In this edition...
Two photos Amtrak InkAfter applying the logo carrying the fleet colors to Superliner II sleeping car 32090, carman Steve Anderson (left) and lead carman David Riordan remove the application tape from the decal.
Beech Grove blasts rainbow fleet
A $250,000 investment in Amtraks Beech Grove, Ind., heavy repair shop has made a world of difference as the facility standardizes the outside appearance of Amtraks 432-car Superliner fleet. Railroaders installed the new tool a water blaster eliminating the previously laborious and cumbersome task of removing Superliner decals and striping by hand.
While the new livery, the graphics, were applied to 15 Superliner cars that were wreck-repaired, Beech Grove employees now have the tools they need to effectively carry out the job, according to a story appearing in the February Amtrak Ink, a publication for employees.
Now, as cars cycle through Beech Grove for scheduled overhaul and remanufacture visits, the standardization process will be done more quickly.
The changes to the exterior and our continuing efforts to redesign the interior reflect Amtraks commitment to modernizing the entire fleet of Superliner equipment, said Beech Grove Superintendent Lew Wood.
The updated look is a product of Amtraks industrial designers who developed the new exterior design. It is part of the railroads Phase 6 livery project, completed at the end of September 2001.
Lead carman David Riordan cuts an Amtrak logo, produced at the Beech Grove Decal Shop, for the newest Superliner design.
The candy stripe appearance is part of a Superliner decal package that consists of an Amtrak-blue vinyl band below a double red and white reflective stripe, manufactured by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (3M) that extends the length of the car. The package for each car also includes reflective decals produced at Beech Grove, as well as Amtrak logos and signage for use on coaches and business-class cars.
Meanwhile, with the right tools available at the Bear Car Shops in Delaware, standardizing Amfleet cars has proceeded more quickly. Since 1985, Bear employees used a walnut blaster which shoots powerful streams of crushed walnut shells inside the facilitys grit blast room to remove the striping and decals on Amfleet cars. As a result, Amfleet cars do not have the many layers of adhesive-backed striping that have built up on the Superliners.
Between August 2002 and January 2004, the new livery was applied to 342 Amfleet I and 106 Amfleet II cars during overhaul, remanufacture, and preventive maintenance visits at the Delaware facility.
The Beech Grove water blaster removes the old design during the car wash process by shooting sharp streams of water at the force of several thousand pounds per inch.
With the water blaster, weve reduced the time it takes to apply the new livery from eight to four hours per car, said Lead Carman David Riordan.
Once the clean car arrives from the wash, employees apply the new Phase 6 Livery by stroking it up and down with a four-inch squeegee until the entire design is smoothly applied.
Applying each section of the stripe to the car by hand is like hanging a 12-foot long and 24-inch high sheet of wallpaper sideways, added Riordan.
Once the stripe is in place, employees affix approximately 75 decals all manufactured at Beech Grove at a cost 80-percent less than the vendors decals.
Created using a software program, the decals are sent to a machine called a plotter that cuts and prints the material to size. The Phase 6 Superliner Sleeping car decal package costs approximately $25 to make in-house while the vendor cost for the identical package is $145. Beech Groves FY 03 production of decals, including those made of magnetic materials, static window cling, glow-in-the dark vinyl, and contravision, material that has the appearance of a tinted window, saved Amtrak $124,000.
Since Amtrak began using adhesive-backed vinyl striping and decals in the mid-1970s, changing the look of the equipment has been a long and awkward process. In an effort to standardize the look of Amtraks first trains known as the rainbow trains, acquired from different railroads in 1971, the first livery was applied, with red, white and blue painted stripes and an arrow at each end.
In 1975, when Amtrak bought the Beech Grove facility, they changed to an adhesive-backed reflective stripe. From then until the mid-1990s, each time new striping was needed, three employees wearing rubber gloves, paper suits, and respirators to mask the strong ammonia smell, worked eight hours to remove the old vinyl with paint stripper and a putty knife.
Using paint stripper was discontinued in 1996, when it was determined to be an unacceptably hazardous material. Since paint remover could no longer be used, the new design was applied on top of the old.
Over the years, Beech Grove employees have tried a number of methods of removing the vinyl stripes. One paint stripper removed the vinyl, but not the glue; another biodegradable paint remover, while safe to use, was not effective. A sand blaster, which is a hose that shoots strong streams of sand, damaged the windows and would not remove the glue. A walnut blaster, while used successfully to remove a single stripe on the Amfleet cars, was also ineffective at removing the layers of film on the Superliners. Employees then resorted to scraping the stripe off with a razor, removing the glue with a chemical, and applying the new striping and decals all of which took 72 hours per car.
Unfortunately, many of these methods didnt work because the adhesive backing, manufactured to be strong enough to remain intact for seven years, was almost impossible to remove, explained Foreman Jim Allison.
Amtrak Ink person in Chicago, Sharon Slaton, wrote the original story, with contributions from Dave Riordan. Ed.
The National League of Cities (NLC) says it will call attention to the importance of strong cities for a strong America at its annual Congressional City Conference March 7-9 at the Hilton Washington and Towers in Washington, D.C., including having a strong Amtrak.
More than 3,000 delegates representing the nations cities and towns will attend workshops and encourage Congress and the administration to partner with local governments in several areas including homeland security, public safety and jobs. Early meetings begin March 5 and end March 9, City Lobby Day, when delegates go to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress.
In a press release, MLC said will encourage the Congress and the Administration to Strengthen local economies and reduce congestion by increasing investment in and local control of regional highway and transit and by providing continued and adequate funding for Amtrak.
The group is also urging plans in many other areas, including supporting local homeland security through continued strong support for all first responders including direct funding to cities and regions with populations greater than 100,000 and to high-threat communities.
House Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and long-time Amtrak foe Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), is holding firm against proposals to beef up Amtrak funding to $1.8 billion, doubling the administrations request of $900 million.
In a Dear Colleague message to members who signed a letter last year advocating the higher number, Istook said he would not support funding Amtrak above $900 million, Congress Daily wrote on February 20.
Last year Amtrak claimed it would shut down if it didnt get $1.8 billion. They didnt get it, and they didnt shut down either. This year they are repeating the same claim, and it has the same level of credibility, Istook wrote.
Amtrak eventually received $1.22 billion for fiscal 2004.
Every dollar for Amtrak is a dollar less for other transportation funding, including projects in your state and your district, he continued, adding that last years amount forced cutbacks in funds to airport and highway projects.
He also informed colleagues they can submit no more than eight projects for consideration in the fiscal year 2005 spending bill, and the requests are due in writing by close of business March 19.
Because of the high volume and complexity of projects under the subcommittees jurisdiction, the subcommittee will only be able to track your top eight priority projects bill-wide, Istook wrote in another Dear Colleague letter recently.
Istook said he is doing away with the tradition of taking testimony from members on their project requests due to time constraints, although he will allow statements to be submitted for the record of no more than five single-spaced, letter-size pages.
Amtrak launches Acela ad campaign
Seeking to build on sustained ridership growth in recent months, Amtrak has launched a buy-two-get-one-free offer for Acela Express and Metroliners, and unveiled a fresh advertising campaign to promote it.
The offer is simple, writes Amtrak in a press release.
Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) members who sign up for the promotion and take two qualifying roundtrips on Acela Express or Metroliner trains between February 15 and April 15 will receive a future roundtrip on Acela Express for free. Roundtrips that qualify are those taken between Washington and New York; Boston and New York; Philadelphia and Boston; and Washington and Boston.
The carrier said free travel certificates are valid for redemption June 15 through August 31, 2004, and can even be transferred to friends, family members or anyone else.
There is no limit on the number of free certificates that may be earned through the promotion. While earning free roundtrips, members will continue to accrue 500 points (each way) for business class travel or 750 points in first class.
If all goes well, according to Lyons, N.Y. officials, local residents will be able to ride Amtrak from Lyons to Rochester, hopping on the Fast Ferry a boat and arrive in Toronto a few hours later.
That picture is slowly coming into focus as Wayne County officials vigorously push for a $1.8 million Amtrak station in downtown Lyons to connect the Finger Lakes with an international audience.
Wayne County Planning Director Sharon Lilla said the service would allow for a true transportation experience unlike anything in the U.S., wrote the Finger Lakes Times last week.
This isnt just going from point A to point B. This is enjoying the entire experience from riding the Fast Ferry to taking the train through the wine country to exploring our wonderful lakes. We are so close to being able to offer that type of transportation.
During his three-hour Tourist Summit in late January, state Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio (R) heard about the positive impact the Fast Ferry would have for the Finger Lakes.
It makes all the sense in the world. With the addition of rail service in Lyons, this becomes The Finger Lakes meets the Great Lakes type of situation, said Nozzolio. There is great optimism about the possibilities.
The ferry holds more than 250 cars per trip and will take only 70 minutes to cross Lake Ontario, starting in May. Officials from the Canadian American Transportation Systems have already begun taking reservations.
Amtrak officials have asked Lilla to send plans for the station, which would be built near the Iroquois Hotel on Franklin Street, as soon as possible.
In my last communication on this issue, I was told that Amtrak would not build new stations unless there was no cost to them for building the station or maintaining it, said Lilla. We are fully prepared to do that, and we confirmed that with Amtrak. They said get the plans together and send them to us for review. We have momentum on our side, and we are very excited.
More than $1 million in state funds have been secured, largely through Nozzolios efforts; track evaluations, soil tests, a ridership survey and early design work have already been completed.
In July, the Bush administration proposed restructuring Amtrak, possibly reducing service across upstate New York. Lilla said both U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. James Walsh, R-25 of Syracuse, have commented that the Bush proposal wont see a vote in Congress, giving hope to the Lyons Amtrak project.
We werent going forward with this project until we knew that Amtrak wasnt going to be downsized upstate, said Lilla.
Lilla stressed that the station could create a tourism boom in the Finger Lakes.
The stretch between Syracuse and Rochester is the longest run on Amtraks East Coast service without a stop, and Lyons would provide a natural halfway point for tourists and travelers.
We have some of the most beautiful agricultural landscape in Wayne County, and the train station will allow for more people to experience it, she said. People want to come here because we have some great golf courses, skiing and shopping. Canadians are interested in those things. We just need to package it all together. We never really thought about the international aspect until the Fast Ferry came into the picture.
Lilla said officials estimate more than 34,000 passengers would take advantage of the stop during its first stable operating year.
Nozzolio said the train station, along with the Fast Ferry, means an influx of money and possible business to the region.
Transportation always means jobs. Its a big component in economic development, said Nozzolio. This is exciting for me. Im looking forward to seeing this station come together in Lyons and link to existing rail lines in other areas. We are hopeful that the station will be built and a decision will be made in the not-too-distant future.
Tallahassee lobbyist Michael Harrell has been appointed to serve on the Florida High-Speed Rail Authority by Governor Jeb Bush.
Harrell will fill out the term of former Authority Member Heidi Eddins who left the authority to serve on the Florida Transportation Commission at the request of Governor Jeb Bush (R). The term runs through June 2005, reports The Florida Bullet Train, and online proactive organization.
According to the 2003 Florida Lobbyist Directory, Harrell represents several well-known businesses including Walt Disney World Co., Electronic Data Systems Corp. and the Gulfstream Park Racing Assn.
When people consider taking a trip on the Alaska Railroad, chances are they envision a relaxing but sedentary experience settling back into a comfortable seat, gazing at spectacular scenery through big windows, maybe napping a bit or reading a book.
Unless its the ski train then you explore a remote part of Alaskas backcountry on skis, snowshoes or by snowboard, socialize with other passengers and perhaps even dance to a rollicking polka band on the way home in a hot, crowded railroad car.
The more adventurous version of a train ride, railroad officials have found, is what more visitors want when they come to Alaska. So far, the ski train isnt a tourist magnet, but the idea of getting people off rail cars and into the backcountry has proved increasingly popular.
As a result, the railroad has created several adventure-based tours and is planning more. Some include a train ride combined with a float trip among icebergs at Spencer Lake, a chartered fishing trip out of Seward, dog sleds in two locations and, starting this summer, Jeep tours into Denalis backcountry.
We think the market has become more adventurous, said Steve Silverstein, the railroads vice-president of market, sales and services. People like to get out and do things, the Anchorage Daily News told its readers on February 16.
Because the Railbelt veers off the road system for hundreds of miles, trains can easily and comfortably carry large numbers of people to remote wilderness locations that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to reach.
Last month, the railroad and the Chugach National Forest signed an agreement to explore the possibility of creating as many as six new stops between Girdwood and Moose Pass. Whistle-stop campgrounds in the Grandview area is an idea thats been around for years, but now the railroad and the national forest are saying theyll work toward making it a reality.
As outlined in a planning proposal that accompanied the agreement, new trails, several campgrounds, a few cabins and possibly even a lodge or two could be built along the new rail stops that stretch from Girdwood to Hunter near Moose Pass.
Both the U.S. Forest Service and the railroad believe that letting people off the train in a hard-to-reach corner of the forest would be popular.
Visitors might choose day trips in the area, said Chugach Forest Supervisor Joe Meade. Others could spend days or weeks backpacking through the rugged terrain, using the train to get in and out.
Anyone who has ridden the railroad along that stretch (from Portage through Grandview) just champs at the bit wishing they could get off and explore, said Susan Rutherford, a public service officer with forestry service.
Peoples eyes light up at the thought of being able to access that area.
The Forest Service likes the idea of putting new rail stops along that route because it would open a new part of the forest to recreation without building new roads. Spreading people into new areas might relieve congestion at popular recreation sites along the Seward and Sterling highways, Meade said.
The Chugach National Forest is roughly the size of New Hampshire, yet only a small portion of it sees visitors.
The infrastructure is already there along the rail belt, he said.
Its just untapped, he said.
The railroad likes the proposal because it might pull in new adventure-oriented customers. Established by the state as an independent company, the railroads mission is to make a profit, funneling the money back into improving infrastructure.
Freight is the railroads biggest moneymaker, Silverstein said, providing 75 percent of its revenue, but passenger service gets plenty of attention, and the company has placed a new emphasis on building that part of the business.
Scenic tours have been offered for some time, but the railroad is now working to find more passenger activities. Some of those involve outdoor adventures; others are just novel things to do.
The last couple of years, weve really tried to understand what people want, Silverstein said. Were doing a better job of providing offerings, and many of those are aimed at the local market.
Bombardiers JetTrain may drive
economy for the company, nation
It may not be faster than a speeding bullet, or even as swift as a plane ride, but Bombardiers Superman of trains could reshape how Canada views high-speed rail a traveling method designed to reduce trip times, digitize casual rides and rattle a few cages at the same time.
The yet-to-be-available JetTrain has a name as self-explanatory as The Beer Store. An engine used in turboprop planes designed by Montreal-based Bombardiers aerospace division, Pratt & Whitney, powers this steel-encased train. JetTrains speed can reach a maximum of 160 mph (260 km/h), reducing a Montreal-Toronto ride to three hours from four-and-a-half hours. It can even maintain its fast pace along curves, due to a high-tech tilting mechanism.
In North America, this is the first time this marriage has taken place, says Daniel Hubert, manager of advanced engineering for Montreal-based Bombardier. The groom is the jet technology, particularly the 5,000 hp that drives the JetTrain, compared to a conventional trains 4,000 hp, wrote DigitalJournal.com reporter David Silverberg on February 21.
The bride is the 69-foot-long locomotive car body, built lighter than its predecessors. Inside the sleek red-and-white casing, all the required amenities complement the luxury ride: Climate control, increased legroom, individual power outlets and Wi-Fi access.
But for all the impressive specs touted by the worlds largest producer of high-speed trains, whats happening with all the old-school style rails? Even though the airplane industry nose-dived since September 11, 2001, traveling by train is not as practical in Canada as it is in Europe or Asia. VIA Rail, though, points to some optimistic numbers: In 2002, VIA transported four million passengers across the country, and high-speed rail, if implemented nationwide, could pluck 900,000 vehicles off the road each year.
JetTrain launched in October 2002, in conjunction with the USDOT, but Bombardier says the trains public presence depends on the feds. Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette recently injected $700 million into the rail industry (particularly VIA Rail) although an expansive high-speed plan could take years to finalize. To patient but ambitious heavyweights like Bombardier, high-speed is worth waiting for.
Its a complimentary mode of transportation, Hubert said.
It works with the convergence of air, and provides a solution to 400-mile corridors, he added.
In train-speak, corridors are those traffic-congested routes that stress out every driver and transport minister. For JetTrains purposes, the Quebec City-Windsor route is the Super Bowl of corridors, and JetTrains proponents support the cost-effectiveness of easing car traffic in this stuffed-like-sardines area.
Harry Gow, founding president of transport advocacy group Transport 2000, highlights a long-standing concern.
We have to unplug the plugged toilet that is [Torontos] Highway 401, he said, alluding to the highway where 400,000 vehicles pass through daily. He said high-speed rail has been effective in the Boston-Washington corridor where Bombardier electric engine fleets already shuttle passengers at blazing speeds
Terrorists arent going to hijack trains and plow them into buildings, Gow added, without prompting.
High-speed supporters must have grinned ear-to-ear when a 2002 Ipsos-Reid poll revealed that 95 per cent of Canadians agree trains would decrease road congestion. The captain at Bombardiers helm is no stranger to tracks and tilting mechanisms. CEO Paul Tellier resurrected an underperforming Canadian National Ry. and turned it into a money train.
Tellier has stiff-armed doubts that Bombardier Inc. couldnt recover from a slump, and the transportation segment performed adequately. 2002 numbers reveal that it brought in close to one-third of the companys global revenue. Its 2001 acquisition of train-maker Adtranz excited investors and shaped the Canadian company into an even more intimidating behemoth. Partnerships with key players such as Toronto-based Go Transit and Deutsche Bahn AG are examples of Bombardiers moneymaking contracts. A recent $633-million order from Deutsche Bahn will introduce screens that inform passengers in real-time about stops and transfer points.
Bombardiers reach has touched almost every corner of the globe. More than half of its revenue is generated from the European rail market. China, a major purchaser, recently ordered 300 intercity passenger cars; and in June, Bombardier finalized a contract to supply Taiwan with a $729-million rapid transit system. Bread-and-butter work includes the five-year, $1.56-billion operating and maintenance deal signed with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. JetTrain is expected to make a global debut with Floridas high-speed rail line, which will link the 85-mile (137-kilometre) route from Tampa Bay to Orlando. Slated to open in 2009, the rail network promises (according to the website) to leave the gentlest footprint on precious ecosystems.
Bombardier has left a memorable footprint on the rail industry, with 32 manufacturing facilities across the world. Tellier is confident that customers will continue to gobble up the companys offerings, regardless of the economic climate. Last year, he pithily summed up his thoughts on Bombardier Transportations future.
This is almost underline almost recession-free, he said.
Bombardier business isnt all carefree and cozy. Last March, Tellier brought down the axe on 3,000 jobs, in response to dipping shares. In mid-August, Bombardier lost out to rival Siemens AG of Germany to build 168 coaches, a $444-million contract.
JetTrains introduction was soured when high-speed rail opponents called the project a genuinely terrible idea. Warren Everson of the Air Transport Assn. of Canada wrote in the Toronto Globe and Mail, The rule of thumb in transportation is this: The faster the trip, the more expensive it is. Would a high-speed train defy this conventional wisdom by providing rapid transit at a low cost?
Bombardiers Hubert countered by accepting only half of Eversons statement.
Sure, costs increase when speed does, but Canada needs a high-speed rail network, especially since cars are clogging highways. In the long run, well save money on all the gas saved. Airplanes will still be an option when someone has to travel from Toronto to Vancouver, for instance. But finger-waggers like Everson point out that when two technologies compete for the same market, one loses. He believes that airlines cant win against a government willing to use billions of tax dollars to seize the market, inevitably bullying planes out of those coveted corridors.
Politics and protest is par for the course when Tellier and his execs blueprint an expansive network like JetTrain high-speed rail. Its aerospace battles with aggressive rival Embraer (from Brazil) have taught the transport giant how to bare some fangs. When Tellier sold Bombardiers troubled recreational products division (Ski-Doos, ATVs and boating products) for $1.2 billion in late August, investors welcomed a restructuring plan that would reduce debt and take the heat off its marginal profits.
So, Bombardier Transportation is in an exclusive position to electrify the Canadian travel industry without electrifying its trains. JetTrains technology is eons away from what train pioneers must have envisioned when they laid down the last spike on the transcontinental railroad in 1885. Todays rail supporters hope to speak a new language in the coming years, when the words high-speed rail regularly descend onto newspapers and contracts.
Andre Navarri is the new president of Bombardier Transportation in Montreal, as of February 22.
Bombardier president and CEO Paul M. Tellier said Navarri brings to Bombardier a wealth of experience and achievements in the rail transportation industry.
He had been with the Alstom Group for 20 years, where he spent three years as president of the transportation division. By the end of the 1990s, he had led its business to the leading position in the sector. Following this, he was Chairman and CEO of Valeo SA, a large automotive component supplier. More recently he was operations president for at Alcatel.
NCI: Leo KingJacksonvilles Prime Osborn Convention Center may yet again become a railroad station and transit center. It was built in 1919 as a passenger terminal for the Atlantic Coast Line, Florida East Coast, Seaboard Air Line and Southern railways. Now, Northeast Florida residents are mulling over commuter rail ideas that would once again focus on the terminal.
Jacksonville starts commuter rail plans
Jacksonville, Fla., is on the cusp of writing commuter rail plans. The plans call for commuter trains to operate over CSX from Green Cove Springs, about 35 miles south of Jacksonville, to the largest city in Northeast Florida. Other routes over CSX tracks would operate from Starke, southwest of the city on the railroads S Line, Fernandina Beach in the northeast on a branch line, and from Hilliard, on CSXs A Line, the principal route to Washington, D.C., over which Amtrak trains operate.
Another line would operate over the Florida East Coast Ry. from St. Augustine to Jacksonville. All the trains would make a stop at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, once the principal terminal in Jacksonville for the Seaboard Air Line, Southern, Atlantic Coast Line and Florida East Coast passenger trains. The trains would then continue on to an end point where other trains would begin.
A Middleburg, Fla., man, Leo King (and D:Fs editor) outlined his ideas to the Republican Men of Orange Park on February 18. Two women were also present.
King said the five-county region is at a place and time where Floridians must think beyond simply trains, buses, cars, boats or airplanes all as separate entities, and put them together in an intermodal structure.
Just one day earlier, Jacksonvilles Transit Authority proposed the area around the Prime Osborn Convention Center become a transit hub.
City Councilman Reggie Fullwood said, Amtrak is considering moving their operations back downtown where it used to be. There have been talks with Greyhound to move their facility.
The plan would also add a city bus station along with new homes, shops and even new restaurants.
Fullwood said the old rails Amtrak once used could be used again after an upgrade.
Florida East Coast presently runs past the station. A grassy plain now exists where tracks could once again be installed.
Fullwood said right now this is all just a proposal. City Mayor John Peyton should see the new plans in a couple of weeks, he said, and added the project could cost hundreds of millions depending on what actually is put in the area.
In his commuter rail proposal, King asked, Why should these counties even consider building commuter rail?
He answered himself.
King said he included St. Johns, Nassau, and Bradford counties as well as Clay and Duval Counties. Jacksonville lies within Duval County.
He noted, Provincial thinking must fall by the wayside.
Duval County has fewer that one million people living in it. Its total is 779,000, according to the 2000 census figures. Clay has far less, at 141,000, but the region is growing, King said.
King said a stop at Jacksonville International Airport should also be included in the plans. A new line would have to be built from either the Fernandina Beach Line or from the A Line. Either would be about four miles long.
What I have in mind is that trains would start out in, say Starke, and terminate in Green Cove Springs, then return to Starke via the reverse route. Other trains would begin in St. Augustine and terminate, perhaps, in Fernandina Beach or Hilliard.
He noted Norfolk Southern has a small presence in Florida, but its line to Macon, Ga., via Jacksonville and Valdosta travels through lightly populated areas in Florida.
Ultimately, at least two trains would begin at each end point followed by other trains at 30- to 45-minute intervals during the morning rush, from say, 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., and during the afternoon rush from about 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
King said it wouldnt be cheap, and suggested 35 new diesel locomotives would cost around $70 million, and 150 double-decker coaches around $300 million. He added SAFETEA money, or at least money from the extended TEA-21 law, should be available, and the feds will pay up to 80 percent of startup costs. Both those bills are now churning in Congress.
In a written response to a presentation King e-mailed to Jay S. Westbrook, CSXs Assistant Vice President for Passenger and Operations Planning in Jacksonville, Westbrook replied, Safety is our first concern. Next come capacity, compensation and liability.
In brief, he stated, CSX will not participate in any proposal that moves us away from our safety objectives, regardless of the potential public transportation benefits.
Westbrook made it clear Passenger authorities requesting access to freight railroad property must bear the full cost of any new facilities required to accommodate the commuter rail service, compensate CSX for the use or acquisition of the right-of-way at fair market value and not expect subsidy for access, maintenance, or dispatching.
He added CSX would not assume additional liability from starting a new commuter rail operation on its rights-of-way.
Westbrook agreed that a thorough study would be required to determine the feasibility of a commuter rail system for the Jacksonville area, however, the concept must first find support from, and be managed by, local officials who are willing to seek study and rail capacity improvement funding. Once local interest reaches a level where public funding is available, a memorandum of understanding would be needed to ensure that all agree on the appropriate next steps.
FEC had not yet responded by Friday, King said.
After his talk, King took questions from his audience. One man compared the Jacksonville area to New York City where he lived before he retired. He suggested New York has a dynamic commuter environment with all New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad and subways focused on a single sliver of land Manhattan. Jacksonville, he argued, was too spread out over a wide area.
Other people pointed out it took a long time for New York to get the way it is now, and that when that major citys transportation network was laid out, there were no automobiles or trucks.
King added, New York is among the best commuter rail systems in the world, but it took a long time for that system to develop to where it is now.
A $55 million to $70 million commuter rail line running through Albuquerque from Belen to Bernalillo will be operating by July 2005, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said February 12. The Belen-Bernalillo run is the first phase of Richardsons plan to run commuter train service to Santa Fe, reports the New Mexico Business Weekly.
The process to create a commuter rail line is well underway. We are the only state in the West to make a commitment to commuter rail. We want to be a beachhead to say that rail works, Richardson said during a talk at the Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown Albuquerque.
Richardson said the state has $30 million in pocket for the project, and is looking to the federal government for the other $25 million. The money would be spent on upgrading tracks and signal systems and on commuter rail cars, Richardson said.
The trains would operate over Burlington Northern & Santa Fe tracks. State officials are currently negotiating with the railroad on issues relating to the commuter service, Richardson said.
Lawrence Rael, executive director of the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments, said the Belen to Bernalillo route would have six to eight stations, including stops in downtown Albuquerque, Belen, Los Lunas and Bernalillo. Service would initially be Monday-through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Rael said.
The cost of the project is cheap when compared to highway projects, Rael said. For instance, the reconstruction of the Coors and I-40 interchange on Albuquerques Westside will cost $75 million to $90 million, Rael said.
Construction could start in April on a light rail line in Anacostia. Washington Metropolitan Transit Authoritys budget committee approved construction of a 2.7-mile-long light rail line that would run from Bolling Air Force Base to just north of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The $45 million trolley line, to be paid for by the District of Columbia, would have six stops, including one at the Anacostia Metro station, and would be completed in 2006. Officials hope it will spur development. The city is looking at building a stadium in Southeast, according to The AP on February 13.
D.C. Councilmember David Catania said fans could get to the stadium using the new light rail, and said the stadium could have a mini MCI effect on the area, but Metro board chairman Bob Smith isnt sure this is what D.C. should be spending its money on right now.
You can find money to fund a new line in Anacostia. You find a quarter-million dollars to change station names, but we cant fund Metro Matters, the basic maintenance of the system.
The same day, the wire service also reported two-car subway trains could be coming down the tracks as Metro looks to plug a budget gap estimated to be as much as $36 million.
The cash-strapped transit agency said it is also looking at cutting service to disabled customers, and doing away with some studies and surveys. It already is eyeing another round of subway and bus fare hikes.
Metros budget committee found about $5 million in cuts Thursday. Board members cautioned the list could change in the coming months as it wrestles with fare and subsidy hikes, as well as service cuts for fiscal 2005, which begins in July.
Its substantial, Metro Board Chairman Robert Smith said of the cuts.
Were looking for every dime we can find to try to bring this budget into manageable size.
Board members favored running two-car trains after 10:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. Metro General Manager Richard White said that would save the agency $1 million in overtime costs.
WMATAs directors voted against running two-car trains the entire week, even though it could save $2.3 million. Metro officials told board members there would be rush hour crowding on Friday and Saturday nights. Normal capacity for Metros rail cars is between 175 and 187 people. Officials projected riders would still be able to find a seat on two-car trains the rest of the week.
Most board members were against jamming people into rail cars, including Smith, who diplomatically raised a safety issue.
These arent your typical rush hour riders, Smith said of passengers who could be boarding trains late at night on the weekends.
Thousands of people who use MetroAccess, the agencys curb-to-curb transportation service for the disabled, may have to be recertified. Metro officials estimate that move would weed out about 700 customers from the pricey but federally mandated service, and save $900,000. Metro hopes to save another $900,000 by offering MetroAccess users free bus and rail trips, instead of the current 60-cent discount.
That might be enough incentive to move off of paratransit into the regular system, White said.
The committee nixed closing eight Metrorail entrances in D.C. on weekends after some board members said the half a million dollar savings was not worth the potential safety risk riders could face walking several blocks to use the other station entrances.
Several board members also brushed aside cuts to cleaning stations and buses.
I dont want our headline to read Metro votes for dirty, crowded trains, said David Catania, a D.C. board representative.
A delegation of Massachusetts state and local officials are lauding the first trip of a new express train to Boston as a turning point for area commuters.
Huddled together in the lead car during the inaugural journey on February 17, a band of state lawmakers and local politicians branded the quicker train ride a long-awaited success one that took a decade to accomplish. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train left Fitchburg for the ride into the Hub, as Boston is often called.
They said more trains and faster runs were needed to encourage commuters to move to North Worcester County, an influx they hope will stimulate the regions economy, according to the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.
The idea is as we increase our population... that creates the tax base were looking for, that creates the commercial base we need, said Fitchburg Mayor Dan H. Mylott. Everything piggybacks on itself.
Mylott boarded the 6:40 a.m. train with other political figures. Others climbed aboard in Leominster. About 450 people rode the first express train.
I think its a big step forward, said Antonioni. I think its about respecting commuters from North Central Massachusetts and getting them the service theyve been paying for for a long time.
State Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas, who was waiting for the delegation at North Station, appeared excited about the express trains arrival. He said the improvements to the Fitchburg line marked the genesis of a new initiative to update and speed up the states rail system.
Im thrilled, Grabauskas said on a concrete deck between two trains. This is an important, but first step.
The MBTA has dedicated $2 million to adding trains and improving track conditions along the Fitchburg line, according to Grabauskas office.
The real goal is to get all the trains faster, he said at North Station. I couldnt think of a better place to start than the Fitchburg line.
The express trains first voyage Tuesday was nearly delayed by a breakdown.
We had a nice shiny train for you. It was beautiful, said conductor Roberta Ward, explaining that it broke down before arriving in Fitchburg.
But we pulled a quick switch, and in the face of adversity were pulling in right on time.
One daily commuter, Kerry Faugno of Leominster, said shes rearranged her work schedule so shes able to catch both the morning and afternoon express trains.
Now Ill be home at 6 oclock (in the evening). So its not as bad, she said.
Before Tuesday, she normally arrived home at 6:45 p.m.
The express train, by eliminating 10 stops between South Acton and Porter Square, shaves 14 minutes off the morning commute from Fitchburg. The only inbound express train to Boston departs at 6:40 a.m., arriving at North Station at 7:58.
An afternoon express train departs from North Station at 4:40 p.m., arriving in Fitchburg at 5:57 p.m.
Mylott wants to eventually see a total of four express trains, two departing and two arriving. Those trains should have a travel time of 55 minutes, Mylott said. He added, The job isnt done yet.
The long-awaited renovation and expansion of the Trenton, N.J. passenger train station will take a giant stride forward if a preliminary draft of New Jersey Transits annual spending, which includes $17.5 million for the station project, is finalized.
A plan by the state to borrow $900 million for various transportation projects could be a key to NJT getting the money it needs for the station, writes The Times of Trenton.
The state DOT and NJT havent completed their spending plans, but the preliminary draft released by the state includes all of the expected major area projects that have been planned.
Among them are building a coach yard in Morrisville, Pa., and other non-rail projects.
Trentons station, off South Clinton Avenue, was the nations seventh-busiest Amtrak station last year, but Mayor Douglas H. Palmer has deemed it bland and unrepresentative of New Jerseys capital city.
Its terrible and its not convenient for passengers, and it doesnt take advantage of all the redevelopment possibilities, Palmer said.
The mayor particularly isnt a fan of the stations Roy Rogers restaurant inside the station.
The place looks like a Roy Rogers that happens to have a train station, Palmer said.
The station renovation project calls for reconstructing the existing building, adding a second-floor mezzanine and upgrading elevators, escalators, parking, landscaping and information displays. The plan also proposes adding retail, office and civic space to the facility, which is also served by SEPTA and is visited by about 4,600 passengers each weekday.
Palmer said the city hopes to entice housing development around the station.
The Ontario government is spending $26 million for 10 more of GO Transits trademark bi-level coaches, Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar said on February 13. The passenger carrier has been using the bi-level coaches since 1978.
The Canadian Press noted the Bombardier-built cars would be manufactured in Thunder Bay, Ont., with production expected to begin this summer for delivery by the spring of 2005, the ministry said.
We are committed to increasing public transit ridership and reducing gridlock on our streets and highways, Takhar said in a statement.
Adding more GO rail cars on existing lines will improve service and encourage commuters to choose public transit.
Once in service, the cars will carry an additional 1,600 passengers every weekday, the equivalent of a seven-kilometer (about 4.5 miles) line of automobiles, said GO Transit chairman Dr. Gordon Chong.
Thats a lot of traffic and pressure were taking off the road system, Chong said.
GO Transit, Ontarios only inter-regional public transit system, carries some 44 million passengers a year throughout the so-called Golden Horseshoe region that surrounds the Greater Toronto area.
New Yorks Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) riders can now order tickets online, but they still have to be mailed to passengers. Its called WebTicket. The automated package enables LIRR customers to purchase monthly, weekly, 10-day, and daily tickets at a discount and in advance, directly from its web site. Customers can pay for tickets using major credit cards.
For NCI: Arnold G. ReinholdThe AirTrain enroute to Jamaica, N.Y. The Bombardier-built trains are near John F. Kennedy Airport property. An aluminum reaction strip in the gauge is needed for the linear induction motors. The third rail is built to New York City subway standards.
AirTrains need directions, some help
The writer is a freelance computer consultant in Cambridge, Mass. Linux is a computer operating system. LinuxWorld is a magazine that also runs trade shows on the East and West Coasts. Ed.
While attending the Linux World trade show in Manhattan, I decided to check out the new AirTrain at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. There is good news, bad news, more good news and more bad news about this project.
The good news is that the JFK AirTrain is a massive, efficient, attractive system that fills a major hole in the New York City transportation grid. The bad news is that it is far more difficult to use the JFK Airtrain than it should be. The good news is that simple, inexpensive steps could remedy many of the usability issues. The bad news is that responsibility is so fragmented that nothing may be done.
The $2 billion JFK AirTrain is a project that New York City should be proud of. It provides a fast, frequent, and quiet ride between the eight airline terminals at Kennedy, a rental car center, long-term parking and not one, but two mass transit facilities. The AirTrain stations have automatic doors that line up with the doors on the cars, so travelers stand in a comfortable, indoor space while waiting for their train.
The cars are well-lighted and have plenty of space for luggage and even luggage carts. Since the AirTrain is fully automated, there is no cab for an engineer. Instead, a picture window allows passengers to see where the train is going.
AirTrain is now the primary way JFK travelers move between terminals to make connecting flights. It also replaces the swarm of car rental vans, and brings people to the long-term parking lot. These internal airport rides are free and are expected to be the most common use of Airtrain. Trips to either transit station cost $5. Subway or commuter rail fare is extra. Airport workers can buy a monthly pass for $40.
There are ample automated ticket machines at both transit stations.
There is an old adage: never ascribe to malfeasance what can be adequately explained by incompetence. Nonetheless, I cant help wondering if there isnt a conspiracy to keep Airtrain ridership down.
Perhaps officials are still pouting because the JFK Airtrain doesnt provide a one seat ride to Manhattan. It doesnt cure cancer either. Whatever its merits, its built, it cost a lot of public money, and it should be utilized to the greatest possible extent.
Here is a summary of the problems I found.
The best connections to the JFK AirTrain from Manhattan are from Penn Station, the busiest train station in North America. From there, you can take either the New York City subway or a Long Island Rail Road commuter train to the Jamaica AirTrain terminus. The subway is less expensive but takes longer.
Yet there is almost no hint in the entire Penn Station complex that a link to JFK even exists. All I could find was one blue banner hanging in the LIRR waiting area deep in the bowels of the station. The information booth in the main rotunda still has a big sign advertising bus service to JFK and LaGuardia Airports.
In contrast, the rail service to Newark Airport, also called AirTrain, is prominently advertised. I found three Newark AirTrain kiosks in the Amtrak-New Jersey Transit area, each with an ample supply of leaflets describing only the Newark service. On the main display board, trains that stop at the new Newark Airport station, where passengers transfer to the Airtrain monorail, are clearly marked.
In contrast, the LIRR has not modified any of its train displays to include mention of the JFK line.
Amtrak also ignores the JFK Airtrain. Amtraks web site makes no mention of JFK. Yet with a little effort, Amtrak could develop a thriving airline connection sub-market on its Northeast corridor, which has rail connections to Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Islip, JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington National airports.
Penn Stations favorable treatment of the Newark AirTrain while ignoring the JFK AirTrain is hard to justify. Both involve taking a commuter train to a stop near the airport and then transferring to an airport circulation system for rides to the individual terminals. The ride from Penn Station to the Newark Airport station takes 25 minutes.
Its only 20 minutes from Penn Station to Jamaica. Ticket prices are about the same. Jamaica LIRR trains are more frequent than Newark Airport trains and JFK handles slightly more traffic than Newark 31.5 million passengers annually vs. 29.5 million.
The new AirTrain terminal at Jamaica is a bright, attractive space. Connections from the LIRR are simple. There are well-marked stairs and elevators at the west end of the LIRR platforms that lead up one level to the AirTrain upper lobby and center platform. Direct connections to the subway station are still under construction, so for now, you must exit the subway and walk around the block under the LIRR tracks to the impressive AirTrain street entrance.
When you arrive at the AirTrain lobby at Jamaica, you are confronted with a bank of eight automated MetroCard ticket machines. There are no fare booths on the automated AirTrain system. Six airline check-in positions have been installed, but none are in use.
The displays on the MetroCard machines will confuse many visitors. Someone who simply wants to get to the airport has to wade through seven levels of screen to buy a ticket:
A traveler must touch the screen at Start to Begin, and is only in English. Next come language choices English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Korean. [The choices are all labeled in the actual language, e.g. Deutch.
The following screen asks a rider to select a card type, MetroCard or SmartLink.
There is no further explanation for this confusing choice. SmartLink is a monthly pass for New Jersey Transit and Newark Airport. How many New Yorkers know this, much less visitors from out of town?
Those two choices are followed by Refill your card, Get card info, and New card.
A regular 30-day MetroCard with the AirTrain costs $40. It is $5 for the JFK rides, $7 for JFK plus subway rides, and $10, $20 or other amount.
Finally, the machines ask how the customer will pay cash, ATM or credit card.
Remember this is in the upper lobby facing the ticket gates to the AirTrain. Most visitors at this point simply want to buy a $5 ticket to JFK. A menu item marked $5 JFK could easily be displayed on the third screen.
If you work through the complex menus, you can also buy a MetroCard along with your LIRR ticket. The airport side of the Airtrain lobby would also be an ideal place to sell visitors a combine MetroCard with a round trip ticket on Airtrain and a one-week pass on the subway.
The AirTrain itself is not as user friendly as it might be. Stops are announced in English inside the cars, but only the airport terminal number is given. There is a smallish card on each car listing the eight terminals and the airlines they serve.
Howard Beach is where the Airtrain connects with the subway A train. Again, there are banks of MetroCard machines. Here, the logical choice for almost all travelers (the exceptions are people who live in or are visiting the small Howard Beach community) is $7 JFK plus subway.
To get to the subway, you have to go through two sets of ticket gates about 20 feet apart, one to leave the airport and one to enter the subway. Its station is an open platform, but the station designers provided a window at the enclosed upper level from which you can see the train approaching.
Here are some simple and cheap ways to make AirTrain more usable. Some require a modest investment in time or money, but many are essentially free.
At Penn Station, Include JFK in LIRR train announcements. The public address announcements for trains that stop at Jamaica usually end with Change at Jamaica for... followed by a long list of stations. Why not include JFK in that list? All it would take is a make it so phone call from LIRR management.
Add JFK to the Jamaica sign over Penn Station LIRR next-train display. There is a large display over the LIRR ticket windows that lists, in alphabetical order, each station on the LIRR, followed by time and track number for the next train to that station. The times and tracks change, of course, but the station names are fixed, so it would be very easy to add the letters JFK after the word Jamaica. This would be a huge aid for travelers unfamiliar with New York.
Stock AirTrain-JFK leaflets at existing AirTrain-Newark kiosks. There are several kiosks at Penn Station advertising AirTrain Newark, each filled with flyers for the Newark service. All it would take is slapping on a decal that says JFK next to the word Newark and devoting half the shelves to JFK AirTrain flyers.
Make sure the rotunda Information boot staff is cool with the JFK AirTrain There should be a supply of LIRR Jamaica schedules in stock at the booth and lose the bus sign.
Display JFK AirTrain info in the main Amtrak NJT waiting area. There is an auxiliary display board next to the main train listings that is used for special advisories. Usually it tells people not to leave baggage unattended. It could direct JFK passengers to the LIRR, perhaps For JFK Airport connections follow signs to LIRR.
Other ideas include putting up some signs directing travelers to the JFK Airtrain Connections between NJ Transit and the LIRR, modifying LIRR video displays, add EWR to the NJT displays (the international airport code for Newark) next to every train that stops at the Newark Airport Station, and LIRR should modify its video display system to add JFK next to each train that stops at Jamaica.
Other notions include placing a MetroCard vending machine in Amtrak-NJT lobby, place an LIRR train display monitor in the Amtrak-NJT waiting area, or a monitor showing the next train to JFK. This could be accomplished by pointing a video camera at the Jamaica next train display.
Similar simple changes could be made at Jamaica and Howard Beach, but the MetroCard machines should be fixed to simplify purchasing the most common tickets, eliminating the current seven-screen mess.
There also should be flight displays at the Jamaica and Howard Beach AirTrain terminals (if there were any, I missed them). The information card on the AirTrain cars should be bigger and alphabetized by airline name instead of terminal number. Subway and LIRR maps should be placed in the Airtrain terminals
The new subway maps showing revised routes over the newly reopened Manhattan Bridge should also show the AirTrain routes. Even better would be a special map showing the best connections from Manhattan to JFK. The map should show estimated travel times and clearly indicate cross-platform connections and handicapped accessible stations, a big plus for people with luggage.
While all these steps are mostly cheap and easy to implement, figuring out the agency responsible is a challenge. For example, the Port Authority owns AirTrain while Amtrak owns Penn Station. The LIRR and NYC subway both run trains that connect Penn Station with the JFK Airtrain (they are part of the same agency, the MTA, but have incompatible ticketing). Transfers to Newark Airport also involve NJT.
I can only hope some political leader will take charge and whip this alphabet soup of agencies into shape.
See http://www.railfanwindow.com/gallery/album69 for some screen photos.
Commuter rail study starts in March
HNTB, a design-consulting firm hired to study commuter rail needs on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authoritys Boston-Worcester line, should confirm what Central Massachusetts commuters and transportation officials have known for years: Even the expansion of service to 10 roundtrips daily has only begun to satisfy the demand.
The MBTA, which operates the commuter rail service between the states two largest cities, said the $500,000, nine-month study, expected to start next month, will look at the cost and feasibility of expanding service. Among the service-related issues the consultant will study is the so-called reverse commute for people traveling to work here from the east reports the Worcester Telegram & Gazette of February 12.
Efforts to increase commuter-rail service sometimes have been frustrating for area officials. However, the overwhelming response to commuter-rail service west of Framingham has not been lost on the MBTA, although budget constraints and the shortages of rolling stock have limited the agencys options.
Also problematic are scheduling conflicts with CSX Corp., which owns the track between CP-3 and Worcester.
The optimum solution, and the long-term solution, is to add a new track, critics say. Before that can happen, however, environmental and land-taking concerns must be addressed, along with the estimated $30 million price tag.
The newspaper editorialized, Perhaps the most valuable service the consultant can perform is to suggest interim measures to boost service, improve on-time reliability and minimize conflicts between commuter and freight traffic, including upgraded signalization and improved scheduling and routing systems.
The editorial added, Commuter rail is a boon to Worcester and to other communities along the line. The demand for housing in the area is, in part, a result of the availability of convenient transportation for people who work in Greater Boston but have been priced out of the housing market. Commuter rail also is boosting economic growth in Central Massachusetts because it opens up a wider employee pool to companies considering moving to or expanding in the region.
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 http://www.apta.com/news/pt.
Houston Metro Moves Super Bowl Crowds
Houstons Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County reported more than 300,000 boardings on its buses and trains during the weekend of the Super Bowl, January 29 through February 1. Of those, the new METRORail light rail system provided more than 177,000 rides, while buses provided more than 125,000 rides.
This is proof of just what we expected: light rail is already playing a major role in moving people around Houston, said Metro President and CEO Shirley A. DeLibero.
Super Bowl weekend showed us what an important role light rail can play in handling transportation needs during a major event, she said.
Metro spokesman Ken Connaughton noted that METRORail operates regular service with seven one-car trains, but it ran two-car trains during the Super Bowl weekend celebration, at headways more frequent than the usual 10 to 12 minutes.
In addition to providing direct service to the game at Reliant Park, Connaughton noted the importance of METRORail in transporting visitors to The Main Event: a 16-block designated party zone in downtown Houston where streets were closed to traffic each night from January 29 through February 1.
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Richland Hills Residents Vote to Remain in Fort Worth T
Residents in Richland Hills, Texas, voted February 7 to retain the half-cent sales tax and the transit services of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Voters approved the ballot measure by a two-to-one margin.
The city of Richland Hills has a population of 8,200. Last year, the half-cent sales tax generated $503,474 for the T.
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Staib Is CEO, President of INIT
INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc. of Chesapeake, Va., announces the appointment of Roland Staib as the companys president and CEO. He succeeds Dr. Jurgen Greschner, who returned to Germany to fulfill his role on the managing board of the parent company, init innovations in traffic systems AG.
In his new position, Staib will be responsible for the continuing development of INIT in the North American market. He joined the company in Germany in 1984, and most recently was responsible for European sales. During his 20 years with the company, he has held numerous positions including software engineer, project manager, and executive vice president of sales and projects.
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NCI: Leo KingIts only a minor derailment, but its incidents like this that hurt CSXs safety record. Last June, the railroad delivered some hopper cars to a receiver at Reynolds Industrial Park in Green Cove Springs, Fla., about one mile off CSXs main A Line. The engine, 5558, was on a wye connector track along with several others for upgrading by a local contractor in the park. Only one end of the truck under the hopper stubbed its toe.
CSX safety takes it on the chin
CSX was the most dangerous of the nations four biggest freight railroads for most of 2003, according to federal government statistics.
The Jacksonville-based company led that pack with the highest rate of employee injuries per 200,000 hours worked for the first 11 months of 2003, according to the most recent FRA data available. CSX also had the most train derailments, collisions and other calamities through November. The railroad was third in both those categories in 2002, the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville reported on February 14.
The elevated figures, which CSX said have no specific cause, bring an end to two years of falling train accident and employee injury statistics, which are key measures of a railroads performance. Those rates rose through the latter half of the 1990s.
Michael Ward, chairman and chief executive officer of CSX Corp., the railroads parent company, expressed his displeasure during a conference call with stock analysts at the end of January.
Our personal injury and derailment numbers were simply too high on a quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year basis, Ward said. In addition, during the fourth quarter we had a higher than normal number of serious injuries, an issue we are aggressively committed to fixing at every level of the company.
We werent as focused on the improvement processes as much as we needed to be, spokesman Adam Hollingsworth said in an interview.
One of the more serious accidents last quarter occurred in Kentucky. A CSX employee was riding a rail car while switching it to another train, a common practice, only he fell, passing under the cars steel wheels. Both of the employees legs had to be amputated, said Robert Bernard, the companys chief safety officer.
From January 2003 through November, the railroad had four fatalities, one more than during the same period in 2002. More common have been cuts, slips, sprains and falls.
Such accidents reverse a roughly two-year trend of fewer accidents and injuries at CSX, which operates the East Coasts largest railroad. Last quarter, the rate of employee injuries per 200,000 hours worked climbed to 2.26, the highest it has been since 2001, according to company. Also, the rate of railroad accidents per 1 million miles traveled hit 4.60 in the fourth quarter, a level last reached in 2000.
Those incidents contributed to an extra $100 million in expenses last year.
We did have a horrible year with regards to that, Chief Financial Officer Oscar Munoz said during the analyst conference call.
Even with the run-ups in accident and injury rates in the late 1990s and last year, the rate of CSX employee injuries has dropped from the early 1990s. FRA data shows that from January through November 1990, CSX employees were injured at a rate of 5.25 per 200,000 hours worked. That figure was 2.20 last year, with a low of 1.78 in 1995. During that same time, the train accident rate fell slightly, from 4.82 per 1 million miles traveled in 1990 to 4.12 last year. The rate was as low as 1.65 in 1995.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2002 railroading had an accident and injury rate better than several industries, at half the rate of agricultural occupations and almost half the rate of injuries found overall in the wholesale and retail trades.
Getting CSXs safety back on track this year wont involve new programs or policies, but rather a rededication to the same processes company officials say served them well in 2001 and 2002, when accident rates declined. These include teaching employees about safe working habits and having workers conduct safety briefings daily before tackling new tasks even if its only an office meeting. Union officials say the company generally is willing to partner with them on safety initiatives.
The company has been a regular bronze and silver winner of the Harriman Memorial Safety Award, a prestigious industry award for railroads with the best employee safety records. CSX won a certificate of commendation last year for having at least two years of improved employee safety in a business where operating multi-ton locomotives and lumbering rail cars in wide extremes of weather always has given accidents plenty of chances to occur.
Some of the safety improvements continue. Earlier this month, the employees at CSXs four greater Jacksonville freight terminals celebrated one year of working without incurring any injuries. Just two years ago, the terminals suffered more than 20 injuries during a year, the company said.
CSX also has lagged behind its peers on capital expenditures. From 1991 to 1998, with the exception of 1996, the carrier spent less per mile of track than any of the three other major railroads, according to regulatory filings.
We got pretty good at stretching a dollar, Tom Schmidt, CSXs former vice-president for engineering, told The Washington Post in an article published in December, but the rubber band got stretched a little too thin in the late 1990s. By 2000, time caught up with us.
CSX essentially was placed on probation from 2000 to 2001 after an FRA audit sparked by an increasing number of train accidents in the late 1990s turned up numerous track deficiencies.
An audit released in December by the USDOT found that CSX was replacing track ballast at a level significantly lower than its peer railroads during the past two decades, a finding the company disputes, but there also was some good news.
The report noted that nearly all the track problems found in 2002 were repaired and replaced within 30 days, indicating that track maintenance wasnt being deferred.
Despite numbers showing more accidents last year, officials of several unions working with CSX said they didnt notice an unusually high number of mishaps last year, but if they had, the sentiment of some was, CSX wouldnt ignore the matter.
For whatever problems they have, they try to work jointly in a partnership to try to solve them, said Jim Brunkenhoefer in Washington, the national legislative director for the United Transportation Union, which represents most of CSXs conductors and some of its locomotive engineers. He added, This is something I cant say about the other railroads.
Four unions contacted by The Florida Times-Union expressed concern that the entire railroad industry was sending fewer people out to do an increasing amount of work, a trend they see leading to higher accident rates. Michael Cantrell, CSXs senior vice-president of engineering, said the need to work harder isnt going away, but that doesnt mean safety will be compromised.
Just as factories have had to get more productive and take costs out, we do the same thing, he said. I dont make any apology for it. Its what were in business to do.
Ward, CSXs chairman, said he didnt believe the spike in accidents would affect a plan announced in November to trim between 800 and 1,000 non-union jobs, up to 20 percent of its non-union workforce. Only about 20 positions were shed last year, and all in December. They mainly were senior executives.
I dont think that would have an impact in the field, Ward said.
Probably more the issue is the fact that the railroad is not running as well as it needs to be. Normally what we find is as you have a smoother running operation, your safety performance also improves.
About 5,000 workers at Canadian National Ry. went on strike at midnight Thursday after last-minute talks with the railway ended without an agreement, union officials told The AP.
The Canadian government had no plans, at least just before noon on Friday, to legislate striking employees of Canadian National Ry. back to work, a spokesman for Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw said.
Reuters reported, It is not contemplated at this moment. We are hopeful and we are monitoring the situation, said the spokesman, Denis DAmour. Parliament is recessing on February 27 for one week.
CN said it activated its contingency plan to maintain operations across Canada after the CAW union struck the railroad at 1:00 a.m. on February 20.
The railroad stated it would operate normal freight schedules, with management staff performing key CAW functions, but shippers may experience some delays. CN stated it has no plans at this time for further discussions with the CAW.
He said that although the company and employees were not talking to each other, a federal mediator was in touch with them.
The union and employer have both indicated that grain and passenger service will not be affected by the work stoppage, he added.
The Canadian Auto Workers announced the strike plans in a press release issued from Toronto, saying talks that had intensified since Tuesday concluded with no agreement in sight.
CNs shopcraft, intermodal and clerical workers walked off the job at midnight local times, the union said.
The CAW, Canadas largest private-sector union, said it was willing to resume talks at any time.
Our one and only aim is to secure an agreement that can earn the support of our members, CAW chief negotiator Gary Fane said in a statement.
The latest logjam occurred after union members rejected a three-year offer with annual wage increases of 3 per cent. The union agreed Tuesday to a request by Labour Minister Claudette Bradshaw for both sides to attend meetings in Montreal.
CN has said it has contingency plans to keep moving freight in Canada in the event of a strike, and the CAW has pledged not to interrupt passenger services such as the GO Transit system in the Toronto region, commuter trains in Montreal and Via Rail service.
The union obtained a 90 percent strike mandate from its members last month.
Besides salaries, employees are dissatisfied with working-condition provisions, including disciplinary matters. The employees average annual salary is about $33,827, or 45,000 in Canadian dollars.
CN is Canadas largest railroad, and is a major North American freight hauler with operations from across Canada, into the U.S. Midwest and to the Gulf of Mexico.
The CAW represents about a quarter of CNs 22,000 employees.
Last year, CN moved about 4.2 million carloads of freight across Canada and through the U.S. Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.
Canadian grain shippers said last week they expect only minor delays as workers at Canadas largest railway went on strike.
CN has assured us there will be no impact on grain movement, Louise Waldman, spokesperson for the Canadian Wheat Board, told Reuters on February 17 in Winnipeg. It is the countrys largest grain shipper.
We expect there will be no significant impact, but we may see some slowdowns if the labor dispute does take place, Waldman said.
The wheat board expects to be able to fill sales orders in the event of a strike without incurring expensive demurrage charges because of delays at port, Waldman said.
Canadas largest grain company, Agricore United, also expected few delays, a spokeswoman said.
Were always worried about a bit of a disruption, but we dont really expect there to be any real disruption to our business with this particular strike action, if it occurs, Radean Carter said.
The grain industry relies on two railways Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to carry most of its production out of the land-locked Canadian prairies to West Coast ports, the eastern St. Lawrence Seaway, and to many U.S. destinations.
The strike at CN comes at a time when shipments by Canadas No. 2 railway, CP, have been slowed by cold weather, blizzards and an avalanche.
Canadian canola shippers have not faced any undue delays or demurrage charges because of CPs weather problems, but need the rail system to be working more efficiently by March, an industry official said.
Even if CN is going to continue working (through the strike)... were in a position where theres bound to be some minor disruption, said Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada.
Weve probably got about two weeks for this entire thing to be straightened around, and then vessel nominations are really picking up, Isman said, noting canola shippers anticipate more exports in March.
Bear Stearns last week cut its ratings for Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroads to peer perform last week, CBS MarketWatch reported.
An analyst downgraded UP to peer perform from outperform, citing concerns that poor weather and high fuel prices will weigh on earnings. Analyst Thomas Wadewitz also believes potential interest rate increases are hurting investor sentiment toward the railroad sector.
Wadewitz also downgraded Canadian Pacific (CP) to peer perform from outperform for the same reason.
There were other bumps in the road.
Wadewitz told clients he expected pressure on network operating performance and persistently high fuel prices to put downward pressure on first-quarter earnings performance.
Wadewitz said the potential for a tightening interest rate cycle is likely to weigh on sentiment toward the rail group and he also expects operating issues to drag down earnings performance.
Truckers, from another analyst, fared no better.
Above normal snow levels in areas of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest have worked against UPs efforts to improve rail network operation, the analyst said.
Although he expects net rail crew additions should drive improvement, Wadewitz downgraded the stock on lack of visibility in the timing of an upturn.
Meanwhile, he said operational issues have increased for Canadian Pacific in the first quarter, with congestion resulting from the weather translating into greater-than-expected cost pressure, particularly in the first and second quarters of 2004.
Until CP begins to show signs it is running its network more efficiently and realizing EPS leverage to a solid top line, we believe that EPS estimates are more likely to fall than to rise, Wadewitz said.
Canadian Pacific Ry. said last Wednesday it will stand by its decision to cancel some shipments without recourse after its lines were hit by severe cold and sliding snow, leaving problems for grain customers ahead of a likely strike by its main rail rival.
CP Rail, the countrys No. 2 carrier, declared force majeure on some contracts after weeks of brutal winter conditions, including avalanches in the British Columbia mountains, clogged up its mainline and caused major backlogs in its biggest yards, a top executive told Reuters.
That left ships waiting on the West Coast with grain companies unable to get loads through, and grain customers have disputed the force majeure decision.
We did declare force majeure with a handful of clients, and that included some folks in the grain industry, because we thought it was important that they understand that the circumstances that we were facing were beyond our control, said executive vice-president Fred Green.
Some contracts were halted for two weeks at the outside, Green said.
He said CP Rail is still working through backlogs at yards in Toronto and Thunder Bay, Ont., and Calgary, Alta., and it could be another ten days before operations return to normal.
Green said severe cold and snow in eastern Canada in early January slowed shipping volumes, then CP was buffeted by a series of British Columbia avalanches, the biggest of which closed its main corridor for nearly three days.
Coquitlam, B.C. is quite fluid on the coast now, other than weve still got some backed-up trains for the international side. Those vessels keep coming even though the trains are not running, Green said.
The carrier typically moves as many as 40 trains through the British Columbia corridor each day.
The Canadian Wheat Board, Canadas largest grain shipper, disputes the force majeure, saying the railway did not give proper legal notice, board spokeswoman Louise Waldman said. She said the two sides were discussing the issue.
Last week, the CWB ordered almost 1,400 rail cars from CP, but Waldman said the railway provided none. This week, the railway provided 1,219 out of 1,599 requested.
Waldman acknowledged that cars are starting to move again, but said the CWB still has a shortfall of more than 3,200.
Agricore United, Canadas top grain company, is 10 days behind in its shipments, and spokeswoman Radean Carter said it also refused to accept the force majeure.
She said shipments of malt barley headed for brewers in the U.S. and Mexico were held up, forcing two plants to temporarily shut down because of the delays.
Theres a huge financial repercussion there, she said.
An industry official said canola shippers have been meeting customers orders with oilseed that had been stored in West Coast port terminals, but Barb Isman, president of the Canola Council of Canada, said companies have had to truck canola from grain elevators on CP tracks to lines owned by CNR to meet orders.
The Rocky Mount, N.C. city council is making plans with the state DOT to close nine of the citys 39 railroad crossings. The council recently approved a resolution of intent to close them. The crossings are on Avondale Avenue, Bridges, Clark, Pearl, Pine, Pitt, Tillery and Washington streets and a downtown crossing yet to be determined, according to the Rocky Mount Telegram.
By agreeing to close the intersections, Assistant City Manager Peter Varney said the state will make safety improvements at other crossings.
All of those improvements are essentially adding gates where there are no gates and upgrading gates at crossings where there are existing gates, Varney said.
Proposed improvements include installation of four-quad gates, which block both sides of the street on both sides of the track, and adding flashing advance warning signs.
He said state transportation officials conducted engineering studies to determine which crossings to close. Recommendations were based on which crossings had the lowest traffic volumes and would cause the least impact if closed.
(Theyve) taken into consideration the amount of train traffic and motor traffic and amount of risk exposure that they have, he said.
The closings are on tracks operated by both the Nash County and CSX railroads, and will cost more than $3.1 million. The state will contribute more than $2.33 million, and the city will provide $805,000.
Once details are finalized, Varney said all the closings and improvements should be completed within two years.
In spite of a small decline in carload freight, overall freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up during the week ended February 14 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.
Total volume for the week was estimated at 29.0 billion ton-miles, up 1.4 percent from last year. Intermodal traffic continued to show strength with volume totaling 198,844 trailers or containers, up 6.1 percent from the comparable week last year. Container traffic registered a 2.3 percent gain, while trailer volume rose 17.6 percent from last year.
Carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, totaled 322,915 cars, down 0.3 percent from last year with volume up 0.1 percent in the East but down 0.6 percent in the West.
Ten of the19 carload commodity groups were up compared with last year, with coke up 51.1 percent; nonmetallic minerals up 14.4 percent; and waste and scrap materials gaining 9.3 percent. On the down side, loadings of metallic ores were off 23.4 percent; farm products other than grain were down 13.2 percent; and motor vehicles and equipment declined 4.2 percent from last year.
The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first six weeks of 2004: 1,936,032 carloads, up 0.9 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 1,179,556 trailers or containers, up 5.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 173.0 billion ton-miles, up 2.1 percent from last years first six weeks.
Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 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.
Canadian railroads reported gains in both intermodal and carload freight during the week ended February 14. Carload volume totaled 66,385 cars, up 7.6 percent. Intermodal traffic totaled 40,926 trailers or containers, up 6.1 percent from last year.
Cumulative originations for the first six weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 376,897 carloads, up 2.4 percent from last year, and 237,381 trailers and containers, down 0.1 percent from last year.
Combined cumulative volume for the first six weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 2,312,929 carloads, up 1.2 percent from last year and 1,416,937 trailers and containers, up 4.8 percent from last year.
The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended February 14 totaled 7,942 cars, down 16.7 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,603 originated trailers or containers, down 4.8 percent from the sixth week of 2003. For the first six weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 47,364 cars, down 9.9 percent from last year, and 18,528 trailers or containers, down 16.2 percent.
The AAR is online at www.aar.org.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||32.15||32.40|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||34.15||34.35|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||34.42||35.46|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||14.35||14.30|
Artrain USA starts traveling exhibit
Artrain USA said last week it would begin its national-touring art exhibition: Native Views: Influences of Modern Culture.
The exhibit will move in five older passenger cars, and will premiere aboard the train in Tempe, Ariz., on April 15, then move on to Flagstaff, Gallup, and Albuquerque; and places in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
Founded in 1971, Artrain USA is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Five cars house the exhibit, artists studio, gift shop and staff administrative space. The outfit owns no locomotives but the nations railroads donate the services of equipment and crews to transport the USA from community to community.
The train includes three gallery cars, a studio car and an end car. Car one is a 1949 New York Central sleeper car, and cars two and three are 1949 Pennsylvania Railroad twin diner kitchen and table cars. The gift shop and studio are housed in a 1947 New York Central baggage-dormitory car, and car five is a 1948 Kansas City Southern end car.
The end car provides space for small group meetings, an office for the onboard staff and as an efficiency apartment for a staff member during the trains transit.
Artrain USAs annual budget is $1,500,000. Funding comes from contributions (80 percent) and earned revenues (20 percent). Contributed revenue sources include public and private grants, corporate contributions and individual contributions. Earned revenue sources include fees from communities and sales from Artrain USAs gift shop.
Under a tent in the parking lot outside the roundhouse on February 17, exactly one year to the day of the collapse of its roof, B&O Railroad Museum officials announced plans to reopen the weekend of November 13.
Its the moment everyone has been waiting for, said Courtney B. Wilson, executive director of the museum.
The renovated museum will feature a new exhibition gallery, museum store and living history center. The roundhouse was built in 1884.
One year ago, on February 16 and 17, a heavy snowstorm blanketed Baltimore, causing the roundhouses sloped roof to collapse under the weight of snow.
Twenty-two railcars and locomotives and hundreds of railroading artifacts were damaged or destroyed in the collapse. The museum has been closed since.
A structural report released later by the museum blamed the collapse on the design of the roof by famed Baltimore architect Ephraim Francis Baldwin. Baldwins family and a historian said the B&O was unfairly using the late Baldwin as a scapegoat, the Baltimore Sun reported last week.
Nevertheless, in the days following the roundhouse roof collapse, officials declared they would rebuild and reopen. Rebuilding and renovating the museum will cost nearly $30 million, much of that cost covered by insurance. The museum said it still needs to raise slightly more than $5 million.
Associated PressIranian railway company workers Wednesday in front of the wreckage of a train that derailed, then caught fire, igniting a cargo of chemicals and fuel. At least 300 people were killed in the explosion, including local government officials and rescue workers.
300 die after runaway cars derail
More than 300 people died in northeastern Iran after a string of freight cars carrying chemicals and fuel without a locomotive somehow rolled free and slammed into some loaded tank cars on February 18.
Hassan Rasouli, governor of Irans northeastern Khorasan province, said 309 bodies had been recovered by midday Thursday, and 460 people had been injured, according to The Associated Press.]
The New York Times
The New York Times reported the deputy interior minister for security affairs, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, ruled out sabotage as the cause of the incident, but said the Interior Ministry had sent a team to investigate, Fars News Agency reported.
Reports said the freight cars were set in motion by earth tremors, which are common in Iran. The head of the countrys railroad, Jabar Ali Zakeri, said that the cars may have been moved by heavy wind, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
Among the dead were firefighters and several senior officials who had rushed to the scene, including the governor general, mayor and fire chief of the nearby city of Neyshabur.
Earlier, the governor general, Mojtaba Farahmandnekoo, had told a student news agency that the cars had begun moving in the early morning hours and had hit other freight cars that were loaded with fuel.
According to Iranian television reports, the incident began when 51 cars, filled with gasoline, fertilizer and sulphur products, began rolling down the tracks and picking up speed. Thirteen miles from Neyshabur, 48 of the cars derailed and caught fire.
The deadly explosion occurred hours later, as emergency crews tried to combat the blaze.
People were seen walking in the area wearing facemasks to protect themselves from the smoke. The disaster came as Iran was still recovering from an earthquake in the southeastern city of Bam in December that killed more than 30,000 people.
Jervis Langdon Jr.
Jervis Langdon Jr., a top railroad executive during an era in which the industry was reshaped, died on February 16 at his home in Elmira, N.Y. He was 99. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his widow, Irene.
Along with his widow, three sons, a daughter, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild survive Langdon. His first marriage, to Jean Bancroft, ended in divorce.
The New York Times
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The way we were...
NCI: Leo KingAmtrak train No. 170, now arriving on track No. 2, a stationmaster would say if this train was going anywhere. Alas, there is no station here. Here is on the Dorchester Branch in autumn 2001, and the op at South Bay tower has lined the string thats all it is, now running backwards off the loop track and the car wash for No. 2 track. The engineer has already gotten behind the jack (low home signal, to the rules readers) and has begun tugging the train through the 15 switch and into Southampton Street Yard. Thats the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authoritys GP-7 No. 1921 on the Service & Inspection Building track No.1, usually in service as the Readville Switcher.
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