So Long Wroute, We Hardly Knew Ye

I worried about this when it launched and eventually they started worrying about it too, but in the end, there was no saving it.

Transportation company Wroute Inc. has suspended all operations in the face of lower than anticipated ridership.
“Essentially it became apparent that the marketplace was just not present,” president Jason Hammond said Friday. Thursday was the eight-month-old company’s last day of service.

“In the end, while we had some dedicated regulars, we did not have the volume of passengers necessary to allow the company to be financially viable in the long term,” Hammond said.

Hammond said he believed that the number of people travelling between Waterloo Region, Guelph and beyond on a daily basis — coupled with the fact that schedules for intercity public transportation can be infrequent or not ideal — meant Wroute’s scheduled service would meet a need.
And that’s why the struggle to grow ridership came as a bit of a surprise, he said. “That was a known problem we were looking to solve.”

I don’t know what the sweet spot for frequency actually is, and the changing nature of work schedules is going to make that even harder to sort out over time. Obviously right now you can still hit the regular morning and afternoon rush periods and that’s not going to change any time soon, but with more and more people working flexible schedules that don’t start and end at regular intervals, how do you draw the line between accounting for that and wasting money?

Another thing to consider is the existence of Uber. Depending on the nature of your trip and the number of people with you, the Wroute model doesn’t always make sense. If you’re always traveling alone it generally does, but things fall apart fairly quickly if not.

Getting from the Fairview Mall area of Kitchener into Guelph or vice versa in an Uber has cost about $45 every time I’ve done it. A Wroute trip of the same distance was $20 per person, unless that changed after Carin and I used it. But using my numbers, the moment your group has more than two people in it you’re financially better off in an Uber, and that’s before we take into account the convenience factor.

An Uber will pick you up where you are and deposit you where you want to be. You don’t have to walk around a city possibly late at night on one end looking for your ride and then be forced to get yourself the rest of the way home even later when the Wroute drops you off at the designated spot. So even when there are only two of you and the cost is essentially a wash, any extra might still be worth eating for the sake of door to door service. I know it was for us. We had a very nice Wroute experience heading to Guelph in the daytime, but when a decent October day became a chilly October night and it was time to head back to Kitchener after hours and hours of fun, wandering through downtown again was just not something we wanted to do. And we didn’t, because we didn’t have to. And it only cost each of us $2.50 more than Wroute would have to go right home.

It’s too bad it didn’t work out and I hope somebody can eventually give it another go, but it’s going to be tough sledding for whomever decides to take it on.

Jerry Howarth Is Coming To Kitchener To Sign Books And Talk About Baseball

I’m plugging this event for two reasons:

  1. It sounds like a fun night and I think I may want to go.
  2. Because whoever is in charge of making these decisions needs to know of my desire for an audio version of this book. One read by Jerry, provided his voice can handle it.

Join us at THEMUSEUM for Hello Friends! An Evening & Book Signing with Jerry Howarth, Voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, in conversation with Mike Farwell on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Jerry will share stories from his life and his time with Blue Jays Baseball!
Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | Doors: 6:00pm | Event: 6:45pm-9:30pm
THEMUSEUM, 10 King St West, Downtown Kitchener
$35 +tax (includes moderated talk with Jerry Howarth and Mike Farwell)
$55 +tax (includes moderated talk with Jerry Howarth and Mike Farwell, and a copy of Hello Friends! Stories from my Life and Blue Jays Baseball by Jerry Howarth, and Jerry will sign at the event)

Limited VIP tickets available for $200 which include dinner with Jerry Howarth before the event, a signed copy of his book, premium seating, and a donation to THEMUSEUM.

Anybody want to spot me that 200 bucks? I’ll be sure to drop your name around Jerry because I’m cool like that. You can get more info and buy tickets here.

Take One…Out Of My Pants

Somehow I missed this one last summer.

When Rebecca McKay went to her band’s studio last week, she found something she never expected.
A man, shirtless and sweating, allegedly masturbating to pornography on the band’s computer was sitting on the couch in the mixing room. He quickly tried to come up with a cover story about why he was in the studio — he said he was renting the space.
The man eventually fled the space, but was tracked down by members of the band and questioned about a custom guitar that went missing, as well as an expensive bottle of scotch.

The next day, McKay said the man returned to the studio and was arrested by Waterloo Regional Police.
At this point, no one knew anything about the squatter, aside from his first name being Dom. When the group returned to the studio, they turned on a computer, where they found Cignelli logged into his Facebook and Plenty of Fish account.

That’s right ladies, he’s single! Or at least he’s pretending to be! And going by this Reddit thread, he’s also somewhat well known around town.

I also learned from the thread that the victimized band is called “…And More”. When I was a kid I wanted to name a band that, but when I actually did join one it had a name already so I have yet to realize this dream.

Wroute, Now With A Few Less Routes

One of the first things I said when I heard about Wroute, the service that will Tesla you between Kitchener and Guelph, is that I thought they were aiming too high out of the gate. Unfortunately, it seems they’re starting to realize that I was correct.

The owner of Wroute said they expected there to be a lot more passenger activity than there has been.
“It is increasing every month (passenger volume), which is great, just not at the rate we expected. Unfortunately to make sure that the company can continue for long enough to wait for that passenger volume to increase, we had to reduce both our service and the size of the team … to make sure the company extends long enough to do that.” Jason Hammond explained.
Wroute launched in September with 27 drivers. They’re now down to 20.

“We took about one hour from the morning and an hour from the evening, during the week. Then a few hours in both the morning and evening, over the weekend.”

The news isn’t all bad, though. A few weeks ago, the company expanded its offerings to include trips to the Waterloo Airport, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, the University of Guelph, the Aldershot GO station and Mapleview mall in Burlington.

I sure hope they can get things stabilized. They’ve got a good idea and much needed service here and it would be a shame if we lost it.

Grand River Transit Is About To Change Hundreds Of Stop Names

Not sure how much any of this is really going to mess anyone up, but the fact that Grand River Transit is changing the names of about 300 bus stops as of tomorrow morning seems like something worth a mention.

The change is part of an effort to standardize the system and for “wayfinding purposes”, according to their website.
Some noteworthy changes include switching stop names to reference key landmarks, while other routes will see street names added for better wayfinding.
The University/Seagram stop will switch to University Ave./University of Waterloo and is an example of a landmark name change.
The Father David Bauer stop will switch to Westmount/Father David Bauer and is an example of adding a street name for better wayfinding.
The Frobisher/100s Block stop will switch to 151 Frobisher Ave. and is an example of standardizing midblock stop names.

CTV Kitchener has the full list.

You Can’t Spell Christkindl Without Christ

It’s not every day I agree with church people on something, but it’s hard to argue with them here.

A controversy has surfaced from Kitchener’s Christkindl Market after a group of performers say they were silenced for talking about Jesus.
Pastor Jacob Reaume had to shout his message at the opening night of the market after his microphone was turned off by city staff.
“I thought it was probably an accident, some type of technical difficulty but then I looked around and realized, no this is intentional,” Reaume says.

Hey continued to say the microphone was cut off three times. Once during a German bible reading and twice when he was reading the story of Christ.
The city of Kitchener says the church group did not indicate it was going to be reading from scripture or be providing a sermon during their performance.

And they should have to indicate this because why, exactly? Especially if what they say is true and they gave the same performance last year. Not to mention that they’re representing a church, so what else could anyone have possibly been expecting them to do?

I get that we maybe don’t want to bombard people with nothing but super preachy religion when they just came to skate, drink hot chocolate and generally engage in the less church-laden version of Christmas, but no matter your belief system, I don’t think anyone has the right to expect that they can celebrate Christmas in public without smacking into just a little bit of Jesus along the way. He’s a bit of an important figure, you know.

CKWR Gets To Live And A Better Plan For Christmas Music

We had to pick a new morning radio station today. Our usual stop, CKWR, has made the flip to all Christmas for its daily hosted music blocks and automation as of December 1st. The specialty shows are free to do their own thing, but that doesn’t do us much good when it’s six A.M. and we need something listenable to get us going. We went with the Kitchener version of CBC Radio One or “the useful CBC” as we like to call it, in case you’re interested. We call it that because it’s filled with news and information with a bit of music thrown in, as opposed to Radio Two which is also enjoyable but basically the opposite.

As for CKWR, we’ll see them in January, I guess. And yes, we will get to see them in January. Their broadcasting license has been spared, for now. They’re good until August 31st, 2020. I hope they can keep their shit together, because it would be a shame to lose one of the few independent media voices we have left, even if they’re overdoing it with the damn Christmas music.

At least unlike some folks they had the decency to wait until December began. It’s still way too much, but starting up in November or even late October like some stations do is far worse. I know it’s done because it’s supposedly good for ratings, but I’ll never be convinced that the bump isn’t attributable to people being held hostage by offices and retail stores. Even if you like Christmas music, do you like it that much? I like beer and cotton candy, but that doesn’t mean I want nothing but those two things for breakfast, lunch, dinner and at all points in between for 60 to 90 consecutive days.

I’m not one of those people who hates any and all Christmas music. In fact, a couple days a year I’m good with it and will even seek it out. But once we get beyond that point I range anywhere from a little testy to ready and willing to strangle someone with a wreath. For me, Christmas on the radio is done best when you start sprinkling it into the rotation at the start of December but hold off on going all Christmas until Christmas Eve. You can keep it up on Christmas Day obviously and I’ll even give you Boxing Day because it might as well be Christmas. But after that, it’s time to start slowing it down again and phasing it out entirely by January 2nd. That’s much more reasonable than literally driving people mental with it in the name of a few extra dollars.

Radio Waterloo, A Documentary About The Creation Of Community Radio Here And In Canada

I haven’t had a chance to watch this yet, but since I’ve seen it recommended in a couple of places that are generally pretty good about recommending these sorts of things and because let’s be honest, odds are it was going up anyway, enjoy this documentary on the history and struggles of community radio in Waterloo Region.

Radio Waterloo is the story about the advent of community radio in Canada as told by the people who struggled to create it. The story follows Radio Waterloo (later known as CKMS) and CKWR through the development stages in the 1960’s, until now, 2017. You will hear from DJs from the early days of Radio Waterloo provide details about how Radio Waterloo was established, others provide insights from the University of Waterloo referendum which left CKMS without funding, and then current DJs share how these events have led to the current format and state of the station. Join us as we re-live the painful dedication of local DJs who fought to keep the community voice heard on FM radio.

This documentary also includes performances by local indie and established bands who have been featured on CKMS, and proudly boasts an original soundtrack created by Canadian musicians specifically for this project. Some of the collaborators include:

Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, The Mounties), Brad Merritt (54-40), Ian Somers (Limblifter), Brad Weber (Caribou, Pick a Piper), and many more.

I’ve only ever listened to CKMS a handful of times because it’s damn near impossible to pull in anywhere I’ve ever lived so has unfortunately mostly been off my radar, but CKWR, with its significantly better reach, is a station I’ve listened to somewhat regularly since I was a kid thanks to the wide variety of programming it offers. Hopefully they’ll both be around for many years to come, even though the struggles continue. Real, honest to god local radio has always been important, but in this era of everything being consolidated, homogenized and voice-tracked to hell, we can’t afford to have our already limited choices limited even more.

Best! Inaccessible! Voting! Experience! Ever!

I want to take a second to thank the folks working the polls at the Activa Sportsplex in Kitchener last night for one of the better voting experiences I’ve ever had.

None of you were outwardly freaked out by the sight of unaccompanied blind people roaming loose in the wild.

None of you tried to pawn us off on somebody else who very clearly wanted even less to do with us than you did.

None of you tried to force us to sign our independent voting rights over to a random stranger.

None of you tried to aggressively explain to the man and woman who have been blind for nearly forty years each that this metal thing with a couple of numbers written on it is a Braille ballot so we’re good now.

No. all that every one of you did was help.

From the person who greeted us at the front of the line to the ladies who helped us make sure all of our choices were marked correctly to the nice woman at the tabulation station who made sure I knew my ballot went into the box and even went so far as to tell me which voter I was sequentially that day, you were all awesome.

Rarely have I had an easier, more pleasant or more efficient day at the polls, and that includes polls that had the accessible voting technology operating.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely, 100 percent believe that every polling station on every day of every election at every level of government should have this technology available regardless of logistics or cost because it’s the right thing to do, but fair is fair, and everyone we dealt with last night did a fantastic job and should be commended for that. It’s just too bad that you all are the exception and not the rule.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the results of the election (partly because I just don’t and partly because we still don’t know who won everything), but good on the cities that voted to give ranked ballots a try. It’s going to be an interesting experiment. Maybe it won’t ultimately work out better than first-past-the-post, but it’s certainly worth a try. My only concern is that it’s going to put more demand on a public that already can’t be arsed to vote more than half the time to be even more informed and I fear that even more may not bother. I envision turnout initially going up some because of the novelty of a new system, but hopefully the end result isn’t people finding it too cumbersome.

Ranked ballots, by the way, are a very good argument for assistive voting machines assuming anyone still needs a good argument for those. Nobody should have to sit there with me while I mull over whether Frank is the second or third best choice for a job or whether I should say screw it and go with Bob in first when initially I was voting for Jane all the way and Bob wasn’t even making the cut. Part of the right to vote is the right to change one’s mind up until the last possible second, and that, just like the rest of the process, needs to be as simple as possible for everyone.

Who Are You And What Am I Voting For

Although I obviously care very much about what happens in Kitchener seeing as I live here and whatnot, I’ll freely admit to not always being as up on local politics as I’d like to be. That said, I still intend on voting in the municipal election this month, because not voting in elections is one of those things I don’t really care for.

Also on the list of things I don’t really care for is voting in elections while not knowing shit from shinola, so in that spirit, I shall offer up a few handy pages to hopefully help all of us along when it comes to making informed decisions.

First up, the Kitchener Post asked everyone running for Mayor and city Council a single question: Why should the public vote for you? Though it’s only one question, it’s helpful. It’s helped me make one decision and has me questioning the other. The page is broken down by ward, so you won’t have to waste a bunch of time sifting through a pile of responses that don’t apply to you if that’s not your thing. And don’t worry. If you’re sitting there right now all like “What’s a ward?”, there’s a map for that.

Moving on from the city to the region, the CBC sent a five question survey to the four candidates running for Regional Chair. Their responses are here. They too are helpful.

I haven’t yet been able to find things similar to these for Regional Council or school board representatives, but if I do I’ll add them here. In the meantime, you can also check out for all sorts of election info for Kitchener and beyond.

See you on October 22nd, if not sooner.