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.

 

Graham City Transit finalizes BRT design, lane arrangements, plans to use existing buses at higher frequencies 

GRAHAM CITY- Yesterday, the Metropolitan Graham Transit Authority released final plans for the lane arrangements and design of their new BRT system. The struggling system chose a different method than many other systems in order to use existing ordinary buses to provide the new transit service.

The three lane arrangements that will be used in the Graham BRT system.

Lane arrangement A is for former four lane roads with no middle lane that needed on street parking. It runs the BRT in the center of the road with platforms and on street parking in the middle lanes on each side of the road.

Lane arrangement B is going to be the most common in the system. It uses center platforms in the former center lane of five lane roads, while running the BRT lanes in the opposite direction of traffic.

Lane arrangement C is basically a regular street side bus stop for when the BRT is making a loop on smaller streets near the beginning and end of each route.

The reasoning for the oddly designed lane arrangements is the lack of funding to buy buses with doors on both sides. Using existing and newly purchased ordinary buses means all doors are on the right, requiring an unusual lane setup.

MGTA plans to just run regular buses and occasionally accordion buses very frequently (every 2-3 minutes during peak) to make up for the smaller bus size until they gain the means to buy better buses.

The Graham City Economic Crisis has been very hard on the city and the transit system. Most of the routes being created are to replace demolished old condemned elevated subway lines in the city, although a couple will follow new corridors that need better service. The nearly broke system normally would never be able to fund such a project if not for emergency funds provided by the federal government (taken from more successful and well off systems like Quentinsburgh’s QUARTA) and newly reallocated funds from elsewhere in the state. The hope is that as the city and the system get back on their feet that they will then be able to sustain themselves without being on ‘life support’ from the federal government.

Construction on the first two lines, both running along former subway corridors through important but poorer neighborhoods, will start in August. (A temporary service is already running on these lines.) The construction on those lines is expected to be done by 2018. MGTA hopes to have a strong system in place by 2020, in step with the city’s recovery from economic crisis.

Volkman-era highway interchanges being demolished across Lornesse

Winterlyn City (Angel News Channel, Sakura News Center) – As temperatures are getting warmer in the Winterlyn Mountain Range, the government of the state of Winterlyn launched a long-term highway interchange reconstruction project on all Interstate Highways and National Routes across the prefecture of Lornesse, signaling that the construction season has begun.

According to local news outlets in Winterlyn City, the Lornesse prefecture government and the Lornesse Department of Transportation (LORDOT) studied the traffic volume and roadway design involving Volkman-era highway interchanges between the Clear Heart and the current Moka periods, that in the current period, the Volkman-era interchanges are pushed to the limit, to the point the highway interchanges cannot handle anymore strain from increasing traffic volume. In a statement by LORDOT’s president, Nimi Hirochi, said “the Volkman-era highway interchanges are not just cannot handle a lot of traffic along interstate highways, the overpasses and the gray asphalt pavement are starting to deteriorate, even those that are retrofitted or rehabilitated, they became ‘structurally deficient’. We have concluded that the traffic volume on those Volkman-era interchanges keeps increasing, the highway interchanges will start failing.”

Hirochi also said that since the Moka period began, an overpass at exit 59 on Yusaka Toll Road collapsed during a 6.1 earthquake in March. In April, chunks of concrete fell from an overpass near the Benisaro Rest Area resulting in one person seriously injured and two cars were damaged along Interstate 72 (B 72) between Winterlyn City and Yusaka Toll Road. On May 12, asphalt pavement deterioration and formation of potholes appeared at exit 140 near Gasagi Road in Celiniel. In response to Lornesse’s roadway design problems, the Belphenia Department of Transportation designed new highway interchange designs including better roadway designs, pavement design, and stronger overpasses for LORDOT.

Construction projects on the highway interchanges started in early 2016 with the demolition of all Volkman-era highway interchanges in phases. The new highway interchange designs will replace the old interchanges along Lornesse highways and will come with new and improved roadway designs, wider on-and-off ramps, new overpasses, street lights, guardrails, reflective road signs, traffic cameras, and new pavement markings.

“We are urging people to obey posted speed limits, traffic signs, and pavement markings along highways in active work zones, avoid using cell phones or other distractions while driving, and expect delays when you are traveling to your destination. Speed limits will be set to 45 mph and are strictly enforced in active work zones, and will be photo enforced. We are enforcing the speed zones so motorists can get to their destination alive and safely upon arrival, and to increase safety among other drivers, passengers, construction workers, police, and everyone.” Yuki Hirojima of the Winterlyn State Police said.

Lornesse will be the 24th prefecture to demolish all Volkman-era interchanges along Interstate Highways. The construction projects on the new interchanges are expected to be completed sometime in 2017.