Wednesday, March 21, 2018
By: Warren Schnurr – GRT Conventional Operations Committee Representative
It has been some time since a report to the membership from our committee has been made, so I’d like to try and bring everyone up to speed about some of the major items being discussed at the committee lately. Going forward, I hope that these reports can become a regular part of keeping the membership informed, and that other committees will jump on the reporting bandwagon as well.
1) Bus Only Left Turn at Sportsworld Crossing
Operations has been actively trying to get a bus lane sign and diamond lane markings installed for the bus-only left turn lane into Sportsworld Crossing from Sportsworld Drive. Since this intersection is at the end of a freeway ramp it falls under the jurisdiction of the MTO. Therefore, there has some confusion and back-and-forth about who is going to pay for the work to be done.
In addition, the delay experienced by buses waiting for the transit priority signal at this location is being addressed. GRT Staff are supposed to ask the Region to look at the traffic signal controllers to see what the problem is. Traffic in all directions is currently experiencing delays of up to 15 seconds where everyone is facing a red light during daytime hours when a bus is waiting for the priority signal to activate.
2) Route 51 Southbound Stop at Ainslie & Dickson
Operations has been working for some to to try and get all the signage at this bus stop moved so buses can pull into the stop without catching their mirrors. This process has been taking an extremely long time and the delay has been frustrating. The stop was first raised as an agenda item in May 2017 and we are still trying to get the Region to move some of the signage out of the way so buses can pull into the stop and close to the curb properly.
One suggestion was to move the bus stop back to the No Parking sign to avoid all the blue wayfinding signs that stick out at the intersection. However, some testing has shown that this idea is no better than the current situation since the No Parking sign is still close enough to catch the mirror of the bus, and there is barely enough room to pull into the stop ahead of the legally parked cars on the street.
Another suggestion is to consolidate ALL the signs in the area on the black street lamp pole but we’ll need to wait for a response to that idea from the Region.
3) Ainslie Terminal South Driveway and Routes 59 & 63 Bay Switch
Operations has been working to try and streamline how buses get out of the Ainslie Terminal at the south driveway near the former bowling alley. One of the major concerns has been how the Route 59 blocks any buses circulating on the property when it departs and needs to wait to turn left onto Ainslie Street. So, effective with the Spring Sign-Up the Route 59 Bay and the Route 63 will be swapped; this will allow the Route 59 to keep to the left and not block buses circulating on the property and will also shorten the amount of circulating the Route 63 needs to do when it departs the Ainslie Terminal.
In addition, Operations has also asked that three on-street parking spaces be removed on Ainslie Street south of Warnock Street to make left turns out of the terminal a bit wider. However, the decision to remove these spots rests with the Region and the City so there is no guarantee they will be willing to remove them since that might upset the businesses in the area.
In any case, a reminder goes out to all operators using the Ainslie Terminal to follow the guidelines below when entering and exiting the Ainslie Terminal.
- Buses turning left onto Ainslie Street heading southbound towards Cedar/Concession should KEEP LEFT and line up single file to exit. This will limit the number of buses blocking the circulation patterns on the property.
- Buses heading northbound on Ainslie Street towards Cambridge Centre should ALWAYS exit the terminal using the driveway by the armoury. Buses should not be turning right onto Ainslie Street from the laneway by the former bowling alley. Operations is also going to ask that GO Transit be reminded to follow this direction as well.
- Buses entering the Ainslie Terminal coming southbound from Cambridge Centre should ALWAYS enter the terminal using the entrance by the armoury and circulate on the property and NOT make a U-Turn into the terminal by the former bowling alley.
- Buses entering the Ainslie Terminal coming northbound from Concession/Cedar should ALWAYS enter the terminal using the driveway by the former bowling alley and not turn right into the terminal by the armoury.
4) Southbound Delta Bus Lane on Hespeler Road
In September 2017, Operations brought forward a proposal to convert the painted shoulder of Hespeler Road over the bridge from Jaffray Street to Coronation Boulevard into a Bus Lane to help get Route 51 and 200 buses through the Delta quicker during rush hours. The Region has agreed to this proposal and it is being funded this year through the Region’s Transit Supportive Strategy for Cambridge. The proposal is going to Regional Council for approval this month along with several other minor transit improvements for Cambridge in 2018.
5) Northbound Queue Jump/Right Turn Lane at Hespeler & Munch
Operations raised the concern of several operators about the large dip in the intersection for buses trying to use the queue jump lane at Hespeler & Munch when heading northbound. Indeed, the dip is so bad that most operators are not using the lane at all because it can throw people out of their seats, bottom-out the suspension of the bus, etc. when travelling the speed limit through the intersection in the right lane.
A site visit with a bus is planned for Monday, March 26th. Planning staff from the Region will be on board to see exactly how the bus reacts to the bump and what engineering can be done to the road to fix it. Hopefully, some funding can then be acquired to fix the road profile so buses can use the right turn/queue jump lane as originally intended.
6) Sportsworld Station Changes
Operations has made a few requests for changes to Sportsworld Station:
- Officially separate the Route 203/72 stop into two stops to match the actual parking arrangements that buses make at this location.
- Modify some signage and laneway markings to improve the compliance of other motorists using the Park and Ride/Carpool Lot and keep them out of the bus loop (although we know no sign changes will ever be 100% effective).
- Paint the 203/72 and northbound 52 platform curbs yellow to match the other platforms and improve their visibility.
In addition, all operators are reminded that when exiting the Sportsworld Station loop to do a left shoulder/mirror check before taking off from the 2nd stop sign and yield to any buses trying to enter the bus loop. Operations has also requested a ‘Yield to buses entering’ sign be installed to remind motorists (including other buses) to look and yield.
7) Do Not Enter Signs at Cambridge Centre Station
Since there is currently only one Do Not Enter sign at the bus-only laneway at Cambridge Centre, Operations has requested additional signage and ‘Buses Only’ pavement markings be added to help keep more motorists out of the bus lane. Although, again, we know that no signs will be 100% effective, the additional signage may reduce the number of vehicles cutting through the laneway.
8) Relocation of Route 59 stops at Christopher & Myers
Operations is working to make the stops at the intersection of Christopher and Myers easier to service on the Sunday routing of Route 59. Servicing the southbound stop on Christopher Drive immediately north of Myers Road makes it difficult for buses to turn left onto Myers on Sundays. Operations has requested the the northbound stop on the south side of Christopher Drive be moved around the corner onto Myers Road. This stop would then be serviced 7 days a week and the southbound stop before Myers Road would then only be serviced Monday to Saturday.
9) Lane Markings at Cambridge SmartCentres
Operations has requested that GRT work with the mall management at the Cambridge SmartCentres to correct the lane markings on the property where the Route 51 currently operates. On a daily basis there are near head-on collisions with motorists (not just with buses either) because the lane markings do not conform to normal roadway markings and make it appear there are two northbound lanes with the left lane heading head-on into the southbound left turn lane that Route 51 buses use near Montana’s.
Operations has also requested that the stop bar line be moved back to make the right turn towards Pinebush Rd. at the stop sign near The Keg easier for buses.
10) Route 6 Inbound Left Turn from Wellington to King
Operations has asked that this turn and the bus stop be reviewed and the setup improved. Since King Street was reconstructed for the ION tracks this turn has been much tighter than in the past and servicing the bus stop before King has become problematic. GRT staff have recognized that there is an issue and when the Spring weather arrives there may be lane marking changes that can be made to improve the situation.
11) INIT/HASTUS Issues – Errors in Bus Stops, Stop Announcements and Routing Patterns
Operations has submitted an extensive list of errors that GRT Staff are continuing to work through. Since the Fall, well over 300 errors have been submitted to be reviewed for correction, this include missing or incorrect bus stops, erroneous or poorly pronounced bus stop announcements and routing errors that cause the INIT system to go ‘Off Route’. During our March meeting the Transit Data Analyst gave us an overview of his progress and the process that takes place to correct the errors. Some points he made…
- HASTUS, the scheduling software that provides our routing and schedule data to the INIT system, is a pretty cumbersome software package to work with. On average it takes 10 minutes to fix even one error in the system. This includes changing a bus stop’s coded position in the system, generating a new audio announcement and uploading the new data to the buses. The Analyst must also make these corrections just a few at a time in between his other regular duties.
- HASTUS will be getting an update including new mapping tools in April, although the update will be beta-tested first. This new software, called HAST-Daily will allow real-time changes to routings and stops instead of batches only once a week. This will also allow more reliable inputting of detour routings and will also report real-time delays and trip cancellations to GRT customers.
Operations will continue to look for, and forward, any issues that are found and all operators are encouraged to let the Operations Committee know of any errors they find day-to-day so they can be forwarded and corrected.
12) Bus Stops in Right Turn Lanes and ‘Right Turn Only, Buses Excepted’ Signs
Operations has submitted a list of over 20 locations in the Region where bus stops are located in the right turn lanes at intersections but no Buses Excepted signs are in place. GRT Staff are forwarding the list to the local municipalities to have signage installed at these locations.
However, it has also been noted that there are operators who have concerns with bus stops that are located in right turn lanes. Although stops in turning lanes can be annoying, they are a fairly standard feature in most cities across North America. In Ontario, a right turn lane with a bus stop is legally counted as a bus bay and as such the ‘Yield to Bus’ Law is supposed to apply.
Definition of a bus bay in Ontario Regulation 393/02 of the Highway Traffic Act:
“bus bay” means that portion of the highway beside a bus stop sign that is used by buses for the boarding and alighting of passengers, the use of which portion of the highway requires buses to exit from and subsequently re-enter an adjacent lane of traffic.
In addition, despite popular belief, the act of changing lanes in an intersection isn’t actually prohibited under the Highway Traffic Act, as long as the lane change is done in safety and with caution. Should a collision occur, a charge of “change lane – not in safety” could apply, which is the same charge for any lane change maneuver anywhere else that results in an at-fault collision. In short, operators should note the following about bus stops in right turn lanes…
- Operators should treat bus stops in right turn lanes as they would any other bus stop in a bus bay, including being prepared for other motorists to not yield to the bus even though they are supposed to. Exit the bus bay/turn lane only when it is safe to do so.
- Operations can do little to have stops in right turn lanes moved unless there is a safety issue at play (ie. poor/limited sight lines, not enough room for the bus to clear other traffic while at the stop, unsafe conditions for passengers getting on or off the bus, etc.). There must also be another, more suitable, location to move the stop to if it’s not going to be in the turning lane (unless it is a safety issue, then Operations will pursue removing the stop if necessary).
- Operations is going to focus on making sure all bus stops in right turn lanes have the ‘Right Turn Only, Buses Excepted’ signs installed so other motorists are aware that buses are making a maneuver that is permitted when leaving the bus stop in the turn lane.
13) Problem Stops At Roundabouts – Ira Needles/Thorndale (Routes 13 & 29), Franklin/Hilltop (Route 53), Pinebush/Tyler (Route 67)
Operations has raised issues relating to buses servicing these three stops due to their location in the right lane after the bus must make a left turn through the roundabout since there is not sufficient room to make a lane change before the bus stop, and because traffic in the right lane continually passes the bus making it difficult to make the lane change. In all three cases we have asked the Region to change the lane markings and signage to legally allow the bus to turn into the right lane during a left hand turn from the roundabout.
The roundabout at Ira Needles/Thorndale, exiting The Boardwalk, is currently a particularly bad setup for buses because of the traffic volume on Ira Needles Blvd. Since the inside lane of the roundabout is already designated ‘left only (no straight-through)’ we have asked that the right lane be changed to allow all movements (left, straight and right), which would allow buses to start in the right lane and make their left turn around the roundabout while staying in the right lane to service the bus stop. The roundabouts at Bleams/Manitou and Queen/Hespeler/Beaverdale have similar lane designations allowing left turns from both lanes.
14) Passenger Comfort and Safety Information Inside Buses
Operations has been working on ensuring that all buses in the fleet have all the necessary Passenger Comfort and Safety guidelines posted in the overhead advertising area for reference by passengers and operators. Originally, the concern was raised that only the buses in Cambridge were missing these postings, however an investigation revealed that many buses in Kitchener are also missing these panels.
With the help of several operators a brief survey of buses was conducted to see how many buses had both guideline panels posted in them. Over 40 buses were checked over the course of 2 days, but unfortunately there were ZERO buses that had both the necessary panels in them. If these statistics are applied fleet-wide it can be reasonably be assumed that most, if not all, the buses in the fleet are missing at least one, if not both, guideline panels.
The comfort and safety guideline panels are an important tool for operators trying to educate passengers about GRT policies, especially if the passenger questions or challenges the operator because the passenger doesn’t believe the operator. These policies include ensuring that music is kept to a reasonable volume, pets are kept in proper carriers, stop requests are only permissible at night and not on iXpress routes, and skates and other athletic equipment have their sharp edges covered, etc. Operations has asked management to ensure all buses in the fleet have the proper postings in them.
15) Issues With 2017 New Flyers
Operations has raised several issues with the 2017 New Flyers buses that Fleet is trying to address.
- INIT stop announcements cutting-out: Fleet is investigating the cause of this problem. Apparently the 2017 New Flyers have a new version of the INIT system so they are unsure if this is a glitch with the INIT computer or the computer on the bus itself. Currently a battery shut-down is required to temporarily restore the stop announcements.
- Stop Request Indicator is too bright: Fleet has agreed to put a partially opaque backing on the indicator to reduce the brightness. A similar backing was applied to the stop request indicator on buses in the past few years as well.
- Retarder lurching while braking: The retarder on the 2017 buses was cutting out and in when the transmission on the bus was downshifting. The transmission software has since been updated and this particular problem has been resolved.
16) Proposed Changes to Driver’s Equipment Layout
Since the new fareboxes have been installed fleet-wide there has been no shortage of operator complaints regarding the layout of the equipment in the driver’s area. Notably, the Farebox Control Screen often blocks the INIT Data Terminal, which makes seeing schedule adherence and accessing the menu features of INIT very difficult. Also, as operators try in frustration to get a good view of both screens, there is a lot of wear and tear being caused to the new farebox equipment.
Operations is proposing that the equipment in the driver’s area be completely re-configured to solve this and a few other problems. Since the Region will soon be replacing all the radio equipment with a new system there is an opportunity to relocate other equipment to be more user-friendly. Fleet has agreed to look into changing the configuration of the INIT Data Terminal, Two-Way Radio, P/A Microphone and Farebox Control Screen when the two-way radios are replaced.
Some notable items currently being proposed as part of the reconfiguration:
- Mounting the INIT Screen and Farebox Screen together and one above the other (particularly on the Nova’s) on the adjustable slide on the dash.
- Replacing any remaining corded P/A microphones with boom-mounted microphones that don’t need to be held while the bus is in motion.
- Relocating the two-way radio unit and handset somewhere to the left of the operator to reduce clutter near the INIT and Farebox screens and to keep it out of reach of passengers.
Of course, the final setup is far from being decided and will need to be reviewed and agreed-upon both both management and union representatives. Also, the current timeline for replacing the two-way radio equipment has been pushed to 2019 which will delay this proposal.
END OF REPORT