Archive by Author | Ben

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 for the images):

Read More…

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,, 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).


TTC Customer Service Advisory Panel Announced

by Ben

With surprisingly little fanfare it appears the TTC has announced the members for it’s Customer Service Advisory Panel.  The always resourceful Transit Toronto has the full details here.  Here’s what the membership is going to look like:

  • Matthew Blackett, the publisher and founder of Spacing magazine.
  • Robert Culling a professional transit operator for the TTC.
  • Yves Devin the chief executive officer of the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) since 2006.
  • Tyson Matheson, WestJet’s vice president of People Relations and Culture.
  • Dr. Roy Morley, professor of marketing in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.
  • Sue Motahedin of TELUS Communications Inc.’s Loyalty and Retention Department.
  • Krisna Saravanamuttu, a fourth-year criminology major at York University and the president of the York Federation of Students.
  • Kripa Sekhar, the executive director of the South Asian Women’s Centre.
  • Julie Tyios, the chief executive officer of Red Juice Media, an online marketing firm.

Early impressions:

  • First, the TTC announced earlier in the week that there wouldn’t be any members from the public.  That said, I was still holding out home that Steve Munro would be on here.  It was as squandered opportunity on the TTC’s part.
  • I’m generally a fan of Matthew Blackett.  He at least represents the “activisit” side of the equation to some extent.
  • Robert Culling – It appears that Culling is a TTC driver (not sure of what vehicle).  A logical choice for inclusion on the panel, and I’m curious as to what criteria determined what driver was selected – e.g., peer suggestion, Union suggestion.
  • Yves Deviln – Solid choice.
  • Krisna Saravanamuttu and Kripa Sekhar – A surprising nod towards the diverse needs of TTC users.  I’m especially pleased with the community focus of including someone from the South Asian Women’s Centre.   Very impressive choices here.
  • The rest are the usual corporate and academic suspects, no surprises there.

Details of the panels goals are summarized at Transit Toronto and by Steve Munro, so I won’t cover that ground again.  With the report due at the end of June, however, I am interested in how much work will be achieved.  I haven’t seen an indication as to the frequency of the meetings, but I would hope they would at least be twice a week.

Probably a larger fear is how much voice some of the “smaller” members will actually have.  Will the needs of students be heard over the opinion of corporate VPs?  Will genuine debate occur in these meetings, or will they be hijacked by competing interests?

For now I will maintain a fine balance of skepticism and optimism and wait for more details.  Regardless, a positive step.

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