Vol. 5 No. 22
June 1, 2004

Copyright © 2004
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

A weekly North American rail and transit update
* Now in our Fifth Year *

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


Moe Burke

NCI: Leo King

From Boston to Newport News, from Orlando to El Paso and on to Los Angeles, from L.A to Chicago, from Chicago to Seattle, conductors keep their trains moving – and collect tickets – among a host of other duties the public never sees. Duties like being qualified on the operating rules of whichever railroad their trains operate over. Moe Burke, back in 2001, was a conductor on No. 174 that ran from Washington to Boston.

 

Amtrak outsources some work to Mexico

By Leo King
Editor

Amtrak is sending some of its bookkeeping work to Mexico. Railroad spokesman Cliff Black confirmed to D:F on Friday that the railroad is sending the accounting tabulations to Juarez.

Black said, “Amtrak uses a company in El Paso that has data entry equipment capacity far greater than anything we have. The same company is used by many airlines. The difference is, Amtrak’s receipts are tabulated by Amtrak employees – 16 TCU union members – rather than the vendor’s employees.”

TCU is the Transportation Communications International Union, the labor organization that represents all clerks on the passenger carrier.

The topic came to light after a Texas Amtrak employee queried readers in an online forum.

She wrote, “Amtrak is outsourcing many of its accounting jobs. Tickets, food service receipts and other financial documents are collected from all over the U.S. and sent to El Paso where they are boxed, labeled and shipped across the border to Mexico for accounting and processing. This is a huge (and getting bigger) industry in Juarez.”

Black added, “We understand that some of the airline paper goes across the border to be tabulated and entered into their system, but all work on Amtrak accounts is done in El Paso by employees drawing Amtrak paychecks at union scale wages.”

The woman, who asked not to be named, noted, “Many American companies use this across-the-border accounting service. All supermarket coupons are processed in Juarez. Maybe this is a good thing (to save money for cash-strapped Amtrak). However, since Amtrak is subsidized by taxpayer money, maybe the taxpayers would prefer that the public funds create good-paying domestic jobs.”


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Amtrak getting 10 rebuilt switchers

Amtrak is getting 10 switchers. MotivePower, Inc. reported on May 26 it would build the locomotives in a $12 million order for model MP-15B engines that will be delivered by December.

The new locomotives are state-of-the-art, according to a MotivePower press release. They produce 1,500 hp, and will be used in work train and yard service. The units meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 1 emissions standards, the press release stated. They also feature specially designed low-clearance cabs to accommodate tunnels in the New York City area.

The company’s press release was thin on specifics – like which kind of power plant will be installed – nor whether it will be a diesel or a hybrid.

Based in Boise, Idaho, MotivePower builds new switcher and commuter locomotives, and provides aftermarket overhaul and fleet maintenance services.

EMD was the original GP-15 builder. Its GP-15D performance specifications rated the locomotive at 1,500 hp, and equipped with a GM12V170B15-T1 engine, and is tier 1 EPA emissions certified. It produces 55,000 pounds continuous tractive effort, and 86,000 pounds starting tractive effort. Each engine is capable of moving at 70 mph.


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Illinois may cut Amtrak funding

Illinois DOT officials are bracing for potential cuts in Amtrak service because of the state’s budget crisis, although the agency still is pushing for the same level of rail funding.

IDOT spokesman Matt Vanover said department staff has told Amtrak officials it’s possible that less money will be available than the $12.1 million Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration proposed for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the Springfield State-Journal Register reported on Saturday.

Amtrak runs daily passenger trains from Chicago to downstate and to Milwaukee, under a $12.1 million state contract that expires June 30. The state-supported service is different from the federally subsidized long-distance Amtrak trains that stop in Illinois.

“The money that we are currently seeking may not be there because of this tight (budget) situation,” Vanover said Tuesday of IDOT’s $12.1 million request. “What we have to do is let the General Assembly play out the budget process and see what happens.”

Even if the full request is granted, another dilemma remains. The state won’t be able to buy the same amount of service for $12.1 million because Amtrak’s costs have risen, according to Marc Magliari, the railroad’s spokesman in Chicago. Magliari said Amtrak would need about $12.5 million to maintain service levels.

A likely area for cutting is the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha trains that IDOT helps support in a partnership with Wisconsin. The Wisconsin DOT has been apprised by IDOT that Illinois may reduce its $1.2 million yearly share, according to Ron Adams, director of WisDOT’s bureau of railroads and harbors.

“Their priority is to continue service downstate,” Adams said. IDOT pays for daily round-trips on three downstate corridors linking Chicago with Carbondale, Quincy and St. Louis (via Springfield).


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Towing firm caught red-handed

A New York court has ordered a Bronx towing company to clean up debris – fenders and tires – its workers threw over a wall onto track that Amtrak, CSX and other carriers operate over.

WABC-TV said on May 21 the owner of J & S Towing responded to some public pressure after a home videotape the station aired that showed employees of the company dumping the junk over the wall of an impound lot on Bronx River Avenue directly onto the tracks.

Towing operator Joe Connors sent send his employees to clean up the mess they had created. J & S claimed it was not responsible for all the jumbled mess of metal and tires.

Connors said, “I was appalled by this. This is not no way to act. I mean, I get upset when I see people throw garbage out of their car window.”

The TV station said CSX owns the tracks, but Amtrak trains whizzed by as special agents monitored the cleanup. They closed some tracks as a precaution – “foul time,” at the least.

Edward Zitek, a CSX special agent, said “There’s five different railroads that use all these tracks. There’s a lot of dumping here. He said the video had been “turned over to us, [and] we’ve already made two arrests.”

There could be more arrests. The city’s Department of Investigation is looking into the case, and there could be hefty fines.

It might mean a windfall for retiree Lut Rodriquez who captured the covert action on his video camera. There is a city reward for tipping authorities to illegal dumping.

Rodriquez said, “They give me my reward, I’d be happy. Taking my family (on) vacation. Probably Amtrak train.”

In all, 700 tires were removed.

The City Department of Investigation commissioner is requesting that all city marshals who have contracts with J&S Towing sever those ties. At least three marshals contract out business to that firm, according to the TV station.


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Track repairs slow Amtrak trains

CSX, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and Union Pacific are carrying out major track renewal work this spring and summer, and much of the work is affecting Amtrak trains. The carriers are making infrastructure projects to improve track conditions, minimize, or prevent delays, and eventually provide a safer and more comfortable ride on several Amtrak routes. Monthly employee publication Amtrak Ink spelled out the details in its May edition.

One of the most significant service changes began in April. The Silver Star and Silver Meteor, which operate between New York and Miami, are disrupted. Between April 23 and June 22, the Silver Meteor was suspended between Savannah and Jacksonville while CSX installs 58,000 concrete ties, 40,0000 wood ties and 9,000 feet of rail. The trackwork is being done four days a week from eight to 10 hours a day, beginning at 6:00 a.m.

Sleepers and diners used on the Silver Meteor were added to the consist of the Silver Star – and the Star is temporarily operating almost two hours earlier than its normal schedule to allow travel through the work area before daily project work begins.

The Auto Train and the Silver Service Thruway bus connections are also being affected. Thruway buses that connect with the Silver Meteor are not operating and buses connecting to the Silver Star are operating earlier.

Although the Auto Train continues to operate on its normal schedule during this track work project, it will encounter delays while traveling over the renewed track.

Normally, the Auto Train operates at speeds of about 70 mph through that area, but after new track is installed, speed restrictions are in effect which slow down all trains, passenger or freight, until the new track settles into place.

Adding to this delay is the reduction in the number of hours available for Amtrak and CSX trains to operate on the track. The same numbers of trains that normally operate over a 24-hour period are being squeezed into 14- to 16-hour periods, causing congestion and subsequent delays on the route.

Often when track maintenance projects occur, schedules are adjusted, trains are rerouted, or alternate transportation is provided. Rarely, if ever, is an entire route canceled due to track improvement work; “however, in order to accommodate the infrastructure projects and minimize customer inconvenience and revenue loss during this period, these unusual measures had to be taken on the Silver Service route,” Ink wrote.

Nonetheless, improvements to the infrastructure are necessary to prevent track deterioration, which causes speed restrictions and delays in service. In the end, Silver Service passengers will find improved ride quality and service reliability.

Track maintenance projects are also affecting the California Zephyr service this summer. Every day, passenger and freight trains push through Colorado’s winding mountains west of Denver, with wheels grinding into the curved steel and causing gradual track deterioration. To maintain a safe rail network, the UP is replacing approximately 82,000 ties and 11 miles of curved rail along the mountainous route.

While this work is in progress, the California Zephyr is traveling on an alternate non-stop route between Denver and Salt Lake City. During four eight-day periods between June 7 and July 31, the train will detour through a southern Wyoming route, previously used by Amtrak’s Pioneer train that was discontinued in 1997. An Amtrak bus will connect Colorado passengers between Denver, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction.

This detour may be a disappointment to passengers who look forward to the scenery between Denver and Grand Junction, but the alternate route, roughly following the original transcontinental route built in 1869, offers passengers broad vistas of the high plains. Amtrak Marketing parlayed the detour to an advantage for the railroad, enticing many railroad fans to make reservations for a rare-mileage, unique ride.


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Greater Northern - Empire Builder

Great Northern Historical Society collection

The 1957 edition of Great Northern’s Empire Builder descends from Maria’s Pass at Bison, Mont. The train has run, in various forms, for 75 years this month. It began in 1929.

 

Empire Builder: time for a birthday

The Empire Builder has traversed the nation’s great northern plains for 75 years, joining America’s Midwest to the Pacific Northwest via the Twin Cities, Glacier National Park, and Spokane, Wash. On June 11, the 75th anniversary of Empire Builder service, Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) , Canadian Pacific Ry. (CP), state partners, historians, local businesses, rail enthusiasts, and many others will mark the date with special events at Amtrak stations along the train’s route.

Amtrak Ink, the passenger carrier’s monthly news publication for employees, stated artist and rail enthusiast J. Craig Thorpe created an Empire Builder 75th Anniversary commemorative poster that will be displayed along the route. In Chicago’s Union Station, rail historian Joe Welsh is scheduled to speak on the history of the service.

Commemorative events are being planned in Seattle, Portland, Ore., Whitefish, and Havre Mont., Minot, N.D., Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee and Chicago. Events will be arranged around the Empire Builder schedule and will include guest speakers, refreshments, giveaways, and media opportunities, according to Ink.

“Going out West is a fascination that started over 200 years ago with Lewis and Clark and has been part of our heritage and spirit since,” said Gary Erford, an onboard services manager.

“This train began with an inspiration to explore, and started long before the first spike of the Great Northern Ry. was ever driven,” he added.

President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the epic journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the Missouri River and find a route to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Columbia River in 1803.

The Corps of Discovery left Illinois on May 14, 1804. In spring 1805 they reached the headwaters of the Missouri. In November, after an arduous crossing of the Rockies and descent of the Columbia, they reached the Pacific near present-day Astoria. Today’s Empire Builder either crosses or parallels portions of the Lewis and Clark route (1804-1806).

The former Great Northern inaugurated the service on June 11, 1929. Named after its founder, James J. Hill, who was known as “the empire builder,” not only for the transcontinental railroad that he built, but also for his leadership for the overall growth and development of the Great Northern States.

The service debuted in Chicago, St. Paul, and Seattle with coaches, tourist sleeping cars, and standard Sleepers, presenting a variety of choices to travelers. Its diner brought excellence to the rails, and the lounge-solarium provided maid service, barber and valet service, shower and bath facilities, and tea service each afternoon.

In 1930, NBC was the first radio network to broadcast live from the train, and many radio vignettes were performed aboard.

After World War II, GN unveiled a streamlined Empire Builder calling it the postwar Empire Builder, with innovative services and accommodations that included new reclining-seats, a coffee shop, dining car, and Pullman sleepers.

In 1951, the train became an entirely new streamliner with modern equipment that included a ranch-themed coffee shop, a semi-formal dinette area, and a lounge car featuring “western frontier” leathers.

Four years later, dome coaches and lounges were added, presenting expansive sightseeing opportunities across the Great Plains, through the Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park, and over the Cascade Mountains.

Amtrak took over the route in 1971, and in 1979 introduced an all-new Empire Builder, the first Amtrak train to include bi-level Superliner cars. The Empire Builder maintains an 86-percent on-time performance, Amtrak said, running over two roads now owned by BNSF and CP. Between October 2002 to September 2003, the train carried more than 415,000 passengers, a 13 percent increase over the previous year.

Dan Engstrom contributed to this story.


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Dockery questions Bush’s strategy
on anti-bullet train campaign

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s efforts to overturn the High-Speed Rail Amendment are raising questions about the limits of political activism by governing officials – and drawing sharp criticism.

The Orlando Business Journal reported on May 24 that along with Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, Bush has held press conferences in the state Capitol building to show his support for the “Derail the Bullet Train” campaign and petition drive, a two-year-old grassroots effort to quash the 2000 Florida High-Speed Rail Amendment started in Palm Beach County.

Individually, Gallagher has issued three press releases from the Florida Department of Financial Services state web site throwing his support behind the campaign. One of the releases even provides a link to the campaign’s petition.

Most recently, the governor launched his own personal e-mail campaign, urging recipients to sign an attached “Derail the Bullet Train” petition and distribute it to their friends and family.

“This is an issue that is extremely important to Gov. Bush, and an issue he has been very clear and vocal about,” said Alia Faraj, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office. “He has made his opposition known in every aspect of his day-to-day work.”

In fact, Bush has taken the opportunity to speak out against the high-speed rail amendment numerous times since voters approved it. He spoke about his concern when he was elected. He made his opposition clear to members of the legislature and even sent many of them letters on the issue.

His concern stems from the hefty budget behind the high-speed rail project, for which the first leg between Tampa and Orlando alone will cost $2.6 billion.

In all, the project, which eventually will connect Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville, is expected to cost the state more than $17 billion over the next 35 years.

Still, the governor’s e-mail blast sent via his private e-mail address, jebbush@jeb.org, is raising more questions about his support of the “Derail the Bullet Train” campaign. The reason: The address is linked to his former campaign Web site. Although the site is no longer operational, when people try to log on to it, it automatically routes them to www.myflorida.com, the state’s official Web site.

C.C. “Doc” Dockery, a Lakeland, Fla. businessman who bankrolled the $3 million high-speed rail amendment campaign four years ago, said “It is not fair to use the governor’s office and all of the state agencies at his disposal to advocate a political point of view.”

The problem lies in the fact that there is no explicit state law on the issue. Even Florida case law is up in the air.

A 1989 Florida appellate court found that the Palm Beach County Commission should not have showed its support for a referendum by approving the expenditure of $50,000 toward the effort.


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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

‘OL’ warns train watchers
to stay off tracks, bridges

Time’s story about the modern day predicament faced by railfans reinforces the message of Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit, rail safety education program-stay off railroad tracks and private rail property.

As the article from the May 24 issue stated, “Admiring trains has been a refuge for generations of men. Now it can get you a visit from the police.”

Operation Lifesaver’s public outreach program has helped reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on the tracks by 75 percent since it began in 1972.

Marmie T. Edwards, Operation Lifesaver’s vice-president of communications in Alexandria, Va., said “Six months before the bombings of passenger trains in Madrid that resulted in nearly 200 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries, Operation Lifesaver reached out to railfans with the Railfan Tips and Security Advisory, developed in cooperation with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).”

Time used Trains magazine’s estimate of 175,000 U.S. railfans, noting they have clubs, websites and vacation excursions, but since September 11, 2001, the situation has become more critical.

“Anyone seen taking photographs is going to be questioned,” Richard Maloney, a spokesman for SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transit authority. “The wide-open spaces and the freedom we have enjoyed to meander almost anywhere is gone.”

“Nearly 1,000 people die each year because they do not understand railroads,” Operation Lifesaver President Gerri Hall explained.

“They underestimate the power of trains and the dangers around the rails. In particular children learn from the example of their siblings and older friends, based on what they see, not what they hear.”

Operation Lifesaver’s key safety messages include telling people “Walking on railroad tracks and rights-of-way is illegal and can be deadly. You also may appear to be a serious security risk. Never walk out on a railroad bridge or trestle, and stay out of tunnels.”

The non-profit safety organization also advises train watchers to not enter private rail property without permission.

Operation Lifesaver’s complete Railfan Tips and Security Advisory is online at http://www.oli.org/railfan.pdf. *(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader - Webmaster).


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBTA control car 1638 leads Amtrak engine pushes along

2 photos - NCI: Leo King

Amtrak’s last scheduled passenger service to Hyannis over the Cape Cod Canal vertical lift bridge ran in summer 1996. Amtrak supplied the locomotive and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority supplied the coaches. At left, with MBTA control car 1633 leading, engineer Tom Rae is looking ahead as the train approaches Buzzards Bay station. Amtrak F-40PH engine 243 is pushing.

 

Cape Cod Canal bridge again
open for rail passenger traffic

Until May 21, only Bay Colony Railroad’s “trash trains” made use of the recently refurbished Cape Cod Canal vertical lift bridge. The freight trains carry garbage twice daily from Cape Cod to a Rochester, Mass. energy plant – but nearly a fortnight ago, a Cape Cod Central Railroad train crossed the waterway for the first time in three years. The train is adding a scenic view over the canal to its dinner trips.

The Cape Cod Times reported on May 23 the Army Corps of Engineers expects to wrap up work this summer on the bridge’s four-year, $27.3 million maintenance project.

Some Bourne, Mass. officials, however, would like to see the bridge put to even more frequent use, with passenger trains rolling toward Middleborough several times a day. The idea is to meet Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter trains from Boston. For now, though, they’ll have to settle for weekly visits from the Cape Cod Central, a scenic train from Hyannis.

Cape Cod Central, which was incorporated in 1999 following the ailed Cape Cod & Hyannis, plans to roll high-end dinner service from Hyannis to Buzzards Bay every Friday night this summer. The three-hour ride features a five-course meal at $59.50.

An announcement from the Buzzards Bay Village Assn. last week promoted Cape Cod Central Railroad’s arrival as a potential “harbinger of things to come.”

The company, however, has no plans of pursuing regular passenger service to Buzzards Bay, or any other off-Cape destination. Company president Scott Himstead said the view from the railroad bridge will be a “nice little bonus” for diners.

“When a train comes across, it usually draws a crowd,” he said.

After the trains pull into the station, the engineer will walk from one end to the other end, and reverse direction. Dwell time should be between 10 and 20 minutes, an observer noted. They won’t dawdle, though. They need to make a quick return while the bridge is still down. Boat traffic will be stopped. There is only about seven feet of space between the bottom of the bridge and the water at mean high tide.


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Where’s the boss?

SEPTA man placed motion detector

A motion detector discovered in a Philadelphia commuter rail yard earlier this month was placed there by a transit employee who wanted to know when his supervisors were coming, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority officials said May 24.

The discovery of the small, unauthorized device on May 5 spooked law enforcement officials, who have been on heightened alert for suspicious activities around tracks since the terrorist bombings of passenger trains in Spain in March. SEPTA officials said an employee told the FBI he put the device by the tracks to alert him to approaching foot traffic, “presumably his supervisors.” The authority did not name the employee. It said he worked full-time for SEPTA and part-time for a security alarm company.


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Where’s the AC?

Commuters sweat in jammed coaches

Massachusetts commuter-rail riders have been packed in like sardines amid sometimes stifling heat in recent weeks. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is struggling to correct a shortage of coaches and broken air-conditioning systems.

The reason for the overcrowding, which riders said goes far beyond the usual crush at rush hour, is a shortage of trains as cars are outfitted with new wheels and rebuilt air-conditioning systems, said the MBTA’s general manager, Michael H. Mulhern.

Boston Globe reporter Mac Daniel told his readers on May 26 the T has fined the contractor that operates commuter rail for the agency, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., a total of $250,000 since January, for shortcomings in service. About 75 percent of the fines were for late trains and a lack of cars on popular lines at peak times, T officials said.

“It was so packed that people were screaming to people in the middle of the train to move in,” said Tara Gibbs of Grafton, a passenger on the 4:58 train to Worcester out of South Station, which normally has five double-decker cars but Monday night had only three, a loss of about 245 seats. “It’s unbelievable,” she said.

Fixing the overcrowding problem has taken on new urgency for the region’s aging commuter rail fleet, because thousands of new riders are expected to try riding the rails the last week of July, when the Democratic National Convention triggers massive roadway closures, but Mulhern insisted the shortfall in cars and the mechanical problems would be fully addressed before July.

“There won’t be any fumbles,” Mulhern said.

Mulhern blamed the shortfall on late delivery of new wheelsets for some cars as well as the need to pull coaches from service to repair faulty air conditioning systems. While the wheel replacement project was recently completed, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the air-conditioning repairs continue to take cars off the tracks.

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., which took over operations for commuter rail from Amtrak last July, operated 321 rail cars system-wide on May 25, 14 cars short of the T’s minimum operating requirements, according to Pesaturo. The system was five cars short on the north side (trains bound for North Station) and nine short on the south side (trains going to South Station). The T requires a minimum of 122 rail cars on north side lines and 213 on the south, or 335 combined.

On average, T officials said, single-level commuter rail cars have seating for 125, while double-decker cars have seating for 185. At its worst, the rail provider had 25 cars out of service in April, a minimum loss of 3,125 seats.

The consortium will challenge the penalties levied by the T, said spokeswoman Tara Frier. She said the wheel repairs remain “99 percent resolved” while the air-conditioning repairs continue.

“I would love to say to you that all of our air conditioning is in 100 percent great shape, but the true test of any air-conditioning system is after we’ve had a heat wave for several days,” Frier said.

“I don’t want to guarantee that we’re not going to have any air conditioning problems… I can’t predict the future,” she said.

The consortium, she added, has an on-time record of between 96 and 97 percent and has logged 1,000 more miles between breakdowns than Amtrak. Service will be first-rate for year-round passengers and for the heightened expectations for commuter rail during convention week, she said. North Station will be closed, forcing some 24,000 passengers to transfer to buses and the subway just north of the city, but all other lines should be operating normally.

Passengers interviewed last week, however, were dubious. To make matters worse, fares for commuter rail were recently boosted 25 percent, amid promises of better service.

“A crowded train at rush hour is one thing. This situation is a serious problem,” said commuter Todd Glickman of Burlington, who normally takes the Lowell line to North Station, but during the convention week plans to drive to the Route 128 station in Dedham and catch a northbound train to South Station. That way he can avoid being transferred to a bus.

On the Lowell Line’s No. 308 train arriving at 7:44 a.m. on May 25 at the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn, the six-car train offered enough room for everyone to get a seat. At West Medford, however – the inbound train’s last stop before North Station – boarding passengers were forced to stand, an act that had become the norm, according to passengers, even with six cars.

“It’s guaranteed that I stand up,” said Heidi Davis of West Medford as she rode into North Station for her job at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Overcrowding has become enough of a problem on the Attleboro line that Roberta DeDonato of North Easton said she will wait at Canton Junction for the less-crowded train from Stoughton, which uses the same stop.


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Caltrain ‘baby bullet’ trains starting

Caltrain passengers’ dreams of faster service between San Jose and San Francisco will come to fruition June 7 with the launch of the “baby bullet” trains, according to the San Francisco Chronicle of May 14.

The 10 trains each weekday will travel up to 79 mph and allow riders to travel between the two cities in 57 minutes, shaving about 39 minutes off the previous fastest time. The one-way fare is $5.50, the same as for regular trains.

“We’re ready, we’re excited,” said Chuck Harvey, Caltrain CEO, which in 2002 approved the $110 million construction project for the baby bullet trains. The addition of the baby bullets will boost Caltrain’s fleet to 86 trains.

Caltrain officials and a representative from a passenger advocacy group urged people who use Caltrain or live or work near the train tracks to be aware of safety as well as the new scheduling. The baby bullets will not slow down when they pass through stations, or at railroad crossings near commercial and residential districts.

For the first time in two years, Caltrain will resume weekend service. Although the bullets will not run on weekends, officials have warned people to be aware of trains speeding by on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We are asking passengers and people who live and work near the tracks to be vigilant about safety,” said Robert Doty, manager of rail operations for Caltrain.

“Trains will be coming through on weekends, which hasn’t happened in a long time, and the baby bullets will be coming through some stations very fast without stopping.”

Caltrain will initially have 10 baby bullet runs each weekday starting June 7 – three northbound and two southbound trains for morning commuters, then two northbound and three southbound trains in the afternoon.

In an effort to serve reverse commuters, Caltrain officials said two southbound baby bullets will stop at San Francisco’s 22nd Street station weekday mornings and two northbound evening trains will stop at the station on weekday evenings.

Engineers began testing the faster trains at full speed two weeks ago without passengers.


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Call the trains Music City Stars

Middle Tennessee’s unborn commuter rail system got a name on May 19: Music City Star.

That’s what the system, designed to eventually have five spokes from downtown Nashville to surrounding counties, will be called. The Nashville Tennessean reported the next day the Regional Transportation Authority voted unanimously on the name, which was decided even as questions remain about whether the system’s first leg from Nashville to Lebanon would be built.

That uncertainty and the publicity that has arisen in recent months around questions state officials have raised were on the minds of the RTA board at its meeting, which included city and county mayors from Middle Tennessee.

Mayor Bill Purcell, RTA chairman, said he didn’t think RTA would name a system they didn’t think was going to be built. Others shared Purcell’s optimism. Purcell said naming the system was an important step that should give the project a little momentum.

“Commuter rail and alternative transportation is coming,” Purcell said.

“That’s what you heard basically from every mayor or county executive or county mayor in this room. They all believe it. Those that are on this first line and those that are on the lines to come.”

While the naming gave the meeting a certain milestone feel for the $37.6 million Nashville-Wilson line, the reality is that there are still questions looming. Tennessee DOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely raised questions about the project earlier this year and commissioned a study to examine several areas, including what will be the financial risk in construction and operation, and what happens if federal matching money doesn’t materialize. He also wanted to know about ridership projections and other assumptions as well as safety, particularly in light of heightened homeland security concerns.

Ed Cole, Nicely’s top public transportation aide who is overseeing the consultant’s risk review, said Tennessee DOT was not raising the questions to kill the project. Instead, officials want to address the concerns so the project can succeed, he said.

“The report will be presented in the spirit of let’s address these issues, and if we can address these issues, let’s go ahead,” Cole said.

The current funding formula includes 80 percent federal money, 10 percent Tennessee DOT and 10 percent local governments. If the state DOT were to pull out of the project, it would be a significant setback.


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Rail tax not likely to go on ballot

A two-county rail sales tax for California’s November’s ballot appears all but dead as Marin and Sonoma County members of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) board butted heads recently on what is fast becoming a divisive issue.

While a formal vote was put off and will not be taken until next month, it was clear at the SMART meeting that it’s unlikely Marin members of the board will vote to put the rail measure on November’s ballot, according to a report in the Marin-Independent Journal.

The reason is simple: they do not want to see it compete with a Marin measure likely to appear on the ballot that will address bus service, local roads, the Highway 101 gap closure and safe routes to schools, but not rail.

That did not sit well with the Sonoma County members, who desperately want the rail measure on the ballot.

“Lucy just pulled the football out, we swung and missed, (with) good old Charlie Brown being Sonoma and Lucy being Marin,” said a visibly angry Tim Smith, a Sonoma supervisor. “It’s just like that.”

Earlier in the meeting Marin Supervisor Cynthia Murray tried to strike a cooperative tone, noting Marin and Sonoma have done well working together on a host of transportation projects; but in the final analysis, she said, it was just too risky to have the quarter-cent rail measure on the same ballot with Marin’s half-cent measure.

“It’s a revolting predicament,” she said, “but do we want to take that chance and take that risk?”

A rail poll unveiled earlier this month showed if both the Marin and separate rail issue were on the November 2 ballot, the Marin measure would get a maximum of 64 percent support, short of the 66.67 percent needed, although the pollster later said it could be as high as 68 percent.

A separate poll done by Marin County in March showed 69 percent support for a local sales tax that did not include rail. Marin representatives are skittish because they need two-thirds approval and fear a rail measure could lose Marin’s measure critical votes.


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Connecticut begins platform upgrades

Connecticut began work last week on $9.8 million in improvements to three Shore Line East commuter rail stations. The work in Branford, Guilford and Clinton includes new, high-level platforms with canopies to accommodate the speeds and dimensions of Amtrak’s high-speed train service. he new platforms will be built on the south side of the tracks. Eventually, platforms connected by pedestrian walkways will be built on both sides of the tracks at all shoreline stations. The work began in Clinton, and will take about a year to complete, writes The AP.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


Spokane Overwhelmingly Passes Tax Increase Supporting Transit

On May 18, voters in Spokane, Wash., approved a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase to support the Spokane Transit Authority by an overwhelming 69 percent to 31 percent, according to preliminary totals. The measure provides for the tax through June 30, 2009, with revenues to preserve the current level of public transportation services, including bus service and paratransit services; provide for anticipated future bus and paratransit service needs; and provide for continued public oversight of the authority.

STA officials had warned that, if the measure did not pass, the system would have to cut its fixed route bus service by 40 percent and its paratransit operations by 17 percent starting in July.

The passage of the measure brings STA’s total sales tax level to six-tenths of 1 percent. An earlier attempt to pass the three-tenths increase failed in 2002.


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OC Transpo to Receive Government Funding for Light Rail Expansion

OC Transpo in Ottawa, Ont., is scheduled to receive a total of up to $600 million (Cdn.) in support of light rail expansion from downtown Ottawa to Barrhaven, under an agreement announced May 14. This represents the largest intergovernmental infrastructure announcement in the city’s history.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joined David Pratt, minister of national defense and Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton, and Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli to make the announcement.

The governments of Canada, Ontario, and Ottawa have committed long-term support for the region’s urban transit needs by proceeding with a first phase of the O-Train expansion from Lebreton to Limebank, at a funding level of $300 million (Cdn.) They also committed to set aside $100 million (Cdn.) each for development of further phases, including the extensions to downtown Ottawa and Barrhaven.

Financial support of the plan would be conditional on meeting applicable federal and provincial requirements, including the successful completion of environmental assessments, ridership and other studies, and detailed engineering design.

O-Train currently operates with Bombardier Talent trains along an eight-kilometer (five-mile) track with five stations, from Greenboro in the south to Bayview in the north, close to the heart of downtown Ottawa. It entered service as a pilot project in 2001.


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Bill Introduced in U.S. House Authorizing $2.8 Billion for Transit Security

U.S. House Democratic members of the Select Committee on Homeland Security introduced legislation May 12 to authorize a $2.8 billion grant program to improve passenger rail and public transportation security.

The Safe Transit and Rail Awareness and Investments for National Security Act, or the Safe TRAINS, commits the funds over three years to support capital and operating activities of owners, operators, and providers of transit systems.

Activities covered under the grant program include cameras and other surveillance equipment, communications systems, training, technical support, and exercises for transit employees.

Also, explosive and weapons of mass destruction detection and countermeasures, improvements and activities to increase security of stations.

Other activities include vehicles, bridges, tunnels, improvements and activities to improve survivability in the event of an attack, acquiring emergency response and support equipment, and public awareness and outreach campaigns.

Public transportation systems, as defined and covered by the legislation, are “passenger, commuter, and light rail, including Amtrak and subways, buses, commuter ferries, and other modes of public transit.”

Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), senior member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, and Jim Turner (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, and House Democrats introduced the legislation.


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LYNX Signs Linda Watson as Executive Director

LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Orlando, has reached an agreement with Linda S. Watson to become the first female executive director of LYNX. Watson, currently the general manager of the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, signed the three-year contract at a special meeting of the LYNX directors on May 13. She will begin her official duties on June 15.

Watson, who also serves on the APTA Executive Committee as vice chair-human resources, has headed the CCRTA for the past eight years. She previously worked for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, beginning as an administrative assistant in 1981 and working her way up to assistant general manager in 1991.

Watson was selected from five finalists to succeed Byron Brooks, who resigned from LYNX in December 2002. Howard Tipton led LYNX on an interim basis from January to May 2003. William Schneeman has acted as interim executive director since June 2003, and will continue in that capacity until Watson arrives in Orlando.


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Setzer Appointed General Manager of Cincinnati Metro

Michael Setzer, general manager of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati from 1987 to 1993, is returning to the system as its CEO and general manager, effective July 1. He also held other executive positions at SORTA from 1978 to 1982.

The appointment of Setzer ends a three-month search for a successor to Paul Jablonski, who left SORTA in January to become CEO and general manager of the Metropolitan Transit System in San Diego.

Setzer has more than 30 years of transit management experience, and currently serves as general manager of Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He also has served as general manager of the Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis and the South Bend, Ind., Public Transportation Corp.

SORTA noted that the appointment is pursuant to a five-year management contract with Professional Transit Management Inc., a Cincinnati-based national transit management company in which Setzer is a 50 percent partner. Setzer and his family reside in the Cincinnati area, and he currently commutes weekly to Minneapolis/St. Paul.


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STATION LINES...  Station lines...

Moynihan station project on hold

A New York state corporation is accusing Amtrak of reneging on its deal to rent space in the James J. Farley Post Office building in New York City.

Empire State Development Corp. officials, who are overseeing the project through its subsidiary, the Moynihan Station Development Corp., accused Amtrak of wanting to renege on a 1999 memorandum of understanding on the project, essentially a promise that it would contribute to the costs, The New York Times reported on Friday.

“We’re disappointed that Amtrak isn’t meeting the commitments they made in the 1999 M.O.U.,” said Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the development corporation.

He said, “We want to be flexible and work with Amtrak. We know the Northeast Corridor is one of the strongest sectors in their system. We feel it would be in their interest to participate in the development of Moynihan station as an important gateway to New York.”

According to Gargano, Amtrak had committed to paying about $3.9 million a year for the space. He also suggested that Amtrak could lease its current space below Madison Square Garden for more money than that.

Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black, in Washington, denied that Amtrak had reneged on anything. The agreement was contingent on a lease being completed in 1999, he said, making it moot at this point. He also said that agreement said nothing about a specific rent amount.

Development corporation officials are now exploring whether New Jersey Transit, which has seen its number of riders climb in recent years and its space in Penn Station grow more crowded, might be able to use the space, although no deal has been struck yet, Gargano said.

Amtrak wants to use the Farley building space rent-free.

Amtrak was supposed to anchor the soaring, glass-enclosed complex in the landmark building between Eighth and Ninth Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets in Manhattan, but over the last few months, it has been weighing whether it should even continue to take part in the project, given its financial problems, said Black. The railroad had said previously that it would not pay anything for renovating the station – and Amtrak notes it already has a sweet rent deal.

“We own Pennsylvania Station, and we pay no rent,” Black said of the current station below Madison Square Garden. “We wouldn’t want to incur new rent.”

In another potential complication, if Amtrak does move ahead with the project, it will move only part of its new station, Black said. Until now, the plan was for Amtrak to move its main ticketing and waiting areas to the Farley building and keep only a small presence in the current Penn Station, said Mark Yachmetz, associate administrator for railroad development for the Federal Railroad Administration, which has been active in the planning of the new station.

Citing concerns about access to platforms under the Farley building and passenger preferences for easier access to the commuter railroads to New Jersey and Long Island, Black said that at this point, Amtrak would probably split its ticketing windows and waiting areas evenly between the current Penn Station and the new one.

This would not thrill the boutique stores and restaurants that were supposed to take space in the rest of the building, since they would be drawing customers from Amtrak trains and those passing through to and from Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit trains.

The new station, if completed, would be named after Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D), one of the project’s biggest advocates, who died last year.


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NS, Georgia negotiations continue

While talks between Norfolk Southern the Georgia DOT to use its tracks as a passenger system continue, rail transportation officials have dropped some of the locations they once proposed for station sites.

According to the Macon News-Daily of May 27, at a meeting of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority one day earlier, project manager Steve Roberts told board members that all of the proposed station sites had been affected by development, “in one way or another.”

The passenger rail line, part of an overall plan for service from Macon through Atlanta to Athens, would have four stops in Clayton County.

Officials expect the first phase of the line, from Atlanta to Lovejoy, to be open by September 2006 – but some proposed station sites may have to be relocated or redesigned, Roberts said.

“That’s what happens when you have a study and you have to wait around,” said Doug Alexander, rail program manager for the authority.

The concept for a regional rail passenger system, GRPA chairman Carl Rhodenizer said, has been around since before the authority was formed in 1994. Alexander said original plans were to have the Athens-to-Atlanta-to-Macon line running by 2000.

That waiting around included waiting for approval of the state budget which officials had hoped would include funding to match federal grants that will be used for the project and cover operating costs.

Alexander said general obligation bonds approved by Gov. Sonny Perdue included the $4 million needed to move forward on the $109 million stretch to Lovejoy.

In March, the state transportation board voted to negotiate with NS to use its tracks. Though the talks between GDOT and the railroad are being closely guarded, Roberts said, “I remain optimistic.”

He said, “We should know something more from them within the next week or two”.

In the meantime, some of the sites proposed for stations have been bought and developed, leaving rail officials looking at other options.

Roberts said the property eyed for the Lovejoy and Forest Park stations has been bought, though the Forest Park location, “hasn’t been developed yet, so we may go back to the new owner.”

The Aviation Boulevard site, officials said, may tie in to a new airport terminal, but negotiations are still under way with Atlanta and airport officials. Roberts said the authority wants to ensure the Southern Crescent “is connected to the parking facilities” at the terminal, but the “obstacle is that 9,000 parking spaces will require a structure that is nine acres, and the exact location has not been determined.”

Original plans called for the first phase to run to Macon, including a stop in Hampton.


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Macon’s station plans stall

Macon, Ga., is in danger of losing more than $885,000 in federal money to renovate a train station that served as the main hub in two world wars for transporting troops and was projected to link the city with the state’s planned commuter rail.

City officials planned to use city bond money and federal grants to redevelop Terminal Station, but planning delays, cash-flow problems and revolving-door management have stalled those efforts, The Macon Telegraph reported May 23.

The potential loss of federal funds stems from a September 30 deadline to provide state and federal officials a plan of how the money will be used to redevelop the station.

The state rejected the first four drafts of a plan produced by a financial consultant who was hired by Mayor Jack Ellis, and who does not appear to have previous transportation or development planning experience, the newspaper reported.

State officials say that Macon officials have not provided them basic information such as the number of square feet in the building, the cost of renovations or how the project would make space for both bus and rail service.

In addition, only $49,114.91 out of $1.1 million in bond money set aside to match federal grants for the project remains as of early May. Some of the bond money has been spent for purposes other than those listed in official bond documents, which bond experts warn could be illegal, the newspaper reported.

“This might be the final thing that sends the city of Macon into an irreversible situation, with the losses in revenue coupled with the bond debt service, which we obviously can’t afford,” said Councilman Stebin Horne.

Ellis declined interview requests.

Built in 1916, Terminal Station was a part of the state’s passenger rail system until 1971, when it closed. City officials bought the depot from Georgia Power in 2002, using $1.6 million in grant money from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. The station was touted as a possible gateway to Middle and South Georgia, with the state’s passenger rail fanning out from Macon to other cities.

Congress has appropriated $4.3 million for the project since fiscal year 2002, requiring that the money be used within three fiscal years – by September 30 – or be forfeited. To get the money, federal and state officials must approve a development plan. The city then must perform an environmental assessment and receive approval from the federal highway and transit administrations and the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing railroad structures at http://www.rrshs.org.


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Financial woes in Kansas City

Kansas City’s Union Station officials will try to cut $2 million in operating expenses and may defer hiring a museum director and spending on new attractions while keeping the landmark open.

Those were the strategies, including a reduced schedule, that Union Station board members explored May 21 at their first meeting since the city rebuffed a request to place a museum tax increase on the August ballot, the Kansas City Star reported.

Instead of a ballot measure, Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes pushed for creating a task force to explore options to address the station’s financial crisis.

Board members and CEO Turner White welcomed the review committee’s help and said they hoped solutions would emerge when the recommendations are released by October 1. The board debated how, in the meantime, its role will mesh with the new committee, and how it can keep the station open.

“We’re in a period of extreme financial distress,” White said, even as he expressed optimism about the review by municipal, civic, and bi-state leaders.

“This is an opportunity for Union Station to find that political constituency it has been seeking,” he said. “What’s emerged here is a way open from a door closed.”

The board’s challenge is a projected $5 million operating deficit this year. The plan, White said, is to tap $3.6 million in funds from the Missouri Development Finance Board and look for $1.5 million to $2 million in reduced spending.

The staff hopes to identify the spending cuts soon. Under one strategy, the station would remain open on a reduced schedule, although the specifics have not been determined, White said.


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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Bombardier faces heavy penalties

Bombardier, Inc. is bleeding $85,000 US a day in late-delivery fees for a monorail transit system it is building in Las Vegas, already four months behind schedule, according to a Canadian Press report of May 23.

The Montreal-based company also faces penalties for late deliveries of light rail cars for a new transit system in Minneapolis, Minn.

Bombardier’s transportation division says hitches are a normal part of complex public transportation projects, but the timing is bad as the division, the world’s largest maker of rail equipment, is under the gun from CEO Paul Tellier to improve margins.

Delays of several months on the two showcase projects, on the heels of problems on Amtrak Acela Express trains, are just the sort of profit-eating travails that irk Tellier.

After a major restructuring at Bombardier Aerospace last year, Tellier announced in March that he plans to lay off 6,600 employees at the underperforming rail division and will close seven plants in Europe.

The Las Vegas project, worth $891 million in Canadian dollars, features the company’s monorail technology, similar to the monorail at Walt Disney World in Florida, but the Vegas layout is entirely automated, without drivers or human ticket sellers.

The daily late penalties of $118,000 Cdn kicked in 45 days after the deadline of January 20, explained spokeswoman Helene Gagnon. Bombardier now estimates it won’t turn over the keys until “sometime this summer.”

“We’re late, but we’re not far from the date,” said Gagnon, noting that the deadline was set four years ago. “We want to make sure it’s fully reliable before we open it.”

Las Vegas Monorail Co., described as the first modern public transportation system in the world totally funded by the private sector, expects to attract 19 million passengers in its first year. It is connected to eight major resorts, 24,700 hotel rooms, and nine convention facilities.

Nine computerized trains of four cars each will operate up to 50 mph along the four-mile line, are undergoing tests on their track adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip. They have to run 30 consecutive days without a glitch before being declared ready for passengers.

Meanwhile the Hiawatha light rail project in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., is on track to meet a June 26 opening date for the first eight-mile phase, but again Bombardier will incur penalties for delivering the cars late.

The project, valued at $982 million Cdn, will be the first in North America to display a low-floor rail system. Bombardier’s share was to provide 24 cars for $154 million Cdn.

Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit, said Bombardier will face fines for late delivery of between one and two months for the cars, but the system should meet its opening deadline anyway because it was put off twice.

First called to open last October, the date was delayed until April 3 when the State of Minnesota ran out of funds, Gibbons explained. The transit authority’s drivers later reset this to June 26 because of a strike.

“The important thing for us is we have received the cars in accordance with the needs of our project,” Gibbons said, although he said Bombardier won’t escape the penalties.

The cars, made in Mexico with final assembly in Plattsburgh, N.Y., had a number of time-consuming defects, which Bombardier’s Gagnon described as “normal and routine anomalies.”


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Will GM sell EMD to Caterpillar?

General Motors Corp. is discussing the sale of its 84-year-old locomotive and diesel-power business to Caterpillar Inc., the head of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union said on May 25, but he doesn’t want GM’s Electro-Motive Division sold to the heavy equipment maker because of Caterpillar’s history of labor problems.

CAW President Buzz Hargrove told the Detroit Free Press on May 26 he has met with two potential buyers, Caterpillar and the Greenbriar Equity Group, a private equity firm led by former Chrysler Corp. vice-chairman Gerald Greenwald. Hargrove said Berkshire Partners, another buyout fund, was a partner with Greenbriar.

Hargrove said he has discussed the sale with Caterpillar in the past two weeks. Electro-Motive has about 3,000 workers in Illinois and Canada, according to GM’s web site. The CAW represents about 1,000 workers at Electro-Motive’s plant in London, Ontario.

“General Motors is trying to get out of the non-auto business and they usually arrange a for us with people who might look to buy something where we represent workers,” Hargrove said.

He added, “Greenbriar and Caterpillar are the two interested parties we’ve met with. Greenbriar has been interested for a year while Caterpillar seems to have gotten interested just lately.”

A GM spokesman declined to discuss Hargrove’s comments or the fate of EMD. A Caterpillar spokesman also declined to confirm or deny any interest in the GM unit.

“Name a day and our company may be in contact with another company about a potential business opportunity, but we don’t feel it’s appropriate to comment on any discussions,” said Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn.

Hargrove said he had no problem with GM selling the division, but “absolutely opposed” any sale to Caterpillar, which he said had “a horrible, horrible labor relations track record, both here and in the U.S.”

Caterpillar has 8,000 UAW workers who have been working without a contract since April 25, when they voted to reject the company’s last offer. The UAW and Caterpillar had a six-year labor stalemate in the 1990s that included two strikes.

A Wall Street auto analyst who asked not to be named said GM has been shopping its Electro-Motive unit around for over a year. While GM would not give specifics on the sales or profitability of the division, the Wall Street analyst estimated it had sales of around $800 million and GM could receive $600 million to $800 million for it.

EMD is based in LaGrange, Ill. Hourly workers there are represented by UAW Locals 719 and 694, according to GM’s web site. Workers in London, Ont., are represented by CAW #163.

Opened in 1922, EMD is one of the world’s largest builders of diesel locomotives. It also builds diesel-power engines for boats, oil rigs and power generators. GM bought the Electro-Motive Corp. in 1930.

GM has steadily sold off many of its non-automotive units in the past few years to cover its pension and health care costs.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

NS At Harry DeButts Yard

For NCI: Mike Ray

The Norfolk Southern folks at Harry DeButts Yard in Chattanooga really know how to use a paintbrush. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but to commemorate the yard’s 50th anniversary, they finished painting and decaling GP-59 No. 4610 on May 21. Nine years earlier, in 1995, the diesel shop restored E-8A 6900. Ray was the official photographer for the 2004 event.

 

CSX Intermodal simplifies routing

CSX Intermodal said last week it has begun a “comprehensive program” to improve its intermodal service network. The changes are intended to simplify operations and improve on-time train performance.

Service changes will start on June 28.

“Our goal is to have the new plan in place before the fall traffic peak, ensuring the service quality customers expect during this prime shipping period,” said Mike Parrotta, assistant vice-president for parcels and motor carriers.

He said, “Some intermodal terminals and trains will be designated for containers only and will emphasize expanded use of double-stack trains.” Other terminals and trains will handle trailers only.

CSXI terminals designated for containers-only include Charlotte, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans, Portsmouth, Va.; Buffalo, Philadelphia, South Kearny, N.J., Detroit, Evansville, Ind., and the Hulsey terminal in Atlanta.

“These locations will benefit from CSXI’s ongoing purchase of new 53-foot containers, including 1,000 new containers being delivered in 2004,” said Steven Rand, an assistant vice-president. The carrier’s North Bergen, N.J., Intermodal terminal will specialize in handling trailer shipments only.

“The simplification plan will designate key lanes regularly used by customers and reduce the amount of sorting required at CSXI’s key hubs in Jacksonville and Syracuse,” a spokesman said, and “simplified sorting operations will improve service on CSXI’s core service lanes.”

Service will be discontinued in some lanes, nearly all of which are secondary corridors with light customer usage. In some lanes, schedule cutoffs and availabilities will change. CSX Intermodal account executives are reviewing service changes with customers, and detailed tables describing the changes are being added to http://www.csxi.com.

International and parcel customers will see little change in their CSXI service offerings, “but will benefit from service improvement and increased network throughput,” the spokesman said.

“We anticipate strong import and export activity in the second half of 2004, and this program positions CSXI to handle that growth through our East Coast and West Coast ports,” said Jeff Provow, assistant vice-president for international traffic.

CSX Intermodal is online at http://www.csxi.com.


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CSX line is center of farmers’ angst

If LaPorte County, Ind., were to help the LaPorte County Farm Bureau Cooperative purchase the section of CSX rail line set to be abandoned, the county would be giving an unfair advantage to one business, according to farmers opposed to the project.

The LaPorte County Herald-Argus reported on May 25 the topic of the rail line came up at the County Council meeting May 24, and several South County farmers expressed their opposition to the county’s proposed contribution of $75,000 toward the $1.7 million sale price of the 33-mile line that runs through Union Mills, Hanna and LaCrosse on its way out of the county. The farm bureau ships approximately 3.5 million bushels per year by rail, and brings in fertilizer by rail.

County Attorney Shaw Friedman reminded the council that the Indiana DOT is offering a $1 million grant and the farm bureau plans to spend $335,000 itself. However, since the appropriation was not on the agenda, the council took no vote on the matter and it tabled a motion to sign a letter of support, fearing the letter would express intent to contribute.

Though none of the farmers said they wanted to see the line leave – it provides local farmers with rail access at the farm bureau’s grain elevator in Union Mills – they said using tax money to help one business was unfair to competition and shouldn’t be used for one small group.

“If you give the Co-Op money and not everyone else, we will suffer,” said Elwood Grieger, a farmer in the Wanatah area.

Grieger questioned the farm bureau’s claim that the rail would provide an extra dime per bushel profit. He presented the council a hand-written sheet with nearly 18 months of bean and corn shipping rates, which showed cheaper rates for truck shipping 57 percent of the time for corn and 93 percent for beans. The two methods were priced the same 30 percent of the time.

Friedman said if other businesses wanted the same benefit of tax dollar donations, they could approach the LaPorte County Commission and would likely receive the same support. The issue at hand, he said, was maintaining the line for the future of business growth.

“We want to encourage economic development and continued growth,” he said.

Dean Kaesebier, farm bureau general manager, said keeping the rail line open would help the farm bureau compete with the Starke County Farm Bureau, which some south county farmers use in lieu of LaPorte County’s bureau. He acknowledged the farm bureau could compete if forced to ship by truck, but “farmers are better off with rail.”

Jerry Smoker, a Wanatah farmer, asked how much more money the county would have to pour into the line to repair and upgrade the line.

“I don’t understand how (the selling price) is going to help anything,” he said. Kaesebier said repairs and maintenance would be about $500,000 for the first three years.

State Rep. Steve Heim (R), who represents three southeastern LaPorte County townships, said the rail service would be contracted to a private operator who would be responsible for maintenance, and with another Indiana DOT grant available for maintenance, Heim guaranteed the county would have no further expense beyond the initial donation.


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RailAmerica wants a CSX route

RailAmerica, Inc. said on May 25 that its subsidiary, Central Railroad of Indianapolis (CRI), notified the STB that it intends to lease 276 miles of railroad from CSX subject to negotiation and execution of a definitive agreement.

The line, known as the “Fort Wayne Corridor,” runs west from Crestline, Ohio to Tolleston, Ind., which is due east of Chicago. RailAmerica said it anticipates CRI will move approximately 42,000 carloads on the Fort Wayne Corridor annually.

RailAmerica’s Indiana & Ohio Railway directly connects and interchanges traffic with the Fort Wayne Corridor. Traffic on the line also interchanges with CSX, Norfolk Southern and Indiana Harbor Belt as well as all western and Chicago-based carriers through the IHB. Major customers on the line are Central Soya, Steel Dynamics, Procter & Gamble, Cargill, and National Lime & Stone. Commodities shipped on the line include agricultural products, chemicals, metals, paper, and minerals.


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Union Pacific settles $65 million suit

Complied from wire reports

Union Pacific Corp. said on May 25 it had settled a class action lawsuit related to a May 27, 2000 Louisiana derailment. Thirty-four of 113 chemical-laden cars on a UP train derailed, spilling hazardous chemicals into Bayou Des Cannes. Three of the cars exploded, and almost all of them burned. Nearly 4,000 residents were evacuated, some for as long as five days. Fireballs shot hundreds of feet into the air near the southwest Louisiana town of Eunice.

Subject to court approval, UP has agreed to pay $65 million in exchange for a release of all claims for damages. At the time of the settlement, more than 10,000 formal claims had been filed, according to the freight railroad. A spokesman said “UP will be reimbursed for this payment by its insurers and the settlement will not impact the company’s earnings.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys will recommend that U.S. District Judge Richard Haik approve the agreement and appoint a special master to decide how much each plaintiff should get, said attorney Terry Hoychick, a spokesman for the lawyers. Haik probably won't hold a hearing on whether the settlement is fair until late summer or fall, said Hoychick and Mark Davis, UP’s spokesman in Omaha.

In April 2002, the National Transportation Safety Board's investigators blamed the accident on UP’s poor track inspection system, which allowed two sections of track to separate.

Union Pacific has paid lost wages, business interruption and crop losses, evacuation costs and other expenses to people who reported them in the weeks and months after the derailment, Hoychick noted.

Union Pacific Corp. (UNP) declared a quarterly dividend of 30 cents per share on its common stock on Friday, payable July 1 to stockholders of record June 9.


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CN foresees annual 12 percent profits

Canadian National Ry. Co. stated last week it aims to increase its earnings per share by 8 to 12 percent annually over the next five years. CN, Canada’s largest railway and North America’s fifth largest, also said it hoped to reach annual revenues of $5.8 billion (C$8 billion) by 2009 and improve its operating ratio, already the best in the industry, to below 65 percent.


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UTU ratifies CP contract on Soo Line

Canadian Pacific Ry. said on Friday its Soo Line Railroad subsidiary has reached a five-year contract agreement with the United Transportation Union. About 500 train service employees work under the UTU contract.


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Intermodal sets new weekly record

Intermodal freight on U.S. railroads set a weekly record during the week ended May 22, breaking the mark that was set just four weeks earlier, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

Intermodal volume of 218,206 trailers and containers was 14.4 percent ahead of the corresponding week last year and 2.3 percent above the 213,104 moved during the week ended April 24 when the previous record was set. Trailer traffic was up 15.9 percent while container volume showed a 14.4 percent gain.

Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 344,091 units, up 4.0 percent from last year. Total volume was estimated at 31.3 billion ton-miles, up 4.3 percent from the corresponding week last year.

Twelve of 19 carload commodity groups showed gains from last year, with coke, up 23.3 percent from last year; metallic ores up 18.4 percent; grain up 15.7 percent; and chemicals up 13.0 percent. Among commodities registering declines were grain mill products, off 10.8 percent, and pulp, paper and allied products, down 6.0 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 20 weeks of 2004: 6,687,421 carloads, up 3.4 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 4,056,525 trailers or containers, up 8.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 602.7 billion ton-miles, up 4.8 percent from last year’s first 20 weeks.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended May 22 carload traffic totaled 71,262 cars, up 18.6 percent from last year, with agricultural products up 48.8 percent and chemicals up 31.9 percent. Intermodal traffic totaled 44,544 trailers or containers, up 13.5 percent from last year. The year-ago week included the Victoria Day national holiday; this year’s week did not.

Cumulative originations for the first 20 weeks of 2004 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,360,695 carloads, up 8.1 percent from last year, and 822,758 trailers and containers, up 0.3 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 20 weeks of 2004 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 7,632,763 carloads, up 4.1 percent from last year and 4,616,533 trailers and containers, up 6.4 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended May 22 totaled 8,396 cars, down 3.7 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 2,657 originated trailers or containers, down 32.0 percent from the 20th week of 2003. For the first 20 weeks of 2004, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 166,907 cars, down 4.7 percent from last year, and 63,874 trailers or containers, down 12.2 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 90 percent of Canadian rail traffic.

The AAR online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)32.9432.23
Canadian National(CNI)39.4837.15
Canadian Pacific(CP)22.3921.70
CSX(CSX)31.6030.50
Florida East Coast(FLA)36.1835.44
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)22.8621.65
Kansas City Southern(KSU)13.0012.67
Norfolk Southern(NSC)24.2323.84
Union Pacific(UNP)58.3256.26


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EDITORIALS...  Editorials...

We’d like to know, too

Florida newspaper editors and columnists are joining the fight for the Sunshine State to fund its bullet train, as the Constitutional amendment of two years ago demands. As St. Petersburg, Fla., Times columnist Howard Troxler put it in his May 23 column titled, “Voters have some nerve telling Jeb what to do,” he writes, “Gov. Jeb Bush hates the high-speed rail project that Florida voters created in the 2000 election.

“He really hates it.

“He dislikes it so much that, even though high-speed rail is part of the Florida Constitution that he took a solemn oath to uphold, he has tried his darndest not to build it.

“He dislikes it so much that he has made its repeal one of his top priorities.

“Why does the governor have such strong feelings against high-speed rail? After all, in many other ways, Jeb Bush is a techno-future, Buck Rogers kind of guy.

“Remember that he’s our first e-mail governor. He is the guy who turned our state into “MyFlorida.com.”

“He is the guy who is forking over hundreds of millions of dollars of our money to the Scripps Research Institute.

“Yet when it comes to thinking of creative alternatives to buying Hummers, spending $2 a gallon for gas, and fighting traffic along Interstate 4, the governor is stuck back in the last century.”

It is nice to see the general media climb aboard. First, of course, there is the state Constitution. The voters said, “Yes, we want fast trains,” and it will take 35 years to complete the project with 150-mph trains running from Tampa to Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and eventually to Tallahassee. It is not a fly-by-night job.

Like writer Troxler, we are mystified why Bush is so opposed to fast trains.

Troxler writes, “There are those who think this is a conspiracy, that Jeb opposes the choo-choo because it is in his family’s genes – Bushes helping the oil companies, you know.

“But I don’t think that’s it at all. I think the governor opposes high-speed rail simply because he is a stubborn man who does not like to be ordered around by the voters.”

Troxler may be right, but we don’t know, either. Bush says the state can’t afford it. We disagree. The state has a positive cash flow, unlike so many other states following the recent economic downturn.

To read Howard Troxler’s entire column, point your browser to http://www.sptimes.com/2004/05/23/Columns/Voters_have_some_nerv.shtml.


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Banning photography

We find it absurd that major commuter railroads like the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit, and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority find it logical to stop anyone from taking photographs whether on the property or not.

We view it as a knee-jerk reaction simply so managers can say to the public, “See? We’ve done something to hinder terrorists.”

If we were terrorists, we could find several ways to photograph an interlocking, a piece of equipment, a signal mast and so on without being seen. We will not outline any examples for fear of giving a terrorist ideas.

Railroad journalists are out in the open. They do not try to hide what they are doing. They are openly taking pictures of trains and the rights-of-way. They often, in fact, are the eyes and ears that used to be railroad employees, but there are few towers any more. Switch and signal maintainers can’t be everywhere at the same time, so photographers often become the surrogate watchers over the property. Many call in problems when they see something amiss. Cell phones are wonderful devices.

Absurd, indeed.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

The recent bans on photography and harassment of photographers is another example of a triumph of appearance over substance. It is also a tremendous waste of time and resources for the transit and law enforcement communities. As noted in the D:F story and elsewhere, I have never seen a single report of an act of terrorism that was attributable to photography – and, if resourceful terrorists really wanted photos, they could probably figure out a way to make these covertly, so that they would not be noticed.

The major safety-related problem for railroads and rail transit systems is not terrorism but deteriorating infrastructure; but, dealing with the latter problem would require real effort, rather than just something that gives the appearance of an effort.

As a professional photographer and journalist with substantial publication credits, I can usually get the requisite permits or access, yet I feel bad for casual photographers who are going to have to put up with needless abuse and restriction of their rights.

I am also concerned about the kind of picture this presents of the U.S. to the rest of the world. My friends in Europe tell me that, rightly or wrongly, the U.S. is now perceived as a very tourist-unfriendly country.

Many European countries have had to deal with terrorism within their borders for far longer than the U.S.. yet, with the possible exception of former Eastern Block countries before the fall of the Soviet Union, I am not aware of any bans on the photography of railroads and transit systems in that part of the world.

Inevitably, these new bans on photography will only lead to ill will and ultimately court cases, which will further tie up the scarce resources of these transit systems.

By the way, I frequently call in safety problems – typically broken or malfunctioning grade crossing equipment – to major railroads, and have always had such calls gratefully accepted and acknowledged. In fact, I have a substantial piece on my website that would help others to report such problems, at http://www.robl.w1.com/brfb/brfb-14.htm.

If railroaders, fans, and others with interests in railroads and transit feel that they are not welcome, even watching or photographing these systems from public property, this is likely to lead to fewer safety-related reports from the public.

Ernest H. Robl
Durham, N.C.


Dear Editor:

The May 24 edition of D:F’s two lead articles, “Homeland Security orders Amtrak, commuter rails, to increase security,” and “Civil liberties questions: Some commuter railroads ban photography on their property” – display a “restricting signal” to we railfan photographers.

Then I had to laugh when I read later in the issue, “Picture our train. Amtrak launches 2005 wall calendar photo contest.” Perhaps Amtrak’s disclaimer should include, “Amtrak will not be liable for bail...”

The more I think about it, the harder I laugh!

There’s all kind of buzz on the New York City subway-related web boards about their alleged ban. My idea was to ask every commuter to be a railfan – and bring a camera. Can you imagine one million photographers?

Heh!

Todd Glickman
Cambridge, Mass.


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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

The way we were is a special feature addition to Destination: Freedom this week.

Bay Colony means business on Cape Cod

Click on the above title link for the article.


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End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. “True color” Joint Photographers Group (.jpg) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in process color (CMYK) or tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch.

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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