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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April 12, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 16

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

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

  News Items…
China Offers High-Speed Rail To California
New Climate Bill Proposes Motor Fuel Fees Transit And
   Transportation Funding Uncertain
  Economic Lines…
Feds About To Require Local Funding
DOT Says Freight ‘Hierarchy’ Favors Water, Rail
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Service Lines…
Patrick-Murray Administration Announces New
   MBTA Customer Service Initiative
  Light Rail Lines…
Austin Finally Gets Light Rail
  Events…
“RUN” to Toledo!
  Publication Notes …


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

China Offers High-Speed Rail To California

By Keith Bradsher At The New York Times

BEIJING — China wants in now that the U.S. is serious about building high speed trains and California has a solid plan. But this won’t be anything like the role of thousands of Chinese laborers brought in by American railroads to build our transcontinental railroad 150 years ago. This time, China will supply the technology, equipment and engineers.

“The Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the State of California and General Electric to help build such lines,” reports the New York Times in an article by Keith Bradsher. “The agreements, both of which are preliminary, show China’s desire to become a big exporter and licensor of bullet trains traveling 215 miles an hour, an environmentally friendly technology in which China has raced past the United States in the last few years.”

Wu Hong/European Pressphoto Agency  

“We are the most advanced in many fields, and we are willing to share with the United States,” Zheng Jian, the chief planner and director of high-speed rail at China’s railway ministry, said.

China doesn’t just want to help build the line; they also want to help finance its construction.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has followed closely the discussions with China, plans to go to Beijing later this year for talks with rail ministry officials.

Even if an agreement is made, many problems lie ahead: “China’s rail ministry would face independent labor unions and democratically elected politicians, neither of which it has to deal with at home. The United States also has labor and immigration laws stricter than those in China,” writes Bradsher.

But Mr. Zheng, of China’s rail ministry, said repeatedly after a long interview in Beijing, that any Chinese bid would comply with all American laws and regulations.

Other possible obstacles have to be dealt with: “GE is a world leader in diesel locomotives but has little experience with the electric locomotives needed for high speeds,” reports the NY Times story. And China may have legal problems with patent regulations. Japanese executives in particular have complained that Chinese technology resembles theirs, raising the possibility that China may have violated patent laws.

China’s rail ministry has an international reputation for speed and low costs and has brought costs down through enormous economies of scale, but pressures to “buy American” could make it hard for China to export the necessary equipment to the United States.

China has already begun building high-speed rail routes in Turkey, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. It is looking for opportunities in seven other countries, notably a route sought by the Brazilian government between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Zheng said.

International rail experts say that China has mastered the art of building high-speed rail lines quickly and inexpensively.

For the complete story, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/business/global/08rail.html


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New Climate Bill Proposes Motor Fuel Fees
Transit And Transportation Funding Uncertain

APTA Members Urged To Contact Senators Immediately!

Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) have drafted a new climate and energy bill that they hope to bring to the Senate floor this year.  The three Senators have announced plans to limit carbon emissions from the transportation sector by including a fee on motor fuels based on the price of carbon dioxide under a cap-and-trade system.  This proposed fee is being referred to as a “linked fee,” which would raise the price of motor fuels.  The linked fee would act similar to a gas tax, but it is unclear if the bill will provide any significant transportation investment. 

Last week, APTA helped organize a coalition letter with 26 national transportation groups to call on Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman to dedicate revenues from any new fees on motor fuels to investment in transit and transportation under a multi-year authorization bill.  APTA and the other groups, including the American Association of the State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), are very concerned that the enactment of a “linked fee” without resulting transportation investment would present a very serious obstacle to completing a surface transportation bill.  To view the coalition letter, visit: http://www.apta.com/gap/letters/2010/Pages/100401_kerrygrahamandlieberman.aspx?Site=MyAPTA

A “linked fee” on motor fuels would generate tens of billions of revenue annually, and those revenues could be used to fund a new authorization bill.  At present, the current Kerry-Graham-Lieberman proposal is believed to use those revenues for numerous other purposes such as consumer relief for increases in electricity prices, deficit reduction, and technology investment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The three Senators have indicated they will release legislative details as soon as Earth Day on April 22.  Climate and energy legislation remains a priority of the Obama Administration, and the new bill is intended to be a bi-partisan alternative to previous climate bills.  If it advances to the floor, it would supersede the bill approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last fall (S. 1733, “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act”), which would have provided dedicated investment for public transportation.

An Action Alert

APTA members need to contact their Senators regarding the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill.  When you talk to your Senators and their staff, please ask the following:

• Urge the Senator or their staff to contact Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and other Senate leaders to express support for transit and transportation investment in a climate bill.

• Ask your Senator to support the user fee concept: new fees on motor fuels should be returned to the transportation sector and invested under a multi-year authorization bill.

• Remind your Senator of the environmental benefits of transit service in your community from current federal funding and point out that a new authorization bill is needed to maintain and expand service. 

Sample Letter and Electronic Messages:

To view a sample letter to your senators, see: http://www.mmsend54.com/ls.cfm?r=221772665&sid=9191311&m=979861&u=APTA&s=http://images.magnetmail.net/images/clients/APTA/attach/Kerry_Graham_Lieberman_ClimateBill_SampleLetter.doc (Note this is in MS Word.)

To use the APTA Action Center to send an electronic message to your Senators, go to: http://www.mmsend54.com/ls.cfm?r=221772665&sid=9191312&m=979861&u=APTA&s=http://capwiz.com/napta/issues/alert/?alertid=14918111

For additional information on climate legislation contact Homer Carlisle of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4812 or hcarlisle@apta.com.


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ECONOMIC LINES... Economic Lines...  

Feds About To Require Local Funding

From DC Streets Blog By Elana Schor

WASHINGTON, DC, APRIL 7 -- A unique feature of TIGER Grants and High Speed Rail funding last year was that a local match was not required. For cash strapped cities and states, some of which have been on the tipping point of bankruptcy, this feature made that money extremely attractive.

This situation is about to change, reports Elana Schor in last week’s DC Streets Blog:

… as the stimulus era runs its course and the next rounds of high-speed rail and TIGER-style competitive grants are given out by the U.S. DOT, federal funding awards will not be forthcoming unless there is a local match.

This will be a major stumbling block to Obama’s objectives for building America a robust rail system, both high speed and regular.

In Wisconsin, an advertising war is already going on between conservative critics and supporters of the state’s $822 million bullet-train grant.

“The state already has problems maintaining its roads and should not shell out money from the transportation budget to get federal rail grants,” said Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Gottlieb, the Wisconsin Assembly’s appointee to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.

“Irrespective of the amount of federal money that is on the table right now,” Gottlieb said, “moving forward even faster with intercity rail is something I just don’t think we can afford right now.”

As more and more states face budget crises in the wake of the financial crisis, available funding for transportation is drying up. In Maryland, officials have announced their plans to delay for two years a $28 million capital outlay to the DC area’s Metro transit system.


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DOT Says Freight ‘Hierarchy’ Favors Water, Rail

The Journal of Commerce and DF Staff

Freight trucks are a major problem in our transportation system, causing rapid deterioration of the highway infrastructure to the point where state departments of transportation cannot keep the roads in a state of good repair. And they are a major source of congestion and deadly accidents. To address these problems, the U.S. Dept of Transportation wants freight to be moved as much as possible on rail and water and keep shipments off trucks until the “last mile.”

Deputy Secretary John Porcari said in his testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in a March 24 hearing that DOT’s preference is to “keep goods on waterways and rail as much as possible, getting them away from trucks except for the final delivery.”

Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., asked Porcari whether the concept of DOT’s discretionary “TIGER” grant program could work in the next multi-year surface transportation bill. That $1.5 billion pool of stimulus funds allowed DOT to send grants to multi-modal projects that cross state lines, instead of disbursing money under state-allocation formulas or for specific transport modes.

Porcari said that the decision to keep the movement of goods on water and rail as long as possible then on trucks for the last miles is a “big step forward,” and that TIGER grants will be a big help in achieving this objective.

“I think the TIGER grants point the way to the future in intermodal transportation. The largest category of awards was freight rail capacity projects, which have a number of environmental benefits, including reduced fuel consumption and relief of truck congestion on the highways,” he said.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood made similar comments in an interview with The Journal of Commerce. We have “paid a lot of attention to the freight rail companies” both to expand passenger rail and draw freight off the highways. And the DOT is working with ports again to take trucks off the road and “utilize the marine highways.”

TIGER Grants [Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery]

... are discretionary grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The purpose of this act is to stimulate economic recovery by creating and preserving jobs, some of which would be funded by TIGER grants for investment in transportation infrastructure.

Title XII of the Recovery Act appropriates $1.5 billion, available through September 30, 2011, for Supplementary Discretionary Grants for a National Surface Transportation System.  These grants are to be awarded on a competitive basis for capital investments in surface transportation projects that will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area or a region.

The Recovery Act specifies that capital investments in surface transportation projects which are eligible for funding “shall include, but not be limited to:”

  • highway or bridge projects eligible under title 23, United States Code, including:

    • interstate rehabilitation,
    • improvements to the rural collector road system,
    • reconstruction of overpasses and interchanges,
    • bridge replacements,
    • seismic retrofit projects for bridges, and
    • road realignments;
  • public transportation projects eligible under chapter 53 of title 49, United States Code, including investments in projects participating in the New Starts or Small Starts programs that will expedite the completion of those projects and their entry into revenue service;
  • passenger and freight rail transportation projects; and
  • port infrastructure investments, including projects that connect ports to other modes of transportation and improve the efficiency of freight movement.

See also “Ray LaHood’s Confidence in Collaboration” at http://www.joc.com/government-regulation/ray-lahood%E2%80%99s-confidence-collaboration and the attached interview transcript.

Contact John D. Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

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

**

**

Canadian National (CNI)60.9361.22
Canadian Pacific (CP) 57.5157.21
CSX (CSX)52.9652.20
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)34.6134.24
Kansas City Southern (KSU)38.3736.54
Norfolk Southern (NSC)57.9156.99
Providence & Worcester(PWX)11.8911.65
Union Pacific (UNP)75.7573.65<
** - 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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SERVICE LINES... Service Lines...  

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces
New MBTA Customer Service Initiative

MBTA GM Richard Davey Kicks-Off “Join The GM”
First Stop - North Quincy Station On The Red Line

By DF Staff And MBTA Press Release

BOSTON – As part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ transportation reform agenda to strengthen customer service, the newly appointed MBTA General Manager Richard Davey has announced he will kick off a “Join the GM” approach that will include regular visits to MBTA station to listen and interact with daily commuters in person.

Starting just last Thursday (April 8), and continuing for the next eight weeks, MBTA General Manager Richard Davey along with the T’s top managers, will convene at a selected station or bus depot to listen to customers concerns, and promote public transportation.

Sharing Governor Deval Patrick’s (D-MA) passion for focusing on the traveler, MBTA General Manager Davey said, “With the support of the Patrick/Murray Administration, we aim to put the customer first by listening to them directly about their concerns and taking action to improve their experience on the system. Our goal is to promote transparency and accountability throughout every aspect of our day to day operations.”

Upon completion of eight weekly sessions, “Join the GM” will continue on a monthly basis system-wide. Below are the first three scheduled sessions.

North Quincy Station (Red Line), Thursday, April 8, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Dudley Square Station (Silver Line), Thursday, April 15, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Kenmore Station (Green Line), Thursday, April 22, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Additional stations in the MBTA system that will host these events in the near future include Kenmore, Maverick, Forest Hills, Haymarket, Ruggles, and North Station.

For additional information see: www.mbta.com.


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LIGHT RAIL LINES... Light Rail Lines...  

Austin Finally Gets Light Rail!

By David Peter Alan

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) has finally begun MetroRail service on a 32-mile line between downtown Austin and Leander. Service began on March 22d, nearly one year after the original opening date, March 30, 2009. The service is limited and runs only at peak commuting hours. There are five trips offered in the prevailing direction, and a sixth that makes a short turn. There is only one reverse-direction trip to Leander and three short turns. There is no service on week-ends or during mid-day on weekdays. The last train leaves downtown Austin at 6:40 pm.

For more than the past year of delay, Austinites wondered when they would ever get rail service (see “Austin Riders and Their New Light Rail Service; They Still Don’t Know When They’ll Get It!,” D:F October 26, 2009, by this writer). Now that they have it, they are beginning to use it, although ridership was far higher during the first week of operation (when service was free) than it is now.

During most of the period of delay, the operating contractor was Veolia Transportation Services. On December 18th, Metro changed contractors, hiring Herzog Transit Services, Inc. to operate the line. Despite complaints from Veolia, Herzog now operates the light rail service and dispatches 75 miles of railroad, from downtown Austin to Llano in the north. That includes a freight operation and a tourist railroad that operates on week-ends on the northern portion of the line.

Herzog manages other rail operations in the region, including Trinity Rail Express between Dallas and Fort Worth, and New Mexico Rail Runner. Herzog managers also have prior career experience with such large rail operators as New Jersey Transit. With this experience, Herzog managers were able to get MetroRail into shape to begin revenue service three months after they arrived on the job.

Prior management appeared to blame the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for the delays in getting the service going. Local rail advocate E. Marcus Barnes noted that Metro managers appeared to treat the FRA as a nuisance. Under the new management, any differences with the FRA seem to have been resolved.

The trip is slow, and the line is certainly not scenic. It takes 62 minutes to travel the 32 miles between downtown Austin and Leander. Still, Austin has joined Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Galveston as the fifth city in the Lone Star State to offer at least a limited rail transit service. The riders seem to like the service, too. A group of kids sang “The Wheels of the Train Go Round and Round” as they rode into downtown Austin with their parents. On the way to Leander, commuters read a book or typed on their laptop computers, just like commuters on other rail lines.

The vehicles used for the service were made by Stadler, a Swiss firm. They are the first of the manufacturer’s cars to be used in this country, even though they are popular in Europe. Jan Six, a local rail advocate who has operated steam and diesel locomotives in Europe, finds it ironic that the cars must travel so slowly. “These would be considered commuter rail cars in Europe” he said, adding, “they could even be outfitted with different seats and used on intercity trains.” Because of their relatively light weight, the FRA mandates a temporal separation between operations with the Stadler cars and conventional freight or passenger trains. Several rail managers around the nation are looking to redefine “temporal separation” in a way that would allow more local operations with lightweight equipment, but nobody expects the FRA to change the rules anytime soon.

Last fall, this writer questioned the cost-effectiveness of the Austin operation (Is This Project worth It? D:F, November 16, 2009). Nothing has changed since then, except that the few trains planned for the capital of the Lone Star State are finally running. The cost has been high and the level of service severely limited.

Still, managers have plans to expand rail in Austin. They plan to add more commuter runs and eventually run mid-day trains. They also plan to open a new line to Elgin (pronounced with a hard “g,” unlike the city west of Chicago that is served by Metra). These steps would help to make the service more cost-effective. So would eliminating duplicative bus service and routing buses to connect with MetroRail, as a few buses do now.

Another factor that would help bolster the new service is potential transit-oriented development along the line. There is already one such project near Crestview Station, and a sign near Leander Station (at the end of the line, but nowhere near Leander’s “town center”) proclaims that another is coming to that location soon. It is unclear just when that might happen, because the area is now an otherwise empty expanse of grass.

In the meantime, the line provides service to a few park-and-ride lots with a few bus connections and even fewer buildings within walking distance. That may change in the future, but the current economic climate does not appear to support such a rosy prediction. Will MetroRail become a heavily-used and cost-effective rail operation someday? The answer is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, the heavy investment that Metro placed in its rail line has at least started a few trains moving. That’s a lot more than we could report last fall.


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EVENTS... Events...  

“RUN” to Toledo!

The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) will sponsor an outreach meeting on Friday, April 23d, in Toledo, Ohio, in cooperation with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG).  The meeting will begin at 1:00 pm at the train station.  All rail managers and advocates, especially from northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan, are urged to attend.

There will also be late-afternoon and evening activities after the meeting, which we expect will include a tour of transportation facilities and dinner.  For attendees coming on an Amtrak train, we will be back at the station in time for you to make your connections to the East or toward Chicago.

Plans for activities after the meeting will be finalized before the next edition of D:F is published.  To find out more, please contact RUN Chair Richard Rudolph at rrueolph@fairpoint.net.


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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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