Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Welcome to GO Transit where the rules don't matter

This was at Appleby GO Station this morning. I tried to zoom into the photo without distorting it, but that is a cigarette that passenger is holding.

The smoking situation at Oshawa is now a free for all. Smokers smoke on the platforms and with the bus drivers on the bus platforms. Yes, drivers. In GO Transit uniform.

I spoke to one driver who told me to mind my own business. True story. Mind you, he must have felt bad afterwards because when I saw him this morning, he was standing in the parking lot, smoking. I think his comment to me was more of a knee-jerk reaction. More of surprise that someone actually said something.

It doesn't help that he's also one of my favourite drivers because I was hurt by his comment to me.

People now light up when they exit the trains at Oshawa, blowing smoke into the faces of passengers crowded behind them as we move towards the one and only exit.

When the Bombardier operators exit the locomotives or the cab cars, some will also spark one up at track level.

So, for those who have complained to me about the smoking situation at GO train stations, what can I do? We have employees of the agency who refuse to obey the by-law.

All I can do is ask that you write to GO Transit. And don't blame the Transit Safety Officers. These men and women do the best they can, but it's hard to enforce the rules when your colleagues are also breaking them.

Passengers see this. The optics are terrible.

PS. I am not publishing photos of the employees. I have asked people to email them directly to GO Transit. If you're reading this and you have photographic evidence of employees smoking in non-smoking areas, please email them to Please cc


deepfish said...

I have been taking pictures of smokers and complaining about smokers at Oakville GO for three years now.
It does NO GOOD.
The problem isn't really the individual pathetic or sociopathic buttsuckers. It definitely isn't enforcement.
The fact is - its a culture of "This is the Way Things Are".
Which explains the reflexive response of that transit employee.
You may well have had the stated rules on your side, but the culture was on his - under the rules you were de facto interfering with his business. No number of no smoking signs or enforcement officers dropping by for "sweeps" will make a difference at all.
I'll tell you what will - but first I want to use an illustration that happened today in the schoolyard. A kid said somethhing that made my day.

Are you familiar with "4 Square"? Its an old schoolyard handball game with definite rules (underhanded taps only, no spiking or holding etc). Somewhere in the geography or the many many years between today and my childhood in Quebec, the rules got twisted, watered down and discarded.
Games that used to be orderly contests with the rare dispute were now in present day Ontario transmogrified into endless discussions about whether was truly out or deserved one of an endless series of "do-overs". Success in teh game had far less to do with any rule based scoring or game skill than it had to do with bullying, whining, and popularity. Balls were held, slammed, bounced, with no real structure.
This was at every school I've been to.
The culture rewarded people who entitled themselves to wins in spite of the rules.
So bullies became champs.

deepfish said...

I had enough this year and determined to do something about it.
And here is the secret: to change a culture of entitlement that has arisen among rulebreakers, you have to actually: 1) PAY ATTENTION. 2) ENFORCE THE RULES BUT ALSO SHOW THE BENEFIT 3) KEEP THE MESSAGE SIMPLE and 4) ENLIST THE non-ENTITLED.
I took time out of my lunch period for about a week or two and I reserved the class ball for play ONLY when I was there. I made sure that everyone knew that they were free to play Four Square - and welcome - so long as they played by my set of rules. I identified the kids who were enthusiastic sports typpes and I identified the kids who were screwing up play under the present system. I paid attention. Lesson for Metrolinx GO - turn on the cameras. SHow yourselves in the stations. Get your own employees under control.
I showed the kids that if the rules were followed it was fairer, and more kids stoood a chance of doing well. You didn't get to continue playing just from entitlement. The few didn't get what they wanted just because they whined loudest or made up new rules. I took the time to strictly enforce the rules and show everyone that the expectations were serious. Lesson for Metrolinx/GO: Don't just put up NO Smoking pictograms (they only serve as Buttsucker Club markers), put up posters and signage and have public service messaging that empowers non-smokers and tells them that they are right to demand smokers get the hell out. Show them that the anti-smoking rules are for their benefit. Let people know the simple message - you have a right and the power to get smokers off of GO property. When the message is out there, follow up with a heavy enforcement for a month or so. Cover as many stations as you can. Pamphlet to riders explaining their rights. Land on buttsuckers with both feet.
Repeat the message in as many ways as you can until it sinks in. The culture out there is one huge acceptance of smoking as normal - it isn't.
Lastly - you have to get the game players involved in keeping the rules going. I had a kid say someting just today - and it encapsulated everything.
"Sir, I can't even remember what the old rules were... I wouldn't want to play the old way anyway."
My class reserves one of the four squares every recess now. The other teachers have remarked on it. They also are spreading the word so that other kids are falling in line. Kids are playing the game by "Mr. ___'s Rules".
Make it so that smokers know that even if they aren't subject to TSO attention, they will get glares and yells from passengers. Make them know tha buttsucking on bus and train platforms is no longer the game.
I doubt that Metrolinx/GO has the political will to do anything like this... but a well crafted campaign could work.

C.J. Smith said...

So true!!! But passengers are reaching the end of our ropes. The apocalypse is coming.

Anonymous said...

Has nothing to do with this but please pass on the message. It's a petition that is trending on fb to get gates on platforms at union station. I wish not to have my info published. I copied the link from my fb but prior to you reforwarding this can you make sure it doesn't come back to me. 😊 thanks you're awesome.
but if you can help pass the message that would be great.

George said...

I wonder how many millions of dollars and how much more construction, hassle and waste putting gates up for a non-existent problem?

I wonder if the gate advocates realize that on tracks 24 to 27, part of the platforms at the ends are not under any shelter?

I wonder if they also realize that trains come in different lengths and different configurations so they do not always line up the same all the time?

I wonder if they realize that the tracks through the station under the roof are not in a straight line? Or that VIA uses platforms too and they can't use gates at all.

Imagine the maintenance costs in winter weather. The gates don't open and you have the privilege of traipsing down the train through the cars until you can. Salt is not friendly to moving parts. More expense, more employees and more cost. How high do you want your fares to be anyway?

All for a non-existent problem.

Nora1968 said...

There's an older guy - very well dressed - who sometimes rides the 4:25 pm from Union to Oshawa. He no sooner exits the train that he lights up a CIGAR. My friend and I have tried some admittedly aggressive tactics to shame him into putting it out (we literally followed him one day and very clearly called him out for breaking the no-smoking rules) - he ignored us and walked - with lit cigar - into the STATION.

I just don't get it. Ultimately, that even employees are smoking where they shouldn't be seems to me to be a performance management issue. And in both cases - employees and passengers - who are committing these infractions, in the end it's all about results. Much like a kid whose mother issues ultimatums and threats but never follows through knows he's probably fine to keep doing whatever it is he shouldn't be, these people have no reason to believe that anything will actually happen to them (nothing that matters, anyway) so they keep breaking the rules. A nice stiff fine - not subject to appeal - would no doubt do the trick.

Jack C. said...

I've not spent a lot of time at Oshawa or Oakville, but Ajax is getting worse for smoke as well. I'm not sure the reason for it, but there's a marked uptick in the number of smokers standing at Durham Transit bus stops, in front of the doors to the station, and in other highly populated areas. They now seem to light up without hesitation or compunction. The only explanation I can come up with is the "broken window" theory. You start with a broken window on one house in a decent neighbourhood. Leave the window unrepaired long enough, and other damage and vandalism will inevitably occur until the decent neighbourhood is no longer decent. Smokers have simply observed others and have now formed a thoughtless herd.

That said, there are some considerate smokers left. I travel with a guy who smokes, but he is (and has always been) scrupulous about observing the rules and never lights up anywhere close to another person. He will go without the cigarette if he's running late for the train rather than break the rules. I wish "the herd" would make him their alpha instead of congregating outside the doors of the station or gathering on the platform.

When was it all the medium to large municipalities started passing No Smoking bylaws? Late 1990s? I recall at the time smokers were braying and howling about their rights, and alarmists were predicting the deaths of coffee shops, night clubs, and bingo halls, and insisting a major economic collapse would be inevitable and that all cities in Ontario would be reduced to lawless looting and possibly rampant cannibalism. Also, I think, they argued that kittens and small children would die of the plague, and a mysterious darkness would eclipse the sun permanently. Of course, the bylaws came, and none of the dire warnings came true.

In any event, I recall an immediate backlash to the bylaws. Entitled so-and-sos started lighting up everywhere and in droves just to make a point. Things were bad for a bit, then came enforcement, and finally, acceptance. There were several years of relative peace from smoke, but now it seems to be getting worse again in some quarters. Not sure what's going on.

But I agree with the comments above. We need to be vocal and let Go Transit know this is a problem, lest our silence imply tacit assent to the behaviour of the small but growing band of militant smokers.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

I don't think the rules apply ANYWHERE these days.
Everyone thinks they're "the only shittin' person in the world" ...or maybe even in existence.

This existence is but one big hologram, a cosmic surreal hallucination(what is nowadays referred to as "virtual reality")in which they're the only ones actually alive and everyone else around them are but a bunch of jesters, clowns and minstrels, and life is one big hallucinatory stage show concocted by forces unknown to stir up intrigue and amusement.

That's why no-one seriously thinks anything will actually happen to them, even when engaging in activities that would get anyone else in trouble. "It's all an illusion anyway so it doesn't matter what I do."

Taylor said...

They need to hire more employees like the lady who works in the ticket booth at Exhibition. If she spies someone smoking on the property (she must use the cameras) we hear the announcement "there is no smoking on GO Transit property, I repeat, there is no smoking on GO Transit property". If you look at tracks at Exhibition, you won't see more than one or two butts.

deepfish said...

At Oakville, when asked to make the no smoking announcement, two times out of three the ticket agents won't. Natch - I've spotted ta couple of them smoking.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of unbanned sources of far more noxious fumes than a passing cigarette can yield - cars, trucks, incinerators, air-conditioning plants, incredibly smoky, smelly barbecues and TRAINS. The reasons for the ban have little to do with health and a lot to do with culture.

The extent to which smokers endanger the rest of us hardly justifies hating and hounding them. Most health scares tend to cause exaggerated anxiety in those uncritical enough to be susceptible to their messages. As long as there are plenty of non-smoking venues for those worried about passive smoking we can tolerate smokers, just as we tolerate other hazardous activities, such as driving, dancing and golf.

The most a nicophobe need do, if confronted by a blue pall, is edge a couple of paces out of the way, rather than marching aggressively by the smoker and voicing a discourteous complaint.

C.J. Smith said...

Just like I don't like a bus spewing diesel fumes in my face. I don't want to be standing in line for the bus behind a smoker who makes ME FEEL I need to go stand in the parking lot and thus, lose my chance at a seat. I can't inhale cigarette smoke. Direct, second- hand smoke sends me into a wheezing, coughing fit. The buses aren't allowed to idle. A smoker isn't allowed to either. So piss off with your analogy.
My asthma is not a fucking health scare.

Nora1968 said...

And, just as importantly, if there is a posted regulation that says NO SMOKING then people SHOULDN'T SMOKE there. It's very simple, Anonymous, and has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the no-smoking rule seems reasonable to you or not.

C.J. Smith said...

Thank you Nora. Jesus Christ. Who do I have to stuff a sock down the throat of to get people to understand it doesn't matter if you agree or not. Look at the whole Highway Traffic Act.

Nora will know this, but how many times have I sat at the light at Bloor and Courtice with no cars around and could just drive through on the red without causing a scratch? Hundreds. Thousands. But I don't. Because rules. Do I agree? I feel if there's no cars... why not? But my OPINION doesn't change the rules.

VRS said...

There was two TSOs at Oshawa this morning booting smokers from the platform and the area inbetween the station and the actual platform. I think there was on there last week too.

deepfish said...

"There are plenty of unbanned sources of far more noxious fumes than a passing cigarette can yield - cars, trucks, incinerators, air-conditioning plants, incredibly smoky, smelly barbecues and TRAINS. The reasons for the ban have little to do with health and a lot to do with culture."

Gee, thanks Mr. Science.

Just to let you know - there are no incinerators or barbecues in proximity to bus platforms (if there are please do correct me).

As for gas and diesel powered vehicles there is actually one published and peer reviewed
study tat conclusively showed that buttsucker smoke contains far far more airborne particulates and is far far more persistent than diesel exhaust.
Put simply - there is much more irritating crap in the average limp-dick making coffin nail than a couple of minutes of an idling bus, and it stays in the air a lot longer.

"The extent to which smokers endanger the rest of us hardly justifies hating and hounding them."

Actually, Sparky, it does.
The health of even ONE asthmatic (who has no choice) outweighs the lack of control of dozens of smokers. They have a CHOICE. The regulation is there. Besides - it isn't hating or hounding them to expect them to act like, youknow, grownups, and actually delay their oral gratification for a few minutes.

" Most health scares tend to cause exaggerated anxiety in those uncritical enough to be susceptible to their messages. As long as there are plenty of non-smoking venues for those worried about passive smoking we can tolerate smokers, just as we tolerate other hazardous activities, such as driving, dancing and golf."

There are more than sufficient venues for smokers to induce cancer, COPD, impotence and all the other fun things in their own future. Bus platforms and train stations are not included in that list. Man up and get used to it.

"The most a nicophobe need do, if confronted by a blue pall, is edge a couple of paces out of the way, rather than marching aggressively by the smoker and voicing a discourteous complaint."

I wish that I COULD walk through the gas minefield - I can't. I wish that a discourteous complaint worked - they don't. That nicotine, tar and miasma of carcinogens has struck you stupid to the obvious affects. That cloud persists. You can smell it metres and metres away...

And the average buttsucker also reeks - especially on closed buses and trains. Some (quite a few actualy) are a special treat - it seems that their lack of regard in the sense of other people , and their own health, extends to persoanl hygiene.

So on the bus or train you get a wafted but constant scent that is reminiscent of a wet dog that has sicked up his lunch into an overflowing ashtray, then rolled around in it. Lovely.

You want to get along? Meet expectations.

C.J. Smith said...


deepfish said...

Anonymous said...

Burlington GO, Platform 12, right by the Entrance to the Station.
AT Burlington they have huge "No Smoking" signs and the smoking gand including a driver or two just light up and sit in the seats right under the sign knowing full well no one is there to enforce such a rule.

Saul T Knutts

Squiggles said...

Agreed CJ & Deepfish. In fact, my mom had an asthma attack this past weekend because some smoker thought it would be a good idea to walk through an outdoor market smoking.

Personally, I cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke, but it doesn't affect me too seriously. Though one walking ashtray does get on the bus in the mornings and I have a headache for hours afterwards if he gets near.

Theo popa said...

Mind your own business you facists