Vol. 7 No. 19
April 24, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

A weekly North American rail and transit update

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

* Now in our Seventh Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

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

  News Items... 
Amtrak’s Downeaster train booming;
   NNE Passenger Rail Authority seeks more cars
Amtrak FY ‘07 budget request submitted to congress
Long-awaited East Side access agreement signed by
   Amtrak, MTA and LIRR
High speed railways to boost China economy
Long-dormant Scranton-NYC rail line heading back to life
  Off the main line… 
Human Events’ blogger gets a factual response to
   “Amtrak: A harmful government program?”
  Commuter Rail … 
Public transit is set to turn a corner soon in
   Charlotte, North Carolina
  Environmental lines… 
Promoting better health with more hiking trails
  Friday Closing Quotes… 
  Business lines… 
Union Pacific full of steam
  Safety lines… 
Amtrak train hits big rig in Glendale, no injuries reported
Mudslide cancels Amtrak, commuter trains north of Seattle
  Editorial… 
$5 Gas
  End notes… 

Amtrak’s Downeaster train Booming;

NNE Passenger Rail Authority
seeks more cars

By DF Staff and from the Internet

PORTLAND, Maine – Amtrak’s Downeaster service (Portland-Boston) is up 35 per cent over the same quarter last year, the Associated Press reports.

“Winter is usually a slow season for the Downeaster, but this year has been an exception, with ridership for the quarter up 35 percent over last year’s figure. Many of the trains are now sold out days in advance,” said the AP last week.

“To accommodate all of the riders, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has added a car to one of its trains during school vacation week. The rail authority says it is now talking to Amtrak about getting an extra car for the tourism season ahead,” the AP reported.

“We’re looking into the summer with Amtrak to see what they might have available, because we may need to have that extra car at least as much as we can during the summer,” the authority’s Lou Ensor told WCSH-TV, reports the AP.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said Friday that ticket sales are up, and that at least some of that increase is due to spiraling gasoline costs. “We’re beginning to see the effect already,” he told Destination:Freedom.

The Associated Press reported that in the case of the Downeaster, “Rail service officials say the gain in ridership is due to the high price of gas, shortened [higher speed] trips to Boston and the Downeaster becoming recognized as a dependable way to travel. It rates near the top of Amtrak trains for on-time service.”

The Downeaster, which marked its fourth anniversary this week, is no longer considered a novelty and is used regularly by commuters. Transportation officials are looking into extending its Maine runs to Brunswick.


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Amtrak FY ‘07 budget request
submitted to congress

Proposal for next year driven by reform initiatives

Source: Amtrak Ink

Board Chairman David Laney and acting President David Hughes told Senate Appropriations Subcommittee members what it would take to effectively operate and continue pursuing reforms at the railroad next fiscal year at a Congressional hearing on March 16.

Amtrak’s request to Congress for FY ’07 funding is largely driven by the Strategic Reform Initiatives first introduced last spring. Assuming key reforms are success-fully implemented, the SRIs are estimated to reduce the level of federal support required over the next three to five years by $500 million or more, Laney told the panel.

In FY ’07, Amtrak expects to decrease its dependency on federal operating support by over $40 million as a result of the reforms, from $540 million this year to $498 million.

Capital projects are projected at $730 million next fiscal year, $235 million more than this year. Contributing to the difference are major one-time projects such as the replacement of the Thames River Bridge in Connecticut, upgrading of the Northeast Corridor dispatching system and other investments aimed at supporting the Strategic Reform Initiatives.

The railroad's request for federal support totals $1.598 billion, which is in line with what Amtrak received this fiscal year, when the one-time capital investments are excluded.

In addition to the proposal, Amtrak laid out investment options that would further advance some of the initiatives. Adding up to an additional $275 million, the recommendations include supple-mental funds for freight OTP incentives and federal matching grants for state corridor develop-ment.

Underscoring the direct link between the implementation of Strategic Reform Initiatives and federal support, Hughes told employees in a March advisory, “We will be unable to effectively make the case for [federal] support unless we demonstrate improve-ments in operating efficiency, finan-cial performance and customer service.”

Amtrak is examining all of its operating units from every angle, with an eye toward reducing losses and subsequently lessening its dependence on federal operating support. In addition, certain initia-tives are designed to implement customer service improvements that will drive ridership and revenue growth.

At the hearing, Chairman Laney reported on reforms the company is currently pursuing, such as measures to reduce the cost of food and beverage service. The railroad is rolling out a new model for delivering food service on most of its long-distance trains.By summer, those trains will offer reserved-seating meal service delivered by smaller crews. Based on initial feedback from passen-gers, the staggered seating has led to a higher degree of personalized service. Because dining car service is available for longer periods under this new model, sales are up. The company is also considering the less-costly option of outsourcing some food and beverage service.

A number of departments are involved in improving financial management and reporting systems, and the company is studying other efficiencies in mechanical, stations and call center operations.

The company is also currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the financial perfor-mance of long-distance services, Laney reported.

The Grant and Legislative Request is available on Amtrak.com.


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New York’s Sunnyside Yard

Photo: Amtrak Ink

At New York’s Sunnyside Yard, new catenary pole foundations are being drilled as work begins to accommodate additional tracks for the East Side Access project. The long-term project between Amtrak, the MTA, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North will benefit commuter agencies and Amtrak by providing direct access to Grand Central Terminal for LIRR commuters and reduce congestion in the busiest railroad interchange in the country.

 

Long-awaited East Side access agreement
signed by Amtrak, MTA and LIRR

Source: Amtrak Ink

The $7.7 billion East Side Access rail project in New York City will provide Amtrak with substantial facility and other infrastructure improvements under an agreement announced in January between Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and the New York Metropol-itan Transit Authority (MTA).

East Side Access is the largest rail-road capital investment project in New York’s recent history, but one based on a simple principle: provide Long Island commuters with a terminus on the East side of Manhattan.

For nearly a century, rail commuters from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties who work on the East side have had to take the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, then backtrack by bus, cab or on foot. The project creates a new station beneath Grand Central Terminal, nearly a mile north and east of Penn Station, thereby lessening the commuting woes of Long Islanders.

For Amtrak, the East Side Access project will result in many improvements in and around Sunnyside Yard in Queens. Among the most significant is the creation of two independent grade-sepa-rated routes through Harold Inter-locking adjacent to the yard. This is the busiest railroad interlocking in North America and one of the busiest in the world, handling more than 600 Amtrak and LIRR trains per day. Also included is the renewal and/or upgrade of much of the existing infrastructure though Harold and the nearby “F” interlockings.

To provide access to tunneling equipment under the yard, the plans call for the removal of 100-year-old support buildings. These will be replaced with modern-design struc-tures providing a much-improved working envi-ronment for employees.

A material shed with track access will be constructed, as well as a project office building for Engineering-related activities and material storage for the project. Additionally, the area in which the REA building was located will be used by the MTA for fabrication of switches and panels, then turned over to Amtrak’s Engineering department for use as a mainte-nance site. A new rail car wash will also be constructed at Sunnyside for long-term use by Amtrak and NJ Transit.

With preliminary site work such as surveying and collection of soil samples currently on schedule, construction is expected to begin on Amtrak property this summer, and the project is expected to be complete in 2012.

“We’re very pleased with the bene-fits that East Side Access is providing to Amtrak, to rail commuters and to the New York region,” said Amtrak’s Drew Galloway, chief of Corridor Devel-opment Project Planning. “Amtrak is getting $200 million in much-needed infrastructure improve-ments from the project, commuters are getting better service and the region is getting the equivalent of about two lanes of traffic on the East River bridges and tunnels during peak hours in passenger rail capacity. That’s a very big environ-mental plus — when this project is completed, we’ll have helped decrease auto travel in the region by more than 500,000 miles per day.”

[Drew Galloway and Vinay Mudholkar contributed to this story for Amtrak Ink.]


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High speed railways to boost China economy

By Chen Simeng, CRI News, Shanghai

SHANGHAI---The Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev and Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway projects

have just been approved by the (China) State Council and will begin construction shortly, reports CRI News.

Experts say operation of the two high-speed trains will serve to further China’s economic growth.

Chen Simeng reports:

“After approval of the two high-speed railway projects by the State Council, the Construction Ministry has just announced that construction of the railway between Beijing and Shanghai will begin in the second half of this year.”

“Both high-speed trains are expected to come into operation by the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, costing a total of 22 billion US dollars.”

“Many people doubt the worthiness of spending such a huge amount of money on only two railways cumulatively covering a distance just under 1600 kilometers.”

“Professor Sun Zhang with Shanghai’s Tongji University says building the maglev between Shanghai and Hangzhou, which is actually an extension of the maglev in Shanghai to the capital city of its neighboring Province Zhejiang, will greatly boost the maglev’s business.”

“‘The Maglev in Shanghai from Pudong Airport to Longyang Road is more a tourist attraction than real transportation, so passenger volume is not good enough. To turn the maglev into a real business, the extension is a must.’”

“At the same time, the high-speed railway between Shanghai and Beijing will link the two most important cities in China, accounting for over 10 percent of passengers and cargo in the country.”

“Sun Zhang says present railway transportation between the two metropolises, which is already put into full use, is far less than enough to meet actual transport needs. But a high-speed train can carry ten times the passengers and cargo over the normal route while taking much less time.”

“It will only take five hours to travel between Shanghai and Beijing, 7 hours less than the present trip.”

“In addition to boosting the economy of areas along the route, experts are also positive about the business profit the two trains will bring themselves, although ticket prices will be higher than on normal trains.”

“Analysts estimate the price of the maglev will be around 18 dollars and the high speed train between Shanghai and Beijing 75 dollars, 50 percent more than the current one way plane ticket price between the two destinations.

“Wang Jingchao, an analyst with Haitong Securities, has this to say: ‘Setting the ticket price should take into consideration people’s income and social capabilities. We cannot decide future purchasing power by looking at present income levels. But on the other hand, it is impossible to let an empty train run after its completion,’” reported CRI.


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Long-dormant Scranton-NYC rail line heading back to life

Compiled From Internet News Sources and By DF Staff

SCRANTON--- The Scranton-Hoboken (New York City) rail line built one hundred years ago but long closed down is heading towards revival, as regional transit planners work towards providing an alternative way to work for thousands of Pennsylvania and New Jersey commuters.

The project is a key part of an ambitious New Jersey initiative to improve rail service throughout the region. New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine has been a strong advocate of rail as an alternative to highway/sprawl development, and a proponent of smart growth.

Proposed route map

Proposed route map courtesy of New Jersey Transit

The Home News Tribune reports that Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Commissioner Kris Kolluri “have unveiled the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s proposed Fiscal Year 2007 Transportation Capital Program. The program funds $3.2 billion in NJDOT and NJ Transit construction projects that will improve the quality of life for New Jersey residents by relieving congestion, improving the mass transit system, and increasing overall safety of the State transportation network.’

“The Capital Program reflects my commitment to increasing the safety of our roadways, protecting our environment, and supporting the State’s expanding economy,” said Corzine. “Through this program, New Jersey will strengthen the transportation network that is critical to our quality of life and long-term economic viability.”

“The proposed Capital Program makes Governor Corzine’s plan to reform, replenish and grow the Transportation Trust Fund a reality,” said Kolluri. “The program will ease congestion and improve safety on state highways and reflects NJDOT’s longstanding commitment to Fix-it-First and enhancing safety and mobility through operational improvements.”

NJDOT’s congestion management system estimates that between 2001 and 2015 total traffic (measured in vehicle miles traveled) will grow by 18 percent on New Jersey’s interstate highways and freeways and by 15 percent on other major roads. A comprehensive strategy to relieve congestion is needed to address not only current needs, but also anticipate and plan for future ones. This capital plan attacks congestion through a combination of short-, intermediate-, and long-term measures designed to shorten commutes and get New Jerseyans home to their families faster.

The proposed investment of $1.3 billion, or nearly one half of the overall capital plan for NJ Transit means a commitment to making public transportation a first option instead of a last resort. This capital plan will provide for 15 major rail station improvements, hundreds of new rail cars, and convenient new services for commuters. At NJDOT, innovative thinking, smart planning, and a long-standing commitment to Fix-it-First equal effective solutions to congestion hot spots without resorting to cost-prohibitive widening projects. NJDOT’s Congestion Relief Plan includes:

“This program enables us to maintain safe and reliable transit service, with substantial improvements in equipment, stations and parking that benefit today’s customers,” said George D. Warrington, Executive Director of NJ Transit. “It also provides funding to move aggressively on critical capacity projects that are needed to meet forecasted demand growth, such as Trans-Hudson Express (THE) Tunnel.”

Approximately $1.9 billion of the capital program is for use by the NJDOT, and $1.3 billion by NJ Transit. The program was presented to the Legislature on April 3.

The Capital Program invests heavily in repairs to local roads with $413 million in direct local aid to towns and counties for roadway improvements. Local Aid dollars will provide significant property tax relief to New Jersey counties and municipalities by funding roadwork that would otherwise be paid for with local property tax dollars.

As part of NJDOT’s longstanding commitment to Fix-it-First, $150 million will be devoted to resurfacing roads. In addition, $525.4 million is being invested in improvements to the state’s aging highway bridges. This investment includes large scale projects such as the replacement of the Route 52 Causeway connecting Somers Point and Ocean City, one of the largest bridge projects in state history. The Fiscal Year 2007 capital plan funds work on a total of 70 bridges, such the replacement of the Route 56 Maurice River Bridge, which connects Pittsgrove, Salem County and Vineland, Cumberland County.

NJDOT will continue its effort to improve safety on our highways. Every dollar spent is an investment in safety, and every project in NJDOT’s proposed capital plan includes safety enhancements. In addition to the safety fixes included in individual projects, this plan funds key safety initiatives, including: $7 million for the next 25 miles of median barriers in NJDOT’s Median Cross-Over Prevention Program, which prevents deadly cross-over accidents; $2.5 million for the Safe Corridors initiative for improvements in high-accident corridors; $1 million for the Intersection Improvement Program, which targets dangerous intersections for safety improvements; $5 million in safety repairs to all 25 movable bridges statewide; and, a $1 million program to improve safety on Route 29 in Mercer County.

NJ Transit will continue to invest $ 467 million in transit infrastructure to maintain the state’s rail, bus and light rail systems in a state of good repair. The program provides $467 million to address core needs such as track replacement, bridge and tunnel inspections, and rail bridge improvement projects such as the rehabilitation of the Newark Drawbridge, which is more than 100 years old, and the replacement of the Raritan Valley Line bridges.

Funding is provided for engineering work to replace rolling stock including 148 NJ Transit Comet III and IV rail cars, 230 Arrow III rail cars and 42 over-aged diesel locomotives.
NJ Transit will invest $35 million in rail station improvements at stations including Metropark and South Amboy; construction will also be completed at the Trenton, Newark Broad Street and Red Bank stations.

The Fiscal Year 2007 capital plan invests in park-and-ride facilities that will create over 4,500 new parking spaces for commuters, including 1,100 at Route 23, Wayne Park and Ride; 700 spaces at Edison Station; 600 spaces at South Amboy Parking Deck; 1,900 spaces at Hamilton Station and 50 spaces at Mount Arlington Station.

NJ Transit will move forward on critical initiatives to meet growth and travel demands over the next decade including the new Trans-Hudson Express (THE) passenger rail tunnel, Northern Branch service, Bergen-Passaic service, light-rail extensions to Bayonne and west to the Meadowlands, the Lackawanna Cutoff project, River Line signal improvements to extend service hours and the PATCO extension. In addition, NJ Transit will expand its parking capacity and investment in technology to improve business practices and efficiency.

The entire Proposed Fiscal Year 2007 Capital Program is available on NJDOT’s Web site at www.state.nj.us/transportation/capital/tcp07/ and is organized by project, county and route

Lackawanna Cutoff background (From NJ Transit)

In the early part of the 20th century, the Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad constructed a level-graded route from Roxbury, NJ to just over the Delaware River to serve as a faster, more direct route between existing rail lines in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Lackawanna Cutoff, as this route came to be known, includes a series of unique structural features, viaducts and massive fill embankments through the deep valleys of this region. In the 1970s, Conrail, the eventual receiver of this property, abandoned the right of way and the track was removed. The objective of the Lackawanna Cutoff project is to reinstitute passenger rail service on the abandoned rail right of way of the Lackawanna Cutoff and over existing freight right of way in Pennsylvania. The reinstituted rail line would provide service from Scranton to Hoboken and New York Penn Station via transfer to MidTown Direct service by connecting to the existing NJ TRANSIT Montclair-Boonton and Morris & Essex Lines.

Project scope

The project includes complete reconstruction of the line including track and signal improvements to approximately 60 miles of right of way, new stations, parking facilities, a train storage yard and additional rail rolling stock. It is assumed that NJ TRANSIT would operate the new service. Proposed stations would serve Blairstown and Andover in New Jersey and Scranton, Mount Pocono, Analomink and East Stroudsburg in Pennsylvania.

“Access to the Region’s Core” a project of the New Jersey/New York region’s transit and planning agencies, states, “The Lackawanna Cutoff project is completing conceptual design and environmental review for the reinstatement of passenger rail service on the abandoned rail right-of-way of the Lackawanna Cutoff (Sussex and Warren counties, New Jersey) and over existing freight right of way in northeastern (Monroe and Lackawanna counties) Pennsylvania. The project would restore rail service from Scranton to Hoboken and Penn Station New York via a transfer to Midtown Direct service by connecting to the existing NJ TRANSIT Montclair-Boonton and Morris & Essex Lines at Port Morris, New Jersey.

For further information see also http://www.pennjerseyrail.org/, the unofficial web page for the Lackawanna Cutoff Passenger Rail Project. They assert: “We need the Lackawanna Cutoff rail project to relieve the massive traffic jams on I-80. These daily delays are not just an annoyance, but they are detrimental to the commerce of Northwest NJ.” After 20 years of multiple studies, it’s time to prioritize the Lackawanna Cutoff Project.”

(This report assembled and researched principally by Fr. Juvenaly of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA, a longtime observer of the rail scene).


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

Human Events’ blogger gets a factual response to

“Amtrak: A harmful government program?”

WASHINGTON --- The blog operated by conservative magazine Human Events, is currently hosting a comment by a Washington freelance writer who had Amtrak experience. Here is some of what author Michael Lewis wrote, and the answer we posted to their blog:

Posted Apr 20, 2006

“Last week, HUMAN EVENTS published its list of the 10 Most Harmful Government Programs. The biggest scam known to mankind as Social Security topped the list as the most harmful, egregiously unconstitutional program. While at the time I wholeheartedly agreed with Social Security’s ranking on the Top 10 list, I hereby cast my vote for Amtrak.”

“Flying to Reagan National Airport from Raleigh can sometimes be costly, so I decided to do what my friends from the Northeast do -- I decided to take the train from Durham, N.C., to Washington’s Union Station. Not only was it half the price of a plane ticket, but I had never been on a train and thought that it might be fun to see the countryside from a different perspective. For a while, it was nice to see rural North Carolina and Virginia’s small-town America from the window. It was interesting to see the landscape change from rural to urban and back again. However, the novelty wore off quickly.”

“I had heard Saturday that train service between New York and Florida had resumed after fixing a distressed railroad bridge in Selma, N.C. I fully expected the six-hour ride to Washington to last six hours. Instead, the departure for my nine-hour ordeal on Amtrak was first delayed, with an hour spent idling before the “fixed bridge” over a creek in Selma. While Amtrak’s slogan is ‘I want to get on,’ I simply could not wait to get off.”

“Not only were the delays ridiculous, but the food was mediocre at best. What kind of restaurant doesn’t take Visa? I found out- the Amtrak dining car. After the conductor told me four times that we would ‘be in Washington within the hour’”…

“In this day and age, travel by train is not simply impractical, it is moronic. When we have cars that can drive twice the distance in the time it takes Amtrak to go somewhere, who needs a train? 1957 Chevy Bel Airs are nice, but is it practical to drive a tank to work? When technology is outdated, we should let it die. We shouldn’t let liberal politicians keep bailing the company out because it is an “environmentally compassionate” way to travel. Subsidized industries always fail, as history showed. While one man’s steamship company was subsidized by Congress in the1800s, despite recurrent financial instability of his operation, Vanderbilt was running circles around his subsidized competitor. Moreover, can someone show me where the power to subsidize industries is in the Constitution? Oh wait, like just about every other government expenditure, it is not constitutional. Like burnt-out liberal ideology, some things never die.”

“Perhaps if the railroads were privatized the service would be faster, more efficient, and the experience would be more enjoyable. But then again, I’d rather spend twice the money on a plane ticket and get to Washington in 1/9 of the time. Die Amtrak, die.”

Here’s our response:

To: Michael Lewis
From: Jim RePass

Dear Michael:

In your Amtrak comments you are confusing the symptom with the disease. Amtrak DOES NOT OWN the tracks it runs over, outside of the Northeast Corridor (and it doesn’t even own all of that). Unless the engine stopped running, the cause of your nine-hour trip was 100% NOT Amtrak’s fault.

The food service on Amtrak (which does take Visa) has been cut down because the government has repeatedly cut down Amtrak’s appropriation, while lavishing money on highways and airlines. In the year 2000, America spent $130 billion (Federal, state, local) on roads. That same year, it spent $521 million on Amtrak. If you subsidize one mode of transportation with 250 times as much money as you do another, what kind of result would you expect?

Even where it does own the track, Amtrak does not receive enough money to replace the aging infrastructure it inherited from the (private sector) freight railroads as they went bankrupt in the 1960’s and 70’s. There is according to the DOT Inspector General a $6 billion shortfall in infrastructure investment on the Corridor. Amtrak was created at the request of the (private-sector) freight railroads, which up to that point had to provide passenger service as part of their “common carrier” status.

One suggestion has been to get the states to take over operations. Well, that’s already happened in Connecticut, which owns the section of the Northeast Corridor between New Haven and the New York state line. Guess what: it is in even worse repair than the DC-NY section that was the subject of the IG report. The catenaries (overhead wire structures) are literally 100 years old, and regularly collapse on top of the trains underneath. The state of Connecticut says it won’t finish replacing it for ten more years even though the state DOT knew more than a decade ago that electrification was coming on the New Haven-Boston section. As a consequence, Amtrak’s high-speed train, the Acela, has to creep along that section (so do the Metro North Commuter trains on that line).

And by the way, the Acela, the butt of late-night comedians’ jokes, is a fantastic train. It was based on a European design but then, upon the orders of the Federal Railroad Administration AFTER the contract for the train had been placed, was required to be modified to American rail “buffing” (crash) standards. As a direct consequence the trains weigh twice as much as their European forbears (like many Americans!), and so Amtrak has had to bit by bit replace the wheels, shocks, and brakes designed for the lighter train with heavier gauge parts as they wore out. No surprise to me, but then no one asked.

Amtrak has many problems, but it did have a great manager in David Gunn, a rock-ribbed, straight-shooting conservative who was nevertheless fired by the Bush Administration because he would not accede to their plans to break apart the railroad. Fortunately Gunn’s successor is a good operations man, but that won’t matter if the railroad remains starved for funds.

No, Michael, your train ride was the direct result of under-funding of what should be a great national resource and which, in Asia for example, is powering their economies to new highs as we allow our own to deteriorate. We still have time to wake up and turn ourselves around, but it’s not going to happen by taking potshots at a resource that ought to be strengthened, not mocked.

James P. RePass
President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Public transit is set to turn a corner
soon in Charlotte, North Carolina

From the Internet via Charlotte.com

CHARLOTTE, NC. - April 15 -- Newcomers and visitors will enjoy a range of new options in public transit in Charlotte over the next several years.

Charlotte Center City Partners President Michael Smith speaks of the coming of light rail, commuter rail, streetcars and the Charlotte Gateway Station.

The Gateway Station will be “Charlotte’s answer to Grand Central Station,” he said. It will house Amtrak, commuter rail, Greyhound buses, Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) buses, taxis, streetcars and the free Gold Rush shuttle.

You’ll be able to arrive on one mode of transportation, and then catch another without leaving the station, he noted. The estimated $100 million complex, expected to open within four years, would be built at Graham, Fourth and West Trade streets in the center city.

Visitors to the city are eager for information on CATS buses, which offers easy connections to CIAA tournaments at the arena, the Convention Center and the tranasist center.

A free shuttle called the Gold Rush circulates around uptown and South End, serving businesses, conventioneers, tourists, and residents.

When light rail service starts next year, visitors will have connections to the South End for shopping and dining or to the center city to the Bobcats Arena, Convention Center, Bank of America Stadium, local restaurants and theaters.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

Promoting better health with
more hiking trails

Across the wires from the Hartford Courant

APRIL 17 -- A bold new program in Connecticut seeks to make walking and hiking so accessible and pleasant, the activity can become easily incorporated into daily life. It’s called “WalkConnecticut” and it’s being launched by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association this spring, reported Steve Grant, staff writer at the Hartford Courant.

The new program is intended to make walking and hiking so accessible that people in urban, suburban and rural areas will be able to access some kind of trail within minutes, wherever possible linking with other bikeways or major trails.

Connecticut already has its 700-mile Blue Trail system in the state’s woodlands, a vast network of well-marked trails that criss-cross the entire state.

This new system will not necessarily have anything to do with forests, but instead will promote loops through urban neighborhoods, lunchtime walks in populous areas, educational walks that might tie in with cultural amenities.

As with the Blue Trail system, trails will be well-marked and open to the public without charge. Hikes geared to the blind and those requiring a wheelchair also are planned. Elements of the program will continue to be added over the next year or two.

WalkConnecticut has a strong public health underpinning. It is intended to encourage thousands of people to increase how much they walk or, for those who essentially don’t exercise, to incorporate walking into their daily lives.

“It’s good exercise,” said J. Robert Galvin, commissioner of the state Department of Public Health. “Walking at a reasonable pace is known to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and it costs nothing. Good shoes, a hat to shade you, and some bug repellent and you’re all set.”

Some key elements:

Create well-marked trails on city sidewalks, in state parks, municipal parks and conservation lands. The goal is a trail within 15 minutes of every home in Connecticut, and to link the trails to every Connecticut city. Walks will be developed for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Develop a website by town and county that would identify all existing trails and walking opportunities in the state, including town trails, urban park trails, land trust trails, greenways, state park trails and the Blue Trail system.

Create a map that identifies all local and major hiking trails in the state on public or private land.

Greatly expand an existing program of guided hikes to familiarize people with hiking and walking opportunities in locations throughout the state. The annual Trails Day June 3, with more than 100 guided hikes around the state, has been hugely popular, and suggests there is considerable demand for more such hikes, said Adam Moore, executive director of CFPA.

Another goal is to tie in the pleasure and opportunity for walking to the state’s tourism industry.

Trails might be created in some areas where visitors could hike over the course of a day from one bed and breakfast to another, as is common in Great Britain. Or a trail might be created from an inn to a nearby museum or gallery or other attraction.

“People will go to the British Isles and go on a walking vacation,” Moore said. “We could do the same thing here in Connecticut.”

Jennifer Aniskovich, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, agrees there is potential to draw visitors, especially from the New York City area.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association offers guided hikes the last weekend of each month from 10 a.m. until noon. A guided hike will be offered April 29 from the association headquarters in Middlefield.

For information and to pre-register, contact the association at 860-346-2372, or info@ctwoodlands.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)86.4083.39
Canadian National (CNI)47.0046.18
Canadian Pacific (CP)54.8553.62
CSX (CSX)68.0865.05
Florida East Coast (FLA)55.5452.78
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)36.2132.61
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.2023.85
Norfolk Southern (NSC)56.1853.84
Providence & Worcester (PWX)16.7516.15
Union Pacific (UNP)95.9593.52


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

Union Pacific full of steam

Across the wires from The Motley Fool (fool.com)

April 20 -- Stephen Simpson, CFA, writing for the Motley Fool, fesses up that despite his skepticism about Class I railroads, continuing increase in share values is good news. Even Union Pacific, who lagged its peers in the past year, is enjoying double-digit stock-price appreciation in the past quarter.

He admits being a value guy who believes that companies who can’t get a return on capital are running dangerously.

But when businesses can deliver the goods for long stretches of time, “who needs value when shares” are doubling?!

Over the past two years, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, and CSX have all doubled their shares.

“Union Pacific saw revenue rise 18% this quarter, with roughly one-third from volume and mix, one-third from price increases, and one-third from fuel recovery charges. The operating ratio improved significantly, and efficiency metrics like train speed and dwell time got better. Operating earnings nearly doubled, and the company achieved all this despite a rather uninspiring result from coal transport (partly because of mine closings).

I won’t say that I’m looking to buy Union Pacific now. But I will say that it’s doing better than I expected, and investor enthusiasm has remained steadfast. I’ll also point out that it has a lot to gain from operational improvements, Western coal shipments, and maybe even the ethanol boom, since it hauls a lot of corn. While I’m not yet a long-term believer, playing chicken with freight trains is almost always a losing game.”

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he’s neither long nor short the shares).


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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Amtrak train hits big rig in Glendale,
no injuries reported

Across the wires from Associated Press

GLENDALE, Calif. April 2006-- No one was hurt in a collision between an Amtrak train and a big rig last week in Glendale.

The train, bound for San Diego carrying 200 passengers, struck the tail end of a tractor trailer while it was crossing the train tracks.

The collision rammed the trailer into another truck stopped at the tracks.

An Amtrak spokeswoman says the crossing was protected by gates, flashing lights and alarm bells and she does not know why the crash occurred.

The cab car of the Amtrak train was in the f ront. Opponents of this practice say it is always safer to have the locomotive in the lead.


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Mudslide cancels Amtrak,
commuter trains north of Seattle

The Associated Press via Seattle Post-Intelligencer

SEATTLE, April 18 -- A mudslide that hit railroad tracks south of Everett was cleared last Tuesday at 8:30 in the morning.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas (mel-OWN’-us) said freight trains started running again, but Amtrak and Sound transit trains between Seattle and Everett were be canceled Tuesday and Wednesday as a precaution.

Those passenger trains were scheduled to start rolling again on Thursday. Meanwhile passengers were bused.

Melonas said mud, rock and five trees slid off a 100-foot bluff about 5:30 in the morning south of Everett. The slide was about 100 feet long and four feet deep. Melonas said the railroad had heavy equipment nearby for a quick cleanup.


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EDITORIAL...  Editorial...

$5 Gas

WASHINGTON--- Is it just a coincidence, or are the obscene pay packages of former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond and the present double-digit weekly gas price increases related?

Well, of course not. Exxon paid Raymond a total of $686 million between 1993 and 2005, when he retired, The New York Times reported this past week. The present gas spikes are fairly recent, but still…

While the price of oil is determined by the market, the market itself is not free. It is run by a cartel of oil companies, including Exxon, which park as many of their profits as possible overseas, while producing a product that consumes more than a seventh of the nation’s income.

People are beginning to notice that it is costing $100 to fill the tank of that SUV, and indeed Amtrak reports ridership increases across the board, in part as a response to more costly oil and gas.

But the profits on that oil and gas don’t stay here, while the bills do. And with gas heading towards $5 a gallon in the U.S. (less than Europe, but then, we live here, not there) as the Middle East descends into chaos, a lot more Americans are going to be parking those SUVs, and even other cars, and taking other modes of transportation. By itself, parking an SUV is a good thing to do. But because we have created such a totally oil-dependent economy, the cost of everything we buy --- not just gas --- is also going up, and that is going to impact the economy in a big way.

More than a decade ago, we called for a 50 cent gas tax to build infrastructure. “Madness” we were told. “People will never put up with it.” That was when gas was between $1.00 and $1.50 a gallon. Well, we are paying that “tax” now, but instead of 50 cents a gallon, it is more than $1.00 and heading higher. And instead of keeping it here to build infrastructure, it is going to pay the salaries of people like Mr. Raymond, or to Arab oil princes, and worst of all to finance the hatred of Islamist radicals bent on our destruction. Too bad no one listened 10 years ago.

We can not have an economy based on only one mode of energy, and dependent on a transportation system that wastes so much of it. And although those who say that are sometimes called “tree-huggers,” maybe it’s time for the rest of us to pick out a tree, and make a new friend. Because without reform, and the national leadership to bring about that reform, we are heading into an economic decline that will be painful and long.


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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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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