Tag Archives: Bus

Disruptive Technology and the End of the Backbone of Our Economy: the Middle Class Family.

This past week, Waterloo Region Council continued our work on the new taxi by-law that will include Uber and other new types of vehicles for hire. Council members spoke excitedly about the potential of disruptive technology. Rideco, a local app based shuttle business, told us that part of what they do as a tech firm is research ways to make driverless cars a viable business.

Driverless cars. My baby boom friends are so excited about them. As they age, they won’t have to give up their  car. In ten years, if not sooner, everyone can have one. Will everyone want one?

When I was first married, my in-laws ran rental cottages in the Halliburton Highlands. Across the road from them lived a family on a half acre with ranch house and lawn rider grass. The dad was a trucker who ferried goods from Toronto to the stores and supermarkets of cottage country. His wife was a teller at the local bank. They lived a good middle class country life. Their daughter grew up to work in the bank. I don’t know what their son did, but he may also have been a truck driver. Once again, a good life. Their millennial grandchildren could also squeeze out that life for a few years if they are lucky. The present generation of school-age children? Not happening when they grow up.

With all the excitement about disruptive technology, only a few seem to be talking about the effect of all these changes on the average person. It’s fluffed off with, “Oh, we’ll get the jobs back from China.” “It’s up to them to retrain for something (what?) else”.

Driverless cars will mean driverless trucks and driverless taxis, buses and shuttles.

 

According to Service Canada Truck driver statistics; 69,300 people are truck drivers. 97.1 percent of them are men, 92 percent are between 24 and 64 years old, 70% have high school or post-secondary education, and only two percent of them are bachelors. There is a shortage of long haul truckers at the present time. Average salary is around 40,000.

According to the 2006 census, pre-Uber, there were 50,000 taxi cab drivers in Canada. 21,050 bus, shuttle, and subway operators worked in 2013.

Approximately 140,356 good paying jobs will vanish in 15 to 20 years due to driverless cars. For taxi cab drivers, good paying full time jobs are disappearing now with the growth of ridesharing apps.

You may ask why didn’t Regional council just ban Uber if they are a bad employer? That is not the job of Regional government. We look after such things as requiring criminal background checks and safety inspected cars. It is up to the provincial government to make employment laws that regulate industries (Not just Uber) who say those who work for them are private contractors not employees.

The citizens of the Region like the convenience and features of the new apps. That is not the problem. The problem is that Uber runs on a part-time contractor model instead of employing people. A ridesharing company in Montreal, Teo Taxi, pays employees  15 dollars an hour.

But this dispute will be finished when driverless cars and trucks appear.

The wife in the middle class family I mentioned above will also see her job disappear. 46,000 positions in 2014, 90 percent between 24 and 64 years old, 98 percent women, 79 percent full time and $34,900 annually.Bank machines and self checkouts in grocery stores are eliminating white collar jobs as well.

Secretaries and executive assistants now transcribe minutes directly into laptops set up with the meeting minutes template. Everyone is is paperless, no more photocopying. We all look after our own calendars and memos. Bills are paid electronically. People use a computer program to do their taxes and finances instead of hiring a bookkeeper.  Huge numbers of white collar jobs are disappearing. 

Statistics Canada says of administrative and secretarial positions as of 2014,

Over the past few years the number of secretaries has decreased very sharply. Implementation of office automation and the diversification of administrative staff duties explain this decrease to a large extent. Since these changes are already well established, the number of secretaries should decrease significantly over the next few years, but at a much less spectacular pace than before.

Where will these employees go? What will happen to those middle class families who managed so well up to the year 2000? How will they support themselves and their families? Where and at what will the majority of school children of today do to make a decent living? We need  a serious conversation about employment and disruptive technology.

 

 

 

 

Transportation: Transit, part 4 of my Fourth of Five Priorities

My Pledges: I will work with staff to keep the buses coming on time and frequently. I will continue listening to and responding to GRT customer concerns. I will keep working on improving bus routes.

I ride the bus. My husband rides the bus. My older daughter rides the bus. My younger daughter and her family ride the bus. My three-year old grandson loves the bus and the song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, is his favourite . On a personal level and a political level, transit is an important file for me.

In the 1990s when I was a school trustee, transit was run by the cities. I had a devil of a time trying to get a school special put on for Bluevale Collegiate. Not much interest from Kitchener Transit which also ran the buses in Waterloo. There was no municipal bus between Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, let alone Ixpress or Bus Rapid Transit. Frankly, transit was not a priority for the city councillors of that time.

In 2000, transit was taken over by the Region of Waterloo and the new system was named Grand River Transit. Over the last 14 years, since I have been on Regional Council, transit has grown by leaps and bounds.

Specialized Transit

According to the Mobility Plus business plan, the service includes:

services provided by MobilityPLUS in the urban areas and North Dumfries and by contract to Kiwanis Transit for services in Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich townships. Since assuming this responsibility the total number of accessible trips provided by the Region increased by 116% from 190,936 in 2001 to 411,964 trips in 2010. This includes approximately 106,000 annual trips taken on conventional low floor transit buses on scheduled GRT bus routes.

All GRT buses are now accessible and the LRT will also be fully accessible, the first Light  Rail to do so in North America.

Regular Buses

Ridership has increased from 9.4 million rides in 1999 when GRT was established to 22 million in 2013. Ixpress and the Route 7 is packed with riders. Here is a link to the GRT business plan giving details of fares and route expansions, some of which have already happened.  It has a nice graph showing the growth of GRT.

http://www.grt.ca/en/aboutus/grtbusinessplan.asp

There is still a long way to go with the buses, though things are extremely improved. There still needs to be work on more routes, frequency and timeliness. Open Data and has been released which, along with GPS in the buses,  is leading to good apps to tell when the bus will arrive. Though the other day when my daughter’s bus was 10 minutes late, it was because the bus had been in an accident. Something that we would hope to avoid, but can’t always.

Transportation Part 1

Transportation Part 2

Transportation Part 3

 

Transportation: The LRT/ION. Part 1 of The Fourth of my Five Priorities for the Next Term of Council

 My Pledge: I will continue to make sure that the LRT/ION is on budget and on time.

Why did I vote for the LRT?

I have a Master Library and Information Science. Before I made my decision on the LRT, I did my research. I looked at information for light rail and information for bus rapid transit, both pro and con.

In 2010, I said I wouldn’t accept LRT in its present form with respect to cost. The province had said they would give 500 million to the light rail project. They came in with 300 million. So changes needed to be made to the financing of LRT before I could find it acceptable.

Staff found efficiencies and savings and we went to a Public Private Partnership which brought the burden on the taxpayer down to 11 dollars per year per household. If the estimated cost of fares is included, the amount is .5  increase per year until 2018. When weighing the increase against the 20,900 jobs LRT will create, the benefits to intensification and reduced gridlock, the benefits outweighed the costs.

Also Grandlinq is very experienced in building and running light rail. The Region still owns the ION and will control fares.

During the last election, I promised to support looking again at rapid buses. Once again I did my research. I found BRT wanting.

For my research, I studied the light rail of a number of cities, both southern and northern cities like Edmonton and Calgary. The city I looked at in particular was Portland Oregon.

This is what a traveller had to say about Portland in 1970,

Scattered bomb-site look of downtown parking lots.

Compare this to today where the downtown is according to the Lonely Planet,

Portland positively rocks. It’s a city with a vibrant downtown, pretty residential neighborhoods

Why? Portland turned away from parking lots to intensification, light rail and transit. Waterloo Region is doing the same to save our farmland, stop sprawl, cut gridlock and create great vibrant downtowns. Downtowns that a few years before the hope of this project were dying.

The provincial and federal governments supported Waterloo Region’s light rail because it is a job generator. 16,900 jobs will be created around the ION stations. This does not include direct jobs such as ION drivers, construction workers and engineers building the line.

Waterloo is the city that will benefit most from the ION. 70,000 university students already jam the Ixpress and crowding is one of the issues the Feds talked to me about when we met. Imagine the gridlock if students got off the buses and drove again. The Universities and their high tech spinoffs are Waterloo’s bread and butter.

Traffic congestion can be solved by transit or by expanding roads. If we do not have the ION, we will have to build 300 to 400 new and expanded roads at a cost similar to the ION. Westmount at Glasgow will have to be 6 lanes as will Fischer Hallman and Victoria St.

The LRT is being built as you read this. Caroline St. is already dug up, the rail cars are ordered, contacts are signed. To stop it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for nothing. Look to Ottawa where the LRT was cancelled then restarted when the buses ended up in a gridlock conga line at rush hour. If Bus Rapid Transit, with its slightly lesser cost upfront but more costs later to replace buses, were put in, it would end up costing more than the LRT because the millions wasted by the cancellation would still be on your tax bill.

That being said,  I will continue to make sure that the LRT/ION is on budget (Inflation has been built into the 818 million cost) and on time.

Transportation, Roads  Part 2

Transportation, Cycling and Walking Part 3

Transportation, Transit, Part 4

Cambridge is Playing Catchup on Transit.

Last Tuesday during the debate on accepting the LRT consortium, Councillor (and retired mayor) Jane Brewer said the following in response to remarks that transit in Cambridge is not as good as in the rest of the Region.

She stated that in the 1990s,when Greg Durocher (present head of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce), Doug Craig (present Mayor) and herself were on a Cambridge city council that ran transit, the council always dipped into the funding for Cambridge transit to fund other city needs. I thank her for saying that. It was very brave to admit the truth.

I knew this because I know people who live in Cambridge. My best friend has said many times how much better transit is now in Cambridge since the Region has taken it over. The bus that went by near her house used to only go one way. To get downtown, she would have to go all the way around the the route,even though she could walk to downtown Galt in a half-hour.

Recently her son attended the University of Waterloo. In his first year, he was able to live at home. He took the bus that now went both ways to the Ainslie terminal and took the Ixpress to the University. He loves his Upass and will be sad to give it up when he graduates.

Here are the statistics from when the Region took over transit in Cambridge:

1.      Annual ridership in Cambridge has increased from 1.11 million in 1999 (GRT was established in January 2000) to 3.66 million in 2013, a 229% increase. During the same time period, total GRT ridership increased from 9.47 million to 22 million, a 132% increase.
 
Correspondingly, the amount of service provided in Cambridge increased from 59,300  to 143,900 annual service hours, a 141% increase. In comparison, annual service hours on GRT increased from 336,100 to 631,800, an 88% increase.
 
 
2.      Also, please find attached a table that details the 2014 service reductions in Cambridge and the new Maple Grove iXpress. In total, we are adding more service (4,458 annual service hours) and project an increase of 17,659 rides annually in Cambridge.
 
There is also a million dollars a year going to Cambridge to improve transit. The aBRT will be starting in late 2014 or 2015. It is an Ixpress with priority signals and priority lanes during busy times. It is laying the groundwork for the LRT extension to Cambridge.
The cost to build the LRT from Fairway Kitchener to Ainslie Terminal in Cambridge is the same as building phase one from King St. Conestoga Mall to Fairway Mall. As noted above, Kitchener and Waterloo have more ridership than Cambridge due to the catchup Cambridge  transit has had to make since the Region took it over.
Staff are presently meeting with residents from two seniors’ homes who are having problems with the Cambridge route cuts. The Region always does this. Hopefully we can do some rejigging for the seniors.
The route changes in Cambridge (There are also cuts in Kitchener) are listed below:

Route

Day Type

Effective Date

Service Change Description

Annual Service Hours Change

Forecasted Annual Ridership Change

57 Blair Road

Weekday

Apr 28 2014

From 30 minute to no midday service

(1,230)

(8,864)

58 Elmwood

Saturday

May 3 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service

(333)

(2,518)

61 Conestoga College

Weekday

Apr 28 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service during midday in spring only

(195)

(799)

Weekday

Jun 23 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service during midday in summer only

(240)

(877)

62 Woodside

Saturday

May 3 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service

(213)

(1,439)

66 Winston

Weekday

Apr 28 2014

Route discontinued and replaced with modified Route 71 Melran

(2,680)

(11,844)

203 Maple Grove iXpress

 

Weekday

Apr 28 2014

Introduce new route from the Cambridge Centre to Sportsworld via Franklin Boulevard and Maple Grove Road, operating every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

9,349

44,000

Weekday

Sep 2 2014

Extend service during peak periods to Conestoga College Doon and Cambridge Campuses

NET TOTAL

4,458

17,659

Ads on Buses

Here is staff’s reply to the problem of windows covered by ads on buses.

The Region receives approximately $400,000 a year for bus advertising revenue.  This includes interior, exterior and all bus vinyl applications.
“The contract stipulates a  maximum of 5 full vinyl application wraps permitted on the entire GRT fleet at any time. 
I have contacted the contractor to discuss and review other vinyl product options for the windows. “
Regional council is looking at a possible 4 to 5 percent increase this year and that doesn’t include making up the cuts to Discretionary Benefits to the Poor. $400,000 is a lot of eyeglasses, tooth pulling or food hampers. 

Obama Replaces Costly Highspeed Rail Plan with Highspeed Buses.

http://www.theonion.com/video/obama-replaces-costly-highspeed-rail-plan-with-hig,18473/

Alert: This is humour. Thanks to ENBDavies who tweeted  this.

King St Waterloo On a Diet.

There has been a lot of misinformation about the narrowing of King St. to two lanes between Central and Erb St.

First of all, no decision has been made and in fact it will not be made until 2011. The report coming to council tomorrow is to pass having another public information centre on Ðec 2 from 4 to 8 at Waterloo City Hall

Facts:

The LRT is not going through this part of King St. from Central to Erb.  One lane of the LRT will run from Allan to Erb then down Erb to Caroline and the rail spur. http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/

There are actually 5 alternatives for this part of King St.

 
1. leave the road alone at 4 too small lanes and parking
 
2.Widen the 4 lanes to a sized that the regular buses can use (this could take out some of the historic buildings!)
 
3. A 3 lane road with parking lanes on the side. The middle lane for turning.
 
4. two lane with parking lanes
 
5. two lane with shared parking bicycle lanes.
Here is the report
 
However there is space for bike lanes on Regina.
I’m still waiting for Erb and Bridgeport to become two way again and it has been suggested that perhaps the Post office parking lot could become municipal.

Travel to FCM — I Hate Greyhound

So I am going to FCM in Toronto and this time I can take the bus round trip for $42.00. If the stress doesn’t kill me. Booked my ticket on-line, non refundable. After several false starts, got the ticket and found it was from Sportsworld instead of Charles St terminal. Phoned 800 number, they were no help at all. No refund and no way to buy a Greyhound ticket from Charles St. to Sportsworld. You may remember the hoo ha when Greyhound stopped allowing the Region through the GRT ticket office to sell their tickets. They were going to drop Charles St. terminal all together as a stop but we managed to negiotiate that they would sell tickets on the platform. 

Why O Why did they move their stop to Sportsworld!!!  So stuck with the ticket. The good news, used EasyGo and a GRT route goes from Charles St. to Fairview then I get the 52 and it takes about a half hour. Just I have to leave the GRAAC meeting after an hour. So annoying.

Still a shorter time than the GO to get to Toronto.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival by Train and Bus 21

Took the train up to the Elmira Maple Syrup festival this morning. The Waterloo Central Railway is run by volunteers and is always a joy to ride. Lots of kids on it.

We returned on the #21, the new bus from Elmira to St. Jacobs, to the market, to Walmart and then to Conestoga Mall. It was quicker than driving because it went around the Syrup festival traffic jam.

Perhaps I should say the “infamous” 21 bus as a column in the Record this morning called it a “political” and “social” bus, whatever that means.

The bus is a trial bus to see if there is a need for transit to Elmira. Without the bus there is no way to get to and from Elmira other than by car or hitchhiking (BTW, this is the problem in British Columbia on the Road of Tears; people have to hitchhike because there is no bus and women have disappeared on the road

Bus 21

Just off bus 21.

)

As for this being a political bus, it won’t help me. People in Elmira and St. Jacobs don’t vote for me, I’m a councillor from Waterloo. Also, Mayor Bill Strauss resisted this bus for many years as he had worked for the Cherry Busline to and from Elmira and remembered when it went out of business due to lack of use. His famous line when the GRT bus started, “Use it or lose it.”

The bus has been extended for a year because it is showing growth in passengers.

The social bus idea, I just don’t get. A social service because people without cars ride on it?

Exerpt from the report

The Route 21 pilot service to Elmira began operation on April 6th 2009. This service connects Elmira with the Conestoga Mall transit terminal, including stops in the St. Jacobs’ core, at the St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market/Outlet Mall and the new Wal-Mart Centre.

Overall, the route is demonstrating positive ridership trends as the average weekday ridership has risen from 158 riders in April to almost 315 riders in December. There was some decrease in weekday ridership during the summer months, which is traditionally the case for transit ridership across the system. Market day ridership on Saturdays has risen from approximately 270 in April to 585 December.

Ridership continues to increase on Route 21 ELMIRA and the boardings per service hour have increased to 21 in December 2009 and continue to move towards the minimum performance target of 25. Based on experience with new routes in urban areas, a one-year trial period may be insufficient to evaluate fully a routes ridership potential. It can be expected that a new route to a rural township would also require more than a year to achieve its ridership potential. Therefore, it is recommended that the pilot service continue in operation for one additional year until early 2011.

Positive feedback from high school and university students, commuters and seniors, who have used the service, suggests that it provides residents of the Township of Woolwich a valuable transportation alternative. Planned outreach events will increase community awareness and confidence in using the service, which will contribute to ongoing increases in ridership.

In early 2011, staff propose to report back to Regional Council on the performance of Route 21 ELMIRA

Regional Budget passes at 2.6 percent

Well the budget didn’t go to as low a percent as I would have wished, but the Regional budget came in at 1.78 % and the police budget at .88%.  (Approx 38 dollars per YEAR on the tax bill) Remember, the police board not Regional council sets the police budget, we just pay the bill.

Police halved their request and ended up with 10 new officers and 10 new civilians. 5 of those civilians will be prison guards for the courts and stations, and that will free up 5 officers to get back on the street. Not only will the new officers be working on crime prevention as they patrol but the Region is growing and no matter how low crime, we still have a lot and need more officers for growth.

I won some and lost some on the budget.

I wanted some of the 8 million in infrastructure funds that come from the federal government to be used to offset the increase for the system that calls out stops and has a gps for the buses and for solving the bus overcrowding problem on the mainline, number 9 Lakeshore and 12 and Iexpress. That didn’t fly and neither did my suggestion that the one million we took out of roads last year that was put back in (This is extra money that increases the roads budget each year, so it gets higher and higher) be taken out again this year.

On the plus side, I asked the head of finance about the gaping provision where if someone leaves the region and a person is hired for less money, that the budget be adjusted to the new rate instead of staying at the old one (hope that is clear). Jim Wideman  made sure that extra money was taken out for this gap when he and the other committee heads got together with staff to find some more cuts.

There were also rumblings that we should have no improvements but delegations and myself argued for the callouts of stops on the buses as required by the Human Rights tribunal and money to stop the overcrowding on buses. If we want to have a full LRT, we can’t have people stopping using the buses due to overcrowding. Also, all councillors agreed that daycare will be maintained at the present rate and we will see how the new all day jk and sk goes.