In this edition...
WATERTOWN, WI - April 10 -- Illinois is starting to get the big picture when it comes to train service. A movement to expand the number of daily Amtrak trains between Chicago and St. Louis is getting attention. Called the Hiawatha service, three trains a day would increase to five, and, in addition, service would be expanded between Chicago and Quincy and Chicago and Carbondale.
Those route expansions would increase Illinois financial commitment to Amtrak to rise from $12 million to $30 million annually. While that price appears high, the cost of adding lanes to the highway system could be substantially more than $20 million a mile and could take much longer.
At the same time, pressure to extend the service out to Watertown, Wisconsin, is coming from folks in that area who see it as a logical extension.
Business folks who used the Hiawatha service recently were impressed with how quick and efficient it was and how crowded the trains were even at off-peak hours.
The Hiawatha service was quick and it was efficient. In a mere 90 minutes you are taken from downtown Milwaukee to the heart of Chicago. No hassle parking a car, no freeway jams, etc. It was a pleasure. We were surprised at how many people were on the Hiawatha trains. We went on non-peak times and the trains were pretty full. We can imagine how they must be during the rush hour times.
Amtraks long distance Empire Builder comes through Watertown every day. The track is in good shape and people there feel it would make sense to run a few of the Chicago-St. Louis trains out to Watertown.
The Watertown Times commented, We applaud those efforts to expand the Hiawatha service but wed also like the state to work on expanding some of those runs out here to Watertown. Weve said it before many times, the track as far as Watertown is in good shape and it already has one Amtrak train in each direction every day - the long distance Empire Builder.
By adding more trains, Illinois is giving people more options and the ridership numbers are sure to increase. At the same time, we need to look broader in Wisconsin as well. We need more stops and Watertowns a perfect place to start.
Thats the whole concept of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative - get more routes going that will feed into the system with Chicago at the hub and cities like Madison, Green Bay, Detroit, St. Louis, Carbondale, Minneapolis, etc. as the spokes.
Sooner or later our politicians will get it. We hope its sooner rather than later!
April 12 -- Amtrak service between the Northeast and Florida was interrupted through last Friday because of the temporary closure of a bridge owned by CSX Transportation, located 10 miles north of Selma, N.C.
A routine inspection of the bridge by CSX unveiled problems, and it was closed to make needed repairs, according to an Amtrak statement.
Trains to and from Florida that were scheduled on this route were returned to their points of origin.
There was no service by the New York-Miami Silver Star (Trains 91 & 92) and Silver Meteor (Trains 97 & 98) and the Lorton, Va.-Sanford, Fla. Auto Train (Trains 52 & 53), through Thursday, Amtrak said.
Passengers aboard trains in North Carolina were provided with alternate transportation, but no alternate transportation was provided for Florida passengers.
The New York-Charlotte Carolinian (Trains 79 & 80) and the New York-Savannah Palmetto (Trains 89 & 90) operated only between New York and Rocky Mount, N.C., on Thursday and were subject to delays.
Chartered motor coach transportation was provided between Rocky Mount and Charlotte or Savannah, according to Amtrak.
Passengers were offered refunds and travel on future dates and were encouraged to call (800) USA-RAIL or Amtrak.com for schedule information and train status updates.
Other Amtrak services on the Northeast Corridor, between Richmond, Va., and Boston, were not affected by this temporary service disruption.
WASHINGTON - April 14 - Amtrak announced that repairs to a North Carolina bridge were complete and that it would add capacity on Friday for extra passengers.
More than 5,000 were stranded or inconvenienced on the eve of the busy Easter travel weekend, reported USA Today in a story by Kasie Hunt and Bill Nichols.
Last Thursday, Amtrak said that passenger service between the Northeast and Florida would resume on Friday.
CSX Transportation closed a bridge about 30 miles east of Raleigh on Wednesday after a routine inspection by the freight rail company revealed needed repairs.
CSX Transportation owns the bridge.
Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said travel on routes between New York City and Miami was canceled late Wednesday through Thursday. Also halted: auto-and-passenger trains running from Lorton, Va., to Sanford, Fla.
All Amtrak routes were opened on Friday except trains headed to New York from Charlotte and Savannah, because those trains were not in place, according to Black. Those passengers were offered buses to Rocky Mount, where they could board trains and head north.
He said affected passengers were being given refunds, so they could complete their travel another way, or their tickets would be honored when the routes open.
Its a busy time, Black said, noting that many passengers were using the East Coast routes for Easter or spring break plans.
The railroad company said it would add extra capacity on Friday to accommodate passengers whose trips were canceled Wednesday and Thursday.
CSX spokeswoman Meg Scheu said that in addition to Amtrak passenger trains, about 50 freight trains a day use the two-track, 101-foot-long bridge, which is just north of Selma, N.C. She said 10 of those trains had been rerouted, but most of the rest were holding until repairs were completed.
Scheu said a defect was found in the structural supports of the bridge during a routine inspection on Wednesday, at which time the bridge was closed.
Judge sentences union boss for
organizing New York transit strike
NEW YORK, April 11-- Transport Workers Union President Roger Toussaint was sentenced to 10 days in jail last week for orchestrating the illegal transit strike that paralyzed the city just before Christmas last December.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Theodore Jones ordered the sentence and also hit Toussaint with a $1,000 fine.
This strike was illegal, said Jones, citing the states Taylor Law.
Toussaint was not immediately taken into custody. Jones gave him 30 days to appeal.
TWU Treasurer Ed Watt and Recording Secretary Darlyne Lawson were hit with $500 fines but no jail time.
All three had pled guilty to contempt-of-court charges.
Toussaint claimed the strike was needed as a last resort to gain a fair labor contract and because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had a cavalier approach toward the labor negotiations.
The TWU and the MTA still have not reached a contract settlement after union members rejected a pact by seven votes in January. The union is currently conducting a revote, even as negotiations head for arbitration.
Both Governor Pataki and MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow supported the judges decision noting that the labor leaders had to be held accountable for the illegal strike that endangered millions of New Yorkers.
Firefighter Matthew Long was struck and severely injured by a private charter bus while bicycling to work because of the strike. He is still in the hospital.
Railroad industry surging with new demand
CHICAGO An old industry is growing anew. A one and a half mile freight train, rolling past stacks of containers marked From China, is just one sure sign that the freight rail industry is starting to boom.
One of the worlds busiest train yards is in Elwood, Illinois, on the L.A. to Chicago line. These trains are not just carrying coal, grain and domestic goods. They are loaded with products from China.
But the boom in freight rail has major stumbling blocks, particularly in the Chicago area where the infrastructure is a tangle of track that covers Chicago and its collar counties like spaghetti creating notorious traffic jams.
Trains that take two days to arrive from California might take another two to go a few miles through the Chicago bottleneck.
And one-third of U.S. rail cargo flows through this tangle.
Photo: KRT photo via Seacoast NewspapersA container is loaded onto a train at the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad Facility in Elwood, Ill., last month. The railroad industry is back on track after years of decline in the area.
While the need for better infrastructure is obvious, the question is raised about how much tax-payers should chip in. An ambitious public-private plan that targets the worst of Chicagos train-track entanglements got only a fraction of the federal funding its boosters expected in last years pork-laden transportation bill.
The investments would benefit both the railroad industry and the public. Its not just the trains that are slowed in the Chicago track tangle. Its also automobile commuters.
Huge investments in tracks, locomotives, electronic switches and sprawling facilities like the Elwood hub at the former Joliet Arsenal in Illinois suddenly make good sense as demand surges and railroad stocks soar.
Chicago stands to reap benefits. Railroads practically created the city in its early days, and it remains the point where east meets west and all six major freight lines come together before heading off again.
For years, the railroads have threatened to divert traffic from the area to avoid its congestion, but those threats ring hollow in the face of recent investments confirming Chicagos status as the centerpiece of the nations rail system.
In a matter of months, CSX Corp. is expected to announce plans for another big hub in southern Cook County, Ill., industry sources say. Thats on top of Union Pacifics giant new hub in Rochelle, Ill., and less-conspicuous local projects undertaken by other lines as well.
Last month, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez toured the facility, telling a hometown crowd, Youve got a great advantage. He also voiced confidence in the economy despite the loss of manufacturing jobs in the face of overseas competition.
This is the future, said Gutierrez, former chief executive of cereal-maker Kellogg Co. Its all about trading with the rest of the world. This is the best example I can think of.
The Association of American Railroads expects that this year the major freight lines will invest a record $8.2 billion in new track, buying equipment and improving infrastructure, up more than 20 percent from a strong 2005.
Its a historic shift after many decades when railroads couldnt make enough money to cover their cost of borrowing it, which discouraged capital spending in one of the more capital-intensive businesses.
To a degree, the industry owes todays recovery to a drastic deregulation plan implemented a quarter-century ago.
The 1980 Staggers Rail Act came in the midst of severe financial troubles for the industry. The government had prevented railroads from setting their rates, closing unprofitable tracks and consolidating networks. Service was terrible, and long-haul truckers gained market share.
Deregulation went hand in hand with additional consolidation. Major freight lines once numbering in the dozens combined into the mere half-dozen left today. Employment plunged from 458,000 when Congress approved Staggers to 165,000 as of 2005.
That difficult period left scars, including strained relations with workers and ultra-cautious management.
The promise of continued growth makes straightening out Chicagos rail network all the more urgent. But the regions $1.5 billion public-private plan lost its political champion with the retirement in January 2005 of Rep. William Lipinski, a Chicago Democrat known for his transit clout. Just recently the plan suffered another blow when Canadian National Railway Co. withdrew from it.
Because none of the plans initial construction projects would benefit its line, CN could not justify putting up money for it, a spokesman said. It might rejoin later, he added.
Indeed, the plan is far from dead. The $100 million in federal funding it managed to obtain, coupled with support from the other five railroads, has paid for mapping, surveying and engineering work in anticipation of eventual funding.
Yet it could be stuck in neutral for some time.
The state has higher priorities, the city has higher priorities, the railroads individually have higher priorities, and its still needed, said Jim LaBelle, deputy director at Metropolis 2020, a civic group backing the measure.
Meantime, out at the Joliet Arsenal, BNSFs Clement is doing what he can to keep up with demand. He is adopting electronic systems for speeding the flow of some 2,500 trucks that visit the facility each day, using a software program designed specifically for rail-yard management. Also on the way: global positioning system technology for tracking the thousands of containers piled high on the sweeping expanse of blacktop Clement calls the parking lot.
The other railroads are on the move, too. CSX expects to add 3,500 to its 30,000-plus work force this year, said spokeswoman Kim Freely. It is increasing capacity by adding 10,000-foot sidings every 15 miles or so on its Chicago-to-Florida run, which will enable slower trains to pull over as needed. Freely confirmed that CSX is looking for a new intermodal site south of the city but declined to elaborate or comment on the timing. It has two such sites in the Chicago area.
One emerging threat: Re-regulation. Some coal and chemical shippers, feeling burned as the railroads flex their newfound power to raise freight rates, have started complaining to Congress.
Its a struggle that has flared on and off for more than 150 years, and it could flare anew as these old companies continue shifting into a higher gear.
Curitiba to Seattle:
Si, Se Puede!
This week Seattle played like a transportation groupie -- former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, Jaime Lerner was in town and we caught his public address at Benaroya Hall (An Evening with Jaime Lerner) and then a breakfast talk (Lessons from Curitiba) sponsored by the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle and offering a panel discussion with Patricia Chase (International Sustainable Solutions), Kevin Desmond (King County, Metro Transit), and Jim Mueller (JC Mueller).
Hizzoner Greg Nickels (whos looking positively svelte these days) opened the Benaroya Hall talk by applauding the 25,000 people in the streets for demonstrating to Lerner how willing Seattle is to switch modes to walking.
Photo: seattlest.comBoarding tube at Curitiba bus stop also serves as shelter
Then Jaime Lerner took the stage in a black blazer, polo shirt and slacks, fired up PowerPoint, and stripped off the blazer to get down to business. Apologizing for his English, he was clear enough with his prescription for Seattle: get as many cars off the streets as we can as soon as possible. Its viaduct in English? he asked. You know what my definition of viaduct is: the easiest way to move a car from one traffic jam to another jam.
People listen to Lerner because the pot-bellied fireplug of a three-time mayor, two-time governor has a lifetime of accomplishment to back his lectures up. Hes most known for the phenomenal success of his mass transit solution for the city, which relies on bus rapid transit. But hes equally inspiring as a speaker on sustainability as he is on urban design, describing project after project from his worldwide consulting career, and the 540 people packing the Recital Hall gave him a standing ovation at the end of his talk, which well detail next.
Lerner has two favorite quotes about cities: The city is not the problem; the city is the solution, and The city is the last refuge of solidarity. His methodology is built on these two statements. He counsels referring to the citys design, its actual structure, as a way of prioritizing growth and development. The variety in a citys design represents its values. And he argues that the political will to get things done flows from the people, not an officeholder.
Lerner lists 5 Simple Rules for Sustaining My City: 1) make cars unnecessary, 2) separate the garbage and recycle, 3) integrate work areas with habitation, 4) save the maximum, waste the minimum, and 5) make facilities multiple-use. In the first case, he introduced bus rapid transit and an integrated transit system. In 1974 it carried 25,000 people. It grew. Today it carries 2 million.
To promote waste recycling, he offered transit tokens in exchange for people sorting garbage. Zoning encouraged mixed-use residential/industrial areas. Structures were converted rather than torn down. Street vendors were given street-side mini-shops to promote their business and keep them from bothering pedestrians.
Innovation is starting, Lerner says. Democracy is not about perfect consensus, its about conflict management. He reels off project after project that took two months, six months, everything generally under two years. Creativity comes when you cut a zero from your budget, he chuckles. Its almost never a question of scale or resources, but one of understanding what a city is good for. If you dont have the money, provide the way for others to do it. As a case in point, Curitiba provided the right-of-way for transit; 10 private companies run the bus fleet (which they own), and are paid by the kilometer for the use.
For Lerner, identity is when people can see themselves proudly reflected in their city. (The Seattle tour of Curitiba led by International Sustainable Solutions was surprised -- picture it -- by Curitibas cleanliness and ethnic diversity.) While he was happy to talk about buses, he was also very proud of the symbolic ethnic portals constructed around the city to honor different immigrant groups, and of Curitibas daycare program, 230 daycare centers financed by public, private, and religious entities.
And of course he did talk buses. But he was careful to point out all the ingredients to a successful bus system. Zoning marries high-density areas with bus rapid transit -- because Curitibas transit system pays for itself, its crucial that it not be a way of simply moving a group of people from Home to Work and Back Again. Along a high-density line, people are continually getting on and off the bus, so it maintains capacity.
And it maintains speed because the buses use restricted lanes, preventing them from getting stuck in traffic. (One key point, Lerner emphasizes, is that whatever mode of transit you use in an area, it must not have to compete with another for space. Buses get bus lanes. Cars and taxis get car lanes.) Bus boarding tubes, besides being an aesthetic shelter, let people pay ahead of time, so theres no delay in loading/unloading a bus. (At peak times, Curitiba boasts a frequency of a bus every 30 seconds.)
An integrated feeder system brings passengers in from outlying centers, and another set of buses travels around the perimeter, offering travel between those centers without going through downtown.
As good as this may sound to you, there are plenty of people who will line up to tell you why it wont work (it being any part or all of the above). Thats why Lerner says his job is to inspire with his motto, It is possible! He aims to shake people out of death-spiral complacency with his Start now! and short timeframes for action. In fact, whether something can be completed in a short time is part of his triage approach -- if its going to take 10 years for a single project, he wants no part of it. There must be something better that could be done in the meantime. Think harder.
Especially at the breakfast talk, populated by urban cognoscenti -- the City Councils Richard Conlin moderated, architects and developers batted eyes at each other -- it was evident that It is possible! was nice to think so as Hemingway once grumbled. No one sprang up with fire in their eye afterwards, ready to storm the Viaduct with pitchforks. These people all understood how things operate around here. Which is too bad. They will be first against the wall, come the revolution. Standing there, they wont impede everyone elses progress.
Posted by Michael van Baker in Architecture , Celebrities , Design , Environment , Events , Foreign Lands , Transportation.
Home on the Hiawatha:
Development along light-rail transit
line exceeds early projections
MINNEAPOLIS - April 2006The region took a giant step in 2001 to invest $715.3 million and much time and labor to build the citys first light-rail transit (LRT) line along Hiawatha Avenue.
They took the word of proponents that the project would bring nearby business and residential development. If we build it, will they come? was the big question.
After just one year of full operation, the answer is a solid yes. LRT is more than fulfilling its promise to attract both riders and development.
In its first year of full operation, Hiawatha LRT attracted 7.8 million riders, exceeding pre-construction estimates by 58.2 percent. By October 2005, ridership had surpassed projections for 2020, according to Bob Gibbons, director of customer services at Metro Transit. Forty percent of Hiawatha riders are new to transit. The majority of riders take the light rail to and from work, reducing traffic congestion and lessening competition for downtown parking spaces.
The Hiawatha light-rail train passes near the Reflections Condominiums, under construction in Bloomington.
Housing construction has also boomed along the line.
By the end of 2005, 5,400 housing units had been completed along the light rail line and the City had processed 7,000 additional units for construction by 2008.
Before the advent of light rail, the Hiawatha corridor in south Minneapolis had been stagnant for some time, dominated by vacant or underutilized industrial land, said Katie Hatt, executive director of the Longfellow Community Council, which oversees several neighborhoods just to the east of Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis. Now were seeing creative development proposals that will increase the diversity of housing types in the neighborhoods and connect services and jobs to housing. Its a very exciting time.
Commercial activity is brisk
Commercial development has expanded as well. Between 2000 and 2005, small retailers, restaurants and coffee shops opened in neighborhoods along the line, IKEA has opened and the Mall of America, which has its own LRT stop, is expanding.
We know that some of this growth wouldve happened without LRT, said Metropolitan Council Chair Bell, but the line has without a doubt been a powerful catalyst for both commercial and residential development. LRT supports the growth by offering people an easy connection between where they live, work and shop. And every car we keep off the regions roadways helps to ease traffic congestion.
Downtown businesses have noticed a marked improvement in business. People are returning to the city center, restaurants are filled with happy customers, many of them new, who say they will return. Old Chicago gave free passes to the LRT for customers going to the Vikings games; Caps Grille has a stop right in front of their door and credits the LRT with dozens of additional customers.
Citizens are happy not to have to fight traffic or spend $25 to $30 for parking and enjoy the benefit of not having to drive home after the theatre or other entertainments in the city.
The Hiawatha is a wonderful, wonderful thing for downtown, reported Jim Burroughs, general manager of Old Chicago. The rail line has brought people back to the city, and has had a tremendous impact on our business.
Real estate values have increased
Along the light rail corridor, values have increased by 83% from 2000 to 2004 and 61% overall in Minneapolis, according to Todd Graham, research director for the Metropolitan Council. The 22 percent difference is comparable to transit-oriented development (TOD) impacts in other cities, according to a report published by Maxfield Research.
Matt Mullins, senior analyst at Maxfield Research, suggested the market for Twin Cities TOD projects will mirror national demand, which is likely to double by 2025. Transit-oriented development appeals to people in the new housing market. Aging baby boomers, immigrants and younger adults prefer denser, more urban environments with convenient access to goods and services, he said. They prefer to use public transit and other alternatives, rather than depending on automobiles.
At Right: Housing units above commercial and retail shops are typical of transit-oriented development. Pictured here is the new Oaks Hiawatha Station at 46th St. and Snelling Avenue, one block from the 46th St. LRT station.
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Merritt Parkway work is stopped:
Redesign planned for interchange
April 11 -- Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) will redesign the interchange project at Route 7 and the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk, now that the court has ordered that the present plan cannot go forward.
On March 31, the U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz ruled that the Federal Highway Administration and the state did not provide sufficient evidence that they had explored all options for minimizing harm to the parkway in building the interchange, handing a victory to preservationists who said the work would ruin the parkways historical character.
ConnDOT terminated its contract with O&G Industries Inc. of Torrington for the $98 million project, saying that it had decided it would be wasting taxpayers money if it continued to pay the contractor.
The states original plan was challenged last year in U.S. District Court in New Haven by parkway preservationists who claimed construction would violate federal law by irreversibly damaging the historical character of the parkway, including four historic bridges and landscaping.
The plaintiffs, which included the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Sierra Club, sought an alternate construction plan.
The Merritt Parkway is on the National Register of Historic Places, an official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation
The groups filed suit last year after appealing to the DOT and Gov. M. Jodi Rell during public hearings.
Conservancy officials said yesterday they hope the states decision to terminate the contract will give preservationists a chance to weigh in on the plan.
Hopefully, this will result in a project that is good for commuters and respectful of the Merritt, said Laurie Heiss, executive director of the conservancy. We would love to be a part of the process and will be happily standing by.
Conservancy Co-chairman Peter Malkin of Greenwich said we tried our best to persuade (the DOT) that an efficient interchange could be achieved without the design they had been contemplating.
With construction stopped indefinitely, conservancy members want the state to restore some of the landscaping that was destroyed during early stages of construction, Malkin said.
The state and Federal Highway Administration will work together to design an interchange that complies with federal preservation law, court papers said.
DOT officials said their goal is to start construction as early as possible, perhaps after next years construction season begins in April.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||83.39||83.45|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||52.78||53.69|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||32.61||33.00|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||23.85||23.99|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||16.15||16.15|
Railroad stocks trading higher as analysts see
first-quarter results coming in strong
NEW YORK, April 12 -- Shares of the nations largest railroad companies moved higher Wednesday after a bevy of analysts issued reports anticipating strong first-quarter earnings results.
Union Pacific Corp. shares added 72 cents to $92.76 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while Norfolk Southern Corp. gained 63 cents, to $54.65.
CSX Corp. stock was trading up 63 cents, at $64.82, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the largest rail company in the U.S., was up 51 cents, to $83.05.
All four stocks are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
UBS analyst Rick Paterson said the industry is exhibiting unprecedented power driven by the strength of the economy, high demand for long-haul shipping, and problems in the trucking sector.
The trucking industry expects capacity to continue to tighten and driver pay to keep rising, Paterson wrote in a client note, which is clearly positive for all stocks in the North American railroad sector.
Late Tuesday, Deutsche Bank analyst Jordan Alliger raised earnings per share forecasts for Burlington Northern, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National Railway Co., also citing woes in the trucking industry, including rising fuel prices.
Although cautioning that a good portion of the positive outlook is already reflected in the share prices, Alliger wrote in a client note the mild winter weather combined with pricing that is stronger than initially anticipated should translate to higher EPS versus our models for the first quarter.
Also Tuesday, Stifel Nicolaus analyst John Larkin said CSX was most likely in the industry to beat Wall Street estimates for the first quarter, adding that Wall Street is starting to give company credit for the turnaround that is underway. CSX is the only railroad Larkin has rated a Buy.
CSX was also identified as most likely to beat analyst views, along with Norfolk Southern, by Bear Stearns analyst Edward M. Wolfe. He said there is less potential for the Canadian rail operators to beat expectations.
Canadian National shares were down 63 cents, to $45.61 on the NYSE, while Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. shares were up 63 cents, to $53.02 on the Big Board.
FRA administrator Boardman stresses safety,
capacity, interconnectivity at NE gathering
WORCESTER, MA --- Grade crossing safety, rail capacity, and commuter/intercity interconnectivity were on the agenda recently when he addressed the sold-out annual dinner of the New England Railroad Club.
Boardman, the former head of New York State Department of Transportation, opened his talk to the assembled NERC members with an emphasis on the need to improve grade crossing safety, especially through education and Operation Lifesaver. He suggested that the obvious first choice is closure, but when not economically or politically feasible, improved crossing gate protection should be deployed. He gave North Carolina Railroads Sealed Corridor, which has tested a variety of new grade crossing designs, as an example of significant safety improvement.
Other meaningful current safety enhancements cited include the new LA Metrolink design for a Crash Energy Management Cab-Control car, and improvements in tank car design for cars used to transport hazardous substances. In this vein, he reconfirmed the American Association of Railroads observation that as common carriers, railroads do not have the choice to refuse carrying hazardous materials. Yet another safety related focus area for FRA will be human factors, especially fatigue management.
Boardman also addressed the growing issue of mainline railroad capacity. As traffic demand has rebounded for Class I and Regional Railroads, there is, he noted, a nationwide problem with capacity and throughput, with particular challenges on specific lines and terminal bottlenecks. He cited the success of the Alameda Corridor Project and follow-on Alameda Corridor East, while lamenting the recent funding limitations for the well-conceived Chicago CREATE Project. He also looked to similar future initiatives, namely the New Orleans Gateway and I-81 improvements.
Continuance of RIF Loan financing would be extremely important to public-private partnership projects as well as necessary incremental upgrading of short lines and regional railroads infrastructure to handle the new 286,000-lb.freight cars. R-RIF (The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program) provides credit assistance to rail and intermodal projects. It is intended to encourage investment in passenger and freight rail facilities and equipment, including aiding smaller freight carriers lacking ready access to the capital markets. R-RIF can provide direct loans and loan guarantees for the purchase or improvement of intermodal or rail equipment and facilities, with priority given to projects with clear public benefits, in the words of then-Deputy DOT Secretary Mort Downey, when the program was enacted under TEA-21 in 1998.
Administrator Boardman suggested that one way FRA might help improve railroad flow would be to not only track slow orders, but also record when the subject area is repaired, so the slow orders could be removed as quickly as possible.
On the highly debated topic of intercity passenger and commuter service Mr. Boardman stressed the importance of connectivity, and of service/schedules meeting the needs of the traveling public. He made a specific anecdotal reference to his realm at NYSDOT, when Amtrak schedule offerings did not allow westbound early day trips from Albany to Syracuse or Rochester. He also recognized the inherent conflict between passenger and freight priorities and schedule adherence in crowded mixed corridors. The best solution to capacity/scheduling conflicts will be sufficient capital investment, from a variety of sources.
Continuing on the passenger-freight reliability conundrum, he observed that a freight railroads should attempt to help improve Amtraks disappointing 60% long distance on-time performance, but conversely that Amtrak must work cooperatively with the freight railroads to develop realistic schedules, given existing capacity constraints and increased freight traffic. On the issue of higher speed passenger service, he recognized that it is probably not operationally feasible to schedule 110 MPH passenger service on tracks that also carry freight. He then observed the need for a basic recovery ratio for passenger and commuter operations. He suggested that for each 1 % improvement in Amtrak cost recovery, there would be a $30 million reduction in operating funding requirement. The implication is that a 10 % improvement in cost recovery would fund the annual $300 million Amtrak debt service requirement. Mr. Boardman also observed that we need a new and better definition for Amtrak corporate structure since it is neither a for-profit corporation not a public agency.
His closing plenary thought was that the railroad industry tends to talk to itself (like we are here today in Worcester), when what it really needs to do is to promote itself to the broader transportation industry and the nation at large.
At the conclusion of his prepared remarks, Administrator Boardman was enthusiastically recognized by the audience, and then briefly responded to a wide array of follow-up questions.
In January, 2005, Bruce Horowitz formed a new venture, ESH Consult, in Alexandria, VA, and leads its efforts as Principal, Rail Transport Economics. With 30 years of passenger and urban transportation economics experience, Bruce Horowitz most recently served as North American Account Manager for CANAC in Washington, DC.
Prior to joining CANAC, Mr. Horowitz did independent economic research and spent 18 years at Amtrak overseeing route planning and economic analyses. He is Chair of the TRB Commuter Rail Committee and Steering Committee Coordinator of APTAs Rail Shared Use Task Force.
ESH Consult focuses on a broad range of passenger rail areas including:
Conventional inter-city rail
ESH Consult provides the following services:
ESH Consults recent customer base includes: SNC Lavalin, Interfleet Technology, Colorado Rail Car, Earth Tech, and Railway Service Corporation. Contact ESH through:
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On Jaime Lerner
If ever there were a successful advocate for transit, it has to be Jaime Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil.
This large, successful South American city has what is probably the worlds best bus transit system, brought about by a leadership that, as Mayor Lerner says, notes that: Cities arent the problem. Cities are the solution.
By deliberately planning the growth of the city along two axes, and providing frequent transit service from day one, Curitiba has grown from a small city to a 1.6-million-population metropolis, but with very low pollution, clean streets, and a populace that spends les than 10% of its (modest) income on transportation.
In American cities, often poorly served by transit, the percentage of income needed for transportation is so high that the cities are effectively walled off from jobs, and the very people who need to break out of poverty are instead trapped in joblessness.
Americans may feel a bit bemused when told to compare themselves to other countries for lessons in how to live, but the fact is our society, by wasting resources, and through dependence on oil, is squandering its good fortune for a mess of pollution.
Curitiba shows it doesnt have to be that way. American city planners and politicians should take note.
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Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.
Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, and intermodalism, as well as of current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size and number. Descriptive text which includes location, train name, and something about the content of the image is encouraged. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your e-mail address or web site.
Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King and other photo journalists should contact our email@example.com for additional information.
In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives state DOTs, legislators, governors offices, and transportation professionals as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our firstname.lastname@example.org.
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