Vol. 6 No. 45
November 7, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

A weekly North American rail and transit update

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

* Now in our Sixth Year *

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

  News Items... 
Senate adopts Lautenberg-Lott bipartisan measure
   to save Amtrak
Senate votes to open Alaskan oil drilling
  Commuter Lines… 
Rendell poised to enter SEPTA talks
  Environmental lines… 
New York City cabs go green
  Editorials… 
A win for America, and for Amtrak
Drilling in Alaska as metaphor
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Events… 
Congress of New Urbanism to convene
   Transportation Summit, Nov. 18-19
  End notes… 

Senate adopts Lautenberg-Lott
bipartisan measure to save Amtrak

Compiled by DF staff

WASHINGTON, DC -- The U. S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan amendment by Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Trent Lott (R-MS) November 3 “to strengthen and fully fund Amtrak, keeping the nation’s passenger rail system running for the 25 million Americans who rely on Amtrak every year,” said the office of Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Sen. Trent Lott
The Lott-Lautenberg measure, which was approved 93-6 as part of the Budget Reconciliation bill, authorizes $11.4 billion over the next six years for the nation’s passenger rail system and for a new state grant program for passenger rail infrastructure.

“Passenger rail service isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Lautenberg. “We learned on 9/11 that we can’t depend only on cars and airplanes. Passing this bill is a huge victory for the 25 million Americans who ride Amtrak every year.”

Senators Lott and Lautenberg have been leading the effort to preserve and strengthen the nation’s passenger rail system. Amtrak, created by Congress in 1970 to rescue passenger service from the then-failing freight railroads, has never been fully-funded by Congress.”

The Lautenberg-Lott bill, however, will provide full federal funding for capital improvements to the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Washington D.C. to Boston. The corridor is the most heavily traveled in the Amtrak system, and is used for commuter trains in New Jersey, as well as inter-city travel.

Lott and Lautenberg introduced their measure as a separate bill last summer and it was passed by the Senate Commerce Committee, on which both Senators serve. However, until today, the full Senate had not voted on the measure. Lott is chairman of the rail subcommittee.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg
Amtrak supporters continue to express alarm that the Bush-appointed Amtrak Board is seeking to achieve secretly the destruction of Amtrak even while the Congress has shown explicitly, and strongly, that it wants Amtrak to survive. In September, when the Board voted to break out Northeast Corridor accounting from the rest of the system, it appeared this was in preparation to shut down the long distance trains. Amtrak Chairman David Laney, in meetings with members of Congress and others, has denied that this is the Board’s intention.


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Senate votes to open Alaskan oil drilling

Source: Associated Press
Writer: H Josef Hebert

WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling when they passed their version of the budget bill on Thursday. For years, proponents have been blocked from getting an Arctic drilling provision passed into law because the Democrats have filibustered when it came to a vote on the floor. But filibusters are not allowed in the budget bill process, so that tactic won’t work this time.

“The action, assuming Congress agrees on a budget, clears the way for approving drilling in the refuge later this year,” drilling supporters said. The House has not included a similar provision in its budget, so the issue is still subject to negotiations later this year to resolve the difference.

The oil industry has sought for more than two decades to get access to what is believed to be billions of barrels of oil beneath the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northern eastern corner of Alaska.

Drilling supporters acknowledged after the vote that for refuge development to get final approval Congress must still pass a final budget with the Senate provision included, something Congress was unable to do last year.

Environmentalists have fought such development and argued that despite improved environmental controls a web of pipelines and drilling platforms would harm calving caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds that use the coastal plain.

“We won’t see this oil for 10 years. It will have minimal impact,” argued Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a co-sponsor of the amendment that would have stripped the Arctic Refuge provision from the budget document. It is “foolish to say oil development and a wildlife refuge can coexist,” she said.

The Alaska refuge could supply as much as 1 million barrels a day at peak production, drilling supporters said. But they acknowledge that even if ANWR’s oil is tapped, it would have no impact on soaring oil prices and tight supplies. The first lease sales would not be issued until 2007, followed by development seven to 10 years later, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said.

How Did Your Senators Vote?

Roll Call 52: To strike section 201(a)(4) relative to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Yea 49
Ban Drilling
Nay 51
Allow Drilling
Baucus (D-MT)Akaka (D-HI)
Bayh (D-IN)Alexander (R-TN)
Biden (D-DE)Allard (R-CO)
Bingaman (D-NM)Allen (R-VA)
Boxer (D-CA)Bennett (R-UT)
Byrd (D-WV)Bond (R-MO)
Cantwell (D-WA)Brownback (R-KS)
Carper (D-DE)Bunning (R-KY)
Chafee (R-RI)Burns (R-MT)
Clinton (D-NY)Burr (R-NC)
Coleman (R-MN)Chambliss (R-GA)
Collins(R-ME)Coburn (R-OK)
Conrad(D-ND)Cochran (R-MS)
Corzine(D-NJ)Cornyn (R-TX)
Dayton(D-MN)Craig (R-ID)
DeWine(R-OH)Crapo (R-ID)
Dodd(D-CT)DeMint (R-SC)
Dorgan(D-ND)Dole (R-NC)
Durbin(D-IL)Domenici (R-NM)
Feingold(D-WI)Ensign (R-NV)
Feinstein(D-CA)Enzi (R-WY)
Harkin(D-IA)Frist (R-TN)
Jeffords(I-VT)Graham (R-SC)
Johnson(D-SD)Grassley (R-IA)
Kennedy(D-MA)Gregg (R-NH)
Kerry(D-MA)Hagel (R-NE)
Kohl(D-WI)Hatch (R-UT)
Lautenberg(D-NJ)Hutchison (R-TX)
Leahy(D-VT)Inhofe (R-OK)
Levin(D-MI)Inouye (D-HI)
Lieberman(D-CT)Isakson (R-GA)
Lincoln(D-AR)Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain(R-AZ)Landrieu (D-LA)
Mikulski(D-MD)Lott (R-MS)
Murray(D-WA)Lugar (R-IN)
Nelson(D-FL)Martinez (R-FL)
Nelson(D-NE)McConnell (R-KY)
Obama(D-IL)Murkowski (R-AK)
Pryor(D-AR)Roberts (R-KS)
Reed(D-RI)Santorum (R-PA)
Reid(D-NV)Sessions (R-AL)
Rockefeller(D-WV)Shelby (R-AL)
Salazar(D-CO)Specter (R-PA)
Sarbanes(D-MD)Stevens (R-AK)
Schumer(D-NY)Sununu (R-NH)
Smith(R-OR)Talent (R-MO)
Snowe(R-ME)Thomas (R-WY)
Stabenow(D-MI)Thune (R-SD)
Wyden(D-OR)Vitter (R-LA)
 Voinovich (R-OH)
 Warner (R-VA)

(See editorial related to both news items - Ed.)


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Rendell poised to enter SEPTA talks

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Writers: Dan Geringer, Damon C. Williams & Simone Weichselbaum
geringd@phillynews.com

PHILADELPHIA -- With the SEPTA strike in its fourth day, Governor Rendell announced he plans to intervene if negotiations between SEPTA and Transport Workers Local 234 remain stalled through the weekend. Talks broke down last Wednesday when the union “stormed” out of the meeting, reported The Daily News.

The governor “saddled up ….. to ride to the rescue as Day Four of the transit strike frustrated Philadelphia with traffic gridlock in Center City and human gridlock at Suburban Station.”

On Thursday, a knowledgeable source told the Daily News that Rendell and Mayor Street will try to bridge the gap between the union and transit agency on Sunday. Informed of the impending intervention, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said, “We welcome both the governor and the mayor to become directly involved.”

The most heated portion of the ongoing dispute revolves around healthcare costs. SEPTA wants union workers, most of whom pay no medial premiums at all, to pay 5% of the medical insurance costs.

The governor has said it would be fair for workers to contribute a co-pay based on a sliding scale (determined by salary ) similar to the scale used for city government workers.

SEPTA has insisted that co-pays be a flat 5 percent of premium, which the union rejected because a general manager making $195,000 would pay the same for health care as a starting bus driver making $24,000.

“Sliding scale is a proposal that has been made by the union and that has to be negotiated out,” said SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney. “It can’t be negotiated if the union isn’t sitting at the negotiating table.”

Local 234 spokesman Bob Bedard said: “The one thing that SEPTA has asked from their union employees is that they make a contribution toward their health-care costs. We agreed to that. SEPTA should have thanked us as partners in solving the health-care problem. Instead, they tried to grab more, like a thief in the night.”

Meanwhile commuters (about 400,000 of them) are experiencing long delays and frustrations. No SEPTA buses, subways or trolleys in the city are running. The only transit available is the Regional Rail system, which had a major power failure on Thursday in the heart of rush hour.

Because “all Regional Rail trains funnel through Center City,” Maloney said last night, “everything essentially came to a halt. People who had been on the concourse for a couple of hours already faced additional delays of at least an hour-and-a-half.”


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

New York City cabs go green

On July 1, 2005, the Sierra Club issued a news release reporting that the New York City Council approved the “Clean Air Taxis Act” to jumpstart the conversion of New York City’s taxi fleet to less-polluting, more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles.

Last Friday’s New York Times, in an article by Sewell Chan, “Now on New York Streets, Cleaner-Running Hybrid Taxis,” reported that “six Ford Escapes …..hit the road (last Wednesday) without fanfare and became the first hybrid vehicles to be used as taxicabs in New York City.”

Since New York’s taxi fleet has approximately 13,000 cabs, this is a start toward reducing the city’s crushing air pollution burden, while also providing a boon to New York City’s cabbies, who currently spend $100 a day on fuel. Hybrid cars get almost double the miles per gallon as standard models.

The complicated story leading up to this development starts in June 2003 when the New York City Counsel ordered the Taxi and Limousine Commission to sell special medallions to be used with natural-gas or hybrid vehicles, as a pilot project.

Three Russian immigrant business partners placed winning bids on 18 medallions at an auction in October 2004. The cab owners weren’t environmentalists concerned about cleaner fuels but they knew a good business deal when they saw one. With the average cost of a fleet-owned medallion at $392,901. their bid of $222,743 saved $170,000. per medallion.

They put down a $450,000. deposit and waited to complete the purchase. The taxi commission balked. They failed to approve any new alternative-fuel vehicles for use as cabs and eventually refused to take the Russians’ money.

A lawsuit was filed which is still pending.

In June 2005, the City Council passed the “Clean Air Taxis Act” which compelled the commission to approve at least one alternative-fuel vehicle for use as a taxicab. The next month, the commission approved six.

Mr. Friedman, one of the partners, bought his six medallions last month and the remaining 12 are scheduled for this month.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra club and the Natural Resources Defense Council had struggled for years to get vehicles with cleaner fuels on the road. They were pleased and surprised at the long-awaited vehicles are finally in use.


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EDITORIALS...  Editorials...

A win for America, and for Amtrak

In an overwhelming vote, the Senate has approved the first long-term capital investment program in Amtrak’s history, which will allow Amtrak to make the kind of infrastructure improvements it has long done without.

The Senate measure, the work of long-time Amtrak supporters Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Trent Lott (R-MS), is an illustration of the kind of bi-partisan work that used to be the hallmark of Congress, but which in recent years has become less and less the rule rather than the exception.

The astonishing 96-3 vote should serve as a message to the anti-rail ideologues in the Bush Administration, particularly in the Office of Management and Budget and the U.S. DOT, that Amtrak is broadly supported by the vast majority of elected officials, as well as the people they represent. Even John McCain (R-AZ), a longtime critic of Amtrak, voted in favor. Those who have been busily maneuvering to undo in secret what the Congress, and the American people, want and need in a transportation system --- reliability, frequency, balance, and accessibility for all --- should be aware that their behavior is noted, and should cease forthwith. This is still a democracy, despite their efforts to undermine it.


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Drilling in Alaska as metaphor

The current Congress, in a new low by even its low and contentious standards, this past week voted to permit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It did over the strenuous objections of environmentalists --- and many others --- who want to see America weaned off of its dependence on petroleum.

Congress’ current GOP leadership did this using a parliamentary gimmick that by-passed long-standing Senate rules, deliberately attaching the Alaska oil drilling measure to the long-awaited annual budget resolution which Congress must pass to go about its normal course of business. The budget resolution, by Senate rules, can not be filibustered, so that a 51-vote majority is all that is needed to carry it. The highly contentious Alaska oil drilling resolution has enough opponents to prevent “cloture”, or 60+ votes to limit debate. Without that trick, it could have been and would have been --- filibustered, and blocked.

The argument of course is that the majority should rule. Arcane Senate traditions such as the filibuster, where a single Senator, a la “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”, can on principle argue his case literally forever, stopping all other Senate business, stands in the way of that. Also, this has already been a week for breaking with Senate courtesy and the long tradition in that assembly of fighting in public, but working quietly behind the scenes to enable the government to function on a day-to-day basis. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) invoked an ancient, rarely used rule to force his Majority counterpart to close the Senate to the public, until a report on America’s pre- Iraq War intelligence failures was brought up. This was done to delay Senate business, to spite the President’s desire for the Senate to speedily take up the Alito Supreme Court nomination. Tit for tat, but how sad it should come to this.

And now, Alaska. Even though the amount of oil that might be found there is trivial, even though oil interests have deliberately lied about the amount of damage to be done to a rare and important wildlife refuge, and even though we hear loud protestations from all parties that America must reduce its bloody dependency on foreign oil, the vote to permit drilling in the Arctic sends a message that, say what we want, we must and will have oil, anytime we want, and from anyplace we want to get it.

The extractive nature of unbridled, unregulated drilling or mining for energy, minerals, and other natural resources, represents 19th-century thinking, the kind that says the earth and its resources were put here for man to exploit. By voting as it did, when it did, on the Alaska question, the current GOP Senate leadership has put itself firmly on record as belonging in that camp.

Our organization was founded to develop support for greater investment in American energy-efficient, land-based transportation systems, not in opposition to highways or air travel, but to restore the balance upset generations ago by the oil lobby. Its successful, century-long campaign to force petroleum on America,and to limit options that might use other kinds of energy, or simply consume less of it, has weakened this country, not made it stronger. Drilling in Alaska, when even simple conservation measures would yield the equivalent number of oil barrels --- and more --- is an act of defiance and contempt that says to America, “You will consume oil, and only oil, as long as we want you to.” The Senate should have stood for the people. Instead, it voted for its patrons. Shame on those who let that happen.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)64.7760.39
Canadian National (CNI)73.5971.89
Canadian Pacific (CP) 40.3339.84
CSX (CSX)46.5344.59
Florida East Coast (FLA)43.2243.14
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)33.9731.94
Kansas City Southern (KSU)23.8722.16
Norfolk Southern (NSC)41.5539.76
Providence & Worcester (PWX)13.0013.00
Union Pacific (UNP)69.9568.25


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EVENTS...  Events...

Congress for the New Urbanism to convene
Transportation Summit, Nov. 18-19

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is excited to announce that the 2005 Transportation Summit will be held November 18th and 19th in Kansas City, Missouri. This premier gathering of transportation professionals will tackle the Summit’s theme: changing standards to bring transportation design and planning in line with the ideals of New Urbanism. 180 Degrees Design, a Missouri-based design firm led by CNU member Kevin Klinkenberg, will host the event. The Summit reaches out to a broad audience, with the first day open to the public and the second day reserved for CNU members.

Sponsored by the CNU, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the Summit will gather together leading professionals to discuss transportation reform and new urbanist transportation planning standards. Over two days, the programming provides an overview on current projects now changing transportation planning and engineering standards, as well as an opportunity to brainstorm new ideas. The Summit will examine and critique the work to date on the CNU-ITE urban thoroughfares project, and determine strategies for implementing context-sensitive designs into various federal, state and local transportation departments.

CNU President and CEO John Norquist will be presenting at the event. CNU Transportation task force chairs, Norman Garrick of the University of Connecticut and Marcy McInelly of Urbsworks in Portland, Oregon, will serve as session facilitators.

In addition, CNU Board member Jacky Grimshaw of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, will lead working groups. Finally, Kevin Klinkenberg will provide an overview of progressive transportation design and coding efforts in Kansas City. Sessions and working groups will focus on advancing the practice of transportation design, and changing standards. Topics covered will include: travel demand and volume, pedestrian issues, bicycles, green infrastructure, network design and parking. Participants will also work on creating a user-friendly technical transportation design manual for a wide range of planning and development professionals.

Registration is limited, so sign up now online. The registration fee is $50 for Friday only or $75 for both days. This includes breakfast, lunch and a reception. The Summit takes place at the Kansas City Fairmont Hotel, 401 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO.

Questions? Contact Heather Smith at hsmith@cnu.org or 312-551-7300


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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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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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, governor’s 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 webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.


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