Category Archives: News

An update on Greyhound airport service

In a recent post we suggested that Greyhound might not have the license to operate service between Waterloo Region and the Toronto Pearson airport. Greyhound has been in touch to tell us that we’re mistaken. Quoting the letter from David Butler (Regional Vice President, Eastern Canada):

Over the years Greyhound has acquired many licences through acquisitions of companies like Voyageur, Gray Coach and PMCL to supplement our own P.V. licenses. I wish to confirm that Greyhound does indeed hold all the required operating authorities to provide this service under the P.V. licences issued to it by the Ontario Highway Transport Board (“OHTB”). This was verified before the service commenced, validated with senior staff at the OHTB and, prior to their coming into force, the schedules for these services were duly filed with the OHTB as is required by regulation. Greyhound has long supported, and faithfully followed the OHTB regulations in regards to our services in Ontario.

When we had contacted the OHTB, they were unable to provide a listing of services licensed to operate between Waterloo Region and Toronto Pearson airport. They were able to provide the license when given a company name, so we had requested those for Airways Transit and Greyhound. We had not anticipated that subsidiary companies would have separate licenses. We have not yet been able to track down the specific license that applies in this case, but we do not have reason to doubt Greyhound’s word here.

Mr. Butler also writes:

We are very excited about the initial response to this new service. We hope to increase frequency to match demand.

We, too, are enthusiastic about useful new transit service from Waterloo Region and increased frequency!

We’re happy to have been mistaken about the status of Greyhound’s airport service. The main question at this point is what exactly the province is doing in its review of intercity bus regulation. There have not been any public updates in many months. As it stands, it is hard to find information about intercity bus service in Ontario and, consequently, hard for new entrants to improve such service.

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Week in review: April 22, 2017

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Transit

GRT has a new website and a new format for bus schedules. There have been some issues reported with viewing schedules on mobile devices, so you’d better visit using a desktop this weekend: spring service (i.e. reduced frequency) starts Monday.

The Region’s affordable transit pass study moves forward, with the pilot program beginning this summer. (Councillor Elizabeth Clarke has a good summary of what’s next on Facebook). Meanwhile, the Alliance Against Poverty continues to call for free transit passes for everyone on social assistance. They’re hosting community forum on the topic June 3.

A judge has ruled that Metrolinx can’t cancel its light rail vehicle contract with Bombardier just yet. While Waterloo Region’s ‘piggybacked’ contract is apparently separate now, it’s a relief to know our vehicle supplier will have a bit more stability, for now at least.

The Transit mobile app profiles transit planner Jarrett Walker and his work in helping bus networks undergo overnight transformations. And cities exploring autonomous buses are discovering that the technology is still more expensive than conventional buses right now.

Planes, trains, and… inter-city buses

On Friday, we reported on our investigation into inter-city transportation licenses concerning Greyhound’s new service to Pearson Airport. From the looks of things, not only is Greyhound not licensed to serve the airport, they are explicitly prohibited from doing so. UPDATE: They have the necessary license to operate this service. 

Deputy Premier Deb Matthews suggested that the provincial government’s commitment to high speed rail go as far as studying the issue, not necessarily building it. (Rick Mercer seems to have been rather prescient.) Matthews’ office later published a statement saying the environmental study demonstrates the province’s commitment to improving travel in the area.

With a lack of options  for travelling to and from Toronto (although we really suggest you check out the all-day express bus service to Bramalea GO trains), Greater Toronto Airways is drumming up support for 18 minute flights between Breslau and the Toronto Island airport for about $100 a seat. It’s a solution for a select few who are willing to pay, though with 10 seater planes and only a handful of daily flights, it’s not a solution that scales well.

Cycling

The Region is determining how to connect the Iron Horse Trail and the future Victoria Street transit hub by trail. While along the rail corridor would be ideal, the timeline may require finding alternate routes. Meanwhile, the Region is considering different active transportation options for Erb Street between Fischer-Hallman and Wilmot Line – different combinations of sidewalks, bike lanes, separated cycle tracks, and multi-use trails. A public consultation will take place May 4.

The Record profiles Eco Courier, a new bicycle delivery service in KW.

Though a new public health study finds that cycling to work reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease by half, recommending greater investment in cycling planning and infrastructure,  the Canadian government would seemingly rather wring its hands over helmets. Minister of Transportation Marc Garneau tweeted his dismay at uncovered heads this week, while a new Statistics Canada report on cycling spills considerable ink on helmet use rates. The report also notes that the number of people cycling in the previous 3 months has declined from 29% twenty years ago to about 24% today.

Mandatory helmet laws would be a disaster for bike sharing systems, as Melbourne and Seattle have learned. Community Access Bikeshare is gearing up for a new year, with service starting May 5 and new stations on the University of Waterloo main campus. Online signups are now available.

Vision Zero

An elderly man has died after a car struck him while he was using a crosswalk on River Road.

A KCI student’s study on the safety of signaling turns in roundabouts has earned her a trip to the Canada Wide Science Fair. Students are being encouraged to walk to school on Wednesdays in an effort to increase physical activity and improve traffic safety around schools. Parents dropping kids off by car contributes significantly to congestion and risks to pedestrians in school zones.

It’s much worse than we thought: a new study finds that motorists with smart phones use them during 88 out of 100 trips. Meanwhile, a columnist for the Record has a modest proposal to reduce traffic deaths.

Land use and parking

Waterloo Region continues to grow: a new report estimates the Region had 583,500 residents by the end of 2016.

In Waterloo, a second draft of the new zoning bylaw will be presented to council on Monday. It incorporates some of the recommendations from the light rail station area planning (though not station area parking maximums). City-owned Uptown parking lots are destined to be sold for development.

In light of the affordability of housing crisis, both Urban Toronto and Spacing take Metrolinx and the province to task for failing to develop its parking lots and require intensification around GO stations. In releasing its affordable housing plan, the province notes its new measures will not harm Greenbelt protections but will help strengthen intensification efforts.

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Week in review: April 15, 2017

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Week in review: April 8, 2017

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Three strikes, you’re out

A third tentative agreement between GRT operators and the Region was made last week, shortly before a Monday strike deadline. After two previous bargaining agreements were rejected by union members, transit  users breathed a sigh of relief as the final agreement was ratified Monday.

The new agreement includes 1.5, 1.75, and 2% raises over the next three years, along with a pilot project to investigate protective shields for drivers.

Late train to Toronto

Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile hosted several Metrolinx officials in Kitchener to brief local politicians, planning staff, and tech leaders, regarding progress on bringing two-way, all-day GO train service to Kitchener. As negotiations with CN are still ongoing for increased use of their corridor through Brampton and the future Missing Link line, staff were hesitant to commit to any specific timeline. An added complication, preventing the upgrading of track to speed up trains from Kitchener to Georgetown, is the lease to GEXR, who maintains the track. It sounds as though this lease may expire soon, so Metrolinx is proceeding with planning and design work in the meantime. A travel time of 1h10m to Union was indicated as possible.

TriTAG pressed staff on increasing intercity bus options to Guelph, Brantford, Hamilton, and Burlington. They avoid competing directly with private operators like Greyhound and Coach Canada, but with some routes that private operators have abandoned, like Guelph to Hamilton, GO might consider moving in. We also asked about weekend service for the express bus to Bramalea station, but it sounds like GO wants to see weekday ridership increase first.

TriTAG also encouraged Metrolinx to raise public awareness of current and planned infrastructure investments, along with existing GO bus service.

Speaking of GO buses, routes 25 (Square One Mississauga) and 30 (Bramalea) return to Charles Street Terminal and to King at Montgomery today. Both routes will also begin stopping at King and Victoria. Some trips on the 25 will be suspended until the fall due to reduced student volumes.

ION light rail

GRT branding on the ION trainOn Saturday, the Region shows of its first ION vehicle to the public. A video, showing workers applying decals and logos to the vehicles in preparation for the event, shows prominent branding for Grand River Transit – a strong visual connection to GRT is important for helping the public to understand ION as being part of a broader transit network. The open house will also show off the new GRT fareboxes.

The Region has also released two educational videos – one explaining the new signs and signals around the tracks, and another showing how ION trains will be operated.

Cycling networks

Regional Council has approved the protected cycleway network pilot project. As conventional bike lanes are still uncomfortable for the majority of people, this project would seek to create a grid of safe routes in one of the three cities.  The impact of the temporary road alterations would be studied over two years. Other Canadian cities, like Calgary and Hamilton, have had success with similar projects; Edmonton is just beginning to build a similar network of its own.  We’ll have more to say about Waterloo Region’s project in the next while.

In cycling research, a new paper uses crowdsourced data from BikeMaps.org to try to understand collision risks at multi-use trail intersections. And a survey of research shows that regardless of how well cycling helmets may work at an individual level, mandating their use through helmet laws create more harm than good.

Cambridge bridges

After unexpected cost increases, Cambridge councillors have opted for a more utilitarian design for a new pedestrian bridge over the Grand River in Galt. Meanwhile, James Harris of Cbridge.ca suggests a more desperately needed connection is a bridge across the 401. A new Facebook page emerged Thursday also calling for better 401 crossings.

Vision Zero

In his Community Edition column, James Howe explains Vision Zero and what it would mean for Waterloo Region: getting serious about ensuring no deaths or serious injuries on our roads.

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris shares that he is in opposition to legislation that would allow for safety cameras (photo radar) around schools and community safety zones, because he foresees municipalities adopting widespread of use of the technology. It’s not clear what his reasons for disliking the use of safety cameras are; research shows safety cameras to be very effective in reducing collisions and injuries.

Elsewhere, Smart Growth America argues that the panic among media and public officials over “distracted walking” is misplaced, and that street design is the real killer of pedestrians. And a study out of San Fransisco shows that dedicated bus lanes resulted in reduced risky driving behaviours, while enabling buses to go faster.

The road ahead

A highway collapse in Atlanta did not bring about anticipated “Carmageddon” of traffic jams, once again challenging assumptions about traffic volumes and induced demand. The Economist points the finger at free parking and onerous minimum parking zoning rules for traffic jams and sprawl. And the town of Innisfil opts to subsidize Uber instead of public transit.

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Week in review: April 1, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Transit strike: we wish this was an April Fool’s joke, but it isn’t

UPDATE: Ok, so this is drifting into bad joke territory. A third tentative deal has been struck – if ratification fails Monday, then a strike will begin Wednesday April 5. Service continues as normal until then. 

Transit workers have rejected a second negotiated agreement with the Region, and plan on going on strike Monday April 3. Despite an offer of 6% wage increases over 3 years, the union citied working conditions and management practices as reasons for the strike. This will be the first strike in the history of Grand River Transit.

If you’re looking for an alternative to transit next week, the TravelWise website has a carpool finder. Inter-city buses will still be operating, but will be collecting passengers at the GO bus stop at Queen and Weber.

Things that are like bad April Fool’s jokes

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  • Sharrows
  • Bombardier delivery schedules
  • Parking minimums
  • Cyclist dismount signs
  • Road and highway widening to relieve congestion
  • Pedestrian ticketing blitzes
  • Autonomous cars, Hyperloop, and any other incomplete technology that gets used as an excuse to not invest in transit using the technology we possess today

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Week in review: March 25, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Transit

The GRT strike has been averted! Transit workers will now vote to ratify the agreement reached with the Region.

On Wednesday, the federal government delivered their 2017 budget. It continues the governments plans to invest heavily in public transit with predictable funding, but will be eliminating the public transit pass tax credit, stating there was no evidence for its efficacy. Some are decrying the move as hurting pocketbooks and discouraging transit use, while others celebrate the end of a ’boutique’ tax credit.

ION light rail

Details are starting to come together at a few of the light rail stations:

Bombardier and Metrolinx sparred in court this week, as the court considered an injunction preventing Metrolinx from terminating its order of light rail vehicles. While Metrolinx maintained Bombardier has failed to deliver its obligations and that no formal changes to the delivery schedule were agreed upon, Bombardier argued that Metrolinx is trying to weasel its way out of the contract because it doesn’t need as many vehicles anymore due to cancellation of the Scarborough light rail line. The judge questioned Metrolinx’s urgency for being able to cancel the contract. Meanwhile, Bombardier has shipped the second Metrolinx pilot light rail vehicle from Thunder Bay to Kingston (note, this is not the second ION LRV).

From Minneapolis and St Paul comes an account of the new Green Line light rail route. Out of local business and neighbourhood concerns, as well as construction woes has emerged a wildly successful system connecting the twin cities.

Cycling

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has released a new toolkit to help doctors and health care providers become advocates for transit and active transportation in their communities.

More communities are now seeking, stress-free, comfortable cycling environments. Vancouver has new guidelines for all ages and abilities (AAA) cycling facilities. Tuscon has concluded paint is insufficient for all ages cycling. Advocates in Silicon Valley look to develop a ‘stress-free’ network, overcoming jurisdictional boundaries between many separate municipalities and communities. A new study out of Seville shows that building a network of protected bike facilities results in a significant reduction in cycling risk. To help chart where safe cycling is and isn’t, Mapzen is developing new mapping tools for cycling facilities.

Elsewhere, The Guardian questions the efficacy of compulsory helmet laws, a suggestion for shifting people’s thinking in the face of knee-jerk anti-cyclist reactions, more and more ‘dockless’ bikesharing systems are emerging, and the CAA (yes, that CAA) notes there’s no explicit funding for cycling or walking in the federal budget:

Reimagining our streets

Waterloo, in partnership with the Region, the two universities, and Conestoga College, is looking at how to make University Ave a better gateway into to the city. A study, similar to the Uptown King Street redesign, will be conducted to enhance the street, while also finding ways to better accommodate transit and active transportation. This is a huge opportunity to make University Ave more of an urban street than a suburban arterial for a rapidly growing Northdale community.

CityLab looks at ‘sneckdowns‘ – places where the roadway is narrowed by snow – as cues for safer street designs, while #GivePedsTheGreen, a campaign in Seattle, aims to eliminate ‘beg buttons’ to activate crosswalk signals.

Land use

Visualizing Density, a new website from the Canadian Urban Institute, tries to illustrate the densities of five neighbourhoods in the context of the Ontario Growth Plan. The Barrel Yards in Waterloo (well, at least part of it) is one of the case studies. A new study raises concerns about the growing number of seniors in car-dependent neighbourhoods, recommending cities make changes to land use plans to favour compact walkable developments. And the Ryerson City Building Institute shows how compact, transit-friendly built forms in the Growth Plan will help the province meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets.

In Downtown and Uptown, Kitchener sells one of its surface lots, while Waterloo hikes the rent it charges for special events to use its parking lots.

Around the web, suburban sprawl gets blamed for staggered school start times and sleepy teens, and good transit access leads to higher property values.

The road ahead

Uber is opposing the new federal budget, which will require them to pay HST like taxi drivers do.

A new report tries to identify the communities most compatible with autonomous cars – surprisingly they’re the least sprawling, while others predict autonomous cars will undermine sustainable cities, by drawing users away from transit and overwhelming streets with cars. Scientific American looks at how driverless cars that always try to avoid collision could impact pedestrian behaviour and traffic if they always yield. And Bike PGH releases the results of their survey regarding encounters with autonomous vehicles.

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Week in review: March 18, 2017

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No, Waterloo Region doesn’t have Canada’s longest commutes

Incomplete data, or not fully-understood data, can lead to some pretty faulty conclusions.

On Wednesday, 570 News published an unbelievable headline: “Waterloo Region has the longest commute time in the country.” The article cites a new study from traffic app Waze, claiming the average commute time in Waterloo is 53 minutes, nearly double that of Toronto, where it was 31 minutes.

Don’t buy it. (more…)

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Week in review: March 11, 2017

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Week in review: March 4, 2017

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