In this edition...
Photo: Leo KingWhat will the future be for the Northeast Corridor and the Acela Express?
Amtrak Board Chairman committed
Cong. Menendez still concerned with Amtrak boards plans to create subsidiary
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who had demanded an explanation of the Amtrak Boards secret vote to create a Northeast Corridor subsidiary, said today that he was pleased with assurances by Amtrak Board Chairman David Laney that Laney was fighting the Bush administrations plan to sell or spin off the Northeast Corridor infrastructure but said he was not convinced the Boards actions were appropriate.
In a meeting with Menendez last week, Laney said that he was fighting any efforts to sell or spin off the Northeast Corridor and reiterated his statement in the April 2005 Amtrak Strategic Plan that separating Amtraks operations and infrastructure is far too risky a move. In a letter to Laney today, Menendez thanked him for those assurances, while expressing continuing concern with the Boards secret vote to create a Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Subsidy.
I was not, however, satisfied with your explanations as to why the Board approved the resolution creating a Northeast Corridor Infrastructure Subsidiary, nor why it was kept secret for so long, Menendez wrote. Your claim that Amtrak needs to create a subsidiary to improve its accounting practices just doesnt fly. As I mentioned at our meeting, companies around the country are able to improve their accounting methods without creating a holding company. Im extremely concerned that this is the first step for selling off the Northeast Corridor when someone other than yourself is Chairman of the Board.
Menendez has consistently opposed any plan to spin off the Northeast Corridor because, as he wrote in the letter to Laney, The move could have a tremendous impact on the hundreds of thousands of commuters that depend on the Northeast Corridor to get back and forth to work, and the amount of time they can spend at home with their families.
In the meeting with Chairman Laney, Menendez also asked to be provided with information on past and pending actions by the Board that could affect the Northeast Corridor.
( See related editorial below Ed. )
This week, Amtrak restores the San Antonio-Houston-New Orleans portion of the Sunset Ltd. The first New Orleans-bound train 2 will leave Los Angeles Wed., Nov. 2 and arrive Houston and New Orleans Fri., Nov. 4. The first westbound train 1 leaves New Orleans and Houston Fri., Nov. 4. The schedule is the same as that shown in the Spring-Summer 2005 timetable. (The new timetable shows no times east of San Antonio.)
New Jersey Transit says it will add 3,000 additional peak hour seats on the Northeast Corridor into and out of New York, when two additional New York-Trenton express round-trips begin Monday, Oct. 31. Eventually, NJTs Trenton trains will be re-equipped with Bombardier bi-level coaches that offer roomy 2-2 seating and fit New York City tunnels.
Meanwhile, Friday marked the final runs of three Amtrak New York-Philadelphia trains--6:30 AM from Philadelphia and 5:30 and 6:09 PM from New York. Through a combination of Regional and Keystone trains, Amtrak will offer roughly 30-minute headways in the rush hour peak New York-Philadelphia (but no departures from Phila. between 5:55 and 6:55 AM).
Starting Oct. 31, Amtrak will reduce--but not eliminate--service at Cornwells Heights. Weekday departures from Cornwells Heights (CWH) to New York will be 6:15 AM (#630) and 7:43 AM (#180). Return trips will depart New York at 6:38 PM (#193) and 7:32 PM (#655). (CWH is not shown in the new, national timetable.)
Train 630 will depart Philadelphia at 5:55 AM, five minutes earlier than shown in the printed timetable.
Also Oct. 31, Amtrak California will add more Thruway service connecting with the San Joaquins. The Stockton-San Jose route will extend to serve Caltrain commute stations at Sunnyvale (station code SVL), Mountain View (MNV), and Palo Alto (PLC). Benicia (BCI) will be added to Thruways from Martinez.
A new route offers two round trips Merced--Los Banos (LBO)-- Hollister (HLR)--San Juan Bautista (SJB)--Salinas--Monterey.
Bakersfield- Coachella Valley service will double, with a new Indio round-trip via Palm Springs. A second bus will also serve Hemet via Ontario and Riverside.
Minnesota mandates bio-diesel
Minnesota will require that all diesel fuel sold in the state be partly distilled from soybeans in a bid to reduce the nations need for crude oil and ease the burden of increased costs for fuel.
Minnesota is reportedly the first state to promote biodiesel and is the largest U. S. producer of soy-bean-based alternative fuel. It is already being sold at more than 200 stations around the state.
The new mandate comes at a time when the cost of oil is hovering around $65 a barrel, gas prices are topping $3 a gallon at times, and fuel supplies have been disrupted by the hurricanes. Tax breaks for bio-diesel are provided in the federal energy bill.
Ralph Groschen of the Minnesota Dept of Agriculture said Minnesota can learn from Europes acceptance of alternative fuels. Theyre out ahead of us, and were just trying to make it happen here.
Meanwhile, multinational companies such as Cargill, Inc and Archer Daniels Midland are planning stateside biodiesel refineries, as they have done in Europe.
The U.S. Dept of Agriculture predicts that the volume of sales will grow from 30 million gallons last year to 124 million gallons or more this year.
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.
Update from APTA President Millar
www.apta.com, 1666 K St. NW, Washington, DC 20006
October 28, 2005
Late last Thursday, the Senate passed the FY 2006 Transportation Appropriations bill (H.R. 3058). House and Senate approved transportation appropriations bills now go to conference, which is scheduled to be completed by November 17. In conference, the leadership will try to reconcile the House ($8.4 billion) and Senate ($8.2 billion) transit FY 06 funding levels with SAFETEA-LUs $8.6 billion, as well as incorporate SAFETEA-LUs policy changes. Contact Dan Duff.
Thursday, state and local transportation officials from three Gulf States outlined the progress of the repair, restoration and replacement of highway and transit infrastructure and services in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina during a Congressional oversight hearing by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines, chaired by Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI). GM William Deville (New Orleans RTA) and CEO Dwight Brashear (Capital Area Transit System) were among those testifying. Contact Rob Healy.
Around the Industry:
Tuesday, I attended a Womens Transportation Seminar event featuring Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman who discussed key issues facing passenger and freight rail and outlined his view of various rail safety issues. Contact KellyAnne Gallagher.
Tuesday, Tom Yedinak spoke at the Minnesota Public Transit Association (MPTA) Conference in Minneapolis on SAFETEA-LU. Congratulations to MPTAs President Linda Elfstrand (TRI-CAP) and Micky Gutzmann (MN DOT), conference chair, on a successful program! Contact Tom Yedinak.
Wednesday, at the APTA offices, I met with a 16-member delegation of senior public transportation executives from Shaanxi Province in Central China and provided an overview of U.S. public transportation issues. Delegation members included directors general of transportation departments of 10 cities and counties within the province along with county and city officials handling traffic and transportation management. Contact George Wynne.
That evening, I represented APTA at the annual benefit dinner for the New York Transit Museums Celebrating a Century of the Motor Bus in New York. It was great to see so many APTA members in attendance. Congratulations to Chairman Peter Kalikow (NY MTA); Museum Board of Trustees Chair Susan Gilbert (Interactive Elements Incorporated); Deputy Executive Director, Corporate Affairs and Communications Chris Boylan (NY MTA); and Museum Director Gabrielle Shubert.
Also Wednesday, the Transportation Policy Committee of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the outlook for the federal highway trust fund and mass transit account, and the two commissions created by SAFETEA-LU to examine projected needs of the nations surface transportation infrastructure network. Art Guzzetti, Jack Basso (AASHTO) and Richard Forman (Northeast Transportation Coalition) addressed the group. Contact Art Guzzetti.
Thursday, Pam Boswell represented APTA at the Maryland DOT (MDOT) Secretarys Conference on Accessible Transportation, Accessibility Beyond Compliance, for individuals with disabilities and their representatives who use MDOT programs and services. The conference included remarks from Director, Office of Civil Rights Michael Winter (FTA) and various modal administrations. A special thanks to Administrator Lisa Dickerson (MD MTA) for the invitation. Contact Pam Boswell.
Yesterday and today, the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee, chaired by GM David Lee (Connecticut Transit) is meeting at the Transportation Research Board offices in Washington, D.C. to select research projects to be funded for FY 06 under the TCRP program. Contact Tony Kouneski.
Tuesday, newly-elected APTA Vice Chair, Human Resources Jeanne Krieg (Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority) visited the APTA offices to meet with the program management and educational services team to discuss APTAs workforce development, and educational and professional development activities for members and the industry for next year. Contact Pam Boswell.
Tuesday, Joe Niegoski represented APTA at a steering committee meeting hosted at the Transportation Research Board in Washington D.C., which explored the possibility of a proposed transportation distance learning graduate certificate program. If enacted, this program would further the development of transportation professionals using various means of distance learning technologies and programs. Steering committee members include representatives from TRB, FHWA, AASHTO, AMPO, ITE, NTI, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Trans Tech Management, North Dakota State University, George Mason University, Penn State University, CCNY, CA DOT, and NY DOT. Contact Joe Niegoski.
Last Friday, the Business Member Board of Governors met in Chicago to review and discuss the preliminary recommendation for a follow-up program to the Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow (PT)2 program by the Evaluation Task Force. Leading the meeting were Kim Green (GFI GENFARE) vice chair, business members; and Dave Turney, (DRI-RTI) vice chair, marketing and communications, who also serves as co-chair of the task force. Contact Fran Hooper.
This has been an active week for APTA staff supporting peer reviews conducted for the Los Angeles County MTA and the Hudson-Bergen light rail system of NJ TRANSIT. Contact Greg Hull. Tuesday and Wednesday, Fran Hooper was in Minneapolis on a peer review of the Northstar Commuter Rail project to discuss preliminary plans for operations and maintenance of the railroad. Martin Minkoff (Sound Transit), Kathryn Waters (DART), Greg Percy (GO Transit) and Dennis Mogan (Metra) are on the peer panel. Also in attendance were many Metro Transit personnel, led by Deputy GM Mark Fuhrmann, project director for the Northstar Project, and Executive Director Tim Yantos (Anoka County Transit). Contact Fran Hooper.
And Finally . . . I am thrilled to report that the APTA Hurricane Katrina Transit Employee Relief Fund has received more than $100,000 in donations, which has been matched with $100,000 from APTA. For those who would still like to donate, the fund will remain open until December 31, 2005. Please go to www.apta.com/katrina. Thanks to all for the generous donations!
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Broader support for NY bond act
Support for the NY Transportation Bond Act Prop. 2 on the November 8 ballot appears to be more widespread than in 2000. In that year, a transportation bond issue was defeated at the polls, largely by upstate no votes.
The Business Council of NY State is urging voters to give thumbs up to the bond act. The councils leaders expressed concern about the states debt level, said Council president Daniel Walsh: However the board recognizes that voter-approved debt for long-term capital needs is an appropriate use of public debt.
It takes dollars to just keep everything secure, safe and travelable. Thats mass transit as well as roads and bridges. This is not a luxury, said Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno at an Albany event.
At a pro-Bond Act event in NYC, city comptroller William Thompson told the Daily News that if the bond issue is defeated, the MTA will likely be forced to borrow more money and riders may be burdened again with fare hikes and service cuts.
Distributing the benefits of parking pricing
In the third and final section of his opus, The High Cost of Free Parking, UCLA Professor Donald Shoup identifies ways to overcome technological and political barriers in the way of charging market-priced rates for parking.
Shoup describes several new takes on the traditional parking meter, which was invented by a member of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce in 1935. Most American parking meters havent changed much in the 70 years since. But recent years have seen significant advances.
Pay-and-display and pay-by-space meters are used in New York City, Aspen and Berkeley and differ from traditional meters in that they control multiple spaces. They also have the benefit of allowing cash, credit card, smart card and even cell phone payments.
Personal in-vehicle meters, also employed by Aspen and in Arlington, VA, allow parkers to pay without stepping out of their cars. Drivers key the appropriate parking zone, insert their parking smart card, and display the meter in the windshield. Payment is deducted until the driver returns and switches off the meter.
In several European cities, drivers pay for parking with their cell phones by calling a city parking number and keying in license plate and parking zone (cell payment is also a popular way to pay Londons congestion charge). An in-vehicle transponder allows control officers to determine if the car is paying and parked legally.
The EU is also exploring using Global Positioning System satellites to pay for parking.
Beyond their convenience, the principal advantages of modern payment methods is that parking rates can be adjusted to respond to demand.
During peak parking periods, rates can be adjusted upward to ensure a rough balance between supply and demand, reducing some trips and also cutting back on cruising for parking.
Of course the bigger obstacle to charging for parking (evident in the recent tempest over NYC metered Sunday parking) is politics. Resistance to increasing parking rates and putting a price on previously free parking is strong. Shoup says it can be overcome via parking benefit districts.
Under such a plan, the district would receive some or all of parking revenue, rather than see it disappear into a citys general fund coffers. The district would use the funds for transportation and community improvements such as sidewalk cleaning, landscaping, storefront facades, bicycle and walking paths, etc.
The establishment of parking benefit districts helps make metered parking more palatable to curbside shop owners and residents. Both groups can see a clear link between the coins deposited in parking meters and improvements in their districts.
Baltimore gondola proposed
A ski-lift style system of gondolas, soaring 95 feet above city streets and carrying eight persons per cable car, could be the next step in urban transit for commuters and tourists in Baltimore.
Two entrepreneurial brothers, Trey and Peter Winstead have garnered attention and funds to study their dream of stringing a cable-car system that would connect the Baltimore Convention Center to other parts of the city a little more than a mile away. The $30 million project should ease downtown traffic and provide a ride for tired tourists, all for the price of a $6 day pass.
A state grant of $38,000. was obtained to study ridership potential for the enclosed cars. Construction costs would be raised from private investors. Twenty-two towers would hold the cable and 97 cars aloft.
New Yorkers use a similar system that runs from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. Detroit, Syracuse, New York, and Portland, OR, are considering similar gondola systems.
The Winstead brothers say a gondola would cost less to build and to operate than an elevated-track system. It would be powered by an electric motor which would be quiet and emission-free; the cable itself would be all but invisible.
MTA approves fare cuts for holiday period
October 28 -- MTA officials agreed yesterday to lower fares on subways and commuter rails later this year, a token of gratitude to the regions millions of mass transit passengers.
We do think about the riders - and in a small, and somewhat insignificant way, this is the way were saying thank you, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Peter Kalikow, after the board approved, 12-2, a packet of holiday season discounts and bonus rides.
Highlights of the MTAs reduced fares:
SUBWAYS & BUSES
On holidays and weekends starting Thanksgiving (Nov. 25 and Dec. 26 included). Also, every day, Dec. 24-Jan. 2
4 Free days added to monthly MetroCards activated (first swiped) between Thanksgiving and Dec. 31. For weekly MetroCards, 1 free day will be added.
$76 Holiday MetroCard, good Nov. 23-Jan. 1, will be available at token booths.
LIRR & METRO-NORTH
10 - Number of free trips with an off-peak pass, good through Feb. 28, with purchase of December regular monthly pass. For use by family and friends.
Free -Round-trip off-peak ticket, good through Jan. 31, with any weekly pass purchased Nov. 20-Dec. 27 or 10-trip purchased Nov. 20-Dec. 31. For use by family and friends.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||60.39||57.89|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||43.14||41.51|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||31.94||30.63|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||22.16||21.32|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||13.00||12.70|
A Publishers Note:
Members of the media and others -- who panicked when Amtraks September Board vote to differentiate the accounting records of Amtraks heavily traveled Northeast Corridor, from the rest of the Amtrak system, need to take a deep breath. And the meeting Amtrak Chair David Laney had with Congressman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is a good illustration of why that is so.
This past week the Congressman met with Chairman Laney (see separate article) and came away satisfied that Laney was not about to lead a charge that would result in the dismemberment of Amtrak, although the Congressman remains concerned over the fact that the Board vote was not announced.
The key point: as we have stated in the past, while the Bush Administration has come under fire for the ideological corporatism of some of its senior staff, not everyone in the Administration is tied to that stake. A few, like David Laney, are the kind of principled, dedicated public servants that any administration would like to have.
David Laney is a long-time supporter of the President, and was chosen to head Amtrak because the President understood that Laneys experience with transportation would stand him in good stead in that post. But he is not an ideologue, as are some of the Presidents true believers, who think they have been put on earth to avenge a generation of liberal policies they feel have steered the country wrong. David Laney is a practical, professional man who is the kind of person, especially right now, that the Bush Administration needs if it wants to regain credibility with ordinary Americans, who have become increasingly disappointed in the behavior of some of the Presidents more ideological appointees.
Chairman Laney must be responsible to the person who appointed him, as well as to the interests of the public. His consistent leadership of Amtrak sets an example that others should follow, because it shows that it is possible to be loyal without being an ideologue. Indeed, we think David Laney serves the President better than some, because he will not allow himself to be a tool of the ideologues who keep trying to hijack this Administration, and who are doing it great damage.
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