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via rail

Friday miscellany

OC  Transpo wants to keep the GPS data all to themselves – it’s all about the money!

The head of OC Transpo told Ottawa’s transit commission the transit provider didn’t want to make information about bus locations and other data open to the public until it could determine how much money could be made using the data.

OC Transpo general manager Alain Mercier had told the transit commission the data would be made available in keeping with the city’s push to become a municipality that shares its data openly.

Um. Not meaning to be picky or anything, but… don’t we – the taxpayers and riders – pay for the operation of OC Transpo – GPS data and all?

Whatta crock. Improved location data accessed and used by an app developed by a third-party is the best and fastest way to go on this. Service improvement would be the result.

But no one can really claim Ottawa’s transit system to be the best or the fastest, have they?


So Rick Perry is out of the GOP race in the States and he has thrown his support behind the Newt-meister…

Personally, I have been cheering hard and madly for Perry, and Bachmann, Santorum, et al. All complete kooks that Obama could easily swipe aside in the upcoming election. I mean, these boneheads make even Jason Kenney look normal!

Check this out. There was a CNN hosted debate last night where the moderator asked Newt about some extramarital boo-yaws that might have been going down. Immediately,they go after the moderator.

In his opening question, King asked Gingrich whether he wanted to respond to allegations by an ex-wife that he had asked her for an “open marriage” that would allow him to continue an affair he was having with a staffer.

“I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for office, and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” the former House speaker replied icily amid cheers from the audience at the North Charleston Coliseum.

Gingrich, describing the story as false, said he was “tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama” by attacking potential Republican opponents. That won a standing ovation — though it was hard to judge whether he had succeeded in defusing the issue among the Palmetto State’s conservative voters.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, said he was grateful for God’s forgiveness but indicated the topic was legitimate. “What we did in our lives are issues of character for people to consider,” he said.

Yup. The wahoos are handing Obama this election on a platter! Or, as Kinsella put it this morn’:

The Winner?

You could not do better than this if you planned it: no clear winner in the Republican field, with assorted extremists doing well, and the one moderate doing badly.

And this all happens without you lifting a finger. Not bad.


Wow! There are/were Russian spies in Canada??? Ain’t that outlandish!


C’mon. Let’s be realistic. The Superpowers like Russia, the U.S. and China have never, ever left espionage behind in spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union and all of the other geopolitical changes that have taken place in the past couple of decades. So this should not shock too many people. I’m actually surprised that this doesn’t happen more often!


Sarah Burke’s untimely demise is a sad story. But she lived on the edge and the edge bit back.


There’s a great idea! Make Canada’s already sparse rail service even sparser (sp?). Who needs a passenger train service anyways? What with air travel so convenient and cheap and gasoline prices at such affordable levels – who needs trains???

I’m betting they will go ahead with these cuts – or privatization. It would not be out of line with the normal, short-sighted CPC thinking…


Sooo… why is the OCDSB blocking this? And classifying atheism as a cult? Just a oversight, I’m sure… but one that should be fixed.

Tx to @onegoodpicture for this


Lastly, one of my baseball heroes isn’t doing so well. Cancer is getting the best of former Expos catcher, Gary Carter. I was an Expos fan before the Blue Jays came along and remained one. But there were two Expos that I admired the most, Steve Rogers and Gary Carter.

Sending some positive mojo your way, Mr. Carter.



3 things catching my eye this morning…

Possible VIA strike

Word this morning is that VIA ticket vendors and maintenance workers have voted for strike action at the end of June if a settlement cannot be reached. Bad timing for riders, of course, but a strategic move for the Union as the summer tourist season begins.

I’m not going to comment on a possible strike and what a hassle this will create for those of us who use the service, but rather on some of the comments I’m reading on the MotherCorp story.

Check it out:

There is something wrong. In many countries rail travel is the most economic way to travel. No not in Canada here in Canada to go from Winnipeg to Vancouver, economy class Via Rail: $258.76. Greyhound bus: $96.00. Like the roads the rails are there.
What make this so ” humane kind of travel” so expensive.
Right the “Via Rail workers have voted in favour of going on strike “.
They are pricing Via Rail out of business.
I love rail travel but not at those prices. As one commentator said: “Take away the subsidies and make it private.

The writer is making two points – rail is too expensive, and that the system should be privatized.

Yes, it is expensive compared to travel by road and is about on par with a flight for many cases. Against the air option, there is no contest, rail wins hands down. When I am traveling for biz to Montreal or to Toronto, I almost always go by rail; the exception being if the meeting I am attending is near the airport. No hassle. Comfy seats. Good food. and best of all, NO security!

And it IS used by many, many commuters in the Windsor to Montreal corridor – contrary to what this guy says:

Not a good move, I can’t name one person who relys (sic) on Via to get them around! Train travel is now a novelty thing , the odd tourist, vacationer thats (sic) about it.

Hmmm… it just occurred to me that comments like this may be coming from the West – where many like to bask anything that may be perceived to have an Eastern Canada bias.

As far as privatization, I don’t know if that is the solution. I know of folks who took Brit Rail both before and after the breakup of the national system and most would agree that it is far worse now than before. As well, I’m not so sure the Amtrak system is the cream of the crop in the States. So, at best, the jury is out.

Besides, privatization would only be effective if there were a profit to be made. In this vast country with wide spans between destinations, could a private firm offer a palatable service, pay their workers a living wage and still get a half decent RoI? I’m not so sure.

One other comment I want to say something about:

Here we go – the Union dummies don’t realize we are still in a recession.

Um, apparently this dummy doesn’t realize that we are NOT in a recession anymore. They should Google the definition.

I can’t begrudge the union trying to get a wage increase. As someone who belongs to a union that has been completely de-clawed (no cost of living increases for the next few years, meaning that our purchasing power will be 5-8% less three years from now than today) by the Harperites – as have all Federal Unions, I say go for it and good luck!

Another thing that caught my eye:

Apparently, a planetary alignment today is going to cause earthquakes, tsunamis and whole bunch of other end-of-the-world stuff.

Kongpop U-yen, a Thai engineer who works at the US National Aeronatics and Space Administration (Nasa), said the alignment of the planets today could cause natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

NDWC chief Smith Dharmasarojana agreed with the forecast, saying it was backed by scientific data.

The forecast, however, met with criticism from the scientific community as authorities did not clarify the prediction.

Mr Smith recently said during a TV interview that a solar eclipse was due to occur on June 12 as a result of the alignment of the Earth, the moon and the sun.

He said the alignment would release considerable cumulative energy, which could affect the Earth. Mr Smith, quoting Mr Kongpop, said the phenomenon would have a direct impact on the Earth in the forms of climate disruption, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


And finally:

How true it is…


More about choo-choos

OK – so I’m on a bit of a high horse right now… I blame the Sleeman’s…

Things in Canada that would benefit from an integrated and modern rail network:

  1. The environment – in terms of GHG emissions, ozone depletion, noise pollution, land use and unsustainable settlement patterns
  2. Better service to the downtown cores of communities and not just to the soul-eating outskirts.
  3. Economic impacts in terms of building / renewing the rail infrastructure but also the positive impact of improving the transportation corridors to smaller centres.
  4. Everyone and anyone who travels any distance by train immediately has a better appreciation of the beauty and vastness of this country. And who doesn’t like beauty and vastness?
  5. Less collective anger over weather delays and cancellations, lost luggage, surly Air Canada staff, exorbitant additional fees, cramped seats, etc., etc.
  6. Increased productivity since you can do actual work on a train… but this increase may be negated by the ready availability of alcohol.
  7. More Canadians get to see cool and interesting stuff – like this cloud for example:


Any others positive results that would comes from a better planned and integrated rail network?

Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?


Trains. Why doesn’t Canada get on board?

Just a quick observation as I’m sitting on a VIA train halfway between Ottawa and Montreal… why is it so damned difficult to get a concensus on the future of rail in this country? It is SUCH a superior way to travel!

  • No security crap.
  • A helluva lot more comfortable than air travel.
  • Better for the environment re: GHG emissions than air travel – for sure – and arguably better than car travel as well.

But any time the debate is launched, the leaders in this country twist themselves into pretzels explaining how we cannot afford the cost of the infrastructure. Or how new rail lines or trains will have negative social impacts on communities.

Or they are just silent.

Can someone more knowledgeable than I am on these matters explain why this is so?

Anyone? anyone? Beuller?


Labour settlements – as they should be

Breaking news out of Ottawa this morning that the Via Rail strike is over almost as soon as it started. Both sides have agreed to a mediated settlement and service will be back on “track” starting today.

IMO, the engineers really did not have a choice but strike as they had been without a contract for 2 1/2 years. And the tactic worked – as we can see this morning. Contrast this to the protracted and bitter OC Transpo strike a few months ago where neither side was willing to give an inch. Instead of reaching a sane and mature agreement that would not consist of fighting a battle on the backs of riders, both the ATU and the City of Ottawa decided instead to behave like two kids in a sandbox fighting over a toy bulldozer.

Congrats to both the Union and Via Rail for showing us how labour relations should be carried on.

I wonder if the City of Toronto and their municipal workers are paying attention?

One sidebar to this: Canadian Press and broke this story on their websites well over three hours before the two so-called “major” media outlets ( and… cutbacks in action, folks.