same trends begin to develop in the suburban municipalities.

Be weary of modified service in the period between Christmas Eve and New Years Day. Some agencies are running on holiday service on particular days, while others are running on weekday service with reduced or modified frequency on some routes. Double check the schedules if you plan to head out over the next two weeks.

If you plan to head to the malls over the weekend, consider taking transit to avoid getting into a fist fight over a parking space.

And above all else, have a happy festive season!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Two floors of fun

GO 8000 
Photo from the Yahoo! British Buses in North America group.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

GO trains overcrowded, underfunded: Auditor - Toronto Star

Sometimes, it takes an Auditor General's report to tell us what we already know. Years of underfunding has resulted in GO Transit being unable to increase service fast enough, resulting in overcrowded service, slow service response time to rapidly growing areas of the region, and delays caused by the breakdown of equipment that cannot be replaced or refurbished quickly enough.

However, an Auditor General's report, by nature, does not offer in depth solutions on how to fix these problems. It is simply a glimpse of government departments who are underperforming - and in this case, it has identified one where the problems are systematic.
GO Transit can't any more train service because of the physical layout of the rail network and the business practices of the railways in the region. 

The Canadian Pacific Railway owns the rails on most of the Milton line and the line from Bayview Junction to Hamilton station, and simply will not allow more trains on its tracks unless GO builds new tracks along the entire corridor. In Hamilton, this could mean rebuilding the tunnel under the city. This is a huge job, and until MoveOntario 2020, there was no funding for such huge construction projects.

The Barrie/Bradford & Stouffville lines will see all day train service by 2010 to Newmarket and Markham respectively, but there is a catch. All day service on the Lakeshore lines is easy because the lines are double and triple tracked for their entire length. All day service on the two northern lines will come in the form of passing sidings on single track lines. Two trains will leave the terminals at the same time and can only pass each other in the middle. If one train is delayed, then the other will have to wait. While it is the fastest and least expensive way to introduce such a service, the possibilities for it going horribly wrong are a high.

The Richmond Hill line probably won't see all day service until after the Yonge subway is extended to Highway 7. With the two York Region stations being a stones-throw from Yonge Street, I suspect many will choose to save money by using the YRT & TTC combo, as the travel times will come down and offer a better value. Only if the subway is overcrowded during the midday will the Richmond Hill line see Lakeshore-like service. Expanded rush hour service, however, will come in the form of more trains and an extension to a stop at the north end of Richmond Hill.

That leaves us with the Georgetown line, which sees the worst service on weekends and the worst Union-bound service on weekdays. The line's only strongpoint is its service to Yorkdale and York Mills and its outbound service from Union Station after 7 p.m. Above Bramalea station, the line is heavily used by CN Rail freight trains, and the infrastructure to remedy some of these chokepoints is still years away. At West Toronto Junction, near Dupont & Dundas Streets, CP Rail's busy east-west line across Toronto passes at grade. Other lines have seen overpasses constructed in 16 months, but the decision to build an underpass here means that it won't be completed until 2010, four years after construction began. Between those two projects, a project to expand a single track line is tied up in the Union - Pearson Rail Link environmental assessment. Bitter opposition to the airport trains has force the provincial government to review the process in greater depth than normal, and means that the go-ahead, won't come until 2008 at the earliest.

The present situation on GO Transit is the result of it choking on its own success, combined with the physical inability to build the expansions paid for by the provincial government fast enough. The $1.6 billion that the Liberals have delivered, on top of MoveOntario 2020 money, will go a long way, but the work will take time to complete. Sadly, we'll have to bear with it until then - especially Georgetown riders. For the foreseeable future, the best we can expect is hourly bus service to and from Union. However, those runs wouldn't likely serve Bloor, Weston or Etobicoke North stations.

Sorry Jessica.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A series of seemingly random events that led to something very, very good

It was a sunny fall evening, on a westbound GO Train on approach to Malton station when I got the call that was the culmination of a day which was memorable for reasons far too many to list. Days before, I received a seemingly urgent email from Ed Drass, respected journalist. I knew that he was a reader of this blog, but none-the-less, the message surprised me. Days later, after following up on the message, I received the call. A gentleman greeted me, and quickly identified himself as Rob MacIsaac, chair of the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority (now known as Metrolinx). After a short conversation, he asked me if I would be interested in serving on the regional transportation plan advisory committee. Without hesitation and trying to remain calm and composed, I gladly accepted his offer, arranged an appointment to meet him, and upon hanging up, formed a smile that didn't leave my face for at least three days.

So here I am, Andrae Griffith, serving alongside respected intellectuals, business and community leaders to carve out the future of transportation in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area. This is precisely what I sought to do when I began writing this blog many years ago - advocate for change. Now, I have been given the power to affect that change and I am truly grateful. 

I would like to thank everyone who made this opportunity possible - from my family and friends who have always supported me, to professionals in industry who take time out of their busy schedules (hopefully not against their supervisor's wishes) to read my thoughts. A very special thanks goes to Ed Drass and the other architects of this opportunity. I am forever in your debt.

Over the next year, Metrolinx will be embarking on a public consultation process which will be second to none. Every citizen, from the Bay Street CEO to the general store clerk in Port Perry, will get a say on the future of transit and transportation in the region, with the end result being a long term plan that everyone can call their own. Stay tuned to the Metrolinx website and to this blog for information on how to participate in the discussion process.

There is no doubt that this will be an exciting year for myself and for the region I call home.

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