One step closer to flying the friendly rails of California

Traveling across our country’s most populated state is on track to get a lot easier in the coming years. This week as we continue our series on BIG projects, we feature the much anticipated California High-Speed Rail project. One of the biggest projects in our state, the multi-billion dollar California High-Speed Rail took a big step forward this past summer when it moved from the design phase into the initial construction of the first segment of its first phase from Fresno to Madera.

Using clean renewable energy, the California High-Speed Rail will provide an alternative transportation choice that will help keep the state’s booming projected population growth moving, while preserving its natural environment and working towards its carbon emission reduction goals. Riding the California High-Speed Rail will help remove cars from the state’s already congested freeways helping to reduce emissions and the need to expand these highways and construct new airport runways and terminals to accommodate for more capacity.

An artist's conception of the California High-Speed Rail. (Credit: California High-Speed Rail)

An artist’s conception of a California High-Speed Rail car.
(Credit: California High-Speed Rail)

When complete, the California High-Speed Rail will whisk passengers along the rail line between the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles Basin (and eventually from Sacramento south to San Diego) at speeds over 200 m.p.h. But travel times aren’t the only thing the project is speeding up. It is also helping to speed up the state’s economy by providing thousands of new jobs for Californians in construction, operations, maintenance and the transit oriented development businesses that will spring up near the stations along the route. It is also responsible for significant investments in improving existing rail infrastructure across the state.

As with any mega project, the California High-Speed Rail has had its fair share of critics, but it hopes to win over the opposition and follow in the foot steps of other great Californian transformative projects that were also once criticized (Golden Gate Bridge, anyone?).

This week as we continue our series on BIG projects, we invite you to come “all aboard” as we hear from Michelle Boehm, Southern California Regional Director, California High-Speed Rail Authority. Ms. Boehm talks about the project’s challenges and successes to date, what the project is doing to keep the public informed and up to date on its progress, and what future riders can look forward to. We welcome her insights.

- – -

California Governor Jerry Brown signing  S.B. 1029 at Los Angeles' Union Station. (Credit: The California High Speed Rail Authority's  Instagram account)

California Governor Jerry Brown signing S.B. 1029 at Los Angeles Union Station.
(Credit: The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Instagram account)

When did the idea for a high-speed rail across California originate and how did the project gain momentum?
The idea for high-speed rail across California actually began back in the 1970s during Governor Jerry Brown’s first two terms as California’s Governor. As you may already know, Japan has enjoyed high-speed rail since 1964 and just celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Shinkansen Bullet Train. Countries in Europe including France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia and the United Kingdom (today all connected as part of a Trans-European high speed rail network), and Asia including China, South Korea and Taiwan soon followed suit by developing their own high-speed rail systems.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) was created in 1996 and the program gained momentum in November 2008 when California voters passed Proposition 1A, the $9.95 billion bond measure to help fund high-speed rail in California. Another milestone was in 2012 when California’s Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1029. This appropriated $3.3 billion of federal grant funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and $4.7 billion of Prop 1A funds for the high-speed rail program.

In June 2014, California’s Legislature approved the 2014-2015 Budget which allocates $250 million of cap and trade proceeds and 25 percent annually of all future cap and trade proceeds for high-speed rail. These steady streams of funding have helped accelerate the program and allow the Authority to build the project concurrently in various parts of the state.

Has the project’s vision and mission changed over time?
While the method by which the high-speed rail program has been implemented has changed since the initial project description, the Authority’s vision and mission has remained consistent: to build a transformative high-speed rail program that connects California’s major population centers and economies with a fast, clean mode of transportation.

As outlined in Proposition 1A, the system will zip passengers from San Francisco to the Los Angeles Basin in under three hours, at speeds of more than 200 mph. In addition to bringing the various regions of the state together, the high-speed rail system will also help reduce California’s traffic congestion, reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and discourage urban sprawl through the development of station communities and transit orientated development. California’s population is estimated to reach 50 million by 2050, and the cost of adding to the state’s existing infrastructure by simply building more airport runways and highways is estimated to be more than twice the cost of building the high-speed rail system. Building high-speed rail isn’t a luxury, but it’s a necessity to prepare for the future.

Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority Facebook Page.

Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority Facebook Page

What public involvement methods have been the most helpful to explaining the purpose and need of the project early on?
In the last two years, the Authority has been committed to hosting public community meetings throughout the state. This allows residents that may be impacted by the program or are simply seeking an update on progress to ask questions of our engineering, environmental and other experts. Just this past August, the Authority hosted seven public scoping meetings in the Palmdale to Burbank and Burbank to Los Angeles Project Sections. The purpose was to gather official public comments about various proposed alignments and high-speed rail stations that will be considered in our environmental studies in the Southern California region moving forward.

In addition, the Authority has regional offices in Fresno, San Jose and Los Angeles and outreach teams that meet regularly with local stakeholders and the public. Authority staff members often speak at transportation, environmental and small business events and workshops throughout the state to educate the public about our program and the many job opportunities available.

In the past year, the Authority has undertaken an outreach strategy that targets Millennials and focuses on college and university outreach. Senior staff members including CEO Jeff Morales have spoken to students in fields that are related to high-speed rail implementation (engineering, planning, transportation, environmental policy, public policy). Through these talks, the Authority has encouraged Millennials to get involved, via social media, and spread the latest news and updates regarding the high-speed rail program.

Construction jobs are only one of many types of jobs the California High Speed Rail will create in the state.  (Credit: California High Speed Rail Facebook Page)

Construction jobs are only one of many types of jobs the California High-Speed Rail will create in the state.
(Credit: California High-Speed Rail Facebook Page)

What do you consider the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s biggest success to date?
Putting Californians to work, especially in the Central Valley, is one of the Authority’s biggest successes to date. The Central Valley has been particularly slow to recover from the national recession, and the construction industry faces more than 30 percent unemployment. High-speed rail construction will create 20,000 construction jobs annually for the next five years. These jobs will go to the people who need them the most and provide a significant boost to California’s economy as a whole.

As of June 30, 2014, there are 156 certified small businesses and 832 full-time workers involved in the high-speed rail program. There are also 21 certified Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises working on the program right now. The Authority has an aggressive 30 percent Small Business participation goal in the program, which includes a 10 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise goal and a 3 percent Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise goal.

This is only the beginning. As high-speed rail continues to expand service from the Bay Area to the Los Angeles Basin, it will generate an additional estimated 67,000 jobs annually for 15 years. The jobs won’t only be in the construction industry, but high-speed rail will promote growth in several other sectors. Permanent public and private sector employees will be responsible for operating and maintaining the high-speed rail system. In addition, there will be restaurants, shops, etc. that will be built around future high-speed rail stations.

The California High-Speed Rail project finally began preliminary construction after years of planning and contention. What was the biggest challenge to moving forward and how was it overcome?
All big projects face controversy. The Golden Gate Bridge faced more than 2,000 lawsuits in its time and was termed the “upside-down rat trap that will mar the beauty of the bay.” BART was once called the “train to nowhere.” And the California State Water System and the University of California System were both passed with single-vote margins. Where would we be without these transformative projects?

Demolition of the Old Del Monte Plant in Downtown Fresno. (Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority)

Demolition of the Old Del Monte Plant in Downtown Fresno.
(Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority)

The Authority is beefing up our staff in the Central Valley, where construction began this summer with the demolition of buildings in Fresno. Crews continue to run tests on soil, concrete, rebar and asphalt to determine where to locate bridges, embankments and other high-speed rail structures. They’re also relocating utilities and doing abatement work which will make old abandoned buildings safe to demolish.

In light of all this activity, we are meeting and working with local communities to keep them updated on our progress. Our Central Valley office, located in Fresno, is at the center of work being done. They receive inquiries every day from the public, media, elected officials and property owners who want to be kept updated on the project or will be personally impacted. Staff in the Fresno office is committed to working with members of the public to ensure that the construction process moves forward as smoothly as possible.

The first stretch of construction will be between Fresno and Madera. What are some challenges that this area presents?
With any major infrastructure project, there will be the normal challenges associated with construction. The design-build team, Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons (TPZP), A Joint Venture, continues to move forward with completing project design, acquiring permits, relocating utilities and meeting with stakeholders to start the civil engineering work that will provide the foundation for the future high-speed rail.

The Authority has also entered into an agreement with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) to ensure that all emissions created during construction activities do not negatively impact local communities. This is being done through a series of voluntary emissions reduction agreement (VERA) that include a commitment by the Authority to recycle steel and concrete from demolitions and to use only Tier IV construction diesel vehicles while building the high-speed rail program. Tier IV diesel vehicles are the cleanest and most energy efficient construction vehicles available. The Authority is also partnering with SJVAPCD to purchase electric and efficient motors to replace existing irrigation pumps and engines, including in school buses, throughout the region.

The first segment of construction will take place between Fresno to Madera. (Credit: California High-Speed Rail)

The first segment of construction will take place between Fresno to Madera.
(Credit: California High-Speed Rail)

How do you keep the public informed during construction? What communication methods and tools do you use?
The Authority is committed to keeping people informed about how the high-speed rail program will impact them. The Central Valley office, led by the Regional Director, is responsible for working with members of the public and the media to make sure that they are aware and informed. Within this office, there are engineers, right-of-way agents, planners, communications and other staff that cover a wide range of topics and are available to meet with stakeholders.

The design-build contractor (TPZP) and the Authority are partnering to keep members of the public up to date on how construction activities may impact them. This includes construction and traffic alerts that are issued when major construction is happening, community events that are held in regions that will be impacted by future construction and media events and outreach to the public.

The Authority also sends press releases and advisories to the media and to its stakeholders via email. The Authority’s website contains all the latest news and updates as well as information about our ongoing construction, traffic alerts, board meetings, public meetings, etc. The public can also email us, write us a letter or give us a call at any time.


Credit: California High-Speed Rail Facebook Page

Cost is always a sore subject with mega projects. What strategies help the most to explain or prove the future value of the infrastructure?
High-speed rail is the most cost-effective method of transportation that will not only accommodate California’s population boom, but it will help preserve farmland and the environment. Los Angeles to San Francisco is the busiest short-haul market in the country. One out of six flights heads out of Los Angeles to the Bay Area. High-speed rail fills a gap in California’s infrastructure. According to Caltrans, it would cost $158 billion to build 4,300 new highway lane miles, 115 new additional airport gates and 4 new runway terminals that are needed for California’s growing population.

High-speed rail is using clean and renewable energy to connect the state’s population centers. We’re not asking people to stop taking flights or stop driving their cars. We’re simply providing another mode of transportation that will help preserve our environment and meet California’s population growth. In many other countries like Spain and France, there’s been a big transportation shift after high-speed rail systems were built. More people are using high-speed rail than driving or flying in between major cities. This has resulted in a major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and fuel used to make the same trip by plane or car.

Can you estimate how many jobs will be created as part of Phase 1 of the California High-Speed Rail? What about after the entire project is complete and operating?
Once the Initial Operating Section (IOS) is completed, high-speed rail is estimated to generate 57,000 construction jobs annually for nine years. When Phase 1 of the project is completed, it’s estimated to create 67,000 construction jobs annually for 15 years. Currently, we do not have job estimates for Phase 2, but as you can imagine, that would create tens of thousands of more jobs throughout the state. As mentioned previously, high-speed rail will also be creating jobs in other sectors like operation, maintenance, commercial and retail.

Today in the Central Valley, small businesses are already working on the high-speed program and growing their companies as a result.

Kroeker, Inc. is a woman-owned certified Small Business Enterprise (SBE) based in Fresno that is contracted to do demolition work. Owner Jill Kroeker says the funds her company is earning through this contract has allowed her to grow and expand her company. Specifically, she reports that this spring, she moved her company into a larger office in Clovis and has been able to hire a project manager. She plans to hire more employees as the job progresses.

Another example is Fontana-based Martinez Steel. They are a certified Hispanic Owned Micro-Business (MB) and certified Disad­vantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) owned by husband and wife Joe and Debbie Martinez. Their company has been contracted to provide rebar for the first 29 miles of construction.  Debbie tells us her company was hit hard by the recession but this new contract has really turned things around. They’ve been able to hire 50 to 60 new workers to work on the high-speed program.

We are still years away from the completion of the California High-Speed Rail, but what are some of the benefits the public has to look forward to?
With the passage of Senate Bill 1029 in 2012 by Governor Brown and the California Legislature, the Authority has already invested in a number of connectivity projects across the state that will upgrade and improve local rail transit services. SB 1029 invests almost $2 billion of Prop 1A funds into transit, commuter and intercity rail projects across California. This funding will leverage approximately $5 billion in additional funding for these projects.

One of these projects is the Metro Connector Project in LA County, which just held its groundbreaking ceremony in Little Tokyo on Sept. 30, 2014. The 1.9-mile subway project will tie the existing Blue Line, Expo Line and Gold Line with tracks between 7th/Metro Center and Little Tokyo. For the first time, passengers will be able to travel from Long Beach to Azusa or from East LA to Santa Monica, without changing trains. This $1.4 billion project is set to open in 2020.

An artist conception of a California High Speed Rail station (Credit: California High Speed Rail Authority)

An artist conception of a California High-Speed Rail station
(Credit: California High-Speed Rail Authority)

The Authority is also investing in the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project (SCRIP) at Los Angeles Union Station. This project would create run through tracks, allowing trains to make a loop instead of having to back in and out in its current configuration. This will increase train capacity by 40 to 50 percent and reduce commuter travel times and greenhouse gas emissions. The $350 million project is expected to be completed by December 2019.

In San Diego County, the Authority is investing millions of dollars to improve grade crossings, tracks and signaling for the Trolley system. We are also investing in Positive Train Control for the North County Transit District. This is an advanced signaling system that will track the location of trains to avoid collisions.

In the Bay Area, the Authority is electrifying the Caltrain Corridor that will replace diesel trains and connect the system with high-speed rail. This will result in cleaner, faster travel.

These are just a few of the transit projects the Authority is funding and improving to make rail passenger service better and faster throughout the state.

The public will also see environmental benefits with these connectivity projects moving forward in the short term. More efficient, electric trains will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air particulates. As more people get out of their cars and into mass transit, this will result in a reduction of vehicles on the roads. Once high-speed rail is fully operational by 2030, the reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) will be like removing the capacity of one 500-mile lane of cars.

The Central Valley will also be the first region in the state where the Authority will be implementing an urban forestry program. In the next several years, the Authority will work with local stakeholders to plant 10,000 trees in the region. These trees will help offset construction emissions, provide shade and beautify the surroundings. The Authority is also committed to protecting important farmland in the region and is partnering with the California Department of Conservation to purchase property from willing sellers to protect that land permanently from future development. What that means is that for every acre that will be utilized by the high-speed rail project, one acre will be preserved forever.

Members of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation staff at a "Careers in Construction" workshop showing their support for the California High Speed Rail by participating in the #Iwillride campaign. (Credit: California High Speed Rail Facebook page)

Members of the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation staff at a “Careers in Construction” workshop showing their support for the California High-Speed Rail by participating in the #Iwillride campaign.
(Credit: California High-Speed Rail Facebook page)

What are some ways our readers can support more high-speed rail in the U.S.?
Readers can follow the progress of California’s high-speed rail program through our social media sites. We’re constantly updating our progress through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and now Instagram. We’re also using the social media sites to update Californians on jobs, regional transportation upgrades, and how cities and regions can use transit oriented development to encourage healthier and smarter planned communities.

We encourage supporters of high-speed rail to join our #Iwillride social media campaign. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and use the #Iwillride to post stories, pictures and videos about high-speed rail, riding mass transit, etc.

In addition, you can write to your local representatives and newspapers about why high-speed rail is important and needed in California. And finally, take local transit when available and encourage your family and friends to do the same. It’s tough to convince Californians to get out of their cars and use mass transit, but getting one car off the road adds up when thousands of people do it.

- – -

Will you ride the California High-Speed Rail when it’s complete? Share your thoughts on the BIG project with us.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.


Tagged , , , , , , , ,

London’s Olympic Sized Legacy

In 2012, the eyes of the world were on London. You along with 215 million viewers watched the world’s top athletes compete in the Summer Olympic Games in hopes of bringing sports highest honor back to their home country. To host the summer games, the City of London transformed 560-acres of industrial east London into the innovative and sustainable Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.



But what happens to Olympic Parks after the medals are won, the athletes have returned home and the fanfare is over?  These big investments can financially burden a city and draw criticism from its residents. In the case of London, advanced planning is allowing this Olympic Park to transform into a state-of-the-art facility for sports, arts, culture, entertainment, education, and day-to-day life. The Park will continue on as a world class sporting facility, and it will also include new residential housing that will make up five new neighborhoods, recreation facilities, and cultural and event quadrants all surrounded by the natural beauty of waterways and parklands. Constructed with sustainability at its heart, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park goes beyond incorporating sustainability into its design and construction. The Park promotes a sustainable lifestyle with ample and easily accessible opportunities for walking and bicycling.

One year to the day of the 2012 summer Olympic opening ceremony, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park had another opening to celebrate – the opening of the north of the Park segment. This established the Park as a destination for residents and visitors alike and a staple in the city’s community landscape. The Park continues to inspire the Olympic spirit in the city long after the flame has moved on to Rio de Janeiro and future host cities.

Today, as we continue our series on the world’s BIG projects, we hear from Mark Camley, Executive Director of Park Operations and Venues at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the London Legacy Development Corporation. He tells us how planning, flexibility and public input have been key to the Park’s success and shares what residents and visitors have to look forward to as the Park continues to progress. We welcome his insights.

- – -

How did the decision to use the Olympic Park as a public space come to fruition? Were there any other contending ideas for ways to reuse the Olympic park?
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is much more than just a public space. It offers the best in sporting and cultural amenities while at the same time will offer people places to live, work and learn. The obvious legacy of the London 2012 Games was to secure the future of the permanent venues at the Park. This has been achieved and of the five sporting venues at the Park, four of them are already being used by both local communities and elite athletes, with the fifth, the Stadium, set to open for five matches of the Rugby World Cup in 2015. The Park will also be the location of up to 6,800 new homes across five new neighbourhoods where new nurseries, community centres, schools and health facilities are also being constructed. As well as this a new cultural and education quarter is planned for the Park that will see partners such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and University College London attract new visitors to the area.

London' s Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park (Credit: London Legacy Development Corporation)

London’ s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
(Credit: London Legacy Development Corporation)

What is the vision and goal of the park?
The London Legacy Development Corporation is the body responsible for the management of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Legacy Corporation was formed to use the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the creation of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to develop a dynamic new heart for east London, creating opportunities for local people and driving innovation and growth.

The Tumbling Playground part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park's north of the park segment. (Credit: Adventure Playground Engineers)

The Tumbling Bay Playground part of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s north of the park segment.
(Credit: Adventure Playground Engineers)

Did you go to the community to solicit ideas for how to use the space?
We are proud to consult local people on all aspects of the Park’s development. Consultations are held on major projects and local people are invited to contribute ideas for how the Park can shape the development of the local area. This has lead to local people coming up with the names of the Park’s five new neighbourhoods, a Legacy Youth Panel who discuss how the Park is working with the local community and we’ve worked hard with local disabled people to ensure the Park is accessible to everyone.

Were there any challenges that arose from public input? If so, how were they addressed?
The key to public engagement has been to be open and honest, and deliver on commitments. We set ourselves a challenging timescale to re-open the north of the Park just a year to the day following the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games. Opening at 2pm on that day to visitors eager to enter the Park was a real thrill.

How was the final design chosen and what did this process look like?
The north of the Park was largely designed before London 2012. Design teams were engaged to create a new park hub, the Timber Lodge Café, and a spectacular nature based playground, the Tumbling Bay playground. Our processes required our priority themes, including local employment and engagement to be adhered to. The designs also needed to fit with the general feel of the landscape.

A conceptual simulation of a portion of New York City's Highline Park.  (Credit: Friends of the Highline)

A conceptual simulation of a portion of New York City’s Highline Park.
(Credit: Friends of the Highline)

Are there any other large public park projects that inspired the design or intention of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park?
The design of the southern part of the Park was led by James Corner Field Operations, who designed the Highline in New York. A number of the Park furniture features and the planting by Piet Oudolf mirrors the High Line. The Tumbling Bay playground in the north took some of its inspiration from the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens.

How was the progress reported to the public?
We held regular resident meetings and forums, including for our Youth Panel and Built Environment Access Panel. This enabled us to test ideas and ensure that the community were at the heart of the new landscape. More formerly, we attended various planning committees to gain permission for the work.

Have there been any lessons learned from this transformation of East London?
The three key lessons are – plan, plan, plan (and then be ready to be flexible if there are obstacles). The only way that the opening to time and budgets was achieved was through careful planning of design and testing them out with public and stakeholders.

The Arcelormittal Orbit sculpture at the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park. (Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

The Arcelormittal Orbit sculpture at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

What are unique and new components of the park?
As London’s newest visitor destination, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, is a place unlike any other. Visitors to the Park are able to enjoy beautiful parklands and waterways, world-famous sporting venues, arts and events and spectacular views from the ArcelorMittal Orbit. As a new heart for east London, the Park will also provide new homes, jobs and a cultural and education quarter. Visitors are able to enjoy world-class sporting venues that have been transformed to be used by both the local community and elite athletes, stroll in beautifully landscaped parklands, enjoy interactive water fountains and adventure playgrounds and explore free themed walking trails filled with fascinating facts about the Park.

Are there any local secrets to using the park?
The north of the Park is much quieter than the south and is home to the Timber Lodge Café a community hub nestled within the beautiful parklands. Timber-clad it both reflects and enhances the natural environment, with solar panels to produce its own green energy. There is a café which is perfect for relaxing in and flexible space for schools and community groups, and children can enjoy the Tumbling Bay Playground adjacent to the building, one of the UK’s most imaginative large-scale adventure play areas.

It is also worth noting that the Park is built around the waterways, so there are pathways and bridges at different levels, which offer different walks and different perspectives of the Park.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture, is the highest point in the Park and provides panoramic views across the whole Park, including in to the Stadium. In contrast, the Great British Gardens are in a quiet corner and provide a small oasis of calm.

What are some sustainable features of the park?
The Park is designed with sustainability at its heart. This means that it has been built in a sustainable way and has been designed to help future visitors and residents live sustainably. It is designed to do this in a number of ways, from promoting a healthy and sustainable lifestyle which encourages walking and cycling through safe and pleasant routes across the Park, through to using green building techniques that reduce the impact of development.

A public cycling facility at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  (Credit: David Levene via Guardian News and Media Limited)

Lee Valley Velopark at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(Credit: David Levene via Guardian News and Media Limited)

Once inside, what are the transportation options within the park?
We’ve worked hard to ensure that Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park really is a park for all. The Park has been designed to be as accessible and inclusive as possible for a wide range of visitors, employees and future residents. The Park is easy to walk and cycle around and has good step-free access, hard-standing surfaces, regular seating and accessible Blue Badge car parking for each of the venues. A mobility service is available to support visitors with mobility impairment and recently the Park started running boat tours to give visitors a whole new perspective of the stunning scenery.

Since it’s opening, how popular has the park been compared to projected usage?
On Friday 22 August, the Park welcomed its 3 millionth visitor since reopening on 27 July 2013. The reaction, from both local people and those from further afield, has been hugely positive, whether its children playing in the fountains and wonderful playgrounds or swimming in the wake of champions in the London Aquatics Centre.

London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. (Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

The London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
(Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park/London Legacy Development Corporation)

How is the park maintained?
We have a Park Manager and Head of Estates and Facilities Management who look after the landscape and venues. They have produced a 10 year management plan and have already been successful in achieving a Green Flag award for the Park. As well as professional landscape staff, we have volunteers working on maintaining the gardens and parkland.

What can visitors look forward to in the future at the park?
There is so much happening and coming up at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, from local community projects to large scale events such as the Invictus Games which occurred last month (September 10-14). Transformation of the Stadium is on track to be ready for five matches of Rugby World Cup 2015 before work is completed for West Ham United to kick off in 2016. Building is underway on the Park’s first neighbourhood, Chobham Manor, with residents set to move in by late 2015 and we are also excited about the Park’s new cultural and education quarter, Olympicopolis, which will bring together a range of educational and artistic partners such as the V&A museum and UCL.

- – -

London has set a great example for other host cities on how to re-use their Olympic size investments. Stay up to date with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Facebook,  Twitter and Google+.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big Projects Start with a Big Ideas

This month we are continuing our series on BIG projects. All Big projects start with big ideas. As we prepare to share some of the world’s most fascinating projects with you in the coming weeks we wanted to start the month by sharing one big idea.

Roads, highways, and interstates line, intertwine and connect all across our country. We use them to get from one point to another whether its by car, bus, bike, or on foot. Now imagine if our country’s roads were solar powered. Solar Roadways is the big idea of Julie and Scott Brusaw, a married electrical engineer and counselor.

The idea behind Solar Roadways is to replace asphalt laden streets with the material used with black boxes, the recording device used on airplanes, that would house solar cells to collect energy. The Brusaw’s knew that black boxes protect sensitive electronics, why not also protect solar road panels? These panels could also be designed to include LED lights to illuminate roadways at night or a heat element to defrost snow and ice on the streets.

Ideas are great because they are about possibilities. Turning an idea into a reality is when ideas are tested against constraints: time, materials, construction and cost to name a few. The Brusaw’s have received the chance to take their BIG idea one step further. In 2009, they received a contract from the Federal Highway Administration  to construct a prototype for the first solar road panel. In 2011, they received another contract to complete a second phase of the prototype which will result in a parking lot made of solar road panels that can be tested with different weather and sunlight conditions.

While we will have to wait and see whether the Brusaw’s will be successful at achieving their dream of “upgrading our infrastructure – roads and power grid – to the 21st century,” we have to give them credit for having a BIG idea and taking it from possibility to real-world testing.

You can learn more about the BIG idea behind Solar Roadways in the video below.

Stay with us next week as we bring you more BIG ideas that are becoming realities.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

Tagged , , ,

The little street car that could….and did

The modern streetcar in Tucson, Arizona is not like any of the ones you have seen in old Hollywood movies. Remove any image of Marlon Brandon shouting “Stella” from your mind when thinking about this state-of-the-art streetcar.

While Tucson’s streetcar may not look like ones from A Streetcar Named Desire, there were a lot of big desires and hopes riding on it. Primarily the desire that it will help spur economic development and revitalize the city’s downtown.

Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation

Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation

Just a few years ago, Tucson watched Phoenix, it’s big neighbor to the north, successfully build out a new lightrail system. At this time, mass transit in the second largest city in the country’s fastest growing state (according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest estimates) was only a plan on paper, a vision of  the City of Tucson’s Department of Transportation and many residents.

The first real chance for the City of Tucson to install a mass transit system came when the project was added to the $2.1 billion, 20-year Regional Transportation Authority Plan approved by voters in 2006. Inclusion in the plan provided public support and the largest portion of funding, $87.7 million, for a modern streetcar. An additional $63 million in funds came from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant provided to the City of Tucson by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2010. This helped close the funding gap and increase momentum on the project.

The Cadence, new University of Arizona student housing in downtown Tucson.       (Credit: Ankrom Moisan)

The Cadence, new University of Arizona student housing in downtown Tucson. (Credit: Ankrom Moisan)

Throughout it’s construction phase, Tucson watched as the modern streetcar turned desires of revitalizing the city’s funky and vintage downtown area into a reality. Developers and business owners jumped at the chance to be part of transit-oriented development and set up shop along the route, and they are still jumping. Tucson’s downtown has gained hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private investment thanks to the installation of the streetcar. Bustling, hip new restaurants, bistros, and bars now line the route, and the University of Arizona worked with developers to build new student housing downtown making it easy for students to take the streetcar to and from campus.

This past July, Sun Link – the rebranded Tucson Streetcar,  began operations, an effort 30-years in the making. Today, Sun Link runs seven days a week along the 23-stop, four-mile route that connect’s the University of Arizona, downtown business districts, entertainment venues, and the convention center. Members of the community came out in mass to celebrate the grand opening of Sun Link. The little streetcar that could saw 17,000 riders its first day of operations during a free ride promotion. A little more than two months into its operations and there are murmurs of a new desire to expand the route. Sun Link is on the right track to become an icon in Tucson’s community landscape.

Today, we continue our series on BIG projects hearing from Shellie Ginn, a Transportation Administrator for the City of Tucson’s Department of Transportation and the project manager and champion who worked on the Sun Link for the past decade. We welcome her insights.

- – -

Looking west down Congress Street in  Tucson, AZ in the 1890's. (Credit: Tucson Historical Society)

Looking west down Congress Street in Tucson, AZ in the 1890’s.
(Credit: Tucson Historical Society)

Sun Link is a first-of-its kind transportation option for Tucson. Where did the idea for this modern streetcar originate?
First, let me remind you that we once had historic trollies running through Tucson in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The concept of the modern streetcar was one of several options considered during an Alternatives Analysis started in 2004. The goal was to connect activity centers in the central/downtown Tucson area and provide a vehicle for economic development. Ultimately, the streetcar was selected as the mode of transportation to meet those goals.

Why was a fixed-guided electric rail system chosen over other alternative transportation systems such as a lightrail?
The streetcar was selected due to the greater economic development potential it offered to this area. Other cities such as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington had seen a revitalization of their downtowns due to this type of transit system. We had similar activity centers and were certain we could see the same results.

The Sun Link route connects the University of Arizona, business districts, and the convention center. What other alternative routes were considered and why was its current route chosen?
The majority of the current route was in all of the alternatives considered. The areas where we had different alignments were around the University of Arizona (around vs. through?) and also how long the system would be. We looked at multiple alignments that included one on 6th Street versus 2nd Street and a longer alignment that traveled up Campbell Avenue to Grant Road. The current route was selected due to its use of roadways that were more pedestrian focused and also directly connected five districts (Mercado District, Downtown, 4th Avenue District, Main Gate District and the University of Arizona). Also, traversing through the University of Arizona campus had the greatest ridership potential.

Sun Link Route Map (Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

Sun Link Route Map
(Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

What type of community involvement was done? What aspects of the project did the community help define?
The community was involved from the beginning of the project. We developed a Citizens Liaison Group (CLG) which was made up of representatives from the neighborhoods along the alignment, business association groups in each of the districts being considered for the alignment and special interest groups such as the Tucson/Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Commission on Disability Issues. Education facilities were represented as well. This group helped review multiple technologies and alignments ultimately selecting the modern streetcar as the preferred technology and the current alignment as the preferred route.

Since Sun Link was new to the community, what type of public education efforts were undertaken?
Public Education and outreach were critical to this project and was included throughout the entire ten years this project has been in development, design, construction, testing and finally, operations. Reaching out to the public and including them in the decision making process led to a transit system that is exceeding its ridership goals and promoting economic development along the entire four-mile line. Our outreach included many presentations to stakeholders along the alignment and throughout the Tucson community, public open houses, and briefings to various leadership in the City, County, State and Federal government. Public outreach and education will be ongoing as a new group of students arrive on the University of Arizona campus each Fall Semester.

Sun Link has been credited with helping to revitalize Tucson’s downtown. How has it done this and what are some of the economic development benefits it has brought to the community?
The Tucson Streetcar has been instrumental in the location of several student housing developments along the four mile line. There are over 3,000 units along the line. There are over 50 new restaurants, bars and cafes that have opened up along the four mile line. Over $800 million of public and private investment has been made with an estimate of over 1,500 long term regional jobs created as a result of the streetcar.

An estimated 3,500 people rode Sun Link on its first paid day of operations. Has this ridership sustained? Who are the main people riding on the weekdays versus weekends?
The average weekday ridership is approximately 5,200 per day and the average weekend ridership is 2,700 (with Saturdays in the 5,000 range). There is a mix of ridership to include students, office workers, people riding in the evenings for dinner and entertainment and neighborhoods taking advantage of the streetcar to ride along the four miles.

"Wandering Stars” by artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock at the Granada Ave/Cushing Street stop. (Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

“Wandering Stars” by artists Joe O’Connell and Blessing Hancock at the Granada Ave/Cushing Street stop.
(Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

One unique aspect of the Sun Link route are the different art pieces incorporated at each of its 23 stops and its Operations and Maintenance facility. How were the artists and their pieces chosen?
The art was selected through the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC). Eight stops were identified along the alignment (two per mile) and a simple stop concept and the maintenance facility were added as potential art locations as well. TPAC oversaw a public selection process and the artists were selected based on their artistic concepts through a committee.

What are the opportunities to expand the Sun Link route in the future? What would it take to do so?
Potential extensions are identified in the Pima Association of Governments High Capacity Transit Study from 2009. The next step is to start studying the potential routes and determine what funding will be used.

The Sun Link breaking the banner at it's grand opening celebration on July 25, 2014. (Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

The Sun Link breaking the banner at it’s grand opening celebration on July 25, 2014.
(Credit: City of Tucson Department of Transportation)

You served as the City of Tucson’s Project Manager for Sun Link for 10 years and guided it from conception to implementation. What was your favorite part of this project?
Over the last ten years, I was able to watch a concept become a reality and see the direct benefits of this type of system in the five districts along the streetcar alignment. My favorite part was the Grand Opening and seeing all of these people wait in long lines with smiles on their faces. It has been such a pleasure to work on a project of this stature.

- – -

For more information on Sun Link visit, like it on Facebook, or follow it on Twitter.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.
Facebook icontwitter-logo-icon-by-jon-bennallick-02


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Harnessing the power of the sun

When you think of the Mojave Desert, two words likely come to mind – dry and hot as well as images of Joshua trees, sand dunes, and the barren aptly named Death Valley. As of last year, you can now add a sea of glimmering solar mirrors to that list. Make that a sea of more than 300,000 glimmering solar mirrors that make up the world’s largest solar thermal plant.  The Mojave Desert is now home to the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System which began commercial operation in 2013 and has been harnessing the energy of the desert sun to power homes in Southern California and reduce the state’s carbon footprint.  The clean electricity produced by the 392 megawatt solar thermal power project is also helping the state known for it’s highways and traffic congestion avoid millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants, an equivalent to taking  more than 70,000 cars of the road annually.

The three units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. (Credit BrightSource Energy)

The three units of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
(Credit BrightSource Energy)

In addition to being the largest solar thermal plant in the world, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System has also achieved another first. It received the 2014 Power Magazine’s Plant of the Year award, making it the first renewable energy plant to receive the honor.

The world’s largest solar thermal plant became a reality thanks to a collaborative public/private partnership between the United States Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, NRG, BrightSource Energy, Bechtel, and Google. A true testament to how these two sectors can come together on common ground to support the greater good of advancing renewable energy in our country.

Today, we kick off our annual series on BIG projects hearing from Jeff Holland, Director of Communications for NRG, the project’s owner. He fills us in on the vision and goal for the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, how stakeholders and the world were kept informed of the project’s progress and the plant’s operations and economic benefit. We welcome his insights.

- – -

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System came to fruition through a collaboration of multiple corporate partners. Who were these players and what did they each bring to the table?
With NRG Energy’s leadership as the project owner, equity partners Google and BrightSource Energy and Bechtel’s engineering and construction expertise, the team set a new standard for solar thermal power. At the same time, we’re strengthening the nation’s economy and solar supply chain, as well as helping to shift our country closer to energy independence.

What was the overall vision and goal of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System?
The goal was for Ivanpah to become the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) facility, an engineering marvel that increases America’s supply of renewable energy and one that produces clean, reliable solar electricity that will power more than 140,000 homes through California’s two largest utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Ivanpah is a magnificent example of a public/private partnership to bring more renewable energy to our country.

Credit: A Google Earth image of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System adjacent to the Ivanpah dry lake bed. (Credit: Mojave Desert Blog)

Credit: A Google Earth image of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System adjacent to the Ivanpah dry lake bed.
(Credit: Mojave Desert Blog)

What was the rationale behind locating the solar electric plant on the Ivanpah dry lakebed? Can you describe the environmental considerations behind this choice?
This is land leased to us by the Bureau of Land Management and the lease agreement dictates that we return the land to its previously undisturbed state once the power purchase agreements expire.

As part of our ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, we are working with the appropriate state, federal and local agencies to apply science in our mitigation efforts on a wide range of carefully constructed wildlife and biological protection plans.

While we take the work we are doing very seriously and are putting the measures in place and spending the money on monitoring efforts, it is important to note that, climate change is by far the largest threat to life on earth and we have spent billions of dollars on projects like Ivanpah in our quest to find ways to provide clean, sustainable and renewable energy.

Please describe the general design of the plant and how these design standards contributed to a more sustainable project?
Ivanpah uses software to control hundreds of thousands of tracking mirrors, known as heliostats, to directly concentrate sunlight onto a boiler filled with water that sits atop a tower. When the sunlight hits the boiler, the water inside is heated and creates high temperature steam. Once produced, the steam is used in a conventional turbine to produce electricity. Using this concentrated solar thermal technology.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System begins operation. (Credit: BrightSource Energy)

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System begins operation.
(Credit: BrightSource Energy)

Was any outreach conducted to engage stakeholders in the Mojave Desert area?
Of course. NRG is 100% committed to working with the communities in which we operate, and to protecting the health and safety of people, wildlife, plant life, and ecosystems in the areas in which we work.

How did you communicate the project’s progress to the rest of the world. Which communication tools did you find most effective?
We conducted community outreach by attending and speaking at various community-focused events and public hearings as well as direct mail campaigns and developing a project website where people could learn about the progress and gather information on the project’s milestones and accomplishments. We worked with the state and federal groups in developing and reporting all plans to the California Energy Commission who also continue to publish all of our information onto their own website where people can opt-in for updates as well.

Were there any challenges or barriers to receiving public support for the project? If so, how did you overcome these challenges or barriers?
We have worked closely with state and federal agencies and all relevant stakeholders from the moment we began our development of Ivanpah to responsibly address the challenges unique to Ivanpah’s size, location and technology.

As part of our ongoing environmental mitigation efforts, we are working with the appropriate state, federal and local agencies to apply science in our mitigation efforts on a wide range of carefully constructed wildlife and biological protection plans.

I think the public overwhelmingly supports clean energy projects such as Ivanpah when you factor in that it prevents the emission of 400,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere – tantamount to removing 72,000 cars from California’s roads annually.

Construction workers secure a heliostat onto a pylon. (Credit: BrightSource Energy)

Construction workers secure a heliostat onto a pylon.
(Credit: BrightSource Energy)

Construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System required thousands of workers. How many people are currently employed by the plant?
At peak construction we employed more than 2,600 people on-site. The project now has 65 employees responsible for the day-to-day operations of the facility. The project also employs 25 biologists for protection and support of wildlife in addition to performing other biological work for the project. At the height of our work, we employed as many as 160 biologists on-site for our Head Start program for desert tortoises. The project provided a local infusion of $300 million in state and local tax benefits at a time when the US economy was going through the “Great Recession” and was in much need of good paying jobs. Total construction wages paid eclipsed $250 million and total employee earnings over the course of the project are expected to be more than $650 million.

How does the plant’s energy production measure up against other similar solar projects?

Ivanpah is the world’s largest solar thermal plant and approximately 100 MWs more than our Agua Caliente photovoltaic (PV) solar plant which produces 290 MWs, which is currently the nation’s largest fully-operational PV plant.

Are there any lessons learned from this project?
As with any large infrastructure improvement project there will be lessons learned. With Ivanpah, we attempted something that had never been done on this scale – and with a brand new technology. We are constantly improving our processes and efficiencies on site and learning about ways we can optimize the levels of power we are producing. We are generating massive amounts of data that will help with future projects going forward and our environmental research work has been ground-breaking for the science community.

Credit: Hotelzon

Credit: Hotelzon

This project is a great example of how corporate partners are coming together to help California to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. What are some best practices people can do in their own homes or at work that can help contribute to meeting our state’s goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020?
Ivanpah is a magnificent example of a public/private partnership to bring more renewable energy to our country. Ivanpah has drawn support from the Department of Energy (DOE) and NRG due to their tremendous benefits and the hard work of the original project developers. The DOE chose to award loan guarantees to these projects to provide debt support to the original project developers based on the economic, environmental and energy security benefits those projects will bring to Americans. Because projects like this are so important, NRG invested more than a billion of its own capital to provide equity support to the projects because they offer the potential for quality returns and the ability to move clean energy forward in a meaningful way.

We are doing our part, but there are things individual consumers can do to reduce their carbon footprint in their homes. Things like installing solar rooftop systems, purchasing a programmable thermostat like Nest, changing their lighting to compact fluorescence (CFLs), weather-stripping and insulation, turning off electronics and your cable modem when not in use and buying Energy-Star-rated appliances.

Fed Ex Field in Washington D.C. (Credit NRG Energy)

Fed Ex Field in Washington D.C. has an NRG solar installation that can produce up to 2 megawatts of power. Enough power to meet 20% of the stadium’s power needs on game days and all of its power needs on non-game days.
(Credit NRG Energy)

What’s next for NRG? What projects should we be looking forward to?
The energy industry is on the cusp of a revolution and NRG is driving toward a consumer-focused future. Through innovation, the freedom of choice and the self-empowerment, the consumer will realize the enormous benefit of something our generation never experienced – energy self-determination.

NRG is bullish on renewable energy, based on ongoing improvements in the technologies and the effective commercialization of new technologies (evidenced by projects like Ivanpah) that we see continuing over the next five years.

We think solar and wind will become the clear competitive alternatives to fossil generation in the foreseeable future. Photovoltaic solar costs continue to go down, driven by a decrease in panel prices and companies like NRG working to bring down the overall balance of system cost.

In addition to our large-scale wind and solar utility projects, NRG owns high-profile distributed solar installations at several NFL stadiums, including FedEx Field in Washington, DC; MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ; Patriot Place in Boston; Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia; and the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., which is LEEDs certified and will be the first U.S. professional sports venue to achieve net zero energy performance.

Lastly, NRG owns 40 MW of combined distributed solar at various commercial locations in several states, including municipal buildings, hospitals, industrial buildings, schools, universities and retail chains and also partners with notable organizations, such as MGM (Mandalay Bay) and Starwood Resorts to offer solar energy solutions to private industry.

- – -

Solar power is all around us. Whether you live in one of the homes receiving electricity produced by the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a student at a University, a fan cheering on your favorite NFL team in their home stadium, or a guest staying and playing at a Las Vegas resort, the power of the sun may just be helping to power these aspects of your life.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.
Facebook icontwitter-logo-icon-by-jon-bennallick-02

Report Cards Aren’t Just for Schools

Earlier this week, we celebrated Labor Day. That means many schools across the country started session, and with school comes report cards. Report cards identify where students excel or need to improve. But student’s aren’t the only ones that receive report cards. Every four years our country receives a report card on its infrastructure systems from the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Like the alphabet is to words, infrastructure is to the systems that create water, energy, and roadways. Infrastructure is the building block of everything. It is our roads and bridges. It delivers water and electricity to our homes. It’s what keeps commerce coming through our ports. And it is the schools where our future leaders are taking their own educational journeys.

Credit: Streetsblog USA

Credit: Streetsblog USA

The report card for America’s Infrastructure is significant because just like with students in school it shows our country where it needs to improve and offers key solutions for how to do so. An advisory council of ASCE members assigns grades using the following criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.

In 2013 America’s infrastructure systems scored the following:

  • Dams – D
  • Drinking  Water – D
  • Hazardous Waste – D
  • Levees – D-
  • Solid Waste – B -
  • Wastewater – D
  • Aviation – D
  • Bridges – C+
  • Inland Waterways  – D-
  • Ports – C
  • Rail – C+
  • Roads – D
  • Transit – D
  • Public Parks and Recreation – C-
  • Schools – D
  • Energy – D+

This past year America’s infrastructure GPA was a D+, somewhat of an improvement from the country’s typical D average. The other promising aspect of the 2013 report card is that no categories declined.


Credit: Hearst Communications, Inc.

So how does America improve it’s infrastructure GPA? In many ways it’s similar to how students improve their GPA. Investing in the future through studying and dedication brings grades up. Investing in the country’s future through funding, policy, and public support helps projects move forward improving their grades with the ASCE. This was true with rail category in 2013. The country’s rail system gained more private investment for efficiency and connectivity and saw increased ridership (Amtrak reported it’s highest ridership of 31.2 million passengers in 2012). As a result, this category achieved the highest improved grade moving from a C- four years ago to a C+. While this change doesn’t seem like a lot, the improvement is significant and promising.

Credit: BrightSource Energy

Credit: BrightSource Energy

This month as we kick off our annual series on BIG projects, we will take a look at some of the projects helping to improve America’s infrastructure report card. We will learn about advancements in renewable energy, land use, transportation, and more. Some of these projects are the valedictorians of their fields and others are still improving with lots of potential for the future. Big or small there is no doubt these projects have made a BIG impact on improving the BIG systems that connect us and keep us moving.

We hope you’ll stay with us and share your BIG ideas along the way.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

Flounders, and gangplanks, and smokestacks! Oh my!

In June and July, we showed our readers banished words, slang words, words of the year, and words that create sayings backed with extra meaning. We looked at commonly misused phrases and the history of even more common idioms. Looking back, we have filled our blog with a colorful cornucopia of word choices. We hope you have enjoyed this word-filled journey as much as we have enjoyed being your vocabulary tour guide.



And now, without further ado, we would like to extend a sincere thank you to the word aficionados who contributed over the past two months:

In August our blog will take a summer break, but first we are closing our series on words and word choice with a nod to beach lingo from the roaring 1920’s.



“To avoid being bellbuoys and water-lilies, we’re donning our films to join the beach combers and weak fish on the shore during the month of August.”

For a full translation, visit the ‘20s Beach Vernacular inventory by Ben Schott from the New York Times.

We look forward to bringing you new insights this fall, starting with our annual series on BIG projects in September!

- – -

The Collaborative Services Blog Team

“I do not think it means what you think it means”

This week we bring you the second part of our look at the origins and meanings of popular sayings. As we continue our series on Words and Word Choice, we are focusing on this important information to help you communicate effectively. While sayings and idioms are fun ways to express yourself, they only work if you understand their meaning, and if the person you are using them with also understands it. For example, if you have ever seen the classic 1987 movie The Princess Bride you will likely remember that Wallace Shawn’s character, Vizzini, keeps using the word “inconceivable,” but it doesn’t seem like quite the right way to describe the unfolding events. Mandy Patinkin’s character, Inigo Montoya, says to Vizzini “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” We don’t want you to be Vizzini when it comes communicating.

To help you avoid “beating around the bush” when communicating with others, today we continue to share the theories behind the origins and meanings of sayings you have likely said or heard yourself. We used the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Oxford Idioms Dictionary for English Learners, and NTC’s Dictionary of Words and Phases as our sources for the meanings and origins of the sayings in this blog post.

- – -

Credit: Northern Sun

Credit: Northern Sun

Killed with Kindness

If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Instead, try killing the person or thing irritating you with kindness. Not literally, but in a way that makes you look good while also achieving a good outcome. The first recorded use of this expression comes from William Shakespeare who used it in 1596 in The Taming of the ShrewHowever, the words and action of harming someone with excessive kindness may actually date back further to ancient Greece. The Athenian lawmaker and first legislator of Athens, Draco created the first constitution of Athens, a set of strict laws with harsh punishments enforced only by a court (one could receive the death penalty for stealing cabbage). Despite the harshness of the Draconian laws, Draco was popular among the people. Around 590 B.C. he was sitting in a theater at Aegina when he was literally killed by kindness. So many of the attending audience members hailed Draco, paying tribute by throwing articles of their clothing on him that he was actually smothered to death. We’re left wondering what the draconian punishment may have been for this act?

Credit: Design Your Trust user Raid 71

Credit: Design Your Trust user Raid 71

Paint the Town Red

There is more then one way to say tonight you are going out to have a great time. Probably the most colorful expression to use is saying you are going to “paint the town red.” Today, the best understood meaning of this saying is having fun visiting several bars and clubs in one night. But, this particular saying has many other theoretical origins from the hard partying ways of cowboys in the 1880’s American West to the flushing of drunk faces. The latter suggests a connection to the older expression “to paint” which meant “to drink.” Pair this expression with the way an inebriated person’s face turns red when they have had a few too many and you have another possible origin of this saying. Another possibility is that red is in reference to violence, and those who “painted” often did harm to themselves or others in their drunken stupor.

Credit: Halcyon Solutions Inc.

Credit: Halcyon Solutions Inc.

Get One’s Goat

You’ve probably had to deal with an annoying individual once if not several times in your life. Someone who drives you into a tizzy. This feeling isn’t common to just humans, its also felt by our equestrian friends. The saying “to get ones goat” is often believed to have to do with high-strung race horses. Goats were put in their stables to calm them, but the horses would become attached to their new roommate and grow upset if the goat was removed. The theory is that during horse races in the 19th century gamblers would use this practice to their advantage and steal the goat from the stable of the horse they wanted to lose so they could reap the profits of a win. Hence they would “get ones goat” to gain an advantage in the race. While gamblers may have been practicing “getting one’s goat” in the 19th century the phrase was first recorded by Jack London in his 1912 novel, Smoke Bellew, but it’s reference had nothing to do with racing. Other theories suggest that the phrase is linked to “scapegoat” of ancient Hebrew tradition; the word “goad” meaning to anger or irritate; or the 16th century French phrase “prendre la chèvre” which means “to take the goat.”

Credit: deviantart user tdj1337

Credit: deviantart user tdj1337

Steal My Thunder

Don’t you hate it when you come up with a brilliant idea only to have someone suggest it before you, and receive all the credit for it? You’ve probably uttered the words “they stole my thunder” under your breath when this happens. Don’t feel too bad, the same thing happened to playwright John Dennis. Dennis discovered a new way to simulate thunder on the stage by shaking a sheet of tin. He used this method during his 1709 play Appius and Virginia which only ran for a short time. After his play had closed, Dennis was sitting in the pit at a rival theater during their production of Macbeth when he heard his thunder being simulated. This caused Dennis to exclaim “See how the rascals use me! They will not let my play run, and yet they steal my thunder.” So remember poor John Dennis next time someone steals your good idea and gets the credit for it. At least you weren’t the person who literally had their thunder stolen.

We hope you enjoyed the origins and meanings of these sayings and that they help make communicating “a piece of cake” for you in the future. What are some common sayings that you have always wondered about the origins of?

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

Facebook icontwitter-logo-icon-by-jon-bennallick-02

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Is That What You Meant?

You do it. We do it. We all do it. What do we do? We use old sayings when we talk about new situations. Why do we do it is another question.

Maybe, we think we’ll be understood because we are using a saying that we think everyone knows. Maybe we believe the saying captures everything we need to express. Maybe an idiom adds color to what we are saying. Then again, maybe not everyone knows the saying or they have a different idea about what it means. Maybe that saying carries additional meaning that we didn’t intend. So as we continue our series on Words and Word Choice we are focusing on – sayings, phrases, and idioms – because we use them and the meanings they communicate are crucial to dialogue – public ones like our firm is professionally involved with – and personal ones that each of us has every day with our family, friends, and colleagues. We’ll check out what these sayings communicate not just with their words, but their extra meaning via their history and past interpretation that they carry with them. As you never know what your audience associates with these sayings, you may want to reconsider putting the situation into your own words.

In our quest to discover the history of these sayings, we headed offline to the library. We used The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Oxford Idioms Dictionary for English Learners, and NTC’s Dictionary of Words and Phases as our sources for the meanings and origins of the sayings in this blog post.

We want to make sure you aren’t “barking up the wrong tree” when you communicate, so read on for our first set of sayings and their origins and meanings.

- – -



Bite the Bullet
Have you ever been in a tough situation and someone told you to just “bite the bullet?” Doesn’t sound very appetizing, and what does biting a bullet have to do with hunkering down and accepting a difficult task? There are two possible origins for this phrase and both were formed on the battlefield. The first possible origin dates back to the 1850’s and the cartridge used in a British Enfield Rifle. This cartridge had a paper tube that the riflemen had to bite off in order to expose and spark the gun powder. The rifleman had to remain clam while performing this task in the middle of a battlefield hence the expression to “bite the bullet.”

The second possible origin is in reference to surgeons operating prior to the use of anesthesia. They would ask their patients to bite a bullet in an attempt to alleviate their pain.

Credit: Brillo 2010

Credit: Brillo 2010

Raining Cats and Dogs
Our state and many others are currently in a terrible drought, so we certainly wouldn’t mind if it started raining, but perhaps not “cats and dogs.” This rain reference comes from 17th century England when apparently garbage and the carcass’ of cats and dogs were washed through city streets that during heavy downpours sadly became rivers of liter and our lost furry friends. The first printed use of the phrase is also from the 17th century. Playwright Richard Brome wrote in his play The City Witt (1652): “It shall rain dogs and polecats.” Another more mythical theory suggests that the saying was inspired by the fact that cats and dogs were associated with rain and wind in Northern mythology. Dogs were pictured as the attendants of the storm god Odin, and cats were believed to cause storms. Lastly, this saying could have also originated from mis-pronunciation. It’s been suggested that this phrase comes from a Greek expression that sounds similar and means “an unlikely occurrence.” Another theory suggests it comes from a mispronunciation the rare French word for waterfall, “catadoupe.”

Credit: FinanceTwitter

Credit: FinanceTwitter

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They’re Hatched
Have you ever gotten your hopes up too soon? Maybe growing up, your parents told you “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” because they didn’t want your excitement to end in disappointment. This phrase originated in an Aesop fable about a woman entrepreneur who arrives at a market with eggs to sell. She announces that she will buy a goose with the profits she gets from the eggs, then to sell the goose and use the profits from that sale to purchase a horse, and so on. It sounds like a good logical plan until she accidentally kicks over her basket of eggs, breaking them in her excitement. No eggs, no goose, no horse, no good. Aesop used this expression again as the moral of  his story “The Milkmaid and her Pail.” It has a similar outcome to the story of the woman and her eggs. Just replace eggs with milk, you get the idea.

- – -

Do you use any of these sayings? Are you surprised by any of their origins?

Stay tuned as we keep you on the “straight and narrow” when is comes to communicating, as we continue to share the interesting, twisted, and funny origins behind popular sayings. And, please share with us your favorite sayings and their origins.

The Collaborative Services Blog Team
Facebook icontwitter-logo-icon-by-jon-bennallick-02

Tagged , , , , , ,

“Everyone wants to write a novel, but very few people want to write the next sentence.”

Time Magazine names its “Person of the Year,” but did you know if also names its best bloggers of the year? Today, we are pleased to introduce one of the bloggers that made their 2013 list. Acclaimed author and all around lover of language Mark Forsyth is also the man behind the blog The Inky Fool.

From exploring the origins of words and phrases to guiding good grammar to the basics of correctly constructing a sentence, The Inky Fool is an enjoyable online resource for anyone interested in the English language. Forsyth uses concise and witty posts to explore everything you’ve ever wondered about the written and spoken word because he is curious about it too. Time sited his post on the hidden meanings behind the Christmas carol “Twelve Days of Christmas,” as both “shocking and shockingly obvious.” And his article  for The Telegraph on the use of the word “so” (also posted on his blog) will leave you internally debating whether the conjunction really is useless afterall.

Credit: Mark Forsyth, The Inky Fool

Credit: Mark Forsyth, The Inky Fool

Additionally, Forsyth shares his knowledge and love of etymology with readers offline in his books and other publications including: “The Etymologicon,” “The Horologicon,” “The Elements of Eloquence,” and “The Unknown Unknown.”

Today, we hear from Forsyth on how the Inky Fool got its start. He’ll share his favorite memorable phrases and why bookstores are still important in the digital age. And he’ll give advice for aspiring writers. We welcome his insights.

- – -

Credit: rgbstock

Credit: rgbstock

How did your blog The Inky Fool start? What caused you to have the idea to launch it?
It actually wasn’t my idea – an old friend of mine suggested starting a blog on language; and for the first few months we did it together. I simply found that I enjoyed it more, and had more time to spare. She left, but it’s still named after her. You see, she can’t go within 100 yards of a fountain pen without ending up covered in ink for some reason. So I used to call her the Inky Fool. The blog is still named after her, even though everyone thinks it’s me.

The Inky Fool is dedicated to Words, Phrases, Grammar, Rhetoric and Prose. Why this focus?
It’s all about how to construct a single sentence. The important thing about the blog is that it’s never about what is said, only about how it’s being said: the beautiful words that can be used, the strange ways of phrasing things, the comical origins of the words. The important thing, is that when, for example, I’m talking about a political slogan, I never ever say whether or not I agree with it. So many people who write about language feel that that gives them the right to opine about the world, which is terribly tedious.

Credit: Blogger

Credit: Blogger

We notice that “words” are combined with phrases, grammar, rhetoric and prose. We’re focusing on words in June and July. Would you like to write a few words about words, why they are first on your list, why they matter and what’s so interesting about them from your point of view?
My favourite thing about words is the strange and funny origins, the stories behind them and the connections between them. I love the fact that ‘testament’ is related to ‘testicle,’ or that California is named after the Caliphate, or that ‘brackets’ comes from the Old French for ‘codpiece.’

What do like most about blogging?
The ability to write exactly how you want to. Most forms of writing, whether it’s newspapers, novels, or poetry, have a set style, a way of writing that’s expected of you. Blogging is young enough that these conventions haven’t had time to form. It’s perfect artistic freedom, not because you’re breaking the rules, but because there aren’t any rules there at all. It’s the new frontier.

Credit: Screen Rant, LLC

Credit: Screen Rant, LLC

Your book the Elements of Eloquence goes beyond a love for words, it discusses what makes a phrases memorable. What are some of your favorite phrases and why do think they have stood the test of time?
My favourite figure of rhetoric is diacope. Bond, James Bond. Run, Forest, run. Fly, my pretties, fly. Captain, my captain. To be, or not to be. Game over, man, game over. It’s so simple and elegant, and pretty much guarantees you a memorable line. It’s not the phrase I love so much as the formula behind it (although I do of course love the phrases). It’s great to put together great lines from across history – demonstrating how the Bible, Dickens, Gershwin and Katy Perry are all using the same trick of progressio. Putting Paul McCartney next to St Paul and saying “Look, it’s the same thing.”

Your latest publication The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted written for Independent Booksellers Week is in some ways is an ode to a place many believe is on its way out – the bookshop. You believe bookshops are alive and well. In the age of tablets and e-books, what are some of the ways that bookstores are surviving? What does “the bookshop” represent and what’s your best case scenario for them to succeed in an increasingly online world?
The important thing about a bookshop is that you can, by chance, come across a book that you never knew existed, on a subject you had never even thought of. You can’t get that on the internet, because on the internet you need to enter your search terms. A good bookshop can expand your mind. The dangerous thing about the internet is that it can fulfil all the desires that you already have, but it can’t give you new ones. If you were always able to get food just like Mama used to make it, you’d end up eating that rubbish for the rest of your life.

What book(s) have influenced you the most as a writer?
Three Men in a Boat.

You are active on social media, which often limits our words to 140 characters or less. How do you handle this challenge?
I rather like the challenge of expressing yourself as briefly as possib

What’s ahead for you and The Inky Fool this year? What should readers look forward to?
Right at the moment, nothing. I’ve just finished the publicity tour for “The Unknown Unknown,” and I’m going to take a break. In a few days time, I’m sure I’ll get bored and start something new. But for the moment, I’ve no idea what it will be.

What advice or resources do you have for aspiring writers and word lovers?
Make sure that you love language and love writing. Everybody wants to write a novel, but very few people want to write the next sentence. Life is all about process. Everyone would like to be Wimbledon Champion (or whatever), but almost all of us would die of boredom if we were asked to play tennis eight hours a day, seven days a week. If commas aren’t your idea of fun, you’re in trouble.

Credit: Candilynn Fite

Credit: Candilynn Fite

- – -

To fall even more in love with language visit The Inky Fool and pick up a copy of one of Forsyth’s books here. Or, take a stroll through the aisles of your local bookstore.

As the Inky Fool has showed us words and phrases have many different origins and meanings. The words you use may mean more than you know. Next up we’ll explore the origins and meanings behind some of our favorite phrases and sayings. Stay tuned to make sure you are saying what you think you are saying.

Liz Faris, Account Manager
Collaborative Services, Inc.

Facebook icontwitter-logo-icon-by-jon-bennallick-02

Tagged , , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers