Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ultimate Hidden Staircase Ideal for Wannabe Bond Villains

One of Dr. Ron Keeble's teaching that stuck with me from first year planning was his comments that staircases are "the most wasteful use of space in a house".

Creative Home Engineering has found a solution to the problem. As you can see, this design eliminates the need for a second staircase to head down into the lower level of the house. When will the day come when all houses have this? Its much more efficient, although my cousin Jill (who has about her life on the landing on the staircase) would lose this prime storage space.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Attention Business Editors:

Rogers Issues Statement on the Apple iPhone

TORONTO, April 29 /CNW/ - Ted Rogers, President and Chief Executive
Officer of Rogers Communications Inc. today issued the following statement:
We're thrilled to announce that we have a deal with Apple to bring the
iPhone to Canada later this year. We can't tell you any more about it right
now, but stay tuned.

About Rogers Communications Inc.

Rogers Communications is a diversified Canadian communications and media
company. We are engaged in wireless voice and data communications services
through Wireless, Canada's largest wireless provider and the operator of the
country's only Global System for Mobile Communications ("GSM") based network.
Through Cable and Telecom we are one of Canada's largest providers of cable
television, cable telephony and high-speed Internet access, and are also a
full-service, facilities-based telecommunications alternative to the
traditional telephone companies. Through Media, we are engaged in radio and
television broadcasting, televised shopping, magazines and trade publications,
and sports entertainment. We are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange
(TSX: RCI.A and RCI.B), and on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RCI). For
further information about the Rogers group of companies, please visit


Monday, April 28, 2008

Metronauts in the Hammer

Just a friendly reminder that there is still room to register for Metronauts at McMaster University in Hamilton on May 3. Anyone looking to chat with transit activists and officials from Metrolinx should come out. It's a great opportunity to share ideas with the people who have the power to implement them. Visit for more info.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Back-to-Work Legislation Passes

Spacing is reporting that back-to-work legislation has passed unanimously by the legislature, bringing an end to what I will dub "the lost weekend." Service is expected to resume for the morning rush hour tomorrow, but there is a slight possibility that the system will be running by 9 PM tonight. If you start seeing buses running this evening, I would be weary, as your connecting service might not be running yet.

When you board the TTC tonight or tomorrow, remember to be kind to the operators and collectors. They will surely be under a lot of pressure from less civilized passengers, and a nice message of "I'm glad you're back" will definitely brighten up their mood. Pay It Forward was on last night, and I think we can learn a lot from that movie.

Karma repays.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Calm the crap down

The TTC is now on strike. Feel free to complain about the situation we have found ourselves in. However, everyone who is taking this as an open-ended opportunity to bash people who belong to unions need to calm the crap down. Comments like "If they have no respect for the public, we should have no respect from them. Deunionize the bastards" aren't helpful. You may not agree with their methods, but remember that ATU 113 members are just trying to do what's best for their families.

I'm going to turn off the TV now, as some of the callers on CP24 are ridiculous. Lady! Museum station was paid for through the capital budget! Salaries are paid from the operating budget! The law says you can't transfer money between those two accounts!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of left field

The TTC's union rejected the proposed contract this evening, but things are quickly spiraling out of control. According to media reports, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113, will be on strike as of 12:00 midnight this evening.

So how did we get here? Well, there is no reasonable way you could argue that this is the city's fault for not offering an acceptable agreement. Blame for this situation falls squarely on the union leadership for being only 35% in touch with their membership. 

Mr. Kinnear, I am not a member of your Union but I think you need to look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you have the ability to continue to lead ATU local 113.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bike + Train = Getaway

A few weeks ago, while defending the male gender to a friend recently scorned, the conversation turned to romantic getaways. With her being from Thorold, I said that a romantic weekend getaway was to take the train to Niagara Falls and cycle to a quaint bed and breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake, visiting wineries along the way.

With the Bike Train, this is a reality. The program, which added a bike-rack equipped baggage car to the Toronto - Niagara Falls VIA runs on weekends, was a big hit last summer is back for another season with some trains now stopping in St. Catharines (but oddly, not boarding). With gas prices approaching "arm & leg", this is the kind of multi-modal transportation that will allow city dwellers to escape to the countryside during the stressful summer months.

Rush job feared on airport rail link - Toronto Star

Anyone who rides the Georgetown trains knows that improvements are long overdue. The problem is that the environmental assessment for adding new capacity between the St. Clair Avenue overpass and the area just outside Bramalea station is married to the environmental assessment for Blue 22 - the hugely unpopular Union-Pearson rail link. Weston residents are not opposed these trains, they just want them to be run by a public agency and have them pick up and drop off passengers in their community.

The EA has been sitting on at the province since October 2006, seemingly collecting dust. According to a Toronto Star article, the concerned citizens are worried that the province is waiting for the new EA rules to come into effect in June before expediting the project.

I disagree.

Given the movement on the RTP, I think the most likely scenario is that the Province is waiting for the plan to be released before sending the EA back for study in the context of the plan. The province, under the very same government, wouldn't have created Metrolinx only to undermine it. Also, given the concepts released under the white papers, Blue 22 seems to have morphed into two, possibly three different lines - two are green, and one is a red rocket.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The White Zone is for policy only

So here we are at the white pages.

Subject to board approval, these will be the three versions of the Regional Transportation Plan that the public will be asked to comment on.

As you recall, the Green Papers were discussion papers - a way to ask what ideas you feel are most important and should be retained to the next step.

I encourage everyone to read the white papers to learn what will happen with Mobility Hubs; Active Transportation; Transportation Demand Management; Moving Goods and Delivering Services; and Roads and Highways, but since transit is the soul of the plan, I'll summarize the options here.

The Linear Test Concept is based primarily on the MoveOntario 2020 projects and other proposed system improvements with the following additional services to complete connections, fill system gaps, and address growth beyond 2020.

The Radial Test Concept builds on Test Concept A by strengthening several major transit corridors radiating from Union Station. Regional Express lines providing very high levels of rail service are a major part of the Radial Concept. Regional Express lines would provide a high frequency and high speed (average 80 km/h or more) service by electrified railways or other higher-order technologies.

The Web Test Concept provides enhanced radial service to/from Union Station, as in the Radial Test Concept, but also adds major new east-west higher-order transit lines. The network for this test concept is a fully integrated, hierarchical transit system that will connect most of the urban growth centres in the GTHA.

In addition to the maps, you can find the vital statictics of each concept here, here and here.

When you're looking at these maps, keep in mind the following:

  • Metro, in the context of this study, means grade separated railway. It could be subway, ICTS or a combination of both. Station spacing has not been defined, but could involved short-spacing (500 to 700m) along designated avenues and express tracks for long-haul trips.
  • Express rail is frequent service (every few minutes), using subway-style trains. Rush hour commuter service could continue to operate along these corridors using GO-style trains.
  • Commuter Rail is frequent commuter service during the peak hours, with off peak service every hour or better. These would likely use GO-style trains exclusively.
  • Other Rapid Transit is LRT or BRT, using various possible on-street and off-street routing options.

So what is the next step?

The Draft RTP is due out in June. Until then, Metrolinx will be looking for comment on which proposal to move forward with. This is your region, and you have the opportunity to make it your regional plan.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Agreement reached: Strike Averted

The TTC and the Union have reached a tentative agreement.

Service will operate as usual tomorrow morning.

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Pizza & Snacks

NewsTalk 1010 CFRB has reported that pizza and snacks were sent up to the negotiators within the last hour. There is speculation that a new offer worth debating was placed on the table in the 11th hour, and no one from the Union or the TTC has made a statement. The deadline was 31 minutes ago.

This blogger isn't really surprised at what's happening.

And if Spider Jones says "strike watch" one more time, this blogger is going to scream.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shifting Gears: A Region in Motion - Toronto Star

The Toronto Star is running an interesting series of articles this week about transit, where we need to be, and what it will take to get us there. Be sure to check it out:

Transit road map to recovery
The genuinely better way
Is it time for road tolls?
London cuts traffic 20%
Let's not alienate drivers
A model city for sane transportation

More articles will be added to this list as they are published, or check the Toronto Star website for quicker updates. Better still, walk to the store and greet your neighbours along the way!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Metronauts: Continuing the conversation (Part 2)

Metronauts (powered by Transit Camp) was a whirlwind of good ideas, interesting conversations and networking with industry professionals and transit advocates. Here, the second in a series of posts, I will try to continue some of the conversations started on that interesting day. In this post, I'll be taking about regional rail.

Regional rail is not a radical concept by any means. But, it could radically change how suburban riders interact with the transit system. Simply put, regional rail is the result of increasing GO train frequency to headways of every 15 minutes or better. At this level of service, the "I don't know when it runs" argument tends to vanish, as does the "I'll either get there 45 minutes early or 15 minutes late" argument. This is pretty much how VIVA works. It runs so frequently that you'll know you won't be waiting long for the next trip to arrive.

Regional rail, in the Toronto context, requires several changes to the way the GO network works. Firstly, we would require two dedicated tracks on each railway corridor exclusively for GO's use. I believe that the best way to do this is to build a freight by-pass line, but as long as we can have two tracks which will never be blocked by freight trains, regional rail can be implemented. Secondly, we need to think about vehicles. It is technically possible to use traditional GO trains in this application, but it might be capacity overkill and an inefficient use of fuel. Self-propelled diesel multiple unit (DMU) or electric multiple unit (EMU) trains - something similar to the London Overground stock - could be used to solve the efficiency gap. Finally, we need to think about station spacing. DMU and EMU trains can accelerate and brake much quicker than a heavy rail train (as anyone who rides the subway knows), allowing us to add stations without increasing travel times. There wouldn't be a doubling of stations along the line, but on the Georgetown Line, for example, we could see new stations at Eglinton & Queen - where connections with other lines would be located.

The final - and most exciting - part of the concept is the possibility of branch lines. If we'll be using subway-sized trains, we can build subway lines to serve destinations which are located just off the existing corridor. The airport could be served by a branch of the Georgetown line, downtown Oshawa by the Lakeshore East line and the Mississauga City Centre by the Milton line - the latter becoming the elusive subway to Square One and the former being the compromise on the airport connection that Weston residents have fought so hard for.

Regional rail is also known as REX by Metrolinx, S-Bahn in Germany, Overground or National Rail in London and Pendeltåg in Sweden. But, regardless of what you call it, it offers a way to reduce traffic on the highways, a way to increase the capacity on the Yonge corridor, and provide the impromptus for the suburban municipalities to offer more connecting bus service - and that means better service for areas across the GTA.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mississauga Transitway: hopefully not a boondoggle in the making

A friend and I went to the Mississauga Transit BRT project open house tonight, taking one of the first 12-coach GO transit runs ever pulled by a single locomotive. We had a chat afterwards, and I think I speak for both of us when I say this:

The City of Mississauga has managed to take an idea which had some good points, crippled it, and finally, just for good measure, ensured it will only serve one type of customer making one type of trip.

Before the criticism, I will offer some background information. The BRT project is to build a transitway (bus only road - I use the term Mississauga BRT and Mississauga Transitway interchangeably) between Winston Churchill Blvd and Renforth Drive along the Highway 403/Eastgate Parkway/Eglinton Avenue corridor. At the Renforth Gateway station, buses could travel north to the airport, south to the subway, or east towards Toronto. GO will also be using the busway to get its vehicles out of the 403 traffic. Major destinations include Square One and the Airport Corporate Centre.

After listening to a presentation on the project in general, we broke into small focus groups. This is where things began to unravel.

It doesn't look like they will be using special buses, because they want neighbourhood buses to use the transitway to get to Square One. As a result, it seems that they don't see the need for premium vehicles with this type of operation. This is a letdown, as I doubt VIVA would have been as successful if it used ordinary YRT buses.

It doesn't look like they are even talking to the TTC, because when my friend asked about integration to the Eglinton-Crosstown line, he kept talking about Presto. I pressed the gentleman, and couldn't get a straight answer from him. All we wanted to know was if it would be a cross-platform transfer or something more complex.

Another women expressed the same concerns, wanting to know if schedule integration with TTC services was being explored. She didn't want to get to Renforth and have to wait 35 minutes to go further. Her answer was just a reiteration of the fact that the BRT services will operate every 7 minutes.

These are just two examples, but I think it shows that the "Mississauga In a Bubble" sentiment has taken hold of city hall.

Many people would argue that Transit City is not an effective transit plan. What you must remember is that Transit City is not only designed to move people - it is also designed to encourage the type of development that the official plan calls for (which is mid-rise, evenly spaced across the street - not extreme high density nodes with nothing in between). If you evaluate Transit City by its intentions, then you begin to see why it was proposed the way it was proposed.

Similarly, you can evaluate the Transitway by its intentions. It is intended to move people from the west end of Mississauga and Square One to the Airport Corporate Centre and to the TTC with 35 minutes end-to-end running time. It will be great for getting people to the subway, but unless the ambiguity around the Renforth Gateway isn't solved, it will be an epic fail in getting people to all the TTC services it touches.

But, all is not lost. They haven't entered into the detailed design phase, so there's still time to correct the flaws. They are doing a great job, but I fear that the toolbox they are using doesn't have all the tools they'll need.

...And Mavis needs a stop. I don't see the rationale for eliminating it.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Nightmares over

I did drive downtown, but I carpooled both ways, reducing the carbon footprint of the trip.

After dropping my mother at work at 8:00, I headed to Dupont & Dovercourt to pick up a friend who also needed to transport their model to school. It took me an hour to get there from Jane & Wilson. One hour. We arrived at Ryerson at 9:17 (by the parking garage ticket), having left Caledon at 7:15. I don't understand how anyone could drive downtown from that distance on a daily basis - although we used only local roads.

I managed to leave early and beat the rush, carpooling with a friend from Brampton on the way back. So, I'll only have to buy carbon credits for the 14k of city-driving I did alone.

Funny enough, Google Maps says that the route I took should have taken 1 hour & 45 minutes. Considering Davenport was a mess due to an accident just north of it on Dufferin, I'd say it's a pretty accurate estimate. Either way, it's not a trip I'll ever be taking again.


Nightmares in the morning

Tomorrow morning I'll be taking my terrain model downtown, and as you can see here, it's not something that you can take on the train. As a result, I'll be driving.

Yes, that's right. Driving.

I'll be carpooling with mom for half the trip, so it's not so bad, but I'm anticipating a nightmare.

Wish me luck.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Metronauts: Continuing the conversation (Part 1)

Metronauts (powered by Transit Camp) was a whirlwind of good ideas, interesting conversations and networking with industry professionals and transit advocates. Here, the first in a series of posts, I will try to continue some of the conversations started on that interesting day. In this post, I'll be taking about transit malls.

Essentially, a transit mall, in the Toronto context, is a street closed to all but transit vehicles. There are no examples in Toronto, but if European models were followed, we could see a lively pedestrian street, wide sidewalks and cycle lanes, and a transit right-of-way down the centre. There would be no cars permitted.

The city has planned to implement a project on King Street between Dufferin and Parliament which would result in a sort of transit mall (more info is available here), but local opposition to the notion of eliminating cars from the street has resulted in a pilot project between Yonge and University being postponed seemingly indefinitely. I'd like to see the pilot implemented, but there are a few questions I would love to ask.

Firstly, I've always wondered how much on-street parking contributes to the overall parking stock in an area. In the entertainment district, where the worst congestion is, there are many off-street lots. I know that there are traffic calming benefits to on-street parking, but I suspect that eliminating on-street parking and replacing it with less crowded, more frequent transit service would see an increase in customers. I'm not a business person, but isn't the bottom line to attract more customers?

Secondly, I think that half of a transit mall is to complement a pedestrian-friendly area, and not just to give transit an advantage over congestion. Based on this, why King and Bay for the pilot project? After dark, the area becomes deserted enough to play large games of urban capture-the-flag without even having to close down the streets. Why not King & Spadina or Queen & John? Those are two areas where adding transit malls will improve service and complement existing pedestrian areas. Obviously, we need to establish success through a pilot before we get too ambitious, and if we want the pilot to be successful, we should select a location where it will have a fighting chance. But, we can't take our eye of the prize.

Transit Malls have worked well in Europe, and do have a place in Toronto. But, before we can implement them, we have to have a culture shift from cars and on-street parking to transit and no-need-for parking. That, unfortunately, will take much more time than the construction ever will.

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