Region Officially Unveils Lrt Prototype

WATERLOO REGION - The Region of Waterloo unveiled a model Bombardier light rail train to dignitaries and media Friday with no shortage of congratulations to go around.Politicians celebrated the first shiny evidence that the $818-million rapid transit project is moving ahead.The region has branded its light rail system the Ion."Ion continues to be delivered on time and on budget," said Coun. Jim Wideman. He thanked Bombardier, the provincial and federal governments and staff for supporting the project.Those in attendance were invited to tour the train.The public is invited to see the train Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at regional headquarters, 150 Frederick St., Kitchener. The train is fitted with a photo booth so people can have their photos taken in the driver's seat. The model train is smaller than the ones the region plan to buy"The development of a rapid transit system for Waterloo Region is quickly becoming a reality," said Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy.There is no accommodation on the model for cyclists, but Thomas Schmidt, commissioner of transportation and environmental services, said bikes will be able to come aboard."We haven't exactly figured out the integration," he said.The actual trains will each have two driver's cabs and three coach sections in total. The train has doors on both sides, 56 seats and can accomodate more than 200 people."We're very proud to be part of the very important expansion of transit in Ontario," said Rene Lalande, vice-president at Bombardier Transportation North America, Thunder Bay unit.The region's trains will be built in Thunder Bay.Regional councillors approved a contract on Wednesday to spend about $92.4 million for 14 trains and associated costs.Councillors decided in June 2012 to piggyback on an existing contract that Crown corporation Metrolinx has with Bombardier. The region's train order will be added to a contract Metrolinx has to buy light rail vehicles for Toronto. Officials said it would lower costs, keep the project on schedule, improve vehicle reliability over a longer period and offer an opportunity to share parts and knowledge.Light rail trains will run 19 kilometres from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener. Construction is expected to be finished in 2017.The $818-million rapid transit project is being funded with up to $265 million from the federal government and up to $300 million from the province. The region has budgeted $253 million for its share.

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In Los Angeles, Ditching the Car for an Eco-friendly Trip
Los Angeles may feature an abundance of holistic arts, yoga and macrobiotic diets, but it's probably not the first city that comes to mind when you hear the term "eco-friendly." You can largely thank the 900 miles of freeways and highways in Los Angeles County for that. Few would dispute that the city's culture is a car-dominated one, with an obsessive focus on driving routes, smog alerts and the best times of day to avoid traffic. It's an obsession that has been mocked on "Saturday Night Live," captured in pop songs and recorded in academic essays.It's possible, though, to escape the routines of the typical visitor in the name of environmental friendliness. I set out to marry the city's organic cuisine and healthy, active lifestyle with something that it isn't widely associated with - leaving a small carbon footprint - by ditching the car and creature comforts of regular hotels.I discovered that it's possible to rely on the Metro, Los Angeles's imperfect but quite functional public transportation system, which includes buses, a light rail system and, yes, even a subway. I was able to find a comfortable yurt - that's right, the traditional Central Asian round tent - in a quiet, wooded part of the city accessible by light rail and just minutes from downtown. And all while saving some money in the process.My girlfriend, Brette, and I rode the long escalator into the bowels of the subway station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue. "Wow," she said, "I can't believe this exists." It does feel strange to ride the subway in Los Angeles because it dispels the one huge stereotype nearly everyone subscribes to: that you need a car to get around. "And it's so quiet and clean," she said, touching her Metro Tap card to the turnstile (subtracting the $1.75 fare) and going through.The platform was mostly empty. The limitations of the subway quickly become apparent in that there are only two lines, purple and red, which basically cover the same route. The red line goes from downtown through Koreatown, into Hollywood, before terminating in North Hollywood. If you happen to live within walking distance of one of the 14 stations on the line, and your destination is also on that line, then the subway is supremely useful. But most of the approximately 500 square miles of the city remain unserved by the lines. Bus and light rail lines are more comprehensive and help pick up the slack.Pershing Square, in the heart of downtown, is, however, one of the subway stops, and it deposits you just a block or so from one of the city's major culinary destinations: Grand Central Market. It was founded as a large open-air arcade in 1917, and can still feel like a market at businesses like Torres Produce and Chiles Secos.But in recent years it's morphed into its current incarnation: a big, vibrant food hall peppered with a selection of popular restaurants. Opening a place or holding an event at Grand Central is an immediate notch in the belt of any Los Angeles chef. Food prices have naturally skyrocketed, but some good deals can be found.One of the best is the Fast Burger from Belcampo ($5), built in the In-N-Out style: American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and a Thousand Island-style sauce. The quality of the grass-fed beef is what makes this burger a bargain; natural juices run immodestly from the freshly ground patty, perfectly complementing the vegetables.The feel of downtown Los Angeles is unflinchingly urban - mere miles away, though, lies an entirely different world. We made our way to Union Station, the city's rail hub and the largest railroad terminal in the Western United States. A gorgeous, soaring structure erected in the 1930s, its architecture mixes bits and pieces of Art Deco and Mission Revival styles.We found the Metro Gold Line (also $1.75 on the same Tap card), one of the city's four light rail lines. It was uncharacteristically drizzly, and those of us waiting for the Azusa-bound line squeezed under the shelter on the outdoor platform. The announcement board said the train would be arriving in four minutes. Four minutes passed, then another four. Then another four. The platform was becoming crowded. Finally, it arrived. About 15 minutes later, we stepped out in the Mount Washington neighborhood and began the 10-minute walk to our lodgings.I found our yurt on Airbnb for $98 a night. It's essentially a big, round tent with a front and back door; a latticelike structure braces the frame. Wooden ribs support the dome, and at the top is a covered translucent wheel, or crown, that acts like a circular skylight. It's quite beautiful, and the luxuries - a proper queen-size bed, for example, as well as electricity - give the illusion of camping without any of the real down-and-dirty stuff. It turns out that while I find saying the word "glamping" to be slightly nauseating, the actual act is very pleasant.The yurt is set on a raised platform in a quiet, hilly section of Mount Washington, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles known for its steep and winding streets. The owners left the keys and some lovely touches: tea and coffee, an electric kettle, a French press, even a bottle of inexpensive wine. There were travel books in the night stand, as well as a small portable heater. The back door led to the outdoor bathroom and shower area, with a dry composting toilet (and instructions for how to use it) as well as a sink and shower with a "gray water" system (it runs off and feeds the plants in the garden; the hosts provide all-natural soap).Using the outdoor shower was one of the highlights of the stay: I was expecting to take a quick, freezing shower and immediately towel off and run back inside. But the water heater worked well, and I was able to take a relaxing, warm shower in the drizzly, 50-degree weather, right next to an enormous prickly pear cactus on the hillside.While the city's public transit system proved mostly reliable, I decided to try other transportation options. CicLAvia is an initiative that creates daylong open-streets events for biking, skating and walking. The aim is to get people to explore their neighborhoods by means other than cars by creating large, open public spaces out of Los Angeles's streets."L.A. is mostly known for destination points - you go from point A to point B," said Romel Pascual, executive director of CicLAvia. "You do that in a car and you miss everything in between. This makes you slow down and appreciate the in-between moments."My brother, Loren, in town for a visit, and I decided we would rent bikes and participate in the San Fernando Valley edition of CicLAvia. We met at Retro Xpress Bicycles on Victory Boulevard and asked for two day rentals. "Well," the man behind the counter said, pursing his lips, "we don't have many bikes left." He stopped and pointed at two pink girls' bikes that were way too small. "This is all we got left." I couldn't tell if he was just trolling me or if he was serious.He was serious. We walked out with the two bright pink bikes and two helmets for $19.95 apiece. The ride up to the corner of Van Nuys and Roscoe, where the event began, was mostly uneventful - we did get a few honks, hoots and hollers from passing cars. Once we were in the confines of the four-mile stretch of CicLAvia, no one cared.The entire boulevard was closed to traffic, and tents and food trucks were set up along the sidewalks. It was a giant street fair; there were lots of pets, children and residents of all ages. Many were biking, others conversing and getting to know one another. Mr. Pascual was right - it was enlightening to slow down and get an up-close perspective on the neighborhood, all while strengthening a sense of community.I had covered four of the five major alternatives to cars in Los Angeles: foot, bike, subway, light rail. That left the bus. Brette and I embarked on an epic trip (Line 733) from downtown to Venice one afternoon - it was a good 80 to 90 minutes to make the 14.5-mile haul and reach the big roundabout near Main Street and Venice Way, just steps from the Venice Boardwalk.Our destination was Seed Kitchen, a restaurant opened in 2008 by Eric Lechasseur and Sanae Suzuki that specializes in vegan, macrobiotic meals. I ordered a saisai doniburi macro bowl ($12.95), which contained kale, shiitake mushrooms, beans and Japanese pumpkin. I was surprised by how flavorful it was - the balsamic miso dressing certainly helped.But why pay at all for your food when you can snack free on the plants and flowers that grow all around you? That's the philosophy of Pascal Baudar, a Belgian-born forager and wild food consultant. He leads regular classes and excursions into Los Angeles's forested areas in search of edible plants, mushrooms and flowers.Brette and I paid $20 each to join him one morning close to the Tujunga Wash, near the Angeles National Forest in the far northern part of the city. Our group of six began a leisurely stroll through the forest, and Mr. Baudar stopped to point out dozens of plants that have culinary uses: bright yellow mustard flowers, elderberry, curling dock and watercress.We spotted a couple of men carrying large bags of watercress they'd picked near the Wash. "Those guys," Mr. Baudar said, "they make mistakes." I asked him what he meant. He explained that we were at a horse crossing, and where plants grow in water, you want to pick plants upstream of any animal activity, to avoid possible bacteria. Mr. Baudar had other useful tips, including how to differentiate poison hemlock from edible hemlock look-alikes. (Cow parsley and Queen Anne's lace, for example, have tiny hairs on their stems; poison hemlock has smooth stems.)Later, we sipped on a homemade soda he had made from elderflowers and munched on our trove of wild plants. I was learning that Los Angeles's sprawl and geographical diversity work for it in many ways. They yield an impressive breadth of eco-friendly activities, which, with a little work, can take place without spending one minute in a car.
Ion Train Involved in Another Collision
KITCHENER - An Ion train collided with a sport utility vehicle on King Street West early Thursday afternoon.An SUV was attempting a U-turn when it was struck by a train near Kitchener Collegiate Institute. The front corner of the train wedged into the driver's side of the car, crushing the bottom front panels on the train."Our understanding at this point is the driver was performing a U-turn at a location where there is signage to indicate no U-turns allowed," said Thomas Schmidt, commissioner of transportation and environmental services for Waterloo Region.The driver of the SUV was taken to hospital as a precaution with what are believed to be minor injuries, Waterloo Regional Police said.Schmidt said an operator was able to drive the train to the Ion maintenance and storage facility on Dutton Drive in Waterloo. "Keolis, our operator, will obviously assess the damage and come up with a cost and strategy for getting the train repaired," he said. This is the third accident involving a light rail vehicle in the last two weeks.Last Friday, there was a minor collision between a sport utility vehicle and an Ion vehicle on Duke Street near Ontario Street. The collision left superficial scrapes and paint damage on the side the LRT vehicle.On May 31, the driver of a minivan was charged with failing to stop at a red light after her minivan was struck by an Ion train at Duke and Water streets.That collision sent two people to hospital with what were believed to be minor injuries and caused about $20,000 damage to the Ion vehicle.Ion service is slated to launch June 21, and trains are now testing along the route on a summer-service schedule.Schmidt said collisions like these do hold up trains and the region is working with police to clear accidents as quickly as possible. "If it's a longer term accident we have the ability to bus-bridge and short-turn trains," he said, meaning that buses will be able to transfer passengers from trains stuck behind the accident to those beyond the accident.
Factbox: Alphabet Unveils Toronto Smart City Master Plan Details
(Reuters) - Alphabet on Monday released details of a proposed smart city development for Toronto, outlining plans in a 1,500 page document. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said at a press conference that Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet unit, will not disclose personal information to third parties without explicit consent and will not sell personal information. Here are some facts on Sidewalk Toronto: The Quayside development is said to occupy 12 acres, the Villiers West taking up 19 acres, and the rest of the IDEA District at 159 acres. Sidewalk Labs says in the proposal that up to 93,000 jobs could be generated, with 44,000 permanent, direct jobs by 2040. Out of the 44,000 jobs, a little over half are said to be in manufacturing and cultural work, around a quarter in administrative support, retail and transit, and 10,000 in finance, real estate and management. The smart city proposal indicates that the Quayside would emit 85% fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to downtown Toronto, with the full-scale development called the IDEA District at 89% fewer emissions. Projects like energy efficient housing, a facility that converts organic food waste into biogas and a clean thermal grid for heating and cooling are pitched. Half of the houses are "purpose-built" rental units, with additional affordable housing and middle-income housing units. The houses would be built out of mass timber sourced from a timber factory in Ontario which Sidewalk Labs plans to invest in to provide 2,500 full-time jobs over 20 years. A self-financing light rail transit extension connecting the Greater Toronto Area to the waterfront, a freight logistics hub with underground delivery and every building accessible by cyclists is proposed. The light rail transit's delivery would be accelerated by C$400 million in optional credit financing and pay for advanced infrastructure systems. The proposal says by 2040 the smart city will contribute C$14.2 billion annually to Canada's GDP, C$4.3 billion in tax revenue and create 44,000 permanent jobs. The Quayside and Villiers West is said to cost C$3.9 billion, with Sidewalk Labs and local partners planning a C$900 million equity investment. Additionally, Sidewalk Labs and their local partners say they would invest up to C$1.3 billion, which they expect will encourage primarily third parties to raise an estimated C$38 billion in total investment to cover the total project cost of infrastructure and real estate across the IDEA district.
Prime Minister, Premier Sign Hobart City Deal Memorandum ...
Hobart's stratospheric rise is showing no sign of letting up, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signing an agreement to proceed with a City Deal for the state capital.Mr Turnbull was in Hobartwith Premier Will Hodgman and Local Government Association of Tasmania President Doug Chipman on Tuesday morning to sign the memorandum of understanding for the City Deal.The deal will allow the University of Tasmania'sproposed $400 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) facility for the CBD to be seriously considered.It will also expedite the $2 billion redevelopment of Macquarie Point, which could well include the construction of a world-leadingAntarctic precinct.The Prime Minister also flagged the Commonwealth's interest in light rail options for the Greater Hobart area, as well as other new means of public transport.The City Deal is also expected to oversee the establishment of a Greater Hobart Act, which will connect the four Greater Hobart councils -Hobart City Council, Clarence City Council, Glenorchy City Council and Kingborough Council -so as to better facilitate projects under the City Deal.The agreement will also examine options to support affordable housing in the region."These city deals are a big game-changer," Mr Turnbull said."This is a new way to approach development and investment in our cities."For the first time in Hobart, you've got the Commonwealth, the state government and local governments all completely aligned to make this remarkable city even more remarkable, even more liveable, even more successful in the years ahead."The Premier said the City Deal would target the areas where Hobart has "a rare competitive advantage"."Our Antarctic connections, the opportunity for development in the space that is STEM, presentso many opportunities for our state," he said."Clearly, there's a lot of work that needs to be done to realise the potential that this plan covers."[This is] ashared vision -it really looks to the future of the greater city of Hobart."Mr Chipman, who is also the Clarence Mayor, said it was "truly an exciting day"."We need a vision for greater Hobart," he said."It's been growing rapidly and we're already confronting growing pains through transport issues."We [the four Greater Hobart councils]look forward ... to working closely with the state government to help deliver these amazing projects."The Hobart City Deal comes after , to assist in fast-tracking the UTAS relocation and the City Heart project.
This Week in Hamilton Politics: What You Need to Know
Cuts and cannabisIf you can bear it, more news is coming Monday on the local impact of provincial public health changes.Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government has announced plans to save $200 million a year by amalgamating 35 boards of health across Ontario down to about 10.The government is also asking local taxpayers to pay more of the shared cost of public health services (what critics call "downloading.") In Hamilton, that means a shortfall of $2 million in 2019 unless Ontario comes through with "one-time mitigation" funding.Council will meet as the board of health Monday to hear the latest updates from staff. Can we dip into reserves to cover lost funding? Or do we need to cut services?As a reminder, local public health services include everything from inspections of businesses to local vaccination tracking and promotion to supports for new parents.Also at Monday's meeting is a proposal to include cannabis and vaping in city bylaws meant to control the threat of second-hand smoke around parks, beaches and trails.Interested in either of these issues? The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.Anti-dumping bylawHad your fill of rural Hamilton being used as a dumping ground for mystery "soil"?The province and city alike have promised new rules to crack down on rural dumping after a Spectator investigation into the alleged dumping of 24,000 loads of mystery fill in Flamborough.The city's agriculture and rural affairs committee is considering a bylaw update Monday night to help regulate the "stockpiling" of topsoil and other fill on properties within Hamilton boundaries.Want to sit in on the discussion? The meeting is from 7-9 p.m. in rooms A and B at the Ancaster Fairgrounds, 630 Trinity Rd.The latest on LRTSo, light rail transit is almost here!In Kitchener-Waterloo, I mean.LRT is now slated to hit the tracks in that region June 21 almost two years after the original planned start date.That's food for thought as Hamilton gets a project update Wednesday on its own delayed $1-billion project.The summary: a nine-month provincial funding freeze, now ended, means major construction won't start before 2021 on Hamilton's 14-kilometre LRT from McMaster University to Eastgate Square. Once upon a time, the city was on track for LRT construction starting this fall.Details on costs - and a final council debate on an operating agreement - won't happen until next spring, when bids to design-build-operate the LRT are submitted. Want to listen in? The general issues committee meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall.
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