hotdocs 2008 (Part 2)

Now that the TTC upheavals are over for a while, here is the second installment in my hotdocs review.  Included here are:

  • The True Meaning of Pictures:  Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia
  • La Corona
  • Searching for Sandeep
  • The Last Continent
  • All Together Now

Continue reading

Back on Track

I was walking east on Bloor Street not too long ago expecting to come all the way over to Broadview.  As I came to Sherbourne Street, what do I see?  Open doors on the station and the sound of a train rushing through.

I walked downstairs, swiped my pass and then went down to the eastbound platform.  After a short wait, along came a train and I rode over to my home station, Broadview.  Upstairs, I found a King and Dundas car waiting to leave and a few buses roaming the streets.  It felt very much like the start of service in the morning.

It’s good to see the system back up again and “showing the flag” before tomorrow’s commute.

As I’ve said before, I am deeply disappointed in the behaviour of Local 113’s leadership (assuming anyone can even figure out who that is), and reports that they have a shopping list of added items for arbitration shows just how badly things were out of whack with the original “agreement”.

I am going to close off comments on the previous, strike-related thread just to keep that from growing completely out of control.  Please leave any new comments here.

Is Local 113 Out Of Its Mind?

Note that I have closed comments on this thread because, at 92, it’s getting a tad long.  Please continue this discussion in the “Back on Track” thread that I have just created.

I came out of my hotdocs screening late this evening and, riding home on the subway, heard a totally garbled public announcement.  No black band on the One Stops, but we all know they’re a waste of time.

Emerging at Broadview, I ran into a CITY TV camera crew and learned of the strike which starts as I write this.  I was not a happy camper.

Until now, I have stayed out of this battle and have been generally supportive of the union in response to some rather intemperate comments by readers here.  However, the way this strike arrived shows just how badly Local 113’s communications, internally and externally, have fouled up the situation.

The whole business started with the Worth a Million campaign.  I was one of the people asked by Marilyn Churley to read through her report before it was published, and flagged some of the more glaring problems with the logic.  However, it’s clear that the slogan had been picked already, the website domain name purchased, and the thrust of the campaign already decided.  Fine tuning the message was not in the cards.

This campaign raised a lot of bad feelings not least because it portrayed the huge benefits transit gives to the city as coming totally from the staff without acknowledging the political support and funding that makes the existence of the TTC possible.

Then came the bargaining.  Little information leaked out from negotiations, but what did was not exactly useful in establishing a strong position for the union.  As the deadline neared, we heard about how the poor underpaid Toronto members needed to be the best in the GTA.  It didn’t take long for the press to find out that the actual difference between Toronto and Mississauga was five cents.  Moreover, once Toronto got even the two percent originally offered by the TTC, they would leapfrog back into top spot.

We heard about sick pay for workers injured by assaults, and the clear indication was that the TTC addressed that one before the ink was dry on the press release.  Then it turned out that Local 113 wanted full sick pay for any injured worker, but this took two weeks to come out.  When challenged on this, Bob Kinnear said, in effect, “well, that TTC spokeman is wet behind the ears and didn’t know what he was talking about”.  Oh?  It took two weeks for the union to decide that the TTC was putting out misinformation?

Finally, we come to today’s vote.  The story is that the maintenance workers felt they had lost protection about contracting out.  Hmmm.  If this was such a problem, and if some of the union executive couldn’t bring themselves to sign the agreement, why did it take until today for this news to surface.  The maintenance workers are less than half of the total workforce, but clearly others voted to reject in support of them.

Worrying about the safety of its members, Local 113 pulled them out at midnight rather than waiting 48 hours.

“We have assessed the situation and decided that we will not expose our members to the dangers of assaults from angry and irrational members of the public,” said Bob Kinnear, ATU Local 113 President.  [From the press release.]

The only irrational people here are in Local 113.  They have consistently sent garbled messages to the public, and possibly even to their own members.  If contracting out really was on the table, as opposed to the suspicions of radical members of the executive, then the union should have made this clear as a deal breaker.  As things stand, it is nothing more than rumour.

Whenever they do return to work, Local 113 members can expect the cordial relations they enjoyed with the public after averting a strike to evaporate.  Every operator who goes for a coffee, who throws his passengers out into the rain, who argues over a transfer will be subject to abuse.

Both sides are expected to meet the Provincial mediator on Saturday afternoon, but mediation or no, Queen’s Park should tell Local 113 quite bluntly that this irresponsible behaviour is unaccetable and force them back to work immediately.  Given the mechanics of such legislation, we could be without transit service until Wednesday if procedural foot-dragging prevents passage of an emergency bill in one day.

Local 113 has blown its relationship with the most pro-labour Commission and Council they could hope to have across the bargaining table.  From here on, who can trust their signature on a contract?

I am sure my regular correspondents will write to say “we told you so”, and I have to say I am deeply disappointed.  Once again, the cause of transit is set back by events that have nothing to do with improving the system.

When Is A Plan Not A Plan? When It’s A Test Case!

Today’s Metrolinx board meeting actually produced some interesting debate about the draft white papers for the Regional Transportation Plan.  There was little discussion of the Goals & Objectives paper, but the Preliminary Directions & Concepts really got people going.

Two items attracted particular interest.

First, how are we going to pay for everything?  The options listed in the White Paper do not include some rather obvious options such as a higher gas tax and or a regional sales tax.  The boldest of the bold plans will cost close to $4-billion annually in capital costs and a comparable amount in operating costs.  At that level, I think we can reasonably assume that naming rights will not raise the money we need.

There is a separate Investment Strategy paper that will be published concurrently with the Draft Regional Transportation Plan in early July, and it will address the financial issues.

Second, David Miller led off a critique of the White Papers noting that the option of not building more roads was completely absent.  Indeed, the authors assume that since all of the road projects for the forseeable future are funded, one way or another, these should be assumed as part of the base plan.  This is a strange state of affairs for an organization that recognizes, quite strongly, that the problems of the GTAH will not be solved by road building. Continue reading

Welcome to Walmart Station

It really was silly season at the TTC yesterday.  Commissioner Peter Milczyn asked for a report on naming rights for stations in return for corporate sponsorship.  A short debate ensued during which the Commissioners seemed to forget that barely an hour earlier they had approved a report entitled TTC Corporate Policy Review – Policy 2.8.2 Identification of Routes, Stations and Stops.  This report states quite clearly:

Normally, the station name will incorporate the name of the major cross-street at which it is located, so that the location of the station is clearly identified to customers as they travel through the system. If this is not possible (because, for example, confusion would result with existing station names, or because there is no major nearby cross-street), then the station name may be related to the area in which the station is located, or a major destination nearby.

A good example of the last class of station name is “Museum”.

I have a fundamental objection to corporate sponsorships on the basis of equity.  If you want to build a subway station, it will cost anywhere from $70-100 million, and even more for a large terminal or interchange, not to mention ongoing operating costs.  If Pepsi or Walmart wants to sponsor a station, let them shell out at least 2/3 of the cost so that, on an after tax basis, they’re paying at least half the price of the station. 

Meanwhile, you and I, who actually pay for the station through our taxes should expect that naming rights will stay in the public sector.

No sponsor wants to shell out $35-50 million, and they hope to buy a station for a few million.  For that they get a couple of escalators.   Maybe they could actually pay to maintain the escalators so that their logo isn’t associated with a machine sitting in parts all over the floor more often than it actually carries passengers.

Arithmetic Lessons for Fleet Planners

Today’s Commission meeting included one of the more embarrassing presentations I have seen at the TTC in some time.  It wasn’t meant that way, but that’s how it came off.  The topic was the Subway Service Improvement Plan.

The first problem was that this is really two reports in one.  The first major topic is delays, their causes and what the TTC is doing or can do to reduce them.  This material was presented in a less than thrilling manner, and most Commissioners were visibly not paying attention.

The second topic was the subway car fleet plan.  This has always been something of a black art influenced as much by whatever size order Bombardier needs to have for Thunder Bay this week rather than solid planning.  However, when the TTC’s own numbers don’t add up and there are blatant mistakes in the analysis, that’s when it gets embarrassing.

The report is not available online, and you will have to take my word for the material as I don’t feel like scanning the whole thing in.  A warning for the faint of heart.  This post contains a lot of numbers and a discussion of service levels and fleet requirements.  If this isn’t your cup of tea, skip the rest of this item. Continue reading

hotdocs 2008 (Part 1)

In the midst of transit almost-strikes, Regional Plans, TTC meeting agendas and the day to day trivia of my life, comes the hotdocs 2008 festival.  This year, instead of trying to fit in the screenings around work, I have taken the week off.

Documentaries are not the sort of thing that shows up on every street corner (or in every video store) the way that many films from the main festival in September, but you may encounter these here and there on CBC, TVO, PBS or even occasionally a commercial network.

As usual, I will post these reviews/comments in blocks with one or two days’ screenings at a time.

Included in this group are:

  • Chiefs
  • The Chair
  • Air India 182
  • Behind the Glass
  • Daddy Tran: A Life in 3-D

The reviews are in the order I attended the screenings Continue reading

Metrolinx White Papers Now Online

David Harrison left a comment alerting me to the availability of these papers.  They have gone online earlier today.

For what it’s worth, the Metrolinx white papers are now available in draft form (look at the agenda on their site for April 25 to see them), and extension of the Sheppard subway west to Downsview and east to STC is shown in two of the 3 test concepts they mention, along with an Eglinton subway and downtown relief line along Queen.  This doesn’t mean that they will show up in the RTP, but it certainly looks like they may be leaning in that direction.

I will comment on them when I have a chance to read them in detail.

Scarborough RT Extension Study

The Scarborough RT extension study co-hosted the meetings with the Sheppard East LRT which I discussed in the previous post.  The presentation materials for the SRT study are available online.

A major piece of work for this study will be to update previous schemes based on changes in land use, travel patterns and availability of rights-of-way since the Malvern extension of the Scarborough LRT was proposed decades ago.  (Yes, it was going to be an LRT line originally although the history in the current presentation doesn’t go back that far.)

The presentation claims that ICTS/RT technology was recommended in the Scarborough RT Strategic Plan as being the most effective and lowest cost option.  This is not true.  That plan dealt only with replacement of the existing line between Kennedy and McCowan stations and did not examine the cost or operational tradeoffs involved in extending the RT north to Sheppard or beyond.  Given the high premium for grade-separated operation, the RT quickly become uncompetitive with LRT the further the line goes.

The TTC holds that LRT is unable to handle the demands to be placed on the SRT corridor.  However, the projected demand shown in the presentation is about 2,500/hour north of Sheppard, about 4,000 west of McCowan (ie inbound to STC), and 10,000 at Kennedy Station.  With the completely separate right-of-way on the existing RT, a 10,000/hour operation with LRT is quite feasible.  Two-car LRT trains would provide this on a headway of just under two minutes. Continue reading

Sheppard East LRT Preliminary Design

Now that the TTC and City have held the first open houses for the Sheppard East project, it’s time for a few comments on the design so far. 

The presentation materials are available online.

This study is proceeding under the new, accelerated schedule for Environmental Assessments and it will be important to stay on top of what is happening.  Adam Giambrone’s office has advised me that there will be a third iteration of the open house at Scarborough Town Centre (details to be announced).  Following that, the next opportunity for public input into the overall design will come in late May. Continue reading