….build it and they will come?

Where is the brave Kingstonist ready to take on the sh!tshow that is AC?

Surely some well heeled Kingstonian wants to make a penny or two beating the pathetic service that AC grants us?

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dream big, execute frugally

In a previous post I was less than complimentary about the lukewarm efforts Kingston has implemented to become a bicycle friendly community.  Full disclosure:  I am ambivalent about the whole idea, as for the most part policy seems to have been outsourced to car hating activist led single issue groups, but given that the city has embraced the spirit, if not the practice, perhaps they might consider a few easily implemented ideas to further the vision.

Covered bicycle shelters.   Assuming the city means to increase the number of cyclists, bicycleshelterought it to prioritize covered bicycle shelters?   Failure to consider, let alone implement, such an easy and relatively cheap* piece of infrastructure does bring their commitment under suspicion.    Nearly every European city of similar size to Kingston prioritizes multi-modal transit, and includes  covered bicycle racks proximate to bus and regional rail lines. Continue reading

cautiously optimistic?

VIA-HFRAnyone who has attempted to travel from KTown to anywhere else and wishes to avoid the near daily carnage along the Queen’s Highway 401 is faced with either flying or taking the train.  In a(much) older post I had a few thoughts about VIA Rail, but recent news has prompted an update.

VIA Rail is proposing to upgrade the old CP right of way (yellow line) paralleling Hwy 7 into a dedicated passenger rail line between Ottawa, through Peterborough and on to Toronto, while at the same time upgrading portions of the lakeshore CN infrastructure (blue line) all with the intent of increasing the frequency, if not the speed, of rail service in the Toronto to Quebec City corridor.

Specifically Kingstonians may soon enjoy an alternative to ‘Luggage Lotto‘ at YGK or ‘Big Rig Dodge’em‘ along the 401.  If, and its a big if, Transport Canada approves and funds VIA Rail’s High Frequency Rail (HFR) plan, then Kingston could soon become a hub with late arrivals from Toronto and Montreal complemented by early morning departures.  Imagine being able to enjoy a show in Toronto, returning comfortably that night, or better yet departing early enough to catch  flights out of YYZ or YUL, all while avoiding the circus of cancellations and delays that sums up Air Canada’s service to YGK.

While I’m at it, a couple of improvements to the design of Kingston VIA station regardless of whether HFR comes to pass:

  • Divert the through freight tracks to the southeast side of platform two, to allow dedicated passenger rail embarking and debarkation with the intent to build;
  • Raised platforms at rail car floor height (as is the case in virtually every European main train station!) to enable mobility options.
  • Construction of  a weather canopy over much or all of the exterior passenger platform.

around the world – part 43.1 (driving to florida)

Anna Maria Island - Tortuga Inn

Every year, after months of cold and darkness, and just prior to the first signs of spring, thousands of Canadians suddenly abandon their homes and head south to the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico and so on.  And this year,  Junior was no exception.  Even with what has been a mild winter by any measure, Junior and family found themselves joining the mass migration of Canucks south at Spring Break. 

In some moment of sheer lunacy, I determined that it would be a good idea to drive.  Perhaps it was the mild shock of air fares, or some crazy idea that it would be ‘fun’, but at any rate by 6am early friday we departed our house and began our two-day journey. 

For those of you contemplating the drive, I can attest that the advice of my colleagues and friends has turned out to be quite accurate.  You should budget two long days of driving – planning a minimum of twelve hours on the road, factoring in another two or more hours of stretches, meals and pee breaks    A couple of colleagues, real pros at this, strongly advised going hard the first day – up to 18 hours(!) such that the second day is easier.  No doubt they all have teenage kids who can entertain themselves.  Anyone travelling with two small children must invest in a portable CD player.   This wonderful invention, I am sure has prevented the untimely demise of an untold number of children.   

In the end we opted for a more or less balanced two days of about 12 hours driving each – although due to somewhat inclement weather on the first day, we actually did not accomplish half the distance, stopping just past Roanoke Virginia.   Mind you once we joined I77 in North Carolina, we managed to progress at a much faster rate and had we not encountered a traffic accident on I75 near ocala,  would probably have made it in to our destination before 715pm.  As it was we arrived at 8pm, and collapsed into our beds.

cheerfully incompetent

VIA Rail

My few readers will have noted by now that Junior travels a wee bit – perhaps more than is strictly necessary.  In my roamings, I have had on occasion the pleasure opportunity to travel on Canada’s own VIA Rail.  For uninitiated, VIA Rail is a passenger rail service wholly owned by the taxpayers of Canada, known in the parlance as a Crown Corporation.  In this regard it is not unlike AMTRAK (USA), or any of a dozen or more European state-owned passenger rail services.  Thus it is run largely for the benefit of its employees and where passengers are noticed at all, it is with at best diffidence and more often with sufferance.

In comparing modes of transport it is often difficult to find true comparisons of merit, since the modes differ significantly enough as to pose problems finding commonalities.  Except where it comes to service.  Leaving aside private automobiles, where the service offered to the passengers is diffident at best and downright awful at times  (particularly in Junior’s chariot), passengers in Canada have two options – fly or ride the Iron Horse.   Edward the Corgi  has heard my theory before – but for those who have never heard it – thus.   On the whole and with evidence of my own eyes, Air Canada is miserably incompetent, whilst VIA Rail is cheerfully incompetent. 

Continue reading