A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘rail

[URBAN NOTE] “Taxpayer-funded transit report kept secret by city”

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What can be said but that this, reported by the Toronto Star‘s Jennifer Pagliaro, is unacceptable?

A $100,000 consultant’s report meant to help determine whether transit projects worth billions of dollars are cost-effective has been kept secret by the city.

In June, the city paid the firm, Arup, which consults on transportation projects worldwide, to provide business case analyses for several projects planned by the city, including Mayor John Tory’s original “SmartTrack” idea for additional stops along the GO Transit rail line travelling through Toronto, and the controversial one-stop Scarborough subway extension.

The report produced by Arup, however, was never publicly released as part of a city staff report to executive committee in June, which was then debated at a July council meeting.

The missing consultant information adds to a series of questions over future transit plans that include delayed reports and a secret briefing note on the Scarborough subway extension that has been called a “political football,” and still-incomplete analysis of the mayor’s key campaign promise for an additional heavy rail service that is moving ahead, while heavily modified.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 21, 2017 at 8:45 pm

[ISL] “#MIPL and the death of shame”

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Earlier this week, djw at Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote a blog post criticizing how inhabitants of <a href="Mercer Island, a very well-off lake island in the east of the Seattle metropolitan area, have been trying to stall or avert altogether light rail access to their island that might diminish their privileged position re: roads running across this island.

For those unfamiliar with the topography of the Puget Sound region: Seattle is a long, thin city; around 20 miles from its northern to southern border but about 3-6 miles East to West, bounded by water on either side: Puget Sound to the West, and Lake Washington (which extends slightly beyond Seattle both North and South) to the East. This lake sharply separates Seattle from its Eastern suburbs, which have for some time been the location of many (but not all) of the wealthier sections of the region, with the middle class and historically more downscale suburbs generally located to the North and South of the city. Lake Washington has but one island: Mercer. At approximately 13 square miles and a population of around 25,000, Mercer Island is the most populous island on a lake in the United States. Culturally and economically, Mercer Island belongs squarely on the Eastside, as it has become one of the wealthier towns of its size in the country, with an average household income well north of 130,000 and an average home value of 1.4 million. It enjoys excellent schools and parks, and is made up almost entirely of low-density single family homes.

Long ago, Mercer Island was primarily rural. One of the first major projects was a Gilded Age opulent resort, the Caulkins Hotel, for Seattle’s elite. In 1908, a “Japanese houseboy” (sic) in the employ of the Caulkins took offense at some unspecified act of verbal abuse from hotel management, and in retaliation stuffed a large number of oily rags in a chimney, causing the hotel to burn down. Left behind, however, was an extensive dock that spurred some development in the island’s Northwest corner, which eventually incorporated as “East Seattle.” The island remained accessible by private boat and by steamboats such as the Atlanta, which connected Mercer Island to Seattle well into the 1930’s. A bridge to Bellevue on the Eastside was completed in 1928, and, following pressure from prominent islanders, the construction of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial bridge, named for WSDOT’s second director and journalist Edward Murrow’s older brother, in 1940, then the largest floating bridge in the world. (Today, it is second only to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, a second Lake Washington crossing that doesn’t connect to Mercer Island, just a few miles to the North.) In 1976, the bridge became part of I-90. A much wider second bridge was added in 1989, dramatically increasing capacity. This was Followed almost immediately by the sinking of the original Murrow bridge in a storm over Thanksgiving weekend–a dramatic event I recall watching live on television as a teenager. The Murrow bridge was repaired/replaced, at great public expense, by 1993, giving I-90 its current capacity. The 1940 bridge was largely paid for by a bond paid off by tolls, which ended after about 10 years. The new bridges were not.

Presently, these bridges and the freeway segment they form give Mercer Island residents, on average, the shortest commute times of any city in the region, a particularly remarkable statistic for an island connected to the mainland via a high-traffic bridge, with virtually no residents who work on the island itself. How do they pull off this remarkable feat? Location is part of it; the island is very close to downtown Seattle to the West and Bellevue, the largest city and second-largest job center on the Eastside, to the East. While traffic on the bridge can be quite brutal during rush hour, Mercer Island residents have a unique arrangement that allows them to access the HOV lands Westbound to Seattle as SOVs. This arrangement, codified via a memorandum of understand during negotiations over the construction and future plans for I-90 in 1976, was always meant to be temporary: the center lanes of the new bridge, reversible for increasing peak direction capacity, were designed explicitly with eventual light rail in mind. (The temporary nature of the arrangement was, in particular, highlighted by the Federal Highway Administration, whose regulations don’t generally allow for this kind of arrangement). Several decades later, the time has come: construction is scheduled to begin on Eastlink, which will take these center lanes for rail from downtown Seattle various Eastside locations, with a stop on Mercer Island.

Construction of Eastlink necessitates taking the center lanes currently used for HOV, and last month WSDOT told the city formally that their SOV freeloading days are over: they will no longer have uniquely privileged access to HOV lanes, and will be forced to access the city the way the rest of plebes do: in normal, high volume SOV lanes. (Or by bus, but who are we kidding?)

Seattleites?

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 10:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Metrolinx to Bombardier: ‘stop blaming others’ for your mistakes”

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The Toronto Star‘s Ben Spurr reports on the depths to which the Metrolinx-Bombardier relationship has descended. Is there anything at all salvageable from this ghastly mess?

Metrolinx executives ripped into rail manufacturer Bombardier at a meeting of the transit agency’s board on Friday, depicting the company as an organization in disarray and accusing it of spreading false information.

Reading from prepared remarks, board chair Rob Prichard criticized the company for taking Metrolinx to court in a dispute over a $770-million light rail vehicle order that has been bogged down by delays.

“Bombardier’s behaviour in going to court is not that of a trusted partner,” Prichard said. He slammed allegations the company made last week in a press release blaming Metrolinx for the delays as “false.”

Over the course of the contract Bombardier has cycled through at least two presidents, three vice presidents and five project managers, and Prichard said that had undermined the company’s ability to deliver vehicles on time.

“Bombardier needs to stabilize its business and the leadership of its business, focus on meeting its commitments and schedules, stop blaming others for its own shortcomings, and to start delivering its overdue vehicles,” Prichard said.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2017 at 8:30 pm

[LINK] “B.C. supports feasibility study of high-speed rail line from Portland to Vancouver”

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The Globe and Mail‘s Dominika Lirette reports on the support of the British Columbian government for funding a study looking into the feasibility of a high-speed rail route connecting Vancouver with Oregon’s Portland.

British Columbia’s Transportation Minister says the province supports Washington State’s decision to study the feasibility of a high-speed rail line from Portland to Vancouver.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has allotted $1-million (U.S.) from his 2017-19 state budget to examine the costs and benefits of building a system to carry travellers 400 kilometres an hour with stops in Seattle and Bellingham. A report is due in December.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said it’s “far too premature” to talk about a potential financial commitment to a high-speed rail line, but he said the province is interested in the idea.

“The Premier sent a letter to Governor Inslee recently, extending provincial support for the state of Washington’s decision to actually do some due diligence, some analysis on this proposed high-speed rail link, and we certainly support them doing that,” Mr. Stone said.

He noted that that an agreement signed last year between British Columbia and Washington State, known as the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, highlights transportation as a key priority.

The study will examine the design and cost of a high-speed rail system, the potential demand and whether it would be economically viable. A budget document outlining the study says the high-speed rail system, if built, could connect with east-west routes in the state, as well as a similar system, in California.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 16, 2017 at 9:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO notes an Instagram user from Toronto, @brxson, who takes stunning photos of the city from on high.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the limits of exoplanet J1407b’s massive ring system.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence that the primordial Martian atmosphere apparently did not have carbon dioxide.
  • Imageo notes that the California rivers swollen by flooding can be seen from space.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that American intelligence agencies are withholding sensitive information from a White House seen as compromised by Russian intelligence.
  • Language Hat talks about the best ways to learn Latin.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper observing a decline in inter-state migration in the United States.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the interesting failure of a public sculpture program in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the remarkable heat that has hit Australia in recent days.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the intersection between space technology and high-tech fashion.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how Argentina gave the Falkland Islands tariff-free access to Mercosur.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the countries likely to be vulnerable to rapid aging.
  • Transit Toronto notes the Bombardier lawsuit against Metrolinx.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that poor Russian statistical data is leading directly to bad policy.

[URBAN NOTE] “Bombardier seeks injunction to stop Metrolinx contract termination”

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MacLean’s shares Ross Marowits’ Canadian Press report noting Bombardier’s lawsuit against Metrolinx in what appears to be a desperate effort to prevent the regional transit agency from breaking its contract over the immense delays involved with Bombardier’s delivery of new vehicles.

Bombardier has turned up the heat in its fight with Metrolinx by asking an Ontario court to impose an injunction in response to the provincial transportation agency’s notice to terminate a contract for light rail vehicles in Toronto.

The transportation manufacturer’s railway division says its 49-page application to the Ontario Superior Court is designed to encourage Metrolinx to resume good-faith discussions as required in its contract.

In November, Metrolinx ramped up pressure on Bombardier to deliver a prototype train by issuing a formal notice of intent to terminate its $770-million contract, a step that would be required if the agency ultimately asks a court to rip up the deal.

Bombardier turned the table on Metrolinx on Friday, accusing it of putting the project in jeopardy through multiple delays.

“Since the contract was signed in 2010, Metrolinx has changed the scope, the timelines, and the technical qualifications countless times,” it said in a news release.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 11, 2017 at 9:45 pm

[PHOTO] At the edge, Mowat Avenue

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At the edge, Mowat Avenue

Written by Randy McDonald

February 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm