The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

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

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

Contribute To NCI

February 15, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 8

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

This E-Zine is best viewed at
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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Chinese Blasting Ahead With World Class HSR
  Political Lines…
A Jobs Bill Without Support For Transportation Options
  Expansion Lines…
Study Backs Extending Pittsburgh Rail Service
  Financial Lines…
Bloomberg Vows To Defeat Governor’s MTA Rescue Plan
  Off The Main Line…
Winter Storms Cripple Air Travel But Trains Keep Rolling
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak Awards Maintenance Shop Contracts, Steps Up
   Security For Winter Olympics
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Events…
Urban Pathways To Liveable Communities
 
  Across The Pond…
Turkey Continues High-Speed Rail Drive
China Sees Growth Engine In A Web Of Fast Trains
Investigative Panel Finds Fault With Subway Line
   Building Contractor In Cologne Building Collapse
  Commentary…
High-Speed Rail Grants Are A Political Balancing Act,
   But They Should Improve Our Rail Service
Modern High-Speed Rail Is A Winner For The Public --
   And It’s About More Than “Just Speed”
“Storm-Zilla” vs. The “Blizzard Of ’78”
  Editorial…
Debating The Future Of American Rail
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Chinese Blasting Ahead With World Class HSR

From Internet Sources

THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC OF CHINA --- While American political and industry leaders debate how to best proceed with the rebuilding of America’s long-neglected passenger rail transportation network (see Editorial this issue, “Debating the Future of American Rail”), the Chinese, who have emerged as America’s most serious 21st century economic competitor, are blasting ahead with the building of a massive super High-Speed network that when completed will be one of the best in the world.

The push for Chinese High-Speed Rail, begun in earnest less than a decade ago, has already begun to produce impressive results.

This week’s New York Times reports on the newest jewel in the Chinese system, a line which connects coastal Guangzhou to Wuhan nearly 700 miles (1126.5 km) away, just in time for New Year (February 14, Chinese New Year, that is).

Reporter Keith Bradsher writes: “The world’s largest human migration — the annual crush of Chinese traveling home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is this Sunday — is going a little faster this time thanks to a new high-speed rail line. The Chinese bullet train, which has the world’s fastest average speed, connects Guangzhou, the southern coastal manufacturing center, to Wuhan, deep in the interior. In a little more than three hours, it travels 664 miles (1068.6 km), comparable to the distance from Boston to southern Virginia. That is less time than Amtrak’s fastest train, the Acela, takes to go from Boston just to New York. [a distance of 241 miles or 387.85 km].

“Even more impressive,” notes Bradsher, “the Guangzhou-to-Wuhan train is just one of 42 high-speed lines recently opened or set to open by 2012 in China. By comparison, the United States hopes to build its first high-speed rail line by 2014, an 84-mile (135.2 km) route linking Tampa and Orlando, FL.”

The coverage in The Times, which despite facing the same financial pressures facing all daily print media, has begun covering infrastructure issues more thoroughly than any other American daily newspaper, is certain to advance the debate that has now begun over the speed and direction of the American rail rebuilding effort, which is being spear-headed by the Obama Administration.

As The Times also noted, “As China upgrades and expands its rail system, it creates the economies of large-scale production for another big export industry. The sheer volume of equipment that they will require, and the technology that will have to be developed, will simply catapult them into a leadership position,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s vice president for policy and development.

The Obama Administration has committed $8 billion for new intercity rail lines in America, and has already begun dispensing that money to a series of projects across the country.

The debate that has sprung up pits those who want to build purely super high-speed rail lines (150 mph and above), and who see incremental but less flashy improvements as a waste of time and money, and the pragmatists, who recognize that Americans’ have short attention spans and that if President Obama, the first rail visionary in the White House since Abraham Lincoln laid the groundwork for building the Transcontinental Railroad built 1866-1869, is a one-term President, any Super Trains still on the drawing board, and that depend largely or entirely on Federal funding, will likely go the way of the [newly cancelled] moon program.

An additional article regarding this topic is found in the Across The Pond section further down in our newsletter - Ed.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

A Jobs Bill Without Support For Transportation Options


“A Wasted Opportunity”

WASHINGTON, DC, FEBRUARY 10 --- A report by Transportation for America has alerted the public of a major weakness in the Senate’s jobs bill

Despite the massive blizzard that ripped through much of the East Coast last week, the Senate pushed forward on its $85 billion jobs bill.

But the draft being circulated has not a single dollar to address the crisis in transit funding, which threatens severe cuts to essential service throughout the country and the loss of thousands of jobs.

And it’s not just transit that’s been left out of the Senate jobs bill - there’s no funding for innovative projects that can move us away from foreign oil, not a dime for high-speed rail or Amtrak, and no reform of highway funding…the list goes on.

Transportation for America calls this “A wasted opportunity.”

A recent analysis of the previous economic stimulus package shows that investments in public transportation have produced twice the jobs of highway projects. According to studies developed by Smart Growth America stimulus funds spent on public transportation were a more effective job creator than stimulus funds spent on highways. In the 10 months since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed, investing in public transportation produced twice as many jobs per dollar as investing in roads:

*** (Because transportation projects are of different durations, a “job month” is a more accurate way of comparing quantities of employment created than is a “job year.”)

President Obama has said he is concerned that the goal of quickly boosting employment with shovel-ready projects may conflict with making long-term investments in America’s future. These results show that investing in public transportation produces the most return for the money in both categories:

Download the full report PDF with footnotes and citations at: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/documents/010510_whatwelearned_stimulus.pdf. You can also read the release and share the report on the SGA blog at: http://blog.smartgrowthamerica.org/2010/01/05/report-finds-house-jobs-bill-misses-opportunity-to-create-most-jobs/


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Study Backs Extending Pittsburgh Rail Service

By DF Staff And From Pittsburgh Tribune Review By Staff Writer Matthew Santoni

PENNSYLVANIA, FEBRUARY 11 – Pennsylvania stands to gain a long-awaited improvement to the rail connection between its east and west major cities. In 1998, this writer took a “long distance” train from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. While the train was very comfortable, it rumbled along at a slowpoke’s pace and took close to ten hours to make the trip. If you were in a hurry, you could get there faster by driving.

Since then, an investment of $145 million to Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia boosted the top speeds to 110 mph and helped triple the ridership over the past decade. Now the state is looking at extending the service to Pittsburgh.

A report by PennPIRG’s, which came out just before Obama’s $8 billion stimulus for High-Speed Rail was announced, said that faster and more frequent service to Pittsburgh could make the train a better alternative to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and could boost Western Pennsylvania’s economy.

The stimulus package provided $26.4 million to Pennsylvania to upgrade the Keystone Corridor and study expansion of service from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. The study will examine the feasibility of increasing service to eight trains a day running up to 110 mph on a dedicated track between the cities.

“This is a good first step, but we just need to parlay this grant, this statement that high-speed rail is worthwhile in Pennsylvania, into a more long-term investment,” said Catherine Ngo, a PennPIRG field organizer.

She said more high-speed rail money could come in a reauthorized federal transportation bill, a version of which expired in September.

“We’re limited on a state level on what we can provide,” said state Rep. Joseph Markosek, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “Without the federal government as an effective partner, we’ll remain in Band-Aid mode.”

The study also shows that a national high-speed rail network could create up to 1.6 million jobs and reduce auto traffic by 29 million trips a year, according to a Philadelphia-based advocacy group.

The report is available at: www.pennpirg.org.


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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...  

Bloomberg Vows To Defeat Governor’s MTA Rescue Plan

From New York Post By Staff Writer Philip Newman

NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 11 -- Gov. David Paterson has a tax plan to rescue the financially beleaguered Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg is vehemently opposed.

The governor’s proposal is to raise the payroll tax on businesses in New York City by 59 percent while reducing by half the tax on businesses in other counties in the 12 counties served by the MTA.

The payroll tax was approved by the state Legislature last year as a way to save the MTA from its financial straits.

Under Paterson’s plan, the tax would rise to 0.54 percent in New York City and would be cut to 0.17 percent in Suffolk, Nassau, Putnam, Orange, Westchester, Duchess, and Rockland counties.

At present, businesses in the twelve counties collect 0.32 percent for every $100 worth of payrolls.

Bloomberg vowed to “work night and day” to defeat the plan, saying that it is not only unfair to New York City but it’s also bad for the entire region.

“The idea that the state can spare the suburbs while sacking the city is terrible economics, grossly unfair and contrary to every principle of good regional development,” Bloomberg said. “I will work night and day with our city delegation in Albany to stop this wrong-headed proposal from moving forward.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has disclosed that it faces a new $350 million shortfall and had expected to remedy the original cash shortage with heavy cuts in bus, subway and commuter train service, including shutting down two subway lines and numerous bus lines and less frequent service.

The agency had planned no hikes in fares this year but now is considering a 7.5 percent increase.

MTA officials said the Paterson proposal, if approved by the Legislature, would bring in $230 million toward filling a $400 million budget gap.

Jeremy Soffin, chief spokesman for the MTA, said it would lessen the need for additional service cuts on top of those passed by the MTA board in December. But “it would not eliminate the need for the service cuts and administrative reductions included in the MTA budget passed in December.”

The MTA plans to conduct public hearings in the city and other areas served by the agency next month on the planned cutbacks in service.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Winter Storms Cripple Air Travel But Trains Keep Rolling

 

From Amtrak And USA Today

A blizzard that tore up the East Coast last Wednesday shut down major airports for the second time in less than a week, causing one of the biggest disruptions to air travel since the 9/11 hijackings, according to airlines and government statistics. Thousands of flights were grounded last weekend just by the storm that hammered Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Airports in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Newark were essentially shut down -- a day after snow snarled flights in Chicago. At least 5,700 flights were canceled on Wednesday alone, according to a USA Today survey of carriers.

Airlines expected to cancel more than 1,000 flights Thursday. By comparison, airlines canceled 2,700 flights in all of November, according to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.


Photo: Yuri Gripas, From USA Today, Permission Requested

A snow blower clears snow from a driveway around the White House in Washington, D.C.

“This is paralyzing to air transportation in the country,” said David Castelveter, spokesman for the airline trade group, the Air Transport Association. It will take days for a final tally, but the storms probably caused one of the biggest influences on air travel in a decade, Castelveter said.

Tens of thousands of flights were canceled for two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

By contrast, while some service was canceled, limited rail service was available, just as it was after 9/11.

Here is one travel notice from Amtrak during the week of February 8:

Acela Express

Northeast Regionals

Canceled


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Amtrak Awards Maintenance Shop Contracts,
Steps Up Security For Winter Olympics

Reported By Progressive Railroading

Yesterday, Amtrak announced it awarded two contracts totaling $49.5 million for major upgrades to maintenance facilities in Los Angeles and Hialeah, Fla. The projects are funded by federal stimulus dollars.

Amtrak awarded a $24.5 million contract to Kemp Bros. Construction Co. for the L.A. project and a $25 million contract to Dana B. Kenyon Co. for the Hialeah project, which is located near Miami.

To be completed in February 2011, the projects call for building structures to cover workers performing maintenance tasks outdoors, and constructing administrative offices and employee locker rooms. The upgrades will “dramatically improve the capacity, efficiency and working conditions of the shops,” which inspect and maintain passenger-rail equipment used in long-distance and state-supported corridors, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement.

In spring, the railroad plans to award a contract for major upgrades to the Seattle maintenance facility. The project is part of Amtrak’s annual capital program.

Meanwhile, Amtrak is stepping up security in the Pacific Northwest to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics that began Friday in Vancouver, British Columbia. Amtrak’s police department is supporting local, state and federal counter-terrorism efforts, such as by participating with the Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention & Response teams to conduct surveillance and perform random security inspections with mobile explosives detection equipment.

Amtrak operates two daily Amtrak Cascades trains from the Pacific Northwest to Vancouver.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)100.2199.72
Canadian National (CNI)51.3949.98
Canadian Pacific (CP)48.8446.92
CSX (CSX)44.9042.92
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)31.0429.32
Kansas City Southern (KSU)32.3930.27
Norfolk Southern (NSC)48.4847.10
Providence & Worcester (PWX)12.3812.05
Union Pacific (UNP)63.4162.10


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EVENTS... Events...

 

 

Day #1 attendees are invitation-only and must request an invitation from Rails-to-Trails on their website. See link at center page.

Day #2 attendees should register with NCI
(name, title, affiliation, address, phone, email)
and mail a check for $90.00 payable to
The Northeast Corridor Initiative (*)

NCI Connecticut Office (*)
c/o Molly McKay
8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT. 06355

 

Urban Pathways To
Liveable Communities

Building Partnerships For
Healthy Neighborhoods

Feb. 25 & 26, 2010
New Orleans, LA

 

Click Here For
More Information

 

Sorry... NCI no longer accepts credit cards
because of high fees.

PayPal Services Are Pending

Please note: The draft public schedule is subject to change.

Please check www.railstotrails.org/conference for the latest information and to pre-register.

 

** The Northeast Corridor Initiative is NCI’s original name. Since the completion of the electrification project, which gave us the Acela, we have expanded to a national scope, but our bank account is still in the original name at this time.

Note: New Orleans is located in the Central Time Zone. Unless otherwise indicated, conference events take place at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine’s Bowers Auditorium, 1555 Poydras Street.


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Turkey Continues High-Speed Rail Drive

Country Commits An Additional Us $12 Billion To High-Speed Rail Corridors

via TCDD press releases and Reuters

Image by TCDD
An overview of rail project construction in central / eastern Turkey.
Ankara – Turkish State Railways (TCDD) announced this week that it will invest an additional US $12 billion into new high-speed rail projects above and beyond several existing major rail infrastructure projects the country has taken on in the past five years. The existing projects include new high-speed rail lines from Istanbul to Ankara, Izmir to Ankara and the Marmaray tunnel project, which will provide a direct rail link from Europe to Asia in Istanbul.

Railway infrastructure development projects in Turkey include the development of 2297 km (1427 miles) of high-speed railways, the necessary investment rising to US $10.4 Billion. Rolling stock acquisition could have a total value of over US $1 Billion.

“Railroads currently carry 3 percent of passenger and 5 percent of freight traffic in Turkey, said Muammer Kantarci, board director of the TCDD’s vehicle-production unit Tuvasas. Turkey opened its first high-speed railroad in March, a $4 billion electrified double-track line that links the capital Ankara to the western city of Eskisehir. Construction of a further US $1.27 Billion high-speed link from Eskisehir to Istanbul has begun after a Chinese consortium won the tender.

A US $750 Million, 212 km high-speed link between Ankara and the city of Konya is scheduled to open this year. Turkey is also building a US $1.6 Billion high-speed link between Ankara and the city of Sivas, 480 km to the east.

Turkey is one of several new economic powerhouse countries such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Korea which have emerged in the past decade and which are investing heavily in rail transportation. Turkey’s economy has been growing vigorously in the past decade and has attracted considerable foreign investment. The country is joining a rather exclusive club of countries with high-speed passenger trains, including traditional members such as France, Japan, Germany and Spain, but also other newcomers such Italy, Austria, China, Britain, Taiwan and Korea.

Turkey, center of the former Ottoman Empire, lies in one of the most strategic locations in the western world, sitting in between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia and the home of the traditional route of the Silk Road, the historic series of routes between China, India and Europe. An iron “Silk Road” rail corridor from Europe to Asia is taking shape in Turkey and neighboring central Asian countries.

The birth of a high-speed rail corridor – view during summer 2009 of the all-new Ankara – Konya high-speed rail corridor in construction near Cesmelisebil, Turkey.

Photo: TCDD


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China Sees Growth Engine In
A Web Of Fast Trains

Chinese New Year Tests The Transportation System In China Yet Again.

WUHAN, China — The world’s largest human migration — the annual crush of Chinese traveling home to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is this Sunday — is going a little faster this time thanks to a new high-speed rail line. The New York Times reports in detail on the incredible growth in high-speed train operations in China. D:F readers can read the full story via this web link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/business/global/13rail.html


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Investigative Panel Finds Fault With
Subway Line Building Contractor
In Cologne Building Collapse

Did Building Contractor Cut Corners With Steel Reinforcement Of Concrete Tunnel Walls?

via HAZ newspaper and NDR Radio

Cologne (Köln) - an investigative board, which is charged with reviewing the collapse of the city’s archive building and a neighboring apartment building on Severin St. during 3rd of March 2009, has determined that serious and intentional errors were committed during construction of below-ground poured-concrete walls of a new subway tunnel. The tunnel is being built as part of the extension “Nord-Süd Stadtbahn”, a project to relocate an existing street-level light rail / street car line underground.

The collapse of the city’s archive building killed two people and injured several others as well as damaging or destroying numerous historical documents that ranged in age from World War 2 to the Protestant Reformation. The building was situated on along a street under which an extension of a subway (U-Bahn) line was under construction.

The investigators determined that a tunnel wall collapsed due to a lack of sufficient steel reinforcement rods placed into the form before the concrete was poured. A number of employees from the subway contractor, based in nearby Düsseldorf, admitted to steeling hundreds of the steel rebar rods and selling them to a scrap metal dealer for cash. Because the incident involves both death and personal injuries, the state attorney general will most likely file criminal charges for felony manslaughter against several employees of the contractor as well as against the contracting company itself.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

High-Speed Rail Grants Are A Political Balancing Act,
But They Should Improve Our Rail Service

Part 3 Of A Series

Our New Rail Map: Not Much Different Than Our Old Rail Map

By David Peter Alan

Improvements are coming to America’s passenger rail network. Rail service will be re-introduced in places where there is none today. Existing service in many places will be quicker and more frequent.

Ohioans are clearly the big winners of the recent stimulus awards. In Columbus and Dayton, there will be trains for the first time since 1979. Clevelanders and Cincinnatians will be able to go elsewhere in Ohio at convenient times, although trains to New York, Washington and Chicago will, for the time being, come through town in the middle of the night.

Wisconsin will have an expanded rail map, too, since a new corridor between Milwaukee and Madison is slated to be developed. Madison will also be connected to Chicago, although service to the Twin Cities of Minnesota through Madison remains a long way off.

In Maine, the Downeaster will be extended to Brunswick, and if the Maine Eastern Railroad continues to operate seasonal excursion trains from Brunswick to Wiscasset and Rockland, these towns will also be added in the summer.

Hartford, Connecticut, and Springfield, Mass., which presently have Amtrak service, will finally be connected to New Haven by commuter rail.

Essentially, that’s it! There are no other places in the nation that are slated to receive new rail service in the near future unless Greenfield, Massachusetts becomes a stop on the Vermonter after it is rerouted onto newly-improved track.

That is not to say that nobody else will gain improved rail service. Chicago, St. Louis and intermediate stops will have a projected four-hour schedule. Arkansas and Texas will be about 90 minutes closer to Chicago by rail. Similarly, Seattle and Portland will appear closer together, because of the planned reduction in travel time. Faster, more frequent trips will be available in Oregon, California and Washington State. More choice of departure times improves convenience, thereby also improving mobility and ridership.

Other improvements will not be so noticeable. Another train or two may be added to the Raleigh-Charlotte corridor in North Carolina. That line, along with lines in Michigan, Missouri and New York State, should also experience improved on-time performance, due to modest infrastructure upgrades. But these improvements are a far cry from adding new lines or substantially shortening travel time.

The two places where grants have been awarded to start “high-speed rail” are more problematic. In California, the $2.25 billion earmarked to start the ball rolling may not produce results for years. The FRA grant constitutes only a “down-payment” of about 5% of the eventual cost of the proposed line from Sacramento to San Diego, through Los Angeles and San Francisco. Backers believe that private financing will be available, but recent reports indicate that costs and fares may be higher than originally predicted.

In Florida, the $1.25 FRA grant only authorizes 84 miles of new line between Orlando and Tampa. There is no mention of the highly-populated Miami area, or of a line to Jacksonville that could connect with rails going north or west.

This is not to say that the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) grants are a bad idea. To the contrary, they mark the first time in living memory that the Federal government has given any substantial support for rail. Every dollar spent on rail is a dollar that will not be spent on the the proliferation of highways. At least the government, at the national level, is thinking about rail as a viable mode of passenger transportation.

Still, a balanced transportation policy for the country has yet to be adopted We need a comprehensive rail system nationwide that provides connectivity between long-distance trains, commuter rail and local transit -- a system that takes people between most city pairs and allows them to get to their local destinations when they arrive by train.

A step in the right direction is still a step in the right direction. Plans for a national passenger rail system will be the subject of the next article in this series.


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Howard Learner

 

Posted: February 8, 2010 12:48 Pm

Modern High-Speed Rail Is A Winner For
The Public -- And It’s About More Than
“Just Speed”

By Howard Learner

FEBRUARY 8 -- Investing in modern, fast, comfortable and convenient higher-speed rail service is a smart move. Better rail service will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create new jobs and spur economic growth.

The new federal investment is about more than “just speed” to succeed. “Modern, comfortable and convenient” count as much as “fast” for transforming our transportation system for the 21st century.

First, modern trains can excite people and attract riders, as will train stations that are well-lit, clean and enjoyable central places. Wi-Fi or Wi-Max available all the way along the rail corridors can allow travel time to be productive work time for businesspeople, study time for students and reading time for others compared to air travel frustrations and new limits on cell phone and texting while driving.

Second, the top speed is less important than the average speed and overall trip time. For example, the 150 mph Acela high-speed rail service in the Northeast Corridor moves at that top speed for only few miles; its average speed between New York City and Washington D.C. is around 80 mph (about 129 km/h).

The best way to go fast is by not going slow. Synchronizing high-speed rail and freight rail improvement programs, such as the CREATE program in the Chicago area, can create double plays benefiting both passenger and freight service by alleviating congestion points and clearing out bottlenecks. Using skip stops as more high-speed train runs are added will avoid turning them into milk runs.

What really matters to passengers is how long the overall rail trip takes when compared to long car trips and door-to-door air travel for businesspeople, students and families traveling to see each other. This is a classic “compared to what” situation. It’s not just about bragging rights for top speed.

Third, let’s have comfortable trains. Nice seats, easily accessible plugs for laptops, good cell phone and computer access, and decent food.

Fourth, this is about convenience. Understandably, few people take the train from Chicago to Cleveland arriving at 1:45 am, or the return trains departing Cleveland at your choice of 2:59 am or 3:45 am. That’s why I can’t easily take the train with my three teenage sons over the weekend to visit the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The key is increasing the frequency of train service with enough reasonably scheduled trip opportunities to work well for people.

When Amtrak improved service between Chicago and St. Louis a few years ago, ridership doubled. Better high-speed rail service is expected to triple ridership in the coming years.

All of this adds to the environmental benefits of displacing pollution from air and car travel, and the economic vitality from pulling jobs, people and business into our downtowns.

High-speed rail investment meets the public’s mobility needs and boosts the economy. For years, federal transportation funds almost exclusively supported auto and air travel. Today, Americans spend $1 billion a day on foreign oil and an average of 4 weeks each year stuck in gridlock. High-speed rail is 3X more efficient than cars and 6X more efficient than planes on a per passenger mile basis. Better performance, more national security, less pollution for the future.

Everyone is feeling the strain of the economic downturn, but investing wisely in a 21st century rail transportation system is important to keep our economy moving. According to an economic study conducted for nine state Departments of Transportation, the new Midwest high-speed rail network can create 57,000 permanent new jobs across the region, produce more than a $1 billion in additional household income, and spur almost $5 billion in private new development near Midwest rail stations.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and the interstate highway system wasn’t built in a year. The recent federal funding announcement is the first step towards a modern high-speed rail system that will create jobs and boost our economy, better enable people to go from city-to-city, and protect our environment.

Howard Learner is Executive Director, Environmental Law and Policy Center, www.elpc.org


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“Storm-Zilla” vs. The
“Blizzard Of ’78”

By Dennis Kirkpatrick
NCI Webmaster

Many of us in the far northeast corner of the nation pensively watched our TV sets and the news reports this week that were emanating from the Mid-Atlantic States as they were pummeled by two successive winter storms that dropped at least 30 inches (76.2 cm) in many places.

We listened and watched as interstate highways were closed, airports closed and flights cancelled, and eventually Baltimore banned automobiles from the road entirely.

We observed, “Been there, done that.”

In 1978 a similar set of storms rocked through eastern New England doing almost the exact same thing. While this storm of 2010 was named “Storm-Zilla,” we simply called our event the “Blizzard of ’78.” It has become the benchmark for judging all storms since.

I personally also noticed a similar parallel. Public transit was one of the first things to get up and running again. That is something that everyone should take note of.

In 1978 after a first storm had dropped quite a bit on us in Boston, driving was still a serious problem and the state and city governments asked that everyone use public transit. And so for a couple of days that is what I did. Then on the afternoon of the second storm we were sent home early with hopes that we might eventually get home.

I made my way a couple of blocks to a subway station and by then it was already being reported that the surface segment of the subway line was not operating but trains already underground were continuing to shuttle people between the portals. I eventually reached downtown Boston but found the subway line I needed to use had by then ceased operation. My next choice was the MBTA commuter rail.

So I exited the subway and trudged through snow that was already starting to reach an additional foot in height and arrived at Boston’s South Station. Unfortunately, the MBTA had suspended operations at that point. My one last hope – one final Amtrak train was departing for New York and would make all local stops normally serviced by the MBTA. I took the chance, got onto the train that was packed like sardines, and we pressed on. We went slowly but we kept forward motion.

The Amtrak train eventually stopped at the little station near my home and I jumped off and landed in a snow drift that was well up to my armpits, and I waded from there through to the street level and made my way home in snow that was reaching the tops of automobiles. I was soggy and cold but I made it home thanks to Amtrak.

Since I live within visual distance of the railroad right of way it was easy for me to see the tracks. Within a day and a half, the commuter rail was up and running, and by two days all subways were operating in full. Also by two days time limited bus service was also running. In fact, that was all that was allowed other than emergency vehicles and people with a specific need to be on the road.

By this time it was mandated that we all use public transit until the municipalities were able to dig us all out which took another ten to fourteen days. It was over a week before the nearby interstate highways were dug out and autos that had been abandoned during the height of the storm were removed.

So I clearly understand what the people in Baltimore and Washington, DC went through.

But the point here is that rail and busses were the first thing running, both then in 1978 and now in 2010. So why do we keep shortchanging these systems when they are, and can be so vital in times such as these?

It is time for our elected officials to wake up. Hopefully this storm demonstrated the importance of transit systems and they will see the need.

Rail was first to run. Let’s keep it running.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Debating the Future of American Rail

Higher-Speed Rail Vs. High-Speed Rail:
The Perfect Is The Enemy Of The Possible ---
But The Trouble Is, America Needs Both

By James P. RePass
CEO, National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

The debate that is beginning about what kind of rail system America should have--- indeed, has been at or near the surface of American rail advocacy for decades --- has begun in earnest, unsurprisingly.

For four decades, the debate was about whether or not Amtrak, America’s chronically under funded passenger rail system, should even exist, let alone receive the kind of capital investments that, from France to Germany to Japan to yes even Russia, national passenger rail systems routinely receive.

That the railroad miraculously has survived is directly due to a cadre of dedicated leaders and workers who have clearly accomplished a miracle against really terrible odds, including years of a highly paid disinformation campaigns by a few so-called Think Tanks whose “reports” invariably coincide with the political agenda of their wealthy (petro-lobby) donors, and whose propaganda effort is highly organized and sophisticated.

Now the Obama Administration has set its sights far higher than mere survival of the American rail system, in its concentrated attempt via ARRA and other programs to jump-start American rail into the 21st century.

The problem of course is obvious: the sea-change in Administration rail attitudes that has occurred from Bush (II) --- “we hate passenger rail” --- to Obama --- “we will rebuild America, including the Rail system” --- is welcome to anyone who understands the nature of infrastructure, and how investment in it --- or the failure to do so --- determines future national prosperity.

But the resources, even via this President, are so far highly limited. $8 billion in ARRA funding is a start --- a “down payment” as President Obama said in April 2009 when announcing the rail program --- but it is only that. Yet how can we make any real progress, with $8 billion, even when you add in the $2.5 billion Congress appropriated this year, and the money states have begun to spend --- when countries like France, Germany, Japan and China routinely spend many times that amount every year on their existing rail systems which are already superior to America’s.

The answer is in several parts:

First, the approach taken by the Federal Railroad Administration in distributing the ARRA dollars was the right one.

The largest amount to --- $2.6 billion --- went to the Midwest, which has taken an incremental yet integrated corridors approach to achieve higher speed rail, and will have its 110+mph systems up and running fairly quickly (3-4 years, with some improvements showing up within a year of the start of construction).

The second largest corridor system amount --- $2.6 billion --- went to California, which has agreed to tax itself to build a true Euro/Asian high-speed rail system (200 mph+), and which has been working on that program for decades, under the leadership of American rail visionary Rod Diridon and now others. This system will take at least a decade to build, if we are truly aggressive --- which would be a good things for Americans to be --- and will require a commitment of will and money and patience, traits of which Americans are notably lacking, to finish.

The Midwest has chosen to do things more or less right away, in order to achieve a higher speed rail system that will depend not on sexy high-speed numbers, but upon practical results. The first of these will be in our view likely a reduction of Chicago to St. Louis rail travel time to 3_-4 hours – which beats both flying and driving (although the official targets are not that aggressive, we feel they can be beaten). That project in itself should be targeted and executed with aggression, because it will show that the incremental approach can have fairly quick positive results.

But what is also needed, for all corridors and for all projects, is a new way of providing permanent ongoing funding that does not rely upon crisis-response, Stimulus, or any other one-off effort to be successful.

That will in turn require a restructuring of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee into regionally-organized, systems-integrated subcommittees instead of the archaic modally divided subcommittees that exist today

Further, it will require the re-creation of the Highway Trust Fund as a transportation trust fund, and an increase in the Federal gas tax of at least 25 cents, and even better, 50 cents, a gallon. That will provide enough money not only to rebuild the rail system into a true High-Speed Rail network, but also provide enough to fix our crumbling highways --- and to close and pull up some of them --- which are so overbuilt that the states are literally going bankrupt trying to maintain them.

Finally, it will require the introduction of “Value Capture” on the transit-oriented development that inevitably grows up around new or newly rehabilitated train stations, and on the corridors served. This is one way to give back to the rail corridor some of the benefits the corridor brings by being built in the first place. None of this is an easy assignment, nor an easy challenge --- but an essential one. The future of the country hinges on our ability to do measure up to it.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

I hope that one of the corridors listed will run between , say, Akron OH to Chattanooga TN. Both are cities sadly needing an economic boost. Both are cities drowning in unemployment. While Chattanooga is getting Volkswagen, it will supply us with only 1200 jobs, some 400 of which will disappear when the factory is up and running. The new plant is also employing many jobs for construction, but once the last tile is laid, well...they disappear too.

Akron has been sliding into nothingness faster than Venice into the sea.

Please give these towns a chance. Give them a corridor. You will not regret it.

Thank you,
Ally Wine


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