Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 41, October 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 


The Coast Starlight

For NCI: Paul Duda

Amtrak No. 11, the Coast Starlight, arrives in Portland, Ore. Union Station last April 21 with P-42 engine 153 leading. Last week, Amtrak president and CEO David Gunn was aboard the train in the business car Beech Grove visiting stations, employees, and political leaders.

 

Sometimes it’s ‘amateur hour:’

Gunn rides Coast Starlight;
sees crew problems first-hand

By W. Jay Stewart
Special to Destination:Freedom

The writer boarded No. 11 in Vancouver, Wash., and got off in Eugene, Ore. David Gunn continued on in business car Beech Grove.– Ed.

 

ABOARD TRAIN 11 – “Amateur hour, amateur hour,” David Gunn, the head of Amtrak, mutters over and over as he peers out the glass end of his business car. Sometimes it is utility poles with signal cables almost on the ground; sometimes it is a long, loaded freight left on a siding so long that its wheels are rusted.

“With a couple of exceptions, the freight railroads are consuming their own plant,” he added.

David Gunn

David Gunn
“Their tonnage is growing but their revenue is insufficient. Even the roads that have gotten it right, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Norfolk Southern, can’t afford to take care of their track needs.”

Gunn, with his one-of-a-kind business car coupled to a southbound Coast Starlight between Seattle and Sacramento, is on a national tour, handing out employee achievement awards and schmoozing with mayors and governors from coast-to-coast.

“One governor rode clear across her state. I don’t think she had ever ridden the train, or realized how important our service is to her cities and towns.”

The trip replaced the old practice of calling award recipients to the nation’s capital.

Despite labor and Congressional budget woes, Gunn is upbeat.

“We were the Enron of railroads, but we just finished a year where we were under budget, accomplished a lot, and we have started a five-year plan that is specific, no BS and it was not done by a consultant.” One of his first tasks was to fire Amtrak’s consultants and the vice-presidents who had deferred to those consultants.

“We are still in a deep hole. We have 200 miles of track that needs replacing, and 400 miles of ballast repair. This year we hired five brush crews (in the Northeast Corridor) because everything was so overgrown. That work will require another four years.”

Denim, DMUs, Acela

Gunn was dressed in mismatched denim shirt and pants aboard the Starlight..

On the DMUs, can you spell B-U-D-D? The Colorado car’s $3 to $4 million price tag and its 70 on-board computers upset Gunn. He suggested a super-simple Budd car is the answer, and he thinks there would be enough demand for cab units that a reborn Budd could flourish.

Bombardier is dead until Gunn is gone. He plans to continue the legal action, and said the yaw dampers are still cracking loose on the Acelas.

He also said Bombardier and Alstom are very weak.

His business car carries the nameplate Beech Grove in honor of the Indiana shop that rebuilt it. They also have a Metroliner that is fully outfitted for track monitoring, and part of an Acela car that is for revenue and track monitoring. Gunn’s car still has a lot of monitoring gear on board, but it seems not much used for that. It’s a very nice, no-nonsense car. No interviewing was done at stops because he always bounded away for hand-shaking or car tours.

Gunn laughed at the idea he would get federal aid if he renamed his operation “Amtrak Airlines,” or even his suggested “IraqTrak.”

As for the 2010 Olympic games in British Columbia, “I talked about that Friday in the meeting in Seattle.”

He doesn’t want to borrow a few extra trains to encourage more tourism in Washington and Oregon.

“We need to do this right. Someone has to convince Canada to invest $10 million to $20 million in track improvements, and then the service can continue after the games are over.”

Asked who will do the sales job on Canada, he twirled his ID badge around his neck and said, “As the only Canadian citizen around here, I guess I have to do it.” Gunn still maintains his family home in Nova Scotia.

The Beech Grove private car

NCI: Leo King

The Beech Grove paused in Jacksonville, Fla., on March 20, 2002 after running extra on an inspection trip down then back up the Florida East Coast Ry. The extra train and its riders paused briefly at Amtrak’s station on CSX tracks..

 

He saluted a trackside maintenance gang in their colorful vests. They probably never realized the man fighting to save passenger rail service in the U.S triggered the flickering lights.

Gunn said his books are open to anyone wanting a look – “We don’t funny our books. We spend what we say, or less.”

He also caters to those who want a different kind of look. At every stop of the southbound train, depot staffers and rail crews rush to shake his hand. At longer stops, Gunn pops into his tour-guide mode, showing his train – but he was looking forward to “two days ashore” in Los Angeles after six days on different sidings.

“I was so tired in Seattle that we were hooked onto Train 11 and run through the carwash, and I didn’t even know it,” he said.

He seems proudest that executive chef Gil Lamar let him cook for the car’s crew on the first leg from Washington to Chicago. “I’ve known Gil a long time, and it’s pretty special when he lets anyone in his kitchen.”

Continuing on food, Gunn said that when he arrived, “every train served the same menu every day. I had the menu memorized. It was good food, but.…” Lamar proudly produced the new menu.

Later Lamar appeared with his camera, announcing “you have to see the salads,” and then to brag that the packed Starlight lounge car was ready for a wine and cheese tasting. A somewhat wistful Gunn added “whenever I travel by train I am on duty so I can’t even have a glass of wine with dinner, and neither can anyone else” in the car.

Gunn slammed the previous administration [George Warrington, et al] on a bunch of points ranging from the still flawed Acela locomotives to an express boxcar scheme that cost Amtrak $300 million. On the latter topic, his face tightens and he growls, “If I could find out who sold us that idea, I would wring his neck.” The idea was labor-intensive, delayed the passenger trains and resulted in Amtrak buying switch engines for use everywhere. On the Acela, he said the battle is not over.

“I am stubborn, and if they want a fight, I am ready.” He summarized the situation as “salesmen too far ahead of the engineers.”

He wants to buy push-pull cab versions of self-propelled diesel cars.

“We have cars but no way to run them. I want simple, low-tech cars, not something that is all computers.” He then would use the self-propelled units to close out a day’s service on a busy line.

“Let’s say we have a regular train at 7:00 p.m. I would add the self-propelleds, possibly on an hourly basis, until 10:00 p.m. Then people would have confidence that we are not going to strand them if they work late.”

Then someone with a radio told Gunn that there may be a delay because there’s a broken rail ahead. “Amateur hour,” he muttered.

An informed source said on Wednesday the “Gunner” took a bus from Sacramento to Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal aboard one of the San Joaquin Thruway buses. Upon arrival, he strolled to Olvera Street for some Mexican food.

He was preparing to attend a 30-years service employee award dinner in Los Angeles on October 13.

“Gunn was concerned it would have been too disruptive to operations,” the source said, “to have the Beech Grove 10001 switched out at Sacramento, requiring a Union Pacific crew and switch engine, and a place to park the car, so he detrained in the capital on the 12th, and the car continued south on No. 11 to Los Angeles.”

The next day, though, he made it back to his car.

Gunn was aboard eastbound No. 4, the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago. The Chief departed Los Angeles on time (at 6:45 p.m.), “ahead of the freight cars. Reportedly there were airline tickets held for him just in case, but he made it.”

The source wondered, “Now, let’s see if they can switch that car from 4 to No. 30 (the Capitol Limited) on Friday in Chicago without delay. Drop the 10001 and freight on the south wye, then pull the train all the way past the wye and back it into the station. Have a switcher come out, tie onto the 10001, leave the freight cars, shove the 10001 into the station on 30’s track, spot 30 on top of it, and they're set to go.”

A footnote – “The Coast Starlight, usually three hours or more late because of bad Union Pacific track and too many freights, was more than 15 minutes early into Eugene, Ore. It was as if the freights went off and hid. On the return trip Monday morning, we ran early again. Unheard of,” writes Stewart.


Return to index
Possible Amtrak strike postponed again

The National Assn. of Railroad Passengers reported on Friday a railroad strike by some Amtrak Employees slated to begin October 20 has been delayed.

NARP reported, “After discussions Thursday morning between Amtrak and certain unions who want to shut Amtrak down for a day in protest against inadequate federal funding, the preliminary injunction hearing that was scheduled for October 20 has been postponed.”

NARP stated the new hearing date is now November 14.

The unions’ agreement to postpone their threatened strike until after the judge issues his decision remains in place. The unions involved represent about 8,000 of Amtrak's 21,000 employees, and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is leading the effort.

If the judge rules in Amtrak's favor, there would be no walkout, but if the judge rules in favor of the TWU and stays his order pending appeal, the strike could be postponed for many weeks. If there is no such stay, it becomes harder to predict what will happen.

“The longer this uncertainty drags on, the more damage it could do to Amtrak's commercial revenues,” NARP offered.


Return to index
Amtrak reports best numbers ever
for train riders around the nation

More than 24 million passengers traveled on Amtrak in fiscal year 2003 (ending September 30), the railroad reported last week. It was the highest annual ridership ever experienced by the nation’s intercity passenger rail service in its 32-year history.

The carrier stated in a press release, “Despite several adverse conditions this year, including a lagging economy that has hurt the travel industry overall, the Iraq war, the Presidents’ Day blizzard, the Northeast blackout and Hurricane Isabel, Amtrak’s ridership topped the previous record of 23.5 million passengers set in 2001 and was 2.7 percent better than last year’s result of 23.4 million.”

Amtrak calls on more than 500 communities in 46 states across its 22,000-mile system.

Long-distance trains showed substantial improvement over last year, with those in the Eastern region of the country improving ridership by 3.8 percent and those in the Western region improving by 6.6 percent.

The most substantial increases were experienced by the Pennsylvanian (up 64 percent) due mostly to a change in routing; the Texas Eagle (up 20 percent); the Silver Meteor (up 15.2 percent); and the City of New Orleans (up 14.5 percent).

Ridership on shorter-distance routes in the West increased by 11.7 percent over last year, while decreasing slightly in the East (-1.6 percent).

The Pacific Surfliner, serving Southern California, showed the largest increase among these trains, with a gain over last year of 26.3 percent.

Several Midwest trains, the Pere Marquette (up 22.1 percent), the State House (up 13 percent) and the Illini (up 11.4 percent) experienced the next largest increases in passengers.

In the East, Regional trains carried more passengers than any other Amtrak service in the country, increasing from 5,760,499 last year to 5,974,806, an increase of 3.7 percent.

While a reduced number of departures (7,686 in fiscal 2003 vs. 8,272 in the previous fiscal year) resulted in a decrease in Acela Express ridership from 2,473,921 to 2,363,454, per-departure ridership on Acela Express actually increased slightly from 299 to 307.

Amtrak attributed the overall positive results largely to its “back-to-basics” approach to winning over passengers, begun earlier this year.

Those basics initiatives included January fare rollbacks, and a newly introduced straightforward pricing structure. The rollback, combined with national marketing offers, contributed to strong ridership in the following months. Because the new lower fares are in effect indefinitely, Amtrak is continuing to experience higher ridership today.

In April, Amtrak reduced fares for Acela Express travel between Boston and New York, capping business class fares at $99 each way. That action resulted in a 13 percent increase in ridership in the five weeks following the reduction (compared with the five weeks prior to the reduction), a trend that continues today.

Also in April, on the Springfield Line between New Haven, Conn., and Springfield, Mass., Amtrak increased the number of trains from 11 to 16 and lowered fares by an average of 54 percent, which resulted in a ridership increase of over 30 percent in the five months that followed.

In California, thanks in part to a new ticket cross-honoring agreement with Metrolink, the commuter agency, Amtrak ridership on the Pacific Surfliners ended the year up 26.3 percent from fiscal 2002 levels.

Other service improvements included new menus on long-distance trains so that passengers traveling more than one night would have more dining options.

Additionally, Amtrak’s award-winning automated voice response system for 1-800-USA-RAIL, called “Julie,” was upgraded to handle credit card transactions and more complex reservations. Julie currently satisfies approximately 40 percent of all callers to the toll-free number.

Amtrak is online at http://www.amtrak.com.

Numbers tell the story

 Sep
2003
    FY
2003
 
ServiceOprLateScore|OprLateScoreGoal
Acela Express60720067.1%|7686225370.7%92.0%
Regional149432478.3%|17079369678.4%90.0%
Auto Train531473.6%|71729558.9%70.0%
California Zephyr604525.0%|73047634.8%60.0%
Capitol Ltd552161.8%|72037048.6%70.0%
Capitols67511682.8%|7758167178.5%80.0%
Cardinal251540.0%|31021032.3%60.0%
Carolinian593245.8%|72744239.2%73.0%
Cascades32411564.5%|3910109971.9%80.0%
City of NO601771.7%|73039645.8%78.0%
Clocker/Keyst5878885.0%|726585088.3%92.0%
Coast Starlight603836.7%|73047834.5%70.0%
Crescent561475.0%|72424566.2%83.0%
Downeaster2401892.5%|291127290.7%90.0%
Empire68315078.0%|8281218973.6%90.0%
Empire Builder1202083.3%|145721785.1%80.0%
Heartland Flyer591083.1%|72714879.6%75.0%
Hiawatha412399.3%|495022495.5%95.0%
Illinois/MO29610165.9%|3638145660.0%70.0%
Ky/Indy Card351654.3%|65425960.4%85.0%
Lake Shore Ltd1156444.3%|144174048.6%60.0%
Metroliner2906677.2%|325650984.4%94.0%
Michigan30012060.0%|3609159555.8%65.0%
Pac Surfliner6958388.1%|8427106187.4%85.0%
Pennsylvanian58984.5%|72919473.4%75.0%
Piedmont56787.5%|68323465.7%73.0%
San Joaquins36017950.3%|4378167261.8%76.0%
Silver Service1606261.3%|2168115047.0%60.0%
Southwest Chief601771.7%|73018075.3%60.0%
Sunset Ltd252212.0%|31223026.3%65.0%
Texas Eagle602951.7%|72844638.7%60.0%
Three Rivers572359.6%|72732555.3%90.0%




|



All Amtrak8196203875.1%|988922558274.1%80.0%


Return to index
BeeLine’ gets Florida public’s nod

Backers of Florida’s Bee Line – along State Road 528 – for the state’s high-speed rail route packed a ballroom at Orlando International Airport’s Hyatt Regency Hotel last week with at least 300 people, while proponents of the GreeneWay (paralleling State Road 417) were nowhere in sight.

BeeLine supporters on October 9 turned a cold shoulder to Disney’s wishes for a stop at Disney World in Orlando.

Florida’s High Speed Rail Authority sought comments on which route would be better for the proposed $2 billion high-speed train system that could one day link Tampa with Orlando’s airport, the Orlando Sun-Sentinel reported. The authority expects to pick its preferred route October 27.

A steady stream of anti-GreeneWay speakers did not overwhelm the only authority board member who attended, James “Skip” Fowler of Orlando.

Bombardier Transportation’s JetTrain moved to Orlando and later Tampa last week after a few days in Miami. The engine was on public display. Bombardier is one of two consortia, along with partner Fluor Corp., to bid on building the high-speed project. – Ed.

“The people who turn out at these things invariably turn out against things. Very few people turn out in favor,” Fowler said with a shrug.

Though absent, the primary GreeneWay proponent was certainly accounted for. Walt Disney World has championed the GreeneWay, and numerous speakers tried to characterize the debate as Disney vs. everyone else.

The BeeLine route, with an additional stop at International Drive, might add five minutes to the trip, said Joe Overberger of Hunter’s Creek.

“That certainly should not be too much of an inconvenience for a family visiting Disney, but the GreeneWay will exclude millions of visitors, who are taxpayers, from using the system to go to the Orange County Convention Center and International area,” he said.

Florida voters mandated the high-speed rail system in 2000 when they approved an amendment to the state constitution. Planners are going forward assuming the 150-mph train could be running by 2008, though no money has been identified to build the system, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) opposes it, and there is no certainty the state can find the money.

The authority’s plans call for a stop at Disney World, with the assumption that people going to and from Disney would make up most of the riders on the train and help make it financially viable, but hard-nosed Disney officials have insisted it would cooperate only if the GreeneWay route is picked.

The GreeneWay route opens up better options for all of Central Florida, by leaving open the prospect of a light-rail system that could one day run up and down Interstate 4, and connect I-Drive with the airport, Disney spokesman Bill Warren said.

He said he did not think that prospect changes much, even after Orange County voters on Tuesday rejected a half-cent sales tax could have helped pay for light rail.

“There is a broader base of support than was being represented, than just Disney,” Warren said Thursday night. He pointed out that Osceola County Commission, the Kissimmee City Commission and Osceola Chamber of Commerce also support the GreeneWay route – yet none of them spoke up at the public hearing on the routes. The room was filled with people wearing white “Hunter’s Creek” T-shirts, who gave standing ovations to people who bashed Disney. That community straddles the GreeneWay.

Many residents bitterly oppose the GreeneWay option, out of concern that trains would disrupt their neighborhoods and cause a safety problem for five schools along the highway.

Representatives of SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, and International Drive businesses also called for the Bee Line route, so the train could stop near them.

John Rasnic, general manager for the Hunter’s Creek Community Assn., said he discovered a forgotten clause in the contract that transferred property from the Hunter’s Creek developers to build the expressway in 1993. That clause specifically prohibited any trains along the expressway corridor.

“The residents of Hunters Creek consider the choice of the GreeneWay a dead issue,” Rasnic declared.

However, Fowler was unconcerned. A city attorney for several cities, Fowler said if the authority wants that clause changed, it can get it changed.

“It’s like any other property, you can always condemn it out,” Fowler said. “I don’t know that it exists. We’ll check into it. But if it does exist, we can handle it.”


Return to index
Milwaukee starts Amtrak station renovation

Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi kicked off a $3.9 million renovation of Amtrak’s downtown Milwaukee station on October 13 by signing a contract with the developer.

The renovations would turn the West St. Paul Avenue depot into a center for intercity buses – and perhaps for commuter trains and high-speed rail – as well as Amtrak’s current service to Chicago, the Twin Cities and the Pacific Northwest, authorities said.

New restaurants and shops also are part of the plan, to be completed in spring 2005, said Busalacchi and Randy Wade, a state rail planner.

Busalacchi said Greyhound would move to the renovated train station, but while Greyhound backs the move “in spirit,” it has not worked out financial details of the switch, Ted Jadd, the bus line’s Wisconsin manager, said. Badger Bus general manager John Meier has laid out a similar position.


Return to index
SUPPLY SIDE LINES...  Supply-side lines...

Wabco, New York ink pact

Wabco Transit signed a contract on October 15 to supply brakes, couplers and current collectors for New York City subway cars to be built by ALSTOM and Kawasaki.

The contract is worth about $60 million for the base order of 660 cars, according to Wabco.

WABCO Transit is a division of Wabtec Corp. Years ago it was known as Westinghouse Air Brake Co.

If, as planned, New York City exercises options for an additional 1,040 cars, the total value of this order would be about $150 million. In addition, Wabtec continues to negotiate to supply door assemblies for the cars.

It is a “Historic order, the largest ever placed by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA),” said Gregory T.H. Davies, president and CEO at the firm’s headquarters in Wilmerding, Pa.

Davies said “We expect this order to provide a solid base of business for our Transit Group, beginning with full production in 2006 and continuing for several years after that.”

Design work on the brakes, couplers and current collectors has already started, with prototypes to be delivered in 2004.

Wabtec supplied brakes, couplers, current collectors and doors for the MTA’s R-142, R-142A and R-143 orders, which were completed in 2002; and it has also been selected to provide those products for the MTA’s R-142S order, which will be completed in 2004.


Return to index
Ohio Castings buys foundry

Ohio Castings Co., owned by the Greenbrier Companies, ACF Industries Holding Corp., and ASF-Keystone reported on October 13 it has reached agreement with ASF to acquire their foundry located in Alliance, Ohio. The purchase follows Ohio Castings’ investment in a foundry in Cicero, Illinois earlier this year.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Alliance foundry will operate as Alliance Castings Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ohio Castings, and will manufacture side frames and bolsters for ASF-Keystone, which will remarket them to the rail industry, including to ACF and Greenbrier.

The foundry was shut down in 2002 as a result of a severe downturn in demand for new railcars. Since then, demand for railcars has recovered strongly and industry casting capacity is now substantially below market demands.


Return to index
DePrimo heads insurance office

Zurich North America said on October 13 that Denise H. DePrimo has been named senior vice-president and profit center manager for Zurich North America Railroads.

DePrimo will lead the unit, which provides insurance coverage to railroad operators and contractors, in its underwriting, technical and marketing efforts.

DePrimo, based in Schaumburg, Ill., has 14 years of railroad insurance experience. She joined Zurich North America Railroads in 1994.


Return to index
COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Metro-North at New Haven

NCI-two photos: Leo King

Metro-North, left, and Amtrak share tracks at New Haven, Conn., terminal. Until this month, M-N operators controlled train movements in and out of the station. At one time, as in this 1995 photo, Amtrak tower operators shared operating responsibilities to move the commuter trains and Amtrak’s liners in and out of the terminal safely and efficiently.

 

Dispatchers take control of New Haven

Metro-North Railroad introduced a new computer aided train dispatching system on its New Haven line on October 10, completing a 10-year line rehabilitation program. The entire project cost $125 million.

The improvements are expected to upgrade the safety level of the New Haven line, according to the Connecticut DOT. The Shoreline section, operated by Amtrak, is not part of the new central control system, wrote the New Haven Register.

In the past, Metro-North controlled trains on the New Haven line through 20 towers stretching from Grand Central Terminal to New Haven, but starting last week, the commuter railroad linked the New Haven line control system to its dispatching center at 346 Madison Ave. in New York City.

About five block operators at New Haven tower will be offered different jobs as a result of the move. None will lose their jobs, officials said.

Raymond Cox, assistant director of Railroad and Administrative Services at the state transportation department, said it would provide safer operation of the New Haven line by centralizing operations.

Metro-North has already established central electronic control systems on its Harlem and Hudson lines.

Amtrak dispatchers control their trains east of New Haven electronically from a central dispatching office located in Boston’s South Station.

Matty Zink at the controls

At one time, New Haven tower was divided – “East” and “West.” First-trick op Matty Zink, on this day in 1995, above, controlled the west end of the terminal moving Metro-North trains to and fro as well as New York bound Amtrak trains. His Amtrak counterpart, Charlie Fullerton, did the same on the east end for Amtrak trains, and occasional Metro-North switching moves. Amtrak moved out of New Haven East more than four years ago when computer dispatching from Boston was completed.


Return to index
From Pennsylvania:

Keystone Corridor gets $3 million

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell last week released $125 million in capital budget funding to help finance improvements to the Keystone Rail Corridor and 24 bus agencies. The lion’s share went to bus systems.

“Despite the tight budgetary constraints facing Pennsylvania, I am doing all within my power to ensure continued financial support for our public transit agencies,” Rendell said.

“These grants will allow necessary infrastructure improvements, including the purchase of new buses and rail cars, rehabilitation of existing facilities or design and construction of new facilities such as stations, tracks, signals and intermodal transportation centers.”

Amtrak will receive $3 million for passenger rail service between Harrisburg, Lancaster and Philadelphia on the Keystone Corridor.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is getting $83,560,000. The rest of the cash is going to various communities and their bus systems.


Return to index
Metra derailment
Metra Commuter derails

AP: Brian Kersey

A five-car, two-engine Metra commuter train derailed on the Rock Island District Line alongside the 47th Street Shops, tumbling and setting afire one locomotive and tilting several passenger cars. Chicago police said 125 of the 210 passengers were injured. No one died, but more than 40 persons received some hospital treatment. One track was damaged. The first locomotive flipped onto its side and ignited, a source said, and the second derailed across the tracks. Five coaches also derailed but remained upright. The NTSB is investigating.


Return to index

 

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.


 

Service Begins October 20 on ‘EZ RIDER’ in Midland-Odessa, Texas

Service will begin October 20 on EZ RIDER, the new bus service being operated in Midland and Odessa, Texas, by the Midland-Odessa Urban Transit District. The buses will operate fare free through November 19, when the system will begin charging fares of $1 for adults; 75 cents for students and youth ages 6 to 18; and 50 cents for seniors and persons with disabilities.

EZ RIDER plans to operate on six bus routes in Midland and five routes in Odessa, with a fleet of 19 small Aerotech 240 buses from El Dorado. The buses, which seat 18 passengers, will operate hourly from 6:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

McDonald Transit Associates, Inc. will implement and manage the district’s transit services under a five-year contract. The firm also provided consulting services during the interim period, including development of routes and schedules; five-year facility and equipment needs lists; fare recommendations; a marketing plan; vehicle specifications; five-year budgets; and a detailed implementation plan.


Return to index

 

New Orleans Reviving Canal Streetcar Line

In New Orleans, the Regional Transit Authority is preparing for service to begin December 6 on the Canal Streetcar Line, operating test runs along the 3.1-mile route. When the line opens, the RTA will return streetcar service to the length of Canal Street, from the Mississippi River to City Park Avenue, for the first time since 1964.

The $141 million project began in January 2001, and RTA workers are almost finished building 24 rail cars in the authority’s Carrollton streetcar barn.

In addition, construction will continue through December along a one-mile spur along North Carrollton Avenue that will connect the Canal Street line with the entrance to City Park, scheduled to enter service by late February.


Return to index

 

Orlando Area Voters Reject Funding for Long-Term Transportation Improvements

Voters in Orange County, Fla., rejected an October 7 initiative that would have raised the local sales tax by one-half cent to pay for expanded roads and transit in an effort to curb central Florida’s worsening traffic congestion problems. The county includes the city of Orlando.

Despite broad support from the business community, developers, local elected officials, and the state government and legislature, the countywide voter initiative to fund the county’s “Mobility 20/20” long-term transportation plan failed by a margin of 54 percent opposed and 46 percent in favor. About 22 percent of the electorate participated in the election.

The Mobility 20/20 plan would have allocated the bulk of its resources on accelerating the widening of county roads, in particular turning Interstate 4, which cuts across Orlando, into a four-lane highway. However, the long-term plan also would have allocated $20 million over 20 years to improve and expand bus services provided by LYNX-Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, and would have provided $400 million over 20 years to develop either a light rail or a commuter rail project.


Return to index

 

Braun to Join TANK as New General Manager

David Braun, general manager of the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink) in Peoria, Ill., will become the new general manager of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky in Fort Wright on October 20.

He succeeds Mark Donaghy, who is leaving TANK after 14 years as its general manager to become vice-president of the transit management services division of First Transit, overseeing transit systems in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Both TANK and CityLink are First Transit properties.

Braun is a 15-year First Transit employee who has been with CityLink for eight years, serving as the assistant general manager before becoming the general manager.


Return to index

 

Alvarez Steps Down as Executive Director of Miami-Dade Office

Danny Alvarez has announced his plan to retire October 31 as executive director of the Miami-Dade County Office of Public Transportation Management in Miami, Fla., which is now reunited with Miami-Dade Transit. He plans to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

In announcing his pending departure from Miami-Dade County after 31 years of public service, Alvarez said, “When I became director of Miami-Dade Transit, and subsequently of the Office of Public Transportation Management, I wanted to achieve: to clean up our own house, make an investment in ourselves, and secure the financial future of public transportation. I am specially proud to say that these goals were strategically achieved.”

Alvarez was a Miami-Dade County administrator for almost 25 years when he was named earlier this year to head the newly created Office of Public Transportation Management. He had served as head of the Miami-Dade Transit Agency from 1997, after Chester (Ed) Colby stepped down, until he was named to the county post.


Return to index

 

FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

UP Bailey Yard, Neb.

Union Pacific

Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Neb., is a place where beginner trainmen can learn how to work on the carrier, learning how to make cuts, make up trains, and work safely.

 

UP is hiring train crews

Union Pacific Railroad is hiring. The freight carrier added about 1,000 conductors and engineers to its 46,000-person work force through August, and plans to hire 1,000 more people by the end of the year, company spokesman Mark Davis said last week in Omaha. Up to 3,000 workers could be hired next year for positions across the railroad, in large part to fill spots vacated by people retiring and other factors, Davis said.


Return to index
UP to operate quietly in Santa Cruz

Responding to complaints about freight train noises at “ungodly” hours, Union Pacific Railroad pledged on October to curtail its night operations in the Santa Cruz, Calif., area.

The promise follows a flood of complaints from residents to UP complaining about night trains rumbling through the northern California town in the wee hours tooting their air horns, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The community is about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

UP spokesman John Bromley, in Omaha, stopped short of promising an absolute ban citing potential emergency situations and unforeseen delays, but said the late-night, early-morning runs would be virtually eliminated immediately.

That decision should please annoyed residents.

Lee Burr of Aptos had complained of being awakened by a loud “horn blast” while the train passed through Aptos Village around 2:45 a.m., about five minutes before the “major vibrations” hit the house.

“I know San Jose Airport has a curfew for noisy jets,” Burr said. “It just seems there should be the same consideration for noisy trains. The train doesn’t bother me when it comes during the day.”

Last week some residents, including county Supervisor Jan Beautz, who has fielded several complaints about the trains, said they felt ignored.

Not so, said Bromley. He didn’t have a number and could not pinpoint when the griping began. He said, however, that UP should have known running late trains would irritate people near the tracks, because “it is a no-brainer.”

He acknowledged the freight railroad had indeed changed its night operations over the past few weeks, for a variety of reasons. Bromley said federal law requires all rail companies to work their employees for no longer than 12-hour shifts and then guarantee eight hours of rest, in part for safety reasons.

Shifts begin and end in Watsonville Yard. Employees report there around 8:00 a.m. and are supposed to wrap up their day by 8:00 p.m., but lately, he said, there has been an unusual amount of work. Crews could finish in the designated 12 hours, but occasionally found themselves far from the Watsonville yard by 8:00 p.m.

In those cases, he said, the crew would be forced to “park” the train on the tracks and go home. In the interest of “efficiency,” UP sometimes sent replacement crews out to the parked trains, to drive it back to Watsonville, sometimes very late in the evening, Bromley said.

In response to the complaints, Bromley said, UP plans to curtail its practice of sending out those replacement crews, usually with three people, late at night. Instead, he said, the train will stay parked all night and operations will resume in the morning.

He said the railroad had been running replacement crews late at night because of a statewide hiring shortage, a large number of retirements and an increase in business, and was trying to maximize the number of people working the lines.


Return to index
KCS files SEC statement amendment

Kansas City Southern stated it filed an amendment on October 14 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is named pre-effective Amendment No. 1 to the Form S-3 registration statement relating to the resale of its 4.25 percent Redeemable Cumulative Convertible Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series C, and the underlying common stock, by the selling security holders of these securities. KCS said the statement had “not yet been declared effective by the SEC and the selling security holders may not sell these securities until the registration statement has been declared effective by the SEC.”


Return to index
From Pennsylvania:

Rail freight lines get $10 million

Gov. Edward G. Rendell last week released $10 million in capital budget funds for 11 rail-freight improvement projects across Pennsylvania. Four firms will get more than $1 million.

“By upgrading Pennsylvania’s short line and regional railroads, we promote economic development and create jobs,” Rendell said. He added, “These railroads help keep the freight moving from our communities and employers to major rail-freight carriers.”

Pennsylvania DOT (PENNDOT) Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E., said the Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways oversees the funding, which will be used to construct and maintain rail lines, spurs and sidings.

The state has 69 operating railroads. With 5,600 miles of track, the state ranks fifth in the nation in total track mileage.

The capital budget grants include $2 million for the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad, Inc., of Punxsutawney, to rehabilitate the mainline and restore the service line from Creekside to Homer City in Indiana County.

$1.76 million for the Delaware & Hudson Ry. Co. of Clifton Park, N.Y., to further rehabilitate the D&H main line from Sunbury to the Taylor yard near Scranton in Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties.

Keystone Railroad, doing business as Philadelphia, Bethlehem & New England Railroad Co. in Bethlehem is getting $1.3 million to construct an all-purpose rail-truck distribution center in Northampton County.

RJ Corman Railroad Co. of Clearfield is getting $1 million to rehabilitate the Clearfield cluster in Clearfield, Clinton and Cameron counties.

Other lines getting grand are the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad, Inc., Punxsutawney, $828,875 to rehabilitate track to Petrolia; Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad, Monroeville, $750,000 for rehabilitation of the mainline and passing track and reconstruction of 75 miles in Allegheny, Butler and Mercer counties; Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad Co., Port Clinton, $750,000 to rehabilitate track and related repair work in Berks, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Schuylkill and Wyoming counties;

Also, SJA Construction, Inc., of Marlton, N.J., $533,125 to rehabilitate and repair track and to purchase loading and unloading equipment for the rail facility at Girard Point in Philadelphia; SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, Lewisburg, $438,000 for a continuous welded rail project on the Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad in Clinton, Centre and Blair counties; Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad, Lakeville, $340,000 to upgrade and rebuild track of the former Erie-Lackawanna Railroad in Washington, Erie and Crawford counties; and Redevelopment Authority of Luzerne County, West Pittston, $300,000 to rehabilitate a 56-mile segment of the Luzerne & Susquehanna Railroad in Luzerne County;


Return to index
Intermodal continues to surge

Intermodal traffic on the nation’s railroads continued to surge during the week ended October 11, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported Thursday.

The total of 207,806 trailers or containers was the third highest weekly total ever. The four highest weekly intermodal totals for U.S. railroads have all occurred over the past five weeks. In the most recent week, intermodal volume was up 37.5 percent from the comparable week last year when container traffic from West Coast ports was halted by a labor dispute.

Carload freight registered a 0.9 percent gain over last year, totaling 343,412 cars, with volume up 2.9 percent in the East but down 0.8 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 31.1 billion ton-miles, up 3.0 percent from last year.

Twelve of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year, with coke registering a 51.3 percent gain; grain up 13.9 percent; and waste and scrap gaining 9.9 percent. Loadings of metallic ores were off 16.8 percent, and coal was down 2.2 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 41 weeks of 2003: 13,318,804 carloads, down 0.2 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 7,772,869 trailers or containers, up 6.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.18 trillion ton-miles, up 1.0 percent from last year’s first 41 weeks.

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. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Canadian railroads also reported gains in both carload and intermodal freight during the week ended October 11 in comparison with last year.

Intermodal traffic totaled 45,146 trailers and containers, up 4.3 percent from last year, and carload volume of 68,382 cars, was 6.5 percent above the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 41 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,531,218 carloads, down 0.8 percent from last year, and 1,705,473 trailers and containers, up 7.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 41 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 15,850,022 carloads, down 0.3 percent from last year and 9,478,342 trailers and containers, up 6.8 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended October 11 totaled 8,524 cars, down 6.7 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,376 originated trailers or containers, down 11.6 percent from the 41st week of 2002. For the first 41 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 345,394 cars, down 1.4 percent from last year, and 142,388 trailers or containers, up 17.1 percent.

The AAR is online at http://www.aar.org.


Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: Bloomberg.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)29.72029.350
Canadian National(CNI)54.90054.520
Canadian Pacific(CP)26.12025.390
CSX(CSX)30.55029.700
Florida East Coast(FLA)29.46029.650
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)26.33024.670
Kansas City Southern(KSU)12.75012.480
Norfolk Southern(NSC)19.30018.770
Union Pacific(UNP)59.37058.190


Return to index
ACROSSTHEPOND...  Across the pond...

New Spanish train hits 124 mph

Spain’s new bullet train, which made its maiden journey on October 11, has not quite lived up to its name – yet.

The train traveled well below its intended average and peak speeds in its debut, which itself was a year behind schedule. Spain’s second high-speed line links Madrid to the northeastern city of Lleida, reports The AP from Madrid.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia traveled on the train for the first official test run one day earlier.

The train had an average speed of 108 mph, with a peak of 124 mph, slower than the intended average speed of 186 mph with peaks of 217 mph. The Spanish government said more infrastructure work is needed.

The train made the 280-mile trip between the cities in 2 hours and 58 minutes, cutting nearly an hour off the normal travel time. One-way tickets cost $63.

The Madrid-Lleida bullet train has been plagued for several years by numerous labor accidents, building delays and a bitter row over the geological stability of some track locations, according to the news service.

Tracks run through a section of the northern region of Aragon that has a history of shifting soil. Ecologists and geologists say up to 10 sinkholes have opened up in the past 18 months, including two in recent weeks, in different spots near the track.

Opponents also say too much money has been spent on high-speed lines while the rest of the country’s rail system is wearing down.

The government, however, insists the new line is “the pride and joy of Spanish engineering” and all necessary studies have been done to ensure the line is safe.

Spain inaugurated its first high-speed rail link in 1992 between Madrid and the southern city of Seville. That leg is part of a broader project for a high-speed rail linking Madrid and northeastern Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, by 2005.

Another leg is being built to link the capital to north-central Valladolid.


Return to index
xxxxxx...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

In the October 13 issue, you refer to PATH system as “light rail.”

It is actually a separate rapid transit system operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The system connects Lower and Midtown Manhattan with four New Jersey cities.

Aren Takeall


Dear Editor:

You wrote in the September 29 D:F, “The Amtrak cars will have 150 seats and standing room accommodations for up to 215 additional passengers.”

Is the actual total capacity 365 passengers (seated and standing)? If so, I’d sure hate to have to ride on them – especially on a daily basis.

You also wrote, “The aluminum bilevel cars are built with two main levels of passenger seating with a smaller intermediate level at each end. The design provides 70 percent more passenger area than single-level rail cars within a similar length and up to 30 savings in operating costs, according to Bombardier.”

I guess that is supposed to be “up to 30 percent savings.”

Don Stewart

I’ve been pondering your questions, Don, and the answer to your first question is that I don’t know. My guess is that it would be 215 standees for the entire train, not just a single car.

Also, it should have been “stainless steel,” not “aluminum,” referring to the carbody.

Finally, yes, it should be “30 percent.”

Thanks for your questions. It reminds me I must copy read carefully. I care about my craft. – Ed.


Return to index
THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

At Park Ave Bridge in Cranston, RI

NCI: Leo King

It’s 1998 in Cranston, R.I., and a Boston-bound liner passes under Park Avenue bridge, at milepost 180.29. Amtrak’s 3,000hp F-40PH diesel locomotives started out as freight GP-40s in disguise, but how they so became part of the national landscape, starting in 1976. The 130-ton engines were an outgrowth of the six-axle SDP-40 engines, which were less than successful for Amtrak. The F-40s were geared for 100 mph sustained speed. “PH” was EMD’s abbreviation of an engine equipped with head-end power. The builder cranked out some 540 copies – in three versions – for Amtrak and several other railroads, including Chicago’s Metra, Boston’s MBTA, Florida Tri-Rail in Miami, and several other commuter lines as well as VIA Rail Canada. EMD finally quit building the power 13 years later, in 1989. Many Amtrak copies have now been sold to freight railroads, and many others have been scrapped. The F-40s were replaced by newer diesels, including P-32s, P-40s and P-42s, and on the Northeast Corridor, AEM-7s were able to operate from Washington all the way to Boston.


Return to index
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" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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.


|| Home Page || Destination: Freedom Past Editions || Contact Us || Article Index || Top of Page

This edition has been read by || || people since date of release.


Copyright © 2003, National Corridors Initiative, Inc. & Leo King.