The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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

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March 24, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 12

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  Conference Summaries…
Comments By Mark Yachmetz, Associate Administrator,
   Federal Railroad Administration
  News Items…
ATA Projects Record-High Fuel Expenses For Trucking In 2008
New Orleans Port To Use Rail Access For Expansion
  Safety Lines…
Amtrak Train Strikes One More, Killing Man In New Hampshire
  Study Lines…
State of Kansas Agrees To Study Cost of Passenger Rail Service
  Financial Lines…
Norfolk Southern 2007 Annual Report: All In A Day’s Work
  Across The Pond…
InterCity Express Trains Pass The 1 Billion Kilometer Mark
The TGV Is Getting The Better of Air France
  Political Lines…
Congressman Mica, (R-Florida), Wants Two-Hour Rail Service
   NYC to Washington DC
  Station Lines…
Amtrak Station In Lancaster To Get Upgrade
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Off The Main Line…
Now At The New York Transit Museum
  Opinion …
The View From Europe - What Is The Real Number?
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... Conference Summaries...

Comments By Mark Yachmetz,
Associate Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration

At the Carmichael Conference on the
Future of American Transportation
January 28, 2008 at St. Louis


[ Publisher’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of addresses --- last week’s was by the Hon Frank Busalacchi, Secretary of Transportation, Wisconsin, Chairman of States for Passenger Rail, and a member of the Surface Transportation Finance and Policy Commission --- from the Carmichael Conference on the Future of American Transportation held January 28-29 at the Hyatt Regency, St. Louis, MO.

This presentation summarizes in cogent form the situation in American rail, how we got there, and what we might do about restoring it. It was delivered January 28, 2008.

Destination:Freedom will publish addresses from this important American conference each week, so that those who could not attend can also participate in the debate, and also benefit from the thoughts of the impressive list of American transportation leaders who did attend, and spoke to us. It is also our intention to collect the speeches, and presentations, into a single CD-ROM so that the proceedings can be more widely distributed. ]


Biography of Mark Yachmetz
Associate Administrator for Railroad Development
Federal Railroad Administration

As Associate Administrator for Railroad Development since June 2000, Mr. Yachmetz is responsible for supporting the Administration in the area of intercity passenger rail policy development and for supporting the Secretary of Transportation and her representative Joe Boardman as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). He also has direct management responsibility for all Federal programs providing investment in the rail industry. These programs include capital and operating grants to the Amtrak and the Alaska Railroad, new programs of grants to States for passenger rail capital improvements and rail line relocation, the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program of loans and loan guarantees for rail capital improvements, safety-related research and development, and development and demonstration of improved passenger-related technologies.

Prior to assuming this position, Mr. Yachmetz was Director of FRA’s Office of Passenger Programs, Executive Director of the National Maglev Initiative, Chief of FRA’s Community and Shipper Assistance Staff, and a program manager in the National Freight Assistance Program. He also served as Special Assistant to FRA Administrators John Riley and Gil Carmichael. Selected as a Congressional Fellow in 1989, he served as a member of the senior professional staff of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Hazardous Materials of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce. Before joining FRA, Mr. Yachmetz served on the staff of the Interstate Commerce Commission’s Office of Proceedings and was a civil engineer in private practice. He has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland and presently resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

His slide presentation follows:

Comments By Mark Yachmetz,
Associate Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
At the Carmichael Conference on the
Future of American Transportation
January 28, 2008 at St. Louis

This is an Adobe Acrobat PDF slide presentation that requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Requests for copies of the original Power Point Presentation may be directed to NCI.

This and other materials from the Carmichael Conference of January 28, 2008 are available at our Conference Archive Section.

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NEWS ITEMS... News Items...

ATA Projects Record-High
Fuel Expenses For Trucking In 2008

From The American Trucking Association and by DF Staff

ARLINGTON, VA --- The American Trucking Associations announced this week that it is projecting a record high diesel fuel bill for its industry in 2008. ATA said the trucking industry will spend $135 billion on fuel in 2008, based on current fuel price forecasts. This marks a $22 billion increase over the $112.6 billion spent by trucking in 2007.

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said the trucking industry is experiencing the highest prolonged fuel prices in history. Historically, fuel represented the second-highest operating expense for motor carriers, accounting for as much as 25 percent of total operating costs. For some motor carriers, however, fuel is beginning to surpass labor as their largest expense.

“The trucking industry is making great strides in its efforts to reduce overall fuel consumption. But an affordable supply of diesel fuel is imperative to keep our trucks moving,” said Graves. “There is little to suggest that fuel prices will decline any time soon. Yet every day, ATA hears new stories from its members about how escalating fuel prices are hurting their businesses and affecting their livelihood.”

The cost to fill the fuel tanks on a typical tractor trailer has increased 116 percent, or $615, in just five years. Because trucks haul 70 percent of all freight tonnage, rising fuel costs have the potential to increase the cost of everything transported by truck, including food, retail and manufactured goods.

Indeed, food store prices are expected to increase by 25-30 per cent this year because of the sharp increase in fuel prices and thus, shipping costs; modern supermarket chains increasingly have sourced their inventory literally worldwide, where, as is the case for manufactured goods, labor costs are far lower and environmental regulations are nil.

“To alleviate future significant fuel price fluctuations, ATA calls upon Congress and the Bush Administration to address this crisis situation and move immediately to take steps to increase diesel fuel supply. These include increased refining capacity and the environmentally sound exploration of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Outer Continental Shelf.”

Environmentalists such as The Sierra Club are unlikely to react passively to the ATA’s request, said one environmental leader.

The American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of other trucking groups, industry-related conferences and its 50 affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States.

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New Orleans Port To Use
Rail Access For Expansion

From: New Orleans City Business
by Jaime Guillet
Used by Permission
New Orleans CityBusiness © 2008

New Orleans --- The Port of New Orleans plans to take advantage of its location at the axis of six chief railroads by expanding its on-dock rail facilities no later than 2012.

Containerized cargo improvements are the focal point of the Port of New Orleans $1-billion 2020 Master Plan, which encompasses short- and long-term infrastructure improvements to be made in the next 12 years. To remain competitive, Port officials say infrastructure upgrades are needed to handle cargo.

“We believe that we still are ahead of the game considering that Napoleon Phase I has given us a foothold in the Gulf container trade,” said Chris Bonura, a Port spokesman. “However, in order to maintain that foothold, we know we need to grow and nurture the next phases of Napoleon.” Expansion of the 20-acre Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal Complex tops the project lists.

Phase 2, which Port officials identify as the top short-term project, includes building a larger terminal, adding three container-handling cranes and expanding the container-bearing railroad infrastructure for $237.6 million.

Phase 2 would expand Port container capacity from 366,000 20-foot freight containers to 560,000.

A key component of the Phase 2 expansion is the $25-million relocation and expansion of the on-dock intermodal rail facility. Intermodal refers to multiple modes of transportation such as rail or truck. An intermodal rail facility essentially moves containers arriving by rail to the port to ships and vice versa.

Intermodal rail is one of the best ways to move containerized cargo, said Joe Accardo, executive director of the Ports Association of Louisiana, a nonprofit trade group representing more than 30 ports in the state.

“Expanding the role of their (intermodal rail) facility is a move greatly to their benefit in the future,” said Accardo. “There’s a need to move containers coming from the Panama Canal, South America and even Europe by rail to the Midwest. We need to take advantage (of rail) as vigorously as possible and the Port of New Orleans recognizes that.”

With energy prices at an all-time high, the Port wants to maximize its competitive advantage as a hub for six major freight railroads — Canadian National, CSX, Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern — before competitors gain a greater advantage.

“Although the Intermodal Container Yard is still in its infancy, we see great potential, said Bonura. “The Intermodal Container Yard connects the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal with inland markets both in Louisiana and in other states.

“By streamlining the transfer of containers from ship to rail or from rail to ship, we make it more convenient for shippers to use the Port of New Orleans. We also expand the number of customers who can get their cargo to and from the port in a timely manner.”

Alabama officials at the Port of Mobile recognize the advantages of intermodal rail, too. In 2002, the Alabama State Port Authority hired an engineering firm to help develop the Choctaw Point container facility, which includes an intermodal rail terminal. In December 2005, ASPA signed a $4.2-million contract with HDR Inc. to design and manage construction of the facility.

The Port of Mobile has access to five major rail lines, and the ASPA will open the first phase of the $300-million, 135-acre facility in the second half of 2008.

“New Orleans is an intermodal city,” said Billy App, CEO of Kenner-based freight forwarder J.W. Allen & Co. Inc. “We need to recognize the value of the railroads ... and emphasize intermodal rail.”

App said the Port of New Orleans has lagged its competition, mainly because of too little state support until “only now with (Gov. Bobby) Jindal.”

“Containerized cargo has been the trend and it continues to grow every day,” said App. “Shame on us for allowing the Port of Mobile to get such a jump on us. If we don’t take immediate action to build the (container and intermodal) infrastructure, we’re going to be out of the game.”

Jindal proposed last week to provide $25 million from the $1-billion state budget surplus to develop the Napoleon Container Terminal, expanding terminal capacity by 45 percent, which Bonura termed “a start.”

The Port loads and unloads about 500 containers per week and expansion could easily triple that. The intermodal yard will take about six months to complete, said Bonura.

Challenges includes the impact of increased truck and rail traffic on Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure. That is why increased rail transportation is key, said Bonura.

“If the cargo doesn’t go out on rail, it’s going out on truck,” said Bonura. “Rail is more efficient because it gets cargo off the roads and also because of scale — you can move more on rail than on truck.”

He said the Port is engineering plans for handling increased traffic through the Napoleon facility.

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...

Amtrak Train Strikes One More,
Killing Man In New Hampshire

From the Boston Globe

CLAREMONT, NH --- An Amtrak train struck and killed a person in Claremont, N.H., last week, in the second fatality in New England involving Amtrak trains in two days, the Boston Globe reported.

The fatality occurred as investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board had just begun looking into the cause of a fatal crash the previous Thursday in Providence involving three Amtrak workers, one of whom was killed. [ See D:F March 17.]

The probe of that accident is expected to last nine months to a year.

In a third accident, also reported in this newsletter last week, a 69-year-old woman was hit by an Acela train in Stonington, Conn., while walking her yellow Labrador on the tracks about 8:30 a.m. The woman suffered serious injuries to her arm, and the dog was killed.

Karina Romero, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said the company is very concerned about the number of accidents.

“Safety is a priority for us, and we will definitely look into this,” she said.

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STUDY LINES... Study Lines...

State of Kansas Agrees To Study
Cost of Passenger Rail Service

DF Staff and Internet Sources

MARCH 22 -- The Kansas Department of Transportation said last week that it has agreed to underwrite an Amtrak study that will determine the cost and feasibility of a proposal that could bring passenger rail service to Wichita for the first time since 1979, reported Hurst Laviana in a story for the Wichita Eagle.

Supporters of restoring passenger rail service to south-central Kansas are calling it the most significant development to date: a promise from the state to put a price tag on the plan.

The study is expected to cost $150,000 to $200,000 and should be finished by the third quarter of 2009, said KDOT spokesman Ron Kaufman. He said he expected that the state will then have the solid numbers it needs before deciding whether it wants to subsidize passenger rail service.

“It’ll just tell us what the cost will be and what it will take to do it. The state will have to decide from there if it’s something worth pursuing,” Kaufman said.

Restoring passenger rail service in this area will require the use of Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks and will probably result in northbound and southbound trains passing through Wichita daily during daylight hours.

The news delighted members of the Northern Flyer Alliance,** a grassroots organization that has been working to expand passenger rail service between Kansas City and Fort Worth

“It means a lot to our organization and a lot to the citizens of Kansas,” said Autumn Heithaus, the group’s executive director. “It’s a significant step. I think KDOT realizes the importance of this -- perhaps because gas prices have gone through the roof.”

“Kansas tracks look really good,” she said. “One other thing that works to our advantage is that we’re on flat land. If we had hills and rocks and ditches and everything, it would be a lot more expensive. Since we’re on flat land, it’s rather cheap.”

Among the cities that have expressed an interest in the study are Arkansas City, Winfield, Newton, Strong City, Emporia and Lawrence.

The two Amtrak trains that run through south-central Kansas now stop in Newton during the early morning.

Kaufman said he expects the Amtrak study to address such issues as which cities should be included in the system and whether travel delays could be expected because of the volume of freight traffic on the line.

At present, only four trains a day operate out of Kansas City’s Union Station; yet the city proper has a population of approximately 447,306, with a metro area of nearly two million.


[ **Editor’s note: The Northern Flyer Alliance has a similar mission to NCI’s ongoing work to create a regional transportation authority among New England states, upper New York State, New Jersey and eastern Canadian provinces. This midwest alliance is also dedicated to regional planning which would focus on bringing back rail along interstate corridors.

Last November, the Alliance’s Kansas City Director, Mark Corriston, wrote an opinion piece on this subject for the Kansas City Post. Here are excerpts from that article:

“Many are awakening to the fact it was a mistake for the United States to turn its back and abandon its passenger rail services. Highway improvements have not improved connectivity for all American cities. Transportation planners now are actually bypassing many communities in the name of speed. This hastens rural decline but does not hide the effects. Fringe development along the bypass highways promotes the transport of goods, but spells doom for the community. Major highways now only connect major cities, which are also connected by the major airlines.

“The Northern Flyer Alliance is a political action association providing a communication conduit and a call to action for Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas communities. Our mission is to reconnect communities and major cities along an uninterrupted intercity rail transportation corridor from Illinois to Texas through Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.

“The State of Kansas holds the key to this expansion through a repurposing of the rail corridor between Newton, Kansas through Wichita and south to Oklahoma City.

“The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that can provide major funding increases for Amtrak, including provisions for intercity passenger service compacts between states. Kansas and Oklahoma are in a perfect position to share in up to an 80% federal match for the cost of corridor development mentioned above. For Kansas this translates into an estimated $8 million dollar requirement, of which $6 million would originate from the federal match.” ]

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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...

Norfolk Southern 2007 Annual Report:
All In A Day’s Work

NSC Press Release

NORFOLK, VA., MARCH 20 -- Norfolk Southern Corporation tells the story of a record-setting year through the lens of a single day in its 2007 Annual Report, posted last Thursday on the company’s Web site.

The report, titled “Thoroughbred 24/7,” features photographs from throughout the transportation network on Oct. 23, 2007, a day on which the railroad moved tons of commodities without a single reportable employee injury.

For the 18th consecutive year, Norfolk Southern earned the top industry award for workplace safety. Railway operating revenues, income from railway operations, and diluted earnings per share all set records.

In his letter to stockholders, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman said, “2007 was, in my opinion, a watershed year for us in that it answered the question of how real and long-lasting our improved performance would be in the face of an economic downturn. The answer was a strong affirmation that our prospects remain very bright.”

Moorman said, “This annual report shows just a small part of what goes on across Norfolk Southern on any given day. It illustrates the breadth and complexity of our business, and the skills and dedication of Norfolk Southern people as they go about their work of providing transportation service to our nation’s businesses and industries, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Norfolk Southern’s annual report and Form 10-K are posted on the company’s Web site at

Norfolk Southern Corporation is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway subsidiary operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving every major container port in the eastern United States and providing superior connections to western rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is North America’s largest rail carrier of metals and automotive products.

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

Installments From David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

InterCity Express Trains Pass The 1 Billion Kilometer Mark
Equivalent To Three Round Trips to the Sun

BERLIN -- Deutsche Bahn marked the one billionth kilometer (621 million miles) operated by its InterCity Express (ICE) brand of high speed trains in a small celebration in Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof this past week. The ICE fleet started rolling in revenue service in 1991 with a route which ran between Munich and Hamburg via Ulm, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Kassel, and Hannover. In the following years a half dozen high speed corridors for ICE trains have been added across Germany with several more under construction or in the planning phases.

Photo: Deutsche Bahn AG.

An ICE-3 Train Set arrives in Berlin Hauptbahnhof’s lower level for the One Billionth ICE Kilometer ceremony on the 19th of March.

Today there are approximately 250 train sets in the ICE fleet of various versions, 60 of which are configured for international operations to the adjacent countries of Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark. Dr. Nikolaus Breuel, chairman of DB Fernverkehr AG (DB Intercity Traffic) stated: “The ICE is the top product of intercity travel and synonymous with comfort, service and speed. 70 millions customers choose ICE trains for their journeys each year”.

Dr. Breuel continued, “Due to increasing demand we are expanding our international services. Currently we have an Request For Proposal (RFP) for seven new high speed trains sets, which will be used on international routes with a top speed of 320 km/h (199 mph).”

The seven new train sets (with an option for eight more train sets) are planned for entry into service starting in 2011. Industry rumors indicate that Alstom’s new AGV train set, successor to France’s TGV, is a strong contender for the order verses Siemens Transportation, which has supplied the last several orders from Deutsche Bahn with ICE-3 and the similarly configured tilt-body ICE-T train sets. Similar to the ICE-3 series, the Alstom AGV is “all wheel drive” with each wheel set in the train driven by a traction motor, in other words there are no individual power cars or locomotives at each end of the train as is the case with ICE-1, ICE-2 and all previous TGV train set models. Unlike the ICE-3 series, the AGV is an articulated design with individual passenger cars joined together with shared wheel bogies and suspension parts. This articulated configuration has been practiced with all previous TGV models to date, and is regarded as being exceptionally stable at high speed.

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The TGV Is Getting The Better of Air France

From free daily Paris paper, Metro

Translated by Cynthia Wentworth of the Sierra Club

MARCH 10 -- Air France, faced with competition from the TGV and low-cost airlines, is planning to reduce its flights in France, closing or reducing certain routes, which will mean eliminating 1000 jobs. Air France envisages the elimination of flights between Paris Orly Airport and Avignon, Rennes, and Lyon beginning in 2008, and Strasbourg and Bordeaux beginning in 2016. The company estimates that in 2020, 80% of the French population will be linked by train to Paris in less than three hours, and that Air France stands to lose 40% of the traffic on these routes.

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...

Congressman Mica, (R-Florida),
Wants Two-Hour Rail Service
NYC to Washington DC

Rep. Mica introduces measure to establish D.C.-to-New York City high-speed service

MARCH 17 -- U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) believes legislation he unveiled in the House of Representatives last week sets the course to bringing high-speed rail to a level that in the past, hopefuls could only dream about.

Introduced on March 14, H.R. 5644 seeks to develop high-speed rail in the Washington, D.C.-New York City corridor, with the aim of developing other high-speed corridors around the country.

“Today, high-speed passenger rail is a vital component of transportation systems around the world, but in this country it’s been a fantasy,” said Mica, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican Leader, in a prepared statement. “Bringing high-speed rail to the United States, beginning with the Northeast Corridor, is long overdue. By first establishing a high-speed system that can cover the distance between Washington, D.C., and New York City in under two hours, we can provide a fast and efficient transportation alternative that will take cars and trucks off our tremendously congested highways.”

Tri-Rail - Florida’s Commuter rail with convenient service from Miami to Ft. Lauderdaleand Palm Beach.

Here are a few of the bill’s provisions:

• The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) would solicit proposals for development of a high-speed rail link along the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

• Proposals would need to include engineering, financing and development plans for the corridor, and require D.C.-to-New York City express service of no more than two hours.

• The USDOT would convene a commission of state, local, federal, rail and rail labor stakeholders to evaluate proposals and report recommendations to Congress; Congress then would evaluate the report and take the necessary action to commence corridor work.

• The D.C.-New York City link would serve as a pilot for similar projects across the United States, and the Transportation Secretary could request proposals for other corridors after selection of the Northeast Corridor proposal.

• The bill also would guarantee labor protections and require a study to examine how to achieve “maximum economic utilization” of the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak’s Acela service currently provides passenger-rail service between D.C. and New York City at an average speed of 83 mph. By contrast, service in such countries as France and Japan reaches speeds of more than 200 mph, making these systems attractive alternatives to driving or flying, Mica said, noting that the bill has bipartisan support.

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STATION LINES... Station Lines...

Amtrak Station In Lancaster To Get Upgrade

By DF Staff and

LANCASTER, PA, MARCH 19 -- By fall, a long-awaited renovation and upgrade of the Lancaster Amtrak Station will begin, reports Chad Umble, staff writer for the Lancaster New Era, the online news source for Lancaster, County.

The cost is estimated to be $12 million.

Lancaster County Commissioners committed their remaining share of $400,000 pledged toward the project, a move that will trigger the release of $11.6 million in state and federal money needed to complete the work.

Shops, restaurants, and Amtrak offices are included in the plan along with expansion of the parking lot and creation of a separate waiting area for bus passengers.

Photo: Richard Hertzler / New Era and 

Renovations on Lancaster’s Amtrak station could start this fall.

Also planned are upgrades to the station’s heating and air conditioning systems as well as a realignment of the station driveway to meet North Duke Street.

Bids will go out within the next three months and approval of the county’s remaining $233,350 share of the project today means Bids can be put out within the next three months and construction likely can begin in the fall, according to Christopher Neumann, the county planning commission’s assistant transportation planner.

Construction is expected to last two years.

It has been five years since Atlanta architect Cooper Carry finished its plan for improving the 80-year-old station.

Initially, the project was expected to cost $7.5 million. Now, the price tag is $12 million, primarily because of delays.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)91.6190.80
Canadian National (CNI)47.6749.08
Canadian Pacific (CP)63.1566.10
CSX (CSX)54.5948.97
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)34.5832.57
Kansas City Southern (KSU)37.7534.86
Norfolk Southern (NSC)53.0752.93
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.5018.60
Union Pacific (UNP)122.06122.75

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

Now At The New York Transit Museum

A Railroad Reborn: Metro-North at 25, will be on exhibit at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex in Grand Central Terminal through July 6, 2008.

Illustrating the railroad’s dramatic turnaround, the exhibition features over fifty artifacts and photographs from the collections of the New York Transit Museum and MTA Metro-North Railroad, including a model of the Grand Central North passageway, opened in 1989; a 1920s 25-cycle ammeter from the West Farms substation, one of the specialized third rail shoes, and the original Metro Man.

The program starts at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex, located in the Shuttle Passage, just off the Main Concourse, next to the Station Master’s Office. Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free Admission


Related Programming:

Mta Arts For Transit: Art Along The Hudson Line
Tours: Saturday, April 5, 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Reservations and advance payment required: 718-694-1867. $30, Museum members $25, optional Wave Hill tour $6

To celebrate Metro-North Railroad’s 25th Anniversary, the Transit Museum and MTA Arts for Transit team up with Metro-North to present a unique tour of artwork at Grand Central Terminal and select stations along the Hudson Line. Arts for Transit staff will be joined by artists who will talk about art and design in transit facilities and discuss details of the transit art projects inspired by each community. The tour will conclude with an optional visit to Wave Hill.

Lectures, Readings & Screenings

It’s Electric!
Grand Central Terminal. Northeast Balcony. Free admission.
Tuesday February 26, 2008, 6:30 – 8 p.m.

On July 24, 1907, the first regular train to be operated under electric power completed a trip from Grand Central to New Rochelle. This pioneering effort of the AC electrification of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad set the standard for 20th century railroad electrification in the U.S. In conjunction with the Transit Museum’s exhibition marking the 25th Anniversary of Metro-North Railroad, engineering historian Joseph Cunningham and Robert Walker, Metro-North’s director – power systems (1983-1997), and current Metro-North director of operating capital projects, will discuss the evolution of the system and its reconstruction.

Additional details at:

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OPINION... Opinion...

The View From Europe


What Is The Real Number?

The Need for Transparency In Calculating Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions in Transport

By David Beale
European Editor


Today’s news media is full of statistics, figures, numbers and data. Many times the news media plays games with data and statistics to hype news stories they want to promote with front page headlines or breaking news bulletins with dramatic music and graphics. Some statistics border on the ridiculous: how many times did New York Governor Eliot Spitzer visit a prostitute, or how many web hits has the young lady had on her MySpace web page since the Governor announced his resignation? How many times did Britney Spears violate her probation? Meanwhile other news events centered on statistics are buried on page A-13 or lost in the mass of data in the back of the business section.

Judging from the news content CNN International runs on its satellite channel here in Europe, or what is placed front and center on their home page, or on the home pages of Fox News and MSNBC, one could rather easily miss the breathtaking rise in the price of crude oil or the similarly striking downfall of the U.S. dollar in the past few days. But one will certainly not miss the main numbers, statistics and financial details of Mr. Spitzer’s forbidden affair.

While the mainstream news media preoccupies itself with the latest scandals, celebrity stories, and poll numbers of Hillary and Barak, life goes on for the rest of us. And some of us would like to have a little more objective information about day to day choices and issues that confront all of us. One such example might be what is the most energy efficient way to get from Point A to Point B as energy prices skyrocket.

Yet when it comes to this simple question, the statistics are relatively difficult to decipher. Obviously most people would recognize that the least energy efficient way to travel is one person per car or SUV. But the mainstream media is for the most part far too busy covering the sexual exploits of a certain state governor or the latest twist and turn in the American presidential race to note this fact very often. Yet the same mainstream media is ever-ready and willing to place its reporters at gas stations all across the country to ask what beleaguered automobile drivers feel about paying three times more for a tank of gas now than they did six years ago.

But the data is out there, and the data is fairly clear. When it comes to intercity travel, especially in the 5 – 500 mile range, trains come out on top of all other transit modes other than walking or bicycles. Various sources such as Network Rail in the UK, the Ministry of Transport in Germany, the UIC (an international railroad engineering and technology association), independent environmental advocacy groups and even American transportation agencies such as SEPTA in Pennsylvania have data and statistics which show that passenger trains consume just one-quarter to one-third of the energy which automobiles and airliners consume. Their numbers are not exactly the same, but the range is consistent: less than half of the energy consumption, and in some studies 75% less energy consumption, of either passenger cars or passenger jets on a seat-mile basis. Since nearly all trains, planes and automobiles get the vast majority of their power from CO2 producing hydro-carbon fuel, the amounts of CO2 produced per seat-mile with trains is likewise in the one fourth to one third range of the CO2 produced by automobiles and airliners.

Photo: David Beale.

2800 horsepower for 320 passengers. Entering its fourth decade of service, the 218 series of diesel locomotives (know as “rabbits” to some rail fans) are still a dependable and efficient source of power for regional and commuter passenger trains in Germany. With a fuel consumption of about 300 liters per 100 km (125 gallons per 100 miles), a seven coach train hauled by this locomotive averages about 0.9 liters diesel per seat per 100 km. Passenger automobiles in Germany average about 2.2 liters per seat per 100 km. Newer electric trains consume considerably less energy than this DB 218 series diesel. DB Regio locomotive number 218 474-5 leads a Hannover – Bad Harzburg regional express train on 23rd Feb. 2008 in Hannover central station.

Surprisingly, this trend in energy consumption comparisons is at variance with the energy efficiency claims on behalf of rail made by two otherwise venerable rail transit related organizations: Amtrak and the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Both organizations cite a rather mediocre energy savings value of 17% (versus airliners) to 21% (versus automobiles) for Amtrak trains. Those statistics make it appear that Amtrak trains have the potential to reduce energy consumption/ CO2 production by a relatively small fraction relative to cars and jetliners, rather than the huge reductions cited by other authorities, on a seat-mile basis.

There is simply no question that the capital investment required to create new passenger rail lines and infrastructure is huge. High speed rail lines here in Europe typically cost on the order of US $40 million per route mile to build, and passenger trains can cost upwards of US $1 million per car with 60 – 80 seats. If you are a decision-maker in Washington, DC, or in one of the fifty state capitols in the country, are you going to be ready and willing to put your next election or cabinet level appointment on the line to spend taxpayer cash on a transit mode that offers to reduce transit related energy consumption by just 1/5?

Given that U.S. airlines could easily reduce their fuel consumption by 1/5 simply by trading in several hundred 1970s technology MD-80 airliners for the latest versions of Boeing’s B737 or Airbus A320 series, along with implementation long anticipated updates to the FAA’s air traffic control system, it would seem that your average senator or congressman might not be very inclined to spend upwards of $100 billion or more on new and existing passenger rail projects, just to reduce fuel consumption by this relatively small amount.

Where does the 17 – 21 percent reduction calculation, which Amtrak and NARP use often in congressional testimony, come from? It comes from the US Department of Energy (DOE), more specifically from Oak Ridge National Laboratories. While Oak Ridge is known for its research and development activities in nuclear science, high tech materials, as well as national security and defense related research, it seems an odd place to get energy consumption values for relatively low-tech automobiles, airliners and passenger trains. And given the current White House Administration’s dubious management of the nation’s energy policy as well as its very strong ties to big oil companies, trusting energy consumption statistics from the US DOE of the past seven years is a little bit like trusting lung cancer and cigarette smoking health statistics produced by the tobacco lobby, in my view.

On the surface, the DOE’s calculation for the train – automobile comparison is way off. You can make this calculation yourself. If you assume that energy consumption of an automobile or train is approximately proportional to the amount of horse power its engine or motors are rated for, then you get the following result:

A typical automobile / SUV has an engine with a power rating in the 120 kW (160 horse power) range. Comfortably sits four adult passengers; that’s 30 kW per passenger.

A typical commuter / regional train: locomotive with approx. 4000 kW (5400 horse power) traction power rating comfortably sits 510 adult passengers; that’s 7.8 kW per passenger.

As you can see, a typical passenger car has more than three times the installed horse power, per passenger, of a train. Actual energy consumption will be approximately similar. This result correlates very closely with values provided by numerous organizations around the world mentioned earlier. And it is a long way away from the value used by Amtrak, DOE and NARP.

Perhaps the calculation produced by the DOE is correct. Perhaps it is wildly wrong due to simply unsupportable assumptions or flawed data. Perhaps it is based on past Amtrak performance, which has been compromised by decades of under funding and micromanagement by various political interests.

I think it is time for the NARP and Amtrak look into the assumptions, which produced the DOE’s train vs. automobile energy calculation, since it conflicts directly with data from a number of other sources. When these two organizations go in front of our nation’s leaders to argue for more resources going towards passenger rail, they must have a convincing argument concerning energy savings with statistics that reflect true potential and not worst case assumptions.


[ Publisher’s note: we asked NARP about this; President Ross Capon told us that his organization relies on the Oak Ridge numbers because they are from a credible national agency, but that he is more than willing to examine the source of those numbers and see if they hold up; basically, Oak Ridge takes the annual fuel consumption of Amtrak, divides by the number of passenger miles, and gets its number. Ross wrote us: “We make clear that these statistics reflect what (undercapitalized) Amtrak is actually doing, or was doing in 2005, and often add that the potential is far greater. But the politicians here have liked these statistics and, when they are defending Amtrak, probably are on safer ground dealing with ‘actuals’ rather than ‘somebody saids,’ particularly given the huge difference between the US environment and Europe/Japan.”]

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