Do I Get To Say, “I Told You So”?

October 4th, 2013

A new report on a subway extension to Scarborough from Toronto’s city manager, Joe Pennachetti, has him saying:

The construction of a Relief Line subway or equivalent may become a prerequisite to address the higher ridership on the Bloor-Danforth line that will be accelerated by construction of the subway extension.

I have said this before. Despite the fact that the name of this site is the Toronto LRT Information Site, it is my opinion that a (Downtown) Relief Line is a major priority. I believe that the correct mode of transit is a very important part of good transit planning, and sometimes that means subways. Unfortunately, many politicians and much of the public have drank the Koolaid that has them believing that good transit planning can only mean subways, subways, subways.

This site was started about six months before the Transit City LRT Plan was made public. The original focus was to provide information on just what LRT is and what it can do for Toronto. LRT is a broad expression that covers much more than just streetcars, but because Toronto kept its streetcar network, residents know very little beyond this narrow scope. Of those who have visited cities with LRT, most have never used another city’s LRT system to get around and therefore have no idea of what LRT can and can’t do for us. Fear of the unknown, combined with misleading information or out and out lies, makes for great opposition to something. This site was originally meant to show what is done in other cities, and how some of this can apply to Toronto (as well as how some things may not apply in Toronto).

With the announcement of the Transit City plan, the need to convince the politicians diminished (but did not disappear), and the purpose of this site took on a slightly wider scope about what mode is better for a given corridor.

From this, it was clear that there are situations where a full subway line is necessary, and that is at the core of the subway network where capacity is non-existant. Expansion of the core will do little to improve transit for those living in the core, but it will do wonders for those needing to get to the core. Thus, the word “Downtown” in the name Downtown Relief Line is misleading in a way. It would relieve the downtown part of the subway network, but in doing so it increases capacity on the parts of the subway network bringing in people from further out.

Getting back to the point of this post, it was on March 15, 2012 that I said that Toronto badly needs a subway. Going even futher back, it was on June 2, 2009 that I spoke of removing the plans for the Don Mills LRT line south of Eglinton and replacing it with the DRL subway line.

So finally there is an official report that says what I have been saying for several years now. Now if we can only get people to pull their fingers out of their ears and stop saying, “I can’t hear you - subways, subways, subways!”

Presto’s New Site Falls Short

July 3rd, 2013

How is everyone liking the new Presto site?

It is nice that you can have a user ID so you don’t have to enter your card number to log in. Though, I should say that you MUST now have a user ID, and the process to set it up if you were have a card from before is not exactly straight-forward. The process involves you typing in your card number more than once, along with the three digit code (like the CVV on a credit card) and your old online PIN. Each time, it will not like something about one of those, but when you type it again, it will be happy about it, but have a problem with one of the other two and make you do it all over again. Even though you enter everything the same each time (I assured this for myself by typing the numbers in a text editor, then using copy/paste to fill in the Presto form!), it will eventually take everything. Read the rest of this entry »

Thornhill Resident Has It Right

April 18th, 2013

In last Saturday’s editions of the Thornhill Liberal and the Richmond Hill Liberal, Thornhill resident Judith Witzig was 100% correct in her letter to the editor regarding the controversy over VIVA Rapidways to be built along Centre Street west from Bathurst over to where Highway 7 swings south to meet Centre Street. I wrote about this back in February, and how Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman and the Beverley Glen Ratepayers Association were opposed to this going through their neighbourhood. Never mind that VIVA service along this route has been a fact of life for seven and a half years now.

Ms. Witzig’s words deserve to be repeated, and appear after the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Thornhill MPP Against Rapidway

February 13th, 2013

As outlined in this article in the Thornhill Liberal, Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman is rallying against the construction of a VIVA rapidway on Centre and Bathurst streets.

This opposition comes from the Beverley Glen Ratepayers Association, whose president Gila Martow accompanied Shurman at a press conference this past Monday at The Promenade Mall’s York Region Transit and Viva bus terminal. In a display of the bizarre, they brought out the broken record of the St. Clair streetcar right of way and how it “decimated business and lives”. No mention of the Highway 7 rapidway construction between Bayview and Warden that is currently underway. This project, being run by the same people who would be responsible for the Centre/Bathurst rapidway, has maintained all lanes of traffic during most of the project while maintaining and promoting business access all during construction. Instead, they present a horror story of a project that had little co-ordination between various agencies and was located where there was no space for temporary relocation of traffic.

VIVA’s purple route diverts off of Highway 7 between Centre and Bathurst Streets to allow it to connect with the Promenade Mall and pass through an area where people needing the service are located.  Martow said, “The busway route would be faster if it stayed on Highway 7.” Sure it would, but who lives along that stretch of Highway 7? Is the only purpose of the VIVA purple route to provide fast service for people traveling between points east of Bathurst and west of Centre? I suppose what Martow is saying is, the people along Centre and Bathurst be damned, they can drive up to Highway 7 to catch the bus.

Martow also believes the money should be reallocated to funding the Yonge Street subway extension. Just how does she expect people in her neighbourhood are going to get to that subway extension, should it be built 15 years from now? Just how are they supposed to get to the subway in Vaughan when it opens in a few years? At the risk of generalizing about York Region residents, I would suggests she expects them to drive their car to the subway. Does she realize that the number of parking spaces at the VMC station will be zero?

Presto’s Knowledge of Where You Are

December 19th, 2012

Updated December 19. 

It is possible to have and use a Presto card without registering it, but there are a number of benefits to registration. For one, if your card is lost or stolen, you can get its balance transferred to a new card, and for another, you are entitled to the Transit Tax Credit provided you use it for at least 32 fares with one transit operator in a calendar month (something only available with monthly passes or with four or more consecutive weekly passes!).

I recently came across someone who uses an unregistered card and always adds value using cash at a GO station. His reason: he doesn’t want his movements to be “tracked”. This is not a discussion on privacy issues and such, though I will say that there is not a staff of people creating files on each Presto user, or any for that matter. We can’t afford to do it, and nobody is that important. If you are nearly that important, then you will have paparazzi following you around and they will be disclosing your movements far sooner than Presto’s back end database gets updated. From my experience, Presto’s back end is usually updated overnight, but frequently requires a second overnight period to capture everything.

To be sure, a subpoena could be issued that would force Presto to reveal a user’s transaction history, but don’t forget that this can work in favour of the user by providing an alibi. For instance, I can prove that I was at Finch Station on December 11 at 10:07 a.m. - well, at least I can prove that my Presto card was there.

The accuracy of that tracking works well when a card is tapped at a TTC subway station or a VIVAstation, but not so accurate when one taps on a moving vehicle. I would have thought that Presto terminals on board buses would somehow be tied to the GPS system that makes the stop announcement system function. It isn’t, and if Presto’s ability to know where the bus is were used to announce stops, people would be in an uproar. That is, if they were on a bus where the announcement system is set loud enough to hear. To be fair, I suspect that some YRT operators turn down the volume to avoid the waterboard torture-like effects of a system that announces the road you are on over and over again (i.e.: a bus travelling on Yonge has each and every stop announcement end in “at Yonge” or “on Yonge”), but I digress.

If you board a bus that has been sitting in one location for a while, such as at a route terminus, there is a very good chance that the transaction record will correctly show the stop where you tapped. Otherwise, it will show you boarding either several stops before where you actually boarded, or perhaps even several stops after you have boarded. I have seen records showing that I tapped on at the stop that I actually exited.

Better accuracy probably isn’t necessary, most of the time. What if you board a bus that crosses a zone boundary? Only YRT has fare zones, so this does not apply to other GTHA systems. Read the rest of this entry »