Tag

TTC

Browsing

Seth Rogen’s rocket: sound advice from a comedy star

I am on the platform waiting for the train home and after the ritual ding-dong sound that comes before an announcement, I hear “Hello TTC customers! Seth Rogen here, fellow Canadian and public transit user. I always hold the door for my mother because she raised me right, but holding a subway door for her would get me in trouble. I don’t need the hassle or the delay, so leave the doors alone!” This is one of the 13 messages being aired by the TTC to remind riders that there is an etiquette even when taking the bus or train.

After the successful experiment to utilize Seth Rogen’s voice in Vancouver by TransLink to give tips on transit riding etiquette and courtesy, it’s time for Torontonians to be entertained and educated while using the TTC. As Rogen himself announced on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon “Toronto got in on the action as well. They got jealous.”

Since the beginning of August, TTC riders have been entertained by Rogen’s hilarious friendly scolding announcements like, don’t clip your nails, don’t eat your dinner on the train and other gross enough bad habits. Yes, apparently people do it enough to require such reminders. So, let’s see how effective this experiment will be in helping “create decorum” as Rogen puts it.

In a public statement, Toronto Mayor John Tory’s comment on the move is an “example of how we’re moving the TTC forward in new and innovative ways.”

Although some TTC customers would had expressed a preference for someone morel local, such as Drake or Mike Myers, Rogen with his voice and the unique laugh, and more importantly as a fellow Canadian, he is a fitting choice and close enough to my backyard! And he grew up taking the public transport, he cares about better manners displayed in public and he is not getting paid for it.

On the website, the TTC “thanks Seth for his time and generosity in this fun and unique project. We also thank our customers for doing their part in making riding the TTC a more positive experience for everyone.”

GTHA Transit Wants & Woes

A transit strike is looming that may impact the GTHA. Metrolinx shared that the strike involves CP labour unions and may commence as early as Monday. The action by the union may impact GO Transit rail services.

Metrolinx made a statement on the impending transit troubles promising that services will not be disrupted:

“While we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached, we have plans in place to ensure customers can continue to travel safely and as easily as possible if a strike occurs. Our plans have been adjusted since our last communication to customers in April and no train services need to be cancelled. In the event of a CP labour disruption, we are now able to operate trains into Hamilton GO Centre.”

The reason that a CP strike may still impact GO Transit service is that many tracks that are used by Metrolinx for these services, are owned by alternate rail companies, such as CP. A strike means less CP staff available to operate the traffic switches and signals, leading to delays and suspended services.

The unions, which include the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have carried on talks with railway management.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Canada stated that the union would likely reject any offer and that they will request immediate resuming of negotiation to reach a deal before a strike ensues.

If the unions decide to strike, members must give 72 hours notice, as CBC indicates.

GTHA Transit efficiency is always a focus, whether good or bad, in this city. Even without a looming strike posing a threat to service, it’s clear that Toronto and GTA transit could be made more efficient. The upcoming election has the big four political parties making promises to do just that. The PC, Liberal and NDP parties are all pro-relief line plan. The line is to be built from the Danforth directly to downtown and relieve overcrowding on the Yonge/University Line. The Green Party is also making transit a focus, but in Scarborough.

Strike or not, Canada’s most densely populated region needs politicians and transit services always looking to the future for betterment of the transit network already in place. Hopefully negotiations and elections lead to reaching this common goal quicker.

Revised SmartTrack plan a GO

Plans don’t always pan out as expected, and although less sometimes means more, disputes can arise. This is the case with Mayor John Tory’s  initial SmartTrack proposal and the plan which has passed by city council on Wednesday.

 A recent announcement was made by the council confirming an agreement to spend up to $1.46 billion on SmartTrack. The plan put forth is an improved version of the one  Mayor Tory proposed during his 2014 election campaign.

 Federal and municipal governments are collaborating to fund this project. The city will raise $878 million of the total and the remaining $585 million will come from the federal transit fund. There was opposition to funding as some councilors believe that the province should pay instead of the city,  forgetting that the funds all come from the same source-tax dollars residents from across the region pay.

Despite worries of high costs and financing the plan, the decision was made to go forward with SmartTrack in a 37 to 6 vote.

Mayor Tory’s initial plan proposed 22 new stations and a link to Pearson Airport. The new plan will see 6 new stations to be operated by Metrolinx – the provincial transit body that operated regional transit service. The plan fuses SmartTrack’s use of existing GO stations and Metrolinx’s Regional Express Rail, and proposes integrated fares.

Mayor John Tory spoke about the much needed transit:

“This is the stage at which we are moving forward to start to build transit stations within the city of Toronto…Other municipalities are not proposing to build stations that the province would not otherwise have built to suit their local needs.”

Mayor Tory has consistently defended the plan noting the  33 million trips estimated on SmartTrack by 2041. The “cheapest transit we’re ever going to get inside the city,” he said.

There is a need for these stations to be built and Toronto municipal leaders are right to move forward with the revised plan put forth by Mayor Tory. Action means results, and as TTC Chair and councillor Josh Colle points out “Toronto has taken too many years off dwelling on the best way to improve the transit system.”

Buses, buses, buses!

It’s always fantastic when people can work together for the greater good, especially when it involves top decision-makers  and a faster commute for transit users.

Today It was announced that the City of Toronto and the Federal Government are pooling resources and investing in public infrastructure –buses, new routes and cycling infrastructure – in Toronto. The funds will support efficient and affordable services. The total investment is $934 million. The Federal Government is providing over $442 million and the City of Toronto is  Matching and adding a bit more with an investment of $492 million.

The funds will ensure buses are maintained and will meet the demand of commuters. Improved accessibility and lower greenhouse gas emissions are an added perk.

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, Ontario Minister of Transportation Kathryn McGarry,  Mayor John Tory and Chair of the TTC, Councillor Josh Colle announced the purchase of 1,043 new buses and the revitalization of 695 current buses as a part of the TTC’s Bus Purchase and Bus Rebuild project. The fleet will include 729 clean diesel buses, 254 second generation hybrid electric buses, and 60 battery electric buses.

Funding was also announced for 15 new public transit projects across Ontario. $20 million will go towards new transportation routes and cycling infrastructure. Mayor John Tory spoke about the initiative:

“Every day, the lives and livelihoods of Toronto residents depend on being able to move around our city quickly, safely and reliably. Maintaining our existing bus fleet and adding more buses on our roads will bring transit into every neighbourhood of our city. There is no area where collaboration and cooperation is more essential than in keeping our residents moving. Together, we will make Toronto’s transit system faster, stronger, safer and more accessible to everyone in every part of our city.”

The project is much-needed in Toronto and across the GTA. The extra buses and repaired fleets will cut down those end-of-day wait times, and will lessen the number of breakdowns which add extra minutes, or even hours on transit routes.

TTC walks from union negotiations

TTC is a part of my every day journey  and it would definitely mess up  my mornings if workers were to strike. Fortunately for transit-users of Toronto, that won’t happen because TTC is considered an essential service and striking isn’t possible.

This past week TTC union and management were in negotiations over a new collective agreement. As usual, the union has called out management for “walking away” from talks. TTC has responded assuring that its commitment to an agreement has not wavered. The game of union negotiations is riddled with one side blaming the other publicly in a dance that is growing stale.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 released a statement this week slamming TTC for halting contract negotiations to wait for the Ontario Ministry of Labour to “appoint a conciliator.”

The statement reads:

“The union will continue its fight to protect pensions and benefits, while saving Toronto’s public transit system from privatization, which cost taxpayers more money in the end,” the release states. “Toronto’s transit union invites the TTC to return to negotiations and bargain in good faith.”

If a collective agreement is not reached, the issue will go to arbitration. But TTC says this is still possible and that negotiations can still happen:

“The TTC believes a conciliator can help reach a negotiated agreement with Local 113 and remains committed to productive good faith bargaining, The TTC negotiated contracts in 2014 with all of its unions, without arbitration. The TTC remains committed to doing the same in 2018.”

In a continued statement, TTC said that it has negotiated contracts with other unions which represent machinists-AMW Lodge 235 and CUPE Local 5089.

The collective agreement that existed between the union and TTC expired last month.

But let’s make no mistake- a provincial election is about to be called and both TTC management and the union know the public will be revved up about taxes and public spending especially given Doug Ford’s agenda to align himself with a “cut the fat” mentality. Politically the union isn’t in a good position if it has to fight public opinion and TTC management knows it. Waiting for a conciliator will allow the “cut the waste” propaganda that Doug Ford is spreading to take hold making it  publicly much harder for a union to ask for more. It is a clever tactic on behalf of TTC management, and the union can’t do much about it

Transit is an essential service. But what is fair? The TTC is bringing n a conciliator to make that decision because they don’t agree with the union and they know that they can’t make it either.

Weather and mood: ready to sing in the rain

This dreary weather has a way of playing on my mood, and based on the expressions on the faces of those I walked past on my way to work this morning, I’m not the only one to be affected.  Nobody was smiling and no one interacting. It’s a gray and gloomy day and the commute to work among hundreds of other public transit users, was one of the quietest and most lifeless journeys yet.
I wanted to take a picture- I didn’t get a seat and began noticing the scowls. I thought about how I could change this. By starting to dance in the packed subway car, or making eye contact with a commuter and smiling in their direction? Perhaps plastering a false smile to my face until I feel it would spark a chain reaction.
I’ve also noticed that my less cheerful mood brought on by rainy weather, causes me to be less friendly to others.. I wonder if this causes a chain reaction of less positive interactions. The gloom has a strange hold, just as warm sunshine on a cold  day can liven my spirits and put an extra bounce in my step that sets my pace over the rest of the day.
It’s amazing how much more cheerful I feel when I can reach for my sunglasses and immediately put them on,  as opposed to grabbing them with the hope that the clouds will part and the streets will dry. I actually still put my shades over my eyes during the rainy weather, not just for style, but as a way to coax a change in weather and to bring on the sunshine.
This extended winter seems to be paired with cloudy and damp weather. As Canadians we have a short window to enjoy warmer temperatures and patio weather. I’ll bask in the sun as much as I can when these days do finally arrive.
Despite knowing that sunshine and warmth will arrive soon, I still wish I could climb out from under the negative cloud that hovers when it’s gloomy outside. I know it’s human nature to be affected by the weather, but I’m set on attempting to bring sunshine to dreary days as best as I can. I need to learn how to sing.

Underground Sounds: Auditions for next generation of TTC musicians to begin, grand prize offered by Universal Music Canada

The weekday hustle to get to the office or to a pressing meeting seems to always be made even less enjoyable due to overcrowded streetcars and subway trains, not to mention due to the frequent delays which plague commuters near-weekly. The newly unveiled fund boost offered to Toronto City transit by the provincial and federal government, totaling nearly $9 billion, is hoped to soon diminish these issues.

Until that point, however, one pleasant fixture that exists at many TTC terminals and subway stations, which helps to put a bit of enjoyment in my morning or evening commute, is the soothing music that can be heard as the masses bustle along various platforms.

One of the most congested underground stations is Bloor/Yonge- one which I am a daily visitor to. The talented musicians set up to entertain passengers on this platform, often put a smile on my face. Just the other day, my grumpy demeanor was eradicated and instead was replaced with a smile, when a musician at the said station performed a fantastic rendition of a favourite Springsteen song. My scowl was instantly transformed into a smile as I clumsily sang along.

The TTC is fully aware that commuting is not always a joy in this city, yet the commission continues to seek to bring that bit of musical therapy that can add a pep in your step. This is the reason for its support of TTC musicians. The commission is currently calling all musicians who wish to be added to the current pool of performers, to audition, beginning April 9, 2018.  The auditions will take place online where the public will be able to cast their votes for their favourite artists.

A total of 90 three-year licenses are available from the subway musicians program, which has become known as “Underground Sounds.” Additional incentive comes by way of a TTC partnership with Universal Music Canada. Thanks to this partnership, one lucky winner will get to record their song, that will then be featured in an exclusive Apple Music “Tracks on Tracks” playlist.

Chair of the TTC and the Toronto Music Industry Advisory Council, Councillor Josh Colle, spoke about the impact these talented musicians bring to commuters daily and also commented on the new audition process, which seeks to reach a broader audience online.

“We know Toronto is filled with incredibly talented musicians and this is a chance for some of them to be heard by the 1.8 million customers the TTC moves every day. By moving to an online audition format, we are able to engage our customers, and residents of the Toronto area, and allow them to have a say in who earns one of the coveted licenses.”

Auditioning musicians will post their performances to You Tube between April 9 and May 6. If any musicians are in need of a camera, live auditions will be held on April 18 and 19, after which a created video recording will be uploaded to the audition site.

Online voting, to determine the top 10 qualifiers, will run May 7-28. Those qualifiers will perform live for a panel of industry experts, including representatives from Universal Music Canada, where the grand prize of recording time and a spot on an exclusive Apple Music playlist alongside top recording artists, will be awarded.

“The TTC takes you where you are going. Music transports you to another world,” said Jeffrey Remedios, President & CEO, Universal Music Canada. “This is a partnership designed to invigorate the TTC’s Subway Musician Program with a long-term digital solution, giving more musicians a chance to participate and connecting riders through their passion for music.”

It has been 40 years since the TTC initiated the Underground Sound flavor at various subway stations across the city. As of the fall, there will be 30 stations that are complemented by the sounds of talented musicians.

Toronto approves 2018 budget, with extra funding for transit

City Council approved the Toronto 2018 budget Monday 33-11, with a special interest in transit. Included in the $11-billion operating budget budget is over $50 million for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to help in new investments and maintenance, as well as provide discounts for low-income riders and the hop-on-hop-off transfer.

There will also be a fare freeze for the next year.

The city is planning on investing in transit, shelters, recreational spaces, and the Vision Zero plan, among others. The revenue for this budget is being collected from various sources, including taxes, TTC fares, provincial grants, and reserve funds.

“This is a good news budget. It invests in key areas while spending low and keeping tax increases low,” said budget chief Gary Crawford in a statement. “Toronto residents want City Hall to build the city but they also appreciate that we strike the right balance, that we tighten spending, find efficiencies and don’t hike taxes sky-high. For the fourth year in a row, I’m confident we have struck the right, responsible balance that people expect.”

Residential property taxes are set to increase 2.1 per cent along with the rate of inflation, while commercial taxes will only increase by one per cent. City staff say this will equal an increase of about $82 on average for homeowners with property valued at $624,418. Residents will pay an additional 0.5 per cent for the City Building Fund, which supports infrastructure projects such as transit and housing. The city will be relying on approximately $800 million collected from the municipal land transfer tax to fund services, something city manager Peter Wallace says is dangerous considering the real estate market.

Prior to budget approval, mayor John Tory announced $3 million (included in the $50 million investment) earmarked to help overcrowding on Line 1, including the prioritization of the relief line. The 10-point plan includes the addition of more subway cars during peak hours, overnight maintenance schedules, hiring of platform staff for the Bloor/Yonge station, and the use of express busses to alleviate overcrowding.

“I know delays and crowding can be frustrating. I know people want an expanded transit system as soon as possible. I know how maddening it can be when transit and traffic don’t move in this city,” said Tory in a statement. “I want Toronto residents to know that I am dedicated to getting transit and traffic moving. I’m dedicated to building our entire transit network plan. I’m dedicated to making sure the TTC is doing everything possible to minimize delays and ease crowding.”

Council also voted to approve a 50 per cent reduction in property taxes for culture hubs like 401 Richmond. To be eligible, a hub must prove their tenants produce cultural goods and services, charge tenants below market rent, and have a minimum rentable space of 10,000 square feet (5,000 if owned by the city).

TTC to address last week’s complaints

While there are a lot of things to complain about this week in terms of transit service, the one thing riders can’t complain about is the sincerity of staff to do better.

There were a lot of problems with Line 1 and Line 2, mostly caused by either human error (passengers claiming emergencies) or a crack in the rail, something the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is trying to rectify. A report will be presented at the TTC board next week about the issues.

“I want every transit rider in this city to know that I am absolutely committed to improving and expanding the TTC so that their daily commute improves,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “We are doing everything possible to make sure the existing system is running properly and that we are expanding transit as fast as possible for the future.”

Later this month, City Council will be approving a total operating budget, which will include $1.98 billion for the TTC. This is $21 million more than last year. This money will be used to help in repairs and upkeep that have been postponed over the last few years.

The mayor also confirmed the relief line was still a priority. By 2019, city council should have a detailed design to push forward. The city will be asking the province to match the federal government’s $4.8 billion investment — money that will be dedicated to transit, including the relief line.

“The federal government has made it clear that they expect provinces to match this investment at least 33 per cent, but other provinces across the country have committed to 40 per cent, and it’s time for Ontario leaders to commit to doing the same for people of Toronto,” said Tory. “Toronto is growing fast and we must keep up. Having a strong and robust transit system is vital to our residents, to our economy and to our competitiveness as a city and a province.”

TTC looking to innovate, grow ridership past 2014 levels

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) board will meet on Thursday to discuss ridership — how to move customers more reliably, make public transit seamless, and innovate for the future.

It’s a big topic. The TTC doesn’t just want to retain their current ridership. According to the TTC, ridership hasn’t grown since 2014, with about 535 millions trips each year. They want to see it grow along with the changing network.

“Over the past decade, major shifts in demographics, travel behaviour and technology have changed how people travel in cities,” the report reads. “The transportation system has shifted from a traditional model of owning a car or using public transit, to a “mobility as a service” system where one either owns their car or accesses a sharedcar/bike alternative.”

The goal of the TTC will be to focus on reliability, mobility, and innovation in order to increase ridership. To do this, the board will approve three initiatives:

  • Provide more surface routes to relieve overcrowding on busses
  • Implement two-hour transfers
  • Implement a discounted fare for PRESTO customers combining TTC and Go Transit/UP trips.

These three initiatives were discussed months ago by the board, as well as city councillors, so chances are they will pass at the meeting this Thursday. Other ideas mentioned in the report include a U-Pass for students, partnering with car-sharing services, and launching public awareness campaigns.

The board will also discuss a corporate strategy that will create a five-year plan “to be a transit system that makes Toronto proud.” This plan focuses on moving transit quickly, including looking at measures similar to the King St. Pilot to relieve congestion on certain routes under the Surface Transit Priority Plan. “Measures that keep transit moving include dedicated right-of-way like we currently have on the 510 Spadina and 512 St. Clair streetcars: queue jump lanes that let transit bypass other traffic at key intersections and traffic signal priority, which reduces dwell times for TTC vehicles by holding green signals longer or shortening red signals.”

There is also a goal to be 100 per cent emissions free by 2042!