Category Archives: GO Transit

25 Nov

Black Friday in Hamilton

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s outing to Hamilton:

1. Given the extreme cold temperature of +2C when I left the house, I could certainly understand why the woman I passed by on Scott Street was wearing heavy, fur-lined boots that came halfway up to her knees. Even though there wasn’t a single flake of snow on the ground, you can never be too prepared. Same goes for the woman who got on the GO bus who had a woolen lining in her boots.

2. Did you lose this mitten?

3. Another cat owner who expects the general public to care more about his/her cat than he/she does:

4. Someone driving a van flagged down the GO bus on South Service Road as it was leaving the Beamsville stop and the driver actually stopped and waited as the passenger scurried around to the front door. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where stories of drivers taking off just as frantic passengers running after the bus reach the stop remain commonplace.

5. With a little time on his hands at Grimsby, the driver got off and hastily got in a few puffs of his cigarette before getting back on the road. Someone who is that desperate for a puff has a serious problem.

6. There are circus clowns who don’t apply as much lipstick as the teenager who boarded at Grimsby and got off with me at Nash and Barton. Sadly, it was a sight I would see twice more during the day. There should be something on the label stating that it’s not meant to be applied a tube at a time.

7. Said teenager, evidently annoyed that she was kept waiting for a few minutes for the Barton bus, kept checking the schedule posted on the pole. Experienced HSR riders know that the Barton bus comes often enough. You don’t need to check the schedule.

8. Evidently the GO bus driver is not alone in being desperate for a puff.

9. After boarding the Barton bus, three people came running after it as it was about to take off. And the driver waited. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

10. I couldn’t believe that the HSR buses had the very non-politically-correct “Merry Christmas” flashing on the display.

11. As expected, the trip on the Barton bus was again an experience to behold. It didn’t take long for the first stroller, followed right behind by another, and the number of walkers and carts that had come and gone on the way downtown must have reached double figures.

12. A hair stylist at Gage had the sign “Your welcome without an appointment” in the window. Apparently grammar wasn’t you’re best subject.

13. Back-A-Da-Bus-O-Phobia is a problem in Hamilton, but not nearly the way it is in the Old Country.

14. Only a veteran of Winnipeg Transit like me can still marvel as how the rear doors on HSR buses open automatically, even though it has been more than three years post-defection.

15. Plastered on the after-hours return slot at the library on Barton was “Library Book Return.” What else would the book return be for?

16. I’ve smelled worse, but the guy who sat next to me on the Barton bus needed a bath a few days ago.

17. After using the washroom at Jackson Square, I still appreciate how most people in this part of the world wash their hands after doing their business. On my return trip, there was even a lineup to use the sinks.

18. The #25 bus I took to Lime Ridge Mall was packed, as were others I spotted during the day. Though it wasn’t the reason for my trip, Black Friday evidently remains quite popular. Go figure.

19. I think only someone born in Southern Ontario can understand the logic behind dumping so much salt in a parking lot on a day when it never got below freezing and when there isn’t a single flake of snow on the ground.

20. Someone didn’t play his cards right.

21. The Bill Friday Lawfield Arena, named for the legendary referee who was most noted for his work in the WHA. I still remember the game when Friday pulled a mirror out of his back pocket to check to see that every strand of his slicked-back hair was in place. No doubt he had a lucrative endorsement deal from Brylcreem, which was all the rage at the time.

22. Finally, some people are starting to come to their senses.

23. Back at Hamilton’s largest mall, there was one place with a sign saying “50% off entire store” out front. But what if I don’t want the entire store?

24. Crowds were so thick that there was a half-hour wait to get into the Disney store, a similar wait to get into a jewelry store and the lineup at the Tim Hortons in the food court was 20-30 deep.

25. Spotted in the crowds was a woman with shamrock-green hair. It was Black Friday, not St. Patrick’s Day.

26. Walking north on Upper Wentworth, I spotted a woman madly shivering in the “cold” as she was waiting for an approaching bus. Tip of the day: Do up your jacket.

27. As I’ve heard it said recently, $15/hour is great. If you have a job. Which many minimum-wage earners won’t once this “fair” wage becomes law.

28. More political uncorrectness:

29. Shots of lower town while walking down the mountain at Arkledun Avenue:

30. Spotted on the way down was a Hamilton Cab with the slogan “Powered by diversity” plastered on the door. Can’t we even get in a cab these days without getting a left-wing political lecture?

31. This convenience store across from Gore Park isn’t quite so convenient anymore:

32. The tree going up in Gore Park:

33. Two guys sitting in Gore Park shooting the breeze:

34. Spotted in Jackson Square was a restaurant serving sausage and spinach soup. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

35. Also spotted in Jackson Square was a store claiming to have the right to inspect bags and empty pockets upon request. Good luck with that. But in any event, I have the right to take my business elsewhere. Which I did.

36. Take a load off your feet.

37. More salt.

38. The return trip on the Barton bus had the requisite two strollers and another large collection of walkers and carts.

39. A teenager got on at St. Matthews with a pierced tongue. Ewww.

40. A woman sitting across the aisle looked at me strangely as I was taking notes. Was it because I was taking notes or because I was using a notepad instead of a cell phone like 99% of the Western world would do?

41. I took note when a woman got on wearing a hoodie with “Prince Edward Island” emblazoned across the front. For those who are unaware, Charlottetown came in second in the relocation derby.

42. After getting to Nash and Barton, I was promptly approached by a creepy guy asking me if I had a quarter to spare. Which I didn’t. At least not for him. He claimed to be 75 cents short for bus fare, which made his supposed need for a quarter look even less credible, yet he had plenty of money for smokes and the cell phone he was jabbering away on while going through three of his cigarettes during the long wait for the GO bus. Fear not for 25-Cent Dude, however, as he bummed a dollar off of one of the cashiers inside the Wholesale Club grocery store.

43. Giving 25-Cent Dude some competition was an older guy standing on the sidewalk holding out a Tim Hortons cup with a pre-printed sign hanging around his neck approaching cars on their way out of the lot.

44. Seated in front of me on the GO bus was a woman so obese that she was taking up one and a half seats. Somehow I don’t think she paid a 50% premium on her fare.

45. The GO bus driver wasn’t wearing a name tag, but I could tell that his name was Leadfoot. Between Stoney Creek and Grimsby, he was in the third lane from the right passing semi-trailers.

46. 25-Cent Dude got off at Beamsville, where he unlocked his bike and proceeded west on the wrong side of South Service Road.

47. Dear crossing guard at Geneva Street: It was not necessary for you to blow that accursed whistle in my ear. Same goes for the crossing guard at Vine Street.

48. I know they do it for everyone, but do I look like someone so young that I need help crossing the street? I mean, I was in elementary school when the Jets were in the WHA.

49. The cyclist who passed me on Scott Street needs to lube his chain. It was that obvious.

50. Passing me on the sidewalk on Scott Street was someone in plaid pants wearing his house slippers whose head was completely shaven save for several randomly scattered clumps of hair.

51. As opposed to stale Ontario trees …

23 Nov

An Uneventful GO Meeting

Takeaways from the disappointing meeting on the proposed GO train service to Niagara held at the downtown library last night:

1. I arrived before 6:00 and was far from the first one through the doors. People in this part of the world are, if nothing else, early birds.

2. The Metrolinx employees, including the presenter, acted as if they were sent from on high to save us unwashed masses out here in the boonies. Next time, try some humility.

3. Metrolinx staff evidently do have a policy of looking out for their own. Case in point was one poor staffer being harangued by Big Bearded Guy who was mercifully rescued by one of his colleagues, ostensibly to answer a question for another attendee.

3a. Big Bearded Guy sure did look lost after the target of his monologue was snatched from his grasp.

4. One of the slides of the virtually useless presentation dealt with “tree and vegetation mitigation.” I think they meant tree and vegetation impact mitigation.

5. There were lots of questions from the standing-room-only crowd, yet virtually no answers. Worse yet, when someone asked a question regarding the train station, the designated expert from Metrolinx assigned to give the non-answer admitted he hadn’t even been to the station. Forgive me if I don’t quite understand why they even came out and held the meeting.

6. Among the more noteworthy questions still waiting for an answer was whether or not the new line will be a feeder route to Burlington or will run directly to Union Station in the universe’s center.

7. There seemed to be a lot support for putting the station near 406 and Glendale, yet the current Western Hill location has evidently been set in stone.

8. They didn’t even seem to know how many parking spaces would be available at the station, nor the fact that Ridley College and the former TRW owned adjacent properties that could be used for that purpose.

9. When there was someone with a comment, it wouldn’t have hurt the Metrolinx staff to take note of it themselves instead of brusquely telling us to fill out a comment card.

10. Fear not, the GO bus service is not going to be eliminated.

11. The humpback bridge on St. Paul Street near the station is scheduled for replacement, yet the planning still hasn’t gone past the environmental assessment phase. Someone mentioned that regional chair Alan Caslin was quoted as saying that the bridge won’t be replaced until after the trains start rolling. Oy.

01 Nov

Halloween in the Universe’s Center

Observations and pictures from yesterday’s voyage to and from the Center of the Universe:

1. Even before the crack of dawn, there was a long line at the drive thru at the Tim Hortons on Scott Street. Oy.

2. Dear jogger on Scott Street: Even if you don’t care about breaking the law, show that you take your own safety more seriously than you expect passing motorists to by using the sidewalk instead of the road. Especially when it’s pitch dark outside.

3. After hearing train whistles near Fairview Mall, an area with no railway presence, I spotted this abandoned stocking cap or mitten with the number 5 on it.

Then when I got to Burlington, there was this 642 license plate right in front of me on the platform.

Messages sent, messages received. As I’ve said before, you may understand and you may not.

4. No doubt LCBO will be accused of racism with this edict …

5. On this Halloween day, much to my relief, my bus driver came dressed as … drumroll please … a bus driver.

6. On the QEW, we passed a sign that read, “Work Zone: Drive with Care.” So evidently, it’s OK to drive carelessly if it’s not a work zone.

7. Dear cyclist who got off at Beamsville: Much like the case with the jogger on Scott Street, place a premium on your safety by considering a small investment in a light for your bike. Especially when you plan to use it in the dark on roads without street lights.

8. Dear smoker on the platform at Burlington: Don’t let that big “no smoking” sign you were standing underneath bother you.

9. I think I was only one of three or four people on the platform and on the train who was not preoccupied with his phone. It shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but it still does.

10. As it was an express train, the customer service ambassador kept reminding passengers wishing to travel to stations between Clarkson and Exhibition to detrain at Oakville. This was just after I debused at Burlington and an hour before I would desubway in Toronto.

11. At the opposite end of the car I was in, there was a sign commemorating GO’s 50th anniversary. Why is it that I get the impression that GO was more advanced on their first day than Winnipeg Transit is today? Not that I’m bitter or anything, mind you.

12. Parked in a lot near the Bronte station was a trailer from Arnold Bros. Transport. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does follow me around.

13. The person seated next to me on the train should seriously consider upgrading her laptop from Windows 7, which is in the extended support phase. But at least she had the latest version of Office installed.

14. The guy seated across from me had a silly, almost stupid-looking grin on his face all the way to Union Station. But he sure thought he was important. Oh, and he’s an RBC customer. The things you learn about people on public transit.

15. It wasn’t even November and this GO locomotive was already decked out for Christmas:

16. At the washroom in Union Station, I had to wait in line to use a hand dryer. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

17. Traffic and crowds were not a problem on the way to Union, but I was caught off guard by the mass crush of humanity headed for the subway.

18. Dear TTC: Having taken the subway there before, I realize I should have known better, but please consider putting arrows pointing passengers to the proper gate to use after tapping their Presto card. Just like you do at other Presto-enabled stations. When you put a Presto machine between two sets of gates, not everyone is going to know which one to use, particularly in a city that gets as many visitors as Toronto does.

19. This jogger at Queen’s Park did not appear to be in costume. Her attire was just weird.

20. Normally, I would scoff at the prospect of students buying assignments, but today’s professors are so blinded by left-wing ideologies that they’d probably give a passing grade to anything, even if it was directly copied from Coles Notes, as long as it properly conformed to their worldview.

20a. Back in the late 1980s when I was in a class taught by a former NDP MLA, I got a D on an essay in which I disagreed with his left-wing politics. I pretended to agree with him on the next assignment and got a B. Coincidence? You be the judge.

21. Shots along Philosopher’s Walk on the campus of the University of the Center of the Universe. Or would that be Central Universe University?

22. When liberals talk about “everyone” being welcome, they mean everyone who agrees with them. The rest of us can take a hike.

23. Chew on this: 0 out of 8 households seem to have trouble getting a hold of cigarettes or LCBO products. There are some genuinely needy people out there, but far too often, it’s a matter of priorities.

24. The back of the arena that hosted the WHA’s Toronto Toros in their first season after moving from Ottawa.

24a. If you recall, following one season at Varsity Arena and two more at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toros moved south and became the Birmingham Bulls. As an old Jets fan, I can still hear the “Birmingham stinks!” chant.

25. Shouldn’t this be code red?

26. Give him a call …

27. Outside the Royal Ontario Museum:

28. No, this shot was not taken in Winnipeg, the discount capital of the Western world …

29. The only difference between a regular piece of art and an “objet d’art” is the 50-100% premium in price.

30. Given how Halloween has seemingly become a national holiday, I was surprised that this was about as radical as things got as far as costumes and decorations were concerned:

31. Shots around the Yorkville area:

32. In case you have a dirty Canada Goose on your hands …

33. I don’t think I want to get my hair cut there:

34. Spotted at Yorkville Center was a couple who were fawning over a poodle as if it was a newborn baby.

35. I used the washroom at Yorkville Center, where again, people were washing their hands after doing their business. As I’ve said before, this is not the Old Country.

36. Near the Yorkville Center, I passed by a Ferrari and Maserati dealership, open by appointment only, strategically placed in the middle of the high rent district.

36a. If you recall, back in 2003, Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers wrecked his Ferrari in a single-vehicle accident that claimed the life of his passenger and teammate, Dan Snyder.

36b. How many of you remember that Heatley’s father played in the WHA?

37. Better than an old street …

38. It wasn’t bitterly cold by any means, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be riding around in the open-air top deck:

39. I guess those packages don’t move …

40. Obesity has evidently become such a problem in our society that the Shoppers Drug Mart in Hudson Bay Center had a “Weight Management” aisle.

41. Perhaps this is commonplace elsewhere in the world, but this is the first time I’ve seen an intersection like this one at Bloor and Yonge where pedestrians can cross diagonally.

42. Though I didn’t stop to investigate further, there was someone on Yonge Street looking to pocket a little extra cash by running a less-than-legal spinning-wheel gaming operation. No doubt, police will be on to him quickly. After all, the government hates competition.

43. Heard over the crowds at Yonge-Dundas Square was a mentally challenged gentleman who yelled, “Why do you make noise jeery freaks jerks?”

44. Many were lining up inside Eaton Center for a chance to win a Google Home Mini. Whatever that is.

44a. Even if it was something valuable, with Google partnering with their Silicon Valley allies in censoring any political views to the right of Lenin, you probably had to show a Liberal Party membership card to get an entry form.

45. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were out in full force all along Yonge Street. At one display, they had their literature available in Arabic. If that doesn’t scream desperation, I don’t know what does.

46. Before seeing it advertised on an overhead display, I didn’t know Toronto had an annual celebration of Iranian cinema. I also didn’t know that they were allowed to make movies in Iran other than government newsreels preaching hatred of Western culture.

47. At right is one satisfied customer …

48. In a province that blankets its roads in salt every winter, even when it’s not needed, this just screamed “Ontario”:

49. I get the feeling the Leafs and Raptors won’t take kindly to having their flags flown at this establishment. Call it a hunch.

50. And best of lucks in your new location …

51. I spotted this “DropBike” left out on the sidewalk. Apparently it’s a service where you can unlock one of their bikes using a QR code generated from their app and leave it at designated locations around the city when you’re done with it.

51a. You will never see such a service in the Old Country. Trust me.

52. Farther down Yonge, I spotted a bum sleeping on the sidewalk using the front wheel of his bike as a cushion. A bike that looked to be in better shape than mine.

53. At the NHL Hall of Political Correctness, caps from the North Stars, Whalers or Nordiques were readily available, but they had nothing from the Thrashers.

54. Outside their store at the Tim Hortons was this display featuring the (real) Jets:

Of particular note was the replica AVCO Cup, the Hawerchuk jersey and those old ticket stubs, all still fondly remembered by yours truly.

54a. On my list of ideas for future books is a memoir featuring the Jets’ final season.

55. Nearby was a display of pucks, two of which were from the WHA Jets:

56. While waiting at Union Station for the Lakeshore West train, I spotted this dude doing his exercises out on the floor:

57. You don’t need to have an M.D. after your name to know that the obese woman I spotted hobbling along on a cane would be able to get around a lot easier by dumping a few pounds.

58. I’m proud of the fact that I don’t get the rings seemingly normal people stick in their noses.

59. It couldn’t have been possible for the 20-something woman I spotted with dyed blond and blue hair to get more makeup and lipstick on her face without it falling off.

60. The two women on the platform standing near me might as well have been holding a big neon sign with “TOURISTS” on it. Act like you’ve been there before.

61. There was a “medical emergency” which delayed the train by 13 minutes, but to their credit, GO arranged for the #12 bus to hold at Burlington for those of us wanting to catch it. Once again, this isn’t the Old Country, where a Winnipeg Transit driver would have taken great pleasure in taking off just as the people who were running after the bus got within a few feet of the door. Spoken from a great deal of personal experience in that regard.

62. One guy got on and asked the driver, “Have I ever been on the bus with you?” and “Do you know where I like to get off?” Sure he does. I’m sure he knows each and every passenger by name.

63. I noticed a sign on the QEW for the Organized Crime Winery. Funny, I didn’t know the Clintons were in the wine business.

64. During the day, the rainbow-colored bench at Beamsville was replaced with a regular wooden one. I can just hear the liberals crying “Homophobia!”

65. I didn’t know what the obese woman in the drive thru at the Tim Hortons on Scott Street was about to order, but trust me, she didn’t need it.

03 Sep

Touring Danforth Village

Yesterday, I made another excursion to the universe’s center, this time making a tour of Danforth Village on the east end of the city. “The Danny,” as they euphemistically call it.

The trip would get off to a bad start as the #12 bus left Fairview Mall almost 20 minutes behind schedule. The bus we had appeared to be a last-minute substitute as it pulled off the QEW from the eastbound direction and was completely empty when I boarded. The regular bus that was supposed to arrive from the Falls probably broke down, but there was no official explanation provided from the driver.

En route to Burlington, I spotted a black pickup truck from the Great State of New York with “Smith & Wesson” plastered over his back window. Even though I am fully supportive of law-abiding citizens possessing firearms, displaying such a motto so proudly when crossing an international border might not be the best thing to do. But to each his own.

Despite the lengthy delay, we still managed to make it to Burlington in time to catch the scheduled Lakeshore West train. Much more noteworthy, however, was that the driver pulled into south loop at the newly opened station, the one they had been working on for so many years. As I said to someone while waiting on the platform, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to live long enough to see it completed.

Inside, the ticket office was actually open and more importantly, so were the washrooms. Indoor washrooms. I don’t have to use the Burlington Outhouse ever again.

Up on the platform, I was not the only Center-of-the-Universe-bound traveler on this day, though most had other plans, including the popular CNE, located just a few steps from the Exhibition stop.

On board, I took a seat across from a couple of young heavyweightettes and, like, listened to their chatter, like, all the way to, like, Toronto. As the train pulled out of Burlington, they, like, first talked about how, like, hard it was to, like, not eat all their, like, snacks right away. Like, from the looks of them, they could do without the snacks.

One of them then shared the details of how she and her sister were both delivered by c-section. Born in 1984, she was a planned pregnancy, but her sister wasn’t. The other one then mentioned something about needing to pay Lisa $650 and bragged how she got a free $60 ticket to a convention she was attending. Or should I say, it was, like, for free.

Ms. C-Section then talked about the possibility of, like, being sent somewhere to help them with, like, public speaking. Like, I need help on public speaking from her like I need a free trip to North Korea. But as she said, if she goes, it will be super fun and there will be 50 million things she will want to buy. She will just have to be adult about it.

This just in. She needs to try harder.

After they got off at Union Station, I just filed that experience under Chapter 641 of “The things you learn about people on public transit.” Perhaps one day to make it into print. You never know.

I stayed on the train and got off at the Danforth station to begin my tour. You can check the album I posted on Facebook for many of the pictures, but there were other scenes that caught my eye as well.

A creative name for a dog groomer.

Up to 80% off a mattress. But only one mattress.

Pick up a cheap “camisol.”

It’s important to care for your pharmacy. They need love too.

If you want to drive a contract around.

I could only shake my head at this sight. Have we sunk so low that there’s a demand for a take-out window at Tim Hortons?

Funny, but I don’t think this stroller was taken by mistake. Call it a hunch. Maybe it’s that crusty old Winnipegger in me.

We delivery for you.

Someone’s got to explain this one to me.

A couple of hours later, I caught the #2 subway line at the Broadview station. The connecting station to the #1 line is called the “Bloor-Yonge” station, but they only announced it as the “Yonge” station and, unlike what they do on the #1 line, they didn’t announce that it was a connecting station. A significant faux pas in my opinion, especially given the number of tourists the universe’s center attracts. Nonetheless, I knew enough to get off there and caught the southbound #1 line back to Union.

I thought I had just missed a scheduled Lakeshore West train back to Burlington, but as luck would have it, it was delayed, so that gave me a chance to make it up onto the platform in more than enough time to catch it. The platform itself was packed, as was the train when it finally arrived, but it almost completely emptied at the Exhibition stop. One of these years, I should consider a visit to the CNE.

From there, it was a relatively quiet ride back to Burlington, where I was able to get the connecting #12 bus a short while later. While in line waiting, I laughed as someone came around asking if this was where she could catch the #12 bus as she was standing right underneath a huge sign to that effect. Duh.

After the bus came, I went up top only to find a bunch of noisy families yelling and screaming. Luckily, when the driver announced that an express bus to the Falls had pulled up, it caused an exodus of biblical proportions, and I don’t think I was the only one silently applauding. Good riddance.

Unfortunately, the riff-raff was soon replaced by a couple of millennials who, like, spent the next hour and a half spewing, like, their favorite word. Which they like. A lot. It all started with one of them, some kind of a middle manager at his workplace, lamenting how, like, casual Friday has become, like, a (manure) show. His companion talked about how, like, your performance should be graded on, like, your work.

On and on this went. It, like, needs to happen this year. Like, for example, she, like, she coached her colleague. But not, like, directly.

Behind me was an older couple who was also getting into the act after hauling their luggage up the stairs, also a phenomenon that continues unabated. The woman talked about how she wanted to make, like, nachos on sweet potatoes.

As the bus inched along in the holiday weekend traffic, there was at last some relief with some long periods of silence, briefly interrupted only be the incoherent ramblings of a mentally challenged man sitting a few rows behind me. All that I could make out was something about a strip club in Scarborough.

There was an interesting sighting at the Vineland exit, where a car had pulled off onto the shoulder. A few feet away in the middle of the tall grass was a father watching his young son take a leak. Sometimes the call of nature comes when you’re stuck in traffic and there’s nothing you can do about it, but there was a service station only a hundred feet away and Tim Hortons just on the opposite side of the QEW, as the signs on the highway clearly indicated. But why use a regular toilet when you can take a whizz in the full view of several thousand people driving by.

Not long after watching the kid fertilize the grass, our bus took the Lake Street exit and turned into Fairview Mall, where there was an older gentleman in a motorized wheelchair. He was not on the sidewalk, where he should have been, but in the left turning lane at an extremely busy intersection. If it’s not illegal, it should be, but in any event, you have to wonder about people who care so little about their own safety.

It was another interesting sight and, in a sense, a fitting way to wrap up an eventful day.

22 Jun

An Eventful Day Trip to Toronto

Thoughts, observations and pictures from yesterday’s day on the train to and from the universe’s center:

1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You graduate from university. You graduate from high school. You do not “graduate” from Grade 8.

1a. Even if a Grade 8 “graduation” would otherwise have been something worthy of a celebration, today’s no-fail policies render it utterly worthless. A stuffed animal could get a high school diploma nowadays.

2. As I took my seat on the top level of the GO bus, a gentleman came behind me huffing and puffing with all his might. If getting up the stairs was such a problem for him, why did he not stay on the lower level and take advantage of the priority seating? After all, that’s what it’s there for. No one put a gun to his head to go up top.

3. Just before the bus was scheduled to leave Fairview Mall, one of the young children of an extended family on their way back from a trip to Niagara Falls suddenly decided she had to go to the bathroom. So the driver made us wait while the mother ran off with the daughter to the mall. Which was closed.

Then we were made to wait while the pair went running around trying to find a place for the kid to answer the call of nature. They ultimately settled on a tree in PetSmart’s parking lot in full view of the bus, but then we were made to wait still longer while the mother ran back to the bus to retrieve a bottle of water for the cleanup while another female relative remained with the daughter.

Only after all of that were we granted the privilege of taking off.

3a. The mother’s half-hearted apology as she returned to the bus, the tone of which betrayed an entitlement to hold up the bus for as long as she deemed necessary, didn’t cut it. There have been other similar cases on GO when the driver has simply told such people in need that if they weren’t back in time, he had to leave. That’s the difference between public transit and a taxi. The bus leaves with or without you.

3b. That all said, it is surprising there are no washrooms on double-decker GO buses. Many, including the #12 that serves Niagara, run long distances and such emergencies do happen.

4. Even before getting out of St. Catharines, I spotted a Reimer Express truck on the QEW, one of four I would spot on the day. I would later spot a truck from Bison Transport and someone wearing a Bomber cap. In addition, I saw this car with a Manitoba plate double-parked in front of the ACC:

As I’ve said before, the SPRM does continue to follow me around.

5. At the Grimsby stop, an agitated Falls-bound cyclist asked our driver when his bus would be coming, acting every bit like someone who was mortally offended by a five-minute wait. This just in. The #12 bus only comes every hour. You need to check the schedule beforehand and plan accordingly.

6. Though I wasn’t in a hurry, the delay in St. Catharines combined with the heavy traffic caused some tense moments for the other passengers, many of whom needed to catch the connecting Lakeshore West train in Burlington. Full marks to the driver for his creative efforts in getting us there in time.

7. With the front rack full, the driver allowed a cyclist boarding at Nash and Barton to store his bike in the space strollers and wheelchairs normally occupy rather than asking him to use the rear storage compartment. I certainly hope it was strapped in, since it could have become a dangerous projectile if the driver had to stop suddenly.

8. Though I had my choice of seats when I got on the train in Burlington, the upper level on the car I was in was nearly full by the time we got to Oakville. Yet someone still had his bag on the adjacent seat.

Somehow I doubt he paid an extra fare for his bag.

9. I remain surprised that there are no signs on board the train showing the upcoming stop, something that has become standard practice on buses, even here in St. Catharines.

10. The customer service ambassadors must get up at night in a cold sweat muttering, “Please stand clear of the doors, the doors are now closing.”

11. Upon arrival at Union, I took the subway to Queen’s Park for the 10:30 tour of Ontario’s legislative building. Given my long-tenured association with Manitoba’s equivalent and the prior tours I’ve had of the Minnesota state capitol, it had been something on my radar for a while, and yesterday, I finally had the opportunity.

Oddly, there were no big security checks and showing photo ID was a condition of entry to the building.

Since the only other person with me on the tour was a Chinese lady who didn’t speak a word of English, our guide spoke to us ve … ry … slow … ly. As if speaking to us like we were six-year-olds was going to enable her to understand a completely foreign language any better.

Among our stops was the chamber where laws are made, unlike Manitoba, where laws are instead made at a police station. But I digress. And yes, I’m still bitter.

The government sits on the left, while the opposition sits on the right. All around are galleries for the public and political activists who still have the gall to call themselves “journalists.”

Facing the opposition is a sickly looking eagle, symbolically situated to remind them to keep a watchful eye on the government. On the opposite side, the owl faces the government, reminding them to act wisely, something this Liberal government has rarely done.

Unlike Manitoba, the Lieutenant-Governor does not have a separate residence, but she does have an office in the building.

Down the hall leading back to the front entrance were several items from the St. Catharines Museum:

Finally, a shot looking south from the front entrance.

It was nice to see the inside of the building, but I was disappointed that our guide was not as well informed as she should have been and the whole thing seemed rushed, as if she had a cake burning in the oven.

12. A shot taken at the police memorial across the street:

13. By accident, I happened to pass Sunnybrook Hospital, where former Jets assistant GM Mike Doran was taken following his near-fatal crash on his way to a game in Peterborough. It was indeed fitting that I was wearing my Jets jersey.

14. Signs of “pride” were everywhere. Here, a gay bank.

A gay hairdresser.

Gay pizza.

A gay ATM, one that presumably dispenses rainbow-colored bills.

Another gay bank.

Gay tea.

And gay beer.

Rainbow-colored hair, for those so inclined.

Statue of Alexander Wood, a “gay pioneer” among other things.

Even the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens got into the act.

I really don’t give a flying rat’s rear end what consenting adults want to do in their bedrooms. But, as a good friend of mine often says, stop shoving your sexuality down my throat. Enough already!

15. Approaching MLG, the site of the Jets’ only two road victories of the 1980-81 season, a scruffy character with a few loose screws stopped me after noticing my Jets jersey.

“You know who my favorite player of the Winnipeg Jets was?” he asked.

How could I possibly know? And why would I care?

“You know, that guy who scored with two seconds left.”

I like trivia as much as anyone, but that’s the most obscure clue I’ve ever heard.

Then he told me.

“Tony Tanti.”

“But he played for the Canucks,” I replied. “He never played for the Jets.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, acting as if he just had a brain fart. “He played for Vancouver.”

After regathering his limited and scrambled thoughts, he said, “Keith Tkachuk. He played for the Jets.”

Well, he at least knew that much. But as for Tkachuk, all I could do was give a thumbs-down.

“See ya later,” he said.

16. Not more than a block later, someone else noticed my jersey and said, “Go Jets!” before taking off on his bike.

17. Is this a terribly tasteful item to be offering on your menu?

18. Memo to the tourists from New Mexico who had lost their way: Spreading yourselves out four abreast blocking a busy sidewalk in the heart of one of North America’s largest cities while staring at a map is not a good idea.

19. A store that does not accept legal currency has no right to call itself “nice,” such as this one at Yonge-Dundas Square.

20. An interesting way to see the Center of the Universe:

21. Walking down Yonge Street, I heard someone drop the F-bomb. Unlike the case in the Old Country, it stands out like a sore thumb in this part of the world. As I’ve said before, it’s yet another reason why I’m happy to be here.

21a. The three-year anniversary of my defection from the SPRM is rapidly approaching.

22. I was one of only a handful of people out and about on the sidewalk during the lunch hour who was not talking on the phone or texting.

23. A picture of Tim Horton at a future Tim Hortons location. What a novel idea. You have to wonder why his legacy isn’t more celebrated at their stores.

24. I made a point of stopping at Legends Row in front of the ACC. The latter shot is of Darryl Sittler, who, as loyal readers may recall, I met personally at an IceDogs game.

25. The construction of the new Burlington GO station has been going on so long that I think this “temporary” orientation map can now be considered permanent.

26. Just go ahead and light up. Don’t let that big “no smoking” sign bother you at all.

27. On the GO bus back to St. Catharines, there was a couple who boarded at Burlington who insisted on dragging their suitcases up the narrow and steep staircase despite the fact that there was plenty of room for both them and their suitcases down below. To each his own, I suppose.

28. A couple of teenage princesses got on and Nash and Barton and were genuinely pissed off to find that the two front seats, one of which I was in, were occupied. It is, after all, first come, first serve. Nonetheless, they sat down nearby and like, proceeded to, like, fill the airwaves with their, like, juvenile conversation. About when they, like, have to take trips to, like, ‘Sauga. (Saying “Mississauga” apparently required too much vocal effort.) And the courses they, like, have to, like, take.

I nearly laughed as I listened to the older one, who was, like, in her first year of, like, university, like, lecturing the other. “You’ll learn that when you get older,” she said. Then she, like, began to talk about, like, her course on, like, women’s gender studies. A course that will surely be of far greater value than any other in the nursing program she was proposing to enter.

28a. If I end up in a hospital, I can only hope to be cared for by someone more mature. Even just slightly less immature.

31 Jan

Another Tour of Hamilton

Observations from yesterday’s tour of downtown Hamilton:

1. The GO bus leaving Fairview Mall was more than 10 minutes late, but the driver actually apologized and vowed to try and make up time on the way. It is another sharp contrast from the Old Country, where the driver would probably drive extra slow just to piss his passengers off even more.

2. There was someone from Quebec boarding at Fairview and, obviously unable to speak Canadian, simply held up her cell phone to the driver to tell him where she was going. Interesting idea. If I visit that country again, perhaps I should come prepared with a picture of a sub should I need to stop while on the wrong side of the border.

3. On the opposite side of the aisle was a gentleman having a very deep, involved conversation with himself. Moving his arms and talking out loud, he appeared to be thoroughly enjoying his own company.

4. Seated in front of this talkative gentleman was someone stretched out over both seats snoozing away. I wonder if she asked the driver to wake her at her stop.

5. Kudos to that GO driver who waited until the senior who boarded at Beamsville got to the top of the steps before taking off.

6. I noticed GO has finally indicated “Beamsville” on the new Ontario Street/QEW stop. It was long overdue, as there are three exits in Niagara for an Ontario Street, the others coming in Grimsby and St. Catharines.

7. Upon reaching Stoney Creek and the stop for the now-infamous Barton bus, I was asked by a younger dude in dreadlocks if he could use my cell phone. Not that I have one, but I wouldn’t have made the assumption he only wanted to use it temporarily.

8. I’m not sure it was safe for him to do it, but more kudos to the same GO driver for letting that young woman on despite being in the left-hand turning lane at the on-ramp for the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

9. HSR is now putting CBC “news” up on their video screens for the benefit of those sitting in the back. Needless to say, I found this deeply offensive.

10. I was even more offended when one of these CBC “news” segments showed a picture of the Government Forks in Winnipeg. The SPRM does have a way of following me around.

11. While stopping for a picture on Ferguson in the International Village, a woman carrying a tray full of Mr. Horton’s delicacies made a point of telling me, “If you see someone falling from the seventh floor, don’t mind it because it won’t be me.” Not only did I not see that one coming, but there were no buildings in the immediate vicinity that even had seven floors.

12. There were plenty of beggars out and about, though they were at least polite and somewhat respectful. One was seated on the sidewalk outside Hamilton City Center with his legs stretched out. Another was standing right outside the door at another of Mr. Horton’s locations asking “You don’t happen to have a nickel or a dime towards a bagel, eh?” After ignoring him, he said, “Sorry for bothering you.” All told, I was accosted three times throughout the day.

12a. Later that evening, a friend who I was speaking with on the phone said that if I had wanted to do something different with my life, I could have made a good counsellor. I’ll pause for a moment while you get all that laughter out of your system.

13. It is not a proper trip on the Barton bus without getting at least one mother with a stroller in tow. There might even be some sort of transit by-law requiring it.

14. I know only those of you from the SPRM who use or have used Winnipeg Transit will appreciate this comment, but it’s still a novelty not having to use a battering ram to get out the back door. On all HSR buses I’ve been on, the back doors open automatically and there’s never been a problem.

15. For a complete set of pictures, click here.

04 Jan

Visiting Hamilton and Dundas

Thoughts from my journey to Hamilton and Dundas today:

1. While waiting at Fairview Mall for the GO bus this morning, someone was out in a Bobcat spreading salt by the ton. OK, it had rained overnight. But it was above freezing, and it wasn’t as if there wasn’t any salt on the ground left over from the last unnecessary dumping. One more reason why I call Ontario the Great Salt Republic.

1a. A salt truck threw up at various intervals along the trail following Cootes Drive between McMaster and Dundas.


Yes, Virginia, they do use a lot of salt in this part of the world.

2. Again, someone on the GO bus charged upstairs, parked himself in the front seat, then leaned back, closed his eyes and started snoozing. There’s got to be something about that front seat that makes it more conducive to catching up on lost sleep. I just don’t know what it is.

3. The Barton bus in Hamilton was again an experience to behold. For starters, seated across from me was a rotund woman with only house slippers on her feet. Her only pair of socks must have been in the wash. Then some scruffy, bearded character got on and pretended like he was the driver’s best friend. Later on, he fancied himself as a goodwill ambassador for HSR when he greeted some young man with a “Happy New Year, eh?”

He was also anxious to fill us in on his upcoming wedding plans. “She loves my pension check,” he boasted. One thing’s for sure, she’s not marrying him for his looks.

3a. There was an ad on the bus with the caption, “Ride with Compassion.” Given how our Liberal mayor has been carrying on about his “compassionate city model,” I am genuinely surprised such ads are not on St. Catharines buses yet.

4. Despite the warning sign, I didn’t see any turtles trying to cross the road.


5. Along Cootes Drive, I spotted a truck from Trans-Ontario Express. No doubt, they provide nationwide service from Windsor to Cornwall. I suspect most readers from the Great Salt Republic won’t get it.

6. For anyone looking to recycle their community:


6a. I support the concepts of reuse and recycling, but some communities are beyond that stage and, in a figurative sense, just need to be hauled out to the landfill. One in particular comes to mind, and I think perceptive readers might be able to guess which one I’m thinking of. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Actually, yes, I am. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

7. I was accosted twice in downtown Hamilton, although the accosters were at least polite.

8. Scenes from downtown Dundas for your viewing pleasure:


9. I wasn’t aware I needed to bring a Windows installation disc for my return trip on the GO bus:

29 Jun

Thoughts on Niagara GO

Yesterday, I was among the handful of non-politicians present as our MPP, Jim Bradley, and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca made the “historic” announcement that GO train service will be coming to Niagara.

That was the good news.

The bad news?

St. Catharines and Niagara Falls won’t be seeing the trains until 2023. That’s seven years from now.

Yawn.

Despite the massive letdown, in an understatement of epic proportions, that leaves plenty of time for our local elected officials to lay out the necessary groundwork to make this new service a win instead of a setback.

First, there must be vastly improved transit service to the St. Catharines train station from both St. Catharines Transit and Niagara Region Transit. As things stand, it would probably take me longer to get to the train station than it does for the GO bus to take me from Fairview Mall to Burlington.

In a recent chat with the Standard, I posed the question to Mayor Sendzik as to when we could expect such plans to be announced if the much-anticipated GO service came. All I got was a politician’s non-answer. This is the time when the planning needs to get done, not two years after the trains start rolling.

Secondly, a full Presto rollout throughout the region’s many transit systems should be considered a must, along with a discounted co-fare for those coming from or transferring to the GO service. This is commonplace throughout the GTHA and it should be no different here.

Finally, lift the restrictions on taking bicycles on the train during peak times. I know this is more of a personal issue, but cycling is a lot more popular in this part of the world than it was in the SPRM. It is not just a much more accepted mode of transportation with the locals, but people come from all over the world to explore the region on two wheels. They can bring their bikes on the bus today and it should be no less permissible when the train comes, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

You want to play with the big boys? Act like it.

There’s lots of time to get this right.

No excuses.

19 Mar

Planet Toronto

Yesterday, I made my long-awaited inaugural visit to the Center of the Universe. It was also my first time using GO as I took the bus from Fairview Mall in St. Catharines to the Burlington GO station, then transferred to the Lakeshore West train that goes to Union Station in Toronto. It seemed odd having to use public transit to go there, as I remain surprised that the vortex generated by the Center of the Universe doesn’t just suck all of us in St. Catharines right across the lake, but there’s probably an explanation that only people with a more detailed knowledge of physics and gravity would understand.

Along with many others, I boarded the #12 GO bus that begins in Niagara Falls and makes stops in St. Catharines, Grimsby, Stoney Creek and finally the Burlington GO station. I noted with interest that the bus had a bike rack, as do all GO buses and trains, and I expect to be making use of those facilities in the near future.

117_insidebus
There is no GO outlet in St. Catharines, so you have to buy your ticket from the driver. You can purchase a one-way or return ticket, or alternatively, you can use the Presto card. It is a simple system to use, just tap your card on the reader when boarding and again when you exit. At the train station, tap your card on the many readers before you get on and tap it again when you get to your destination. Coming from Winnipeg, I feel like I advanced about three decades worth of technology.

013_go_burlington

014_go_burlington
Following the crowd out to the platform, the eastbound train that began at the Aldershot station soon arrived and I went up to the upper level.

017_insidetrain
After finding an empty seat, I noticed the absence of garbage, condom wrappers, vomit and graffiti, all too common sightings on Winnipeg Transit’s buses. Everything looked reasonably clean and as I’ve said before, I could get used to this.

115_pop
Not unexpectedly, there was no one there to take tickets as we boarded. Like they do in the Twin Cities and in Calgary, they rely on an honor system called Proof of Payment (POP). As one loyal reader laughs hysterically at the acronym, this is clearly not a system that would ever work in Winnipeg. In order to use an honor system, there has to be honor and precious little of it exists in the capital of the SPRM.

112_insidetrain
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the upper level on each car is designated as a quiet zone on weekdays. Even more surprising was that it seemed to be respected. On Winnipeg Transit, it is unusual to not have a bus full of people yakking on their cell phones and/or with the volume on their music players turned up to jet-engine levels.

113_insidetrain
Another nice feature was the emergency alarm, although the clientele was considerably less seedy than the usual collection of bums, hooligans and indigents that patronize Winnipeg Transit. In Winnipeg, such an alarm would be useful in notifying the driver in the rare occasion when there isn’t a problem.

As the train sped off towards the Center of the Universe, I couldn’t help but think of Rapid Transit, Winnipeg’s laughable attempt to get out of the dark ages. For those not aware, Winnipeg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars they don’t have, not for a fantastic service like GO, but for a short, dedicated transitway for their buses that saves three or four minutes for those commuting to the south end of the city. I recommend they rebrand this service as Winnipeg Area Interurban Transit and prominently use its acronym, WAIT.

019_union
After an enjoyable ride, it was time to disembark at Union Station and begin my day exploring the universe’s center, or at least a small portion of it.

029_expectingyou
Apparently, they were expecting me.

030_streetcar
On the way to the Eaton Center, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many streetcars like this one. It would have been nice if Winnipeg had these when I lived there. Oh right, they did. And got rid of them. Another in a series of foolish moves made by the less than stellar leadership in that part of the world. Pardon me while I shake my head. As my Twitter profile says, I’m still a recovering ex-Winnipegger. Having spent so long in the SPRM’s degenerate capital, as a friend recently suggested, it’s kind of like PTSD.

I also noticed many subway stations, though I didn’t use it on this trip. Perhaps in a future trip I will.

031_eatoncenter
Though I didn’t spend long there, the Eaton Center sparkles for its upscale clientele. For the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, this is not Portage Place, not by a long shot.

104_eatoncenter
I even found this recharging station for tablets and phones. Even more amazing was that it had not been vandalized or used as a toilet. Once again, I could get used to this.

036_cityhall
Moving on, I stopped for this shot outside City Hall.

035_outsidecityhall
People enjoying themselves at this outdoor skating rink.

045_bikeshare
Given the astounding number of bikes I saw throughout the downtown area, I wasn’t surprised when I saw this, one of many Bike Share Toronto locations, similar to the Nice Ride MN I saw so often throughout the Twin Cities.

046_bikeshare
At automated machines like this, for $7, you can rent a bike for 24 hours or for $15, you can have it for three days. Winnipeg also has a bike share program, but it works a little differently. There, you take your bike downtown, lock it up, and a scumbag will cut the lock and share your bike with you. Unfortunately, one of the program’s drawbacks is that you never see your bike again.

051_11a_queenspark
My next destination was Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislative building. I was surprised that it was so much smaller than its counterpart in the SPRM. When designing the building, no doubt the SPRM’s early pioneers had visions of grandeur for their new province, visions that have obviously never been realized.

053_queenspark

059_pmont
On the grounds and nearby were markers honoring past prime ministers of Ontario. Yes, you read that right, prime ministers, not premiers. Not only do many Ontarians think of their own province as a self-contained country, but in some cases, even Torontonians think of their own city as a nation. Overheard in one store in Eaton Center was a clerk who, when a customer mentioned St. Catharines, said, “St. Catharines, that’s still in Canada, right?”

Last I heard, St. Catharines was indeed still in Canada unless I missed the news item where the Regional Municipality of Niagara had declared independence. We are, after all, a distinct society.

055_treesforcu
At the north end of the building is an actual park, filled with, gasp, regular people.

060_22mill
Not that I would ever want to live there, but for those who do, it does not come cheaply. Consider this three-bedroom condo that will set you back a cool $2.2 million. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

DSC03242
Needing to refuel, I stopped at this Subway on Bay Street, apparently in the newly renamed city of “Tronto.”

061_toilet
After eating, I went to the washroom, where the seat was missing. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to sit down.

064_baystreet
Continuing down Bay Street, my curiosity was piqued when I saw a mass of humanity congregating on the sidewalk.

067_line
As I got closer, I saw that it was a line waiting to get into Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Cheesecake, which I later learned is part of a chain that has outlets in eight different Asian countries. I happened to be going by less than an hour after the grand opening of their only Canadian location, or should I say their only Toronto location. Their “soft and fluffy” cheesecakes in flavors such as green tea, honey and chocolate are evidently quite popular.

073_camp
Having escaped the cheesecake rush, I noticed the belongings of a homeless person lying unattended on the street. The fact that they had not yet been stolen was yet another indicator that I was no longer in Winnipeg, where thieves will nab anything, regardless of value.

106_bum
Later on, I stumbled on this guy who had just checked into the Bay Street Hilton. Perhaps he was the proud owner of those items.

095_redstuff
South of the Gardiner Expressway, I stumbled upon these three bottles filled with an unidentifiable red beverage. Even though I was getting a little thirsty, I decided to pass on this complimentary offering.

098_hhof

100_hhof
By accident, I passed by the site of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Even with more time, I’m not sure I would want to visit because of its affiliation with that other major league and because of its decision to induct members on the basis of political correctness instead of merit.

102_indian
For a veteran of downtown Winnipeg, this was again an unusual sighting, not because of the statue itself, but because of the lack of vandalism. It wasn’t even bolted down.

025_union
Returning to Union Station for the trip home, I first went to the GO ticket counter, then out to the platform to catch the train.

107_union

114_train
I had a bit of a wait at the Burlington GO station for the #12 bus, but I got back safe and sound. I was just as overwhelmed by the great public transit system we have here in southern Ontario as I was by Toronto, but it was well worth the trip and one I will likely be repeating.