Tuesday, January 13, 2015

-23C and suddenly everyone is a transportation planner or engineer

How cold was it this morning? So cold that we couldn't power down the windows on our now-fixed - but was brand new vehicle after it had been left sitting in the driveway overnight.

Should I be outraged at Ford Motor Company for selling me a car that can't handle a -23C morning? Should I be calling for the resignation of the CEO?

Our screen door was actually sealed to the weather stripping and made an awful sound when I pushed it open this morning. Shall I sue Anderson Doors?

A deep and sudden freeze like what happened over night (+1C at 11:00 pm and then -23C at 5:30 am) can wreak havoc on anything that might have had standing moisture on it - signals, electronics, switches, door frames, window frames, etc.

I was on the 7:15 OSH train that came to a dead stop just outside of Oshawa station, held hostage by a malfunctioning signal. Then, nearly an hour later, once we were on our way, we faced a switch issue at Whitby. These two events threw the Lakeshore East corridor into chaos.

Luckily I was stuck on a train, unlike years prior, where GO Transit WOULD NOT terminate a train and put other trains as ALL STOPS, or start trains at the next station - you'd just be left on a platform to freeze and figure it out. This time, GO Transit got it together and although Whitby passengers were stranded for 20 minutes in this god-awful weather, at least they weren't forced to wait an hour and half like years prior. I have no idea what happened to the Oshawa folks who waited for trains that never came and were replaced by shuttle buses to Whitby. I hope most of you had the sense to head back to your cars, or wait in the station (which can only hold so many people), or just drove to Whitby.

And as pissed off as people were on Twitter, these people failed to realize this was simply a shitty day based on shitty weather and not based on a shitty system. I remember the days when -2C weather would hold a train up due to frozen switches. Those days are very few and far between because mechanisms have been put in place to prevent them. And, despite passengers bitching otherwise, GO transit has listened to those of us who complained in the past and are learning to pull trains, swap trains, re-start routes at other stations, to avoid commuter headaches.

Today wasn't perfect but at least it wasn't a repeat of the winter of 2009. I also hope that whatever happened today, something was learned from it. Maybe it's time for monkeys with blowtorches on ladders.

I just received an email from a woman who drove to Oshawa to catch the 7:28 train as she does every morning, who was livid she was "made to wait over an hour for information" only to learn she'd have to catch a bus.

What do you mean, "made to wait"?

Look, let's be realistic folks, if you DROVE to the station and you notice Oshawa is a no-show, you walk back to your car and you drive to Whitby.

Anyone that waited for over an hour in this cold for a train because you were too stubborn to drive eight minutes to the next station doesn't deserve sympathy. That's just common sense.

These are the same people who complain about the lack of parking spots.

I can lead you to water ...


Anonymous said...

In her defence if she didn't have any information, why would she think to drive to Whitby?

C.J. Smith said...

^ I am pretty confident that once the 7:28 was terminated, the attendants at GO made an announcement and were telling people shuttle buses were being dispatched.

I've heard from passengers they were told 7:28 OSH train was being made to reverse and come back to Whitby so it could originate as the 7:52

If you have a car, you can travel to another station, especially those with parking garages, and at very least, figure something out.

Anonymous said...

Can't Metrolinx hire someone to pour hot water over the switches (or whatever the fix procedure is?). They knew what the forecast was after all...

Anonymous said...

Monkeys with blowtorches and ladders!!!
Make it so.... LOL

Squiggles said...

I was at Ajax in time to catch what should have been the 7.30-something train. There were NO announcements until I (and there were other people on the platform before me) had been there for a good 10mins. Then they started with the delays out of Whitby in 21 mins, etc. announcements. Every 5 mins there was another announcement saying still no movement, etc. I finally got on a train around 8am. I am thankful that I have a dress warm, not stylish philosophy for winter.

I get that things were cold this morning and that sometimes things happen, but they should have started using Whitby as the originating station way before they did. That way, people would not have been waiting so long in the cold.

Then again, if I didn't have to be in the office today, I would have had a "screw it" moment and worked from home, never leaving the house in the first place :)

C.J. Smith said...

I totally agree the Whitby re-start should have been deployed much sooner but it's better than what would have happened in the past - remember when they would cancel trains outright?!

30 minutes in this cold is too long.

I think once they realized they had to call in a technician (signal failed at 7:11 - we were told at 7:23 a technician had been deployed) - this is when the 7:28 should have stayed at Whitby and made to reverse, and not had been made to leave at 7:52.

Then again, there's rail traffic to consider as there's a reason why the trains run like they do and I guess these adjustments can't be so spur of the moment (hence the title of this post).

Squiggles said...

Exactly. Wish they would actually come up with proper contingency plans for dealing with situations.

But then again, they have improved their communications and do try to keep trains running. So maybe there is progress?

All I know is that I am still chilled. Off to get some hot chocolate and start praying that the trip home will be handled a far sight better than the trip in.

Jules said...

good points CJ. I was one of those passengers freezing my toes off a Whitby Station. The station attendent kept us in the know. You are right, GO has made great improvements in their communication efforts and how they deal with these type situations. Some people just like to complain about everything.

C.J. Smith said...

They have made tremendous strides with respect to bad weather.

April said...

The 7:28 was NOT cancelled. But it didn't leave Oshawa until after 8:30. I was on it. When we finally left the station the annoucer clearly said, this would have been your 7:28 train.

Anonymous said...

I see it already. This mornings post will be about how Prestos website went down.

Anonymous said...

If my Ford didn't start in -20c, I'd be 100% unsatisfied that a car made for the Canadian market couldn't withstand the operating conditions of the environment. Heck, I drive a diesel car and I have the same expectations of it starting in any conditions.

Lets get real now. The switches are not made for Canadian climates. They tried to rectify this by putting 200 heaters on them, but low and behold, they don't always work, and worse off, not all of them are heated. When it was just CN traffic, its fine for some delays, but not for commuter rail travel. Imagine if traffic signal lights didn't operate when it got too cold. Whats the difference with rail travel?

While you give them a free pass, I shutter to think we are using 1960's technology, while places like Japan and everywhere in Europe are running state of the art trains.

C.J. Smith said...

Unbeknownst to me, our car had been washed the night before. The windows were frozen due to excess moisture remaining within the weather stripping.

Otherwise, I'm guessing our windows would have been fine :)

Squiggles said...

Car windows: Maybe, maybe not due to washing.

Mine were frozen shut, but that is because the moisture from the falling snow/snow of the car melting during the daylight hours on Monday. Then again, it is parked outside 24/7

C.J. Smith said...

Well according to my new friend, cars should be unaffected by moisture that could freeze any outside component.

Squiggles said...

That would be nice, but it doesn't explain why ice cracked when I opened the door.

Then again, I am driving an older car, so maybe that is something addressed in newer ones?