Archive for the ‘TTC’ Category

More Yak on Moribund Toronto Subway Building

Heard on CFRB’s John Moore show that they’re talking again about beefing up transit along Eglinton Avenue, specifically if a subway is better than light rapid transit (LRT). Over a decade after Harris cost this province tens of millions of dollars shutting down subway construction west of Allen, along Eglinton, and almost a decade after Harris left office (if memory serves right), a couple of Councillors have raised their heads tentatively to broach this idea again. It must’ve been all those billions Jim Flaherty — a Harris brother-in-hate-Toronto arms — was waving around yesterday that’s got them showing courage.

But as far as I could tell the millions promised for the Spadina extension to York was exactly what the McGuinty government set aside before the last election, so all they’re doing is reminding us that they still have it banked for whenever it happens. I’m sorry to be such a jaded Torontonian, but ever since Lastman-Harris-Chretien stood on the banks of Lake Ontario promising us billions to revitalize the waterfront, we’ve endured many more such announcements by the Mayor-Premier-Prime Minister of the day, or parts thereof, promising millions or billions for TTC, waterfront, or take-your-pick-of-desperate-Toronto need, followed by nothing. I don’t know why optimists even try to get together a bid for big games like the Pan Am games because (a) the federal government hates Toronto and won’t lift a finger for it and (b) no senior government is going to invest in infrastructure in this city. All those billions China spent on Beijing, making it a games jewel, would never happen here under similar circumstances because the country doesn’t see Toronto as representing it to the world, even though it does, even during an ordinary tourist season.

Anyway, it’s not like the plans for Spadina, Eglinton, or even Queen Street subway expansion are new. They’ve been studied and planned to death. Yet today’s leaders are loathe to use the technology proven to move masses of people swiftly, without being hindered or slowed down by car traffic, because it’s the most expensive to build. It’s a good thing our city planners back in the 1940s and ’50s had more guts, else we’d have an LRT down Yonge Street and along Bloor-Danforth instead of what are today overloaded subways. Now, OK, I know that we haven’t yet reached the massive crowds of London in rush hour — where getting on a train means committing to not being able to move even a mm, anywhere in the car — however, during the day and on Sundays Toronto trains are fuller than they should be from a user’s point of view. I attribute this directly to the fact that our leaders, starting in the rich 1980s (remember, the era when people flaunted their wealth), stopped building subways here in Toronto, while they continued in Montreal, and that voters rejected a leader who put subway planning in her platform in favour of a do-nothing so that, in the words of one editor, we could give him a second chance (to do nothing). And so instead of having a line parallel to Bloor-Danforth, we have none, neither along Queen — which planners say is the one place a subway would pay for itself — nor along Eglinton. And so people take buses, subways, streetcars down to Bloor-Danforth or up to it, thus causing needless overcrowding on that line, while the Yonge-Bloor interchange has become a nightmare.

While debate continues about whether Eglinton should have a subway or an LRT, and the federal government waves around money already committed to one subway and makes no announcement about any other subways, England is set to spend 32 fuckin’ BILLION bucks on a crosstown subway line in London, this in a city that has never stopped building subway lines, even getting them built by badgering developers into funding them if they want to build towers. It’s not like the British like London any more than Canadians like Toronto; it’s that they understand that they must move people as quickly as possible there, as efficiently as possible if that city is to continue to generate wealth for the country. It’s too bad Ontarians and Canadians forget that piece of wisdom.

The Cheque Is Still In The Mail

It was good to see the Federal and Ontario Government were all smiles about finally giving Ontario some Infrastructure funding.  Approximately 3.1 million under the Building Canada Fund from the Feds, and almost 3 million from the gas tax.   Ontario will match the Building Canada Fund amount (3.1M) for a total of 9.3 million towards Ontario Infrastructure.

A great start.  Remember that some of these funds were already fought for by Mayor Miller and Premier Dalton McGuinty and promised by the PM Harper.  I tend to agree with Christopher Hume’s Toronto Star article that Infrastructure spending is still paltry and almost too late.  It was no surprise to see us lose Olympic bids when our current transit routes and highways are so strained.

We cry for the benefits of our Infrastructure but have much work to do to earn them.  The sad thing is partisan squabbling between the Feds and the Province have already delayed any real progress on this issue.  Instead of focusing on investing in Canada the Conservatives have been focusing most of their attention on abstract issues like Democratic Reform.  Not exactly what will strengthen the Canadian economy and make us competitive in global markets.

Some feel that Canadians are ready for an election but all candidates, including the reigning Conservatives, need to work harder and TOGETHER at all levels. A contrast to current partisan power games.  Infrastructure, whether it’s a TTC Subway station, improved internet/cell phone network,  bike lanes or highways provide real benefits to taxpayers.  Plans for the Waterfront, TTC’s LRT and subway expansion are steps in the right direction.  Hopefully politicians put more money where the mouths are moving.  The cheques are still in the mail.

Free Transit Touted Elsewhere, but Not in Toronto, not for the TTC

A Hamilton City Councillor is pushing for free public transit, a “no-brainer” move some Torontonians would like to see happen here, at the very least on smog days. It’s a no-brainer because as the Councillor points out, free equals more riders, and on smoggy days, when apparently 50% of Toronto’s smog comes from cars, that’s a good thing.

But “while cities like San Francisco and Montreal can offer free rides on
smog days,” Adam Giambrone, Chair of the TTC, says that “the concept doesn’t work with the TTC’s 1.5 million daily riders.” (Nick Kyonka, The Toronto Star, 8 July 2008)

He’s right. Free equals more riders which requires sufficient capacity. I don’t know much about public transit in San Francisco, but I do know that Montréal has more subway lines than Toronto, servicing a much smaller population than we have.* In other words, they can accommodate an influx of riders, the kind of influx that requires large-capacity carrying transit for the kind of riders who won’t tolerate packed, overheated buses and streetcars but will take the subway in lieu of their preferred cars. Toronto cannot.

Not on our buses, not on our streetcars, not on our subways. This is what the Art Eggleton-school-of-apathy established in 1980, the Ontario-Canada-school-of-hate-Toronto, and the learned-helplessness-of-Torontonians have begotten us. The one thing that may save us is the green movement, whereby even the most apathetic and most-Toronto-hating politician may find it beneficial to start building subways again, especially downtown where it would pay for itself. (I don’t know what’s happened to the subway to York U, but it seems to have transferred itself onto the slow track.)

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* How much smaller is Montréal to Toronto: read this tourist post. For a person like me who remembers when the two cities were neck and neck in population, this is very funny. I’m glad she had a good time here! That’s what we like, happy tourists!!! Even if we natives have to put up with an inadequate TTC.

Tragedy on Fleet

When I commented on Adam Giambrone’s laissez-faire attitude to streetcar collisions, I had no idea that someone would be killed by one mere days later.

Even when the intersection of Fleet, Bathurst, and Lakeshore is not under construction, it can be confusing to drivers when turning from Bathurst onto Lakeshore or Fleet. Sometimes, one is aiming for Lakeshore and ends up on Fleet. Still, it is shocking that a woman died because there has been an ongoing problem with drivers not understanding quickly where they should aim their cars (fast flowing traffic does not usually allow one to ponder all the signs and make a thoughtful decision as to where to go). Clearly, signage is inadequate.

“The signage is definitely lacking. People who live in the area know better than to turn down there, but people who aren’t necessarily familiar with it, they do it all the time.” (Jason Jeffcock, a local, The Toronto Star 28 June 2008)

“Certainly if part of that investigation indicates that signage is an issue, then we will of course work with the City of Toronto to improve that.” (Brad Ross, TTC spokesperson, The Toronto Star 28 June 2008)

If locals see drivers heading down the wrong way on Fleet many times a day, why does the TTC and Toronto traffic services not know about it? Clearly, there’s a disconnect between the community and officialdom, such that officialdom apparently does not know what’s going on with the streetcars. Even if locals aren’t calling the TTC or their local Councillor, have not streetcar drivers not noticed the cars heading towards them? Have they not filed reports with the TTC? Is this the very first time the police have been made aware of this dangerous intersection? I think not. The lack of communication between locals and officialdom is not the only problem here; so is the lack of response. Clearly, locals are concerned, yet the TTC is continuing to take a wait-and-see attitude. Meanwhile, laissez-faire equals one dead woman, and one badly injured woman.

Hot Air, Not Safety

We have an odd City Council. On the one hand, they’re suddenly all hot and bothered about private gun clubs leasing space on city property, which as any thinking Torontonian can tell ya will make diddly squat difference to the gun crime rate in Toronto. On the other, they couldn’t care less that the fire department reports serious safety concerns with the design of the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way. They’re much more concerned that Fire Chief Bill Stewart toes the party line and declares everything hunkey dorey. Of course, if they do act in Torontonians’ best interest and start tackling the issues raised in the fire department’s report, then they may, gasp, have to rethink their vaunted light rail transit design and may even have to modify the strategy and, in the end, admit that subways make much more sense on some city streets. After all if wide St. Clair Avenue cannot fit a dedicated streetcar right-of-way (and I’m not saying it cannot, it’s just that the fear-response by Council suggests it), how can narrower, more crowded streets accommodate them, like Pape Avenue on the proposed Don Mills Road LRT?

Mayor David Miller and Council took an inordinate amount of time to respond to the summer of the gun. He couldn’t even get out of his comfy limo to say some soothing words to the masses. But this late-day hot-air shutting down of gun clubs, while shutting up the Fire Chief, says that nothing has changed since 2005. Miller still can’t figure out how to make this city safer, and even when given a concrete report on how to ensure emergency services can arrive safely and quickly to Torontonians in trouble, he doesn’t want to know about it. This is leadership?

Streetcar Collisions — No Big Deal

On Monday, June 23, 2008, Adam Giambrone, Chair of the TTC, and a duly elected Toronto Councillor, stated to a Toronto Star reporter that these things happen from time to time. What things, you ask? Streetcar collisions. Really? Until about 8 months ago, I don’t recall ever hearing about a streetcar collision, crash, accident, except for poles coming off wires. Apparently, three collisions in less than a year are not enough to get Mr. Giambrone’s feathers ruffled. After all they only sent four on Saturday, seven on June 11th, and I’m not sure how many in the first instance. Only a dozen or so injuries. No big deal, according to the TTC Chair. Now granted, he’s a young pup, and this being his first adult experience with streetcars, maybe he thinks these sorts of things are normal. But Mr. Giambrone, they’re not.

Hopefully, I, or any of you, will not be in the next streetcar that goes BANG into its fellow streetcar. But rest assured that if you’re injured in such a collision, as long as it happens in the next 2 weeks — Mr. Giambrone’s time frame for getting concerned — then you’ll contribute to him thinking that maybe this is a problem. You’ll probably have to wait for one more collision for him to then decide to tackle said problem.

Meanwhile I continue to be baffled how streetcars can run into each other. Perhaps manual switches may have been a pain, especially in the wind and cold and rain, for drivers to get out and switch, but they seem to have ensured no collisions all these years. Either that or they’re not training drivers very well. Given the diminishing level of service, I suspect a combo of the two. But until Mr. Giambrone gets off his young ass and investigates, we’ll never know.

TTC Back to Work For Now?

At 3pm this afternoon the TTC could be back in service. It’s expected that the legislature will unanimously pass back to work legislation (Liberals, NDP and Conservatives. On Sunday no less!). Hoping the Monday commute will be OK too and that we see a swift end to the strike! The meeting is due a 1:30pm. We can only hope!

Strike, Strike, Strike

It was on, it was a cert according to the media, who couldn’t wait for bad news days filled with person-on-the street interviews, mainly of the stick-it-to-them variety; then it was off. They’d made a deal. Mayor David Miller did not want a strike, and the TTC managers, in their usual noodle-spine way, gave the union what they wanted. One had to wonder why management bothered to negotiate, or did they just talk tough at the beginning so that at the soon-to-be-announced-next-fare-hike, they could say we struck a fair deal, a good deal for the city, and it has nothing to do with the tens of millions more in salaries we’re paying out? Who knows.

But then rumblings stirred the ground. The maintenance men were not happy. We all know what they did to the deaf guy who complained about them smoking inside and allegedly near flammable materials. Well, they’re doing it to us now. They made their unhappiness known to the other half of the union membership. Don’t worry, be happy, everyone said. The union will ratify the deal. Ha! Nothing stirs the blood and let’s Torontonians and TTC management know where they stand than a good strike, and a fast one too. So much for the 48 hours notice.

Miller is fuming. He gave the union what they wanted in 2005, he had the managers do the same in 2008, and this is how the rank and file, the plebes of the union, repay him? He’s not a happy man. The proletariat are already pissed at him over the monstrous garbage bins and his China trip. This is not going to help.

Let’s hope this makes management rethink the fact that these union members provide the public with less service, costing the TTC in millions as they automate their vocal chords, while at the same time demanding very cushy wage increases and benefit increases (benefit increases??? the mind boggles at the thought that they hadn’t long ago gotten the best benefits a threat of a strike could buy). Let’s hope the federal government wakes up to the fact that unless the TTC works, this city’s economic output drops substantially and maybe they need to wake up and become more like the US federal government and start subsidizing some much-needed capital expansion, like a subway line along Queen Street. Let’s hope the province starts to rethink how the TTC has fared since it cut its 75% operating budget subsidy and reverse that fully. And let’s hope that if we have a good long strike that at the end of it there’s a shake-up in management and a shake-up in the union Thatcher-style so that sanity and cost-effectiveness become part of the system. Otherwise, at the end of this strike, all I see is another fare hike, less service, and more childish fighting between management and the union at our expense.

Spring Has Sprung

Well, I could write about the TTC, about how the union wants the Mayor or the TTC Chair to take over negotiations, which they would of course because the union can easily pound them into flat meat and get a “yes, whatever you want” from either of them, thus guaranteeing another fare hike. Or I could vent about the new ginormous blue boxes, whose blight on the urban landscape is easily discernible to anyone driving from east to west, from blight to friendly, and whose sizes makes one pause about how serious Toronto is about reducing waste production — just because it’s recyclable doesn’t make it more virtuous than trash that gets landfilled or, more enlightened, made useful by being turned into electricity (now that’s high-tech recycling for you!). All waste comes from consumption; all waste requires power and materials to be manufactured in the first place, and recyclables need power again to be turned into something else that will then again be put into the waste bin.

Instead, I’ll just show you the best part of spring.

The TTC and Metblogs Missing Visual Editor

I heard on the radio today that, starting in June, subway service will end 1.5 hours earlier — at 12:30 am instead of 2:00 am — because the maintenance staff cannot maintain the system in only 3 hours per night when the system is shut down. Poor dears. I wonder how the tough maintenance guys in New York manage to keep that system safe when it never shuts down? But seriously, how come over 40 years after the system opened, and over a decade after the major accident, do the maintenance guys suddenly decide they can’t hack it? Is management hoping to cut back on staff, or are the staff becoming so slow and lazy now, they’re less productive than ever?

So much for improving TTC service.

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On a totally unrelated note, what happened to the nice Visual Editor for Metblogs? I absolutely HATE writing with code cluttering up all my text. I bet it’s the fault of those people who insist on using Safari, a browser that seems to hate WordPress. Booo. Hissss.

[Update: I suddenly had the brilliant idea of strolling through the admin options and lo and behold, they’ve added a new one — “use Visual Editor” — but the default is NO. Fixed it. I’m happy now.]

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