Transport 2000 Canada Hot Line

23 September 2005

This is the Transport 2000 Canada Hotline, issue number 830, recorded on 23 September 2005, Bert Titcomb reporting.

In this issue...

1 - Chicago commuter crash

The Metra commuter train, which crashed last Saturday in Chicago, was travelling almost 100 km/h above the speed limit just before it derailed, killing two passengers and injuring dozens. Mark Rosenker, the acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, stated that the train was travelling at about 111 km/h instead of about 16 km/h when it used a crossover to switch tracks. Part of the investigation included an interview with the train's engineer, who had been on the job for 45 days after finishing a six-month training program.

2 - Ottawa bus confusion

Safety concerns with more than 100 low-floor buses in Ottawa have prompted municipal officials to curtail transit service, a move that could leave disabled passengers stranded and create bus delays across the city. Passengers in wheelchairs will not be able to access several major routes. Routes, 84, 96, 116 and 176 will only be serviced by regular city buses until further notice. The city decided to restrict the service of 109 Invero low-floor buses after several bus drivers reported that the front end of the bus vibrates when driven at more than 60 km/h.

The buses, 73 of which were purchased last year and 36 this year, cost the city $475,000 each. In August, the city replaced the tires and rims of the problem buses, however the vibration problem resurfaced on one of the buses last week. It was sufficiently significant to convince city officials to move all 109 buses to routes where they will not have to travel at more than 50 km/h. The change took effect on September 20th and will last until the bus manufacturer can find a solution to the problem.

3 - VIA schedule improvements called for

Dirk Partridge, our former national office manager, has written a letter to VIA Rail to point out that rail service from Toronto to Ottawa on Saturdays is somewhat out-of-balance. Trains depart from Toronto at 7:45 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and then nothing until the final train at 6:35 p.m. He pointed out that there is gap of over 9 hours between the second and third train and suggested that the second departure be rescheduled to leave Toronto at noon or 12:30 p.m.

Transport 2000 Canada would like to see more Canadians write to VIA Rail with suggestions on how their service can be improved. There is an old adage which states, "The squeaky wheel gets the most grease."

4 - Correction on RUN conference

The recent issue of TransportAction contained a small error on page 3 in regard to the Rail Users' Network Conference to be held in Toronto on November 12/13th. The phone no. should read (207) 642-5161 if anyone wants more information. Five interactive workshops will focus on "best practice" on major issues facing rail passengers including the future of intercity passenger rail service, concerns of disabled passengers and the role of bus rapid transit in the modal mix. We would like to see a good turn-out from T2000 members in the Toronto region.

5 - Airbus landing gear fails, yet lands safely

This week in Los Angeles, there was a dramatic landing of a JetBlue Airbus with its front landing gear turned 90 degrees sideways. Virtually overlooked was that this kind of incident has happened on Airbus 320s at least four times before. The most recent was in 1999, which resulted in a mandatory airworthiness directive to all airlines operating the aircraft to fix possible faults with O-ring seals in the landing-gear steering module. However, neither the French Direction Generale de l'Aviation Civile nor the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had adopted it as a mandatory airworthiness certificate, and the airline did not comply. The certificate was issued by the French Authority on March 24, 1999, and by the FAA on Dec. 17, 1999. The FAA gave its airlines 12 months to comply.

6 - More foreign ownership of Canadian air carriers

Ottawa plans to raise foreign ownership limits on Canadian airlines from 25 per cent to 49 per cent. Transport Minister Jean Lapierre stated that greater investment by non-residents would strengthen the domestic air industry. He plans to present his proposal to the federal cabinet within the next few weeks. The issue of foreign investors holding large stakes in Canadian airlines has been a controversial topic, prompting economic nationalists to raise alarm bells that domestic air service would suffer if non-resident investment climbs.

7 - Car Free Day

September 22nd was declared "Car-Free Day" in many cities worldwide. It is an international event which aims to raise awareness among urban drivers about the problems of private car use. Many Canadian cities took part, however the City of Ottawa took little notice, other than holding a small presentation at City Hall. According to a reporter with the Ottawa Sun, almost all senior bureaucrats and municipal politicians parked their cars in the large parking garage under City Hall. These are the same politicians who want more citizens in Ottawa to switch to public transit.

8 - Impending hurricane Rita

Hurricane Rita has fuelled a huge surge in gasoline prices in eastern Canada. A wave of panic buying drained gas stations this week as motorists scrambled to fill up their tanks. The panic buying was driven by the fear of another hurricane-induced price spike. Some retailers fuelled the frenzy by jacking up pump prices to unprecedented levels, as high as $2.24 a litre in Stratford, Ont. One major wholesaler, Bradshaw Fuels, said 30 of the 120 retail sites in supplies in S.W. Ontario ran out of gas by Thursday afternoon. The remaining 90 are in danger of doing so on Friday.

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