Sunday, September 30, 2007

What's going on at Finch Station?

Finch Station closed due to Police Investigation
On Saturday my girlfriend and I planned head down to High Park for a day out. We hopped on VIVA and headed south to the Finch Subway Station in order to take the Subway the rest of the way. However, once the VIVA Blue bus pulled into Finch Subway and we got off, we saw the scene pictured left (courtesy of CITY News).

I inquired with the grey haired YRT/VIVA Enforcement Officer as to what was going on. He replied there was a police investigation going on and the station was closed. However, there were shuttle buses being provided accross the street.

My girlfriend and I thought it over and thought we would walk down to the Sheppard Subway Station where the trains were ending their trip. We walked by the YRT/VIVA Enforcement officer again and inquired as to why the VIVA Blue bus driver never made an announcement that the subway was shut down. The Enforcement officer replied that perhaps this was the driver's first trip down that day. Now under normal circumstances this would be a satisfactory answer. But with VIVA it wasn't that simple.

VIVA buses have GPS units that also have messaging feature that transit control utilizes on a regular basis. Instead of calling each driver one by one and telling them the same message, VIVA Transit Control can send text messages to the drivers. So if an incident were to occur, like the Finch Subway Station being closed for a police investigation, the message can get out to the drivers in a timely fashion. In this case the driver could then announce to the passengers that the station is closed and that there are shuttle buses available to take passengers down to Sheppard Station or to take the VIVA Purple to connect with the VIVA Orange route in order to connect into the TTC Subway at Downsview Station instead.

I pointed out to the YRT/VIVA Enforcement Officer that the GPS units are utilized all the time to send messages to the drivers. So what prevented this? I also retorted that if YRT/VIVA was going to raise fares again they should improve communications.

My girlfriend and I were a little ticked about spending 45 minutes on the bus just to see our way blocked by yellow police tape. Why wasn't an announcement made? Chaos rained at Finch Station for YRT/VIVA riders because nobody had said anything. Also, two YRT/VIVA enforcement vehicles were in the spots where VIVA buses normally load passengers. Apparently YRT/VIVA Enforcement Officers figured it was more important to have good parking spaces instead of parking their cars a little further away in the unused bus parking area. So the VIVA Blue customers were let off at one platform and then picked-up at a different one instead of unloading and loading at the single platform if there was one bus in the station. YRT/VIVA didn't look to good in this situation.

At least the TTC was a little better. Kudos to them for a great job. While my girlfriend and I were making our decision of whether to head back to Aurora and forget our trip to Toronto, the TTC Enforcement officers let everyone know at the station entrance that the trains would be running soon. They just needed to get the collector and other employees back into the station at their posts first. The Toronto Police took down the yellow tape and within ten minutes everything was back to normal.

But I'm still dissapointed in the actions of YRT/VIVA communications. Why wasn't there an announcement made on the VIVA Blue route headed to Finch Station that the TTC subway wasn't operating north of Sheppard Station? Why weren't arrangements made to extend the VIVA Blue route temporarily down to Sheppard Station in order to provide service to the station and help out the TTC with shuttling? This would have been a great service to the customers of YRT/VIVA in a time of transit disruption. I would love answers to these two questions as well as this one: with such bad service from YRT/VIVA in situation like this why would they have the audicity to attempt to raise the fares to the highest in the GTA?

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