Passenger-rail advocates, state transportation officials, rail suppliers, the United Transportation Union and even the freight railroad industry continue to struggle with a four-point program to stabilize, strengthen and eventually expand the nations skeletal network of intercity passenger trains, with plans to release a final platform later this week.
Meeting November 15 at the invitation of the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition and the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, the 37 conferees representing organizations from New England to Texas took a full day of discussion before hammering out the four principles. Once agreed upon, they hope they will soon be formalized in Congressional legislation.
We wanted to make sure that Congress is faced with a unified movement that agrees on a simple set of principles, said Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition Executive Director Rick Harnish.
When any state government, or city, or interest group goes to his congressman and says, Heres what we want, we want every congressman to hear the same message. When diverse interest groups coalesce around a uniform message, they gain credibility with legislators.
The four essentials most advocates say must be in the next transportation funding bill:
I think this is the absolute minimum that every organization promoting passenger-rail development must embrace, said United Transportation Union Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, who was asked by UTU International President Byron Boyd, Jr., to attend the conference. He will submit his observations to Boyd for review.
Obviously, Szabo said, each organization will have its own specific demands and agendas regarding passenger rail. Certainly our union does. Certainly the individual states do, but everyone in the room immediately agreed to set aside his or her pet projects and causes in order to develop a simple set of principles and objectives that all of us can support equally before Congress. Congress doesnt like to sort out a lot of controversial issues from contending groups. It acts only when presented with a clear set of goals, and thats what the Chicago meeting developed.
In addition to Szabo, those present at the meeting included the passenger-rail officials of the state departments of transportation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota; Jim RePass, President & CEO of the National Corridors Initiative; Ross Capon, Executive Director of the Washington-based National Association of Railroad Passengers; J. Anne Chettle, Manager of Congressional Affairs at the Association of American Railroads; former Deputy FRA Donald M. Itzkoff; Kevin Brubaker, High Speed Rail Project Manager for the Environmental Law & Policy Center; Michael Moss, legislative assistant to Illinois Gov.-Elect Rod Blagojevich; Scott Bernstein, President of the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago; and James E. Coston, a Chicago attorney and member of the Amtrak Reform Council. Amtrak Reform Council Chairman and former FRA Gilbert E. Carmichael participated by speakerphone.
RePass commented: Rick Harnish has done a great thing by gathering together a representative group of rail advocates from all over the country. Thats the kind of leadership we need. I hope that the basic principles under discussion can indeed be adopted, at least by a majority of us gathered in Chicago.
I believe we now have the basis for an effective passenger-rail funding package that we and our other allies can present to the next session of Congress, Harnish said. When rail advocates approach Congress, we will now be speaking with one voice. That has never happened before.
Harnish said the conferees deliberately refrained from specifying a funding source in their four-point program because thats not our job.
Congress does not like outsiders telling it how to raise money for new initiatives, he said. Legislators prefer to be sold on a program. After they accept it as something the nation needs, they reserve to themselves the job of developing a funding mechanism.
Szabo agreed, saying, Its O.K for rail advocates to debate how rail should be funded, and we do it all the time. Some people say add a penny to the federal motor-fuel tax and use that to fund rail. Some say use the 4.3-cents-a-gallon tax the railroads already pay on diesel fuel. Some say let intercity rail have a share of transit funding.
It is not our role to tell Congress where to find the money, he said.
Congressmen like to do that themselves. What they expect us advocates to do is present a coherent and doable picture of what a modern U.S. passenger rail system ought to look like, and thats what we advocates have done with the so-called Chicago Agreement. I think were off to a good start.
After many months, Amtrak finally has a new member on its board of directors. He is David M. Laney, a prominent Dallas attorney. Although he has a background in transportation issues in Texas state government (he was appointed when George W. Bush was the governor of that state), the newest board member has indicated he will feel perfectly free to disagree with the Bush administration on issues of Amtrak funding.
I view this as an independent position, Laney told a Senate committee during his confirmation hearings, and he added he believes the administration also understands the White House does not hold him on a tight leash just because he was nominated by President Bush.
If I disagree, Im sure they [the administration] will hear me. Oftentimes, I can be quite persuasive, he testified.
This would not be the first time a political appointee to the board marched to his own drummer once confirmed. Paul Weyrich, who served on the board during the Reagan and first Bush administrations, quickly demonstrated to his political sponsors that he had ideas of his own on Amtrak that were not always in harmony with theirs.
Laney also defined the appointment this year of Amtrak CEO David Gunn, a veteran railroader, as a very positive step by the board which has significantly improved the passenger train corporations credibility.
In its press release, Amtrak said, Mr. Laney brings experience in the transportation and banking industries to the Amtrak board, including service as a member of the Texas Transportation Commission from 1995-2001, acting as chairman for five of those six years.
The press statement added, As chairman, his responsibilities were largely those of the chief executive officer of the Texas DOT, a 14,000-employee state agency with an annual budget of $5 billion. In addition, he oversaw the planning and execution of an extensive number of transportation initiatives.
In a previous state administration, Laney was appointed to the Texas Finance Commission, overseeing the regulation of state-chartered banks, savings and loans, savings banks, and consumer credit operations. He was also on the Texas Turnpike Authority and the North Texas Turnpike Authority.
He rose to become managing partner of the law firm, Jenkins and Gilchrist. Under Laneys management the firm grew from a regional entity with fewer than 200 lawyers to a national firm with over 600 attorneys.
He also raised $100,000 for President Bushs presidential campaign.
The Texans comment that he would feel free to disagree with the Bush administration on Amtrak funding calls attention to the fact hat he is filling the slot that was vacated when then Amtrak Chairman Tommy Thompson resigned from the board. Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, reportedly left the Amtrak governing panel because his position as a member of the Bush administration cabinet put him in an awkward position if he actually were to disagree with the White House on an Amtrak issue. However, he has been a strong Amtrak advocate at Bush administration cabinet meetings.
Whenever a new appointment is made to the board, there is the inevitable comment that the credentials appear to be more political than based on railroad industry experience. At the same time, that is widely accepted as a natural consequence of the fact that Amtrak was created by politicians, and is funded by politicians who are elected by voters, some of whom believe their tax dollars entitle them to train service in harmony with their perceived needs.
During its history, the Amtrak board has been top-heavy with people sporting political connections ranging from lawyers and Washington insiders, elected officials, former elected officials, former candidates for high office, confidantes of high-profile politicians, members of prominent political families, fundraisers and political activists of all stripes.
Even the Amtrak Reform Council (ARC), which was supposed to offer a second opinion on Amtrak operations and more or less compensate for the political tilt of the board, never included a representative of the freight railroad industry, as stipulated in the law that created it. Instead, President Clinton filled that slot with an elected public official.
That is not a subjective judgment as to the competence or qualifications of the people on the board or ARC, many of whom have shown themselves to be passionate advocates of passenger trains. It is merely a factual account of what is not an unusual phenomenon for any operation that is in the public sector.
NCI: Leo KingThese signals are the structures at Orms Street Interlocking in Providence, R.I. that Capital Properties argues took away their air rights. On November 16, 2000, Acela Express service began. The capital citys station is immediately behind the camera.
Amtrak loses court fight, may appeal
Capital Properties, Inc. said on November 25 that it had won a court battle with Amtrak, but they dont know yet if Amtrak will appeal the judges decision. Amtrak said its lawyers were mulling over what to do.
In U.S. District Court for Rhode Island, both entities claimed they were right, but after a trial on the merits, the court awarded the firm about $1.48 million in additional damages in connection with condemnation proceedings brought by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation Amtrak with respect to certain land and air rights owned by the company in the Capital Center district in Providence.
A press release stated Amtrak had previously paid the company approximately $1,250,000, but Capital Properties lawyers argued that amount was not enough.
The condemned land includes air rights over the railroad corridor and the land immediately adjacent to the five-track railroad right-of-way, between the station and Orms Street overhead bridge.
In its latest 10-QSB filing, Capital Resources said the dispute concerns 1.9 acres of air rights over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor that Capital Properties received during the 1980s. With that agreement, the company built a parking garage adjacent to Providence station.
Over the years, Amtrak assumed the cost of electricity provided to the parking garage; but in 1997, Amtrak refused to pay for the electricity, Capital Resources said. The company then filed suit seeking an order requiring Amtrak to remove its facilities from the parking garage property, Dow-Jones Newswires reported.
The company later amended its suit to include a claim that Amtrak erected towers and a signal bridge within the air rights in 1998.
Over the years, Amtrak condemned certain air rights and property and compensated the company for what it believed was just compensation.
The court's judgment will bear interest until paid in full, Capital Properties stated.
Company president Ronald P. Chrzanowski, said, We are pleased with the courts decision. However, at this time we do not know whether Amtrak intends to appeal. He said if Amtrak does appeal, he would go back to court.
We can provide no assurance as to if and when the judgment might be paid, he added.
Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black, in Washington, told D:F Amtrak is reviewing the decision and considering our options.
Amtrak: David WarnerThe State of New York has accepted its RTL-3 Turboliner for service, but Amtrak has not. As of Thanksgiving Day, the first of seven rebuilt trainsets was still in the Schenectady, N.Y. shop, ostensibly for more repairs.
Amtrak, New York at odds over performance
New York States Pataki administration officials are accusing Amtrak of delaying projects and demanding too much money from the state.
Among the consequences of Amtraks financial difficulties, both sides suggest, is that while New York State has invested more than $100 million in high-speed trains linking New York City, Albany and Buffalo, the trains may never be used, according to The New York Times.
The dispute has festered for months in private negotiations with New York and other states, as Amtrak has insisted on more money from the states, which face their own financial difficulties.
Joseph H. Boardman, New Yorks transportation commissioner made the tussle public by releasing a letter he wrote to Amtrak a fortnight ago. He charged that Amtrak reneged on promises, delayed the high-speed trains, made unreasonable financial demands and threatened to keep the new trains out of service in order to wring more money from the state.
Amtrak declined to answer the criticism immediately.
We intend to respond to Commissioner Boardman in due course, said Cliff Black, an Amtrak spokesman, but, he added, Amtraks financial position has become much more precarious.
In a Times interview, Boardman said that much of his grievance was really with the federal government, which, he said, must come up with more money to keep Amtrak afloat. The government created the railroad, whose board is appointed by the president and Congressional leaders.
We need the federal government the administration, the Senate and the House to sit in the room from here forward when we sit down with Amtrak, to be involved in fixing the intercity rail problem in this country, Boardman said.
Congress and the White House bailed out airlines last year, he said, and should do the same for Amtrak.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Amtrak officials agreed, but refused to say anything for the record that could be construed as critical of their federal benefactors.
Phone calls left with the USDOT for comment were not returned, according to the Times.
The railroad has asked Congress to raise its regular annual subsidy to $1.2 billion from $521 million, but so far, the House and Senate have been unable to agree on a figure.
The most immediate threat from Amtraks troubles is to its passengers, including 40,000 daily on the Northeast Corridor, linking Washington, New York and Boston; and 3,000 daily on the Empire Corridor, linking New York City, Albany and Buffalo.
The Pataki administration fears much broader ripple effects for the New York metropolitan region. Amtrak owns some of the tracks, tunnels, stations and rail yards that stitch together the regions rail network, and are heavily used by the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and New Jersey Transit. Even a partial shutdown of the national railroad could hurt the ability of those regional railroads to keep serving 300,000 commuters a day.
Boardman said he had broached the possibility of the states buying or otherwise taking over some of those assets, but Amtrak is not willing to discuss it.
Under an agreement with Amtrak, New York State is paying to rebuild seven Turboliner trains for the Empire Corridor to make them faster. Amtrak, in turn, was to make improvements to that route to allow higher speeds, like eliminating grade crossings and straightening curves. Taken together, their work was supposed to raise top speeds to 125 from 79 miles per hour, cutting the time from New York City to Albany by about 40 minutes to less than two hours.
State officials say that while they have invested more than $100 million in the project, Amtrak, which promised to spend a similar amount, has not spent a cent.
While New York is supposed to own the trains, Amtrak is managing the project and dealing with the manufacturer, Super Steel, based near Schenectady. Until Amtrak declares the trains ready, the state cannot take possession (See D:F, November 25).
Boardman said Amtrak had delayed the project, which is well behind schedule, with frequent changes in specifications. He also accused the railroad of inventing reasons to find fault with the first train, which is completed, so that it cannot be put in service or transferred to state ownership. In short, he said, Amtrak is using the threat not to deliver the trains as leverage to wrest more money out of the state.
Amtrak and Indianas DOT are recommending bringing a high-speed rail line between Cleveland and Chicago through Fort Wayne. The recommendation came a fortnight ago after a year of study, according to The AP.
Officials said they chose a Fort Wayne route over South Bend because it would be less expensive and provide more passengers. The $1 billion passenger rail plan still needs Congressional and state approval, which may have been hindered by a lackluster national economy.
The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel reported on November 22 that if a high-speed Amtrak passenger rail service project ever gets federal funding, Fort Wayne should be on its route.
The DOT, Amtrak and the Ohio Railroad Development Commission recently released results of a year-long study examining alternative high-speed rail passenger routes across northern Indiana, between Chicago and Cleveland.
The study favored a route through Fort Wayne over a route through South Bend, but suggested improvements for South Bends passenger rail service to Chicago. The new service would contribute to economic development in the region and throughout the state, said Mayor Graham Richard.
Some areas of the country that have high-speed rail service already have seen economic benefits, including its use for rapid parcel delivery by businesses such as UPS, he said.
The high-speed train could travel up to 110 mph, compared with a current maximum of 79 mph. A trip between Fort Wayne and Chicago would take between 105 minutes and 115 minutes, depending on the number of stops.
Indiana is part of the nine-state Midwest Regional Rail Initiative that envisions spending $5 billion on 3,000 miles of track for high-speed passenger trains. Chicago would be the regional hub for the new service.
The federal government would cover 80 percent of the projects cost, but with the national economy and federal budget in their current shape, it could be awhile before funding becomes available.
Tom Beck, a rail planner for Indiana DOT, estimated lines for the service could be built in three or four years, but he said it probably would take seven to 10 years of preliminary work before construction could begin, after funding comes through.
The South Carolina Transportation Commission almost doubled its financial commitment to high-speed passenger rail development on November 21, but the state remains far behind North Carolina and Virginia, reports greenvilleonline.com from its capitol bureau in Columbia.
South Carolinas lines would be linked to those states.
On the recommendation of Commissioner Howell Clyborne of Greenville, the commission added $2 million to the $2.6 million already budgeted for rail development.
Not only will this increased effort help meet the challenges presented by the new air quality standards, but it will help us deliver the transportation choices that South Carolina citizens are asking for, Clyborne said.
The $2 million, which would be drawn from additional federal funds that become available, would be used for rail-related activities such as planning, rights-of-way acquisition and corridor improvements, Clyborne said.
In a presentation to the Transportation Commission, state rail coordinator Bill McIlwain said that North Carolinas commitment of $61 million and 66 employees makes that states passenger rail development the premier program in the nation. North Carolina operates passenger rail service between Charlotte and Rocky Mount.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that the federal government has approved preliminary plans jointly submitted by North Carolina and Virginia for a high-speed rail corridor running from Washington, D.C., through Richmond, Va., to Charlotte. Those states can now begin engineering and environmental studies necessary to draw half of the $3 billion cost from the USDOT.
A study has shown that the Virginia-North Carolina high-speed rail link is the only one of five designated by the U.S. DOT as feasible routes that might pay its operating costs from passenger fares.
The route is expected to allow trains to average 85-90 miles per hour, with top speeds as high as 110 miles per hour, rather than the current 45 mph average for passenger trains in the region. Such speeds would allow trains to compete with airlines and cars on trips of 300 miles or less, studies have shown.
Virginia, which has established a rail and mass transit division separate from its highway department, plans to sell $67.3 million in bonds to help finance the new high-speed rail corridor, McIlwain said.
Clyborne and other South Carolina leaders hope to see high-speed trains link up with the North Carolina-Virginia corridor in Charlotte and continue through Columbia and Greenville, with lines continuing to Atlanta, Jacksonville and Birmingham.
Even with the additional money, South Carolinas funding for passenger rail service remains the lowest in the region, behind $5.1 million in Georgia, $9.1 million in Tennessee, $53.9 million in Alabama, $61 million in North Carolina and $86 million in Virginia.
Were low on that totem pole, joked Commissioner Bayles Mack of Fort Mill.
I dont believe were even on the totem pole, shot back Clyborne.
North Carolina has definitely put the hammer down. Air quality is already a major issue that could stifle future economic growth in the Upstate, Clyborne said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the Piedmonts industrial corridor on a watch list of regions that could come under industrial development restrictions if air quality continues to worsen.
If we end up in non-attainment status, the EPA is going to be looking for ways we intend to deal with that. Rail is one way to deal with the problem, he said.
Two independent studies of the financial viability of a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando conclude the fares paid by riders alone would cover the cost of operating and maintaining the system.
The results of the studies, released November 20 by the Florida High Speed Rail Authority, gave supporters of the controversial transportation system a boost.
The study shows we have a very, very viable project between Tampa and Orlando, said C.C. Doc Dockery, who put $2.7-million of his own money into a campaign to pass the high-speed rail amendment to the state Constitution in 2000.
Weve got to get funding, then weve got to get approval from the (Federal Railroad Administration), and then weve got to build it, Dockery said. Well get there. Im going to try to stay healthy until I can take my first ride, the St Petersburg Times reported.
Even if the optimistic ridership figures are accurate, the projects biggest hurdle remains funding. Proponents hope for an amalgam of federal, state and private money that doesnt saddle Florida taxpayers with underwriting the rail system forever but the availability of state funds is uncertain, particularly in the aftermath of voter approval earlier this month for the expensive class size measure, another constitutional amendment.
The ridership report, put together as a guide for potential contractors, does not include the rail link between Tampa and St. Petersburg. That project is being treated separately because there are so many problems associated with getting the rail line from the east side of Tampa to the West Shore area and then across Tampa Bay to Pinellas County.
Excluding commuters, the ridership study calculated that travel between Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando in 2010 would be around 50-million trips a year, according to a summary of the study sent to High Speed Rail Authority members. Of those, somewhere between 15.6-million and 16.2-million trips potentially might be captured by a high-speed rail system.
This base ridership would generate between $26-million and $36-million a year, enough to cover operations and maintenance. It does not include such ancillary sources of income as concessions, parking, express parcel service, naming rights and advertising.
The authority could generate an additional 530,000 riders and $33 million in revenue a year if Disney and businesses along the International Drive corridor in Orlando agree to use the rail system to take their customers to and from the Orlando airport.
I cant tell you that the results of these studies make it clear that high-speed rail is financially viable in Florida, said Nazih Haddad, staff director of the rail authority. It only shows that ridership could cover operations and maintenance. Financing of construction and the purchase of (trains) are not included.
Dockery said that two consortiums of contractors have expressed an interest in the project. Asked if it wouldnt be better to have more, he said, It costs about $2 million to put a bid together. Thats a big chunk of change to put into a project that isnt even funded yet.
AECom Technology Corp., and Wilbur Smith Associates, international consultants that specialize in engineering transportation systems did the ridership studies.
NCI: Leo KingLight rail seems to do well everywhere it exists whether its the very old Boston Mattapan line, seen here, or much newer routes in Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City or Dallas, to name a few.
Studies raise questions about sprawl, transportation development
As communities throughout the nation explore rail transit options, the issue of high-density vs. low-density development is taking on higher profile status in the arena of public debate. Two reports just released point up the tradeoffs.
Measuring Sprawl and its Impact, a three-year research project conducted by professors and Rutgers and Cornell Universities, finds that areas with more sprawl have higher traffic fatality rates, more traffic and poorer air quality.
However, another study says there are side effects involved in some of the so-called smart growth methods used to contain sprawl.
Smart Growth and Its Effects on Housing Markets: The New Segregation, issued by a think tank, The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), argues that smart growth policies aimed at imposing tight curbs on low-density development are disproportionately hurting minorities and folks at the lower end of the economic chain.
Taken side-by-side, the two reports do not contradict each other. They are not mutually exclusive. What it comes down to is which concerns are to be given more weight an individual and perhaps subjective judgment.
The Rutgers-Cornell study, as reported in the transit industry (APTA) trade publication Passenger Transport, finds that the daily distance driven per person is more than 10 miles more in the most sprawling places than in the least sprawling communities, or 40 more miles of driving each day for a family of four.
The most sprawling areas average 36 traffic deaths for every 100,000 people as opposed to 23 deaths per 100,000 in higher density developed communities.
Higher density, say the professors, means lower ozone pollution levels.
Furthermore, they charge, sprawl fails in the one benefit its defenders often attribute to it: lower congestion. Ergo, simply laying out more concrete for another highway wont eliminate intolerable traffic jams.
On the other hand, the NCPPR argues, in effect, that trying to force everyone into a pill box above a subway stop is not necessarily the way to go either. In fact, it can lead to a form of economic segregation. The sponsors of the study add that smart growth policies are not having the desired environmental benefits that are claimed for them.
Based on a study of a smart growth policies in Portland, Oregon, hailed as a national model, the study tried to determine what the impact would be if the entire country had adopted the Portland regimen.
The finding: If these policies had been implemented ten years ago, 260,000 minority families who are currently homeowners in the U.S. would not own their own homes today, according to NCPPR President Amy Ridenour. Further, she said, a total of a million families who currently enjoy their own homes wouldnt be doing so today. That, in her opinion, is morally wrong.
NCPPR Executive Director David Amalsi said smart growth programs should be checked so that they dont inappropriately affect poor minority communities or the general population.
If the governments want to save open space, he reasons, government can always buy the land, but the right tell people who own or want to own property what they can and cannot do with that property should be off limits.
At the same time, the report by the professors argues that people in sprawling areas endure no less traffic-related delay than those in more compact places, but have fewer alternatives in travel routes and modes (Read theyre less likely to have the mass transit option).
Declaring that the Bush administration is committed to supporting smart growth in every way that we can, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman told Cybercast News Service (http://www.cnsnews.com) that the way to deal with minority housing is through affordable housing programs that can be incorporated into smart growth.
Ridenour rejects that, telling CNS, I doubt the Bush administration has even realized that the poor minorities are the most disproportionately negatively affected by smart growth.
As we said at the outset, the reports do not contradict each other as far as basic research is concerned.
What it comes down to is a matter of trade-offs. The second issue involved is to what extent should freedom of choice play a role? Thirdly, can we have sensible development that encourages mass transit, and at the same time, allows people the choice of the American dream of the house, the lawn, Mom and Dad with their kids, complete with a dog named Spot?
Both studies present facts and figures. The reader is left to balance things out according to individual values in a number of areas. For example: personal choice, government fiat, or a carefully blended combination of the two.
Light Rail Progress: Jon BellDenvers light rail transit Mineral Station on the Littleton line does what it was intended to do: move people.
Denver moves people as trolleys replace buses
It all began some two years ago, but the Santa Fe Drive Corridor in Denver trolley line eventually replaced a bus route.
We recently learned through the online pages of Light Rail Progress at http://www.lightrailnow.org that the changes came about on traffic congestion in a major corridor.
Bus ridership in the Santa Fe Drive corridor was about 2,000 daily passengers before the Southwest light rail transit (LRT) line opened. Since the Southwest Line opened in July 2000, LRT replaced bus service in the corridor, with bus feeder service interfacing with the LRT at stations. In October 2000, covered by the period of the RTD study, LRT ridership averaged over 13,000 riders per day.
Denver Regional Transportation District data, from the fall of 2000, focused on traffic flow on a section of Denvers Santa Fe Drive (north of Mississippi), a signaled, six-lane major artery parallels the Southwest LRT line to Littleton on a separate, exclusive railroad right-of-way. The roadway is three-lanes wide, eventually narrowing to two lanes.
The Southwest LRT line runs in a separate, exclusive alignment along an existing railroad right-of-way, through industrial areas, and past residential developments which range from lower-density urban housing to suburban housing. In the peak hours during the RTD study period, eight trains per hour at six two-car trains and two three-car trains ran the route, for a total of 18 cars per hour.
According to data from the Colorado DOT, peak hour, peak-direction roadway traffic volume on the section of Santa Fe studied is approximately 4,500 motor vehicles, of which about 7 percent are trucks.
The automobile count is about 4,180 vehicles. With average auto occupancy of 1.2 persons per car, the number of persons traveling by automobile is approximately 5,020.
RTD tabulates the number of peak hour, peak-direction LRT passengers at 2,000 to 2,500. Light Rail Progress calculates that total peak hour, peak-direction person-movement in the corridor ranges between 7,020 and 7,520. Of this, the percentage (modal split) traveling by LRT ranges between 28.5 percent and 33.2 percent a significant proportion of total passenger traffic.
Put another way, if these riders chose to make their trip by automobile instead, they would further congest those three lanes of Santa Fe Drive with between 1,670 and 2,080 additional automobiles during this peak hour. Thus, LRT can be said to provide a significant amount of congestion relief in this case.
LRT critics and opponents consistently try to pose reduction of roadway traffic as a basic measuring stick for the success of LRT a measure it will inevitably fail to meet.
In reality, by raising (unachievable) expectations of significant roadway congestion reduction from LRT and other major transit projects, transit and LRT opponents exploit a common fallacy and misconception: That any single transportation facility, roadway or transit, can ever truly reduce congestion.
It is almost universally recognized, even among highway planners, and throughout the transportation planning profession, that roadway traffic congestion is a fundamental fact of life basically, it continues to grow with population expansion and the proliferation of motor vehicles. Acceptance of some degree of congestion is actually incorporated into the basic design of urban roadways.
For these reasons, bona fide congestion relief provided by LRT and other major transit services cannot be expected to take the form of significant reductions in road traffic. Instead, relief is far more likely to take the form illustrated in Denver diversion of significant traffic growth into high-quality transit service in specific corridors. (We have no specific information one way or the other of any fluctuation in motor vehicle volumes on Santa Fe Drive.)
It is either an error or a deception to try to assess congestion relief by the measure of whether or not existing congestion simply evaporates. Congestion never just evaporates. The traffic lanes on Santa Fe Drive are probably as crowded as ever (particularly because of ongoing population and traffic growth throughout the metro area). What LRT does is to open up, in effect, a new traffic artery along which people can move past the existing congestion. Moreover, unlike the capacity-increasing effects of a freeway, the result with LRT is that all those cars are off the road, out of the traffic stream, and out of the competition for scarce parking spaces. Perhaps the realistic goal of major transit improvements like LRT, therefore, is to relieve mobility congestion, and not necessarily traffic congestion.
Denvers data suggests that LRT at peak hour in the peak direction in the target corridor is carrying between 28 percent and 33 percent of the total passenger traffic flow. In other words, without the LRT line in service, approximately 30 percent of corridor passenger traffic would be added to the roadway congestion. Light Rail Progress stated, We believe this demonstrates that LRT can have a significant impact on corridor traffic congestion.
These results have significance for other communities evaluating LRT and other mobility improvements. The public might well consider whether they would rather have an additional 30 percent (or other percentage) of motorists on crowded streets, contesting for scarce space. Expanding the roadway arterial to accommodate this extra traffic in Denvers case would mean adding at least 4 to 6 more lanes to Santa Fe Drive an extremely expensive proposition, with very costly inner-city right-of-way acquisition as well as construction. That does not include additional parking spaces for thousands of additional cars.
New York City Mayor Michael R. sternly warned the citys main union of transit workers on November 22 not to go on strike when its contract expires on December 15.
Bloomberg issued the warning after leaders of the union representing 34,000 subway and bus workers repeatedly said they would not rule out striking if the union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fail to reach a contract agreement.
If a strike vote is taken we will go straight to court and ask a court for an order to keep that from happening, Bloomberg said, noting that the states Taylor Law bars transit workers from striking. If anybody does strike, the penalties are very severe.
Roger Toussaint, president of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said, Theres not a single word from the mayor about the MTAs obligation to negotiate in good faith. Instead he relies on bully tactics and threats. The main issues in the dispute are wages, rapidly rising health costs and the unions demand to change the disciplinary system.
A Boston-based consortium that includes a former Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority general manager has emerged as the front-runner to operate the MBTAs commuter rail service, agency officials and rail specialists say, in a move that could establish it as an eventual private-sector competitor to Amtrak.
The Boston Globe reported Saturday (November 30) the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Co., made up of European rail powerhouse Connex, Canadas Bombardier of North America, and a Boston transportation consulting firm headed by former MBTA general manager James F. OLeary, is expected to get the Ts nod in coming weeks, according to MBTA officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The so-called MassBay conglomerate has become the frontrunner somewhat by default, they said: It has far more experience, money, and worldwide clout to run the nations fourth largest commuter rail operation than Billericas Guilford Rail Systems.
With three bidders, the competition was considered close, but last weeks disqualification of Bay State Transit Services, a consortium of British rail giant Stagecoach Group and Herzog Transit Services of St. Joseph, Mo., for submitting an incomplete proposal leaves the T with two very distinct bidders.
Guilford, a privately held firm, has, according to railroad analysts, a poor reputation and a checkered history running commuter rail for the T, and has thus far failed to make any overtures to organized labor, a crucial step in making itself a viable candidate. In 1986 the firm was released from its MBTA contract following a turbulent three-month rail strike that, at times, stranded thousands of commuter rail riders.
The fight to replace Amtrak as operator of the Ts commuter rail service, with its 140,000 commuters per weekday the largest passenger rail contract to be put out to bid in the country, has been one of the most hotly contested rail battles in recent history. Amtrak CEO David Gunn said Amtrak would not rebid the job because of too many onerous contract clauses.
Upset with recent major disruptions in commuter rail service to Boston, the Worcester, Mass., City Council wants the states transportation secretary and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to address the problems as soon as possible.
Mayor Timothy P. Murray on November 19 criticized the MBTAs train service, saying the Worcester-Boston line has one of the lowest performance ratings of any of the MBTAs commuter lines, reports the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
He said too many trips either run behind schedule or are canceled. He added that there have also been increasing incidents of equipment breakdown on trips.
The mayor said such poor and unreliable service is doing more to discourage people from using the train service at a time when city officials are trying to get the MBTA to expand its service to Worcester.
The last two weeks there have been major disruptions to the MBTA service, Murray said. They (MBTA) are giving us crummy trains and crummy service. We shouldnt have the most broken-down, ineffective train service.
This City Council and the leaders of this community have worked hard to bring commuter rail here, he added. These problems wouldnt be tolerated in other communities and they should not be put up with here.
Murray said many commuters were more than two hours late for work recently when an early-morning train never showed up as scheduled. He said commuters were forced to wait 1.5 hours without being told what had happened or when a train would be arriving.
He said such service is unacceptable and he urged City Manager Thomas R. Hoover to meet with MBTA and state transportation officials to find out what the problem is.
Its imperative that Worcester, through its city government, put pressure on the appropriate people to get these problems resolved, Murray said.
Commuter rail is a valued service that this community pays for and the people need, but we need dependable service. We shouldnt be provided service that will end up chasing people away in the long run.
Worcester service operates over state-owned track between South Station and CP-3, a CSX-controlled interlocking three miles west of the station. From there, the trains operate over CSX tracks another 41.3 miles to Worcester.
The FleetCenter will have to do one of the greatest makeovers in the history of sports to accommodate the 2004 Democratic National Convention including tearing out huge chunks of rows of seats and luxury suites to house a stage and television studios, building an elevator from the concrete floor to the stage, and constructing a media center above North Stations tracks all in approximately two months leading up to the conventions July 26 start.
We learned about the prospect from the sports pages in the Boston Globe of November 23 and correspondent Will McDonough.
The Bruins regular season ended April 13 this year; the Celtics April 17, but if either team plays deep into the postseason in 2004, a logistical nightmare could ensue. If the Bruins had hosted a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals this year, it would have been played June 17; Game 7 of the NBA Finals would have been June 19.
That means the time for the FleetCenter renovations, which sources familiar with the project say will cost between $10 million and $15 million, could be as short as 37 days, but its a long shot either team would make it to the finals. The FleetCenter brass said November 22 it expects to have approximately two months to get the arena ready for the convention for the Democrats, whose choice of Boston was announced three weeks ago.
We have [about] a 70-day window to get all this done, said Richard Krezwick, president and CEO of the FleetCenter, and it wont be easy.
Segments of the seven-year-old building will be torn apart to transform the sports arena into a convention center.
We are going to have to take down the first 15 rows on one side of the arena and take them out for the stage, Krezwick said. They will be required to make other major changes to the structures, including taking apart the luxury suites and set them up so they can be used for national television studios [anchor desks], for all of the major networks.
That isnt all. In the train station below, which is part of the FleetCenter, a $5 million media center will be built above the present tracks, and the commuter trains that would normally use the station will be rerouted.
My guess is that the people using the trains will have to get off a couple of hundred yards up the track and then walk into the station, Krezwick said.
The media center will be built right above the existing tracks that run into the station. People dont realize it, said Krezwick, but the trains presently run under the floor of the FleetCenter, so there is a security issue here as well.
The convention will also delay any chance to develop the present parking lot under construction in front of the FleetCenter, where two office buildings and a new home for the New England Sports Museum are planned.
We will still go ahead with all of our permits for that site, Krezwick said, but anything we could have done there will be put on hold because this is where we will have to put all of the television trucks feeding the convention around the country and the world.
The FleetCenter itself will have to pass up approximately 12 events it would normally house in that stretch, and the cost to the owner, Jeremy Jacobs, will be at least $1 million. Krezwick said that even if the Bruins or Celtics are fortunate enough to get to the seventh game of a Stanley Cup or an NBA final that year, he feels confident the FleetCenter will be ready for the convention.
It would be very tight, Krezwick said. In fact, there is very little space in and around this building for this event, and we will have to use every inch of it.
As a point of comparison, Los Angeles hosted the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Staples Center. The Lakers played in the finals that year, which ended June 19, but the convention was not until Aug. 15-19.
Unlike some events in the Fleet that can accommodate 18,000 people, the seating capacity for the convention will be somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000. Almost all of the money to reconstruct the FleetCenter and the rail station will come from the $50 million budget the city and the state have raised to bring the convention to Boston.
A Connecticut task force is considering proposals that Connecticut spend nearly $250 million in the next few years on new commuter rail cars and locomotives and some $3 billion by 2020 to upgrade all rail facilities.
Connecticuts Transportation Strategy Board also voiced support November 19 for creating a new commuter rail line that would run from New Haven to Hartford and Springfield, reports the New Haven Register.
The funding estimates and New Haven-to-Springfield commuter line proposal are included in draft recommendations being considered by the task force.
The panel must vote by December 15 on its final recommendations for resolving Connecticut transportation gridlock problems.
However, R. Nelson Oz Griebel, chairman of the strategy board, said a critical factor in the panels final report would concern the timing of any state spending. Griebel said, no one in their wildest imaginations expects the board to call for $3 billion in immediate state spending on rail improvements.
One reason Griebel and other members of the strategy board may be nervous about such cost figures is that Connecticut is now facing its worst budget crisis in more than a decade. Lawmakers are now beginning to look for ways to solve a current fiscal year deficit estimated at $500 million and a projected two-year budget gap of $1.5 billion.
Griebel called the transportation cost numbers included with the draft recommendations some ballpark estimates that need to be refined in the next couple of weeks.
The cost estimates, made by experts at ConnDOT, provide an indication of the massive potential costs involved in trying to ease gridlock and congestion on Connecticut highways.
The draft recommendations are based on estimates that commuter ridership will grow by about 1.5 percent per year, for a 25 percent increase over 15 years.
Rehabilitation of the existing fleet of New Haven Line and Shore Line East and rail cars and locomotives is already planned, but the strategy board is expected to call for adding a significant number of new locomotives and cars in the next few years.
A draft recommendation calls for purchasing 12 electric locomotives and 40 coaches for the New Haven Line and eight locomotives and 24 coaches for Shore Line East (New Haven to Old Saybrook and New London) in the next few years. Those purchases would total $248 million, according to the DOT estimates.
The long-term costs of replacing cars and locomotives for those two lines could total $1.8 billion by 2020, state experts predict.
According to the draft report, parking should be expanded at every station along the New Haven Line from New Haven to the New York border and the cost of those improvements could total some $26 million.
The strategy board is also planning to voice support for the concept of creating a New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line. Griebel said state transportation officials are currently studying how feasible such a line would be, and that report wont be ready until June 2003.
Another concern voiced in the boards draft report is what to do about financially troubled Amtrak, which owns the rail lines between New Haven and Rhode Island and New Haven and Springfield. Amtrak also has the contract to provide Shore Line East service in southeastern Connecticut.
The strategy panel is also asking that Connecticut push for voting representation on any governing board that is set up if New York goes ahead with its proposal to merge the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Railroad.
One recommendation that wont appear in the boards final report involves proposals to help ease truck traffic on Interstate 95 and 84 by shifting more container freight shipments to railroad cars. Some lawmakers had hoped such a move could significantly cut the number of trucks using those crowded highways.
It took a long time to get started, but the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authoritys long-neglected Blue Line is undergoing a major transformation.
Over the next few years, the T will complete a top-to-bottom overhaul on the Blue Line that was first promised back when the other George Bush was president, writes the Boston Herald of November 24.
In all, the $740 million facelift will be the Ts second-largest capital outlay, behind the Silver Line and more expensive than highly publicized projects such as the Greenbush and Fall River-New Bedford commuter rail lines.
Ive never really thought of it in those terms but youre absolutely right, said T general manager Mike Mulhern, who was a train attendant on the Blue Line in the early 1980s. By the time were done, well end up with a totally modernized system one that will be in good shape for the next 30 to 50 years.
The problems on the outdated 5.9-mile Blue Line havent changed much since Mulherns days there. Many stations are crumbling and lack handicapped access, and the cars often are jammed with passengers.
MBTA Blue Line chief Lisa Bono said taking the train to Eastie during peak hours is like traveling in a can of sardines.
During rush hour, its rough, she said.
Hence, the Ts priority was to go from four-car trains to six-car trains. In the process, however, it had to renovate the Blue Lines stations to build platforms long enough to accommodate the new trains.
The overdue improvements mirror what was done at 10 Red Line and Orange Line stations in the mid-1980s. The Orange Line opened to six-car trains in December 1987; the Red Line followed suit four months later.
In all, the T will spend $205 million on 94 new subways cars and $417 million renovating 11 Blue Line stations (the 12th, Bowdoin, will be closed when the six-car trains debut in December 2004).
The Blue Line overhaul has been a long time in the making. It was originally slated to happen by the mid-1990s, but the T later committed to unveiling a new Blue Line by 1998 and then by 2001.
Opened in 1904, the Blue Line was once cutting-edge, featuring the first underwater subway tunnel in America but it has been decades since any meaningful improvements were made. The last big expenditure was the purchase of the current car fleet in the mid-1970s, and everyone acknowledges the cars have aged faster thanks to the salty sea air along the shoreline route.
Kennedy Airports AirTrain wont open on schedule.
The $1.9 billion service, intended to link the airports terminals to city subways, has been indefinitely postponed since a September derailment that killed a motorman.
The service had been scheduled to connect the airport terminals to each other and to Howard Beach in Queens by the end of the year, and expand by the middle of next year to the citys Jamaica station, but the Port Authority of New York and Jersey and the trains builders, a consortium led by Montreal-based Bombardier Transportation, have not resumed testing since the derailment and have scheduled no target date for a new opening, said agency spokesman Pasquale DiFulco.
The priority is determining what happened, DiFulco said last week. He said the agency was awaiting results of its own and a National Transportation Safety Board investigation.
Three cars went off the tracks on September 27 during a test run of the AirTrain after it went round a curve, killing 23-year-old Kelvin DeBourgh, authorities said.
NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said the train was traveling at 50 mph to 55 mph at the time, and her agency was investigating what role the speed played.
She also said concrete blocks located in the front and rear trains to approximate the weight of a full passenger load werent secure, and investigators were determining whether or not they shifted during the test run. The train operator was pinned by the blocks after the crash.
The NTSB has not been at the site since one week after the crash, and typically does not release final investigation reports for nine months to a year after an incident. Peduzzi said the agency has not advised the Port Authority or Bombardier to suspend AirTrain testing.
Port Authority officials have predicted that 34,000 people a day would use the 8.1-mile light rail system at Kennedy. That estimates is more than 10 times as great as the 3,000 people a day who are using the AirTrain linking Amtrak and New Jersey Transit riders to the monorail at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Transit advocates have said the light rail system is crucial to the economy at Kennedy, an airport notorious for difficult access to Manhattan.
A study last month by the Center for an Urban Future, a policy research group, found that Kennedy and LaGuardia have lost 10,000 jobs in airport-related businesses since September 11, a much greater percentage than hub airports in the rest of the country.
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
FTA guides transit agencies response
to homeland security threats
The Federal Transit Administration is preparing to release recommendations around the end of this year to guide U.S. transit agencies in responding to various Office of Homeland Security threat level designations.
The FTAs Transit Threat Level Response Recommendation establishes a consistent and coordinated transit response to potential threats in order to protect transit passengers, employees, and infrastructure, and to support community emergency response efforts.
Its national transit response model corresponds to the OHS color-coded threat level designations, which range from green, meaning low threat level, to red, designating a severe threat level. In addition, the FTAs model supplements these categories with black and purple designations to further define appropriate transit industry activities when an attack is in progress and during the post-recovery of transit services and facilities.
At each threat level, the FTA provides transit agencies with suggested or recommended protective measures and activities.
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Bacigalupo heads to Orange County; leaves Chicago RTA
Richard J. Bacigalupo, executive director of Chicagos Regional Transportation Authority since 1996, has announced he is leaving the agency to join the Orange County Transportation Authority in Orange, Calif., as assistant chief executive officer, effective January 13.
In his new job, Bacigalupo will assist in directing OCTA projects and programs; will provide support to CEO Art Leahy and the board of directors; and will be actively involved in directing the authoritys government relations efforts. Bacigalupo joined the RTA in 1988 as general counsel.
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Canadians write transit blueprint
The Canadian government recently released Canadas Urban Strategy: A Blueprint for Action, the nations first official blueprint establish federal funding mechanisms for local infrastructure projects including public transportation.
A task force formed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to address decaying infrastructure in urban areas created the document, released November 19. The Canadian government traditionally has not funded local infrastructure projects, according to Michael Roschlau, president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Assn., in part because these are widely perceived as a provincial (state) responsibility.
Roschlau said the blueprint is expected to influence the federal Fiscal Year 2003 budget, as well as creating a 10-year federal infrastructure funding program for urban areas that was proposed in this years Speech from the Throne, which resembles the State of the Union address in the United States.
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NCI: Leo KingDecember 1 Freight railroad Florida East Coast had a stranger in its Bowden Yard in Jacksonville on Sunday an E-8 built by EMD years ago. Details are sketchy, but D:F has learned this engine, a trailing Chicago, Burlington & Quincy E-9, and an Atlantic Coast Line GP-9 are all enroute to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami. The FEC engine is missing its nose logo, the engine number isnt correct and the heritage of each engine was unknown as of Sunday, but they are still historical power shells, even if they cant operate. A working set of six trailing GP-49s are enroute to Florida Tri-Rail. These engines are all painted black, and are believed to be ex-Norfolk Southern.
Cuts 1,100 jobs
CN to take $79 million fourth-quarter charge
Canadian National reported on November 26 that it was cutting 1,146 permanent jobs in a renewed drive to improve productivity.
CN also said it will adopt an actuarial-based methodology to account for United States personal injury and other claims in line with United States Class I railroad practice.
CN said it was making the job cuts in every corporate and operating function. About two-thirds of the reductions will occur in Canada, with the remainder in the U.S.
Roughly 30 per cent of the reductions will be achieved through normal attrition and retirement, 45 per cent by way of early retirement and 25 per cent through severance packages.
Paul M. Tellier, CN president and CEO said, We take no joy in announcing these permanent job reductions, but CN must leave no stone unturned in this productivity initiative given difficult conditions in our bulk commodity businesses and escalating labor costs.
CN is a capital- and labor-intensive corporation. Its capital budget exceeds $1 billion annually and we have to earn the cost of that capital to continue to invest in the railway. Labor and fringe benefit expenses account for roughly 40 per cent of total operating costs, so anytime we are looking to control costs we must, by definition, look to control our labor costs.
Tellier noted, CN has become the rail industrys efficiency and service leader by focusing squarely on productivity improvements and consistent, timely delivery of goods for our customers. The permanent job reductions reflect efficiencies from large-scale information technology investments in administrative functions and a smaller asset base we have fewer locomotives and freight cars to repair and maintain because of productivity improvements from our scheduled railway operations.
CN expects to take a fourth-quarter 2002 after-tax workforce adjustment charge of approximately $79 million for severance and other payments to affected employees.
CN also said it is adopting an actuarial-based methodology to determine its provision for U.S. personal injury and other claims, including those for hearing loss, carpal tunnel syndrome and asbestos-related disease.
Under an actuarial-based approach, the cost of employee injuries and other claims will be charged to expense based on an actuarial estimate of the ultimate cost and number of incidents in each year. Where unasserted claims can be estimated and considered probable, CN will also record a liability. As a result, CN expects to take an after-tax charge of approximately $173 million in the fourth quarter. Approximately two-thirds of the charge is for asbestos-related claims.
Tellier said, The new methodology for determining our provision for Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and other claims is consistent with current U.S. rail industry practice. The change reflects CNs growing presence in the U.S., where the rail industry is uniquely susceptible to litigation involving employee work-related injuries and occupational claims because of FELA, an outmoded law passed in 1908 that applies to railroads. CN is faced with a rising number of personal injury claims in the U.S., and we want to reflect our expected liability in a consistent and forthright manner.
Together the two charges will have an after-tax effect on CNs fourth-quarter 2002 financial results of approximately $252 million, or $1.25 per diluted share.
Tellier said, With these unfortunate developments behind us, we are focused on running our business. CN has a strong, diversified traffic base and a solid game plan for growth. Our service-sensitive merchandise and intermodal segments are growing faster than rail industry rates. We are the rail industry leader in service and efficiency, and we intend to stay ahead. The bottom line is that CN is committed to delivering on its promises to customers and shareholders.
In Arizona, you must have two people in a cab to operate a train and Union Pacific Railroad learned that state law the hard way.
UP has agreed to pay a fine to settle charges that it violated state railroad regulations by operating trains with only one engineer at the controls.
Under a settlement approved November 19 by the Arizona Corporation Commission, UP agreed to pay the state $5,500 and keep locomotives under the control of dual operators, reports the Arizona Daily Star.
Inspectors of the commissions Railroad Safety Section found lone UP workers had operated trains over relatively short distances on three occasions last summer.
One violation in June involved a lone operator during a seven-mile run near Mescal, about 20 miles east of Tucson. Two instances in August involved one train operated over a 20-mile stretch near Wellton, east of Yuma, and another on a seven-mile run near Nogales, the commission alleged.
In addition to paying the penalties, UP agreed to send all of its Arizona operating workers a notice of the two-engineer requirement and post the notice in its facilities.
Railroad spokesman Mike Furtney noted that the company admitted no wrongdoing but declined to elaborate on the matter.
The Corporation Commission requires two locomotive operators for safety reasons, in case one operator becomes incapacitated. Single operators are allowed to move cars for switching, inspection and maintenance purposes.
Norfolk Southern Corp. last week ended the railroads shareholders' rights agreement, including the preferred purchase rights granted under its rights agreement. The railroads directors voted on the amendment November 26.
Most major North American railroads will experience growth in coal volumes in 2003, according to a report by Wall Street analyst Morgan Stanley.
The report, written by Jim Valentine and Chris Leshock, states, Looking to 2003, we anticipate most major railroads will enjoy 4 percent to 7 percent coal volume growth as stockpiles were whittled down over the course of 2002 and, we believe, are nearing below-average levels. At some point in the next quarter or two, utilities will likely need to step up shipment levels to keep up with electricity demand that is up 3.5 percent year-to-date.
The report appeared in Platts Coal Trader of November 18.
The report notes that coal and grain shipments remain very weak for the time being. Coal shipments declined 8.6 percent in week 45 (ending November 9) as the industry faced significantly more difficult year-over-year comparisons as coal loadings surged last year in November when producers rushed to make up for earlier production shortfalls, it stated.
Fourth quarter comparisons will remain difficult for most railroads, and thus we do not expect coal to drive earnings growth until next year.
Platts Coal Trader via AAR Ed.
Rail freight traffic rose sharply during the week ended November 23 in comparison with the same week last year, largely because of the fact that last years comparison week included the Thanksgiving Holiday, while this years week didnt, the Association of American Railroads reported on November 27. The report was issued one day early because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Intermodal volume totaled 189,429 trailers and containers, up 36.0 percent from the comparable week last year. Container volume was up 36.5 percent from last year, while trailer loadings were up by 34.6 percent.
Carload freight, which doesnt include the intermodal data, rose 23.6 percent from last year, totaling 347,500 cars. Carload volume was up 35.0 percent in the East and 16.0 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 30.0 billion ton-miles, up 24.0 percent from the 47th week of 2001.
The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 47 weeks of 2002: 15,589,188 carloads, down 0.6 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 8,493,249 trailers and containers, up 4.6 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.351 trillion ton-miles, up 1.0 percent from last years first 47 weeks.
Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 99 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nations intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.
Both intermodal freight and carload traffic were up on Canadian railroads also during the week ended November 23. Intermodal traffic totaled 45,442 trailers and containers, up 29.2 percent from last year. Carload volume of 63,300 cars was up 5.6 percent from the comparable week last year.
Cumulative originations for the first 47 weeks of 2002 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,815,872 carloads, down 2.5 percent from last year, and 1,833,464 trailers and containers, up 10.9 percent from last year.
Combined cumulative volume for the first 47 weeks of 2002 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 18,405,060 carloads, down 0.9 percent from last year and 10,326,713 trailers and containers, up 5.7 percent from last year.
The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended November 23 totaled 11,270 cars originated or received from connecting lines, up 27.9 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,851 trailers or containers, down 8.7 percent from the 47th week of 2001. For the first 47 weeks of 2002, TFM reported cumulative volume of 499,173 cars, up 3.3 percent from last year, and 175,467 trailers or containers, up 8.4 percent.
The AAR carload report is available weekly via the Internet at www.aar.org.
An electro-technician by trade, the writer says Electrical traction was always my special interest. He was graduated from the College Technique Industriel in Strassburg/Alsace in 1939 Ed.
There is so much talk about high-speed rail in various states and provinces that I feel I have to contribute some thoughts and facts.
The ideal would be a very high-speed [10 hours Miami-New York; 24 hours New York-Los Angeles] interstate rail network covering the continent, replacing all, polluting after all, short to medium distance flights. These lines would also carry high-speed freight trains, which, the lines being banalized double-track, could be overtaken by the passenger trains at speed. By that, I mean it can be used indiscriminately; in this case each track for both directions with crossovers now and then any train on any track in any direction at any time.
In the last 20 years two electric traction systems have emerged, both based on three-phase motors:
The synchronous motor drives used on the French TGV and some ex-Soviet locomotives, and the asynchronous motor drives used on the Swedish X-train, the German ICE and many locomotives in Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, the Chunnel and ex-Soviet Union.
The first is basically a DC motor drive without the commutator, which is replaced by an electronic device controlled by the motor itself. The French call it autopilot. Its power factor, as with the other DC drives fed from AC, is not good and must be corrected by heavy filters. The motors cannot be connected in parallel and are more prone to damages because of their wound rotors, sliprings and brushes. Also, regeneration while braking is not inherent and requires switching and special equipment. It is a constant current system, and has difficulties working at very low speed (while starting, for example).
The second type is recognized more and more as the most energy efficient of the two. It is based on the asynchronous squirrel-cage motor which, when driven above synchronism, produces current and returns it to the supply. Compared to the first system, the conversion equipment is more complicated, but through the introduction of GTOs (gate turnoff thyristors) the complication has declined considerably.
In this system, the single-phase from the overhead, after transformation, is fed into a solid-state, four-quadrant converter (4QC), which can be set to absorb only active current, ergo, power-factor (PF) 1.0. To support the catenary voltage, it can also be set to act as phase compensator to counteract the reactance of the overhead.
It supplies a constant DC voltage (typically 2,800V) to an intermediary circuit. As this DC is overlaid with a frequency double the supply frequency, a series tank circuit filters it out. This DC voltage is fed into a pulse width modulation (PWM) inverter, which forms a three-phase AC current of a controlled variable frequency, which in turn dictates the speed of the motors. The modules of the PWM inverter and of the 4QC are interchangeable.
They also pass on automatically any current generated by the motors to the supply, and with the same power-factor (capacitive while running, reactive while braking regeneratively, to compensate the catenary). This is a constant voltage system. This system has shown that it can start a heavy train on a 2.5 percent grade on intentionally oiled tracks (Tests made on the Swiss Loetschberg line of the BLS).
The regeneration can mean an energy saving of 12 to 17 percent a year. The latter is for suburban start stop service (can go up to 27 percent with economical driving practices), the first for regular train services. High-speed trains with less frequent stops can gain 5 to 7 percent.
The appearance of this type of traction vehicles has about the same effect as the first shots between the Merrimac and the Monitor during the U.S. Civil War. It made all the others obsolete.
This second system may also put a new complexion on the supply systems. As you may know, in the Northeast Corridor it is 11,000V/25Hz, and in Central Europe, it is 15,000V/16.2/3Hz. Up to now, these systems were considered obsolete, because it meant either dedicated powerplants, special generators in some power-plants or rotary converters, hence the drift to 25,000V/5,060Hz from the general supply. This latter system led to a more expensive and complicated overhead contact system (OCS) requiring phase breaks to accommodate the three-phase supply to the single phase of the OCS. Phase breaks are neutral short stretches of catenary requiring every time the switching off (manual or automatic) of the traction vehicle, leading to high wear of their vacuum main breakers, to avoid rupture arcing which could damage the contact wire.
This led also, contrary to the general assumption, to shorter substation distances because the OCS sections can only be point-fed thus requiring higher power rated transformers.
Compared to this, the low-frequency systems can switch their OCS through end-to-end with all the lower power rated transformers of the substations in parallel.
Here, solid-state electronic converters come in. They begin to replace the special generators, rotary converters and specialized transmission lines, change the three-phase current from the utilities into single phase current of any chosen frequency, all perfectly in phase.
Amtrak has one at the Sunnyside Yard in New York. As their output voltage can be regulated and thus kept at its maximum, it allows for even more distance between the substations, and also allows the load dispatchers to control the load of the various substations, thus lowering the energy costs. They made the lower frequency systems energy-wise advantageous again.
The lower frequencies have the added advantage of a lower reactance (resistance to the AC current, depending on the frequency, typically 0.06 for 25Hz and 0.16 [ohm/km] for 60Hz) in the catenary. This was the original reason of going to 25,000V or even to 50,000V (Black Mesa, Ariz.; Sishen Saldanha, South Africa; Tumbler Ridge, B.C., Canada) with the higher frequencies, to compensate for the higher voltage drop due to the reactance at the industrial frequency. On the Black Mesa line, fed from one end at Page, Ariz., with 50kV, the voltage drops to 25kV at the other end.
I would suggest 22,000V/25Hz first used by Henry Ford in his Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad for any future electrification of the Northeast Corridor, to reduce the number of substations and profit from the lower reactance at 25Hz, and leave the older section at 11,000V/25Hz as-is. In the locomotives, the primary windings of the transformer would then only have to be switched from series to parallel and vice-versa at the voltage change section.
By connecting the two sections over a transformer, regenerated current could be used anywhere on the whole electrified system a thing hardly possible with the actual 25,000V industrial frequency systems with their phase-breaks which practically preclude regeneration, as it is never certain that there are other trains in the same feed-section, and the utilities will probably not accept any return power into one phase, unbalancing their system. A 4 percent unbalance can shorten the life of connected asynchronous motors (as used in industry) by 50 percent. The higher frequencies have also a much greater range of magnetic influence and interference.
The ideal traction supply would be something like 20kV DC in the catenary, but this is not feasible at this time due to the lack of appropriate protective switchgear, mainly for the traction vehicles. That is why those who use low frequencies, which comes close, stick to it. Besides, it has the added advantage to be transformable.
There is some misconception about the efficiency of diesels.
The efficiency of a diesel from the tank at the wheels is 22 percent, more or less, for the diesel has not only to drive the drive motors but also all the auxiliaries. The electrics, on the other hand, have an efficiency of 86 percent, more or less, at the wheels from their tank, the catenary. Some detractors claim that one has to include all the efficiencies from the power plant on (it would still be above a diesels). To this I can only say the diesels tank does not fill by divine providence either. The filling operations may even incur heavy losses, like the annual 150,000 (imp.) gallons the Canadian National loses in its prairie division alone (per CNs Keeping Track). That is the part that is caught and burned under stationary boilers. The CN is very proud of this energy conservation measure but what goes into the ground, only the Lord knows.
I also got hold of some of the ventilation design data for the Canadian Pacifics Mount McDonald tunnel. I calculated over the thumb that electric traction would save 18,000kWh in the half-hour a heavy unit coal train transits that tunnel. There are 19 of those a day, not to speak of the 36 minutes necessary between trains to clear the air with the 10,000kW fans (5,000kWh of which are included in the above figure although they probably run continuously exhausting the diesel-muck into the Glacier National Park).
These trains lose also all the energy, which could be regenerated on the way down to Vancouver, and transform it into heat in the dynamic brakes and steel dust from the wheel brakes. The amount of lost energy is staggering.
The regenerative brake is much more powerful and conserves a lot of brake shoes, not to speak of wheel stress and track maintenance.
As an example, in Denmark, a flat country, the brake shoe replacement interval has become 25 times longer since the introduction of the EA-3000 locomotives, which, for a time, were used in extended suburban push-pull service with many stops. Since July 1997 on the Loetschberg line in Switzerland, a 3,500 ton train, with one 80 ton locomotive [Re 465 of the BLS] at its head and two of the same type bringing up the rear, is kept at a speed of 80km/h (50 mph) with the regenerative brakes of the engines alone. Only on the section having a grade of 2.7 percent [GoppensteinHohtenn] the train tends to accelerate somewhat.
Besides the complete absence of thermal wheel-stress, three-megawatt hours (MWh) are recuperated per train (two to three a day). This is the average monthly power-consumption of about 8 to 10 households. Think what those 19 19,000 ton trains lose.
Not only by such mountain runs, the suburban start-stop systems like the GO system in Ontario are energy wasters, too. The Montreal-Deux Montagnes line wastes also by using the 25kV industrial frequency system and thus unable to use the regenerative brake. The substation for it, had the 25Hz system been used, could have been installed at the central station and served for an electrification of the Rigaud and possibly other lines.
From a British Columbia Railroad report, I gather that the Tumbler Ridge electrification saves $4 million (Canadian) a year over diesel traction.
It is quite clear that mountain lines should be electrified, the more so because it is a fact that diesels lose power with altitude. This is compensated by the addition of more locomotives, adding to the overall weight and fuel consumption of the train. I have seen a picture of a train with nine diesels at its head.
To speak of power, the diesel will never attain the power level of a modern electric which in the CoCo configuration could attain 9,798kW (13,151hp) and more today. This is also the braking power. CoCo are locomotives with two 3-three axle trucks (C); each axle independently driven (o); trucks not coupled to each other ('). The Swiss locos mentioned are BoBo.
These new electrics have no hourly rate. Maximum power can be run indefinitely. Maintenance is around 40 percent of a diesel and falling as the technology is still new and still has some room for technical advances. Being of modular construction, keeping them running and up-to-date is easy. To this it must be borne in mind that one electric replaces at least two diesels. Witness the Virginian-Norfolk & Western. They had to use 50 diesels to replace 20 electrics after their de-electrification, to take on the Appalachians. Wonder where the profit was.
The high price of scrap copper? From the point of view of the ecology, the various de-electrifications, of which the Milwaukee was the major one, were crimes, mainly when the origin of the power was water, like the Milwaukees. Where is it now?
There are basically two AC electrified railroad supply systems in the world, all single phase:
Lower Frequency systems 16 2/3 Hz 15 kV.
25 Hz 11 kV [Northeast Corridor]
Industrial frequency systems
60 Hz 12.5 kV [Northeast Corridor]
60 Hz 25 kV
60 Hz 2x25 kV [New Haven-Boston]
60 Hz 50 kV
However the power from the utilities is not distributed as single phase, but as three-phase current with three wires.
During a period (60 Hz = 60 periods per second), the current and the voltage pass twice a maximum one positive, one negative. In the three phases the maximums do not happen at the same time in all the wire pairs (AB, BC, AC) but are shifted so that if the first pair reaches maximum, the second lags it by one-third of the time, and the other leads it by the same amount: they are said to be shifted by 120 degrees to each other. To load the three phases about evenly, industrial frequency railroads tap them in sequence. This requires the overhead to be sectioned by phase-breaks, unpowered insulated stretches of catenary installed to avoid connecting two phases together accidentally by the pantographs.
Each catenary section has to have its own transformer. It is a point feed system. Normally open switches bridge the phase breaks. These are only closed when the transformer of the neighboring section is out of service for some reason. Hence the transformers must be designed to be capable to feed full operations in three sections in an emergency.
The catenary has two resistance components: one is fixed and depends on the material of the wires (cadmium alloyed, silver alloyed, magnesium alloyed copper) and their length. The other depends on the frequency of the current. This is the reactance, which increases with the frequency. At 60 Hz, it is about twice the one at 25Hz. At power factor (PF) 1.0, the voltage drop is about 0.18 versus 2.2 volts per ampere kilometer (Akm), at PF 0.98, 2.2 vs. 3.2 volts per Akm.
At first sight, the industrial frequency systems look quite attractive, needing only the transformers with their protective switchgear, of course.
This was quite all right, as long as the locomotives did not have an acceptable regeneration capability and were only consumers but then came the solid-state converter locomotives with their three-phase motors. The converters change the single phase of the catenary into a three-phase current of variable frequency, as these motors speed is almost rigidly tied to the frequency come hell and high water. This is one of their advantages, they will never overspeed; the others are small volume, low weight, no wearing parts, thus low maintenance.
These motors have the peculiarity to act as generators when their speed is increased above the speed set by the frequency (running down a grade, for example). This regenerated three-phase current is converted to single-phase current by the converter and fed back to the overhead and not into a resistance that converts it to heat, as on diesels, older electrics (these actually regenerate DC) and 60Hz electrics.
Claims by the makers that the latter regenerate are misleading. They do, but into brake resistances and thus convert the energy into heat and do not send it back into the catenary. The regenerated current can then be used by other locomotives ascending the grade, or be fed back to the utility.
Solid-state converter substations take a perfectly balanced, three-phase current and convert it to a single-phase current of any chosen frequency. It functions also the other way around, changing the regenerated single-phase current to a perfectly balanced three-phase one.
It is obvious that to have the full benefit of regeneration, the catenary would have to be connected right through, with all the substations in parallel.
Another advantage is the high power factor of this type of locomotive and substation. It, too, can be chosen to be 1.0, the best there is.
What is the power factor? When a current is sent through a wire it builds up a magnetic field around it which in turn creates a current in the wire that opposes the first current as long as its magnitude changes, and with AC it changes constantly (that is where the reactance comes from). It thus lags the voltage by a certain amount expressed by the power factor; that is to say, the voltage reaches its peak before the current. As the power is a product of voltage and current, it can be seen that if the voltage reaches its peak while the current is still at almost zero, there can be no power. It is as if the current had two components: the active one that does the work, and the reactive which does nothing but heat the wire. It is like the foam on a glass of beer: PF 1.0 = Full glass, no foam; PF 0.5 = 50 percent foam, 50 percent beer.
Ah, yes, these locomotive and substation power factors can be set to compensate for the various reactances, thus lowering the overall resistance (called impedance) of the conductors. In Norway, this locomotive feature allowed to postpone indefinitely the reinforcement or new-building of substations.
Only wastrel countries use the industrial frequency system today. That they are not beyond something like this is shown by the fate of the Los Angeles streetcar system: at the time it was bought up by ESSO (now EXXON), GM and Firestone with the express aim to destroy it (it had only black ink on the ledger at the time), to force the city to buy buses. This was the object of a court case. The three were fined $5,000.
Some numbers to ponder:
Installed substation power
SNCF (French National Railroad) 25 kV/50 Hz 437 MVA 2)
DB (German Federal Railroad) 15 kV/16 2/3 Hz 225 MVA 2) per 1000 km [625 miles] on general rail network for similar services
SNCF 1,412 MVA
SNCF (TGV Line Paris-Lyons) 1,582 MVA
SNCF (TGVA with 2 x 25 kV system) 3,163 MVA
DB 353 MVA
for very high-speed lines, per 1000 km for similar services
Number of substations, TGV Paris Atlantique (308 km = 192 M)
2x25 kV/50 Hz 7 Substations [20 per 1,000 km, 625 miles]
27 Autotransformer stations
10 Phase breaks with switching stations (This is the system Amtrak uses between New Haven and Boston. From Washington, it will then have 11kV/25Hz to New York-Sunnyside yard, 12.5kV/60Hz from there to New Haven and then 2x25kV/60Hz to Boston. Not the most practical design.
Had a lower frequency been used:
15 kV/16 2/3 Hz 4 substations, in parallel [12 per 1,000 km]
22 kV/25 Hz23 substations, in parallel [10 per 1,000 km]
On double-track lines, these numbers may decrease through lateral connection of the catenaries.
Approximate average substation distances:
3 kV DC 30 km [about 19 miles] 33 o/oo km
25 kV/60 Hz with phase breaks 60 km [about 38 miles] 17 o/oo km
22 kV/25 Hz with voltage regulation 120 km [about 76 miles] 8 o/oo km
Due to the higher power requirements of very high-speed trains, these distances may become smaller on such lines.
In the through connected low frequency systems this is not the case, as in case of failure of one substation it is just disconnected from the catenary which goes on to be powered by the other substations up and down the line.
To avoid the inordinate number of phase-breaks, the 2x25kV system was introduced. In it the transformer is feeding into 50kV feeders which in turn feed auto-transformers disposed about every 8 miles and requiring about as much switchgear as a full substation. Their terminals are connected to the feeder and the rails while the center-tap (25kV) is connected to the catenary.
It is a very onerous system. About the equivalent of jumping in the [60Hz] lake to get out of the [25Hz] rain.
An added handicap of the 60Hz systems is the necessity to connect them to very high voltage transmission lines (at least 220kV).
This requires often sizeable branch lines to feed the substations. Conversely, the solid-state converter equipped substations can theoretically be fed from any 3-phase transmission line of any voltage, provided the latter can carry the load.
People are impressed by the 500+ km/h run of a shortened TGV. Such speeds cannot, however, be run commercially at this time, for even the best catenary to date, equipped with magnesium alloyed copper, tensioned at 27 kilonewtons (kN) [224.8-pound force x 27 (over the thumb: 1 kN = 0.1 metric tonne) has an upper limit of safe current collection at 440km/h.
Stiffed on the streetcar
Republished with permission from the New Orleans Times-Picayune of November 22. Ed.
Say youre halfway through dinner with a friend who offered to pay for the meal if you covered the tip. Suddenly your companion informs you that the payment will be somewhat delayed and will only cover part of the meal.
That would leave a pretty nasty taste in most peoples mouths. Unfortunately, thats basically how the federal government is treating the Regional Transit Authority when it comes to restoring streetcar service to Canal Street [in New Orleans].
The Federal Transit Administration was supposed to pick up 80 percent of the $160 million project the kind of federal/local split thats typified mass transit projects for decades.
That was certainly RTAs understanding when it began work on the line in January 2001, and there was no reason to expect that deal to change.
But Congress is considering changing the formula for such projects to a 60-40 split, something that would double the cost of RTAs local share for this project.
Whats more, the flow of federal money has been halted. So far, the feds have sent $54 million for the project. Another $14.8 million was approved by Congress and signed by President Bush a year ago, but RTA has yet to see it and has had to borrow money to get work done. That has cost the agency about $20,000 a month in interest and financing expenses that it had not anticipated.
Apparently the person whos holding out is U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers. The Kentucky Republican chairs the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which has the final say on federal transit assistance.
Rep. Rogers wants the RTA and all local transit officials to find more money for capital needs by scouring their own budgets.
But thats not reasonable for this project at this point. RTA could manage to pay more by raiding money aside for a Desire streetcar line, but it shouldnt be forced to make that choice. Indeed, if RTA is forced to sideline that project, it will mean that $3.7 million of federal money that has been spent on preliminary work would be wasted.
Federal transit money will go further with a 60-40 split than the more generous formula thats been used for so long, and perhaps a case can be made for changing it. Indeed, RTA officials say that they are prepared to pay a larger share in the future.
But the Canal Street project is more than half finished, and changing the rules in the middle of the game is simply unfair.
What were talking about is money that was already authorized, appropriated and to some degree spent, said James Reiss Jr., RTA board chairman.
RTA officials say that they dont know of any other situation where federal authorities have asked a local agency to double its commitment this far into a project. Most get the money up front before construction begins.
RTA struggled to get the money for the 20 percent match, and coming up with twice as much will obviously be a hardship. Thats the message that Louisianas Congressional delegation is trying to get across to Rep. Rogers and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, and its one that deserves to be heeded.
This isnt about the RTA asking for special treatment. The agency is simply asking the federal government to stick by the original deal.
National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Assn.
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Hot plate caused fatal train fire
A kitchenette hot plate caused the fire that killed five members of a Connecticut family and seven other people aboard a French train, an official said on November 26, according to The AP. The fire spread from the hot plate to a jacket hanging nearby on the train from Paris to Munich in Germany, said an investigator who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Flames spread through the car early on Nov. 6 while the train was in the city of Nancy, in eastern France. Five members of the Amore family of Northford, Conn., were killed in the fire. They were Susanne Amore, 72, known as Oma or Grandma to the rest of the family; Salvatore Michael Amore, 43, his wife, Jeanne, 42, and their children Emily Jeanne Amore, 12, and Michael Bernhardt Amore, 8.
NCI-Leo King Collection: Skipper ClarkNo. 303 started out as Virginian No. 134 in 1956, according to the cutline on the back of a ca. 1970 postcard from Audio Visual Designs of Earlton, N.Y. Upon the merger of the Norfolk & Western it then became No. 234. When the latter gave up its electric operation, the rectifier electrics were sold to the New York, New Haven & Hartford in October 1963. These engines were the backbone of the electric freight operation until 1969. The photo was taken under what are now mere remnants of an enormous coaling tower at Cedar Hill Engine Terminal in New Haven, Conn., on January 5, 1969.
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