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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Eight years ago today I registered ThisCrazyTrain.com


I know some of y'all have tried to pinpoint the very first post, but can't, because I migrated Facebook content into the blog that pre-dates the registration.

The first real blog post, where I hit "Create post" the first time to add original real-time content, is this post, entitled, "Garlic". It was this overheard phone conversation that made me stand up, toss aside my T.O. Night newspaper and shout, "That's it, this crazy train needs a goddamn website," and thus, a bonafide legend was born.

I am serious about a get-together to celebrate this anniversary. It truly is time to meet some of you and I'm thinking late Spring or early Summer.

Somewhere in the bowels of the York Concourse, we can meet up, go for a drink and possibly have a lot of dinner things find their way into our gullets.

Thank you to those who have remained loyal for so long. It's pretty cool that many readers are now friends offline ... so a get together is indeed, long overdue.

Monday, February 26, 2018

So, your GO bus driver declined your $50 bill

Special to This Crazy Train
By GO Voyageur

The latest fiasco to hit the frontlines at GO Transit is cash payment for a bus ride.  Many people still use bills and coins to pay for their trips.  If you don’t have a PRESTO card, cold hard cash is the way to pay for your fare at stops like Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Beamsville, and St. Catharines.  So, what’s the issue?

Some drivers have accepted $50 bills as payment, whereas others won’t accept anything larger than a $20 bill.  This inconsistency has led to confrontations between passengers and those drivers refusing the larger bills.  Who is to blame for this strife?

If you guessed “the Metrolinx Ivory Tower”, you are absolutely correct!

Point your browser at the page for Fare Information (relevant snippet follows) and you’ll find nothing about cash restrictions.



I was sure what I was looking for was in GO Transit’s Tariff document.  To find that document, we need to visit the Policies & Legal Terms page and scroll down (waaaay down) until we see the following matrix:



By-Law No. 2A contains the Tariff of Fares except it looks completely mangled to what I recall of it.

Frustrated that Mr. Google and I couldn’t find what I was looking for I remembered the Passenger Charter promised TO HELP YOU QUICKLY AND COURTEOUSLY, i.e. “whenever you need help, just ask”, so I did.  Five days later, I received a response, and the conversation proceeded as follows:








That link, ow.ly/5tPT30iwUY9, brought me back to where I started my search!  I had my answer, namely, that bus drivers are limited to accepting no bills more than $20.00, but most other passengers were not apprised.

Grasping at straws, I rummaged through my archives, and voilà, I found it!  The prior version of the Tariff document, page A-10, section 17.1.2 has the answer:



Not content with the evidence in hand, I headed to the field searching for someone who accepted the $50 bills.  One told me that’s what the training reference material stated and produced the following from their satchel:


 This gives rise to some questions:

● Why did it take so long for GO Transit to answer my question?
● WTH is a Transportation Warrant (section 17.4)?
● Why doesn’t the Fare Information page contain ALL this information?
● From under which rock did “^NF” pull that number of $20?
● Why is the current Tariff document a tattered remnant of its former glory?
● Why did Bus Ops issue documentation in Apr. 2013 contradicting the Feb. 2013 Tariff?
● Why do buses have “special signage” for WiFi, but not the cash bill limit?
● Why can’t GO Transit post the cash bill limit by the bus door for all to see?

The next time your GO bus driver declines your $50 bill, don’t argue!  The drivers didn’t create the situation that they and all of us find ourselves — the brass at Metrolinx did that.  So, collect all your facts, head down to the next Metrolinx senior management Town Hall event, look the executives straight in the eye, and ask them what they’re GOing to do to clean up this mess.

Five GO stations--Bronte, Oakville, Clarkson, Rouge Hill and Whitby--to offer grocery pickup for GO passengers through partnership with Loblaws

Get your groceries on the GO
Metrolinx working with Loblaw to make your commute more convenient

TORONTO: February 26, 2018 – Metrolinx is working with Loblaw Companies Limited (Loblaw) to bring online grocery shopping and pick up to select GO Transit stations this spring. This is the first time this type of service will be offered at transit stations in Canada.

Loblaw’s PC Express service, an evolution in their click-and-collect model, will make the trip home for GO customers even easier. With this service, there will be no need to make an extra stop at the grocery store on the way home from work.  Instead, customers can shop online and their groceries will be waiting for them when they arrive at their GO station. As long as they place their orders before 12 a.m. the night before, groceries will be ready for them the next day on their afternoon trip home.

For the first phase of the project, PC Express locations will be at five GO stations—Bronte, Oakville, Clarkson, Rouge Hill and Whitby. Groceries will come from nearby Fortinos orLoblaws stores depending on location. They will be waiting in a special delivery truck, in lockers or in an enclosed kiosk depending on the station to allow us to test different delivery methods.  After the initial phase is complete and key lessons are learned, PC Express pick-up locations will roll out to more GO stations across the region.

“Our customers lead busy lives and this exciting new service—a first in Canada—will make their trips home that much quicker,” said Phil Verster, President and CEO of Metrolinx. “There will now be a new benefit to taking the GO train, with the ability to pick up groceries at five different stations through Loblaw’s PC Express pick-up service, with more to come. This is just another way we’re making it better, faster and easier to take transit.”

“This is a logical extension of our increasingly popular e-commerce services, and the growing customer appeal for ordering groceries online and picking them up when it’s most convenient,” said Jeremy Pee, SVP, E-Commerce, Loblaw Companies Limited. “With PC Express pick up locations, we’re giving customers and commuters the best brands and products we have to offer, easy online ordering, and some time back in their day.”

Through the same partnership with Loblaw, Metrolinx rolled out PRESTO card services to 93 Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Toronto, with more locations on the way across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and Ottawa.

-Courtesy of Metrolinx Media Relations 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Oshawa GO station "renovation" update

What's interesting with respect to Oshawa and the emails I receive about the new station (it was not a "renovation" - a whole NEW station was built) is there still remains a lack of Wi-Fi service in the building.

A Metrolinx spokesperson confirmed it's coming as soon as construction is completed in its entirety. The company responsible for installing Wi-Fi will then come in and do the work. There was no ETA given as construction remains on-going to pave where the old station was, finish the passageway from the new station to the existing VIA staircase and finish the landscaping. So, maybe Fall?

Best I can do for you guys.

Wi-Fi testing to happen on two GO trains and four buses in April

Metrolinx has been actively looking for many years for a vendor to supply connectivity and IT support for Wi-Fi service on trains and buses. A Toronto Star report reveals a company has come forward to test the service on GO's system. Metrolinx has not identified which trains will be part of the testing, or which buses.

Since Barrie was the first corridor to pilot the Quiet Zone, I am pretty sure they'll be part of the Wi-Fi testing.

I have enough data with my plan that this news does not excite me, but I do know that a lot of passengers have requested Wi-Fi connectivity. I imagine this news will make a lot of people happy. But, don't pull out the Consumers Distributing catalogue just yet. Testing does not mean it'll happen!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New game! WILL IT FIT?

Let me tell you something, some y'all just too nice. Why? You're making excuses for people who need lines to park. That's a no from me.

Winter proves challenging to many drivers knocked stupid by snow and then have no idea how to park a car without the help of yellow lines. A slow leisurely drive around any GO train lot this winter demonstrates just how bad this epidemic is.

It only takes one driver to start a mess. But what puzzles me, and seems to infuriate others, is when other drivers clearly take advantage of the fact that one donkey has parked like an idiot and they, too, park a half car width away from another car. So, now you have an entire row where 80 cars fit on a good clear day that is down to 60 cars, leaving 20 drivers circling the lot, steaming mad, and parking on snow banks and in emergency access routes.

And then you have me. In my Fiat. A Fiat 500 Pop to be specific. The width of my Fiat is 5 feet 3 inches. I'm a metric kid but I'm choosing to go with a universal measure so everyone understands. My car is as wide as I am tall. Compared to a Ford Edge, which is 6 feet 3 inches wide, I've got a foot less to work with, which makes parking my car easier when other drivers have behaved badly.

That's pretty much the only benefit to a micro car. It's a sled with air bags, capable of highway speeds, that may or may not leave you in a wheelchair after a crash. I'm quoting my mother in law, here. My car terrifies her.

Anyhoo...

On Twitter (and yes, some of you wrote me to tell me you don't Twitter and feel left out, so I'm, bringing this to the blog, too ... ) I wrote a tweet about my new game. And with all that preamble out of the way, let's play the first round of ...

WILL ... IT ... FIT?

Oh yea, I'm real disappointed with the before photo. I had to snap it quickly because Oshawa GO Station is a raceway in the morning. I held up two drivers when I stopped to take the photo, so I apologize for the camera shake.


The car to the right is a full-size GMC pick-up. The left is a mid-size Toyota sedan.

Because the blog is read by a different group of people than Twitter (the two media channels are widely separate) I'll share the after photo here and then post it to Twitter on the train ride home.

So, what do you think? Will it fit?

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IT FITS!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When you're geographically challenged... people notice, and then people get upset


Submitted by
St. Kitts Warrior William

 At a local transit shelter, I took note of a Metrolinx ad boasting “More trains. More often.  Because Simcoe deserves nothing less.”

     Nobody could disagree that it’s a good thing, for Barrie to get improved GO Train service.   However, the odd thing about this particular ad by Metrolinx was its location on Oakdale Avenue in St. Catharines.  (Note the billboard for a Niagara based business in the background.)

     Lack of GO Train service is a bit of a sore point for residents of Niagara Region.  Local politicians and Chambers of Commerce have worked themselves into a frenzy over the last few years, earnestly presenting proposals and business cases for GO expansion to St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.  So, the timing and location of this poster are not optimal.  I’m sure though, that it was not the intention of Metrolinx to “rub it in” that Simcoe County is way ahead of Niagara in its quest for more GO Trains.

     The wording of the ad raises yet more questions, however.  There is no doubt that the good people of Barrie “deserve” their new all-day GO Trains.  But what did Niagara do, to NOT deserve similar improvements?  How did Niagarans end up on the naughty list with Metrolinx, such that they won’t see a weekday GO Train until 2023?

     Needing the votes, elected politicians will certainly pander to their constituents’ sense of entitlement.  However, it was my understanding that Metrolinx is an impartial, non-political agency, making evidence-based decisions that follow principles of professional planning.  How could it be then, that the word “deserves” is even in the Metrolinx vocabulary?

     If transit planning is to be done on the basis of “who deserves what," then Niagara will just have to play the game on those terms.  Having been privileged to work in St. Catharines, I may strongly argue that the fine and friendly folks of this community absolutely deserve to be at the front of the line for a first-class connection to downtown Toronto.

     And we're not talking simply GO Trains; their time has come and gone.  Why should Niagarans be forced to suffer the long trip all the way around Lake Ontario, using antiquated 20th century diesel technology, when a superior option exists?

     The simpler, and preferred solution, is to extend the Line 1 Yonge University Subway directly south, under the lake, to a new St. Catharines City Centre Station.   After abandoning TTC Union Station, the new SCCC Station would fit neatly in the loop between King and St Andrew, thus avoiding an inconvenient and onerous transfer for passengers from Niagara.     

     The cross-boundary, underwater portion of the trip would be covered by a regular TTC fare, of course.  Perhaps this extra cost to the TTC could be subsidized through some cross-promotional arrangement with Ripley’s Aquarium.


      Finally, a note to Metrolinx and the TTC: please don’t offer some “study” that suggests that St. Catharines doesn’t “need” a subway.  The deserving people of Niagara are rightly suspicious of LRT, fast ferries, swan boats, and other second-rate transit technologies.  As they say in Scarborough, nothing but a single-stop "express" subway extension will do!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Fire! Fire everywhere!

Friends, or as Rob Ford used to say, "Folks".

How are you? I mean, you look great (as always) but how are you?

Me? Well, it's been a busy time. It is literally DO ALL THE THINGS at work.

And recently, I have learned due to some changes on Blogger's end, I can only blog from a computer. The computer I have at home belongs in a museum and it can't handle the 21st century technology Blogger has implemented. My phone is too small, and trying to add in images? Forget it. This myriad of first world problems causes me great distress. Blogging from work is very much frowned upon (as it should be). I snuck this post in at 6:06 pm last night and scheduled it for today. If I'm asked to work an 11-hour workday, Imma blog, k?

As time marches on, blogs are becoming more of digital diaries and less about visual enjoyment. Twitter, Instagram, especially Instagram, are kicking blogging in the ass. At least for me they are. I now tweet 90% of  the time and blog 10% of the time. However, a blog remains the best place for issues that are too complex and lengthy for Twitter. I do have Instagram (you can find me as "thiscrazytrain") but I don't spend a lot of time on it.

Twitter is my jam.

I have some content that has been submitted (thank you). I just want to assure you I will be reviewing my emails, texts and DMs on the weekend.

Have a great Friday, folks!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Oh yeah, it's different

I know that many of you aren't going to like that I ditched the dark, crudely drawn - yet was always fitting - header (the banner across the top of the page) for my brand.

I'm just trying something new. Something, er, more professional looking. Someone sent me a vector file of a Fiat 500 and welp, it kind of just went from there.

Part 11 (ELEVEN!?) of an installment, exclusive to This Crazy Train, "Meet the Deckers" - Daisy May and CO monitors

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.


Daisy May and CO monitors

Hidy ho, Ms. Cindy!

Billy Bob here in St. Catharines.  Me and my missus, Daisy May, was off to see her cousin, Juan José, the other day.  When we boarded the bus, we “tapped on” with our newfangled PRESTO cards we bought off Kijiji — we got us a real bargain!


As Daisy May was exchangin’ pleasantries with our driver, she paused and pointed behind the seat, and said, “What’s that doohickey?  It weren’t there before!”  Daisy May was pointin’ at the black stick thing beside the speaker:


After some hummin’ and hawin’, Daisy May finally got it out of the driver that it was a carbon monoxide monitor.  Well, Daisy May’s eyes got real big, and she went quiet and walked direct to her seat.

When I asked her what was wrong, she whispered, “Ms. Cindy’s last article on the DD’s was true.  If they’re puttin’ carbon monoxide monitors inside the bus, the exhaust must be leakin’ in here.”

By the time we got to cousin Juan José’s house, Daisy May was in a real state over what she’d learned.  It took us half an hour and a few shots of Jack Daniel’s to settle her down.  Juan José didn’t understand how puttin’ the monitor in the cockpit of the bus was gonna give a accurate indication of the concentration of the CO in the bus, cuz (i) air from the outside floods in the front when the doors are opened, and (ii) some drivers open the window that’s near the monitor while rollin’ along.

Juan José said not to worry.  Juan José runs a business sellin’ electronic gear, includin’ carbon monoxide detectors.  He had a Pocket CO KWJ 72-9021, kinda like a keychain, but it was expensive.  Juan José is also a electronics genius of sorts.  He said Daisy May could have his DIY version that he made by convertin’ a stud finder.  Well, that made my missus happier than a clam at high tide!


When we boarded the bus for the trip home, Daisy May spotted a CO monitor strapped to the speaker cable conduit above the coat hooks.



It didn’t trouble her none, cuz she was armed with her new carbon monoxide alarm that she showed off real proud like to our driver who kinda got tongue-tied and didn’t know what to say.

Daisy May says you was smart buyin’ that car of yours, Ms. Cindy!

Best wishes,
Billy Bob