Vol. 8 No. 7
Copyright © 2007
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
In this edition...
NY Gov. Spitzer names Glynn
Commissioner of state DOT
ALBANY, NY --- New York States new Governor Eliot Spitzer has appointed a former Massachusetts transportation official, Astrid C. Glynn, as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation.
Spitzer, seen as a reformer, picked Glynn this past week. She currently serves as Director of Capital Planning for the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Formerly, she was deputy chief of the Massachusetts Office for Commonwealth Development, and served in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (now known simply as Transportation or EOT) in several capacities.
NCI President Jim RePass congratulated Governor Spitzer on for his choice of a strong transportation expert to head the regions largest DOT. It is heartening to see someone of Astrid Glynns reputation get the top spot in New York, and it does not have to be Massachusetts loss that she will be in that slot, said RePass. Indeed, over the years I have gotten to know her as a 'practical visionary, if you will, and look forward to working with her again as NCI grows its New England/Northeastern Infrastructure Authority concept into a region-wide reality. One of NCIs key projects is the creation of Boston-Worcester-Springfield-Albany High Speed Rail, and New York would be a direct beneficiary of that project.
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Amtraks promotions tout
Photo: AmtrakArnolds latest work for Amtrak uses headlines like, Have an out-of-car experience.
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WASHINGTON --- Arnold Worldwide, hired by Amtrak for promotional campaigns, is re-launching the railroads image as not just a transportation mode but as part of the pleasurable package of a vacation.
The inside the train experience is as important as the destination tout the ads.
As one older American commented to this editor about visiting an amusement park in the days of the inter-urban rail system, The fun started as soon as we got on the trolley!
Research has shown that since travelers are taking shorter trips and have less vacation time, they are looking for comfort and quality throughout every phase of a trip.
Arnold Worldwide, based in McLean, Virginia, is using language such as Practice random acts of travel and Have an out-of-car experience showing riders enjoying the scenery from the windows of the train.
Amtrak has hired artist Michael Schwab for the on the train images in this campaign. Schwabs previous train posters put a modern spin on the subject (shown here) and have been popular sales items. Unlike those sleek, silvery designs which inspire speed and drama, these recent images transport the audience from landscapes outside to their relaxing experiences on board the train.
Amtrak's challenge is to create relevance in peoples' lives by communicating that the journey on board the train is an enjoyable part of the overall travel experience, said Woody Kay, managing partner and CCO at Arnold's office in McLean, Va.
Amtrak spent slightly less than $20 million on ads last year, down 66 percent from the previous year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Havas-owned Arnold won the business in June 2003 after a review.
Conservationists to DEP: Parkway
Widening Project too Big to Rush
NEW JERSEY -- New Jerseys plan to widen the Garden State Parkway is being met with strong opposition by conservationists and transportation reformers.
The project would add 100 lane miles between exits 30 and 80.
At a recent public hearing the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and New Jersey Sierra Club asked Commissioner Lisa Jackson of the Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stop the environmental review process for this project. Over 100 people attended, most to express their opposition.
Traffic studies for the plan are old. They predate congestion fighting techniques being used around the country now and they ignore the increased traffic the widening will create.
Its an amazing contradiction. After the traffic studies have gathered dust for years, theyre then used to try to rush a project through the review process as quickly as possible, says Damien Newton, of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. There are better ways to relieve congestion than a road wideningbut none of those are even being discussed.
The strategies include EZ PASS, High Speed EZ Pass, One-Way Tolling, High Occupancy Toll Lanes and Peak Hour Tolling.
Contradictory reports are being used to defend the project. In the Secondary Impact, the Turnpike Authority claims there will no additional development induced by the widening, yet a later report states it will speed up projects that are in the pipeline and will increase the rate of new development.
Opponents are asking that the DEP insist on an honest review of the projects impacts.
If people are mad about this project now, wait until they get a clearer picture of what this project is all about, explains Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club. This project will spur more development and create more traffic. Any congestion relief that occurs will be short-term and the long-term will see more air and noise pollution, dirtier water, and more cars and congestion. We will be turning the Parkway into the Sprawlway .
To submit comments or ask to review the environmental documents, email the DEP at email@example.com. Written comments on the widening proposal are due by Wednesday, February 14.
Other groups opposing the project are American Littoral Society, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and Save Barnegat Bay
Turner compensates MBTA for
botched ad campaign
MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas delivers a report detailing Turners compensation to the MBTA
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BOSTON --- Turner Broadcasting Company will have to pay the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) more than $400,000 for the disruption caused by a botched advertising campaign, according to a story by Stephanie Rubenstein in the Daily Free Press.
Suspicious electronic devices were placed throughout Boston in a marketing campaign for the Cartoon Network show Aqua Teen Hunger Force... causing fear and sometimes panic that it was connected with a terrorist plot.
At the meeting where MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas announced the repayment a second issue, raised by the T Riders Union, came to the fore front problems with the new CharlieCard system:
Members of the T Riders Union in attendance demanded the MBTA should be held accountable to fix several problems with its recently implemented CharlieCard system, the article continued.
Because CharlieCards do not give receipts when riders tap the card on payment scanners, it is difficult for them to see if the right amount of money has been deducted, Union member Lisa Edwards said, adding she plans to conduct a survey to determine how much money riders are losing because of the new fare-collection system.
MBTA board members said they would arrange a meeting to specifically address the Unions concerns.
Union members understand that it is a new system which has problems to be worked out. Union member John Carter said he recognizes the board has a tough job ahead, but said it must work with the riders to improve the system.
Union organizer Lee Matsueda said they are pleased that the Board is actively working to improve the system.
Before, board members were silent. Now, they are getting more involved and asking questions, Carter said.
There are 575,000 CharlieCards currently in circulation and for the most part the system is a success, in the Boards opinion.
They are going to focus on the problem of those who do not use the card and who therefore must pay $2 instead of $1.70.
The board made future plans to look at data focused exclusively on the CharlieCard so it could better track the cards development.
Selected Rail Stocks...
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Deutsche Bahn marks halfway point
Nürnberg - In a company press release Deutsche Bahn (DBAG) stated that it completed rework / redesign of the 30th ICE-1 high speed train set. DBAG operates a fleet of 59 train sets of its first generation high speed trains, most of which are over 15 years old.
The rework program includes installation of new interiors which resemble the much newer ICE-3 series trains, new seats, on-board wireless LAN, increased capacity air-conditioning, updated passenger information displays with GPS-driven actual speed and time to destination information.
The rework also adds additional seating capacity to the train sets via removal of certain less-used features of the original train sets such as a telephone booth and conference rooms. The new seats include standard (European configuration) 230 VAC outlets for operation of laptop computers or other personal electronics, but thanks to the advent of iPODs, MP3 players and portable DVD players, the central audio and video entertainment system of the original ICE-1 design is removed.
Photo: Deutsche BahnICE-1 Rework - an ICE-1 coach is stripped to the frame during the ICE-1 fleet redesign / upgrade rework during 2006 in Nürnberg.
Modifications to the trains power distribution systems and suspension components are also made during the rework and certain train sets have been equipped with ETCS level 2 cab signaling equipment for operation on several routes in Switzerland which have been outfitted with the new European signaling and train protection system standard. Although DB is also starting early deployment of ETCS signaling on a couple of rail lines, full deployment of ETCS across the entire German network appears to be at least a decade or more in the future, so the ICE trains will retain their LZB standard cab signaling and speed control system.
The rework program of the remaining 29 ICE-1 train sets is expected to take until late 2008 to finish, when a similar update / rework program for the ICE-2 fleet will start. The rework program is expected to extend the useful life of the ICE-1 fleet until approximately the 2021 - 2025 time range.
Photo: Bombardier TransportationE-Talent Austria - a Bombardier Talent EMU regional train set in Austria - the new Talent train sets for Deutsche Bahn will look similar.
Berlin - Deutsche Bahn and Bombardier stated in a joint press release at the end of last week (2nd of February) that DB has agreed to purchase approximately 300 Talent model EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) train sets from Bombardier in a frame-work agreement which allows for the exact configurations and quantities of the train sets to be varied according to DBs operational requirements.
The order is valued at between EUR 1.0 and 1.2 billion (US$ 1.3 - 1.7 billion). Trainsets will be delivered starting in 2009 to DBs various regional and commuter train operating subsidiaries around Germany. The trainsets and their major components will be manufactured at several Bombardier plants located in Germany, thus securing employment levels at those facilities for several years to come. DB Regio and several independent train operators already operate fleets of diesel powered Talent train sets from Bombardier.
The Talent series of multiple unit train sets feature centrally operated automatic doors, low floors, handicap person and wheelchair user compatible interiors and provisions for automated ticket machines, bicycle storage, and digital passenger information displays and automated audio announcements.
The order is the latest in a series of purchases of regional passenger train rolling stock by Deutsche Bahn. Other recent purchases in the past 12 months included orders for Bombardier mulitlevel regional train coaches, EMU train sets from Stadler and additional ET 425 and ET 426 EMU train sets, also from Bombardier.
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Berlin - Deutsche Bahn Chairman and CEO Hartmut Mehdorn was quoted in the 6th February edition of the Hannoverische Allegemeine Zeitung (HAZ) newspaper as saying that DB intends to soon announce an order for up to 400 more high speed train sets, presumably of the ICE-3 high speed EMU train set family.
Mehdorn stated: This could be a contract worth more than EUR 10 billion (US$ 13 billion). Mehdorn indicated that the new trains would be used in large part to replace existing locomotive hauled Inter City rolling stock but would also be used to increase capacity on a number of high volume routes and build business on others. Mehdorns statement mirrors long existing (since 1994) but yet to be executed plans to phase-out all conventional locomotive hauled IC rolling stock and replace them with ICE train sets on most Inter City train services across the German rail network. The existing ICE-3 family which includes the ICE-T tilt-body train and the ICE-VT diesel tilt body train set is made by a consortium of train manufacturers lead by Siemens.
Photo : Deutsche BahnTwo DB 103 series locomotives with IC passenger trains in Cologne in mid-1995. Deutsche Bahn angered rail fans when it began withdrawing the 103 series rapidly from IC and EC passenger trains in the late 1990s as more energy efficient 101 series locomotive were delivered, nearly all 103s were out of regular service by 2003. The classic looking 103 series enjoyed a successful but relatively short life of about 25 years. DB continues to operate 110 series electric locomotives and 218 series diesel locomotives which are a decade or more older than the 103s. A small number of 103s are still kept in operational condition by several museums and historical societies as well as by Deutsche Bahn.
Deutsche Bahn has given conflicting signals in the past regarding long term plans for its large fleet of conventional locomotive hauled IC rolling stock. In 2004 the company released a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the purchase of up to 600 new IC coaches, driving trailers, and dining / lounge cars for its IC passenger trains, while in the middle of an update campaign of the existing IC rolling stock, which included upgrading for 200 km/ h (125 mph) speed capability, installation electronic information displays, improved heating and air-conditioning and closed cycle toilets.
So far no announcement has been made about the status of the RFP. Back in the early 1990s DB order a large quantity of a new design of electric locomotive called the 101 series to replace the much loved classic E03 / 103 series electric locomotive on IC and EC (EuroCity) trains. The plan at the time was to use the 101 series locomotives to haul EC and IC trains only for an interim period until nearly all EC and IC trains were replaced by ICE train sets. The 101 series locomotives would then be re-geared and re-configured into freight locomotives. The 101 series of locomotives, with their energy efficient regenerative braking feature (unlike the old 103 models), have in the meantime become a workhorse of the DB locomotive fleet, but relatively few are used to haul freight trains presently, the vast majority continue to rack up hundreds of kilometers everyday as the power for EC and IC trains all across Germany and even in Austria and Switzerland.
Mehdorn also stated that DB will soon buy another 500 locomotives, mostly for its freight operation as well as up to 1000 freight cars. Mehdorn stated that the formerly state owned rail company is growing its business and profits quickly with an 11% increase in operating profits during 2006 compared with 2005. Mehdorn stated that DBs German based competitors in rail transit and freight experienced even higher growth in the past year.
Pie in the sky or off the shelf?
Normally I submit material to NCI, which directly relates to railroad and rail transit news and developments I see from my home in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The purpose is simply to showcase what works well here in rail transit, which is quite a lot, and what does not work so well or not all in railroads and public transit, of which there are also a number of examples to be seen through out Europe.
The goal is to provide our American readers ideas and information on what could provide American cities and communities 21st century rail transit systems, which fit best to local needs and plans. Lessons learned here in Europe could help avoid costly mistakes in America. There is a solid case to directly apply technology and solutions developed in European rail transit in the past two or three decades to American transit development, it would be tragic not to leverage this technology base to the USA's advantage. The wheel has been invented, no need to invent it again. .
Three Photos: David BealeTower of Renewable Power or Political Lightning Rod? Wind turbines such as these in Suthfield, Germany are facing growing resistance all across Germany from near-by residents and from conservationists concerned about the effects the giant turbines may have on wild birds and other animals.
In this spirit of leveraging existing technology to meet future goals I was struck by recent news headlines of the conclusions about global warming released from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and President Bush's State of the Union Speech a couple of weeks earlier. In both instances Americans and the rest of the world were compelled to take action to cut carbon dioxide emissions, the unavoidable by-product of burning any kind of hydrocarbon fuel for energy, including natural gas, coal, oil, ethanol, methanol, kerosene or gasoline.
The President stated that new technological breakthroughs will help us live with far less dependence on oil. But is the technology already there, on the market and waiting to be used, if we want to leverage this technology? There is much evidence to say yes, its already here and on the shelf, but, what is lacking is the political will and leadership to start using it aggressively. This and previous statements from the President hint that some sort of amazing, future, pie-in-the-sky technological breakthroughs will solve our oil dependence.
But we will have to wait for it all to happen, as some sort of 21st century equivalent of a huge technological revolution on the scale of the Apollo manned lunar rocket program or the advent of the personal computer and the internet, which took decades to reach there current state of the art. The implied message was, we will continue doing business as usual until we find or invent this magic Holy Grail which will slay the dragon of oil dependency.
As a former resident and now as an occasional visitor to the USA, I notice many things about the country which I once took for granted or did not even notice when living there. One is the rather astonishing lack of solar panels on the tops of houses and buildings all over the country, most notably in the booming areas of the Sun Belt. Solar energy technology has been around for at least three decades, in some forms far longer than that. Solar heating panels and electric cells have been commercially available for quite some time, since the end of the 1970s if not earlier, and as with nearly every other technological product such as televisions, home appliances computers and telephones, they have been continuously refined and prices have come down while efficiency and quality have gone up.
A rather stunning observation for me was a new house my family stayed in the Florida Keys on a vacation a few years ago equipped with a 3 kW electric water heater and fueled with electricity generated in a gas fired power plant over 100 miles away, perhaps somewhere near Miami. As any undergraduate engineering student can explain, generating electricity with any sort of hydrocarbon fueled engine or power plant is limited by the laws of physics and thermodynamics to an efficiency in the 35% range. That means for every kilowatt of electricity produced, three kilowatts worth of coal, oil, natural gas, ethanol, wood chips or whatever was burned, the other two kilowatts of energy mostly rejected into the local environment by the power plant's cooling systems or out the exhaust stacks. Transmitting that electricity over long distances causes an additional loss of several percent. When you consider that it takes on the order of 10 kW worth of gas, oil or coal fuel to operate that 3 kW electric water heater located in one of the most sun drenched places on the planet, it boggles your mind. How can anyone be this short-sighted?
One of the biggest energy consumers in a typical home is the hot water heater. . Heating water is probably what solar panels do best for the least amount of cost, compared to solar systems built for generating electricity. Solar heating panels are available commercially since decades ago for this application, and in fact thousands of private homes in the Hannover area in northern Germany, a part of the world not particularly know for being a sunny place, are equipped with them. Also in the USA many thousands of homes are equipped with solar collectors for the purpose of heating the tap water or the swimming pool water or both, some of these systems date back to the late 1970s and 80s. However during my trips to Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, Florida and Georgia in the past 2 3 years I noticed that newly constructed homes are now almost exclusively built with gas or electric powered water heaters. New electric or fossil fuel powered hot water and home heating systems installed in the thousands year after year in some of the most sunny and warm places in the USA and the world it simply flies in the face of common sense.
Instead of talk of murky technological breakthroughs, what we need here is a breakthrough in mind-set, behavior and building regulations, which cause people to choose energy wasting and carbon dioxide producing gas or electric heating systems over energy saving non-polluting solar powered heating for the many of thousands of new home built across the Sun Belt every year. The technology is not the issue, a serious lack political courage and leadership is the problem.
Solar at Home Solar systems are popular in not so sunny northern Germany. Imagine the possibilities in Florida, Texas and Arizona. This house in Haste, Germany has both solar water heating panels and solar electric cells.
Similarly to the Presidents statement about technological breakthroughs in energy, the news media these days, especially in America, is filled with hyped news reports about gee-whiz technology aimed at automobiles and other road transport. Perhaps the most visible are hybrid vehicles, which have both an internal combustion engine and an electric traction motor along with a large battery pack to store short-term electrical energy generated by the engine or by regenerative braking when the car (or bus or truck) is decelerating or going down hill. These vehicles have been on the market for a few years now and despite their relatively low market penetration, they are hyped as one of the technological breakthroughs we need to become oil independent. Little mention is made of two of the serious drawbacks these hybrid vehicles pose:
1) they still consume fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel or natural gas, and
2) they carry around a very expensive, heavy, complex and potentially dangerous in-a-collision battery packs made of poisonous and possibly corrosive electrolytes and toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and chromium.
And of course hybrid cars and trucks still occupy as much surface space as a standard vehicle, so they do zero to ease highway congestion and suburban sprawl traffic.
The next big thing is fuel cells for highway vehicles. Fuel cells generate electricity via a chemical reaction instead of the thermodynamic combustion cycle of gasoline and diesel engines. Their main attraction is, that they can generate a electricity with somewhat higher efficiency in a similar sized package as a diesel or gasoline engine driven generator, which is essentially what most current hybrid automobiles have as their energy source. Fuel cells generally do not produce noxious exhaust emissions such as unburned hydrocarbons, soot or carbon monoxide. But the drawbacks are numerous, including the use of exotic and expensive materials, difficulty in sub-freezing environments as well as an appetite for very light fuels, ideally hydrogen or methane. Attempts to design automotive fuel cells to run on heavier but more widely available fuels such as gasoline, methanol or propane gas have proved complicated and expensive. And with pure hydrogen powered fuel-cell equipped vehicles safety concerns of carrying the extremely flammable gas at extraordinarily high pressures (thousands of pounds per square inch) in vehicle fuel tanks are plentiful.
Because hydrogen, the ideal fuel for fuel cells, does not occur naturally at all, it must be manufactured with a tremendous amount of electrical power input in water to hydrogen conversion plants. It must then be transported and distributed in equipment designed and built especially for the highly flammable and slightly corrosive gas. This sort of infrastructure exists today only on a very small scale to supply it to certain specialty users such as the chemical, aerospace and metal processing industries. In theory the energy input for hydrogen production could be solar or wind energy or biomass fuels. But the infrastructure to manufacture and distribute huge volumes of hydrogen or methane gas for use by automobiles and trucks does not exist today. To build it will cost billions if not trillions of dollars. And as with hybreds, the fuel cell powered cars, trucks and SUVs of the future will do absolutely nothing to solve grid lock on the nations roads and highways.
The requirement for fuel cell technology, hydrogen fuels or hybrid combustion engine / battery power in conventional rail transit is somewhat of a moot point. Electric locomotives, EMU rail cars and electric light rail vehicles already leap-frogged these technologies years ago. Nearly all electrically powered locomotives and rail cars designed in the past decade are already equipped with regenerative braking during deceleration or down hill travel they return electric power directly into the power grid and without the use of expensive, heavy and toxic battery storage systems.
Get On The Train Authors wife and daughters with some friends near an ET 424 EMU in Haste, Germany in early 2006. Modern EMUs such as the ET 424 series return power back to the electric grid during braking and deceleration somewhat similar concept as hybrid cars and busses, but without expensive, heavy and hazardous battery packs.
Of course in the USA there is not much infrastructure currently for electric trains beyond the Boston New York Washington corridor, especially on existing freight rail lines which are already used or could be used in the future by passenger trains. But well proven rail electrification systems are installed all over Europe and in much of Asia, the technology is already fully developed and available off the shelf. Today the electric power consumed by rail transit comes from coal, nuclear, hydroelectric and natural gas powerplants. But rail electrification systems can just as easily be powered by solar or wind energy in the future without any need to redesign or reconfigure the electrification system. The technology is already here now. In the USA the electrical power grid, probably the biggest and most extensive in the world, is already in place to supply the power. It simply will take some leadership and political commitment to finish the connection from the nations power grid to the nations rail system.
Shall we sit and wait for the technological breakthroughs, which supposedly will end our dependence on oil, to magically appear out of some research laboratory? Or shall we maybe reach for available proven off-the-shelf technology to start reducing fossil fuel consumption now? An astonishing lack of leadership at the national level over the past six or more years has allowed currently available energy saving and renewable energy technology to sit and collect dust on the shelf. We continue to hear promises from our nations leaders, that exciting technological breakthroughs will one day end our dependence upon oil and coal, while nothing significant is done in the near term to place existing technological breakthroughs such as solar powered heating systems and electric rail transit into widespread everyday use all across America. Instead of more gee-whiz technological breakthroughs we actually need a whole lot more leadership and courage in our nations government to end our dependence on oil.
- David Beale
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