2012 – The Year of No Posts

Well, 2012 has come and gone, and waiting in my inbox was the rather amusing Annual Report for Third Rail Repository.

Despite being totally ineffectual in terms of generating new content, the blog still managed to draw 69,000 pairs of eyeballs. Some highlights:

  • The same sex marriage debate in the US continues to drive a lot of people to “10 Reasons Gay Marriage Should be Illegal“. Not everyone got that it was satire.
  • At least once a week or so I’d get comments on the “Top 10 Things I Hated About Edmonton“, almost evenly split between “I hate you you’re stupid die” and “Totally agree” comments. What’s frustrating is that the “I hate you” people never seemed to click through to the “Top 10 Things I Liked About Edmonton“.
  • If you really want to get users to come to your blog, just do one random post on Calvin and Hobbes. Since it’s launched, 33,108 people have gotten here by searching for the best comic of all time.

So, to everyone who’s read the blog this year and to everyone who took the time to comment (even if you are a giant jerk), thanks! And what will 2013 have in store for the blog?

  • Post, post, post – I’ve had a lot of really cool things going on that need discussing. I hope to get better about this. I’ll aim for one a month to start.
  • Update, update, update – A lot of my older posts have dead links and images. I’ll clean all this up.

Welcome to 2013 and see you on the blog.


TTC Absence Data, Absent TTC Content

A recent article in Chicago’s RedEye examined a possible link between chronic absenteeism and longer than usual wait times for rider during peak times. In particular,

The odds of experiencing a bad commute on the CTA are greater on Mondays and Fridays and during the run-up to rush periods, all because of canceled buses and trains, a Tribune examination of performance data has found.

A break down of the data found that the majority of cancellations occurred between 6 and 9 a.m. in the morning and 4 to 7 p.m. in the evening, coinciding nicely with peak rush.

CTA management and unions both recognize absenteeism is a significant issue, but each side is (not surprisingly) blaming the other for high absence rates.

So how does the TTC stack up? Well, the answer is not terribly clear based on what I have been able to track down in terms of TTC absence rates.

After reaching out to the TTC’s Chief Customer Service Officer, Chris Upfold, over Twitter, he emailed me the chart below.

Click to enlarge

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a statistician. In fact, I barely squeaked through by research statistics course in grad school. Given that, I felt like there wasn’t much I could wring from this chart. But, between the brains of my wife and the brains of my stats nerd work friend, I figured I could do some rough approximations.

With an almost 8 per cent absence rate in 2011, assuming a 365 day work day, I figured that this roughly equals almost 33 absences (365 x 9% = 32.85). Compare that to CTA’s 39.5 and…what?

There’s a fair number of assumptions in the TTC figure (all TTC employees compared to CTAs drivers only figure, for example). And even knowing this number and that the TTC figure is lower, where does that leave us?

That’s where I’m stuck. Without cancellations figures for the TTC (that I could find through internet digging) I don’t really have much to go on.  That, fair readers, is where I’m hoping you’ll come in.

If anyone out there can take this and build on it, please do! And let me know what you come up with, I’ll be interested to learn more.

Toronto’s Brief Affair With The Dirigible

In mid-September some of you might recall the nice piece Derek Flack did for BlogTO  on Toronto’s skyline throughout history. Now, those of you who know me will understand why one image in particular grabbed my attention: Dirigibles – who doesn’t love ’em. Based on the handwritten note at the top of the photograph, this […]

One Bloor, Redux

by Ben

The Toronto Star has some renderings of the new NEW design for One Bloor (Bloor and Yonge, in Toronto, for those from away, probably the most expensive piece of land in the city).  As you may know, the property has had it’s ups and downs, but mostly downs, over the past while.

I was happy to see it get snapped up after the latest Dubai financed development collapsed, and if these renderings are any indication it should be a pretty nice benefit to the corner.  Check them out (props to buzzbuzzome.com for the images):

Read More…

I am the 2453rd Fastest Person in Chicago

by Jimsey

So this is a bit of a “dear diary” post. I know we don’t have many on TRR so bear with me. Sunday I was feeling saucy so I decided to run the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago (Well technically I felt saucy back in February when I registered). It gets billed as the largest 8k event in the world with 36,000 entrants. So that’s neat I suppose.

This was my first real race ever. Sorry Grosse Ile, your little 5k, which I ran hungover, registered while smoking and placed 2nd in my age group, doesn’t count.

Few thoughts:

First, I was not at all prepared for the pace of the race. More specifically the start. I’m a jogger, and I consider myself to keep a fairly decent pace. As soon as the air horn went, I wanted to tell everyone to slow down. For some odd reason I was placed in Coral A (the second group to start, behind the “elites”), so that probably didn’t help either. I still have no idea how I ended up there.

Second, while the race was through the streets of the loop, I don’t think I enjoyed it that much. Its not like I didn’t have time to enjoy myself, it just didn’t do anything for me. We ended up on all the boring streets, sorry Kinzie and Franklin. Though I did wave “hi” to work.

Third, I hate you weather. Friday was 61 (16c). Sunday was 33 (1c) and damp. At least it wasn’t raining or snowing like it did on Saturday, or like last year’s shuffle which I pussed out on.

Fourth, I feel like I left something out there. My typical distance in my leisurely jogs is around 12km. That combined with the pace of this event made me have no idea how to pace myself. The final km was hilarious. Seeing the finish line, I broke into a full stride sprint passing about 100+ people in the process. Maybe I’m an ass for doing it (I didn’t see anyone else doing it) or maybe I’m an ass for not pacing myself correctly. Oh well, life goes on.

Yes, that's me. Go Stretchypants Go.

Fifth, I’m used to jogging in the evening. 9am running is not cool. On my running days here, I have a very planned routine including meal times. When you aren’t used to scheduling your meals for a 9am run, you end up doing a second full sprint home to clean that mess out (if you know what I mean).

Finally, It was pretty freakin’ neat hearing the footsteps of thousands of people crunching along together. For quite a few sections it was just us in a giant posse.

Regardless, I can cross this off my Chicago to-do list. Oh, and I absolutely loved the hundreds of dirty looks for lighting up a cigarette after I got my bag out of gear check. Oh, and 38:01 was my time.

Small update to add this image ripped from the Shuffle’s Website:

Such a mass of people

Ride the City – Toronto Edition

by Ben

Upon hearing news that Google maps now had biking directions,  I was elated.  Upon hearing it was only in major U.S. cities, I was deflated.  And then, lo and behold, I was elated again upon learning that Ride the City just released bike directions for Toronto.

After playing around with it a little my overall impressions are positive.  Here’s the suggested “safe route” given for my work commute:

Can’t say I disagree.  Choosing the most direct route actually takes me a little further than I need to go, but there isn’t really a way for the app to read my mind.  Yet.  The ability to choose between safety levels is nice, and will also be useful when I feel like a scenic weekend ride rather than a hurdy-gurdy pedal to work ride.

The map layout is nice and the overall map has an appealing feel to it.  But one of the coolest bits to the map, and something I haven’t seen yet, is the addition of underground walkways (check out Bay and Bloor).  It appears this is the result of the base mapping program, OpenStreetMap.org, which is pretty cool in it’s own right.  Maybe I can finally figure out Toronto’s PATH system.

So, this will do for now.  Once Google gets around to Canada I can compare then.

Barring Maps…hic…I mean Mapping Bars

by Ben

A great series of maps using Google data has popped up in the past day or so looking at the occurrence of bars across the United States (hat tip to City Block and Floating Sheep).

I’ve reproduced some of the maps below from Floating Sheep (click for larger):

First up, total bar mentions on Google Maps by city.  Hard to see, but Chicago is the winner!

Chicago wins!

Does your area have more bars than groceries? You’re probably doing alright…I mean, how many different grocery stores do you want to go to in one evening?

Balogna or Beer?

There are some more fun breakdowns over at Floating Sheep, go check them out!

Over at City Block, the author wonders this:

Unsurprisingly, we see all sorts of concentrations of bars that correlate with population density – namely, cities.  Wisconsin, however, is punching well above its weight.   That well-worn drinking culture shines through.  Southern cities, conversely, seem a little thing based on their populations – perhaps a holdover from dry counties and other temperance movements?

I think there is certainly something to this, but I’d add another variable.  Some of the biggest bar towns also have access to something other areas of the U.S. don’t – copious amounts of fresh water.  Many of the best microbreweries (and big breweries, for that matter) have started around the Great Lakes.  Good water sure goes a long way towards making good beer.

To celebrate this wealth of data I suggest going to your nearest watering hole and raising a toast to Google data and all the folks who can crunch it!

Introducing When We Was Young

by Ben

Slightly off topic for TRR, but I wanted to engage in a little shameless self-promotion.  For the past few months my friend Chris and I have been making like overgrown adolescents by forming a band, appropriately named When We Was Young.  It’s been incredible fun and I’ve surprised myself with some limited ability to play bass, thanks to Chris’ efforts.

In any case, we’ve recently started doing some songwriting and recording, with result being the release of our first single, “Out of Place”.  The song writing process is terrific fun, and we’ve had great help from our partners/band managers.

Anyway, check the single on our MySpace Music page here and let me know what you think.  Input is always welcome, and we’ll be working to get a slightly more polished version up (I just couldn’t wait).


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