Tag Archives: streetcar

The Game of Thrones and Transit in Toronto


LRT or Subways? This has been the ongoing debate, unfortunately the lines between truth are certainly grey. Let’s start with the Eglinton Cross-town, which definitely the current hot potato. Rob Ford has continued to use the word “subways”, which implies that we are going to get the same type of transportation that we see on the Bloor-Danforth or Yonge line. This is far from the truth, and I wish that he was clear with Torontonians. They are not “subway” trains, but Light-Rail vehicles (or trams). These are not streetcars, like the current variety, but politics have polarized the issue to make it seem so. I think that the original Transit City plan was a novel idea. Think about it, the Cross-town line would be underground from Jane to Leslie. It would then be above ground and then replace the current Scarborough RT, which is already on a dedicated track. A large part of the line would be on its own unobstructed line. Now maybe we can investigate changes on Eglinton, in Scarbouough, but it wasn’t a bad idea. Then we have Sheppard! You know what I feel and I also would like to see it finished, but we don’t have the money. In my opinion, we could take some of the funds, along with the other revenue sources, and simply go to Victoria Park for now. It’s again, unfortunate that the issue is clouded. I suspect that we may continue arguing over the merits for the next 2-3 years, or until the next election. What we have is a game of thrones and who will sit on it. Rob Ford or Karen Stintz. We have been talking about transit for over 25 years. Tell the truth and let’s get something done!

Why transit is important in Toronto


I thought I would finish the night by giving you a link to a site that details the positives of light-rail. It is unfortunate that the government has decided to put an end to a visionary plan to get transit rolling in the city of Toronto. Like the former Harris government, the governing Liberals has killed plans to the Transit City project. Why so glum? Because like their predecessors and others examples in history, will they come back and really fund transit again? They have planned and planned again, to no avail. Then they wonder, in terms of planning, why people get frustrated. How are we to trust government again? Some things are worth investing in, and public transit is one of them. Unfortunately, I can easily see, like plans in the past; it will never see the light of day again. Sure, they will fund Sheppard and what is needed for the 2015 Pan Am Games, but it will not be as ambitious. For more on LRT and light-rail, read the Toronto LRT blog.

By Mannee Jay (The G.T.A Patriot)

York Region Viva bus service ends Wednesday September 25 2008 at 4am – No service in York Region


 

VIVA on strike for Wednesday

VIVA on strike for Wednesday

680News staff | Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 7:42 pm

 

Thirty-five-thousand commuters in York Region will have to find another way to work or school come Thursday morning.

That’s because Viva bus drivers will go on strike starting at 4 a.m.

Union members turned down a tentative settlement by 61 per cent, Wednesday, and that group represents 165 bus operators.

In a press release, Bob Kinnear, President of ATU Local 113, which represents the bus drivers said “we are a democratic union and our members have spoken.”

He added “Veolia management [the company that runs Viva Transit] knew that the strike would being tomorrow (Thursday) if their offer was turned down and I have informed them of the results of the vote.”

The major issues in negotiations are wages and sick time.

At this point no further talks have been scheduled.

All York Region Transit (YRT) buses will continue to run as usual because they are not part of Viva Transit.

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Toronto transit looks to reopen streetcar bidding


TORONTO, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Toronto’s transit authority said on Tuesday it will recommend to its commissioners that it enter into a new bidding process with three major light rail manufacturers to replace the city’s aging streetcar fleet after the initial process was scrapped last month.

The Toronto Transit Commission said that it will propose starting discussions with Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the Canadian arm of Siemens (SIEGn.DE: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Alstom (ALSO.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

The discussions on technical and commercial requirements will be part of a multi-step bidding process that will include a competitive pricing phase before the C$1.25 billion ($1.19 billion) contract is awarded.

The TTC said it had met with representatives from each of the companies, all of whom said they could build a streetcar that would meet the technical requirements set out in the original bidding process.

One of the terms stipulated by the TTC is that at least 25 percent of the content for the vehicles’ design and construction would have to be Canadian.

The contract for 204 new streetcars had at first looked likely to go to Montreal-based Bombardier, but the process hit a snag in late July when the TTC said the proposal it received from the company did not meet the technical specifications.

The TTC said the design would not be able to handle some of the tight turns on Toronto’s existing track network. But Bombardier disputed the claim and said that it stood behind its bid.

The only other bid submitted at the time was from Britain’s TRAM Power Ltd, which was determined to not be commercially compliant, and the original proposals process was canceled.

Germany’s Siemens and French-based Alstom had expressed interest in the contract, but had not submitted formal proposals.

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TTC streetcar deal to Alstom?


Alstom Trams and Streetcars for Toronto

Alstom Trams and Streetcars for Toronto

By Christina Blizzard

It’s a contract worth $3 billion in tax dollars and thousands of jobs for the provincial economy. The TTC’s bid to buy 204 low-floor streetcars is the largest public transit contract in the world right now. Yet it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the way it’s been negotiated is more like a soap opera than a massive public transit deal.

In what would be a major upset, it seems likely the deal will go to a French company, Alstom, and not to the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay.

Last year, the TTC issued a request for proposal (RFP) from bidders. It’s a two-phase deal worth $1.4 billion in the first part and up to $3 billion by the time it is finished.

There were only three serious bids at the time — Siemens, the big German corporation, Bombardier, and Tram Power, a small British company whose bid, according to TTC Chair Adam Giambrone, was deemed “not commercially viable.”

In July, it was thought Bombardier was a shoo-in when Siemens abruptly withdrew from the bidding. Industry insiders were shocked when the TTC announced the Bombardier bid didn’t meet their technical requirements. Not just that, they made dire warnings that the Bombardier streetcars would derail, a claim Bombardier says is ridiculous.

In a July 26 press release Bombardier called for TTC commissioners to conduct a review of the decision after a team of Bombardier engineers and experts reviewed the TTC’s reasons for the disqualification and “found no acceptable rationale.”

The TTC threw the deal open for all to come and negotiate. Giambrone told me yesterday there are three finalists for the deal: Bombardier, Siemens and a last minute entry, Alstom, which built the Washington subway. Between the three companies they have 90% of the world public transit market.

All this comes at an embarrassing time for the provincial government. They recently instituted a 25% Canadian content regulation for public transit projects.

The TTC will make a mockery of that requirement if it awards the deal to an off-shore company at a time when the manufacturing sector in this province is in such dire straits. Thunder Bay has been particularly hard hit with the loss of jobs in the forestry sector.

“It is not the obligation of the TTC to do province-wide economic development,” Giambrone said in a telephone interview yesterday.

He pointed out the TTC pioneered the 25% Canadian content requirement even before the province mandated it.

“It was a realistic and a reasonable compromise that allowed us to have fair competition while at the same time ensuring that economic benefits come back to the Toronto area. The automobile industry is centred around the GTA so that will produce a lot of parts for it. There is also the possibility of assembly in Thunder Bay,” he said.

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More political interference with the Transit City plans will cause delays


Light-rail for the Eglinton crosstown route

Light-rail for the Eglinton crosstown route

Leave the Transit City plan alone and do not attempt to hijack the Eglinton-Crosstown line or any other part of the Transit City plan. Who am I speaking to? Well none other than Metrolinx. The organizational body in charge of coordinating transit plans across the city. The Eglinton-crosstown line will meet the needs of Toronto. I will not go back into my opinions on the ill-fated and wasted expense of a subway extension to Vaughan and the political interference in that situation.

The Eglinton-crosstown line will essentially be underground from the Leslie area, through the mid-point of the city. The question is should it be upgraded to handle a full subway or should it link to the Scarborough RT and its “upgraded vehicles”. Its starting to sound like the same old political interference that happened when the original RT was supposed to be a streetcar/LRT on a dedicated ROW. We ended up with those wonderful mini-trains (UTDC), which of course can barely handle a Canadian winter. I do not have all of the details, however you can read more on The Toronto LRT Information Page. Sure it is not a full subway, but we do not need one on Eglinton. The character and charm of light-rail can work, if it is done right! The Eglinton line will be just fine, as long as there is no political and 3rd party interference. The danger, as always, is that if we leave it to the politicians, we may end up again with something we cannot afford or a half completed job. If you really want to get to the airport, I doubt you will be taking the Eglinton line anyway. Maybe Metrolinx should concentrate their time and effort on other solutions or GO Transit? However, don’t take my word for it. Check out the following link for information on LRT (light-rail transit) and get informed. We do not need more empty promises. We do not need another group attempting to undermine a good plan. Keep it simple and lets just get something done for the city of Toronto and now!

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a. The G.T.A Patriot

More information on LRT (Light-rail) is available at http://lrt.daxack.ca/


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Digging up a Queen Street ghost story in Toronto


Queen StreetcarStreetcar platform dug in 1950s and never used sits behind a door, a buried relic of an old transit vision. To the thousands of patrons passing through the Queen subway station, it’s just another anonymous TTC maintenance door. But there are no mops and pails behind the grey door labelled “9Y94.” Instead there’s a link to the past and how a transit vision was mothballed as the city pushed north.

TTC insiders call it “Lower Queen” or the “Queen Street cave” – an underground streetcar platform installed in the early 1950s during excavation of the original Yonge subway line. It’s actually a tunnel about three streetcars long, closed off at both ends. For half a century it has sat empty except for some pipes and vents routed along its walls. Lower Queen is a lesser known TTC “ghost” station. Riders actually got to use another one, the Lower Bay station, last winter when it was briefly pressed into service while tunnel maintenance work was done nearby. The 1950s excavation of a streetcar platform at Queen was rated an act of foresight, anticipating a future streetcar system that would run partly underground.

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Toronto’s $1.25-billion light-rail gamble


Check out the “Globe and Mail” link below for this excellent post on Toronto’s Light-Rail Transit City situation.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071124.TTC24/TPStory/TPEntertainment/Ontario/

Toronto’s decaying streetcar fleet, once made up of iconic “Red Rockets,” is rarely now described as a beloved historic symbol of the city. Drivers see streetcars as cumbersome obstacles. Riders despair at how crowded and infrequent they are. And residents near the tracks complain about rumbling vibrations and squealing wheels.

Just like the rusting family beater, the city’s streetcars are more than ready for a trade-in. The result – a brand new, state-of-the-art $1.25-billion fleet of what the rest of the world calls “light-rail vehicles” – will not only rekindle our love of the mostly downtown-centred streetcar system, proponents say, but provide the foundation for a radical expansion of rapid transit in the city.

As Mayor David Miller’s planned $6-billion, 120-kilometre light-rail expansion spreads across dedicated lanes in the suburbs, these sleeker, larger streetcars are supposed to coax thousands of commuters out of their cars and once again become a postcard-worthy symbol of the city. But huge financial, political and technical hurdles remain before 21st-century light-rail cars can roll onto Toronto’s 19th-century tracks.

“This is rebranding the streetcar and making it more like what people have experienced in Europe,” says Joe Mihevc, vice-chairman of the Toronto Transit Commission. The councillor for St. Paul’s is the driving force behind the TTC’s streetcar desires.

“… It will set us exponentially on the next level in terms of global cities and environmental sustainability.”

The TTC plans to buy 204 new streetcars at first, but possibly many more later for its suburban expansion lines. The new vehicles, expected to cost as much as $5-million each, will be “low-floor,” free of steps at the doors so the disabled can board, as required by Ontario law. This will also benefit an aging population and parents with strollers.

At about 30 metres in length, the sleek, new vehicles will dwarf the current “articulated” streetcars, and carry more than 260 people when full, compared with 132 passengers on one of the current regular streetcars and 205 on an articulated one. They will have modern amenities such as air conditioning, which are foreign to the current clunkers.

The contract will be the largest streetcar deal in North American history, and one of the largest orders currently up for grabs in the world. And that has massive streetcar makers, and their lobbyists, circling City Hall, even though the province has yet to signal that it will help the city with the bill. A request for proposals is to go out before the end of the year, with the TTC hoping it can award a contract in the spring, and have the cars gradually rolling into service starting in 2011 after two test cars arrive in 2010.

IN THE RUNNING

The two leading companies are Montreal-based Bombardier, which is offering a modified version of its Flexity Outlook, now running in Brussels and elsewhere; and the Canadian arm of Frankfurt-based Siemens, which wants to build a modified version of its Combino Plus, now running in Lisbon and Budapest.

Also expected to bid on the contract are Czech Republic-based Skoda Transportation and Dusseldorf-based Vossloh Kiepe, with local manufacturer Martinrea International. Other bidders could come forward.

The TTC has committed to a fair competition for the deal after being stung by controversy last year, when it awarded a $674-million contract for 234 subway cars to Bombardier without competition in order to protect jobs at its Thunder Bay plant. This time, the TTC will include “Canadian content” provisions in a competitive bidding process. This is common around the world: U.S. rail-transit vehicles, for instance, must have 60-per-cent American content.

When evaluating the bids, sources say, the TTC may award companies as many as 10 points on a 100-point scale, based on how much of the vehicle a company pledges to make in Canada. The companies would not talk publicly in detail about the issue. But sources close to Bombardier have expressed concern that the proposed system may be too lenient, and could allow foreign firms to build much of their product in countries with cheaper labour, and make up the lost points with a lower price. Sources close to other bidders have suggested a fear of the opposite: That the rules may tip the scales in favour of homegrown Bombardier.

Still, Mike Hardt, vice-president of Bombardier Transportation, wouldn’t commit in a recent interview to building the new streetcars in Thunder Bay, saying the firm needed to see the TTC’s request for proposals first. “Is there going to be local content work?” Mr. Hardt said. “That’s a speculation that I can’t make. … We’ve proven that we can compete from Canada.”

Siemens says it will make an effort to use as many Canadian components and do as much of the labour as it can in Canada, but concedes that the car bodies and its trucks will be built at its factories in Austria.

Mario Péloquin, Siemens’s director of business development for Canada, said the TTC or its consultants had approached his firm four separate times with questions about how much domestic content Siemens could guarantee. “We’re trying to do more than just putting in the seats [in Canada],” Mr. Péloquin said. “We’re trying to maximize everything that we will do, including supplying parts from Canadian providers.”

Other controversies are more technical. For example, the TTC says its 11-metre radius curves are the tightest in the world – many European systems have turns twice as wide – and few light-rail systems have to deal with inclines as steep as the Bathurst Street hill, which has an 8-per-cent grade. The TTC also has wider than usual tracks.

THE DARK HORSE

Vossloh Kiepe, a streetcar-components maker that helped to design light-rail vehicles now running in Leipzig, has protested against the TTC’s decision to accept only 100-per-cent low-floor streetcars on its unique tracks.

Vossloh Kiepe argues that these designs are less reliable than its more conventional 70-per-cent partial low-floor design, pointing to trouble Siemens had with its fully low-floor cars in Europe in recent years. (Siemens, which had to recall hundreds of streetcars after their frames started cracking, says it has solved the problem.)

TTC engineers have concluded after exhaustive testing that partial low-floor models would not be able to climb the system’s hills, and may be more likely to derail than 100-per-cent low-floor streetcars, which themselves are hard to adapt to Toronto’s curves. Vossloh Kiepe’s solution resulted in a streetcar with as many as four sets of internal stairs or ramps. The TTC says it has rejected such a design because it would impede passenger flow and possibly increase the number of “slip and fall” injuries on the system.

Vossloh Kiepe’s Canadian representative, Peter Maass, warns that the TTC may be cruising for trouble if it ignores his firm’s advice and goes with a 100-per-cent low-floor car. “I don’t think we’re going to know until that vehicle gets produced as a prototype in 2009 and gets rolling,” said Mr. Maass, whose firm is still in talks with TTC.

There have been other headaches, including making sure the newfangled cars will work with the TTC’s switches. Mr. Maass also said that modifying European designs to meet North American crash-worthiness standards means, in the words of German light-rail engineers, having to take a lighter European car and gepanzert it – literally translated, turn it into a Panzer tank. Many critics, and especially people who live near the tracks, have complained over the years about the weight of the streetcars, at almost 23 tonnes, and the strain – and resulting noise – they produce on the rails. The new ones may actually be heavier, although engineers say the weight will be better distributed.

Once these problems are solved, and the new streetcars begin to arrive, the TTC will face an even bigger challenger, warns Steve Munro, a long-time transit activist who helped to persuade the TTC to reverse its plans to scrap the streetcar system in the 1970s.

The TTC is not replacing all 248 of its streetcars one-to-one, but instead buying just 204 at first, because the new cars are bigger and carry more passengers. Mr. Munro says this means riders currently frustrated at how infrequent streetcar service is should prepare themselves: “My concern is they are going to end up with this lovely new fleet of cars and offer even worse service than they do today.”

Pimp my streetcar

Toronto is shopping for European-style low-floor light-rail vehicles. The TTC says the new fleet will be a quantum leap

from the current fleet.

MORE PASSENGERS

At about 30 metres long, with three to five articulated sections and three motorized trucks, the new streetcar will carry, when stuffed to “crush load” capacity, 260 to 270 people. That is more than double the crush load of the current regular-sized streetcars (132) and substantially more than their longer, articulated cousins (205).

BETTER BRAKES

Using new alternating-current motors and state-of-the-art controls, more braking energy will be recovered than on the current cars and converted back into electricity to be fed back into the overhead grid, similar to hybrid automobiles. Sophisticated “spin-slide control”

– just like traction control and anti-lock brakes in your car –

will help the vehicles stop.

COOL RIDE

Toronto’s first electric streetcars in the 1890s had only a coal-fired heater. When the current vehicles rolled into service in 1979, the mediocrity of their air-conditioning system was compounded by windows that didn’t open, and had to be modified. The new models will spoil riders with both heating and air conditioning.

ON-BOARD GADGETS

Digital display screens will show the next stop, and automated “smart card” fare readers will allow riders to board at any door. The driver will have computerized controls for propulsion, braking and communications.

A global-positioning satellite system will monitor speeds in work zones. Exterior lights will use light-emitting diodes.

LOW FLOOR

Instead of three steep steps, the TTC is calling for car designs with a maximum floor height at the doors of 35 centimetres, although some models have even lower entry heights. A special ramp will be used to help the disabled and those with strollers, as well as create a bridge to the current platforms, which are only 15 centimetres high. Eventually, as the system expands and the old cars are retired, stations and routes with platforms will be altered to match the cars’ height.

THE COMPETITION

Several light-rail-vehicle makers have expressed interest in submitting bids for the TTC’s contract of up to $1.25-billion for 204 new streetcars, including Bombardier, Siemens, Vossloh-Kiepe and Skoda.

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GTTA and the MoveOntario 2020 Plan – Phase 2


It looks like the GTTA has received funding for the following projects. Maybe I am still in disbelief until I see shovels in the ground? I am not in favour of all of the plans listed, but this definitely will be some good news for once for public transit in the Greater Toronto Area. What seems to be lacking is funding for Transit City, other than the head start funding. What is interesting is the Durham BRT funding, which will be a definite boost to transit in Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa.
By: Andy MJ (a.k.a “The G.T.A Patriot” / Toronto, Ontario)

MoveOntario 2020 Foundation Investments Total: $791.3 million

  • Hamilton A-Line, James-Upper James corridor and Airport connector – $6.9 million
  • Hamilton B-Line, King-Main corridor – $17.4 million
  • Hamilton James Street North GO/VIA Station – Gateway to Niagara – $3.0 million
  • Halton Region Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – $57.6 million
  • Bolton GO Transit service improvements – $600,000
  • Dundas and Hurontario higher-order transit corridor development – $26.5million
  • Mississauga Transitway Hub: Airport-Renforth Gateway – $39.0 million
  • York-VIVA Highway 7, Pine Valley Drive to Kennedy Road – $62.0 million
  • York-VIVA Yonge Street, Richmond Hill Centre to 19th Avenue – $19.0 million
  • York-VIVA Yonge Street, 19th Avenue to Newmarket – $29.0 million
  • Toronto-York Yonge subway extension to Richmond Hill (Phase 1) – $423.7 million
  • Toronto-TTC Transit City Light Rail Transit (LRT) head start – $7.1 million
  • Toronto Yonge Finch-Steeles BRT – $17.3 million
  • Durham-Highway 2 BRT Spine – $82.3 million

—-

See more information from the link below:

http://www.urbantoronto.ca/showthread.php?t=7454

What to do about the Queen Streetcar and King Streetcar? Time for a “Transit Mall”!


With the amount of vehicle interference in the downtown area once again the issues of streetcars has surfaced. With the need to improve transit, the debate over mixed traffic and streetcars, now and again pops up with the discussion turning to the old idea of a Queen Streetcar Subway. Unfortunately there is just too much development, which would make the cost of a full subway astronomically. However to be honest it is not really needed. With all of the talk about “Transit City” and the plans for major LRT improvements across the Toronto region little discussion has been some discussion about upgrading Queen and King Street. There has been discussion on resurrecting the idea of a subway or partial LRT / subway. But, there is something about the Queen and King Street that makes it not suitable anymore for subway use. There is a bit a “nostalgia” about the streetcar, especially in the downtown region of Toronto. However, improvements are definitely needed to improve the speed of streetcar service on Queen and King.

What some may not know is the fact that Queen and King carry enough people to justify a full subway. Granted, Queen and King does not need a subway, since it would just destroy the beauty of Queen and King. The amount of people using Queen and King justify it more than an extension to Vaughan or even the much ill-fated, uncompleted and neutered Sheppard Subway. Although there has been a lot of opposition the possibility of making Queen and King a “Transit Mall” this maybe the best option to fix the service needs of Queen and King. It may also be a better option to place Queen and King underground between Jarvis and just after University. On Queen, the original Queen Subway proposal already has a partially built subway tunnel. However, with a full “Transit Mall” between these locations it would not be necessary. Albeit, it could start at Church, instead of Jarvis. It’s extremely unfortunate that funds being tied up in the subway extension to Vaughan could have been used to built an elaborate LRT network around the entire city. Downsview Station is good enough and the extension to York University and beyond should be via a LRT network. In fact, let VIVA expand their own service using LRT technology to York University and let the TTC concentrate on service within the Toronto borders. But I digress!

“Transit Malls” exist in numerous places around North America, such as Calgary, Ottawa and places in the United States. It can work here! David Miller and city council need to move forward with a “Transit Mall”, with proper consultation. There will be opposition from businesses along Queen Street initially. However we are only talking about a small area of the downtown region. Adelaide and Richmond Streets parallel the downtown area and with improved transit service we may have the opportunity to make a substantial improvement to downtown life. Improving the atmosphere and experience of Toronto is a must. Those in opposition often quickly point to subways as the “answer” to everything. However, when you ask them who’s going to pay for it? Well, enough said! The same problems are happening now on Yonge Street now, north of Steeles. We do not need a subway into York Region; however we now have groups trying to stop the development of LRT’s for the region. Although I love subway trains financially they are just no longer viable. Queen and King can use a “Transit Mall”. It can do done, as long as it is done right!

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a “The G.T.A Patriot”

Toronto, Ontario

Updated: Nov/20/2007
For additional details on
Toronto “Transit Mall” proposals and interesting debates check out the links below:

http://transit.toronto.on.ca/spare/0216.shtml

http://stevemunro.ca/?p=324

In an effort to provide more information about the Queen Streetcar and its history, ups and downs please take some times to view the links below.

http://www.blogto.com/city/2007/10/the_disaster_that_is_the_queen_streetcar/

http://spacing.ca/wire/?p=588

http://radar.planetizen.com/node/61807

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/toronto/story.html?id=4a6af842-875b-4923-b496-89cbcfcfb65f

 

One year later: A Miller progress checklist


Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the resounding election victory that gave David Miller his second term as mayor.

During the 2006 campaign, Miller’s critics charged that his first term was lacklustre, devoid of major policy directions or accomplishments, and that he didn’t deserve a second shot. When it comes to politics, that’s the nature of the beast.

Miller set out to prove them wrong, blazing the trail for a host of new ideas: a user-pay system for garbage pickup; an ambitious blueprint to fight climate change; Transit City, a huge streetcar network.

But the months-long battle over new taxes and the need to contain costs, both stemming from a looming budget shortfall, brought city hall to a virtual standstill over the summer.

Miller hasn’t announced any major new initiatives since the land transfer tax and vehicle registration fee were passed in October.

Miller’s handlers say the mayor’s office is compiling a year-end assessment of promises made and what’s been accomplished.

In the meantime, the Star selected some key issues to create its own progress checklist.

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