In this edition...
A special Labor Day remembrance to all our hard working citizens
and to our troops working abroad, from NCI
Changes at NCI...
From the Publisher:
To Our Readers
This week marks a transition in the life of the National Corridors Initiative, with the accession as editor of Molly McKay, a longtime environmental and transportation activist as editor of our newsletter Destination:Freedom.
But first, thanks to founding editor Leo King for his many years of hard work and dedication in making Destination:Freedom a reliable, readable, and relevant newsletter. Leo is one of those unusual talents who can do many things, and who possesses work habits that carry the day even under pressure. Good job, Leo, and again, thanks.
Beginning this week D:F changes, as well.
The mission of the National Corridors Initiative has changed over the years, from straightforward rail advocacy, to transportation advocacy, and now to public policy entrepreneurship aimed at fostering infrastructure investment: building those things that move people, goods, energy, or ideas. The purpose? To build a prosperous, fair, and healthy society. It is time to have that reflected in how Destination:Freedom covers the news.
The mission of NCI is not about nostalgia or the good old days of railroading. It is about changing the debate in America so that political leaders, journalists, and infrastructure professionals of all kinds transportation, energy, telecommunications --- can have a resource that informs and enlightens them, and provides a forum for their ideas, on one of the great issues of this age, which is and will be the rebuilding of our transportation and energy systems, and the introduction of new telecommunications technologies to yield maximum public benefit. America and its close trading partners Canada and Mexico must become more competitive in the worlds economy with a regard to the environment that treats it with respect, not as a disposable item. Not an easy task.
But it is a challenge we had better meet. Right now, America is relying upon increasingly antiquated infrastructure that makes us less and less competitive, yet we continue to enjoy a standard of living that is among the worlds highest. The infrastructure-renewal issue is particularly true in the Northeastern United States, but it is becoming true elsewhere across the country, as over time the rest of the world modernizes while we sit [relatively] still. Our living standard appears high because we are spending far more than we take in, and we are doing that because a number of countries, such as China, are financing our debt: they send us microwaves and stereos, and we send them IOUs. Right now, that will work, because America is a haven for investment in an unstable world. But over time, that policy will lead to our collapse. The middle class is already being squeezed downward, and others will follow, unless we get competitive again.
There are many elements at play here. China is out-producing us (and everyone else) despite massive inefficiencies (the Chinese use eight times as much energy to produce a ton of steel as we do, yet still beat us on price). In part, that is because there are essentially no environmental or labor laws in China. Those are important factors, and we need to make sure that American workers are not forced into the kind of filthy, slave-labor environment in which the third world toils. But they are also producing engineers by the millions, and we are not. We cant simply bemoan the competition, because they are winning. We have to beat it, and to do that we will have to do everything smarter and better and more innovatively, and that means travel and shipping have to be faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Take a close look and listen to what Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, is doing with his company, because he gets it. America needs to rationalize --- by that I mean make sensible and logical what is presently wasteful and stupid --- all that it does.
For example, it made no sense for jet planes to hop between cities less than 400-500 miles apart when jet fuel was 90 cents a gallon. Now that it is going to $4-5 a gallon, it makes even less sense. Yet we are still going at a snails pace in building high speed rail between Americas cities, and a good distribution network at train terminals so people can get around when they get where they want to go. Its not about wanting choo-choos. Its not about nostalgia. Its about winning.
The cost of housing is through the roof in many parts of America, yet as energy costs spiral upward, and congestion worsens, the pressure to live closer to jobs will increase, not decrease, putting still more upward pressure on housing costs. One solution: much better, faster, and more frequent commuter rail, and transit-oriented development.
Of course, the question is always raised, how do we pay for all that? And one answer has got to be: stop building unnecessary highways that only make congestion worse. The Highway Trust Fund needs to become a Transportation Trust Fund, and we need a Congress that understands why that is true. As I am fond of saying, highways are a great thing, but they cant be the only thing.
I am pleased that activist Molly McKay has agreed to edit Destination:Freedom (see her bio elsewhere). We need to look at transportation as a part of infrastructure, not as the whole picture, and the debate is really only beginning. Please feel free to contribute and join in!
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A Personal Note from the Publisher
Yes, We Will Rebuild
The destruction of New Orleans and the towns and cities along the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast is only beginning to be understood. It is becoming clear that the human suffering is as immense as any ever seen on this planet. Literally millions are homeless right now, in a catastrophe that is incomprehensible for Americans and other first-world inhabitants.
New Orleans is my home town, and I have many friends and relatives there. Like everyone, I was sickened by the sight of flood waters and levee breeches, people on their rooftops, and the chaos that quickly ensued. I have heard from only some of my family; others are missing and presumed to be refugees. It is tough on me, but a lot tougher for them.
The failure of the citys infrastructure to protect against the waters of Lake Pontchartrain (which is not a lake, but actually a huge inlet of the Gulf of Mexico) is particularly tragic, because Hurricane Katrinas storm surge was not as high in New Orleans as it was in Mississippi. The levee should have withstood the blow; thats what it was built to do. Why that levee failed, and why it took so long to fix is a mystery that will be answered over the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime, I expect that all that my extended family had is gone or badly damaged, about 150 years of history in five different houses, and that is a sobering thing.
But I am sure of one thing: New Orleans will be rebuilt. Some people will say no, its too risky. But Holland has been below sea level for hundreds of years, and they seem to cope. We can be smarter, we can build better infrastructure, and we can make that city safe. No place in the world is immune from danger, whether hurricanes, forest fires, war, drought, or bitter cold. But humans are a resilient lot, and there are few human beings as resilient as New Orleanians. So, lock up the looters, get out the shovels, and lets get going. Mardi Gras is on February 28th, only six full months away. There WILL be a party, I gare-rohn-tee! as the humorist and Cajun chef Justin Wilson likes to say.
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From the editor:
Hello to our readers
I welcome the opportunity and challenge of editing this newsletter. My first awakening to a transportation crisis occurred when Foxwoods Resort and Casino opened in my area back in 1991 and in no time at all, the two-lane road leading to it through the cornfields became a parking lot. Today, our highway capacity is pretty well filled up much of the time. The need for change is clear to the public and I am happy to be part of an organization that is leading the way to reform the way we fund and think about how people and goods are moved.
[ For additional info on Molly McKay see our Staff Biography page. ]
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Hurricane Katrina and Amtrak
To NARP Members, September 1, 2005--
First and foremost, our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with all those who have suffered, or whose loved ones have suffered, from Hurricane Katrina.
Here is some information about affected Amtrak service.
Currently, the Crescent is running only New York-Atlanta, The City of New Orleans runs Chicago-Memphis, and the Sunset Limited Los Angeles-San Antonio. Amtrak is not offering alternate transportation to the unserved segments. This means that many communities distant from the destruction nevertheless are without service--including Houston, Birmingham, Meridian and Jackson.
NARP has urged Amtrak to extend service as soon as possible to the above-noted communities and others similarly affected, even where this means using feeder buses. Amtrak is expected to have a long-term service plan soon, possibly as early as tomorrow.
Amtrak is offering no-penalty refunds and exchanges for travel over annulled segments of the three routes listed above through October 31, including for those tickets that otherwise would be non-refundable. Also, no-penalty provisions would automatically apply through the end of the annulment, if it goes beyond October 31. (Today, Amtrak is still selling space to New Orleans on the City of New Orleans that leaves Chicago Sunday, Sept. 4, but it that train obviously will not reach New Orleans.)
[Amtrak eliminated most penalties last year, but normally there is a 10% service charge if a change in plans occasions a refund and you take the refund in cash rather than as a credit towards future travel.]
As of today, we understand the New Orleans station is in relatively good shape; it sits on one of the highest pieces of land in the city. However, the city is devastated. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: For the next two or three months, in this area, there will not be any commerce, at all. No electricity, no restaurants. This is the real deal. Its not living conditions (7 AM entry on Tom Planchets blog at (http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/WWLBLOG.ac3fcea.html). We understand that two or three major bridges on the New Orleans-Mobile line are gone.
Ross B. Capon
NARP Executive Director
NCI file photo: © Leo KingAcela Express
Acela Express Trains Back In Service
AMTRAK has started to return its fleet of 20 Acela Express trains to the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor.
The first two trains equipped with newly-designed brake discs entered revenue service between New York and Washington on July 11. Service will resume gradually as each of the trains is fitted with the new discs.
In April, the steel spokes on 300 out of a total of 1440 passenger coach brake discs were found to have hairline fissures that could have eventually led to a component failure resulting in a derailment. All Acela Express trains were withdrawn from service after the cracks were discovered during a routine inspection.
The spokes developed fissures after long-term exposure to lateral stresses resulting from vibrations encountered during brake applications.
In the original design, spokes were configured in a non- elliptical pattern that was not aligned with disc rotation. The new design, developed by Knorr-Bremse, Germany, incorporates spokes that are perpendicular to the point of rotation. The new design should be able to withstand higher lateral stresses.
MERMEC, Italy, expects to hand over its Roger 1000 measuring train to Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) in October. The train will measure 40 parameters at 120km/h (except gauge profile). SBB plans to measure high-speed lines every two weeks initially.
Copyright © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation Aug 2005
Aug. 28--The Empire Builders name could become either the most ironic or the most symbolic label in Amtraks fleet. Empire Builder
As a long-distance route, the train has been one of the targets of a White House effort to shrink Amtraks current empire, by splitting up the national passenger railroad.
But as Amtraks new testing ground for boosting revenue by upgrading equipment and service, Wisconsins only cross-country train also could be the key to rebuilding a passenger rail empire, particularly at a time when high gas prices are focusing increased attention on alternatives to driving.
Kicking off an overhaul that eventually will affect all routes, Amtrak has remodeled the sleeper, dining, lounge and coach cars aboard the Empire Builder; has retrained its crews and improved its food offerings; and now offers the option of serving meals to coach passengers at their seats, not just in the dining and lounge cars. The railroad also will begin changing fares to find out how much passengers are willing to pay for the higher level of service.
In a recent interview aboard the freshly renovated Empire Builder, Amtrak President David Gunn said his railroad could become an important option in dealing with traffic congestion and rising pump prices.
If you look at the transportation system in this country, its gradually grinding to a halt, between crowded highways and crowded airports, Gunn said. Now youve got the price of fuel going through the roof, and weve got a whole transportation system thats built on cheap fuel. One of the ways to solve some of the fuel problems cheaply is right here.
But Gunn said Bush administration officials dont see that because youve really got an auto-centric mentality among the bureaucratic elite. Theyve got absolutely no conception of the role that rail plays. ... All theyre trying to do is to destroy the company and not have their fingerprints on it.
Gunn pointed out that federal spending of $1.2 billion a year on Amtrak is dwarfed by spending of $33 billion on highways, $15 billion on aviation and $8 billion on transit.
This article appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 28, 2005
Copyright (c) 2005, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.
The article goes on to outline the administrations threat to eliminate federal operating funds ,Congresss bi-partisan response which restored federal aid to a realistic level and introduced a reform plan that would guarantee long-term funding for Amtrak and improve the performance of the long-distance trains...
For the full-length article, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at: http://www.jsonline.com.
Light rail ridership far outstrips fare-free bus service!!
Bring local transit into 21st century
P-I columnist Ted Van Dyks Bus is Seattles best transit ticket (Aug. 18) needs another response.
In our past, Seattle has had an evolving system of streetcars, buses and trolley transit systems. Unfortunately, in recent years, buses have been a second choice to auto travel, even though the Metro, Snohomish and Pierce counties local transit systems and new Sound Transit REX express buses are significant improvements.
But the population and job growth of the region demands that we need more than buses. Van Dyk is only perpetuating the bus-transit versus rail transit versus the monorail versus the highway wars that have frozen our region into immobility. We are like the people in the Waiting for the Interurban statue in Fremont, frozen in a past that doesnt accept change for future growth. We need to plan and build now for generations to come.
His simplistic answer of get on the bus, Gus does not recognize that we should be stewards for the future, as well as the past. He assumes that buses are less costly than rail. Over and over, nationally and worldwide, we find that more people favor and ride trains when they have the alternative. A near-home example is to compare the Tacoma Link ridership. With a free fare, a similar identical bus shuttle ran for five years on the same route. The bus route peaked with an annual 141,000 riders. The Tacoma Link rail system that replaced it had its millionth rider after just one year of service.
Rail tunnels and/or separated right-of way, rather than surface-level rail in Seattle are risky, costly and worth it, due to our topography-challenged dense, regional city. We need to understand that they are used to achieve faster travel times and higher capacity than available with buses, monorail or rail or buses traveling on the HOV lanes or streets of our congested, auto-dependent system; particularly now as gas prices edge over $3 a gallon. We need energy-sustainable, cost-effective, integrated systems to attract riders and to move people.
Local communities deserve a seamless, integrated transportation system of buses, light rail, HOV lanes and well-maintained streets and highways.
Relying on only the bus systems in our growing region is a simplistic and out-of-date perspective. Van Dyk needs to bring his thinking into the 21st century, rather than pitting one technology against another. We need to be thinking and planning for the most efficient, integrated systems designed to provide choices and alternatives for travel, systems that are capable of growing in capacity to serve us and the future generations who will live in our region.
© Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, WA 98119
Virginia Gunby, Seattle, is a former Washington state transportation commissioner.
Redwood City Shoups Up Parking
Redwood City, California, is pioneering efficient high-tech parking. Instead of old-fashioned coin-operated fixed-time meters, the city will be using electronic meters which have flexible charging and no time limit. The economic theory of this parking policy was developed by Professor Donald Shoup, the worlds leading expert on parking.
After the high-tech boom of the 1990s, I and my colleague Daniel Klein discussed how there was no book on how advancing technology affects the rationale for the economic policies of government. We recruited experts in fields such as electricity, water, roads, pollution, and parking. Donald Shoup, chair of the department of Urban Planning, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), wrote the chapter Buying Time at the Curb.
Our book was published in 2003, entitled The Half-Life of Policy Rationales: How New Technology Affects Old Policy Issues. Donald Shoups book, The High Cost of Free Parking, (http://www.planning.org/bookservice/highcost.htm) was published in 2005.
Most streets are owned and operated by governments, and in crowded times and areas, the city typically charges for street parking with meters. The main purpose of a parking meter is not revenue but to allocate the use of scarce parking space. Merchants want customers to be able to find a parking place, so the old-fashioned meters have time limits, so that a parker does not tie up the space all day.
The problem with antiquated coin-operated fixed-time meters is that their rigidity prevents the most efficient allocation of space. It creates meter anxiety, as the user has to rush back to the car to avoid a parking ticket when the time is up. Someone to whom it is important to park there longer is not permitted to; usually it is illegal to extend the parking time beyond the maximum set by the meter. It is also inconvenient to have to have the right coins. More importantly, the fixed meter charge cannot allocate the space with efficient precision.
Enter new technology. Advanced meters, including in-vehicle meters, can charge the time electronically, either with credit and debit cards, or by billing the user. The charge can vary during the day, and there is no fixed time limit. Economically, the user is paying a rental for the use of street space. The economic function of charging a rental for space is to efficiently allocate the use of the space to those who most highly value the space, maximizing the social benefit of that space.
Professor Shoup, being an excellent economist, is well aware that parking meters in effect charge a space rental. Chapter 19 of his book is entitled, The Ideal Source of Local Public Revenue. Guess what it is! Shoup provides the answer: it is Henry Georges proposal to use land rent for public revenue. And parking meters are an application practiced by almost all cities throughout the world. But, as Shoup shows, it can be done better with advanced meters.
A worse problem than old-fashioned meters is so-called free parking as well as the excessive use of space and resources for parking. As Shoup explains, where there is congestion or alternative uses of the site, the space is not economically free, even if there is no user charge. There is an economic rent, the implicit amount that users would pay if the space were auctioned off for its best use. I call this the geo-rent. (http://www.econjournalwatch.org/main/intermedia.php?filename=FoldvaryIntellectualTyrannyApril2005.pdf) If the rent is not explicitly paid, this creates economic inefficiency, a waste of scarce resources.
Shoup calculates that the typical city parking space costs more than a car! The costs are hidden in rentals for business and housing, in taxes, and in economic loss and waste. Parking is hugely subsidized, which then distorts transit choices, urban development, and the environment. Shoups theory is exactly what Henry George said: rent should be collected by the community not just as the ideal source of public revenue but also for economic efficiency. The remedies for space waste are the elimination of arbitrary restrictions on the use of land, including zoning, (http://www.governing.com/articles/6assess.htm) and charging market prices for space, including parking.
The ideal charge for parking is just high enough to eliminate the congestion, so that a driver can find a parking place within a block of his destination. Modern meter charging can set the price per hour according to the typical demand at that hour. When there is no congestion, the meter charge is zero, free parking. I call it the Goldilocks Principle, says Donald Shoup. With parking spaces, prices shouldnt be too low or too high. If there are a few vacant spaces, the price is just right.
As reported by Matt Smith in Remote Controlled, SF Weekly, Aug. 17, 2005, Redwood City in the San Francisco Bay Area has enacted the first parking plan (http://www.sfweekly.com/issues/2005-08-17/news/smith.html?src=news_rss) in the USA, if not the world, that will apply the parking theory of Prof. Shoup using credit-card meters. The citys downtown development director, Dan Zack, stated, Were going to have the most pure Don Shoup system in the country.
If many other cities follow this lead and Shoup up their parking, this will eventually greatly increase the productivity of urban space. The benefit would be much more profound if public policy applied the ideas of Donald Shoup and Henry George to all space. Donald Shoups ideas are an excellent modern application of Georgist ideas. Shoups work shows how the concept of the community collection of site rentals for public revenue is sound, just, important, and au courant!
Fred Foldvary can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary
The following tragic news bulletins underscore the critical need to eliminate grade crossings in America. No one is allowed to drive across an airport runway in the path of a jet airliner. The same rule should apply to railroad corridors. It is NCIs position that all at-grade crossings should be 1) bridged, 2) Tunneled or 3) Closed down - Ed.
Driver is killed as train hits
truck at Clyman rail crossing
... According to the sheriff, a Union Pacific train was westbound when the operator of the flatbed semi-truck attempted to cross the tracks heading north. ...
Watertown Daily Times - Watertown,WI,USA - http://www.wdtimes.com/articles/2005/08/30/news/news1.txt
HOBART - Grieving parents Christine and Ronald Cleveland want the city to do more to prevent young people from being killed by trains. the Norfolk Southern railroad track that abuts the park property. Hobart teens often use the track as shortcut to and from the park s skateboard rink.
CECIL - A 37-year-old man was killed Saturday after he was hit by a train near the City of Cecil. Jeffery Franklin Sowell, whose last known address was Valdosta, died around 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Valdosta Daily Times - http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/content/1/16989/Man+dies+after+train+hits+him.htm
Train tracks are no place for recreation, says a new safety message from the city of Port Moody and Canadian Pacific Railway.
The concern is with residents who use the tracks as a pathway for things like walking their dogs or jogging, resulting in a number of reports of near misses by our train crews and railway police, said Rick Poznikoff, CPRs manager of community relations. We are asking people to stay away from the tracks, because not only is being on CPRs right-of-way against the law, its a danger with the potential for deadly consequences.
It is illegal to walk, drive, cycle or snowmobile on or alongside the railway line, says CPRs web site.
According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 67 people were killed and 34 were seriously injured from pedestrian-train collisions in 2004, including 14 people in B.C. Statistics from Operation Lifesaver, a public education program sponsored by the Railway Association of Canada and Transport Canada, show that last year 25 people were killed and 50 were seriously injured in 237 highway/railway crossing collisions.
The group emphasizes that at 110 tonnes, trains simply cant stop quickly and that rails and recreation do not mix. It can take a freight train up to a mile to stop in an emergency.
CPR spokesman Ed Greenberg said the company is seeing an increase in situations where crews feel nervous as they proceed down the tracks because more people are using the routes as a recreational pathway. The issue has also been raised at PoMos Community Advisory Panel.
Were concerned about safety, and the fact is the potential for deadly consequences is very real, Greenberg said. The saying train time is anytime is very relevant because we dont operate on a fixed schedule.
Greenberg also said as CPR responds to increasing demands from its customers, train traffic is on the rise. Currently, about 20 CPR trains and 10 commuter trains travel through Port Moody in a 24-hour period, as well as two per day on the Ioco spur line, which travels near the Inlet Trail and past Old Orchard Park.
Were moving more freight and were doing everything possible to avoid a tragic situation, he said.
Mayor Joe Trasolini echoed CPRs concerns and asked residents to use the many other scenic pathways available for their enjoyment.
© Copyright 2005 The Tri-City News
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||53.34||54.30|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||43.31||42.56|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||29.52||28.11|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||19.86||20.16|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||13.45||14.03|
From the webmaster...
Photo sumbissions wanted
We would like to invite our many photo contributors to continue sending us their images for inclusion in D:F. Of interest will be images of positive people moving, rail, transit, and other photos that convey the positive message of high-speed regional rail or local transit.
We have established a special e-mail address, email@example.com, which will come directly to me for consideration. For images too large to attach to an e-mail contact me directly for public FTP instructions or for addresses to middle-man file transfer services. I look forward to hearing from you all!
Dennis Kirkpatrick - firstname.lastname@example.org
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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, wed like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at email@example.com. 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 have appeared in Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee. True color Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG or 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. Please contact Leo King.
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 transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives state DOTs, legislators, governors offices, and transportation professionals as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
If you have a favorite link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCIs webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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