Saturday, February 16, 2008

Family Day Transit Fiasco

On Monday in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan is a Family Day Holiday. The provincial governments of these provinces have declared this to be a holiday. The thinking was people needed a holiday in between new year's day in January and Easter in March or April.

So last October during the election campaign, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that the third monday in February each year would be a holiday in the province of Ontario. This coming Monday, February 18th is the first Family Day Holiday in Ontario ever.

The execution of who gets the holiday off has been a nightmare. Toronto Police Officers are up in arms because they do not get a holiday off as their current contract has more days off than stated holidays. Federal civil service employees are exempt as the holiday falls under provincial legislation that, under the Canadian Constitution, can't affect the laws or powers of the federal government. The same goes for federally regulated institutions like banks and railways, those workers will continue toiling on Monday.

As the Toronto Star notes:

"an estimated 40 per cent of us will be reporting to work first thing Monday morning, trudging through more snow and sleet while the other 60 per cent, including our neighbours and friends, stay home in their flannel pyjamas doing battle with their kids for time on the computer. " - from the Toronto Star article here.

One would figure with about sixty percent of those staying home from work, traffic is expected to be lighter on Monday with only fourty percent going to work. Also noted is that transit service would need to be scaled back a bit in frequency but still needed for those unfortunate enough to have to work that day.

For those of us living north of the city like Aurora, GO Transit has gone with a Saturday schedule which means that instead of trains, buses will shuttle those down to Union station. The only downfall is that there is no GO Bus service along Yonge Street between Newmarket Terminal and the Sheppard Subway Station and points in between. No worries one would figure, as VIVA and YRT offer services along that stretch.

On Wednesday, I had to double check the YRT/VIVA website for how the holiday would affect travel. I had expected service to be scaled back to every fifteen minutes on VIVA and maybe a lax Saturday type schedule of service for YRT. I clicked on "Holiday Service" from their main page and came up with nothing. I thought that there must not be any changes. My girlfriend insisted there was.

We had to dig deep into the website by going back to the main page and clicking on "service changes" and then "Public Holidays" to get to the information. Now one one think that "service changes" would refer to the last change in services that YRT/VIVA has made (i.e. Route 32 will now show up five minutes earlier each day, etc.) and not a holiday services. If YRT/VIVA provides a link for "Holiday Service" that they would list Holiday Service changes there. But of course this would be to simple.

I called in Thursday morning to YRT/VIVA and pointed this out to the lady who answered the phone. She said that it was under the service changes link. I replied that if I'm your average rider and I see the "Holiday Service" link on the main page I would click there. If there was nothing listed there, then the average visitor to the website would think regular service would be provided for the Family Day Holiday. From there the average rider, I continued, would venture out for their normal going to work time just to find themselves frozen in a snowstorm without a bus in sight (FYI there is a winter storm watch from Environment Canada for Sunday and Monday). The customer service agent said she would let the marketing department know about the problem.

Frozen in a snowstorm withou a bus in sight? Yup that's right, YRT & VIVA are on a Sunday schedule for Monday's Family Day Holiday. The brains of the operation believe everyone doesn't need to get up before 8:00 A.M. because we will all be home in our pajamas sipping hot coffee and reading the newspaper because Dalt said so.

Wrong, 40% of the population has to go to work. So if, lets say, a person living in Aurora has to be at Union Station by 8:30 A.M. on a Monday and normally takes VIVA or YRT and the TTC subway to get there. The first VIVA bus that arrives at Yonge & Wellington Streets (dead centre of Aurora) 8:05 A.M. and arrives at 8:44 A.M. to Finch Subway, so that fails.

Other options?:

1. GO Transit has a bus leaving from the Aurora GO Station, but for those of us living in south Aurora that means a hike over the GO Station because, in their infinate wisdom, YRT will not run the local routes or shuttle buses to the GO Station that day.

2. Ride the local Route 98 YRT route south through Aurora to Bernard Station and then on to Finch Station. The first bus on this route leaves Yonge and Wellington streets at 7:22 A.M. and arrives at Bernard Terminal at 7:40 A.M. where one has to transfer to a Route 99 bus to continue on down to Finch Station. The next Route 99 southbound leaves at 8 A.M. and arrives at 8:30 A.M. at Finch (the same time one has to arrive at Union Station in our scenario).

So apparently YRT/VIVA doesn't care about their ridership living in Aurora or Newmarket who have to work on Monday about 8:30 in downtown Toronto, or for that fact anywhere in Toronto for that fact. If YRT/VIVA did, they would obviously:

A. Post the Holiday Service hours in the proper link i.e. "Holiday Service" in a timely fashion instead of waiting for a customer complaint to come in on the Thursday before the holiday.

B. Provided at least Saturday service like GO Transit or Sunday service with earlier start time like the TTC.

But of course, all of this would have required thought, for YRT in this case, that would have been a novel idea. That ain't the worst of it of it for passengers, YRT/VIVA increased their fares as of January 1st to become the most expensive in the Toronto area. Now if only YRT/VIVA would back up the most expensive fare with a little bit of the highest price thought. But of course that would make sense, and YRT/VIVA in terms of this case does not.

1 comment:

  1. It reminds me of Simcoe Day holiday in August. What is open and could depend on what part of the Province you are in. The bad news for me is that I am retired and don't get any days off. (smile)


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