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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It is *not* hard to believe. One only need to look at Burlington GO Station to forgo any amazement at this news


Source: http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/annualreports/arreports/en15/4.00en15.pdf 
Lots more stuff relating to Metrolinx in the Auditor General's report... the Pickering Bridge section is shown below.

[Quote, bold highlights all mine*]
4.2.2 Metrolinx Awarded a Contractor Phase 2 of Pickering Bridge Project Even Though It Had Performed Extremely Poorly on Phase 1

The contractor for Phase 1 of the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Highway 401 in Pickering performed so poorly that Metrolinx staff had to take over performing many of its duties. Nevertheless, Metrolinx hired the same contractor for Phase 2 of the project because it was the lowest bidder. On Phase 2, the contractor caused significant damage to the bridge. Nevertheless, Metrolinx paid the contractor almost the full $8 million of their contract. We noted that, after performing poorly on both Phase 1 and Phase 2, Metrolinx still awarded this contractor another major project valued at $39 million.

The bridge in question is a landmark structure allowing pedestrians to cross 14 lanes of Highway 401 between the Pickering GO Station and the evolving Pickering City Centre development. Phase 1 of the project involved the construction of the bridge and stairwells; Phase 2 involved the installation of external cladding over the bridge. The bridge was to serve, according to the City of Pickering website, “as an iconic, luminous landmark, signifying where Pickering and Durham Region begin.”

Phase 1: Contractor Demonstrated Complete Lack of Experience in Building Bridges
Although building the bridge structure and stairwells would be fairly straightforward for an experienced contractor, the contractor awarded the job was performing poorly; as a result, Metrolinx staff had to take over and manage many of its responsibilities on this $19-million project. For example, the contractor had no experience in installing the bridge trusses (a bridge truss is the metal skeleton that is the most basic component of the bridge), something that a contractor constructing a bridge would be expected to know how to do. In fact, it installed one truss upside down. Seeing this, Metrolinx project staff stepped in to manage the truss installation even though this was clearly the contractor’s responsibility. They managed the truss supplier and related sub-trades, arranged the delivery of the trusses, shut down Highway 401 during installation, and managed other aspects of traffic flow. Metrolinx staff also went so far as to find a hauling company to move the trusses to the site: work that all should have been managed by the contractor. The contractor was still paid the full $19 million in payments.

Phase 2: Contractor Again Won Contract Despite Poor Performance then Damaged the Bridge 
Although Metrolinx was aware of this contractor’s lack of experience, its poor work ethic, and its unwillingness to improve performance, Metrolinx did not restrict it from bidding on Phase 2 of this project. Because this contractor’s bid was the lowest, Metrolinx awarded it the contract for the second phase of work.

The contractor’s performance was again poor—poor enough, in fact, that Metrolinx eventually terminated its contract. But not before the contractor caused significant damage to the bridge. By improperly welding some metal components, workers splattered metal over large areas of glass. A glass expert hired by Metrolinx later identified that 87% of the glass had been damaged, and recommended that it all be replaced. Metrolinx estimates it will cost about $1 million to fix the glass.

Metrolinx also discovered that the contractor built the stairwell incorrectly (in Phase 1). Because the stairwell had been built too wide, the cladding material would break if the contractor attempted to stretch it over the stairwells. The contractor did not fix the stairwell and, at the time of our audit, the problem still had not been solved. Metrolinx was working with an engineering firm to develop a cost-efficient solution to fix the stairwell problem at its own expense. Figure 5 shows the concept of the iconic bridge, and what is in place today because of the contractor’s mistake in constructing the stairwell.

Metrolinx terminated the contract with the contractor, even though the stairwell portion of the job had not been completed. Nevertheless, Metrolinx signed a settlement agreement, and paid the contractor 99% of the contract’s original value of $8 million.

We noted that after the contractor’s poor performance on both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of this project, Metrolinx awarded this contractor another project valued at $39 million. After that, Metrolinx chose not to award the contractor work on a few projects (for which the contractor provided the lowest bid) because it was not deemed qualified to perform the work based on past performance with Metrolinx. We discuss our concerns with this in Section 4.2.3 below.

[unquote]

*Mine being a concerned passenger who would like to stay anonymous who painfully read through the report and gave ThisCrazyTrain.com the highlights.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

Can you guess what happened here?

This vehicle was left parked at Oshawa GO Station this morning.
Just as how you see it.
Window down. All smashed up.

Take note of the second photo (why are there no pylons to warn drivers???)... possible source of damage? Or is this a hit and run, then dump and run?

Anyhoo, the experts are handling it. I'm more concerned about the open hole.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

To quote @madhatressTO "Many millennials don’t even own cars. They’re stuck on substandard transit or riding bikes on congested streets" It's the baby boomers who will start brawlin' over this

Troll bait - this, ladies and gents, is how you troll... I also liked how this person stopped short of implying "honest fare evasion" is a pet peeve of mine. Almost got me there...

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Ewwwww - seriously? Come on...": 

I have been reading your comments for a while now, and I must say; you are the definition of arrogance and entitlement. You spew "holier than thou" posts in every direction; sure, these people may not be completely considerate, but the way you berate them for something as small as putting their feet on the seat or simply taking his foot out of a shoe, or even isolated incidents of unintentional or misunderstood fare evasion.

You are worse than these people.

So much worse. 

Posted by Anonymous to You. Me. Ride This Crazy Train - Adventures and Observations on The GO at November 24, 2016 at 2:36 AM


I read these comments to my lawyer while he was ensconced in his luxurious sherpa blanket after an exhausting day. His expression says it all.

Y'all ready for Bitching Betty on trains?!

We already have her on the GO bus. She yells every time the doors open, thanking us for pre-purchasing our fare with Presto, screams out the stops and sternly reminds us how to conduct ourselves. Now she may be joining us all on the train! Good times.


Here's what Anonymous had to say about it:

I've observed a fair number of different automated stop announcements on various train systems over the years. The best systems limit the announcements to just three things:
1) As you approach a station, providing the name of the station ("This is Oakville station")
2) At the station, providing the crucial information about the train for those boarding ("This is an eastbound train to Union station")
3) As you pull away from a station, providing the name of the next station ("The next station is Clarkson")
... AND THAT IS IT. 

You'll notice the ideal matches pretty nicely with what CSA does now. However, I worry that someone at Metrolinx/GO will feel compelled to add a large amount of surplus information, and we'll end up with something like the external announcements on GO Buses ("Thank-you for pre-purchasing your fare. For passengers using Presto, please have your card ready. Thank-you for choosing GO Transit"). 

I'm hoping GO Transit doesn't overengineer this either. No feet on the seats reminder -- next stop -- and then shut the hell up -- works for me.

Friday, November 18, 2016

I miss him. He was one of my favorite comics

Mitch Hedberg dump

If I was wearing that parka, I'd be hunched over, too. Hunched over from heat exhaustion ... (spring in November, anyone?)


However, she's hunched over because that whole two seater set-up belongs to her. And her being tired is more important than anyone else who may be tired, but manage to stay upright for a whole fucking GO train ride, on a rush hour train.

*mic drop

Reports of sexual assault on GO Transit low compared to Toronto Transit Commission

by Cindy J. Smith
Blogger-in-Chief

On October 30, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) released a report about the frequency in which sexual assaults occur on the Toronto transit system. Every three days, passengers file reports about incidents where inappropriate touching or unwanted sexual contact had taken place.

Sexual assaults on public transit are a crime of opportunity for perverts, regardless of gender. Crowded and confined to a bus, subway car or streetcar, assailants press themselves against their victims and grope them. Usually victims of sexual assault don't realize they're being assaulted while traveling on a jam-packed subway car. Objects and body parts being pressed against them seem almost normal considering the crush of bodies jockeying for space. Unfortunately, that's not the truth for what's happening and the problem is worse than TTC officials realized.

The frequency of stops allow these criminals to escape. Many drift through the system undetected and protected by the volume of passenger traffic. They easily take advantage of a system bursting at the seams.

So what's it like on GO Transit?

Although the numbers released to ThisCrazyTrain.com don't reflect incidents reported to police agencies instead of to GO Transit, wrote Anne Marie Aikins, spokesperson for Metrolinx, in an email to this website - the numbers are small for a system that transports 70 million passengers annually:

In 2014, 23 passengers complained of being sexually assaulted while traveling on GO Transit's system. In 2015, 22 passengers filed reports and in 2016, 12 customers have reported being sexually assaulted to date.

But are these numbers realistic?

According to public safety experts, unreported sexual assault on public transit happens because most passengers don't realize an assault has taken place. Overcrowding and the assumption passengers are "accidentally being touched" are many reasons why people don't consider themselves a victim of sexual assault. Or, they fear they won't be taken seriously.

One anonymous female GO train passenger texted ThisCrazyTrain.com describing a recent incident on a busy Lakeshore West train. She alleged a male passenger grinded his pelvis into her back whenever the train swayed side to side. This passenger confronted her assailant and when he denied assaulting her, other passengers came to her defence. This passenger said she didn't report the incident to GO Transit because she believed it was "isolated", and that she had "effectively handled it".

I can back her up with my own story of "handling" unwanted sexual advances when traveling on transit. I was in my early twenties and traveling to Yorkdale subway station one Saturday afternoon. Seated next to me was an older gentlemen who was fondling himself through his pants pocket. He was trying in vain to get me to watch him and I was trying in vain to ignore him. The subway was crowded and I was in a two-seater with him. I was seated in the seat closest to the window. Occasionally, he would press his thigh into mine. I began to plan my escape after we left St. Clair West station. Suddenly, he asked me if I wanted to "touch it". Using all my strength, I lunged at him and managed to knock him off the seat and into the aisle. I don't remember what I said. I just remember feeling humiliated, scared, disgusted and super anxious. I vaulted over him and pushed my way off the train, and managed to escape just as the train doors closed. Standing on the platform at Eglinton West station, I tried to make sense of what had just happened. I didn't report it.

I've never had a situation on GO Transit where I felt sexually violated or touched inappropriately. I find traveling on GO to be quite safe. Unlike subway cars, passengers have the ability to move through the train freely to escape situations we feel might get out of hand. We also have a living and breathing person we can go directly to if we need immediate help, since all GO trains have a customer service ambassador on board.

GO Transit has demonstrated on numerous occasions they take all reports of sexual assault very seriously. Transit safety officers conduct regular patrols of stations and vehicles to deter and prevent criminal behaviour, issuing system-wide and public security bulletins when incidents of sexual assault occur.

A suspect in a recent sexual assault on a GO Transit passenger in York Region was quickly arrested after the decisive and swift actions of GO Transit's Safety division, wrote Aikins.

Aikins also said in her email that GO Transit Safety Officers freely share information with other GTA transit and law enforcement agencies, which is why arrests tend to happen swiftly.

To report an incident of sexual assault on GO Transit directly to GO Transit, contact 1-877-297-0642.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

You would think sleep studies would be a medical requirement for this kind of job...

F this nonsense - my morning commute in one brief summary

Get on GO train at Oshawa.
Head up to Quiet Zone.
Arrive at Whitby.
A group of ten 20-somethings board on-route to TO for a conference/meeting/entertainment (not sure).
No idea about Quiet Zone based on their really loud arrival.
CSA makes no further announcement other than the first one made prior to departure at Oshawa.
It gets LOUDER.
I get up and leave.
But this group doesn't realize why I leave.
As I go down the stairs, someone says just loud enough so I can hear it: GUESS YOU DON'T LIKE BLACK PEOPLE.

It took everything in my being not to toss out a really bad word (a phrase starting with an "F" and ending with a "u") and start a brawl.
Because I don't like jail.
AND BECAUSE IF YOU GO LOW, I'LL GO HIGH.

The disdain for Presto on the TTC continues to grow

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fake book covers (this is a repost but now there's VIDEO!) on transit

Seriously?

Manspreading is moving into new territories. #gotransit

A photo posted by Mike Apocalypso (@haavoc) on

Damn it. Missed the train again! - Fox

GO transit fox just strolling by 🙌 #fox #gotransit #habitat #toronto

A photo posted by Ciprian Andre 🚗🇨🇦👻 (@linuxglobal) on

Super moon on the GO

Held hostage but everyone is alive

This Crazy Train's Presto Chronicles, Chapter 34: What has improved with the new website?


Special to This Crazy Train
By Frank E. Futor

How is everyone liking the renovated PRESTOcard website

I visit the site only to audit my transaction history and to export it to a PDF every month — something I never had to do with the old monthly passes and 10/2-ride tickets.  I’m not sure what the software development team at PRESTO were thinking when they “improved” the transaction reporting capabilities, but I think a whole bunch more work needs to be done — just to get back to what we had with the old website.  Let me demonstrate.

Once signed in, scroll down to the My PRESTO Card Activity section of the dashboard.



I don’t have transactions for November, nor October, but I did travel in September, so let’s select that month and click on Search.



Wait a minute!  I travelled more than that.  What does that View Full History link give us?



WTH?!  We’re back to where I started — sort of.  Let me select September, again.



WTF?!  Only 10 transactions are displayed, and then I have to scroll page by page.  You must be kidding!  Let’s just click on the Print button, produce the PDF and be done with this nonsense.

OMG …



It gets worse …


I have to go back to the web page select page 2 and produce another PDF.  Shoot me now!

I demonstrated this “improved” website behaviour to a couple of senior developers I work with.  Both were left in stitches at PRESTO’s IT prowess.

Apparently, other users questioned this “enhancement”, too.  As of this writing, it appears the report can be generated for an entire month, but we are still forced to wade through the weak user interface to get there.  Who wrote that use case?


Are you still not seeing any systemic problems in PRESTO, Mr. Hollis?

Monday, November 14, 2016

#CanadianProblems

Toronto wants a seat at the Metrolinx table

Not sure if Shakes was one of the three arrested (have to assume since it's his "tag" in the photo)

An update on GO Transit real-time bus information

Special to This Crazy Train
By GO Voyageur

In a prior article, TCT relayed Metrolinx’s assurances that their real-time bus information app would be available “soon”.  In terms of geological time, that delivery date is accurate.  As of November 8 it is more than three years after GO Transit Customer Relations “promised” real-time bus information, and all Metrolinx is capable of delivering is telling others “to put up or shut up”.

Well, a tip of the hat to Kyle Hubley for sharing with me that GO Transit real-time bus information became available via transit app recently.  FINALLY!  This is what we’ve needed for so long.  Thank you to the bright group of folks in la belle province (they’re so young) for accomplishing what Metrolinx never could.  I invite you to read their blog, in which they share the challenges they faced and how they triumphed.

I’ve played with the app for a few days, and it works for me.  I’ve found only one deficiency, and that is the app doesn’t report real-time bus arrivals at a bus route’s termini, e.g. Niagara Falls bus terminal and Burlington Carpool Lot.  Instead, you can view the scheduled arrival times (and set a reminder to board a drop-off only bus — WHAT?).  I was able to kludge a temporary solution for Niagara Falls by reporting on buses on Bridge St. near Stanley Ave. — it’s close enough.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t effect the same success at the other terminus of Route 12.  Passenger pickup is a significant part of travelling on the GO.  I believe these limitations can be overcome if the system engineers tweak their original problem definition of “When will my ride get here?” to “When will the vehicle get here?”


If you haven’t already, give the app a try at https://transitapp.com/

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Part 8 of an installment, exclusive to This Crazy Train, "Meet the Deckers"

Editor's note: If you have had issues while aboard a Double Decker bus, or have a story about a Double Decker experience, drop me a line at cj@thiscrazytrain.com.


Special to This Crazy Train
by GO Voyageur 

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

In this installment, I continue my quest to find the answer to Anonymous’ question, “And also has anyone written to GO directly to complain or is putting it on the internet the norm now?”

After nigh unto three weeks with no response from GO Transit Customer Relations (Passenger Charter violation +1), I escalated the matter to Greg Percy, Chief Operating Officer.


Date:          Sun, 17 Jul 2016 20:40:49 -0400
From:          Me
To:              Greg Percy
CC:             GO Transit Customer Relations, Cj Smith
Subject:      Re: GO Transit, a Division of Metrolinx EM0119002913

Dear Mr. Percy,

I am puzzled why no one in Customer Relations has responded to my e-mail of June 27.


Is Metrolinx denying the extent of the black soot inside its double-decker buses?  Allow me to share more evidence with you.  Bus Operations may have spent a goodly amount to reclad bus 8198 for the Pride Toronto parade, but the inside remains stained.



Bus 8190 is no different.


In the name of transparency, may we see an independent laboratory's toxicology report regarding this soot, please?  What is this black particulate we are breathing on your double-decker buses?

Sincerely,
Me


Over the course of the next week and a half, I received a number of “thank you for your patience” e-mails, and finally Customer Relations — not Greg Percy — responded as follows:


Date:          Thu, 28 Jul 2016 17:30:13 -0400
From:          Metrolinx Customer Relations
To:              Me
Subject:      Metrolinx, an Agency of the Government of Ontario EM0018003463

Dear Me,

Thank you for following up with me regarding the black residue you’ve noticed in some of our double decker buses.

As per my previous email, we have identified the cause of this reside to be a technical issue with the cabin filter in a small number of buses (less than 20% of the fleet). Since March, we have been changing these cabin filters and cleaning the ceilings. As you’ve noticed, this work is not yet complete and some buses have yet to have the filter changed, but this is expected to be finished by the end of August.

Our HVAC experts have advised that this residue is dust and the black colour is simply due to accumulation. However, we are sending out the used cabin filters for testing to see if we can discover the composition of this particulate matter. Unfortunately, I don’t have a specific timeline as to when we may receive these test results, but I will follow up with you again once I have them.

Thank you again for taking the time to write about this important matter.

Sincerely,

(Name withheld for confidentiality reasons)
Supervisor, Customer Relations, Metrolinx

I wasn’t sure how to take that reply.  Were we now dealing with a case of “lies, damn lies, and statistics”?  Tune in next time when I volley back some of my own figures (and a colourful graph).

Describe what's going on in this "selfie"



- Metrolinx handout (July 2015)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Friday, November 4, 2016

He's back!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Last night BROUGHT ALL THE ANXIETY

In what felt like it was going to be a repeat of September 27th, our train crawled through Toronto's east end while our CSA told us a signal issue was the problem. Minutes later, we were told our train was experiencing an equipment problem which meant we had to stop for a safety inspection. This was a rinse and repeat of the last incident which involved the same pattern of misleading information.

I was on the train with 90% of the people who were on the same train that broke down in September and left us stranded for 3.5 hours mere metres east of the Ajax GO Station platform.

Last night, after the conflicting information was announced, audible groans broke out in my coach as passengers looked at each other in disbelief. Those of us with kids at home waiting for us moms and dads to arrive to help prepare for Halloween night began pulling out cellphones and making alternate arrangements. 

Do you blame them?

Prior to September, I would have been rolling my eyes at people panicking prematurely like that. Yet, there I was, talking to my husband and giving him instructions on how to paint my daughter's eyes with makeup to look like a wolf. Needless to say, he didn't want to attempt it and my daughter went out trick or treating with no face paint and tears of disappointment. When I met up with her after she and my husband had already left to go trick or treating with her friends -- after I frantically changed, wolfed down a sandwich, and threw out a bowl of candy onto our porch for kids to take while we were out -- she was visibly upset at being the only one in her "pack" without face paint. I gave her a hug and told her that life is what it is and some things can't be helped.

Our train arrived 15 minutes late, but I take the GO bus home from the station which was holding for another train coming in behind mine and was impacted by transfers along the route (transfers that don't usually happen when everything runs on time). I was 39 minutes late arriving home last night. 

Our CSA stressed the entire delay was due to ensuring we arrived home safely for Halloween.

I'm just putting this out there ... are trains not thoroughly inspected before they are put into service? Passengers are losing confidence in the reliability of the service. You just have to read Twitter to realize I'm not exaggerating. 

Fare increases are historically introduced at the December board meeting for Metrolinx. I invite you to submit a deputation in advance of the December 8th board meeting. Comments must be submitted two days before the meeting to be considered. I don't know if a fare increase is being proposed but we can't be subjected to a 2017 fare increase. Metrolinx has had a disastrous 2016 and we shouldn't be punished financially for it.