Contrasting Canadian News Posts

Freedom takes Flexity to the North American tram market

NORTH AMERICA: Bombardier Transportation President & CEO AndrAi?? Navarri launched the ai???Flexity Freedomai??i?? as the company’s tram platform for North America at APTA Expo 2011 in New Orleans on October 4. The 100% low-floor car is a parallel development to the Flexity 2, launched in Blackpool last month and targeted at the rest of the world.

Flexity Freedom will meet all major US and Canadian standards for crashworthiness, fire safety and accessability, which Bombardier feels are sufficiently different from European standards to justify a separate product line, albeit at a higher cost to the end user than an ai???off the shelfai??i?? European design. Production will be undertaken in Canada or the USA as appropriate to meet government requirements for work to be undertaken domestically.

The first Flexity Freedom cars will be supplied to Toronto, which placed an order in July 2009 for 204 vehicles to replace the CLRV fleet operating its 1Ai??495Ai??mm gauge street tram network in the city centre and subsequently exercised an option for up to 182 additional cars to a slightly different design as part of its Transit City light rail expansion programme.

Political gridlock on transportation–political-gridlock-on-transportation


Ontario has long needed an overhaul of the way our publicly owned transportation system is governed and operated. The current election campaign proves it.

On vital transportation issues, all weai??i??re getting are stump speeches promising whatever the candidates believe voters want to hear, but without professional research and planning, let alone funding. Itai??i??s typically shabby treatment of an issue that consistently ranks as one of the publicai??i??s top five concerns.

The Progressive Conservatives will invest $35 billion in infrastructure, ai???much of it in transit and They go on to talk almost exclusively about highways and fuel taxes, which wonai??i??t warm transit usersai??i?? hearts.

The NDP will pick up half the operating subsidy for transit, freeze fares and commit to ai???new transit projects and They then pull a U-turn by saying theyai??i??d also make driving more affordable by taking the HST off gasoline and regulating its price.

The Liberals have a shopping list of projects from ai???the next phaseai??? of their transportation strategy. This implies there was an earlier phase that was part of a strategy. All theyai??i??ve served up in eight years is a series of photo-ops to announce the same projects over and over again.

Of these skimpy, politically motivated offerings, the only one with any traction is the Liberal promise of two-way, all-day service on GO Transitai??i??s rail routes, which theyai??i??ve announced twice before. It remains appealing. But a pre-election promise is one thing and post-election delivery is another.

If GO expansion is going to happen this time around in these straitened economic times, whereai??i??s the funding? Never fear, say the Liberals. Thanks to their repeated promises to roll it out, the required $6.8 billion is allegedly covered in future unapproved budgets, so itai??i??s not a new cost at all.

Other details suggesting this is a real plan are similarly lacking. Will this be hourly or half-hourly service? Is there an agreement with Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, over whose lines many of these trains will operate? Will the new trains be electric or will hordes of noisy, emission-producing diesels thunder through neighbourhoods across the GO network? The Liberals are mute.

This is obviously another back-of-the-napkin scheme to grease a re-election bandwagonai??i??s wheels. Thatai??i??s one hell of a way to run a publicly owned railroad. Worse, this politicization of the decision-making process isnai??i??t unique to the provincial Liberals. The mayoral quashing of Torontoai??i??s affordable light rail plan for an unaffordable subway dream is but one recent example of what has been the norm for all parties at all levels of government since the 1970s. The result is todayai??i??s gridlock and transit stagnation.

The only candidate who appears to recognize this is Frank Klees, the current MPP for Newmarket-Aurora. He says itai??i??s time to put transportation out of the reach of politics, protected from the endless cycle of campaign promises made and broken.

For a start, Klees wants appointments to provincial agencies such as Metrolinx based on real-world experience. The politicians would hire the most qualified leaders ai??i?? not the most politically connected ai??i?? and empower these transportation professionals to act in the best interests of taxpayers and users within approved budgetary limits.

This may seem like wishful thinking, but history proves it can be done. To cite but one example, the municipally appointed commissioners of the TTC operated one of the worldai??i??s finest and fairest transit systems for more than 50 years after its inception in 1921. The politicians kept their hands off, allowing the commissioners and their qualified staff to operate the TTC without interference. It all came to a crashing halt when the provincial government insinuated itself into the decision-making process by virtue of the funding it began supplying in the early 1970s. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Prior to the arrival of the uninvited, behind-the-scenes provincial management team, the public interest was protected through deputations at TTC commission meetings, where the usersai??i?? views were dealt with attentively and respectfully. It was this genuine, community-minded safeguard that enabled a group of Torontonians to intervene to save our streetcars 39 years ago this November.

Properly implemented, there is no reason such an approach wouldnai??i??t work again. It desperately needs to be tested because todayai??i??s politicized approach isnai??i??t. More than constrained funding, this is the reason Ontarioai??i??s transportation system is shockingly inadequate and growing worse.

Knocking partisan game-playing out of transportation is what Ontario needs, not more empty campaign promises. The question remains whether any candidate other than Klees will have the courage and intelligence to say so before Oct. 6.

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