Vol. 7 No. 46
Copyright © 2006
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Political leaders at all levels of government
In this edition...
Amtrak fights off CN-Illinois Central move
to back out of service agreement
CHICAGO --- CN-Illinois Central has withdrawn its effort to modify a service agreement permitting expansion of passenger rail service in Illinois, avoiding a court fight that had been threatened by Amtrak.
Amtrak had been preparing to seek an emergency order requiring Canadian National-Illinois Central (CN-IC) Railroad to honor an existing agreement between the two railroads allowing the addition of new passenger trains between Chicago and St. Louis and between Chicago and Carbondale, which are to start October 30.
The service expansion, being carried out by Amtrak for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), is set to begin on October 30 and runs over tracks owned in part by the CN-IC. In July, Amtrak and the CN-IC signed an agreement permitting the new trains to operate on the CN-IC tracks.
The demand for more passenger rail service in Illinois is clearly growing and were pleased that CNs leadership has made it possible to move forward, said Amtrak President and CEO Alexander Kummant, who spoke Wednesday with CN-IC President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison.
Kummant specifically commended the assistance of CN Executive Vice President of Operations Ed Harris in resolving the objection to the new service. Additionally, Kummant thanked Illinois U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and the states Congressional delegation, as well as Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state Legislators, for their efforts to resolve CNs objections.
The concern about this matter expressed by Sen. Durbin, Gov. Blagojevich and other public officials clearly helped preserve this service expansion, Kummant added. The state wants this service to begin on Monday and the way has been cleared for the additional trains.
On October 19th, CN-IC attempted to change an agreement, already in place, to reduce the number of trains and shorten its term. Illinois rejected this proposal by CN-IC. Already popular with passengers, some of the trains are sold out during the upcoming holiday season.
Following a Carbondale news conference on Sept. 25, tickets have been on sale for the Saluki (Trains 390 & 391) and Illini (Trains 392 & 393). Ticket availability for the Lincoln Service (Trains 300 & 301, 302 & 305, 306 & 307) to and from St. Louis was announced on Oct. 14.
Amtrak refused to cancel the additional trains and continued to accept reservations and sell tickets on all routes and frequencies. (Expanded service on the Chicago-Quincy route was unaffected by this matter).
Amtrak, IDOT and other railroads have invested capital on the Chicago-Joliet route to increase capacity and improve reliability for passenger trains. Less than 37 miles of the 284-mile Chicago-St. Louis route is on tracks owned by CN-IC between Chicago and Joliet. Three Amtrak trains and three commuter trains make round-trips on this route, with no commuter trains on weekends. Under the agreement with CN-IC, two more daily round-trips by Amtrak trains will be added for a total of eight passenger train round-trips on weekdays, five passenger train round-trips on weekends.
Nearly the entire 310-mile Chicago-Carbondale route is on tracks owned by CN-IC. Two Amtrak trains currently make round-trips on this route, with all commuter trains using dedicated tracks nearby. Under the agreement with CN-IC, one more daily round-trip by Amtrak trains will be added for a total of three passenger train round-trips daily.
The expanded service comes after news that all state-sponsored Amtrak routes posted record ridership levels for Illinois Fiscal Year 2006 and with an increase in state funding for passenger rail service by Amtrak from $12.1 million to $24 million approved by the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.
Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail services to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.
HARRISBURG, PA., OCTOBER 24 -- Eleven railroads and ten businesses in Pennsylvania will receive major investments from the state for rail-freight improvement projects as a stimulus to the economy and to relieve to traffic congestion on the highways, announced Governor Rendell last week.
This investment in rail freight will have a positive impact on our overall transportation system, Governor Rendell said. By moving more products on rail, we are reducing the number of trucks on our highways. This will lessen congestion and wear and tear on our roads. The grants will also be an economic generator that will help create new jobs and keep others.
Governor Rendell, in recognizing the importance of rail infrastructure to the states economy, has more than doubled the funding for the Capital Budget and Rail Freight Assistance Programs since he took office, from $4.25 million in 2003-04 to $10.5 million in this fiscal year. Through the capital budget investment in these projects, 1,290 jobs will be created, 13,003 jobs will be maintained and required truck trips will be reduced by 589,797 annually.
Several of the grants will be used for improving connections between rail lines and also for providing businesses with connections to rail. The Greater Erie Industrial Development Corporation will receive a grant for their proposal to redevelop rail infrastructure along the CSX mainline located on the former International Paper brownfield site. A biodiesel company will benefit from this connection.
Another investment will go to the Allegheny Valley Railroad Company to rehabilitate track in Allegheny and Washington counties. This will link the Allegheny Valley Railroad with CSX, Wheeling & Lake Erie and B&P Railroads.
The grants are administered by PennDOTs Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways. Pennsylvania leads the nation with 65 operating railroads and ranks fifth in the nation with over 5,000 track miles.
A full list of the grants approved by Governor Rendell and the General Assembly is below.
Allegheny and Washington counties
Indiana and Jefferson counties
Monroe and Northampton counties
WASHINGTON Amtrak passenger ticket revenue increased in Fiscal Year 2006 to $1.37 billion, the highest annual ticket revenue ever achieved, and, at $132 million over last year, the railroads largest year-over-year increase. The railroad also served 24.3 million passengers nearly 300,000 more than for the same trains in the previous fiscal year.
Total ticket revenue for the period October 2005 September 2006 was an 11 percent increase over the $1.23 billion in FY05. Ridership increased from 24 million to 24.3 million a one percent increase over the previous 12 months. 
These numbers are indicative of the increased demand for intercity passenger rail service throughout the country, said Barbara Richardson, vice president, marketing and sales. In recognition of that demand, states are stepping up their investment in passenger rail, including Illinois and Pennsylvania, which will benefit from more Amtrak service this year. Richardson added, Amtrak is increasingly considered as a transportation solution, particularly in regional corridors.
Revenue growth was the greatest in the Northeast. Acela Express is building back popularity after last years service outage and the Regional trains experienced growth, especially as gas prices rose this summer. Revenue for the entire Northeast Corridor reached $725.4 million, a 12 percent increase over last years ticket revenue, and six percent over budget. Ridership in the corridor experienced a slight dip of 1.6 percent as some ridership dropped in part because Amtrak reduced deep commuter discounts offered the year before. Acela service saw an increase in on-time performance (OTP), frequently surpassing its goal of 90 percent. At year-end, the Acela OTP was 84.6 percent, up more than eight percent over last year.
Amtraks state-supported and short distance services outside of the Northeast Corridor saw significant ridership growth, reaching 11 million, a 4.5 percent increase over FY05 and a five percent increase over budget. Ticket revenue for these services reached $287.8 million, an 11.9 percent increase over the same period last year and 7.6 percent over budget.
The Keystone Service, which operates between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, had a 12.7 percent increase in ridership, reaching 823,097 in FY06. Ticket revenue increased 15.4 percent over last year. The Downeaster, which operates several times daily between Portland, ME and Boston, Mass. had the largest increase in ridership system-wide, serving 23% percent more passengers between October 2005 and September 2006 than during the previous 12 months. The Downeaster also brought in $4.6 million, a 27.2 percent increase in ticket revenue.
The Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service had another strong year, surpassing last years record ridership by more than 10 percent. The train, supported by the states of Wisconsin and Illinois, carried 580,333 passengers and ticket revenue increased to $6 million, a 14 percent increase over FY05. All three routes in Michigan showed significant increases in ticket revenue, including the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Wolverine (up 22 percent), the state-supported Chicago-East Lansing/Port Huron Blue Water (up 22 percent) and the Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette (up 20 percent).
Californias Pacific Surfliner, which operates between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, carried more than 2.6 million passengers in FY06, a 5 percent increase over the same period last year. Ticket revenue topped $43 million, a 16 increase over the previous 12 months. The San Joaquin trains showed a 15 percent increase in ticket revenue, reaching more than $24.5 million. Ticket revenue for the Washington and Oregon state-supported Cascades service was up nine percent to $16.5 million.
After the first full year of enhanced service aboard the Empire Builder, which operates between Chicago and Seattle/Portland, both ridership and revenue increased. During the months between October 2005 and September 2006, ticket revenue increased by 16% percent between, reaching $48.6 million. Ridership increased by 4.3 percent to 497,020.
Despite some on-time performance challenges, Long Distance train ridership dipped by only one percent compared to last year and several trains saw an increase in ridership, including the Silver Star, which operates between New York and Miami; the New York Savannah, Ga. Palmetto; and the New York - Chicago Lake Shore Limited.
WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 26 The Grinch has made his way to the Great White Way and Amtrak has deals for fans of Green Santas. Join Max the Dog as he narrates this tale and travel to Whoville by rail.
As Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - The Musical premieres on Broadway, Amtrak Vacations is offering packages from cities in the Northeast to New York City to see the show. Adapted from the timeless childrens book and the animated 1966 television series, Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is a high-quality, Broadway-scale musical that appeals to audiences from three to eighty-three and is the perfect family holiday event. The beloved holiday classic, on stage in New York for the first time, begins a limited run on October 25 continuing through January 7, 2007.
The Amtrak Vacations packages include round-trip coach travel on Amtrak to New York City and a box/orchestra seat ticket to the Broadway Show. Package prices are per person and based on availability.
Sample prices include:
Roundtrip Travel to
New York City from:
Albany, NY $194 Baltimore, MD $246 Boston, MA $234 New Carrollton, MD $252 Philadelphia, PA $210 Providence, RI $222 Washington, DC $252 Wilmington, DE $226
For the first time in Broadway history, The Grinch production will be offering a 12 show week four additional shows more than any other play on Broadway. With a total of 8 unions having had to come to an agreement in order for this to happen, this is a true testament to everyones love for this story. Running Subway Productions along with 2-time Tony Award® winning director, Jack OBrien are bringing to life this favorite tale with amazing set design, choreography, music and puppetry as well as the two hit songs from the original animated series, Youre a Mean One, Mr. Grinch and Welcome Christmas.
In addition to the packages, Amtrak is also offering discounts on travel for children and groups traveling together. Children ages 2 to 15 receive 50% off most Amtrak rail fares, every day, when accompanied by a full-fare paying adult. Up to two children may travel at half-price with each full-fare paying adult.
Amtraks Share Fares, available for travel in the Northeast, are ideal for group travel to see the Grinch. The savings start when groups of 3 to 6 traveling together book a reservation on board Amtraks Regional service between Washington and Boston or the Empire Service between Albany and New York City. Groups can save 25 to 50 percent when the first and second passengers pay the full adult rail fare.
Hotel packages are also available for longer stays in New York. For more information or to book a trip, call Amtrak Vacations at 1-866-830-6372 or your travel agent.
Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.
About Amtrak Vacations
Amtrak Vacations offers tour packages to popular destinations throughout the United States. Vacation packages may include rail travel, hotel accommodations, sightseeing tours, event tickets, car rentals, meals and the Air Rail program. For information and reservations, call Amtrak Vacations at 1-866-830-6372.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION
60 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington DC 20002
tel 202 906.3860 fax 202 906.3306 email@example.com
Contact: Karina Romero
Alison Brod Public Relations
The Grinch: Robin Edlow
QUÉBEC CITY--- NCI President Jim RePass told the Québec separatist party this past week that better transport connections between the eastern United States and Québec are essential to the economic health of both regions, but that ordinary citizens must organize to make that happen.
For a generation the highway lobby has been saying North America is too big for rail. What nonsense! Just look at the numbers. The Northeast region of the United States could support the kind of rail service Switzerland has --- easily. And so could Québec. The Montreal area alone has 3.6 million people, half the population of Québec, and equal to the state of Connecticut. It lies within a short reach of New England: a distinct and beautiful and different place, yet one that should be linked by transportation to the entire Northeast, RePass said.
High speed rail for Canada? Lets put it where it works, and connect it to North America. It is 334 miles between Montreal and New York City. That should be a three-hour trip, at most. In France, it could be a two hour trip, already! All we have to do is have the will to build it! And give our politicians the backbone to make it happen, said RePass, who delivered his address in French to the mostly French-speaking audience, or, as the local paper The Gazette reported it, made his presentation in halting but understandable French, winning applause for his efforts.
The Parti Québecois is likely to force provincial elections later this year or early in 2007, according to political observers. The province, which is French-speaking and has a largely French heritage, is heavily populated in its Southern tier of cities (Montréal, Québec City), and lightly populated further north. It is three times the size of France.
MBTA grade crossing accident injures 19,
engineer quick thinking hailed
On Monday October 23, the morning commute from Franklin, Massachusetts started off with a bang the worse kind when a Boston-bound MBTA commuter train hit a flatbed truck stuck at a grade crossing.
The vehicle, a low-profile flatbed truck carrying heavy road excavation equipment, attempted crossing the tracks but became hung-up on the slightly raised rail bed. Upon realizing the truck could not be moved a frantic driver ran up the tracks in an attempt to warn the oncoming commuter train. Although the train engineer was able to see the driver waving frantically ahead, the train moving at about 40 mph in push-pull mode could not be stopped in time.
Seeing impact imminent, Mass Bay Commuter Rail engineer Jeffrey Constantineau placed the train into emergency stop mode then jumped back from the cab control compartment in the lead coach to warn passengers of the impending impact several hundred feet ahead. Passengers and authorities at the scene have credited the quick-thinking engineer with helping to prevent additional injuries.
Although the train slowed the impact caused the flat bed truck to rotate causing the heavy road equipment on top to whip around, striking the second bi-level coach in the consist and tipping it off the tracks. Substantial body damage was caused to the upper level of the Bombardier-manufactured coach, and while tipped, egress into and out of the damaged coach was not seriously affected making evacuation less cumbersome.
The accident occurred just before 8:00 am and effected train service just inbound of the Dean College area. The MBTA immediately pressed alternative bus service into action. The Franklin Fire Department and as many as 11 ambulances responded to the scene to deal with the walking wounded.
It was later reported that 19 passengers were treated and released from nearby Milford regional Medical Center.
In my nine years with the T, this is the worst Ive seen, said T spokesman Joe Pesaturo.
Passenger Frank Boucher a Boston photography student said, All of a sudden, the conductor yells Hold on! and then everyone was screaming. We were thrown sideways across the train car.
If my head had been leaning against the window, I would have been killed, said Boucher.
The remainder of the day was dedicated to righting the damaged train back onto the tracks and by the evening rush hour, rail service to Franklin had been restored.
The investigation into the accident is still ongoing and at press time no charges had been filed against the operator of the flat bed truck. According to press reports the crossing is posted restricting low-profile vehicles from that crossing and at least one sign is readily visible on one side of the crossing. However, it was unclear if the side from which the flatbed had approached was similarly posted warning drivers of the restriction.
At Right: Two Photos - CBS/WBZ-TV, Boston
Road excavation equipment on a flatbed trailer pierces an MBTA bi-level coach in an Oct. 23 accident.
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New England with a future
HARTFORD --- It was busy in the city this past week, what with hearings and crime stories and especially campaign news --- so busy that a press conference critical to the economic future of New England, let alone Connecticut, was all but overlooked.
Let me see if I can straighten that out, right here.
On October 18 State Senate President Don Williams held a press conference, supported by legislative transportation co-chair Biagio Billy Ciotto, to ask the Connecticut Department of Transportation consider buying some double-decker rail cars that are right now being manufactured for New Jersey Transit.
Why is that so important?
Because if we do it, the Connecticut taxpayers will save millions of dollars, and get better rail service, sooner.
As most readers of the Courant know, Connecticut DOT is revitalizing the rail line between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, MA, to serve commuters who otherwise must take the highway, or else infrequent, expensive, Amtrak trains. The track work is getting underway and will be largely completed in two-three years, although station rehabs could take longer. But at least, the track will be improved.
In the normal course of events, the state will then wait until a pot of money can be identified, hire a consultant, write a specification, go to bid, accept and evaluate bids, and pick a winner. Then, years later, the train sets themselves will begin to arrive. In the six-eight years it will take to do all of this, Connecticut will have lost yet more employers and manufacturers, whose employees cant get to work in a reasonable time because the highways weve built are full yet again --- and cant be widened without thoroughly wrecking whats left of this beautiful state.
We dont have to do it that way.
Instead, lets do this: New Jersey is buying hundreds of ultramodern locomotives and double-decker rail cars, based on the commuter rail cars now in service by the thousands in Germany, a country with one of the best rail systems in the world. They are being built RIGHT NOW in New York State. The manufacturer, Bombardier, of Canada, has offered Connecticut these same world-class train sets (1 loco+5 cars per set), at the same price, $15 million, that NJ Transit is paying.
Depending on the number of train sets Connecticut someday orders and remember, we are looking at expanding commuter rail service not just NH-Hartford, but Stamford-Providence, New London-Worcester, Norwalk-Danbury, and Bridgeport-Waterbury-Torrington ---thats $2-3 million less than what they will cost each when Connecticut eventually places its own, far more modest train set order years from now: it should be no surprise that trains, like donuts, are cheaper by the dozen. Why not save that money, and get the train sets years earlier, as well?
Governor Rell recently signed, at a Windsor train station ceremony, appropriately enough, Executive Order 15, Connecticut Green and Growing. The Governors proposal to make Connecticut a smart growth state has caught the attention of Connecticuts transportation and environmental advocates, many of whom were frankly surprised to hear how heartfelt the Governor sounded on that day.
Governor, if you meant what you said about future generations when you signed that order with a literal and rhetorical flourish on that balmy day in Windsor, here is an opportunity to put substance to your words in a way that will save the taxpayers a bundle, and get them better rail service, sooner. We hope youll see it our way, too.
(James RePass is President of the National Corridors Initiative, a transportation advocacy group that negotiated the funding for the completed high speed rail project that links Boston and New York. A former journalist, he is a contributor to this and other newspapers.)
NCI passes a milestone
Earlier this week I watched as our home page crested 400 thousand viewings. Now to some this may seem a rather small and insignificant number in the world of the world wide web, but when you take into consideration the how of our page counters, that becomes a significant figure. To understand this, a short lesson in web browsers is in order.
When a web browser such as the one you are using views a web page, a copy is made on your personal computer. As you click around a web site you may come back to that same page several times. What most people dont understand is that each repeat visit to that web page is not being pulled in from the world-wide web. In fact it is repeating the copy on your hard drive that you initially received when you first visited the web site in that session.
Many web sites claim millions of viewers but those are often registering both the first visit which actually obtained the page, then subsequent repeat visits that actually played from your hard drive. When web pages are requested, if the content is equal to the copy on your hard drive, that copy plays, not a fresh one from the web. Therefore, one person can cause such broadly defined counters to register dozens or more hits per session.
Our page counters only register real downloads (viewings) of a page. We do not count those additional clicks that are actually replaying from within your personal computer. As such, our figures become rather significant. They indicate real people.
Some of our editions of Destination: Freedom have gone well into the tens-of-thousands of viewings. For example, the edition from November 15, 2004 has been viewed over 11,600 times. That edition carried material on the Amtrak Beechgrove shops and the efforts of American soldiers in Iraq to restore rail service in that beleaguered country. The February 23, 2003 edition has been read over 45 thousand times. Maybe people were interested in what former Amtrak Chair David Gunn had to say on that railroads budget. March 3, 2003 edition announced an upcoming NCI Conference and the CSX HQ move to Jacksonville. In any event, people are reading and learning. With some seven years of newsletters available, and all searchable by keyword, there is a large reference work to be had.
Who then is viewing one might ask? According to our statistics, the vast majority of people are in the USA which is a no-brainer, but that is followed immediately by Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. More interesting is that, while at the lower rungs of the ladder, we get viewers from far-away places such as Estonia and the Samoa Islands. It would also seem very easy to find us as most search engines have found our site using the phrase national corridors.
Therefore we invite our readership to continue reading each new edition as it is issued and researching past articles. We are pleased to provide this information and hope that it will have an overall impact on restoring rail and starting new rail as viable means of public transportation in our energy-challenged times.
New NCI web feature
With this edition of Destination: Freedom, it will be possible to click a single button to send a copy of the newsletter or a link to the newsletter to a friend via e-mail. Thanks to a resident script at our web host, Powweb.Com, we can now offer this feature. The button is conveniently located at the top of the page on the left side of the flag.
We will also soon add that same feature to a number of other pages at our web site for the convience of our readership.
Neither NCI or Powweb.com retain any information from the script that generates the courtesy e-mail message that sends the information.
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Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.
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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other 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) our email@example.com.
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