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Another TTC-worker blamefest ends in pathos

When a TTC worker makes a bad decision, it’s annoying, and sometimes dangerous. When a TTC worker makes a bad decision while somebody is shooting pictures or video, though, it’s news. The latest example of the latter came just last week, when a dash-cam video showing a TTC bus blowing a red light and having an apparent near-miss with a pedestrian sparked a media furor, ultimately resulting in the driver being fired. Somehow, though, these stories always take a turn for the sad. (Remember George Robitaille, the TTC collector who was caught on camera napping with his mouth hilariously agape, only to die a few months later because, it turned out, he had medical issues?)

And so here’s the depressing twist in the red-light-runner story: in a letter written by the now-jobless driver—reportedly a single mother of two—and released by the TTC workers’ union, she makes a heartrending apology for what she calls “an unacceptable lack of judgment.” She explains that she ran the light because she was momentarily confused by what sounds like an unlucky combination of road conditions (a roadside distraction at a bus stop, plus traffic movement that made it seem, at first glance, as though the light hadn’t turned) and that she “never once took her eyes off” the pedestrian, who was unharmed. Because of the way the story broke, we’ll probably never know if her dismissal was a case of real, everyday accountability, or if the TTC was simply embarrassed into reacting more severely than it normally would have.

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Politics

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On Toronto’s whiny, cynical attitude toward efforts to improve public transit:

 

Etobicoke will never see eye to eye with the Annex, needless to say. Yet even among urbane downtown types, you can see the conflict. They want the city to be “world class,” but they cling to bizarre small-town sensibilities for dear life: grace periods on parking tickets, parking on major streets as of 9:00 am, buses that stop for every sprinting would-be passenger. They want an airport link that’s cheap, and that stops eight times along the way so it’s fair to everyone, but also lighting fast. They want a city that runs like clockwork without inconveniencing a single person along the way.

 
This sober, completely accurate thought is brought to you by the Post’s Chris Selley, whose column in today’s paper is well worth reading all the way through.

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Real Estate

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Scarborough residents say a new TTC bus garage may literally destroy their neighbourhood

(Image: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Hyperbole is often a weapon of choice in disputes over neighbourhood development, and a group known the Coalition Against McNicoll Bus Garage may just have out-hyperbolized them all. The Star reports that the coalition, which formed to oppose the construction of a new TTC bus garage near McNicoll and Kennedy roads in Scarborough, is worried that the facility’s biodiesel tanks will cause a conflagration.

According to the Star, the group’s presentation, during a press conference on Monday, included slides with images of famous fuel-related disasters, like the Lac Megantic explosion—which, notably, was triggered by an improperly secured freight train, not a stationary holding tank in a garage. Neighbourhood concerns also include pollution and traffic congestion, and it’s all exacerbated by the fact that the TTC’s now-vacant plot of land is near a church and a long-term care home.

“Only in Toronto would a transit agency be allowed to put a bus garage on prime real estate to the detriment of vulnerable seniors while exposing the environment and neighbourhood to unconscionable risk,” said resident Patricia Sinclair, who told CBC that she is “pro-transit.” To review: riding buses is good, but building a place to store and service them is basically like beating up an elderly person. For what it’s worth, the TTC is saying noise and air pollution should be minimal.

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Quoted

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Anonymous TTC streetcar driver: “It’s a political decision”

“We are not delivering the quality or the quantity of service we know we should be delivering out here. We know that. But we don’t get to decide how much we deliver how often. That’s not our decision. It’s a political decision.”

—An unnamed TTC streetcar driver, talking to the Post about some of the not-so-great aspects of his job. On the upside, he says he makes $90,000 a year.

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Stat

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Almost everyone agrees that renaming Union Station is a bad idea

95%

—Approximate percentage of respondents to a Heritage Toronto survey who were opposed to a proposal that Union Station be renamed after John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. City council’s executive committee will vote next week on whether to press ahead with the renaming anyway. City staff are recommending that a plaza in front of Union Station be named after Macdonald, instead.

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Politics

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Scarborough’s subway hopes just got slightly more remote

The Scarborough RT. (Image: Loozrboy)

The Scarborough RT. (Image: Loozrboy)

Considering all the political chicanery that went into getting Scarborough’s subway extension approved in the first place, it’s easy to take grim satisfaction in the project’s setbacks. Speaking of which, here’s one: the Globe reports that the city’s planning division is taking a more assertive role in the new subway line’s environmental assessment.

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Politics

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A Scarborough city councillor declares war on grass

grassWhat’s ruining Toronto this week? No, not condo developers or heritage coach houses. This time, the culprit is grass.

The Toronto Sun reports that Scarborough Southwest councillor Michelle Berardinetti is getting ready to ask city council to join her in opposition to a plan to plant grass on a section of the new street-level light-rail tracks that will eventually be laid on Eglinton Avenue as part of the Eglinton Crosstown project. The idea, which Berardinetti calls “absolutely ridiculous,” first made news in April. Essentially, transit planners want to use some combination of grass and sedum to give the tracks a “green ribbon” appearance. The Crosstown will run underground for about half of its length, so the treatment would be applied only to the aboveground portion of the line, which will run through Scarborough.

What does Berardinetti have against grass? “It’s all about safety,” she told the Sun. “If the green grass is gone, the emergency vehicles can access the trackway.” In other words, if anyone dies waiting for an ambulance in Scarborough, that grass will have blood on its hands (blades?). The idea of allowing emergency responders to use the tracks is an interesting one (the tracks will run in a separated median, sort of like the ones on Spadina Avenue), but it’s not clear that it would be practical, considering the fact that the right-of-way will ideally be full of fast-moving light-rail vehicles. See, this is what happens when Rob Ford leaves town for a while. City hall goes back to worrying about things like killer landscaping.

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Politics

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Five things we learned from Spacing’s investigation into the shady politicking behind the Scarborough subway

(Image: Loozrboy)

(Image: Loozrboy)

Over at Spacing, journalist John Lorinc has just published part four in an epic, five-part investigation into why, exactly, the city and the province got together last year to overturn years of transit planning in Scarborough. The now-infamous policy reversal resulted in the breaking of a signed, sealed agreement to replace the Scarborough RT with a seven-stop light-rail line. Instead, for reasons that Lorinc’s investigation makes significantly clearer, former TTC chair (and current mayoral candidate) Karen Stintz and provincial transportation minister Glen Murray teamed up to scrap the light-rail plan in favour of a three-stop subway that will cost significantly more to build.

Here, five things we learned from Lorinc’s piece, the first part of which is here.

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Municipal Election 2014

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John Tory promises “surface subways” for Toronto

In a bit of rhetorical wizardry that will puzzle city hall scholars for months, John Tory just told reporters that, if elected mayor, he’ll build (or maybe the better word would be “create”) a subway line that doesn’t go underground.

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The Informer

Politics

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QUOTED: TTC union president Bob Kinnear, on frustration with public transit

(Image: courtesy of ATU Local 113)

(Image: courtesy of ATU Local 113)

“It just amazes me that people get bogged down on these little insignificant incidents rather than focusing on what’s really happening in this continuing deterioration of our system.”

–ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear, talking to the National Post about the latest in a never-ending series of news stories about TTC staff slacking off on the job. (This time, some passengers were left alone on a bus for about 30 minutes, apparently because their driver finished his shift before his replacement was ready to take over.) Not everyone will appreciate Kinnear’s attitude, but, for what it’s worth, even upper management agrees that the TTC has much bigger problems than the occasional (or, not-so-occasional) service interruption.

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Politics

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Tim Hudak would cancel the Finch and Sheppard light-rail lines

(Image: Hudak: Ontario Chamber of Commerce; LRT: courtesy of Bombardier)

(Image: Hudak: Ontario Chamber of Commerce; LRT: courtesy of Bombardier)

It has been almost 20 years since the last time a newly elected conservative provincial government cancelled a major Toronto public-transit project, and it seems as though Tim Hudak thinks the city is overdue for a repeat. The PC leader told reporters this morning that, if his party wins next month’s election, he’ll cancel four planned light-rail projects in the GTA, including lines that are supposed to be installed on Sheppard and Finch avenues.

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The Informer

Politics

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Electronic ads are coming to some Toronto transit shelters

Advertisements on some transit shelters are about to get a little more conspicuous. Earlier this morning, city council cleared the way for Astral Media to outfit as many as 120 TTC stops with poster-sized video screens over the next three years.

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Sports

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Raptors coach Dwane Casey rode the TTC to game seven

(Screenshot: @MySportsLegion/Twitter)

(@MySportsLegion/Twitter)

Poor Raptors. First the swift thieves of prehistoric, giant-reptile-ruled Earth were wiped out during the Cretaceous-paleogene extinction event. Then, some 65 million years later, they were reborn (not literally) in the form of an NBA franchise, only to be rendered extinct yet again (figuratively) by the Brooklyn Nets in a (metaphorically) crushing end to their season. But last night’s game started off especially inconveniently for Raps coach Dwane Casey.

En route to the ACC on Sunday, Casey’s car was rerouted because of road closures. Ultimately, he was forced to take TTC to the game, just like some normal, plebian commuter who doesn’t even coach an NBA team, the Canadian Press reports. Unlike those workaday commuters, for whom the TTC can be a daily frustration, Casey seemed entirely satisfied by his ride. “Good old reliable subway,” Casey, who last rode the rocket in summer 2013, told the press. “It’s great,” he added of the TTC. “I recommend it to everybody. Just not on game seven.”

If things don’t work out with the Raptors next season, Casey may have a new job as a TTC spokesman.

The Informer

Municipal Election 2014

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Olivia Chow promises “up to a billion dollars” for transit in Toronto

Olivia Chow at a transit-related press conference on March 20. (Image: CP24/Screenshot)

Olivia Chow at a transit-related press conference on March 20. (Image: CP24/Screenshot)

At the Toronto Region Board of Trade this afternoon, Olivia Chow unveiled her transit-investment strategy in front of a packed room. There was nothing exciting or unexpected in her speech, but, in a weird way, that’s exactly what was remarkable about it.

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People

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Q&A: Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig on political turmoil, public transit and his favourite rapper

Bruce McCuaig was hired to keep transit planning on track despite chronic indecision at city hall. So why is the TTC still trapped in flip-flop purgatory?

Q&A: Bruce McCuaig

You’re Toronto’s most powerful transit official, yet most people have never heard of you. What’s your job, exactly?
I head up Metrolinx, which oversees long-term transit planning in Greater Toronto and Hamilton. We work to integrate the TTC, GO Transit and more.

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