Category Archives: VIA Rail

Helping lost people turns into something personal

GO train on the go

GO train on the go

This summer I am making it my business to help people who are having difficulty finding their way around Toronto. I don’t actively seek doing this but when I see someone who appears lost – or if they are asking for help getting around – I do my best to help them. Some days when I’m out nothing happens; some days there are a couple of instances. But last Saturday it got personal as my friend K. from Oakville had to return home by GO train and the situation for boarding was very vague.

K, N and I had spent a day at Harbourfront and N and I walked K back to where she figured she would go to get her GO bus. It was where she had exited.

The long waiting room with windows on one side and entrances to stairwells to some of the platforms on the other side was not very helpful. Neither was the Departure schedule on one of those changing digital boards. All the upcoming GO trains and Go buses were listed, but the boarding platform was not listed until five or 10 minutes before boarding time. Instead, you saw the word “Wait” beside the trains and buses. There were no officials around to ask; no indication where the nearest washroom was, and no seats to sit on.

K has back problems and other medical issues. N has a hip problem and I have a couple of digestive disorders. We would have appreciated at least a place to sit and someone official to ask if we were even in the right place. With this Union Station in construction flux, this latter part isn’t unreasonable. Last time K came to Toronto in the fall, she boarded her GO train at the other end of the large Union Station. So it wasn’t inconceivable that there was another place with platform entrances, particularly as the ones we saw here didn’t go up very far in numbers. The wall maps were useless.

So we waited, fretted and oh, did I forget to mention – no air conditioning so it was hot and humid inside. By continually checking the departure board I figured out that all GO bus platforms were numbered in the 40s. I also figured to get to them, you would go to the end of this long room, through the doors and there would be an indoor walkway to take you across the street to the GO bus terminal. Not for trains, though.

Five minutes before K’s GO train was scheduled to leave (they were running every hour only on the weekend because of construction) a platform number appeared. By that time, there were a number of people huddling around and they all proceeded through that numbered door. K hugged N and me and followed the others through the door to board her GO train.

I was so outraged by this major consumer service flaw, that I filed a complaint with GO online using their complaint form. Besides what I mention here, I also suggested they take a page from VIA rail (also goes through Union station but in the main area), i.e., that they list the platforms for all GO trains and buses departing – all the ones on the screen as they appear. The one word “wait” which they have, should deter people from entering the platform ahead of time in case there is another GO train or bus departing or arriving there before then. VIA does this and it is not unusual if you arrive early for your train when you go to the place to line-up, there is another line-up for an earlier departing train. VIA rail also has updated announcements via loudspeaker. That wasn’t happening a this GO waiting area. So that makes you wonder what blind people do? Maybe GO is in some violation of accessibility laws.

There was a notice in the waiting area and GO online that the platforms would be changing August 10 for construction so I also suggested they implement my suggestions when they do their construction.

If they can’t get their heads around giving good customer service to regular GO riders, they need to remember this is the big tourist season in Toronto and if regular riders (K does take the GO but in her area only, not into Toronto usually) get confused, what about tourists?

What do you want to bet that the powers that be at GO Transit all drive cars?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Friends, Getting lost, Helping Others, Only child, Public Transit, Union Station Toronto, VIA Rail

Only Child Tallies 2015 and previews 2016

Only child ponders 2015 and 2016

Only child ponders 2015 and 2016

I know I’m a day early posting but I’m experimenting – might change to Mondays for weekly postings after last week. Then I wrote the post on Monday but set it to go live Tuesday at noon. But I wasn’t too clear about when exactly I was writing and with the weather timing, it became confusing when it was posted as I had set it.

2015 has finally come to an end. It was a roller-coaster year all over and personally. Here are a few highlights of the bad and good – not just personal. And I promise it will only be some – if I put all in, it might fill the proverbial book.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (in no particular order)

Health:

In the past 13 months four friends have been diagnozed with cancer. The first of them is clear after one year. And my friend next door has a very aggressive lung cancer and is now undergoing chemo-therapy. I will talk about this more in another post about cancer. As for me, I have had to deal with an on-again-off-again respiratory infection for five months, going 85 per cent deaf for six days, new and old allergies (including a local allergic reaction to a wasp sting, an injury from a fall, and a dental emergency. Plus some of my usual health issues. Getting old is no fun. But wait a minute – my friend with cancer is only 50.

Weather – all over it is catastrophic – too much rain, too much snow, floods, floods, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and the like, too dry weather, forest fires, etc. etc. You name it and somewhere on this earth it is happening. Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating? Go to the The Weather Network and check it out. My take here is it is a combination of green gas/climate effect and to quote what the lady on the bus back in May said “God controls the weather.”

On a personal level with weather, water got in the basement three times from rain – not a lot. But it isn’t supposed to be happening because it was all waterproofed nearly five years ago. It worked for nearly two years, then stopped. Attempts to get the contractor to fix it haven’t worked, so I mention his name to warn people not to hire him. Nigel Applewaite.

House repair problems – from iced eavestroughs and downspouts, to unlevelled toolshed, to broken rain barrels, to electrical upgrades, etc. etc. The latest – discovered New Years Day 2016 – a window with a non-working lock – suddenly – this is a year and a half old window with a lifetime warranty (well longer than I will live anyway). I have to phone the window company today and being the untrusting person I am from previous experience – there could very well be problems with how it gets fixed/if it needs replacing and if they try to charge me, saying I damaged it, which I didn’t. It stopped working; it’s defective.

Consumer issues – mostly with utilities from the long (month and a half) business with Rogers Cable taking 8 visits to find out the cause of the on-again-off again no service. I pay  my bills so that is not it. What it was is a cable outside between the poles – which I kept telling each of the seven technicians (one was sent for two calls – not two in a row) who came. Only the last one listened – a seasoned technician. He checked outside – yes, a cable needed replacing and he called in for the service technicians who do that to come in. Cable TV service was up and running within a couple of days. In November and early December , the digital cable adapter has been acting up – they are documenting that and it can be replaced if necessary. If so, I may have to pull my senior ticket to get someone to come here and install it for free. I haven’t a clue how to do that. But I’m hoping all the reception works fine.

The other utility screw-up was when I had to change my Enercare heating protection plan to the more expensive boiler one. Unknown to me, years ago. one of the previous companies (Enercare took it over) had signed me up for the wrong plan. The fellow I talked to said I could get the discount for the first year because it was a new plan for me. I also booked a furnace cleaning – included in the plan. A few weeks later after I received an email about this plan with the full rate being charged, I phoned Enercare. Not only had my furnace cleaning appointment mysteriously disappeared, they were saying I wasn’t allowed the discount for the plan itself. I kicked up a big fuss and finally got a supervisor, who said they would check the recording of when I was signed up and get back to me. I was told I couldn’t book a furnace cleaning until then, but I called in again and did so. And I wasn’t pleased with this techs cleaning summary – he never said anything except that all was okay – until I got the electronic version of the checking – my furnace which is 13 years old got a rating for a 20-year old furnace. But I finally heard back about the heating protection plan. Yes, I had been promised the discount, so I have it.

Computer problems – including the old desktop computer with Windows XP finally not able to handle all programs. My son, Martin to the rescue who helped me get signed up with another Dell Lease . Microsoft’s bad move trying to shove Windows 10 at those of us who have either Windows 7 (that’s me) or Windows 8.1 on our computers, including “accidently” downloading it on some people’s computers. That, plus any new PC will have Windows 10, and the not-so-good screen setup for good lighting and vision (tied into Windows) and trying out my son’s Mac laptop has convinced me to lease a Mac laptop this coming fall when the PC laptop lease expires.

Public transit problems – from city subway and other upgrades to service disruptions to VIA rail never failing to screw up the service when I return from holiday – no matter how my travel itinerary is set up. This latter has actually happened in 2015, 2014 and 2013.

Never enough time to do what’s important – partly because of having to deal with some of the above such as the consumer and house issues.

That’s a sampling.

On the good side for 2015, I will mention now and elaborate in next week’s post on a few of them.

  1. My family, especially my son, Martin and his partner Juni – for their support, help, etc.
  2. My friends – same reason and for just being my friends – Margaret, Nola, Tanya, Marlene, Diane, Bob, Sheila, Reccia, Ellen, Rosemary, etc.
  3. My neighbours for their help – some are friends, too.
  4. My writing and getting books published, writing books, promoting my books including presentations with other crime writers,  my writing group, my clients – the list is endless here.
  5. My health – what works – I can still walk, hear, see (the latter two have some “getting old” features), talk (some people probably wish otherwise).
  6. Good books to read
  7. Good TV programs to watch.
  8. Cooking, trying new recipes, and eating, too.
  9. Walking around and exploring Toronto.
  10. My garden – despite tree problems. I miss the garden now in the cold snowy winter weather. Spring to fall going out in my garden even just to sit calms my nerves, gives me hope and peace, that not all is bad in the world.

These are only a few. May we all have a good, prosperous and interesting 2016 without a lot of the bad stuff from 2015 or new bad stuff.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under cancer, Complaining tactics, Computer problems, Extreme Weather, Family and Friends, Faulty Contractors, Floods, Gardening and depression, God, Health, Help and Support, Martin Crawford, Only child, Public Transit, Railways, Rogers Cable TV Service, Time management, TTC bus and bus station upgrades, VIA Rail, Weather

Only Child has a ton of problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Just got back last night from holidays visiting my cousins in various places in southern Ontario. Visit was relaxing and enjoyable but trouble began when trying to get home.

I like travelling by train. It is in my blood as my late father worked for the railway as a time-keeper. Since he died, railway travel has changed in many ways including the company created to run rail passenger service in Canada. VIA rail has not been exactly good to me.

When I reserved my “tickets” by phone they emailed me the boarding passes and a link to subscribe to their alert system for updates to my email. I don’t have a cell phone, so text wouldn’t work for me.

No problems on the train going to Waterloo, but the return trip from Grimsby turned into another nightmare (I have had issues coming home by train before in other years). I got my alert about half an hour before train time. The alert said train was arriving in Grimsby on time. So I shut down my laptop.

At the station my cousin who drove me there and I waited and waited for ages. There was no wi-fi in the area – she checked with her smart phone. So no point turning on my laptop and checking my email. She phoned her husband and had him check it out. He texted her back with a message that he had signed her up for the VIA text alert for this train (coming all the way from New York City early yesterday morning). She got two alerts of late times for it to arrive in Grimsby and before there in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

It finally arrived one hour and 15 minutes late. I was so upset that I fell at the top of the narrow metal stairs where you board the train. True, I had bags and my laptop in its padded case (well, I was travelling) but the VIA employee didn’t help me with the suitcases. They stand at the bottom so it is kind of backwards to take your bag up the stairs. I didn’t hurt myself and it appears all my belongings were okay.

But I was very angry and I screamed, but said “I don’t need medical aid – this train has been delayed enough.”

Then someone helped me carrying my bags to an empty seat.

Once settled and the steward came to check my boarding pass, I asked what caused the delay. He said something vague about at the US/Canadian border. I clarified that it was the Canadian border police, but he wouldn’t say what – just a vague answer that it can depend on the official at the border. He did say (in answer to my question) that it didn’t happen often.

The young woman across the aisle had heard all this and she came over. She said she got on at St. Catharines, Ontario (stop before me), the station there was closed and there was just a robotic announcement that there was a delay but no time given. The Grimsby station is just one of those tiny enclosed shelters that seats a dozen or so people, often not even open. It looks like a pop-up retail place.

The young lady went back to talk to the steward. She returned and told me there was a problem at the border – one family when talking to the border police (who come on the train) said they couldn’t find the husband on the train. There was a bit of a language problem (obviously not French as VIA rail employees are bilingual English/French – Canada’s two official language). Apparently the “missing fellow” had gone to another coach and had been processed by the border police okay. Finally the border police found him – we figured by taking a family member through all the cars until they found them.

The young lady and I agreed that the whole family causing the problem, in particular the man, should have been tossed out of the train and not allowed to stay in Canada for causing all those problems.

As the train arrived in Toronto (one hour and 15 minutes late), the arrival announcement was made and again (they did this last year too) they gave the farthest away place to get a taxi. VIA still doesn’t know that taxis line up right outside the west front door of Union Station.

VIA didn’t cause the problem; but they don’t handle all their notifications so passengers can find out.

Heads are going to roll here – when I have time to do something about it – at the very least send a complaint about VIA rail procedure – notifications and closed stations in particular.

But I have another problem – when I turned on my laptop and desktop computers this morning the Internet wasn’t connecting and then it came and went. Could get into my email program on both computers, though – so far. Called Bell Canada (my ISP) and they did some checking at their end. They think it is a cable at my end and are sending a technician who is supposed to be here today between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. He better show up and fix it. I have work to do and some of it requires being online and some requires phone calls which I had planned to do this morning. I also have to run errands to get some groceries.

I think that God might have it in for me – he didn’t cause any of these problems – but he didn’t listen to me when I asked that everything be working right with the train service home and my Internet service. At least I got home okay – finally. Now God has to make sure this Internet Cable problem get fixed pronto today without complications and it must stay fixed.

All these unwanted problems raise my stress level which affects my precarious physical health.

My garden is still lovely, though.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Alphabet list, Anger, Anxiety, God, Holiday Travel, Life demands, Only child, Problems, Railways, Stress, Train Stations, VIA Rail

Only Child rides the rails

Only Child with her parents at her grandfather’s farm – one of the destinations of now obsolete train routes.

I felt like I was riding history when I travelled during my holidays the past week. Especially last night when returning and I wondered if I was going to make it home or become part of this history.

Like my father before me I ride the rails when on holidays. Not the same railway that my dad worked for and he, Mom and I travelled on for our holidays. Dad worked for the CN when it ran passenger trains. Some years after he died CN quit the passenger service to focus on freight. VIA Rail was created and it started a passenger service.

Now VIA plans to cut service on a few lines within its busiest corridor between Windsor, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, as well as cut back on the number of times per week the Maritime line runs. One of my cousins commented that we’ll all have to travel by car. Is this VIA decision a good one when we are living in pollution and too many vehicles clog up highways (space and time, too. Think road rage).

So while on vacation visiting my many cousins in southern and southerwestern Ontario, I rode the last of some of the service being ditched. Going to Grimsby from Toronto it was the evening Toronto to Niagara Falls, Ontario run. Come October it will be gone and there will only be the early morning run from Toronto to Niagara Falls and vice versa in the evening.

Coming home last night on the last of the Sarnia to Toronto run at that time, I thought the service was being cut early. I got on the train at Kitchener and the first hour and a half was a great ride which I was enjoying. Then we just pulled out of Brampton and suddenly the main lights went out; the train stopped and the emergency ceiling lights went on.

Panic – at least for me, inside. I hate to be stranded. The VIA attendant did make an announcement that the power had gone off and that she’d let us know what was happening when she knew.

We passengers were left wondering what was going on, when 15 minutes later the regular lights went on. A few people yayed. Not me. We still weren’t moving and from what I could see out the window (not much as it was dark) showed cars on a street much lower than where the train stopped. Were we on a bridge?

After some time we received another announcement along the lines of they were trying to get the train started and if not, they would have cabs available soon to drive us to Union Station. Right. How would we get to the cabs? Walk along the embankment or the bridge more likely with little space and then where and how would we get down to street level? I kept thinking “I want to go home” – when I wasn’t darting to the seat across the aisle to try and see out that window. Even darker over that way.

Finally after 45 minutes of doing the stall, the train started. No one yayed this time. I couldn’t even go back to reading my Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine because I figured if I did, we would stop again.

Was this occurrence some foreshadowing of what is to come in October? Will I ride the rails again? Sure…on the lines still running.

But I know two things. My Dad is probably rolling over in his grave. He was always critical of CN service. If he were still alive he would be saying a variation of his “Typical (add railway here).

I think I would agree with him. Especially as 24 to 30 of us got off at the little flag station of Grimsby, Ontario on a Monday evening last week. Seems like VIA is cutting off its nose to spite its face. They are of course crying “government cuts.” The buck always stops at the consumer.

What says you about services such as train and bus being cut? (And yes, the bus service between Kitchener and Stratford has already been dumped).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child

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Filed under Canadian National Railway, Family, Holidays, Mom and Dad, Only child, Public Transportation, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel, VIA Rail