Mississauga Transit 9132 Charter - July 19, 2009
During the Toronto Transportation Society's September 2008 Southwestern Ontario Charter, it became evident that a charter of a Mississauga Transit bus was past due. A day after that charter, I sent an e-mail to Mississauga Transit customer service, asking for charter rates. I had recently seen a successful charter carried out in Ottawa, leading me to believe that I could also do it. At this point, I was determined that a charter was going to happen. A very friendly customer service representative replied apologetically, saying that "with the increased demand for better and more frequent service within our system, we now require every bus in our fleet to provide this service." I knew that that was not the case, however I did not feel like arguing with anyone. Little did I know that the charter would require no arguing whatsoever. By then, almost all of the 1990-1992 Orion Vs had been retired, and I did not expect the then remaining 10 to survive until the 2009 charter season, and I felt it was already too late into the fall to plan a charter. The charter took a back seat to work and school commitments.
In October, it was announced that those remaining 10 Orion Vs (9105, 9127, 9132, 9134, 9132, 9201, 9208, 9304, 9306 and 9308) would be kept until September 2009 when the third batch of ElDorados (0930-0941) were due to arrive. I said to myself that I would plan a charter using one of those buses for the next summer.
Fast forward to April 2009 on the TTS's GO Prevost Charter. I was talking to TTS President Kevin Nicol about upcoming charters. He mentioned that there hadn't been a charter in Mississauga in six years, and that he would go on one if I were to plan one. I was once again motivated to make it happen, knowing that I would have his support.
On Monday, April 27, I contacted transit enthusiast and Mississauga Transit operator Chad King, asking if he would be willing to drive a charter on Saturday, July 11. He said that he would be perfectly willing, as long as I could move it to a week later. He had missed out on the opportunity to drive the last transit enthusiast charter in Mississauga, of 8610 in 2003. I tentatively set the date for my charter to be Saturday, July 18. On the Thursday of that week, April 30, I typed out this e-mail:
I had planned that e-mail out over the preceeding few days, attempting to cover virtually all points of concern that transit may have had, in an attempt to boost the chances that I would receive their support.
A week passed by with no reply. I was informed that Cathy Mills had retired, and that Kyle Sadowsky had taken over her former role, so I sent the e-mail to him. On May 21st, less than two months before the charter date, he replied, apologizing for the delay and letting me know that "This should be no problem. I will contact you next week to start working out the specifics." I began planning once again, seeking advice from Kevin Nicol, whose charters formed the basis on which I planned my own.
At the June 2 CX Garage Open House, I went into the supervisor's trailer at the garage complex and visited Mr. Sadowsky. He affirmed that it would be possible to have Chad drive as a volunteer, in order to cut the cost of the charter from $167/hr to $137/hr. During that board period, Chad was off Sundays but worked Saturdays, so I finalized the charter date to be Sunday, July 19, 2009, to avoid the cost of finding a replacement operator for Chad's work on top of Mississauga's exceptionally high charter rate, which is second only to the TTC in the GTA.
June sped by, with my weekends dedicated to driving to several points of interest, as identified by myself and fellow Mississauga Transit enthusiasts Christian Parise and Ryan Tilley. In mid-June I posted that the start and finish times would be 9AM and 3PM, and began accepting RSVPs. The price was set at $35, which would require me to attract 25 participants in order to break even. Extensive promotion on the CPTDB began.
Idrove the charter on Sunday, July 5, noting discrepancies in travel time, in an effort to improve our on-time performance. Each photo stop was planned to take advantage of the exact sun angle at the planned time and location. I had finished making changes to the schedule by July 14, and had posters and adracks printed on the 16th. I sent the schedule to Kelly Bianchi, who had taken over for Mr. Sadowsky while he was on vacation.
During the weeks prior to the charter, I, along with several other transit enthusiasts, spotted several of the buses, noting which ones were in better condition cosmetically. In speaking to several transit operators, I decided on 9132, due to its reputation as a fast, reliable bus with cold air conditioning. Charters at the height of summer are rare because few transit agencies maintain their air conditioning, however Mississauga Transit's contract with Thermo King ensures all buses are blowing cold air when it is needed most. Upon my posting that 9132 would be the charter bus, several attendees complained about the chipped paint on the front of the bus. 9134 had been noted to be in considerably better cosmetic shape, and equally as fast and cold as 9132. Unfortunately, 9132 had already been selected and Ms. Bianchi was unable to change my selection, due to insurance issues. I discussed this with Chad, and he said not worry; we would just cover the missing paint with white electrical tape, a trick used in movies.
On Friday the 17th, I prepared the packages that would be distributed to each of the 27 RSVP'd participants. I prepared 30, just in case more people showed up than expected. Each package consisted of one of each of the current Transit pamphlets, including InTransit, Wonderland, bike racks, and others. I also called the Mississauga News, and Chris Clay published an online article about the charter on their website.
Sunday, July 19, 2009 came to be. I got up early in the morning and put up posters at Square One and Islington Subway, which were the secondary pickup points. I had also offered a pickup point in front of the hotels on Tech Avenue, however no one wished to board at that location. I arrived at Central Parkway Garage at 8:15, and parked in the area in which we had been cleared to park. Everyone would meet in that location, at the west end of the parking lot near Erindale Station Road, to pay and sign the waiver, then walk north to the body shop entrance and meet Chad there when he pulled the bus out at 9AM. Nearly all of the participants had attended the Grand River Transit GM Classic charter the day before, as well as post-charter activities at Bingeman's in Kitchener, and were not happy with the 9AM start time, however I had chosen that time to take advantage of sun angles that would not have been available later in the day.
The charter was underway. Chad pulled out of the garage and passed to the north side of the body shop, which had opened a year earlier. The plan here was to have him pull into the sun angle in the body shop parking lot, however due to confusion within the garage ("You're driving THAT on a charter!?!?"), we were constrained for time. Little did we know that we would later end up throwing the schedule out the window.
Upon departure, we travelled north on Erindale Station Road, east on Burnhamthorpe Road, north on Duke of York Boulevard then a right turn onto eastbound Rathburn Road to the first photo stop, at the City Centre Transit Terminal at Square One. The three participants who were boarding there were waiting for us when we arrived. We used the route 65 stop, an east facing stop on Rathburn Road, west of the terminal as our second pickup point. That stop had previously been used for the City Centre Shuttle, so we signed the bus up for that defunct route as well. After taking some pictures at that stop, Chad pulled the bus around to stop 0477, a south facing stop that at the time was used by routes 20, 61N and 311. We opted to sign the bus up for route 311, as virtually no one other than myself has photos of Mississauga Transit school specials.
We departed the terminal heading east on Rathburn towards Hurontario Street, where we took the ramp to head north. Next, we made a right turn onto Sherwoodtowne Boulevard for the second stop of the day.
We made a left turn onto Rathburn from Sherwoodtowne, then a left on Central Parkway East to Eglinton Avenue, where we turned right. Next was a left turn onto Tomken Road, then a right at Matheson Boulevard East and a right onto Maingate Drive to the third stop, at 5395 Maingate Drive, Orion's old plant, where 9132 was built.
The next stop was Tech Avenue, east of Matheson Boulevard, where route 50 Creekbank takes its layover. To get there, we made a left turn back onto Maingate, left at Aimco Drive, right at Matheson Boulevard, then a left onto Tech Avenue to the photo stop.
After departing that photo stop, we made a right turn onto Creekbank Drive, then a left on Eglinton to Renforth Drive, where we turned left, then got on Highway 427 southbound to Dundas Street. Many routes use that routing, and I announced aboard the bus that we were tracing a route 17 or 35 once we had turned onto Renforth. Exiting at Dundas, we travelled east to Islington, then south to the subway station. Due to TTC restrictions aimed at avoiding fare evasion, Mississauga Transit buses may not carry passengers into the compound at Islington Station, and therefore Chad unloaded all participants on Bloor Street and then entered the compound.
By the time we departed Islington, we were 18 minutes late, and I'd begun to explore time-saving options. I elected that we would skip the planned MTB stop which was to come shortly after the next stop, Fire Station 109. To get there, we went west on Bloor Street to Dundas, then north on Highway 427 to Highway 401 westbound. We exited at Dixie, and went north to Britannia Road East. I had planned for participants to walk in the parking lot of the industrial complex that borders the fire station, and take pictures of 8901 over the fence. There appeared to be personnel at the fire station, however, so I rang the doorbell. I spoke to the crew and their chief agreed to let Chad drive us into the back of the training area where 8901 has been located since 2006. The crew was more than happy to take us in, as long as we would remain in the back of the parking lot for safety and let us know that if they got a call, we would have to leave as quickly as them, because they were the only crew on duty at the station. One firefighter was kind enough to take our group photo in front of both buses.
Departing Station 109, we headed east on Britannia into the Airport Infield, under the runways, and to the bus loop. It is used by routes 57 Courtneypark in both directions, as well as the single-tripped southbound route 59. unfortunately, we displayed route 59 northbound at this stop. While it was inaccurate, it was unique.
We began to head westbound on Britannia towards Dixie Road and Highway 401, to go to the next scheduled photo stop at the future location of West Credit Garage. As we were passing the airport training centre at the southwest corner of Britannia Road East and Courtneypark Drive, a charter participant spotted the fishbowl that is kept there. It was not my plan to stop, (or even reveal its existance to anyone!), however we turned around at Britannia and Netherhart roads, and headed back to give everyone a good look at the bus.
We continued east on Convair from there, heading to Renforth and onramp to the westbound 401. Although the next stops were planned to be West Credit, Danbro and MTB, we elected to head towards Oakville GO, where we would be more-or-less ontime. To make up for the lack of stops on this section of the charter, two Oakvile Transit operators offered to guide Chad to a location where three RTSs are stored, not far from Oakville GO. That improvised photo stop turned out to be successful; we avoided the usual considerable traffic backup on the QEW. From the 401, we took Highway 403 westbound to Dundas Street, avoiding the traffic which was backed up on the highway. Next, we turned left onto Ninth Line, travelling south to Upper Middle Road, where we turned right, then left on North Service Road to the buses' location. While we were taking pictures of the RTSs, Felix Tse guided Chad around the block, because there was no safe place to lay over at that location. The bus used North Service to Iroquois Shore Road, where it turned right onto Eighth Line back to North Service. Chad repeated that loop to allow enough time for pictures to be taken of the movie buses, then arrived eastbound on North Service to pick us up.
Upon departure, we used the cul-de-sac of Invicta Drive to turn around, following North Service back to Iroquois Shore, where we turned left towards Trafalgar Road. Everyone was eager to eat lunch and use the washroom, so our arrival at Oakville GO was welcomed. We spent almost half an hour at Oakville GO, long enough to have lunch and see the 12:25 Oakville Transit departure.
We exited the GO Station eastbound on Cross Avenue, then made a left turn onto Trafalgar Road, towards a planned stop that we had missed: Uptown Core Terminal. The terminal opened in 2007, and Mississauga Transit began route 101 Oakville Express service on October 19, 2009, however countless test runs had already operated to the terminal.
We departed Uptown Core for Orion Bus Industries, using Tauton to Hays to Trafalgar, through downtown Oakville to Lakeshore to Hazelhurst Road. With enough transit operators aboard the bus (one from TTC, one from York Region Transit, one from Hamilton Street Railway and three from Oakville Transit) there were more than enough trained spotters to allow Chad to make a three-point turn, however we elected to use Hazelhurst Road's new cul-de-sac, which has reportedly begun to be used by Transit's training department due to its deserted nature.
That section of the city was only served by route 37A in AM and PM peak, service that as of December 7, 2009 has been provided by route 14A. We traced the opposite direction routing of route 37A, going north on Southdown Road to Lakeshore, where we began our full trace of route 37, eastbound on Lakeshore. That route ceased to exist on December 4, 2009, with only one trip in each peak period covered by route 29A as of the following Monday. This is one of the most prestigious areas of Mississauga, and it was quite the sight to have one of the oldest buses driving around on a Sunday afternoon.
Conitnuing along the route 37, Chad stopped at one of the locations we had proposed to stop at, however had elected not to. It turned out that this was one of the most popular stops on the trip, located at the bend in Orr Road that is almost completely forested. The location was used throughout the 1990s by Transit's marketing department, and photos taken here can be found on most publications from that era.
Next, we followed the remainder of route 37 into Clarkson GO, which is undoubtedly the most crowded terminal in Mississauga, even on a Sunday afternoon.
We departed Clarkson GO, turning left onto Southdown Road, which turns into Erin Mills Parkway at the QEW. Our next stop was South Common Mall, facing southbound, which we entered by turning left onto Burnhamthorpe Road then left into the bus terminal.
Departing South Common to the south, we turned left onto The Collegeway to Erin Mills Parkway, which we used to get to Thomas Street to take us to Streetsville GO Station. I was hoping for us to meet a GO bus at the station, however one did not show up.
Due to the tight nature of Streetsville, we were unsure of making a left turn from Thomas Street onto Queen Street, so we made a left out of the GO Station and then a right onto Joymar Drive. Joymar is one of the roads in the city on which buses are not supposed to operate due to complaints from residents. Chad greeted them by revving the engine while driving up the street. At Britannia Road West, we turned right and headed towards Silken Laumann Way, where we turned left, then left on Bancroft Drive, right on Donway Drive and finally a left on Second Line West. I planned this to be a video runby, so all participants wishing to take pictures of the bus on Highway 401 exited at the bridge, and Chad used Second Line to Sombrero Way to Mavis Road, where he got on the westbound 401, driving under those of us who were on the bridge. He exited the highway at Mississauga Road, and came back eastbound, exiting at Mavis, and using Bancroft to Donway to return. I will upload the videos I shot at this location at a later date.
The next stop was Old Derry Road at the Credit River, which is the location of the only truss bridge in Mississauga that is used for a road. Due to the narrow width of the road and to avoid blocking traffic, everyone who wanted pictures of 9132 on the bridge got off on the east side, walked onto the bridge, and took pictures as Chad drove across.
I had planned a stop in front of City Hall on City Centre Drive to be next, however the Rotary Ribfest had that section of the road closed. Instead, we headed west on Old Derry to Creditview Road, which we used to Rathburn Road. We turned right on Duke of York Boulevard, then right on Princess Royal Drive for a photo stop as a route 6 with the Living Arts Centre in the background for closed side shots and the back of City Hall behind open side shots. During this trip, I handed out charter posters as well as the adracks with planned schedule that I had had printed. No one left empty-handed.
Chad suggested that we make a left turn onto Living Arts Drive, and stop just south of the closed City Centre Drive, in order to pose the bus in front of City Hall's clock tower.
The charter was coming to a close. Some participants walked back to Square One from that stop, in order to catch buses back to their destinations. We departed that stop southbound on Living Arts, then made a right on Burnhamthorpe, a left on Mavis and a right on Central Parkway. Chad unloaded all participants in front of the transit employee parking lot, and then entered the garage. Confusion was the name of the game at the garage that day, and therefore he did not get the bus parked for another 25 minutes, after circling the garage multiple times. No one had any idea where Chad was to park the bus, as it seemed no one knew it was on the road.
I learned a lot from planning my first charter, and intend on running a similar one in 2010. Thanks to all who attended, and especially to our operator Chad King, who volunteered his time to drive the charter.
© 2009 David Vincent