NCI: Doug Alexander
|NCI's 2002 conference is one week away. Speakers at the two-day event will include Amtrak president John Robert Smith, Amtrak Board of Directors Vice Chairman Michael Dukakis, Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gil Carmichael and Executive Director Tom Till.|
|Is this the year? We think it is|
NCI President, CEO
For the first time in a generation, the debate is not simply over whether Amtrak should exist, but whether the nation&apost;s leadership has at last got the sense to invest in passenger rail, and freight rail infrastructure, in the same way it has always invested in highways, airports and waterways: massively.
Some of you may know of my recent testimony before the House Subcommittee on Railroads chaired by Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) with Rep. Bob Clement (D-Tenn.), ranking minority member), and heard me tell Congress, "Amtrak, and its brethren in the freight railroad industry, are an enormously underutilized asset that this Congress, and this Administration can transform if we can get over the impulse to throw out the baby with the bath water. Today, and in previous days before this committee, you have heard ideas about franchising pieces of Amtrak, privatizing it, introducing competition, and otherwise re-arranging the existing system. Some of these ideas are good ideas; some of them are not. "I will say this: until this government decides to fund the passenger rail system in the same way, and with the same degree of commitment with which it has funded highway and airline travel, all such talk, no matter how well-intentioned, is utterly meaningless."
I am proud to note that one of our keynoters, NCI Chairman John Robert Smith, was elected Chairman of Amtrak a few weeks ago. I am equally proud that that was made possible because another of this year&apost;s keynoters, Vice Chair Michael Dukakis, relinquished the Acting Chairman&apost;s gavel; and, of course, Amtrak has a highly regarded new president, David Gunn.
The people who participate in NCI Conferences are the cream of the leadership in rail, advocacy, and government.
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|Smith to headline NCI meet|
New Amtrak Board Chairman John Robert Smith, Vice Chair Michael S. Dukakis and Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gil Carmichael are the keynoter speakers May 13-14 as the National Corridors Initiative hosts its first Washington, D.C. conference of the post-September 11 era, "Uniting America: Building a National Rail System That WORKS."
"Our conferences have never shied away from controversy, and this year&apost;s May 13-14 conference in Washington, in the midst of the greatest upheaval since the National Passenger Rail Corporation (Amtrak) was created, will be no exception," stated NCI president and CEO James P. RePass, "but I am confident that, as in years past, we will fairly showcase the views of the very best minds in this industry - who do not always agree on tactics or strategy. All, however, agree that the current state of affairs regarding the national passenger rail system is untenable, and must be ended.
"This year more than ever before the fate of the nation&apost;s passenger rail system, and especially intercity rail service, hangs in the balance, and this year, once and for all, I believe we will put to rest the nonsensical notion that passenger rail service must pay its own way, while highways and airlines systems continue to be massively subsidized by the taxpayer," said RePass.
"I believe we will also see an end to the idea that only the Northeast Corridor needs or deserves passenger rail service, while the rest of the country goes begging. One of our featured speakers, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, is going to make that especially clear."
RePass noted, "Also gaining increased attention this year are the nation&apost;s transit systems, which provide commuter service and the intermodal connections to the intercity rail, highway, and airline systems upon which we are increasingly dependent post-September 11."
Featured speakers for 2002 are US DOT Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson; American Public Transportation Association Government Affairs Director Art Guzzetti; Bombardier Transit President Peter Stangl; new Amtrak President David Gunn (invited); Barron's Magazine Editorial Page Editor Tom Donlan; Sarah Campbell, Chair of the Surface Transportation Policy Project; the Pacific Northwest&apost;s Cascadia Project Director Bruce Agnew; CSX Vice President Paul Reistrup; Washington Post Writer&apost;s Group Columnist Neal Peirce; NARP&apost;s Ross Capon; former FRA Deputy Administrator Don Itzkoff, now Executive Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers; Attorney and Amtrak Reform Council member, James Coston; Author Tony Hiss; PB Consultants Senior Director and former DOT Deputy Secretary Mort Downey; FRA Administrator Alan Rutter; Great American Station Foundation President Hank Dittmar; Amtrak Reform Council Executive Director Tom Till; Janelletech President Janellen Riggs; Railway Age Editor Bill Vantuono; Zeta-Tech Associates Rail Consultant Randy Resor; NJ Transit Chief Designer Cesar Vergara; former Amtrak President George Warrington; Paul Mangelsdorf of Texas Rail Advocates.
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NCI web site adds feature
Beginning May 6, the National Corridors Initiative will begin experimenting with a railroad news headlines page at this web site, http://www.nationalcorridors.org.
According to webmaster Dennis Kirkpatrick, "We are employing a service made available by Moreover Technologies ™ which will allow us to scan their database of breaking news and other pertinent rail-related articles. This database then provides links to on-line newspapers across the globe. This database is dynamic and changes throughout the day meaning that the news reported in the morning hours will be different from that in the afternoon".
While the page will search for rail-related news, it may also provide some occasional material that is only remotely related.
"The script is not perfect," said Kirkpatrick.
"It is possible that we may capture an occasional article that mentions railroads or commuters in a passing manner. It does not have the skilled eyes that a human being has."
The page will be linked at the NCI home page for all viewers to access with the latest rail news available on the web.
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Rail passenger rally set for Wednesday
A broad coalition of state and local government officials, rail labor representatives, environmental activists and business leaders will hold a rally in support of adequate funding for a national intercity rail passenger network on in two days in Washington, D.C.
Following a morning press conference at which a resolution supported by some 40 national and regional organizations will be presented to Congress, rally participants will visit the offices of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
People who wish to join the rally and assist in educating members of Congress and their staff on the benefits of a national intercity rail passenger network should contact Harriet Parcells of the American Rail Passenger Coalition at 202-408-1808, Ross Capon of the National Association of Rail Passengers at 202-408-8362, or Nicole Gamache of the Railway Progress Institute at 703-836-2332.
Here is the resolution that will be presented to Congress:
"Whereas, the national Amtrak passenger rail system serves over 500 cities and communities across the country and provides safe, efficient and affordable mobility for millions of Americans each year;
Whereas, ridership on Amtrak trains has increased 19 percent since 1996 and reached a total of 23.5 million riders in 2001 and demand for rail services continues to be strong on both corridor and long-distance trains;
Whereas, the terrorist attacks of September 11th highlighted the value of the nation's intercity passenger rail system to national security and whereas rail ridership in the five months since the attacks has remained strong despite a weak economy, significant reductions in travel and tourism and sharp declines in domestic air travel;
Whereas, rail provides clean, energy-efficient mobility which can help reduce the heavy U.S. dependence on imported oil. Travel by Amtrak uses 38 percent less energy [as measured in British Thermal Units] per passenger mile than does travel by commercial airline. Travel by high-speed rail offers the potential for significantly greater energy efficiencies;
Whereas, congestion costs the U.S. economy $100 billion annually and rail provides a crucial means to help alleviate growing highway and airport congestion;
Whereas, state and local governments see intercity passenger rail as an essential way to assure future mobility for their regions but need the federal government to partner with them in making the rail investments (as the federal government does for highway, air and transit investments);
Whereas, the U.S. government has significantly undercapitalized the national Amtrak system for decades, failed to provide passenger rail with a dedicated secure source of funding like other modes enjoy and required Amtrak alone to achieve operating self-sufficiency;
Whereas, Amtrak has reached a critical juncture and will be forced to implement extensive service cuts nationwide unless federal funding is substantially increased above current levels. The Department of Transportation Inspector General says Amtrak needs $1 billion annually for capital alone. Amtrak has requested $1.2 billion for FY 2003.
Now Therefore, be it resolved that the undersigned organizations (representing rail industry, passenger and labor associations, state and local government associations, environmental organizations and Chambers of Commerce) call on the U.S. government to provide at least $1.2 billion for Amtrak in FY 2003 to sustain our national intercity passenger rail system over the next year and to make a commitment to provide stable and adequate funding for the national Amtrak passenger rail network and infrastructure and development of designated high-speed rail corridors.
American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners
May 2, 2002
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Amtrak's new boss:
What are we getting with Gunn?
When newly named Amtrak President David Gunn headed Washington's mass transit system, he did not own a car. Reportedly, he still does not.
Indications are that he is not doing the kind of "house-hunting" that most high-profile appointees do when they prepare to come to Washington. What he is looking for, it seems, is an apartment near a subway stop.
Several years ago, when this writer met Gunn at a subway stop in Washington's Maryland suburbs and took him for a 20-minute drive to a meeting where he was to address a group of railroaders, he commented with some disdain on the "suburban sprawl" through which we were passing.
The above tells you all you need to know about who David Gunn is, where he is coming from, and how he views transportation's role in our society.
David Gunn is true believer. He is convinced that America suffers from an over-reliance on the automobile - and he puts his personal lifestyle where his mouth is. His obvious preference is a higher-density, more transit- and railroad-friendly living style more likely to be found in Europe than in the United States.
When he ran the New York City subway system, he most certainly did pull it out of a slump and convinced New Yorkers it was safe to ride the subways again without encountering muggers, graffiti-covered equipment badly in need of cleaning, breakdowns, derailments, and other miscellaneous frustrating delays.
"I never get hired unless there's a problem," the newly appointed Amtrak CEO told The New York Times on a recent weekend. That being the case, this walking "Call 911" Mr. Fixit of the railroad industry was the obvious choice of the Amtrak board.
The announcement of Gunn's hiring came on the eve of the FRA notice that Amtrak was to be put on a "safety watch." This comes on top off the biggest financial crisis of Amtrak's history. The debate ranges from the viability of its very existence to serious plans to make passenger railroading an equal partner in America's transportation picture. Truly, this justifies the board's metaphorical decision to call Mr. 911.
To illustrate that point, this is not the first time he has been asked to head Amtrak. In the early nineties, as Graham Claytor was heading for retirement, conservative activist Paul Weyrich, then a member of the Amtrak board of directors, tried to recruit Gunn to take over; but he wasn't interested.
When Gunn's latest appointment was announced, Weyrich called to congratulate him and noted that he is now taking on the exact job he was offered several years ago.
Gunn's response, (as related by Weyrich in a D:F interview), "Well, Paul, it wasn't bad enough when you called me. I only go (when) the situations are hopeless."
What the Amtrak board is also getting in Mr. 911 is an executive with the reputation of "a skinflint." If there is any useless money-sucking fat anywhere in the Amtrak system, you can count on him to flush it out.
"Absolutely," agrees Weyrich, more recently vice-chairman of the Amtrak Reform Council, which offered Amtrak advice as to how it could be more efficient.
If Gunn sees the need for efficiencies, he will try to implement them privately and if that doesn't work, he is likely to go public.
"One thing you have to say about Dave," according to someone who has worked with him, "is that he will not leave Congress with a feeling that they're throwing good money after bad."
"If he thinks a route doesn't make sense, he'll chop it," the source told D:F., asking not to be quoted by name.
In an interview in the early nineties on the then CBS Radio program Crosstalk, Gunn expressed his frustration in dealing with the Boston transit system, where he had worked as operations director in the late 1970s.
The problem with the Massachusetts Bay Area Transportation Authority (MBTA), he said, was that it used (and still uses) totally different equipment on its different lines. Many of the locals there view the variety of equipment on the "T" as a plus, a "charm" feature that breaks the monotony of "You ride one, you've ridden them all."
Gunn has little patience with that kind of railfan or touristy perspective. He complained that the different equipment (brought about by historical factors) was wasteful.
"We had to have different repair shops with different workers trained in different skills to do different things in different ways," he complained, "It was a drain on the taxpayers."
The comment was occasioned by my asking him his view of an idea that had been bandied about to build a light rail spur connecting the West Falls Church, Va. stop on Washington's rapid transit Metro subway system to Dulles International Airport.
"If we're going to build out to Dulles," he said, "and I believe we should, it should be an extension of the Metro (subway) system." Building light rail is less costly, but creating different yards and repair facilities would wipe out those savings over the years, he warned.
Since then, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the state of Virginia have collaborated on plans to extend the Metro subway to Dulles. However, there are also numerous plans on the drawing boards for light rail lines elsewhere in the Washington area.
What the Amtrak board is getting in David Gunn is a tactician who is not unaware of the potential for a little social engineering.
He says that when he ran the New York subways, he made the "A" train a local in parts of Brooklyn where it had previously been an express. Gunn believed that riders in Howard Beach, Queens (the site of a major racial flare-up in the 1980s) enjoyed bypassing the local stops in Brooklyn communities that served largely black populations. Though this may not have been the primary reason for slowing down the "A" train at that time, he derived a measure of satisfaction in that he would teach those Queens Archie Bunkers the value of tolerance.
The July 2001 Metropolitan Transit Authority map in New York indicated the "A" train (made nationally famous in the theme song of the legendary bandleader and pianist Duke Ellington) operates as an express "all times except nights."
It is not known whether the MTA board ultimately decided that while racial sensitivity was laudable, it did not necessarily follow that customers with no racial animus should be short-changed simply because they wanted to get from here to there quickly in an efficient manner. That can drive customers away.
As D:F outlined last week, Gunn has a solid track record of accomplishment. Briefly reviewed, he improved Toronto's cost-recovery ratio from 66 percent to 80 percent between 1995-1999; accelerated construction in Washington's subway system (for which this writer is grateful, having agitated for years to get the Red Line completed to Glenmont, Md.), 1991-1994; established fiscal controls and performance measures to shape up the New York City subway system, 1984-1990; replaced and rebuilt Philadelphia's subway cars, trolleys and buses while at the same time reducing the SEPTA system's operating costs, 1979-1984.
Prior to his stint at MBTA (1974-1979), Gunn had been an assistant vice president at the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, and had worked for the New York Central System and the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe railroads.
Thus, he brings to Amtrak some Class I experience (albeit years ago), a major factor determining the respect with which an Amtrak president is viewed by today's freight railroad executives with whom Gunn will have to deal in operating passenger traffic over their tracks.
He has all the credentials and then some. He knows and understands rail and transit operations like the back of his hand.
Gunn's biggest challenges will come in dealing with Capitol Hill and with the rail labor unions.
As the Washington Post has noted, "Gunn had a stormy passage at WMATA. He came to Metro saying 'I don't do politics,' and he proceeded to prove it."
This conjures up memories of Alan Boyd who, during his tenure as Amtrak president, said, "Every day, when I arrive at my office, I turn to the south (which had a splendid view of the Capitol) and bow to the Capitol."
While it's doubtful that Boyd, a Class I railroad veteran, literally performed that daily ceremony, his comment reflected the reality that when you put any entity into the public sector, politics will be "the name of the game," like it or not.
Gunn's refusal to "do politics" put him at odds with the Metro board, which includes representatives from the District of Columbia and suburban jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia.
"When you have to deal with fifty governors, local communities and 535 members of Congress (as an Amtrak president must do), you have to consider that you're going to do politics," said someone who knows Gunn well, adding, "He will be an excellent administrator in every respect except one (disdain for politics)."
"He is smart, he's energetic, and he does not suffer fools very well. But the problem is when you're dealing with Congress, you have to suffer fools because there are a lot of fools around," a former professional acquaintance of Gunn told D:F, also preferring anonymity.
Passenger train supporters might take some delicious emotional satisfaction in a hypothetical scenario that has Gunn telling an Amtrak critic such as the quick tempered Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that he should be honest enough to demand "self sufficiency" also from the heavily subsidized "commuter air service" in his state. But it does not follow that such a scene would be productive.
Similarly, when a Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) says he is dropping his support of the California Zephyr because it serves only one city in his state (Salt Lake City), it would be sorely tempting for the president of Amtrak to pull a "Gotcha!" and observe that before sounding off, the senator should not embarrass himself by displaying ignorance of the fact that the California Zephyr also serves Provo, Helper, and Green River in his own state.
When Gunn was here in Washington, he publicly accused the Metro board of breaking its promises to let him hire and fire his staff. Further, he chose an interview with the Washington Post as the vehicle to announce his plans to leave at the expiration of his contract, rather than informing the board first.
"In every instance where politicians started to give him a hard time, he just upped and said that's fine," and quit, noted Weyrich.
"He's fairly well off financially," added the conservative icon, "He doesn't need the money. He enjoys the challenge and likes to see things turn around." Weyrich wouldn't venture a guess as to whether Gunn would approach congressional politics any differently than state and local governments for which he has worked in the past.
Gunn also had problems with the unions with which he dealt. Apparently they went beyond the traditional adversarial relationship that one would expect in any labor-management situation.
Organized labor offered what the Washington Post called "limited congratulations" to the newly named Amtrak boss. Byron A. Boyd, Jr., president of the United Transportation Union (UTU), noted Gunn's "reputation for poor relationships with labor unions," but added labor hoped to "start with a clean slate," so as not to be "prejudiced by his reputation."
There is no question that Gunn takes seriously management's role to avoid "giving away the store" in labor negotiations.
When Weyrich previously approached him to take on the Amtrak presidency, one of his questions was, "What have you got there? 17 unions?" When Weyrich said, "Yes," Gunn (as quoted by Weyrich) said, "Well, that would be more than I could stomach right now."
And one assumes Mr. 911 is fully aware that the last Amtrak president (Tom Downs) who got into a high-profile fight with the unions ended up making an exit just barely short of the proverbial "bum's rush."
After he was fired, Downs went quietly into the night. In a similar situation, when the time comes, count on Gunn to quit before he's fired, and also make an exit that is anything but quiet.
David Gunn says he plans to tour the entire Amtrak system after he takes office May 15. By any measure, that's a good start.
Presumably, distasteful as it may be to him, he might take a cram course on Capitol Hill politics. If he does, he will learn that there are many lawmakers whose constituents are quite happy that we are not Europe. This is the United States where a good part of "the American Dream" includes the single-family house, the nice lawn, the picket fence, a car in the garage, and a dog named Spot. It may not fit in with European-style "smart growth" plans that have been advanced here, but by and large, Americans like their lifestyle, and many of them also are fond of trains. To them, the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. They can have their space and he can have his apartment right over a subway stop.
After all, the incoming Amtrak president spent the last three years as a "consultant," apparently operating from the relative seclusion of his family home in Nova Scotia. Obviously, the great outdoors is not entirely alien to him.
David Gunn, soon to be Amtrak's seventh president, has a lot of homework to do. While he's observing Amtrak operations out on the road, he might decide that the time has come to make a study of the political side of the equation.
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Stock photoViewliner sleepers and Superliners are in short supply following the Auto Train wreck in Florida two weeks ago. 41 cars are awaiting repair at Beech Grove, Ind., and if Amtrak gets the needed cash, it will one of Gunn's top priorities.
|No nonsense in Boston|
An Amtrak conductor in Boston tells us Amtrak president-elect David Gunn has been traveling part of the system, getting acquainted with the rank-and-file.
The conductor told D:F, "Our new president was in Boston Thursday and paid a visit to the troops, " and on his return trip to New York he rode a high-speed Acela Express from Boston's South Station.
Our friend in Boston said, "When Gunn boarded his train in Boston, he was met by various product line managers. He introduced himself to the conductor, assistant conductor and on-board services people. The product line manager introduced himself and told the new president he 'would be traveling to New York with him.' Gunn responded, 'I'm sorry. I don't need you on here. I usually travel on my own.'
"He then proceeded to chat a bit more with the crews prior to departure. The product line manager was in a state of shock."
Gunn told one conductor, the conductor said, "One of my first goals is to put people back to work at the various maintenance facilities and get some of this equipment back on the road."
He also said Gunn expressed his displeasure with the announcement that the sleepers were coming off Nos. 66 and 67, the Twilight Shoreliner. Apparently he plans to do something about that as well.
"He's starting to sound like my kind of guy," another conductor said.
Amtrak has begun several service changes following the Auto Train derailment.
The Cardinal, Nos. 50 and 51, have been converted to single-level cars, including Amfleet II coaches, a diner and a Viewliner sleeper. There is no lounge. No. 50 became entirely non-smoking yesterday, and No. 51 makes the changes tomorrow.
A single level lounge-cafÈ car with tables may be added.
Its Superliner equipment was added to the Auto Train to replace the damaged cars.
The Kentucky Cardinal, trains 850 and 851, are likewise converted on May 5 and 6, respectively.
The Sunset Limited, trains Nos. 1 and 2, will be given a Superliner smoking coach from the Cardinal equipment, effective in early May. The other coaches currently operating on this train will be used to fill out the shortage of equipment for the Auto Train.
Several cars will be redeployed from Northeast Corridor service to Midwest Corridor service to balance the equipment fleet. The specific redeployment had not been determined by week's end.
A third sleeper on the Silver Meteor, trains 97 and 98, which was to be added on May 2, will not be added.
Elsewhere, as of April 29, Amtrak's sleeping car rules changed so that space must be cancelled at least seven days before departure in order for customers to receive a refund of the accommodation charge. Formerly, it was 24 hours before departure.
If the room is cancelled within seven days of departure, but before actual train departure, no refund will be given, "but the amount of the accommodation not so cancelled may be applied toward future Amtrak travel," the company told travel agents around the country.
The carrier stated, "This also applies immediately to space booked and paid for within seven days of travel."
If space is not cancelled until after departure, or not cancelled at all (no-shows), "there will be no refund nor credit for future travel. The amount is forfeited."
A piece of Amtrak history will fade away in two weeks. No more sleepers on the Twilight Shoreliner.
Amtrak said last week No. 67 will depart Boston on May 19, a Sunday, sans sleeper, and No. 66 will departing Newport News, Va., the next day, without one. Both trains will operate with reserved coach, business class, and a lounge.
Through sleeping car service between Washington and Boston has operated continuously (except for six months in 1971) since the route opened in April 1917. The premier train, the Federal, often operated with more than ten sleeping cars.
Amtrak has also begun a new standardized national dining car menu on all long distance trains with dining cars, with one exception - the Auto Train, which retains its own separate menu.
Amtrak told travelers, "This unified menu replaces all individual train dining car menus."
The breakfast menu will include, for example, two eggs, up, over or scrambled, with breakfast potatoes or grits and a hot biscuit or croissant, and will cost $6.00. An egg substitute will be available upon request.
Another breakfast notion is two slices of French toast with syrup or fruit topping for $6.50, or three pancakes with syrup or fruit topping, for the same price.
Other items will be available, including cereals, biscuits, croissants, bacon, pork sausage patties and turkey sausage - and of course, coffee, tea, milk and juices, so necessary for most people.
The lunch menu will include sirloin hamburger, with or without cheddar cheese, with lettuce, tomato and onion on a Kaiser roll, potato chips or fruit, and a pickle spear, for $7.75.
Other food fare will include grilled Reuben sandwiches with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread, potato chips or fruit, and a pickle spear for $8.50.
Southwest chicken salad will also be available, with sliced chicken breast on lettuce, black beans, sliced black olives, tortilla chips, cheddar or jack cheese, and ranch dressing.
A veggie stir-fry will include Asian vegetables and rice topped with chow mein noodles.
Again, there will be several other entrees as well.
Dinner ideas include mixed green salad with dressing and a dinner roll. Add to that grilled New York strip steak and sherry mushroom sauce for $17.50.
Other dinners will feature roasted chicken a l'orange, prepared in orange sauce, at $12.50.
Pork chops, regional seafoods with various potato preparations or rice pilaf, green beans, or whole baby carrots as well.
The carrier will also serve a children's menu, and various soft drinks, bottled water, domestic beers (Budweiser or Bud Lite), premium beers, including Corona, Heineken, or Samuel Adams, and various wines.
Thanks to Gene Poon, and Craig O'Connell, at Friends of Amtrak
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A timetable 'oops'
The most recently almost-issued pocket schedule for the Boston-Washington Acela regional and express service has one major mistake. It show's No. 2172, an Acela Express, making stops at Old Saybrook, Conn., and Westerly, R.I. A station agent noted last week they apparently had to take the schedule and timetable off the racks as soon s they discovered the error. No word how many were printed and tossed.
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|Watchful eyes to peer at Amtrak|
Serious operating rule violations spiked upward in April, and the 20 violations tied the worst month in recent years.
Because the number was so high, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) began a special 'safety watch" on the financially ailing Amtrak, and Amtrak operating officials have begun a series of "safety blitzes" to caution all train crews, maintenance forces and shop workers to remain alert on the job.
No recent major accidents or passenger injuries have been attributed to Amtrak employees distracted by the company's financial problems or their own job prospects, according to a report in The Washington Post.
All the violations have been in stations and yards rather than out on main lines. One violation involved an engineer who apparently fell asleep at dawn while entering Washington Union Station from the south, running through a red signal, past a platform and destroying a switch before reacting to a radio call from a surprised tower operator.
In another case, a northbound train began leaving Philadelphia Penn Station with a forklift and its operator still inside a mail car. An Amtrak police officer saw the problem and radioed the crew to stop, but not before the steel plate used by the forklift to enter the car bounced along the station platform and severely damaged the door of the mail car.
Safety watches are rare and, FRA spokesman Robert L. Gould said, "are seldom done on this grand a scale." Gould said he did not mean to suggest that Amtrak was being declared unsafe, but that Amtrak's financial and operational situation warrants a major effort. Amtrak has done several safety blitzes in the past, usually when operating officials see a pattern of rules violations or accidents.
The White House Office of Management and Budget has held up emergency money that Amtrak thought it had received in a supplemental appropriation - $100 million for safety and rescue improvements to the tunnels under the Hudson River into New York Penn Station.
"There's no juices flowing within Amtrak," said an official with a commuter rail agency that contracts with Amtrak to operate its service. The commuter official, who requested anonymity, added, "We can't get them to make a decision. We can't get them to put anything on a fast track."
Other companies have experienced safety problems while undergoing financial turmoil, most notably the defunct Eastern Airlines. Union Pacific Railroad had several major wrecks when it experienced serious operating problems after merging with Southern Pacific in 1996. Jerry Davis, then president of Union Pacific, later told a National Transportation Safety Board panel that railroad officials and employees "took our eye off the ball" on safety during the troubles.
"Simply put, safety cannot be compromised," FRA spokesman Gould said in a statement. "FRA continues to monitor Amtrak's safety performance in light of its current operational and financial challenges. Where issues affecting safety arise, we review them with Amtrak to ensure that there is no territory-specific or systemic degradation of safety.
Amtrak Executive Vice President Stan Bagley said he takes all rules violations seriously, and "we saw a few things in April that shouldn't happen." A major rules violation may or may not involve damage, but it always involves serious situations such as running a red signal or failing to follow safety-critical instructions.
Bagley said that in May, June and July, Amtrak will go into the field for 48-hour safety blitzes in which they will attempt to talk to every safety-critical Amtrak employee, beginning with engineers and conductors.
"Whenever you have incidents and you see a pattern or trend to them, you step up work in that area," Bagley said.
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Bush will back passenger rail
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says he is confident President Bush will "take a role" in advancing passenger train service in the U.S.
In a question and answer period during a luncheon at the National Press Club, Thompson, a former chairman of the Amtrak board of directors, said, "Amtrak is important to our country."
In a written question submitted by D:F, the HHS secretary was reminded that he had said he mentions Amtrak every time he sees the President. Was he optimistic about administration support for passenger rail?
"I am confident the Bush administration and Congress will realize" that Amtrak is important, and will "move a strategic plan forward," was his response.
D:F has reported for months on the internal squabbling between Thompson, a passionate supporter of Amtrak, and White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels who is not.
Thompson cited the success for the high speed Acela Express in the Northeast, and said that kind of service should be replicated elsewhere.
"I am confident the administration will take a role," he said.
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|Downeaster to add station|
Passenger rail service to Old Orchard Beach will be delayed a month because of a now-resolved dispute between Guilford Rail Systems (GRS) and the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, a town official said.
Amtrak's Downeaster was scheduled to begin service to the town June 1, but Planning Director Tad Redway said the local station won't be ready until late June.
The summer-only Downeaster service to Old Orchard was jeopardized earlier last month when Guilford Rail System refused to sign a lease for the platform. Guilford said it wanted to renegotiate the snow-removal agreements at the other six stations along the Portland to Boston route.
A compromise was announced Friday, but the town says the dispute pushed back work in the platform.
Redway said he hopes the lower platform with temporary handicapped access will be completed by late June.
"I'm looking at July 4 for all completions, including handicapped access," he said.
The contractor, Construction Divers Inc. of Scarborough, cannot break ground for the platform until a fiber-optic cable owned by Sprint is encased in steel. Redway said he hopes that task will be completed by the end of the week. The cable is buried along the railroad right-of-way.
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|Riding the rails around the nation|
Amtrak's most popular long-distance trains are gaining ridership, spurred on apparently by the notion they may not be around much longer.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle is the most popular long-distance train. It features a 22-seat movie theater and a kids' play area, plus views of the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific, but it is plagued by late arrivals.
The Empire Builder, operating between Chicago, Portland and Seattle Views of the northern Rockies and the Cascade Mountains, is offset by long stretches of flat, boring farmland.
The California Zephyr, running between Chicago and Emeryville, Calif. Is, perhaps, the most scenic route, with spectacular views of the Rocky and Sierra Nevada mountains though it often runs late, and requires a bus transfer to San Francisco.
The Lake Shore Limited, between New York and Boston to Chicago features views of Hudson River and Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, but is restricted to single-level cars; regularly delayed for connections at Chicago and Albany, N.Y.
The carrier's Florida trains - Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Silver Palm - between New York and Miami serves popular Florida tourist destinations but suffers from dull scenery in the Carolinas; the Silver Palm loses sleeping and dining cars in April 29 schedule change.
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|Vermont solons unhappy with idea|
Officials from Amtrak and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's administration are looking to have taxpayers contribute more to the financially troubled railroad over the next several years in exchange for less service in Vermont, a move that drew a cool reception from some legislative leaders.
A draft plan being considered would reroute Vermont's Amtrak trains and effectively end passenger rail service on the eastern side of the state in 2005, according to a report in the Rutland Herald and Times Argus last week.
In a briefing of the chairmen of the House and Senate transportation committees April 28, officials said they want to move toward having the state pay the full cost of subsidizing the two Amtrak trains that serve the state, the Ethan Allen Express and the Vermonter, which together carried just over 107,000 passengers last year.
That would help the perennially money-losing national passenger railroad move toward its goal of operating without massive federal subsidies, said Terrence Foley, senior director of business development for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.
"What we1re trying to do here is put (Amtrak) on a glide path to self-sufficiency," he told state Sen. Richard Mazza (D) and Rep. Richard Pembroke (D).
Amtrak is slated to receive about $2 million in Vermont subsidies, and the federal government will pick up $4.1 million of the cost of the state's trains. As part of a draft five-year business plan, officials wanted to boost the state share to $2.75 million in 2003, and possibly as high at $3.9 million if Vermont wants to add a train running to the tourist destination of Manchester.
Under the draft plan, the state1s subsidy would climb steadily in each of the successive two years, topping out at $4.1 million in 2005 for the two existing trains with an additional $1.3 million for a Manchester train. At the same time, officials said, some services would be cut back.
The current Vermonter route between Washington D.C., and St. Albans through the eastern part of the state would eventually be scrapped in 2005, replaced by a new Ethan Allen route that would run from New York City through Manchester, Rutland and Middlebury before terminating in Burlington.
The Vermonter would instead become a shuttle service between Springfield, Mass., and White River Junction. As a result, ridership on the Vermont trains is expected to fall from about 120,000 passengers in 2002-03 to 98,000 in 2005-06.
Another idea is to scrap ticket agents at some stations and replace them with automated ticket vending machines.
That prompted critical questions from Mazza, who wondered how to sell lawmakers on a bigger subsidy for less service and lower ridership.
"It's not going to be self-supporting," Mazza said.
"It's never going to be self-supporting," replied Charles Miller, director of rail for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
Foley said that the mileage involved in running the trains meant they would always need a subsidy.
"We could fill every train, every seat, 365 days a year, and still lose money," he said.
You1ve put us in a situation where we1ve got to say, 'We1ve got to discontinue Amtrak... or put it out for public bid,'" Mazza said.
Language to explore doing just that was included in the transportation bill the state Senate passed last week, as well as a $2 million subsidy, the same as this year's.
Officials from the state and Amtrak are currently negotiating a new contract for service. The existing contract expires June 30.
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Orange Line activists mark 15th year
Using their 15th anniversary as a rallying point, the Washington Street Corridor Coalition used the occasion to start a new petition for replacement light rail service to Dudley Station, according to the Boston Banner neighborhood newspaper.
"We're not asking for anything more than what anybody else has," said coalition member Marvin Martin.
What they want is a one-fare direct link to the downtown subway system just as it had been for some eighty years prior to the Orange Line's relocation.
In 1987, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) moved the Orange Line transit system from its overhead steel trestle - which ran through Dudley Square in Roxbury - to a depressed right-of-way just over one mile away, which it now shares alongside Amtrak and MBTA commuter trains. Until its closure, Dudley Station had been a major hub for the Orange line. When it opened in the pre-World War I era, the station served as the line's terminus, though in a few years it was extended to Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain.
The elevated, or 'el' station, connected with several surface trolley and bus routes which spread out from there in a spider's web fashion to various parts of the city. Although the last trolley line connecting Dudley Station closed in the 1960s, numerous bus routes continued to originate there until the el closed, making it one of the busiest transit stations in the city.
While buses still pass through Dudley Square's sheltered bus platform which stands on the site of the former elevated station, commuters seeking the subway must take a connecting bus to one of the replacement stations or use the No. 49 bus, which follows the old elevated route along Washington Street, and ending at Avenue de Lafayette in the downtown district.
Present plans call for establishing a "Silver Line" bus service that will run along a paved reservation following the present bus No. 49 route. Included in the plan is buying low emissions vehicles that will run on liquefied natural gas; however, the MBTA is not certain that it can raise the $900 million in federal funds necessary to connect the so-named bus line with the new Silver Line Loop, which will run underground from South Station to Boston's World Trade Center along the waterfront.
The coalition's petition drive served a dual purpose; to send a strong message to the governor regarding the neighborhood's desires as well as to educate the public as to what the Silver line is, or is not.
State Rep. Diane Wilkerson (D?R?) said, "If that's all we're going to get - some silver paint - it shouldn't have taken 15 years."
Sitting across from the station was a silver-painted bus bearing the destination "Out-of-Service".
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|Boston writes five-year plan|
The City of Boston and its suburbs are going to see some big improvements in how the regional trolley system works
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's current Capital Improvement Program calls for spending $2.82 billion over the next five years, and rail highlights include $230 million for renovations to the State Street, Government Center, Maverick and Orient Heights stations on the Blue Line, $12 million for a new car house at Orient Heights, $186 million for new rolling stock and $30 million for signal improvements.
America's oldest subway system, the Green Line, is to get $92 million for "Type 8" cars, $108 million for improved accessibility, $5 million to improve grade crossings and $10 million for planning restoration of Arborway rail service.
Other route improvements will see the Orange Line get $74 million for a new signal system, $90 million for North Station improvements and $10 million for accessibility needs at Chinatown, Malden and Haymarket stations. Equipment improvements are scheduled to receive $19 million.
The Red Line, which makes a direct connection with the T's and Amtrak's South Station, is on tap for $80 million, which will include station and bridge rehabilitation on the Dorchester Line.
It will be financed in part by the sale of 30,000 square feet of real estate at the Ashmont Station. The developer will include affordable housing and will landscape the station entrance.
There is also $18 million for an automated fare collection system similar to that in New York, $6.62 million to study the Urban Ring proposal and funding to study the proposed rail link between North and South stations.
Thanks to Julian Wolinsky, Rail Transit Online, at http://www.railtransitonline.com
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|Central Platte Valley trains roll|
Central Platte Valley service to Union Station in Denver has finally opened. An ceremony for the new line on April 5 by the Denver Regional Transit District officially started the route Free afternoon rides were offered over the new track.
The following day, there was free service on both LRT lines.
The RTD also introduced a new light rail route designation system. Platte Valley service is designated "Route C" and assigned the color orange. The existing "Southwest line" became green "Route D."
During peak periods, both routes have their terminals at Littleton and Mineral Avenue, but during off-peak periods, Route C trains reverse at the I-25-Broadway station.
Both use the same tracks to a point just short of the Auraria Higher Education Campus, where Route C swings into a 1.8-mile segment to Union Station, bypassing most of downtown. There are three stations en route, with two serving major sports and entertainment venues - Pepsi Center/Six Flags, Elitch Gardens and Invesco Field at Mile High.
The Denver Regional Council of Governments contributed $19.6 million. The City and County of Denver added $5 million. The Denver Broncos, the Colorado Rockies, Six Flags/Elitch Gardens, Lower Downtown Denver, Trilliam Corp., and the Pepsi Center contributions totaled $2.55 million. Property contributed for easements had a value of $1.4 million.
Elsewhere, The DRTD has been awarded a $54.45-million federal grant for a 19-mile Southeast Corridor Light Rail project. The money, part of a $525-million Full Funding Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit administration, signed on November 17, 2000, will be used for right-of-way appraisal, relocation and acquisition; design and project management services; and construction.
The project includes 14 stations, 34 new light rail vehicles, a new maintenance facility and system upgrades to handle the additional traffic. Fifteen miles of the line is being built in the median of Interstate 25, with a four-mile (6.4 km) spur along Interstate 225. It will connect with the existing system at I-25 and Broadway. Average weekday ridership on the Southeast Corridor is estimated at 38,100, including 12,900 passengers new to transit. Revenue service is slated for 2006.
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|Raleigh commuter trains approach|
Commuter rail took a major step forward on Apr. 25 when the state-owned North Carolina Railroad Co. gave permission to the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) to operate passenger trains in a 27-mile corridor it owns between downtown Raleigh and Duke University Medical Center in Durham.
The agreement was required before the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would permit TTA to begin final design and construction of the system's first phase totaling 35-miles.
Under the 50-year agreement, the transit agency will be allowed to lay a double-track line parallel to the freight railway. Still to be negotiated is a deal with CSX Corp., which owns right-of-way through North Raleigh needed for the planned commuter route. TTA wants to buy that segment and have the $600-million project ready for revenue service in late 2007 or early 2008. future expansion would extend the system to Raleigh-Durham Airport and to surrounding suburbs.
Potential corridors are being evaluated and rights-of-way reserved in northern Durham along U.S. 501, from Cary south to Apex and from downtown Raleigh east to Zebulon and southwest to Fuquay-Varina.
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NS warns of heavy flooding
Heavy rains in east central states "have caused numerous high-water conditions resulting in washouts and mudslides on Norfolk Southern's Pochantas Division main lines and several branch lines," the railroad reported on Friday.
Main lines between Kenova and Williamson, both in West Virginia, "were taken out of service late Thursday (May 2) due to high water. Tug River at Williamson is expected to crest [Friday] afternoon. Current expectations are that service may be partially restored in 24 hours with full service returning in 48 hours" but "conditions at Williamson may impact full restoration of service."
Trains normally operating over the route - between Portsmouth, Ohio and Roanoke, Va. - "will be detoured as necessary to expedite traffic."
The freight carrier added, "Customers with traffic normally moving over this route should expect delays of at least 24 hours. Generally this will include traffic moving from and to points in North Carolina and Virginia and points in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri."
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NCI: Leo KingNorfolk Southern took the gold and Harriman awards yet again. That includes the crews at Simpson Yard, Jacksonville, Fla.
|Nice guys in railroading finish first|
"It is safer to work in the freight railroad industry than it is to work in this hotel, the Burger King down the street... because of our culture, because we are focused on it, we have worked on it," declared Ed Hamberger, president of the Association of American Railroads.
"It has not always been that way, of course," he added in his opening remarks to the annual industry E.H. Harriman Awards luncheon on May 2, honoring the railroads and the employees who had contributed the most to the industry's "safety culture."
But the fatality rate in 1980 was three times that it was in the year 2000, the AAR boss noted.
The Harriman lunch - genuinely a big deal with the industry, (emceed this year by Railway Progress Institute Vice-President Tom Simpson) serves to emphasize the passionate dedication to safety, which railroaders repeatedly declare is the absolute first priority of every operation.
Not that the ultimate safety goal has been reached, Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter reminded the large gathering of just about everybody who is anybody in American railroading.
"While we have suffered tragedies in the past few weeks, notably in Florida and California," he said, "all of us need to step back and look at safety with the big picture in mind."
The list is impressive in an imperfect world. Still, the speakers acknowledged that one accident is one too many.
"Pretty impressive, if you ask me," said the FRA administrator, who only days earlier had placed Amtrak on a safety watch.
Rutter told the railroaders they would have wide latitude on how to solve a given safety problem just so long as they did in fact solve it in a timely manner.
Rutter stipulated that his tenure at FRA would not be characterized by the "traditional regulatory dance": i.e. Step 1, we tell you you've got a problem. Step 2, you tell us you'll fix it up. Step 3, we come back later and find the same problem, and then Step 4, we start the dance all over again at Step 1.
Finally, the main event of the luncheon: the awards.
Every year, the industry showcases its best and brightest among the people who do the work out on the road. This year, the winner of the Harold F. Hammond Award went to Johnnie H. Matz, a carman with Burlington Northern Santa Fe in Kansas City, Kans. His story is the classic confirmation of the old saying "Nice guys finish first."
The video clips of the respect Matz enjoys from his fellow employees and the highlights of his 30-year career mark him as not only a "nice guy," but also someone who is extraordinarily bright.
"His contribution and dedication to safety," said BNSF Chairman, President and CEO Matt Rose, "is the key to continuing and accelerating improvement at BNSF."
Matz conducts all safety training for BNSF's extensive car facilities in Kansas City. In addition, he performs safety training for other crafts - clerical, maintenance-of-way, operating, resource protection - and has conducted training at many locations outside his territory. He is co-chairman of the system Mechanical Tier II Safety and Health Team and Kansas City Terminal Safety Site Team.
He wrote the emergency preparedness plans for Kansas City yards. He wrote several Job Safety analyses that have been adopted system-wide to raise awareness and further education in the BNSF car department, but Matz is no armchair safety specialist.
When a derailment occurred during 2001, for example, he assisted the operating department for 32 hours straight, ensuring that contractors and BNSF employees had sufficient water, food and medical attention in the heat. Videotaped comments by his fellow workers reflected a confidence in his basic decency and ability to take hold and solve problems.
Matz has all the characteristics of a leader. He gives back to his community as a coach in Special Olympics, a Safety and Health Trainer at the Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Camp, and he has been active in blood donation programs.
In the category of railroad operations, Norfolk Southern, for the thirteenth year in a row, garnered the Class I gold medal award for safety.
Here are the winners:
Group A - (at least 15 million employee hours)
Group B - (4 to 15 million employee hours)
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'CASO' is becoming a 'battleground' in Canada;
line abandonment nears
Some Canadians are up in arms about Canadian National and Canadian Pacific's joint attempt to tear apart an 85-mile rail line across Quebec's southern tier.
Known as the "Canadian Southern," The dormant line has great potential, says Ross Snetsinger, chairman of a small organization of railroad futurists, Rail Ways to the Future.
Now, however, the former main line railway, frequently called by its short name, "CASO," is at risk.
Not only do the two railroads, which jointly own the line, want to sell the right-of-way to anybody, they're selling bridges, too.
"The rail line served as a short-cut through Ontario for some New York Central System streamliners, time-sensitive mail, express and freight trains as well as local trains and branch lines serving Ontario communities," Snetsinger told D:F.
The present owners published a "Notice of Discontinuance for the CASO from St. Thomas, Ontario to Attercliffe on Oct. 9, 2001," he said, and added, "This is a matter of about 83 miles of the 251 miles between Windsor/Detroit and Fort Erie/Buffalo."
He waxes enthusiastically about the route.
"This line is untypically level and straight. It has a solid foundation with high quality steel rail. It was built during the era of heavy, track-pounding steam locomotives for 100-plus miles per hour service. It was, and could be again, a railway race track."
He argues, "A reactivated CASO could create a swath of prosperity across southwestern Ontario, decongested border-crossings and highways, cause a proposed highway to become unnecessary, and significantly reduce smog and greenhouse gases.
He said about 5,000 trucks travel daily each way between Buffalo and Detroit.
CN and CP set out to permanently eliminate the potential of the CASO by dismantling and selling off the 83 mile section between St. Thomas and Attercliffe. Notice was published October 19, 2001.
No shortline railway was interested in purchasing the demarketed 83 miles, and rebuilding traffic would take too long, the carriers stated.
"The federal and provincial governments were not interested in the 83 mile section, failing to see to see the value of the whole CASO," Snetsinger said.
Meanwhile, "CN disregarded any municipal interest and dismantled 1.42 miles of the CASO west of Attercliffe" - without governmental permission to do so.
Some municipalities met on April 5, and a federal cabinet minister, the Hon. Gar Knutson, arranged to delay dismantling, at least until June. On April 1, CN announced its suspension of "salvage" operations until June 15.
Meanwhile, CASO's owners agreed to sell its former Niagara River railway bridge to a business partnership for C$ 19.8 million ($220 million U.S.), according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
In a press release, the company said the buyers are Whirlpool International Truck Bridge (WITB of the USA) Inc. and Whirlpool International Truck Bridge (Canada) Inc. The buyers plan to use the bridge for a new international freight-transportation route dedicated to heavy trucks.
Both firms are owned by a group of six investors, with backgrounds in the construction, transportation, customs and immigration fields.
The buyers said the proposed redevelopment of the bridge and approaches is expected to take five years, including public and regulatory review and approval before the construction phase. The purchase is expected to close next year, unless the railroads and regulators see-eye-to-eye with the rail supporters in the region.
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KCS pays 25-cent dividend;
drops 'Industries' from name
Kansas City Southern's directors declared a regular dividend of 25 cents per share on the outstanding KCS preferred stock on May 2. The dividend is payable on July 2, 2002, to preferred stockholders of record at the close of business on June 10, 2002.
At KCS's annual stockholders meeting on Thursday, stockholders approved a change in the name of the corporation to "Kansas City Southern." The former name had been "Kansas City Southern Industries, Inc." (KCSI), which had been the corporation's name since 1962.
"KCSI was appropriate when our company had two distinct lines of business: transportation and financial services," stated the firm's chairman, CEO and president, Michael R. Haverty.
"With the spin-off of Stilwell Financial in July 2000, we returned to our roots as a dedicated transportation company. The name Kansas City Southern better reflects our railroad concentration."
Shareholders also elected Rodney E. Slater, Partner at Patton Boggs LLP, and Byron G. Thompson, Chairman, Country Club Bank, to three-year terms on the KCS board of directors, and approved KPMG LLP as KCS' independent accountants for 2002.
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Regarding Conrad Misek's letter of last week and the Lower Manhattan Access Study, that is what the MTA Planning Studies is labeling their web site posting he writes about plus other studies, including Penn Station Access Study (PSAS), Access to the Core, and the East Side Access Project.
Regarding the news article on Rep. Issacson's proposal to bring some Congressmen to Atlanta to see "the sprawl" and the need for high-speed and commuter rail, in my view, Atlanta will collapse economically if a real oil embargo occurs and is enforced by OPEC. Atlantans have to rid themselves of a "Nascar mentality" on the I-285 perimeter.
Joseph D. O'Keefe
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A rumination on George Will
Just as I was savoring George Will's wonderfully written paean to auto(mobile)-eroticism ["GM's Car Guy, in Overdrive," April 18, Washington Post and WP Writers' Group newspapers], I saw that he could not resist, in the end, sticking the usual Georgillian knife into the usual target, [gasp], liberals...
Leave it to George's convoluted mind to connect a column on harmless car fun with his favorite bogey-person, the liberal. It seems that while cars are sexy and fun, especially when built by a Real Car Guy like Bob Lutz of GM, liberals are opposed to all that sex and fun because they "... love guilt, and want people to feel guilty about cars because cars have made possible suburbs, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and emancipation from public transportation."
As Conan O'Brien might say, "Huuuhhh?"
I thought liberals were the people who invented fun, or at least sex, during the freebooting 1960s.In fact, I'm pretty sure George has written some columns blaming them for just that; but cars didn't make suburbs possible. Roads made suburbs possible, and liberals aren't the only people who like and support public transportation, because even conservatives understand that without public transportation cities (and increasingly congested suburbs) would cease to function. As it is, the roads are overcrowded because we build too many of them. That's right, they are too much of a good thing.
"Emancipation from public transportation?" Come on, George, we need public transportation, and we need to spend much more on it - just as we need to support intercity rail for trips of 100 to 500 miles, and long-distance trains for those people who can't drive, or who's cars are not only not sexy, but won't make it to the next county, let alone Aunt Bertha's in Detroit.
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NCI 2002 Conference
Washington, D.C. Marriott Hotel
This conference will feature a major debate about the future and direction of passenger rail in America, conducted by the people who will actually determine that outcome.
Conference speakers will include Amtrak Board Chair Michael Dukakis, Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gil Carmichael and Executive Director Tom Till, DOT Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, Author Tony Hiss, Barron's magazine editor Tom Donlan, Florida rail activist and businessman Doc Dockery, Janelletech President Janellen Riggs, rail consultant Randy Resor of Zeta-Tech Associates, Inc., Railway Age magazine editor Bill Vantuono, attorney and rail activist James Coston, and many other of the top thinkers and "doers" in American rail and transit industries.
Further details regarding advance registration will be announced in upcoming issues of Destination: Freedom.
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NCI: Leo King CollectionRemember those early days - when brand-new Amtrak ran hand-me-down equipment like ex-Penn Central E8As? Consider this example, passing Lawn Interlocking in Pawtucket, R.I. shortly after the passenger railroad was created. Railroaders - especially crews who worked passenger trains - were happy they still had jobs. The people who bought tickets (few though they were by then) were glad they could still ride a train to Boston (in this case) or New York, and no one knew how long this "grand experiment" would last... perhaps a couple of years. Surprise, surprise. Here we are, thirty years later, still struggling to survive.
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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.
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