Amtrak takes CNN poll by large margin
Last week, CNN conducted an online poll asking news viewers and readers, Is Amtrak worth another $2 billion a year in taxpayer money?
The poll began on January 23 at 5:16 p.m. EST and ended about 23 hours later.
The final tally, according to CNN, showed 2,097 people favored funding Amtrak, or 82 percent of the vote. The other 18 percent totaled 447 votes.
CNN said its QuickVote is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate. The results cannot be assumed to represent the opinions of Internet users in general, nor the public as a whole.
Over the years, similar polls by other organizations have produced similar results.
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Next stop: Chicago
Two Superliners are first
rebuilt cars to rejoin fleet
Two Amtrak Superliner sleeping cars were put back into service on Friday at an event at Amtraks heavy repair shop in Beech Grove, Ind. Both were wreck-damaged cars that had been languishing in the railroads heavy repair facility yard. They had not been repaired because the railroad didnt have the cash to buy materials, and because the carrier had also laid off people last year because of its financial crunch.
In Washington, Amtrak spokeswoman Kathleen Cantillon said both cars are the first in a backlog of more than 105 cars that have been awaiting repair at Beech Grove and two smaller Amtrak repair shops in Delaware.
Amtrak deferred heavy repair work since 1999 because it was broke.
Last fall, Amtrak President David Gunn shifted cash from other accounts to begin repairing passenger cars needed to meet demand, and to restore Amtrak to a state of good repair, Cantillon said. A $100 million loan from parent USDOT bailed out the railroad last summer, and Gunn had some cash to bring back Beech Grove railroaders and start the repairs.
Amtrak hired back 46 craft workers at the Beech Grove facility, and these two passenger cars are the first fruits of their labor. Both Superliners had been awaiting repair since September 2001. They are being sent to Chicago where they will be placed in service on the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles and the California Zephyr to San Francisco.
These two cars are the beginning of a plan to repair 21 cars over the next 18 to 24 months at the Beech Grove shop, which is Amtraks oldest and largest shop and the only location that can repair the double-decker Superliner equipment used on long-distance trains. Amtraks ability to continue the repair plan depends on the approval of the companys $1.2 billion appropriations request, which is currently under debate in Congress, according to Cantillon.
Todays event shows what Amtrak and its workers can do when provided with adequate resources, said Lew Wood, the repair shops general manager
We hope Congress will provide the funds needed to repair more cars and thank the elected officials represented here today who have supported Amtrak locally and in Washington, he added.
Amtrak has requested a $1.2 billion appropriation for fiscal year 2003 which began last October 1 including about $20 million for wreck repair.
Beech Grove Mayor Warner Wiley oversaw the ribbon-breaking ceremony putting the first car back into service and was joined at the podium by Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson. Representatives from the offices of Sen. Evan Bayh and Rep. Julia Carson were also on hand.
Amtrak is online at www.amtrak.com.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says she is worried about Amtrak, so shes lobbying again among her colleagues for support, and this time to ensure that Amtraks money does not disappear when the Senate bill is reconciled with one from the House. Murray introduced a floor amendment last week adding $438 million to the railroads spending package to bring it up to the $1.2 billion it needs to operate successfully.
Im worried about it, the senator said on January 26, describing how she had been calling the Republican governors of New York, Connecticut, Maryland and other railroad-dependent states to help make her case. This is their battle as much as it is ours, reports the New York Times.
The real work of spending taxpayers money frequently takes place in conference committee rooms, where a select group of lawmakers meet, often behind closed doors, to hammer out the final spending bills that will be sent to the Presidents desk.
A lot of things that leave here, said Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.), will not return.
Rep. C. W. Young (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, would not say precisely what those items might be, adding that he had yet to see a final version of the Senate bill; but, he said, There are quite a few items in disagreement, and so there will be a serious conference.
The Amtrak amendment may be on shaky ground. Last year, House appropriators approved $762 million for the railroad, an amount characterized as very reasonable by Representative Harold Rogers, (R-Ky.) who is chairman of the subcommittee that oversees transportation issues.
Republicans have already voted against it, said one aide on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Theres going to be a lot of pressure on this in conference.
Once again the Surface Transportation Board has given Amtrak the okay to operate its trains up to 79 mph on Guilford Rail System track between Plaistow, N. H., and Portland, Me.
Service on the Downeaster, as the trains are named, began 13 months ago, but Guilford has steadfastly maintained 115-pound rail is not strong enough to maintain those speeds with passenger trains. The trains operate over the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority tracks as far as MP 35.49, Rosemont, where a hand-operated crossover is located.
Plaistow is at Guilfords MP 273, interlocking CPF 273 on GRSs Freight main line between Mattawamkeag, Maine and Mechanicville, N.Y. In fact Plaistow is a stones throw north (east on the railroads) of Rosemont.
At issue was a request by Amtrak that the board determine that Amtraks rehabilitation of a 78-mile line of railroad track on the Guilford Rail System between and Portland, Maine, meets the terms of a 1999 Board decision. The board unanimously agreed that Amtrak has satisfactorily completed the rehabilitation, the three STB members stated in their decision.
They pointed out the members have the statutory authority to establish the terms under which freight railroads must give Amtrak access to their tracks.
In a 1999 decision, the board required Guilford to permit Amtrak to operate up to FRA Class 4 speeds (up to 79 miles per hour) over Guilfords New England line, provided that Amtrak rehabilitate the line to a certain level. In this case, Guilford argued that Amtrak had not adequately completed the rehabilitation. FRA the agency with expertise, experience, and primary jurisdiction over rail safety provided input throughout the proceeding and concluded that the track had been rehabilitated.
Giving deference to FRA, The Board ordered Guilford to permit Amtrak to operate at FRA Class 4 speeds, noting that FRA has jurisdiction to address any safety concerns that Guilford may have regarding a specific section of track.
The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority was elated over the decision. The Maine authority had been butting heads with Guilford for 12 years.
Amtrak hailed the unanimous decision. Since its introduction on December 15, 2001, the Downeaster has operated at 60 mph, despite earlier STB findings that 79 was safe.
The STB decision should result in reduced travel time between Portland and Boston. It remains to be seen if GRS will throw up speed restrictions over its entire route.
Amtrak and NNEPRA plan to work cooperatively with Guilford Rail System to implement the higher speeds. However, a timeline has not yet been determined, according to a NNEPRA spokesman.
Guilford vice president David Fink said he had not yet read the decision and declined to comment. The faster speed will shave about 15 minutes off the Portland-to-Boston trip.
The Senate confirmed former CSX Railroad chief John W. Snow as the 73rd Treasury secretary Thursday night (January 31) by voice vote after Snow assured balking senators that he would reexamine controversial pension regulations that were proposed last month.
Approval came on a voice vote.
The former CSX Corp. chairman will become the leader of President Bushs economic team at a time of nearly stagnant economic growth, a rising federal budget deficit and the threat of war. Snow also must sell a $674 billion proposal for the economy that was formulated by a White House economic team that no longer exists, according to the Washington Post.
Before Snow could get to those challenges, he had to deal with last-minute, unexpected questions about a 15-year-old child-support dispute, CSX corporate conduct and pension regulations that he would have to implement. Snow, a business leader with considerable experience in policymaking circles, has begun to get a taste of the scrutiny that high-level officials can expect in Washington.
The biggest impediment to his confirmation was cleared away Thursday evening after a 40-minute meeting between Snow and two Democratic senators, Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), who had threatened to delay a confirmation vote over the pension issue. The proposed regulations govern the conversion of traditional pension plans to cash balance pensions, which tend to provide better benefits for younger and short-tenured workers but can penalize older workers.
CSX Corp.s board of directors Friday named President Michael J. Ward to succeed John W. Snow as chairman and CEO Ward is a lifelong railroad man. Fridays board vote, by telephone, formally ratified a decision made weeks ago, according to The Washington Post.
Ward, 52, has spent his entire career of nearly 26 years with the railroad, unlike Snow, who had a career in law and government before being tapped as a CSX vice-president in 1977.
Ward is expected to move CSXs corporate headquarters from Richmond, Va. to the current railroad headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla.
He told reporter Don Phillips he will spend about $1 billion a year to continue improving CSXs track structure. The FRA twice issued special reports in the late 1990s harshly criticizing CSXs track maintenance and safety record.
There was a reason there was an FRA audit several years ago, Ward said.
Missouri is considering a St. Joseph, Mo., companys offer to take over passenger rail.
Transit Services Inc., a subsidiary of Herzog Contracting Corp., operates commuter rail lines in California, Texas and Florida and maintains tracks in other states. The firm made the offer in early January.
Missouri is facing a 44 percent increase in the cost of Amtrak service next year, reports the Kansas City Star.
Meanwhile, a St. Louis group of train enthusiasts is offering to loan locomotives and passenger cars to the state if Amtrak cuts its cross-state service on March 1.
Amtrak has said it needs $1.2 million from the state to continue running its twice daily passenger trains between St. Louis and Kansas City.
The American Association of Railroaders last week offered to loan the state four old Amtrak locomotives and several passenger cars so the train service could continue. The group even said it would provide volunteers aboard the train, although the state would have to contract with someone else to actually operate the train.
The St. Louis-based nonprofit group has about 1,000 members and frequently sponsors excursion train rides. O a recent weekend, for example, hundreds of group members rode Amtrak trains between St. Louis and Jefferson City to view eagles.
We are concerned that the budget crunch everywhere is turning our major industrial nation into a third world nation in which our public transportation certainly is lacking, said association president Rich Eichhorst.
We would loan those (trains) to the state of Missouri hoping it would be a way to keep the second set of trains running across the state, he said.
Rich Hood, a spokesman for the Missouri DOT, said the offer was an unusual one, but he said the group could submit a proposal when the state opens bids for private train contractors.
Herzog officials told the Missouri DOT that the company could operate the Kansas City to St. Louis route at considerably less cost than Amtrak.
Brian Weiler, director of multimodal operations for the department, said the agency is only studying the idea of having a private operator take over the rail service and has not solicited formal proposals.
We have a duty to at least explore it, Weiler said.
Amtrak operates two round-trip trains daily between Kansas City and St. Louis for a cost of $6.2 million a year to the state. Lawmakers last year appropriated only $5 million, and Amtrak service will be cut to one train a day by March if legislators do not provide a $1.2 million supplemental appropriation.
In addition, Amtrak has requested $8.9 million to provide the same service in the next fiscal year.
That is a 44 percent increase for the state over the current year, and a more than 150 percent increase over the state subsidy for the rail service five years ago.
No matter how you explain it, when you go from $6.2 million to $8.9 million, you have to question those increases, Weiler said. Its a tight budget year, and even if it werent, thats a significant increase.
Ray Lanman, vice president of corporate development for Herzog Transit, said the company has proved elsewhere it can run passenger rail.
It operates an 80-mile commuter line in Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami that serves 8,000 passengers a day; a commuter line between Dallas and Fort Worth that serves 10,000 a day; and a line in California between Stockton and San Jose that serves 3,500 daily.
Ridership on the Kansas City to St. Louis line is approximately 200,000 people a year.
Herzog officials said that without a specific proposal, they could not say exactly how much the rail service might cost the state, but they think it could be less than Amtrak.
Amtrak officials defend the rail services costs. Spokeswoman Kathleen Cantillon said the $8.9 million request for fiscal year 2004 really was closer to a 3.5 percent increase because Amtrak has been subsidizing rail service in Missouri.
Obviously we have a desire to run these trains, and weve absorbed some of these costs, Cantillon said, But its getting increasingly difficult for us to do.
Cantillon said private companies are free to try to perform the same service as Amtrak, but, she said, they will encounter the same challenges Amtrak has. She pointed to problems in Britains rail system after it was privatized.
Some companies went out of business, forcing the government to step back in. There also have been complaints about service and concern over safety after a number of high-profile accidents.
McMurry marketing communications of Phoenix has won a contract from Amtrak to relaunch is on-board magazine, Arrive. The print magazine is distributed on the Acela Express and more than 100 other trains servicing the Northeast daily. The January 24 issue of Marketing & Media reported the Arrive March-April issue, which features a cover story on comedian Steve Martin, will be the first issue. The bi-monthly magazine targets business travelers in Amtraks Northeast corridor.
National Transportation Safety Board member George W. Black resigned his seat on the NTSB appointment, effective January 27. Black is now on the agencys staff as Senior Civil Engineer and National Resource Specialist for Highway Investigations.
He had served on the board for nearly seven years. In his resignation letter to President Bush, he wrote, I am returning to highway safety engineering practice that has been my profession for over 30 years. Blacks work now includes reviewing highway design and operational issues associated with NTSB highway accident investigations.
Woman convicted of defrauding Amtrak
A federal judge January 3 sentenced Deborah Theresa Meeks to 71 months in jail and three years of supervised release for her filing of a wrongful death lawsuit involving the 1993 derailment of Amtraks Sunset Limited passenger train at Bayou Canot, Ala.
The Justice Department reported on January 23 U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate in Jackson, Miss. also ordered Meeks to pay $1,060,000 restitution, the amount she received in settlement of a fraudulently filed wrongful death lawsuit. Meeks was convicted on three counts of mail fraud and three counts of money laundering in November 2002, following a five-day jury trial.
Forty-seven people died in the Sunset Limited passenger train derailment outside of Mobile, Ala., on September 22, 1993. The government proved at trial that Meeks prepared and filed false marriage documents, which stated that she had married an Amtrak employee five weeks before he was killed in the train crash. The employee died without a will, and within a week of his death, Meeks successfully petitioned to be designated administrator of the estate and then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Amtrak and others.
Meeks perpetuated her scheme with the assistance of others who falsely claimed that the marriage had been performed.
Meeks received a settlement for $1,060,000 from Warrior and Gulf Navigation, the owner of the river barge involved in the derailment and a defendant in her wrongful death action. She received approximately $523,000 after attorneys fees and expenses, and used the proceeds of her scheme to purchase a home and gifts for family members.
Meeks conviction was the result of an investigation spanning several years by agents from the Amtrak Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Robertson Park and Joshua Drew, attorneys from the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Justice Department is online at http://www.usdoj.gov/.
CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. have gone to court to dispute the Georgia Department of Revenues valuation of their trains, tracks and other property, which determines the amount of state and county property taxes the companies pay each year.
The state contends the value of CSXs operating property throughout its entire system is $8.2 billion. CSX contends it is no more than $6 billion, according to documents filed in Fulton Superior Court.
NSs total property is worth $9.6 billion, the state contends, but the company claims its worth no more than $6.7 billion, documents show.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported the spats on January 24.
The dispute means real money. This year, the state estimates that the value of CSXs Georgia property is $561 million and Norfolk Southerns $781 million, according to Charles Willey, a spokesperson for the state revenue department. Applying the state millage rate of 25 mills, NS could be liable for more than $7.8 million in 2002 Georgia property taxes, and CSX could be liable for more than $5.6 million and thats to the state alone. Georgia counties and cities will use the states assessment to charge their own property tax bills.
The outcome could be important to Georgia. For the six months ending in December, the states tax collections fell 3.9 percent, or $247 million.
Both railroads have a major presence in Atlanta. CSX has 500 employees in Atlanta, and moves an average of 40 trains and 1,000 freight cars daily through the metro area. Atlanta is the second-largest operating hub for the company next to Chicago, said Gary Sease, a spokesperson for CSX. The company also has two intermodal terminals in East Atlanta and in Fairburn, and operates two rail yards around the city.
NSs largest work force concentration is in Atlanta, and it owns a massive rail yard in Austell. Both CSX and NS own more than 4,700 miles of track in the Southeast. Just in December, NS opened a new facility adjacent to its rail yard for Collier Metals LLC.
CSX was embroiled in a similar federal court dispute in New York, where it claimed that railroads are discriminated against because their property is taxed at higher rates than other commercial and industrial property.
The states assessment of the value of CSXs property soared 47 percent from 2001 to 2002, documents show.
We believe any Georgia resident would protest a 50 percent increase in their property taxes, Sease said. He called the states move discriminatory and unreasonable.
Discriminatory taxation is prohibited under federal law, Sease said. We dont know what the motivation was. Obviously, Georgia and a number of states are facing [budget] shortfalls.
Connecticut towns miffed over station plans
Connecticuts DOT and Amtrak tentatively have agreed to modify plans for several new commuter train stations east of New Haven, but local officials are upset that they were not told of the changes earlier.
The DOT had planned to build high-level, double-sided platforms and pedestrian bridges in Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton and Westbrook, but under the new agreement, the DOT will build high-level platforms on the south side of the tracks only. The state agency also will proceed with other planned improvements, including additional parking and shelters for commuters.
In a letter to the DOT, the town of Guilford, for example, had been planning to buy property next to the station, to use for commuter parking on the north side of the tracks. Town officials want the land for other reasons, too, so they are pursuing the purchase, according to The Hartford Courant of January 29.
The station renovations were originally part of a plan to improve Amtraks high-speed Acela service. Amtrak wanted the DOT to build double-sided platforms to cut down on the time it takes passengers to get on and off Shore Line East commuter trains, a ConnDOT services but whose trains are operated by Amtrak crews. Passengers now must walk out to the commuter trains and climb a few steps to board. Amtrak was concerned that the current setup would slow Acela Express service.
The DOT sought to cut costs by modifying the plans. Department officials argued that the current setup has not slowed Acela service. In addition, only 800 commuters use the Shore Line East service, and the proposed station improvements would have cost close to $50 million.
Under the new plan, the improvements will cost $12 million to $15 million. Also, Amtrak agreed to pay for a siding in Guilford, a one-mile-long section of track where commuter trains can duck if an express train needs to pass.
Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri has directed RIDOT to plan on building the Amtrak station in Warwick while he considers whether to include a people-mover connection to T.F. Green Airport and a parking garage for the fleets of rental cars serving the airport.
The people mover and garage were controversial and expensive aspects of former Gov. Lincoln C. Almonds vision for the Amtrak project, which was stalled by the car rental companies that would have had to tax their customers to repay most of the $168-million debt.
Jeff Neal, spokesman for Carcieri, said on Friday the governors not taking any options off the table at this point, but he is focused on getting the one essential piece of the whole thing the station completed, reports The Providence Journal.
At the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, parent of the state Airport Corporation, executive director Michael McMahon said, The station is a good economic decision. Its good for Warwick, its good for the state; lets get on with it. The other issues, quite frankly, we need to study them. Were not ruling them out, but we just dont have the facts to make a decision.
McMahon said administration officials would meet soon with the Airport Corporation and Mayor Scott Avedisian to discuss the issue.
Clearly weve got to listen to their opinion, McMahon said.
Neal said Carcieri has no timetable for a groundbreaking on the Amtrak station.
Its a little early, two weeks into the administration, to put a timetable on it, Neal said, adding, Its certainly something hes looking at. Were going to move ahead as soon as we can get the pieces in place.
Earlier in the week, it was doubtful if the station would ever be built.
The new rail station on Jefferson Boulevard was designed to be combined with a rental car garage and linked to the airport via an elevated people mover, but was stalled in court by six rental companies that balked at paying most of the $168-million cost, through fees paid by customers.
The state may instead buy a nearby parking garage, Red Beam, also known as Garage C, owned by New England Parking, a company that pays $355,000 a year to Warwick in property and tangible taxes.
Financial statements from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority appeared to show that it had several hundred million dollars in surplus money that could be used to fill its projected budget gap and defer a fare increase for at least another year, according to City Council speaker, Gifford Miller on January 24.
Transit officials immediately denied that any such surplus existed, saying that the money, about $670 million shown as extra assets on its 2001 balance sheet, is almost completely committed in a variety of ways, from paying debt costs to buying spare subway parts to providing change for token clerks.
Theres virtually nothing there you could use, said the authoritys budget director, Gary G. Caplan. Youd basically be selling off the system to raise cash.
Several city council members held a news conference on the 24th to discuss their analysis of the authoritys financial statements and to denounce plans for a fare increase to $1.75 or $2 by the spring.
Will it someday be necessary? Miller asked.
He answered himself.
Of course, but this is not the time
He added that many council members were suspicious that a fare increase was simply a way for Gov. George E. Pataki to try to help the states ailing finances by reducing state aid to the citys transit system.
The 12-mile-long Staten Island Ry. is that boroughs only train line, so stop treating it like a subway line, says Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro. He wants to merge it with Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, both of which are major commuter systems and are themselves now merging.
Molinaro said service on the line, which has 22 stops and runs from Tottenville on the islands southern tip to the St. George Ferry Terminal in the north, is good but, he adds, it would be better if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority merged the line with M-N and LIRR as the agency reorganizes itself over the next two years.
Molinaro said those railroads could furnish more powerful locomotives than the ones that now pull the lines two work trains, writes The New York Times.
Theyre from 1943, and theyre low on horsepower, he said about the current locomotives. They work well underground, he said, but they sometimes have trouble gaining traction on tracks slicked with leaves and rain. Almost all of the railways tracks are outdoors.
He also said the line uses subway cars that seat 50 people each and include ample standing room, design features more suitable to the No. 4 train at rush hour than to the railways steady but less crowded stream of commuters.
If you gave us train cars like the ones on the Long Island Rail Road, he said, the seating capacity would double. Our cars were made in 1974. Theyre ready to be replaced.
Tennessee Williams and Marlon Brando immortalized the image of streetcars rattling through steamy New Orleans nights in a play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
The fabled olive-green streetcars that once stretched into every corner of that diverse city eventually faded from the back streets, reduced 40 years ago to a single trolley line that runs past the mansions on St. Charles Avenue.
Thats about to change.
By October, a new residential line is scheduled to begin service. It will travel from Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter through Mid-City, with its Italian restaurants and neighborhood bars, to within walking distance of cemeteries where jazz great Buddy Bolden and John Kennedy Toole, author of The Confederacy of Dunces, are buried.
City leaders are working on an ambitious plan to bring back a line called Desire to honor Williams 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play that was turned into a movie starring Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, a neurotic Southern belle, and Brando as Stanley Kowalski, a macho Polish immigrant.
The proposed line wouldnt follow the original Desire routethe one that took Blanche down Bourbon Street to the seamy side of the Quarter where sister Stella lived with Stanley in a cramped and dirty apartment.
Buses replaced the trolley line in 1948.
Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich faces a decision that could reshape Marylands economy and its all about trains.
Ehrlich, who took office some three weeks ago, could be the governor who pulls the plug on a Maryland-led proposal to build a 40-mile high-speed magnetic levitation (maglev) system between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
State legislators who represent areas in Howard and Anne Arundel counties that could be affected by maglev already have called for the governor to kill the regions bid for nearly $1 billion in federal money, reports the Baltimore Business Journal of January 24.
Ehrlich, a former congressman, could be the governor who coerces the federal government to select this region as its test site for maglev, an unprecedented, $4.4 billion project that could eventually link Boston to Atlanta.
So far, Ehrlich is quiet on maglev, but since learning of the legislators call to abandon the project, Greater Baltimore business leaders, lawmakers, economic development officials and transportation planners have spoken up.
This is something that has a tremendous long-term impact on the Baltimore-Washington region and even the East Coast as a whole, said Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
Hypothetically, if we dont get this project, the Baltimore-Washington corridor would get left out of a major economic development opportunity.
Yet, not all interested parties agree on the merits of the maglev project.
Proponents, many of whom are business leaders, say construction of the track parallel to the current Amtrak line would create about 24,000 jobs and bring Baltimores and Washingtons economies closer together. Opponents point to Marylands estimated $1.8 billion budget shortfall and backlog of expensive transportation projects as primary reasons to stop a decade of maglev planning.
The disagreement alone could thwart the regions maglev plans.
I understand the importance of helping business, but this isnt the project for us, said Pam Beidle, an Anne Arundel County councilwoman who is an outspoken critic of maglev. We dont have the money to fund it, and I dont want to fund a folly.
Maryland already has spent about $9.7 million of state and federal money on planning and researching Maglev, said Henry M. Kay, director of planning for the Maryland Transit Administration. The state would pay another $500 million toward the project if it receives federal support later this year.
To do so, the regions maglev plan will need majority support from top lawmakers and regional planners. Otherwise, Pittsburgh, Baltimores top competitor, or hard-charging Las Vegas could receive federal cash to help build a maglev line.
The decision to go after maglev has to be made by a lot of people, and it has to be unanimous, said Alan Doelp, an Anne Arundel citizen and member of the Maglev task force that will submit a report to state legislators during this General Assembly session. If one link in the chain doesnt happen, there will be no maglev.
The problem is that every link in the chain is a weak link.
Even before the DART light-rail train pulls into the Arapaho Center Station, early-morning commuters waiting on the platform can see passengers standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside.
As the train eases to a stop, more passengers squeeze into the crowded car, wrote The Dallas Morning News last week.
Light-rail commuter Jim Miazza decides to wait for the next train, knowing it will have three cars instead of two. Maybe, he figures, hell have a better chance of being able to sit and read for his half-hour trip to downtown Dallas.
I dont know if all the trains are being utilized, the Richardson resident said. Maybe they can run three cars on each train during rush hour.
For light-rail commuters, standing-room-only crowds during peak periods have become more common since Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) expanded its reach into Plano last month.
Although commuters said space isnt always so tight and mornings seem to be worse than evenings, DART officials are aware of the overcrowding, spokesman Morgan Lyons said.
As we monitor it, were looking at all options, he said.
Despite the occasional inconvenience to riders, it shows that people like light-rail commuting.
Its a great situation for us to be in. Weve had so much success so early, Lyons said. The challenge for us is how to build on that success. There are adjustments we can make.
On December 9, three new stations opened at Parker Road, downtown Plano and the Bush Turnpike and were expected to serve more than 3,000 riders daily.
DART officials know the situation could be worse.
Last month, passengers from Sherman were turned away from the Parker Road Station that is now the northern terminus for DARTs Red Line.
The city of Plano and DART denied requests from the Texoma Area Paratransit System to transport outlying commuters to and from the station. DART officials said priority must be given to residents from member cities such as Plano and Richardson that have subsidized the rail systems construction for 20 years. Each of DARTs 13 member cities contributes 1 percent of sales tax revenue to the transit authority.
A new type of train line would connect the Northwest Chicago suburbs to OHare International Airport, Chicago and other suburbs under a proposal by Metra. As proposed, the train would use self-propelled cars, which would allow Metra to run smaller trains more frequently, according to the Chicago Daily Herald.
The service would run from near OHare along the Northwest Tollway to Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates, and link to the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Ry., as described by suburban mayors and others familiar with the plan.
Metra officials would not comment but intended to announce details soon of what a Metra statement called, the most innovative transit initiative for this region since the advent of the tollway system.
The proposal will compete with similar plans by the CTA and Pace suburban bus system.
The Northwest Corridor Transit Feasibility Study, made up of suburbs along the tollway from Rosemont to Elgin, and the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees transit spending in the Chicago area, will review and choose one of the proposals. Then, members of Congress from Illinois will try to get federal tax dollars for the project.
The proposed train would likely use diesel multiple units, or DMUs, common in Europe but rare in the U.S.
In November, Metra officials saw such a car made by Colorado Railcar, which bills it as the first self-propelled commuter rail car authorized by the FRA to run on lines that also serve freight trains.
The engines generate about one-third the horsepower of a conventional locomotive but get six times better fuel mileage so they are cheaper to operate, according to Tom Janaky, a sales representative for Colorado Railcar.
The self-propelled cars would allow Metra to run trains of one, two or three cars, which would be better suited to carrying a smaller load of 100 passengers or so, as opposed to a typical eight-car Metra train that carries hundreds of people in rush hour.
Smaller trains are better suited for off-peak service, more frequent service and startup service, when Metra would try to attract first-time passengers, Janaky said.
Schaumburg Mayor Al Larson called the proposal futuristic, noting it could run every 15 minutes.
Theyre not your typical steam engine kind of look, Larson said. Im very impressed.
The exact stops along the route are still being determined.
One potential starting point for the train line would be on the east side of OHare, at an existing Metra station at remote parking lot F, on the North Central Service.
The new route could run on existing track, then connect to new track along the Northwest Tollway heading west through Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates.
If Chicagos proposal to expand OHare comes to pass, the train could start from a new terminal on the west side of OHare, run north along York Road and west on the Northwest Tollway.
Eventually, sources said, a link to the EJ&E could allow trains to get to Elgin and as far as Naperville, though that would likely be a later phase.
Mayors of several northwest suburbs, whose communities helped to pay for a $450,000 study of the issue, said the Metra proposal looked better than the CTAs because it ran along the Northwest Tollway, as originally proposed, and was not dependent on the controversial OHare expansion.
Union Switch & Signal has started installing the last part of New Jersey Transits signal upgrades.
NJT is merging two railroad safety technologies continuous cab signaling and positive train stop, also known as intermittent cab signaling. The combined technology is now known as the Advanced Speed Enforcement System (ASES).
Amtrak has installed a similar system between Boston and Washington.
Under this third step, US&S will add the ASES wayside technology system-wide, involving an additional 434 track miles of NJT territory. US&S will also equip an additional 63 passenger cars and 71 locomotives with ASES cab equipment.
ASES marries cab signals technology with PTS. Cab signals uses electrical impulses in the rail to send a continuous signal through the trains computer to the engineer in the locomotive. The system monitors the conditions ahead on the railroad as the train is proceeding. It enforces an appropriate speed for the train and provides protection against a broken rail or an improperly thrown switch by providing the engineer with information so the train can be stopped.
In addition, PTS provides an engineer with profiled stop information in the cab car or locomotive that will also control the trains movements if an engineer fails to respond appropriately.
In short, if he doesnt react properly, the system applies the air, stopping the train.
The system uses transponders placed in the track to send wayside traffic status to the trains computer, which, in turn, provides information to the engineer in the locomotive.
Speed restrictions will also be enforced on curves and where rail maintenance work is taking place.
Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at
TSAs Loy Reports Security Efforts Are Expanding to Other Transportation Modes
The federal Transportation Security Administration is preparing to broaden its focus from airport security, the emphasis of its first year of operation, to additional modes of transportation, Admiral James M. Loy, undersecretary of transportation for security and director of TSA, told the Transportation Research Board at its Chairmans Luncheon Jan. 15 in Washington, during TRBs 82nd Annual Meeting.
Loy said he wants TSA to move forward in becoming a steward of security beyond aviation and across transportation, working to enhance security to modes of passenger and cargo transportation including maritime, rail, highway, transit and pipeline. He noted, Our mission is to protect the nations transportation system and to ensure freedom of movement of our people and commerce.
TSA will leave its current position in U.S. DOT in March to become the largest agency within the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Loy said he wants TSA to forge better coordination with other governmental agencies as part of its move to the new department.
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Bauer to Retire as LIRR President
Kenneth J. Bauer, president of MTA Long Island Rail Road since 2000, has announced his plans to retire in March. He assumed the presidents post on a permanent basis in December of 2002, after seven months as acting president following the departure of Thomas Prendergast.
Bauer joined the MTA in 1973 as an auditor, serving in numerous financial positions including comptroller and deputy chief financial officer, with duties that included oversight of the risk management function for all MTA agencies. He was responsible for the comptroller, treasury, information systems, and management functions of the MTA.
He joined LIRR in a newly created role as vice president and chief financial officer, with oversight responsibilities for the railroads budget, treasury, and controller functions. He also was responsible for the establishment of policies for the railroad that governed budget, accounting, and cash management.
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Stanley Named to Top Post in Birmingham
Mark A. Stanley has been named executive director of the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority in Birmingham, Ala. Following the departure last fall of Kenneth Gordon, Debra Anderson-Burse had been serving as acting executive director.
Gordon left BJCTA to join First Transit Inc. as region vice president, transit contracting-east region.
Most recently, Stanley was the transit division group leader for Korve Engineering. From 1993 to 2001, he held several positions with ATC/Forsythe at Foothill Transit in West Covina, Calif., including director of planning and operations, executive director of the Office of Mobility Management, and director of planning.
Prior to that, Stanley was president of Path Finder Transportation Service LLC and operations planning supervisor at Phoenix Transit System.
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Farr Is New Executive Director in York, Pa.
Richard Farr, general manager of Endless Mountain Transportation Authority in Towanda, Pa., has been hired as the new executive director of the York Country Transportation Authority (rabbittransit) in York, Pa. He will officially join the organization in early February.
Farr succeeds Stephen G. Bland, who left York in 2002 to become executive director of the Capital District Transportation Authority in Albany, N.Y.
During Farrs tenure at Endless Mountain, the system has increased ridership by 26 percent, balanced its budget for the first time in five years, and instituted a new service design plan to increase shared-ride productivity and provide a fully integrated fixed route and paratransit system. The system covers 2,745 square miles in three counties.
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CSX may be able to lay new Boston track
One of the largest industrial blocks of land left in Boston, Subaru Pier, soon will be available, and the Massachusetts Port Authority is looking for developers.
Once supporting more than 5,000 Subaru cars arriving in New England for distributor Ernie Boch, more recently home to 670,000 cubic yards of Big Dig dirt and clay, the 30-acre Massport Marine Terminal will be swept clean over the next four years, reports the Boston Globe.
Port officials said last week they are looking for marine-related cargo or industrial users to lease the waterfront land, develop it, and create jobs.
CSX has a disconnected right-of-way that parallels C Street next to the new Boston Convention and Exhibition Center will be reconnected to tracks leading to the Boston Railway Terminal and Boston Marine Industrial Area after Big Dig work in South Boston is completed. The several yard tracks were torn up to make room for the convention center, but the single remaining track connect one mile northward to the MBTAs Old Colony line.
There is room to extend a spur from that freight line into the Subaru Pier area, Massport officials said. The triangle-shaped site has 3,000 feet of waterfront adjacent to Boston Harbors greatest depths, used by vessels like the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy when they come to town.
Its long overdue that this land is now going to be dedicated to maritime industrial uses, said Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association, which promotes continued maritime use of the citys waterfront land.
Port director Michael A. Leone said issuing yesterdays request for ideas on how to use the site fits in with Mayor Thomas M. Meninos Back Streets program, which promotes urban industrial use.
Were doing this to create some jobs and employment opportunities for the area, Leone said.
A study by the authority concluded the Marine Terminal, most of which has been commonly known since the 1980s as Subaru Pier, should be used for private marine, industrial, and cargo purposes that benefit the authority, city, and state. Massports Conley Terminal is nearby. It is located in the citys marine industrial area and is designated by the state for seaport use.
The 90-acre Allston Landing site in Cambridge, a parcel of land both Harvard University and Boston University have eyed for years as a prime site for expansion, is being put on the market by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which owns the land currently occupied by CSX Railroad at its Beacon Park yard.
Two years ago, Harvard bought an adjacent 48 acres for $151 million, as part of its planned expansion across the Charles River from Cambridge into Boston. Boston Univ., with extensive holdings in the area, also has been interested in expanding to the west, the Boston Globe reported on January 25.
CSX has an easement on the property and extensive freight activity there, and any new owner would have to negotiate with the railroad giant before the land would be available for reuse.
The value of the land was estimated at $100 million to $125 million about 18 months ago, according to Turnpike documents. Five parcels in the area near the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority toll plaza comprise the land involved.
Turnpike documents from February indicated that its officials estimated Harvard would pay as much as $150 million for the property.
Harvard officials didnt want to comment a fortnight ago when asked whether they were interested in adding the land to their already substantial holdings in the Allston area.
We would obviously have to see the specifics before we commented, said spokesman Joe Wrinn.
Boston Univ. was less hesitant.
For many years weve been on the public record as saying we want parts of it, at least parts contiguous to the campus, said Joseph P. Mercurio, BUs executive vice-president. Were interested in exploring it as an opportunity.
Union Pacific Railroad asked a federal judge on January 24 to block the city of Des Plaines, Ill., from demanding railroad money be spent to replace a decaying, 73-year-old bridge over Northwest Highway.
The railroad sued Des Plaines in federal court in an effort to preempt any city plans to ask the Illinois Commerce Commission to compel the railroad to build two new bridges at an infamous S-curve west of downtown.
The Chicago Daily Herald reported the bridge has rained debris on cars and trucks for years, breaking windshields and littering the street with chunks of wood and iron. The estimated cost of straightening the road and building two new bridges at the double-rail crossing is $22 million. Union Pacific contends the bridge can last another 20 years.
A local resident described the bridge as a three-railroad interlocking on a wooden pile steel girder bridge over a four-lane highway with an S-curve. Replacement cost is really $100 million, not $22 million. Two of the three lines carry Metra traffic, and the third could be used with a new connector to carry Chicago-Milwaukee trains to OHare. He added, I dont think theres another one like this in the country.
Des Plaines attorney Dave Wiltse would not comment whether the city would ask the states ICC to force UP and Wisconsin Central Railroad to fund part of the new construction. The city is still mulling its options following a bridge-related victory from an ICC hearing officer earlier this week, he said.
In that decision, hearing officer June Tate recommended the ICC force the two railroads to install additional wooden supports and to inspect the bridge twice a week for the remainder of its life. The railroads would be forced to pay for the work if the ICC adopts the recommendation. Wiltse said he was pleased with Tates decision, which the city learned about on January 24.
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. and Ferrocarril Mexicano (Ferromex) said last week they have improved their trans-border intermodal service by significantly reducing transit times between major U.S. and Canadian markets and Mexico. Both carriers stated their transit times are now truck-competitive.
This service builds a seamless North American transportation network initially targeted for freight moving between Guadalajara or Mexico City, in Mexico, and major North American markets, officials said on January 28, including all of California, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and major Canadian markets, through BNSFs El Paso gateway.
This new truck-competitive service with Ferromex will benefit shippers looking for a competitive, cost-effective alternative to over-the-road shipping, said Richard Miller, assistant vice president, BNSF Mexico Business.
For example, the new service offers seven- or eight-day transit time between Los Angeles or Chicago to and from Mexico City and Guadalajara. This matches transit times offered by over-the-road service providers today.
BNSF and Ferromex have set up a joint website at www.bnsf.com/business/mexico/meximodal.
A former gauntlet-track railroad bridge over the Hudson River may find new life as a rail trail.
A New York DOT study released January 23 predicts it would cost $27.6 million to renovate the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge to handle pedestrian and bike traffic. The study is the latest chapter in the bridge's long history. It opened in 1888 and served the former double-tracked Maybrook line for decades on the New York, New Haven & Hartford, handling mostly freight traffic.
The bridge was distinctive for railroaders because the tracks merged on the approaches but did not connect with switches, only frogs. Both tracks shared the same crossties in a gauntlet track arrangement.
A fire in 1974 closed the structure as well as the Maybrook line. Since then, efforts have been under way to reopen the landmark, reports the Poughkeepsie Journal of January 24.
The DOT's report claims it would take $15 million simply to repaint the span using modern containment techniques to prevent leakage of the old lead paint, which was likely used on the bridge. Other improvements would also be needed, pushing the price to $27.6 million. The report also predicted it would cost $49.2 million to upgrade the bridge for auto usage and $50.2 million for it to again handle railroad cars.
Sources said it is doubtful the spindly bridge would be able to support modern six-axle power and heavy loaded 90-foot freight cars, so no plans have been made to return the high span to rail service.
CSX Corp. reported on Thursday it had doubled its quarterly earnings ahead of forecasts as merchandise and automobile transportation picked up.
The Richmond, Va., freight hauler said fourth-quarter net profit was $137 million, or 64 cents a share. A year earlier, CSX had profit of $65 million, or 31 cents a share, including a $37 million provision for litigation costs. Without the provision, year-earlier share profit would have been 48 cents, according to Reuters.
Wall Street had expected CSX, which also runs a maritime cargo business, to earn between 53 cents a share and 61 cents a share, with a consensus forecast of 57 cents a share, according to 11 analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.
Shares of CSX rose 4.5 percent after the earnings report and were at $27.93, reflecting a gain of $1.16 at the close on January 24.
Revenue at CSX, including sales at the CSX Lines unit being divested, rose to $2.06 billion from $2.01 billion.
Revenues from coal deliveries, mainly to utilities, are a staple for North American railroads and were down 8 percent at CSX in late 2002 over late 2001, the company said in a news release, but revenue from transporting merchandise, vehicles and intermodal loads, which are carried on a mix of ship, rail and truck, increased and more than offset the weakness in coal.
Cost controls helped profits, too, the company said. Labor expenses were flat year-over-year and, along with savings on supply and material costs, outweighed higher depreciation and fuel costs in the quarter. Railway operating ratio, a measure of costs as a share of revenues, improved to 84.5 percent.
Executive Vice President Michael Giftos told analysts in a meeting in New York that coal shipments were likely to be soft in early 2003 but should improve.
We are clearly encouraged by the cold weather (in much of the United States in recent weeks) and are confident that coal this year will not be a drag on other revenues, Giftos said.
Shares of CSX have declined about 23 percent during the past six months, while the Dow Jones Railroad Index has fallen about 11 percent.
Kansas City Southern reported a rise in its net income of $17.4 million (28 cents per diluted share) for the fourth quarter of 2002, a $6.3 million increase over net income of $11.1 million (18 cents per diluted share) for the fourth quarter of 2001.
The firm said results were driven by the strength of equity in earnings from the companys investment in Grupo Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana, which contributed $15.2 million to the companys quarterly earnings, a $10.2 million increase over the fourth quarter of 2001.
In a press release, the carrier stated Other positive contributing factors during the quarter included a decline in the income tax provision of $2.6 million, a $1.1 million increase in other income and a $0.7 million improvement in equity in earnings (losses) from other unconsolidated affiliates. These positive factors were partially offset by a $3.8 million increase in operating expenses, a $2.7 million decline in revenues and a $1.8 million increase in interest expense.
For the year ended December 31, KCSs net income was $54.2 million (87 cents per diluted share) compared to $30.7 million (50 cents per diluted share) for 2001, an increase of $23.5 million. This improvement resulted from a $14.3 million increase in equity in earnings from Grupo TFM, a $13.4 million increase in other income, a $7.8 million decline in interest expense, and a $4.4 million gain realized on the sale of Mexrail, Inc. to KCSs affiliate in Mexico, TFM. These items were partially offset by a $7.4 million decline in operating income, a $4.1 million increase in the income tax provision and a $1.0 million decline in the results from other unconsolidated affiliates.
Additionally, net income for the year ended December 31, includes $4.3 million of debt retirement costs associated with the early retirement of term debt in June 2002. These costs were previously reported net of income taxes as an extraordinary item, but have been reclassified in accordance with the provisions of a new accounting standard, the press release stated.
Norfolk Southern Corp said on January 28 it will pay a regular quarterly dividend of 7 cents per share on its common stock, payable on March 10 to stockholders of record on February 7.
NS also reported fourth-quarter net income of $129 million, or $0.33 per diluted share, up 12 percent compared with net income of $115 million, or $0.30 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2001.
For the year, net income was $460 million, or $1.18 per diluted share, up 23 percent, compared to $375 million, or $0.97 per diluted share, in the same period a year earlier. Net income during 2001 included an after-tax gain of $13 million, or $0.03 per diluted share, from the 1998 sale of a former motor carrier subsidiary, according to an NS press release.
The freight carrier noted Railway operating revenues set record highs for both the fourth quarter and the year. In the quarter, revenues reached $1.58 billion, up three percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2001, and for the year, revenues of $6.27 billion rose two percent compared with the same period in 2001.
Fourth-quarter general merchandise revenues of $914 million reflected a five percent improvement compared to the fourth quarter of 2001. All market groups showed revenue gains compared to the same period of 2001, led by a seven percent improvement in automotive. For the year, general merchandise revenues of $3.65 billion increased three percent compared with 2001 and set a record.
Intermodal revenues in the fourth quarter were $306 million, an increase of five percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2001. For the year, intermodal revenues of $1.18 billion were the highest of any year in Norfolk Southerns history and improved five percent compared with 2001. The revenue growth reflects the introduction of new services that enabled conversion of highway movements to rail as well as improvements in on-time reliability and service speed.
Coal revenues declined two percent in the fourth quarter to $361 million in the face of less demand for utility coal and decreased five percent for the year to $1.44 billion compared to strong 2001 results.
Railway operating expenses in the quarter were $1.3 billion, up three percent from the fourth quarter of 2001. For the year, railway operating expenses were $5.1 billion, down $51 million, or one percent, from 2001.
For the quarter, the railway operating ratio improved to 81.8 percent compared with 82.0 percent in the same period of 2001. For the year, the operating ratio improved to 81.5 percent, compared with 83.7 percent a year earlier.
Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. reported on Jan. 29 its directors declared a $.04 per share dividend on its outstanding common stock, payable February 20 to shareholders of record on February 6, 2003.
Intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads was up sharply from last year during the week ended January 25, but carloads were down, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.
Intermodal volume for the week totaled 182,175 trailers and containers, up 10.4 percent from the comparable 2002 week. Container traffic was up 16.5 percent, while trailer volume was off 5.4 percent.
Carload traffic, which doesnt include the intermodal data, totaled 306,535 cars, 5.5 percent below the total for the comparable week last year. Carload volume was off 6.0 percent in the East and 5.1 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 27.4 billion ton-miles, down 5.8 percent from 2002.
Nine out of 18 carload commodity groups were up in comparison with last year, with metallic ores registering a 20.3 percent gain and coke rising by 13.0 percent. On the down side, coal was off by 12.3 percent from last year and loadings of crushed stone, gravel and sand were down 13.7 percent.
The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first four weeks of 2003: 1,229,950 carloads, virtually the same as last year; intermodal volume of 682,115 trailers and containers, up 10.5 percent; and total volume of an estimated 109.0 billion ton-miles, down 0.5 percent from last years first four weeks.
Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nations intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.
Intermodal freight was up but carload traffic was down on Canadian railroads during the week ended January 25. Intermodal traffic totaled 40,522 trailers and containers, up 13.4 percent from last year. Carload volume of 62,068 cars was down 1.9 percent from the comparable week last year.
Cumulative originations for the first four weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 233,264 carloads, down 2.2 percent from last year, and 149,423 trailers and containers, up 16.8 percent from last year.
Combined cumulative volume for the first four weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 1,463,214 carloads, down 0.4 percent from last year and 682,115 trailers and containers, up 10.5 percent from last year.
The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended January 25 totaled 8,785 cars originated, up 13.4 percent from last year. TFM reported originated intermodal volume of 3,829 trailers or containers, up 59.0 percent from the fourth week of 2002.
For the first four weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative volume of 33,301 cars, up 16.2 percent from last year, and 12,610 trailers or containers, up 41.2 percent.
The AAR is online at www.aar.org.
Deutsche Bahn ponders revised schedule
The German railroad Deutsche Bahn AG wants to revise its system schedule which was just implemented six weeks ago. The company is reacting to on-going delays of many long distance trains.
There is a requirement to change it, said DB chief Hartmut Mehdorn on January 23 on a radio program. We must adjust, a revision team is already working on it.
Winter weather-related train delays were especially hard-hitting during the New Year holiday period. A DB spokesman said the railroad was disappointed with its on-time performance.
There also have been problems with the new InterCity Express-3 trains. On-time performance sank to 50 percent during the New Years holiday. About 70 percent of the fleet of the newest version of high-speed ICE-3s have had technical problems and mechanical or electrical failures. The new high-speed route from Frankfurt to Cologne has been particularly adversely affected. Only ICE-3 trains can operate on it in normal service due to the unusually steep climb and descent gradients on the line.
A DB spokesman argued that New Years was a worst case situation, that current on-time performance is running at 85 to 87 percent and connecting times are achieved 95 percent of the time, but a report on HRF, Hesse public radio, alleged that as recently as January 14 that nearly half of all intercity trains were seriously behind published schedules.
Per orders from DB, the schedule revision team will check in detail where to optimize the system schedule and publish arrival times to reflect reality.
Fundamental problems still must be addressed, including resolving the technical problems of the ICE-3 fleet. Some problems reportedly include the cab signal system, and sensitivity of an on-board fault monitoring or diagnostic system which registers too many false indications of malfunctions in the propulsion and braking systems.
It will be the comeback of the year, at least for train watchers. The diesel powered VT 11 class, better known as the Trans-European Express the TEE returns to the rails. The TEE is the legendary European luxury train of the 1950s.
When it entered service in 1951 with its spectacular visual appearance, the TEE was viewed as the train of the future. It embodied Europe-wide the concept of speed and luxury.
Deutche Bundesbahn today owns only one of the original nine TEE train sets, which will begin services again in November.
The German railroad has spent some $3.1 million (in U.S. dollars) to restore their TEE to its original condition.
The two 2,200 hp diesel power cars were overhauled in DBs Stendal works in Sachsen Anhalt, while the middle passenger wagons and restaurant car were renovated in the DB workshop in Opladen.
Interior furnishings, upholstery, curtains, lighting as well as china, glassware, tables, etc. were reconstructed or replace with items from that era in order to retain the original styling of the train. The train will have 140 seats. The railroad plans to charter the train. A TEE service center will be introduced in the DB museum in Nuremberg.
The success of world-wide known nostalgia trains such as the Blue Train in South Africa or the Venice-Simplon Orient Express in Europe show that there is a worldwide market for premium nostalgia trains. said Jürgen Franzke, director of the DB museum. The TEE will fill this gap in Germany.
The TEE will also be on display this autumn in Hannover to reintroduce the train to the public. Several charter trips with the TEE will operated from Hannover to Salzburg, Austria; Dresden, Germany; Amsterdam, Holland, Prague, Czech Republic; and Strasbourg, France
Fussell needs help moving his engine
We learned recently through the pages of the Portland Oregonian that Chris Fussells plan to move his newly purchased F-40 is not working out the way he had planned.
He owns the engine, alright bought it from Amtrak for $20,000 cash around Thanksgiving, but now Amtrak wont move the 129-ton, 3,000 hp 56-foot No. 231 for him from the Beech Grove bone yard. Its in operating condition and can still move at 100 mph.
Today Fussell, 20, is the only person in Portland, and perhaps on the planet, to own his own F-40 locomotive.
From 1976 until late 2001, Amtrak operated as many as 216 of the F40s, making it the undisputed workhorse of the national passenger rail system. Fussells locomotive pulled trains on Amtraks West Coast runs between Seattle and San Diego.
After the model was replaced with P-40s and P-42s, Amtrak started selling off its old equipment quickly, mostly for scrap metal.
Since July, more than 70 have been scrapped, Fussell said. I wanted to save one. I saved it by five days from being scrapped.
Despite his tender age, Fussell knows enough rail history to know that even rail buffs dont catch on to the historical significance of locomotives until they almost disappear or fall into serious disrepair.
Fussell didnt want that to happen to the F-40.
Lesson learned: Now is the time to save it, he said. Its my favorite locomotive. To get it while it is still in running condition and to get it the way it was retired is unique.
Proud as he is of his acquisition, Fussell doesnt expect to be tooling around the tracks of Portland with it by himself. He plans to donate it to a rail museum that will preserve it, show it to the public and maintain it in operating condition.
There are a couple glitches, however.
First is that Fussells locomotive is sitting in the yard near Indianapolis. He had hoped that Amtrak would pull it to Portland for him. But now that they dont own it, they wont touch it, he said.
He hopes to find a freight railroad that will bring it to Portland in the spring.
Second is finding a permanent home. A potential recipient of the locomotive, the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, is struggling to find a location where it could move a World War II-era roundhouse that in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
We want to save the building, but were pretty sure it wont be here, said Dave E. Brown, treasurer and founding member of the rail foundation.
Brown said the land is more valuable to its owner, Union Pacific, for non-railroad uses. He also said TriMet, which houses its operations headquarters nearby, has expressed interest in expanding into the old rail and roundhouse site.
Saving the old roundhouse would not be difficult, Brown said. Its bolted timber frame and corrugated aluminum siding easily could be dismantled and reassembled at another site.
This is the Simon Benson House of the railroad world, he said, comparing the roundhouse to a historic Portland residence that was moved in 2000 to the Portland State University campus but finding a site for the roundhouse isnt simple. Brown said it needs to be within Portland to accommodate the city-owned steam locomotives. It also needs to be accessible to rail lines.
The roundhouse is home to three vintage steam locomotives owned by the city, including the Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449 that pulled the Freedom Train as part of the nations 1976 Bicentennial.
Rail buffs dream of an easily accessible public museum where visitors could see and hear vintage equipment in operating condition. The proposed museum also would offer excursions.
Static displays are like a car without an engine, said Fussell. Would you rather look at a beautiful 1940s car or would you like to be able to hear its engine as if it were driving down the road?
Brown said the heritage foundation is making the rounds with city agencies and has hired a consultant to help, but there is no firm timeline for moving the roundhouse or opening the museum.
The cheap and reliable semiconductor lasers critical to DVD players, bar code readers and scores of other devices owe their existence in some small way to the demanding workload thrust upon downstate Illinois railroad crews decades ago.
Nick Holonyak Jr., a professor at the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, has, for 50 years, pioneered discoveries in optoelectronics but he might just as well have chosen less theoretical, more physical work.
The son of Slavic immigrants who settled in southern Illinois coal country, Holonyak knew that if he didnt bring home top grades from school he would have to answer to his fathers anger. He might have become a well-schooled laborer had things worked out differently.
In the summer of 1946, young Nick, then a gandy dancer, was sweating with a railroad crew to replace track between St. Louis and Chicago that had been washed out by floods. He recalls working up to 30 hours straight to finish the work.
Your relatives brought you food as you worked, he recalled. If they didnt bring it, you didnt eat. I thought to myself then, I didnt want to do this for the rest of my life.
Holonyak made his way to Urbana, where he eventually met John Bardeen, the genius who won two Nobel prizes, one for discovering the transistor and the other for devising a theory describing how material can lose electrical resistance. Holonyak became Bardeens first doctoral student.
Later this year, Holonyak will receive the Medal of Honor from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the groups highest award. The award recognizes Holonyaks leading role in inventing practical light-emitting diodes, semiconductor lasers and even the common household light-dimmer.
Metros missing Georgetown link
The most obvious gap in Washingtons 103-mile Metrorail network even more egregious than the failure to include a spur to Dulles airport when the original system was under construction was the failure to include Georgetown.
Perhaps more than any other part of Washington, Georgetown was built to accommodate mass transit, i.e., the streetcar of that era. It is a neighborhood that is about as densely populated, both commercially and residentially, as any in the city, or indeed in the entire Washington area.
Yet it remains a neighborhood that the rail system avoids. The Nearest stop is Foggy Bottom. From there, you can walk it on a nice day or spring for a cab.
It has been alleged (and also denied) that a good part of the responsibility for that disconnect can be traced to the NIMBYs fearing Metrorail would bring in the riff-raff. Never mind that the idea of a burglar stealing a TV set is going to carrying it away on the Orange Line is absurd.
Then there are those who will say the decisive factor in keeping Metrorail out of Georgetown springs from engineering difficulties encountered by the planners.
That may have played a part, but engineering problems occurred elsewhere in building Washingtons subway network, and somehow they were overcome. As per the old saying, where theres a will, a way cannot be far behind.
Jack Eisen, longtime former transportation writer for the Washington Post, once told me it was a close call as to which of the above hindrances played a dominant role in the upside down logic of keeping the multibillion dollar subway system out of the most transit-oriented location in town.
The situation has become so obviously bad that some businesses in Georgetown have taken matters into their own hands and have provided a makeshift bus service to fill the crying need.
To quote the Post for January 19:
Every 10 minutes, a blue bus pulls up to the curb just south of the 19th Street NW entrance to the Dupont circle Metro station [on the Red Line]. Passengers file off, and a new group steps aboard for the quick ride to Georgetown and Rosslyn. It keeps that schedule most hours of the day and night, all week long.
Right away, note two things this service offers that Metrobus usually does not.
First, every ten minutes, frequency comparable to much of the Metrorail service: None of this rush hour only or every hour or every half hour nonsense that reduces bus patronage to those who do not have access to an automobile. If mass transit is to be effective, Rule No. 1 is that it must be frequent.
Also, it must be present most hours of the day and night. It is a so basic notion that if one ventures out in one direction from home or office by transit, he will require wheels for the return trip. It is not rocket science to anyone except Metro managers who try to squeeze a dollar fifty times over to make it fit a bus schedule.
There were many reasons why the private partnership of Georgetown businesses started up the service, but they come down to one thing: Metro was doing a lousy job of serving the community.
How can you get the many restaurant workers there when they cant afford the parking fees, and the Metrobus may get them there in rush hour, but cant get them back home if they have to get there late at night when buses either stop running or in the middle of the day when theyre on long headways?
Many people would like to go to Georgetown to take in one of its fine restaurants or its night life, but taking the car into that densely populated neighborhood is on a par with walking round with a bear trap clinging to your leg. What do you do with the damn thing? How do you handle what is supposed to be a convenience but in certain situations becomes a cumbersome nuisance?
We used the Blue Bus for a Georgetown appointment Saturday, January 25. For just 25 cents plus our Metrorail transfer, we got to our destination without the inconvenience of Metrobuss weekend schedule or the expense of taking a cab or the bear trap. The return trip to the Dupont circle Metro is 50 cents.
A second Blue Bus route operates from the Foggy Bottom station on the Blue/Orange line, up K Street, then onto Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, terminating at R Street NW.
Light rail service to Georgetown has been kicked around on the drawing boards for some time, but you and I will probably be dead by the time anything comes of it.
Alas, at some point, the private partnership that runs the Blue Georgetown Bus service will run up against the intractable fact that mass transit loses money, even while skimming the cream to provide an extremely popular service that had expected 800 daily riders but has instead attracted about 4,000. The operation will continue at least for three to five years. At that time the partners could turn this over to a public agency [if] they could maintain the same level of service, says Ken Gray, executive director of the Georgetown partnership.
Dont hold your breath on that one. Dan Tangeherlini, D.C.s transportation director, said the Georgetown model is the direction we need to go. Hes about 40 years late, but as they say, Hope springs eternal.
Based on WMATAs track record of leaving gaps in service that is required to take people where they want to go, I will believe it when I see it.
Two small errors in your January 27 issue.
First, in the Legal Lines section concerning the weight of rail, the story states, Even though Amtrak began operating the Downeaster between Bostons North Station and Portland, Me., more than one year ago, passenger train speeds have remained a sticking point. Amtrak argues 112-pound rail which Maine paid for and Guilford installed is sufficient to run its trains at 79 mph over the rehabilitated track, while Guilford has argued 132-pound rail is required to operate at that speed. [See our update in this edition under the headline, 79 is fine in Maine again Ed.]
All other discussion I have seen on this matter referred to the rail actually installed as 115-pound rail. I would believe that 115 pounds is correct since the 115RE section is among the current American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Assn. (AREMA) recommended sections. (See Volume 1; Chapter 4, Rail; Part 1, Design; Section 1.1, Recommended Rail Sections.)
The 115RE section was adopted in 1947 as a successor to the 112RE section. Even though the 112RE section continued to be produced in declining volumes for a number of years after 1947, to the best of my knowledge the last year any 112RE was rolled was in 1973. Conversely, 115RE remains in production in significant quantities. There are however, many miles of 112RE remaining in light density track, even some operated at high speeds, due to the longevity of rail.
As for the basic decision itself to install 115RE instead of a heavier section, my mind boggles. It is hard to think of a more polite reaction than dumb or monumentally shortsighted. In the current day, 115RE is lightest recommended section. Its primary usage is in medium to light density railways where new rail is used at all and in transit systems where no heavy axle loads operate. Actually, given that purchases of new 132RE have declined drastically in recent years as virtually all railroads in North America (except UP) have gone to 136RE as their primary section due to its larger head and better crown profile, the section of choice for this line should have been 136RE.
Since there is virtually no difference in cost of installation, the increase in cost for going to a heavier rail section is almost entirely the cost of steel. At the current rail price in the range of $500 to $600 per ton, use of the heavier section would cost only about $1,600,000 for 136RE or $1,280,000 for 132RE. To that would need to be added about $50,000 to cover the difference in cost for larger tie plates.
The cost of litigation, not to mention the loss of revenue due to a slower speed train has probably exceeded this difference. Notice, this is $1,600,000 for the entire 78 miles, or only $20,000 per mile.
While 79 mph service can be and is operated on 115RE or even 112RE rail, to use this to justify installing it for a new service is the same as justifying use of 10 foot wide highway lanes in a new highway on the basis that highways have been built in the past with 10-foot wide lanes and that there are still roads out there in service with 10-foot lanes. You could never sell that one. The standard lane width has been 12 feet for 50 years, and even though 10 feet works, 12 feet is functionally better and safer.
The same applies here. Yes, 115 RE works, but it is not the optimum fit for purpose.
The other error appears in Amtrak engineer sues trucker, CSX, Amtrak.
The story states, The truck was at a crossing on U.S. 17 near Interstate 95. This is incorrect.
In this location US 17 and I-95 are the same road. It is likely that the I-95 west frontage road was the pre-Interstate system U.S. 17. The crossing was on an unpaved road that shows on the topographic map (on topozone.com) as a double-dash line from the I 95 frontage road up to about one-tenth mile short of the railroad and then as a single dashed line from that point to its end about one-half mile west for the railroad. No houses are shown west of the railroad. The location is about three-quarters mile west of I-95 and U.S.17, which are closely parallel in this area. Other than when logging is being done, traffic on this road is probably near zero.
The railroad at this location is straight, and is the very heavily traveled, high speed and virtually dead level former Atlantic Coast Line main.
The following information and statements are from the Savannah Morning News, found on www.savannahnow.com.
(McKinney was the driver of the log truck. Visibility along the railroad was probably over a mile in either direction. Coosawhatchie is about 15 miles north of Savannah. The crossing was on Gilmania Road. It is north of Coosawhatchie S.C. Highway Patrol spokesman Cpl. Chuck Wise said visibility in both directions at the crossing which is marked only by a bullet-riddled white X bearing the words Railroad Crossing was good.
I cant tell you what (McKinney) was possibly doing, but from the point of impact, there was three-fourths of a mile of visibility down the track, Wise said.
Nearly all of the passengers interviewed estimated the trains speed at between 40 and 50 mph. Police later said the train was going 79 mph.
George H. Harris
Reader Harrison is correct. Amtrak installed 115-pound rail. He writes he is an alignment and track engineer working on the Taiwan High-Speed Railway, and has been in the Far East for the last 12 years. Originally, he is from the Memphis, Tenn., area. Ed.
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