Archive for the ‘Other Cities’ Category

Concrete Medians Not Necessary

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I have been on the fence about concrete medians. Cited as being necessary for emergency vehicle use as well as possible replacement bus service, I more or less accepted them even though they typically drive the cost per kilometre of light rail construction from about $30 million to $50 million. My main issue was that the TTC was not considering the use of side-of-the-road running where it was practical, such as Brentcliffe to Don Mills and the Richview Expressway lands on Eglinton.

Now, I have seen an alternative that turns this around…

This is in Essen and it strikes me that it would be less expensive than total concrete encasement, both for initial construction as well as later maintenance. If anyone has cost details on this, let me know.

What’s in a Name?

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

I have commented on the demeaning use of the word “streetcar” when describing LRT plans such as Transit City. Toronto knows streetcars, and Toronto knows the TTC’s lacklustre ability to operate streetcars, so anyone who wants to put down any LRT plan merely only has to use the dreaded S-word.

There is another word that, until this past week, held a lower level of status with me than even the dreaded S-word. That word is trolley. To me, this word conjures up the image of a tourist attraction, possibly using open cars that one would expect to find in a museum.

The past week has me re-assessing that word. I was in San Diego last week and that city has an LRT system that is called the Trolley. Of the 86 km of that city’s LRT system, only about 2.5 km is on street with nothing separating it from other traffic.

To be certain, this system is truly a RAPID transit system, in some ways even putting our own subway system to shame, as far as moving people quickly. There are many examples in the outer ends of this system where stations are two to three kilometres apart! Granted, the geography makes these longer distances more practical than what we would find in the GTHA, but this system really demonstrates how LRT technology can provide the speed without the cost of a full metro system. As for future capacity, much of the system operates with two or three car trains, but all stations are capable of handling four car trains. In addition to that, even at rush hours the system operates with 7-8 minute head-ways, leaving plenty of room for more added capacity. For details and photos of San Diego, take a look at the San Diego page on this site.

Project Mascots

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

I’m a little tardy at bringing this up, as it comes from a story dating back to March 2008.

In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Alleghney County is currently constructing a 1.2 mile extension of their LRT system (”The T”) to the north shore of the Allegheny River. This extension will add two stations north of a 2200 foot long under-river tunnel. Naturally, tunnelling is very expensive option, but given the surrounding environment, is the only viable option.

The project will be useful beyond its use as a shuttle for Pirates and Steelers fans as quite a few nightlife opportunities will be served by this. In the long term, this small extension can open up further extensions to the north of downtown Pittsburgh that would not otherwise be possible. The entire LRT system currently serves only areas south of downtown.

With the construction starting last year on the tunnel the Port Authority’s newsletter had an article on the project that included an image of what could be described as a mascot.

While this may have an element of appeal for some of the public, at least before it is seen as hackneyed by most, I certainly would not want to see any funding that could otherwise go towards transit improvements be spent on having a mascot designed. We all know far too much gets wasted already.

With that in mind, I propose that there be an unofficial mascot for projects. With the Spadina/Vaughan Subway extension most unfortunately underway, along with the Sheppard East LRT just starting, the VIVA rapidways about to start, and the Finch and Eglinton-Crosstown LRT projects not too far from starting, how about coming up with some ideas for mascots on these projects? If can come up with something and scan it into electronic format (if no actually created that way), send it here and I’ll post what I receive for all to see. The only remuneration will be credit (or blame) for what you draw!

A Ride on ART Mark-II

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I have been in Vancouver this past week and finally had the chance to use SkyTrain and ride on a Bombardier ART Mark-II car, as well as another ride on a Mark-I car to remind me of the differences.

The Mark-II cars are longer and married pairs have a gangway between them making the two a continuous space. While this added length increases the feeling of having more room, these cars actually feel wider than the Mark-I cars even though they are not wider. The seating layout, which actually has more forward/reverse-facing seats, makes it feel like a wider car.

For the rail/transit fan, the Mark-II cars have a larger window in the front (with windshield wiper), with a seat available that has one seated facing forward. SkyTrain is fully automated, so there is no driver’s cab. There are two versions of the Mark-I car: the original 114 cars have a window on the front door similar to the centre window in the driver’s cab on the Scarborough RT. In 1991 and 1994, a total of 36 additional Mark-I cars were purchased that had no door on its front end, but had a slightly larger window with a windshield wiper. The Mark-I cars have a fold-down seat that faces sideways in the narrow space in the front.

If the Scarborough RT were to keep the ART (formerly ICTS) technology, new Mark-II cars would have to be ordered as Mark-I cars are not manufactured anymore. For the most part, these are interchangeable as is the case on SkyTrain, but there are some changes that will be needed on the Scarborough RT as a matter of course including a lengthening of some stations and a re-alignment of Kennedy station to remove the sharp curve and place the RT platform at the mezzanine level below ground. These are significant projects that will have the line shut down for a period of a few months.

It is believed that Mark-II cars can negotiate the tunnelled curve between Ellesmere and Midland stations. I am unaware of how this belief has been determined, but if it is wrong, some major work will be necessary. If converted to LRT, the articulated nature of the type of vehicle to be ordered will allow negotiating this curve. The issue with the Scarborough RT is that the overall infrastructure was originally designed to accommodate CLRVs and it turned out that Mark-I cars worked for the most part. Only the loop at Kennedy was a problem, which required the station to be shut down for the single stub track to be built as it is now.

Years ago, when the TTC first considered purchasing 72-foot subway cars, they actually built a frame of a 72-foot car on wheels that could be pushed through the tunnels to ensure that it would fit. I have not heard if they have done a similar test on the Scarborough RT.

As nice as the Mark-II cars are, the linear induction motor technology has a serious flaw in Toronto’s environment: slushy wet snow clogs up the gap between the reaction rail and the underside of the train. Furthermore, there is a slight heating effect when a train passes over the reaction rail that can cause some minor melting of snow that refreezes before the next train passes. This can occur when the temperature is not so cold that a slight heating will melt snow, but the repeated melting and refreezing can cause a build-up of ice that can cause problems like the wet slushy snow can. The great technological breakthrough to combat this is a heated reaction rail, which is not exactly the epitome of energy efficiency. It is one thing to heat switch points to prevent freezing problems, it is a whole other thing to heat the reaction rail along the entire double-track length of the line!

The Scarborough RT should be converted to Transit City-compatible LRT. The power pick-up would be changed from third/fourth rail to overhead catenary, and the platforms at stations would have to be lowered (or the track level raised). If the Transit City lines are to be built to TTC gauge, the track will have to be re-gauged. If the Transit City lines do not need to have connect-ability with the legacy streetcar network, then they could be built to standard gauge and then the current Scarborough RT tracks are usable as-is.

Early Low Floors and Other Musings

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

As I’m writing this, it is already almost 10 pm here in Oslo and I’m getting ready for an early trip to the airport tomorrow. Unfortunately, I am west of the city in Asker and there is no train service between here and Skøyen (just west of the city) until 8 am. Replacement buses will be in service. Strangely, after spending this past week using the commuter rail service, I was beginning to think we could learn a lot. Imagine GO running all its services at least every 20-30 minutes all day, and your GO fare got you on local public transit in the zones it applied to for no additional fare!

Then this line closure made me rethink about who should learn from whom. While they are better at running rail service, they could learn a lot about providing information on alerts. After checking NSB’s website, there was no alert. To make matters worse, if I use the site to see when the next train will be, it tells me as if it were actually running. I thought that if I check the website of the Airport Express service (a private company), there might be more information. Again, no alerts but if I entered the time I want to leave in the morning (5 am!), I find out about the shuttle buses. At least our transit agencies have alerts on their websites, even if there are not always as accurate and up to date as we believe they should be.

1917 Low Floor TramI added the first update to the Oslo page with photos from earlier in the week. I just began to assemble Friday’s new photos and spent today taking a whole lot more, so with nearly 100 new photos to work with (only the first 21 are there now!), I’ve got something to do on the flights home. I managed to check out the transportation (mostly trams) museum that is located in a building that was once part of a five-building car house complex. I found out that low floor trams are not such a new idea. Low Floor InteriorOn the Ekeberganen line (now the south-east line to Ljabru), they had a small fleet of trams built in 1917 that had an entry area that was only 35 cm above the rails. I don’t suspect they built many platforms back then to match them! These trams earned the nickname “Viking Ships” as their design had curved ends for clearance reasons, and this game them a look that suggested that name.

It was rather interesting seeing some old photos and newspaper articles. One of the trams in the museum had an interesting background that struck me as odd since what happened to it would be the last thing that one would think would happen to perhaps a TTC streetcar or subway car. The tram had been taken by the Germans during the second world was because they needed them back home. It was used in more than one German city before it eventually was returned to Oslo.

Ski RackWhile we are only beginning to see the appearance of bike racks on our buses, take a look at this photo. They actually had a ski rack on the back of trams for awhile!

Toronto TramOne last note. Some of Oslo’s single-ended tram fleet have a name of a city that also has trams. Three guesses as to who’s name is tram 139? First two don’t count.