Saturday, June 27, 2009

Allen + Eglinton Crazieness

I made a comment in the Spacing Toronto explaining the Allen + Eglinton pedestrian craziness:

Funny you should mention this intersection. For a few years I was walking to Eglinton station from the southwest and was always annoyed at how pedestrians are given absolute lowest class status over the cars exiting and entering Allen.

So that cars can quickly exit left form Allen, pedestrians are forced to cross three separate lighted intersections from the southwest to get to the station. The funny thing is, the third crossing seems to be there solely so that cops and cop staff can make an illegal straight cruise from the Allen into the police parking lot.

Almost every pedestrian, including me, would often make a ‘corner cross’ which still let cars turn left unobstructed but would technically block cops from making the illegal crossing. Often the uniformed and un-uniformed cops would yell at (but never ticket as far as I could see) us corner crossers saying we were jay-walking. But for the amount of pedestrians crossing vs. the few amount of cop cars making the Allen exit, it really seems like the pedestrians should have been given that corner crossing. And the cops really had no right to complain, since we were only blocking their illegal moving violation anyway.

Somebody asked for a drawing, so I did one up in Google Maps explaining it.The three blue lines represent the three pedestrian crossings (all having traffic lights) just to get to Eglinton from the SW corner.

The red line is my suggested pedestrain crossing. This is the route that most pedestrians take anyway. This wouldn't block either the right or the left-turning cars, but...

The orange line is the cops' shortcut, which the suggested route would block. But as far as I can see the cops' shortcut is illegal, so why are we making allowances for it?

View Allen + Eglinton Pedestrian Craziness in a larger map

What a great tool for explaining stuff like this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garbage Week

Tuesday morning last week was recycling day. I had put our giant recycling bin (I went with the largest size and haven't regretted it) out the night before, as usual. So I'm getting used to my new routine of feeding my daughter breakfast (or trying to) and getting her ready for daycare while my wife Erin showers and gets ready for work. I check outside the window to see what the weather's like, and notice that our bin's lid is open, and it looks like there's a bag in in there. I go outside, still holding my daughter, and discover someone has dumped three bags of stinking, putrid garbage in our recycling bin. There were literally maggots crawling over one bin.

What I did next I am not proud of at all. I'll spare all the details, but suffice to say my daughter and half the neighbourhood were witness to a string of expletives as I flung the garbage bags onto the street and went back inside. Realizing that the garbage bags would likely sit in front of my house for days, I then went back outside and flung the garbage bags further down the street so they would be someone else's problem. Why should I have to deal with this, I thought? It's not my fault - it's not fair. My neighbour had come out by this point and asked what happened. I explained, with some swearing, what happened, followed it up with a shot at how much I hated our neighbourhood, went back in and slammed the door. Again, not proud of this. I was full of 'righteous' anger at the time. I was wronged. I had every right to be angry and do what I did. I thought.

"Two rights don't make a wrong" is a bit of a cliché, but it's true. I may have been wronged, but I acted irresponsibly and immaturely. It was unfortunate that someone dumped garbage in our bin, but sometimes unfair things happen and we have to deal with them - not by making them worse. Not by scaring my daughter, alienating our neighbours and passing the problem onto someone else. I was of course explained all this by Erin as we drove to work and as my anger was subsiding. By the time I got into work and had calmed down, I realized what an jerk I had been. I pictured those garbage bags in the middle of the road still sitting there as a visual reminder of my jerktitude for all to see. By the time I got in to work, I realized I had to take responsibility for them.

I contemplated heading back home during lunch to put the bags in our (very small) garbage bin. I even thought of calling a garbage removal place and paying them to take the bags away. It wasn't fair what happened to me, but the whole neighbourhood shouldn't have to stare at and smell the garbage because of that. Then I got a call from Erin, saying the daycare had called saying our daughter had a fever. I offered to take her home, since Erin is just starting out at her job, and I could do some work on my laptop at home. Plus: extra baby time for me. I also took it as an opportunity to do the right thing.

When Eleanor went down for a nap, I got some gloves and moved the bags from the street, where they of course still were, into my garbage bin. It completely filled the bin, and garbage pick-up was a week away. I'd have to use one of the tags reserved for 'extra' garbage for the rest of our garbage, which normally never fills even our small bin. The city gives you five tags for the year, and then you have to buy more. It's nice to have them for parties when the garbage is a little higher, but I think extra ones only cost $3. I shouldn't have to use the extra ones because some jerk decided that a) he didn't need to separate his garbage and b) it's someone else's problem that he ran out of space. But unless I wanted to be as much of a jerk as him, I had to take some of the lumps that he gave out. But I wouldn't do it quietly...

The best way to act in any situation like this is to report it to the authorities. It has a bit of a 'tattle-tale' stigma to it, but the truth it, in a civil society, we need proper, legal means of recourse. Swearing and throwing garbage onto the street isn't one of them. If I found out who it was, punching him in the face, as much as it would feel good, would only cause me to get into trouble for assault. Erin always makes fun of me because watching movies when there's a fight or a crime or something and the hero fights back, my response is usually "Why don't they just call the cops?" It wouldn't make for very dramatic movies of course, but it's what we need to do in a functional civil society. I didn't call the cops, but I did call the City of Toronto's awesomely named "Waste Enforcement Division". I left a message on their voicemail reporting it, really expecting nothing to come of it.

To my surprise, the very next morning, a guy from Waste Enforcement shows up at my house to talk about it. I told him that I moved the garbage to my bin. He said I should have left it where it was, as that had technically made it 'tampered with' but he understood my predicament (no moving meant my recycling wouldn't be picked up.) I didn't mention my crazy tirade from the day before. To my surprise though, he said he would take the garbage away with him, and would sort through it to see if there was anything in the garbage identifying the person who did it. Nice! I haven't heard anything back yet, but I'll update here if I do.

So the garbage was taken away without using my quote, the jerk who did it was potentially one step closer to being caught. I felt pretty much the opposite to how I did after my tirade the previous day.

My neighbour had mentioned that the same thing had happened to them several times, but there was nothing they could do about it. They didn't seem to know that they could report it and the City would actually do something about it. The neighbours in question are not native-born Canadians and are not native English speakers, as our many of the people on my street. I realized that many people might not know that there are recourses to this kind of thing, and if there were, they might not know where to find the numbers to call. It took me twenty minutes of digging through the City's website to find the info myself - I could imagine for a non-native English speaker it would be even more challenging. So with the help of Erin, I made up a little sign that I'm going to post around the neighbourhood. Hopefully people will report the dumping more often, and hopefully, the person who's doing it will see the signs and be a little warned off.

Life's going to present us with shitty circumstances all the time. We can choose to complain about it, and do worse things back to others. Or we can choose to respond the right way - the way that respects our family, our neighbours, and society. More often than not, people respond the wrong way when they are wronged. There's countless examples that I don't need to get into. If more people can learn to turn the other cheek, and put others first, like I eventually did, I think this world would be a better place. There will always be jerks like the mysterious garbage dumper, but if we respond the right way, their effect on us will be minimal.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

East-West on TTC North of Bloor

I've come to realize that east-west travel north of Bloor in Toronto sucks. Hard.

I've had to work out of our Don Mills and York Mills office a few times recently. When I leave from the office, I get a taxi chit, so getting there is relatively painless. But on days when I head straight there, I rely on the TTC. I life at Dufferen and Eglinton, so I figured getting there was a matter of taking a bus along Eglinton to Don Mills, then another bus up Don Mills. Something like this:

Or possibly a bus up to York Mills, and another one along York Mills. Two transfers, not a big deal. Boy was I wrong.

The problem with my idea is that there is no bus that travels completely along Eglinton, or York Mills, or even Lawrence. The problem is that any route you take forces you to cross the two forks of the subway:

Every bus not only stops at the subway, but usually stops, and then turns around. So in practice, I need to take four separate buses to get to my location:

I've studied the TTC route map extensively, and there's really no other way around this. At best, I can go to York Mills, and hopefully catch the 96 bus, which would take me to Yonge. But that's still three buses when it should be two, and that's if the 96 comes often enough to make it worth the wait.

If I lived on or south of Bloor, this wouldn't be a huge problem. There's the Bloor-Danforth subway line, or the streetcars and buses that go unstopped along the major streets. Yeah, there's the short-turning streetcars and such, but for the most part, you should be able to take a fairly uninterrupted journey.

I don't understand why it's not more like this north of Bloor. I understand feeding the subway line; the line takes people downtown, which is probably the most common destination for the largest number of people. But why do the east-west buses have routes that take them to a subway station, then turn around? Why can't they just stop briefly in the station, then turn keep going? And why can streetcar drivers take a fairly long shift across Queen or College, but any time a bus stops at a subway the station, the driver has to change shifts or use the can, forcing people on the bus to wait?

I'm not a transit planner, so I'm sure there's an explanation for this. If there is, I would seriously love to hear it. But I suspect that this problem is only going to get bigger as the city grows and more office spaces are forced to move to the inner-burbs like Don Mills.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dufferin Bus Improvement!

Well, the TTC never got back to me about my earlier complaint but it looks like they were listening to me!

I finally tried taking the Dufferin bus from Bloor yesterday (I've since given up and am doing the 20-minute walk home from Eg West Station instead) and noticed that they have a collector standing at the side door letting people in from there. It's a nice step. Even nicer would be if they didn't assume TTC riders were criminals and gave them the benefit of the doubt, but I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Thanks TTC.

Snow Removal Anger!

In my long-standing tradition of not updating my blog, then getting angry about something, then writing an angry letter to a politician, then posting it here, here is a letter I wrote to Howard Moscoe regarding the snow removal. Remember, this is Torontorants. I'm a crank, okay?

Mr Moscoe,

I am a resident of your ward.

I'd like to express briefly express my regrets about the recent snow removal plan.

a) This should have started much sooner. Read: a day after the first snowfall.
b) The planning of this seems poor. Why was Dufferin St. between Eglinton and St. Clair being worked on during rush hour this morning, but none of the side streets? You'd think it would be wise to tie up a lane in a major artery during non-rush hour times.
c) I know resources are limited, but my humble st, Allenvale Ave, still hasn't received snow removal, nor have any of the streets in my vicinity. The snow removal schedule available on the City of Toronto website is cryptic and confusing to say the least. I'm a pretty smart person, I work with complicated data a lot, and I couldn't figure it out. So I can't tell if my street is behind schedule. But it's a huge inconvenience for everyone on our street.
d) I noticed, on my walk to Eglinton West subway station in the morning, that some of the streets in more well-off areas in Mr. Mihevc's ward have been cleared. Is it just a coincidence that from what I've noticed so far, streets with higher-income residents have been cleared over streets with lower-income residents? I'm not saying this is necessarily favouritism at work, but I would like some assurance that the removal plan and execution was based on a plan that was best for everyone involved, and the order of removal didn't favour one particular street or area over another.

I know this snow is not convenient for us, and it's part of life in Canada that we have to deal with. But I believe it could have been handled much better and wanted to give my feedback as such.

thank you,
Tom Robertson

Friday, November 9, 2007

TTC Rant

I put together a fairly vitriolic, but I think fairly concise rant that I sent to the TTC this morning after a stupid and unnecessary delay yesterday. I thought I'd post it here as I think it sums up a lot of people's feelings:

As I became tired and frustrated of trying to fight my way past the hordes of people waiting on a narrow sidewalk at Dufferin Station for the Northbound bus, I decided I'd try the Ossington North, to Oakwood and Vaughn, instead.

The bus that I got on yesterday was a "63A" meaning that it short-turned at St. Clair. Fine. I realize that some buses short-turning during rush hour is a necessity, so that buses don't get stuck at Eglinton, and a stream of buses can still pour down to to service the busy Ossington southbound route. Totally understood.

But the scheduled bus times for St. Clair and Oakwood for the 63 during the time I was waiting indicated that one would come every 11 minutes. I (as well as an increasing horde of very angry passengers) ended up waiting about half an hour. During this time, 4 63A buses ended up passing us. One 63 bus eventually came, but it was jam-packed and no one could fit on. I finally ended up walking home to Oakwood and Vaughan - in the rain. And I still beat the bus.

Why were there so many 63A buses that passed by? The point of the short-turns is to service the most people. But, seeing that there were so many people waiting at St. Clair, couldn't one of the buses changed to a 63 to take all of these people further north? Even just one of them. The last 63A driver had the nerve to change their route sign to 'chartered' before it passed us by. Right.

It's the little things like this, little good idea route changes, that cost no money, that would help to make the TTC a better system.

While I'm at it - one more rant about the Dufferin bus.

As I mentioned, there is a horde of people fighting to get on the bus at Dufferin Station on the east side. Why can't the bus driver let people on both doors to speed things up? Why not make it a POP system like on Queen East? Are you really going to lose that many fairs? I can guarantee you that 95% of the people boarding that bus are transferring from the subway. But no, there's a chance people might not pay. But you know what? Take the damn chance to increase service for those who do pay. Stop thinking about the small loss of fares in the short-term, and think about the increased loyalty of riders that you'll receive from riders in the long-term by not inconveniencing them by assuming that they're trying to steal.

I know this is a long rant, but please take the time to consider my suggestions (and to respond.) This is from someone who really loves public transport - and a second-generation TTC rider who was taught that public transport is a good thing and the TTC is (or used to be) one of the city's great institutions.

tom Robertson

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Futility of Bus Schedules

From a complaint I sent to the TTC. Really ranty; not very well edited, but gets the point across I guess:



This incident isn't directly tied to the the above routes, but mainly all bus routes in general.

While traveling on the Dufferin Bus, the driver stopped at a stop for about five minutes, idling. I can only assume this is done because the bus was running ahead of the schedule.

I really don't understand the logic of keeping to the bus schedule, especially when the bus comes fairly frequently. I don't think too many people actually follow the bus schedules and plan their wait for a specific time. Mostly, people just go, and wait for the bus whenever they're ready to leave. It seems like following the schedule is fairly useless anyway; the bus never seems to follow it.

So why try? Why don't the buses just keep moving as much as they can? I can understand if the driver needs a break, but why slow down everyone else's trip because the bus is trying to keep schedule? If the buses just went, it would seem like there would be less need for a schedule. People would just go and wait, and more than likely, buses would come within a reasonable amount of time.

Tom Robertson