Vol. 7 No. 34
August 7, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

A weekly North American rail and transit update

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

* Now in our Seventh Year *

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

  News Items... 
Florida plans to invest $491 million toward billion-dollar
   commuter rail line
Amtrak cuts Acela speeds because of hot weather
  APTA News… 
4.25 percent increase in U.S. public transit ridership in
   first quarter 2006
Light rail ridership report for first quarter
  Commuter lines… 
MBTA, RIDOT officially open Pawtucket layover facility
Heat and storms slow the trains
  Off the main line… 
Three marketing programs recognized for innovation
Local ffestivities boost summer ridership
Board gives green light to station
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Financial lines… 
Two Kansas City area companies reported earnings;
   beat Wall Street expectations.
Market upswing for Genesee & Wyoming, Inc.,
   and RailAmerica, Inc.
Canadian Pacific Railway Limited declares dividend
  Opinion… 
Make the “T” into an “S ?”
  We get letters… 
  End notes… 

NEWS ITEMS...  News items...

Florida plans to invest $491 million toward
billion-dollar commuter rail line

Source: From the Internet via Railway Age

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced last week an agreement in principle under which the state will invest $491 million “to improve infrastructure and expand capacity on two existing rail lines, one of which will be used to establish commuter rail service through a multi-county stretch in the region.” The statement’s commitment is part of a plan to create a commuter rail system serving the Orlando area that sources say will cost nearly $1 billion. In addition to infrastructure acquisition and improvement, the commuter system will require engineering, station construction, and railcar purchases that will cost an estimated $473.5 million. Republican Congressman John L. Mica, a long-time rail advocate, pledged to work with the Federal Transit Administration for federal funding of half that amount. State and local governments will also contribute.

Today’s announcement said, “Planners expect to have the first phase operational in 2009, ahead of the start of the $2.3 billion reconstruction of I-4 between Kirkman Road and State Road 434. The commuter rail system is expected to carry as many passengers during peak hours as a single lane of I-4.”

(It was highway reconstruction along the southeastern coast of Florida a number of years ago that led to a “temporary” commuter rail line in the 72-mile Miami-West Palm Beach-corridor that was enormously successful and is thriving under the name of Tri-Rail. It is currently completing a $333 million double-tracking expansion.)

The $491 million commitment announced today includes $318 million “to improve the infrastructure and expand capacity on existing train tracks,” $150 million to purchase 63 miles of CSXT tracks between DeLand in Volusia County and Poinciana in Osceola County (which will be developed for peak and some off-peak commuter service), and $23 million to relocate operations from Taft Yard in Orlando to the new integrated Logistics Center.

“A portion of rail-freight through traffic will be relocated to an alternate corridor which would be expanded in a joint public-private partnership between the state and CSXT,” said the announcement.

The $318 million investment in existing tracks breaks down this way: $198 million for projects on the CSXT line between Baldwin and Plant City; $59 million to build five overpasses on this line; $52 million on other, unspecified CSXT lines around the state; and $9 million to build access roads to the new Integrated Logistics Center in Winter Haven, “the mother of all rail yards,” which CSXT will build.

CSX Corp. Chairman and CEO Michael J. Ward said in a prepared statement, “Today, our local, state, and federal leaders have recognized that we can meet future transportation needs in a region that is growing by leaps and bounds while also addressing the urgent need for commuter service in and around Central Florida.”


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Amtrak cuts Acela speeds because of hot weather

From the Internet via Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA, AUGUST 3-- The heat wave had its effect on Amtrak. Because of the high heat conditions, Amtrak temporarily cut speeds last week on its Acela trains from 135 miles per hour down to 80 miles per hour.

The reason is safety.

Amtrak said the combination of high temperatures and high train speed could potentially damage the track. Speed reductions can prevent damage, allow for better monitoring of changes in rail conditions, and prevent potential accidents.


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APTA...  APTA News...

4.25 percent increase in U.S. public
transit ridership in first quarter 2006

DALLAS, AUG 3 --Digital Recorders, Inc. (DRI) (Nasdaq:TBUS), a digital communications technology leader in the transportation, law enforcement, and security industries, noted today that, according to a recent report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), U.S. public transportation ridership grew by 4.25 percent in first quarter 2006 compared to the same period last year.

According to the APTA ridership report, nearly 2.5 billion trips were taken using public transportation in first quarter 2006, and all modes of public transportation showed ridership increases.

“Over the last 10 years, U.S. transit ridership has increased an average of approximately 2.2 percent annually. So, this 4.25 percent increase in one quarter is most noteworthy. According to APTA, high gas prices are driving more Americans to make their daily commutes using public transportation. With increased transit ridership potentially comes an increased demand for all modes of public transportation and related equipment in DRI’s domestic market. Continued increases in U.S. transit ridership could help DRI to achieve further growth,” David L. Turney, the Company’s Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, said.


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Light rail ridership report for first quarter

According to the APTA ridership report, light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys) had an 11.2 percent increase in first quarter 2006 -- the highest percentage of increase among all modes. Bus ridership increased by 4.5 percent during the same period, which was the second highest percentage of increase among all modes. For more information about the first quarter 2006 APTA ridership report, go to www.apta.com.


About APTA:

APTA is a non-profit international association of 1,600 member organizations, including public transportation systems; planning, design, construction and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; and state associations and departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical public transportation services and products. APTA members serve more than 90 percent of persons using public transportation in the United States and Canada.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBTA and RI officaisl cut ribbon to open Pawtucket layover facility

Photo: MBTA

MBTA and Rhode Island officials and guests cut a ribbon to open the new train layover facility in Pawtucket, RI

Photo: Evan Richman/BostonGlobe   

Emily Gifford drank plenty of water in a hot train car at Boston’s North Station while waiting to travel to Lowell.

Heat and storms slow the trains

By DF Staff

According to an AP report, MBTA rail service between Boston and Providence was disrupted last Wednesday night when a lightning strike caused signal problems. Passengers were being picked up by buses at the Route 128 rail station in Westwood, MA for various destinations. The storms were associated with a record-breaking heat wave that moved across the US this past week.

According to MBTA general manager Dan Grabauskas the agency imposed speed restrictions on trains and above-ground trolleys once temperatures reach the mid-90s. The ‘T’ also increased visual inspections of tracks. Grabauskas says trains that often travel at 60 miles per hour will be restricted to 40 miles per hour, and that could mean delays of 15 to 30 minutes for the afternoon commute. During such high-heat, the rails on which trains operate can expand causing warping which increases the risk of derailment for passing trains. As such, railroads have to imposed speed restrictions that can result in schedule delays. While an inconvenience, the delays are enacted for the safety of the passenger.

MBTA, RIDOT officially open
Pawtucket layover facility

 

By DF Staff & MBTA Press Release

 

Last week, MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas was joined by U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director, James R. Capaldi, at the official opening of the Pawtucket Layover Facility in Rhode Island. A joint venture between the two transportation agencies, the new layover facility boasts a six-track commuter rail yard for the purpose of overnight storage of commuter rail equipment.

“With gas prices rising and congestion on our roads, increasing commuter rail service in Rhode Island is vital to our economy and quality of life. I am pleased to have secured $10 million for this facility and proud of the strong partnership among the federal government, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island that made it possible,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed.

Prior to opening the new facility, trains were stored at an overcrowded facility in Attleboro, Massachusetts several communities north of the new facility. In recent years neighbor complaints of idling trains and noise had forced the MBTA to tow trains in to Boston at night and restrict the yard’s usage during daytime hours. The new facility is located just off Interstate Route 95 in an industrial area.

Touting the many benefits that this new layover facility will ultimately provide Rhode Island residents, MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said, “This state of the art facility is capable of housing more equipment, which means more service for our customers. Our mission is to preserve our customer base, while at the same time attract more customers.

“Over the last few years, we have made major strides in our effort to upgrade Rhode Island’s transportation system, Governor Carcieri said. “This new layover facility in Pawtucket will build on work going on in other parts of the state to improve our highways, rebuild our bridges and extend rail service to Warwick and Wickford. This is the type of project that most Rhode Islanders never see, but it is nonetheless essential for ensuring the efficiency of our state’s transportation network.

The new storage facility will also factor into planned service to Rhode Island’s T.F. Green Airport Station once completed. Ground was recently broken for that project.

“When we invest in transit, we invest in local economies so that reliable, cost-effective transit service can act as a magnet for development and investment,” said Sandy Bushue, FTA Deputy Administrator.

The new facility will accommodate the recent expansion of MBTA commuter rail service on the Providence-Boston corridor. On July 24th the number of weekday roundtrips between South Station and Providence increased from 11 to 15. In addition, for the first time weekend service is available providing nine roundtrips on Saturdays and seven roundtrips on Sundays.

Construction of the Pawtucket Layover Facility began in May 2003 at a cost of $18.5 million.

MBTA train rests at Pawtucket layover yard

Photo: MBTA

The new layover facility is located just north of the Providence station in Pawtucket, RI in an industrial area just off Interstate Route 95.

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

Three marketing programs recognized for innovation

Source: Amtrak Ink

The Transportation Marketing & Communications Association (TMCA) awarded the Marketing department with three TMCA 2006 Compass Awards for outstanding marketing communications initiatives: two Awards of Excellence and an Award of Merit.

An Award for Excellence in the New Media category was earned for the creation of the Amtrak Guest Rewards® member Web site, promotional e-mails and e-statements.

A second Award of Excellence was received in the Publications category for the company’s redesigned 2005-2006 Amtrak America brochure that includes a system map, train routes, information about riding trains, a glossary of train terms, descriptions about accommodations and dining services, and tips for planning a trip. Amtrak Guest Rewards was recognized a second time with an Award of Merit in the Communications Collateral category for its “Someone Like Me” message, which was created to attract new members and thank existing members for their business. Using images and more personalized copy that highlight the diverse range of AGR members, the message is designed to broaden the appeal of the program.

The Compass Awards, known previously as Tranny Awards, were presented on May 23 at TMCA’s Annual Conference and Expo in Keystone, Colo. The nearly 170 attendees included marketing professionals, creative agencies, suppliers and media, representing railroads, motor carriers, airlines, ocean carriers, port authorities, technology innovators and passenger transit organizations.

Contributed by Amanda Hoey


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Local festivities boost summer ridership

DF Staff and Amtrak Ink

Thousands of athletes and spectators from more than 70 countries were expected to travel to Chicago in July to attend the Gay Games. Amtrak had a special promotion in place to attract travelers going to the week-long series of events, which featured competitions in 30 sports, along with band and choral performances from July 15 to 22 at several venues including Wrigley and Soldier fields.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, the gay and lesbian community represents a $65 billion market in the United States.

Passengers traveling to the games were to have received a 15 percent discount off the lowest available rail fare. The offer was jointly promoted by Amtrak and the Gay Games organization.

Similar programs are also being offered in other parts of the country to take advantage of other large summer gatherings or festivals.

To promote travel on the Pacific Surfliners, Amtrak was the Official Transportation Sponsor of the 13th Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival held July 29 and 30, which was expected to attract 75,000 attendees. Amtrak was being featured on the festival’s Web site and 10,000 rack cards were distributed at consumer shows, in stations and at hotels.

The company is also a sponsor of Fort Worth’s largest multi-day Hispanic/Latino festival — Gran Fiesta de Fort Worth —held July 28, 29 and 30. The free event, which was expected to have attracted 75,000 people, is a colorful outdoor celebration of Latin music, art and cuisine. Amtrak’s involvement included a booth at the event and train ticket giveaways on five local Tejano radio stations a week prior to the event.


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Board gives green light to station

From the Internet

BRATTLEBORO. VT, AUG 2 – Despite spending concerns, the Town of Brattleboro is making a major investment in their train station, named like so many others in America – Union Station. In a story for the Brattleboro Reformer, writer Cate Lecuyer reports the progress of the town’s commitment to this project.

When finished, it will be a true multi-modal center with a large parking garage built in 2003, a bus stop, expanded waiting area, a new canopy, handicapped access, improved landscaping -- all located on the riverfront.

The town purchased the half-acre property in May for $625,000 and must buy two other properties in addition, one owned by Canadian National Railway and the other by Merrill Gas. The Select board will borrow $68,700 in anticipation of federal grant funds for the project; part of this loan will go toward the purchase of these properties.

The town will also pay $20,000. for the moving expenses of two brothers who operate an auto and truck repair shop in the present station location. In a separate issue, the brothers sued the town in 2004, claiming a sign that advertised the upgrades to Union Station hurt their businesses for six years. At the end of June, Jim Maxwell, the lawyer representing the brothers, amended the lawsuit, asking to pay for relocation costs of the businesses, which is a federal requirement.

Town Manager Jerry Remillard agreed.

Federal funds will pay for 80 percent of the project, but some town officials fear their costs may run higher than the present estimated share.

“This feels like this is another one of these projects that needs to be very clearly delineated,” said Spoon Agave, a former board member. “I have a feeling were going to be spending much more money that we ever thought.”

Town Manager Jerry Remillard said the town may have to cut back the project if construction bids are too high.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)69.0468.88
Canadian National (CNI)40.5940.55
Canadian Pacific (CP)47.8048.44
CSX (CSX)61.9460.44
Florida East Coast (FLA)50.7946.94
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.6426.62
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.9724.30
Norfolk Southern (NSC)41.9343.76
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.1118.73
Union Pacific (UNP)83.8585.22


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FINANCIA LLINES...  Financial lines...

Two Kansas City area companies beat Wall Street expectations

Garmin Ltd. and Kansas City Southern, report earnings

AUGUST 2 –The Kansas City Star reported that, in early trading, shares of each of the above companies soared.

“Shares of one of them stayed up while shares of the other took investors on a wild ride.

Overall, strong earnings reports from Time Warner Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. helped markets recover from two consecutive days of losses, the report continued. “In a volatile trading session, shares of Olathe-based Garmin made a swing of almost $13 to a high of $98.82 to a low of $88.15 before closing at $88.14, down $1.86 or 2.07 percent. Volume of more than 15.6 million shares was almost 9.5 times the daily average. “Kansas City Southern started the day much the same way as Garmin, reporting second-quarter results that beat expectations. The transportation holding company swung from a loss a year ago to a profit of 24 cents a share. Wall Street had predicted earnings per share of 19 cents. “Although Kansas City Southern’s shares didn’t jump as high or as fast as Garmin’s, they mostly stayed up when they got there. Kansas City Southern gained as much as $3 to $26.24 before closing at $25.51, up $2.27, or 9.77 percent. Volume was a little more than twice the daily average on the New York Stock Exchange.”


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Market upswing of two short line railroads

Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., and RailAmerica, Inc.

AUGUST 2 -- “Shares of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. rose 71 cents, or 2.8 percent, to close at $25.83 on the New York Stock Exchange,” according to the report.

“Genesee & Wyoming reported last Tuesday that its profits rose sharply, although excluding the benefit of the sale of one business unit and the purchase of another, its results missed Wall Street’s forecast. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial forecast 40 cents per share and Genesee & Wyoming delivered 35 cents per share, excluding the benefits.

“RailAmerica Inc. finished 6 cents higher at $9.87 on the Big Board. RailAmerica reported last week that its profit fell on restructuring and other costs, while revenue rose 13 percent. RailAmerica earned 20 cents per share in the quarter and analysts forecast 21 cents.

“Much of the activity, however, could be traced to Kansas City Southern, which like almost the entire rail industry reported strong pricing gains and mostly higher volumes, particularly in the fast-growing coal segment.

One exception was Genesee & Wyoming, continued the report. Their coal volumes declined because of plant maintenance and inclement weather but they were able to offset the shortcoming through above average pricing.

“Like their Class I peers, the short liners are also benefiting from fuel surcharges that aren’t likely to step back as oil prices remain well over $70 a barrel.

Kansas City Southern ended at $25.51, up $2.27 or 9.8 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.”


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Canadian Pacific Railway Limited declares dividend

From the Internet via Canadian Pacific Railway

CALGARY, AUGUST 2 / CNW / - The Board of Directors of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited last week declared a quarterly dividend of eighteen and three quarter cents ($0.1875) Canadian per share on the outstanding Common Shares. The dividend is payable on October 30, 2006, to holders of record at the close of business on September 29, 2006.

Canadian Pacific Railway is a transcontinental carrier operating in Canada and the U.S. Its 13,500-mile rail network serves the principal centres of Canada, from Montreal to Vancouver, and the U.S. Northeast and Midwest regions. CPR feeds directly into America’s heartland from the East and West coasts. Alliances with other carriers extend its market reach throughout the U.S. and into Mexico. Canadian Pacific Logistics Solutions provides logistics and supply chain expertise worldwide. Canadian Pacific Railway is marking its 125th anniversary in 2006. For more information, visit CPR’s website at www.cpr.ca.


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OPINION...  Opinion...

Make the “T” into an “S ?”

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

I mentioned to the staff of D:F, that if Boston ever does connect the southern part of its commuter rail network with the northern half, be it with a north-south connector rail tunnel in the city or be it with some other project, the city and region around Boston will have created an American “S-Bahn.” They asked me to elaborate from my perspective in central Europe, about how such a development would bring an added degree of freedom and mobility to American cities. I asked British rail fan and historian James Lashmer, who also lived in the USA and Canada for 21 years and in Germany for two years, to respond to the proposed Boston north-south rail tunnel connector.

Lashmer explains: “During the later part of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, commuter railroads in Europe and in the eastern part of North America were built out from cities like spokes on a wheel. In many cases different railroad companies owned different ‘spokes’ and often built separate terminals in the city to serve only their rail lines. These rail terminals in cities such as Berlin, Leipzig, Paris, London, Prague, Budapest and elsewhere in Europe remained separated from their cross-town rivals for many decades, with the only connections possible via city streets or perhaps underground subways or metros. In fact this situation still exists partially today in London, Budapest and Prague.”

Lashmer added: “In the USA a similar scenario developed in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston, among other North American cities, where competing railroads built separate terminals and stations in these cities aligned to serve their particular service regions and routes. In Boston rail lines north of the city were generally developed by the Boston and Maine Railroad or one of its numerous predecessors or subsidiaries. A number of separate terminals of these rail lines were constructed in the northern part of the city and were consolidated over the years and decades into what is now North Station.”

Lashmer continues: “Likewise four separate rail terminals of four independent rail companies serving a number of rail lines radiating out from Boston to the south and west were eventually consolidated into the New York, New Haven and Hartford’s South Union Station, today known as South Station, by the end of the 19th century. Over 100 years later Boston still remains with these two separate, unconnected passenger railroad terminals. Similarly in New York, Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal and the rail routes they serve are essentially isolated from each other. Within Penn Station, commuter trains which serve Long Island are inhibited by technical issues with electrification from continuing west into New Jersey, while commuter trains from New Jersey are likewise unable to continue eastwards to numerous destinations on Long Island.”

Meanwhile in Europe, as the railroads began to rebuild from the destruction of World War 2, both innovation and necessity began to persuade transportation planners to connect isolated rail terminals in large cities like Berlin, Paris and Munich in order serve rapidly rising ridership on commuter trains as well as avoiding expensive rebuilding of certain rail terminals to their pre-war glory. Both jobs and population grew much faster on the periphery of many large European cities in the post war era, than did it in the war-ravaged centers, thus creating demand for suburb-to-suburb commuter travel. Perhaps the best examples of this are three cities here in Germany, Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, all of which built tunnels under their city centers in the early 1970s to connect existing hub-and-spoke commuter and suburban rail lines into a regional network.

More than a decade before Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart built these urban rail tunnels for their S-Bahn regional rail systems, Melbourne Australia connected the west and east sides of its suburban commuter rail routes to make a regional rail network, also with a tunnel in the center of the city. A few years after the cities of Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich completed S-Bahn commuter train tunnels in their city centers, the City of Philadelphia built a tunnel in city center to connect Suburban Penn Station with rail routes which formerly terminated at Reading Terminal. A new underground commuter rail station, Market East Station, was built short distance east of the existing underground Suburban Station. The tunnel made it possible for SEPTA commuter trains, and more importantly their passengers, to travel from one end of the greater Philadelphia area to another without additional hassle and trouble.

On a much more grand scale Paris and the region around Paris, called Ile de France, have continuously added capacity since the 1950s to the “RER“ network of commuter rail lines which criss-cross the city of Paris and reach into many of its outer suburban areas, some as much as 40 – 50 km (25 – 31 miles) away from the city center. The Pairs RER regional rail system provides commuter rail services on at least 14 separate commuter rail lines to a population of 10 million living in a 3000 square-mile region of urban, suburban and rural communities.

Jim Lashmer comments: “If Boston goes ahead with connector rail tunnel between North Station and South Station, which it certainly should, it should also invest in electrifying most of the northern and southern halves of its commuter rail system and acquire EMU rolling stock similar to that in use in either Connecticut or Philadelphia. The 25 kV commercial frequency power supply on the New-Haven to Boston main line is similar to recent electrification projects in the U.K., France, Japan, China and Spain and should be expanded in the Boston region. The 25 kV AC commercial frequency electrification standard has proven to be cost effective compared to ‘legacy’ electrification systems in places such as New York – Philadelphia – Washington, Germany, Holland, Italy, and other places where unusual line frequencies of 16.7 Hz, 25 Hz or high voltage DC require the installation of expensive and unique step-down transformers and power converters.”

Lashmer adds: “The recent practice of each city and state in the USA to write unique specifications and designs for rolling stock is not supportable any longer. It is a waste of taxpayer resources for states like Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to go their separate ways in specifying and acquiring the next generation of EMUs. In the mid-1970s they worked together to acquire EMUs which had common components, suspension, propulsion and electrical systems for the Silverliner 4 and M-2 EMUs, respectively, even though the Silverliners in Pennsylvania look quite different to the M-2 EMUs in Connecticut. This sort of cooperation should continue and expand in the 21st century, instead of each city and region trying to ‘redesign the wheel’ on its own. Whatever Boston and other cities in America do to develop their regional rail systems, they must work together to develop common standards for station and rolling stock designs.”

In the USA both New York and Chicago have plans on the drawing board to connect currently separate and isolated commuter train routes into cross regional rail networks. Time will tell if either city can find the funding to make these proposals become reality. But transit planners have long ago realized the advantage of having a true regional rail network which permits travel across a large metropolitan area, and not just a collection of rail “spokes” which terminate in a center city hub. A center-city connection between isolated rail lines can leverage a traditional hub-and-spoke commuter rail system into a regional rail network. Philadelphia, Melbourne, Sydney and numerous cities here in Europe have proven the concept works well and provides an added degree of freedom for the traveling public. It only makes sense for Boston to follow the example of these other leading cities by transforming the isolated hub-and-spoke commuter rail system of Boston’s “T” into an American “S-Bahn” regional rail network.

Many thanks to Jim Lashmer, who provided valuable insight and background information for this piece, as well as his past participation in providing historical information on railroad development in the U.S., U.K. and Europe.

  -  David Beale

MBTA Route Map

Figure 1 - MBTA Commuter Rail Map

MBTA Commuter Rail Map (commuter rail lines shown in purple color). – The system is really two separate and independent hub and spoke rail networks – a journey by train from Needham, MA to Salem MA involves a tortuous change of stations in downtown Boston.

SEPTA Route Map

Figure 2 - SEPTA Commuter Rail Map

SEPTA Commuter Rail Map – commuter rail lines are in gray color. Two separate rail networks were joined together in 1984 with the opening of a cross-town rail tunnel east of Suburban Station. The project included the new underground station “Market East“ in the heart of the city as well as removal of train operations from Reading Terminal, now used as a convention center and exhibition hall. One can travel from Elwyn, PA to West Trenton, NJ (on opposite ends of the city) with one train, as just one example.

Stuttgart’s-Bahn Route Map

Figure 3 - Stuttgart’s-Bahn commuter train network

Stuttgart’s-Bahn commuter train network is relatively simple to illustrate – the center city tunnel, which connects the network together, can be seen in the center section between Schwabstrasse and Hauptbahnhof (Central Station). Northeast of Hauptbahnhof the city tunnel ends and the S-Bahn routes merge with the surface level Deutsche Bahn rail lines at Nordbahnhof (North Station) and Bad Cannstatt.

Figure 4 - Munich S-Bahn corridor

Somewhat more complex to illustrate is the Munich S-Bahn corridor and tunnel, which were hurried into construction in the late 1960s in order to be ready for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games. This map also shows surface level and underground light rail and subway lines, designated with U1, U2, U3, etc. The main S-Bahn corridor runs from Westkreuz to Leuchtenberg Ring, the underground portion of this rail corridor is from Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) through the city center to Ostbahnhof (East Station).
Frankfurt am Main S-Bahn system route map

Figure 5 - Frankfurt am Main S-Bahn system

Perhaps the most complex to look at on a map is the Frankfurt am Main S-Bahn system. All S-Bahn commuter rail lines are in light green color. Other colors are used to illustrate regional trains, which typically run much less frequently than S-Bahn trains. The underground S-Bahn tunnel, constructed approximately 30 years ago, starts at Hauptbahnhof and makes an arc to the east and then south under the city center and under the Main River, then splits to the east at Mühlberg and to the west at Lokal and Südbahnhof (South Station). It is obvious to see that in the busy and populous Frankfurt / Wiesbaden / Hanau / Offenbach / Mainz metropolitan area, perhaps the most “American“ looking and feeling region in Germany, that the rail network has evolved into a matrix form and is no longer a typical hub and spoke commuter rail system that it once was three or four decades ago.

RER rail network route map in and around Paris, France

Figure 6 - RER rail network in and around Paris, France

Perhaps the longest spanning commuter rail system in Europe is the RER rail network in and around Paris. The City of Paris is depicted as the white area in the center of the map; the remaining areas are suburban and rural areas. There are four separate rail tunnels in the center of Paris used for this network. The system uses a mixture of single level and double-decker EMU train sets. Due to varying station platform lengths, heights, tunnel heights and clearances, and overhead traction power supply voltages (either 1500 VDC or 25 kVAC) the EMU rolling stock in use on these lines is not fully interchangeable. Not shown on this map are the traditional commuter and regional rail lines, which terminate at various Paris rail terminals such as Montparnesse, Gare du Nord, Austerlitz, St. Lazare, etc. and therefore do not cross through the city. Likewise TGV trains do not travel through the center of Paris, they terminate at three of the train terminals in the center city. In theory TGV trains could cross through the city on at least one of these routes, the RER Line B (in blue), albeit at speeds of not much more than about 45 mph. However there are no plans for such operations. A north-south connector tunnel through Paris dedicated to TGV trains has been proposed but has not so far been pursued beyond the concept stage.

Melbourne Australia route map

Figure 7 - Melbourne Australia

Melbourne Australia has a very extensive hub-and-spoke commuter rail system in addition to its famous, and perhaps the world’s most extensive urban trolley and street car system. The commuter rail network uses mostly electric MU train sets which are powered by 1500 VDC overhead lines. A few services operate with diesel locomotive hauled coaches to reach certain outlying sectors where electrification has not yet been installed. The yellow, blue and red colors on the various lines shown on the map indicate fare zones and regions. Commuter trains actually use two separate routes to travel through the downtown area. The first thru-city route is the semi-underground main line, which runs through Flinders Street Station, the central station for downtown Melbourne. The second route is a center city tunnel parallel to and several city blocks north of the main line running through Flinders Street Station.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor,

A rail link in Boston would be a critical move in easing congestion and providing more convenience for tens of thousands of commuters. While your editorial blasted the idea of an urban ring, if appropriately built, it too would be quite useful. Of course, wouldn’t it great to build both, and kill two birds with one stone?

It would. And it could be done. A North-South rail link would let trains run between South Station and North Station, with most or all trains stopping at those two termini, as well as possibly a central station. Thus, commuter could transfer to the Green, Orange, Red, and maybe Blue lines (more noise should be made about what folly it is to bow to the taxicab lobby and refuse to build the Blue Line straight in to the airport), as well as commute through the city. Still, destinations in Cambridge, Back Bay, Kenmore and many other areas would require a transfer of some sort.

The best solution would be to build a full loop. It could use the hypothetical North-South link, then travel along the Grand Junction right-of-way through Cambridge (with a stop adjacent to the Kendall station), cross the Charles River and continue along the current Worcester-Framingham line back to Back Bay, with a stop at Kenmore, with a loop to the Southwest Corridor for trains on those lines. All trains would come in to the city, loop around and stop at each of these stops (all of which have transfers to subway lines) before returning to their termini. Other trains could run a continual loop. Not only would it be more convenient for many, many commuters, it would take pressure off the crowded subway lines, especially the Green Line in Back Bay. It is impossible to squeeze on to a car between Park and Kenmore at rush hour when the Red Sox are in town!

Is it doable? Certainly. In the 1970s, Melbourne, Australia faced a similar conundrum -- they had two stub-end rail stations which were filled to capacity. And their solution was to build a loop mostly under (with some at or above grade) their Central Business District. Trains in that city, similar to Boston in size and with a similar number of commuter rail lines, stop at five stations and make the loop through downtown in about fifteen minutes on the four-track loop. And because of the added capacity there, all lines run every ten to thirty minutes, all day long.

Ari Ofsevit
Newton, Mass
(currently hiking the Appalachian trail)

We explore various comparisons in Dave Beale’s Opinion piece just above and include a map of the Melbourne system - Ed.


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End Notes...

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