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It’s too risky to tell Torontonians about all the dangerous stuff moving through Toronto by rail, say rail carriers

(Image: Tony Hisgett)

(Image: Tony Hisgett)

One of the things the Star excels at is calling out companies and public agencies that use “security” as a catch-all excuse for secrecy. Today’s paper includes a perfect example. As a follow-up to a post-Lac-Mégantic investigation initially published last month, the Star has an article about the fact that rail carriers refuse to tell Toronto city planners precisely what chemicals are being transported along Toronto’s Dupont Street rail corridor, an area of increasing interest for condo developers. “We have to just assume that there are dangerous goods and plan accordingly,” one city planner told the Star. Ordinary citizens are in the same position. It’s possible to figure out what’s inside individual rail cars by checking the placards attached to them, but rail carriers—the largest of which being CN and CP—won’t divulge historical information about overall rail traffic to anyone but emergency-response officials, because of some unspecified security concerns.

Even assuming there are legitimate security issues with releasing this type of information (and if those concerns are real, the rail carriers and Transport Canada have done a very poor job of articulating them), the secrecy also has an important side-effect: it prevents people living along the rail corridor from getting anxious about all the toxic, flammable and radioactive stuff that trundles through their backyards. If released, rail-cargo information could definitely lead to unwarranted, NIMBY-style hyperventilation, but it could also reveal some substantial worries. For rail carriers, “security” makes for a very convenient reason not to allow the public a chance to evaluate the threat.

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The TTC embraces transparency—and (hopefully) punctuality with new scorecards

(Image: screenshot from TTC website)

The TTC has introduced a daily online report card (the next phase in an information blitz that also includes this charmingly low-budget video explaining what the heck is going on at Queen and Spadina). In the scorecards, the agency breaks down the percentage of vehicles that were on schedule the day before and awards itself cheery green checkmarks for hitting its targets. “Since we had [the data], we thought we’d might as well put it up,” the agency’s chief customer service officer Chris Uphold told the Toronto Star. We like the move towards transparency, but this exercise has a whiff of PR about it—the type of calculated, hey-look-we’re-totally-accountable move that Andy Byford previously reached for with his CEO title, monthly reports and scathing letters to employees. Still, if it boosts the chances of buses and trains arriving on time, we’re all for it. [Toronto Star]

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Politics

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GO Transit will literally pay for being late, starting this fall

(Image: Danielle Scott)

The Ontario Liberals, cannily realizing that people hate tardiness and love money, are promising GO Transit commuters a money-back guarantee when trains are more than 15 minutes late. However, there’s a fair bit of fine print: commuters will get their fare back if breakdowns or maintenance issues are responsible for the delay, but not if extreme weather, police investigations, accidents or medical emergencies are to blame; and while Presto card holders should get the refund automatically, other commuters will probably have to apply for it online. The refund program should start sometime this fall, too late to benefit those passengers who spent an hour stuck on board last month. [Globe and Mail]

The Informer

Politics

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Major service delays (and angry commuters) on west GO Train lines

(Image: Danielle Scott)

Thanks to a computer malfunction, passengers on the Lakeshore West, Kitchener and Milton GO Train lines are experiencing “major delays” (transpo-speak for “the trains aren’t moving”). While some trapped passengers have given in to the frustration, others have found entertaining ways to pass the time or are planning for a long wait. Check GO Transit’s website for service updates (or to prove to your boss it’s not your fault that your’re late for work).

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