Category Archives: Canada

‘Put the Junction Back in the Junction’

Every seat was occupied in the waiting room at the Essex Junction Amtrak station on the first Wednesday in January. Passengers going south to New York City and Washington, D.C., spilled onto the platform next to the tracks. The drab station was the center of activity as the shops and restaurants in the old commercial buildings along Railroad Avenue began to open.

With a blast of its horn, the Vermonter arrived promptly at 9:54 a.m. from St. Albans, and 110 people climbed aboard the train. Such large crowds delight Essex Junction leaders, who want to boost train ridership in the historic railroad town.

The goal is “to put the junction back in the Junction,” said George Tyler, president of the Essex Junction Board of Trustees.

To that end, he and his colleagues are doing everything they can to accelerate the proposed extension of passenger rail to Montréal, which they figure could bring throngs of Canadians to Essex Junction, the train’s sole stop in Chittenden County. It would restore the old Montréaler service that for decades brought tourists and skiers through Vermont, linking Quebéc and Washington, D.C. The trains ran until 1995, when Amtrak discontinued the run because of financial problems. St. Albans became the northern terminus, and the line was renamed the Vermonter.

Citing renewed interest in rail and a national increase in Amtrak ridership, state officials predict the new service to Montréal will start in 2019. “Everything that needs to be done is in Canada,” said Dan Delabruere, rail director at the Vermont Agency of Transportation. “We’re ready on the Vermont side.”

Village leaders are touting other rail projects, too, as part of a broader village revitalization that encourages better pedestrian access, more street life and taller buildings in the core of the commuter burg.

For years, the area around the Junction sprouted strip development, parking lots and outlet stores while commercial spaces in the historic center sat empty. No more. New planning and zoning goals promote downtown-style redevelopment and seek to inject more life into the village.

“This community came into existence because of rail, and one of the best things we can do is take advantage of this fact and redevelop our rail assets,” said Tyler.

Originally named Painesville after Vermont governor and railroad owner Charles Paine, the village in the town of Essex earned a different moniker in the 1850s. It became known as “the Junction” because at least six rail lines chugged through it.

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Mackenzie Hughes Wins RSM Classic At Sea Island, Georgia

The historic highlight reel will record that Mackenzie Hughes won his first PGA Tour title on Monday morning by draining an 18-foot par putt from the fringe, a clutch stroke that brought him the $1.08-million winner’s purse at the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia.

But those who know Hughes will tell you it’s possible the most important moment of his career-changing weekend — one that earned him entry into The Masters and two-year membership on tour, among many other benefits — came in Saturday’s third round. Hughes, who shot an opening-round 61, had navigated the opening 46 holes of the tournament without making a bogey when he arrived at the Seaside course’s 11th hole. There, a wayward drive into a bunker and a questionable moment of decision-making gave him a triple-bogey 7.

Hughes’s lead had suddenly vanished. Given his history for youthful hot-headedness — and given this was just the fifth start of his rookie season on the PGA Tour — an immediate plummet down the leaderboard wouldn’t have come as a surprise.

The manner with which Hughes responded to the setback said a lot about why he became the first Canadian to win on tour since Nick Taylor in 2014. Instead of falling apart, Hughes birdied three of the next five holes to restore his lead and enter Sunday’s final round with a one-shot advantage. Instead of withering into also-ran status, he found himself in a five-man playoff from which he ultimately emerged as the victor.

Mackenzie Hughes stuns playoff competitors with putt from off the green, wins 1st PGA Tour title.

A Canadian has not won the Canadian Open since 1954! I will be watching Mackenzie at Oakville, Ont.’s Glen Abbey Golf Club July 24 – 30, 2017.

Leonard Cohen Dies At 82

Leonard Cohen, the baritone-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter who seamlessly blended spirituality and sexuality in songs like Hallelujah, Suzanne and Bird on a Wire, has died at age 82.

“My father passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles with the knowledge that he had completed what he felt was one of his greatest records. He was writing up until his last moments with his unique brand of humour,” his son Adam told Rolling Stone.

Cohen, also renowned as a poet, novelist and aspiring Zen monk, blended folk music with a darker, sexual edge that won him fans around the world and among fellow musicians like Bob Dylan and R.E.M.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led tributes to the singer. “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of the legendary Leonard Cohen,” Mr Trudeau said.

Cohen was born in the Westmount section of Montréal.

What is Next For New York Subway? Toronto Already Knows.

You get on the Toronto subway car and it feels different!!

With a clear view of the entire train it does not look crowded! With no doors you get 10% more space!!

By 2020, these cars will start to appear in New York City!

Emma Fitzsimmons
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CP ready to move this year’s larger grain crop

Canadian Pacific is touting its preparation for moving this year’s western Canadian grain crop, which is forecast to beat the five-year average.

The Class I is calling on supply chain partners to ensure grain is adequately moved and distributed. The rail supply chain has returned to normal since the extraordinary crop and winter 2013-14, and CP “has continued to move record amounts of grain,” CP officials said in a press release.

There is excess capacity in the supply chain, including thousands of rail cars in storage ready to move the latest crop. In order for the system to move record volumes of grain, it’s essential that port terminals such as Vancouver operate on a 24/7 basis, said CP officials.

“To ensure success during this crop-year, the broader supply chain must work together to collectively harness our energy so that the entire Canadian economy can reap the maximum benefit,” said CP Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison. “We have been preparing for this crop year for months and we are ready.”

Grain is CP’s largest line of business. Grain movement for the 2015-16 crop year was flat relative to 2014-15, 4.7 percent higher than the railroad’s three-year average and 11.6 percent above its five-year average, according to CP.

The Class I continues to make significant investments in its infrastructure to move grain more efficiently, CP officials said.

Toronto proposes massive new ‘Rail Deck Park’ in city’s downtown

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Councillor Joe Cressy last week announced a plan to build a new, 21-acre park above Metrolinx tracks in the city’s downtown core.

To protect the rail corridor and build the park, the city will have to secure air rights in the area and create a plan amendment to ensure the space is developed for public use only, according to a press release issued by Tory’s office.

The city would create the park by decking over the corridor, which would create a “marquee green space” for the high-density surrounding neighborhoods and help connect the city to its waterfront, the release stated.

The park would be similar to Chicago’s Millennium Park and New York City’s Hudson Yards development, both of which transformed rail corridors into “iconic spaces,” according to Tory’s release.

“Great cities have great parks. As Toronto grows, we need to take bold action to create public space and make sure we build a city that makes future generations proud,” Tory said. “This is our last chance to secure a piece of land that could transform the way we experience our city.”

The initiative is part of Toronto’s TOCore project, which is a response to the rapid development of the city’s downtown.

No clear timeline or cost for the project has been determined as of yet, according to a CBC News report.

Environmental study unveiled for Montreal’s proposed light-rail system

CDPQ Infra, a subsidiary of institutional investor Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, last week released an environmental impact study for the proposed Reseau electrique metropolitain (REM) light-rail system in Montreal.

Photo: CDPQ InfraAn official request has been made for a public hearing, at which CDPQ will present the project and recent updates.

The 41-mile, fully automated light-rail system would connect downtown Montreal with the city’s South Shore, North Shore and West Island areas. The REM also would connect to the Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Dorval, Quebec.

The project is expected to cost $5.5 billion (in Canadian dollars), with the Caisse contributing $3 billion. The REM would be the third largest automated transportation system in the world after Dubai and Vancouver.
The Caisse established CDPQ Infra to plan, finance, develop and operate the project. In April, the organization first announced plans to build the REM.

Former TTC chair Giambrone named director of NYC streetcar project

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has hired Adam Giambrone to serve as director of the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar project.

In the role, he’ll oversee the project while focusing on aspects such as system planning, technical analysis and community outreach, city spokesman Austin Finan said in an email.New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has hired Adam Giambrone to serve as director of the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar project.

In the role, he’ll oversee the project while focusing on aspects such as system planning, technical analysis and community outreach, city spokesman Austin Finan said in an email.

From 2006 to 2010, Giambrone chaired the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), where he pushed for a plan to build a network of new streetcar routes in Toronto, according to CBC News. Most elements of the plan were later scrapped when Rob Ford was elected mayor in 2010.

Currently, TTC operates 50 miles of streetcar lines.

“The BQX will be the first streetcar to ply New York City streets in roughly 70 years, and having someone with hands-on experience from North America’s largest streetcar system will be valuable as we undertake the project,” Finan said.

Funding for the $2.5 billion, 16-mile BQX project has not yet been secured. During his “State of the City” address in February, de Blasio unveiled his plan to build the streetcar.
From 2006 to 2010, Giambrone chaired the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), where he pushed for a plan to build a network of new streetcar routes in Toronto, according to CBC News. Most elements of the plan were later scrapped when Rob Ford was elected mayor in 2010.

Currently, TTC operates 50 miles of streetcar lines.

“The BQX will be the first streetcar to ply New York City streets in roughly 70 years, and having someone with hands-on experience from North America’s largest streetcar system will be valuable as we undertake the project,” Finan said.

Funding for the $2.5 billion, 16-mile BQX project has not yet been secured. During his “State of the City” address in February, de Blasio unveiled his plan to build the streetcar.

Ontario to extend GO Transit rail service to Niagara Falls

Starting in 2021, Ontario will bring new weekday GO Transit rail service between the future Confederation Station in Hamilton and the Niagara region. By 2023, the province will establish service to Niagara Falls.

Subject to a final agreement with CN, GO Transit parent agency Metrolinx will start the consultations, planning and design work required to implement the service.

To make way for the new service, Metrolinx will perform track improvements, provide new and upgraded rail stations, build a new layover facility in Niagara Falls, add new GO Transit rail units along the corridor and lay more than 18 miles of new track.

Three other stations are proposed along the corridor in addition to the Confederation Station and upgraded VIA Rail Canada Inc. stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, according to a press release issued by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

“This is a natural next step for Metrolinx, building upon comprehensive planning, service and infrastructure improvements we’ve been working on with our partners,” said Metrolinx President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce McCuaig in a press release. “Strengthening ties between Hamilton and Niagara Falls with weekday GO train service is helping us turn our vision of an integrated transit network into a reality.”

Expanding the regional rapid transit network also is aimed at supporting economic development, increasing travel options and managing congestion.

Work will begin in 2017 to plan, design and retrofit the existing VIA Rail stations, with completion expected in 2023.

CP to lay off 500 MOW workers

Canadian Pacific yesterday began laying off 500 track maintenance workers, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference announced on its website.

The “temporary layoffs are the result of lower car volumes and a softening demand in a lackluster North American economy,” said CP Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications Martin Cej in a prepared statement to CBC News, which the union also posted on its website.

The layoffs follow CP’s announcement last month that it expects second-quarter revenue to decline about 12 percent compared with the same period in 2015. The Class I is anticipating lower volumes in bulk commodities, such as grain and potash. In addition, CP executives cited the Alberta wildfires and a strengthening Canadian dollar as reasons for the lower revenue.

However, the union has raised concerns that by laying off track maintenance workers, CP raised the risk of future derailments. Union officials denounced CP for neglecting to perform a formal risk assessment of how the job cuts would impact rail lines across Canada.

In his statement to CBC, Cej said that CP has invested heavily in track infrastructure over the past decade and that the layoffs were temporary until market conditions improve.

The layoffs will not affect CP’s commitment to safety, as the railroad will continue to perform visual inspections and ultrasonic rail flaw detection of track, Cej said.

“CP carefully considered the changes that were being made and concluded that since they posed no additional risk to employees, the public, property or the environment, a risk assessment was not required,” said Cej. “Transport Canada was notified and agreed with this conclusion.”