On May 1, 1971, the trains ran under
a new banner that became a milestone
Stephen H. BarberAmtrak was still operating hand-me-down EMD E-units in 1978, like this pair in South Station.
Was Amtrak crippled from the get-go?
The scene was the White House Oval Office in the early days of a new administration. President Richard Nixon was listening intently to his Secretary of Transportation, John Volpe, a man whose enthusiasm for anything he tackled knew few bounds.
"So you believe we can set up a passenger train system, John? Tell me about it."
Whereupon Volpe presented his all-important audience of one with a chart, outlining a network of passenger trains crisscrossing America to replace the "Limiteds" the private railroad companies viewed as an albatross around their necks, in some cases contributing to bankruptcy and, in other cases, threatening their bottom line.
"The people of this country need a healthy passenger train system," the secretary insisted. "We have a healthy airline route map and splendid highways. We have an opportunity in this administration to save for them the third part of a balanced transportation system; the passenger train."
"It looks like you've gone to great trouble to study this, John," the President complimented his transportation secretary, "Do we know how this would play politically for us?"
"The people in this country appreciate and have a fondness for passenger trains," replied the secretary and former Massachusetts governor, aware that Nixon had once stated in one of his books that as a poor boy in California, he had acquired a certain amount of wanderlust while lying in bed at night, hearing distant train whistles.
"The voters will get a good feeling for something like this, and we can't help but benefit by it," Volpe added.
"I am impressed with your research, John. But what about the cost factor?" the chief executive wanted to know.
"Mr. President, I am absolutely convinced that if we give this thing a fair trial, a passenger train operation in this country can become profitable."
"Good! Let's start planning to talk with the guys up on the (Capitol) Hill about it. (Senator) Magnuson and (Representative) Staggers are already making noises on this thing. And we need to get out front on this one."
Volpe and his staff left the room, confident they had been given the green light on creating what could become a world-class passenger train network.
The late Christopher Knapton, who had been a top Volpe aide, related this story of that oval office conversation to me many years later. Already sporting an impressive industry resume, Chris later worked for the Association of American Railroads and then for Chicago's Metra commuter train system.
Unmentioned either by Volpe or Nixon at the time was the basic fact that the reason the railroads were "jumping ship" so to speak, was that, as the only private transportation carriers in the whole wide world who owned and financed their own infrastructure, they had run up against the reality that this was too great a burden to bear if they were to include passenger service. If airlines and bus companies had to finance their own airports, traffic controllers highways and highway patrols, respectively, they too would be "losing money."
In the meantime, I had experienced the launching of Amtrak on May 1, 1971 as the inaugural run left Washington for New York with shiny-looking, original, self-powered Metroliner equipment, bumping along the decrepit Penn Central tracks, an infrastructure that was in sad shape, but actually better off than almost anything else in the northeast United States.
At the time, prior to my CBS days, I was a one-man band in Washington, having recently opened a bureau in the capitol for a broadcast chain that included TV, as well as AM and FM radio.
On the inaugural run, I was fortunate to have the assistance of the late Danny Brechner, a super-technician for the (now defunct) Mutual radio network. He assisted me in getting interviews and reports to an FM station in New York which had recently skyrocketed to a Number 2 spot in listenership in that most competitive of all broadcast markets. Had it not been for Danny, I'd have had to do with scaled down reports, probably using the new Metroliner phones. Come to think of it: Had they even installed phones in the Metroliner at the very beginning? I'm not sure. But Danny set me up very well, and we had the story to ourselves on instantaneous radio.
When Volpe had walked out of the Oval Office meeting with the President, no one alluded to the fact that any passenger system begun under such inauspicious circumstances, could hardly make a "profit" for the same reason the railroads themselves couldn't make it. Unlike their highway and airway competitors, they had no backing for their infrastructure.
That issue was ignored in those days, and in two years, after President Nixon had been re-elected, Secretary Volpe was cheerfully carrying on his "balanced transportation" crusade during the January 1973 inauguration, assuming he had the support of the President. Every time I'd interview him about it, he would beam, ear-to-ear.
Early in the Nixon second term, White House operatives approached the secretary several times to ask him if, by any chance, he would be interested in an ambassadorship to Italy, the "old country" of his parents. He waved them away saying he didn't live in Italy and had no interest in the job. He was happy where he was. Amtrak was his baby, and he wanted to see it grow.
A few weeks later, Volpe was summoned to the white House. He was stunned to be greeted by the door with a President Nixon with tears rolling down his cheeks. As the president put his arm around his Transportation secretary and escorted him into the Oval office, he went on about how he was deeply moved that this son of poor immigrants who had made their way to our shores, had now become a successful businessman in this country and was returning to Italy as an ambassador from the United States of America.
"Well, presented with that scenario," Chris Knapton later told me, "what was he going to do? Act like a boorish ingrate? Of course, he'd been set up, but what else could he do, but accept it?"
Which he did. And Amtrak's problems, already considerable, took on the added burden of having to fight off successive DOT secretaries, Democrat and Republican, who regarded it as a hopeless failure.
None of them dealt with the basic problem of WHY the cards were stacked against Amtrak from Day 1. This operation was placed at the starting gate in a crippled condition where it has remained ever since. But nobody wants to face up to that reality of a lack of infrastructure backing because to do so would be to open a political can of worms. There is a price to be paid for playing "catch-up" to a festering sore spot, and no administration and almost no members of Congress are willing to put the issue on the table and wrestle with it.
In the early days of Amtrak when it was operating "hand me down" equipment from the private railroads, I tried to get its first president Roger Lewis as a guest on my Crosstalk radio program. It was like pulling eye teeth because Lewis appeared none to anxious to discuss the fact that the heating and air conditioning systems, taken for granted on other transportation modes, were repeatedly malfunctioning on the passenger trains. This was, in part, because some folks at Amtrak headquarters thought it would be a good idea to change the inherited equipment around on railroads where they had not previously operated. The result, for one example, was that you had equipment that had normally operated in warm weather trying to navigate the unfamiliar circumstances of sub-freezing cold temperatures in parts of the country where personnel at maintenance shops had to learn new methods of upkeep. All over the country, maintenance shops were confronted with unfamiliar requirements for repairing passenger cars.
Lewis was not anxious to go on the air and talk about all this. So by the time I finally succeeded in getting the go-ahead from Amtrak contacts, Lewis had been replaced. And in early 1975, I found myself aboard the Washington-bound Broadway Limited talking to Paul Reistrup, a long-time professional railroader on his way to the political thicket of the nation's capitol to take the reins of the transportation step-child whose core problems no one wanted to tackle.
We recorded part of the long-awaited broadcast in the train's lounge car, the rest in the Reistrup sleeping car room. He was not unaware of what he would be up against as we rolled closer to Washington. But he seemed confident, speaking in his Midwestern twang, that his professional background and know-how could prevail.
The Amfleet equipment that had been ordered during Lewis's tenure came on-line while Reistrup was at the helm. Patterned in outward and interior design after the original Metroliners, but without the self-propelled machinery of the latter, the small windows of these cars, still widely in use today, cause some to surmise that their resemblance to what you'd expect in an aircraft possibly reflected Lewis's background in the airline industry.
Reistrup, currently a VP at CSX, was and is a skilled railroad executive. His battle with the superficialities of the Washington political world turned out to be his strongest challenge.
At one time, he got into a running battle of words with House Transportation Appropriations chairman John McFall (D-Calif.). While I don't remember the specifics, I do recall thinking that while Reistrup was correct in substance, McFall still held the purse strings.
Alan Boyd, a competent rail exec veteran whose baritone voice left some thinking he may have missed his calling as a radio announcer, took over in the midst of Jimmy Carter's administration, which was trying to cut the system back by 43 percent. Then DOT Secretary Brock Adams, who came to the office touting the virtues of rail travel, ended up having to act as hatchet man.
Boyd, who had been the nation's first DOT Secretary under Lyndon Johnson, had once told delegates to the 1968 Democratic National Convention that there was little hope for long distance passenger trains without some government action. The later creation of Amtrak proved him right.
Boyd had the additional talent of knowing how to maneuver the political waters on Capitol Hill. Amtrak, in its crippled condition way, seemed to survive relatively well. And President Carter's 43 percent cutback was just 16 percent in the end. During the late Boyd years, the double-decked Superliners joined the Amtrak fleet.
Many of them were still being put into service when Boyd's successor W. Graham Claytor, Jr., came on board in 1981.
Claytor achieved his biggest claim to fame as CEO of Southern Railway. I remember a conversation I had with him in 1979, wherein he was quite critical of Amtrak's operations, saying that his railroad, until recently one of the last private passenger train operators, had offered stand-by backup motive power to assist the Amtrak Crescent which had replaced Claytor's "baby," the flagship Southern Crescent. Boyd had refused, and trouble had ensued on some runs.
By the time Claytor himself took over the Amtrak reins, however, he came up against the economic limitations Amtrak offered.
In his early years, the crusty "railroader's railroader" demanded strict discipline. But here's where he encountered problems with the rail labor unions.
When I wrote him about a thoroughly rude Amcafé attendant, he told me, "You know, on Southern, if we had something like that, well, we'd just fire their ass. But you can't do that in something the government pays for."
That is a lesson Claytor had learned well when the rail labor unions used influence to have him hauled before a congressional panel headed by Rep. Cardiss Collins (D. Ill.), whose district included Chicago's Union Station.
Employees voiced their complaints. When Claytor tried to impress upon Collins the fact that railroads, by their far-flung heavy industrial nature, required discipline if anything was to get done, Collins informed him that may have worked when Claytor, an old Navy officer, was running a private railroad, but that it simply would not be tolerated in the public sector.
After that, Claytor, especially as he became a sick, dying man, simply did not want to hear any bad news. Complaining to him about bad service became an invitation to having the victim blamed as a whiner.
By working skillfully on the Hill and with DOT Secretary Elizabeth Dole and FRA Administrator John Riley, Claytor was able to fend off the all-out assault by OMB Director David Stockman to "zero out" Amtrak. The Riley-Dole faction had lost a battle with Stockman within the Reagan administration, but Claytor nonetheless was able to work around that obstacle.
When Tom Downs took over in 1993, the single-level Viewliner equipment was making its appearance on the eastern long-hauls.
Downs hired a consultant to "rationalize" Amtrak routes, which effectively resulted in cutbacks, including the old discredited system of reducing daily runs to three times a week. That was found not to be a formula for success.
Downs did try to come to grips with what he saw as Amtrak's Achilles heal, labor costs which could not be sustained on the budget Congress allowed. When he refused to blink in a dispute with the BMWE, the Amtrak board fired him, thus again putting organized labor in the driver's seat when it came to dealing with much of company policy. That is an issue that has not been dealt with since then.
George Warrington now presides over Amtrak, having been picked for the job on short notice, after his predecessor's hasty exit. It is on his watch that America has seen its first truly high-speed passenger train, the Acela Express. It has fallen to him to "make Amtrak more like a business."
That requirement was written into the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997. One of the law's creations, the Amtrak Reform Council, has recently issued its Second Annual Report calling attention to the same underlying fact that was not addressed by Secretary Volpe or President Nixon in that oval office discussion some thirty years ago: As long as railroads do not have the same public support for infrastructure as enjoyed by highways and airways, the railroads, particularly passenger operations, will remain the weakest link in the transportation chain.
While some have claimed the ARC report itself is flawed, many agree with its basic premise.
And there are those who do not. Our good friends at the National Association of Railroad Passengers, whose Herculean efforts at saving Amtrak have seemed at times to be on a par with pulling rabbits out of hats, have noted that the idea of separating infrastructure from operations is "alien" to American railroading.
And so it is. The question is: Have we arrived at a time to "think out of the box" and consider "alien" ideas in railroading, or are we to assume that things must operate on their present course because "That's the way we've always done it?"
Only the American people and their leaders can answer that. We may be back to you in thirty years with an update.
Gene PoonAmtrak on Day One in the west: Train 102 was the first City of San Francisco to operate under the Amtrak flag. In Oakland at 16th Street, photographer Gene Poon was on hand on May 1, 1971 to photograph the goings-on. The power he noted, "was Southern Pacific FP-7 units, and the train was mixed Union Pacific, Great Northern, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and SP equipment."
RePass takes a trip
Rides a 'Silver' within weeks of its creation
Ed. Note: Amtrak began service in May of 1971, but the Congress created the entity the previous year.
NCI President, CEO
In May 1971, I was on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., awaiting graduation day. My senior year had come and gone, and I was also awaiting my first job, searching among newspapers for a reporter's post.
I had been editor of the student newspaper, and had interned at The Washington Post, but a promised job there had evaporated when my mentor had left the paper. The Post hired a young suburban reporter named Bob Woodward for the slot I was to have had, that of police reporter.
The offers began to trickle in, and one of them was at The St. Petersburg Times, in Florida, which was and is a superb newspaper, and I decided to accept. The only problem was getting there. I didn't yet own a car, and in those pre-deregulation days air fares seemed very expensive for a not-yet-employed scribbler, so I decided to take the train.
I headed south in early July to St. Petersburg on the Silver Star or Meteor. I forget which, at this point.
In July 1971, Amtrak was barely two months old.
The train on the platform at New York's Penn Station was quite a sight. The cars were painted in the schemes of the various railroads that had donated them to create Amtrak, and, as I recall, included cars lettered for the Seaboard Air Line and the Union Pacific, among others. The train looked like a toy train carelessly assembled by a youth who had too many trainsets and no sense of order.
The equipment showed all the signs of the not-so-benign neglect engaged in by the railroads who were forced to provide passenger service (until Amtrak was formed) and, losing money at it, did all they could to make rail travel unbearable. I can attest that they succeeded in that aim, because none of the cars had working air conditioning, and by the time we were south of D.C., the heat was oppressive.
My seatmate (I could not afford the luxury of a bedroom) was an exceptionally large woman of impressive appetites, who had brought along a hamper of fried chicken sufficient to feed her for the duration. She proceeded to savor the contents of that basket for the next 24 hours, and as she was none too fastidious in her gustatory habits I decided that the lounge car was the place for me.
I cannot, 30 years hence, remember what kind of car it was, but I do remember how it was filled with a cloud of dense blue smoke and a cast of characters straight out of Hieronymous Bosch, or, at the very least, a mid-to-late 20th Century version of that artist. It was the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s America, and it was reflected in the clientele.
I passed most of the evening in that car, returning to my seat only when the game but overworked attendant gently, but firmly, closed the car. I dozed off somewhere between Savannah and Morpheus, awakening only to the occasional jolt of rough track or a chicken-fired snort from my satiated seatmate.
By morning, we were deep into Florida and I was heading for my rendezvous with employment. At Tampa the train was split in two - and this will come as a surprise to younger riders.
Our section backed west into Clearwater and then down the length of Pinellas County for what seemed like hours, to a small station near what is now Tropicana Stadium in downtown St. Pete. That section no longer operates. The train now stops at Tampa and then heads down to Miami, and connecting bus service is used to access Florida's West Coast from Tampa. What an improvement better rail access would be today in that crowded part of the world.
Stepping off into the shockingly hot sunlight of a Florida July, I looked back at the aged trainset, and reflected briefly on my journey. Without claiming clairvoyance, I distinctly recall a feeling of sadness and fear about Amtrak's future, wondering how it would survive. Little did I realize that 18 years later I would take up the cause of Amtrak as a critical part of a balanced transportation system and make it my life.
As I stood there in the Florida sun, a 21-year-old preparing to report to his first "real" job, I thought to myself, "These folks are going to have fight for everything they get." Then I picked up my bag, turned and walked toward a waiting car, and began my adult life.
NCI: Leo KingBy the 1980s, Amtrak had its second batch of locomotives built for it from EMD, the ubiquitous F-40PH. An earlier version, a six-axle SDP, did not operate very well, so the carrier had to replace them. Here, a westward train from Boston pauses at the former Union Station in Providence, R.I.
Growing up next door to Amtrak was fun
Just like Wes, Jim and Leo, it took me a while to send my thoughts back that number of years - back 30 years. While a little maturing (some gray has set in) has occurred since then, I recall I was just a young pup in 1971.
When Amtrak was just starting, I was still in high school in Boston, and while trains were still an interest, adolescence was also at play.
I grew up just 50 feet from the Boston-to-Providence main line.
My fondest memory was watching the nearly daily New Haven Railroad freight, which would pull in to a small industrial area a couple of blocks from my home. On busy days, the train stretched right to my back door, and I could actually carry on a conversation with the engineer while the shunting process went back and forth. On other days, I would ride my bike down and watch from a local overpass.
Rush hour, as it was, saw everything from fine, shiny Budd Shoreliners or NYNH&H coaches pulled by Alco PA engines, to rolling stock that was easily pre-WW II era hauled by diesels that belched smoke that would ground rolling stock by today's emissions standards.
An actual ride on a train was a rare commodity, city subway system excluded, as we traveled little when I was growing up; but when it happened, it was pure joy. I personally liked the Budd cars, which would vibrate as the engines cranked up to move us forward. It was not an engine, but to a youth wanting the feel of the train, it was the next best thing. I still miss them today, oddly enough.
Over time, I have watched many changes as Amtrak moved forward. Our main line was one of the first to see Amtrak's TurboTrain, which I would time and watch as it whizzed past each day. The wheel arrangement was different on that model, and its "clickety-clack" was very different from traditional trains. It seemed almost like a space ship.
On one occasion, Amtrak's Turbo had some technical problems and actually came to a stop behind the house, and went into full shut down so they could reset everything. It was odd watching a train go stone-cold like that. As they started it up and the turbines whined louder and louder, I was almost sure that the thing was capable of lifting into the air as it crept forward, then out of sight.
I never moved very far from where I grew up, and still live just a few hundred feet from the main line. I no longer see freights shunting cars in this neighborhood. That little industrial area is now a condo complex. I have watched the railbed completely rebuilt, the return of a local commuter rail service (operated by Amtrak) that you can actually set a watch by, and the new HHPs and Acela Expresses whizzing by several times a day.
It strikes me, as I write this, so much has changed in my life, but that one narrow strip of parallel steel rails has continued to be there to give me a few minutes entertainment each day.
I now pass the mantle of rail interests to my son, who is now approaching the same adolescent period that I was in back in 1972. He already knows an Acela from an HHP and an F-40 from a GP-40 - much to the puzzlement of his peers, and when time allows, we take a short ride to nowhere just to get an ice cream cone.
Hey, why not?
|Where were you in 1971 when Amtrak was created?|
Early last month, after Jim RePass, Wes Vernon and I agreed an Amtrak 30th anniversary issue would be a good idea, we got to thinking about where we were when the event occurred. Jim, Wes, and our unsung "hero," Dennis Kirkpatrick, who lays out our pages in hypertext markup language code, inserts the graphics and does all that computer stuff, agreed to each write a piece recollecting where we were thirty years ago. Alas, none of us are still in our youth.
I was in the United States, but I didn't have a clear memory of where I was, nor even a fuzzy recollection, for that matter... but I finally figured it out: I was in the Air Force and stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska, where I was the editor of the Sourdough Sentinel. The "Sourdough," as we called it, was not only the newspaper for the base, but also for all those boys and girls on the Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) peeking over the ice cap at the former USSR. I was also a part-time copy editor at the Anchorage Daily Times, a Monday-through-Saturday afternoon daily. I was still married in those days, and had a two-year-old son, Scott. My daughter, Terri, wasn't even a twinkle in my eye, yet. My former wife, Hilda, was busy in the kitchen writing recipes.
I was on my second hitch in the Air Force, (following three years in the Army), and now I was chasing the Alaska Railroad through all that snow. I had not been chasing New Haven Railroad trains for a long time, much less Penn Central. Conrail was not a reality for me until several years later.
But I recalled reading in the Times (which, alas, has also gone the way of Penn Central and Conrail) that most of the railroads in the "Lower 48" were giving up passenger trains, and some new entity, the National Railroad Passenger Corp., whatever that was, was taking over.
Something called "RailTrack" had existed for a while, but I was fuzzy about what that was, too. I still am.
"Fast forward" to 2001.
A visit to Amtrak's web site, at http://www.amtrak.com gleaned a few facts about the carrier.
The name "Amtrak" is the blending of the words "American" and "track," and it officially began service on May 1, 1971, "when Clocker no. 235 departed New York Penn Station at 12:05 a.m. bound for Philadelphia." Amtrak had a schedule of 184 trains, serving 314 destinations at the time.
Amtrak took over the passenger operations of all but three railroads, which continued their own intercity passenger train service for a while - the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Southern Railway, and the Denver & Rio Grande Western.
The Southern ended its Southern Crescent in 1979, so Amtrak took over the route, and renamed the train, Crescent. The DRGW quit passenger trains in 1983. Amtrak re-routed its California Zephyr to cover the Rio Grande's routes. The Rock Island went belly up, and so did its Rockets, as their trains were named, and Union Pacific took over some of the routes.
When "Big 'A'" service began on May 1, 1971, Amtrak had 25 employees. Today, more than 25,000 people work on the railroad. Two current employees have been with Amtrak since its inception.
Since the beginning, even-numbered trains have traveled north and east. Odd-numbered trains travel south and west. Among the exceptions are Amtrak's Surfliners, which use the opposite numbering system inherited from their former operator, the Santa Fe.
Amtrak currently operates more than 22,000 route miles. It owns 730 route miles, about 3 percent of the total nationwide, primarily between Boston and Washington, D.C., and in Michigan. Elsewhere, Amtrak operates over lines owned by freight railroads.
The railroad operates more than 350 locomotives. New P-42s are added almost daily, but at last count, it owned 278 diesels and 75 electrics, including the new HHP-8s. It also operates 2,188 passenger cars, including 743 coaches, 173 sleepers, 83 diners, 66 first-class and business-class cars, 65 dormitory-crew cars, and 65 lounge-café-dinettes. Baggage, mail and express cars make up the remainder of the conventional fleet. The railroad also operates five Acela Express trainsets as of yesterday, with 15 more on the way from the builder, Bombardier-Alstom.
Amtrak says its current rail service in the New York-Washington corridor carries enough passengers to fill 121 airline flights per day, and on weekdays, operates up to 265 daily trains, excluding commuter trains. Amtrak also operates several commuter lines under contract with various states. Its ten busiest stations in 2000 were:
Monthly ridership in 1971 was 1,239,402. By 1999, that figure had risen 45 percent to 1,791,667, and between October 1999 and September 2000 (Amtrak's fiscal year), it carried more than 22.5 million passengers.
Reflecting on Amtrak's history and accomplishments is fun for some of us, but others would argue the carrier has accomplished little during its thirty years. I am not among those people.
Against great odds, the railroad has survived over a very rough road, particularly being nearly strangled at least twice because the Congress under-funded the national passenger railroad. Now, the Amtrak Reform Council is suggesting the railroad should be cut up into two separate entities - one an operating system only, the other an infrastructure system. The model is the interstate highway system whereby users drive over the roadways, but the states write contracts with private businesses to make repairs. The argument is along the lines that truckers, for example, don't fix the roads, they pay taxes, along with the general public, and the states do the rest. It is also analogous to the federal air traffic control system: the airlines don't operate the air traffic control system, the Federal Aviation Agency does. The airlines, along with generation aviation, use the services paid for with tax dollars.
It is not my intent to revisit the Amtrak Reform Council's report per se, which my colleague, Wes Vernon, reported to us so ably in the March 26 D:F issue, but to take a closer look at two thoughtful letters that were attached to the final report. One letter is from a Chicago lawyer, the other from a member of organized labor. Amtrak's future may lie within the extremes of these two letters.
The letters came from an attorney, James Coston, who is managing partner of Coston & Lichtman of Illinois and Florida. The other was from Charles Moneypenny, legislative representative of the Transport Workers Union of America. Moneypenny was the only ARC member to offer a dissenting vote on the 11-member council.
Coston stated he agreed with the majority view that any areas of underperformance by the passenger railroad should be "correctly attributed... to flaws in Amtrak's institutional framework as created by the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970."
He concurred that "The obsolescence of the 1970 legislation is the primary reason why Amtrak's service levels and financial performance lag the rest of the travel industry," and noted that Amtrak's year 2000 ridership of nearly 22 million people "barely exceeds the number of passengers it carried" ten years earlier; but he also noted Amtrak has been tasked to do its job with one hand tied behind its back by continually being underfunded by the Congress.
Left unsaid, by anyone, is that all railroads, by their nature, fix their own infrastructure as well as run trains. The model continues to be, as it was 150 years ago, for railroads to make a profit, fix their own track, and in later years, install signaling and other improvements ranging from dispatching methods to locomotive purchases. Now, though, there are new entities in the marketplace - a federally owned passenger train system that owns some of its track, especially in the Northeastern U.S., but which also operates over privately owned iron; commuter rail systems that are regional rail authorities, but remain state-owned systems. Amtrak operates some of those commuter systems, under contract. None turn a profit. Freight lines, of all sizes, remain privately owned, for-profit systems - and most are profitable.
"Amtrak has been tasked with multiple responsibilities running trains, managing infrastructure and developing national transportation policy - within a legislative/organizational model that inhibits effective effort in all three areas," Coston wrote.
He also wrote that Amtrak "needs to change, and only Congress can impose the needed changes by legislating a set of new institutions to plan, fund and operate intercity rail passenger service" in the U.S. He added, "Fundamental, institutional change is the only proper response to the obsolete 31-year-old legislation which now hampers rather than promotes the development of a modern U.S. passenger rail service."
He opined that "more funding is required, but enhanced funding is not enough," and suggested that the entities within the corporation that spend the money, what they spend it on, and their accounting systems all need to be updated, "so that passenger rail technology can start contributing its unique and valuable solutions to the nation's ongoing mobility crisis."
Coston, who specializes in equipment financing and is a co-founder of Chicago's Twentieth Century Railroad Club, said the Northeast Corridor needs to be "capitalized and developed to its highest and best use as a high-speed intercity passenger railroad," and that "far outweighs" its need to be "the sole owner if this property," but he also noted, "Amtrak must retain its control over the NEC, and regardless of any change in ownership, Amtrak must retain its ability to operate the NEC in conjunction with the various commuter rail authorities that are its customers."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) appointed Coston.
Amtrak own the tracks between Washington Union Station and New Rochelle, (Shell interlocking) N.Y., and between New Haven, Conn., and the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border. The Metro North Railroad owns the rails from Grand Central Station to New Rochelle, and eastward to New Haven. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts own the tracks from the Rhode Island state line to and including South Station, Boston. The entire route covers 457 miles, according to Amtrak's March 5 public timetable.
Coston remains leery, however, of breaking Amtrak into component elements.
"I am aware, too, that the suggestion to transfer ownership of the NEC to another governmental entity is viewed in some quarters as the first step in a hidden agenda to break Amtrak into discrete segments so as to enhance its appeal to buyers from the public sector." He added, that even though privatization may someday be an option to improve or expand some parts of the intercity railroad network, "that day, should it ever come, must remain far, far in the future." He pointed to the failed British model.
He touched on many other topics in his seven-page letter, including the notion that the U.S. has no cohesive transportation policy.
"Once Congress has restructured Amtrak to look more like the rest of the U.S. transportation industry, Congress will, at last, feel free to fund passenger rail as it does the rest of the U.S. transportation industry."
In a terse, one-page letter, council member Wendell Cox, who is a transportation consultant, wrote he generally agreed with the ARC's second annual report, but added he did not agree, "Amtrak or other intercity rail should receive additional government subsidies or user fees not directly generated by passengers of such services. It is premature to consider additional funding until it is determined there is a compelling public purpose, that Amtrak and other intercity rail is the most efficient and effective mechanism for accomplishing the public purpose, and that the unit cost structure of Amtrak or other intercity rail is no higher than market."
As for labor's view, Charles Moneypenny wrote in his letter that there were several "recommendations and observations made by the majority that I support, but there are other positions and solutions offered that are extremely troubling and inconsistent with Amtrak's purpose of providing a safe, efficient and reliable national rail transportation system." In sum, he would, in the main, leave Amtrak structured the way it is, but give it the funding it so desperately needs.
Moneypenny, who is the Transport Workers Union's senior collective bargaining and governmental affairs officer, noted that he agreed with his board colleagues that "Amtrak has not received sufficient federal support and that the carrier must secure an adequate, sufficient and reliable source of funding for its operations."
He pointed out that developing high-speed corridors maintaining existing services "will require significant federal, state and local funding," and added that a major flaw in the railroad is that it has no "reliable funding to satisfy market demands for economic transportation services, especially compared to its competitors in the aviation and bus industries."
Moneypenny could not agree, however, in the ARC's proposed method of dealing with the problem.
"I would only argue that the [ARC] majority, while conceding that Amtrak has not received the financial support it needs, diverts attention from this problem by proposing complicated, unneeded and burdensome restructuring plans. If we have learned anything from Amtrak's history and from our observation of other nations' rail transportation systems, it is that passenger rail service needs and deserves sufficient government resources to provide the services demanded by all stakeholders."
That term, "stakeholders," is a buzzword that has been adopted by several federal agencies, including Amtrak. It is, in my view, a corruption of "stockholders," but there are only five shares in Amtrak, and the secretary of transportation hold them in trust on behalf of Uncle Sam.
Moneypenny, who was appointed to the ARC by then-President Bill Clinton, observed that the body itself had noted "there is a resurgence in the popularity of passenger train service," as Amtrak's carriage numbers continue to rise.
He also stated he was with the majority's position that "Amtrak management and its employees are not preventing Amtrak from making needed improvements in its service or operations. This recognition is a welcome departure from past reports and 'studies' that have attempted to lay blame... on the backs of its dedicated workers."
Moneypenny took issue, however, with the ARC's four proposed solutions for Amtrak's ills.
"I find the majority's reasoning in this area suspect and specifically disagree with the solution offered and the various option proposed. The basic premise of the majority appears to be that Amtrak tries to do too much and that it should be split up into separate units for train operations, infrastructure management, and government policy activities." He argued the four proposals "would appear to create an untenable bureaucracy" which would further complicate operations, "and provide less real accountability." He also said he didn't think any of the seeming solutions would solve any problems at all. There was a fifth option - to privatize Amtrak - but the council flatly rejected that notion.
"For example, the majority notes that political pressures on Amtrak cause the carrier to make uneconomical decisions on routes served. While I agree that Amtrak, like any U.S. institution, faces certain political pressures, I do not understand how simply separating Amtrak's functions and creating separate units would address this issue. I doubt that a restructuring, however ingenious it might be, would insulate Amtrak from requests for new or enhanced service."
Can Amtrak make money, no matter what its structure?
"The majority refuses to accept the possibility that Amtrak will not be able to operate a national system on a for-profit basis. The majority offers no credible support for this position, and exposes a flawed perspective."
He pointed out in his five-page document that, in his view, "the purpose of providing passenger rail service... cannot be to insure a profit for the operator of the system at the expense of national service, safety or other public policy considerations. While economic decisions have to be made, Amtrak must continue to provide public transportation that serves the public interest and complements the nation's existing transportation network."
The ARC majority voted to conduct further studies, but Moneypenny argues that is wasting precious dollars that could be better spent on Amtrak itself. He said the second annual report goes beyond the mandate called for in the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997, and in his opinion, the recommendation is "inconsistent with the majority's own position that Amtrak has to rely too heavily" on the General Accounting Office, the USDOT, USDOT's inspector general, "and even the ARC's own reports to develop new policy proposals." Instead of creating more studies, he argued, "it is more appropriate to consolidate these functions within Amtrak and allow the carrier - in conjunction with policymakers at the federal, state and local levels - to set its own course."
Fast forward to the year 2200.
Beset by greed, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the world's oil producing cartel had, over the previous 200 years, gotten a stranglehold on the world economy. Nations' economies still rise or fall at the whim of OPEC.
Flying in an airplane to get somewhere became so expensive only the very rich could afford it. Battery-driven autos became the norm 150 years ago, and trains, those quaint machines from two centuries ago, stopped running altogether, until the U.S. Congress repealed restrictive drilling and exploration laws within U.S. borders and allowed the industry to be reborn in North America. The Americans shared their oil at a reasonable price with closely tied nations, like Canada. That nation, too, was developing its oil reserves.
More than one century ago, railroaders came to the realization that their plan to operate bullet trains, commuter trains and freight trains ‚all on the same tracks - simply was not practical. The slow Acela Expresses of the period gave way to new guideways over dedicated routes that were designed solely for economical 350-mph trains using a hybrid fuel - no more catenary - but still a fossil fuel derivative; that is, until the ionic and light experiments began some 150 years ago.
Mechanical friction was nearly eliminated, except where the steel wheels met the guideway. The first to go up was in New England between Boston (from a western suburb) to New York City. The ride takes about 45 minutes. Politicians were in an uproar because the route would not be through old industrial sections, but was a completely new layout that took an enormous amount of tax-paying property. The route, however, was essentially a straight line except for vertical curves, and curves at the beginning and end points when the trains were gathering speed or slowing down anyway. There are neither crossovers nor switches, except in the yards. Two power units are on each end of each train, and if one fails, the other still has the muscle to move the train almost at the same speed as both engines working. The last of the old-time catenary came down 20 years ago.
The older railways continue to work, but at more conventional speeds, much as they did two centuries ago. Freight is still king on those old tracks, and commuter trains still ply those routes as well.
To read, download or print the entire 92-page Intercity Rail Passenger Service in America: Status, Problems, and Options for Reform (the Second annual Amtrak Reform Council report), we invite you to point you browser to http://www.amtrakreformcouncil.gov/second.html. - Ed.
NCI: Leo KingThe newest power on the railroad is the Acela Express and the 8,000 horsepower HHP-8s. Westbound train No. 2175 exits Atwells interlocking on March 30, 2001, en route to New York City, on time.
Partnerships for corridor building:
'Making multimodalism work' is theme
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta and Rep. John Cooksey (R-La.) are the invited keynote speakers May 10-11 at the National Corridor Initiative's 2001 Conference "Partnerships for Corridor Building: Making Multimodalism Work," in at the Marriott in Washington, D.C.
A former chairman of the House Public Works Committee, Secretary Mineta is a Democrat appointed by President George W. Bush to serve in the nation's highest transportation post. Rep. Cooksey, a member of the important House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is both a pilot and a practicing physician, and has become a strong advocate for intermodal transportation investment.
"Secretary Mineta has, for 30 years, been a voice for innovation in transportation," said NCI President James P. RePass in making the announcement.
"We are especially gratified that the top job at Transportation has gone to someone who understands that 'intermodalism' must be far more than a buzzword."
"Congressman Cooksey is one of the most interesting people in the Congress," RePass continued, "not only because he is a practicing physician and a licensed pilot as well as being a member of Congress, but because he is in the forefront of the effort to 'make multimodalism work,' as we have themed this year's conference. As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Cooksey has become an advocate for co-locating train stations and airports - a common practice in Europe, but a new idea here. That kind of innovative thinking is what the country needs to develop a transportation system where the modes complement each other and provide balanced, seamless travel, instead of the ineffective system we have now that is so prone to gridlock and winglock."
At the conference, NCI's highest award, the Claiborne Pell award, will be presented to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (R-S.D.), who kept their promise to reintroduce legislation to provide capital for intercity passenger rail. Last year's recipient was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex).
The National Corridors Initiative, www.nationalcorridors.org, founded in 1989, successfully negotiated with the first Bush Administration for the release of $125 million in capital for high-speed rail that permitted re-starting the stalled Northeast Corridor Electrification Project (now complete, and featuring the first true high-speed trainsets in America, the Acela Express). NCI supports a system of national intercity rail service based on cost effective corridor investments through conferences, "op-ed" pieces, and special events highlighting balanced transportation. Its conferences are noted for the caliber of their participants.
Featured at the May 10-11 conference this year will be Ambassador Javier Rupérez of Spain, a strong advocate of international trade; Amtrak Vice Chair and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis; International Air-Rail Assn. Director Andrew Sharp; Edward W. Sauer, counsel, Talgo America; National Association of Railroad Passengers Executive Director Ross Capon; Paul Mangelsdorf of Texas Rail Advocates; NCI Chairman and Amtrak Board Member Mayor John Robert Smith; renowned industrial designer Cesar Vergara of Teague Design; Former FRA Deputy Administrator Don Itzkoff; Dan Pickett, President, Brotherhood Railroad Signalman; Wiley Mitchell, Norfolk Southern Bombardier Transit President Peter Stangl; Association of American Railroads President Edward Hamberger; CSX Vice President for Passenger Services and former Amtrak President Paul Reistrup; Kevin Brubaker of the Environmental Law & Policy Center; Railway Progress Institute Vice President Tom Simpson; ARC Executive Director Tom Till; William Woolf, top aide on transportation to Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chair Frank H. Murkowski (R-AK); Nazih Haddad, P.E., Manager of Intercity Passenger Rail, for the Florida DOT, Washington Post Writer's Group Columnist Neal Peirce, an expert on regionalism; Joseph S. Silien, Senior VP Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Chairman of APTA's Committee on Intercity Rail; Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles; international railway expert Dr. Anthony Perl of Calgary University; Amtrak Senior Director of Commercial Partnerships Matt Hardison; and North Carolina Director of Rail Patrick Simmons.
Also, Executive Director of Virginia High-Speed Rail Development Committee, Richard Beadles; California Rail Program Manager Warren Weber; Rohit T. Aggarwala and Daniel Roth of TRB; SE Corridor Initiative President and Georgia Rail Program Manager the Hon. Douglas C. Alexander; James E. Coston, Esq., Chicago attorney and member, Amtrak Reform Council; the Pacific Northwest's Cascadia Project Director Bruce Agnew; Free Congress Foundation Chairman and Amtrak Reform Council Vice-Chairman Paul Weyrich.
"'Making Multimodalism Work' is the theme because we are in the run-up to creating the successor to TEA-21, the omnibus transportation bill which funds most transportation construction in America," said RePass.
"The principal cause of increasing transportation crisis has been our failure to create a transportation system as opposed to funding individual modes. We can no longer afford the luxury of overbuilding one mode while ignoring another, as we have largely done for so many decades. Intercity rail connecting with other modes needs to receive much more attention - and investment." he added.
|May 10 schedule|
|7:30-8:15 a.m.||Registration and Continental Breakfast|
|8:15 a.m||Greetings: Jim RePass, President, The National Corridors Initiative|
|8:20 a.m.||Welcome: The Hon. John Robert Smith, Amtrak Board of Directors and Chair|
|8:30 a.m.||Opening Keynote Address: Norman Y. Mineta, U.S. Secretary of Transportation|
|9:00 a.m.||Neal Peirce, Syndicated Columnist, The Washington Post Writers Group|
|9:20 a.m.||Wiley Mitchell, Counsel, Norfolk Southern|
|9:40 a.m.||Joseph S. Silien, Senior Vice President, Parsons Brinckerhoff|
|10:20 a.m.||Paul Weyrich, Vice Chair, Amtrak Reform Council|
|10:40 a.m.||Matt Hardison, Amtrak Commercial Partnerships|
|11:20 a.m.||Tom Simpson, Vice President Railway Progress Institute|
|12:00 - 1:15 p.m.||Luncheon Speaker: His Excellency. Javier Rupérez, Ambassador of Spain|
|1:30 p.m.||The State of the States: Reports from the Regions|
Chair: Brian Searles, Vermont Transportation Secretary
Midwest: Kevin Brubaker, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Southeast: Richard Beadles, Executive Director, Virginia High-Speed Rail
Pacific Northwest: Cascadia Project Director Bruce Agnew,
Nazih Haddad, Manager, Intercity Passenger Rail, FL DOT,
Warren Weber, Rail Program Manager, CalTrans
Texas: Paul Mangelsdorf, Texas Rail Advocates
|4:00 p.m.||Patrick Simmons North Carolina Director of Rail|
|4:20 p.m.||Don Itzkoff, Foley & Lardner|
|May 11 schedule|
|7:30-8:30||Registration and Continental Breakfast|
|8:40 a.m.||Edward Hamberger, President-Association of American Railroads|
|9:00 a.m.||Dr. Anthony Perl, Calgary University|
|9:20 a.m.||Douglas C. Alexander, Rail Program Manager, Georgia Rail Passenger Authority|
|9:40 a.m.||James E. Coston, Amtrak Reform Council|
|10:00 a.m.||CSX Vice President for Passenger Services and former Amtrak President Paul Reistrup|
|10:30 a.m.|| Industry Panel|
Chair: Edward W. Sauer, Counsel, Talgo America
TBD, ALSTOM USA
Peter Stangl, President, Bombardier Transit
|11:15 a.m.||Cesar Vergara, Senior Director, Rail Trans Group Teague Design|
|11:30 a.m.||Amtrak Board Vice Chair Michael S. Dukakis|
|12-1:30 p.m.||Luncheon Speaker: Andrew Sharp, Director, |
International Air Rail Association: Air Rail Links - Making Travel Easier
|1:45 p.m.||Whose Railroad Is This, Anyway? A Panel Discussion|
Chairs: TRB's Rohit T. Aggarwala, and Daniel Roth
Dan Pickett, President, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Vice Chair, Amtrak Board
Tom Till, Executive Director, Amtrak Reform Council
|3:00 p.m.||William Woolf, Transportation Aide to Sen. Frank Murkowski|
|3:20 p.m.||Ross Capon, Executive Director, National Association of Railroad Passengers|
|3:40 p.m.||Presentation of Claiborne Pell Award to Senators Trent Lott and Tom Daschle|
|4:00 p.m.||Closing Keynote Address: The Hon. John Cooksey (R-La.), |
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
PRESS CONFERENCE TO FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY
AFTER CLOSING KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Gene PoonBy the time the San Joaquin was inaugurated, Amtrak had purchased SP's remaining FP-7 units, and a few were repainted in Amtrak colors. A few remained in ancestral SP paint, going to scrap that way. Here, one Amtrak and one SP-scheme unit head up the Bakersfield-bound San Joaquin at Port Costa, Calif., in 1974.
Aging railroad infrastructure
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A Congressional panel last Wednesday began to examine the issue of infrastructure policies affecting the nation's railroads, and legislation to address aging rail infrastructure. The House Subcommittee on Railroads conducted the hearing.
As a result of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, hundreds of new, smaller (Class II and Class III) railroads were able to acquire or lease from larger (Class I) railroads lines that had been abandoned because of infrastructure deterioration and unprofitable operations. Many of these smaller railroads have been successful, but many also struggle to earn enough capital to maintain and upgrade their rail infrastructure.
Exacerbating the problem is a recent trend toward much heavier cars used by Class I railroads, increasing the wear on the overburdened tracks and roadbeds. A recent study concluded that the nation's smaller rail network would require about $6.8 billion in infrastructure upgrades to deal with the heavier rail cars.
H.R. 1020, The Railroad Track Modernization Act of 2001, introduced by Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), would establish a program of direct grants to smaller (Class II and Class III) railroads for rehabilitation and improvement of tracks and related structures, to bring the infrastructure up to a level permitting safe and efficient operation, including traffic containing the new heavier 286,000-pound rail cars being adopted as an industry standard by the large railroads. The general fund authorization level is $350 million per year for fiscal year 2002-2004. The bill also requires USDOT to conduct a study of future needs of light-density rail lines for federal infrastructure funding, and report to Congress by March 31, 2003.
The subcommittee also took testimony on the extremely slow implementation of the direct and guaranteed rail and rail-intermodal infrastructure loan program enacted in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21). To date, no budget submitted by the administration has included funding to support loans under this program and no loans have been approved.
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) said it would support the rail infrastructure bill - after securing important employee protections.
To secure BLE and other rail labor support, sponsors of the legislation agreed to a grandfather clause which prevents Class I railroads from spinning off lines in need of repair or with numerous bridges in an attempt to take advantage of the $350 million in grants, a BLE spokesman said.
The bill also contains employee prevailing wage protections, identical to those provided in the Davis-Bacon Act. The labor protection clauses provide basic pay standards for work performed as a result of H.R. 1020, as well as employee protections for employees who may be adversely affected by any project funded by a subsidy granted by the program. In addition to the BLE, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the United Transportation Union are supporting the legislation.
A recent trend among Class I railroads has been a switch to larger freight cars weighing 286,000 pounds. These cars are too heavy for the older tracks used by Class II and Class III railroads. One of the main goals of H.R. 1020 is to upgrade Class II and Class III tracks so they can safely handle the 286,000-pound cars. Without federal assistance, many Class II and Class III railroads would be unable to upgrade their tracks to carry these heavier cars.
"A substantial amount of traffic on Class Is originates on the Class II and Class III railroads," said BLE International President Edward Dubroski, who added, "This bill will provide much greater job security for the thousands of BLE members who work on Class II and Class III railroads."
|Amtrak reduces Michigan travel times|
|Amtrak reduce travel times yesterday between Chicago and Detroit by 15 minutes. The travel time reductions are made possible, in part, by assigning new P-42 locomotives to the route. The evening train toward Chicago shifted to a more passenger-friendly time slot. Service at Dowagiac to and from Chicago doubled, and Dowagiac now has direct service to Lansing. The average travel time between Chicago and Dearborn (the first Detroit area stop) is now 5 hours 11 minutes while a trip to Chicago is 5 hours and 40 minutes.|
'Inland route' loses Amtrak trains;
Acelas added, including weekends
The Springfield, Mass., line is a target for Amtrak cutbacks apparently because of continuing financial problems. The cuts became effective with yesterday's timetable change. Weekday shuttles were cut from four roundtrips to two, but there is an additional through train to replace one of the cut shuttles. On weekends, the cuts are much more drastic with the number of New Haven to Springfield shuttles cut from four to one, with only one additional through train (No. 159) that operates Sundays only.
Amtrak Northeast Corridor operating timetable No. 7, dated April 29, shows Acela Express trains 2180 and 2183, the former New York City to Washington non-stop trains, have added Philadelphia to their schedule. The added stop should significantly enhance the railroad's revenues, some observers noted. Even with Philadelphia added, the trains are carded in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Southward No. 2183 departs Penn Station, New York, at 3:50 p.m. and arrives in Philadelphia at 4:50. It leaves two minutes later, and arrives at Washington Union Station at 6:20.
Northbound No. 2180 departs Washington at 7:20 a.m. to arrive in Philadelphia at 8:45, and New York at 950.
There are now two New York to Boston Acela Express weekend roundtrips, but they will be carded in 3 hours and 42 minutes instead of the weekday schedule of 3 hours and 28 minutes.
Meanwhile, No. 84, which formerly ran from Washington to Boston, now ends it journey in New York. It was a notable train because it was the only intercity train to operate the last ten miles of its journey over the Dorchester Branch, to get out of the way of Acela Express No. 2175, which leaves Boston at 5:12 p.m.
Look for all-electric service on the Shore Line between Boston and New Haven. Diesels will remain on the Inland Route - Boston to Springfield, Harford, and New Haven.
Thanks to Dave Bowe and Howie Dash
|Asbestos delays Turbotrain restart|
|Unexpected costs and engineering work have stalled a plan to bring high-speed Amtrak trains to upstate New York riders, who will not see the new, faster trains on the route from the Capital District to Manhattan until at least summer. In the latest in a series of delays, a state DOT spokesman said April 24 that late June or early July is the new target date for the first high-speed train to roll. The trains may not be running at full speed for some time after service begins because of required track upgrades, reports the Albany Times-Union. Eventually, the trains will travel from the Albany-Rensselaer station in two hours flat. DOT officials had initially aimed to put the first of seven 125-mph trains into service at the beginning of this year. The start date has been moved back twice, first to the spring and now to the summer. The first high-speed train's engine has been tested and works well, but crews have found electrical problems, asbestos and lead that have to be removed from the train, a DOT spokesman said.|
|ACRE mulls getting Shore Line East route|
A newly formed labor union is searching for a way to take over a route and services currently operated by Amtrak. The Association of Combined Railroad Employees (ACRE), the new union Metro North employees formed when they recently opted to leave their traditional unions, wants to take over the line between New Haven, Conn., and New London. Amtrak currently holds the operating contract.
In a letter to R. Nelson Griebel, ACRE's Transportation Strategy Board chairman, Michael Doyle, who is the general chairman of ACRE Local Division 9, and Denis Pope, the union's Connecticut legislative representative for Local Division 1, stated "It is time to take the necessary steps to structure a commuter rail system in Connecticut that will both fulfill it's ongoing obligation as an integral component of our transportation infrastructure and provide for future growth."
Both men pointed out that ten years ago, "when Shoreline East was first contemplated, the logical provider for commuter rail service east of New Haven was the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and Metro-North."
They explained, "A dispute with the MTA over a previously agreed to fare hike on the existing New Haven Line, vetoed by then Governor O'Neil in an election year, resulted in Shoreline East being operated under a service agreement with Amtrak. This has led to decreased operational efficiencies" for the Connecticut DOT (CDOT), "the railroads involved, the taxpayers of Connecticut, and most importantly the customers we are trying to attract to the service.
The pair argued that "Separate ticket purchases, infrequency of trains, confusion with train connections in New Haven Station between these two service providers, and lack of one seat travel to destinations west of New Haven and reverse travel east of New Haven, has negatively impacted the attractiveness of the Shoreline East service. Until this core system deficiency is addressed, we will confront operational issues which will make seamless commuter rail travel interstate, as well as intrastate, inefficient and inadequate, if not unattainable."
So, they are suggesting that Metro-North take over the route as a "correction."
"To correct this situation would require MTA Metro-North to assume the service agreement to operate Shoreline East Service. The alternative of Shoreline East assuming MTA Metro-North New Haven Line Service is not, for a number of reasons, a viable option. Concerning the Coastal Corridor, Michael Gallis in his report to the Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21st Century, stated 'this economic region, a sub-market of the New York metro region, is formed around one of New York's eight radial transportation and development corridors.'"
Gallis added, both union men stated, "'Our commuter rail transportation network in the Coastal Corridor, where traffic congestion is most acute, will always be linked to New York, and consequently to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. MTA Metro-North has the resources and infrastructure to handle future growth and special service demands. One only need look to the near disaster reported extensively in the media when Shoreline East was overwhelmed during the recent Op-Sail event. MTA Metro-North routinely handles high volume events and they are in large measure transparent to the riding public.'"
Denis and Pope opined, "The service agreement between CDOT and Amtrak has a notice of cancellation clause which would allow Shoreline East to be incorporated into the MTA Metro-North service agreement. This would also, potentially, open up the Metro-North service agreement to address other outstanding issues."
They stated CDOT has spent more than $6 million "arbitrating in a losing effort," and added, "Operation of MTA Metro-North trains east of New Haven, on territory dispatched by Amtrak, would be handled with the same priority as today. Amtrak expects the same reciprocal dispatching of their trains over territory controlled by MTA Metro-North Railroad between New Rochelle and New Haven. Future expansion of service to Hartford and Springfield would be free of the current issues confronting Shoreline East's limitations for intrastate travel as well as allowing for one-seat service between Hartford, Springfield and Manhattan, a popular destination point."
Both men expected labor issues to arise, but none that could not be overcome They also took a page from private enterprise. Those labor issues "could be resolved between the various employee unions to allow for appropriate opportunities to the effected Amtrak employees to follow the work to MTA Metro-North. Shop facilities, a pressing need in New Haven, would be more fully utilized by combining the two service agreements into a single entity. Business leaders certainly recognize that there are efficiencies inherent in mergers."
They said the issues would need to be worked out in greater detail between the affected parties, but "The time has arrived to design a long-term plan to address our commuter rail future sidestepping the mistakes of our past."
CSX, CP to tighten belts;
Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation plans to tighten its budget belt by letting 1,300 to 1,500 jobs that are expected to be vacated company-wide this year go unfilled, its president said last week after announcing a modest 1 percent increase in first-quarter revenue. Michael Ward said the company has already let 670 jobs remain unfilled since the beginning of year instead of cutting positions as other railroads have done. He said the job eliminations are caused by "natural attrition." CSXT has about 4,100 employees in Jacksonville and 35,000 total, but the unfilled positions will be company wide, Ward said. Competing railroads Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific Corp. announced large layoffs earlier this year because of lower revenue and decreased earnings. - Jacksonville Times-Union, http://jacksonville.com.
BNSF reported at midweek that its first-quarter net income fell 45 percent amid weakness in the U.S. economy and higher costs that hurt its railroad business. BNSF reported first-quarter net fell to $134 million, or 34 cents a diluted share, from $243 million, or 55 cents a share, on more shares, a year earlier. The latest profit includes a charge of $40 million, or 10 cents a share, related to non-railroad investments.
Meanwhile, CP posted improved energy results that outweighed a shortfall on its railroad, and resulted in a 76 percent increase in its profit. CP said net rose to 535.1 million Canadian dollars (US $345.41 million), or C$1.68 a diluted share, from C$305.7 million, or 93 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier. The latest profit met the consensus analysts' estimate, according to The Wall Street Journal, http://public.wsj.com/home.html. Meanwhile, CP Railway said it is "eliminating 500 jobs and taking other cost-cutting measures" after it reported the weakest first-quarter results among the operating divisions of parent Canadian Pacific Ltd., the National Post reported. The railway's earnings fell to $68-million from $85-million a year earlier, whereas the other four operating divisions posted gains yesterday to give CP Ltd. record net income in the quarter. CP, which will break itself up into five separate, publicly traded companies this fall, said it was satisfied with the results during an analyst conference call. CP reported net income of $532-million or $1.69 per share, compared with $303 million (93¢) a year ago. Revenue was $5.4-billion, up from $3.5-billion. The results were slightly better than the First Call analyst consensus of $1.63 per share.
|NS rebuilds Enola Yard, adds capacity|
|Norfolk Southern disclosed plans on April 24 to quadruple the switching capacity of Enola Yard, near Harrisburg, Penn. Norfolk Southern expects the project will streamline routings between particular origins and destinations, while enhancing its service quality. NS stated, "Work will begin immediately and take approximately two months to complete." Enola currently is able to sort 125 rail cars daily, but when the job is finished, it will process 600 freight cars daily. The project involves rehabilitating nearly 28 miles of track and replacing 10 miles of crossties, and will cost $1.9 million. The Pennsylvania Railroad built Enola Yard in 1905.|
I'd like to make several points about your commentary on replacement of the 1907 catenary on the former New Haven Railroad.
Your photograph, which appears to be looking east from New Haven [we were looking west- Ed.], does not show 1907 catenary but rather the catenary erected during the last two years as New Haven to Boston was electrified.The "zone" speed limit on Metro-North between the New York-Connecticut border and New Haven is 75 mph, not "60 in most places." There are, of course, many speed restrictions for curves and movable bridges. There is a short stretch of 90 mph in New York (between New Rochelle and Portchester), on a segment where the catenary has already been replaced.
Even with catenary replacement, MNR may be reluctant to permit higher speeds for Amtrak because of capacity issues (overtaking movements consume lots of capacity).
The principal benefit to Amtrak would come from higher "unbalance" in curves, which MNR may not allow because of close track centers (Acela tilt is disabled between New Haven and New Rochelle). Amtrak has, I understand, asked for six inches [cant deficiency]. MNR holds to the AREMA standard of three.
The biggest restriction for Acela Express is the interlocking where Amtrak trains diverge to the Hell Gate Bridge [Shell Int.]. This is restricted to 15 mph in the diverging direction. The original plan was to build a flyover at this location, but money was not available. The interlocking is now being reconfigured to permit (if I recall correctly) 45 mph for Amtrak and 30 for MNR trains to Grand Central.
Still not very fast.
Randolph R. Resor
Love the newsletter and read the latest every Monday, but being from the Midwest, I sure would like to see pictures of something else besides Acela Expresses every week. I thought your name was the National Corridors Initiative. You're starting to show an Amtrak-like myopia on the NEC and it's getting a bit disconcerting.
Thanks for the vine.
Kim L. Millard
You're right about us being a bit myopic on the NEC.
I have read your fine work in many other publications and wish to express that you do an excellent job with NCI. I recently discovered this site and wish to convey that you do a super job here, as well.
Regarding the IC photo on the April 16 dated news, the train is southbound, south of Chicagoland metro area, but not quite at Kankakee, Ill.
One always associates this line with either the City of New Orleans or the Panama Limited, however since the sun angle denotes a morning shot, the train is neither one.
It is the Green Diamond.
The Green Diamond was streamlined with new Pullman-Standard-built cars, along with cars rebuilt in its own IC shops, in 1948 and operated between Chicago and St. Louis.
Note in the photo that the "flagman" is protecting the rear of the train, indicating that this was a staged photo opportunity. Most likely it was taken in December 1948 or early in 1949 when this train received its newer, streamliner equipment.
The route between Chicago and St. Louis was highly competitive with rivals being the GM&O and Wabash along this corridor. The IC provided a high caliber of service with three trains, each way, on this route. The Green Diamond depicted in your news consisted of three or four reclining seat coaches, a crew tavern-coach, a 36-seat dining car, and two parlor cars at the rear. The first one was a parlor-tavern lounge and the last car was a round-end parlor-observation car.
The Green Diamond and a twin set of equipment known as the Daylight each made a round trip between these major Midwestern cities daily. That comprised four departures, with the overnight departures known as the Night Diamond. At one time there even was a setout sleeper operating between Chicago and the state capital, Springfield, Ill., only 192 miles apart.
Phil Gosney (Amtrak engineer in Oakland)
Thank for your kind words, and a tip o' the engineer's cap for that fine detail on the IC trains. - Ed.
NCI: Leo King
|F-40 No. 213 has a new paint job (it was the railroad's third paint scheme) as it passes under the semaphores guarding the former Orms interlocking plant in Providence, R. I. ca. 1980. The blades are long gone, the redesigned interlocking has moved a few yards eastward, and those two tracks at the right have been replaced by single iron that is now a running track and is the Providence & Worcester's main between Valley Falls, R.I. and Atwells Interlocking, just west of Providence station.|
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