In this edition...
BEIJING --- While the Bush Administration debates how and where to cut government support to American passenger rail, the Chinese government announced this week that it would break ground on a new intercity high speed rail SYSTEM (350 kph) that would cut travel time between Beijing and Shanghai from 13 hours to five, Agence France Press reports. Train services will start in 2010, the Ministry of Railways said in a statement
The railway is the first high-speed line in an ambitious plan to modernize Chinas huge rail network. The government said last year it planned to spend $250 billion by 2020 to renovate and expand the network, AFP reports. This would be approximately $18 billion/year, more money every two years than the U.S. has spent on Amtrak in its entire 35-year existence.
The Beijing-Shanghai railway line is the biggest investment project in our middle- and long-term railway network plan, the China News Service quoted ministry spokesman Wang Yongping as saying.
The spokesman said the link would be our nations first high-speed railway with world-class advanced technology.
With the new service running, the existing Beijing-Shanghai rail line will carry cargo only, while the new line will be capable of hauling 80 million passengers a year, the ministry statement said. This is the preferred solution in nations which understand the need to separate passenger rail travel from freight movements, and plan to compete in the world economy, which the United States apparently has decided not to do.
While there have been varying signals from the government over how great a stake foreign companies will be allowed to have in the lucrative project, the ministry said investment would come from private, institutional and foreign investors, AFP reported.
We will bring into play investment from all areas, including monetary, material, intellectual property and land use rights investment. We will participate in the domestic and international capital markets, the statement said.
The Beijing-Shanghai line was first proposed in 1994 and was originally supposed to be completed before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but disputes over what technology to use and who would supply it delayed construction.
The National Development Reform Commission, the governments chief economic planning body, gave the green light to the project last month but only after reportedly saying it must be largely built with Chinese technology.
Industry leaders from France, Germany and Japan have jockeyed for contracts since the project was first announced and in recent years have sold rail technology, including high-speed rail wagons, to China, AFP reported.
Thirty-five-year railroad veteran appointed
head of Amtrak Transportation Dept.
WASHINGTON Thomas P. Schmidt of Jacksonville, Fla., a 35-year railroad veteran, has been appointed to head the Transportation Department of Amtrak.
At CSX Railroad from 1985 to 2003, Schmidt served in several top leadership capacities, including Vice President of Engineering. He also held senior positions in network operations, train control technology and service design, as well as serving as President of the subsidiary Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.
Schmidt began his railroad career in 1969 with Penn Central Railroad as an assistant trainmaster and industrial engineer. He retired from CSX in 2003 and most recently has been associated with the Jacksonville-based transportation infrastructure planning firm Transystems Corporation.
Tom is a cutting-edge leader, known for modernizing railroad operations by utilizing new technology and management tools, said Acting President David J. Hughes. We look forward to his joining a team that is firmly focused on increasing our operational performance and ultimately the value of our service to customers.
As Assistant Vice President of Transportation, Schmidt will be responsible for the safe operation of service, compliance with federal operating rules and the efficient allocation of trains and crews throughout Amtrak system. As part of the railroads ongoing effort to more closely align reliable operations and superior customer service, Schmidt and the department will report to Customer Service Vice President Emmett Fremaux.
Schmidt graduated cum laude with a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and received a J.D. degree from St. Louis University.
Support grows for rail station
at new stadium in the Bronx
(Editors note: The debate rages and old habits die hard: In New York, while officials plan new transit to ease congestion, noise and pollution they practically ensure its failure by adding thousands of parking spaces. The article below and adjoining commentary illustrate this struggle.)
Neighborhood disruption late at night and a long drive home for suburbanites have led to decades of pleading by baseball fans and Bronx residents for a commuter rail station at the new Yankee stadium.
With no convenient transit connection to the baseball games, fans from the northern suburbs drive to the Bronx instead, clogging up the local streets with lines of honking cars late into the night.
Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are now considering the commuter rail option. Last week they called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to devise a plan for a new Metro-North Railroad station adjacent to the proposed site of a new stadium.
They also supported the City Councils vote to approve a 3000-car parking garage along with the new stadium, which critics say will draw even more traffic to the South Bronx on game days.
Excerpts from comments by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign
Though the addition of a train station at the site is certainly welcome news, the plan still calls for huge increase in parking supply, with garages displacing parkland. Even with commuter rail access, the parking increase will cause more people to drive to games, worsening already bad congestion and pollution in the area.
Adding parking is just the opposite of what Tri-State and other groups have been asking their elected leaders.
Yet, NYC assistant transportation commissioner Michael Primeggia supports the garage. His spurious argument flies in the face of common sense. He told a City Council panel and a huge crowd assembled for a hearing on the Yankee Stadium redevelopment that availability of parking is a very minor factor in individual decisions to drive in New York City. The statement contradicts almost all research and logic about urban transportation, but Primeggia had to say it in order to support the environmental impact statement, which claims the huge increase in parking will not create a single new car trip to baseball games.
(Is the ghost of Robert Moses stalking the halls of these hearings?)
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.
Cities move to defend against railroad attacks
JERSEY CITY, N.J. April 7Boston, Chicago and Cleveland are three of the cities ready to establish a ban on transporting toxic chemicals in heavily populated areas.
In Boston, officials envision keeping rail cars carrying hazardous chemicals at least 10 miles away unless the city is their destination.
A plan in Chicago would prohibit such tanker cars in its downtown Loop.
In Cleveland, city officials are considering banning them near Lake Erie, water treatment plants, and crowded neighborhoods.
Staff writer Alexandra Marks reports that transport of these chemicals presents one of the knottiest public policy problems in the effort to protect the nations cities from terrorist attack. Federal law requires railroads to carry such chemicals, which are used in manufacturing, water-purification systems, and wastewater-treatment plants.
But there are no federal regulations for securing the transport of these chemicals.
The District of Columbia has enacted rules of its own and at least five other cities are considering them, drawing strong disapproval from the rail industry and federal officials. They say increased safety measures have been put in place by the railroads since 9/11.
But the threat is enormous. Government studies suggest that the explosion of one tanker car carrying, say, chlorine would cause up to 100,000 deaths in a densely populated area.
So Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Chicago have proposed ordinances requiring that such deadly chemicals be rerouted around them unless theyre destined for the cities themselves.
The rail industry, with federal support, has sued the District of Columbia over its law, but that has not deterred the five cities who want bans.
They say if the federal government is abdicating its responsibility, then local jurisdictions should be allowed to set rules which will protect the public, such as rerouting the shipping routes for the hazardous materials.
Critics say it is far too easy to gain access to the tanker cars. Even with a chain-link fence topped with razor-sharp wire in a yard a few miles from Manhattan, a reporter was able to step through some weeds and onto the tracks that lead directly into the fenced-in rail yard. No one stopped her when she approached the tracks.
Rail officials contend that only a small percentage of the nations cargo is of hazardous chemicals -- 100,000 of 1.7 million carloads -- and that the railroads have increased safeguards on information about where and when they travel. They say rerouting the toxic chemicals would add to the risks since they would be traveling farther and on rural routes which arent as well maintained.
Youre compromising safety in the name of security, which is not a good idea or public policy, says Peggy Wilhide, of the Association of American Railroads in Washington, D.C.
Critics counter that an accident or an attack in a less populated area would create far less damage, mitigating the trade-off. They also say the federal government is intentionally downplaying the risks.
In their mind, its better for the public to be at very high risk and in blissful ignorance than to do something about it, says Fred Millar, a consultant to the Washington, D.C. city council.
In response, the Dept of Homeland Security and the Dept of Transportation issued recommended actions on March 31: they call for putting one person in charge of these shipments, restricting access to information about them and ensuring regular communications with emergency responders.
The next sentence in the memo said, All measures are voluntary.
Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey (D) criticized the administration for putting homeland security second place to ruffling the feathers of a big corporation.
Federal officials countered that these guidelines were just a beginning. They dont preclude future regulations.
Rail officials contend this is one of the most difficult and expensive security problem it faces. Indeed, Ms. Wilhide says the railroads would rather not carry such dangerous cargo at all. Recently, the AAR came out in favor of industry switching to less dangerous chemicals where possible, a move that puts it at odds with its customer, the chemical industry.
If we had our choice we wouldnt move it because it constitutes less than 1/10th of our profit and 99 percent of our risk, says Wilhide. Wed at least like a clear set of guidelines.
Train smashes car on Westside
JACKSONVILLE, FL April 6 Eyewitness Ricky Robinson is shaken by a tragic but needless accident a driver racing to beat the train, loses.
At the intersection of Ortega Forest Road and Roosevelt Boulevard, with the no-crossing gates in the down position, Henry Davis Collier saw the train from his car and thought he could get across the tracks in time.
As he drove around the gates, the Amtrak train smashed the front of his car and spun it into the woods.
Ive never witnessed anything like that, said Robinson.
I guess he didnt think it was going to be as fast as it was, said another eyewitness. He was just trying to come across the tracks. The things were down and he got hit.
None of the 185 passengers on the train was injured. The train was stopped for nearly two hours during the investigation. It was headed from New York to Miami and had just made a stop in Jacksonville before the crash.
Collier, of Jacksonville, is hospitalized in critical condition.
Man killed while trying to outrun train;
Second pedestrian, Amtrak death in 5 days
SAN DIEGO, April 6 -- A 19-year-old man was fatally struck by a northbound passenger train in Old Town, 10News reported.
Joshua Forness of the Point Loma area was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:38 p.m. Wednesday, said San Diego County Medical Examiner Investigator James Buckley.
Witnesses report that the victim ran across the railroad tracks at Congress and Taylor streets in an attempt to beat an Amtrak train, which struck him shortly after 8:30 p.m., San Diego police Sgt. Rich Nemetz said.
The San Diego County Sheriffs Department responded to the incident and was handling the investigation, Nemetz said.
This was the second death in less than a week involving an Amtrak train. Last Saturday, Graham Suchman, 15, was killed trying to outrun a train in Oceanside. He and his friends were playing a game of chicken.
(Editors note: Theses tragic cases, which are happening every day, are avoidable. It is NCIs position that all grade crossings should be bridged, tunneled, or closed as they are in other countries around the world.)
MBTA and people with
disabilities reach agreement
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and organizations representing people with disabilities have reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought over accessibility problems that denied people with disabilities equal access to the public transportation system. Under the agreement, the T will undertake major improvements in equipment, facilities and services that promise to enhance accessibility for people with disabilities while improving service for all T passengers. Both sides hailed the settlement as the beginning of a new relationship between the T and people with disabilities.
The agreement, which was unanimously approved by the MBTA Board of Directors, settles a class action, Joanne Daniels-Finegold, et al. v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, filed in 2002 by Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Eleven individual plaintiffs and the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL) cited a number of problems that make it difficult for people who are blind, deaf or have mobility disabilities from using MBTA subways and buses. The complaint alleged that the MBTA had failed to maintain bus lifts, station elevators and other accessibility equipment in good operating condition, maintain subway stations and subway train platforms in safe and accessible condition, and ensure that bus and train operators provided proper service to passengers with disabilities.
In a joint effort, BCIL, GBLS, and the MBTA used research on key matters, including undercover monitoring of buses, filming of Green Line trains, computer analyses of elevator maintenance records, and elevator inspections by outside experts. MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas directed his staff to work with the plaintiffs to reach an agreement. Negotiations began last July and concluded last week. A public hearing on the settlement will be held June 15th before U.S. District Judge Morris E. Lasker.
Under the settlement, no damages will be paid to individual plaintiffs. Instead, approximately $310 million in funds will be programmed into the Ts Capital Investment Program to improve services and infrastructure. Under key terms of the settlement, the MBTA has agreed to:
This agreement is the product of a good faith discussion focused on improving service for people with disabilities, specifically, and all passengers, generally, said Transportation Secretary John Cogliano, who serves as chairman of the MBTA Board of Directors. Starting today, the T will take a series of important steps to achieve that goal to the benefit of everyone.
These changes will make the T more accessible to a wider range of people, and improve overall service for customers, said Grabauskas. My staff has worked extraordinarily hard to identify improvements that will lead to more efficient service and a better experience for all T passengers. Its my strong belief that the MBTA will be a model for the country in ensuring equal access to public transportation for people of all abilities.
Plaintiffs hailed the settlement as the beginning of a new era of independence for people with disabilities who rely on public transportation. They also noted that continued cooperation between the two sides as well as the support of the public will be necessary to enact the changes envisioned in the settlement.
We see this settlement as the start of a new relationship between everyone who works for the T and those people with disabilities who depend on it, said Bill Henning, Executive Director of the Boston Center for Independent Living. Henning cited three immediate priorities for implementing the agreement: improving the knowledge of T staff about the needs of disabled passengers, fixing broken elevators, and informing the general public about barriers facing people with disabilities on the T and the efforts being made to address them.
The lead attorney for the plaintiffs said the process of reaching the settlement has already changed attitudes at the T.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but one thing has changed already, said Dan Manning, an attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services. Before this case, people with disabilities were virtually invisible at the T. Now, they have a voice.
Plaintiffs named in the class action heralded the settlement as ushering in a new era of accessibility. They hoped the agreement would encourage more people with disabilities to use public transportation.
I hope that the settlement will encourage physically challenged people to use the T rather than stay at home or accept limited choices, said Joanne Daniels-Finegold, the lead named plaintiff. The changes this brings will benefit the general public, not just the disabled community.
This settlement means I will finally have the freedom to come and go, where I want and when I want, said Rob Park, who commutes to work on the subway and has found himself stranded by broken elevators. Im looking forward to new buses, new trains and elevators that actually work. I look forward to the day when everyone truly has equal access to the T.
Other plaintiffs named in the case were Rogera Robinson, Gene Smith, Reginald Clark, Madelyn Joan Golden, Myrnairis Cepeda, Maureen Cancemi, Andrew Forman, Danford Larkin and Thomas Gilbert.
The Boston Center for Independent Living provides services, community education, advocacy and employment for individuals with disabilities. Greater Boston Legal Services provides free legal services to low-income people and nonprofit organizations.
Ridership growth tops national list
SAN CARLOS, CA, April 6In an article by Edward Carpenter of The Examiner, growth in rail transit ridership is linked to express service and the appeal of trains over buses.
The success of Caltrains Baby Bullet service enabled the agency to enjoy the largest ridership increase of any commuter service in the nation last year, according to a report released last Wednesday by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
With an average daily ridership of about 31,000, Caltrain experienced a 12.5 percent growth in ridership in 2005.
Caltrains closest competitor was Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District in Chesterton, Ind., which saw a 7.3 percent increase.
Caltrain officials attributed the high ridership numbers to the conversion from a local model, with 76 trains stopping at every stop, to a commuter model, with 96 trains including 22 Baby Bullets.
For nearly 100 years, every train stopped at every station all the time, which was very nice but very slow, Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said. Now, riders can use Caltrain as an alternative to driving.
A train can travel from San Francisco to Palo Alto in about 32 minutes. One commuter, Philip Lewis who teaches computer science at Stanford University, said taking Caltrain saves him time compared with those who drive. He takes the Baby Bullet and recommends it to any new job candidate.
Bus ridership didnt fare as well according to the APTA report. The San Mateo County Transit District, Caltrains sister bus agency, dropped a little less than 1 percent in ridership as did overall bus ridership.
In The City, while BART enjoyed a 2.0 percent increase, bus ridership went down.
Buses just dont hold the attraction that trains do, Weinberg said. Theyre slower, arent as sexy and, unlike trains, are subject to congestion and stoplights.
From 1995 to 2005, transit use nationwide rose 25.1 percent; highway use by comparison grew 22.5 percent, said Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for APTA. The largest recorded increase of transit use came between 1972 and 1980, when ridership jumped 25.2 percent, Miller said.
APTA President William Millar said that ridership growth in transit over the past ten years indicates Americans do want the choice of not driving. When quality transit is offered, they use it.
Aside from reducing driving stress and allowing riders to enjoy reading or napping, transit is probably the single quickest way for most Americans to help the environment and reduce the countrys dependence on oil, as pointed out recently by President George W. Bush, Miller said.
Chicago Heights on track for Metra lines
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, April 5 -- Big changes could be in store for Chicago Heights if two proposed Metra lines come to fruition, according to a story by Times Correspondent, Paul Czapkowicz.
Edward Paesel, Executive Director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA) addressed the City Council this week on the status of a project that has been in the works for 15 years.
The main focus is a proposed Southeast Commuter Rail that would start in the south and ideally include stations at Balmoral Park Race Track, Crete, Steger, Chicago Heights, and several other communities. The line would run north to the LaSalle Street station in downtown Chicago.
Paesel explained why the line would be an important addition to the one that currently runs to the Randolph Street station on the east side of the Loop.
Most of the job growth, the jobs downtown, are further to the west, Paesel said. Its about not only serving downtown, but allowing folks in the south suburbs to get to destination points within the southern suburbs.
Paesel said the estimated cost of each train station is roughly $2 million.
Fourth Ward Alderman Joe Faso suggested the citys police station could be relocated to make room for the line. And he also said the post office building could be in a better location near the tracks.
Paesel said Metra is conducting an analysis, expected to be completed by November, that will project how much ridership each station would have. He said that a Southeast Commuter Rail could be operating in five to eight years.
In addition to the proposed line running north-south, Chicago Heights could also become home to a commuter line that will run east-west. Paesel said the line would move south of Joliet and come east to the state line. He said the east-west line would probably take eight to 12 years to develop.
Chicago Heights potentially could have the intersection of two commuter rail lines, which has an enormous potential, Paesel said.
Mayor Anthony DeLuca sits on the Transportation Committee of SSMMA and said the city is on the inside track as far as securing the two proposed lines.
Chicago Heights could be the only municipality that can have both of these train systems crossing within their city limits, DeLuca said. Its an outstanding opportunity for the city of Chicago Heights.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||83.45||83.33|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||53.69||53.90|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||33.00||30.68|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||23.99||24.70|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||16.15||16.20|
Official: Stopped trains threaten public safety
HOBART, INDIANA April 7-- Councilwoman Monica Wiley came to the council meeting Wednesday night angry that Canadian National trains continue to stop their trains across two Hobart intersections, blocking off access to a neighborhood, sometimes for hours at a time.
For years, the city has had a problem with a stretch of tracks, which runs from northwest to southeast.
When long trains stop and block off Dekalb and 69th Street intersections, residents who rely on those streets to leave their neighborhood are stuck in their homes until the train moves again, Wiley said.
If there were an emergency in the neighborhood, police or fire officials wouldnt be able to get there until the trains were moved.
Wiley said residents are complaining both intersections are sometimes blocked several times a day.
Mayor Linda Buzinec said the city has complained to the railroad in the past, and the problem has abated for a time, only to become worse again. Buzinec asked Police Chief Brian Snedecor to contact the railroad and ask officials to come to Hobart, meet with city officials and tour the neighborhood.
In the past, engineers were parking trains across the tracks, Councilman Matt Claussen said. Now, trains are parking between Colorado Street and Broadway, but stop across the intersections for emergencies. In one case, Claussen, also a police officer, walked to the front of the train and asked the conductor to pull forward to open one of the intersections, and he did.
It gets better for awhile, and then it gets worse, Claussen said.
Wiley suggested fining the railroad, but Buzinec said fining wasnt an option if the railroads emergencies were legitimate.
It cant be an emergency every time, Wiley said.
Two Photos: For NCI - David BealeDeutsche Bahns historic VT08 diesel MU train visits Hannover during year-long promotion of upcoming World Cup football (soccer) championship. This train set (two power cars and two intermediate coaches) was meticulously restored in the mid 1990s and is used for various special events and charters. It has been operating since early 2005 for promotion of the World Cup, carrying various soccer stars, VIPs and celebrities to World Cup promotional events as well as carrying football fans on special World Cup promotional charters and tours. The VT08 series of diesel multiple unit trains were originally introduced to service in the early 1950s and were DBAGs predecessor Deutsche Bundesbahns first post-war large scale attempt at high-speed trains. Four decades after the VT08 entered service, DB introduced the ICE, which in 2006 will carry many thousands of football fans to World Cup soccer matches at speeds nearly double what the VT08 can sustain
Deutsche Bahn-German Railways
Berlin - With a profitable year in 2005 behind it, Deutsche Bahn - German Railways - is again on-track for an IPO on the stock market sometime in 2007. No division of DBAG recorded a net loss in earning before interest and taxes (EBIT), a significant improvement over 2004 when both DBs intercity/long distance passenger rail and its rail freight divisions reported losses. The company forecasts an increase in operating profit of 15 - 20% in 2006. Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) chairman and CEO Hartmut Mehdorn and DBAG chief financial officer Diethelm Sack announced the results of Europes largest transportation and logistics firm during a press conference in Berlin last Friday (31.3.2006) with emphasis on the firms plans to go public in less than two years.
|Gross Revenues||25.1||24.0 (Euro - billions)|
|EBIT||1.4||1.1 (Euro - billions)|
|Net Cash Profit||611||180 (Euro - millions)|
Two of DBAGs divisions again lead profits, namely DBAGs regional and commuter passenger train division with EUR 452 million profit (before taxes) and DBAGs trucking division Schenker with EUR 248 million (before taxes).
DB loses first battle
against tax-free jet fuel
Luxembourg - The European Court of First Instance rejected Deutsche Bahns (German Railways) law suit which sought to remove the tax-free status of jet fuel enjoyed by commercial airlines in Europe. DB now wants to broaden a lobbying campaign in the German parliament in order to receive a similar tax-free declaration for diesel fuel and electricity which it buys to power its passenger and freight trains.
The European Court disagreed with DBs assertion that the tax-free status accorded to jet fuel is anti-competitive. In its ruling the court said that regulations and laws which make jet fuel for airliners tax-free was meant to ensure free and fair competition between all airlines based in each of the E.U.s member countries. In a strict interpretation of the legislation, the court stated that lawmakers had no intention of addressing competition between airlines and other modes of transportation such as rail, they were instead interested in ensuring that European based airlines competed fairly against one another as well as not having a financial disadvantage in competing against foreign airlines based in America, Asia and elsewhere. Deutsche Bahn has not said if they will appeal the decision to the European Appeals Court.
Transportation analysts have calculated that tax-free jet fuel is equivalent to a substantial penalty per passenger for rail travelers, several studies indicate that the tax-free status of jet fuel amounts to a EUR 20.00 reduction per person in the air fare for a flight on Lufthansa or low cost airline dba (formerly Deutsche BA) from Hamburg to Munich. Deutsche Bahn paid EUR 378 million in fuel and energy taxes in 2004 to power its trains, the last year for which complete statistics are currently available. A DB spokesman re-stated that if imposing a tax on jet fuel is not legally feasible, then DB and other railroads should be relieved of the tax burden of numerous fuel and energy taxes currently levied on their diesel and electric power purchases.
In fact European governments do have the legal authority since 2004 to legislate taxes on jet fuel. France is set to be the first E.U. country to do so with a fuel tax which can vary from 1 to 40 euros per ticket for funding development and aid projects in Africa. The French jet fuel tax will go into effect on 1st of July. Similar legislation has been proposed in the European Parliament to impose a fuel tax amounting to a 2 euro charge per ticket which would apply to all airlines flying in the 25-country E.U. zone.
Stuttgart train station lawsuit dismissed
In brief A German court has dismissed law suits against DB and the city of Stuttgart regarding a planned major rebuilding of the Stuttgart train station from its current surface level terminal configuration (like Washingtons Union Station) into an underground through station (like New Yorks Penn Station or Berlins brand new and soon to open Hauptbahnhof).
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