Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Homework Assignments

Special to This Crazy Train
by Hy Perbolé

We at TCT Academy pride ourselves in our unwavering mission to help fill our students’ brains with knowledge.  We work relentlessly to better the human condition noted by George Carlin years ago.  Let’s see if we can learn from the following incident and achieve some improvements.

After a dinner of satiating wonton soup at one of Niagara Falls’ renowned eateries, I bicycled back to the bus terminal and boarded the GO bus bound for St. Catharines and points beyond.  Things went well until we passed Mountain Road on the QEW.  Traffic ahead was a sea of red lights.

A quick check of Twitter revealed there was a vehicle fire ahead near Bunting Road.  The OPP had closed the QEW Toronto bound lanes at Glendale Avenue.  As we entered the exit ramp to Glendale Ave., I overheard our driver requesting reroute guidance from Operations (control centre).

I believe we could have travelled Glendale Ave. north, left on York Road, cross the lift bridge to Queenston St., right on Dunkirk Rd., right onto Dieppe Rd., across Welland Ave., and then merged back onto the QEW.  However, those local roads are in an older area of St. Catharines, and there was a risk that our double-decker (not a super low model) might snag a low hanging wire not visible after sunset.

The response that came back on the radio was astounding: “I’m sorry, but I haven’t been down that way in a few years.”


Our driver, realizing we had been left to our own devices, executed the detour route shown in the following map:

Is it not Operations’ responsibility (i) to know the detour options available to buses, especially DDs that are geofenced to routes, and (ii) to communicate those options clearly to drivers? 

And what email alert was issued for our delayed trip?  The following was:

Given that the driver had explained our predicament to Operations at approximately 20:40, why was the alert issued more than an hour later?  Clearly, this level of service from Operations is unacceptable and deserves a failing grade.

Do you remember the commitment Matt Baynie, VP of GO Transit Operations made last year?  Was that a limited time offer?  I interpreted it as an “onGOing” commitment.

Rather than call for CITs as was done previously, let’s turn this lackluster performance into a learning opportunity, shall we?

Operations, your assignment, due next Friday: Assume the QEW-Toronto lanes at Bunting Rd. are closed.  What detour guidance do you provide a driver requesting reroute instructions?  Repeat for the scenario in which the QEW-Niagara lanes are impassable in the same vicinity.  Explain all assumptions, options, and recommendations.  Please submit your assignment to Matt Baynie.

Matt Baynie, your assignment, due by month end: Produce a compendium of detour options for Route 12 drivers between Burlington Carpool Lot and Niagara Falls.  The reroute instructions are to be vetted by drivers, and easily accessible by Operations when needed.  Prepared a recommendation for a real-time bus information solution for passengers.  Explain in detail why GO Transit has not implemented any such solution even though one was promised more than three years ago.

Bonus marks: Issue a commendation for the driver whose quick thinking ensured the safety of passengers and protected the $800K++ double-decker bus.

Class dismissed.


Unknown said...

Call me a cynic but we will still be waiting for the completed assignments 5 years from now - if ever.

G said...

I guess nobody in Operations has ever heard of Google Maps?

And don't get me started on the GO email alerts. They always come very late (if at all), and updates are random and infrequent. Take the famous 3-hour delay on the LSE on September 27th: I received an email at 5:57pm telling me the train was delayed 12 minutes. Well, if that were true then the train would have already been pulling into Oshawa station, not sitting a few feet outside of Ajax station. Incredibly that was the one and only alert sent out about that train, even though I received a whopping 26 emails about all the other delays going on that night.

Nahid said...

Google Maps isn't going to tell you if there is a bridge or any obstructions too low for a double decker bus to pass safely. Using Google Maps could result in an incident like this:

G said...

Yes, the "Google Maps" comment was tongue-in-cheek but the truth is that there are GPS systems specifically designed for trucks that take into account width, turning radius, and clearance height.

Robert said...

Since the MTO has EDR (Emergency Detour Route) sings for most of the 400 series and QEW except where they are in major cities it would behoove Metrolinx to do the same for GEO fenced buses.

Marymary said...

How does Hy Perbole know for a fact that the voice that said "I haven't been down that way in a few years" was operations talking? It quite possibly have been another driver trying to "help"

Iona Pintó said...

Excellent question, Marymary! If it was an open channel with anyone able to respond, the words that came out of the speaker could have been those of someone in Operations, a supervisor, or another driver.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but when a DDL deviates from the geofenced route, alarms sound not only on the bus, but also in the control room. The driver is responsible for contacting Operations and explaining the anomalous trip condition. Operations is responsible for providing explicit instructions on how to proceed; they cannot send a driver down a detour blind.

Operations staff were responsible for managing the situation that night, regardless of who they conferenced with. In the end, they failed the driver and the passengers (on-board and intending).