Thursday, August 29, 2013
>>> Minister talks Northern issues | Timmins Press <<<
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
I am an observant person anyway - it is in the nature of authors and photographers to be so - but my searching through old boxes of documents made me especially so. I used the word "tribe" very deliberately to describe commuters as I think that social scientists should pay more attention to this interesting group. The commuters' conventions of lining up to board the train, the repetition of where to sit, of "owning" a seat and the rift in the space-time continuum when one fails to get ones usual square foot. Consider also how we choose who we sit next to. Generally, I sit wherever I can get a seat facing forward, but subconsciously I am assessing gender, age, disposition, facial expression and I'm sure other factors I haven't even considered. Although the behavioural science of commuting is interesting, it is peripheral to the main topic of this piece: PRESTO.
Just as both jobs and the trains that take people to them are going high-tech, ticketing technology has also evolved. Gone are the cardboard monthly passes as well as the beloved 2 and 10-ride tickets which needed to be cancelled before each trip in a process known affectionately in my family as "kachunking". While the single and return tickets remain, the others have all fallen to the PRESTO smart card, a credit card-sized piece of plastic similar to other systems used around the world.
Although the rollout has been slow (and is far from complete) and the system's installation cost is one of the highest in the world, the system has worked well for me. The initial registration of the card was complicated and the autoload feature did take days to work properly, but once that was complete, the system could not be simpler. At each end of the journey, I hold the card against a reader to deduct money for the cost of the journey. While it doesn't "kachunk", it does beep - leading to a new verb in my family: to "beepy-beepy".
The PRESTO card is part of the surge in new digital technology which has so changed our society by placing so much data into computer code, a medium that has proven disturbingly permanent. Normally, I refuse store loyalty cards on principle: why would I want to attach my complete purchase history to my name so that marketers could follow and predict my every decision? It seems that the more freedom the digital world supposedly gives us, the more our behaviour enslaves us to governments and corporations. It is then paradoxical, if not hypocritical, that I registered my PRESTO card and set an autoload. The entire system is set up to allow you to make anonymous cash top-ups, but I chose to automate everything because it was easy. As a result, I never had to worry about being unable to pay the fare, but my travel history has now also been recorded in startling detail. For instance, on the 22nd of August, 2013:
- 6:42 am - I deduct money for a trip starting at the Whitby GO station
- 7:38 am - I end my journey and deduct the balance of the cost of my trip at Toronto Union station
- 5:21 pm - I deduct money for a trip starting at Toronto Union Station
- 6:35 pm - I end my journey and deduct the balance of the cost of my trip at the Whitby GO station
- 6:35 pm - my card autoloads
- 6:41 pm - I deduct money for a Durham Region Transit bus (I was lazy)
While this does not tell you where I live, or where I went and what I did in Toronto, the picture is disturbingly clear. In many ways, this is more invasive than any loyalty scheme, even allowing you to construe the discounted fares available for using PRESTO cards as a sort of payment for data, yet I still chose to do it without a great deal of worry. That is the key to data mining in the 21st century - we don't worry about it. This brings me back to the start of this entire commentary: commuters.
Technology has indeed allowed our actions and decisions to be logged like never before. In return, we have been able to access content from the remotest parts of the world. GO Trains are no exception to this, whereas commuters once read books or newspapers, today they are more likely to catch up on work or videos on LCD screen-adorned devices. Adding this to the already invasive noise of cellular telephones has compelled GO to introduce "Quiet Zones" on all rush-hour trains. For my part, I look out the window, while those around me are engrossed in their latest gadgets, thankfully now mostly in silence.
My research is now complete and so I have abandoned the tribe to resume my normal, less traceable life. I have enjoyed the train journeys immensely, just as I enjoyed watching my fellow commuters. There is but one question that lingers in my mind: who will get my now-vacant seat today?
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
>>> Few details following ONTC meeting | North Bay Nugget <<<
Monday, August 26, 2013
>>> Démantèlement d'Ontario Northland : le ministre en visite à North Bay | Radio-Canada.ca <<<
Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Memory Junction Museum in Brighton, Ontario is an interesting place to visit and an excellent place to watch trains. Here, VIA 912 passes with Train 61 on August 17th, 2013. / Le musée Memory Junction à Brighton en Ontario est un lieu intéressant à visiter et un endroit excellent pour observer les trains. Dans cette photo, la locomotive VIA 912 passe le musée avec le train 61 le 17 août, 2013.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
>>> Group fights for passenger trains | North Bay Nugget <<<
Saturday, August 17, 2013
If you are able to join them in North Bay on Monday, please do!
Details can be found on the NEORN website.
>>> GCA disappointed community leaders not involved in meeting with Gravelle <<<
Friday, August 16, 2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Visit the Toronto Railway Museum online for visiting information.
>>> La MMA perd son permis au Canada | Radio-Canada.ca <<<
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Waterfront Toronto has opened the new Corktown Common Park by the Don River for the summer. This provides an excellent new location for rail photography, as this shot of VIA 904 with Train 61 on August 9th shows. / Waterfront Toronto vient d'ouvrir le nouveau parc Corktown Common pour l'été. Ceci a créé un nouveau endroit parfait pour la photographie ferroviaire, comme cette image de VIA 904 et le train 61 le 9 août y indique.
For more information / pour plus de renseignements: Waterfront Toronto (Corktown Common)
Thursday, August 08, 2013
Monday, August 05, 2013
GO's New Colours / Les nouvelles couleurs de GO, a photo by Thomas Blampied on Flickr.
GO Transit has recently repainted locomotive 607 into their new GO and Metrolinx colours. I think it weakens a strong image. Train 925 at Whitby, August 4. / GO Transit a récemment peinturé la locomotive 607 en nouvelles couleurs de GO et Metrolinx. Je pense que ça affaibli une marque très reconnue. Train 925 à Whitby, le 4 août.
VIA locomotives 6435 and 6446 have just left Toronto's Union Station after their journey from Vancouver with train #2, the "Canadian". August 1. / Les locomotives 6435 et 6446 de VIA viennent de quitter la gare Union à Toronto après avoir terminées le voyage de Vancouver avec le train numéro 2, le "Canadien". Le premier août.
That said, the proposed VIA security enhancements appear to be mostly 'behind the scenes' such as increased checked baggage scrutiny and linking baggage with passenger lists. Even ID checks are not the end of the world, even if they are annoying. My concern is that this might only be the beginning.
Finally, on a practical note: how does VIA intend to implement these procedures? Only weeks ago, VIA announced further job cuts, including decreasing the number of manned stations. How can you scrutinise baggage when there isn't a manned station?
>>> Via Rail mulls tighter security after alleged terror plot - CBC News <<<
Sunday, August 04, 2013
Thanks to the new "Puente de Luz" between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street in Toronto, it is now possible to photograph the GO flyunder. Here, GO Cab 237 leads train 911 on August 1. / Grace au nouveau "Puente de Luz" entre les rues Spadina et Bathurst à Toronto, il est maintenant possible de photographier le "flyunder" de GO. Voici la cabine de contrôle numéro 237 en avant du train 911 le premier août.
Saturday, August 03, 2013
VIA 911 with Toronto-Montreal train 60 passes Port Union (Scarborough) on July 25, 2013. / VIA 911 avec le train Toronto-Montréal numéro 60 à Port Union (Scarborough) le 25 juillet 2013.