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

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March 31, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 13

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  Conference Summaries…
Rod Diridon, Chairman Emeritus
   California High Speed Rail Authority
  News Items…
Bombardier Receives Option From Delhi Metro Rail Corporation
   For 84 Metro Cars With A Value Of €  87 M
Funding Sought to Improve Amtrak in Missouri
Choosing Rail Over Air In The U.S.
  High Speed Lines…
Compromise Bill Would See Public, Private Financing
   For High-Speed Rail
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Across The Pond…
Munich Maglev Takes Fatal Hit From Exploding Cost Estimates
  Off The Main Line…
Trains Offer A Different View
  Events…
Metro Ready For Cherry Blossom Festival
  Opinion…
Our Aging Infrastructure: Voices for Change Mount Quickly
  Editorial…
View From Europe: What’s Next for Germany’s
   Transrapid Maglev Train?
  We Get Letters …
  Publication Notes …

 

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

Rod Diridon, Chairman Emeritus
California High Speed Rail Authority

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

 

[ Publisher’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of addresses--- last week’s was by US Federal Railroad Associate Administrator Mark Yachmetz --- from the Carmichael Conference on the Future of American Transportation held January 28-29 at the Hyatt Regency, St. Louis, MO.

This presentation by long-time transportation advocate and California transportation leader Rod Diridon outlines the tremendous opportunity awaiting the United States in California if, as now seems more likely than ever, the nation’s first European/Asian style high speed rail line is built to link the Los Angeles region with San Francisco. 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. ]

 

Hon. Rod Diridon, Sr.

Chair Emeritus And Members, California High Speed Rail Authority Board
Vice Chair APTA High Speed And Intercity Rail Committee

The son of an Italian immigrant railroad brakeman, Rod Diridon is generally considered the “father” of modern transit service in Santa Clara County.

His political career began in 1972 as the youngest person ever elected to serve on the Saratoga City Council. He recently retired, because of term limits, after completing six terms as Chairperson of both the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board. He is the only person to have chaired the San Francisco Bay Area’s three regional government agencies: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Rod has chaired over one hundred national, state, and local community service programs and projects, most related to transit and the environment. He served, in 1994, as the Chairperson of the American Public Transit Association and is on the Management Committee (Board of Directors) of the Union Internationale des Transports Publics (International Transit Association). He has been a long-time member of the Federal Transit Administration’s Transit Industry Technical Development Advisory Committee and the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board’s Transit Oversight and Project Selection Committee which he was elected to chair in 1995.

Rod is on the Corporate Boards of Directors of the San José National Bank and the Empire Broadcasting Company. From 1969 to 1976 he served as President of the Decision Research Institute, where he developed a “shared survey” research procedure subsequently adopted by UNICEF.

Rod earned both B.S. in Accounting and MS in Business Administration from San José State University and has been listed in Who’s Who in America since 1974.

For a listing of items cataloged by Special Collections at the San José State University Library, see A Guide to the Papers of Rod Diridon. Prepared by Susan Klingberg, Curator of Legislators’ Archives.

His slide presentation follows:

Presentation by Hon. Rod Diridon, Sr.
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...

Bombardier Receives Option From Delhi Metro Rail Corporation
For 84 Metro Cars With A Value Of €  87M

BERLIN, GERMANY, MARCH 28 -- Bombardier Transportation announced today that it has received an order for an additional 84 MOVIA metro cars from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. The contract is valued at approximately 87 million euros ($ 137 million US). This latest order follows a contract awarded in July 2007 to supply 340 MOVIA metro cars, making a total of 424 metro cars ordered.

Delhi Metro is expanding rapidly: the modern BOMBARDIER MOVIA high-capacity vehicles will transport an impressive 4 million passengers every day, reducing their journey time and alleviating the heavy traffic congestion and pollution prevalent in the city.

This latest expansion will add 60 kilometers to the network, covering all major destinations in the East-West and North-South corridors of the city, which is occupied by around 16 million inhabitants.

Bombardier MOVIA for India

Artist rendering of the Bombardier MOVIA

The new vehicles will be produced at Savli in South Gujarat, where Bombardier is setting up a facility for manufacturing and assembly of the coaches and bogies. They are examples of the most advanced technologies in metro vehicle manufacture, with stainless steel car bodies and the reliable BOMBARDIER MITRAC propulsion and control system featuring IP technology. This modern vehicle is a mass transit vehicle designed to meet the requirement for a rapid, efficient and cost-effective high performance metro.

The MOVIA metro vehicles integrate the world’s most advanced technologies in metro vehicle manufacture, such as stainless steel car bodies and the reliable BOMBARDIER MITRAC propulsion and control system featuring IP technology. The MOVIA metros are developed from a standardized platform, which ensures a high degree of reliability, safety and maintainability while providing low life-cycle cost. This contract envisages a design approach that enables a high degree of localization and easy transfer of technology processes. Original, stylish and fully accessible, the MOVIA metro offers values and services that are second to none.

Rajeev Jyoti, Managing Director for Bombardier Transportation India, said: “We are delighted to receive this additional option contract to supply MOVIA vehicles in New Delhi. It is an excellent endorsement of our growing relationship in India, which is going from strength to strength, with the opening of a new production facility at Savli, accompanied by a large local recruitment program. We intend to deliver our high performance MOVIA vehicles on time and with quality, meriting the trust that the public authorities in India have placed in us.”

About Bombardier:

Bombardier is the number one supplier of metro vehicles worldwide. More than 1,400 BOMBARDIER MOVIA metro cars have already been ordered from the company to date. Bombardier metros are vital elements for mobility in cities like New York, Montreal, Toronto, Paris, London, Berlin, Bucharest, Stockholm and many others.

In Asia, Bombardier metro cars are in service with operators in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In Shanghai, Bombardier has participated in the supply of 16 metro trains (96 cars) for Line 1 and 37 trains (222 cars) for Line 2 of the city’s metro system. In June 2006, Bombardier celebrated the delivery of its 1,000th metro car to customers in Guangzhou Province.

Bombardier Transportation in India

Bombardier Transportation has been present in India for over 35 years. It has supplied Indian Railways with technologically advanced rail products, such as the WAP5 and WAG9 electric locomotives for passenger and freight applications and the Mumbai Traffic Management System. This system controls the 60-km rail stretch around Mumbai - one of the world’s heaviest rail commuter traffics - on which the Western Railways run 1,000 trains a day on time and with an excellent safety record.

Bombardier Transportation is steadily ramping up its presence in India. Vadodara, Gujarat is home to its propulsion systems manufacturing facility and software development center for signaling and traction applications in India and for other Bombardier Transportation projects around the globe. The site is ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certified. In Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Infotech Enterprises operates one of the most important engineering centers already sourcing key global projects for Bombardier Transportation.

Bombardier Transportation has its global headquarters in Berlin, Germany with a presence in over 60 countries. It has an installed base of over 100,000 vehicles worldwide. The Group offers the broadest product portfolio and is recognized as the leader in the global rail sector.


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Funding Sought to Improve Amtrak in Missouri

DF Staff From Internet Sources

KANSAS CITY, MO -- MARCH 24. Across the country, passengers are herding onto Amtrak trains in record numbers. But in Missouri, poor on-time performance caused by heavy freight traffic between Kansas City and St. Louis is scaring riders away in escalating numbers.

The Missouri Department of Transportation, along with Amtrak, today called for state approval of a $10.6 million funding increase that will boost on-time performance and ridership.  The proposal calls for new track sections to handle more trains, as well as electronic on-time messaging boards at the ten stations across the state.

“Simply put, the current level of passenger rail service is unacceptable,” said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn.  “The tracks between St. Louis and Kansas City are overloaded and can’t handle all the freight and passenger trains.  If we’re serious about other transportation options in this state, we’ve got to invest in this important travel mode between our two largest cities.”

MoDOT Railroad Administrator Rod Massman explained the problem:

“In Missouri in a given day on that corridor, there’s between 50 and 60 freight trains in addition to Amtrak trains all running on there at the same time.”

Trains get behind schedule waiting on sidings for a freight train to pass, he said. Missouri needs to improve the infrastructure to keep up with other states, most of which have seen significant increases in ridership in the last few years.

Amtrak carried 208,000 passengers in 2001 on the Kansas City/St. Louis route but only 144,000 last year as increasing train congestion and maintenance of the aging tracks created delays that sometimes reached two or three hours. ”We are seeing ridership increases on virtually every Amtrak route in all 46 states, with the exception of this corridor in Missouri,” said Ray Lang.

The $10.6 million sought by MoDOT is in addition to the $7.4 million that Missouri pays for Amtrak service.

Amtrak has become increasingly worried about its Missouri routes. A top railroad official told lawmakers last year that current rail service was “unsustainable as a practical business matter.”

From July through November, 38 percent of Amtrak’s trains between Kansas City and St. Louis ran at least 30 minutes late.

At times, the service deteriorated to the point that Amtrak substituted buses for trains to ensure that passengers reached their destination on time.

The tracks used by Amtrak between Kansas City and St. Louis are owned by Union Pacific Railroad and are busy with freight shipments.  “With the amount of traffic, it is particularly challenging giving preference to Amtrak,” said Tom Mulligan of Union Pacific.  “Here in the middle of the country we’re handling record volumes, and the tracks sometimes can’t handle all the traffic.”

Amtrak pays Union Pacific for the use of their track.

Missouri lawmakers expressed caution about pouring millions into Union Pacific’s tracks without commitments from the freight railroad that would benefit Amtrak.

“I would not be very favorable to investing $10 million in Union Pacific to increase sidings if we didn’t have some type of assurance that on-time performance would improve,” said state Sen. Bill Stouffer, a Napton Republican and chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

There are other potential financing sources. The latest federal appropriation for Amtrak includes $30 million that can go to states for capital improvements similar to those proposed in Missouri.

A long-term plan for funding Amtrak over the next six years contains $1.4 billion for intercity passenger rail upgrades that would be available to states willing to match the money.

The bill is pending in the House. The Senate passed it last year.


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Choosing Rail Over Air In The U.S.

From the Pariot News And Other Internet Sources

HARRISBURG, PA., MARCH 27 -- Americans are beginning to choose rail over air when it comes to intermediate distances of up to 250 to 300 miles, something Europeans have been doing for a long time.

In central Pennsylvania, Colgan Air, under the banner of US Airways, has been running flights from Harrisburg International Airport to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. On April 6 that service will terminate after six months of weak ridership.

Flight delays caused by the heavy congestion in the air space around the New York region’s three major airports have been driving would-be air passengers to the train instead. They found that Amtrak was cheaper, more comfortable, more predictable and delivered passengers into the heart of Manhattan without a lot of security hassle.

A spokesman for Harrisburg International Airport said Colgan load factors for flights between the two cities averaged 25% to 30%, below Colgan’s targeted 40% threshold.

Amtrak, in conjunction with Pennsylvania, recently increased service on the Keystone Corridor, linking Harrisburg and Philadelphia, after upgrading infrastructure between the two cities. It also extended the service onto its Northeast Corridor to provide more direct service between Harrisburg and New York.

This isn’t the only example of travelers choosing rail over air. For decades, if they weren’t taking the car, people flew between Boston, New York and Washington. Today, Amtrak’s high-speed Acela service on the Northeast Corridor is dominating that market. Ridership has been steadily increasing since 1999, with a 20 percent jump last year.


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HIGH SPEED LINES... High Speed Lines...

Compromise Bill Would See Public,
Private Financing For High-Speed Rail

From Internet Sources

SACRAMENTO, CA, MARCH 26 - - California Democratic lawmakers have agreed that a public-private partnership should fund a massive $42 billion high-speed rail system in the state, the Sacramento Bee reported.

That’s a compromise with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it sets the stage for the proposal to go on the ballot in November.

The proposed system would link all of California’s major cities and would offer a 2.5 hour trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Backers project the line will be completed by 2020.

To fund the initial phase, voters will have to decide in November whether to support the state in taking out a $9.95 billion bond. The state could then use that to leverage another $9 billion in federal matching funds. It would then solicit $10 billion in private funds.

Legislators have twice pulled the measure off the ballot owing to squabbling over routing and funding, and supporters hope this compromise bill will weather the storm.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)91.9991.61
Canadian National (CNI)48.9147.67
Canadian Pacific (CP)65.6463.15
CSX (CSX)56.5554.59
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)34.5634.58
Kansas City Southern (KSU)39.3737.75
Norfolk Southern (NSC)54.2553.07
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.1518.50
Union Pacific (UNP)125.02122.06


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ACROSS TH EPOND... Across The Pond...

Installments by David Beale
NCI foreign correspondent

Munich Maglev Takes Fatal Hit From Exploding Cost Estimates
Federal And State Governments Unwilling
To Pay For Spiraling Cost Projections

MUNICH - Maglev train technology in Germany appears to have struck out with the decision by the federal government not to pay for cost increases the Munich airport line maglev train project has recently suffered.  Wolfgang Tiefensee, minister of the federal transportation administration, made the announcement today when he read a statement about whether or not the federal government would pay for the projected cost increases of approximately EUR 1.5 billion on top of the original EUR 1.8 billion price tag of the 37 km (23 mile) proposed Transrapid route from Munich’s city center to the Franz Josef Strauss International Airport.  The governor of the State of Bavaria, of which Munich is the capital, had gone on record with statements made in late 2007, that the southern German state is not willing to pay for significant cost overruns of the Munich airport line project.

The proposed Munich Airport maglev line is the third and currently the last remaining maglev project considered for public use in Germany and perhaps all of Europe.  With today’s announced decision, the Munich Airport line has now met the same fate as the other two proposed maglev projects in Germany; a Berlin - Hamburg maglev line and a Rhine-Ruhr region maglev line in the country’s densely populated northwest section.  The Berlin - Hamburg route was cancelled in 2000 primarily due to lack of adequate private sector financing but stiff opposition from environmentalists played a large role in its demise.  The proposed maglev route in the Rhine-Ruhr region also failed to secure adequate private financing and tax payer funding from the German state of North Rhine Westphalia. Neither project has been resurrected, and the recently introduced 230 km/h fast ICE conventional train service between Hamburg and Berlin has proven to be a cost effective alternative to maglev trains.

Several trade unions as well as the Transrapid joint venture companies Deutsche Bahn, Siemens and ThyssenKrupp announced their deep disappointment in the decision.  A spokesman for one labor union said the decision marked a major missed opportunity for Germany to showcase its capabilities in high tech transportation and infrastructure development.

In contrast, a large tax payer’s association as well as several environmental groups praised the announcement as a prudent decision which will promote fiscal and environmental responsibility.  The project had also attracted opposition from several local “NIMBY” groups who live near the proposed path of the maglev line; they too celebrated the decision as a major victory.  A spokesman for the Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD), which is a consumer alliance of automobile, train and public transit users, said it also welcomed the decision to kill the Munich airport maglev project, and stated: “that the funding which had been allocated for this extravagant project can now be invested in more proven and sensible transportation programs such as increased financial support of local and regional trains and urban public transit.”


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

Photo: Matthew West / Herald  

Red Sox players took the train in Tokyo
Trains Offer A Different View

By Rob Bradford
BostonHerald.com

 

TOKYO, MARCH 25 - Major League Baseball offers bus rides for the media to get back and forth from the team hotel to the Tokyo Dome, but traffic is slow and the buses are, well, buses. So, one afternoon, we took a train.

The JR (Japan Railways) Notsuya station is about a 10-minute walk from the New Otani hotel. We knew that we had to go to the Suidobashi stop outside the park, but there are no signs in English to make that easy. You go up to the kiosk machine to buy your ticket, press the “English” button and await answers.

Nothing helpful arrives, but with a little thought and 150 yen (about $1.50), you make it work and get a ticket with a flexible rubber-metal substance on the back. After passing through the turnstiles, the next challenge was finding our platform. There were four to choose from, and the signage didn’t help us. We sought out human help by saying “Suidobashi” over and over and trying to look as perplexed as possible.

One helpful person saw us and pointed to Platform 3. Our train had just left, so we had to wait. Occasionally the loudspeaker would emit a pleasant tweeting sound of a bird, perhaps a cardinal. We don’t know why and did not have time to ask.

The ride was quick, just three stops, and there was little talking on the train. The train was clean and it barely made a sound or vibrated as it moved. (Is there a reason this cannot be translated to the MBTA?)

This was not a true subway but an elevated train, and it took us along a river. The highlight was a public fishing station. People rent a pole, pull up an orange crate and fish the stocked square of river water.

We never would have seen that from the bus.


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EVENTS... Events...

Metro Ready For Cherry Blossom Festival

WASHINGTON, DC – During the 2008 National Cherry Blossom festival, Metro will have additional trains and staff available on the weekends, and will open two hours early at 5 a.m., on Sunday, April 6, for the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race.

Metrorail adds more rail cars for service

Metro recently added 10 rail cars to its weekday morning and afternoon peak service. These 10 rail cars allowed Metro to run an additional six-car train on the Green Line. The cars will remain in service during and after the festival.

Metro will operate six-car trains during the weekday, off-peak daytime hours to accommodate the expected crowds and will be prepared to use eight-car trains, if necessary, on the weekends.

Cherry Blossom 10-mile race

The race begins at 7:45 a.m., and will start and finish at West Potomac Park. The closest Metrorail stop is the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange Lines.

Customer tips:

During the Cherry Blossom season, customers can do their part to help ensure that their trip is pleasant by remembering the following travel tips:

  • Visitors should avoid traveling during the peak commuter periods from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., and are strongly encouraged to avoid traveling Metrorail at the height of the afternoon peak period, from 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Visitors are encouraged to buy the $7.80 one-day Metrorail pass for multiple trips; the one-day pass can only be used after 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, and all day on weekends.
  • Visitors can also buy a SmarTrip card, which is used on Metrorail and Metrobus, and is the only way to pay for parking at most Metro-operated lots. Customers can pay for parking with Discover, Mastercard, Visa, American Express or Japanese Credit Bank credit cards at five Metrorail stations, Anacostia, Franconia-Springfield, Largo Town Center, Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, Shady Grove and New Carrollton. Visitors can purchase a SmarTrip card from Metro’s Web site for $25 (with $20 of value on the card) or for $10 at any Metrorail station with a parking facility (with $5 of fare value on the card). SmarTrip cards can hold up to $300 of fare value.
  • Regular commuters, especially those who work for the federal government and whose offices are in the vicinity of the Smithsonian Metrorail station, which is the most popular station for tourists arriving at the National Mall, are urged to stagger their arrival and departure times for work and use all downtown Metrorail stations.

The 96th Annual National Cherry Blossom Festival brochures are free and available at Metrorail stations. For more information on traveling by Metrobus and Metrorail, call (202) 637-7000, TDD (202) 638-3780, or visit Metro online.


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OPINION... Opinion...

Our Aging Infrastructure:
Voices for Change Mount Quickly

New Coalition Makes Infrastructure A Hot Issue
Excerpts From Article By Neal Peirce

“The infrastructure issue -- the long shadow thrown across America’s future by deteriorating roadways, bridges, railroads, water systems, schools -- finally seems to be getting hot.”

But state and local governments are the ones investing heavily in reconstruction and infrastructure maintenance rather than the federal government. In California, a $42 billion education-housing-transportation-levee repair/flood control bond package was approved in 2006. In Pennsylvania, bridge repair funding was increased by 300 percent.

“It’s time to force the federal government to take this subject seriously,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) California at a recent Washington news conference joined by governors ranging from Florida’s Charlie Crist (R) to Arizona’s Janet Napolitano (D).

“This is a big national problem that affects our economy and endangers our communities,” he added, asserting there are businesses that can’t expand for fear of inadequate water supply, and that flood disasters loom if storms or earthquakes destroy California levees. “We want every governor, mayor, local official to join us and send a message to Washington they can’t ignore,” he insisted.

Governor Schwarzenegger, Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell (D) and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are leading a new coalition “Building America’s Future” to address the problem. They cite the alarming decline in federal investment in infrastructure since 1960 when 11.2 percent of federal non-defense spending went for infrastructure, while today it is a mere 3.5 percent. As for the Gross Domestic Product, America spent 1.17 percent of GDP on infrastructure in 1987; most recently it’s .057 percent.

The new coalition plans to work with presidential candidates and lobby the two parties’ platform committees to ensure that the next president understands the enormity of the infrastructure crisis.

The competing Democratic presidential contenders are arguably there already, writes Peirce; both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have endorsed the idea of a National Infrastructure Bank proposed by Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.).

“Built on ideas first developed by New York investment banker Felix Rohatyn and former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), the bank would replace the ups-and-downs of year-by-year funding with long-term, self-financing bonds for major projects proposed by state or local governments.”

The bank idea would presumably remove infamous earmarks like “bridges to nowhere” and emphasize “fix it first” projects. It would “require broad economic benefits, respond to the new challenges posed by climate change, and include a focus on the growing importance of urban areas.”

“Smart highways,” dramatically improved intercity and commuter rail, rapid broadband expansion, and consciously protecting natural landscapes, estuaries and green infrastructure that supports clean water and reduces carbon emissions -- all are examples of how the infrastructure funding from this bank plan would be focused.

“Add in requirements for clear performance standards and one can just begin to see a radically better era.”

The Bush administration, which has become “completely enamored with the idea of letting private firms finance public infrastructure, quickly rejected the Bloomberg-Rendell-Schwarzenegger proposal for Washington aid to help the states battle recession and start filling critical construction gaps,” the article continues.

Advocates for infrastructure investment, such as the Regional Plan Association in New York, which laid out their America 2050 vision a few years ago, argue that this type of vision and planning is what made the United States become the great nation that it is. Their chief evidence (developed by historian Robert Fishman): the 1808 plan of Albert Gallatin, President Jefferson’s Treasury Secretary, for expansive western settlement built on canals and new roads, and President Theodore Roosevelt’s resource-based economic development national plan of 1908. The TR initiative led to the founding of the national park and forest systems, laid the groundwork for the Tennessee Valley Authority and sister projects of the 1930s, and eventually the interstate highway system.

The U.S. House March 12 unanimously passed a resolution, by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), celebrating Gallatin’s plan -- “not merely the commemoration of some obscure historical event,” said Blumenauer, but “the framework upon which America was built for 200 years.”

This may sound encouraging, but Americans must heed a sobering warning by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Highways Subcommittee:

“We aren’t even treading water. We aren’t even maintaining a deteriorating infrastructure. We are deteriorating toward third-world status while our competitors around the world are leaping ahead with major investments in transit and roads, bridges and highways, ports and waterways--while we fall behind.”

“Too bad,” concludes Peirce. “Neither the recession nor the deterioration will wait until 2009 before we can start fixing things.”


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...

View From Europe

By David Beale,
NCI European Correspondent

What’s Next for Germany’s Transrapid Maglev Train?

HANNOVER – The number one advantage, even the calling card, which magnetic levitation (maglev) trains such as Germany’s Transrapid have, is speed. 450 km/h (280 mph) is the current state of the technology, and some experts in the field believe that maglev trains could reach 550 - 600 km /h with only incremental improvements to the technology. This is in-fact faster than many modern turboprop airliners in regional airline service, such as the ATR 42; ATR 72, Fokker F50 and Bombardier’s Q-200 thru Q-400 series, can fly.

The maglev train project in Munich also demonstrated incredible speed before it even made it off the drawing board – a mind-boggling doubling of investment costs from EUR 1.8 billion (US$ 2.6 billion) to EUR 3.3 billion in under six months. Now that the German federal government said “NEIN” to paying for this dramatic budget increase, the speed at which the country is now re-adjusting to a future without maglev is equally impressive. Aside from a small group of politicians and businessmen, such as former Bavarian state governor Edmund Stoiber, who staked their reputation on the success of the Munich maglev train to the airport, there have been no widespread calls to appeal or revisit the decision. The discussion yesterday on local talk radio programs in the Hannover market was how Germany could now sell the entire program and technology to some other country as a package deal, in order to recoup its investment. In other words, what can be done to cut our losses and make a clean break with the entire subject? Germany is moving on from maglev, and at a fast pace.

With the cancellation of the Munich airport maglev line, Europe is left without any actively funded maglev projects for the foreseeable future. Several proposals in the distant future concept phase still exist such as a maglev train line between Amsterdam and Schipohl Airport and other far-off proposals for Russia, South Africa, Great Britain and Spain. The region that appears to be most friendly for future maglev projects is Asia, especially China and Japan. In fact, China is home to Germany’s only commercially operating Transrapid maglev train: the Airport Express line to Pudong Airport near Shanghai.

As the cancelled projects in Hamburg, Munich and Germany’s Rhine – Ruhr region demonstrate, the speed of maglev comes at a steep price, nearly EUR 92 million per km or slightly over US $205 million per mile, or more. This is about four times what a conventional electrified double track high-speed rail line costs to build new. In Munich the Transrapid maglev train offered travel times from downtown to the airport of about 8 minutes with trains departing every 15 – 20 minutes. The current S-Bahn commuter train to the Munich airport takes 40 minutes with eleven stops along the way. With an investment of perhaps EUR 100 million or less, the existing rail line could be expanded for airport express trains capable of 160 km/h (100mph) which would make this trip in about 25 minutes. So, we have a price tag for what this 17 minutes of saved time to or from the airport costs: EUR 182 million (US $263 million) per minute.

But what about long distance routes? Maybe Los Angeles – Las Vegas for example? In France, TGV trains have already demonstrated a capability to run everyday at 320 km/h (199 mph) speeds. The technology has been proven to go as fast as 574 km/h on an experimental basis and implementation of the latest wheel and track construction and inspection technologies make in-service speeds of 360 km/h or even 400 km/h achievable today. Indeed SNCF, the French high-speed train operator, intends to push up the speed of some of its TGV trains to 360 km/h in the next couple of years. So on a theoretical 400 km long high speed corridor from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, a state of the art TGV would make the trip in about 80 - 85 minutes. A maglev train would make the trip in about 50 minutes, but with an investment cost three to four time more per km or per mile than a conventional TGV or bullet train. When one considers that a TGV train route between LA and Las Vegas would cost something like US $10 – 12 billion to construct and equip, the additional $20 to $30 billion investment just to save perhaps a half-hour of travel time seems incredibly foolish.

Where does this price tag leave maglev train technology? Essentially, it renders high speed maglev in its current form as a boutique solution for proposed high speed rail lines, a sort of Concorde or SST of the railroad world with a price tag similar to the now obsolete Concorde supersonic airliner, when compared with conventional jetliners. There are, no doubt, practical applications for high speed maglev, and Asia, with its numerous and huge densely populated cities, appetite for lavish infrastructure projects, and vast distances over rugged terrain and large bodies of water may be a good place to build high speed maglev train corridors. With both speeds and costs of maglev train lines approaching that of large multi-billion dollar airports plus $150 -200 million per copy wide-body jet liners, there is a niche market for this technology, especially between the mega-cities in some parts of Asia. We will probably see more maglev train projects in the future, and they will most likely be in this thriving region of the world.

However, the negative experience in Germany with maglev train project costs along with the very positive track record of conventional TGV, bullet train and ICE high speed rail infrastructure in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Japan and Korea should be taken into careful consideration when politicians and business leaders in the USA and even here in Europe get stars in their eyes when glamorous maglev projects are proposed for any number of city pairs in these corners of the world. Germany is already well invested in the practical and cost effective ICE rail network and financial reality has deflated its boutique maglev projects proposed around the country, most recently and most dramatically in Munich. Decision makers in the USA should approach high speed maglev trains with a great deal of caution and constructive criticism.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...

[ Editor’s note: an important observation brought to our attention by an Amtrak employee, one of the people who have first hand experience with these tragic accidents along rail lines. ]

Dear Editor -

I was disappointed when I saw the photograph from the Toronto Star of human and canine trespassers at Peterborough, ON. (DF: March 10, 2008) We recently had an incident in Stonington, CT where a woman was walking her dog on the Amtrak main line. The result of this stupid act was trauma to the train crew, a dead dog, and a woman who was severely injured and may lose an arm.

As the human trespasser’s name was revealed, hopefully the railway contacted him and, at a minimum, educated him on the error he had made. Or better yet, pressed charges on trespass and animal cruelty and prevented a Stonington-type incident from happening in the future.

Bill Sample
Station agent - Amtrak
Berlin CT


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