Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 2011 weekly rail news

Fun stuff:

A fairly recent video from my favorite French railfan, dashloc:

BoingBoing recently had a good article on the huge machines built under the country's Heavy Press Program in the 1950s, which are still used today for critical components.The machines that made the Jet Age

This XKCD comic might explain what's wrong with the Star Tribune's comment section...

Twin Cities transit:

The big local transit story has been the disruption of the Hiawatha Line (and nearby car/bike traffic) due to a cable snapping on the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge, a cable-stayed structure that carries bikes and pedestrians along the Midtown Greenway over the LRT line and the busy Hiawatha Avenue (MN-55). URS Corp., who designed the bridge, also consulted on the I-35W bridge which collapsed in 2007 and paid out millions of dollars as part of a settlement in that incident. Trains have been replaced with buses between the Franklin Avenue station and 38th Street station (including Lake Street in between) since Monday.

Despite the outage, Jason DeRusha was able to intro and outro this story about wrap advertising from a moving train on Wednesday:

Metro Transit is finally rolling out an auto-refill system for owners of Go-To cards.

Light work has continued to be performed on the Central Corridor throughout our mild winter, but heavy construction is set to begin again on March 1st.  The remaining segments of the route that were not torn up last year will undergo construction this time around.  The longest chunk along University Avenue will be reduced down to one lane in each direction much like the western part of the street was last year.

The segment of University Ave just north of the capitol between Rice and Robert will also be entirely closed for a while after the legislature's regular session ends.  On that segment, the track will be running on the south side of the street rather than down the center median like it does on the rest of the avenue.

Road work will also happen in the Prospect Park area of Minneapolis, all through the University of Minnesota campus, and in downtown Saint Paul.

Park-and-ride use hits new high in metro area, says the headline. Some fairly disturbing statistics are included for the number of spots used along the Northstar line, such as only 29 of 668 spaces being used at Fridley—yes, they're typically only 4% occupied. On the other hand, the massive Foley Boulevard park-and-ride (which is right next to the Northstar tracks but doesn't have a station, yet may have as many as 3,200 stalls) is more than 90% full. The cost-effectiveness index strikes again... (though it's also true that there's way more frequent bus service there than Northstar can handle at this time).

I made a passing mention of the general idea last week, but the Star Tribune had city council members talking streetcars this week as the city talks about what sort of service should be available in North Minneapolis to complement a light-rail Bottineau line which would largely bypass that area of the city.

Metro Transit is holding open houses over the next two weeks to share the results of their Arterial Corridor Transit Study, which promises to bring "rapid bus" features to a number of major local routes (plus one suburban route that really should be performing better than it currently does).

Metro Transit has posted a summary of schedule changes to take place on March 3rd for Twin Cities-area transit routes.

Transit aficionados have known for a while that the Met Council has been looking to unify local LRT and BRT lines under a single brand name. Now officially official, it will be called METRO. Earlier plans for a corresponding "M" logo have been scrapped, and they'll just use the standard "T" logo instead. Each line will have a color, with Hiawatha and Central Corridor LRT becoming Blue and Green Lines, respectively. The head-scratcher continues to be the I-35W and MN-77 (Cedar Ave) BRT lines, which will get colors despite having schedules that probably don't justify being called out in that way yet.

Hmm.  I tend to think of the future opening of Chick-Fil-A at MSP Airport as a sign of the coming downfall of the airline industry, but that's just me.

Mn/DOT is having bicycle planning meetings across the state from February 28th to March 15th.  They've also started up a service to send e-mail updates on the state's complete streets policy.

National stuff:

Amtrak riders in Sacramento will start walking farther from the depot to new platforms/tracks being built as part of a rail yard reconfiguration.  Apparently they also want to build a new depot, but the money isn't there yet.

Here's a profile of the Olympia, WA Amtrak station. Community-funded and volunteer-staffed, yet Amtrak can scarcely bring themselves to acknowledge the effort put into it.

More for the image than the article, this post about the Tappan Zee Bridge shows an example of pretty effective pro-transit advertising.

Out in West Virginia, it appears that three tourist railroads are working together to create a 90-mile loop by restoring an abandoned trackbed.  They're going to reuse track from another line that had been partially washed out in 1985 and convert that route to a rail-trail for cyclists and hikers. Apparently up to 8 trains per day may operate on the loop, which would be a unique attraction compared to other tourist lines which are forced to backtrack to their origin and repeat scenery.

Nashville appears to be leading the way with their zoning code changes and have made a plan to grow transit in their very sprawling metro area where access is currently very poor.

The BBC had a nice piece about the Raleigh, N.C. area showing some activist-made pedestrian signage for the downtown area, plus an exploration of the barriers to movement in more suburban settings.

The travel site rome2rio now has an interesting transport layer on its maps, which revealed a number of bus services (well, mostly airport shuttles) that I wasn't aware of.

International stuff:

There was a very bad commuter train crash in Argentina where 50 people were killed (more than those who officially died in the Chinese high-speed rail crash last year, though no one knows how accurate those numbers were). The Reason & Rail blog noted that the speed of the train may have been as low as 12 mph (some other stories say up to 16 mph). Many of the deaths were a result of two rail cars telescoping into each other, a problem that can be mitigated fairly.

China has dramatically slowed expansion of their rail network, shrinking from 70 new projects last year to just 9 this year, and suspending about 2/3rds of what was in progress.

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