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 »

Calgary’s West LRT Opens

December 10th, 2012

Calgary’s West extension to their C-train system opens for revenue service. Initial opening with free rides occurred over the weekend.

In the near future, the Calgary Page will be updated with photos and information on this new part of the system.

For now, here is a video of the trip:

Pig-headed Ideology Trumps Cost Saving Concerns

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

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.

Posting Duplicate Comments

June 10th, 2012

Over the past month or two, there have been a number of comments posted on this site that have not made it to visible status. It is not the policy of this site to censor a point of view. In fact, I appreciate contrary opinions as it give me a chance to clarify points I make.

The posts in question involve points that are both in line and contrary to my own opinions, but the problem with them is that they were not original. In each case, someone has taken comments posted on other sites and performed a copy and paste as if they were their own point being made here. In many cases, it is obvious as the pseudo-poster has included quotes from related posts on the originating site that are out of context at best, and unintelligible at worst, when pasted in as a comment on this site. In most cases, I have reason to believe they are simply intended to provide a link to a commercial site that is of no specific interest to someone reading a site on transit, which is why they have not appeared here.

I bring this up as there could be a possibility of a valid post getting nixed, despite what I believe is careful consideration before killing it. I don’t have a problem with someone posting their point on multiple sites. Heck, one of my beliefs is that I should never have to type something if it has ever been typed in the history of the world.

If you want to write, “the sky is green” on ten sites, go ahead and type it once, copy it, and paste it on each site, including this site (as long as that is a topic of discussion!). Just don’t go writing on another site, “John said the sky is purple and I believe it is green” and paste that on this site, unless you are reacting to the same comment made by ‘John’ on this site.