Vol. 8 No. 6
February 5, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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A weekly North American rail and transit update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

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

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

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

  This week…
A bellwether Amtrak story? Railway Age magazine weighs in
  Business lines…
New executives join Amtrak team
  Commuter lines…
Converted diner-lounge in test mode aboard Capitol Limited
Suburbs vs subways: who’s hogging the money?
Philadelphia’s suburban station gets an underground lift
  Selected rail stocks…
  End notes…

NEWS OF THE WEEK... This week...

A bellwether Amtrak story?

Railway Age magazine weighs in

A Media review by DF

NEW YORK CITY --- In what may be the bellwether Amtrak story of the year, Railway Age Magazine’s highly respected journalist and former editor Luther Miller presents an interview with new Amtrak President Alex Kummant that for the first time in the trade press recognizes a potential sea change for Amtrak’s future.

In the January issue, in “Boom times for passenger trains” with the subhead, “Billions of dollars in improvement capital is in sight for America’s passenger rail business, and for once Amtrak seems headed for the winners’ circle,” Luther Miller writes:

“The passenger rail industry is once again a growth industry, a proposition amply supported by the glowing health and steady expansion of rail transit across the continent (see ‘A December to remember,’ p. 22, January issue). In recent years, though, it has been necessary to amend that statement with the caveat that Amtrak is, of course, an exception. A company under sentence of dismemberment, if not death, cannot sensibly be said to be in a growth mode.”

Acela Express at Boston's South Station

Photo: NCI  

Acela Express Trains arriving and departing at Boston’s South Station.
But then Miller writes, “That picture, however, may be about to undergo a radical change. In a December surprise, Alex Kummant - the widely unknown and therefore widely mistrusted successor to the revered David Gunn as president of Amtrak - broke a long official silence and gave two reporters for The New York Times a glimpse of the Amtrak he sees in America’s future. The picture that emerged was not the splintered Amtrak that ideologues at the Office of Management and Budget have for so long peddled to the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

RAilway Age Magazine Logo

Miller’s analysis is significant because he has covered the rail industry, in all its dimensions, for more than five decades, and has seen the rise and fall, and perhaps now again the rise, of rail passenger service in America. He continues: “Kummant has in his sights a national passenger railroad that will include long-distance trains-an irreplaceable national treasure, in his view-and that will also retain ownership and control of the Northeast Corridor. It will not be a railroad required to parcel out its meager resources to private operators who want to have a go at making passenger trains pay. He foresees, instead, an Amtrak that will work with its host freight railroads (and a new Congress more partial to passenger trains than its predecessor) to free billions of taxpayer dollars for improving the tracks, bridges, and tunnels that both freight and passenger trains use-the same kind of taxpayer dollars that now build highways and airways.”

For the full story and other rail related news subscribe to Railway Age Magazine at: http://www.railwayage.com/subscribe.html.

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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

New executives join Amtrak team

Source: Amtrak Ink






New members of the company’s senior leadership team are settling in, following some personnel and organizational changes announced by the company in mid-December.

Three new executive-level appointments, in addition to other organizational changes, were made to position the company for the future. “Ridership and revenue continue to grow and we’ve made a lot progress in the past few years — from rebuilding the railroad to paying down the debt — but we still face tremendous challenges ahead. One of my chief responsibilities as president of the company is to build the team that can tackle the challenges and I believe these changes will accomplish that,” wrote President and CEO Alex Kummant in a Dec. 18 Special Employee Advisory.

Part of the reorganization also involved repositioning three departments so that the heads of those departments now report directly to Kummant.

One of those direct reports is Chief Risk Officer James McDonnell, who comes to Amtrak with over 30 years of national and international security and counter-terrorism experience. McDonnell manages the Police and Security department and is responsible for all security matters involving risks to Amtrak across the country, as well as for leading the company’s partnerships with federal, state and local public safety entities.

Before joining Amtrak, McDonnell served as president of the McDonnell Consulting Group, LLC, providing terrorism- related risk management, crisis management, and infrastructure protection solutions for large firms and government agencies.

Immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, McDonnell accepted an executive appointment at the Department of Energy, where he led the Office of Energy Assurance. When the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was announced, he joined the White House Homeland Security Transition Planning Office. Following the creation of DHS, McDonnell served as director of the Protective Security Division of DHS and was a key leader in the management of all national responses to threats, incidents and national disasters.

Also new to the company is Roy Johanson, who serves as vice president of Planning and Analysis. Johanson has developed corporate strategies for a range of industrial, transportation and manufacturing clients.

Most recently, Johanson was chief executive officer of Foresti Partners LLC, where he was involved in corporate strategy development for a variety of industrial and manufacturing clients. Prior to Foresti Partners, Johanson was an Engagement Manager for McKinsey & Company, where he led teams of clients and consultants addressing critical corporate strategic issues from 1999 to 2005.

Not new to Amtrak is Chief Information Officer Ed Trainor, a former Amtrak executive, who reports directly to Kummant. Trainor returns to the company after having held senior technology positions at a variety of companies including senior vice president and CIO at Paramount Pictures, vice president and CIO for Flying Tigers — once the world’s largest air cargo carrier prior to being acquired by Federal Express — and vice president and CIO for Southern California Gas Co. from 1987 through 1993. At Amtrak, Trainor served as assistant vice president, Computer Services from 1976 to 1985.

December’s changes also included the announcement of a general counsel to manage the Law department. Eleanor (Eldie) Acheson, who will join Amtrak at the end of the month as vice president and general counsel, has more than 30 years experience in the legal profession. As a trial attorney and later partner at the Boston-based law firm Ropes & Gray, she handled issues pertaining to partnership and closely held corporation matters, employment law litigation and civil rights cases, among others. In 1993, Acheson was appointed by President Bill Clinton as the Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice, advising and working with White House officials and members of Congress on legal policy issues.

In addition to the introduction of department heads new to Amtrak, some organizational changes affecting a couple of departments were made last month. What were previously known as the Customer Service and Marketing and Sales departments are for the most part merged together to form a new Marketing and Product Management department, led by Vice President Emmett Fremaux. Fremaux now reports directly to Kummant.

As a result of the creation of this new department, two other adjustments were made. The Transportation department, managed by acting Vice President Jon Tainow, remains in the Operations department under Chief Operating Officer Bill Crosbie. In addition, the Corporate Communications department becomes part of a new Government and Public Affairs department headed by Vice President Joe McHugh.

Unrelated to the reorganization was the appointment of a chief engineer. Deputy Chief Engineer Construction Frank Vacca was selected as the company’s next chief engineer, filling the position that Bruce Willbrant held in acting capacity for 13 months.

Three Photos: Amtrak Ink

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Converted diner-lounge in test mode
aboard Capitol Limited

Source: Amtrak Ink

“May I offer you an appetizer?” Tasty appetizers are just a few new items lead service attendants are serving aboard the converted 37000 Diner- Lounge Prototype operating on a trial basis as part of the Capitol Limited consist through the end this month.

In service in December and January to test new food service initiatives to be launched on long-distance trains starting this summer, the car introduces a new dining service model and features aimed at reducing the long-distance food and beverage loss.

Capitol Limited dining car interior

Photo: Blair Slaughter, Amtrak Ink  

The sleek modern interior of the dining car.
“During the trial period, we are testing the service capacity and revenue impact of this new food service operation,” noted Tom Hall, senior director of Food and Beverage.

The prototype is equipped to offer combined diner and lounge service from early morning to late evening, which is expected to increase food and beverage sales.

Originally built as a Superliner I diner and redesigned by Rolling Stock Engineering’s Industrial Design group, the car intermixes dining- and lounge-style seating and features an updated interior with curved booth and table elements, affording a casual dining atmosphere.The pantry area of the original car is replaced with an open walk-up service café and bar area.

With a seating capacity of 56, the 37000 car was built to augment a traditional dining car during heavy travel periods when demand is particularly high, or to operate as the sole food service car when passenger levels are low. In addition, operating the car as the only food service car helps cut down on mechanical and fuel expenses.

“The redesigned car will help us better manage the peaks and valleys of our service, offer customers more options and maximize our revenue potential,” explained Pat Willis, senior director OBS and Station Operations.

Among the added features, “happy hour” service with complimentary snacks is being offered daily between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. And while passengers will continue to be seated for breakfast and dinner at designated times, an all-day menu that includes a variety of appetizers, such as Angus beef burgers, stone fired supreme pizza and beef burritos, is also available from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Other services being offered include cart service for coach passengers and at-seat meals delivered from the diner-lounge to coach and sleeping car passengers. Cart service, which is quite popular on a number of short-distance services, allows passengers to purchase items from an attendant rather than navigating the train to buy a snack from the lounge car.

Passengers, on-board crews and focus groups, along with National Association of Railroad Passengers and Amtrak’s Customer Advisory Committee members, provided feedback based on their evaluations of various aspects of the car and service including the interior design, expanded food service hours and increased meal choices and options.

Based on the comments received so far, a number of design changes have been identified. For example, ventilation and additional lighting will be added to the galley area, a chute will be installed to send orders to the lower-level galley and a condiment station will be added opposite the service counter. Adjustments will also be made to the tabletop and booth design and a display case will be installed at the service counter to showcase items available for purchase.

After the trial period ends next month, the Industrial Design group, Mechanical, Customer Service, Transportation and other departments will work together to fine-tune the design, services and amenities and Beech Grove mechanics will begin production.

In preparation for the car’s debut, Capitol Limited crews attended customer service training in early December. The full day class for Onboard Service employees included sessions on preparing new appetizers and other menu items, providing cart service and putting into action key customer service principles. Other modules included information on Gate Gourmet’s role, public health, traffic flow and safety. Conductors and assistant conductors attended modules that reinforced their roles in providing excellent customer service.

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Suburbs vs subways:
Who’s hogging the money?

DF Staff and Internet Sources

Photo: NewYorkBusiness.com  

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. releases a report about the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s historic deferrals of critical infrastructure work across the City at a news conference on February 1, 2007. Pictured (l to r) are: Gene Russianoff, Staff Attorney, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign and Thompson.
A scathing report issued last week by New York City Comptroller William Thompson accuses the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of shortchanging the city subways in favor of Metro North and Long Island Railroad that serve suburban commuters.

Serious maintenance neglect is putting subway riders at risk, the report reveals. Forty percent of the lettered-train subways operate with 70-year-old signaling systems and switches. Tunnels are lit with 1930’s incandescent lights. Massive exhaust fans in the tunnels are needed, which would help save lives in the case of fire. More than a third of the fans are not in a state of good repair and won’t get there until the year 2028. In some stations, peeling paint, leaky ceilings, and crumbling staircases are the norm from 80 years of neglect.

Photo: City Comptroller Report

Photo: City Comptroller Report
Thompson said while 94% of MTA riders are city customers, only 75.5 percent of the five-year $15 billion capital budget goes toward the subways. He wants that raised to 80 percent, an added infusion of $673 million to the city system.

Repair projects planned in 1992 to bring the system up to a state of good repair have been routinely postponed in the city, resulting in some upgrades lagging behind by ten years, whereas objectives for the suburban commuter rails have been met.

“They’ve spent more on Metro North and Long Island Railroad than they should have over a period of time ... more should have been directed at the city. If the money had been there, things would be better,” Thompson said.

“We must demand our fair share in New York City,” said Mr. Thompson, in an interview with NewYorkBusiness.com. “I understand the MTA’s concerns about escalating costs but as it moves ahead and prioritizes Core Capital projects, the MTA must acknowledge that New York City has waited long enough.”

The report comes on the heels of an announcement by MTA CEO Elliot Sander that escalating costs would force the city to reevaluate projects that had been planned. Some may have to be eliminated or postponed. Big capital projects like the Second Avenue Subway, the 7’s expansion, and the LIRR-Grand Central link are jeopardized.

New York City Transit chief Lawrence Reuter warned about the transit system’s deteriorating conditions in December and the problem of surging costs. He estimated that the weak dollar (the MTA buys parts from overseas), and rising construction costs could put the authority’s five-year plan as much as $1.4 billion over-budget. In January, he announced his intention to retire after 10 years as City Transit chief.

Thompson said he felt confident that Sander and Governor Spitzer would do the right thing for the city system despite the MTA’s financial problems.

Now in his second term as 42nd Comptroller, William Thompson has earned a reputation as a tough advocate for New Yorkers. He has used the powers of his office to aggressively safeguard the City’s finances, seeking out savings and rooting out waste. He fought fiercely the MTA’s proposed bus and subway fares and in the process forced the Authority to open its books to the public.

He has been a leader among institutional investors in advancing important corporate governance and corporate social responsibility reforms.

Earlier in his career, he worked for a Brooklyn congressman and served as the borough’s youngest-ever Deputy Borough President. A Democrat, he is widely viewed as a 2009 mayoral contender.

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Photo: Wikipedia.org   

SEPTA’s Suburban Station
Philadelphia’s suburban station
gets an underground lift

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

SEPTA’s first major renovation of Suburban Station was unveiled last month, making their busiest transit hub brighter, cleaner, and more spatious than it has been in many years.

The station is part of a series of infrastructure improvements that SEPTA has been working on for 20 years. Having completed a $5 billion project for the Market-Frankford Line which included new stations, miles of Regional Rail track and an elevated structure, SEPTA is now focusing on its downtown core.

Suburban Station now has a climate-controlled underground mall which is already attracting food vendors and service retailers.

Refurbished architectural details – historic figures, brass-trimmed lights that illuminate the Carrara and red marble columns designed in 1930 - along with practical amenities such as new bathrooms and a rebuilt ticket counter are just the beginning. Next year Liberty Property Trust will finish its tower for Comcast and has plans to open a high-end market and food court in an underground winter garden that will connect directly into the station concourse.

After ten years of planning and renovation, all the while accommodating the 50,000 riders that come and go twice a day, officials cut the red ribbon for the $63.5 million construction project in early January.

Bower Lewis Thrower Architects did the design.

SEPTA is fulfilling the vision of Philadelphia planner Edmund Baker, who proposed an underground shopping mall for this concourse fifty years ago.

Two Photos: Michael Bryant, Inquirer Architecture Critic

The new well lighted and cleaned up concourse under Suburban Station.

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A new news store opened in the western part of the concourse. It's called Philly News Now.

STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)81.4277.66
Canadian National (CNI)46.1643.96
Canadian Pacific (CP)55.1254.26
CSX (CSX)37.9235.31
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.3159.90
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.8327.06
Kansas City Southern (KSU)30.5729.80
Norfolk Southern (NSC)50.8848.00
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.7619.00
Union Pacific (UNP)102.4095.43

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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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