Archive for the ‘General Transit’ Category

Pig-headed Ideology Trumps Cost Saving Concerns

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

The recent story about Rob Ford reading while driving emphasizes how he has an ideology that trumps the cost-cutting ideology that he rode into office on.

Ford subscribes to a belief that one who owns a vehicle has every right to drive it when and where they want, do so alone, do whatever they want while driving it, and not be impeded by anything else on the road. Well, it is a free country, and if some of this makes one look like an asshole, it is one’s right to look like an asshole.

What really burns me about this attitude when it comes to Ford is that his belief in it supersedes his belief in saving tax payers money, the very belief that got him elected. I made fun of this when he first cancelled Transit City with this cartoon:


The point of the cartoon was that he has made a big production out of saving on things that amount to pennies per household while doing things like cancelling Transit City that involve millions in costs. All of this is because of his misguided belief that Transit City was “streetcars” and that meant delays for him in his SUV.

Respect for the tax payer! Though, if that means my drive might be slower, damn the tax payer!

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving money. When it comes to fiscal matters, I lean pretty far to the right, especially for someone involved in transit activism. Quite frankly, I don’t see Ford as fiscally right-leaning. He may attempt to lean to the right in this area, but he ends up leaning backwards, usually enough to fall flat on his ass.

Getting back to Ford driving himself around. He loves to tout the savings of not having the costs of a driver, but let us not forget that there are costs of this decision. The first that comes to mind is his parking spot. Not a huge cost, but what does a parking space at city hall cost? This translates to an annual income that is lost when the space is reserved for Ford. The bigger cost is the loss of Ford’s productivity during the time he is driving himself. This is the mayor who wears is ability to call back people like a badge. Some of that could be done during his commute if he were not at the wheel.

A better solution, in the opinion of this fiscal conservative, would be to use public transit. Setting aside Ford’s priority of “my car, my empire” over fiscal conservatism, this would make the most sense, especially given that he also touts himself as a “common guy” type of mayor. His commute would give him all sorts of face-time with the constituents that he loves to speak face-to-face with. I suspect that the annual cost of using transit is similar to the lost revenue from his reserved parking spot, so this would be a net zero cost to the tax payer. With his personal vehicle off the road, there would be a tiny savings that his vehicle has in terms of wear and tear on the roads that are maintained by the tax payer.

Ah, but nothing trumps his “all by myself in my vehicle” ideology.

Passing a Stopped Streetcar

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

With the recent story about the TTC streetcar operator lecturing Rob Ford on the rules of the road regarding stopped streetcars, I thought I would post the correct information about what the rules really are.

First off, here is the exact words from section 166, subsection 1 of the Highway Traffic Act:

166.  (1)  Where a person in charge of a vehicle or on a bicycle or on horseback or leading a horse on a highway overtakes a street car or a car of an electric railway, operated in or near the centre of the roadway, which is stationary for the purpose of taking on or discharging passengers, he or she shall not pass the car or approach nearer than 2 metres measured back from the rear or front entrance or exit, as the case may be, of the car on the side on which passengers are getting on or off until the passengers have got on or got safely to the side of the street, as the case may be, but this subsection does not apply where a safety zone has been set aside and designated by a by-law passed under section 9, 10 or 11 of the Municipal Act, 2001 or under section 7 or 8 of the City of Toronto Act, 2006, as the case may be.  2006, c. 32, Sched. C, s. 24 (6).

What all this means is that one must stop two metres behind the rear-most open door when a streetcar is stopped to take on or discharge passengers. Also, if a door closes behind a passenger leaving the streetcar, you cannot pass until they are completely off the road.

It also means that this applies to all those operating a motor vehicle, as well as those on a bicycle, riding on a horse, or walking a horse. I suppose if you were on a bicycle and dismounted to walk it past the streetcar you would be fine - just don’t do the same if you are on a horse!

The major exception to this is when there is an island or platform for people to board from or leave to. There is also a grey area regarding a streetcar that stops and opens its doors but not for the purpose of taking on or discharging passengers. I suppose that a short turning streetcar that waits on a side street before re-entering service would be such a situation if the operator were to open the doors.

The bottom line is that Rob Ford was not in the wrong if he passed the closed rear doors and came to a stop two metres behind the open front doors.

Bob Kinnear, president of Local 113 Amalgamated Transit Union, said, “Even if the front door’s open, you’re not to pass the rear doors. Because the rear doors are active. What I mean by that is any passenger, at any time, can step down onto the steps and exit the streetcar.” That is all well and good, but that is not what the law says. You’re also not “supposed to” park in parking space designated for families with children unless you are, but you won’t be ticketed for it.

The law really should be changed because the current law leaves too much interpretation that creates potentially unsafe situations. In the state of Victoria in Australia, the laws are clear: one must not pass beyond the rear bumper of a streetcar (tram) when its lights are flashing. Trams are equipped with yellow lights that flash similar to school bus lights here.

Of course, when our new streetcars hit the streets, all door loading will likely mean that most of the time all doors will open and close together, making the rear door on the streetcar the one that matters.

War on the Car: Majority of Casualties Due to “Friendly Fire”

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

We hear the phrase “the War on the Car” every now and then, and I believe it is safe to say that the casualties of this war is the lost time due to gridlock. Anything that is seen to slow down a car is an attack in this war. I should note that since the main component of our transit network is buses, gridlock is just as much a problem for transit as it is for private vehicles.

Median-located LRT lines are attacked as slowing down traffic as they will “take away space for cars”, even if this is not the case or, in the case of Sheppard East, will actually provide additional space for cars on the road. LRT is denigrated with the use of the term ’streetcars’ partly because people see how both lanes of traffic must stop when a streetcar stops to take on or discharge passengers where there is no loading island.

I am not saying that transit plays no part in gridlock. Though the effect of those streetcars on downtown streets are nothing compared to the greater number of buses that would be required on the same streets to replace the streetcars - the streets with on-street parking that would cause a bus to have to stick out in the traffic lane when it ‘pulls over’ to a stop. I am saying that transit plays a very minor role in the cause of gridlock, and some would argue that transit plays a less than zero role because of the number of vehicles it is potentially taking off the street.

What I am getting at, and this is not due to any official study or look at data, is that the majority of the gridlock in the GTHA is due to what I call “friendly fire”. That is, other cars or the road infrastructure itself.

Based purely on anecdotal observation, mostly as a driver but also as a transit user, I am left to conclude that a full third of all gridlock is caused by badly designed road infrastructure. I am also left to conclude that another full third of all gridlock is caused by ass-dragging, navel-gazing drivers who have no concept of the notion that there are other people who need to get somewhere, and possibly more urgently than they need to. The remaining third is made up of numerous “other reasons”, some due to unique situations (e.g.: accidents, construction, etc.), and some due to regular occurrences.


Yonge Subway Extension Plans Get Whittled Away

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

When I first proposed an LRT option for transit on Yonge Street north of Steeles, I compared it to a subway extension that would only go to Highway 7. I originally made the assumption that there would only be TWO stations north of Steeles: one near Centre or Clark streets, and one at Richmond Hill Centre at Yonge and Highway 7.

When public information sessions for the environmental assessment were held, the plan doubled that by presenting FOUR stations: Clark, Royal Orchard, Langstaff/Longbridge, and Richmond Hill Centre. The plan also called for a 25-bay underground bus terminal at Steeles.

This past week, according to this article, York Region’s rapid transit board received the final conceptual study for the project. Gone is the Royal Orchard station, based on projections that by 2031 it would have only two-thirds the number of users as Bessarion, the TTC’s currently least used subway station. There would also be a 3-bay bus loop (above ground) added at Clark, and the underground bus terminal at Steeles would be reduced to 16 bays from 25.

It is also mentioned that talks are ongoing with the owners of Centrepoint Mall (southwest corner of Steeles and Yonge) about using some of their land for a bus terminal, which would move it to the surface instead of an underground. The original plans would have three levels below ground: a concourse, the bus terminal, then the subway. This would put the buses at ground level and involve a greater vertical travel when transferring.

The report mentions that only half the subway service will initially go north of Steeles, but somewhat erroneously cites the frequency at 3.5 minutes, and more erroneously assumes this will not be forever. This is 210 seconds, and assumes that service south of Steeles would be 105 seconds, which would be pushing it a little. With a new signalling system, service could theoretically be as often as 90 seconds, but that requires that there be absolutely no delays, EVER. 110-120 is more practical to allow for the occasional loading delay. Having half the trains turn back at Steeles will also be mandatory on a permanent basis as it is not physically possible to turn a train around at a current terminal in less than 140 seconds. Perhaps the terminal at Richmond Hill Centre will be built differently, with 2 or 3 tail tracks, but don’t hold your breath.

This story is not over yet.

Council Approves Sheppard East LRT

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

It required over another half day of debate, but at about 2:40 pm, the main motion on going with the LRT plan for Sheppard East came to a vote and was passed 24-19. Here is a photo of the results of the vote (click on it to see a larger version):

 Vote results

The day started with some comments about the attempts to filibuster on Wednesday before continuing with the questions on Councillor Thompson’s motion to defer everything. There was a motion to amend his motion by adding a deadline to the deferral that required a report back to council for the May 8 and 9 meeting. At 11 am, the deferral and its amendment went to a vote. The amendment passed, but the main motion itself failed and discussion returned to the main motion.

There were a few “no strings” motions put forward to essentially create a committee or mechanism that would be on-going to study ways to create on-going funding for transit development and even look into studying the priority of future projects. These are “no strings” because they were not tied to whether Sheppard East would be LRT or subway. Personally, I believe this is a good idea as it could create a way of doing things that keeps looking to the future for transit needs instead of just coming up with a new line on a map when it either makes a good election promise or another level of government is waiving some cash at the city.

I suspect that the lack of any 3P way to fund Ford’s plan whatsoever may because the city has lacked this sort of initiative until now. After all, if you had a load of cash to invest and the city came to you looking for it and you asked what sort of planning structure they had in place, what should your reaction be when they respond with, “Uh, our plan was to just ask you”?

These motions were intentionally left open-ended to allow what ever body exists to explore all possible sources of funding. Anything goes - be that going to the province or feds to beg, make use of existing or asking for new revenue tools, going to the private sector, or even holding a bake sale. Still, Councillor Ford had to ask if it would include looking at 3P sources. When told ‘yes’, he continued to ask, until he became frustrated and made a comment about “working with a bunch of monkeys.” He had to apologize for this comment, but his lack of understanding what the word ‘yes’ means shows that Councillor Cho was correct on Wednesday when he asked Doug Ford if he understood the language.