In this edition...
GAINESVILLE, FL - - Passenger train service in Gainesville continues to suffer because of hurricane-related repairs on the Gulf Coast, according to the Georgia Association of Railroad Passengers.
The Amtrak Crescent, which operates between New York and New Orleans, has reportedly been running late because of congestion on the tracks.
That congestion, the association says, is the result of freight trains being diverted to the same tracks the Crescent uses because of track repairs long the coast.
Service into New Orleans was suspended in the weeks after the storms because of the widespread damage.
BNSF Railway reopened its tracks to passenger trains at 2:45 p.m., 48-hours after a Wednesday landslide halted both Amtrak service and Sound Transits Sounder train service between Seattle and Everett.
A federally-required 48-hour moratorium on passenger trains was lifted after railway engineers determined that slopes along the tracks had stabilized, said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas.
The first train to travel the route will be the 4:33 p.m. Sounder train from Seattle to Everett, followed by the Seattle-to-Chicago Amtrak train at 4:45 p.m., he said. The 5:13 p.m. Sounder train from Seattle to Everett and the 5:30 p.m. Amtrak train from Seattle to Bellingham were also to resume service but Amtraks Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle evening train wont run tonight because there isnt a train available, Melonas said.
Barring any additional slides, all of Amtraks regularly-scheduled trains are expected to run as normal on Saturday, as are Sounders Seahawks Express trains between Everett and Seattle and Tacoma and Seattle, he said.
Wednesday afternoon, a landslide triggered by heavy rain sent mud, rocks and debris onto railway tracks just north of Seattles Golden Gardens Park. Federal law requires a 48-hour delay in passenger service after a landslide to ensure slopes stabilize and do not present a danger to trains.
- Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company
Metro Chief Executive Richard A. White was forced out of his job this past week, The Washington Post and wire services reported Šending a tenure marked by strides in fixing complex funding problems but struggles with daily crises, including broken escalators, faulty rail cars and preventable accidents.
The Posts Lyndsey Layton reported that White had led Metro since 1996, making him the longest-serving chief executive in the agencys 30-year history and lifting his visibility within the industry. He was a frequent visitor on Capitol Hill, testifying on behalf of transit systems across the country, and recently completed a two-year term as chairman of the American Public Transportation Association.
While White had developed a national reputation, service on the DC Metro had often become unpredictable, and broken escalators, always a source of complaint from the ridership, was getting worse.
White was also Šnoted for driving to work, the Post reported, when passengers were increasingly being crammed aboard packed subway trains and buses. The problems between White and the METRO board had been festering for months.
Dan Tangherlini, the Districts director of transportation and a Metro board member, was named interim general manager while a search is launched for Whites permanent successor, the Post said.
Penny Hike in Sales Tax for Mass Transit
suggested by business leaders in Florida
A coalition of leaders in the business community will launch an education campaign by slide show to build support for the light rail, reported Michael Turnbell, writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinal.
Supporters hope to persuade the Broward County Commission this summer to put a referendum on the November ballot, said Turnbell in his article.
Were probably five years late in doing this, said Jim Cummings, a business executive whose construction company handles major local public works projects.
To stall this even further would be that much more detrimental. This is a delay we cannot let continue.
The business community wants this voted on by the public since county officials have lost some of their interest in the wake of the hurricanes last summer. Cost estimates for the project stand at $6 billion over 25 years. Cummings explained that the tax hike is necessary for the local match, which will be 25% of the total. Federal monies make up 75 % of the project.
The sales tax increase would generate $260 million a year to build the commuter lines and improve bus service.
The reporter quoted Cummings when he said that the group is pushing for a full penny sales tax because a half-cent wont cover all the countys mass transit needs. If were going to do it, we need to fund it properly, he said. We dont want to have to come back to voters in two years and say we screwed it up.
CHICAGO --- Every morning when he gets off the Metra train at Union Station, Neil Eisenberg pauses on the platform, lights a Benson & Hedges menthol cigarette and sneaks a few puffs before facing the workday, writes Virginia Groark, Tribune staff reporter.
But starting Monday, Eisenberg and scores of other Metra commuters will no longer be allowed to puff away on platforms downtown.
Thats all got to stop, said Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak, which owns Union Station.
Chicagos new anti-smoking ordinance will prohibit smoking at public transportation facilities, including ticket, boarding and waiting areas of public transit stations, the Tribune continued.
Our legal staff looked into it very closely and carefully, and the train platforms are definitely covered, said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet. However, the bare-bones stops in Chicago outside of downtown are not covered by the ordinance, Pardonnet told the reporter.
Eisenberg, 51, will miss his morning ritual on the downtown platform. Im not happy about it, the Burr Ridge resident said Thursday. I like to smoke.
Many commuters are from out of town so may not be aware of the new ordinance. Anticipating the problem, Metra and Amtrak have made signs to post in the downtown stations, alerting people that they can no longer smoke on the platforms.
Some smokers welcome the ban, hoping it will force them to quit. Joe Klimek, who quit for six years, then started again, told the Tribune reporter, There are going to be a lot of people who are going to be upset, but he hopes the ordinance will force him to quit for good.
South Side resident Amanda Chorak, 23, who sneaks in a smoke at night before boarding her Electric Line train, agreed.
Its good, she said, because I need to quit.
Reporter Groark continued, Amtrak and Metra police will focus on educating people about the ban, rather than ticketing them, when the ordinance goes into effect Monday, Magliari said. Under the grace period, people who smoke on platforms, or within 15 feet of Union Station, will be told to extinguish the cigarette but will not be given a citation, which carries a fine of up to $100.
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas has announced funding in the amount of $3 million dollars to begin rehabilitation of the Merrimack River Bridge in Haverhill, Ma.
Grabauskas expressed his commitment to restoring and maintaining the Ts present infrastructure. From bridges, to stations, to vehicles, I will continue to concentrate on maintaining what we have to ensure our customers receive the service they pay for and deserve.
The rehabilitation of the bridge is only one of several projects designed to rehabilitate or rebuild aging infrastructure within the MBTAs commuter rail and subway systems.
The Merrimack River Bridge, constructed in 1919, is a double track crossing that carries the MBTA Commuter Rail Service over the Merrimack River between Bradford and Haverhill Stations. It is also used by Amtraks Downeaster service from Boston to Maine. As part of the MBTA Bridge Management Program, the Merrimack River Bridge was recently inspected and it was determined that replacement of the existing timber deck with new ties, along with structural repairs was necessary. Rehabilitation of the bridge will be conducted in two phases beginning with the replacement of approximately 1629 railroad ties at a cost of $1.2m. The remaining funds will be used in phase II for other structural repairs.
Infrastructure preservation is critical to the overall health of any public transit system, said Massachusetts State Transportation Secretary John Cogliano. Through this investment, the MBTA will restore an aging piece of the Haverhill line, while continuing its efforts to improve commuter rail service.
Having accessible and reliable commuter rail service is integral to our community, both culturally and as a means of spurring economic growth, commented Massachusetts State Senator Stephen A. Baddour. I greatly appreciate the MBTAs dedication to maintaining infrastructure under the leadership of General Manager Grabauskas, and am thankful for his support of the Merrimack Bridge project.
Approved by the MBTA Board of Directors, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Corporation (MBCR), the Ts commuter rail contractor, will procure the materials and carry out the replacement of the existing ties. The tie replacement project, scheduled to begin in Fall 2006, will be performed in two parts beginning with the outbound track. Completion of the tie replacement project is slated for Spring 2007.
The MBCR is a partnership of three leading transportation companies: Connex North America, Bombardier, and Alternate Concepts, Inc. It was chosen by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in 2003 to manage and operate the commuter rail system after Amtrak opted to not renew its contract for rail operations.
Artrain USA to make first stop
of 2006 in Torrington, Wyoming
Images of the Artrain at various locations
Tracy Davis of the Torrington Telegram reported that the first stop of the 2006 season Artrain USA will be in Torrington, Wyoming.
On display throughout the five train cars of the art train will be Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture, a contemporary Native American art exhibition comprised of 71 works of art by 54 Native American artists who have donated their work for display and educational purposes, continued Tracy.. Artrain USA changes their display every three years and 2006 is the final year for Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture.
Torrington Mayor Mike Varney and former City Council member Sally Anderson made the decision to bring Artrain toTorrington after seeing it at a NASA display three years ago.
The train will arrive on Friday, March 10 and will stay until Tuesday, March 14. A reception will be held at the Fine Arts Center Friday evening to welcome the Artrain and the volunteers who travel in it, continued writer Davis.
The galleries, studios and gift shop are housed in five vintage rail cars.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway will donate the use of their track to bring the train to its location during the visit.
The City of Torrington must raise $10,000 in order for the public to enjoy the exhibit at no cost. If this amount is not raised, there will be a small fee charged at the door. Donations can be sent to City Hall, checks made out to City of Torrington Artrain USA.
Based out of Ann Arbor, Mich., Artrain USA visited 44 states and the District of Columbia last year utilizing various railways along the 10,000 mile trip, reported Davis.
Rail freight increases rile electric co-ops
MADISON, WI ---Electric rates are about to rise substantially now that natural gas, oil and propane have also gone up, reported David Jenkins of Coulee News in West Salem, Wisconsin
These increases are directly related to pricing decisions by the nations two largest railroads Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) - who are charging utilities like Dairyland Power Cooperative nearly double the previous price to transport their coal from Wyoming to Wisconsin.
With no other viable alternatives to get the coal from the western coal fields to Wisconsin, the costs of rail must be paid, continued Jenkins. These proposed rate increases will mean big jumps in electric bills in 2006. All utilities in Wisconsin will be affected.
Coulee News position is that the freight increases are unwarranted and must be vigorously opposed.
U.S. Representative Mark Green (R-Green Bay) has authored a critical piece of legislation that would eliminate the exemption from antitrust laws railroads currently enjoy. The bill is HR 3318. U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) is co-sponsoring the bill.
Similarly, U.S. Rep. Richard Baker of Louisiana has introduced another bill, HR 2047, that would reform the Surface Transportation Board, an obscure federal agency with authority over the big railroads rates and shipping practices.
Twenty-five years ago when the railroads were deregulated, there were many more railroads competing with each other. Today, only four railroads control 90 percent of the trackage.
The newspapers position is that consumers and shippers must be protected, that the railroads have too much power.
They are urging citizens in rural Wisconsin to contact their member of Congress requesting that they support and co-sponsor HR 3318 and HR 2047.
David Jenkins is the Electric Division manager for the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives.
( Editors note: Freight railroads are often accused of price gouging. The reality is the freight rail industry barely even covers their capital costs a reason that their infrastructure is in poor condition in many areas. As a result, they do sometimes raise fees that place a burden on shippers .)
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||68.53||69.06|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||46.68||43.90|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||37.37||37.80|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||25.42||25.04|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||15.50||15.06|
Photo by Deutsche Bahn AGA Deutsche Bahn 218 series diesel hydraulic locomotive arrives in Goslar (near Hannover) with a Regional Bahn (RB) passenger train in March 2005.
German taxpayer group demands
In a large half-page story reported by the Hannoverische Allegemeine Zeitung newspaper on 11 Jan. 2006, a German taxpayer union has demanded that Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) sell a hundred or more diesel-hydraulic locomotives of the 214, 216, 218 and 219 series (V160 class) which Deutsche Bahn has removed from active service but has not placed for sale. The taxpayers union wants Deutsche Bahn to sell the stored locomotives and use the proceeds to pay down debt it incurred while it was still a state-run railroad more that a decade ago.
Its about handling public property responsibly, which so far has not happened here, according to Bernhard Zentgraf, leader of the taxpayers union in Lower Saxony.
Deutsche Bahn spokesman Hans-Jürgen Frohns refuted the charge, and stated,we basically need fewer diesel locomotives, therefore we must store those which are due for major maintenance. Industry insiders suspect that DBAG is very reluctant to sell any locomotive, electric or diesel, on the open market because of the fear that local competitors may buy such locomotives and then use them against Deutsche Bahn in future competition. The taxpayer union believes that DBAG will have a long-term future need of no more than about 100 units of the 218 series, which means hundreds of the classic locomotive will be parked, but otherwise still listed as in active service.
Zentgraf added, these locomotives can easily be used in Balkans and elsewhere in southeastern Europe, they have a need for such locomotives there and DBAG could reduce its debt by sending these locomotives to such countries in lieu of EU cash subsidies, and receiving credits from the EU which could be applied to reduce its debt.
A spokesman for the German rail transit advocacy group Pro Bahn stated that Deutsche Bahn behaved similarly when hundreds of Inter Regio passenger coaches were removed from service four years ago and subsequently scrapped. Deutsche Bahn scrapped many serviceable passenger coaches in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of competitors operating in Germany, he explained, their reluctance to sell surplus diesel locomotives follows the same pattern.
As the percentage of rail lines in Germany with electrification has slowly increased since the days the V160 series first appeared, an ever increasing share of passenger and freight trains have switched over to purely electric traction. In addition an increasing number of regional passenger trains operating on non-electrified routes have converted over to new self propelled DMU coaches, making diesel locomotives redundant in these instances too. Furthermore a number of competing rail companies operating in Germany have displaced DBAG trains on numerous routes. Thus DBAG may have a large inventory of diesel locomotives, which are no longer needed for regular service.
DBAG inherited well over 400 units of the V160 class (210, 214, 216, 218, 219 series) of diesel locomotives from the state owned and operated West German railroad Deutsche Bundesbahn, about 380 units are still on the books of DBAG. This series has been a workhorse of the DB fleet since the early 1970s. A small number of this class were built as gas turbine locomotives with a turboshaft engine based on an turbine engine design used for large helicopters, but after a couple of spectacular uncontained failures of the turbine engine used in this series in the late 1970s, the turbine powered units were converted to conventional reciprocating turbo-charged diesel engine power. The locomotives were built by several locomotive suppliers under contract to Deutsche Bundesbahn, including Krupp, who originally developed the basic design of the series. Most units are powered either with an MTU, or a MAN or a Mercedes-Benz diesel motor in the 2800 HP (2100 kW) power range. The diesel engine drives a pair of two-axle bogies via a hydrodynamic transmission, which consists of a group of torque converters which operate in series or parallel depending on load and speed, similar to torque converters in automatic transmissions in automobiles. The mechanical power from the output of the hydraulic transmission is connected to the locomotives wheels via a series of drive shafts, universal joints and differential gears. A number of train spotters and railroad buffs in Europe refer to the diesel locomotive series as rabbits, due to the twin exhaust stacks protruding from the roof of the locomotive, which resemble rabbit ears. Industry experts believe that despite the 20 - 30 years of operation most of these locomotives already have accumulated, they could be economically viable for another 15 - 20 years of operation.
Amtrak, Katrina, and Americas Future
--- It All Comes Down to Infrastructure
While those of us who have long been concerned with building a strong American ground transportation system have largely focused on Amtrak and transit as two major --- and long neglected --- components of any truly integrated national system, it is important that, going forward, we and our allies begin to broaden the debate, so that strangers to our efforts come to understand that while improved rail is essential, our failure to build it is a symptom of a much larger problem.
The fact is America has prospered thus far in its [relatively] short history due to a number of fortunate happenstances of geography, technology, and events that have worked together to give us great advantages over other nations --- but that is changing, and we need to cope with it.
Because the New World was discovered so recently in historical terms, because our great continent was settled by industrious peoples often fleeing other, less open societies, and because of the abundant, untapped natural resources found here, America has been blessed with wealth and opportunity from its very beginnings. In the nineteenth century the development of transportation technologies drastically lowered the cost of shipping, and travel. The canal systems of the early century, and the rail explosion of the mid and late century, and the development of steam-powered vessels --- coincided with the world-wide industrial revolution that needed the resources we had in such abundance. It also enabled the peopling of the continent on a vast scale.
In the early part of the twentieth century millions of refugees fled European poverty to seek a new life in America, fueling rapid economic growth by providing cheap, willing labor to its mills, mines, and factories.
But the twentieth century was above all the century of war and conflict, seeing the two largest wars ever visited upon the earth. The first resulted in terrible destruction to the leadership cadre of our largest economic rival, England, whose best and brightest were annihilated in the trenches of World War I, and the second flattened much of Europe and Japan. Combined with the repressive Marxist socialism imposed upon Russia and China for much of the twentieth century, the field was laid wide open for American business, and between the end of World War II, and the end of the twentieth century, the world was our economic oyster. Whatever we built, for much of the century, the world took.
All that has changed.
Beginning in the latter part of the twentieth century and accelerating into the twenty-first, the natural advantages and historical events that had worked to help America lead the world began to shift. The end of the Soviet Union in 1989, the introduction of a market-based economy in China, and the stabilization of society in India because of greatly increased food levels in that country, all helped lead to a massive shift in economic activity, to the point that it is virtually impossible to go into a Wal-Mart and find a manufactured item that is not made in China, or call a customer-service 800 number and not be connected to Bangalore. We exaggerate --- but not by much!
The American working class, as it has long been defined, has effectively been destroyed by this shift. The days when a son or daughter could expect to follow a father onto the assembly lines of Detroit or into the fabric mills of North Carolina, and make a decent living are gone, forever. The service sector and not just entry-level jobs is as mobile as the nearest laptop.
In the midst of this shift, instead of doing what we can to compete in this world, we find ourselves continuing to build infrastructure for a society that has ended. The continual skewing of our transportation dollars to highway construction and highway construction alone, along with the sprawl it induces, is creating an unsustainable and costly economic model just at a time when the American life of economic surplus is disappearing. By failing to build a network of high speed ground transportation, as is found in Asia and Europe, we are further harming our prospects for economic health.
Coupled with the present Administration in Washington that not only does not understand the problem, but is implementing policies that make things worse, we are faced with the beginning of a long, painful economic decline. Part of that is simply because the rest of the world has begun to catch up, technologically, to America. But part of it is because we have failed to build infrastructure that works. New Orleans is 75% depopulated because levees were poorly engineered and cheaply built, despite repeated warnings, and despite the example of the Dutch (and others) who have coped with similar land/water issues. Instead of investing in infrastructure, we are handing out tax cuts. Instead of building a transportation system that will allow us to at least to begin to compete again, we are firing competent managers, gutting what we have, and paving over the countryside.
The issue isnt Amtrak. The issue is infrastructure, and we are losing it. Congress had better be made aware of this crisis --- it is largely not aware of it --- and that is one thing we can each do. And we had better, because we are heading down a very long hill right now, and the bottom isnt a bed of roses.
The saddest thing about the CSX mess in Savannah over the holidays that delayed 200 Amtrak passengers up to 24 hours is that, all protestations to the side, there was a way around the mess. When the trains were first held in Jacksonville they could have easily been diverted through Atlanta on Norfolk Southerns Class IV main line and then to DC along the route of the Crescent. That might not have helped every passenger on those trains, but Id wager that it would have gotten most of them home with only a few hours delay, not an entire days.
What has not been reported, and ought to be answered, was did anybody at Amtrak think to call NS about using their railroad to get these folks home, or were they too busy watching a replay of Cool Hand Luke? You know, the part where the warden says What we have here is a failure to communicate. Perhaps there are some folks at Amtrak and at CSX who ought to be out there breaking rocks as punishment for the trouble they cause all of those people and for the damage they have done to Amtraks unfortunately already shaky reputation.
What a waste. What a shame.
NCI Vice Chairman
The time has come with the firing of Mr. Gunn for those of us interested in a coherent transportation policy to make our voices heard - loud and clear in Washington. We should no longer support elected officials who do not share our desire to provide quality rail transportation, both in corridor, long distance, and local light rail and mass transit. After the latest gas shock experienced over the summer and which continues on through the winter, one would think that someone in this government would see the light and fully fund initiatives designed to get Americans to leave their cars at the station. But this appears not to be the case. It has become a national imperative for us to begin an all-out public relations campaign to inform the public of the clear benefits a quality rail transportation system presents to the nation.
Brochures passed out to every Amtrak, local commuter railroad, and mass transit users is a must in the upcoming election and beyond. A good start would be to place runners on major congested highways during the height of rush hour to pass out tailor made brochures or information packs for their particular region of the country. We should also team our efforts with organizations which on there face would not appear to be allies in our cause but can help broaden the appeal of not only their campaigns but ours. Organizations concerned with smart growth or rural preservation, groups interested in revitalization of their communities are a start towards building this expanded coalition of concerned citizens. As my first comments to your organization and with my upcoming contribution to your organization, I hope to in my own small way be able to help in our cause for quality rail transportaton. Thank you for your consideration.
(Editors note: More letters like this needed. Action plans are welcomed by NCI and will be incorporated in our goals wherever practicable.)
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