Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 10, March 8, 2003
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


NCI ANNUAL CONFERENCE...  NCI Annual Conference

April 28, 29

The National Corridors Initiative’s 2003 Conference

Rail Futures:
Building Secure and Successful Transit and Intercity Rail for America

The Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd St., N.W., Washington, D.C.

Keynote Speakers:
Hon. Gov. Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security (Invited)
Amtrak Board Chair John Robert Smith
Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn
Amtrak Board Vice-Chair Michael S. Dukakis
American Public Transportation Assn. President William Millar

Special Conference Session for Journalists and Industry:
The News Media and Transportation – “Making News”


$475 (corporate); $375 (government); $350 (non-profit, union)

Checks should be payable to NCI Inc., 35 Terminal Road, Suite 210, Providence RI. 02905

Arrange hotel accommodations at special low conference rates directly with the Washington Marriott 202-872-1500 fax 202-872-9899 and mention NCI.

Click HERE for more information and registration materials. Register On-Line! (Secure Server!)


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Florida governor plans to return high-speed rail
vote to Floridians; voters already okayed plan

By Leo King
Editor

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush drew his line in the sand on Tuesday regarding high-speed rail. In his state of the state address from the Tallahassee capital building in a joint House-Senate meeting, President Bush’s brother said he would support a measure that has already been introduced in both the senate and House that would send a Constitutional Amendment voters approved two years ago back to the voters. Another amendment, approved last fall by the electorate, affects class sizes throughout the state. Legislators are also trying to return that notion to the voters.

He told Floridians last week, “We must also acknowledge that our efforts to strengthen our economy and protect our people are hampered by expensive Constitutional amendments, especially the high-speed rail and class size amendments.”

The governor added, “Make no mistake. The people voted for these two amendments, and we have a Constitutional obligation to implement them. My budget recommendations implement Year One of the class size amendment, and we are moving forward with bids for Phase One of the high-speed rail amendment as well.”

He acknowledged the people had spoken, but he is upset over how much the projects will cost.

“We must also keep in mind that the voters had two noble and enduring objectives in speaking through these amendments: to improve education and transportation infrastructure in our state – but even without our new, urgent new priorities, high-speed rail and the class-size amendment are making funding decisions extremely painful. The budget I proposed in January demonstrated the severity of cuts that are necessary to implement only Year One of the Class Size amendment.”

Florida is only one of a few states that has cash in a “rainy day” fund, which the governor said he hopes he will not have to touch. He also said raising taxes will be a last resort.

“That’s only the beginning. We cannot fully implement these amendments solely by cutting spending. State costs for the first phase of high-speed rail could be up to $2.7 billion and up to $12 billion for full implementation. The class-size amendment costs will be even higher,” he said.

“So, I believe we must go back to the voters and have them make a decision with all the information in hand, information about the new challenges our state faces, and information about the massive tax increases that will be necessary to pay for them.”

Senate President Jim King (R) said he did not think the amendment proposals would pass either house, because three-quarters of the legislature must approve such a motion.

“I’m not so sure we’ve given it enough time to see if we can implement it or not,” said King. “We’re only 90 days after the amendment was passed to begin with.”

Thirty votes would be needed in the Senate, 90 in the House.

Bush said voters didn’t know the amendments could lead to “massive tax increases,” and major cuts in other state services. The Jacksonville Times Union reported the governor’s $54 billion budget proposal for 2003-2004 includes big cuts to higher education, juvenile justice services and other state programs.

Most of the focus was on the class size amendment. Democratic leaders called Bush’s call for a new class size vote “insulting” to voters who passed it with 52 percent of the vote just a few months ago. House Minority Leader Doug Wiles (D) said Bush is using the amendment as a way to justify his own poor economic policies that have led to the state’s current $4 billion budget deficit.


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Morgan to resign from STB in April

Linda Morgan

Photo, Frank Johnston
The Washington Post

Linda Morgan, who headed the Surface Transportation Board and its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in her office.
Linda J. Morgan, who saw the railroad industry through a decade of turbulent mergers, said she will resign from the Surface Transportation Board on April 8, almost nine months before her term expires.

Morgan, a Democrat who had a cordial relationship with Bush administration officials, had been asked to remain as chairman until the administration could name a replacement, a process that took a year, according to The Washington Post.

Roger P. Nober, a USDOT official, was named chairman of the three-person board in December. Morgan said she would not decide on a future career until after she leaves.

She presided over the Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger in 1996 that resulted in a meltdown in rail service nationwide, and the 1999 division of Conrail between Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation, which created serious service problems that were not solved for months. Those systems have recovered from their problems, and service appears to be improving.

Morgan said she believes that the railroad industry has emerged from the merger period better, because the companies learned to pay closer attention to their customers and to day-by-day operations.

“This period without mergers has been good for the industry,” she said. “For a time, mergers were the answer to everything.”

Morgan said she fears for the future of freight rail because the railroads, shippers, Congress and states are polarized over whether government should impose conditions to guarantee greater competition, which would cause freight rates to fall. Such “open access” proposals could hurt customers more than they help, she said.

Former President Clinton originally nominated Morgan, from Maryland, to the Interstate Commerce Commission, the STB’s predecessor agency. She took office on April 28, 1994, for a five-year term expiring December 31, 1998. On March 23, 1995, Clinton named her ICC chair.

After passage of the ICC Termination Act, which abolished the ICC and created the STB, she was designated its chairman in January 1996. On November 10, 1999, by a vote of 96-3, the Senate confirmed her for a second term at the board. Her term expires on December 31.

In January 2001, the Bush Administration asked her to continue to serve as Chairman.

Morgan is married to Michael E. Karam, Esq., a senior trial attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Tax Division.


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‘Rail-2-Rail’ notion gets riders

Amtrak, Metrolink and CalDOT report “more than 86,400 passengers” have ridden their trains since they began a “Rail-2-Rail” joint ticketing program last fall.

Tickets are good on cross-entity trains.

“We’re delighted with the initial results,” said Cyndi Darlington, Amtrak’s Senior Director for western sales. She predicted, “Ridership will only continue to grow as more passengers become familiar with using both services.”

For the first four months of the program, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner posted record ridership with 615,532 passengers taking the train, which is a 20.1 percent increase in overall ridership from the previous year, including Metrolink pass holders.

“Since the Rail-2-Rail program began, Metrolink monthly pass sales have gone up by 10 percent,” said Metrolink Board Chair Bill Alexander.

Metrolink monthly pass holders on the Ventura and Orange County Lines may ride any Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train or Amtrak bus within the trip limits of their pass for no additional charge. Amtrak passengers can use their tickets on any Metrolink service on any line to any destination within the limits of the Amtrak ticket.

Metrolink passengers may also use their Orange and Ventura County Line monthly passes to ride Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains within the trip limits of their pass on weekends. Currently there is no Metrolink service on those two lines on weekends.

Metrolink and Amtrak will also accept any of each other’s “fare media” valid for travel between Los Angeles Union Station and the Burbank Airport station. Some 37 trains ply that route.

Amtrak is online at www.amtrak.com.

Metrolink is online at www.metrolinktrains.com/


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Turboliners remain quiet in New York

Production of high-speed trains intended to streamline Amtrak service between Rensselaer and New York City is headed for another slowdown unless engines and transmissions needed to complete the last four are supplied soon, the president of the company doing the work said March 1.

Two of seven Turboliners being rebuilt by Super Steel Schenectady at its Glenville, N.Y. plant under a $74.4 million contract with New York State already have been delivered to Amtrak’s Rensselaer yard and tested, but the railroad has not yet put them into passenger service. The Albany Times-Union of March 2 reported a third is near completion, and Super Steel is scheduled to deliver the rest within the next year, President Scott Mintier said.

Amtrak to honor commitment

By Friday, Amtrak said it would make good on its commitment to supply engines and transmissions for the last four of seven high-speed Turboliners, but the railroad’s finances could make it necessary to change the terms, an Amtrak spokesman said.

Super Steel President Scott Mintier suggested earlier Amtrak was reneging on its commitments under a complex 1998 agreement with New York State.

The Albany Times-Union reported in its Saturday edition Amtrak’s Dan Stessel, in Washington, said the railroad hasn’t changed its intentions. It will provide engines and transmissions, though “our financial situation may cause us to make modifications to our original agreement.”

Stessel declined to specify what kind of modifications might be necessary. He said Amtrak, NYDOT and Super Steel officials will hold three-way telephone talks this week to try to work out a plan.

“We will work to avoid or minimize any potential delays,” he said.

Two Turboliners already delivered to Amtrak’s Rensselaer rail yard are now expected to start carrying passengers by early April.

Amtrak has begun stockpiling its own replacement parts for the first two trains despite Mintier’s contention that it’s unnecessary.

“We need to have the critical parts on our shelves. They can’t be in a factory somewhere,” Stessel said, adding, “We need to have at least the critical parts in-house so, when a headlight goes out, we don’t have to take a whole train set out of service while we wait for Super Steel’s factory to reopen.”


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The complex contract for reconditioning the 1970s-era trains and track improvements that would enable them to operate at high speeds calls for Amtrak to provide engines and transmissions for the last four, Mintier said. Amtrak is reneging on that part of its commitment because of its financial crisis, he said.

The national passenger rail service is receiving $1.05 billion in federal funding this year, close to the $1.2 billion it sought from Congress—but that leaves little for expenses beyond running and maintaining existing trains and tracks.

“Right now, I’m working around it,” but the lack of key components complicates production and soon will create delays if not resolved, Mintier said.

He discussed the progress on the Turboliners—and his frustration that the first two are not yet carrying passengers—during a break in the annual meeting of the Empire State Passengers Assn., a group of rail riders and advocates, at the Mohawk Club in Schenectady’s Stockade section.

NYDOT and Amtrak representatives at the meeting declined to comment in detail on the project, except to say they are optimistic that the first two trains will be making regular runs soon.

The trains were supposed to be in service by early 2001, cutting the trip between Rensselaer and New York City by about 20 minutes. Because each Turboliner has two locomotives, one at each end, each train needs two new engines and two reconditioned transmissions, Mintier said. He said Super Steel has the equipment to complete one locomotive on the fourth train but lacks the wherewithal to finish the second. “I have no engine. I needed it last week,” he said.

The cost of engines and transmissions for the remaining Turboliners would be between $4.5 million and $5 million, based on Super Steel’s estimates.

Amtrak has cited a lack of spare parts, catalogs and maintenance manuals when expressing reservations about launching regular Turboliner service.

Mintier said parts catalogs were delivered in February, and the manuals have been sent, but “the spare parts thing is somewhat curious. I’m the vendor. I have a factory full of parts and I can make a part immediately.”

Other wrinkles disrupting Super Steel’s production schedule include Amtrak’s delay in delivering the seventh train to Glenville and its reluctance to formally accept the second train, which is required to release a $500,000 payment to Super Steel, Mintier said.

“Neither DOT nor Amtrak seems to be able to move at the speed of business,” he said.


Let’s call it ‘Regional,’ not ‘Acela’

Despite the challenges of the last year, Acela Express continues to be a popular service, writes Amtrak. “Passengers like it because it’s fast and has lots of desirable amenities on board. Many also like Acela Regional because it offers a good value, providing reliable service for a reasonable price.”

But wait – “We know that confusion over the two names persists.”

So, you ask, what to do?

“We are going to drop the name Acela from the Regional service, and simply call the service by one word: “Regional,” effective March 17.

So, writes the carrier, “Frankly, we all heard our customers. The sharing of the Acela brand name was confusing.  Change, in this case, is certainly necessary. So, going forward, there will be several service options in the Northeast Corridor from Newport News to Boston:

Acela Express trains will be only premium service trains with reserved first-class and business-class seating.

Metroliners – remember those? Amtrak said passengers traveling between New York and Washington “may choose between first-class and business class seating.”

The Regionals will have business-class and coach class. They’re the “plain Janes” in the fleet.

The carrier’s commuter services will continue to be known specifically by their own names – the Keystone (between New York and Harrisburg) and Clocker (serving the corridor between New York and Philadelphia) – and offer value, convenience, and reliability.

Over the next few weeks, signage will change, too. Expect to see a gradual transition from Acela Regional to Regional, in signs and elsewhere.


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Another train for New Mexico?

Two Amtrak passenger trains pass through New Mexico each day – eastbound and westbound trains 3 and 4 – The Southwest Chief – between Chicago and Los Angeles, which stops in Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque and Gallup.

State Sen. Bernadette Sanchez (D) wants to look into the possibility of a north-south train up the Rio Grande corridor between El Paso and Denver.

Sanchez’s senate bill, SB640, would allocate $200,000 for the state Highway and Transportation Department and the Alliance for Transportation Research to study the feasibility of such passenger-rail service. The bill made it through the Senate Education Committee and is heading toward the Senate Finance Committee.


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COMMUTER LINES...

Commuter rail would close 19 of 47
Atlanta-Macon grade crossings

Commuter trains from Atlanta should soon speed down CSX’s “S” line, making stops in Barnesville, Forsyth, Bolingbroke and downtown Macon, but before they do, Georgia rail officials want to limit the places a vehicle can cross over it.

To prepare for the commuter trains, the Georgia DOT recommends closing 14 of 33 crossings at grade in Monroe County, and five more – of 14 - in Bibb County.

They should all be closed during the next three years, according to a report in the Macon Telegraph.

By 2015, a bridge or tunnel could be constructed at crossings at North Lee Street in Forsyth and near Wesleyan Drive in Macon. The Rumble Road crossing would be relocated, and a Bolingbroke fire station would be moved.

The proposals likely will be presented for public input within the next few months.

“None of it is going to be set in stone” before then, said Doug Alexander, rail manager for the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority. “We need to work with local governments in order to make it happen.”

Steve Yost, rail program manager for the Georgia DOT, said safety is the primary goal of the recommendations. There have been 54 deaths at crossings in Georgia during the past five years, and the toll could increase as up to 350 passengers could be on board each commuter train.

With track improvements, both commuter and freight trains will travel much faster than the 10 miles per hour at which the current locomotive typically move.

There are 159 crossings where a vehicle and train can meet on the line to Atlanta, more than one-and-a-half for every mile of track, Alexander said. In contrast, the high-speed TGV train in France has none, he said.

Most of the crossings that would be closed, according to the suggested list, have less traffic and an alternate crossing nearby.

“I think the public needs to know that this is what we’re looking at,” said Vernon Ryle, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission. “Commuter rail is very important to the community.”

Ryle said committees of the Macon Area Transportation Study have given feedback to rail planners. Concerns have included making sure Tucker Drive traffic fits seamlessly into the Wesleyan Drive project, and that the design for that grade-separation suits the neighborhood.

He also said schools officials will want to study the closing at Holt Avenue, which currently is used by many school buses. Alexander said if local officials want to keep that crossing, it would be made as safe as possible.

In Forsyth, local officials seem satisfied with changes proposed for the near term.

“The City Council didn’t have any problem with the first two they were going to close,” Forsyth Mayor Paul Jossey said. “I can see that we have too many crossings.”

By 2006, the crossings near 225 and 353 Indian Springs Drive would be closed, as would the crossing at Main Street near a grocery store.

According to the state’s recommendation, by 2015 a bridge or tunnel would be constructed at the North Lee Street crossing, the city’s busiest. Another suggestion is to place an underpass at Jackson Street, and then make traffic on Jackson and Lee streets travel in opposite directions between the crossing and the courthouse square.

Jossey said the improvements could reduce fire insurance premiums. Currently, all fire stations are on one side of the track, and there is no way to cross over if a train is coming.

“We’re very concerned about access to both sides of the railroad,” Monroe County Emergency Services Chief Glenn Dorner said.

Dorner said he has been included in the discussion of railroad crossings and is confident that emergency response needs will be addressed. For example, the fire station in Bolingbroke could be moved to a new grade-separated crossing about a mile away.

“We’ve got to be particular because of emergency traffic,” Monroe County Commission Chairman Ben Spear said.

Spear said he does not expect much opposition to the closings, as long as the rail program paves the road on the other side of the track from U.S. 41, which runs parallel to the track for much of Monroe County.

Jennie Glasgow, state coordinator for Georgia Operation Lifesaver, said installing warning devices at crossings is not a guarantee for safety. According to the organization’s Web site, nearly half of all vehicle-train collisions occur at crossings with flashing lights, bells and/or gates.

“The bottom line is: It’s in the public’s benefit not to have so many public crossings,” Glasgow said.

In addition to improving safety, Alexander said closing crossings has the benefit of reducing the number of times a train must blow its horn.

Commission Vice Chairman Jim Ham, whose district has 21 of the county’s 33 crossings, including those in Smarr, said he is not happy about the closings.

“We would like to keep them all, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible,” Ham said. “(Of course,) if rapid rail is not going to come, you’re not going to hear any more out of this study.”

A federal grant paid for the study of railroad crossings. Implementing the passenger rail program from Macon to Atlanta will take at least $316 million, Alexander said. With the state facing a $620 million revenue shortfall and more homework to be done on transportation issues, Gov. Sonny Perdue is not expected to announce a rail strategy this legislative session, Perdue spokesman Shane Hix said.

“Transportation is a very important issue to the governor,” Hix said. “At this point we’re still reviewing our overall transportation needs.”

Sharon Gay, chairwoman of the Georgia Rail Passenger Program, said the governor is clearly studying the rail system with due diligence. Gay said, if planned correctly, the program will be convenient for commuters and a beacon for smart development south of Atlanta.

“We’ll keep moving ahead until somebody tells us to stop,” Gay said. “I don’t have any reason to feel discouraged.”

The initial plan is to have two passenger trains leaving Macon in the morning and returning in the evening. When additional cities are added to the system by 2025, about 25 trains could be traveling in each direction, and more work would have to be done on crossings.

The final authority on closing crossings rests with local officials, either a county commission or city council, Alexander said.


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North-south rail link appears to be dead

A one-mile rail link between North Station and South Station in downtown Boston appears unlikely to be built as the state begins to rate proposed transportation projects for cost-effectiveness.

Douglas Foy, the Romney administration’s chief of commonwealth development, predicted the long-proposed link between the two transit and commuter rail stations will be shelved as the state reviews everything from the Greenbush rail restoration project to the planned widening of highways on the South Shore and between Randolph and Wellesley. According to the Patriot-Ledger of March 3.

‘‘The only one that I know is not likely to make the final cut list on transit is the North-South rail link, which is a $7 billion project and it’s another tunnel through the center of Boston,” Foy said. ‘‘I do not see any way that we are going to be able to do that.”

Foy was uncertain about two other projects important to the South Shore - the $470 million Greenbush rail restoration, and a $200 million plan to widen Route 3 between Weymouth and Duxbury.

All state spending projects will be rated by a common set of criteria, Foy said. The process will take several months.

‘‘There are going to be a bunch of things that are in the set of criteria,” Foy said. ‘‘What it does for alleviating sprawl, how many cars it takes off the road, how many people it moves from where they live to where they work, and how cost effectively it does that.”

The plan to restore the Greenbush commuter rail line is under a six-month construction moratorium. The MBTA halted all construction-related activity on the Greenbush project as it finalizes needed permits.

‘‘It’s got permitting issues, so the T hit the pause button on it,” Foy said. ‘‘As I am told by the T, it was a cost-saving measure exclusively. No one should read anything more into that pause than what the T has already said.”

Foy was a staunch supporter of the Greenbush plan when he was head of the Conservation Law Foundation. While he may no longer serve as an advocate in his new position, Foy said he still sees benefits to the project, but worries about its rising cost.

‘‘The interesting problem with Greenbush is that it has become increasingly expensive,” he said. ‘‘When it started out, I think all three Old Colony line restoration projects combined cost $200 million in the original estimate. And of course now Greenbush alone is 2_ times that, so you have to look at it hard.”

The state agreed in a court order to restore all three of the Old Colony rail lines as mitigation for spending billions on the Big Dig. When asked if canceling Greenbush would result in legal repercussions, Foy said, ‘‘I would not jump too far ahead. No one is saying Greenbush is dead or not going to survive the cut when we do a serious set of transit analyses.”

Other transportation projects - including the planned Stoughton rail line extension to New Bedford and Fall River - remain in limbo as the Romney administration reviews transit projects.

‘‘If you look at the list (of projects), it’s quite a long list,” Foy said. ‘‘All I know is that we’ve got a list of transit projects totaling $14 billion, and I know we can’t do them all.”

Many transportation projects stand to be shelved because of the Romney administration’s ‘‘Fix-It First” approach to maintaining existing roads and bridges.

‘‘You’re talking about 600 bridges that are in pretty serious disrepair right now, and the average repair price on those bridges is minimum $3 million,” Foy said. ‘‘So you’re talking about four or five years worth of money just to fix the bridges.”

However, one project is all but sure to happen – fixing the notorious bottlenecks at the Sagamore Rotary on Cape Cod.

“The governor campaigned on a pledge that if he didn’t have the Sagamore Rotary fixed by the end of his term, he should be thrown out of office, and we would prefer to have him not thrown out of office,” Foy said. ‘‘How it gets fixed, what the best strategy is, is something we’re looking at right now.”

On March 3, the newspaper reported an MBTA official confirmed that a commitment to build a road in Weymouth Landing was still part of negotiations over the Greenbush rail restoration, despite the agency’s announcement to the contrary last week.

‘‘(The MBTA) has not closed the door on the connector road,” James Eng, the MBTA’s director of construction for the Greenbush project, said.

The station would be located between Commercial Street in Weymouth and Quincy Avenue in Braintree. Eng suggested that MBTA officials a fortnight ago threatened to take the road off the bargaining table to compel officials in those towns to sign mitigation agreements.

‘‘There was no movement on the agreement,” Eng said. ‘‘We would like the towns to work with us to finalize it.”

The connector road, which would cost about $5 million, has long been a sticking point in both towns’ negotiations over Greenbush. Weymouth officials say it is essential to lessening the traffic impact of a station in Weymouth Landing.

Darrin McAuliffe, a senior project coordinator for the MBTA, told a joint meeting of Weymouth and Braintree conservation officials that plans for the road were ‘‘off the table,” according to officials who attended the meeting, but the next morning, the MBTA sent a letter to Weymouth Mayor David Madden telling of the agency’s intention to move forward with the proposed road.

A spokesman for the MBTA attributed the apparent contradiction to a ‘‘miscommunication.”

‘‘Negotiations in Weymouth Landing are still ongoing,” MBTA spokesman Jon Carlisle said. ‘‘That road has not been taken off the table.”


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Florida county mulls monorail project

If Pinellas County in Florida builds an elaborate monorail, more than 45,000 people would ride it every day, according to a county consultant. Those numbers are high enough for the county to keep pursuing plans to build a monorail or similar elevated train, said the consultant.

Even so, Pinellas will face stiff competition if county officials decide to pursue federal grant money for building the rail system, and the early numbers show several other areas could have more riders.

The St. Petersburg Times reported on February 23, “I think the ridership numbers are good and show the project is feasible,” said Brian Smith, county planning director, but he added, “Now the question is: Is this what we want to do?”

County residents will have a chance to answer that question at a series of five public workshops in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Planners will get comments from the public and share information about possible routes, where stations could be built and whether to build a monorail or other kind of light rail.

“We need to make the case before the public and gauge the public’s acceptance of these kinds of concepts,” said Steve Spratt, county administrator.

The county’s transportation planning board has used a $2.4- million grant to hire the Tampa consultant, Grimail Crawford, Inc., to help prepare for the possible bid for federal funding.

At $20-million to $45-million per mile, the estimates Grimail Crawford is using, a 37-mile route would cost $740-million to $1.6-billion.

County officials hope that they could get federal funds for half the cost. That would leave Pinellas paying the other half, possibly by asking voters to pass a new penny sales tax for transit.

Spratt said the new ridership numbers encourages him, but “not necessarily convinced.” The numbers that the county’s consultant delivered this month are still preliminary. They were developed using a computer program approved by federal transportation agencies.

Anywhere from 21,000 to 54,000 people would ride a rail system each day, the preliminary numbers say. The numbers vary depending on the route of the rail, how often the trains run and how much each ride costs. The consultant said that if the county built the longest route, running from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Clearwater, with a spur running north to Countryside, more than 45,000 people would ride each day.

Tourists could increase that number by 10 to 20 percent, the consultant said.

In addition to building an elevated rail system, the county also would add more express bus service. Putting the train and bus together could mean an extra 20,000 bus riders each day.

Are those numbers high enough?

Crawford said they “compare favorably” with other cities working on similar projects. But the firm’s own chart shows Pinellas’ projected riders per mile on the low end compared to 10 other cities.

“There are probably 150 places in the country that are putting together proposals like this, and the federal government is probably only going to be able to fund about 30,” said Ed Mierzejewski, director of the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research. “You have to be able to present a pretty compelling case or you’re not going to be able to be there in terms of funding.”

But consultant Crawford said its numbers are conservative. It didn’t count the tourism numbers in comparing Pinellas’ ridership to other cities, nor has it calculated the extra riders if the state brings its planned high-speed rail line to Pinellas, or extra riders because of special events, such as the Grand Prix and Devil Rays games.

It’s also important to remember, Mierzejewski said, that even though 45,000 people riding a train sounds like a lot, it’s roughly the same number who drive a busy six-lane road each day.

“Don’t expect that it’s dramatically going to reduce congestion,” he said.

Advocates say that rail could help keep congestion from worsening, and it could have side benefits, such as reducing air pollution and prompting redevelopment along the rail line.

“It’s going to be really important to keep that in mind,” Mierzejewski said. “If you’re going to spend a billion dollars, you want that to be part of a program that’s going to promote some of the land use objectives you have for the county.”


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How many votes for Seattle monorail?

Seattle has voted three times to build a monorail line, but monorail authorities recently warned that the city might have to vote a fourth time if state lawmakers approve a bill pushed by state Rep. Ed Murray.

Murray, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he doesn’t know whether the monorail authority’s “purchased” legal opinion is true, and said he’s just trying to provide safeguards for taxpayers.

A recent debate before the committee reflects concern in some quarters that the project is moving too fast in planning to begin borrowing money this spring. Some also worry the monorail’s board has too rosy a picture of the proposal, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of February 27.

“They’ve hired people who worked on the campaign. They haven’t conducted a national search (for an executive director), and they’ve put too many cheerleaders on the board,” Murray said in an interview.

So Murray, who stayed out of last year’s monorail fight, is proposing to make it easier for voters to stop the project if it goes awry and give Seattle’s mayor more power to appoint the monorail’s board.

“I’m not trying to derail the plan,” Murray said at the meeting. “It’s about a lot of bills we’re working on this session, having more accountability in transportation projects.”

However, monorail officials distributed a legal opinion, saying Murray’s changes would so dramatically change last year’s initiative that the whole thing might have to go back to the voters.

Kristina Hill, a member of the Elevated Transportation Co. board that wrote the plan, told lawmakers much thought went into the board’s makeup.

“Changing our governance could create project delays and possibly require a revote,” she said.

Hill likely will serve on the new monorail board.

The monorail authority is seeking its own legislation that would make it illegal for Seattle residents to avoid paying the monorail’s motor vehicle excise tax by registering their cars outside the city. The bill also would allow the monorail authority to assure banks it would collect the tax for as long as it takes to repay debts, even if the plan is dissolved.

Monorail Finance Director Daniel Malarkey said those measures could save taxpayers $400 million in lower interest rates.

As the monorail fight continued in Olympia, some who opposed last year’s initiative urged lawmakers not to make the changes, hoping to keep the authority from taking out loans. They worried that borrowing money would commit the authority to proceed with the project before knowing exactly how much it’s going to cost.

Murray is fine with those changes, but also wants his safeguards in place.

The bickering left some lawmakers from other parts of the state taken aback. “It seems like it’s a fight in Seattle I don’t really want to wade into,” said committee Vice Chairman Doug Erickson (R) of Bellingham.


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San Diego trolley project beats bus idea

The agency that built the San Diego Trolley recently renewed its commitment to develop a light rail line along the Interstate 5 corridor, rejecting a competing proposal to serve commuters with comfortable buses traveling in their own special lanes, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune of February 28.

The Metropolitan Transit Development Board voted to retain the Mid-Coast trolley project, which ultimately would run from the Old Town Transit Center to the Univ. of California at San Diego and University City as part of its long-range plan.

The line, part of the agency’s plans since the mid-1990s, likely would become the last major extension of the trolley.

Assuming financing could be secured, opening a first phase ending at Balboa Avenue is thought to be feasible by 2008; a timetable for the remainder isn’t clear.

San Diego councilman and transit board member Scott Peters sought to put off a board decision, arguing that the major employment centers of Sorrento Valley, Sorrento Mesa and north University City would be served more effectively by “bus rapid transit.”

Such service would depend, in part, on adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes to I-5 to give buses an advantage over the solo commuter. Similarly, the plan adopted by the transit board recently envisions use of high-speed, high-capacity buses whizzing commuters along a different corridor – the shoulders of Interstate 805.

In a lengthy hearing, critics joined Peters in questioning some of the assumptions in a staff comparison of operating costs, ridership and customer service for the two proposals that came down solidly in favor of the trolley.

While fellow council members Brian Maienschein and Toni Atkins were prepared to side with Peters, Mayor Dick Murphy was not.

Murphy said a light-rail line is much more likely to secure needed federal financing than bus rapid transit, or BRT. He also was dubious over prospects of developing a “guideway” that would allow buses to get from Old Town to University City on their own, exclusive rights of way.

”It’s a myth to think that an I-5 BRT system will get built faster than a light-rail system,” Murphy said.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts said a trolley would carry more people and get them where they’re going faster.

”I’m tired of us building on the cheap,” Roberts said. “We’ve been building light-rail… as a system. There are a lot of people talking about transit that will never ride transit.”

A motion to proceed with the trolley as part of the transit strategy passed with only Atkins opposed.

Director of planning Toni Bates told the board that light rail would carry 9.7 million passengers a year, compared with 7.7 million on arterial buses. Light rail would benefit from offering a “seamless” connection with existing trolley service into Old Town, and buses couldn’t match the capacity of a four-car trolley without adding vehicles, trips and drivers, she said.

Construction cost for the trolley was placed at $457 million, versus $342 million for a bus system that probably would use 60-foot articulated buses, the kind with an accordion-style center.


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Oceanside-Escondido rail route named Sprinter

The proposed 22-mile commuter service formerly known as the “Oceanside-Escondido Rail Line” in California now has a new name - Sprinter.

North County Transit District officials disclosed the name February 26. Naming the new line was “a tricky proposition,” said transit district executive director Karen King. The district needed something short, memorable and attractive that would fit in with its “family” of names, King said.

“It’s hard because we’ve had great success with our Coaster rail line and our Breeze bus service,” she said. “We undertook a very meticulous process for... naming our new ‘child,’” writes the North County Times of February 27.

More than 1,000 suggestions were submitted in a public contest to name the line, King said. Those included the Wave, Inlander and Roadrunner, but ultimately the district went with a staffer’s idea. She said the new name describes what the new diesel-powered rail cars are intended to do: start quickly, run quickly for short distances, and stop smoothly. “We think we’ve picked a winner,” King said.

The revelation coincided with a visit from Federal Transportation Administration executive Jenna Dorn to present a grant of $152 million to the district to build the rail line, which has been planned since 1986. A groundbreaking ceremony is expected this summer, and completion is set for December 2005 at a cost of $351 million. The route is expected to carry 12,000 daily passengers by the end of 2006, growing to 19,000 daily passengers by 2020, with 13 stops between the Oceanside and Escondido transit centers. Dorn spoke to elected officials, transportation planners and visitors outdoors on a cool and blustery day at the Oceanside Transit Center.

The federal government has committed a record level of funding to the commuter-rail project because of the high ridership expected and the cost-effective use of available right of way, she said. The commuter service will use a rail line between Oceanside and Escondido now used only a few times a week by freight trains. “This is a smart investment for you in your community and for the federal government,” Dorn said, calling it “a common sense transit solution.”


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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.


 

Canadian Government Releases ‘Straight Ahead’ Vision for Transportation

Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette released a landmark government vision document on Feb. 25. Transportation experts described the document, titled “Straight Ahead: A Vision for Transportation in Canada,” as a guide to national transportation policies over the next 10 years that will help expand and improve transit services in urban areas.

As a concrete first step toward fulfilling commitments outlined in the document, Collenette announced the introduction in Parliament of a bill amending the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, as well as a proposed “VIA Rail Canada Act,” referring to the company that provides the nation’s passenger intercity rail service.

Traditionally, provincial and municipal governments rather than the federal government oversee public transit funding issues, so “Straight Ahead” does not address these issues directly. However, the document does propose a partnership with these levels of government to improve transit infrastructure, according to a Transport Ministry spokesperson.


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DOT’s Jackson Testifies on Administration’s Budget Plan

U.S. DOT Undersecretary of Transportation Michael P. Jackson recently testified before the U.S. House and Senate budget committees on the Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2004 budget request that includes a “budgetary foundation” for reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

He said the President’s request for U.S. DOT is 6 percent above its FY 2003 request. The proposal for public transportation, however, is set at $7.2 billion, the same level as the current fiscal year.


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Vandelac Is New Director General in Montréal

The board of directors of the Société de transport de Montréal has approved the appointment of Pierre Vandelac to the top position at STM, director general. He succeeds Jacques Fortin, who served from May 1997 to October 2002.

Vandelac will join the STM in early April. Francine Gauthier is serving in the post on an interim basis.

An accountant by training, Vandelac has more than 30 years of management experience in both the public and private sectors, and an extensive knowledge of the transportation sector. He has served since 2001 as vice president-finance and administration with Aéroports de Montréal, since 2001, and from 1992 to 2001 was director general of the Société de transport de la Rive-Sud de Montréal.


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Storm Brings Down Roof at Baltimore Rail Museum

The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore is seeking help after the record snowfall over the President’s Day weekend brought down approximately 60 percent of the roof of its central structure. The storm, the worst in Baltimore in 81 years, reportedly brought about 24 inches of snow to the area. Information is available online at www.borail.org.

The slate roof of the roundhouse building collapsed in two sections during the early morning of Feb. 17.

A museum spokesperson said the priorities of the museum are to shore up the remaining roof of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and to stop water damage to the building interior and vehicles.


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POLITICAL LINES...  Political lines...

Lawmaker vows to help freight lines

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

Short line freight railroad people said at a House hearing last week they need help in getting their track up to speed to handle bigger and heavier freight cars, and a House leader said he’s going to try – again – to help them get it.

State transportation, railroad industry and rail labor representatives appeared before the U.S. House Railroads Subcommittee March 6 to outline rail priorities for this year’s TEA 21 reauthorization– the legislation that funds federal highways, transit and surface transportation programs.

AAR president and CEO Ed Hamberger told the subcommittee, “Freight railroads have no shortage of potential infrastructure investment projects, but financial markets provide stern discipline to ensure that investments are made only where they will provide a reasonable promise of a direct economic benefit to the investing railroad. This discipline is necessary and appropriate in a market economy, but it discourages investment – including many potential railroad investments – that would yield significant public benefits, but only limited financial benefits to the railroad.”

A shortline spokesman echoed Hamburger.

“In today’s world, surface transportation policy has to be about more than highway policy,” said Richard Timmons, President of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Assn. “The transportation of freight is the lifeblood of most American businesses and the highway system alone cannot meet our needs.”

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) said he squarely supports their efforts.

“I reaffirm my commitment to provide the resources necessary to improve and maintain our country’s railroad infrastructure.”

The New York lawmaker – with a family railroad background and ties to rail labor – noted the hearing was intended to take an in-depth look at rail infrastructure policies in the context of this year’s reauthorization of the 1998 TEA 21 law.

“There were some major initiatives taken by the Congress in 1998, including the railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program (RRIF), light density rail line pilot projects and reauthorization of the Swift Rail Development Act, Quinn recalled.

He said, “The RRIF program established $3.5 billion in direct and guaranteed loans for improvements to rail infrastructure.” Quinn recalled the railroad subcommittee had held hearings “in the previous two Congresses on the administrative impediments that have prevented it from reaching its full potential. Although the Federal Railroad Administration has reached agreements on a few loans in the past year, I am committed to making any statutory changes necessary to help our railroads take advantage of this program.”

In addition, Quinn wants to provide corridor planning and technology development grants for high-speed rail.

Amtrak, under the leadership of its CEO David Gunn, is preoccupied with maintaining and improving its current service, and is not encouraging large-scale high-speed rail plans. However, the idea refuses to die in the halls of Congress.

He also noted light rail is a big concern.

The light density rail pilot projects program authorized general fund grants in the amount of $17.5 million per year for smaller railroads to upgrade their infrastructure. TEA 21 reauthorized the Swift Act to provide corridor planning and technology development grants for high-speed rail.

“Unfortunately, these programs have not been allowed to fulfill their potential,” Quinn declared, “and have not remotely provided the level of actual resources the Congress contemplated in TEA 21. My bill from the 107th Congress, H.R. 1020, addressed the need of the Class II and III railroads to upgrade their tracks to accommodate the heavier cars being used by the major railroads.”

He pointed out that the day’s witnesses “have direct, day-to-day contact with how inadequate rail infrastructure impacts both railroads and shippers. I reaffirm my commitment to working with them to provide the resources necessary to improve and maintain our country’s most underutilized asset - our railroad infrastructure.”

Joe Boardman, New York State DOT commissioner, contrasted the large volume of rail traffic in the U.S. and the current difficulties in maintaining an efficient rail system.

Boardman testified, “Railroad capital improvements and expansion have lagged because railroads are not profitable enough to readily attract sufficient long-term investment.”

F.L. McCann, President of the American Train Dispatchers Union, testified that while rail volume has grown 63 percent since 1980, “More must be done to meet the capital and long-term maintenance needs of the rail industry.”

Several witnesses asked for improvements in the Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Finance (RRIF) program. Funds released under the RRIF program have been significantly less than funds available.

“A major expansion of the RRIF program and an easing of regulatory barriers to its use could help both short line and Class I railroads to continue to provide safe and efficient transportation service that enhances our nation’s economic health and global competitiveness,” said AAR’s Hamberger.

AAR spokesman Tom White clarified the recent history of this program in an e-mail to D:F Friday. The current RRIF program is pegged at $3.5 billion, with $1 billion set aside specifically for small carriers.

Yet, the time it took to issue regulations and also the nature of regulations made it very difficult for railroads to qualify. The small lines had to show they could not get the money from any other viable source and yet that they would be in a position to repay it. That can present a Catch-22 situation. (Thus a small railroad applying for the loan finds itself in a real-life Catch-22 predicament depicted in the old joke that “the only way you can get a loan is to prove that you don’t need it.”)

Efforts in the last Congress to expand the RRIF program were bogged down over the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage issue, usually backed by organized labor. The Democrats would not approve the expansion without Davis-Bacon. The Republicans, citing the “mom and pop” nature of many of the small railroads, would not approve an expansion that did include it.

Although Hamberger’s testimony focused on the problems plaguing the present RRIF program, he did tell the lawmakers that a major expansion of it and easing regulatory barriers to its use “could help both short line and Class I railroads and continue to provide safe and efficient transportation service that enhances our nation’s economic health and global competitiveness.”

Legislation approved by the Committee in the last Congress, the Rail Infrastructure Improvement and Development Act for the 21st Century (RIDE 21), would have provided a significant increase to the RRIF program and eliminated obstacles to obtaining loans and loan guarantees.

Hamberger alluded to a study by AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), which estimated that if all rail freight were shifted to trucks, “it could cost federal, state, and local transportation agencies an extra $128 billion for highway improvements.”

Other witness suggestions included providing more local flexibility in determining where certain transportation funds may be used, including using some funds for rail projects. Also suggested were maintaining funding for highway-rail grade crossing safety improvements, repealing the 4.3 cents per gallon rail fuel tax that is used for deficit reduction, and increasing funding and flexibility for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program in order to allow rail to contribute more toward improving air quality.

The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is online at www.house.gov/transportation.


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Two solons introduce bill to aid regionals

Reps. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.) recently introduced in the House the Local Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act (H.R. 876), which is designed to provide regional railroads and short lines federal tax credits to help fund infrastructure improvements.

The bill would authorize a tax credit against qualified track maintenance expenditures paid or incurred by a railroad after December 31, 2003, and before January 1, 2009. Qualified expenditures include funds used by Class IIs and IIIs to maintain or upgrade track, including roadbed, bridges and related structures.

The total tax credit would be capped at $10,000 for every track mile regionals and short lines own. The bill also would enable railroads to transfer credits they can’t use to other roads, shippers, suppliers or contractors.

“Studies indicate that that it will take $7 billion in new investment for our nation’s short lines to accommodate heavier rail cars,” said Moran and Camp in a notice introducing the bill.

He said, “H.R. 876 is not intended to fund this entire rehabilitation. Rather, it is intended to help small railroads make the improvements required to grow traffic so they can earn the additional investment income needed to complete the $7 billion capital upgrade.”


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FREIGHT LINES...

Union PACIFIC EXTRA 4900

Union Pacific

Yard engineers may soon be taking road jobs if UP lays off 600 engineers. Here, westbound containers on flat cars, Extra 4900, crosses through a truss bridge at Milepost 34 on UP’s Cajon Subdivision in California

 

600 will be engineers

UP prepares to slash 1,000 people from payroll

Union Pacific Corp. is preparing to cut 1,000 jobs, with most people to lose their jobs in the first three months of 2003, according to a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 3.

UP, the nation’s largest railroad, said in a 10-K annual report that the 1,000 jobs will be eliminated through attrition and firings. The company will take an estimated $45 million pretax charge in the first quarter to pay severance costs.

UP spokesman John Bromley, in Omaha, told D:F “The 1,000 jobs are not all administrative, only 400. The other 600 are locomotive engineer positions being replaced by remote control technology.”

Bromley said “Engineers holding yard jobs will transfer to road positions where we have shortages, making it possible for us not to have to hire and train an additional 600 people.”

The annual report offers more details about previously announced plans to cut costs at the Omaha Company by up to 20 percent. UP executives had said the reductions would include layoffs, but not how many.

Bob Turner, UP’s senior vice-president for corporate relations, said last week that the job cuts detailed in the filing include 400 administrative jobs, most of which are in Omaha, and 600 train crew jobs, mostly engineers. The trainmen are being cut as UP uses more remote-control devices in its locomotives, eliminating the need for some positions.

Some of the targeted jobs could include 139 crew management and timekeeping positions at the Harriman train dispatching center in Omaha. According to internal UP documents obtained by The Omaha World-Herald, those jobs could be eliminated as early as this spring. Crew managers schedule train crews.

John Lydon, general chairman of the Transportation Communications International Union in Omaha, said he expects 139 crew management workers to be laid off this spring and summer. About 330 employees currently work in crew management in Omaha, he said.

Lydon said the affected crew management workers are being replaced by a computer system that schedules train crews and calls them to work. He said the technology may increase efficiency, but it won’t improve working conditions. Train crews can’t reason with a computer system about not coming to work, Lydon said. “They can’t tell the computer that their kid is sick,” he said.

Turner acknowledged that some crew management positions would be eliminated because of technology, but did not elaborate.

“We for years tried to make production improvements through the use of technology,” he said, adding that this includes crew management.

“As opportunities come along… we’re going to use them.”

UP recently signed a contract with Satyam Infoway, Ltd. of India, to handle some information technology services, but railroad officials did not provide specifics.


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Intermodal continues rise, carloads decline

U.S. rail intermodal volume rose 5.3 percent (36,692 trailers and containers), while carload traffic fell 0.7 percent (8,352 carloads) in February 2003 compared to February 2002, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

For the ninth straight month, metallic ores saw the highest volume increase among major commodity categories, rising 13,880 carloads (46.5 percent) in February 2003 compared to February 2002. Carloads of metals and metal products were up 8.2 percent (3,964 carloads) in February 2003, while carloads of chemicals were up 3.0 percent (3,401 carloads). Carloads of coal were down 5.7 percent (30,519 carloads) in February, grain was down 6.4 percent (5,739 carloads), and crushed stone & gravel was down 6.1 percent (4,110 carloads).

Twelve of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload increases in February 2003 compared with February 2002. Excluding coal, carloads were up 3.0 percent (22,167 carloads) in February 2003.

For the first two months of 2003, total U.S. rail carloads were down 0.4 percent (10,372 carloads), as significant increases in carloads of metallic ores (up 41.5 percent, or 32,810 carloads) and several other categories were more than offset by declines in coal (down 6.2 percent, or 74,144 carloads) and grain (down 5.4 percent, or 10,783 carloads).

“The fact that rail volumes excluding coal are actually up a fair amount, despite the harsh winter weather (particularly in the East), may suggest that better economic times lie ahead,” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey. “For now, though, rail traffic figures support the view that U.S. economic conditions remain relatively lackluster.”

U.S. intermodal traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, was up 8.4 percent (123,856 trailers and containers) for the first two months of 2003.

“Despite its rapid growth, rail intermodal remains underutilized,” Rockey remarked. “A more prominent focus on intermodal — and freight rail in general — would provide a safer, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly alternative to transport freight.”

Canadian rail carload traffic was down 0.2 percent (593 carloads) in February 2003 and down 0.7 percent (3,668 carloads) for the year to date.  In February, carloads of chemicals in Canada were up 9.8 percent (5,479 carloads), while carloads of grain were down 17.2 percent (5,331 carloads). For the first two months of 2003, chemicals were up 8.5 percent (10,618 carloads) and grain was down 17.3 percent (12,259 carloads). Canadian intermodal traffic was up 7.3 percent (10,970 units) in February 2003 compared with February 2002, and up 12.6 percent (39,411 units) for the first two months of 2003.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were up 10.5 percent (3,391 carloads) in February, while intermodal originations were up 44.4 percent (4,542 trailers and containers). For the first two months of 2003, TFM carloadings were up 12.3 percent (8,498 carloads), while intermodal traffic was up 54.5 percent (11,025 units).

For just the week ended March 1, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 315,765 carloads, down 0.5 percent from the corresponding week in 2002, with loadings down 1.2 percent in the East and up 0.1 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 181,427 trailers and containers, up 0.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 28.2 billion ton-miles, down 0.4 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended March 1, the AAR reported volume of 64,705 carloads, up 1.1 percent from last year; and 41,610 trailers and containers, up 7.5 percent from the corresponding week in 2002.

Combined cumulative volume for the first nine weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 3,364,528 carloads, down 0.4 percent (14,040 carloads) from last year; and 1,949,501 trailers and containers, up 9.1 percent (163,267 trailers and containers) from 2002’s first nine weeks.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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CSX swears by remote control;
labor swears at the devices

Ask managers at CSX at their corporate headquarters in Jacksonville if remote control technology is a good thing, and you’ll get a resounding, “Yes.”

Ask anyone in labor, like the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and you’ll get a resounding, “No.”

The BLE is so upset over the technology it is holding a rally tomorrow (March 11) at the FRA’s offices on Vermont Street in Washington “to highlight critical safety issues regarding the use of remote control locomotives. The purpose of the rally is to shed further light on the numerous safety issues associated with the operation of remote control technology by employees who are not locomotive engineers. These problems pose a serious threat to railroad workers and the general public,” according to a union spokesman.

CSX makes a strong case for the technology.

Remote control technology is improving safety in CSX Transportation’s (CSX) rail car classification yards, according to data compiled through the first full year of implementation, says a company spokesman.

In addition, the severity of those train accidents is down when comparing the average cost per derailment, the data show.

“This trend reinforces the safety benefits of remote control technology documented by Canadian railroads, and emphasizes that implementation by CSX and all major North American railroads was the right decision,” said Alan F. Crown, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “In addition to the safety benefits, we are seeing virtually 100 percent reliability of this proven technology.”

When comparing yards in which both conventional operations and remote control technology are used, the remote control operations showed significant reductions in train accidents as calculated using the FRA’s train accident index. That index is based upon accidents per million train miles, argues CSX.

BLE International President Don M. Hahs countered, “The FRA has refused to meet with BLE leaders regarding the safety of remote control trains in spite of the more than 40 accidents associated with the technology since 2000. The BLE requested that the FRA develop formal regulations to govern the use of remote control trains in November 2000, but no enforceable regulations have been issued,” according to the BLE.

CSX’s analysis, which it says it has shared with the FRA, “shows that FRA-reportable train accidents (damage of $6,700 or more) were reduced by more than half (60 percent) in remote control operations in 2002. Also, human factor-caused accidents were reduced 30 percent” when comparing remote control with conventional operations.

“Remote control technology is a key addition to our aggressive approach to reducing employee injuries and train accidents,” Crown said. “Our goal is zero accidents, and remote control technology is an important part of our safety process.”

CSX’s findings also show that accidents, when they occur, are less severe. Average cost per train accident in yards where both remote control and conventional operations are used is 34.47 percent less with remote control.

“Our remote control operators on the ground are better positioned to see and avoid possible accidents, and are able to take quicker action and minimize damage when a derailment does occur,” said John Drake, general manager-operating practices, who conducted the analysis.

“In addition, remote control continues to demonstrate its primary benefit of improving communication in railroad switching operations,” he said.

The BLE has taken political means to outlaw the belt-pack devices.

“Several U.S. cities have adopted resolutions to ban remote control trains. Specifically, Baton Rouge, La., Shreveport, La., Detroit, Mich., Marysville, Mich., Boston, Mass., Cleveland, Ohio and Pine Bluff, Ark., have expressed concerns about the dangers of remote control operations and asked the FRA to develop improved safety requirements in an effort to make their communities safer.”

Since implementation began early in 2002, says CSX, more than 1,300 employees have been trained and certified as remote control operators. The technology is now in place in more than 60 locations across the railroad’s 23-state network.

The freight railroad points out remote control technology has been widely used in Canada for more than 10 years “and has proven to be far safer than conventional operations in yards, where more than half of the industry’s train accidents occur.”

Remote control technology improves safety by reducing the possibility of miscommunication, said CSX. With conventional technology, train service employees in the yard direct locomotive operations either through hand signals or radio communications with the locomotive engineer. With remote control technology, operators on the ground direct the locomotive’s operation by sending digital signals directly to an onboard computer.

CSX detailed some safety features, including “a fail-safe design that stops a train automatically if communication between an operator and the locomotive is interrupted. If an operator falls or otherwise tilts the remote control unit more than 45 degrees from the vertical position, an alarm sounds. If the unit doesn’t return to an upright position quickly, the locomotive stops and a ‘man down’ alert is broadcast over yard radio frequencies.”

The FRA studied the technology for nearly a decade, holding a series of public meetings to examine its safety. In 2001, FRA issued a Safety Advisory on remote control that CSX follows when implementing remote control operations. CSX’s remote control training program, consisting of a minimum of 80 hours, meets FRA’s regulations and has been approved by FRA. Of the current assigned operators, there is an average of more than 13 years of railroad experience.

“The implementation of remote control technology promotes safety in our yards, where accidents are more likely to occur,” Crown said. “At the same time, we will also realize economic benefits that are critical to keeping our company strong and able to deliver the materials that drive our nation’s economy.”

BLE’s Hahs said, “We sincerely believe this technology is a safety hazard to both railroad employees and the general public when remote control trains are operated by employees who are lesser-trained and lesser qualified than locomotive engineers.”

CSX is online at http://www.csx.com.

BLE is online at http://www.ble.org/


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BUSINESS LINES...

Bombardier revises financial targets

Bombardier, Inc. reported on March 4 it won’t make its financial goals.

The Montreal-based corporation, which includes Bombardier Transportation and several other manufacturing lines, including jet aircraft and engines, stated that “on the basis of preliminary results compiled by the corporation for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2003, financial targets previously provided by the corporation will not be achieved. Previous guidance for earnings was $0.81 per share, before special items ($0.70 after special items) and free cash flow of $1.3 billion.”

In a press release, the conglomerate said, “Based on these preliminary results, earnings per share before special items will be in the range of $0.40 to $0.45 and free cash flow for the fiscal year will be just over $800 million.”

The firm would not estimate its earning per share.

“Earnings per share after special items cannot be provided at this time as the corporation is currently finalizing its consolidated financial statements.”

“As a result of changes in the aerospace market, the corporation is also contemplating a change in accounting policy for its aerospace programs, which could entail significant non-cash write-offs. If the accounting policy change is adopted, the audited financial statements for the year ended Jan. 31, 2003, which are scheduled to be published April 3, 2003, would be presented under the new accounting policy and the result in EPS after special items is expected to be materially lower than the stated range.”

The firm stated free cash flow would not be affected by the accounting change.

“The current information we now have on hand warrants the immediate publication of this notice,” said Paul M. Tellier, Bombardier president and CEO.

“We are already working on specific initiatives and will be providing a broader perspective on our plans when we release our year-end results.”


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CN borrows $400 million to repay notes

Canadian National Ry. disclosed on March 5 it is borrowing $400 million to help repay debt covering its Illinois Central purchase.

CN said the terms of a “$400 million debt offering of 4.40 percent notes” would be due in 2013. CN expected to close the financing today (March 10).

The railway stated it “plans to use the estimated net proceeds of $396 million to repay $150 million of 6.625 percent 10-year notes issued by CN, and $100 million of 6.75 percent 10-year notes issued by Illinois Central Railroad Co., a wholly owned CN subsidiary, both of which are due on May 15, 2003. The excess will be used to repay outstanding commercial paper issued by CN.”

Banks lending the cash are Banc of America Securities LLC and Salomon Smith Barney. Other managers are J.P. Morgan, Banc One Capital Markets, Inc., BNP PARIBAS, Fleet Securities, Inc., Scotia Capital, and Wachovia Securities.


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Colorado Railcar expects three bids

Colorado Railcar may see some sales for its new rail diesel car. CR’s Tom Janaky said “We do not have any orders as of yet” for the firm’s new diesel multiple unit railcar, but “There will be three Transit DMU bids in 2003.” Janaky, who is the carbuilder’s vice-president for sales and marketing, would not elaborate.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

(and Monday’s opening bell)

March 10 - Source: Bloomberg.com

  This
week
Last
week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)24.67025.000
Canadian National(CNI)41.45042.460
Canadian Pacific(CP)20.07020.880
CSX(CSX)27.08026.860
Florida East Coast(FLA)23.35023.440
Kansas City Southern(KSU11.45012.150
Norfolk Southern(NSC)19.05019.060
Union Pacific(UNP)54.90055.190


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CANADIAN LINES...

North American farmers share common issues

U.S. grain farmers are looking to the federal government to do something about railway competition. In fact, they’re looking for Washington to bring in new rules that will give captive grain shippers better rates and service. So are Canadian farmers north of the border.

It’s a particularly big issue for farmers in the northern wheat states, most of whom are served by just one railroad, the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe, according to The Western Producer of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“What we’re charged to move grain is considered by many to be above and beyond a reasonable return on investment for the railways,” said Lochiel Edwards, a wheat grower from Big Sandy, Mont., who attended a recent U.S. wheat industry conference.

In Canada, the federal government is expected to release its transportation blueprint this month, and many farm groups are hoping it will contain measures to promote competition.

In the U.S., wheat growers are guardedly optimistic that a bill bringing in such things as final offer arbitration and competitive access provisions will make its way through Washington’s crowded legislative agenda.

“It appears legislation might be doable this calendar year,” said Edwards, vice-president of the Montana Grain Growers Assn.

Any relief at all, he said, will be welcomed by wheat farmers in his state, who pay around $1 bushel to ship grain to the West Coast.

“Grain’s only worth $2.50 or $3 (U.S.), so it has taken a lot out of the economy,” Edwards said.

“I suspect BNSF uses those excess profits to subsidize rates in more competitive areas. That’s what I would do if I were them.”

The wheat growers say that by working together with captive shippers in other industries, including minerals, forestry and paper, chemicals, plastics, automotives and utilities, they have a good chance of passing legislation over the opposition of the railways.

A lobbyist representing those shippers says railways shouldn’t be afraid of more competition.

“Competition makes sense for the railroads, they just don’t believe it,” said Terry Whiteside, chair of the Washington-based Alliance for Railway Competition.

Whenever railways are forced to compete, he said, they respond by cutting their costs, and the record shows that the savings generated by those cost reductions are greater than any lost revenue from lower freight rates.

“Shippers get better rates and better service and the railroads make more money,” said Whiteside, who reported on the alliance’s activities to the National Association of Wheat Growers.


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LINES ACROSS THE POND...

45-minute strike halts 1,000 trains

Striking railroad workers caused the delay or cancellation of about 1,000 trains across Germany early Thursday, stepping up the pressure on rail operator Deutsche Bahn as it resumed pay talks with labor unions.

Deutsche Bahn said some 850 passenger trains as well as 150 freight trains were affected when locomotive engineers walked off the job in a so-called “warning strike” for about 45 minutes beginning at 6 a.m., The AP reported. Commuter traffic was badly hit in the southern cities of Munich, Stuttgart and Nuremberg as well as Berlin and Rostock in the north, it said, estimating that as many as 1.5 million passengers were affected.

The German railroad and unions representing its 160,000 staff agreed Friday to hold new pay negotiations next week in an effort to avert large-scale strikes. The Transnet and GDBA unions are seeking a 5 percent pay rise from rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which says a big hike could force it to lay off more staff.

Another 100 workers, including ticket sales staff, held a short strike at Berlin’s main Zoo station, unions said.

The strike was the most extensive since workers began a series of short stoppages at the weekend and coincided with new pay negotiations between rail and union officials in Berlin.

Transnet and GDBA, which held other brief strikes recently, represent 160,000 rail workers. Deutsche Bahn had offered only a 1.3 percent increase, along with steps to bring wages in the former Communist east into line with those in the West and bonus payments when earnings improve.

The company put a new offer on the table late Thursday, Deutsche Bahn spokesman Uwe Herz said, but he declined to give details. The talks, which were suspended after eight hours, resumed Friday.

The rail company, which is in the middle of an efficiency drive to make it fit for possible privatization, has warned that a big pay rise could force it to lay off more staff.

The engineers’ union, GdL, is seeking a separate wage contract with a 3 percent wage increase – a more moderate position criticized by the main unions.

Union leaders have threatened to poll members on intensified strike action if the talks fail, and have called for a demonstration in Berlin March 14.

Dave Beale, who reports European rail matters for D:F, said the trains were running more or less back to normal by the evening.

“My observation here in Haste at about 7a.m. was to see several intercity, locomotive-hauled, conventional, long distance trains going over the grade crossing near where I live in relatively rapid succession, three or four minutes apart, heading east towards Hannover. It’s highly unusual to see something like that out here. At the same time, one freight train passed through town going west. Obviously they had all stopped somewhere for the 45 minute shut-down and were attempting to get back onto schedule.”

Beale reported DB said it cannot “afford a 5 percent across-the-board pay raise without major work-rule changes and better labor flexibility (i.e. freedom to lay-off more people during difficult times).

“In addition to pay increases, the unions want an end to the lower pay scale for DB workers in eastern Germany and fewer future job cuts. So we may be having a repeat of these warning strikes rather soon.”

Trains not immediately affected at 6:00 a.m. were those which were either in a tunnel or on a bridge, then come to a stop.

All trains were affected – passenger and freight, local or express.


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Near Robin Hood’s forest

‘Tram’ makes first run in Nottingham

It has taken years of planning and millions of pounds – British pound sterling – but Nottingham’s first tram system for more than 60 years is right on track. On March 2, the first on-street test gave onlookers a glimpse of what will become a familiar sight in the months and years to come.

Tram 202 was run between the Nottingham Express Transit (NET) depot in Wilkinson Street and Highbury Vale, Basford, writes the Nottingham Evening Post.

The plan was to conduct a walking-pace trial and increase speed gradually to the maximum 50 mph the tram is capable of.

NET officers said the test runs along a boulevard, a road and past the David Lane rail crossing in Basford – not far from Sherwood Forest – were to work out any “bugs” in the system.

They also wanted to make sure the tram – trolley or light rail to Americans – would not affect signaling on the Robin Hood Line next to the tram track.

Test pilot for the run was Andy Wood, general manager of the Nottingham Tram Consortium.

He said, “The pressures connected with this job are substantial, so it’s nice to have some of the fun that comes with that.”

Rail enthusiast Stephen Dee rode his bicycle 20 miles from Shepshed, near Loughborough, to catch a glimpse of the new tram.

The 46-year-old waited at Basford Crossing at 10 a.m. with camera ready to capture the moment.

He said, “It’s quite a long way, but a worthy cause. I wanted to see an historic moment with the first tram under its own power on the tracks in 65 years.”

David Hardy, 53, of Bobbersmill, also cycled to see the tram.

“I’ve worked on the railways for 30 years and just wanted to see this happen,” he said.

“I think this is a good traffic-calming facility and one people will enjoy.”

Wood said the test run from New Basford’s Wilkinson Street depot to Highbury Vale went off without a hitch.

“We wanted to make sure everything was working correctly between the tramway and the railway.

“Nothing has gone wrong, and we are very happy with the way things have worked out.”

Eight of the NET system’s 15 trams have now been delivered to depot.

In the coming weeks, all will undergo test runs along the electrified section of track, which went ‘live’ at midnight on Saturday to allow the testing.

A NET spokesman said, “When people start to realize we’re making the runs up and down, I’m sure they’ll get quite excited.”

Thousands of people turned out in 1936 to see tram 190 pull into its city center depot for the last time. The new network’s Line One, between the city and Hucknall, will start operating in November.


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THE WAY WE WERE...
PENN RR GG-1 electric locomotive

NCI: Collection of Leo King

Are you old enough to remember the Pennsylvania Railroad? You know, the railroad that billed itself as “the standard railroad of the world,” and, for a time, was just that. They ran incredibly sleek and efficient GG-1 electric locomotives, like this one. Our technical knowledge of these creatures is limited, but the editor can remember seeing them when he was a child and living in Philadelphia. The Assn. of American Railroads published a set of some 50 photos 50 years ago, and even though they retouched their photos to blot out any railroad’s name (in fairness to other lines), school kids who were savvy enough to write for and get a set for schoolwork kept them as prized possessions.

End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.


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