Opinion: Constructing QUARTA’s Trams was the biggest waste of taxpayer money in recent Quentins History

QUENTINSBURGH- The following is an opinion editorial by recently hired QDOT transit planner Greg Sullivan, who specializes in helping find cost-effective transit/roadway solutions. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PWN News.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about QUARTA potentially wasting taxpayer money with a few of their big infrastructure projects.

A lot of the discussion arose again when QUARTA announced plans to put emergency call buttons at every QLine Metro entrance, in every metro station, in/at every park and ride, and at all major bus stops and transit centers. I think this is largely unnecessary. Quentinsburgh is one of the safest cities in the world, and QUARTA is one of the safest transit systems in the world. Most metro stations already have these buttons on the platforms, and transit centers and park and rides usually have either existing buttons, a staffed building, or phones that already serve this role. But it’s an understandable move. QUARTA has been safe for years, and it seems like they’re making sure that continues to be the case. I still think that the cost may be worth more than the benefit in a system already known for safety, though.

I think there’s also a strong argument that QLine metro lines 11 and 12 (constructed originally as lines 10 and 11 and running most recently as lines 9 and 11) were a waste , as the area seems like bus rapid transit, like QLine 15 off the coast, may have been a more effective and more reasonably priced alternative that would have worked very well in the area. While the area is growing, it’s still not big enough to have truly needed a heavy rail line, even if it’s just a local one. These lines could have been built as BRT and simply rebuilt as a light rail as density and demand grew enough to warrant it.

But there’s one part of the QUARTA system that is the single biggest waste in the system’s history, and that’s the construction of the 3 stand-alone trams; the PlaneTrain, the Fairgrounds Tram, and the Geolympiad Shuttle.

For one, these trams aren’t linked to the main metro system track-wise. They don’t use the same train cars (in fact, they don’t even use the same company! Tram cars are made by Starmobility, while subway cars come from Chang y Sainz) and thus cannot be linked into the main system. You can see evidence of that along the Geolympiad Shuttle, where the tram LITERALLY runs ALONGSIDE the metro line 2 for two whole kilometers. That’s TWO MILES OF REDUNDANT TRACK. There’s also a one-station redundant stretch along Clayton Road.

This also leads to “island routing”, or lines that literally seem to go nowhere productive and can’t be expanded without certain parts being redundant. Take the Fairgrounds Tram, for example. QUARTA has been looking for a way to extend it and make it more effective for years. The problem? The subway system surrounds the tram and serves the area well enough that there’s nowhere to expand the tram without it being an even bigger waste of money than it already is.

But the biggest problem is the fact that PRACTICALLY NO ONE RIDES THEM.

As implied by the names of the three trams, the Fairgrounds Tram, Geolympiad Shuttle, and PlaneTram, these lines were built for very specific venues and in some cases, very specific events as well.

The Geolympiad Shuttle tram got huge amounts of riders DURING the 2016 Pancontinental Games in Quentinsburgh, as visitors/spectators used the tram to get back and forth from venue to venue. Ridership was easily in the hundreds of thousands. But that ridership only lasted through the Geolympiad itself. Currently, the most ridership on the entire line is Read University students using it as an extra way to get across campus or a way to connect to nearby metro lines that do not come far into campus. A little extra amount comes from those going to Quentinsburgh Firestorm baseball games, or the Horizon Plaza Mall and Hotel Complex (also built for the Geolympiad). Ridership today? only 5,000- on a good day. To make matters worse, the area is already surrounded by subway routes. Something as simple as a couple infill stations and a really reliable bus circulator could have done the trick, for the Geolympiad and even today for the occasional rider.

The Fairgrounds Tram is even worse. There was no real big event that warranted even the consideration of such a cost-ineffective transit project. The Quentins State Fair has seen declining visitors year after year, especially as Thrill Planet becomes more accessible, and less and less events are being hosted at the Quentins Fairgrounds. Yet we have a tram that was built especially for the Quentins Fairgrounds. Ridership, at best, is around 100 on a good, non-fair day, most going to either a small expo at the fairgrounds or trying to transfer between QLine Metro lines 1/14 and line 2 without going downtown. During the state fair that number can reach as high as 500 daily (yayyyyyyyyyyy *sarcasm*). The tram was built with the capacity of handling 15,000 passengers or more daily. A bus could have EASILY done the job.

The PlaneTram is easily the most effective and cost-worthy tram of the three, being used by hundreds of thousands of passengers every day. I wouldn’t call it a waste persay. But the same need could have been easily and effectively met by a frequently running airport shuttle bus, without the cost of new construction.

To be clear, I’m not referring to QUARTA’s small but successful trolley system. The Downtown Trolley has been running surprisingly well after some route tweaks, the James Street Trolley has greatly improved surface transportation in downtown Quentinsburgh, and the Waterside Park Tram (which, ironically, is actually a trolley) provides a quick connection to Waterside Park Isle and to Quentinsburgh Beach. All three have proven to be valuable assets to the system.

But the three standalone trams, as well as the costs of continued operation, have been a weight around QUARTA’s ankles for a long time, and will continue to be until they figure out what’s the best financial decision for the trams.

 

Zenergy Electronics rebrands as Zenergy Technology (ZT), releases first full line of devices and computers running ZComOS, teases ZeeBoy Platinum and ZeeBox17 releases for the summer

SAN GRANDE, FREEDEMIA– Freedemian electronics company Zenergy released their first official line of computers and mobile devices on Monday. The line currently includes 6 devices, the Zeno (which comes as an all-n-one desktop or a traditional-style PC tower), the ZenoBook, the ZenoBook Lite (sort of a lightweight hybrid between the ZenoBook and the Zeno Pad), ZenoPad, ZenoPhone, and ZenoPhab. The devices are the first full quality non-beta devices that Zenergy has released, and the first that run on the newly improved ZComOS.

“It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing operating systems we’ve seen in a while,” app developer Ravia commented. “It almost has that same wow factor that StepStone did when it was first released.”

Zenergy first announced the new line back in October 2015, though it had been in the works for years behind the scenes.

Zenergy has gone for the same “seamless experience” concept StepStone Technology has, with a standard UI across all computing devices (though phones especially have what one may call the “lite version”). The devices don’t actually navigate through the home “launch screen”, but through a modern-looking half-screen menu window that appears when you press either the built in Z button or click on the Z icon in the bottom left corner of the screen. (The Z Button is the default in phones, the Z icon is the default on laptops and desktops, and tablets can be adjusted to have the on screen Z Icon in addition to the Z button.) Essentially, this means your home menu is always accessible, no matter what app or program you’re in, in contrast to having to leave a program or move windows around to get back to it.

Some of the later Zenergy Beta models (such as the ZenergyPhone Beta 10) will be eligible for a software upgrade from ZComputeOS Beta 4.3 to ZComOS 1.0, but most of the older test models were not made to run the new system. Zenergy does plan on releasing one final update to ZComputeOS Beta (to be dubbed Beta 5 Final) as a final thank you to those who were early adaptors of the Zenergy computing line.

Zenergy also included a free, fully functional, official ZeeBoy emulator in every new device, as an homage to the days when Zenergy ruled handheld gaming. This may have been done in an effort to compete with MegamerGames‘ GamePhone SuperNova.

Zenergy’s market share is expected to grow dramatically in the near future as these devices hit the shelves. Currently Zenergy has about 1% of the Freedemian mobile device market, with Stepstone, Saehan Group, and Cyclo dominating.

Zenergy gaming fans will also be ecstatic to know that the new ZeeBoy Platinum and ZeeBox are coming out this June. The extent of their success may depend on the third party game offerings they’re able to attract to the platforms.

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The release images of the smaller ZenoPad and the larger version of the ZenoPhone.

Bill in response to Freedemian restroom shortage would reduce penalties for public urination

QUENTINSBURGH– Reeds Poplator Selena DiCostranado introduced a bill Friday afternoon addressing a problem related to the Freedemian restroom shortage in an unique way. The bill, currently simply dubbed Populus Bill 46, would lessen sentences/punishments for public urination. Essentially, the bill says public urination cannot be classified as a lewd act, and can only be punishable by law in the case of related vandalism or desecration/hate crimes.

The reasoning behind the bill, according to DiCostranado, is that public urination is something done out of desperation, not done for the purposes of being lewd. Even with Amendment 30, which switched the country from an indecent exposure model to an indecent behavior model and made non-lewd exposure legal in all 11 states, most ordinances continued to consider public urination “lewd”.

Currently, the legislature seems torn on the matter. Quentins Poplator Samantha Bond expressed concern that the country’s image as a clean, hygienic, beautiful nation would be at risk if people thought urinating on the side of the road or in public spaces was acceptable. Guijarros Poplator Jared Greenbrooks expressed concern that the bill, if passed, would set a dangerous precedent and could lead to something like public defecation becoming legal down the road.

Others supported the bill wholeheartedly, with the main reason for supporting it being the reduced punishment.

“It’s ridiculous that depending on the city, people have been fined, held for questioning, and even charged with lewd acts simply for not peeing on themselves when they couldn’t hold it anymore,” Trenchent Poplator Harrison Mead stated. “People have to pee, whether that’s in a toilet, in the grass, or in their pants. It’s not really a choice. Reducing the punishment for public urination to only being punishable when used for vandalism or desecration just makes sense.”

It does seem like the bill has a fair chance of passing the House of Populus, with the most recent stats estimating about 29 out of 47 Poplators are very likely to vote for the bill (a majority is 24). The House of Decisions is expected to vote that the decision only needs to be voted on by the House of Populus to become law.

While much of the attention was brought to the issue by then-vice-presidential candidate Diane Wooten-Whitaker peeing on herself during a live debate, the Freedemian restroom shortage has become a much more widely recognized issue over the past couple years, with studies and surveys showing that most Freedemians were choosing not to drink as much as they should for fear of not being able to find a public restroom, leading to greatly increased cases of heat stroke and dehydration-related illnesses and health problems.

Freedemia has in the past had an odd relationship with public restrooms, and with no ordinances in 99% of cities or towns requiring public restrooms and until recently, no statewide or nationwide requirements at all, many businesses and public places had opted to only have restrooms for employees or paying customers, some even going as far as to charge for bathroom usage. (Some lower level local courts had upheld these practices in the past, with the reasoning being the money would help pay for cleaning and maintenance.)

Some steps have been taken that are expected to make a difference over time, such as the passing of the slightly controversial RAWAA, which requires public businesses to provide public restrooms. However, in some places, including DiConstranado’s home state of Reeds, the shortage (as well as the rebellion among business owners refusing to comply with the law) is still bad enough that people are still finding themselves not able to find a restroom.

This bill comes in the midst of a greater move for the health and well-being of Freedemians, largely under the vice presidency of Patrick Houser. Other major recent moves have been about making sure water was accessible for all Freedemians, such as providing easier universal access to free drinking water (WAWAA) and removing water from “no food, no drink policies” (Walden v. VAULT). Healthcare reform is expected to happen in the coming months as well, with the emphasis being accessibility for all Freedemians, thus increasing the health of the country as a whole.

QUARTA beta-testing Stop Request buttons at bus stops serving multiple routes

QUENTINSBURGH, FREEDEMIA– Bus riders waiting at stops home to multiple routes may see a new feature coming within the next month. QUARTA, with the help of Trenchent company Trannovation Solutions, LLC., is rolling out Stop Request buttons to bus stops across the city.

This is being done primarily with the idea of saving time and making bus service more efficient. Currently, if there’s someone waiting at a bus stop home to multiple routes, every bus has to slow down, just in case the person at the stop wanted that particular route. This leads to a lot of lost time- many times, the individual is waiting for a particular bus, but every bus in between still has to slow down and pull towards the bus stop, just in case.

The idea behind Trannovation’s StopRequest Kiosk, a post designed to match the design of the QUARTA bus stops and with a button to request each route, is that the rider can request which bus they need from the bus stop ahead of time. This means only the route requested by the rider will have to slow down and pull over.

To use an example, let’s say Jimmy is waiting at a bus stop home to routes A, B, and C. Jimmy wants to get on route C. Currently, Jimmy would just wait at the stop visible to the drivers of approaching buses, and they would automatically slow down and pull to the side. While Jimmy can wave them off, signifying he doesn’t need that route, by that point the buses have already reduced speed and got ready to pull over and stop. If Jimmy’s route C comes after routes A and B, then riders on those buses lost time that the bus used to slow down. While this seems like only a little bit, when that happens ten to twenty times along the route, it adds up.

However, with the new StopRequest Kiosks, Jimmy can directly select “Route C” from the bus stop, signifying that you want only the C bus to stop, freeing up routes A and B to skip the stop entirely unless someone is getting off. This means that coupled with new dedicated bus priority lanes, routes A and B can literally pass the stops full speed (unless someone is getting off) without pulling over, because they know that Jimmy is waiting for Route C. This could make a huge difference in timing and efficiency of each route. Little tweaks like that can help the QUARTA bus system run far more efficiently.

While QUARTA’s QLine Metro has become exceedingly more efficient in the past few years, QUARTA’s bus network has lagged behind. Along major corridors like Capitol Blvd West, many have crowded onto the subways because of the long commute times on the local bus. This has greatly improved with the creation of bus priority lanes, (lanes where only buses and cars immediately turning right are allowed) but it still needs large improvements to be an efficient and appealing alternative for commuters.

QUARTA hopes to have the entire system fitted with the first phase of these stop request buttons (on most major lines/corridors) by February, and the whole system if the test period is successful by June 2017. Trannovation is also rolling out this new system in Trenchent and San Grande as part of Lake Area Rapid Transit (LART), and Laneston and Vandover’s VAULT (Vandover and Urban Laneston Transit) is supposed to start testing in January 2017. Trannovation is also working on an app version that allows individuals to request a bus to stop from their phones or mobile devices. However, the app is still in development and is not being publicly tested. Employees of QUARTA and LART will have a chance to test out the first version of the app come mid 2017.

Wooten-Whitaker edges out Walton for Graham Executive, Barbara Clint wins vacant Graham Poplator Seat, Andrew Carmichael wins seat in House of Equal Representation by Write-in

GRAHAM CITY, FREEDEMIA: The final results have come in from the Freedemian general elections on Monday. Graham State had some of the most watched races in the nation, as the area recovering from past corruption and the Graham City Financial Crisis chose new leaders to proceed with.

Graham State Executive

Diane Wooten-Whitaker managed to hold out over activist Grady Walton at the end despite a large chunk of supporters writing in Andrew Carmichael (the incumbent) in the race for Graham State Executive, winning 48.4% to 45.6%. Write-ins for Carmichael, who had dropped out of the race a week earlier, siphoned 6.2% of the vote away from Diane Wooten-Whitaker, making the race closer than expected.

Vacant Graham Poplator Seat

As expected, Barbara Clint, former mayor of Graham City, won the vacant Poplator seat by a landslide, winning 73.5% to 4.6% over Ellen Doofenschmidt.

Vacant Graham Representative Seat 1

The crazy one, though, was the race for the first open Graham Representative seat. Roger Pellerson, a somewhat unpopular Perrysville City Council member, was supposed to be running unopposed and win with a landslide. Pellerson was most alienating due to his random opposing of transit and infrastructure improvements in Perrysville, such as being the sole dissenter when the council voted to fix up a downtown street into a complete street. Strangely enough, Perrysvillians were dissatisfied and much of the massive Graham City population wrote in Andrew Carmichael as a candidate. He would win the position 41.5% to 31.9%. Carmichael was extremely shocked, but accepted the position. Pellerson seemed shaken up and declined to comment. Others have said that those write-ins were “unfair to those who actually ran” in the race. Grady Walton was furious that Carmichael was allowed to win the position after all of the scandals. “It’s not fair! He literally got kicked out of the Executive twice, and he shows a glimpse of change at the end and you vote for him for a completely different position??!!”

Vacant Graham Representative Seat 2

Lastly, for the second open Representative seat, a massive amount of candidates vied for the position. In the end, Kuri Mena, a community activist, author, nudist, and one of the first to push for Amendment 30, which legalized non-sexual public nudity everywhere in Freedemia, won the position. Her only official competition was Lamont DeCoste, another fellow activist and a member of Grady Walton’s Change for Graham group, who came in 2nd with 23.2% compared to Mena’s 27.5%. Three other candidates were in the race- Della McLina, a self proclaimed “Social Media Extraordinaire” (who came in third with 17.8%), Jim Johnsonson, a bus driver with 14.7%, and Jasmine Ernelmeyer, a security guard with 1.6%.

grahamresults-1
Election results for Graham State Executive, Graham Poplator, and the two seats for Graham Representatives.

Unexpected backlash over Restroom and Water Access Act (RAWAA) shows small rift of class divide in Freedemia

VANDOVER, FREEDEMIA- Freedemia has recently seen a surprisingly high amount of opposition to President Angela Rosenthal‘s  Restroom And Water Access Act (better known as RAWAA) in the last couple months. A recent poll found that while about 62% agreed with the law and about 10% had no opinion, about 23% of Freedemians, primarily the more wealthy and large business owners, were against making restrooms public across the board. The opposition seems to center around areas with the largest income inequality and class divides.

The law primarily focuses on three portions, making all public places with restrooms provide at least one public restroom to combat the shortage of public restrooms in many areas, banning employee-only and customer-only restrooms, and putting aside money for the renovation, upkeep, or construction of restrooms and water fountains in public places like parks.

RAWAA has been seen as common sense to many and has not been nearly as controversial as some of the unrelated restroom bills being discussed around the world, as the primary purpose of the law is simply to provide more public restrooms to those who need them. However, the law has brought out a divide that wasn’t expected as much in a nation like Freedemia.

Robert Burson of Burson and Cameron Law in downtown Vandover told us that it’s a matter of appearing credible and ready to handle the highest end clients. “We run a high scale law firm. We defend some of the largest figures in entertainment, industry, all around, and we need to be presentable. Appearance is everything. If we suddenly have all these ordinary-looking people walking through our firm to use the public bathroom it gives our company a completely different image.  We lose credibility. We lose jobs.”

“I don’t want any riff-raff coming in! There are so many who use ‘going to the bathroom’ as a way to come in and vandalize and steal and screw things up inside the business. If they aren’t shopping here, I don’t want them here!” one local business owner along the Laneston Beach boardwalk told PWN. The store, which sells beach supplies, already has negative ratings online for the owner treating customers and non-customers poorly.

A poll showed that the areas with the most opposition were Perrysville and Graham City in Graham state, with Laneston and Vandover coming in a distant 3rd and 4th. All four areas are notorious for income inequality, although Graham City and Perrysville are significantly worse.

This is especially problematic for Vandover, a city that seems to be suffering the most from the restroom shortage. Vandover Beach has become one of the largest tourist attractions in the nation, with thousands of tourists and locals daily. However, there are large sections of the area that currently have few or no public restrooms. The city has been investing in building more public restrooms along the beach, most which should be complete by June. However, in the meantime, while many businesses have followed the mandate of RAWAA and opened their restrooms to the public, almost as many have protested the mandate, some even not following it at all.

Perrysville and Graham City especially have been nearly notorious for their class divides in contrast to the rest of Freedemia. A lot of the problems with the Graham City Financial Crisis went back to decisions made at the state and local levels that only benefited the “upper upper class”, a group more prominent in Graham City than anywhere else in the country.

Many are extremely disappointed in this response to the bill.

“I honestly thought something like this would never be an issue in Freedemia. It seemed like people were friendly to you no matter what your income or career, like a place where a fast food worker could walk into the lobby of a law firm, wave to the people behind the counter, have a good conversation, use the bathroom and leave. This doesn’t seem like what I would have hoped from Freedemians”, one father from Laneston explained to us.

“I had been out on the beach all day and I had to pee so bad,” a teenage girl from Vandover told us. “The beach restroom was a five minute walk away and the only thing really close nearby that looked open was a spa down the road, so I ran there, thinking that with the mandate, I should be able to go. When I got in, however, they told me I couldn’t go into the back without payment. I explained that I just really needed to use the bathroom and that I couldn’t hold it, and they were just so resistant. I brought up the law, how that if their lobby was public that they’re technically supposed to provide restrooms, and they just started telling me that I was trespassing and to leave before they called the police… I ended up not making it to a bathroom in time because of the incident.”

Not all areas have been as resistant. Quentinsburgh already had the largest amount of public restrooms out of the nation’s major cities, and businesses in the capitol city have, for the most part, happily complied. Cities like Trenchent, San Grande, and Franklinsburgh saw most businesses praising the decision as a “no-cost to low-cost solution to an epidemic problem”.

President Rosenthal said she would be glad to make a statement, but needed some time as to not give too hasty of a response. “I don’t want to say something in frustration that I’ll regret.”

Stay tuned to PWN News as we follow this issue.

It’s official: New StepStone Devices will be able to be fully linked to PayChan Cable

SAN GRANDE, FREEDEMIA- StepStone Technology and PayChan Satellite announced today that the new StepBooks, StepTabs, StepPhones, StoneBooks, StoneTabs, and StepUp Home Consoles will all have the ability to be directly linked to user’s PayChan accounts, meaning users will have access to all of the channels available on their paid account over WiFi or data. Local channels will only be available in the region where they broadcast from, the same way it is with cable and satellite in general; however, paid users will always have access to the local channels of the area they are watching from.

PayChan operates off a “Pay per Channel” model, where users pay a base monthly rate for local channels, rewinding, recording, television guides, skipping commercials, and other features, then paying an extra f’0.50-f’1.00 per additional channel. This means all paid PayChan users will now have access to a full range of local channels on their devices, along with any other channels they paid for.

This is actually quite a big deal. While there are many companies now that offer limited access to cable on mobile, this partnership is one of the first to fully bring a fully-featured satellite experience to mobile. This should make a big impact on the field and bring other companies to do the same thing.