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Humility over hubris will fix the TTC

There is a systemic issue that has plagued the TTC for decades.  Historically the TTC has lacked strong leadership, with CEOs being fired every few years,  few of them have had the time or inclination to tackle the managers or hold them accountable for their actions.

Last week a few columnists and politicians hinted that CEO of the TTC, Andy Byford, was to blame for the Spadina extension overruns.   Like the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland who shouts “off with his head” they wanted a simple solution without understanding the complexity of the problem.  The TTC’s main mandate is to deliver good service efficiently and Mr. Byford has done exceptionally well on that front, despite inheriting an organization with a long history of poor accountability and mismanagement.

Consider the recent auditor’s report that found the TTC had not been monitoring the use and maintenance of its non-revenue fleet going as far back as 2005. Take a closer look at the report and what becomes obvious is the systemic issues that CEO Andy Byford has inherited.   The auditor’s report demonstrated that accountability has not been part of the TTC’s culture for decades. To expect our new CEO to do a complete overhaul of the system in under 5 years is ludicrous.

It’s easy to criticize when it comes to failures, but much harder to understand what caused the failures.  The real challenge facing the TTC is to change the culture of entitlement and unaccountability that fills the management ranks. But Byford has taken action. He’s reviewed the TTC infrastructure department, fired those responsible for the Spadina extension overruns, and admitted that he needs help and that the TTC infrastructure department can’t handle the project. Not only did this take balls, but it took humility – exactly the trait needed to bring real change to the TTC.

Mr. Byford’s firing of the Spadina extension project managers not only tells Toronto he’s taking action but it has sent a huge message to all TTC employees –  that no matter how high ranking someone is, they will be accountable for their actions.  This is a message that many TTC employees, frustrated with the lack of accountability and the attitude of entitlement within TTC management, needed to hear. In Byford, TTC now has a leader with humility, who is determined to give the public the best service possible while at the same time weed out the hubris that will always cause an organization to fail.

Where does the TTC infrastructure department go from here?

The answer is obvious to those who work in the industry — the contractors and engineers — who have worked with the TTC in the past and now refuse to even bid on most TTC projects, to those who have spent the past decade quietly complaining to anyone who would listen, about the ineptitude of the TTC infrastructure department.  The solution the contractors, tradespeople and engineering firms suggest is to turn all the large transit projects that TTC has in their plans over to Metrolinx.

Metrolinx is the provincial transit body responsible for building transit infrastructure – most recently, the Union-Pearson Express (delivered on time and on budget).  Under the leadership of CEO, Bruce McCuaig, Metrolinx has steered its large projects through Infrastructure Ontario which has developed an efficient process (with a 97% success rate) to manage big infrastructure projects.  Add to this the fact that McCuaig has attracted some of the best in the field, and the humility that McCuaig brings to his role as CEO of Metrolinx and it is easy to see why so many in the industry see them as the great solution to Toronto’s infrastructure problems.

A partnership between Metrolinx and the TTC is the best solution for Toronto. It would allow the TTC to focus on delivering excellent service efficiently, while at the same time deliver the expertise that Metrolinx has to all our future transit expansion plans.

Transit integration moves forward for GTHA

Today GO Transit and the TTC announced a partnership on a pilot project to give metropass holders the opportunity to purchase a new monthly GO fare sticker for $60 that can be used  for unlimited travel between Exhibition, Union and Danforth GO Stations. It will begin on Feb 1, 2015. The new stickers will go on sale on Jan. 26, at Exhibition, Union and Danforth GO Stations.

CEO of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig said, “This project is more than about saving time. It’s about working together to provide the best transit service”

The goal is to attract people to use different transit options, and to inform them of all the transit choices that are available to them. Transit officials say this will save commuters between 10 to 15 minutes per trip during rush hour.

Ontario Transportation Minister, Steven Del Duca announced that the project would last one year, and offer Metrolinx a lot of information to analyse in order to help them with long-term planning.

Here is how to get the sticker

1. Bring your TTC Metropass (for the current or upcoming month) to the ticket counter at Exhibition, Union or Danforth GO Station.

2. A GO station Attendant will attach the GO fare sticker to your valid TTC Metropass.

Safe travels.

LOOK: Toronto can learn a few things from the stunning design of Stockholm’s subway

Here is Toronto we are used to simple, utilitarian subway stations. Even our friends over in Montreal take a much more artistic approach to how their stations appear. Unfortunately the type of rock in which we are digging here in Toronto means that our stations are quite often as small as possible, but newer station designs like Museum show that a small space can still have a big visual impact.

All of that is nothing compared to Stockholm’s Metro system. Take a look at the images collected below by VisualNews that show the fantastic take the Swedes have in their subway stations.

1. Fantastic escalators through red stone.

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2. Looks like the escalator through Mordor.

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3. With a cool woodland scene on the walls.

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4. Even more epic escalators.

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5. Patterns, exposed stone, and sculpture all in one.

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6. Half buried pillars.

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7. This flower mosaic looks like a cross between Super Mario and Easter eggs.

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8. These awesome elevators look like Saul Bass designed a villain’s lair from a Bond movie.

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9. They’ve got ghosts in their tiles.

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10. Geometric shapes in an ice cavern design.

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11. Stunning view from the platform.

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12. View from inside of a train.

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13. Even the trains themselves look fantastic.

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14. Even more epic cavernous escalators.

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15. The simplest doors are designed to catch your eye.

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16. It is a wonder anyone makes it to work on time when these stations beg to be marveled at.

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17. Giant leaves overhead.

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18. Checkers and houndstooth overhead.

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19. a Cross between Alice in Wonderland and the Chamber of Secrets.

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20. These stations are so striking it wouldn’t surprise me if these statues came alive at night.

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21. Complete with ancient ruins to admire on your way to the train.

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Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

This infographic sums up everything wrong with the Scarborough subway debate

Subways for Scarborough! LRTs for the city! Accessible transit now!

Why does it seem like, despite all the time that has passed since the death of Transit City we are having the same debates now that we did when David Miller was in office? Why does it seem that, with every passing day and every subway bandwagon jumped on by every politician at every level of government, the simple facts of the matter are being swept under the rug in favour of vote pandering?

Toronto Tweeter Ev Delen (@EvDelen) shows us the cold hard facts in this infographic.

Get ready for the most simple representation of everything wrong with the Scarborough subway debate — and everything wrong with the politicians pushing for subways.

 

References:

 

 

It all seems pretty simple now, doesn’t it?

 

 

You can follow Ev Delen on Twitter at @EvDelen.

You can follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

 

LRT vs. SUBWAY: Here is a map of both proposed extensions

This week saw a flurry of activity around the LRT versus subway debate. What will replace the Scarborough RT?

What you may not know is that the extensions will not follow the same route. Look below to see the routes of both.

Both begin at Kennedy station, currently the eastern terminus of the Bloor/Danforth subway line. The proposed subway extension takes the route further east before meeting up with Danforth and jutting up to Sheppard.

The extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT continues on from the Kennedy station where it is currently slated to end. The extension thakes the LRT along a very similar route at the current Scarborough RT but going further west and eventually curving up to meet Sheppard.

Take a look below, which route best serves the community?


View Poposed subway extension vrs LRT in a larger map

Founder of Kik Messenger takes stand against LRTs because they don’t look futuristic enough

While Toronto’s subways vs. LRT debates splash against the front pages of newspapers our neighbours in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge to the west have had their own ongoing debates about the future of transit in the city.

The major bus route throughout KW is King Street, and the plan was to run an LRT along it and to reorganize buses in the city to feed into the LRT for better, more reliable, and faster crosstown travel.

The plan, which also includes a multi-modal downtown transit hub, hasn’t seen any major battles erupt like the mention of LRT will garner here in Toronto.

That is, until Ted Livingston decided he was not only an expert at providing a platform for tweenagers to sext each other and perverts, pedophiles to collect child pornography (no, really) but also an expert at transit in Waterloo Region.

His beef? The trains for the LRT aren’t futuristic enough.

His Change.org tirade, which you can read for yourself here, begins earnestly enough as he lets us know that he “only started reading about the specifics of the LRT this past Sunday.” This should be a red flag to anyone reading, as the “specifics” of the LRT have been publicly debated for the past fours years or so, and there also isn’t a lot more ever going on in the news in Waterloo to keep you distracted.

He tells us that he was excited, because trains are cool, that is until he saw a picture of one of the trains. “Not a futuristic train whizzing by overhead, but just a glorified bus running up and down King in a dedicated lane.”

Yes, he’s upset because the train doesn’t look cool enough.

He goes on to explain: “We say that traveling by bus is brutal and that these trains will be so much more comfortable to take, but after two wheels are photoshopped in we will all see that it is simply a shinier bus.”

Oh, that’s right, he photoshopped some wheels onto a concept design of one of the LRT trains going by Grand River Hospital to, um, prove to us that these trains are a lot like buses, maybe?

Waterloo Region and Grand Rvier Transit could also do a lot worse than double length articulated buses like the one Mr. Livingston has photoshopped into existence here.

“Instead of a train we all know and love, we’ll have glorified buses that are just as miserable to take. Because instead of getting cars off the streets and opening our roads, we’ll have closed key roadways and made traffic a mess. And because instead of looking for a unique solution that would actually make commuting in Waterloo fun, we’ll have gone over budget and burdened any future options for decades to come.”

The whole thing reeks of someone who, fresh out of school with a cash cow of an app, has to pay taxes for the first time and thinks that the dedicated lane will make it more difficult to travel around town in his new car. In Toronto he might have a few more fans, but in Waterloo where most people who take public transit are captive passengers, meaning they actually have no choice but to take the bus to work or school because they can’t afford a car, I think he’s going to be a bit hard pressed to find a group of car snobs willing to turn down any step in the right direction.

Ted Livingston, Jim Balsillie you ain’t. Stick to your app instead of opining on Waterloo’s transit.

 

 

Politics in Toronto: Not broken, maybe bent, but certainly cracked

Quite a few people in the Twitterverse and beyond were shocked today by the transit video we released.

It was created by our publisher (and tireless transit advocate) Sarah Thomson who took to Facebook last night to announce that Women’s Post had “the video” and it would be appearing on Women’s Post’s website today at noon.

Supporters of transit initiatives in Toronto and those who see Sarah tick by in their Facebook and Twitter feeds regularly were familiar with the video she was talking about – a video where she sings a cover of Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason with lyrics re-written to showcase Toronto’s issues with securing reliable transit for the city and asking Torontonians to do what they can to support the Big Move.

A little bit silly? Of course. A conversation we need to be having? Definitely.

The video opens with a smoke filled room and a character holding a pipe before a segue into shots of Toronto’s congested streets and regular people holding cards asking for help in relieving transit stresses and commuter problems in our fair city. The message is clear: we need to move past the haze of drug scandals that have Toronto politics in a vice grip and get back to reality. Our city and the people in it are stuck immobile by distraction after distraction and are suffering the consequences of inaction on a daily basis.

What happened next couldn’t have driven the point home any better. Overnight Toronto’s hashtags and feeds jumped to the collective conclusion that the video going up today was of Rob Ford smoking crack.

Their shock came when the video turned out to be a song about transit.

My shock came in the immediate aftermath of the video going live. The message left in our comments, on Twitter, and on YouTube was that this was a waste of time, we need to get back to “real” issues about Rob Ford’s reckless personal life.

My shock was that a scandal plagued mayor has so thoroughly damaged the civic and political landscape of Toronto to the point where the people of Toronto can’t even clearly see that the most pressing issue to us right now, to our children, and to our future as a viable world-class city isn’t what people at City Hall have in their pipes, it is what their circus of distraction is preventing us from becoming.

This week boring machines began working on the largest transit project Toronto has seen in half a century. Unfortunately, the number of people tuned into stories about the Eglinton LRT pales in comparison to the number of people tuning in daily to see an elected official deny, dodge, and destroy politics at City Hall.

My suggestion to my fellow Torontonians is to take a cue from Sarah’s video. Wave the smoke out of your face and move on. Focus on what is important, do everything you can to make City Hall, Queen’s Park, and Parliament Hill work for you by speaking out about transit, urban development, bike lanes, the Gardiner, and everything else that is currently being ignored by the Mayor’s office. While we can waste time arguing over what kind of dust coats the Mayor’s desk it is quite clear that it isn’t being used at all for the municipal issues that need to be addressed.

Taking a stand on the problems faced by Torontonians instead of the demons faced by Toronto’s mayor is the only way we can step forward into the future.

The politics of Toronto aren’t broken, perhaps bent, but certainly cracked. What we need to do now is fill that crack with our voices. Our next big move as a city shouldn’t be into the depths of crack houses, it should be into the communities that need accessible transit, stitching together the tapestry of our city with busses, light rail, subways, proper highways, and bike lanes.

Together we can make it work.

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Toronto’s not broken just bent

Amid the scandal and smoke that swirls around city hall it is good to know there are some people and organizations in Toronto who push forward to tackle the real issues holding back our city. Credit should be given to organizations like the Toronto Transit Alliance for the work they are doing to educate and inform Toronto area residents of the need to come together and build a great city.

 

Be sure to follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Toronto’s troubled transit: The future lies with Council and the time to act is now

Last year, Toronto City Councillors led by Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Chair Karen Stintz reaffirmed a transit plan that allowed the Government of Ontario and Metrolinx to move forward. But lack of action on it has led to mass frustrations amongst Torontonians stuck in traffic on the way to work, packed in subways and buses, or feeling cheated because the transit system does not extend into their neighbourhood or communities. Unfortunately, despite the claims of a number of Councillors and Mayor Rob Ford, change is not happening.

Metrolinx and the TTC have both come out identifying the downtown relief line (DRL) as the next transit priority. It will be a huge relief for TTC commuters from North York and Scarborough, taking pressure off of the Yonge and Bloor-Danforth lines.

Toronto is a great City, envied by many. But success in recent decades has created challenges. Phrases like “world-class” have little meaning when you are stuck in traffic or have no reasonable transit options to mitigate that traffic. Congestion has been identified by the Toronto Board of Trade (TBOT) and renowned think-tanks as Toronto’s single biggest competitive disadvantage, costing the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Region (GTHA) $6 billion annually. Manufacturers have delays in shipping and moving inventory. Companies with valued and valuable staff waste unproductive time in traffic. If the City does nothing it will be the reason employers and their employees will leave or stay away from our City.

Solving transit gridlock is more than just dealing with individuals’ frustrations. It is making sure this and future generations will available job opportunities, careers and establish roots in Toronto. Millennials coming up in this City are making dramatically different choices about how they want to live and work. The City needs to be able to react to this and we need to be able to build a City for the future.

The City’s elected officials must be honest with themselves. Toronto is now paying the price for having done nothing over the past 20 years. That price of “doing nothing” will only increase. How much more is Eglinton going to cost today than if we had not stopped building it almost 20 years ago?

What will the cost of inaction be for all of us?

Whether and individual drives a car, takes the train, rides a bike or walks, a good public transit network is a necessity for a City the size of Toronto. Transit, like health care and education, is a public good. Everyone benefits from a transit system that works.

A sensible government must realize that unlocking our City’s transit mess will not come cheap. There are no magic solutions; there is no transit fairy or money tree.

City Council recently voted to reject revenue tools. It is time to put this in perspective.

First of all, that phrase fools no one. This is a conversation about taxes and tolls.

I have long considered myself a fiscal conservative. I generally support keeping budgets slim, regulations limited, and taxes low. I disagreed with the previous Mayor’s wasteful spending. I believe Mayor Ford’s agenda of cutting costs and engaging the private sector in outsourcing initiatives to be in the best interest of the City of Toronto. However, when it comes to spending money on unjustified and unfunded transit projects, a self-identified fiscal conservative has to say, “No.”

So when it comes to calling for new taxes, not a single advocate is doing it lightly. I believe in frugality when it comes to government spending, however I know that transit and subways are not built for free. A revolution of common sense at City Hall would allow the current administration’s power brokers to realize that they must find a way to pay for the transit infrastructure we need.

As Chair Stintz proclaimed on Twitter following Council’s decision to reject dedicated revenue, ‘Saying something and doing nothing is still “doing nothing”.’

The City still has a chance to be innovators. Now is City Councillors’ chance to be city builders and help restore pride in a city that works. The only question is; will they have the political will, or won’t they?

 

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @JordanAGlass