Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for July 5th, 2007

Transit chair floats ferry idea

with 5 comments

Wednesday, July 4, 2007 | 8:20 PM ET


The chair of the Toronto Transit Commission says he wants to find out if commuter ferries could work in Toronto.

Adam Giambrone plans to ask for approval for a feasibility study at the TTC’s July 11 meeting.

“We have heard from other cities that when offering boat transit that actually is a lure … like a subway — if the system can be fast and efficient, running say every 15 minutes,” Giambrone told CBC News.

Waterfront cities such as New York, Paris and Vancouver already benefit from ferry routes, Giambrone said.


I think he may be referring to SeaBus. Translink has looked more than once at other routes and so far have not come up with any that look like they may be winners. The SeaBus route is actually quicker for a significant number of people than the competing bus services over the two bridges. It is also more reliable and provides a better environment than a crowded bus that will almost certainly get stuck in traffic somewhere, especially at peak periods.

But routes that are lateral as opposed to a straight cross harbour run are a much harder sell in terms of “generalised cost”. So I do not see “Bluffer’s Park in Scarborough and Humber Bay Park in Etobicoke” as “good launch points”. There really is not much advantage here. In the same way, boat services along the Thames are very popular with tourists but do not attract commuters – even when they tried hovercraft and hydrofoils to speed things up.

False creek ferry

Now these little things offer a surprising speed advantage. If you are down at the water level, getting to a bus stop, or climbing up to the bridge, is quite a hike. But you can easily get to the other side of the harbour on one of these – and they run every 15 minutes regular as clockwork. Given the number of people who now live or work near their terminals they are much more than a tourist attraction – though they are that too.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Posted in transit, Transportation

Mayor wants transit ‘terrorists’ banned

with 8 comments

Surrey Leader

By Jeff Nagel

Maple Ridge Mayor Gordy Robson wants to ban orange-shirted Bus Riders’ Union members from future TransLink meetings.

A relative newcomer to the board, Robson said he has no patience for the group’s notorious outbursts – especially after their latest appearance last Wednesday.

“I think they’re social terrorists,” he said. “Certainly they’re not interested in dialogue. They sound like they’re having great fun. But it’s very disrespectful and it doesn’t help the community.”

See that’s the thing about democracy. It isn’t easy. The profound instincts of most politicians once in office is to have as many meetings as possible in private. The real discussion, they feel , needs to be conducted out of the limelight: there is nearly always a pre-meeting where the strategy is worked out, so that what goes on in public can be stage managed. The problem with groups like the BRU is that they disrupt these carefully arranged proceedings. They are rude and annoying and every so often they do touch a raw nerve or two. They seem to have hit one here.

The thing about democracy is that you have to stand up for it, even when you disagree with what is being said. Freedom of speech means nothing if the only things you can say are to agree. In fact you have to defend to the death the right to speak even for those who say things that you fundamentally disagree with: especially for those you disagree with most.

When councils hold meetings in public, there is always a risk that the people who attend will not be satisfied with the limited opportunities they have to contribute. They will demand to be heard no matter what procedural stumbling blocks you try to erect to stop them. And if you start to walk out on them – or call the cops to throw them out – then you start to look like the bad guys. Which, of course, plays into their hands. The GVRD Labour Relations Committee learned this on today’s news, when CUPE manged to embarrass them in front of the tv cameras. No matter what the rights and wrongs of the case, walking out on them looked terrible and eventually they twigged to that and came back and allowed themselves to be addressed by the union leaders.

I thought it was very significant that when Marvin Hunt was talking about the proposed new Translink, he detected a flaw in the arrangement. “Who are the Bus Rider’s union going to talk to?” he asked. I am fairly certain that Marvin has very little in common with the BRU, but he is an able politician and he recognised what Gordy doesn’t. The BRU needs to be heard. And they will be heard one way or another, so it might be better to let them in and put up with a bit of jeering now and then because the alternative could be much worse.

When people cannot make themselves heard legally they resort to civil disobedience. Indeed most of the most significant changes in our society in recent years have come about by this route rather than the ballot box, and that lesson has not been lost on the BRU. Gordy, by falling into the trap of a becoming reactionary, plays into their hands. Much better to let them have their say, and get it over with. You have to be polite even if they can’t be. Then you will look like you are being reasonable and they will look immature.

Of course, if our Kevin gets his way Mayors won’t have much to do at Translink in future, and you can bet the new “professional” board won’t meet in public!

Written by Stephen Rees

July 5, 2007 at 9:16 pm

Posted in politics, transit

17 Reasons (or More) to Stop Charging People to Ride the Bus

leave a comment »

Views ::

This is the first of a series. I am therefore not going to comment on it until I have heard the whole argument. However, you may like to keep up with the series as it develops. Certainly The Tyee should be on your bookmarks/favourites list

Written by Stephen Rees

July 5, 2007 at 8:14 am

Posted in Fare evasion, transit