Vol. 7 No. 52
Copyright © 2006
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
In this edition...
A special thank you to readers
With this edition, Destination:Freedom ends Volume #7 of its weekly newsletter. It has been a pleasure presenting our newsletter each week to our readership and we appreciate your viewing and occasional commentaries. The NCI staff will now take a much-needed rest and will be off to do what others engage in during the holiday season. Our 2-week break is just as much a traditional now as are the holidays themselves. Destination:Freedom will resume publication January 8, 2007.
From all of us ay NCI, to all of you out there, a very joyous Holiday Season!
Amtraks new president axes four senior execs
WASHINGTON Amtraks new President Alexander K. Kummant has terminated four senior executives, Destination:Freedom has confirmed, and temporarily re-assigned a fifth.
Terminated late Friday were Chief Financial Officer David Smith, Marketing Vice President Barbara Richardson, Amtrak Police Chief Alfred Broadbent, and Vice President Communications William Schulz.
The companys general counsel Alicia M. Serfaty was re-assigned to the Presidents office for a 90-day period.
The story was first reported Saturday by reporter Matthew Wald of The New York Times. It was confirmed independently by D:F. More details are expected to be made public this week, D:F was told.
Alexander Kummant was brought in to run Amtrak this past September by Amtrak Board Chairman David Laney, after former President David Gunn was fired by the Board in November 2005 despite his successful turn-around of the railroad. Amtrak has been targeted by the Bush Administration for closure or sell-off since its election in 2000, on the grounds that it makes no profit, a position which transportation experts acknowledge shows both an ignorance of infrastructure finance --- highways cost vastly more than Amtrak --- and an ideologically-based hostility towards transit-oriented investment by government.
Kummant, a former Union Pacific executive who has run other transportation-related companies, is described by insiders as a good guy, and a capable executive. His shake-up of senior staff is seen as a move to bring in his own team.
David Smith joined Amtrak in 2003 after being CFO of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) from 1995 to 2003. Prior to his work at TVA, Smith was vice president-finance for LTV Corporation, 1986-1993.
Barbara Richardson served as Executive Vice President of Amtrak under former Amtrak President George Warrington, after working in public affairs on the Northeast Corridor unit of the railroad. She was switched to Vice President Marketing and Sales under new President David Gunn when Warrington left the company to run New Jersey Transit in 2002. Ms. Richardson began at Amtrak in 1994 as Director of Communications for the Northeast Corridor Business Unit.
A controversial figure at Amtrak, Richardson was criticized by some for her sharp elbows and authoritarian style, but admired by others who saw her as a successful female marketing executive operating in a tough, male-dominated environment. Under her aegis Amtrak introduced Julie, the automated reservations assistant, and commissioned the current Amtrak advertising campaign which includes some of the most memorable railroad commercial artwork in decades. (See following illustrations).
Web site to generate investment
in station rehabilitation
Leading the effort to bring together public officials and business communities across the country to revitalize train stations, Amtrak launched its Great American Stations Web site this month.
Acting as a central point for a range of station- related information, the site provides information and resources associated with station ownership, links to information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, background about potential funding sources for rehabilitation and upgrades, and advice on how to get started on renovations.
According to the sites editor, Suzi Andiman, the site is designed to foster partnerships with local communities to make investments in stations.
Many stations are in need of renovations that could greatly benefit not only the local community and traveling public, but also serve as an economic development engine in the heart of a city or town, said Andiman.
In addition to the site serving as a resource in and of itself, Amtraks own know-how is being made available to communities who want to learn more about reinvigorating their stations.To that end, jurisdictions may direct their station renovation-related questions to Government Affairs department field directors.While Amtrak actually owns a relatively small number of stations around the country, its employees have a great deal of experience and knowledge to offer localities.
Two Photos - Amtrak InkThe development of the stations Web site requires a collaborative effort from numerous departments. Front L to R: Senior Director, E-Commerce Kathleen Gordon; Editor Suzi Andiman; Lead Production Designer Nan Fredman; Manager of Intranet Systems Robert Merrill. Back row L to R: E-Commerce Creative Director Roger Seitzinger; Vice President, Government Affairs Joe McHugh; Senior Designer and Publisher Steven Alexander; Chief Corporate Communications Bill Schulz and Project Manager, Intranet Systems Rod Moss. Not pictured: Senior Director, OBS and Station Operations Pat Willis; and Operations Supervisor Dan Valley.
While the site was launched featuring the stations along the Empire Builder route, it will ultimately feature all of the stations Amtrak serves.
As we build the site on a route-by-route basis, we have the opportunity to really tailor it to the needs of its end-users, said Senior Director, E-Commerce Kathleen Gordon. The site will be continually updated with new routes; the California Zephyr is next.
The site also has the potential to become a great tool for the companys departments, as it provides useful station information in one central location.The site is found at www.greatamericanstations. com
The core members of the team that developed the Great American Stations Web site reflect the multi-department collaborative effort behind the endeavor. Accomplished mostly in-house, the project required contributions from the E-Commerce, Amtrak Technologies, Government Affairs, Customer Service and Corporate Communications departments.
contribute to reliability
Photo: Bruce Page, Amtrak InkNew York Division track employees re-construct a portion of A interlocking at New Yorks Penn Station, work that will help reduce switch failures and improve on-time performance along the Northeast Corridor.
Guided by the railroads Strategic Reform Initiatives, the Engineering department is currently working on a number of projects to return the Northeast Corridor infrastructure to a state of good repair, improve operational reliability and further reduce trip times.
At the start of the fiscal year, speed increases were achieved as a result of the Track groups curve geometry analysis of the track between Washington and New York.This resulted in a five-minute savings to the Acela Express fall schedule.
Also in October, the installation of new concrete ties and turnouts was completed along the Keystone Corridor, yielding speed increases in some areas from 60 to 110 mph. This improvement was one of the major operational changes that made possible the launch of the all-electric, faster and more convenient Keystone Service.
Many of the individual projects were working on now will improve reliability, rather than contribute to faster travel times, said Dave Staplin, deputy chief engineer of the Track group. However, he noted that as the incremental gains from these projects accumulate, significant schedule improvements are achievable.
Throughout the Northeast Corridor, work is ongoing to replace obsolete infrastructure. Track components, including wood ties and ballasts, are being replaced and curve alignment geometry is being modified so trains can move faster and more efficiently. Other projects include the replacement of several bridges that have reached the end of their lifespans.
Staplin added that the project that would contribute the most to reduced travel times on the Northeast Corridor in the future is the replacement of the catenary on the south end. This would allow trains to move at substantially higher speeds, but theres no funding for this project yet.
While the north end electrification work completed in early 2001 cost an estimated $500 million, replacement of the catenary south of New York would cost substantially more. In the interim, Amtraks engineers are seeking less-costly solutions capable of achieving some speed increases.
Along the Keystone Corridor, work currently underway supports its operational reliability. With the routine replacement of wood ties this month, the curve and track modifications for this project will be complete west of Paoli. A new phase of improvements will begin in 2007 that includes replacing the remaining wood crossties with concrete ties and installing continuous welded rail on tracks primarily used by SEPTA between Paoli and Overbrook. Furthermore, to support the operation of the new interlockings on the line, the C & S group will be constructing several remote control panels in the coming months.
In addition to the work in Pennsylvania, the Track department is working with a consulting firm and the Federal Railroad Administration on a project to develop better transitions from tangent or straight track to curves, which will improve ride comfort and enable faster trip times for passengers.
There are other developments for curves. Currently, FRA guidelines call for a maximum seven-inch cant deficiency. Cant refers to the raising of the outer rail on a curved track to allow for higher speeds. Cant compensates for the lateral force as a train travels around a curve. If a track is canted to the level required for the maximum speed of the fastest train, the level of tilt will be too high for a slower train, thereby requiring a cant deficiency. In laymans terms, cant deficiency is a compromise degree of elevation that allows both the fastest trains as well as slower trains to share the same track, said Staplin.
Amtrak is currently working with the FRA to determine if a nine-inch cant deficiency can be achieved, which would raise operating speeds and reduce trip times. Although not permitted in the U.S., this degree of cant deficiency is accomplished abroad on highspeed passenger rail lines.
Another major undertaking for the railroad involves work by members of the Structures group to replace the nearly 100-year-old movable Thames River Bridge between New London and Groton, Conn. In its second year, this $76 million project will reach its most critical phase during spring of 2008, when the drawbridge span will be replaced with a vertical lift.The process will take nearly two weeks to complete and will require the closing of the bridge for a period of three to four days. During that time, Amtrak plans to provide motorcoach service in Connecticut for its passengers traveling in the direction of New York and Boston.
Longer-term improvement projects that are budgeted include a plan to modify the catenary structure on the Hellgate line from Penn Station to New Rochelle in 2009.The track structure on the Hell Gate Bridge will also be replaced, taking advantage of work windows required for the electrification work.
Staplin credits Amtraks strong relationships with many of its state and regional transit partners with yielding very beneficial outcomes for the railroad. The projects weve completed with the financial support of our state partners have resulted in outcomes that improve Amtrak performance overall, including projects with PENN Dot, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad, MARC and RIDOT.
China Hong Kong subway Profit
is based on real estate revenue
HONG KONG --- No passenger rail system in the world makes a profit, but it seems there is at least one alleged exception, the Hong Kongs Mass Transit Railway Corporation, which runs a highly successful, efficient metro system (the Japanese claim their trains show a profit, too)
Hong Kong MTRs network is 90.0 kilometers (56 miles) long, with 52 stations. Its seven-line commuter network has a daily patronage of over 2.4 million passengers and a design capacity of up to 85,000 passengers per hour.
Every year the Hong Kong MTRC claims a profit after meeting all its operating costs and debt service. How can this be when passenger rail systems all over the rest of the world depend upon government subsidies, and not just fare box revenue, for capital improvements and operating costs? The answer is that the Hong Kong MTRC is not just in the business of providing transportation for people. It also enters into joint ventures with property companies to develop and manage residential and commercial properties along the length of their network. In other words, they are in the land grant and development business, which made possible the building of Americas freight and passenger railroads in the nineteenth century.
If you run a railroad, its a winning scheme: your partners --- developers --- are responsible for land development costs, marketing and sales expenses, professional fees, and expenses related to selling and leasing the properties. You, or in this case The MTR Corporation, get one or more upfront cash payments, a share of cash profits, or of assets. As of 2001, property-related income to the corporation had reached 15% of total revenue.
Hong Kong may be the most dense urban area in the world, according to a United States Census Bureau estimate. At 75,000 people per square mile, this massive density supports the highest level of public transport usage. Over ninety percent of rail ridership is either metro or commuter rail less than 10 percent is light rail and daily rail ridership is more than three million.
With such a high density supporting transit use, there is intense competition among transport providers, especially because the Chinese government promotes the growth of multiple transportation alternatives. All this puts pressure on transport operators to provide speed and comfort to the public. MTRC is leading the field in technological innovations which will offer improved service for travelers and transit workers alike. Here are some examples:
Octopus Card - Octopus is the electronic ticketing system that makes travelling in Hong Kong simple and hassle-free. Each Octopus card contains a built-in microchip containing all your fare information. You can simply pass the ticket gates with a simple touch & go of your Octopus card. Four types of Octopus card are designed for adults, elderly, students and children. The versatile Octopus cards can be used on multiple modes of transport; MTR, Airport Express, KCR East Rail & Light Rail, buses, ferries etc, saving you the trouble of perparing for the coins. These cards can also be used on most public payphones, vending machines and photo booths in transport premises. For more details regarding the use of the Octopus card, please click here.
Obverse side of a standard adult card. The Octopus card is a rechargeable contactless stored value smart card used for electronic payment in online or offline systems in Hong Kong. Originally launched in September 1997 as a fare collection system for the citys mass transit system, the Octopus card system has grown into a widely used electronic cash system used not only for virtually all public transport in Hong Kong, but also for making payment at convenience stores, supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, on-street parking meters, car parks and many other point-of-sale applications (e.g. service stations and vending machines). In addition the system is used for access control to offices, schools and apartments. It can even be used to donate money to charities. Using a card involves simply holding the card in close proximity above, or on, an Octopus reader, and cards can be recharged with cash at add-value machines or over the counter in shops (notably 7-Eleven, Wellcome and Circle K), or directly through credit cards and bank accounts.
The Octopus fare payment card is the latest innovation for reliability and convenience. Customers can simply pass the ticket gates with a simple touch & go of the card. Four types of Octopus card are designed for adults, elderly, students and children.
The versatile Octopus cards can be used on multiple modes of transport; MTR, Airport Express, KCR East Rail & Light Rail, buses, ferries etc, saving you the trouble of preparing for the coins. They can also be used on most public payphones, vending machines and photo booths in transport premises.
The cards can be topped up at an AVM using a bank card with Hong Kongs Easy Pay System; in the future, technology will allow a fully automated direct pay system. The MTRs fare collection system processes about two and a half million journeys per day.
Cellular Phone Access: MTR has one of the worlds highest ownership ratios for cellular phones and radio pagers. Other notable items being developed are: the Electronic Information Display System for trains, which will permit customers to update train information through wireless links; a Station Management System which will help station operators handle different scenarios, and an in-cab CCTV system for train drivers to monitor platform conditions.
All these systems are designed to satisfy customer needs with improved service. In the year 2000, Hong Kongs MTR agreed to a partial privatization plan. The government sold 23% of MTRs shares to the public. The sale raised the equivalent of about $1.28 billion in US dollars for the government. MTR wanted to keep some autonomy, particularly in regard to setting fares. This was allowed, with the provision that MTR must consult with the government prior to increasing fares. The government retained a controlling interest of 51% in the corporation and regulated the performance levels of MTR in areas such as punctuality, reliability of equipment, and service delivery.
The government and MTR have come under some intense criticism for their continued development of urban sites, some of them precious to citizens, dramatically reshaping the citys face without public participation. In an opinion piece dated published by the Asia Sentinel news service in August 2006, Alice Poon writes:
.....the MTRC, which operates the subway system; the Kowloon Canton Railway Corporation and the Urban Renewal Authorityhave been anything but shy about playing conflicting (pro-public vs. anti-public) roles in their day-to-day operations. Together, they are shaping the way Hong Kong will look in much the same way that the legendary titan Robert Moses shaped New York City in the 1960s, without any public consultation.
Getting at exact figures on how much land the public agencies redevelop themselves, without public scrutiny, is difficult. But in the last fiscal year, the government sold 2.8 hectares through public tenders and auctions, while in the same period, away from public view, the MTRC and KCRC awarded tenders for about four times that much 12.5 hectares.
However, not only do their conflicting roles arouse serious questions, they give the impression that the government hungers for a chance to share in the property development spoils in any way it can. Itself Hong Kongs largest land supplier, the government has always walked a fine line between serving the public interest and exploiting land in an anti-public manner.
Government nonchalance is further amplified by its property profiteering under the guise of operating for the public benefit, leaving Hong Kongers bereft of amenities enjoyed by other major cities. In fact, according to an activist group called HK Alternatives, The urban areas of Hong Kong and Kowloon currently have an extremely small ratio of per capita urban parkland. Other world cities such as New York or London have over 10 times the amount of per capita urban parkland that Hong Kong has.
Just how little public space Hong Kong residents have is illustrated by the open space enjoyed by Singaporeans, an island nation constricted, as Hong Kong is, by boundaries beyond which it cannot grow. Singapores Urban Redevelopment Authority laments on its website that the island republic has only two-thirds of a hectare of parkland for 1,000 persons. By contrast, Hong Kongs ratio per 1,000 persons is a minuscule fifteenth of a hectare.
So, Hong Kong has created a profit-making railway, by engaging the real-estate business with government sponsorship and, indeed, clout. The result has been a profitable rail system. Have there been costs? Yes, and we will explore those in future articles. But the fact remains, pairing rail with real estate, while hardly a new idea, can produce a self-sustaining entity. Should we do the same?
Stations to Receive new
Beginning with the installation of three new machines at Washington Union Station this month in beta or test mode, Amtrak will begin early next year a nationwide replacement of its self-service ticketing kiosk, Quik- Trak. The new machines will be easier and faster to use and also integrate new features for enhanced accessibility for visually impaired customers.
As one initiative in a broader program by the Marketing and Sales department to continue to improve customer service and convenience, the new Quik-Trak machines will be the first of several customer-facing technological improvements, including the eventual implementation of customer electronic ticketing capability.
In this large-scale project, the company will install 198 new machines in 80 locations throughout the country an increase of 22 machines at 13 additional locations compared with the previous Quik-Trak deployment. Washingtons Union Station will be the first location to put the machines to use; a systematic ramp-up of installations will follow in February 2007.
Like the older version they replace, the new machines allow customers the flexibility and convenience of either ticketing their reservation made through another sales channel, such as Amtrak.com, or booking and issuing their own tickets at the station.The new models, however, also offer improved navigation, brighter, fresher graphics similar to those on Amtrak.com, and upgraded touch screens that offer greater screen selection accuracy and overall reliability. In addition, the new units are designed to support the requirements of coming features associated exchanges, refunds and electronic ticketing, as they go on-line over the next two to three years.
Were proud of the newly designed machines because of their ease of use, new standard in accessibility and forward-thinking design, said Mike Toczylowski, marketing director, Station Sales Support.
In recognition of the departments effort to upgrade the machines functionality and design, the new kiosk was awarded the 2006 KioskCom Gold award for Outstanding Achievement,Travel & Hospitality Self- Service.
At right - Marketing Director, Station Sales Support Mike Toczylowski poses with the new award-winning model of the Quik-Trak machine at the Kiosk Information Systems factory in Louisville, Colo.
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Locomotive driver sues widower (HAZ)
Bückeburg - The first circuit state court in this historic and picturesque city in western Schaumburg County (Landkreis) is handling a unique lawsuit filed by a railroad employee against the widower of a 67 year-old woman who committed suicide by throwing herself into the path of the train he was driving. At the time of the incident on 3rd March 2005 the woman had been suffering from severe chronic pain from as yet undisclosed long-term medical condition.
The 55 year-old plaintiff, a Deutsche Bahn employee, was at the controls of a Regional Express train destined for Rheine which was accelerating away from a scheduled stop in Haste when the train ran over the woman as it passed the village of Hohnhorst. As his train consisting of double-decker coaches pushed by locomotive at the rear end accelerated through 120 km/h towards its en-route speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) the driver observed the woman stepping directly into the track bed less than a 300 meters in front of him and therefore applied emergency brakes. But at that speed the train needed nearly 700 meters (2300 feet) to stop. The woman died on the scene from the collision. It was the third time in his career that the locomotive driver had witnessed someone committing suicide by walking intentionally in front of his moving train.
Photo: NCI, David BealeIn August 2005 a pair of Deutsche Bahn ET 424 EMU train sets passes by Hohnhort, where the suicide incident of March 2005 took place.
After the incident the locomotive driver suffered from sleep depravation, depression and nightmares and had to take three months off on disability pay due to emotional inability to drive another train. He has sued for damages of over EUR 9000 (US$ 12,000) for emotional pain and suffering as well as the right to additional claims if he suffers from future unspecified emotional trauma. The husband of the woman stated through his attorney that he can not be held responsible for her actions since, he argues, she was temporarily insane at the time of the incident, due to her own medical problems. In Germany, unlike the USA, family members can be held financially liable for their ill or dead relatives and spouses. For example local and state governments in Germany have the legal right to pursue and hold adult children financially responsible for the care of financially broke or indigent elderly parents in hospitals, nursing homes or other institutions, irregardless of the nature of the relationship between the elderly parent and his or her adult child - a legal right they use often.
Judge Norbert Feige attempted a compromise solution between the parties which would have awarded the Deutsche Bahn employee EUR 9000 damages but without any rights to claim further damages against the widower in the future. Neither party has so far accepted the offer.
In a 2003 study the University of Cologne estimated that nearly 1000 suicides in Germany are carried out each year in a similar manner, whereby the person committing suicide intentionally walks or jumps into the path of an oncoming train. The German locomotive drivers union GDL stated through a spokesman that the emotional costs inflicted on its membership as well as on rescue workers, police and rail right-of-way workers by these suicides is enormous. Nearly 5% of all train drivers in Germany have been unintentional eyewitnesses to such suicides every year.
Over the 9-10 December weekend nearly all of Europe and the U.K. made the annual revision to train and bus schedules with no major problems reported. Highlights in Germany:
ICE trains on the Munich - Nürnburg - Kassel - Hannover - Hamburg / Bremen corridor took full advantage of the new / upgraded 171 km (106 mile) long high speed line between Nürnburg and Munich, which has been in limited operation since May 2006. The optimizing of train schedules with the new 2007 system schedule means a net 35 minute reduction in travel times for ICE trains running along this corridor between Munich and cities in the north such as Hannover, Hamburg and Bremen.
Additonal ICE trips were added on the Cologne/Düsseldorf - Hannover - Berlin corridor. There is now a train (either ICE or IC) every 30 minutes between Hannover and Berlin in the afternoon hours.
New regional express commuter trains were introduced on the Nürnburg - Munich high speed rail corridor. These trains are the fastest commuter trains in Germany and perhaps in Europe with en-route speeds of 200 km/h (125 mph). DB reconfigured former Inter City and Inter Regio locomotive hauled coaches, already capable of 200 km/h speeds, with seating and interiors configured for regional / commuter purposes on this route. Scehduling of these regional express trains takes some finess, as they share the same tracks with ICE trains running at 300 km/h.
A number of regional trains in several areas in Germany were either reduced in frequency or in some cases eliminated altogether. Hardest hit were rural areas in the former East Germany, where many cities, towns and villages have been steadily loosing population and businesses for the past decade and where state governments simply are unable to make up for the recent reduction in annual federal funding for local and regional transit. In Lower Saxony, a state in the northern part of West Germany, also lost about half of all regional trains operatinig in the Harz mountain region, where newly opened multi-lane highways have hammered ridership on local trains in recent years.
Berlin - Over the road truck companies are not alone in finding enough personnel to travel long distances during varying hours of the day or night, on weekends and holidays. Spokesmen of Deutsche Bahn rail freight subsidiary Railion and its locomotive driver union GDL stated in an article in the business section of the 14th December Hannover Allgemeine Zeitung (HAZ) that the German freight hauler is experiencing a chronic shortage of locomotive drivers. The company disagree about the number of missing drivers, but both the company and the union agree that there is on-going problem with driver shortages. The most direct consequence is an unusual high amount of overtime being worked by train drivers, which both the union and the company say they must reduce in the near future.
A Railion spokesman stated the reason for the shortfall in qualified train drivers is a boom in freight traffic on the rails, especially with third party freight haulers taking advantage of open access laws, which are opening up rail lines across Europe to new entrants. Only a few years ago Deutsche Bahn management complained it had too many train drivers on its payroll. Railion has also experienced an up tick in rail traffic, although it is in competition with the new breed of third party rail freight haulers. Train drivers in Germany are typically required to complete a 2 - 3 year long training program which includes detailed technical instruction in locomotive systems and components, basic machine design, physics, electrical theory, braking system design and operation, rail vehicle maintenance, signaling systems and practical training in driving simulators and operational trains.
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