‘Transit Travelogue’

When in Hamburg, Germany…

February 3rd, 2016 1 comment

If you ever find yourself in Hamburg, Germany, then you must visit the Miniatur Wunderland.

This is the world’s largest miniature train exhibit, and it is definitely a ‘must-see’ for train lovers. As of September 2015, it had over 13 kilometer of tracks.  Additionally, multiple countries and regions are represented in the settings, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and the US. This entire model setting took over 500,000 hours to create.  There are 900 trains and 1,200 train cars, with the longest train being 14.51 meters long.

If you don’t have the time, or money, to make a visit, you can check out the video below to see how complex the Wunderland is.

Below are some up close shots from 2005. This exhibit is continually changing and growing, so no two visit are alike. What is impressive about this exhibit is the fact that not only are trains in constant motion, there are also wireless controlled vehicles moving about. The exhibit also squeezes in some humor with hidden quirks for those who are observant.

What are some of your favorite train/bus related museums?

 

Toronto’s Airport Connections are on the Up and “Up”

September 28th, 2015 3 comments

On a recent trip to Toronto, Metro planner discovers a new rail link.

I flew up to Toronto in July of this year for a fun weekend trip, flying into Pearson Airport.  I’ve traveled up there a few times in the past year and try to take transit between the airport and downtown when schedules allow.  Each time, I check transit schedules via Google Maps to determine whether or not transit from the airport makes sense to me.  This most recent time, I discovered something odd:  a new transit connection from the airport I hadn’t seen before, simply labeled “UP“.  Curious, I googled it and discovered that a new rail transit link had just opened between Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto’s Union Station, with two stops in between.  Being a transit nerd, I had to check it out.

The new UP train operates between Toronto's Union Station and Pearson Airport.

The new UP train operates between Toronto’s Union Station and Pearson Airport.

Read more…

Astoria’s Old Riverfront Trolley

September 16th, 2014 2 comments

Old freight railroad tracks in Astoria, Oregon become a major tourist attraction, with the installation of an old historical trolley train.

Picture 144

Astoria’s riverfront view of Washington

Astoria, Oregon was once slated to be the largest port on the west coast of the United States. Well situated at the mouth of the Columbia River, there was booming trade — fur trade early on, and later fishing, fish canning, and timber — with its deep water port and connection to the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Astoria had the first US Post Office west of the Rocky Mountains. For about 100 years, from the late 1800s, Astoria was an economic center with its port, but by the mid 1970s, the economy had tanked with the decline of canneries and timber. Read more…

Discovering the Other Silver Line

September 1st, 2014 5 comments

MBTA’s Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is impressive and efficient, but could be easier to use for visitors.

photo 2

Boston’s Silver Line BRT at one of its Logan Airport stops. Photo by the author.

I recently flew to Boston for the first time in years and had the opportunity to ride their Silver Line BRT  that provides service between Boston Logan Airport and south Boston.  The service features some dedicated right-of-way, real-time arrival signage and a few actual stations.

The Silver Line has real-time arrival screens at Boston Logan, easing the wait time for customers excited to explore a city or return home.  The buses used are dual-power, meaning they run on electricity via overhead wires at some times and on diesel when there are no wires.  The switching between the two takes a few minutes but it really wasn’t very noticeable.

I was very impressed with the stations.  For example, the World Trade Center station is a significant and impressive structure, and felt more like a traditional rail station that a bus stop by far.  It features a multi-story tower topped with the “T” logo.  The station interior features side platforms, escalators and stairs, real-time arrival screens and public art.  A station like this makes a statement that high quality transit service will be operating here for a long time, despite not having rails in the ground. Read more…

Categories: Transit Travelogue Tags: , , ,

Bordeaux: City of Wine and… (No) Wires?

August 25th, 2014 2 comments

Known to most Americans for its famous wine varieties, Bordeaux is also an innovator in surface transit technologies that allow for wireless tram operations on its downtown streets.

Two wireless trams serve paired center city station platforms

Two wireless trams serve paired center city station platforms

On a visit to Bordeaux in 2010, I drank its fabulous wines, walked along the Garonne, enjoyed its comfortable summer climate… and took note of its innovative trams (light rail/streetcar).  You might be thinking “trams… really?”  Yes!  While most systems are powered by overhead wires, when it opened in 2003 Bordeaux’s system was the only modern example of ground level powered wireless trams in the world.  The proprietary APS system allows for typical overhead wire operation in the areas outside the central city and operation with ground-level power (see photo below) inside it in order to preserve unobstructed views in the old city.  Although the system initially had reliability problems, it now seems to be performing well.

Read more…

Silver Line’s Smiling Faces

August 18th, 2014 No comments

Metro planner captures some smiles of excited Silver Line customers on camera opening weekend.

photo 1

Baby’s first Metrorail trip on SV’s first day.

I offered up my Saturday on a recent weekend to participate in something really cool, the opening of the new Metrorail Silver Line. Metro has a program where employees can help out during special events or scheduled trackwork to guide customers through the fare vending machines or navigate bus bridges. I took advantage of this opportunity because I knew it would be something special.

During my six-hour shift at McLean, I saw a lot of happy people excited to be among the first to ride the new rail line. There were only a few times that I was moved enough to capture the moment on camera. The first is the picture above, a one-month baby with his Silver Line commemorative SmarTrip card, taking his first trip on Metro. Let’s hope it will be the first of many to come. Read more…

BRT comes to DC via Hollywood

June 4th, 2014 2 comments

Video still showing Cleveland's center-running BRT, from the filming of Captain America, Winter Soldier.

Video still showing Cleveland’s center-running BRT, from the filming of Captain America, Winter Soldier.  Click image for original video.

I recently watched “Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” with some friends recently at the theater near Gallery Pl-Chinatown.  I had heard rumors that the film was set in DC, which was a selling point since it’s always fun hearing names of local streets or venues and picking out inconsistencies between Hollywood’s portrayal and the real thing.  Our friends over at Greater Greater Washington already noted that this film replaces parts of Rosslyn and Roosevelt Island with a massive S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters complex.

But little did I know that the film would take me to Cleveland.  Read more…

Categories: Transit Travelogue Tags: , , ,

Singapore MRT Rail Map Diagrams Show the Way

January 27th, 2014 2 comments

Picture 040

Paya Lebar MRT Station Map (click & zoom for detail)

Picture 041

Travel Times Between Stations

While waiting for a Metro train one day in Singapore, I noticed their rail map diagram had a big white space and then the rest of the map. Upon closer inspection the ‘white’ part was actually a grayed out part of the rail map showing the route the train had already covered. Having that information is very useful, particularly for a traveler unfamiliar with the system. One knows if they are starting at this particular station (Paya Lebar), what their options might be if he/she actually wanted to go in the opposite direction. This information gives the rider a helpful reference point in relationship to the rest of the system.  Also upon closer inspection I saw that the map gave expected travel times between stations. How great is that?

Categories: Transit Travelogue Tags: ,

Courtesy Messages – Singaporean Style

January 13th, 2014 1 comment

I was recently in Singapore for vacation and while I was there I used their delightfully clean and efficient rail system (more on that later). While walking through the stations, I spotted several movie posters, which actually happened to be posters for YouTube-based public information message ‘movies’. The movies are put out by the Land Transport Authority, which is a part of the government that does the planning for their transit systems.

Picture 110

‘May I Have a Seat Please?’

Picture 109

‘Can You Move in Please?’

Can you move in please? leaves viewers with two messages: 1. move to the back of the bus so that everyone can get on, and 2. take off your backpack or move any bags you may have out of the way. Some of the movie is lost in translation I think culturally speaking but still, you get the point.

Excuse me, May I have a seat please? is about exactly what the title suggests. This movie especially rings true in this day and age as a lot of commuters have their noses buried in their books and cell phones (even more prevalent in Singapore – a lot of people walking in stations and outside while watching movies!!).

The courtesy issues that Singapore is tackling rings true here in DC too, as well as any city that has transit.

Tokyo Metro Signage – You Can Find Your Way Without Reading Japanese

January 6th, 2014 2 comments

Ten years ago I moved to Tokyo for work. Unfortunately, my Japanese language skills were non-existent, so I spent much of those early months perpetually lost on Tokyo’s streets. But underground it was a different story. If you’ve ever been, you know that many of the central Tokyo stations are massive – multiple exits, mezzanines, pedestrian tunnels, and tons and tons of people. However, Tokyo Metro, the JR East Lines and the private rail lines that together create the city’s rail network have a good wayfinding system provided in Japanese and English that make it fairly easy to get around underground.

Which car should I stand in?

Which car should you use?

Read more…