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 13, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 16

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

Home Page: .nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Peter Rogoff Nominated As FTA Administrator
Boston MBTA’s Secret Plan To Decimate Transit Service
Alabama Gets Looks To Rail Future With Payment
   Of Back Dues To Southern HSR
  Legislative Lines…
Transportation Reauthorization Bill Is MAP-21
  Political Lines…
Delegation Asks DOT To Support Revival Of Illinois
   Train Car Industry
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Off The Main Line…
Lackawanna Coalition Celebrates Thirtieth Anniversary
  Across The Pond…
Alcohol Prohibition Coming To Metronom Trains ?
  Happy Easter…
  Editorial…
Funding Transit Systems In America
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

Peter Rogoff Nominated As FTA Administrator

From Passenger Transport the newsletter of the American Public Transportation Association

President Barack Obama has nominated Peter M. Rogoff to be the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, Passenger Transport reports its current issue

In introducing a group of new nominees announced last week, including Rogoff, , President Obama said: “At this crucial moment in our nation’s history, the American people will be well-served by the dedication and expertise of these fine public servants. I am grateful for their decision to serve, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

“Peter is an outstanding choice for FTA Administrator,” commented National Corridors Initiative President Jim RePass. “He has been at the center of the movement to re-invent America’s rail and transit systems for more than two decades, and is one of the most knowledgeable people in or out of government on that subject. He was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the first ‘TEA’ bill, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, shepherded through the Senate by the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who led the Congressional effort to enact ISTEA as then chair of the Senate authorizing committee, celebrated the fifth anniversary of the passage of ISTEA at a ceremony in Union Station, Washington, in 1996: Referring to the Interstate Highway System, Moynihan said, “At that moment it was possible to see that these roads were too big for our cities and that they were going to smash them to pieces.” He then added, “These new roads were going right through our cities. You could say that these highways were going to empty the central cities of jobs, smash up the neighborhoods around them and “Urban America” would not overcome this. You could see it happening but you couldn’t get anyone to hear you. It took us thirty five years to pass a bill (ISTEA), but we did, and still we haven’t been heard…”

13 years after that subdued celebration, the appointment of Peter Rogoff will help reverse the decades of damage done to the nation’s cities by America’s over-reliance on highway systems, RePass said. “As I have stated many times, highways are a great thing, but they can’t be the only thing. Peter Rogoff, more than most, understands this fact.”

Rogoff has served for 22 years on the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, including 14 as the Democratic Staff Director of its Transportation Subcommittee. An acknowledged expert in federal infrastructure budgeting and finance, he held an active role in the financing of each of the last three comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization bills—dating back to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.

His knowledge of public transportation is extensive. He held a critical role in advising policy makers on the financing of dozens of new light rail and Bus Rapid Transit systems across the United States, as well as on Amtrak’s operating and capital needs, including the initiation and financing of high-speed Acela service. He has also been active in overseeing and reforming procurements in the Federal Aviation Administration, Coast Guard, FTA, and Federal Highway Administration

Safety and security issues have long been important to Rogoff. He was instrumental in establishing new user fee regimes to finance expanded security measures following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and he has been centrally involved in efforts to strengthen safety inspections of substandard trucks, cargo vessels, and pipelines.

Rogoff is a recipient of the U.S. Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award and the Lester P. Lamm Memorial Award for outstanding leadership and dedication to U.S. highway transportation programs. He holds an MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and a B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College

“We’ve been working for many years with Peter,” said APTA President William W. Millar. “He has a long and distinguished career in the transportation field, and we look forward to many more years of working with him as he takes on his new role.”


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Boston Globe Reports:

 

Boston MBTA’s Secret Plan
To Decimate Transit Service

BOSTON --- One of the nation’s largest public transit agencies, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, “would halt all evening and weekend commuter rail service, eliminate six Green Line stops, discontinue lightly used bus routes, and lay off 805 employees if the agency does not get legislative help with its $160 million deficit,” The Boston Globe is reporting, citing an unnamed, secret state contingency planning document.

Reporter Noah Bierman of The Boston Globe --- a newspaper which is itself threatened with shut-down by its owner, The New York Times, if workers there fail to agree to massive pay cuts – reported: “The agency has delayed making the contingency plan public as it awaits action from the Legislature on a potential gas tax increase designed to rescue the state’s transportation system. The increase could prevent or minimize service cuts and fare increases.”

“The drastic cuts outlined in the internal budget analysis obtained by the Globe would save the agency a projected $75 million. It would be combined with fare hikes that would generate another $85 million to bridge the deficit,” reported The Globe’s Bierman in an exclusive story.

“Nearly everyone who uses public transit would feel the cuts: suburban residents who ride the rail system to nighttime and weekend Red Sox games; low-income residents who depend on bus lines that are considered underused by the agency; South Shore and Charlestown residents who take commuter boats; disabled residents who use the T’s special vans; tourists who rely on customer service agents to steer them in the right direction or help with the CharlieCard system; and downtown office workers racing for the last train,” The Globe noted.

According to the document, reported The Globe, “…the cuts would affect 51.9 million passenger trips on commuter rails, subway trains, and buses each year, or about 1 million a week, forcing thousands to find alternatives or simply stay home.”

“The commuter rail [system] would be hit particularly hard,” reported Bierman. “Not only would weekend service disappear, but the trains would also no longer run after 7 p.m. on weekdays. That would mean commuters who have to stay late at work to finish a project could no longer depend on catching a train after rush hour and might be forced to avoid the rail altogether and drive in. The MBTA estimates it would lose 5.7 million passenger trips per year on the commuter rail, according to the document.”

The Globe story reflects stories being told in other cities across the United States, as transit agencies, faced with massive budget cuts due to the recession and the resultant decline in tax revenues, struggle to keep operating even as demand is soaring and crowding on transit systems is getting worse.

“This crisis in transportation is very much like the crisis triggered by Hurricane Katrina, because it is in fact man-made; while Katrina was a strong storm, the levees in New Orleans failed because they were under-engineered and poorly built after major budget cuts imposed on US Army Corps of Engineers by the Bush (I) Administration in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s,” stated National Corridors Initiative President James P. RePass; “The failures and cut-backs we are seeing in transit systems across America even as the demand for public transportation has soared is a reflection of the same kind of systematic neglect of public infrastructure by the Federal Government over many decades that lead to the Katrina fiasco.”


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Alabama Looks To Rail Future With Payment
Of Back Dues To Southern HSR

By DF Staff And From The Birmingham (AL) News

BIRMINGHAM --- In a development with major implications for future funding of the Gulf South’s Federally-designated High Speed Rail Corridor Houston-Baton Rouge-New Orleans-Meridian-Birmingham-Atlanta, the State of Alabama has agreed to once again pay dues to the Southern High Speed Rail Commission, a state-sponsored compact approved by the U.S. Congress and founded in 1982

The Birmingham News Staff Writer Ginny McDonald broke the story at the end of March, reporting that Alabama Gov. Bob Riley had decided to renew ties with the organization, and directed the state’s Department of Economic and Community Affairs to pay the dues at once.

The state owes $120,000 in commission dues for 2008 and 2009, reported the News.

Alabama has been a member of the commission for 26 years with its partners Louisiana and Mississippi.

The commission is working to fund a high-speed train from New Orleans through Birmingham to Atlanta.

The Commission’s Chair is Birmingham businessman Richard Finley, who a few weeks ago publicly commented on the back dues issue, and asked that Alabama step up to the plate.

The decision is seen as important by transportation specialists because the Obama Administration, while it has made $8 billion available in the so-called “Stimulus” package proposed by the President and passed by Congress, has emphasized its preference for regional rail projects that benefit more than just one locale; Alabama’s renewed participation in the Southern High Speed Rail Commission is seen as a signal that the Gulf South is serious about developing its High Speed Rail Corridor, which was created as part of 1998’s “NEXT-TEA” transportation authorization bill but has never been funded except for minor work and a few studies, as have any of the other corridors, until now.

President Barack Obama has stated publicly that he wants a rejuvenated U.S. rail system to be a part of his legacy, and in meeting with National Corridors Initiative Chairman John Robert Smith in Washington three weeks ago, repeated that goal.

The $8 billion for interstate rail projects will be parceled out by the Federal Government in response to applications by the states; the application forms are being created now and should be ready by mid-June, according to the United States Department of Transportation.


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LEGISLATIVE LINES... Legislative Lines...  

Transportation Reauthorization Bill Is MAP-21

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer Launches Bill At Committee Hearing

By DF Staff From Internet Sources

Senator Barbara Boxer of California, chairman of the Senate’s Environment & Public Works Committee, has launched the reauthorization of the transportation bill which has been named MAP-21 – “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century.” It is reported to follow the path of its predecessors SAFETEA-LU, TEA -21, and ISTEA. The current legislation, SAFETEA-LU, is set to expire on September 30, 2009.

The announcement about the proposed new legislation was made at the Committee’s hearing on the need for investment in transportation on March 25, 2009. In her opening remarks, Senator Boxer referred to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) which provided $48 billion for transportation, of which $27.5 billion is for the highway program. This was a good start, she said, “but it is not enough. We must have continued investment to maintain jobs, and to make additional, needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure.”

Need for new sources of revenue

Senator Boxer cited two commission reports, both mandated by Congress to research the state of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and to make recommendations. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission in 2008 called for at least $225 billion a year for 50 years to maintain and improve our nation’s transportation infrastructure. They recommended raising the Federal gas tax between 25-40 cents (5-8 cents per gallon, per year), with the rate increase indexed and phased in over time. Not a popular proposal in this economy.

In 2009, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, estimated that we need to invest at least $200 million per year at all levels of government to maintain and improve our highways and transit systems. In February, this Commission had recommended raising gasoline taxes and taxing miles driven instead of gallons in order to get the tattered U.S. road and transit system back on track. Commission chairman Mr. Robert Atkinson said that the current system is failing because Americans are driving less and buying more fuel-efficient vehicles. The current budget covers only about one-third of what is needed to bring our infrastructure to a state of good repair, he said.

Though the recommendations differ slightly in strategy, both commissions are preparing this country for the reality that new sources of revenue are essential if we are to have a well-maintained transportation infrastructure. Both reports call for shifting from gas taxes to vehicle-miles-traveled fees with global positioning satellite systems to compensate for fuel-efficient vehicles that pay less gas tax, as well as alternative-fueled vehicles that may pay no gas tax. The reports both advocate highway tolls and congestion pricing pursued by state agencies.

Another report mentioned at the hearing, this one by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2006 Conditions and Performance Report, shows that to address the backlog of needed improvements all at once to the current highway and bridge network alone is $495 billion.

Testimonies

National League of Cities President Kathleen Novak, mayor of Northglenn, Colorado, talked about the importance of investing in transportation for hometown America. “Our communities will benefit greatly from the down-payment Congress and the President supported in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” Novak told the Committee. “Transportation programs, from airports to transit to high speed rail, not only invest in our infrastructure, also invest in our human resources through job creation.”

A new transportation plan needs to be comprehensive in scope and work in sync with local goals, Novak said. Transportation legislation should strengthen cities and towns as centers of economic growth; create economic opportunity for all residents; recognize the link between energy consumption and transportation; and assist local governments in meeting goals for livable, vibrant and healthy communities.

Novak stressed that local governments want to work with Congress to develop a comprehensive national transportation plan and that different levels of government need to come together to better serve citizens. Citizens can only be better served by understanding the role local communities play in transportation on a daily basis, she said. 

Novak testified that NLC policy supports an increase in the gas tax with indexing for inflation, pointing out that the Denver region recently raised the sales tax to fund transportation programs, and the state of Colorado raised car registration fees that will generate an additional $250 million annually, far short of projected needs.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, chair of the National Governors Association and co-founder of a coalition to promote infrastructure investment, testified along with Novak.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking minority member of the committee, noted the “challenges in continuing to provide a safe and free flowing transportation network have never been greater. I am sure our witnesses will agree that our nation’s transportation needs outpace our current investment levels.

“The link between a robust economy and a strong transportation infrastructure is undeniable, yet when it comes to other spending priorities in the federal government, transportation is often neglected,” Inhofe said. “We cannot continue to rely on investments made over 50 years ago.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who also testified before the committee, noted the challenges and necessity of moving quickly to authorize a new transportation program.

“America’s transportation systems are the lifeblood of our economy and when properly maintained and supported can be a catalyst for economic growth,” LaHood said. “These systems allow people to get to jobs and allow businesses to access wider pools of labor, suppliers, and customers. The ability to efficiently move freight will be critical to our economic recovery. Without efficient transportation routes, economies stagnate.”

Senator Boxer said that the Environment and Public Works Committee will take a lead role in developing a new bill, and that committee leadership has been meeting to draw up a plan for the new legislation. 

The Senator expressed her appreciation to the witnesses present that day, who, she said, “will further highlight the need for investment in transportation at the Federal, state and local level.”


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Delegation Asks DOT To Support Revival
Of Illinois Train Car Industry

Press Release From The Office Of US Representative Durbin

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 9 - Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today led the Illinois Congressional Delegation in asking the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to support their effort to revive the passenger rail car manufacturing industry in Illinois.  The Department of Transportation recently announced that $90.8 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been committed to rehabilitating train cars in the United States and returning them to service. The average age of an Amtrak car is now 25 years. 

“It is time to establish rolling stock manufacturers here in the United States,” wrote the Illinois members.  “Although we no longer manufacture passenger rail cars in Illinois, Illinois is still home to a vibrant rail industry that has the capacity to quickly modify existing facilities to accommodate the production of passenger rail rolling stock.”

“The time is ripe to harness Illinois’ position and to capitalize on the massive new investment into intercity passenger rail. With the Department’s assistance we could bring good paying jobs to the United States while advancing cleaner, cheaper and greener transportation options for Americans.”

The domestic railcar giant Pullman Company provided a strong manufacturing base for over a hundred years in Illinois, providing rail cars that are still on the tracks today.  But those companies have long since closed their doors and left the business of making passenger rail cars, due in part, to years of underinvestment in the U.S. and increased investment by European countries.

Durbin has spearheaded an effort in Illinois and in Congress to repair Amtrak’s aging fleet of passenger cars, bring rehabilitated cars to Illinois and revive the train car industry in the United States.   In May 2008, he led a bipartisan group of Senators in requesting that Amtrak increase the number of train cars available for use on new routes in Illinois.  In July, Durbin introduced a bill - the Train CARS Act - that proposed a package of financing options to bring our existing train cars into a state of good repair and lay the groundwork for the next generation of trains built in America.

Members signing on to today’s letter include: Senator Roland Burris (D-IL), Representatives Melissa Bean (D-IL), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Debbie Halvorson (D-IL), Phil Hare (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Aaron Schock (R-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL).

Text of Letter…

Secretary LaHood
DOT Secretary

We write to seek your support for an effort to revive the passenger rail manufacturing industry in Illinois. This industry has been dormant in the United States for many years. We see a tremendous opportunity in the Administration’s strong support for high speed rail to bring the industry back to the U.S. and back to Illinois.

The current fleet of passenger rail rolling stock in this country is in serious disrepair and cannot adequately meet current demand, let alone future expansion of the intercity rail system.  This past holiday season, Amtrak did not have enough rail cars to handle the ridership demand.  Compounding a tenuous situation, Amtrak suffered several equipment failures that left hundreds of riders stranded or able to reach their final destination by transferring to intercity bus service.  These events clearly indicate that we need to re-fleet the aging rolling stock that our rail system has been barely getting by with for far too long.

Unfortunately, domestic companies making passenger rail cars have shuttered their doors and left the business of making passenger rail cars due to years of underinvestment in the United States and increased investment by European countries.  But the Administration’s commitment to an $8 billion initial investment in high speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has changed that equation.  It is time to establish rolling stock manufacturers here in the United States.

Illinois provides the best opportunities for these companies.  The domestic railcar giant Pullman Company provided a strong manufacturing base for over a hundred years in Illinois, providing rail cars that are still on the tracks today.  Although we no longer manufacture passenger rail cars in Illinois, Illinois is still home to a vibrant rail industry that has the capacity to quickly modify existing facilities to accommodate the production of passenger rail rolling stock.

We will need your leadership to start this process.  We ask that the Department of Transportation initiate a dialogue with the domestic and international railcar industry to explore the viability of building manufacturing capacity here at home.

As you know, Illinois holds a preeminent status among states when it comes to rail transportation. It was the steel, iron and steam of our railroads and trains that cemented our place as the transportation hub of North America. Today, Illinois continues in that tradition by being home to the only place in the country where all Class I freight railroads meet and where we have the fastest growing passenger rail ridership in the country.

The time is ripe to harness Illinois’ position and to capitalize on the massive new investment into intercity passenger rail. With the Department’s assistance we could bring good paying jobs to the United States while advancing cleaner, cheaper and greener transportation options for Americans.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, as always we stand ready to assist you in further developing a world class intercity passenger rail system.

Sincerely,


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: .MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)66.1666.52
Canadian National (CNI)40.2438.99
Canadian Pacific (CP)32.1031.96
CSX (CSX)29.7529.45
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)24.5824.38
Kansas City Southern (KSU)15.3014.20
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.3537.37
Providence & Worcester (PWX)10.7410.40
Union Pacific (UNP)46.3046.09


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

Lackawanna Coalition Celebrates Thirtieth Anniversary

By David Peter Alan

It was April, 1979, thirty years ago. Transit in New Jersey was getting perceptibly worse almost by the day. The Garden State’s commuter rail service was operated by the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), the statutory Phoenix that purportedly rose from the bankrupt ashes of the Penn-Central, Erie-Lackawanna and Jersey Central Railroads. Equipment was old; on-time performance was terrible. The Commuter Operating Agency (COA), a weak division within New Jersey’s Department of Transportation, exercised slight regulation over Conrail but could hardly have been effective in providing the level of service that the public wanted. Things were equally bad on the bus side; Transport of New Jersey had been spun off from Public Service Electric & Gas Company, for the purpose of running buses and the Newark City Subway (the sole survivor of the state’s once-vast streetcar network) until the company could somehow get rid of them.

Commuters became more upset with each passing month. At the Jersey Shore, in Princeton and in Millburn, commuter associations sprang up to protest the poor state of their rail service. In Millburn, seven disgruntled commuters and their mayor, Maureen Ogden, met in the conference room at Town Hall to form the Millburn Commuter Watchdog Committee. To bring in riders from outside, they renamed their organization the Lackawanna Coalition, to honor the Lackawanna Railroad heritage of the Morris & Essex Lines. The Coalition soon grew to become a region-wide alliance.

The same crisis in rail service also spawned the founding of New Jersey Transit itself, later in 1979. The next year, rail advocates from around New Jersey convened to form the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP).

The original Chair was Sidney L. Palius, an engineer from AT&T who remained active with the Coalition until 2005. Now retired, Palius has moved from Millburn but remains a rail advocate as a member of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition. According to Palius, the commuters’ greatest concern at the time was the lack of competent and experienced managers to operate the service.

The Lackawanna Coalition has advocated for riders through several milestones in the history of the M&E Lines. From 1980 to 1984, the lines were rebuilt and re-electrified, while peak-hour and off-peak service still operated with little interruption. The next great event was the opening of “Midtown Direct” service to Penn Station in June 1996. Albert L. Papp, Jr., now the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) Vice Chair for Legislative Policy and Strategy, and still a Coalition member, was Coalition Chair during that time. He considers Midtown Direct to be the greatest improvement to take place since the Coalition was founded. Ironically, if NJT’s plans to build a deep-cavern terminal far below 34th Street are implemented, Midtown Direct service will end, as M&E trains are expected to be permanently re-routed from the existing Penn Station to the dead-end cavern.

The Coalition also focused on the Morris & Essex Lines, and added the Montclair-Boonton Line to its area of concern when the Montclair Connection was completed in 2002. The Coalition has since expanded its mission to include connections with other rail lines --other NJT lines, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) system between New Jersey and New York, Amtrak in the region and New York City transit operated by the MTA.

While many of the members live along the M&E Line, several live elsewhere in New Jersey, in New York City and in four other states. Members come from many walks of life -- engineers, lawyers, professional managers, business owners, political officeholders, retired rail managers and a professional journalist. All lend their professional expertise to the cause.

The organization’s concerns range from on-time performance, improve scheduling, expansion of service, and restoration of trains that were eliminated by NJT in recent years.. In addition, the Coalition supports the Cut-Off Project to rebuild the now-abandoned Lackawanna line in West Jersey and operate trains to Scranton. The Coalition is also supporting the efforts of the Penn-Jersey Rail Coalition and NJ-ARP to extend the Scranton service to Binghamton and eventually on to Syracuse and Buffalo.

In 2006, the Lackawanna Coalition took the lead in forming the alliance to oppose the proposed deep-cavern terminal that NJT wants to build as part of the “ARC” Project. The Coalition, along with NJ-ARP, the Empire State Passengers’ Association (ESPA) in New York and the Regional Rail Working Group (RRWG), has formed a team to campaign for additional capacity in the existing Penn Station and the continued operation of M&E and Montclair-Boonton Line trains into that facility. NARP has also become involved in this initiative, and this publication has supported it as well.

In 2000, one of the original founders of the Lackawanna Coalition suggested disbanding the organization, because he believed there was little left to be done. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Coalition has not been this busy since Midtown Direct service started in 1996, and there are always new issues that demand attention.

The founders of the Coalition operated in uncharted territory. While NARP existed on the national level, very few activists believed in 1979 that they could be effective on the local level. Despite these growing pains, the Lackawanna Coalition is one of the nation’s strongest local rail advocacy organizations today, and similar groups now operate in other states and cities.

The Coalition will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary at its “regular” meeting on Monday, April 27th at 7:15 pm at Millburn Town Hall. There will be a brief celebration, followed by a discussion of how to improve our web site, http://lackawannacoalition.net/ and an update on our campaign to bring the “ARC” tunnel into the existing Penn Station.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and has served in that capacity since 2000.


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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

Alcohol Prohibition Coming To Metronom Trains ?

Regional Rail Operator Out Of Patience With Alcohol Fueled Vandalism And Aggression

UEZELN, GERMANY -- Independent regional passenger rail operator Metronom, which has mentioned to various press contacts in the past three months a desire to ban alcohol consumption on its trains, stated its intentions to go through with a total alcohol prohibition in communications to other northern Germany transit authorities and government officials. Metronom currently operates several regional express train routes from Hamburg, Hannover and Uezeln in a long term contract for the German state of Lower Saxony.

Senior officials from Metronom stated that the rail company intends to impose a total ban on consumption of alcoholic beverages on all of its trains as well as station platforms due to significant costs of cleaning and repairs of vandalism in its trains. Unlike in the USA and a number of other countries, consumption of alcohol in open public places in Germany is legal in many cases. This includes most train stations and numerous trains. The law does, however, allow for owners or operators of such public areas to impose their own restrictions on alcohol consumption on their premises.

Metronom cited as a reason for the proposed ban, rising repair and cleaning costs that often exceed many thousands of euros or dollars per train, which are incurred after a major public event such as a soccer or ice hockey game or rock concert, to which many fans use its trains for traveling, and whereby the fans often consume significant quantities of alcoholic beverages on board both to and from the event. Officials of the company complain that the rowdy behavior results in significant damage to and trashing of its trains as well as aggressive or violent behavior toward other passengers.


Photo: David Beale

Alcohol Free? – a Metronom train pauses in Hannover’s central train station with a Bombardier Traxx locomotive pushing from the rear on the way to Uezeln on 8th April 2009.

A local radio station in the Hannover and Bremen areas, FFN, ran an informal poll of its listeners about the proposed alcohol ban on Metronom trains. Responses ran nearly 4 to 1 in favor of the proposed ban. However, reaction from other regional transit operators in the state were much cooler. Spokesmen from both DB Regio, the other major regional rail operator in the state, and Üstra, the local transit operator in the city of Hannover, were not readily supportive of the alcohol ban. Both companies stated that they were concerned that a potential consequence of banning alcohol consumption on board their trains and busses would be to force many to drive while intoxicated, thus leading potentially to a serious increase in alcohol-related deaths and injuries on the region’s roads and highways.

Previously a group of independent bus companies, which are contracted to provide suburban and rural bus services in the Hannover region, agreed to ban alcohol consumption on their busses as well as deny boarding to passengers who are so severely intoxicated that they pose a potential safety risk to other passengers or bus company employees. Metronom will allow for a period of public comment as well as consultation with other transit authorities and law enforcement agencies before making the final decision on the alcohol ban.


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HAPPY EASTER... Happy Easter...  

Best wishes to all our readers during the Easter and Passover celebrations.


Photo: David Beale

A time for renewal – working on the railroad during Good Friday – DB Netz crews worked around the clock during Easter week to replace the westbound track on the busy Hannover – Minden mainline in the Haste (Germany) area with new rail and concrete ties. In 2009 DB Netz will spend over EUR 4 billion to refurbish and repair track and infrastructure all around Germany.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Funding Transit Systems In America

The sorry sight of major transit systems jacking up fares while cutting service in Boston, New York City, and elsewhere across the country just as demand for service has soared is an avoidable tragedy, but one that has been many years in the making.

Both intercity rail and local transit systems have been treated as an after-thought for much of the past four or five decades, because the government was intent on funding and building the Interstate Highway System, and had little interest in, or money for, rail transportation systems.

Even when some Federal gas tax money was begun to be made available for transit systems with the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991, which included an enhanced role for regional transportation planners other than those employed by state highway departments, the amount was so small and the restrictions on operating grants so great --- and made even tighter when the Congress was taken over by the GOP in 1994 --- that transit systems continued to flounder, even as gasoline prices fluctuated and spiked in the on-set of “Peak Oil,” the period we are now enduring: world oil resources from here on out will be inadequate to power the world’s economies, and once the current recession ends, you can expect $4 a gallon gasoline to return to America in due course.

But how do we provide transit when revenues are falling?

The answer is to re-think the way transportation systems are created, funded, and operated, and that includes looking around the world for other country’s approaches to this issue.

One of the most successful answers is one adopted in Hong Kong to build its subway system; when it was being planned in the 1960’s by the then-British Hong Kong government, the decision was made to essentially give the title or development rights of land around future station sites to the rail system entity; this has proved to be a reliable and growing source of income for the subway system, which is known as MTR, or Mass Transit Railway, because development naturally follows the creation of any fixed guide way transit system such as a subway or light rail. However, in America, the financial gains from transit-oriented development or “TOD” as it is called have gone exclusively to the private interests that bought up land around future station sites, much as money was made off the construction of the Interstates by people who figured out where the road was going, and bought up the land around the exit ramps.

In this country, we need to start endowing our rail systems with real assets that produce cash flow, to strengthen the balance sheets and the operating ratios of the nation’s transit systems. That logic can also apply to the creation of the new network of high speed rail lines that the Obama Administration wants to launch, where TOD can be just as important in generating future revenue, and revenue growth, so that those systems can also, ultimately, pay for themselves, as Hong Kong’s MTR does.

Transit is expensive, and its operations will never be covered by ticket sales, nor should anyone expect them to be. Highway systems are even less cost-effective than rail, but the subsidies are so well-hidden that anti-rail lobbyists have for years falsely claimed otherwise. Now that the lie is being out to rest, we need to move forward with a new vision of transportation for America, one which includes well-run, properly funded transit systems.


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