In this edition...
Building Inter-Modal Metropolitan Rail Corridors: A Public Policy Forum
Attention DF Readers and NCI Members:
Registration for February 21, U of Delaware / NCI Conference
The University of Delaware February 21 Conference Building Inter-Modal Metropolitan Rail Corridors: A Public Policy Forum featuring former Amtrak CEO David Gunn is designed for the leadership of and active participants in the American transportation debate, and is by invitation. If your work puts you in this category, and you wish to be a part of this conference, email NCI President & CEO Jim RePass (firstname.lastname@example.org) , to obtain registration information. There is no charge for registration.
Presenters at the conference will be (so far) David Gunn; Jim RePass; Jerome R. Lewis, Director, Institute for Public Administration; Beth Osborne, Office of U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE); Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Department of Economics and Geography, Hofstra University; Bruce Agnew, Cascadia Center, Seattle; Howard Learner, Environment Law & Policy Center, Chicago; Eugene Skoropowski, Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Sacramento, CA; Allison L.C. De Cerreno, Co-Director, Rudin Transportation Center, New York University; U.S. Congressman Michael Castle (DE) (INVITED).
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US lawmakers urge review of Dubai Ports deal
Dubai Ports World, an Arab Emirates-backed company, has been granted a $6.8 billion deal by British company P & O, to manage key ports in the U.S., including New York, Jew Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Miami.
U.S. lawmakers are concerned that a company linked to terrorist-based countries has been given such a large takeover, but analysts and port sources are less concerned, citing the multiple layers of screening and protection in global shipping.
The deal makes Dubai Ports World the worlds third largest ports group.
Outsourcing the operations of our largest ports to a country with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security and commerce accident waiting to happen, said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat.
U. S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, former chairman of the freight rail company, CSX Corporation, which sold its port assets to Dubai in 2004, examined the transaction and was not concerned. Another top-level official in the Department of Homeland Security, Stewart Baker, expressed his confidence that Dubai has a solid security record.
We could not find anything concrete that led us to believe that the transaction ought to be stopped for national security reasons, Baker told Reuters.
Congress members are not satisfied. Money for the September 11 attacks was wired through the UAE banking system and two of the September 11 terrorists were UAE citizens. Seven lawmakers have signed a letter written to Snow expressing concern that the Bush administration was not giving the case appropriate attention and urging him to make the Committee on Foreign Investments undertake a full 45-day investigation.
The executive director of the Port of Baltimore, Brooks Royster, is not concerned. These are businessmen. Theyre not here to insert terrorists into the country. Theyre about making a profit on their investment.
The price of Amtraks discounted Smart Pass tickets is going up ten percent today.
Amtrak says about two thousand Smart Pass customers will be affected in the Northeast Corridor -- mostly between Pennsylvania and New York. The tickets are good for unlimited travel on designated Amtrak trains for a full month.
The monthly commuter passes had been discounted by 60 percent, but that discount is being adjusted to 50 percent. Its the second fare increase since the fall when the tickets were discounted by 70 percent.
Amtrak says the increased fare is to cover rising expenses, including the cost of fuel.
BlastGard International awarded contract
to install blast mitigating trash receptacles
Amtrak Taps BlastGard, Producer of The Worlds First Trash Receptacle That Captures All Fragmentation, Dramatically Reduces Blast Pressures and Quenches Fireballs, to Protect its Passengers
BlastGard International, Inc. (OTCBB:BLGA), the creator of blast-mitigation products and services, was awarded an $828,750 contract for its BlastGard MTR blast-mitigated trash receptacles from the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). The contract calls for delivery of more than 200 trash receptacles. BlastGard Models MTR 91 and MTR 101 blast-mitigated trash receptacles effectively deal with all the lethal threats of an improvised explosive device (IED).
Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 22,000-mile route system. Following a series of bombings in Spain in 2003 and recently (the attacks) in London, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has further heightened its security on public transportation systems, especially in and around major cities, said BlastGard CEO and Chairman Jim Gordon. The installation of these blast-mitigating trash receptacles is yet another example of Amtraks continual efforts to enhance the safety and security of the 25,000,000 people who travel on its rail service each year.
In fiscal year 2004, Amtrak served more than 25 million passengers, an all-time record. Each day, approximately 68,000 passengers travel on Amtrak. On weekdays, Amtrak operates up to 300 trains per day, excluding commuter trains Amtrak operates under contract. Amtrak operates over more than 22,000 route miles. It owns 650 route miles, primarily between Boston and Washington, DC, and in Michigan. In other parts of the country, Amtrak trains use tracks owned by freight railroads. Amtrak trains operate every minute of the entire year.
About BlastGard International, Inc.
BlastGard International, Inc. creates, designs, develops, manufactures and markets proprietary blast mitigation materials. The Companys patent-pending BlastWrap® technology effectively mitigates blast effects and suppresses post-blast fires. This unique technology can be used to create new, finished products or be used to retrofit to existing products. While the need for this technology has always been present, the security and safety concerns resulting from the September 11, 2001 acts and the subsequent development of Homeland Security make the timing of the Companys emergence even more important. The Companys core market focus is on blast effects mitigation for the commercial sector, military, law enforcement and government agencies. BlastWrap® is based upon well-defined principles and suppresses blast pressures by 50% or more. BlastWrap® products are made from two flexible films arranged one over the other and joined by a plurality of seams filled with attenuating filler material (volcanic glass bead or other suitable two-phase materials), configurable (designed for each application) with an extinguishing coating that offers a revolutionary blast protection system against Blast & Fire/burn threats. BlastWrap® is a blast mitigation assembly that can be wrapped around or conform to any shape. BlastWrap® is a concept (not a chemical compound) from which blast protection products are built to save lives and reduce damage to valuable assets from explosions. Additional information on BlastGard can be found at http://www.blastgardintl.com.
State Supreme Court decision lets property be taken for rail station
TACOMA, WA --- Sound Transit will be allowed to seize a Tacoma couples property to build a commuter rail station.
A state Supreme Court ruled that a government agency can seize private property by eminent domain for a public use. It said that it is a legislative judgment and can be overturned by the courts only if there is proof of fraud or if the government clearly ignores the law.
Sound Transit is taking the South Tacoma property as part of its effort to extend Sounder commuter train service south from Tacoma to Lakewood.
The owners of the property, Ken and Barbara Miller, protested that they had not heard about the seizure, but the court ruled that it only had to be announced on the a agencys web site. The court also ruled that a web site notice was adequate.
The Millers had been aware that theirs was one of the properties the state was considering for the rail station but argued that they should have been notified of the meeting where the selection was made.
They are insisting on trial by jury to decide the compensation they will receive for the property, which is about an acre in size and includes a vacant house.
Low-Car Diet participants getting around just fine
SAN DIEGO -- Fourteen San Diegans took up the challenge of giving up their personal automobiles for one month in exchange for 25 hours of free Flexcar use, a transit pass, two roundtrip Amtrak tickets to Los Angeles and free passes to Universal Studies. Two weeks into the experiment, the participants are finding out how relatively easy and pleasant it has been to get around, using a mix of bike, bus, feet and Flexcar.
This is the first-ever San Diego Low-Car Diet, sponsored by Flexcar, the U.S. car-sharing industry which has car-sharing services in seven large metropolitan areas around the country. If the participants complete the month without driving their own car, they will be awarded free hours of Flexcar use each month for a year. And if they decide to sell their own car and continue to use Flexcar, they will enjoy savings of up to several hundred dollars per month over owning a personal vehicle.
Two weeks after giving up their cars in a month-long challenge, 14 San Diegans are surprised at how relatively easy it has been. Using a mix of bus, feet, bike and Flexcar, the participants in the first-ever San Diego Low-Car Diet are still in the game.
Participants are keeping journals of their experiences, a number of excerpts of which are included below.
More information on the participants, including journal entries and biographies is available on the event website, www.lowcardietchallenge.com.
Flexcars innovative program provides its members with on-demand access to a fleet of low emission vehicles, including gas/electric hybrids, pickup trucks and minivans located throughout seven major metro areas, including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and Washington, D.C. It is the only carsharing service with operations throughout the state and up and down the West Coast. In San Diego, there are more than 20 cars, trucks and minivans located in Downtown and Sorrento Valley.
More information on Flexcar is available online at www.flexcar.com/sandiego or via phone at 619-262-FLEX (3539).
Flexcar founded the U.S. car-sharing industry and now operates car-sharing programs for about 35,000 members in seven metropolitan areas, covering 37 cities in 6 states and the District of Columbia. With flexible pricing plans, members can reserve and drive any of these cars whenever and wherever they need to, without filling out complicated paperwork, paying for insurance, gas or repairs. Flexcar Business Memberships enable companies to augment or replace their fleet with Flexcar vehicles. Flexcars fleet includes sedans, gas-electric hybrids, and specialty vehicles including pickups, AWD, minivans and convertibles. AOL Founder Steve Case and auto industry legend Lee Iacocca are board members and investors/owners of Flexcar.
New York State launches a Transit Clean Fuel Vehicle initiative
ALBANY, NY -- Through an innovative bond act approved by New York State voters in November, 2005, The Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act, $2.9 billion will be available for clean fuel transit vehicles. Last Wednesday, New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Thomas J. Madison, Jr. announced that public transportation agencies other than the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) may begin applying for this funding under the Transit Clean Fuel Vehicle Initiative.
Thanks to Governor Patakis leadership, we have been able to provide New Yorkers with a safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation system, Commissioner Madison said. Together, we will continue to improve the states transportation system with environmental enhancements that utilize the latest energy technologies and continue our nationally recognized context sensitive design program.
Approximately $20 million in statewide transit capital grants will be available for the 2005-06 and 06-07 state fiscal years to help purchase clean-fueled hybrid-electric and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses. A remaining $30 million in funding will be made available at a rate of $10 million annually from state fiscal years 2007 through 2009.
Funding will help subsidize the costs associated with mainstreaming approximately 250 hybrid-electric buses into public transit fleets. The program also will continue to support the use of CNG with funding available to transit systems that have previously demonstrated a commitment to using CNG and have invested in facility and infrastructure modifications required to support CNG.
Eligible public transportation participants will receive program information, guidelines and applications via mail, or may contact the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Assistance Program Delivery Bureau at (518) 457-8343. Applications must be received by NYSDOT no later than April 17, 2006.
Approximately $40 million will be allocated for specific clean-fuel projects during the first four years of the Transit Clean Fuel Initiative. The remaining $10 million will be apportioned during the final year of the program on a needs-based formula that takes into consideration local air quality attainment designation, the portion of existing system fleet eligible for replacement, and the availability of base vehicle funding, which is the cost of a standard diesel vehicle.
More green thumbs sought to maintain new rail medians
SCITUATE, MA - The arrival of new MBTA commuter rail in Scituate Harbor this spring will bring more than trains and passengers to this shore line town, if the beautification commission has its way, according to an article in the Scituate Mariner. Attractive flowering beds and vegetation are planned for the new traffic islands and medians which will be added to the rail right of way in the downtown area. The purpose of the raised curb sections, ranging in length approaching the grade crossings, is to help slow traffic and keep cars in their lanes, according to MBTA Ombudsman Susan Phippen.
The commission already maintains more than 40 planted gardens, traffic islands and many of the colorful flower boxes outside businesses in Scituate Harbor and they say theyre going to need some new green thumbs to get the job done for the new landscaping plans.
Over time, the Beautification Commission will be asked to take on the upkeep and maintenance of the medians, which will be planted with perennials and are all part of the towns streetscapes project and Egypt neighborhood plans. All flowers and various vegetation are purchased locally and all planted areas are in place before Memorial Day.
Beautification commission member Melissa Boynton, said she takes pride in making Scituate a nicer place to live.
We all enjoy our work and feel blessed to have such loyal and dedicated volunteers, she said to the Mariner reporter.
Photo Left: Scituate Mariner
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CPR unveils new Royal Canadian Pacific
building on companys 125th Birthday
CALGARY - PRNewswire-FirstCall - On the same day Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) celebrated its 125th Birthday, the company unveiled plans for new offices for its world-renowned luxury rail service, the Royal Canadian Pacific.
Developed by Calgarys Centron Group of Companies, a new 9,000 square foot, two-story building is planned in the heart of downtown Calgary, at the corner of 9th Avenue and 1st Street SW, which will house the offices of all Royal Canadian Pacific operations. It is adjacent to the Centron Group of Companies redevelopment of the former post-office building.
It was on February 16th, 1881, CPR was incorporated. Since that time the company has played a key role in our nations growth and development, contributing to our local and national economies by moving goods and people important to Canada, said CPR President, Fred Green. The exciting move to new service offices with its unique design strengthens Royal Canadian Pacifics presence in Calgary as it provides an exciting physical anchor to promote our luxury rail service through the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
Our company views the redevelopment of this location as an opportunity to enhance the urban landscape and to build on the history of the city associated with Canadian Pacific Railway, said Cole Harris, President of the Centron Group of Companies, co-developer of the site with the Homburg Group. Our company recognized the importance of celebrating our heritage and combining it with the modern needs of businesses in of one of Canadas great cities.
CPR and the City of Calgary have grown up together with the rail company being an important part of our citys development, said Calgary-area Alderman Druh Farrell. CPRs announcement that it is locating its office for Royal Canadian Pacific in Calgary is extremely good news as it strengthens our citys reputation as a corporate centre and will dramatically add to Calgarys downtown landscape.
The location of Royal Canadian Pacifics new offices is across from the historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel and is joined to the existing Canadian Pacific Pavilion, home to Royal Canadian Pacifics fleet of luxury rail cars. Through the design work of Cohos Evamy - the lead architect and design firm - the inspiration for the headquarters is derived from an historic steel trestle bridge. The trestle sets up the primary public space - the Grand Foyer - which links directly to the existing CPR Pavilion. A highly transparent steel frame and glass wall provides a view through the Grand Foyer to a rusticated stone wall reflecting the solid character of the west wall of the Fairmont Palliser Hotel. Materials such as black plate steel, glass and stone are consistent with the existing train Pavilion, historic hotel and Grain Exchange building.
At an urban scale, the Royal Canadian Pacific offices make a number of gestures to the citys architectural presence. The building is set back from the street to the benefit of the pedestrian condition at the corner. A new large size, pedestal mounted public clock, based on the design of a Canadian Pacific railway clock located in Montreals Windsor Station, will mark the corner of 9th Avenue and 1st Street. In addition, stylized bronze railway artifacts will set into the adjacent sidewalk to be discovered as found objects.
Mr. Green noted that Royal Canadian Pacific is entering its sixth season of operation. Once again, the Royal Canadian Pacific will host its classic, all-inclusive luxury tours. The 2006 theme tours include the signature Royal Canadian Rockies Experience, featuring a 650-mile train trip amid the majestic Rocky Mountains, including stops in Banff and Lake Louise, and through the scenic Columbia River Valley. This years schedule also includes a special excursion from Calgary to Vancouver, from June 26-29 inclusive, celebrating the inauguration of Canadian Pacific Railways first transcontinental train, The Pacific Express, on June 28, 1886.
News from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit group based in lower Manhatten that advocates transportation reform in the greater New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metropolitan region
Connecticut Dems court road lobby
advocates and transportation reformers to embrace the Rell administration.
In response to Governor Rells recent $600 million plan to build two new mass transit projects, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail and the New Britain-Hartford busway, Democratic Speaker of the House James Amann called for implementation of the big $6-7 billion construction plan created by CTs Transportation Strategy Board in 2003. The Strategy Board plan was a more of everything list that did not make clear choices and included a heavy dose of road capacity expansion, including additional lanes for I-95, I-84, I-91 and completion of the big Route 7 road project in southwestern CT.
Amann said a higher gas tax and new tolls could pay for the plan, though Republicans called this unrealistic. Rells mass transit plan would be paid for with an increase in the petroleum gross receipts tax.
According to GlobeSt.com, an on-line real estate publication, Rell also plans to create a body to deal with coordinating transportation, housing, and jobs initiatives, called the Connecticut Research Institute. But it is unclear whether this new body will focus on transit-oriented growth.
The Democrats support of big highway plans appears to be an effort to win support of the construction and road lobby. They tout new and larger highways as job engines, but over the long term, the road projects will encourage more traffic and sprawl and even the most ambitious road projects have no serious chance of defeating the states widespread traffic congestion.
Its unclear if both major Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls share the lawmakers views. Stamford mayor Dannel Molloy spoke at a conference held by the Surface Transportation Policy Project in New Haven last week and said he would build all of the projects identified by the Strategy Board, including the new-alignment Route 11 extension and expansion of I-95 east of New Haven. New Haven mayor John DeStefano made less specific remarks, but spoke about how Connecticuts property tax system fuels sprawling strip mall and mcmansion construction, which aggravates traffic and degrades the sense of place in the states cities and towns.
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The Future of the Tappan Zee Bridge
WHITE PLAINS, NY - The future of the 50-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge has not yet been determined. Six proposals are being considered. They range from leaving the span in place to building an eight-lane bridge with a rail line from Port Chester to Suffern. All four proposals that favor new construction call for a new eight-lane bridge with some form of public transportation, either a bus rapid-transit system, light rail or a commuter rail line. Bus-rapid transit would be the cheapest, at $5 billion to $6.5 billion, while commuter rail would cost the most, up to $14 billion.
Other suggested features include a new rail station near the existing seven-lane bridge, a higher-toll lane for drivers wishing to cross the bridge faster, and two lanes for high-occupancy vehicles like buses and car pools.
An environmental review is set to begin this year and will be overseen by Metro-North Railroad, the state Department of Transportation and the state Thruway Authority, which owns and maintains the bridge.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign wants Lower Hudson Valley residents involved in deciding the future of the Tappan Zee Bridge and feels that transit must be part of the solution for travelers, whether theyre headed to White Plains, Port Chester or Manhattan.
Jon Orcutt, the groups executive director, yesterday said mass transit options must take into account commuters who use Interstate 287 in Westchester, not just those heading to New York City.There are several travel markets at issue: Manhattan-bound and the east-west suburban travel, said Orcutt, who presented his agencys views to The Journal News last week. Metro-North is very oriented to the New York travel market. We know Metro-North is very predisposed to doing what they do, which is drive trains to Manhattan. Were very concerned about getting transit that actually addresses the congestion. People going to Manhattan are not clogging up the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Orangetown Supervisor Thom Kleiner, who has heard Tri-States presentation, said, I think that part of their message was we have to be sure that all transit options are considered and the one that makes most sense for the region is the one we advocate for. In Rockland, there are many, many people who have eagerly awaited a one-seat ride to Manhattan, but what (Orcutt) is saying is we also have to focus on the east-west implications.
Seventy percent of the traffic across the Tappan Zee Bridge is headed to work in the suburbs, according to studies done in the bridge planning process. Orcutt said he wanted to ensure Metro-North did not push a solution based on its market concerns.
Metro-North is interested in a regional solution to the traffic problem and moving people where they want to go, railroad spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. Many of the people in Orange and Rockland are interested in going to Manhattan, but there are trans-corridor options that are going to be studied. We are not predisposed to any option.
Although Tri-State hasnt selected an option, Orcutt said it was leaning toward bus-rapid transit.
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Store trip turns deadly for Summers County man
SUMMERS COUNTY, W. VA - An elderly man, driving back from picking up his newspaper Thursday morning, was hit by an Amtrak train at the grade crossing in Sandstone. Summers County Sheriff Garry Wheeler said the gates were down and the warning lights were flashing. But a CSX train was parked off to the right of the driver, and the sheriff assumed that the victim thought the gates were down for the parked train so he drove around the gate onto the tracks.
The Amtrak train, coming from the left, hit the car instantly. The train was going about60-miles an hour. It carried his car between a quarter of a mile to a half mile down the tracks before finally coming to a stop.
The train was just right there. It mean, it was right on him. I mean, the train didnt havetime to react or nothing. I mean, he just pulled out in front of it so fast that, it just, it smashed his car. I mean, everything just went up in the air, said Reba Grimmett, an eyewitness.
No one on the train was injured.
Train hits propane truck; homes evacuated
WAYCROSS, GA - A CSX train struck a propane truck at a railroad crossing in Waycross, Georgia, Wednesday morning, prompting evacuations of about 50 homes around the crash.
Steve Kiser of Ware County Emergency Management said the accident occurred in the Jamestown community in northwest Waycross just before 10:30 a.m.
Neither the truck driver or CSX engineer was hurt.
The truck was loaded with 2,000 gallons of propane which meant that firefighters were forced to vent fumes in preparation for transferring the propane.
All homes within one and a half miles of the crash were evacuated for at least twelve hours.
Hazardous materials teams from both CSX and the Department of Homeland Defense were on the scene.
Their plan is to do whats called a burn-off -- to burn the actual vapor -- and then transfer whats left of the liquid propane to another propane truck, Kiser told Channel 4s Dan Leveton. Liquid propane will expand about 270 times its normal size if ignited, so an explosion, obviously, was the biggest concern.
Jurors award $1.86M in 2002 Canadian Pacific derailment
The case against Canadian Pacific Railway has been decided by a jury. The railroad must pay four people nearly $1.86 million for injuries they suffered as a result of a 2002 derailment near Minot, N.D., that spilled a cloud of anhydrous ammonia, a jury decided Wednesday.
The railroad had admitted fault so it was the jurys job to decide how much money the plaintiffs would receive.
The derailment caused five tank cars to rupture, releasing almost 221,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia, a common farm fertilizer. One man was killed and hundreds injured from the toxic cloud that hung over the city. Victims suffered burns, breathing problems, dry eyes, post traumatic stress disorder and other emotional problems.
Awards ranged from $938,482 to about $168,000 depending on the extent of the injuries and future wages lost.
The trial was held in Minneapolis, where Canadian Pacific Railway has its U.S. headquarters. The railroad is based in Calgary, Alberta.
Jurors began deliberations Monday morning and reached their decision around midday Wednesday. The trial lasted about three weeks.
Metropolitan Transit Authority might have
an answer to crowded subway platforms
New York- February 15-- Worried about standing shoulder to shoulder on a crowded subway platform? The MTA is taking steps to control those crowds.
The transit authority is planning to put about 100 workers known as platform conductors on the job.
They are targeting some of the citys most crowded stations. New station conductors are expected to help riders in the event of any emergency.
The price tag for the program, nearly seven million dollars.
MassBike victory! Indoor bike racks
restored at Back Bay station
BOSTON - In late 2001, the well-located and heavily-utilized indoor bike racks at the Back Bay T station were removed, with the MBTA citing security concerns. Cyclists were left to park outside, without weather protection and with fewer eyes ensuring the safety of their bicycles. MassBike has aggressively stayed on top of the issue, and continued to work with the MBTA.
Last month, the agency installed two indoor bike racks. We commend General Manager Dan Grabauskas for his assistance in this matter and his recognition that indoor bike racks belong at the Back Bay T stop. Steps like these help ensure that the MBTA is accessible to bicyclists and all users.
Living in Maine, working in Boston
Seven years ago Bob Rasche wanted to retire to Maine, but he didnt want to give up his job at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the meantime. He and his wife built their dream home in Wells, and Rasche tried driving the seventy-seven miles to Cambridge every day. Then he rode a bus from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a while. In 2002 he boarded the Downeaster, the passenger train that connects southern Maine and Boston. Hes been traveling the train ever since.
I find the Downeaster just about ideal for me, Rasche explains. I board at Wells, go to the café car and buy my breakfast, take it back to my seat, and plug my laptop into the electrical outlet below the window. With Mozart on his headphones and work involving high-performance instruments and optics for satellites on his computer, Rasche says the two-hour ride into Bostons North Station passes almost too quickly.
NCI Photo: Leo KingThe Downeaster train sets are led by a P42 class engine on their Maine-bound trips.
Rasche, 71, is one of a small but growing number of southern Maine residents who find that they can enjoy life at or near retirement age in Maine while keeping in touch with their former lives and jobs in the Boston area. The train offers a new form of empowerment, observes Cape Porpoise resident Bill Lord, who commutes to his teaching job at Boston University three days a week on the Downeaster. I can live in Maine where I want to live and work in Boston. I would get very tired very quickly of driving back and forth or taking the bus.
If the numbers are any indication, more people than ever are discovering the trains convenience, particularly within the past year. Ridership has been phenomenal, notes Patricia Douglas, who became executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in September after serving as marketing and public relations director. July through October ridership in 2005 was 114,000 people, 30 percent higher than the same period in 2004. It has even been higher than it was in 2002, the first year of operation, and people told me when I took this job that we would never break those figures.
About a third of those riders get on and off in New Hampshire, a fact that persuaded Granite State officials, long skeptical of the trains usefulness, to allocate $1.6 million for a side track near Dover, New Hampshire, that will allow the Downeaster to add a fifth daily trip. Settlement of a longstanding dispute with a New Hampshire bus service owner also helped, and the two transportation systems now have an agreement that allows bus and train riders to buy dual-use tickets.
Rasche says hes typical of a growing number of highly skilled professionals who can enjoy life in Maine while staying in touch with their offices in the Boston or Route 128 area. Theres a woman who works in information technology at Northeastern University, he explains. Theres a gentleman who uses his laptop and headphones to compose music for a boys choir on his way to a job as a business analyst. Another man is a programmer. All sorts of people.
Like Rasche, Bill Lord has ridden the Downeaster since service began in 2002. Before that, he rented an apartment in Boston and came up to Maine on weekends. I saved $20,000 a year by not living in Boston, he points out. Sure, I spend up to six hours commuting door-to-door some days, but those hours on the Downeaster are very productive. I can correct papers, read, chat with other riders.
Ridership in September spiked 48 percent over the previous year. Lord credits soaring gasoline prices for the rise. Many people didnt realize the Downeaster was here until they needed it, he observes. They were stuck in a rut driving to Boston every day.
Train riders dont fall into any particular demographic, although Rasche notes that the regulars at the station in Wells tend to be professionals in their fifties and sixties. The New Hampshire stops attract a large following of students going to and from Exeter Academy or the University of New Hampshire, as well as young professionals who have moved to southern New Hampshire specifically because they can commute to work in Boston on the Downeaster.
Rasche was able to use his experience on the Downeaster to negotiate flexible work hours with the observatory. These days he goes to Cambridge two days a week and works at home another two days. One of the effects of the train has been to whittle away at the resistance to flexible hours, he notes. Its certainly been important to my life. Id probably be a starving retiree now without the options the train provides. The Downeaster has made it possible for me to continue the work that I greatly enjoy.
NCI Stock Photo: © Alexander Svirsky, http://massroads.comSeen passing through Lawrence, Ma., the Downeaster is returning from Maine. It is led on the return trip by a Cabbage car, a control cab-baggage car created by rebuilding an F40 class engine body - engine removed.
Lord notes that riding the train is no longer a novelty. Its gone from Wow, isnt this great to Oh, Im on the train again, he says. Thats an important distinction to his mind, because it says that the trains current popularity lies more in its usefulness than its novelty. People know its dependable transportation, he remarks.
The Downeaster has routinely ranked second in Amtraks annual national survey of customer satisfaction, but in 2005 the route came in first. The Downeaster really seems to have come into its own in developing a loyal following of regular riders, as well as people who use it for occasional daytrips, the rail authoritys Douglas adds. What weve found is that people try the Downeaster and once they try it they keep using it.
Although no one has tried to measure the trains impact on southern Maine, I think it has had a huge effect, Rasche says. Bill Lord and I are only two good examples. We both earn reasonably good incomes, and were plowing that back into the Maine economy. The train allows people to live in Maine and follow their interests in Maine and yet bring back the effects of good jobs from the Boston area. Its attracting the kind of people who make a real difference in the places they live.
The Downeaster makes it possible to have a life in Maine and a job in Boston, Rasche concludes. Its hard to get any better than that.
- Copyright © 2000-2005 Down East Enterprise, Inc.
- All rights reserved.
Sound Transits Light Rail gaining momentum
SEATTLE - Hundreds of construction workers outside Union Station are a sure sign that progress on the Central Link Light Rail line is now real. The support structures are up, and the rails are being laid.
Weve been talking about this for a long. long time, says Rick Ilgenfritz, communications director for Sound Transit. Its finally real.
Light rail brought Sound Transit to the brink just a few years ago, with critics crying foul over lack of planning and overspending. New leadership was brought in, and today, the agency boasts its on a winning track, writes Brian Calvert for KOMO News.
Were a little more than 40 percent complete, says Sound Transits Lee Somerstein, who arrived as the agency was faltering. We are where we are because of the difficult times this agency went through.
The initial line will cost just under $3 billion. The core is being built, and now Sound Transit is considering future needs.
Phase 2 may include light rail across the I-90 floating bridge, connecting the Eastside to the line. It may also include light rail projects in Everett, and an extension to the Central line from downtown Seattle to Northgate.
For these plans, Sound Transit will once again go to the voters.
The main lesson weve learned is to make sure were delivering what we promise, Ilgenfritz says. His proof theyre on the right track? The agency has helped build new left exits to bigger park-and-ride lots, put more busses on the roads with fewer stops, and will have light rail trains beginning service in 2009.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||80.35||77.14|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||49.90||49.80|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||44.07||39.29|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||24.38||25.77|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||16.05||15.30|
We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, wed like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at email@example.com. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCIs webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.
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Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King and other photo journalists should contact our email@example.com for additional information.
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 transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives state DOTs, legislators, governors offices, and transportation professionals as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our firstname.lastname@example.org.
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