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

Contribute To NCI

April 5, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 15

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

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

  News Items…
FRA Taking State Applications For ARRA Planning, Construction
APTA, Partner Organizations Urge For Transportation
   Funding In Climate Change Bill
FRA To Award $50 Million In Rail Safety Technology
   Program Grants
  News From Amtrak…
Taye Diggs Signs On As National Train Day Spokesperson
A Year Later, $1 Billion In ARRA Funds Fixing Trains,
   Bridges And Facilities
  Commuter Lines…
Public Transit Suffers Across U.S
Help For Transit Agencies
  Selected Rail Stocks…
Mr. Sarles Goes To Washington
Amtrak’s Cliff Black Retires
The Death of Local Transit in America
  Publication Notes …

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

The Following Three Articles Are From Passenger Transport Express,
News Report By The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)


Reprinted With Permission

FRA Taking State Applications
For ARRA Planning, Construction


WASHINGTON --- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) IS accepting applications for $115 million in planning and construction project funds for high-speed and higher-speed intercity passenger rail, the agency announced this week.

“These solicitations will make available $50 million in planning project funds appropriated under the FY 2010 DOT Appropriations Act, and approximately $65 million in residual construction project funds appropriated under the FY 2009 DOT Appropriations Act,” the FRA said.

The purpose of the additional $115 million (on top of the $8 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) is to accelerate the start of construction and out people to work faster.

“We are excited to move forward the President’s vision on high-speed rail and are working quickly to get funding in the hands of states,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

“We look forward to working with states to lay the groundwork for their high-speed rail programs and also help other states get specific projects off the ground so that jobs can be created in the near-term,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “These funds supplement the President’s initial down payment on high-speed rail and represent a commitment to developing a world-class transportation network.”

Applications and proposals for these funds will be due back to FRA by May 19, with selection announcements made during summer 2010.

The Notice of Funds Availability (NOFAs) is available at:

FY 2009 FD/Construction

FY 2010 Planning

FY 2010 Multi-State Planning Proposals

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APTA, Partner Organizations Urge For Transportation
Funding In Climate Change Bill

WASHINGTON - APTA joined with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and other partner organizations in a letter urging Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to include critical transportation investments in the forthcoming climate change legislation being drafted by the senators.

The letter emphasizes the importance of retaining the principle of investing revenues collected through motor fuel fees into the transportation system. Such investment is critical to the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund and to the passage of a long-term authorization bill. “Enacting a new transportation bill quickly will be very difficult, if not impossible, should Congress approve legislation that diverts revenue from carbon-based fees from motor fuels away from the transportation investment,” the letter states.

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FRA To Award $50 Million In Rail Safety
Technology Program Grants

WASHINGTON - The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will soon make $50 million in public safety grants available to passenger and freight rail carriers, railroad suppliers, and state and local governments through its new Railroad Safety Technology Program.

Entities must have received FRA approval of their Technology Implementation Plans and Positive Train Control Implementation Plans or show that they are developing those plans.

Applications may be submitted beginning April 8 and are due by July 1. FRA will select awardees on or around September 3. For details, consult the Notice of Funding Availability in the Federal Register.

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

Taye Diggs

Actor Taye Diggs
Taye Diggs Signs On As National
Train Day Spokesperson

From Amtrak This Week, Employee Newsletter

Actor and avid train fan Taye Diggs, star of Private Practice, will join Amtrak to kick-off the third annual National Train Day.

“Riding the train was my first real exposure to serious travel and the magical notions attached to train travel will stay with me forever,” said Diggs. “My wife [Broadway Actress Idina Menzel] and I have lived all of our adult lives in New York City so we have come to know riding the train as a relaxing and convenient travel option.”

Diggs will start the festivities with a ceremony at New York’s Penn Station on Friday, May 7, where he will flip the switch that launches an edible three-dimensional “trainscape” made of cake and moving model trains. The display will be inspired by this year’s new National Train Day artwork and will include a model train installation by Bachmann Trains, a leading model train company.

Afterward, Diggs will board Amtrak and travel to Washington, D.C. to host the celebration at Washington Union Station and enjoy the festivities with other train fans on May 8.

Joining Amtrak to celebrate the importance of trains, the SUBWAY® restaurant chain is the premier sponsor of the third annual National Train Day. For more information, employees should visit

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A Year Later, $1 Billion In ARRA Funds
Fixing Trains, Bridges And Facilities

From Amtrak Ink

One year after receiving $1.3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, Amtrak has staked more than $1 billion in projects currently underway to return stored or wrecked cars and locomotives to service, replace bridges, and improve and repair facilities.

“When this program is complete, we will have added enough equipment for roughly 10 additional trains, with several engines to spare — 10 trains that will allow us to grow revenue and add ridership,” said Amtrak Chairman Thomas C. Carper at a recent congressional hearing.

Testifying before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Carper added that, by the February 2011 deadline, work on eight bridges, 38 Amtrak facilities, 270 stations, 81 stored or wreck-damaged cars and 15 diesel locomotives will be complete. ARRA investments have already resulted in a number of cars returning to service, with the first rehabilitated car rolling off the line at the Bear Maintenance Facility last July, slightly less than five months to the day after ARRA was signed into law. “ARRA has funded a major capacity addition to our fleet, and it’s going to be available at just the right time,” he added. “With the release of the high-speed and intercity passenger rail grants … several states are going to be looking to add service, and we will be ready.”

Workers at Beech Grove

Photo: Amtrak

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood poses with workers, including those recently hired, at the Beech Grove Amtrak repair facility. Amtrak used $32 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create 108 jobs at Beech Grove.

In executing its ARRA projects, Amtrak made job creation a top priority, adding more than 600 full-time positions and 200 jobs among the company’s suppliers.

Many of the major station improvement projects, such as those in Wilmington, Del., and Sanford, Fla., are “discrete efforts without the burden of complex construction work,” making them ideal projects for small businesses. In fact, nearly half of the contracts awarded with ARRA funds have gone to small businesses.

At press time, Amtrak had awarded 371 ARRA contracts totaling $709.4 million, with slightly more than half of the ARRA funding distributed across the system; the remaining funds are distributed in the Northeast Corridor. The balance of the $1 billion is in various stages of the procurement process. Contract awards are based on three objectives: getting the best possible value for the money; getting as much done as possible within the allotted time; and making the spending process as transparent as possible.

Carper’s testimony also outlined station projects taking place this year. Many of these projects will be associated with the Mobility First station accessibility program that includes $38 million in ARRA funding. In all, Amtrak will invest $144 million from all funding sources in FY ‘10 to increase accessibility in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“For too long, the lack of funding greatly hindered our ability to make station improvements,” said Carper. “In about five years, however, we expect all stations to be ADA compliant and in a state of good repair.”

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Image: APTA

Public Transit Suffers Across U.S.


“Impacts Of The Recession
On Public Transportation”

Survey By APTA Highlights Crisis

Sacramento Business Journal and Alana Schor’s StreetsBlog

APRIL 1 -- Public transit agencies across the country are suffering from severe budget shortfalls and are taking drastic measures to compensate for the downturn by increasing fares and cutting services just to survive. For example, in Sacramento, California, the Regional Transit Board has just approved the elimination of 28 weekday bus routes, 13 Saturday routes and four Sunday routes — affecting 41 of 91 RT routes — and stopping all new bus and light-rail service after 9 p.m.

A recent survey by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) highlights the bleak news. The Sacramento Business Journal summarized some of the findings:

The report, “Impacts of the Recession on Public Transportation Agencies,” surveyed 151 association members representing more than 80 percent of the nation’s transit riders.

Since Jan 1, 2009:

  • 84 percent of public transit systems responding have raised fares, cut service or are considering such actions;
  • 59 percent have already cut service or raised fares;
  • 68 percent have eliminated positions or are considering doing so;
  • 47 percent have laid off employees or are considering doing so;
  • 69 percent project budget shortfalls in their next fiscal year; and
  • 54 percent have transferred funds from capital use to operations, aggravating efforts to keep systems in a state of good repair.

Photo: TreeHugger

A rail car from New York City’s transit authority, one of APTA’s biggest members.

Nearly one-half (49 percent) of every transit system surveyed by APTA has redirected capital funds to cover operating budget shortfalls. Another 18 percent of responding agencies said such a capital funding transfer was under consideration for the future. Thus, replenishing old equipment and keeping systems in a state of good repair will be far more difficult.

“Public transportation is experiencing a funding crisis and it is negatively impacting the millions of riders who depend on public transportation every day,” APTA president William Millar said, in a news release. “The results of this survey are grim as many public transportation systems are facing large budget shortfalls due to declining state and local revenues.

“As bad as things are today, more drastic service cuts, fare increases, layoffs, and deferred capital projects will occur if this problem is not addressed,” he said.

Millar called on Congress to provide federal funds for operating expenses.

Close to 60 percent of all public transportation trips are taken by people commuting to and from work. “Now is not the time to cut service that helps people commute to work or enables the unemployed to look for work,” Millar said.

For the full report, see Impacts of the Recession on Public Transportation Agencies - (PDF file.)

Editor’s note: There’s a move in Congress to pass legislation allowing transit agencies to use federal funds for operating costs. While APTA approves this as a temporary measure during these lean times, their position is that federal funding from the Highway Trust Fund should go for capital investment. For more on this ongoing debate, see Alana Schor’s Streetsblog from March 23.

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Help For Transit Agencies

From Policylink, A National Research And Action Institute
Advancing Economic And Social Equity By Lifting Up What Works

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has introduced a bill that would give transit agencies the flexibility to use federal funds where they’re most needed, whether it’s for operating assistance or capital investments.

A similar bill was introduced in the House last summer by Missouri Representative Russ Carnahan.

With 90 percent of transit agencies raising fares or cutting services in the past year, this bill could help not only the commuters but also the unemployed.

This Senate bill, co-sponsored by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, could save transit jobs, prevent fare increases, and preserve mass transit service in communities across the country. Many transit dependent people would otherwise lose their job if they don’t have transportation.

Lawmakers who support these bills feel that we must ensure that flexibility to use federal funds for operations is included in all future transportation bills, including the upcoming federal transportation authorization.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Week (*)
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe (BNI)



Canadian National (CNI)61.2260.13
Canadian Pacific (CP) 57.2154.23
CSX (CSX)52.2050.99
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)34.2433.85
Kansas City Southern (KSU)36.5436.20
Norfolk Southern (NSC)56.9954.83
Providence & Worcester(PWX)11.6512.29
Union Pacific (UNP)73.6572.66
** - Burlington Northern Sante Fe has been purchased by the Berkshire Hathaway Corporation.
       BNI closed in final sale at 100.21 and will no longer be reported here.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Mr. Sarles Goes To Washington

By David Peter Alan

Richard Sarles has just begun his new job as “interim” General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro). Sarles came out of a retirement that began only two months ago when he left the post of Executive Director of New Jersey Transit. Sarles had ties to the administration of former Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a Democrat. The new chief at NJT is James Weinstein, a Republican who served as Transportation Commissioner in a former Republican administration in Trenton.

Sarles comes to the post with a background as a civil engineer with an MBA. He worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Amtrak and NJT during his long career in the transportation field, mostly with experience on the capital side of transit.

Local advocates consider him a “mixed bag;” on the positive side, he has a strong reputation for safety. Metro had its worst accident in its history last year, when two trains collided, killing nine people. He is also familiar with rail equipment; an asset that will serve him well as he attempts to keep Metro’s aging fleet going.

On the negative side, Sarles has been criticized for cutting service without notice to the public and for lack of transparency at NJT on his watch. George Haikalis, President of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility and Chair of the Regional Rail Working Group, said: “I don’t see him as a visionary. As a placeholder, you could probably do worse.”

New Jersey and New York rail advocates made their comments to the Washington Examiner, a newspaper handed out to Metro commuters, in the March 8th edition. Many of their comments centered on service cuts made in secret and on the 1600-page Major Investment Study (MIS) report on the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project that was written in 2003, but never released to the public. The advocates continue to be concerned that the full-length report contains information that would discredit NJT’s claim that they need to build a deep-cavern terminal far below New York’s 34th Street, rather than connect new tracks into the existing Penn Station. The 32-page summary of the report, which was released, showed evidence that connecting into Penn Station and then extending the line to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side (then called “Alternative G”) would have been the best option for increasing ridership and getting commuters off the highways.

Sarles told the Examiner that the report does not exist, and that local law did not require a hearing before the service cuts implemented in 2008 on the Morris & Essex Rail Line. The statute (N.J.S.A. §27:25(8) (d)) requires a hearing in advance of an “elimination or substantial curtailment” of a service. The Lackawanna Coalition and other advocates have argued that eliminating 45% of off-peak rail service was a sufficiently “substantial curtailment” to require a hearing. Concerning the 1600-page report, NJT says that the report is a “draft” and, therefore, not available for release. NJT does not claim that the report does not exist.

Still, Washingtonians welcome their new transit chief at a time when their transit is in trouble. Employee morale is low, equipment is aging, ridership is down and funding is problematic. Many transit systems around the nation face similar problems, but Metro has the added political difficulties of pleasing three jurisdictions (the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) and of just being in the Nation’s Capitol.

Like many other transit riders around the nation, Washingtonians and others from the metropolitan area are in for a rough ride. Just how much Richard Sarles can smooth it out is anybody’s guess.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition. He made statements for the Examiner article, along with Haikalis and Albert L. Papp, Jr., a Director of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers. It can be found at

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Amtrak’s Cliff Black Retires

From The Internet

L. Clifford Black, who has been at Amtrak for thirty years, most of that time as corporate spokesman and Amtrak’s “public face” to the media, retired as of March 31, 2010.

Currently Amtrak’s Chief of Corporate Communications, Black has been known as a man who would tell the story straight whenever asked. For years he was “on call” whenever a situation developed that required contact with media, whether national, regional or local. His televised face was familiar whether he was handling a story about legislation affecting Amtrak, or about an unfortunate accident out on the railroad. He could be on his way to a distant derailment site in an incredibly short time if required; one example I remember well is his going onsite to handle the media after the Southwest Chief derailed where track and a culvert had been washed out by heavy rain and runoff. In a more recent notable appearance he was being interviewed by television media about a ban on photography in the retail spaces of Washington Union Station when a misguided representative of Union Station’s retail management company butted in and said the interview would not be allowed.

Cliff endured a period in the late 1990s through the end of the century when he was, in effect, in exile while upper Amtrak management “installed” someone else in his job. Reassigned to a position requiring he commute over two hundred miles, he nevertheless stuck it out until he was returned to his former responsibilities by a new Amtrak administration led by David Gunn. Since then he has assumed ever more of the leadership and management roles regarding Amtrak’s official public persona.

We’ll all miss Cliff.

And from NCI President and CEO Jim RePass --

Cliff Black has for more than 30 years been the trusted voice of Amtrak. No matter what the circumstances, no matter how trying the conditions, Cliff Black has been the one person, over the length of Amtrak’s often difficult life, that the news media has learned to call when they needed a straight answer, information, or a comment. They say that no one is irreplaceable. I say to them, “You haven’t met Cliff Black.” He is going to be sorely missed, and not just by me, but by literally thousands of people. If anyone ever writes a truly comprehensive history of Amtrak, and takes a look at its ability simply to survive, they will find that Cliff Black is at the very core of that remarkable achievement. Hats off to you, Cliff. Hats off to you!

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

View from Europe . . .


The Death of Local Transit in America

By David Beale, NCI Foreign Editor

A Georgia County’s decision to end commuter bus service tells a familiar tale

Hannover – During a private visit to the USA during the past few weeks my family and I were once again exposed to the near-zero alternatives to automobile transportation on a local or regional basis which characterize most of the American heartland outside of big metropolitan areas in the Northeast, Chicago and perhaps the metropolitan regions of Los Angeles and San Francisco. While I was visiting in the USA - in the metro Atlanta region to be exact, the news of the total shut-down of a relatively small but nevertheless important regional transit system hit the news wires – this time relatively close to home for me – Clayton County, Georgia – about a one hour drive away from where the rest of my family lives in north Georgia.

Clayton County – a huge number of American travelers have been to Clayton County, GA at one point or another, although most of them would probably never know it. The busiest hub airport in the USA, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, legally the property of the City of Atlanta in neighboring Fulton County, sits mostly in Clayton County. Hartsfield-Jackson is not only the busiest airport in the USA, it is also a major employer in the region with many thousands of people working at the airport in a vast variety of jobs ranging from air traffic controllers, pilots and aircraft mechanics to bus drivers, ticket agents, hotel staff, TSA screeners, rental car agents, freight handlers and restaurant staff. Many of these employees that are so critical to the daily operation of the airport also live in Clayton County.

The core of the greater Atlanta region is centered partially in Clayton County. Although the county is not as affluent as some of its more northerly Atlanta neighbors such as Henry, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, it is a key part of the region. It is primarily a working-class county with a high percentage of its residents part of racial minorities. The county had shared in the near-explosive population growth of the metro Atlanta region of the past 30 years with an approximate 50% increase in population since 1980. The local transit system, C-Tran, provided (note the past tense) public bus services around the county and to Atlanta, including transfers to Atlanta’s rail transit lines operated by another local transit authority, MARTA, for the past decade – until C-Tran ceased all operations on the 31st of March 2010.

The shutdown of C-Tran came as no surprise really. Metro Atlanta has been hit hard by the nationwide recession of 2008, which resulted from a meltdown of real estate values, over-leveraged and mismanaged banks and financial firms, and problems with sub-prime mortgages, much of which was located in places such as California, Nevada, Florida and . . . metropolitan Atlanta. As is standard across the USA, C-Tran in Clayton County depended not only on fares it collected from its customers, but also on local funding from the county and state governments, which in turn rely heavily upon general sales taxes and property taxes.

With consumer spending in the region plummeting, home foreclosures skyrocketing, and real estate values sliding, the county’s tax revenues likewise took a nose dive in the past two years. The county’s commissioners were forced to look for spending cuts and tax increases. As is all-to-typical for the USA, local government officials looked at the transit system as a “luxury” that they no longer could afford and thus voted 4-1 to shut down the ten year-old transit system. Many folks in Atlanta found it ironic that in the space of only a few decades that riding a public bus would be considered by government officials as a “luxury” while the ownership of an automobile, which is still a luxury for millions in the USA and billions in the world, would become an expensive mandatory means of getting to work, to the store and to school in heart of the Sun Belt.

Statements from local government officials leave little to the imagination on where they see public transit: the commissioners who voted 4-1 for the shutdown said the county is faced with difficult financial choices in a brutal economic climate. Plus, they asserted in a statement issued after the vote, paving roads is a primary duty of the county. Public transit isn’t. “It is in the hands of the legislature,” said Commissioner Wole Ralph, who voted for the closure.

Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Deputy Director Jim Ritchey painted a different picture by stating, “In Georgia, local roads are a local responsibility, and local transit is a local responsibility.” Thus C-Tran was left with neither local nor state support. Publicly funded roads for automobiles are obviously more important.

Few visitors to the region would even see C-Tran buses in operation in Clayton County. Most will simply get on their next flight out of ATL Airport. Many will rent a car at the airport’s state-of-the-art car rental mega-center, or otherwise ride out of the county via one of the many super highways and wide multi-lane roads that characterize much of the Atlanta region. C-Tran’s main customer base was the working class Americans who staff the many dozens of airport hotels, handle baggage in the bowls of ATL airport, cater and refuel thousands of airline flights, work hundreds of airline check-in counters, serve food and drink in and around the airport area at many dozens of restaurants and snack outlets, and patrol the security screening lines and airport access points in order to protect the American Homeland from would-be terrorists.

C-Tran bus makes a final stop at the MARTA

Photo: John Amis

The last bus has left the station – A C-Tran bus makes a final stop at the MARTA rail station in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport complex on the 30th of March.

Aside from the presence of Atlanta’s MARTA’s heavy-rail subway / urban transit system, the only one of its kind in the Deep South except for perhaps Miami, Atlanta is a showcase of suburban sprawl and multi-lane freeways gone wildly wrong. Over the past three decades the State of Georgia has spent lavishly (with both its own tax money and with tax money from the US federal government) on a massive superhighway network all across the Atlanta region that has few rivals in the USA, with the possible exception of Los Angeles, New York and Dallas-Ft. Worth TX. Backing up this impressive network of six, eight and ten-lane freeways is a huge network of state and local roads which have likewise been expanded in the past twenty years to four and six lanes with an absolutely astonishing number of both indoor and strip malls built in every corner of the region. Some of the larger shopping centers in the suburban areas of Atlanta have spawned “Edge Cities,” a kind of new automobile-based city centered on shopping malls and office parks built many miles away from the original center of Atlanta – including the “Edge City” which has developed in Clayton County around the office parks, hotels, truck terminals, and industrial parks which sprang up around Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The result of all this highway and strip mall building: a metropolitan region that consistently rates among the worst five in the USA for time spent in traffic jams and road congestion. Air quality in the region has trended consistently worse over the past two decades. Commute times continue to increase faster than the region’s growing population. And land used for supporting the Automobile has continued to grow – ever larger portions of the region are paved over to make more parking lots and four or six lane roads for automobile users – at the expense of pedestrians, school-age children, bicycle riders, farmland, forest and southern countryside. All of this reliance and devotion to the Automobile despite the fact that many in the region simply can not afford to buy and insure an automobile. The absolute dominance of the Automobile in the metro Atlanta region has destroyed freedom and mobility for nearly everyone, including now the former customers of C-Tran in the suburban Atlanta communities of Clayton County.

As Destination: Freedom has reported from elsewhere in the USA, such as Chicago, New Jersey, Detroit, California, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Florida, New York and Boston, local transit in the USA is under attack like never before – due to a financial crisis and nationwide recession triggered by years of foolishness in hundreds of banks and Wall Street investment firms, and a mentality at several levels of government that transit is an “optional luxury”. Fare increases and service reductions, or service elimination as in Clayton County, are in-fact a massive tax increase on millions of Americans – citizens which for a number of reasons have no access or are unable to afford the luxury of an automobile. As the mainstream news media gets stars in its eyes over the recent miniscule down payment which the Federal Government has recently made to start high-speed rail in several parts of the USA, local transit in the nation is in critical condition (as in New Jersey), or dying, as is the case in Clayton County, Georgia.

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2010 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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