NCI: Leo KingAmtrak is reporting that revenue is up considerably over one year ago, and so is ridership. Here, No. 84 passes Groton, Conn., en route from Washington to Boston.
Regarding highway congestion:
Mayors urge substantial rail plans
Highway lobby sources in Washington are stunned to hear that maybe, just maybe, the money machine spigot will not gush forth in its usual expected ho-hum just-like-clockwork manner.
Highway sources have told D:F that "pundits have told us to resign ourselves to eternal congestion since 'we can't build our way out.'" Apparently the "pundits" have been getting that word from sources inside the new administration.
Not surprising, since incoming Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta is a battle-scarred veteran of pro-rail transit battles. (Mineta's Senate confirmation hearing is slated for January 24).
That is not to say that that gold will flow from the rail spigot either. Again, as Mother Nature says in the commercial, "Let's not get crazy here!"
President George W. Bush fervently believes that the country's military needs to be bolstered, both in morale and in firepower, and that the U.S. needs a missile defense system, believing that most Americans would be shocked to learn that this nation has no defense whatever against an incoming missile.
With Mineta at the helm at DOT, it is unlikely that there will be open hostility to highways or rail, but in terms of priorities, there are those who would argue that if a missile targets millions of Americans, no one would have time to think about the future of any transportation system.
There are also those who argue that a good transportation system is part and parcel of an adequate defense structure. But that's a whole 'nother story.
Suffice it to say that we appear to be at a juncture in our history where highway limitations are being recognized by policy-makers, combined with an open mind for rail.
It was in that spirit that the U.S. Conference of Mayors met in Washington just a few days before President Bush's inauguration, and presented the administration and the congress with a poll showing growing support for passenger rail.
Lopsided or impressive majorities favor creating high-speed train service (69 percent), light rail and commuter train systems (80 percent), building or improving rail systems to reduce congestion (68 percent), believe that in the absence of new transportation alternatives, traffic congestion will worsen (68 percent) because traffic has gotten worse (79 percent), and that in the recent campaign, candidates paid little or no attention to these "quality of life" issues (72 percent).
Rail was the dominant theme as more than 300 mayors from around the country converged on Washington's Union Station to urge the new administration and congress to implement a "national rail policy" and to "make passenger train service a top priority (to deal with) the growing crisis of traffic and air congestion that are strangling economic growth... in cities from coast to coast."
Indeed, the mayors received a measure of encouragement from Senate Majority leader Trent Lott who said, "I think we need a national rail passenger system. Will it be cheap? No, but we can do this."
Lott added, "The High-speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA which lost out in the final days of the last Congress but will be re-introduced early in the new one) is part of making it work."
HSRIA would provide $10 billion in bonding authority to forge ahead with infrastructure to accommodate future high-speed rail corridors around the country.
"It's not fair to Amtrak to say 'make it work' and not give them the resources they need," Lott said, and added, "while "we should set goals for rail carefully," fiscal responsibility does not alter the underlying fact that "rail is just like water and sewer systems - necessary for the quality of life."
During the conference, the mayors rode a special Acela Express trip to Baltimore.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino leaned back in first Class, bit into an oatmeal raisin cookie, and said "Get people on the train. Everyone loves riding (them)."
And the mayors are striking while the iron is hot on this issue. The poll shows that the public, previously oblivious to transportation issues, is starting to notice the missing "third leg" of the transportation network. There are those who are not following the old script of "Let's hurry up and build a highway now, and we'll talk about rail later, if there's anything left over for it."
In Salt Lake City, Mayor Rocky Anderson and a coalition of commuter and civic groups have filed a federal lawsuit to block construction of a planned highway until the state first builds a commuter rail system into the same area.
Even with high-speed rail having barely dipped its metaphorical feet into the water on the East Coast, the public is already responding.
A friend of mine who traveled to New York on the very first Acela Express December 11 and returned that same week, said that on the trip back to Washington, a virtual army of customers detrained at Penn Station after arriving from Boston and intermediate points, and was quickly replaced by another crowd that filled the train for the rest of the journey to Washington. That new high-speed service (as reported in D:F Jan. 15) is extremely popular.
My friend, a travel agent who knows his stuff, tried Acela's first class car on the trip up to New York. He compares it to the first class service offered on overseas flights, with fully prepared meals, linens, silverware, and a general sense of being pampered. You pay through the nose for Acela's first class, but as Amtrak CEO George Warrington is fond of saying, "You get what you pay for."
Highway interests, of course, are ignoring the rail alternative, and instead pushing "creative ideas out there," including "value-pricing," high-occupancy and toll (HOT) lanes, and fast intertwined regular (FAIR) lanes.
These band-aid approaches, along with such golden oldies as double-decking highways, are widely viewed as a form of denial. As someone has said, "You can run, but you can't hide."
We may be in for some serious dealing with America's transportation crisis. We could actually be in the final days of the "this mode vs. that mode" mentality, to be replaced with a realization that all modes are necessary to form a seamless transportation network.
Two states, D.C., get first
Every once in a while, right in the midst of massive efforts to get some serious money for high-speed rail, someone starts touting ultra-high-speed rail.
And of course, we hear glowing reports about how Maglev (or magnetic levitation) will zoom off at speeds of up to 240 mph.
Such is the case once again, as the outgoing Clinton administration named Washington-Baltimore and Pittsburgh as the two finalists in the effort to build Maglev systems.
There's just one problem, alluded to by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) at a jam-packed news conference. The senator noted that while Congress has earmarked $950 million for the final winner, "it will be a battle" to actually come up with the money, although he said he would seek support from the Bush administration.
That will be interesting because we are not yet certain exactly how the new administration comes down on high-speed rail, let alone ultra high-speed. And more than one high-speed rail backer sees the whole maglev syndrome, however well-intended, as a monkey wrench to divert attention from the achievable here and now.
All that was actually committed in this latest announcement was $14 million to be split between the two finalists for environmental impact studies and preliminary engineering, due in late 2002.
Maglev, for the uninitiated, is a technology using magnetic current to levitate and propel cars slightly above the track, while carrying as many as 1,000 people at the super high speed. The Maryland DOT says this could carry passengers between Baltimore and Washington in 19 minutes, not counting a stop at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Impressive, but concerned high-speed supporters note we don't have the necessary commitment for regular Acela-like speeds or even 110 mph in some corridors. Is it not a cardinal rule in politics that if you want to "think big" it is best to walk before you can run? So goes the barely muted murmurings among people whose nearly every waking hour is dedicated to getting faster trains on track.
The transportation secretary, presumably incoming Secretary Norman Mineta, will pick the final winner in 2003.
When President Bush sits down with Mineta and whoever ends up as FRA administrator to decide on a broad outline for what works best for faster rail transportation in the U.S., two options they can contemplate include high-speed rail, which is a proven winner in Europe and Japan and is showing early signs of success in the U.S. with Amtrak's Acela Express, and also ultra high-speed maglev, not yet introduced into commercial service anywhere in the world, offering only a 25-mile test track in Japan, and having been canceled in Germany which last year decided a $5.8 billion plan to carry 40,000 passengers daily between Berlin and Hamburg was just too much.
Maryland is trying to link its bid for Maglev to the area's bid to become the site for the 2012 Olympics. The eventual cost for Baltimore to the District is $3.4 billion. For Pittsburgh, the price tag is $2.7 billion.
Every outgoing administration plays what is known as "lame duck" politics ‚ trying to leave its imprint as indelibly as possible. It remains to be seen whether this one sticks. That test comes when this goes to the congressional appropriations committees, which will already be wrestling with regular high-speed rail.
"It has been extremely difficult to select from all of the meritorious projects, but we must now focus the remaining effort and funding on the Maryland and Pennsylvania projects, the ones best positioned for early demonstration of Maglev's promise," said USDOT Secretary Rodney Slater.
A DOT press release stated that in Pittsburgh, a 47-mile project linking Pittsburgh Airport to the city and its eastern suburbs had been under study since 1990, and is backed by a coalition of state and local agencies, labor unions, and members of the Pittsburgh community. Maglev Inc., the organization that would develop the project, sees it as not only a transportation system for commuters and air travelers, but also as a platform for bringing precision steel fabrication technology used in construction of the guideway to the Pittsburgh region.
In the Washington-Baltimore corridor, a 40-mile project linking Camden Yards in Baltimore (a sports complex where the Baltimore Orioles play and a center for recreation and tourism) and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport to Union Station in Washington, D.C. will also be competing for Amtrak traffic as well as Marc riders. The project had been studied since 1994, DOT stated. The project sponsors also are looking ahead to the 2012 Olympics, and plan to provide rapid transportation between sports venues.
No word yet on how much a ticket will cost between end points.
Slater said he encouraged the remainder of the projects, proposals in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada and California "to continue to develop their plans and seek alternative sources of financing. To assist them, each of these projects is slated to receive almost $1 million in federal funds, as specified by Congress in the fiscal year 2001 appropriation."
Slater noted that "In the next phase, each project team will refine its estimates of ridership revenue and cost and its financial plan, strengthen the financial commitments of its sponsors, and begin work on a site specific environmental assessment. $14 million will be available for these purposes. The new information would allow DOT to select a single project which would be eligible for a grant of $950 million in federal funding authorized for construction under Section 1218 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), and subject to appropriation by the Congress.
Competition began in May 1999 by selecting seven projects to receive planning funds and participate in a competition.
|Shuster 'pulls the pin'|
The House Committee On Transportation and Infrastructure is losing its long-time chairman, and an Alaskan is taking his place.
Rep. Bud Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania's 9th Congressional District, told his constituents in a letter dated January 4, "In recent months, both my wife, Patty and I have been in hospitals with different health scares. While we remain optimistic, these experiences have caused me to re-evaluate my priorities and responsibilities."
He said he had reached the pinnacle of his 28-year career in the House, and "all things considered, we decided now is the time to smell the roses while we still can." His resignation is effective January 31.
The 107th Congress opened on January 3 with Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska chairing the transportation committee.
Shuster noted "it is neither in the best interests of my constituents, nor in my nature, for me to linger on as a 'lame duck.' By retiring at the end of this month... the governor can call a special election to quickly elect my successor for the new Congress." He said Ninth District's Congressional office would continue to be staffed by current employees.
The House committee was responsible for, among other legislation, "TEA 21," The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. On, June 23, 1998, President Clinton signed the measure, reauthorizing Amtrak, federal highway, transit, safety, and research and motor carrier programs for six years.
|Amtrak numbers rise on all fronts|
Continuing last year's trend of record growth, Amtrak reported on January 17 it set all-time ridership and ticket revenue records across its 22,000-mile national network for the first quarter of fiscal year 2001.
Nearly six million people rode Amtrak between October 1 and December 31, generating more than $298.1 million in ticket revenue and marking the best first quarter in the carrier's 30-year history. Backed by the strongest December ever, ridership for the quarter was up 8.5 percent, while ticket revenue climbed almost 14 percent over the first quarter of fiscal 2000.
In December, ridership was up 9 percent, topping the two million mark, while ticket revenue rose to more than $102.4 million, a gain of 15 percent.
The best-ever first-quarter results come on the heels of four straight years of increases in both ridership and ticket revenues.
"This outstanding performance reflects our continuing commitment to our guests and our ongoing efforts to put them at the center of everything we do," said George D. Warrington, Amtrak president and CEO. "Travelers are responding to our guarantee of satisfaction, better service and improved marketing."
Mounting frustration over increased highway congestion, and airline delays and cancellations contributed to the growth as more and more travelers turned to passenger rail as a better means of transportation.
Amtrak's first quarter also was highlighted by the launch of its new Acela Express high-speed train, which began passenger service between Washington, New York and Boston on December 11. For the four weeks between December 11 and January 5, Acela Express attracted more than 11,000 customers, earned over $1.25 million in ticket sales, beating projections by 12 percent, and had an averaged overall on-time performance of 94 percent.
Amtrak said it plans to phase in two additional Acela Express roundtrips each weekday, beginning in late February, including a non-stop "super express" between New York and Washington.
For the quarter, Amtrak's ridership and ticket revenues were up across the nation.
In the West, overall ridership jumped 17.6 percent and ticket sales climbed 15.4 percent for the period. Growth was propelled by Amtrak's popular Capitols services connecting the San Francisco Bay area with Sacramento and Silicon Valley. The Capitols enjoyed a record-breaking quarter with an increase in ridership of 72 percent and gains of 43 percent in ticket revenue.
The Cascades service in Oregon and Washington State saw a 20 percent increase in ridership and an 18 percent leap in ticket sales.
Among Amtrak's long-distance trains, the Texas Eagle linking Chicago and Dallas continued its growth with ridership up 20.7 percent and ticket revenue up a strong 28 percent. The Capitol Limited, serving Chicago and Washington, D.C., saw gains of 5 percent in ridership and 21.6 percent in ticket revenue, while the Crescent serving New York and New Orleans grew ridership and revenue by 5 and 14 percent respectively. Overall, ticket revenue for Amtrak's long-distance business rose 9 percent.
In the Northeast, where total ridership was up nearly 9 percent and revenues jumped 16.7 percent for the quarter, growth was led by the Metroliner and Acela Express, Northeast Direct, and Keystone trains. Northeast Direct service "enjoyed a 10 percent increase in ridership and revenue growth of 20.7 percent. Ridership on the Metroliner and Acela Express services grew nearly 7 percent and ticket sales climbed 15 percent. On the Keystone, ridership jumped 12.5 percent while ticket revenue rose 17 percent.
In addition to the new Acela Express service, Amtrak also rolled out its Guest Rewards membership program during the quarter. Growth was also attributable to Amtrak's unique "Satisfaction Guarantee.
In fiscal 2000, Amtrak carried a record 22.5 million passengers and had an all-time high $1.1 billion in ticket revenue, continuing a surge in ridership that has seen the company increase annual ridership by 3 million passengers since 1996.
|Old Erie line may see Amtrak trains|
New York Gov. George Pataki's proposed budget, released this week, includes $5 million to help restore passenger service on the Southern Tier Line between Binghamton and Hoboken, N.J., the former Erie Railroad main line now owned by Norfolk Southern. The cost to make improvements on the line to provide Amtrak service is pegged at $10 million, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reported. But a $500,000 passenger feasibility study commissioned in 1999 is more than six months behind schedule. New Jersey Transit and New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority provide commuter-train service on the route from Hoboken as far as Port Jervis, N.Y.
- Via Trains.com
|Boulder stops train; layoffs begin|
An eastbound Shore Line East (Connecticut DOT) train enroute to Old Saybrook from New Haven was stuck on the tracks January 17 morning after hitting a six-by-four-foot boulder on the tracks. One person, a passenger, was injured.
Connecticut DOT officials said the train, No. 3604, sustained extensive bottom locomotive damage in the accident, which happened 8:25 a.m. on the tracks between Leetes Island Road and Stony Creek.
There were two passengers and three crewmembers aboard. One of the passengers complained of neck and back injuries, and was put onto an Amtrak train headed west to New Haven, "because there was no way to get into this area," Amtrak spokesman Kevin Regan said.
"We brought him to New Haven, then by ambulance to Yale-New Haven Hospital."
Amtrak is investigating the accident, and is investigating how the boulder got there. Questions investigators were asking included, "Was it simple erosion or was it a vandal?" Amtrak said the next scheduled train to go through the area was the high-speed Acela Express. If the Acela had hit the boulder going 120-miles an hour, there could have been a disaster.
Elsewhere on the Northeast Corridor in Southern New England, Amtrak laid off more than 80 employees between Boston and New Haven last week. Most had been involved in the high-speed electrification project.
The layoffs, disclosed on January 17, affected building, bridge, track, signal and communications people. Dozens of Amtrak workers from New Haven, New London and Providence gathered at an Amtrak office to fill out unemployment forms.
Russ Hall, an Amtrak spokesman in Boston, said workers had employment options outside New England. He said they could find work in the Northeast Corridor's Mid-Atlantic Division, which extends from New York to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Hall said employees were let go because construction of the electrified railroad for the high-speed Acela Express was complete and some jobs are seasonal.
"Historically, during this time of year there are layoffs," said Hall. "We can't do a lot of track work during harsh winters."
|Michigan adds dollars to Amtrak service|
Michigan stated last Thursday it plans to nearly triple its Amtrak subsidy to $5.7 million next year, news which was welcomed in Niles, Dowagiac and other areas of southwestern Michigan among the passenger railroad's stops. The State Transportation Commission approved the subsidy, which is nearly triple the $2 million in Michigan DOT's 2000 contract with Amtrak, reported the South Bend Tribune.
The money will allow passenger services to continue through Sept. 30, State Transportation Director Gregory J. Rosine said.
Supporters of high-speed rail who don't want prospects of enhanced economic activity go by the wayside if Amtrak is no longer around applaud the funds even more.
The funds provide financial support for the daily operation of rail service, which was in jeopardy of being discontinued when Congress eliminated a federal operating to Amtrak in 1999, according to the Michigan DOT. One-way Amtrak has attempted to make up for the loss is to request states pick up a larger share of the cost of providing service, officials said.
Thanks to Rick Harnish,
|DC Metrorail is finally completed|
Washington D.C.'s rapid transit Metrorail system finally opened the last leg of its original 103-mile plan on January 13. One week later, it was, by any standard, a smashing success.
Nearly 20,000 new daily passengers have jammed on to a five station extension of the Green line in Prince Georges County, Maryland. Pre-opening projections were that the new stations would attract 18,000 new daily riders in six months. But as of Wednesday, the second day of regular weekday service, 19,517 passengers had boarded the trains, at Branch Avenue, Suitland, Naylor Road, Southern Avenue, and Congress Heights.
A spokesman for Metro allowed as how the new schedule is becoming a victim of its own success, with overcrowding forcing some passengers to wait for jammed trains to go by before giving up. Metro promised to take action to alleviate at least some of that congestion.
Now that the first 103 miles are in operation after a 30-year battle, Maryland officials are talking about a new Purple Line to connect several existing lines in a semi-circle.
Our Wes Vernon has lived in Washington for 33 years, all during the battle over Metro construction, and tells us he "well remembers the assurances from opponents that 'you can't get people out of their cars.'"
Metra buys new engines; $79.4 million order
Metra's oldest locomotives, ten years older than the Chicago commuter railroad agency itself, will be replaced by new, more efficient and more powerful diesel units by late 2004. The agency's board of directors last week approved a $79.4 million order for 26 units to be built by Motive Power Industries of Boise, Idaho. Metra's last bought engines in the early 1990s.
Everyone calls it "Metra," but "Metra" is the registered service mark for the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp.
Fifteen new locomotives will replace units that went into service in 1974 on the Elgin and Fox Lake commuter routes operated by the Milwaukee Road. In 1984, Metra took over all Chicago commuter operations. The Fox Lake route is now Metra's Milwaukee North line, while the Elgin route is the Milwaukee West Line.
Terminating at Chicago Union Station, the two routes handle a combined total of about 44,500 passenger trips each weekday, compared with about 31,000 in 1984. Further growth will require even longer trains, putting greater demand on aging motive power.
Twice Metra has rebuilt all 15 Milwaukee units. Further rebuilding would not be cost effective, according to Metra analyses.
Seven of the other new locomotives will replace older units yet to be designated and four will go for planned service increases.
The federal government, through its Federal Transit Administration, will cover 80 percent of the new locomotive cost, with Illinois "First" funds covering the entire 20 percent local match required by law.
The new locomotives will show significant technological improvements, Metra stated, including being aerodynamically styled, have stronger collision posts, corner posts and the like, complying with the requirements of FRA Regulation 49 CFR Part 238.
The new locomotives will deliver higher horsepower (3,800 vs. 3,200), which increases acceleration, which, in turn, will lead to shorter travel times. They will also have a greater fuel carrying capacity (2,400 versus 1,900 gallons, and they will be more fuel efficient.
Each engine will be equipped with inverter Head End Power (480-volt HEP for lighting and air conditioning), and will be equipped with microprocessor control propulsion as well as an electronically controlled air brake system. A new twist will be the hand brake, which will be applied electronically.
Metra said "With regard to product support, the training program provided by the contractor has been expanded to detail the specific requirements for training not only operating and mechanical personnel, but administrative (materials management) as well."
|Manchester plans new Amtrak depot|
Manchester, Vt., rail advocates have tentative plans to build a 30,000-square-foot station in town for Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express.
The station, which might include a cafe and newsstand on the first floor, plus office space on the second floor, would be built at the site of the former Grabbers restaurant on Routes 11 and 30, according to Patrick Garahan of Railhead Ltd., according to the Manchester Herald and Rutland Herald and Times Argus.
Garahan outlined the notion for the town Planning Commission, which would have to amend the town zoning bylaws before the project could move forward. Although a rail station is a permitted use at the site, the bylaws prohibit buildings with footprints larger than 3,000 square feet. The station's first floor would measure about 16,000 square feet.
WC takeover bids fails
A bid by a dissident group to take over Rosemont, Wis.-based Wisconsin Central Transportation Corp. has failed, but stockholders of the railroad voted to accept several of the group's key proposals, according to a report last week in Crain's Chicago Business News.
"We are gratified by our stockholders' endorsement of the board and its program to maximize stockholder value," WC's CEO Thomas F. Power Jr. said in a statement after the vote was announced last Friday. "We are continuing to make good progress with our exploration of strategic alternatives and, with this expensive and time-consuming distraction behind us, we can move forward even more aggressively."
The dissident group, led by former CEO Edward Burkhardt, called itself the "Wisconsin Central Shareholders Committee to Maximize Shareholder Value." Burkhardt left WC in July 1999 after clashing with the board. Among other things, he believed the company was not aggressive enough in pursuing a potential buyer.
Although the Burkhardt-led group did not get enough votes to oust the current nine-member board, shareholders did approve the group's plan to revamp the way board members are elected, and agreed with its position that the company should sell off under-performing assets.
Under the company's new bylaws, board members will be up for election every year as opposed to every three years. The new system will hold them more accountable to stockholders, said Burkhardt.
"Now, both sides are committed to the same program," he added, "so we're going to monitor their performance. If they do a good job following through, I'll probably get up at the annual meeting (in May) and compliment them."
|BNSF to pay 12 cents per share|
|Directors of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. voted on January 18 to pay a regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents per share on outstanding common stock. Dividends on common stock will be paid April 2, 2001, to shareholders of record March 12, 2001. Common shares outstanding on December 31, 2000, totaled approximately 392 million.|
|Five carriers sign up with GE|
Five of North America's largest railroads - BNSF, UP, NS, CN, AND CP, along with iRail.com, Inc. and GE Global eXchange Services (GXS), last week disclosed an alliance to create an online marketplace for the worldwide railroad industry that lets companies begin low-cost supply chain collaboration using only a Web browser. GXS will provide technology to the marketplace.
The initial founders of this new, independent company, RailMarketplace.com, purchase more than $15 billion in supplies each year. Presently headquartered at Chicago, the RailMarketplace.com Web site is http://www.railmarketplace.com.
The initial goal of RailMarketplace.com "is to create an open and neutral electronic exchange to link buyers and sellers across the North American rail industry through fast, open access to goods and services," a spokesman said.
Ultimately, the exchange is expected to link the rail industry globally in a multi-currency, multi-lingual marketplace. The new exchange, including auctions and other buying functions, is expected to be available in English, French and Spanish, among other languages. The exchange is expected to include a full suite of value-added services.
|UP blames fuel costs, economy for profit decline|
Union Pacific Corp.'s profit before a charge fell 5 percent in the fourth quarter, and the parent of the nation's largest railroad blamed signs of a slowing economy and rising fuel costs. The company said it earned $229 million, or 90 cents per share, before a charge for employee severance for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to $242 million, or 95 cents per share, during the same period in 1999.
Those figures exclude an after-tax charge of $72 million, or 27 cents a share, because of thousands of recent job cuts. Revenue rose to $2.95 billion from $2.86 billion a year ago.
The freight carrier said in December it planned to cut 2,000 jobs by the end of February because of a slowing economy, high fuel prices and harsh winter weather. At the time, the company said it was going to miss its fourth-quarter earnings expectations of more than 93 cents per share. The planned job cuts were in addition to 4,638 seasonal winter layoffs and 1,600 jobs eliminated since August as a result of the railroad's 1995 merger with Southern Pacific Rail Corp.
The reported results matched Wall Street's lowered expectations, and Union Pacific shares edged up 6 cents to $52.69 a share in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Carloadings decline, but...
Intermodal hauls rise in December
U.S. carload rail traffic fell 3.6 percent in December 2000 compared with December 1999, while intermodal traffic rose 3.3 percent, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported last week.
U.S. carload traffic fell 45,229 carloads (to a total of 1.21 million) in December 2000 compared with December 1999. Notable carload percentage declines included metallic ores (down 17.7 percent, or 11,869 carloads), waste and scrap materials (down 14.6 percent, or 5,267 carloads), and primary forest products (down 13.7 percent, or 2,974 carloads). Carloads of motor vehicles and equipment fell 9.1 percent in December, while chemical and coal carloadings fell 4.9 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.
All told, 13 of the 19 commodity categories tracked by the AAR ‚ including the top eight in terms of carload volume ‚ saw declines in December 2000 compared with December 1999. Among commodities seeing gains in December were farm products other than grain (up 17.8 percent, or 1,220 carloads), nonmetallic minerals (up 11.8 percent, or 3,135 carloads), and grain mill products (up 4.0 percent, or 1,310 carloads).
Intermodal traffic, which is not included in carload figures, rose to 641,240 units in December 2000 compared with 620,695 units in December 1999.
"Despite continued growth in intermodal traffic, the 3.6 percent decline in U.S. rail carloadings in December, following the 3.9 percent November decline, reinforces the notion that the economy has quickly developed downward momentum, which is what the Fed was trying to arrest with yesterday's interest rate cut," said AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey. "Harsh ice and snow storms in many parts of the country this month clearly compounded the general economy's impact on rail volumes," Rockey noted.
For the fourth quarter of 2000, total carload traffic on U.S. railroads was down 2.9 percent (125,159 carloads). For the quarter, carload declines were led by metallic ores (down 18.7 percent, or 41,139 carloads), grain (down 7.8 percent, or 24,098 carloads), and chemicals (down 5.7 percent, or 21,908 carloads).
Commodities showing gains for the quarter include crushed stone, sand and gravel (up 2.0 percent, or 4,556 carloads), food and kindred products (up 2.5 percent, or 2,676 carloads), and grain mill products (up 2.2 percent, or 2,503 carloads). Intermodal traffic was up 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter.
For the full year 2000, carload traffic on U.S. railroads was down only 0.5 percent (89,801 carloads), as relative strength earlier in the year offset declines near the end. Commodities showing gains for the year included crushed stone, sand and gravel (up 3.9 percent, or 37,031 carloads); metals and metal products (up 3.8 percent, or 26,539 carloads); and motor vehicles and equipment (up 1.5 percent, or 19,281 carloads). Grain carloads were down 5.1 percent (61,076 carloads), coal fell 0.7 percent (48,812 carloads), and nonmetallic minerals declined 6.6 percent (29,826 carloads) for the year.
U.S. intermodal traffic totaled a record 9.18 million units in 2000, a 3.0 percent increase (269,264 units) over 1999, when the previous record was set. Also setting a record in 2000 was total volume, which was estimated at 1.462 trillion ton-miles, up 1.7 percent from 1999 when the previous record was established. This was the fifth consecutive record set for intermodal traffic and the third for ton-miles.
"As we begin the new year, we're obviously hopeful that the uneasiness surrounding the economy will be shaken off and the weather stays reasonably cooperative, so that the railroads can continue to provide responsive, cost-effective service to their customers in a growing and vibrant economy," Rockey said.
Canadian rail carload traffic fell 0.6 percent (1,268 carloads to a total of 224,911 carloads) in December 2000 compared with December 1999, as continued strength in grain (up 13.6 percent, or 3,954 carloads) and chemicals (up 3.6 percent, or 1,732 carloads) partially offset declines elsewhere, especially in motor vehicles and equipment (down 6.8 percent, or 1,909 carloads) and nonmetallic minerals (down 14.1 percent, or 1,009 carloads). For the fourth quarter, Canadian carloads were down 0.7 percent (5,940 carloads). For 2000 as a whole, Canadian carload traffic was up 1.5 percent (47,891 carloads), paced by grain (up 12.8 percent, or 53,469 carloads), chemicals (up 3.7 percent, or 24,550 carloads), and motor vehicles and equipment (up 4.9 percent, or 18,975 carloads).
Canadian intermodal traffic was up 4.7 percent (5,616 units) in December 2000 compared with December 1999, up 7.2 percent (30,895 units) for the fourth quarter, and up 8.6 percent (143,122 units) for the year as a whole.
For the week ended December 30 (Week 52), the AAR reported total U.S. carloads of 230,565 (down 13.6 percent from the corresponding week in 1999), with loadings down 18.2 percent in the East and down 10.4 percent in the West. Intermodal volume in week 52 was 124,040 trailers and containers, down 4.7 percent. Total volume for the week ended December 30 was an estimated 19.8 billion ton-miles, down 13.2 percent from the corresponding week last year.
For Canadian railroads during the week ended December 30, the AAR reported volume of 39,071 carloads, up 1.0 percent from last year; and 21,848 trailers and containers, up 6.1 percent from the corresponding week in 1999.
Combined cumulative volume for week 52 on 17 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 269,636 carloads, down 11.7 percent from last year, and 145,888 trailers and containers, down 3.2 percent from 1999. Cumulative totals for all 17 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads for the full 52 weeks of 2000 were 20,640,270 carloads, down 0.2 percent from last year, and 10,977,632 trailers and containers, up 3.9 percent from last year.
All AAR press releases are available via the Internet at www.aar.org.
'Ka-boom' is VIA's watchword in London
VIA Rail Canada is going to blow up its old station in London, Ontario, as it makes ready to open a new station... and we do mean, "Blow up."
Actually, it will be an implosion slated for the implosion of the old York Street terminal. The railroad is essentially holding a block party to mark the occasion, it said Thursday.
So what's the watchword, the project name? "Ka-boom."
VIA and the City of London announced in December that project plans for London's new train station were on track for a summer 2001 opening. Since December 12, VIA's operations have been managed through a temporary station located adjacent to the old CN Tower,' also on York Street. Imploding the old building will clear the way to build a modern station that is being designed with Londoners in mind.
Greenspoon demolition experts will coordinate demolition of the old terminal. Implosion is scheduled for Sunday, February 4 at 9:15 am.
"'Project KaBOOM' will be a block party with a bang-up finish," said Paul Raynor, Director of Public Affairs for VIA Rail. "We're planning an event in which the whole community can participate. Everyone is welcome to attend, and one person will win the chance to push the button on an event that is sure to be watched by thousands across the nation."
A reporter's nightmare is suddenly saying to himself, "Of course! I knew that! Why did I say otherwise, when I have stated this accurately many times in previous stories?" Such was my lot when it was pointed out to me that the labor law governing railroad strikes is not Taft-Hartley, but the Railway Labor Act, regarding our story for January 15 on a talk by Ed Wytkind of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Of course, I knew that. We strive for accuracy. But when we miss the mark, we're only too happy to set the record straight.
NCI: Leo KingIt is spring 1954, and the New Haven is using its spiffy new Fairbanks-Morse engines to lead the liners between Boston and New York. A pair, led by the 793, pauses briefly in Providence enroute to their end points, as in this case when one of the unique engines tugged a westward train up the hill leading to Union Station. Those FMs had two-axle leading trucks, and three axle-trailing trucks.
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Destination: Freedom's editor, Leo King, also writes for "ThemeStream," a forum for writers and readers. King's articles are all rail-related, and mostly chronicle events over the last ten years on the Northeast Corridor, particularly in New England. Look for his articles at http://www.themestream.com under the heading "Travel," and the sub-heading, "Riding the Rails."
In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's Site in Boston.
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