Vol. 7 No. 11
February 27, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Seventh Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items... 
Former Amtrak chief Gunn notes growing Amtrak successes,
   warns of a U.S. infrastructure deficit.
Spanish-Language Amtrak.Com debuts;
   En Espanol only a click away
Amtrak train strikes SUV in city
  Off the main line… 
Spirit of Washington owners fight to save the rails
   -- and their dinner train
Bombardier’s La Pocatiere site completes 1000th
   carbody for New York commuter railroads
  Environmental lines… 
Truck traffic needs work, Critics say as study lags
  Commuter lines… 
‘Enchanted Spring, a Tribute to Mother Nature’
   at the 2006 Philadelphia Flower Show
In search of reliable commuter rail
  Vacation lines… 
Yankee Holidays to manage Amtrak Vacations brand
  Friday Closing quotes… 
  Freight lines… 
Vancouver wins right to decide fate of line
  Across the pond… 
Venezuela will inaugurate railroad linking capital,
   Caracas, with the Tuy Valley
  Events… 
APTA Legislative Conference March 5-7 in DC
  News from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign 
Statement from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign
  Editorial… 
A Conference to Remember
  End notes… 

David Gunn and Jim RePass

Five photos: NCI

NCI CEO Jim RePass and David Gunn take a break in the audience while answering questions.

 

Former Amtrak chief Gunn notes growing Amtrak
successes, warns of a U.S. infrastructure deficit.

NCI CEO links administration Amtrak policy to anti-middle class policies, programs

By DF Staff

NEWARK, DE --- Former Amtrak President David Gunn, ousted from his job by Bush Administration functionaries for his refusal to accede to their plans to break up and sell off the national passenger rail system, left his rural home in the outer reaches of Nova Scotia last week to be the featured speaker in a public policy forum at the University of Delaware.

The conference, entitled “Building Inter-Metropolitan Rail Corridors,” was sponsored by the Institute for Public Administration at the University and co-sponsored this year by the National Corridors Initiative. Also speaking was NCI president Jim RePass, who linked the Bush Administration’s policies toward the Amtrak system to other Administration policies that harm middle and working-class Americans.

The conference was organized by Dr. Robert Warren and IPA Director Jerome R. Lewis, who put together an impressive slate of speakers from across the nation. Delaware Senator Tom Carper, also a former Amtrak Board member, opened the day with high praise for the successes in rail initiatives from California to Maine, but with the sobering message that only with dedicated federal support will we see progress toward first-class national rail service in this country, both passenger and freight.

Jerome R. Lewis and Senator Tom Carper

IPA Director Jerome R. Lewis and Delaware Senator Tom Carper

Other speakers included some of the nation’s best known and most successful transportation executives and advocates, including Eugene Skoropowski, Director of California’s Capital Corridor commuter rail system, former Amtrak Reform Council Chair and Cascadia Managing Director Thomas Till, and Director Howard Learner of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, whose efforts in support of a “Mid-West Regional Rail Initiative” would create a nine-state regional rail network that, among other benefits, would eliminate the need for a new $5-billion Chicago area airport.

Leading academic researchers and theoreticians, Jean-Paul Rodrigue of the Department of Economics and Geography, Hofstra University and Allison L.C. De Cerreno, Co-Director, the Rudin Transportation Center, New York University, also took the podium.

 

Left: Former Amtrak Chair, David Gunn. Right: Allison L.C. De Cerreno, Co-Director, the Rudin Transportation Center

The conference received support from the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Wilmington Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “The Forum is part of the Institute’s longer-term agenda of research on and fostering awareness of the importance of rail transportation as a key element in the movement of people and goods at the national, state, regional, and local scales in the 21st century in the United States,” the school stated.

Keynote speaker David Gunn, regarded by rail professionals as the best manager Amtrak has ever had (nonetheless fired by the Bush Administration in November), is now adjunct scholar at the Free Congress Foundation in Washington.

His talk on the future of Amtrak laid out essential steps needed for passenger rail to succeed in America. While “there’s a lot wrong with Amtrak,” he stated, “there’s a lot that’s right with it.”

Breaking up Amtrak would destroy the extensive knowledge base of passenger railroad operations that Amtrak has built up over 35 years, Gunn noted. The loss of “human capital” whose skills in track management, signaling, procurement and all that makes railroad operations gel would “cost a fortune to get back.”

One issue he feels strongly must be resolved is that of the antiquated Railway Labor Act, which by restricting management ability to assign workers to tasks as needed rather than by a system of “crafts”, raises costs.

“I am not opposed to having well-paid people work on the railroad,” said Gunn, “but we must have well paid people used efficiently”.

In his address, “Amtrak Is Only The Symptom,” NCI’s RePass compared the Bush Administration’s aggressive campaign to discredit and/or close Amtrak to a mindset that fundamentally dislikes programs benefiting the middle and working class Americans, and favors wealthy Americans: “The Bush plan remains unchanged, which is 1) to break apart Amtrak and sell off its pieces, or at least those that might be saleable, and 2) close the rest, effectively abandoning the rest of the country to Greyhound Bus or hitchhiking. Their behavior tells me, and ought to tell you, what they think about the transportation needs of working class and middle class people, or the increasing number of elderly, formerly known as “baby boomers”, who like all older people are less and less able to fly as they age, stated RePass

What brought the Administration’s bias into perspective, says RePass, was the Administration’s similar failure to deal with the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina: “While those of us who have long been concerned with building a strong American ground transportation system have largely focused on Amtrak and transit as two major --- and long neglected --- components of any truly integrated national system, it is important that, going forward, we and our allies begin to broaden the debate, so that strangers to our efforts come to understand that while improved rail is essential, our failure to build it is a symptom of a much larger problem.”

Deleware 2006 conference

Dr. Howard Learner, Gene Skoropowski, and Tom Till with slide presentation.

“The present Administration in Washington not only does not understand the problem, but is actively implementing policies that make things worse,” said RePass. We are faced with the beginning of a long, painful economic decline. Part of that is simply because the rest of the world has begun to catch up, technologically, to America. But part of it is because we have failed to build infrastructure that works.”

“Taken by themselves, the failure of the levees, or the failure to invest in the national rail system, can be seen as isolated incidents. [but]I don’t think so. The mindset that would allow a city to be put at risk is the same one that allows thousands of people to starve in the dark for days in a filthy Superdome without plumbing, lights, water, or food, without responding, and then to lie about it afterward. I believe it is the same mindset that sends our young men and women into harm’s way in vehicles that they KNOW are unarmored, wearing inadequate protection that literally has fatal flaws --- and then flippantly announces, well, you go to war with the army you’ve got,” said RePass. “I think it is the same mindset that has given out hundreds of billions of dollars to wealthy Americans at the very same time – the very same --- that it has cut health benefits to the poor and elderly. It’s the same mindset that guts Federal agencies, and then puts people in command who are clearly over their heads, or whose chief skill set is the ability to re-direct blame.”

“No, Katrina was not an isolated incident. Neither is the second-rate body armor. Neither are the obscene tax cuts. And neither is Amtrak. The issue isn’t Amtrak. The issue is infrastructure, and the notion that while some of us may want smaller government, and others may want more, a basic function of government is to provide a fundamental level of infrastructure that 1) keeps us safe, 2) enables us to communicate securely, and, 3) allows us to work to improve our own lives and that of our families” he said. “What has happened to Amtrak, what happened in New Orleans, what happens in Baghdad, is all the logical result of a philosophy of devil-take-the hindmost which I think is fundamentally damaging to the underpinnings of our American way of life, and runs directly counter to the American notion of fair play and a square deal. I hope you agree, and help to get this point across to Congress, to the media, and to all those you know and work with. Because it’s not Amtrak that’s at stake. It’s America. Amtrak is only the symptom.”


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Spanish-Language Amtrak.Com debuts;
En Espanol only a click away

From the Internet

Amtrak has announced the launch of a complete Spanish-language version of its website, accessible at Espanol.Amtrak.com and Amtrak.com.

Amtrak’s website has long served as a valuable portal for passengers’rail-traveling needs. Now, by clicking on the “En Espanol” button on the Amtrak home page, or logging onto Espanol.Amtrak.com, Spanish-speaking customers can access schedules, routes, and special offers. Customers can also enjoy complete access to online reservation capabilities entirely in Spanish.

In addition, Amtrak also provides telephone customer service in Spanish,available at the railroad’s toll-free number, 1-800-USA-RAIL.

“Spanish is second only to English among western languages used on the Internet worldwide today,” said Matt Hardison, Amtrak Chief of Sales Distribution and Customer Service. “With 400 million Spanish-speaking people around the globe, we are very excited about expanding our on-line reservation and information system to this audience.”

Amtrak is recognized as a pioneer of customer-friendly technologies. It was one of the first national travel providers to implement an advanced voice-activated telephone system (“Julie”) and electronic ticketing kiosks (“Quik-Trak”).

For Amtrak en Espanol, the railroad deployed TransMotion(R) technology provided by MotionPoint Corporation for the translated Amtrak site. MotionPoint will maintain the Spanish-language version of Amtrak’s site, while Amtrak will continue to update its English-language site. The use of MotionPoint’s technology avoids the need for parallel sites, duplicate work, and does not require continuous notification when changes have been made to the English language site.

“Amtrak has the unique and desirable combination of being both very customer-focused and technology-focused,” said Will Fleming, president and CEO of MotionPoint Corporation. “We are pleased to provide Amtrak with the solution it desired to better serve its Spanish-language passengers.”


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Amtrak train strikes SUV in city

From the Internet

February 24 – The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that, on Friday, a westbound Amtrak train from St. Louis heading towards Kansas City hit an SUV near Manchester and Macklind, pushing the car about 150 yards. The driver of the SUV was seriously injured and was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Emergency crews and investigators were at the scene of the collision.

It was the second accident recently in eastern Missouri. On Wednesday, a westbound train left the tracks near Hermann; none of the passengers were injured.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

Spirit of Washington owners fight to save
the rails -- and their dinner train

From the Internet

SEATTLE, --Eric Temple is determined to save his dinner train -- so determined that he’s starting a campaign to convince King County Executive Ron Sims that there’s substantial community support for his mission, according an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

That mission includes use of the right of way for BOTH rail and trail but some county officials are more interested in just trail use. Temple has results of a recent poll that show 66 percent of the county residents want to preserve the train and use the corridor for walking and cycling

Temple, co-owner of the Spirit of Washington dinner train, is asking people to write Sims and ask that the county maintain the train route if it buys the 47-mile right of way on which it runs from Renton to the city of Snohomish. The county has been negotiating with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway since May about a possible purchase of the railway-owned land, but. Sims’ first priority for the property would be a pedestrian and cycling trail.

A rails and trails solution “would be the ideal outcome for everyone,” Temple told Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Deborah Bach. “If that’s what 66 percent of the population wants, it seems that that’s the goal we should be striving for.”

Since 1992, the Spirit of Washington has been carrying passengers between the train station in Renton and the Columbia Winery in Woodinville. The Temple family, which previously owned a chain of grocery stores, bought the old Washington Central Railroad in 1986. The dinner train was started three years later, taking passengers through the Yakima Valley to Ellensburg before moving the train to the Renton-Snohomish route.

Temple said the train transports about 100,000 passengers annually and has generated about $140 million in revenue for the region over the years. The recent poll found that 85 percent of respondents saw saving the train as “somewhat important or very important,” he said.

“Those are phenomenal numbers,” Temple said. “There’s just a certain nostalgia about it.”

Ron Brandon, King County director of environment and sustainability, said the county has signed an exclusive agreement with the railway for a potential purchase. “A trail and other uses would be ideal,” Brandon said. “We’ll be looking at other uses as well, but that decision has not been made at this time. Our focus has been: Is this something we should acquire or not?”

Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said the line is also used to transport goods such as aircraft components, sand, lumber, steel and cardboard. He would not comment further on the negotiations.

Temple is adamant about the importance of preserving the corridor for rail, not only for business but for a potential transit route in the future as the region continues to grow.

Once trails go in, he said, there’s no going back to railroad use.

“If you try to (build rails) later, it’ll be a huge battle.”


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Bombardier’s La Pocatiere site completes 1000th
carbody for New York commuter railroads

Source: Bombardier Transportation

LA POCATIERE, Quebec, February 24--Bombardier Transportation’s production site in La Pocatiere, Quebec celebrated an impressive achievement on Friday - production of the 1000th train carbody for a contract with New York City’s two commuter railroads. Bombardier Chairman and CEO Laurent Beaudoin joined other Bombardier executives, employees and invited guests at the site to mark the milestone in one of the Corporation’s most important rail contracts ever.

Bombardier is producing 1,172 M-7 commuter railcars for the MTA/Long Island Rail Road and the MTA/Metro-North Railroad in New York. The La Pocatiere site builds stainless-steel carbodies for the trains before shipping them for final assembly to a second Bombardier production site in Plattsburgh, New York.

This contract for over 1,000 vehicles is amongst the largest contract ever awarded in the North American market, which is much smaller than its European counterpart. This is the second time La Pocatiere has hit the 1,000-car threshold, the first coming in 2003 with a 1,030-subway car contract for New York City Transit.

“Producing one thousand carbodies is by itself a milestone indicative of success, and you should all be proud of the work you are doing here. It is a formidable example of Bombardier values which are leadership, excellence and teamwork,” said Mr. Beaudoin during remarks to employees. “This site was the backbone of our rail operation when we launched it some 30 years ago, and is at the heart of our North American organization today.”

Beaudoin underscored La Pocatiere’s long-time role as a supplier of products for the export market. He said the site was particularly important to Bombardier’s growth in the U.S., which is the biggest market in North America. Of the 5,000 railcars already produced at La Pocatiere since its first contract in 1974, 88% were destined for markets outside of Canada.

The La Pocatiere legacy encompasses some 30 major rail contracts since 1974, including Bombardier’s first contract with the Montreal Metro for 423 metro cars and a 1982 contract for 825 subway cars in New York.

Mr. Beaudoin said Bombardier’s rail business and the La Pocatiere site have made a significant, long-term economic contribution to the region surrounding the plant and the Province of Quebec. “This site represents 30 years of success, 30 years of expertise and significant benefit to the Quebec economy, an impressive record of achievement that we hope to continue. We would be proud to work with Quebec again on their next generation of subway cars and on commuter railcars as well,” he added.

About Bombardier

A world-leading manufacturer of innovative transportation solutions, from regional aircraft and business jets to rail transportation equipment, Bombardier Inc. is a global corporation headquartered in Canada. Its revenues for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2005 were $15.8 billion US and its shares are traded on the Toronto stock exchange (BBD). News and information are available at www.bombardier.com.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental line...

Truck traffic needs work,
Critics say as study lags

Across the wires from NYC Dept of Transportation

February 15--The New York City Department of Transportation, which is two years behind schedule on a study on overhauling truck traffic, is facing criticism from lawmakers and neighborhood activists who say the city is failing to address the congestion, pollution, noise and safety issues associated with commercial vehicles.

Truck traffic has become a major quality-of-life issue in certain neighborhoods, and some estimates show the volume of truck traffic rising 70 percent by 2025.

The transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, told the City Council Transportation Committee last week that her department had “underestimated the length of time required for such a large undertaking.” She said they were expanding the report to include more community involvement and more details on where truck accidents occur most frequently. She added that the report, begun in 2003, would be completed by April.

Fourteen pages of preliminary recommendations have been released by the department. Some of these the city is already working to implement - like a more uniform design for the thousands of truck-related traffic signs and clearer information cards for police officers with maps and truck-traffic rules.

But complaints about insufficient enforcement by the police when truck drivers roll lawlessly over residential streets have not been adequately addressed, say some advocates. More training on truck-traffic rules is necessary and stricter enforcement. Last year, officers issued 13,000 summonses to truck drivers but more than 40,000 citations to bicyclists

Beyond signs and enforcement, the preliminary findings point to a more fundamental problem in the truck-traffic system, which has not been significantly changed since 1982: “New York City is faced with an arterial system that is more conducive to automobile traffic than trucks.”

Last spring, the Council held a hearing on two bills that would have required truck drivers to carry color-coded maps of truck routes and the police to assign more officers to enforce the trucking rules, but the bills were put on hold after Ms. Weinshall promised to release the study by the end of the year. The new delay has infuriated some members.

Teresa Toro, the New York City coordinator at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which opposes dependence on automobiles, said the city had failed at the first goal.

“We have found communities under siege by truck traffic and feeling utterly abandoned by city government under the Bloomberg administration,” she said.

Ken Thorpe, president of the New York Trucking and Delivery Association, an association of 80 small trucking companies, said he feared that law-abiding truck companies would be unfairly blamed.

“Trucks are a sore sight, and you don’t want beeping and honking, but trucking is of monumental value to our city’s economy,” he said. “Trucking is not a pretty thing, but it needs to be respected.”

In a related development last week, Citizens for NYC, a philanthropy that gives grants to community groups, announced its own effort to monitor truck traffic in five neighborhoods: Chinatown; Downtown Brooklyn; Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Hunts Point, in the Bronx, and Flushing, Queens.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

‘Enchanted Spring, a Tribute to Mother Nature’
at the 2006 Philadelphia Flower Show

Across the wires from SEPTA

PHILADELPHIA, February 24 -- Visitors to the “Enchanted Spring, A Tribute to Mother Nature” 2006 edition of the Philadelphia Flower Show will find that SEPTA is the most convenient route to the special event with frequent bus, trolley and rail service operating practically to the doors of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Flower Show will spring into view from March 5 through 12. Riders will find that SEPTA provides an economical alternative to driving with a special SEPTA Bouquet Pass and discounted Flower Show tickets on sale at various SEPTA outlets.

The special $8.00 Bouquet Pass provides one-day, unlimited travel on all SEPTA routes. Bouquet passes, however, are not valid on regional rail trains arriving in Center City before 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, or for travel to or from Trenton via the R7 regional rail line.

SEPTA will also sell discounted Flower Show tickets for only $21.00 for adults and $12.00 for children, providing significant savings compared to regular show ticket prices.

Both Bouquet Passes and Flower Show tickets, which may be purchased in combination for $29.00, are currently available through March 12 at SEPTA Sales Offices at 15th & Market Streets (in the Suburban Station concourse), 69th Street Terminal (69th & Market Streets), the Frankford Transportation Center (Frankford Avenue & Bridge Street), the Olney Transportation Center (Broad Street & Olney Avenue), and the Transit Museum Store at 1234 Market Street (lobby). The discounted tickets are also available at all SEPTA regional rail station ticket offices.

As an added bonus, anyone that visits the Transit Museum Store and displays a Bouquet Pass will receive a 10% discount on any merchandise purchased through March 12, 2006.

For additional information about Bouquet Passes, Flower Show tickets or SEPTA services to the show, call (215) 580-7800 or visit http://www.SEPTA.org. To learn more about the Philadelphia Flower Show click on http://www.theflowershow.com.


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In search of reliable commuter rail

From the Internet

February 24--After fourteen years of service that has included both good times and bad, Virginia Railway Express can optimistically consider itself the little engine that could. Like most public services, VRE operates just fine much of the time. But it’s those bad experiences that stick in a rider’s craw--and memory.

On Saturday, VRE passengers had a chance to ask questions and air concerns at a town-hall-type meeting at the Stafford Government Center. There was plenty to talk about, such as whether Spotsylvania will ever join the system.

And then there is the punctuality issue.

Stafford Supervisor Bob Gibbons, who also is a VRE Operations Board member, calls the commuter rail system’s on-time performance this past year “dismal,” and is looking for answers. Many of those answers will involve CSX, the railroad that owns the tracks on which the Fredericksburg VRE line runs. CSX assistant vice president Jay Westbrook insists that the railroad is well able to handle both passenger and freight traffic. The problem is achieving that goal reliably . Commuters simply want to know they’ll get to work and back home on time--consistently.

These days, the Washington-Fredericksburg corridor is a transportation nightmare, no matter when or how it is traveled. Like their concrete counterparts, the rails have grown much more crowded in recent decades with both passenger and freight traffic. VRE adds 14 train trips (seven round trips) to the corridor each day. That’s on top of the regular Amtrak service and numerous CSX freights that ply the same rails.

The bottlenecks that plague the rails, however, haven’t benefited from HOV lanes or reconfigured interchanges. Everyone, including state, CSX, and VRE officials, agrees on the need for an extra parallel track. While most of the corridor south of Alexandria boasts at least a double track, a stretch over Quantico Creek still has but one. Even if the bridges over creeks and rivers are not immediately widened to accommodate the additional track, officials say triple-tracking everywhere else would help enormously.

Now that CSX has finally decided it can work with state officials and accept state funds, relief may be the light at the end of the tunnel. On-time VRE performance could actually be the rule, rather than the fantasy. Of course breakdowns and accidents will still happen, just as they do on the highway, but if VRE can triple its ridership during 14 often frustrating years, imagine what it could do if service actually became like clockwork.

(Editor’s note: At the time of this writing, the meeting had not yet taken place. Results of Saturday’s meeting will be reported in the March 6 Destination: Freedom.)


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VACATION LINES...  Vacation lines...

Yankee Holidays to manage Amtrak Vacations brand

Across the wires from the Boston Business Journal

Beverly, MA ---Yankee Holidays was awarded the exclusive right to book vacations with Amtrak under the “Amtrak Vacations” brand.

The Beverly, Mass.-based tour operator, which has been in the travel business for 34 years, will manage and operate the Amtrak Vacations brand.

Though terms of the agreement were not disclosed, Stacey White, Yankee Holidays director of operations, said she hopes the contract will triple the company’s revenue.

Yankee Holidays and Amtrak are developing the full Amtrak Vacations program, with destinations including New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Montreal. Packages may include rail and air reservations, car rentals, hotel accommodations and sightseeing options.

Yankee Holidays will begin taking reservations April 3, 2006. Consumers, travel agents, and tour operators may contact Yankee Holidays to book Amtrak Vacations packages at 866-830-6372.

The Amtrakvacations.com web site will also be available starting April 3.

“Amtrak Vacations has historically been an exceptionally strong value for leisure travelers and we look forward to Yankee Holidays as an experienced operator to manage the brand,” said Amtrak Marketing and Sales Promotions Chief David Lim.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)78.9780.35
Canadian National (CNI)93.1694.10
Canadian Pacific (CP)50.8749.01
CSX (CSX)55.3654.43
Florida East Coast (FLA)51.4049.90
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)44.9144.07
Kansas City Southern (KSU)23.6624.38
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.9649.35
Providence & Worcester (PWX)16.4816.05
Union Pacific (UNP)88.4688.74


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Vancouver wins right to decide fate of line

Future use of old CPR railway corridor
up to city, top court rules

From the Internet

VANCOUVER -- The Arbutus Corridor, an abandoned rail line with weeds between the ties and rust on the rails, will be preserved as a transportation corridor despite the protests of developers and the wishes of Canadian Pacific Railway to sell off the property for a housing strip.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of the City of Vancouver after a lengthy dispute with Canadian Pacific Railway.

The fight began in 2000 when the City passed a bylaw in 2000 designating the corridor as a public transportation route.

City councillors were pleased with the court’s ruling. Their plans are for the 11-kilometre route, which is 15 to 20 metres wide, to be used for rail transit and a greenway . Mayor Sam Sullivan indicated that the city would go forward with its plan for tram cars, bike paths and greenbelts.

A group called Save the Arbutus Corridor had been building widespread public support for the transportation plan, which would make the Corridor part of a regional streetcar network.

Canadian Pacific Railway acquired the property in 1886 but in the latter half of the 20th century they ran a steadily declining number of freight trains over it until 2001. They had planned to cash in on Vancouver’s booming real estate market and re-invest the money elsewhere in British Columbia.

The Court ruled that the City was not obligated to compensate Canadian Pacific, who still owns the property, since they will be able to lease the rail line for transportation use or run railway service themselves.

Paul Clark, CPR vice-president of communications, said the decision leaves both parties back at square one.

City Councillors indicated they had no plans to back off from their plans.

(Editor’s note: The freight rail industry in North America has long been suffering from lack of funds for capital improvements to their infrastructure so it has been a common tactic to sell off property for development to ease their economic woes. With highways over capacity in many areas from vehicle and truck traffic, it is essential to our economy that railroads play a much bigger role in hauling freight. It is NCI’s position that federal support to improve and build rail infrastructure is essential to the solution of this growing crisis.)


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Venezuela will inaugurate railroad linking
capital, Caracas, with the Tuy Valley

Caracas-Cua railroad to open in October

From the Internet

Railroad Institute President Angel García said in a television interview that riders on the new 2.4 billion dollar line will travel for free through December.

The railroad, the first phase of a project to create a national rail system, is expected to carry up to 86,000 persons a day, García said. The railroad will “provide comfortable transportation, lead to less congestion on streets, and boost domestic tourism,” García said. Work on the 43-kilometer (24 mile) railroad began in 1996.

Venezuela, which has just two regional railroads, has made the construction of a national rail system one of its transportation objectives to boost exports. The system is expected to be completed in 2024


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EVENTS...  Events...

APTA Legislative Conference March 5-7 in DC

From APTA

WASHINGTON---“Realizing the Promise of SAFETEA-LU,” the new transportation bill passed by the Congress last Fall, is the main subject of the American Public Transportation Association’s annual legislative conference at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington March 5-7.

“After three years in development, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was signed by the President on August 10, 2005. SAFETEA-LU represents a hard-fought victory for the public transportation industry and is consistent with the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) key reauthorization goals: grow the federal transit program, maintain funding guarantees, and expedite program delivery,” said APTA.

“Now, with the implementation of SAFETEA-LU underway, APTA’s 31st Annual Legislative Conference is one of the most important events of the year for the public transportation industry. It takes place at a time when the Administration is implementing key policy changes mandated by the new legislation and Congress is developing its annual appropriations legislation within the framework of SAFETEA-LU. In addition, Congress will begin examining future transportation financing options, a key task mandated by the new law, and addressing transit security needs,” APTA stated.

“Attend workshops on important legislative issues, participate in APTA’s advocacy efforts, network with industry colleagues, and enjoy exciting social events. Your involvement and visits to Capitol Hill are critical to making the promise of SAFETEA-LU a reality. Let’s keep the industry’s voice strong to make sure public transportation receives all of the benefits promised under SAFETEA-LU,” APTA said.

Transit CEOs, board members, business members of APTA, and others are encouraged to attend. Register now for the 31st Annual Legislative Conference, and make appointments with your U.S. Senators and Representatives. See www.apta.com for details.


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TRI-STATE NOTES...  Tri-State notes...

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


NEW YORK CITY, February 22--The following is a statement from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign on the recent federal court ruling on ATA vs. Whitman, overturning a state law which banned heavy truck trips on local roads:

“We urge Governor Corzine and the NJ Dept. of Transportation to implement new truck rules that meet the court’s concerns, or otherwise effectively preserve prohibitions of inappropriate truck traffic on smaller state highways.  The rules overturned by the court have improved safety and the quality of life along key state routes since the Whitman administration.  It is especially critical that a replacement rule be put in place because truck traffic is not static – it is the fastest growing segment of traffic on New Jersey’s highways.  Federal Highway Administration projections suggest the volume of trucks on our roads could increase by 50% over the next two decades.”

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is an alliance of public interest, transit advocacy, planning and environmental organizations working to reverse deepening automobile dependence and sprawl development in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut metropolitan region.

 

Background…

In July, 1999,New Jersey became the first state in the country to ban large tractor-trailers from its state roads and highways. The restriction, which went into effect in July 1999, confines large trucks (more than 102 inches wide) that do not do business in the state to interstate highways and the National Network, a system of major highways and connector roads.

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman issued the ban through an emergency order in July 1999, announcing that “Large trucks that are not doing business in New Jersey have no business using local roads in New Jersey.”

The order was followed by permanent regulations in September, and on January 13, 2000, she signed companion legislation that lays out the penalties for truckers found breaking the new rules: $ 400 for a first offense, $ 700 for a second infraction and then $ 1,000 for every violation afterward.

The ban followed years of complaints from residents and local officials that out-of-state truckers using local roads as shortcuts were a safety hazard and a noisy nuisance. Several accidents on country roads involving collisions with trucks stoked the public’s anger.

Big-rig traffic is particularly heavy in New Jersey due to its status as a corridor between large East Coast cities. Each day about 135,000 large semis pass through New Jersey. In recent years, many truckers started taking shortcuts between major highways and veering off the New Jersey Turnpike to avoid tolls. The ban has already reduced truck traffic by as much as 30 percent on some roads.

However, shippers worry that other states may follow Jersey’s lead, and this could substantially affect their business.

The American Trucking Association has filed suit in U.S. District Court to overturn the ban, charging that it impedes interstate commerce by forcing some truckers “to deviate from more direct routes, which lengthens travel time and can be more expensive.” According to Beth Law, chief counsel for the ATA. The association’s lawsuit also claims that the restriction violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause because it treats trucks based in New Jersey differently from those based outside the state.

John Dourgarian, a spokesman for the New Jersey Transportation Department, said the state was well within its rights to impose the ban, “The U.S. Department of Transportation advised us last summer that the D.O.T. had the authority to regulate truck traffic on non-national highways,” he said. “We feel quite strongly that the law does not impact interstate commerce because we’re providing a good system of roads for truckers to use.”

More:

  • Full Text of P.L. 1999, Chapter 348 - Establishing Penalties for Interstate Truckers on Local Roads - approved January 13, 2000

  • New Jersey Department of Transportation has a section on Trucks

  • New Jersey Truck Regulations

  • Governor Signs Legislation Establishing Penalties for Interstate Truckers on Local Roads - NJ Governor Press Release, January 13, 2000

The New Rules Project - http://www.newrules.org/

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EDITORIAL...  Editorial...

A Conference to Remember

As someone who has attended several hundred conferences, forums, and policy sessions in the past two decades, I have seldom been involved in a conference more dynamic, more timely, and more to the point than the University of Delaware’s just-concluded public policy forum, “Building Inter-Metropolitan Rail Corridors.”

Aside from the presence of former Amtrak CEO David Gunn, whose modest demeanor and self-deprecating humor (“I need a job!”) belies one of the sharpest minds in the rail industry, and yours truly, the line-up of transportation leaders such as Gene Skoropowski of California’s wildly successful Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (service and ridership have quadrupled in seven years while farebox-recovery has jumped), or the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Howard Learner, and Seattle’s Cascadia Project Managing Director Tom Till (and former Amtrak Reform Council Director as well) made this conference one of the very few whose participants, from start to finish, made it gripping.

In addition to those who operate real-world transportation systems with budgets, political environments, and everyday crises, the conference included academic leader Jean-Paul Rodrigue of the Department of Economics and Geography, Hofstra University, and Allison L.C. De Cerreno, Co-Director, the Rudin Transportation Center, New York University, who brought a broader perspective and a thought-provoking analysis to the issues of building a modern transportation system for America which at present does not have one.

The balance between real-world operatives and theoreticians, between thinkers and doers, was perfect. Congratulations to Jerome Lewis, Director of the Institute for Public Administration at University of Delaware, and conference organizer Dr. Robert Warren of the IPA for putting together a superb conference. NCI was proud to be part of it.


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End Notes...

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