Thursday, August 28, 2008

Open letter to GO Transit

Dear GO Transit

As the days grow shorter and the weather becomes cooler, the trees in the Caledon hills will begin their spectacular transformation to autumn glory, and thousands will travel from all corners of the GTA to see the sights. As the town has lovely nature trails, courting cyclists by rolling out bicycle racks onto the Orangeville GO bus service will help reduce traffic on the rural roads which were never designed for the volume of cars that a late October weekend normally brings.

General service increases and weekend service is needed to more effectively serve as an excursion service, but there if the success of the Credit Valley Explorer excursion train is any indication, then I anticipate such a venture to very popular with the public and with area residents who will be able to access their property much more easily.

Of course, once these increased frequencies are put in place it would be irresponsible to remove them, as the public would have been grown accustomed to the big green buses providing an alternative to driving.

Sincerely yours,

Andrae "Lives on the Orangeville corridor" Griffith


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TTC looks at cutting out Metropass parking perk - Toronto Star

A lot of buzz is being generated about a proposal at the TTC board to eliminate the free parking privileges that Metropass users have at some commuter parking lots in the city.

While parking is a terrible use of land, and we should be looking at developing over the lots at many GO and subway stations, I have a feeling that this proposal has come a bit too early to be worth the political risk. It's true that most people will reason that it will be less expensive to pay the daily TTC fee than pay the daily parking fee at a private lot downtown, but I believe such a move doesn't address the root cause of people driving to the stations - not enough bus service.

To bring up my own personal experience - again - I live about a 20 minute walk from the nearest bus stop. From there, it is a 20 minute bus ride to the GO station. By driving, the trip takes me 20 minutes flat. There are many people faced with this dilemma, and for most, driving is the most attractive option.

In order to bridge the gap, we have to increase bus service in neighbourhoods to drastically reduce the time necessary to walk to the local stop. This means more GO shuttles, more community bus routes and even the use of mini-buses to handle the narrow streets and to counter the negative reaction some people have towards full sized buses. In addition, we have to install bike racks on all routes, as even a leisurely pace is three or four times faster than walking.

Don't get me wrong, there will be a time when free parking will be a story we tell our children (along with the fact that we could once buy a litre of gas for 63 cents), but we're not quite ready for that time.

For more reading on the subject, check out Sameer Vasta's latest post on

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bolton wants to "Get on the GO"

A letter in the Caledon Enterprise, combined with some conversations with the author of the letter has left me thinking about the Bolton GO bus service. There's no doubt that this improvement is revolutionary for Caledon, and aside from the fact that a stop at the main intersection of Bolton was left out for no good reason, I don't have any issues with the bus in Caledon. Michael Chobrok's criticsm (which I back) lies with the bus' route once it crosses into Brampton.

The Bolton via Highway 50 GO Bus connects to Malton GO station, where passengers can transfer to the Georgetown line trains. But, why is this connection at Malton? Why not move the connection to Bramalea GO station? In my opinion, the benefits are clear:
  • Bramalea offers transfers to buses going to York U, Finch Terminal, Square one and points west, while Malton offers no GO bus connections.
  • Bramalea offers a full complement of Brampton Transit buses in the terminal, and the connecting fare is only 50 cents. At Malton, connecting passengers have to pay full fare and have to walk to the street.
  • Bramalea's ticket counter has longer hours, and has indoor waiting areas even after the station is closed. Malton station closes after the rush hour. 
  • There would be no noticeable decrease in service though Malton, as Mississauga Transit services would pick up the slack. 
  • The increase in travel times from Bolton to Union Station would increase by 120 seconds, based on time time it take for the Brampton-Highway 27 GO bus takes to cover almost the same stretch.
From my point of view, making this change makes sense. I'm very glad to see there are others in Caledon who have an interest in improving transit in the town, and I Michael Chobrok all the best in his studies. To his cause, I offer this google map.

The bus saves 3 minutes by running to Bramalea, so it will have to depart Bolton 2 minutes earlier to meet the train which departs 5 minutes earlier. In my humble opinion, I don't think such a schedule change is a "disastrous scheduling problem."


Friday, August 22, 2008 roundup

After a few weeks of going live, I am happy to announce that I have three posts published on

Dude, where's my sidewalk? gives a general overview of life in the 905 and how difficult it truly is to choose transit. Bus frequency is an issue, of course, but problems like no sidewalks and poor land-use planning must be addressed if we want to reduce our dependency on the automobile.

Barrier Free Future examines accessibility on transit, and how it isn't always as easy as building more elevators and buying low floor streetcars. With the REX service getting a lot of favourable comments in the community, I examine how the most cost-effective way of implementing the service might make it more difficult for those in wheelchairs and mobility devices to use the service.

The Endless Waltz examines the bitter debate between station placement and urban design. Subway lines tend to be built with stations spaced further apart than light rail lines, and many believe that this will cause areas of low-density to remain in between stations. But, is there any truth to this argument? I travel to Sheppard Avenue to find out.

Also, you'll find articles by many other contributers. Sameer Vasta has well-commented articles about congestion charges and park & ride lots, while Kate Kusiac introduces a series on the human experiences of transit. Karen Smith talks about making the city a bit more bicycle friendly, and Rannie Turingan has several photos of life in the GTHA and some car-free ways to get to the CNE.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Announcing the new!

After some fiddling, Metronauts, the people who brought you the Transit Camp un-conferences this past summer, has relaunched their website, There, you'll find interesting ideas and discussions about the future of transportation in the GTHA, ideas on how to build a more livable urban environment, and the best tips and tricks from around the world on navigating the urban landscape. You might even find a post or two from yours truly.

Be sure to check it out and keep up the discussions!


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Things I learned in Orangeville

Going to a wedding in Palmerston and Listowel on Saturday, I passed though the Town of Orangeville and learned a few things.

After many years of seeing only evidence of Orangeville Transit (bus stops, posted schedules and the like), I have finally seen an Orangeville Transit bus. They use what appear to be Ford cutaway models, similar to the community shuttles in TransLink's Fleet. Service frequencies appear to be typical for a municipality of that size.

Entering the town, I spotted a sign usually reserved for GO stations. Since there is no GO train service to Orangeville (because it would go past my house, and I would be using it without hesitation), I had to investigate. What I found was a small bus terminal on the site of the old train station. A station which appeared to replica of the original train station was built on the site of the site, and the train used by the Credit Valley Explorer excursion train was tied up for the night at the platform. Was this scene a vision of things to come?

Better service to Orangeville will benefit commuter heading into Toronto and residents of Caledon, who have a love-hate relationship with public transportation (except for me, where the relationship is all love). A route along Highway 9 linking Orangeville and Newmarket would also be a smart connection.

And, as an aside, GO Transit (and any other agency operating under contract to the Town) is fully exempt from the Caledon Bus Licensing Bylaw. Those who argued to the contrary at the recent Valleywood Residents Association meeting should take a closer look at the legislation.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Chateaux of Caledon plan has lots of foes in the public eye - Caledon Citizen

Every so often, a newspaper article gets published that suggests to me that the attitudes of the general public towards sustainability, better development and transportation indicate that society is doomed.

Case in point, this article published in the Caledon Citizen yesterday.

According to a petition against the development, a proposal to build 500 homes in Caledon East was called "an excessive and unsustainable growth for the Caledon East community." I feel bad for the concept of sustainability here, as it is being taken out of context. Building low density sprawl is unsustainable. Building more units on less land is sustainable from both an environmental perspective (as it uses less land), and from a financial perspective (as a higher tax base in a small area means more revenue and less infrastructure). While this development would still be less dense than regular sprawl-type housing, it is intensification by Caledon's standards.

Of course, safety is also an issue. From the article:
One woman reflected on how Mclean's magazine had stated Caledon was the safest place in Canada earlier this year, and she feared that would change if the subdivision goes in.

"Do we need such a condensed housing development?" she asked, fearing such densities would attract crime and drugs to the area.

She also pointed out two schools are in the neighbourhood. "Innocent children and teens need protection," she said.

The woman also pointed out there are lots of activities available for kids in the village now, but adding more young people will create waiting lists, meaning some of them might have nothing else to do.

"Once it is done, and crime moves in, we cannot reverse it," she remarked.
This argument is, in my opinion, absolutely ridiculous, mildly offensive, and contradicts itself in the process. Bolton (another village in Caledon) is much more dense than this proposed development, and has several public housing developments. Is it overun by drugs and crime? NO. Is Caledon still the safest municipality in Canada even with all this supposed evil? YES.

Also from the article:
In addition, she didn't have much faith in the concept of Caledon East being a live/work/play community. It's a commuter community, she asserted, adding the part of the plan that calls for four-storey townhouses, "simply does not fit in this community."


The idea of the live/work units was a concern to one woman, who said she had visited a similar development in Mississauga. People there told her of problems with high turnovers, parking, deliveries, lack of storage area and snow-clearing.

"I fully believe we're making a great big mistake here," she said. "I think it's a pie-in-the-sky idea that professionals would want to live there."
Clearly, these residents feel the idea of two houses touching are just icky. Stacked townhouses are, in my opinion, an excellent way of building non-intrusive density into a project, and fit will in many places, including historic communities like downtown Woodbridge. While a 10 storey apartment building would clearly not fit in a place like that, stacked townhouses have been used very successfully to blend into the community and maintain its charm. Besides, its not the type of house that defines how well it fits into the community - it's the urban design.

Linking that comment back to the one above it, we can see another contradiction. Residents fear that a lack of businesses and services for kids will lead to crime, but don't support live/work units, which might fill the void in opportunities. While similar attempts to build live/work units have not been very successful, this doesn't mean we shouldn't try. It will provide opportunities for residents to access services within the community, instead of having to drive 30 minutes to Brampton or Bolton.

In addition, if it's a pie-in-the-sky idea that professionals would want to live in Caledon East, doesn't that imply that Caledon East is a bad place to live?

This article underlines the opinions of what might be a minority of people, but it's a vocal minority of people who tend to have a lot of influence in the 905. Change will come, but it will have to run against the grain and the agents of change have to be persistent.

Of course, its very difficult when the mayor calls Caledon East a walkable community. Having sidewalks doesn't make a community walkable, Madame Mayor. I will give you credit though... Caledon East does have a grocery store.

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