GO Transit’s 15-Cent Solution

Sean Marshall wrote in with the following comment in another thread. I’m putting it in its own post so that replies can be kept in the appropriate area.

… at GO Transit, they’re planning to increase fares again by the flat $0.15 rate. Of course, this is a disproportionate fare increase for those who make shorter trips (say within the 416 or from, for example, Georgetown to Brampton) yet almost insignificant for someone coming in from Barrie. And GO also has to fix the problems with its fare structure, where, for example, a bus trip from Square One to York U is the same price as from Bramalea to York U, about half the distance.

Anyway, my sense is that GO will always take the easiest route (requiring the least thought) to fix a “problem”. Service crowded? Tack on more cars. Issues with parking? Build more spaces. Crowding at platforms? Remove the escalators. Raise fare revenue? Make it a flat fare increase so we don’t have to work out what the new fares should really be.

This is not the first time GO has done this, and I can’t help worrying just a bit in anticipation of a smart card system that can do everything but make passengers’ breakfast, lunch and dinner, but might wind up supporting a fare structure more appropriate for conductors and ticket agents. Will GO continue to penalize short-haul riders with disproportionate fare increases?

Low Technology Has Its Place

This morning I had the dubious pleasure of riding the SRT from Kennedy to STC in what was clearly a manual dispatch mode. Trains were not always at full speed, and each station-to-station move was made after clearance from SRT control.

Much grumbling was heard from passengers around me as this sort of thing is not uncommon in bad weather.

I couldn’t help thinking how the SRT was supposed to be an LRT line originally, and how the capabilities of its ATO system have never been exploited or needed on a line with such infrequent service. As an LRT line, it would have had limited signals at the terminals and for the underpass at Ellesmere, and operation would be “on sight” for most of the route.

I have seen the train control system do wonders with interlined services on the Vancouver SkyTrain where, also, the operation is completely automatic. In Toronto, the signal system just gets in the way, an example of technological overkill.

Elevation or Escalation?

In the past, I have discussed the issue of non-working escalators, and Ed Drass devoted a column to this yesterday in Metro.

GO is moving away from escalators according to Ed’s column:

Why not replace the units with new ones? Replies Boyle, “The escalators do not perform well in the rather harsh environment that we have subjected them to.” He says the salt and sand that is used on platforms gets into the machinery and causes “premature failure.”

There is also an issue with escalators feeding into crowded platforms and pushing more people out into a space where there is no room. This is an issue at Union Station, and GO is planning to eliminate escalators as they wear out (or sooner if the reconstruction plans go ahead).

At Bloor-Yonge and St. George, the TTC monitors crowding conditions and stops escalators if they have to.

This brings me to a question about the role of such devices on transit systems. Nobody likes climbing up stairs, especially when it’s more than one flight, and escalators contribute to the convenience of moving around in stations. Unlike elevators that are fitted in one per vertical rise wherever they will fit, there are often many escalators to serve demands right where the demand exists.

Imagine if you were on the lower level at Bloor-Yonge and wanted to get to the surface. First you must go all the way down to the east end of the platform, ride the elevator up to the Yonge line level, then come back onto the northbound platform to take an elevator up to the mezzanine, then make your way out into the Bay’s concourse.

For someone who has trouble with stairs, that’s a lot of walking just to get to the elevators, and in many ways it defeats the purpose.

There’s an analogy with vehicle design and the range of options for those with mobility problems. At one end is the Wheel Trans bus fleet, then accessible taxis, then accessible surface transit and subway stations. A major reason for making the base system accessible is that this removes some demand from Wheeltrans and allows those who can get around more or less on their own to use the same system as everyone else.

If we start to treat escalators as things we can do without, this will have a profound effect on accessibility of the system to those with a moderate impairment, not to mention on station design where walking distances to elevators will become an important consideration.

As for GO Transit, this system will evolve from one whose primary mission is to carry hale and hearty folk who sprint up and down stairways, to one with more off-peak travel and customers for whom stairways are a major impediment. Making elevators convenient to get to and reliable will be a vital part of their service.

Keeping escalators running is a major headache for transit systems, but those escalators are just as much a part of “the network” as the buses and trains people ride on.