Vol. 8 No. 1
January 8, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKayWebmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick
European Correspondent - David Beale

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists, and
elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

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

  This week…
New Jersey Transit hits a home run with roomy, comfortable
   “Multi-Levels”
  Commuter lines…
Port authority plan bodes well for the region
Old-school planning along the Garden State Parkway
  Events…
The CT Citizens Transportation Lobby says:
    STOP GRIDLOCK! GO TRANSIT!
  Selected rail stocks…
  Editorial…
Harvard needs to pause expansion plans before
   irreparable damage to the region
  End notes…


NEWS OF THE WEEK... This week’s feature...


All Photos: NCI   

Trainmaster Terry Ikey stands astride the ALPS (ALP-46) electric locomotive powering our train.

 

New Jersey Transit hits a home run
with roomy, comfortable “Multi-Levels”

By DF Staff

 

NEW YORK CITY --- Commuters headed to and from New York’s Penn Station from New Jersey in 2007 are in for one of the nicest rides in America, as NJ Transit begins phasing into service their 234 new Bombardier-built custom “Multi-Level Vehicles.”

The first five-car trainset, pulled by a 7000 horsepower NJT ALP-46 electric locomotive, is already in service making three runs a day between Trenton and Penn Station-New York. Other trainsets will begin making their appearance on the Northeast Corridor segment of NJT’s extensive commuter rail system this spring, NJT reports, with Bombardier Transportation expected to deliver 18 additional MLVs (Multi-Level Vehicles) for service.

The start of service culminates four years of planning, with extensive customer/NJT interaction on design features and equipment characteristics. The result, as an inspection ride permitted to D:F just before Christmas showed clearly, is a high-capacity commuter rail car that nevertheless rivals the comfort and ambience of first class European rail car design, and even long-distance passenger car comfort levels.

Upper level, NJT multi-level vehicle.

Lower level, NJT multi-level vehicle.

Accompanied by NJT Senior TrainMasters Kevin Beejack and Terry Ikey, as well as several Bombardier technicians who are on board every trip during the Multi-Level Vehicles break-in period, DF’s train left Penn Station’s Track 12 a bit before noon to make the trip through New York’s East River Tunnel to the Queens Sunnyside rail yard.

The ride through the tunnel was smooth and nearly silent, and felt more like a two-story Amtrak Superliner or the ultra-quiet Acela than a commuter rail car. After pausing for about 30 minutes on the Sunnyside loop track for return clearance back into the East River Tunnel and Penn Station, we moved smoothly back to the city.

Next fall, Multi-Level Vehicle trainsets will begin operating on NJT’s Morris & Essex and North Jersey Coast lines. The manufacturer is expected to deliver all 234 cars by the end of 2008, NJT states.

The cars, with upper and lower levels plus a third, smaller, platform-height level, hold between 127 and 142 passengers apiece, about 15-20 per cent more than the single level NJT “Comet” cars they are replacing. The 234 multilevel car order consists of eighty-six 132-seats coach cars with ADA restrooms, thirty-three 127-seat cab cars (also with ADA restrooms), and one-hundred fifteen coach cars (without restrooms) with 142 seats each. The typical five car consist will have a cab car, and four trailers, one with an ADA restroom and three without, totaling 685 riders.

An ALP-46 locomotive at the rear, looking west on Sunnyside (Queens) rail yard loop tracks.

Looking east on Sunnyside loop tracks.

Yet, despite their higher capacity NJT’s Multi-Levels offer subdued lighting, extra legroom, and, most importantly for commuters, high-comfort four-across seating, allowing seats to be on average more than 2” wider each than typical five-abreast commuter-car seats such as found on the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North, or the Harlem and Hudson Division, also providing commuter rail service to New York City.

“Designed for customers by customers who worked with engineers for the rail cars’ manufacturer,” reports NJT, “the Multi-Level cars provide 25.27 inches of knee room --- a full inch more than Comet V single-level cars --- and 2.2 inches more seat width than Comet V seats.”

“The cars’ interior design features large tinted windows, indirect ceiling lighting and soothing blue tones to produce a restful and spacious passenger environment,” states NJT. “Each car features an upper and lower seating level, as well as an open, intermediate ‘mezzanine’ level at each end of the car—making the cars truly ‘multilevel’. The mezzanine features plenty of space for customers who opt to stand --- complete with padded leaning station --- as well as areas for wheelchairs, carts, strollers and luggage.”

Trainmaster Kevin Beejack stands at mid-level entry area on NJ Transit “Multi-Level Vehicle” rail car, with lower and upper levels visible behind.

NJ Transit Trainmasters Kevin Beejack and Terry Ikey in mid-level seating area of new NJT “Multi-Level Vehicle” rail car.

“Fully accessible restrooms are found in this area on more than half of the cars and feature refined finishes and a generous amount of space,” continued NJT. “On the upper and lower levels, seats are arranged in a two-by-two configuration—meaning that every seat is either a ‘window’ or an ‘aisle.’ This design ensures that all of the car’s seats are usable. The two-by-two configuration also results in wider aisles that facilitate passenger boarding and alighting, while making it easier for customers and crewmembers to move about the train. Four doors on each side of the car will further expedite the boarding process.”

Following a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, earlier in December, Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri welcomed state and local officials, guests and commuters aboard the new multilevel train for an inaugural trip from Trenton Station to New York. The trainset, representing Northeast Corridor Train 3844, departed Trenton at 12 p.m. and made all local stops en route.

Door controls, NJT multi-level vehicles.

The Driver’s control desk, NJ Transit ALPS locomotive.

“More New Jerseyans are making trains part of their lives. By adding more capacity to our railroad, we’re helping to serve our state’s growing number of commuters and making an investment in the future of our state,” said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg. “The increased popularity of rail is a glaring example of why the region needs another rail tunnel under the Hudson River. I will continue to work with Governor Corzine and my colleagues in Congress to get that tunnel built.”

Sen. Lautenberg, a long-time rail advocate, has been instrumental in fighting for better passenger rail service in the United States, and has worked closely with Senators across the aisle to achieve that. The Lautenberg-Lott bill to preserve and strengthen Amtrak is seen as a likely winner, with strong bipartisan support, for the new session of Congress that starts this month (January, 2007)

“The input we received from our customers and our employees early in the design phase is evident in the attention to detail incorporated in the cars, including two-by-two seating, additional legroom, improved lighting and updated restroom amenities,” said NJ Transit Executive Director George D. Warrington. “These cars enable us to add capacity while providing customers with a comfortable ride.”

As the multilevel fleet enters revenue service, NJT will reassign Comet IV and V equipment to replace many 34-year-old Comet I-series cars, the oldest in the fleet. Currently, Comet I cars are used on the Main, Bergen County, Pascack Valley, Montclair-Boonton and Morristown lines, said NJT.

NJ Transit is the nation’s largest statewide public transportation system providing nearly 857,000 weekday trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines.

Arriving at Penn Station: a more comfortable way to commute, via NJ Transit.


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COMMUTERLINES...  Commuter lines...

Commuter lines…

Port authority plan bodes well for the region

Source: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

The Port Authority intends to invest $4 billion in new mass transit capacity in New York and New Jersey, according to its recently approved 2007-2016 capital plan. $2 billion will go towards a new NJTransit commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson. Another $2 billion could go towards transit priorities identified by Governor-elect Spitzer — perhaps contributing to implementation of the 2 nd Avenue subway and/or LIRR East Side Access.

To pay for the plan, Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia told reporters that toll and fare increases will be necessary, though the PA has pledged to hold rates stable in 2007. The PA’s 2007 and 10-year capital programs are online for the first time at www.panynj.gov.

Other significant investments in the plan include:


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Old-school planning along
the Garden State Parkway

Source: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Undaunted by recent objections of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection that its permit applications were “neither timely nor complete,” the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is quietly and quickly moving forward with its plan to add 100 lane miles to the Garden State Parkway between exits 30 and 80.
While the Parkway is certainly congested, will the widening plan put forth by the Turnpike Authority really solve the problem, or is it futile in the long run? Generally, road expansion has not led to sustainable congestion relief. As we have reported frequently, NJ DOT has recognized the folly of trying to build our way out of congestion and received plaudits for its efforts to link land use development and transportation investments. It’s time for this more thoughtful approach to find more purchase at the Turnpike Authority.

For more information, see Tri-State’s news bulletin, “Mobilizing the Region,” on their website www.tstc.org.


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EVENTS...  Transportation Rally!...

 

The Connecticut Citizens Transportation Lobby says:
STOP GRIDLOCK!

GO TRANSIT!

 

TRANSPORTATION RALLY

 

HARTFORD --- A coalition representing more than 100,000 Connecticut voters and hundreds of the state’s businesses rallies January 10 at the state Legislative Office Building in Hartford to ask the Governor and Legislature to make good on pledges to redirect the region’s transportation system toward transit and rail --- both freight and passenger --- and get more trucks and cars off of Connecticut’s badly overcrowded highways.

The rally, including many state legislative leaders, will kick off at 10:30 a.m. in Room 2B of the Legislative Office Building. The coalition includes the Citizens Transportation Lobby (CTL), the Business Council of Fairfield County, Connecticut League of Women Voters, Connecticut Sierra Club, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, National Corridors Initiative, and other supporting groups.

In a statement announcing the rally, CTL said: “We believe that the principal goals of transportation policy must include the reduction of vehicle traffic on Connecticut’s roads, combined with economic development of the state. We thank the Governor and the legislative leadership for recognizing the need to overhaul transportation by voting significant funding in 2006 for improvements designed to make a start toward this goal. In 2007, we should intensify this effort.”


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)72.36-----
Canadian National (CNI)41.79-----
Canadian Pacific (CP)51.53-----
CSX (CSX)34.28-----
Florida East Coast (FLA)58.62-----
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)25.86-----
Kansas City Southern (KSU)28.42-----
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.20-----
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.25-----
Union Pacific (UNP)90.66-----


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EDITORIAL...  Editorial...

Harvard needs to pause expansion plans
before irreparable damage to the region

 

BOSTON --- Harvard is a magnet that has for three and one-half centuries has attracted the best and the brightest of America and beyond, for both undergraduate and advanced degrees. And to all of us in Boston, its blessings are simply immeasurable.

So it is of concern that Harvard is developing an expansion plan requiring the closure of the sole Boston-area intermodal rail freight facility, Beacon Park Yard (BPY) in Allston, thereby doing major, permanent economic harm to the people of Boston, Cambridge, and all the rest of the towns and cities of Eastern Massachusetts.

Harvard’s closure of BPY will add thousands of trucks to the roadways within Route 128, and boost truck vehicle miles traveled in a region already high in the incidence of asthma and other pollution-related diseases. Harvard’s plan will also raise shipping costs, and thereby everyone’s already high cost of living, and increase the already serious congestion experienced daily by all those who use the region’s roadways. Freight traffic is expected to double over the next 20 years; we need to be looking for more rail-related shipping options, not killing off the few we’ve got.

Harvard’s plan would accelerate the relocation of Massachusetts businesses to other states, and the move of warehousing/distribution out to I-495 and beyond, creating still more truck traffic.

Worse: Harvard’s expansion plans would greatly diminish future growth prospects of the Port of Boston, rendering moot MassPort hopes to grow exponentially intermodal shipping from the current 150,000 “TEUs” (20-foot equivalent unit), service that directly contributes to the competitiveness of our region’s manufacturers and distributors. Those plans need access to quality rail intermodal service, which only BPY can provide; no BPY, and the port stagnates. An intermodal rail spur at the port, an alternative that was studied during Governor William Weld’s term, might be an appealing option; unfortunately, the port’s compact size and complex switching operation would make quality service expensive and difficult to provide. What Harvard is accelerating, sadly, is New England’s economic decline.

Harvard, like all successful institutions, must expand to survive. That is hard in the fully-developed Boston-Cambridge area, which is why Harvard has its sights set on the 91-acre Beacon Park Yard. In 2003, over objections from Boston Mayor Tom Menino and others, Harvard landed the rail yard for $75 million from its owner, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. This sale was encouraged by the Romney Administration to fund reduced tolls for FastLane users, a benefit that is about to run out.

CSX railroad, one of the nation’s major railroads, still retains the right to operate Beacon Park Yard as a rail facility, no matter who owns the underlying land. But of course, Harvard’s next step will be to pay CSX to go away, which it can easily afford to do. Harvard thinks in terms of decades, but CSX’s executives more readily think in terms of quarterly earnings reports, and the need for capital investment in the railroad. Sale of CSX’s Beacon Park Yard “rights” would satisfy a number of objectives, and as the MBTA seeks to take over the tracks from Framingham to Worcester --- as it is close to doing --- CSX may well decide it’s time to go, and consolidate work at its yard in Worcester. However, with massive expected growth in domestic and international intermodal traffic, these facilities will not be in a position to handle the additional traffic. Finding another location for a major new terminal that has the requisite rail and highway connections is extremely difficult in Eastern Massachusetts. This has been tried repeatedly over the last twenty years, without success.

SoŠ if you a buy a laptop, or a television, or an i-pod, or any one of thousands of other manufactured things, it will be coming from China via Worcester (or more likely Newark), and then by truck to you, because the [now shrinking] functions of Beacon Park Yard will be moved to Worcester. A huge jump in cost? No, just a bit more. Again.

Lots of new jobs for Worcester? No. Worcester already has two intermodal yards and can absorb Allston’s functions with few adjustments at current traffic levels. And none of the potential Boston-Allston drayage (short-haul) truck jobs from the Port of Boston will materialize in Worcester, because the distance Boston-Worcester is too long for port drayage, which requires short hauls and multiple turns per shift/truck/trucker.

And then, there is one more enormous expense related to the Harvard Allston expansion, but this one will be largely borne by the taxpayer: the only way the Allston expansion works is if the Mass Turnpike Allston interchange is moved from its present location to the opposite side of BPY. The cost to the public for this move: in excess of $500 million, and probably more. With careful planning, some of the intermodal functions at BPY could be retained if, when the turnpike is relocated to the opposite side of the parcel, the new freeway is placed as a viaduct over the new dual-track main line that would have to be built. The interchange tracks to the Grand Junction branch and perhaps the bulk transload operation at the site could also be saved. But again the expense is enormous.

Add it all up, and what Harvard needs to do is, stop. Before inking that buy-out with CSX that you are quietly preparing, stop. Before harming the transportation system of the Eastern Massachusetts region so that you can build a new campus on the wreckage, stop. Harvard, as great as it is, should allow the new Governor, Deval Patrick, and his transportation-savvy Lieutenant Governor, Tim Murray, to weigh in, before it makes the region’s fate a fait accompli.

Harvard has the time --- decades, perhaps. But the rest of us live here now, and have hope for an economic future that promises us, and our children, something to look forward to. Don’t forget about us, Harvard, as important as you are.

 

[ Jim RePass is President of the National Corridors Initiative, the organization which in 1991 negotiated the release of blocked Federal funds to build the now-operating high speed rail line Boston-New York. ]
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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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