Vol. 8 No. 18
Copyright © 2007
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Torn wires hold up thousands of commuters
GREENWICH, CT -- APRIL 25 At 5:24 am last Wednesday, problems with the catenary wires on the New Haven Line brought Metro North commuter trains to an early morning halt, causing thousands of commuters long delays in getting to work.
In a story for the Stamford Times, reporter Patrick Linsey writes Snarled catenary wires tangled rail service Wednesday morning, subjecting thousands of commuters on Metro-Norths New Haven Line to hour-plus-long delays.
Extensive wire damage in Greenwich shut down several tracks and for a time the entire New Haven Line was down starting at 5:24 a.m. when the pantograph arm ripped off a New-York-bound train.
The pantograph a spring loaded arm that takes power from the overhead catenary wire broke and landed on another track, closing two tracks.
It is not known whether a malfunction in the pantograph or problems with the catenary wires caused the damage.
The next train coming into the same area also snagged the wire. At the busiest hours of the morning commute, 6:02 am, the New Haven Line was completely blocked.
Wires torn asunder. Commuters calling the boss. Theyre all late for work, the story continues.
We had 80 New Haven Line trains that were delayed, including about 20 that were simply annulled or combined with other trains, said Marjorie Anders, a Metro-North spokeswoman. The longest delay was the 5:31 (a.m.) out of New Canaan. My dentist takes that train. He was delayed for two hours and 37 minutes.
Anders said it is likely the train that lost its pantograph caused damage to the wires that wasnt immediately noticed, leading to the second trains ensnarement.
Metro-North used shuttle buses to ferry passengers from Connecticut to Westchester stations.
Amtrak trains were also delayed.
Repair crews had cleared one track by 8 am and a second by 10 am.
Commuters were calling on cell phones to announce the delays. Many missed planes, meetings, and classes, but most were good-natured.
Norwalk resident Bruce Kimmel, who teaches in New York City, was an hour and 20 minutes late for work. It was like an airplane ... when youre changing in an airport, said Kimmel. Eventually, they took that train out of service. I went over (and got on a) train that was sitting on another track going to New York, he said. People had their cell phones and they were calling into work. It was interesting hearing what people were saying: Go ahead with the meeting without me. 'Im not going to be able to catch that plane.
Most of the present commuter cars are over 30 years old. New train sets have been ordered but may not be ready for another five years.
The Connecticut Dept of Transportation, which owns the track between New Haven and the New York boundary, is in the process of replacing the 100-year-old catenary wires along that section of the corridor. The department has completed the work between Greenwich and Stamford but announced that it would take about ten years to complete the entire corridor, which covers a 55-mile span.
In a letter to DOT Commissioner Ralph Carpenter, Governor Rell requested that DOT expedite future catenary wire replacements and review its maintenance procedures.
In addition, I would like to know what procedures are in place to provide commuting services to the people who rely on the New Haven Line when circumstances result in service disruptions, Rell wrote.
A plan to expand light rail in Denver may affect residents in and around Fort Lupton.
FORT LUPTON, CO - A proposed plan by the Rapid Transit District (RTD) in Denver to take over a rail yard and intermodal facility owned by Union Pacific in order to expand the light rail system is being met with opposition by some residents. The take-over would mean Union Pacific would move its operations, possibly in Weld County where historic homes and farms would be impacted.
Residents worry about the noise and pollution and a big increase in truck traffic. Also, spills of hazardous materials could contaminate local water supplies.
Spokesperson Dick Hartman from Union Pacific said, We wouldnt consider moving to a site that was unacceptable for that use.
Others have a different view: From an economic standpoint this is huge to Weld County, said Larry Burkhardt of Upstate Colorado Economic Development. This has the potential to create thousands of new jobs.
Burkhardt said there could be three phases of economic growth. The first would come from the railroad moving its operations. The second would be from national firms building warehouses adjacent to the classification yard. And the third would come from the service industry moving in to take care of new residents and employees.
Opponents are worried. A similar project in Dallas generates 700 trucks a day a number that Weld County could not accommodate without a huge negative impact on residents.
James Barnes, director of media information for Union Pacific Union Pacific, said, This is not a done deal.
A feasibility study is under way to show if moving operations to Fort Lupton would make sense for the railroad. At the moment, Union Pacific is not considering any other location.
CSXT employee honored by Association of American Railroads John H. Chafee Award
JACKSONVILLE, FL - April 26- CSX Transportation employee Don Robey became the companys fifth winner of railroadings highest environmental honor - the John H. Chafee Environmental Award - presented today by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Robey was honored for his implementation of a horsepower reduction program that greatly reduces fuel consumption and locomotive emissions, while director of locomotive engineering.
"Don Robey has been widely recognized within the rail industry for his perseverance in locomotive fuel savings and air emission reductions," said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the AAR. "This efficient technology has the potential to save an estimated 12,500,000 gallons of fuel in the next five years."
The AARs Chafee Award is named for U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafees (R-RI) late father, who as a leading environmentalist understood and promoted the environmental advantages of rail transportation. The award, given each year by the AAR, recognizes an individual railroad employee who has demonstrated outstanding environmental performance in the area of environmental awareness and responsibility.
Don embodies the spirit of environmental consciousness that CSXT strives to achieve, said Ellen Fitzsimmons, CSX Corporation senior vice president for law and public affairs. His leadership in reducing emissions and increasing fuel efficiency is an outstanding example of true environmental commitment.
Robey led many teams at CSXT in support of several fuel saving initiatives resulting in lower locomotive emissions and increased fuel efficiency of the CSXT locomotive fleet. He has received two Awards of Excellence and five Cut-Through-The-Knot awards from CSXT for his relentless pursuit of technological and cost effective solutions, many of which remain in place today.
This is the fifth time in eight years that a CSXT employee has won the John H. Chafee Award - a testament to the companys strong culture and commitment to environmental principles. The Chafee Award highlights the environmental benefits of rail transportation, which provides an environmentally safe alternative to moving freight. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that locomotives are about 3-4 times more fuel-efficient than trucks.
CSX Transportation Inc. is a principal operating company of CSX Corporation. CSX Corporation, based in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the leading transportation companies, providing rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services. The companys transportation network spans 21,000 miles with service to 23 eastern states and the District of Columbia, and connects to more than 70 ocean, river and lake ports. More information about CSX Corporation and its subsidiaries is available at the companys web site, www.csx.com.
Photo: Henrietta Wildsmith - Hattiesburg AmericanLamar County supervisor Fred Hatten looks inside a sleeping compartment on the Amtrak train that was on display at the black-tie gala for the Hattiesburg Intermodal Facility Friday.
Back on the right track
HATTIESBURG, MS -- In Hattiesburg, Mississippi two Fridays ago, the restored 1910 train depot was the scene of a gala celebration. Citizens and political leaders expressed their pride in the success of the restoration, the magnificence of the structure and what it meant for the downtown.
This station is so beautiful it actually made me cry, said Gil Carmichael, a Meridian businessman and a federal railroad administrator under former President George Bush. Carmichael, who said hes seen about 60 of the approximately 130 restored train depots throughout the United States, rated the Hattiesburg depot at the top.
It is a real treasure, he said. It is going to be one of the major train stations in the U.S.
The Italian Renaissance building, with its exterior arches and columns, contains a grand hall where the celebration took place, a large waiting room and a newly restored museum.
Larry Albert, the architect who designed the renovation, grew up in Hattiesburg and remembers during his childhood that he wondered if anyone would ever do anything with that beautiful old building.
Others are hopeful that the restoration will be a catalyst to revitalizing the downtown, just as the Meridian station spurred redevelopment in that city. Four-term Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said that $145 million in private development had occurred since 1997, the year their train depots restoration was completed.
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Railroad company wants $18M for hub
CHARLOTTE, NC, APRIL 27 -- Norfolk Southern is looking to buy a new trucking-railcar hub in Charlotte, located at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
The railroad is asking for a tax break worth about $18 million to help pay for the new facility, which would cost $93 million. The airport would own the land and lease it long-term to Norfolk Southern.
The company and other boosters of the project say it would ease the flow of goods in and out of the Charlotte region and help create new jobs. Norfolk Southern says its current, 40-acre hub on North Brevard Street is over capacity, handling 150,000 loads in 2006 when it was designed to handle only about 115,000 loads.
A federal grant is expected to cover $14 million of the cost, and the airport is also helping with grading and site cleaning, said Rob Martinez, a Norfolk Southern executive, at a meeting with state lawmakers Tuesday morning. A state tax credit worth about $18 million would help the company pay the rest, he said.
Farther, faster? Not anymore
Progress in transportation is stalling as technology lags
Streets have a certain capacity, and now weve begun to overwhelm it, said a Penn professor.
This is progress?
The morning train ride from Chestnut Hill to Center City takes 34 minutes today. Fifty years ago, it took 28 minutes.
Today, a United Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles takes 6 hours, 1 minute. Forty years ago, the trip took 5 hours, 5 minutes.
In 1990, the average travel time to work for a Chester County resident was 23.1 minutes; a decade later, it was 27.5 minutes. In Burlington County, the travel time went from 23.6 minutes to 28.2 minutes.
After centuries of ever-faster travel, the triumph of technology over time seems to have stalled. The expectation that each generation will be not only more upwardly mobile, but also more rapidly mobile, has died, apparently of congestion of the arteries.
Faster transportation used to be a benchmark of progress: from horseback to train to auto to plane to jetliner, all in 130 years. But for the last half-century, the next Big Thing in transport has languished on the drawing board.
The Concorde supersonic jetliner never grew much beyond a Mach 2 novelty for the rich before it was retired in 2003. While bullet trains have prospered in Europe and Asia, cruising at 185 M.P.H. and achieving record runs past 350 M.P.H., the fastest passenger train in the United States, Amtraks Acela, averages only 87 M.P.H. between Philadelphia and Washington.
And as technology has lagged, a growing population has overwhelmed the 50-year-old interstate highway network and a World War II-vintage air traffic control system.
Add suburban sprawl, environmental concerns, and fragmented land-use planning, and travel tends to become slower and longer.
The nations transportation system has reached maturity - perhaps even old age - and todays efforts are just fine-tuning, said William Garrison, a federal transportation policy adviser to most administrations since Harry Trumans.
Were doing a pretty good job of holding back entropy, but were tinkering at the margins to get by with what we have, said Garrison, a retired professor at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and coauthor of The Transportation Experience, published last year. What we ought to do is let entrepreneurs do things in new ways.
Robert Puentes, a transportation expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the nation had allowed the foundations of its transportation networks to deteriorate, preferring to try to pave its way to happiness.
Theres no doubt the nation has underinvested in its infrastructure, Puentes said. We have done a very good job of building new highways, but when it comes to reinvesting in our infrastructure, we come up woefully short.
Some of the results are obvious in the transportation crises facing Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other states. With bridges and roads crumbling and mass-transit agencies such as SEPTA constantly mortgaging their futures to pay bills, the states cant keep up. They are considering leasing toll roads to companies to raise money for transportation projects.
In air travel, more passengers, more corporate jets, and antiquated traffic control make trips ever longer, and airlines adjust their schedules accordingly. In 2005, the cost of delays to U.S. airline passengers was $9.4 billion, according to estimates by the Department of Transportation that placed a monetary value on peoples time. By 2014, delays are forecast to increase by 62 percent over 2004 levels.
The air traffic control system is based on 1950s architecture. It was cutting-edge during the era of Ozzie and Harriet, but not today, James C. May, president of the Air Transport Association of America, told Congress last month.
While even backpackers have satellite global positioning system receivers, the U.S. air traffic control system relies on ground-based radar, navigational aids and controllers.
Airways, unfortunately, increasingly resemble many highways - they have become saturated, May said. What we have come to realize is that the ground-based system that supports point-to-point airways cannot produce substantial new capacity. We have no choice but to introduce new technology to generate needed capacity.
Other countries have moved to satellite-based, digital air traffic control systems. Fiji did so a decade ago. Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Switzerland and the Britain are doing so now.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration hopes to spend $10 billion during the next 10 years to plan and begin to put in place a satellite system, NextGen (Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated National Plan).
United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy suggested several possible reasons for longer flights: longer taxi-out times, seasonal differences, and fuel conservation.
For railroads, within cities and between cities, the basic technology has changed little in a century, and times for many trips, even in densely populated Northeast cities such as Philadelphia, have increased.
In Philadelphia, many SEPTA trains are scheduled to take a few minutes longer than their Reading Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad predecessors did on the same routes 50 years ago, even as they often stop at fewer stations. SEPTA officials attribute the slower rides to heightened attention to safety.
"We are going as fast as we can go with the regulations we have now," said Patrick Nowakowski, SEPTAs chief operations officer. "Were doing things to speed up trips where we can."
Tom Dorricott, a SEPTA engineer and union leader, said other factors were at work. He said schedules were padded to improve on-time performance, equipment was old, and train crews were too small to board passengers and collect tickets quickly.
On long-distance runs beyond the Northeast, Amtrak passenger trains increasingly are shunted aside for freight trains, and Amtraks on-time performance last year fell to 68 percent, its worst since the 1970s. The Capitol Limited, which makes the 764-mile run between Chicago and Washington, arrived within 30 minutes of its scheduled time just 11 percent of the time last year.
Political, social and administrative barriers are at least as much to blame as technology, said Richardson Dilworth, an assistant professor of history and politics at Drexel University and grandson of the former Philadelphia mayor.
A lot of the bottlenecks are social, Dilworth said. We could make cars fully automatic, where a driver just plugs in a destination, but auto manufacturers dont think there is adequate demand, so they havent developed that technology. Electric cars are being bottlenecked by the refueling issue.
The United States postwar focus on cars and highways left mass-transit development to languish, especially compared with Europe and Japan.
Investing in highways is always investing, while investing in mass transit is a subsidy, said Rachel Weinberger, an assistant professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied commuting patterns.
I think the area that holds the most promise is high-speed rail, Weinberger said. The technology is here today. Its a matter of political will.
The car promoted suburban growth, as commuters found it as convenient to drive from a new suburb as they once found it to walk or ride a shorter distance. So as people were willing to move farther from work, land-use issues became transportation issues, too.
Streets have a certain capacity, and now weve begun to overwhelm it, Weinberger said. Maybe well find we dont have to live 50 miles from where we work and 20 miles from where we shop.
In the meantime, Weinberger said, people persist in two long-standing behaviors: a desire to move faster, and an expectation for a technological solution.
People have always expected to get there faster than they can, and congestion is something people have always loved to complain about, she said, citing an early conference on congestion in 1909.
And they are still optimistic about technology.
Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or email@example.com.
Find this article at: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_top_left_story/20070423_Farther__faster__Not_anymore.html.
By James Llamas
There are certain similarities and differences in life you expect to discuss with a visitor from another country, but this experience in conversing with a teacher from Spain last month brought up a divergence in daily life I would not have expected between our two advanced countries. At one point during the two weeks she spent with us, someone mentioned that I would be starting to drive in the next few months. Camino, this middle-aged Spanish teacher, replied, Im getting my drivers license soon, too. For a moment, I looked at her, puzzled. Then it occurred to me. Spain, in its rapid modernization of the last thirty years, chose to create a culture that is not centered on the automobile. Rather, its strong network of public transportation carries the population all over the country without the pollution and suburban sprawl associated with cars. The United States needs to take some notes.
To many people in the U.S., mainly the unknowing victims of sprawl, living in the city is perceived as leaving your tiny apartment as little as possible to avoid being shot on the street. A short visit to the vibrant cities and towns of Spain would instantaneously dispel this myth. The urban neighborhoods are full of life, and after spending time there it seems ridiculous that anyone, like, say, Americans, would want to live a five minute drive from their friends or a ten minute drive from a loaf of bread. This is because instead of dumping all its cash into roads, Spain invested in a well rounded transportation system consisting of high-speed and commuter trains in addition to buses and their world class highway system (which, I might add, is remarkably congestion-free. A coincidence?)
The quality of life in Spanish cities is high by American standards, made possible by their clean, efficient transportation systems. Any goods or services not within walking distance can easily be reached by a quick trip on the bus, metro, or commuter train. Camino, who lives in a large flat on the outskirts of Madrid, has never had any need for a car, since all the amenities of modern life are close at hand. She couldnt care less if gas hits $10 per gallon, since she rides the bus to work and the train into the city when she wants. Contrast this to our lovely American suburbs where a jaunt to the cleaners, the coffee shop, the bakery, and back home could easily be a two hour ordeal, with plenty of traffic-related headaches along the way. We need to wake up and smell the roses. If, that is, we can smell anything but exhaust fumes.
On regional and national levels, the Spanish transportation system is just as effective. Regional trains speed travelers from one city center to another. The brand new and rapidly expanding AVE high speed train network rockets passengers to all corners of the country at 220 mph, all at comfort levels head and shoulders above driving or flying. Here in the U.S. we have Amtrak, the unwanted stepchild of the federal government that has done its best to provide service over 35 years of financial starvation. Some states, like Illinois and California, and regions, like the Pacific Northwest, have tried and succeeded at building regional passenger rail systems, but with an adverse partner like our federal government, the process is extremely difficult at best.
The U.S. needs to step up to the plate and get started on sustainable national transportation strategy, because we cannot keep adding freeway lanes. The first step is to get over the notion that passenger trains, can be profitable. Another immediate step forward is to create an 80%-20% federal-state funding program for rail, like that for highway construction. Just like highways and airports (and airlines, for that matter) they need to be supported by the government. Introduced recently to congress is a bill called RIDE 21 that would provide $60 billion to build multi-modal transport network nationwide. Thats right, $60 billion. Its not going to come cheap, but unless we want our future to come shrouded in a sickening cloud of car exhaust, we need to act now. That way, our children can breathe fresh air like Camino does in Spain.
Mr. Llamas is a junior at Glastonbury High School, Glastonbury, CT. Since childhood, he has been interested in rail transportation, which he now combines with his passion for preservation of the outdoors and energy efficiency. He has traveled extensively in Europe where he uses public transportation and sees how convenient it is.
The above piece was sent to the Hartford Courant last year where it was chosen as one of the 65 best letters to the editor of 2006.
He can be contact by email: Llama4329@aol.com
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