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

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Street Furniture Scandal Round-Up

My second favourite Toronto blog*, the Torontoist, has a great summary on the street furniture scandal right now, as well as a good prognosis for the future. Basically, they're saying, "We understand that advertising needs to support street furniture, but why do the ad agencies have to design it?"

If anyone's at all concerned by the uglification of Toronto, and thinks that public advertising should be held accountable, I'd encourage everyone to read up on it and complain to their local councillor or the mayor.

Don't know your councillor? Check out this ward map from Toronto City Hall. Find your ward, and it will tell you your councillor with contact information.

Further reading:

* My first isn't this one, but Spacing Wire.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

New House! Yeah! After four days of having bought it 'conditionally', me and MacGyver (Erin) finally closed on the house today. Yeah! We basically took a bunch of crazy pictures, and drove around going 'woo'! And "Fuck you, other houses!"
Anyway, my apologies to MPP Michael Bryant for being a nutcase. We take possession June 1, and move in on the 15th.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 2, 2007

Homless Signs in TO

Apparently some art student made official looking signs advising people of homeless nearby, like "Please have change ready for homeless" and put them up on street posts.

Pretty interesting. Makes people think differently about a population that a lot of us are just desensitized to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home Buyers' Conditional Offer Law

This is a letter I sent to Michael Bryant, Ontario MPP today:


Hello Mr. Bryant,

I’m a member of your riding, St. Paul’s.

For the past two months, my wife and I have been searching for our first home. We are very determined to stay within the city of Toronto for our home to avoid a lengthy commute and enjoy the benefits of the city.

That being said, competition for houses in Toronto is furious. We have already made three offers that have not been accepted. On all three offers, we had a minimum of a home inspection and financing conditions. All of the offers that were accepted over ours were ‘firm’ offers, i.e., with no conditions.

We feel that home inspection and financing conditions are very important to us, as they provide basic protections to the largest purchase we will ever make. But we are not at the point where we have to consider dropping all of our conditions in order to obtain a home.

I’m writing to you because I think there should be a law requiring that all home offers must contain a home inspection and financing condition. Market forces should not be forcing consumers to lose their basic protections, which I believe those two are.

There are many examples of laws which correct unwanted market forces, like the minimum wage law, price gouging laws, and anti-monopoly laws. I believe that this law should be one of them.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.


Tom Robertson


I'm probably just burning from our last loss of a house, but we were really so close and our financing condition, which we were very reluctant to drop, was the only thing that lost us the house. Very frustrating. I still see this as a pretty good idea for a law though. It's a basic consumer protection law, isn't it?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Emergency Traffic Direction

Braving my way to work this morning after last night's blizzard I noticed that many of the traffic lights were not functioning. Surprisingly, Toronto's otherwise aggressive drivers were handling it quite well - treating it like a four way stop as per the traffic laws in these situations.

But it still reminded me of the power outage of 2002 when several volunteers stepped up to direct traffic. Keeping traffic moving and under control is really important in a crisis like that and I think it helped keep a sense of calm and order for those 24 hours.

Obviously, the police discouraged these traffic volunteers, as they had no real training or authority to do it and could be making things worse. It's a valid point, but there's obviously a need for those kinds of services that the police didn't fill, not to mention a general interest from some sections of the public to volunteer for it.

So that made me think, instead of discouraging people from directing traffic during crises, why not go the opposite route, and train volunteers before a crisis, and issue them a license? They could be given special vests or something to wear, and have the understanding that they'll only direct traffic when called upon the city to do so. They could then be assigned the most important or gridlocked streets to help out in. Sure, they're not being paid, but neither were they when they were volunteered before. I'm sure the kinds of people who volunteered would love being treated like heroes and given semi-official status.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Metropass Discount Plan... why not?

I'm always bewildered every month at Yonge and Bloor station when I see throngs of people lining up to buy the Metropass.

Now, I used to think the Metropass was totally unnecessary if you only use the TTC to go to work and back 5 days a week. 40 tickets a month at $21 is $84 a month - 16 bucks cheaper than the Metropass. I understand there's a convenience to having it (like skipping the collector booth lines or accessing collector-less stations where tickets won't work), but $16 seems a lot to pay for that.

That is, until I discovered the Metropass Discount Plan. If you make a commitment to buy the pass for 12 months, you'll get it at a guaranteed price of $91. This means it's only about $7 extra for the convenience of having the pass. To sweeten the deal, the federal government made transit passes tax-deductable, which has an estimated tax savings of about $130 a year if you buy the pass. 130 / 12 is about 10 bucks, which means it's now cheaper to buy the Metropass!

The other great thing is that each pass is mailed to you about a week before month end (the money is automatically deducted from your bank account at the start of the month). So it also means you never have to line up to buy a pass. It really boggles my mind why anybody bothers to wait in line to buy the expensive metropass. If you know you're going to be working at the same place for a year, which I assume most people are, and you know you buy a pass every month, why are you paying more to wait in line?

I think the lack of use of the Discount Plan is a question of bad marketing on the TTC's part. If people really understood the benefits, there's no way they'd wait in line every month. I'm very tempted to start a 'guerilla marketing' campaign at Yonge and Bloor next month, handing out flyers advertising the plan. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Auto-Changing Signage in Toronto

From Torontorants

I always get irritated when I'm driving and I see a sign like this. I can't turn right. No wait, only during certain times. What does that say? Now some one's honking at me. Do Can I turn or not? Argh. I shouldn't be forced to read times of day and check my clock when trying to figure out if I can turn at an intersection.

The other problem with the signs is that in a rush, you just look up and see the no right picture, not even noticing the times. It looks like a straight out no-right sign when you look quickly. And when you're driving in a busy downtown, making quick and informed decisions is key to safety, and to good traffic flow.

Now, This is what the turn restriction sign looks like on Yonge and Bloor during rush hour. No left, no right. Simple. No times of day to worry about.

This is what it looks not during rush hour. What?? Is it different now? Yup. You can't make a left, but you just can't take a right on reds. Brilliant. No small print times to read, just big basic information that's easy to read.

Here's a bit of a glimpse of how it's done. Mechanically changing signs. I'm not sure, but I think they automatically switch at prescribed times. Brilliant.

Of course, just like every smart idea in Toronto, it's sparsely implemented. I'm sure that this is a 'pilot project' by the city, and will probably remain that way forever. It's a shame. I'm sick of getting honked at.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Petition to Save the Walk Left Stand Right!

Well, the Torontist picked up my story, and did a little investigating of their own with TTC customer service. It turns out they really were taken down due to public safety concerns, which I call shenanigans on.

Anyway, the Torontoist post got a lot of comments, mainly supporting the signs, so I decided to start a little petition to save the signs.

Is walking up the escalator really unsafe? If someone shows me good data that it is, I'll gladly stop the campaign.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Walk Left Stand Right... where are you old friend?

I remember when my family first moved to Toronto when I was 13 and my dad told (who'd lived in the city before) told me that when I was riding the escalator on the TTC, I should walk on the left, and stand on the right. He said they even had signs on the escalators suggesting this. I'm a walker, so I stuck to the left. If I felt like standing, I'd stand on the right. Mostly though, I'd race up the stairs on the left, and I still do.

Whenever someone decided to stand with their friend on the left, blocking me from walking up, I'd passive-aggressively look at the sign, hoping they'd notice and move over. I think the social pressure the sign created prompted a lot of people to start walking or move over. It was a simple way to keep pedestrian traffic in the stations moving.

So, the other day, when someone was standing in my way, I looked over at the sign, but I couldn't find it. I thought it was maybe just that station, but I checked others, and couldn't find them anywhere. And then I looked closer, and I saw this:

A large, rectangular scar where the sign used to be. Every station I checked, it was the same deal:

I'm guessing the removal of the signs had something to do with an escalator pile-up that happened last year, causing some injuries. The TTC subsequently had a small campaign about escalator safety, espousing tips about holding on to the handrail, and not shoving past people. The suggestion to “walk left stand right” was conspicuously absent. It was probably thought that for the sake of safety, they shouldn't be encouraging people to rush up the escalators. While I can appreciate the sentiment, I don't think that people walking up the left side was causing any accidents, or even causing people to shove past people. Besides, the accident wasn't even caused by shoving or running – it was caused by the escalator suddenly speeding up.

These signs aren't just a great way to keep people moving, they're also fairly beloved part of our TTC. The Toronto blog torontoist made some TTC tee-shirt designs, and the 'walk left stand right' tee-shirt was one of the most popular. Several travel sites mention the signs as an amusing quirk. Say the phrase to anyone in the city and they'll smile in recognition.

It's too bad that it's been lost due to bureaucratic short-sightedness.

PS This is a bit of an aside, but something that really bothers me is when people stop walking when they get to the top of the escalator. It won't suck you in. And you're forcing everyone else to stop too. I know it's a comfort thing, but it's not dangerous to keep walking.

First Post!

Welcome to this blog, if anyone's out there.

Let me set out my manifesto here.

I love Toronto, but I hate a lot of things about it.

I rant a lot. I have another blog where I rant about technology, called 'technorants'.

I needed a place to rant about things in Toronto. Sometimes I'll rave. But mostly rant.

Second post (with more substance) coming soon.