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Well, it’s been a fairly busy time of it, and I’ve had to be Mystic Suzy, again. Before I explain what happened on Sunday past, I’d like to bring you up to speed on a couple of other things.

Caroline agreed to purchase a new all-in-one laser printer – essentially similar to the existing Brother HL-2035, but with a scanner, fax and copier too – the MFC-7320. There was nothing strictly wrong with the last one, but it does mean that the inkjet fax (that I bought back in early 2002) is now finally replaced, and the scanner (which can only work with ONE short USB cable, and keeps slipping off the top of the PowerMac) can also be replaced. It also has an automatic document feeder. So, after some experimenting with scan file sizes (it comes with a CD for Windows, and another CD for Mac OS X series), I gave it a 64 page Inventory (as they call a fleet list) from RGRTA (a recent FOIL request!) in four sections, and it can scan one then another and another etc. – as well as scanning direct to PDF. In other words, something that might take me an hour or two, now takes a few minutes. While the majority of the service changes for 2009 have happened, the scanner will no doubt come in useful when it comes to digitising, and making short work of stacks of paper! It can also do dry, plain paper copies, that I can take with me without the ink running when taking it out in the rain! It’s not much more to buy the refilled carts for this one over the other one (and you get cheap drums too) – the price difference actually works as a saving, if you take into account the cost of buying inkjet carts for the old fax. Say nothing of the time I tried to refill one with black ink…!

So, after that at the end of the week, and a quiet day on Saturday, we got ready to travel to central London on Sunday morning. After I ended up withdrawing my application from another voluntary org (after some unfortunate narrow-mindedness) in late February, I was looking around for something else to add to what I’m currently doing. So, in March and April, I started looking around, and submitted an application to the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard in mid-April 2009. Anyway, got called in for an interview (Sunday 6th September, 1415), so we decided that we’d both go to London, and have an afternoon of it.

Usual FCC train into London Kings Cross, Arriva Citaro MA15 on TfL service 73 to the stop before the Angel one-way system, so I can point out to C where I’d be going, then around the corners to have lunch at the nearby Wetherspoons, The Angel. After lunch, I got rather nervous, before walking back to the offices for an interview. It was a set of more-or-less fixed questions, and I must admit, I got very nervous. I don’t know if it was the thoughts of being rejected one more time or not, but something was. Anyway, made my apologies, but the two who were interviewing me were very kind and helpful in that regard. Afterwards, back to C in The Angel, and I thought I had a 50/50 chance.

Caroline finished her drink, and we crossed over for a Metroline TfL 43 bus (in preference to the Northern Line) to London Bridge. Once we figured out the temporary arrangements in regards to resurfacing the pavement and street furniture, two went past, but we did catch one new Enviro400 on this service to London Bridge. We went this way as Caroline wanted to go into Greenwich, and there was no DLR on this day south of Canary Wharf, and no Jubilee Line service at all. So, needless to say, the trains were all going to be busy! We got into London Bridge with a minute to go, so didn’t get that one. By the time we made it to the platform, the next SouthEastern train (10/12 mins later, 4 tph) wasn’t that far off.

We got off in Greenwich, walked up to the one-way system, and onto Greenwich Park. Now, this wasn’t a day for snapping up buses, but I did get rather interested to see this very unusual BMC bus of Travel with Hunny (a recent purchase for their ECC 392, but on the DLR rail replacement) in Greenwich.

Caroline and I then walked around Greenwich Park for a bit, although I was getting a bit tired. We stopped for a bit, before going for a Pizza Express. That seemed to re-energise us, and we went for the Thames Clippers boat service to London Waterloo, via the Thames. I did take a few pics of the pier, the boat, and more, and you can see them all here.

After that, we went via bus 148 to Victoria, quick stop here before returning to Kings Cross on another bendi 73 (albeit with a driver that kept the doors shut on stand, and was rather rude when anyone attempted to get near him!). Anyway, we got to Kings Cross with time to spare for our train back to Royston, tired but happy!

So, Monday was catching up with everything, and Tuesday was out at PFH. A very hot day didn’t help feeling a little tired, but I’ve survived! Today, Wednesday, and I’ve had a phone call from the person who arranged my interview at LLGS. I’m successful… even though I was very nervous, I did get through, and I’m starting training (one of two groups) on Saturday November 7th. Now, that is rather convenient, as the last of the Open University stuff goes in during early October. I’ve got no immediate plans to do another one, instead, hopefully, the training will go well. Of course, the Open Uni is very flexible, meaning I could put it on hold for as long as I liked, before continuing to my next course.

You’re probably wondering… well, the LLGS minimum commitment is two x three-hour shifts a month, which shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s more miles – around 46 miles by bus and train, in contrast with the 19.9 to/from PFH. However, by helpful train stopping patterns (London trains don’t stop at all stations – separate blog post to follow later in the week!), there is not much in it at all. The fast trains are under an hour, and just three stops away by bus, or about a 15 minute walk, would get me to LLGS, based on time from Royston station. When I get the train, and two buses to the PFH, it’s about 70 minutes on a good day. So, there is only a few minutes in it, all going well! It will allow me to build up my knowledge and skills, as well as getting out towards London more often. I intend to do this alongside work for the PFH, and do not intend to stop. As for health, well, it’s a good few weeks between now and starting the training course. This should give me more than enough time to get hold of the doc, and look at adjusting the pills. Now I see what they can do, might be worthwhile adjusting things.

Now, hopefully, it’s all starting to sink into place… but if not, here’s a little about the Switchboard. (Well, I did one for the PFH when I got my acceptance from them, so it’d be rude not to!)

London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard (LLGS) provides an information, support and referral service for lesbians, gay men, bisexual, trans people and anyone who needs to consider issues around their sexuality.

All volunteers identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, so you know that the person answering the telephone will have an understanding of your situation. Our volunteers won't judge you or tell you what to do; they will though provide suitable support, offer appropriate information, and discuss relevant options.

The helpline operates from 10am to 11pm, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Our helpline number is 020 7837 7324, the recruitment hotline for volunteers is 020 7837 7606, and our text phone number is 020 7689 8501.
Our information website provides 24 hour access to our database of information and resources relevant to the LGBT community.
(Other services provided can be found via this link)

Needless to say, I’m rather happy!

Now, preparing for Saturday’s Anglia Bus Forum tour!

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Train crushes railway sex couple

A couple in South Africa who were having sex on a railway track in Mpumalanga Province have been killed by a goods train, police say.

Spokesman Abie Khoabane said it took place on Friday evening and the victims were yet to be identified.

He told local newspapers that the couple ignored the driver's shouts as he moved the train into the disused station in Kinross town.

"They continued with their business," he told the Sowetan paper.

According to South Africa's Beeld newspaper, the area was deserted with no cars or houses nearby.

The man died at the scene and the woman died later at hospital, the Sowetan reports.

The police have appealed for those with missing relatives to come forward to help with their investigation.

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This is an interesting one. Rochester-Genesee Regional Transport Authority in the US, has announced fares are to go DOWN to USD $1.00 per ride - the price charged some 17 years ago!

 Business Sense Drives Fare to $1

Guest Essay by Mark R. Aesch 

Full text as appeared in the Rochester Business Journal, April 25, 2008

  This week was one of the most exciting and rewarding weeks in the 39-year history of Regional Transit Service (RTS).  We were able to announce to our community that we have achieved the financial strength to actually cut fares for our customers.  The price to ride an RTS bus will fall to just $1.00 later this summer, a price last seen in 1991.

            At a time when the transportation industry across the nation is raising fares, or disguising cost increases in terms of fuel surcharges, we have worked with deliberate effort in recent years to strengthen our financial position in order to offer working families and commuters an affordable alternative to record high gas prices.

            The foundation for this unprecedented reduction in fares is the direct result of our private sector approach to providing a public service combined with fresh focus on our customers and how we can better meet their needs.

            Four years ago the Transportation Authority faced a $27.5 million deficit, a massive operating gap that had the new management team initially considering significant across-the-board fare increases, massive layoffs and wholesale reductions in our service to the community.

            Refusing to accept those options, RTS management made a commitment to sound strategic planning, focused performance measurement systems and dramatic improvements in productivity. That effort has paid off and today RTS has dispersed the thunderclouds that threatened the organization's very ability to provide much needed service to the 50,000 people that take advantage of it every day.

            First, we focused on improving route productivity.  Rarely do public organizations even talk about productivity, let alone measure it.  We did both. And then improved it.  Over the course of the past four years, we have driven up the number of people that RTS picks up in each mile by more than 40%.  Further, we increased the revenue that we receive in each mile that we drive by more than 70%, without raising fares.

            Second, we stopped picking up "passengers" and started picking up "customers."  We realized that, while "passengers" are people who merely passively ride the bus, "customers" are people that make an economic decision to buy our product.  As a result, we implemented substantial improvements in customer service.  We drove our on time performance from 77% to 85%. We installed Trip Planner software on our website.  We completely altered our 35-year-old six-zone fare system and replaced it with one price for every customer.  Then we built a nationally recognized Customer Satisfaction Index to measure our customers' satisfaction.  Today, our customers are 27% happier with our service than they were four years ago. 

            Third, we worked to close that massive $27.5 million operating deficit we inherited.  Through the efficiencies we found in improved route productivity, working to ensure that the relationships we had with our major business partners provided an appropriate return to our organization, and successfully fighting to achieve equity in the distribution of state aid, we turned that projected $27.5 million loss into a $19 million gain; a $46.5 million turnaround.

            Today, we have more people riding the bus, they are happier doing it, and we are far more efficient in the manner that we provide the community service.  Our effort to provide a public sector service with a private sector mindset has resulted in successes beyond expectations.

            Today, with gas prices consuming more and more of working family's household budgets, many are considering the new customer focused public transportation system that we've built in Rochester as an affordable alternative.

            Today, we find ourselves in the financial position to make that choice even more clear.  Cutting our fare to just $1.00 makes the juxtaposition with $3.60 a gallon gasoline makes public transportation the attractive alternative people are seeking.   This is our opportunity to grow the market share.

            While dozens of public transportation systems all across the nation like New York City, Seattle, Boston and Los Angeles are either considering fare increases or have already implemented them, proudly we are driving forward with the financial strength to reinvest those resources into our current and prospective customers.

            Fifty thousand people a day take advantage of public transportation in our community.  That is more than the number of people that use the Airport, Frontier Field, Paetec Park, Blue Cross Arena, the Auditorium Theatre, Geva Theatre, Greyhound/Trailways and Amtrak- combined!

            The plan we developed four years ago to operate our organization in a more business like fashion, where data and quality performance measurement systems drive the decision making process is working.  The dividend is being enjoyed today by current customers, prospective customers, and taxpayers alike.


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September 2010



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