Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Fare increase for 2019 GO Transit passengers doesn't appear to be on the agenda for this Thursday's Metrolinx board meeting

This has been one of my biggest worries seeing as commuting by GO now carries the financial equivalent of making a third or second car payment for many commuters. I'm at $344 a month in fare for myself (using November as a reference point).

Generally it's around this time of year that GO Transit presents a case to Metrolinx for increasing fares. I went ahead and reviewed the agenda for the December 6th board meeting and this isn't on it. There is a discussion about fare policy with 10 minutes allotted to the speakers, so I think we're safe to assume we've been spared an increase come February 2019.

But, we've been shafted before. The last increase happened in the fall of 2017 when we were all hit with a 3% hike, so we may not be completely out of the woods!

Better late than never for a feel good Go Transit Lost & Found story!

This past weekend I received a DM on Twitter asking if I had the chance to read an email a person had sent me regarding GO RER and Toronto Mayor John Tory. I did not recall said email and decided to scroll through my Gmail spam folder and stumbled across not only the email in question, but also this email from MS who forgot his Apple laptop on the train back in July.

I suspect emails from readers found their way into spam due to the filters and mail rules I have set up to avoid Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day emails. I apologized to MS who was very understanding. I also apologize to others whose emails were trapped.

from: MS
date: Jun 13, 2018, 1:37 PM
subject: Love for Go Transit: Backpack with MacBook Pro returned intact

Hi CJ,

I found your blog when googling about GoTrain lost & found histories. I like your blog a lot. I've lived in Canada for ~8 years and never used Go trains until last weekend. My family and I (wife, one 3-yrd old and a 2-weeks baby) recently moved to Whitby and decided to try the Go Train to go to the aquarium on Saturday along with my inlaws that are visiting. I work as a software engineer and sometimes we need to be 'on call' in case systems break. I was on call so I took my laptop with me. A new MacBook pro 2017. On the way back, while chasing my kid (who was excited about riding the train and going up and down the stairs) I left my backpack on the upper level seat while chasing my kid downstairs. We arrived to Whitby and checked the seats so we don't forget anything (we were all sitting on the lower level), wife, inlaws, newborn baby, my 3-yrd old, stroller, diaper bag, etc; but as you can guess, forgot my backpack in the upper level!

Needless to say it's a horrible situation. I'm 3 months into this new job and I lose the laptop! never happened to me in my life and just had to happen as I start a new job. I filed the lost & found report online that night, visited them on Sunday at Union Station and they said there was nothing else to do but wait. My backpack contained not only the laptop but also charger adapter, accessories, airpods, etc; Finally, they called me back Monday 2pm to tell me it was found!

It's a shame there's no reward for whoever found it and returned it. I'd gladly had paid a reward to whoever did this, even if people don't do it for the money, it's a huge favor done to those of us who accidentally forgot something and perhaps being able to share a reward and/or thank you note would encourage more people to report/return lost items.

Anyways, I figured this success story could help anxious people like myself when they wander at 3am in the morning if they'll see their lost items again.

Attached pic of the most important returned item.



Monday, December 3, 2018

GO train to Courtice-Bowmanville in 2024? Don't hold your breath!

The current Ontario government party in charge has put the brakes on the expansion into Niagara Region after Metrolinx sent a letter to the region saying the project had been "halted".

This makes me nervous. As with the Mimico station renovation on the Lakeshore West corridor, where a private developer was selected to build the new station, I suspect this is what will happen in Courtice and Bowmanville since the letter outlines that Grimsby will only go ahead once a third party investor has been found.

The Toronto Star also reported this may be the new normal for regional transportation infrastructure where shovels haven't yet met dirt.

I have mixed feelings about this. The area where the Courtice station is to be built could benefit from this kind of partnership as it's in the middle of a field with no subdivisions or amenities within a 5 km radius. In Bowmanville, it's a different situation where the area is over-developed and traffic would be greatly impacted if say, a condo were to built on the station site. In Oshawa, the new station is to be built where a Knob Hill Farms grocery store once stood. The area would benefit from housing, especially if it's rental housing.

This all sounds great in theory but how long do we wait? That's the billion dollar question no one in the Ford government is willing to answer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Since Metrolinx employees can't stop raving about the new Union Station Food Court on Twitter, I decided to go check it out

Where is it? York Concourse, Basement, Toronto Union Station
Hours: Monday to Friday 7am to 10pm & Saturday to Sunday 10am to 10pm
What's there to eat?

At first blush, I can appreciate the use of a vibrant colour and height so that the customer doesn't feel like he or she is trapped in a World War Two bunker, so A+ for that.

Moving stairs that actually work are an engineering marvel in this day in age. Five stars.

Tables. Chairs. Waste bins. Ambient lighting. Standing tables with charging stations really give off a, "Hey, we're here for you" kind of vibe. Almost like a hug from your favourite uncle. 

My Ukranian heritage is too scared to ask what a Loaded Pierogi is.
Some things just shouldn't be messed with.

Violet is a strong colour theme down here. Clearly the designer spent some time researching colour theory. Purple happens to be my favourite colour. It's a colour that combines blue and red where blue is a stable colour and red is energetic. Purple is supposed to evoke a feeling of calm in its subjects. The color purple is also associated with royalty and ambition. It's always been interesting to me that car manufacturers never rolled out purple as a standard car colour.

Purple also represents wealth and the illusion of grandeur (cough).

There's plenty of seating and of course, Tim Horton's makes an appearance. 

As does McDonald's. 

Probably the most depressing area of the food court had to be this space right here. We've moved into Soviet-era territory with no paint, no colour, solitary tables and a ever practical ATM. It's almost mid-eighties mall-like. My advice? Paint the pillars. 

In purple.

Photos too small? Here's the album link.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Time for some heartfelt thanks and remembrance

by Pete S.

My Decade-At-A-Glance® tells me we are fast approaching the sixth anniversary of my first article for This Crazy Train.  I’d like to thank you, Cj, for considering my submissions and publishing so many of them.  It’s been a thrill writing the stories and reading the comments to see how close I got to reporting the truth. 

Thank you for providing many of my noms de plume and allowing me to use some of my own.  Just as David Haydu filled the airwaves with his plethora of zany characters, the pseudonyms allowed me to write on a variety of topics from different perspectives.  For those readers not familiar with David, I loved listening to Pete and Geets on CHUM-FM and later on CFNY-FM.  Just as David “borrowed” his main persona, Geets Romo, from a character on the 1961 Del Close and John Brent album, How To Speak Hip, I used Warren Downe based on David’s Warren Down.  If memory serves me correctly, Warren reported morning traffic, first from the “mobile telephone booth”, and later “riding a John Deere tractor in traffic”.

Most of the experiences I shared stemmed from trips on GO Transit’s Route 12 between Niagara Falls and Burlington.  The ladies and gentlemen who drive this route are very dedicated to their passengers.  This became evident to me in my first month (October 2010) riding the bus.  The driver I rode with remembered me after only a couple of trips.  I took a later trip for a few of weeks, and when I reverted to his bus, he greeted me with, “Hello stranger!  Where have you been?”  I was astounded that he remembered me.

Commitment to excellence is hard to find today.  Allow me to tip my hat and say thank you to the following drivers who I’ve been introduced to, or who chauffeured me and allowed me to serve them by being their lead hand (I managed the luggage), treasurer (I carried an emergency float, as well as a “knuckle full of nickels” for the $x.05 fares of other pax), waiter (drivers need their tea and coffee), and navigator (on demand):

Ali (Streetsville), Anthony S, Bonnie J, Brandy-Jo B, Brenda M, Charlene (Steeprock), Charles T, Christine H, Colin B, Dave W, Debbie I, Derek W, Frances D, Fred O, Garney T, Garry S, Harley B, Heather K, Holly N, Izabela K, Jack-George M, Jack (Streetsville), Janice N, Jason W, Jim C, John P, Joshua B, Jude (Hamilton), Ken (Streetsville), Marjorie F, Mark A, Mark B, Mark K, Mark P, Mary-Jane M, Maureen D, Nestor F, Nigel H, Paul L, Ray M, Richard (Brampton), Robert I, Robert L, Rodney (Oshawa), Ron A, Ron C, Shawn S, Simon H, Steve D, Terry W, Tim C, Tim K, Viktor A, and Wayne P.

I apologize if I missed anyone or spelled your name incorrectly.  There is one driver who I’ve chatted with online, but I’ve never met, which is a little ironic, since we live in the same town.

I’d also like to thank drivers Randy (Megabus) and Frank N (St. Catharines Transit) whose valuable insights during our early morning chats found their way into my stories.

I mustn’t forget the CSAs I met along the way.  You’ll recall the concerns over missing CSA Daniel.  I located Daniel on one of my Friday trips home, and we had a good chuckle over the reports of his disappearance.  Again, I must thank CSA Katelyn who got us through the ghost train debacle.   

I would like to thank the ticket agents at Pickering station for their polite and efficient handling of transactions.  I always found it nice to start my trips with a quick chat with Ilene and Jennifer.  I always loaded my ePurse with them — never auto-load.

My thanks to fare inspectors Gerry (LSE) and Terry (LSW).  These gentlemen not only conduct business politely, they also take the time to answer passengers’ questions.  I enjoyed my brief discussions with Terry about bicycles and appreciated his tips on how to teach oneself to ride a unicycle.

I would also like to thank my neighbour, Walter at Greyhound, who mentored several employees now at GO Transit.  Because of Walter, as well as GO’s drivers, I believe I am a better automobile driver.

I’ve often wondered whether any of the stories that I wrote made a difference.  Certainly not those articles about renovations at Burlington station — six years on, and we still cannot buy a cup of coffee there.  GO Transit did mothball Route 11, the seasonal money-losing shuttle between St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake.  The manual procedure for loading funds to ePurses changed after pilferage by a systemic PRESTO problem was exposed in the Presto Chronicles.  Passenger safety enhancements were implemented on double decker buses to mitigate the hazards of luggage after the risks were documented in Meet the Deckers.  In the aftermath of the story about the bus stop from hell, the Mayor of St. Catharines reports that ticket vending machines will be installed at Fairview Mall, although Metrolinx is dragging their feet again over “infrastructure” issues.

Is there a story I wanted to write but didn’t?  Yes.  I wanted to pen an article about the double decker bus that was blown off Hwy 115 during inclement weather and poor road conditions.  I couldn’t proceed because I was not in possession of a key piece of evidence — the photo showing the bus off the road.  The photo exists, but no amount of begging and pleading could produce the picture, so no story was written.

Now it’s time to share with you, Cj, and the followers of your blog that this is my last submission to This Crazy Train.  Thank you, all, for taking the time to read my articles and to write your comments.  I mean this sincerely.  Hopefully we’ve had some fun along the way.  It’s been a blast for me!  I encourage everyone to give it a whirl.

On behalf of Warren Downe, Ali Gator, Frank E Futor, Chris P. Bacon, A.L. Gorithm, Billy Bob, Iona Pint├│, Hy Perbole, Ian Cognito, Bea N. Counter, Yew Wannanohooiam, and GO Voyageur, this is Peter signing off.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Hey - it's time for an update - right?

Apologies everyone, as I know it's been pretty quiet as I continue to choose Twitter over Blogger but it's where I tend to live. I know some of you aren't on Twitter but you don't need an account to review what I've been discussing. I provide a feed on this blog and it's to the right.

Anything investigative or worthy of words longer than what tweets can handle will be posted here.

I appreciate that many continue to check the blog everyday. I'm restricted at work. It makes it difficult to post and blogging on a phone is still crappy!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sit round the fire kids, it's time for another Presto card story kindly contributed by a reader of the blog

There’s a special feeling you get in your gut when you try to deal with anything Presto. It’s knotty and hollow and saps all of your energy. Like when you call the Bell helpdesk or ask Rogers about those pesky extra charges…
But wait - that’s just being mean to Mama Bell and Ted.
I honestly believe there is no other entity on the planet that can rival Presto for sheer inanity.
My hate-affair with the crappy piece of plastic goes back two years, to when I first signed up. And, I’m pleased to say, that after wrapping up yet another head shaking chit-chat chat with a Presto Apologist Operator just 5 minutes ago, my hate is as strong as ever.
Why do I hate you Presto? Let me count a few ways:
You use two tap machines for UP Express
For a system that is supposed to be built on ease of use and consistency, it’s a sticky business hopping the train to the airport. Last week I ran to the Union platform and tapped on. I got a friendly green arrow punched the air and went on my merry way. It was only when I tried to tap on again the next day when green turned to red…
What have I done?
The nice lady at the desk explained that I had ‘tapped the wrong machine’ the day before and now my account was in arrears.
She explained that they’ve put two machines at Union, one for Bloor and Weston commuters and one for Pearson travelers.
‘If you tap the wrong one it gets confused’
‘It’s not the only one.’
As we watched my train chug away, she turned her head to yell at another errant customer about to tap into the abyss.
‘Are you going to the airport?’
‘Er, yes?’
‘Wrong machine!’
She showed me the error on her screen and gave me a number to call to fix it.
‘Can’t you fix it?’ I asked
‘Why not?’
‘The system doesn’t let me’
I called the number and a nice bloke told me he’d put the request through to Customer Service.
‘They’ll call you back in 5-7 business days’
‘Can’t you fix it?’ I asked him
‘Why not’
‘The system won’t let me’
Everything takes 24 hours
When I bought my new card I explained to the nice lady at the counter that I needed to transfer funds from a lost card and could she please give me very simple, super specific instructions because this happened once before and I ended up with three new cards because I went and registered the account and, you know, you can’t transfer $ to a registered card…And then I found my lost card but I couldn’t ‘un-lose’ it because somebody at Presto had marked it as lost and when it’s lost, well – it’s gone forever.

She looked at me sideways and gave me a little business card with very simple, super specific instructions.
I went home, signed on and followed the instructions...

Ah crap.

It didn’t work.

The nice man on the phone told me that I’d have to wait 24 hours before I can transfer the funds.
‘Because we don’t get the newly purchased card numbers until the end of each day’
‘Why not?’
‘I don’t know’
Regular Presto users are all too familiar with the 24 hour rule.
 - Want to register your card? Wait 24 hours
 - Autoload? 24 hours.
  - Transfer funds? Sure! In 24 hours…
For a transit system that prides itself on its on-time performance the payment system is pretty tardy.
You can’t tap on the train

I picked my wife up from the station the other day and she told me how she’d watched a whole slew of passengers getting fined for non-payment. They all had Presto cards. And they all complained that they couldn’t tap on because they were running for the train.
Were they lying?
Well, let’s see…1. Do people run for trains? Yup. 2. Are the Presto machines plentiful, and stationed at regular intervals along the platform? Er, nope. 3. Do these customers have a history of skipping the fare? Well, we’ll never know because the TSOs didn’t check. This was a zero tolerance kind of a day.
The GO fare payment model is unique and inane. In Europe gate-only access is the predominant mode. Either that or blind trust (Danke Wiener Stra├čenbahn!). Metrolinx is neither of both and nothing of anything.
Metrolinx needs to understand that their transit system is supposed to serve its customers - not the other way around. They need to remember what people are like: People don’t want to line up, people make mistakes, people are always in a rush and people are usually trustworthy.
Metrolinx, if you want a fool proof spoof-proof system then put gates in. If you want a trust-based system then put readers everywhere and give your customers the benefit of the doubt. Don’t punish people for the mess you made.
I could add a dozen more how-do-I-hate-you reasons for this heart breaking piece of crappy plastic.   I could bemoan the:
  • Alpha-numeric-online-usernames? Ouch.
  • Replace-lost-card-doesn’t-give-me-the-option-to-change-the-card-type? Ah!
  • Pre-boarding-ticket-inspection-at-Pearson-but-nowhere-else? Why??!
But, I can’t dwell on our differences. I need to pull myself away.  After all, it’s not me, Presto – it’s you.

It's Fall and I have a new phone with a fancy triple camera with a Leica lens, so here's my "Sunday morning in Courtice" album

Monday, October 1, 2018

This Crazy Train's Presto Chronicles, Chapter 35: — Lost revenue

Special to This Crazy Train
By Bea N. Counter

Classes are back in session at TCT Academy.  I teach accounting, and I like to share with my students real life financial situations, like the following two brought to light by Ben Spurr of the Toronto Star:

In this article, I won’t dwell on what Mr. Spurr documented.  Rather, I’ll look at how it is possible for PRESTO technology (and some mismanagement) to shortchange GO Transit Bus Ops revenue.

TCT highlighted previously the fragility of PRESTO cards.  What happens when a GO Transit bus driver’s card becomes inoperable (or is lost)?  Quite simply, the bus point of sale device cannot be activated.  No one can tap on; no one can load funds to their card; no tickets can be issued — everyone rides for free with that driver.  It’s a case of lost fare revenue until the driver has a new card.  In one case, it took the driver’s supervisor(s) one and a half weeks to issue a replacement card.

Consider a different scenario.  The PRESTO device on a GO Transit bus synchronizes with the system via WiFi only when the bus is at a garage.  What happens when the WiFi doesn’t work?  A passenger’s card cannot be updated with online fund loads executed after the WiFi failed.  The bus trip(s) made by a passenger won’t appear in their transaction history.  And what happens when the WiFi outage is for an extended period of time, say ten days?  Well, the on board PRESTO device disables itself, and we’re in a period of revenue loss, because everyone rides for free, again.  If you think this is a purely academic hypothetical scenario, it isn’t.  Recently, four buses assigned to Route 12 were in service for over three days in this state of revenue loss.

You are no doubt wondering how GO Transit management could knowingly let the garage’s WiFi sit in a state of disrepair for so long.  And why couldn’t the supervisor(s) change-off the affected buses with ones from Hamilton, or Streetsville, or Steeprock garages?  GO Transit management can authorize chauffeuring one passenger from Union Station to Niagara Falls, but they won’t follow operational process and swap equipment at Burlington GO or P+R — why?  Why did the escalation procedure(s) fail?

In the scenarios cited, will GO Transit’s finance department execute an inquisition to identify the individual(s) responsible for lost revenue and garnishee their wages?  I SURE HOPE NOT.  However, it would behoove Phil Verster, President and CEO at Metrolinx, to have “career discussions” with the GO Transit managers who allow these debacles to play out.  The cost of continued non-compliance outweighs the cost of compliance.

No lesson at TCT Academy is complete without some homework to do.  Seeing as the topic at hand is lost revenue, your assignment is as follows:

The last Niagara Falls seasonal trains of the year will operate on Thanksgiving weekend.  Discuss how you would use your PRESTO card legitimately to travel to The Falls for said weekend and pay less than the discounted PRESTO fare.

Class dismissed!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ontario PC government takes credit for 15-minute GO train service on Lakeshore East and West lines. Service set to begin September 24

As the Toronto Star pointed out, Metrolinx has been adjusting its operations for months in order to add service to the Lakeshore corridors; these initiative predates the Conservatives’ election victory in June.

We all knew this. The Liberals promised us all day GO train service years ago.

The PC MPPs touting this announcement as a "Promises Made, Promises Kept" on Twitter is eye-rolling. Albeit, at least it wasn't cancelled.

So there is that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Apple picking in Durham. You can do it by GO train and GO bus

When I posted this photo on Instagram, I had to make sure I pointed out that it was staged. I did *not* throw an apple. Problem is, I was a real trouble-maker as a kid and hands down, my mom and dad, when shown the picture, would have called me, tsking, "Some things never change". It's a legacy I can't live down.

I've become a huge supporter of local area farms within a cycling or GO bus distance to my house in Courtice. The photo above was taken at Archibald Orchard on North Liberty Street in Bowmanville, a 35km round-trip bicycle ride from my house. Because I can't ride back with a 1/2 bushel of apples, hubby met me there with the car. Recently I was asked by a follower on Twitter if he were to gather the family and travel from their downtown condo to apple pick without renting a car, how would this be done, on a Saturday?

And surprisingly, it can be. GO train to Oshawa, catch the Newcastle 90 and exit the bus at Maple Grove Road on Highway 2 in Bowmanville. Watson Farms is just west of the bus stop. You can't miss it as the bus travels right past it. There's all kinds of "pick your own" produce and a play area for kids. Bring a suitcase for easier transport of your fruits and vegetables!

I have no idea how one would use GO Transit to apple pick anywhere else in the GTA but this farm is right on a route, and if you're also a downtown Toronto dweller that randomly reads my site, please try the Paula Reds, they are delicious at this time of year!

Yep, the video circulating on instagram of a dude riding on top of a GO train is legit

Mr. Rogers could teach a thing or two to Metrolinx about being a good neighbour

Back in December I published a report from a resident who lives next to the east rail corridor that feeds Go trains into Union Station. Here is an update of how things are progressing:

You're gonna need more than peashooters when Metrolinx brings out a weapon like TPAP
Submitted by Anonymous
Exclusive to

Metrolinx has a secret weapon. It’s called a ‘TPAP’. It is big and heavy and if you get in its line of fire - prepare to be eviscerated!

TPAP stands for ‘Transit Project Assessment Process’. It’s the process Metrolinx uses to evaluate the impact of RER (Metrolinx Regional Express Rail) on surrounding neighbourhoods.

Our neighbourhood recently stared down both barrels of this bazooka and wow – did we ever get burned.

The TPAP was locked and loaded to assess the impacts of electrification along the GTA rail corridors. My neighbours and I live close to the tracks – something we’ve done for years with no major problems. But - just as any other resident would worry when their neighbour talks about moving the fence, chopping down a tree or, ‘running some power to the shed so I can rock out to Death Metal’ - we were keen to know what 3 new tracks, lots of big electricity poles, and trains every 15 minutes would mean to our everyday lives.

So we called Metrolinx.

Metrolinx sent us their TPAP report and then held a series of public meetings to talk to us about their plans.

The meetings did not go well.

The main problem Metrolinx has with its community relations is that they cannot seem to answer very basic questions. TCT readers know this all too well. During one particularly memorable exchange, when a resident asked why Metrolinx was allowed to circumvent its own guidelines which stipulate no new construction within 100 metres of a track, the response was:

‘Well this isn’t new construction and you’re already within 50 metres so…’ 

Cue the shouting and the swearing.

One resident was actually standing on a sofa, shaking his fist...

In the meeting we learned that one of the new tracks, 'Track E-Zero', will run 13 feet north of the existing northernmost track, between Parliament and Sherbourne (that's right after the Distillery if you're heading in from the east).

TCT readers may be familiar with the already intimate experience of riding along the northerly tracks as you approach Union from the east. Perhaps you saw one of us bending over while doing our laundry, eating our cornflakes or getting our kids ready for school.

Well cuddle up folks - we're about to get a lot closer!

Building E-Zero will not only bring us closer together, it will also decimate our beloved tree canopy. As the pictures below show, this canopy helps to transform our sleepy back laneway (named after the First Nations Marathon runner, Tom Longboat) into a virtual back-yard.

E-Zero will be used for the Richmond Hill line which operates diesel trains. We're all familiar with the noise and vibration of diesel engines - there's a reason we're happy to stand back of that yellow line at the station. It's a shame for us all that, despite being closer and more visible, we won't be able to stop and chat.

After the public meeting debacle we asked for a copy of the TPAP report.

And that's when the barrage began:

-    Kalop! The weight of the report knocked us back. It was massive - too big for one person to absorb. As we flailed around under the 1000+ pages, we realized that we needed help. So we formed a neighbourhood association to divvy up the work and spread the pain.

  - Ker-huh? The TPAP is technical. Holy crap. It is supposedly scripted for a general audience but the subject matter involves egg-headed engineering principles, mind-numbing electrification specifications and oddball environmental jargon I doubt even David Suzuki would comprehend.

How is an ‘ordinary’ person supposed to review this...?

 - Be-oing! The metrics in the TPAP are backwards. For example - if you live close to the tracks and the noise levels are already above federal guidelines – like ours are – the TPAP doesn’t care! It only flags increases in current levels above 5 decibels. So, if your already loud noise is going to get just 4 louder - tough luck!

- Wooosh! Just as with the public meetings, most of our typed out TPAP questions flew over Metrolinx’s heads.

Metrolinx does not listen too well. The Q&A process with the Metrolinx Community Relations Department reminded me of that scene in Seinfeld where Jerry tries to pick up his hire car.

'Sure you can take a question, but if it's not here when I come to pick it up...'

It's not just Metrolinx that has trouble shooting straight. When the TPAP got approved last December, more than 30 of our questions were greeted by garbled answers. But when our group complained to the MoE, they ignored us for several weeks, approved the report, and then sent us an answer to someone else’s question.

After plucking out the TPAP shrapnel and licking our wounds, we decided to seek out another form of defense. Surely the law will defend us? We have rights - right?

Hmm...not really. We've got useless ammunition!

It turns out that when it comes to railways - there are no laws. Not for us anyway. Municipal bylaws are powder-less. Federal laws are blanks (because they are actually only guidelines). The only legislation with any penetration is the Railway Act, which is built to protect railways from people and not the other way around.

No wonder Metrolinx treats us like cannon fodder...Fire at will!

Knowing we were effectively defenseless, we re-grouped and tried to fire back with our little pea-shooters:

'Why do you not have to meet federal guidelines on noise and vibration levels?' we squeaked.

‘Well, we do our best,' boomed Metrolinx

'Er, h-how do you do your best?' we stuttered, 'Because you are not doing too good right now.'

'They aren't laws, they’re guidelines’, they blasted.

Battling with Metrolinx is exhausting. They have bigger guns, better equipment and more manpower.

We are battle-worn, bloodied and weary. The TPAP weapon alone is wearing us down never mind all the other little skirmishes.

But the white flags are not going up just yet. The sirens have sounded again - another TPAP has landed and we are hoping this one doesn't blow up in our faces.

We're not asking for a war with Metrolinx. We support rail expansion. But when it comes to preserving our environment, our safety and our neighbourhood - we just want a fighting chance.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Oakville to get trains every 15 minutes starting late 2018 and then Burlington in 2019?

I can't confirm or deny if we'll see this rolled out this year but Metrolinx appears to be getting serious about moving commuters faster in and out of the core at rush hour. Here's more info. But, let's not pull out the Consumers Catalog just yet - we don't know what Dougie and his merry band of policy pirates have planned.

Metrolinx's goal is 15-minute service on all its lines by 2025 (peak-only on Milton and Richmond Hill lines; all-day on the others).

I checked Google Maps to see if the Lakeshore West would be getting 15-minute peak service for September as GO's schedules have been uploaded, but it's not showing anything.

Stay tuned!

When you get too punny

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

We interrupt this blog's sleepy slumber for this important "Cindy's ongoing fitness journey" update

It's been an interesting summer for me. In the Spring, frustrated with some personal health issues, I met with my doctor to discuss a laundry list of ailments but top of mind was my weight. The scale had been holding steady at 256 pounds since January. No matter what I did such as increasing cardio, adding weights, and cycling my caloric intake, my body was a big bag of "nope".

As I wait to enter a clinical program to deal with the underlying disease that doctors claim contributes to my insulin resistance, which in turns contributes to my very slow metabolic rate, my doctor asked me if I had ever considered intermittent fasting, along with reducing carbohydrates and adding more protein to my diet. This was almost a month ago, on July 13. On the following Monday, after researching intermittent fasting, insulin resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome based diets, I started eating within a 10-hour window and then for 14 hours I did not consume a single calorie. I also increased my exercise where I biked five days a week, regardless of weather, for 20-23 km, as opposed to three days a week for 27 km. When I weighed myself on July 16, I was 257 pounds. Exactly a year before, I weighed this much:

Here's what I weighed this past Monday:

I'm pretty sure I lost weight in my feet. A nine pound weight loss in one month is pretty amazing. It's also not sustainable. Most of it is probably water loss due to the heat, and exercising in this heat, so I think it's fair to say I've lost seven pounds since meeting with my doctor.

Remarkably, my body is responding to intermittent fasting and now I'm eating in an eight hour window with breakfast at 10:30 am, lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 6 pm. From 6:30 pm all the way to 10:30 am the next morning I consume nothing with a calorie. I drink a ton of water, too. My weight loss app is set to calorie cycling so the intake varies from day to day, but it's anywhere from 1247 to 1658 calories a day depending on the amount of physical activity the day before. The only thing I've worked hard to omit is sugar and anything white, with the exception of basmati rice and yellow-flesh potatoes. NO ONE WILL TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME.

If you're still reading, I'm hoping this post helps others struggling with PCOS, obesity or insulin resistance. Please talk to your doctor if this style of eating, coupled with 375 or more minutes of exercise weekly is healthy for you.

I've logged over 2200 km on my bike since April 23, 2017. I've pushed that bike so hard that I'm probably going to need to overhaul most of its components by the end of the year.


An entire area of Toronto that used to be Lake Ontario before being filled in during the 1920s and well into the 1940s with no thought process about future development, drainage or natural floodplains, was/is under water today and hundreds of people are blaming climate change.

I'm not a scientist, I can't tell you if 50-75 mm of rain is driven by Nature pushing back, but I can tell you that Toronto's most southern communities, those south of Front Street, and its underground city running south of Queen Street, won't be able to cope with future rainfall if something isn't done to address stormwater runoff and management. You've got entire neighbourhoods and streets that used to be a lake. There's bound to be consequences when you fill in natural tributaries and bury rivers under concrete and steel. What a mess.

Summer storms aren't a new weather phenomenon, especially when cold fronts meet days long heat waves. This is only going to get worse. It throws thousands of people living in the city and commuting into the city into chaos. I blame years of provincial government stalling and Toronto politics for this garbage.

I'm working from home today so I missed the free wading pool at the York Concourse.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Guess the hotels were full


Earlier today I was riding the TTC's Bloor-Danforth subway line from Victoria Park to Bathurst when I saw this guy lying down on three seats and putting his suitcase on two other seats. As if hogging FIVE seats wasn't bad enough, the three seats he was lying across were the blue seats reserved for the elderly, handicapped, and pregnant women.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Apology to the woman in the stair confrontation story

It's always good to hear from the other side. From my vantage point, and from what I could hear, it seemed like the one on the stairs was the one putting up a fight - she made sure train passengers could hear her lose her temper. As someone pointed out, people shouldn't be sitting on the stairs anyway, so really, she wouldn't be having issues if she didn't. I'm sorry she treated you the way she did. I also didn't realize she knocked her own sunglasses off. I heard her get mad about people climbing over her. I didn't intend to imply that this is what was happening. Also, I tend to forget that for a lot of passengers Union isn't the end of their journey, and they line up at the doors to make mad dashes for buses and subways. We should all be more mindful of that, including me.
- Cj

Karl has a big thank you to the person who turned in his lost car keys to GO Transit

Imagine riding to Danforth station on the 8:53 after parking your car in the Whitby parking garage on Friday morning, double checking that the car is locked by zapping it from about fifty feet away, spending a few hours on the Danforth to jam with a buddy and returning to Whitby on the 12:23. Pretty boring right?

Except, when you get to where your car is parked, you reach into your pocket...your heart skips a few beats. It can't be!! NO CAR KEY! You double check. You triple check! You turn your pockets inside out. You search your gig bag even though you know you didn't put the key in there. You quadruple check. You are in denial. You can't be this stupid!

After coming to terms with the fact you really have lost your key, you go to the wicket at Whitby station and hope against hope someone has found it and turned it in. No way. The attendant hands you a card with the number and website for Metrolinx lost and roll your eyes. Fat chance.

You text your son, who brings you your wife's key so you can at least drive the car home. You reach home and resign yourself to spending A LOT OF MONEY on a new FOB for your car, and losing sleep about someone having the keys to your car and house, but just in case, fill in the Metrolinx lost and found form online. You then call the GO office to make sure they got the lost and found report. The friendly lady who deals with losers like you every day confirms she just got it, but warns nothing will happen over the weekend.

Saturday morning you get a call from Metrolinx. They have your keys! Someone turned them in at Union.

What? This happens? There are honest angels out there who turn in stuff they find, promptly no less? Yes. It's true. Believe me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, whoever you are. You have restored my faith in humanity. (And Metrolinx's efficient lost and found process.) Torontonians rock!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wanna "GO" to Niagara Falls? What doesn't tell you (the amount of research done for this article is uber impressive)

Special to This Crazy Train
By Ian Cognito

Search for Route 12, and you’ll find articles like Scenic Byway Route 12 in Utah.  Today, we’re not looking at that stretch of highway.  Instead, we’re providing a traveller’s perspective of GO Transit’s Route 12 between Niagara Falls and Burlington.

I’ll refer you first to a couple of excellent articles by Shaun Cleaver regarding inter-city bus travel in the Hamilton—Niagara region of the Golden Horseshoe:

Take note of the awesome “spaghetti & meatballs” map in the second article. 

1. Reading the Timetable

If you’re looking for a timetable posted at Route 12 bus stops, give up — there are none.  GO Transit removed them years ago and now expects us to carry electronic devices with a data plan.  Alternatively, you can download the schedule as a PDF from the GO Transit website.  If you must have a printed timetable, your bus driver might carry a supply (but don’t count on it), or pick up a copy if you’re at Union station.

One anomaly that GO Transit continues to inflict upon the public is their use of “EASTBOUND / EN DIRECTION EST” and “WESTBOUND / EN DIRECTION OUEST” in the timetable.  These are NOT compass directions!  Metrolinx views Union Station as the centre of its universe, and trains on the Lakeshore West (LSW) line run eastbound into Union and westbound out of Union.  Route 12 is viewed as an extension of the LSW line, so it follows that this bus route should inherit its directionality from the trains.  I’m not buying into that logic.

I’ve taken some liberties and updated the map that’s in the timetable PDF to illustrate the conundrum.

The problem can be put to rest quite easily.  Route 12 operates on the QEW, which has NO cardinal directions posted.  Leaving Toronto, signage along the highway is QEW/Hamilton, QEW/Niagara, or QEW/Fort Erie; in the reverse direction, it’s QEW/Toronto.  Given that they fall under the purview of the MTO, why doesn’t GO Transit follow suit? 

Some minor notes regarding route numbers in the timetable and displayed by the buses:

·         12 is the all stops trip between Niagara Falls and Burlington — both directions (◄►)
·         12A is the Grimsby to Burlington trip first thing on weekday mornings.  It does not operate outbound from Burlington.
·         12B is the express trip between Niagara Falls and Burlington (◄►)
·         12C is the all stops trip between St. Catharines and Burlington (◄►)
·         As of this writing, the 12D express trip between St. Catharines and Burlington (◄►) no longer operates.

2. Buying Your Ticket

If you’re doing any more than a one off day trip, endear yourself to your bus drivers, and get a PRESTO card.  If you must buy a paper ticket, do so at a GO station or the Niagara Falls bus terminal.  For other stops along the route, you’ll need to buy your ticket from a driver — unless ticket vending machines have sprouted along the way recently.  And remember, buses are not equipped to accept credit and debit cards; it’s cash only, and your $50 bills might not be accepted.

Do your homework in advance and know where you’re GOing and how you are getting there.  Use the Plan Your Trip feature on GO Transit’s website, e.g.:

Other trips will be suggested, but this is the one that gets you closest to the Falls in the shortest time.

N.B. Your GO Transit driver is not your tour guide!  Know what you want to visit and what local transportation you’ll need before you embark on your trip.  You’d be amazed at how many folks roll into town and ask, “Now what?”

Unless you plan on taking the seasonal weekend train to Niagara region, you will require a train to bus transfer at Burlington as shown above.  Tell the ticket agent this is what you want.  Why is the onus on the passenger to get this right?  Ticket agents, particularly those at Union Station, sell the seasonal train tickets even though that train to Niagara region is not operating.  What’s the issue?  There is a $3.00 premium per trip to ride the seasonal train. 

You’d think the ticket sales system couldn’t issue a fare for a trip that isn’t running.  Call the toll-free number, 1-888-GET-ON-GO (438-6646), to get exact pricing for your trip.  Do not rely on the website’s fare calculator.  As of this writing, the fare calculator does not work properly.

Note, too, that a bus driver can issue a ticket to a nonexistent stop on the route, e.g. Stoney Creek to St. Catharines GO station instead of Fairview Mall…

This has happened when the station lookup method is used; using the zone lookup issued the correct ticket.  Know your zones…

Once you are in possession of your ticket, don’t lose it.  Keep it on your person as proof of payment, especially if you absolutely have to exit the bus at a stop to light a cigarette, take three drags, discard the still lit cigarette by flicking it in front of someone’s face, and then attempt to board the bus again.  This incident actually happened.  The self-entitled passenger wasted a significant amount of time arguing their case with the driver that they had left their ticket upstairs, and then had to retrieve it.

3. Which Bus Do I Board?

After deciphering the timetable and knowing where you need to be and at what time, you’d think boarding the bus would be a snap.  Wrongo!  Frequently, Niagara bound buses and Burlington bound buses arrive at the same stop simultaneously or within minutes of one another.  The St. Catharines stop is notoriously busy on a Friday afternoon, with a mix of local and GO buses pulling up to the platform.  Don’t let St. Catharines Transit Route 12 buses (Vine St. northbound AND southbound) confuse you — ignore them!

I recall being on a Niagara bound bus when a young lady waltzed on, tapped her PRESTO card, and took her seat in the upper saloon.  We had no sooner pulled away from the stop and turned the corner by Home Depot, when she descended the stairs in a flurry, rushed up to the driver, proclaimed she was on the wrong bus, tapped off, and rushed back to the bus stop to board the Burlington bound bus.  Drivers sensitive to perplexed passengers will announce via the external loudspeaker (if it’s working) the intended destination of the bus as it rolls up to the bus platform.  Pay attention!

So, how does the neophyte GO passenger identify their vehicle?  Just read the lighted signage on the outside of the bus.  It’s as easy as A, B, C. 

A.    This is the route number from the timetable.
B.    This is the final destination for the trip.
C.    This is a scrolling list of stops on the trip.  GO Transit could improve this part of the signage to show only current and remaining stops on the trip, i.e. do not show stops already serviced.

In this example, the bus is Burlington bound, making all stops, with the final destination being the Park and Ride stop at Dundas St. @ Hwy 407.

There is also signage on the side of the bus to the left of the door, which displays information segments A and B only.  The following image is from a bus making the same trip as the one above.  In this case, the abbreviation CRPL (car pool) is used instead of P+R —more inconsistencies are addressed below.  Sometimes a strip of “something” obscures the side signage and maintenance crews take an eternity to fix the problem.

All of this assumes your bus actually shows up.  Buses can be late for any number of reasons; see section 7 below.  There are times your bus is a no-show — the reasons are varied.  The bus may have experienced an equipment failure, or the driver may have slept in, or the Slip Office (personnel management) may have messed up, or there may have been a passenger with suspected ISIS affiliations onboard…

4. How Do I Know When I’m at My Destination?

This bears emphasis…  Know where you’re GOing and stay vigilant to where you are en route!  Even though buses are equipped with interior monitors that display upcoming stops, which automated announcements are designed to call out, the technology can let you down.   How?  The recorded announcement can be garbled.  The interior and exterior speakers may have been wired in reverse, or the PA system is inoperable, in which case the driver may need to bellow out the stop.

Experienced drivers will make their own announcement for the approaching stop, because they know what the bus technology tells you is NOT NECESSARILY what’s printed on your ticket.

5. Passenger Charter promise: Clear and consistent communications

If there is one thing GO Transit excels at it is turbidness and inconsistency.  There are three stops that are not listed in the Route 12 timetable, and they are all called Fairview St. @ Maple Ave.  Here they are on Google Maps…

You don’t learn of this anomaly until after you’ve boarded the bus.  Travelling Niagara Falls to Burlington P+R, the interior monitors display the following (reading bottom to top):

If anyone can clarify why there are two stops 190 m. apart on the south side of Fairview St., please enlighten us in the comments.  Note that the stop on the NE corner of the intersection by the Petro-Canada station is not listed as a designated stop after the bus leaves Burlington station on its way to the carpool lot.  Travelling the reverse direction, the monitors display the following (reading bottom to top):

Note that the aforementioned stops on the south side of Fairview St. are not listed as designated stops after the bus leaves the carpool lot on its way to Burlington station.  Buses have been known to drive past intending Niagara bound passengers who have tried to flag down said buses.  Hmmm… that sounds vaguely familiar.

Other inconsistencies include the following:
·         The timetable specifies Dundas St. @ Hwy. 407, whereas (i) the interior monitor refers to the stop as Northampton Blvd. @ Dundas St. GO Carpool Lot, (ii) the front exterior signage specifies BURLINGTON P+R, and (iii) the exterior side signage says BURLINGTON CRPL.
·         The timetable specifies Casablanca Blvd. @ QEW, whereas (i) the interior monitor refers to the stop as South Service Rd. @ Casablanca Blvd. GO Park & Ride, and (ii) the front exterior signage specifies GRIMSBY P+R.
·         The timetable specifies Stanley Ave. @ Hwy. 420, whereas (i) the interior monitor refers to the stop as Stamford St. @ Stanley Ave. GO Park & Ride, and (ii) the front exterior signage specifies NIAGARA FALLS.
·         Zone 82 is Beamsville per the timetable, Lincoln per By-Law #2A, and generally defined as Ontario St. @ QEW.  How many QEW exit signs list Ontario Street?  Three — in Grimsby, Beamsville, and St. Catharines.

6. Remember what your mom told you before those long car trips…

When heading to the bus terminal in Niagara Falls, there is no good reason to stop at the 7-Eleven on Victoria St. for a jumbo Slurpee; the same goes for your Tim Hortons large double-double.  Why?  Because GO buses are not equipped with a washroom. This point cannot be stressed enough — take care of your business before you board.

If you’re transferring to a train at Burlington, that station is your first opportunity for a washroom break.  If your ultimate destination is Pearson International Airport, you’ll no doubt be transferring to the Route 47 bus at the Burlington P+R stop.  For the longest time, the washroom at that location was behind the following stand of sumac:

More brazen passengers would sneak behind the GO supervisor’s vehicle and…

GO Transit Station Ops realized they needed a solution to the problem, so they delivered it…

(A photo of the interior is available upon request, but you’ll be sorry you asked for it.)

So, after leaving Niagara Falls some 2+ hours before, this is what you have to look forward to for relief.  Consider it, too, from a driver’s perspective.  This is their layover spot before the trip back to The Falls — day after day.  Who would want have a sit during those -20°C days of winter?  Is this the type of loo the brass at Metrolinx use?  If it’s not good enough for them, why would passengers and front line staff think it’s acceptable?

7. Are we there yet?

Even though you may not be travelling the full length of Route 12, it may still take a long time to arrive at your destination.  There are several reasons for this.  There may be a serious accident or a vegetable spill ahead…

On June 25, 2018, GO Transit issued the following alerts for Route 12:

● 18:30 As a result of a collision on the Skyway Bridge, buses on your route are delayed up to 40 minutes.
● 19:15 As a result of a collision on the Skyway Bridge, buses on your route are experiencing delays of up to 75 minutes.
● 22:54 We are experiencing delays between 45-60 minutes as a result of multiple collisions at QEW between Centennial Parkway and Fruitland. Buses are detouring via South Service Road until further notice.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is — all you know is you’re stuck in three lanes of bumper to bumper traffic GOing nowhere…

Your trip may be delayed due to a police investigation, because your driver was assaulted…

Then there’s the proverbial double-decker breakdown due to coolant leaks, diesel fuel leaks, engines dying, and diesel fumes inside the bus.  

On rare occasions, a medical emergency will delay the trip…

In these events, please identify yourself to the driver if you have first aid or medical training.  Everyone else, please stay seated and keep quite.  The driver has to manage the situation as best they can and doesn’t need to waste time getting around passengers who are milling about in the aisle, especially if it’s in the upstairs saloon of a double-decker bus.

We all know the GTA becomes nearly paralyzed when inclement weather strikes.  The QEW in Niagara is no exception…

Delays of 45+ minutes are not uncommon during blizzard-like conditions.  This delay negates a driver’s layover time at the end of a scheduled two hour trip.  Now imagine you are a report driver from the Hamilton garage assigned to cover a Niagara Falls crew.  You need extra time to get to The Falls garage to start your day.  After nigh onto ten hours of near constant driving on your shift, you have to drive home in that mess on the QEW.  Now consider the winter of 2018 which had a high incidence of bad weather days.  IMO, these drivers sometimes draw on superhuman reserves of stamina.  We need to be sensitive to what they go through.  One silver-haired passenger on Route 12 once put it to me this way: “Ask not what your driver can do for you — ask what you can do for your driver.”

Again, it’s important to remember the advice in section 6 above, because a delay can happen at any time.

8. Are you just going leave that mess?

Drivers like to present their passengers with a clean bus.  Every now and then, passengers forget the advice in section 6 above resulting in some serious “Name that Stain” scenarios requiring a change-off of the bus for sanitary reasons.  At the end of each trip, drivers perform a quick inspection of the inside of their vehicle looking for refuse and sleeping passengers.  In a pinch, I’ve done it for them.  Here’s a bit of advice.  If you drop your French fries all over the floor, pick them up and deposit them in the waste bags on board.  If you change your infant’s diaper on the rear seat, don’t leave the soiled diaper behind when you exit.  And, dude, if you are going to drink your beer in the rear of the upstairs saloon of a DD and then repurpose your empty tallboy as a private latrine, man up and take the can with you!

9. DANGER, Will Robinson!  DANGER!

The scheduled buses on Route 12 are the ADL Enviro500 SuperLo double-decker models, numbered 83xx–84xx currently.  Passengers who head to the upper saloon for the journey must take extra precautions when leaving the bus.  The descent down the stairs is very steep — steeper than the older model DD’s in the fleet — IMO.

ADL addressed the cargo carrying deficiencies of the older buses with storage over the rear wheels…

A word of caution… If you’ve packed your suitcase so densely that it’s like a heavy bag of cement, you’ll have problems getting your luggage in and out of there.  This cargo bay design, like that of Megabus, can be very dangerous.  I talked to a Megabus driver who told me one of his colleagues went to unload a soft-sided duffle bag thinking it was relatively light weight.  It wasn’t; the bag had rolled coins in it.  When the driver tried to catch the falling bag, he ruptured two discs.  That driver’s career ended that day.  Always execute a “tug test” before unloading luggage!

GO Transit recognized ADL’s ongoing design flaws in this area.  Seats have been removed and a luggage rack has been installed in the lower saloon of some buses.  That, or it’s a bunk bed for youngsters…

10. Why is that GO bus blocking the right turn lane?

This question is asked frequently by motorists who are stuck behind a Route 12 bus that is taking on passengers on the NW corner of Hwy 420 @ Stanley Ave.  Google Maps satellite view caught DD #8148 at the location.  It’s not clear whether #8148 is still moving; buses I’ve been on have rolled forward so as to be even with the bus shelter.  Some motorists become impatient, go around the bus, and cut in front of it whilst passengers are boarding.  Doesn’t this vehicular maneuver contravene the Highway Traffic Act section 140(3)?

There is a solution, and that is to have passengers board the buses at the Ontario Travel Information Centre.  The facility is already owned by Government of Ontario.  Years ago an employee at the information centre told me talks about this strategy had taken place with Metrolinx, but nothing came of the matter.  Maybe Metrolinx used the word “soon”, and the employee didn’t take the term in the proper context.


Perhaps our new premier, Doug Ford, can resolve some of the issues described herein.  He already lit a fire under someone at Metrolinx to get GO Transit’s real-time bus information service rolled out — at least I assume it was Doug.

Do you have your own perspectives (passenger or otherwise) travelling Route 12?  Please add them to the comments.

Happy trails!