QQ Streetcar accident TWICE

QQ streetcar accident TWICE

Twice, first I was on it, then a year later (today) I was watching. It’s QQ, and westbound streetcars hitting westbound left turning traffic.

Today I just happened to be waiting on the south side of QQ to cross, as a streetcar approached the intersection westbound, slowing slightly, and a white minivan in left turn traffic lane beside it, also slowing. As my view of the minivan was beginning to be blocked by the streetcar, and with the streetcar horn blaring, I saw the minivan commence its left turn, inches from the streetcar. I could not see the impact but heard the thud which put the minivan back in the left turn lane.

A year ago the story was almost identical, albeit a different intersection and the fact that I was on board. Sitting in the third seat I watched an executive type bus beside us, steer across our bow and get hit by the streetcar I was in. The collision shoved the bus back into the left turn lane, and ripped the door off the streetcar. In neither case did the streetcar derail,

Looking at the intersections after, on both occasions, from the left turn lane, I see a round green traffic light directly ahead of me, which normally means left turns are permitted subject to oncoming traffic. There being no oncoming streetcar, the drivers’ both commenced turns.

But slewed off to the left are other lights labeled ‘left turn lane’ that were probably red at time of the collisions. The driver it seems is supposed to not only look ahead, but scan the horizon for other lights which may or may not exist, and which give the lie to the familiar round green light in front of them.

The same round green light is installed on King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis for the transit way pilot.  To most of us this means proceed, but on King Street the lights are flanked by no left turn and no straight ahead signs (two beside each light). The whole thing is hideous as well as dangerous. It resembles a quiz – get it wrong and you may be fined.

Traffic lights must be comprehendible in a split second, and highly consistent from one intersection to the next. The QQ traffic lights are not instantly understandable and are therefore part of the problem here. While the bus and minivan drivers will no doubt be found at fault, it is in reality the lights that are at fault.

Clear days, daylight, the best of conditions, not once but TWICE.

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King Street Pilot

Jan 29 2018

My comments on King Transit Pilot submitted to City/TTC.

 

Congratulations on getting this thing up and running so quickly. Such speed is what we, the taxpayer, expect and rarely get.

 

King Street is wonderful to walk on, quieter, safer, less diesel particulates, easy to cross the street. So this pedestian is delighted.

 

I have used 504 and 514 both before and after the Nov 2017 start: a big improvement, no traffic jams, and reliability is improved. I have used it instead of the subway, to connect with the Spadina car. In the beginning it moved along quite well, but lately is slower, not by traffic but by instruction to drivers parhaps.

 

Police enforcement, originally frequent and visible, has also tailed off, with consequent contravention and blocking of intersections. If you cannot fix the police problem this plan will likely fail, and predictably so. That a single occupant of a single vehicle can block 100 souls on a streetcar is perverse and needs correction.

 

Since Bus Stops are now ‘far side’, street cars are ‘double stopping’, once for the light and once for the stop. By my count about 80% double stop, and for an average of about 20 seconds. Stopping at traffic lights could be substantially reduced or eliminated simply by sensors at the previous stop delaying, extending or truncating a north-south traffic light. It’s obvious, it’s possible, and needs to be done to further improve timing.

 

Bus stop snow clearing took days if it was done at all. We have pristeen new vehicles designed to impress, but the welcoming mat is a slush cocktail.  Clearing only patches of the stop, as appears to be the case with last night’s snowfall, is cheap, and targets riders alighting by other than front door. Clean the whole stop – pristine!

 

Thanks to messrs Harris and Lastman, Toronto lacks an east west subway through downtown, and will not get one for 15-20 years. So 504 is, defacto, our E-W subway, albeit on the surface. This is your chance to make it work. You have the road virutally to your selves, so lets see it in action.

 

Dwell time is too long, (and longer than the subway), especially at critical stops such as Yonge where I timed dwells up to 90 seconds. How about rush hour ‘platform’ staff, equipped with hand held microphones that broadcast on the streetcar’s exterior PA, to ‘hurry on, doors are closing’, easily saving  30 seconds and a dreaded gap. Also, the new streetcar’s door open and close timings are far too long – 5 seconds to open from time of coming to rest, and even longer to close. Re-jig the program to save 5 seconds at least – thats 50 seconds Jarvis to Bathurst, and 4+ minutes for 504 route. Seconds count, and we users count them!

 

It is not the least bit unreasonable to expend funds for standby vehicles to support the service at times of breakdown, such as a streetcar failing or being blocked by an accident. Provision of spare vehicles, large buses preferred, stationed with driver at critical points, ready to quickly enter service and rescue failed or blocked streetcars by picking up, with no more than a 5-10 minute wait, otherwise stranded riders, and then maintaining service, giving the dispatcher time to arrange continuing support. Two buses positioned on Victoria could serve all downtown streetcars from York to Parliament. A waste of money – not at all, it’s money well spent, and if buses don’t move all day, bravo, it means no service interruptions!

 

A good start, yes, but you cannot stop now – pilot other ideas too, to speed things up further, it’s all do-able, but you have to do it.

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Trucks on Trains – Humanize the Highway

Heading back to town from Guelph Tuesday evening on the 401 I passed the wreckage of what looked like a bad accident involving a truck or two and at least one car bent to an almost un-recognizable shape. In the miles long westbound traffic back up there must have been, what looked like at any rate, a thousand trucks. Big trucks, semi’s, with long van type trailers.

trucks-on-highway
The 401, from Toronto west to Windsor has become a nightmare highway, where a car driver knows that in any accident a truck may well be involved, and the abundance of built in safety features in a car, belts, bags, and more, won’t help much.

Expressway on Rails

Ironically, the Canadian Pacific Railway operates a once per day each way train between Milton (Toronto) and Montreal called ‘Expressway’ carrying 100 or more truck trailers. It goes through Toronto about 7.30pm. and gets to Montreal about 6am. Moreover, there are significant fuel savings benefiting the environment.

The train used to continue to Windsor, but was cut back a couple of years ago. Varying fuel oil prices, state of the economy, and truck drivers willing to work for less in a poor economy all squeezed profit to the point CPR truncated the route.

Two Solitudes

So we have two solitudes – the province who own the nightmare and need to spend a fortune of taxpayers money to upgrade it, and CPR who have an excellent solution – it has the track capacity, but sans profit, will not expand service.

roanoke_20160410_191149

Use the Rails, Ease the Nightmare.

So why not bring these solitudes together – how about the province helping CPR, perhaps an incentive of $/trailer CP carry. Perhaps the province tolls trucks on the highway to make back some of the money. It has the potential to be a ‘win’ all around – less trucks on 401, less carnage, no expansion of highway, less taxpayer’s dollars.

Railways in Canada are a federal matter, and proposals such as this need their involvement too. So messrs Trudeau, Wynne, and Creel (CPR president & CEO), sit down, please, and find some ways to make this work, ease the 401 nightmare!

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Another Look at a Downtown Congestion Charge

Tolls are out says the Premier, so time for another look at a Downtown Congestion Charge.

Now that the province has kiboshed the city’s highway tolling plan, it is a good time to take another look at a ‘Congestion Charge’ for vehicles entering the downtown core zone.

Whereas the planned tolls would have only an incidental effect on downtown traffic volumes, the Congestion Charge is aimed precisely at congestion. Unlike the tolls however, the Congestion Charge is not a fund raiser, instead it would likely cover it’s costs and a bit more, not the billions sought with the tolling plan.

So let’s focus clearly! To reduce Downtown congestion, charge for being downtown. Apply the charge only for those hours congestion relief is needed.

TfL CongestionCharge 640px-London_CC_12_2012_5045[1]

How it works

A Congestion Charge monitors vehicles seen inside a Charging Zone, and charges a daily fee. It uses camera and sensor type equipment, like the 407, but not located at the perimeter, instead at convenient locations throughout the zone. Cars with motor vehicle registered addresses inside the zone pay a much reduced charge or no charge at all. Commercial vehicle charges would seek to encourage overnight and early morning deliveries.

London’s Congestion Charge has been operative for some years and is successful – take a look at London.

CongestonChargeAccidentReduction Guardian 20150307

Some suggestsed charging choices

  • In effect 7am to 5pm Mon – Fri, which means those entering downtown for an evening or weekend baseball game, or a visit to the symphony, will not be charged.
  • Set a zone corresponding to downtown congestion. Bathurst/Davenport/Don for instance?
  • Determine necessary reduction in vehicle volumes to ease congestion and make room for improved transit.
  • Determine by surveys the charge that would deter individual drivers from driving into downtown.
  • Then set the charge accordingly, monitor performance, and if necessary, adjust the charge.

Traffic Management

The number of vehicles the downtown can accommodate will decline steadily in future years, if for no other reason than the huge and growing numbers of pedestrians using our streets. They are already demanding wider sidewalks, removing lanes, longer crossing times, closing roads and more. A congestion charge then is a traffic management tool that can help ‘manage’ congestion, if gridlock is to be avoided.

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UPX Fare Ideas

Emulating the high fares of the Heathrow Express was the agenda of the provincial government from the beginning, and despite doubts and criticisms from just about all corners, the service opened last summer with the high fares. Now, 8 months later, amidst all manner of criticism, it is the premier who is calling on Metrolinx for a rethink, to hopefully save the day and attempt to take credit for a new fare regime that will attract rather than offend the public.

But will they listen to the flak all around?

With such a disastrous (albeit predicted) start that needs to be forgotten, I suggest a fare structure similar to GO. Union to Malton (about the same distance) is $6.85 (Presto), so the UPX Presto fare should be $7. No ifs and buts, just a straight $7. That is unlikely to offend and likely attract many of the critics. Remember too that the fares will ‘talk’, inherently advertising and promoting, thus reducing the need for many of the promotional efforts currently underway.

Maintaining the simplicity, cash fare should be $9. or $10.; and one and two stop fares also in simple round figures.

No mincing around with smaller reductions, just do it and get it working as it should. If by chance a year from now it is overloaded, then perhaps increase fares a little. Yes, lower fares will cost taxpayers, but so do high fares, at least with the proposed fares they get something for their money.

 

UPX Fares Graphic_20160211_111146[1]

Pearson by Presto

This is also a great opportunity to interline fares with GO train and bus services using Presto. GO charges $9.95 (Presto) Oshawa to Union, and $6.85 Union to Malton, for a total of $16.80. Oshawa to Malton however is $11.78 (Presto), so an interline fare Oshawa to the airport should be $12.; round figures again. GO interlining should include all buses into Union Bus Terminal.

Interline Brampton via Weston also, $7.. In this instance the GO service needs immediate improvement to all day/evening/weekend, and 30 minute service. Capacity exists, although UPX might get delayed a minute or two occasionally.

Interlining GO/UPX is an excellent demonstration of what we should expect throughout the system, eventually.

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Mid Block Crossings Kill

The death of a 79 year old pedestrian, crossing Sheppard Avenue ‘mid block’, and who would have to have walked at least 500m to use a controlled crossing, and 500m back, as reported in Metro newspaper Jan 19, 2016, highlights a major problem for pedestrians all over the city: Pedestrian crossings exist only where traffic needs them; to hell with pedestrians.

Mid block can refer to cross roads and tee intersections without lights, or plain road. Signals, whether traffic lights or cross-walks, should be installed so as to provide crossing opportunities at a maximum interval. That interval, such as 100m or less, must consider that users will include both sprightly young adults as well as older, slower, less alert pedestrians. And it must consider that the longer the interval the more likely is a pedestrian to cross ‘mid block’.

All citizens have a right to safe roads. Blaming the victim justifies the killing, but killing no less. To the pedestrian, every car is a weapon, usually holstered, but all too often half-cocked.

Speed kills! A first step is to lower and enforce speed.

Crosswalks, with the hanging yellow warning lights are the ready-made solution, but are rarely used anymore. Why?

The absence of controlled crossing opportunities occurs in many places, and while this death might now prompt the City to install a crossing at that particular place on Sheppard Avenue, there are dozens or hundreds of others, places just waiting to witness vulnerable pedestrians in accidents.

While Sheppard Avenue is a major road, this problem is not confined to such roads. Try crossing King St E when walking down Victoria Street, an environ with thousands of pedestrians; there is no crossing!

And what about pedestrian crossings on our brand new Queens Quay, installed only last year. There is no less than 300m between signaled pedestrian crossings at Rees and Lower Simcoe. Predictability, many cross ‘mid block’, even more dangerous given the extra hazard of the streetcars.

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Scattered Presto Card Readers

Have you ever wondered why the GO Transit’s Presto card readers are installed all over the place, “scattered” to every nook in a very inconsistent manner, whether at Union or suburban stations?

At Union, readers are found literally throughout the station, seemingly without reason or purpose. They are sometimes placed near doors leading to stairs to platforms, were scattered throughout the old concourse and now all over the new concourse. At suburban stations readers are sometimes found on platforms, or in parking lots, at stairways, and/or at station entrances.

CardReaderLine _20151213_113137

Neat line of readers, one per column, but bearing no relationship to platform doorways.

I do know that as an occasional user of GO, figuring out where to tap is difficult, sometimes requiring a search. Entering Union station I first need to see if there is a train, or if it is running, thence determine a platform. By that time I have already passed a half dozen card readers scattered around the concourse, so do I now go back to find one, or if I continue, will I find another? Will I find one in the doorway, leading to stairs to platform? Will I find one on the platform? Will one stand in my way as does a subway fare gate, to serve as a reminder? There is clearly no set pattern and there is a real danger of forgetting and therefore getting fined.

ExitToBayWestTeamway _20151213_112106

At Union from a platform to Bay West Teamway. No Presto card readers in sight. Oh, it’s just around the corner.

At suburban stations the situation is worse, it being quite possible to leave a station without seeing a reader. Sometimes they are to be found on a platform, sometimes at station entrance, sometimes in a tunnel. Often, if I don’t bump into one, and I don’t forget, I must search for one, and on GO’s long stations that can take some walking.

The other day I went to Mount Pleasant on the new, well, renewed, but politically ‘new’ daytime service. Arriving on platform 3, (or is it track 3?,) no card readers were visible. I walked the length of the station (300m) looking for one, but alas, none! So I went down the stairs to the tunnel. Still none, so go up to the bus parking area, search again, and, wonderful, I find one partially hidden around the corner off the beaten track. Out of interest, I then went to platform 1 and found several of them on that platform. Scratch your head – yes indeed!

Regular users of GO, likely over 80% of the total, have long since determined a routine, repeating it every day, using the same station entry, same card reader, same stairs to same platform, to same train door and same seat! They ‘learn’ (as opposed to intuitive) this routine, and thereafter repeat it, and are not concerned with the scattered placement of the readers. If 80% don’t complain, good reason I suppose for GO to ignore the rest of us.

DanforthGO_20150319_130008

At Danforth GO the reader is ‘laid back’, instead of front and centre.

Also, the same 80% do not tap out – a quirk of GO compared to most jurisdictions – and therefore have no need to find a card reader to leave the station – Union in the morning, and suburban stations at night – which explains why readers are more difficult to find leaving than arriving at all stations.

GO’s chosen methods are an oddity in my travels! I am used to some kind of gate, whether open or activated by a card, that serves as a defined entry point, a threshold to one or more platforms. A station might have more than one set of gates, or separate gates for each platform, but laid out as parallel route to platforms, not in series. I ‘expect’ to encounter such ‘gate’ when entering or leaving platforms, and that is where I tap. Readers at gates only, not scattered around.

StairwayFromYorkCon _20151213_112909

Stairs to platforms 4 and 5. The reader – can you see it? – very subordinate to the advertising.

Positioning of readers seems like Metrolinx is embarrassed to place them front and centre, and instead hides them away from pedestrian flows, around corners, behind doors and pillars. Lets have a gate of some kind, to send the message ‘this is where you pay’, this is the line, after which there are no more readers.

Last week I got off a train at Union, descended the closest stairs, and it wasn’t until I was looking for a washroom in the VIA area that I saw a card reader and was suddenly reminded to tap out.

At the brand new and little used Weston station, two readers were situated on the platform near the entrance to the elevator enclosure, but none at the stairway enclosure.

Exhibition station required a search to find the only reader on south side, well off the beaten track. Why cannot there be a ‘gate’, albeit open, at the entrance to suburban station platforms?

I would suggest that at Union a pair of card readers should flank all the doorways leading to stairs to platforms. The readers should not be set back, behind things or require a detour, instead they should be front and centre, creating what is essentially an ‘open’ gate, but gate nonetheless.

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UPX Statistics Elusive

UPX is struggling to become a success, with the two car trains carrying little more than a handful of passengers. Contrary to all the hype for the last several years about getting cars off the road and reducing emissions, Metrolinx has priced the airport service to do the opposite, somehow still caught up trying to emulate Heathrow Express.

The UPX report to be presented to Metrolinx board tomorrow is bereft of considerable detail. We do learn however that weekday ridership for August to October increased 12% (not per month, but for 3 months), but that overall the increase is only 7%. Can we can deduce that weekend ridership is actually dropping?

We are told Uber is a factor in poor results; so, OK, blame them, but not for naught – reduce fares now under the guise of a one year promotion. $9.00 is inoffensive and attractive fare, about half the existing fare. So it only needs to double the existing meagre ridership to incur no additional costs. Incredibly the report tells us a buy one get one free promo is planned; will that bring new riders?

 

BloorInterchange_20150925_143138

Scruffy signage constitutes an interchange. This on Dundas with Bloor the cross street.

 

To this observer the promotional effort has fallen short. Signage at Pearson is appalling, with confusion between ‘Ground Transportation’ and ‘Public Transport’. The interchange at Dundas West/Bloor is so scruffy as to discourage riders. And predictably, ridership to/from Weston is practically non existent.

 

WayfindPearson 20150902_115131

Is anything obvious? Good signage makes finding your way a pleasure.

 

The bigger issue though is the other transit improvement schemes that were cast aside or delayed by spending so much on this one. We plan a transit system, and the moment money comes available, the plan is tossed and pet projects abound. Remember Sheppard Subway? It cost us the Eglinton Subway. Now UPX. Next up is the utterly ridiculous SmartTrack on Eglinton, instead of the planned LRT extension. What worthy projects will be shoved aside by SmartTrack. Or can we stop the habit?

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The missing link

The missing link is a plan to route CP freight traffic via the CN line that roughly follows the 407 across the top of Toronto instead of via CP’s midtown line which is close to Dupont. A new line of railway, for which land is available would run from 407/401 area to the CN line near Bramalea. Also connections between CN and CP would be necessary both in Milton and near the Scarborough/Pickering line.

The proposed line would free up both GO’s Milton and Kitchener lines of freight, and facilitate all day/evening trains on both lines without extensive works to expand them, a desirable situation.

The West End Mayors

This initiative is the brainchild of mayors and councilors of Milton, Cambridge, and Mississauga, who have already commissioned a study.

The new line would have many advantages, including removing most freight from midtown, especially those frequent and feared oil trains.

But over and above the objectives of the mayors, the scheme should result in making most of CP’s midtown line available for some new routes and midtown destinations for GO, besides relieving Union.

The new freight route would be an improvement for CP, who would access their Scarborough McCowan yard from the north and east. It would also allow them to eventually sell off or make available their midtown line, which of course GO should jump at, but brings up a thing called ‘Arbutus’, a CP owned and disused line in Vancouver (remember CP bulldozing allotments) which the city wants to buy, but with enormous differences between CP’s ask $100m vs City offered $20m.

New Routes – Smart-ER-track

Since CP’s midtown line is straight and fast, it would be a good candidate to host services, not instead of but in addition to Union, from the likes of Kitchener, Cambridge, Brampton and Hamilton to Peterborough, Seaton and possible future Pickering airport.

Historical Stations

History buffs could celebrate the return of long gone stations, names like West Toronto, Summerhill, and Leaside (step aside Crosstown, the ‘Leaside’ name is taken, the real Leaside no less!).

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Reduce Congestion? Charge for it.

The City is considering tolling the Gardiner and DVP for the purposes of reducing downtown congestion and raising funds to maintain those highways. I believe a highway toll is unlikely to significantly reduce downtown congestion. A toll may well persuade some drivers to carpool, use transit or not travel at all, but others, not wanting to pay the toll, will use city streets instead, with its own negative consequences.

Let’s focus clearly! To reduce Downtown congestion, charge for being downtown. To reduce highway congestion charge for being on the highway. They are not one and the same thing.

CongestonChargeAccidentReduction Guardian 20150307

TfL CongestionCharge 640px-London_CC_12_2012_5045[1]

Congestion charge signs at perimeter entry point.

A charge for being Downtown is called a Congestion Charge, and such a charge has worked well in London UK for years. There a vehicle in the charge area between specified hours, is charged for the privilege. It works well, discouraging enough drivers from entering and thereby improving traffic conditions for the remainder.

If the City wants to toll the highways to raise funds, then I suggest an HOV lane (like the PanAm lane) be tolled for use by those who want to pay for faster access, as well as for cars with 3+ persons, and busses. A kind of hybrid HOV lane, which the province are believed to be considering for 400 series highways.

The PanAm HOV lanes facilitated a significant reduction in GO Transit bus journey times.

For information about London’s Congestion Charge see   https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/congestion-charge

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