You want to do what?

This coming Monday, October 24, Ontario will be holding civic elections. I don’t live in Toronto, but rather in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and get the Toronto newscasts.

One of the candidates for mayor of Toronto has made several proposals/promises for when or if he is elected. Two of his ideas regarding transportation stand out to me for the irrationality of them.

First, a bit of background: most of my working life was spent in the transportation industry and I hold a professional degree in transportation management. I’ve worked in motor transport, both local and transcontinental; rail forwarding; air forwarding as well as import and export by sea. So I have a fair idea what I’m talking about. Now, on to these two ideas.

Toronto is in the process of building a crosstown light rail line located near the northern edge of what is considered midtown. A good portion of this line will be tunnelled so would be unaffected by weather and traffic. The rest will be in a dedicated rail corridor. This man’s suggestion is to replace this line with buses using dedicated bus lanes as, according to him, they will be just as fast as the light rail. If you’ve spent any time on the streets of a major city even if as a passenger, you know that traffic and weather have great effects on the flow of traffic. The area in which I live has dedicated bus lanes along the major east/west corridor. For straight traffic, yes, the bus is faster when using the bus lanes. As long as there are no intersections where vehicles want to turn right, or enter traffic from side streets or plazas. In those cases, they aren’t faster. A collision or construction along the street also has a detrimental affect on the speed of the bus. I’m avoiding talking about weather delays because I absolutely detest winter, but snow does a marvellous job of snarling traffic. So no, Mr Candidate, the bus won’t be faster.

His other idea with which I take exception is his proposal to close the Toronto Island Airport (Toronto Billy Bishop Airport [YTZ]) and turn the 215 acres into a park. This airport has been around since at least the 1950s and is currently the base of five different airlines, some of whom fly international routes from it. In addition, and possibly more important, it is the main base for Ontario’s air ambulance service. I may be wrong but I think that since there are international flights from Billy Bishop, it falls under federal jurisdiction as well. When asked about this plan in an interview, he responded to the effect that turning it into a park would only affect a “few people” and that once they use the express train to Pearson Airport (YYZ) they’ll find it just as convenient. So Mr Candidate, if you consider there are five different airlines using Billy Bishop, plus private pilots, as well as the air ambulance, I think you’ll find that more than a”few people” will be affected.

He has probably made other equally ill-advised proposals, but the transportation manager in me focussed on these two.

As for me personally, where I live allows online voting, so I’ve already voted.

Wherever you live in Ontario, what happens in your municipality for the next four years will depend on your vote. According to the weather forecast, Monday will be sunny and warm, so you have no excuse for not casting your ballot.

Cat.

From the buses

At the end of June, Durham Regional Transit started a new service called “Pulse”, offering a direct service from downtown Oshawa to the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus.  I’ve used this service several times and am always struck by the number of radio reports from drivers reporting a late trip.  On one occasion, the bus I was on reported being five minutes late after having travelled three blocks.  The reason was a large number of passengers at that third stop.

It occurs to me that if so many late trips are happening, the problem isn’t the drivers, but the schedule.  I have long suspected that those who plan schedules have never driven anything larger than a Honda Civic and have never ridden a bus or they would realize buses don’t handle or respond the way that Civic does.  I also suspect that if they’ve actually driven that route, it was in their Civic at three in the morning when there is very little traffic.  It seems the one thing those who plan these bus schedules fail to do is talk with the drivers – those whom they are trying to schedule.  Nah, couldn’t do that because it might set a precedent.

I had occasion to use this route today and as usual I noticed that most passengers pay very little attention to things such as route and destination signs.  The destination sign (the one on the front of the bus) clearly states “Highway 2 to U of T Scarborough”.  Seems clear enough, doesn’t it?  The coach travels along Highway 2, ending at the University of Toronto in Scarborough.  Why then do people insist upon asking if the bus goes to Scarborough Town Centre, a large shopping centre several miles beyond U of T?

Another thing I’ll never understand is this: People usually arrive at a bus stop with several minutes to wait for the coach to arrive.  Wouldn’t you think it a good idea to use those few minutes to get your fare out of your wallet, or get your pass out before you board the bus?  Rarely happens.  Usually people stand at the farebox and fish through their wallets or pockets looking for the correct change, or they search through their pockets or purses looking for their pass.  C’mon people.  Show a little initiative and have that stuff ready before the driver opens the door for you.  It won’t hurt to try it and it might make the difference between getting a seat and standing.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat