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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June 1, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 24

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

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Workshops Start
   May 20, To Tour Nation
MTA Has New Chief -- Temporarily
  Intermodal Lines…
More U.S. Airports Add Rail Service To Downtown
  Corridor Lines…
Virginia Rail-Corridor Study Will Address Landowners’ Concerns
  Events…
EXPO 2009: The Time To Come Together Has Never
   Been More Important
  Economic Lines…
BNSF Cuts Jobs: Freight Traffic Down
MBTA Cuts Jobs: Budget Slashed
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Financial Lines…
CSX Moved To ‘Top Pick’ By UBS
  Safety Lines…
Patrick Orders Review Of T’s Safety Practices
Grand Jury Convened
  Off The Main Line…
A Scenic Rail Journey In Eastern Quebec
  Publication Notes …


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

 

[ To our readers: We are running this article again to keep all informed about these important workshops. - Editor ]

 

From A Letter To Stakeholders, From FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo:

 

FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Workshops Start May 20, To Tour Nation

Please note change in venues for Chicago and Philadelphia High-Speed Rail Workshops

 

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will hold a series of High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Workshops to begin the implementation of President Obama’s vision for developing a cohesive national intercity and high-speed passenger rail network. This vision was set forth in FRA’s Strategic Plan for High-Speed Rail (HSR) announced by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood, and sent to Congress that same day on April 16, 2009.

Through these workshops, FRA is reaching out to the rail community in seven regions across the country to seek its input on the Interim Guidance FRA is required to issue on or before June 17, 2009, for the $8 billion in grant funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for the high-speed rail corridors program, intercity passenger rail grants, and congestion grants. The workshops will enable FRA to discuss the HSR Strategic Plan with key stakeholders such as state departments of transportation, regional planning authorities, metropolitan leaders, associations and labor groups. Under the ARRA, these workshops exclude the participation of lobbyists. In addition, FRA will hold additional workshops at a later date with supplier and other industry groups.

These workshops are not public hearings, although they are open to the public. The goal of the workshops is to take the first steps toward determining how FRA and key stakeholders can best partner together to make the Strategic Plan a reality. During the workshop, stakeholders will have an opportunity to share experiences, raise concerns, provide insights, and make recommendations on several key issues and questions, as well as hear from representatives from a regional perspective. This input will not only to provide FRA with your regional vision of high-speed and intercity rail networks, but it will enable stakeholders to focus on the critical factors that will make their programs a success. The workshop schedule will include the following:

  1. Introduction 10 minutes
  2. Overview of FRA strategic plan and next steps 30 minutes
  3. Amtrak presentation 15 minutes
  4. Q & A 35 minutes
  5. Regional presentation 30 minutes
  6. Break 15 minutes
  7. Working group break-out 1 hour
  8. Wrap-up 15 minutes

The workshops will be held 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

Due to practical space and time constraints, I ask that you only plan to attend the event that is nearest to your location or proposed corridor. Please RSVP at the following Web site : https://survey.deloitte.com/wsb.dll/5644/FRARegistration.htm, and indicate which workshop you will be attending no later than 3 days before the scheduled workshop, after which confirmed attendees will receive additional details regarding the location and program. Those wishing to attend without a RSVP may do so as long as space is available. (Despite the name survey in the URL, the web site is not a survey, but rather a means to track the number of individuals who indicate that they will be attending particular workshop sessions.)

In addition to participating in the workshop, I am inviting you and other members of the public to submit written comments to FRA by June 5, 2009, on issues that should be addressed in the Interim Guidance and specific recommendations on the criteria to be used in evaluating grant applications. FRA has created a public docket (Docket No. FRA-2009-0045) for the receipt of written comments. Please visit FRA’s Web site at: www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/2236 for information regarding the various ways in which you may submit comments to the public docket.

Please note, additional sessions to aid states with the mechanics of applying for ARRA funds will be scheduled after these workshops, as will informational sessions for industry, labor, intergovernmental and other interested parties.

I look forward to working with you over the coming months to ensure the grant programs funded by ARRA are implemented successfully.

Sincerely,
Joseph C. Szabo
Administrator
The Federal Railroad Administration


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MTA Has New Chief -- Temporarily

From the Internet (YourNabe.com)

Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams has been appointed temporary head of the MTA pending appointment of a replacement for Elliot Sander. Williams will temporarily succeed Sander, who resigned last month, the day following the legislative action that will provide a revenue stream for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is in serious financial straits.

Williams will also continue her duties at the LIRR while serving as interim MTA CEO and executive director.

Sander, after two years as MTA chief, announced his resignation following Gov. David Paterson’s remarks hailing the legislative action in which he said, “We are going to have a clean-up and a clean-out at the MTA.”

Paterson will appoint Sander’s permanent successor and then the state Assembly and state Senate must decide whether to give its approval. Under Williams’ leadership, the LIRR last year set an all-time record for on-time performance.

 

At Right: Helena Williams

Photo by Ivan Pereira


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INTERMODAL LINES... Intermodal Lines...  

More U.S. Airports Add Rail Service To Downtown

DF Staff from USA Today and the Internet

Airline travelers in America rent cars -- at least that is what they take for granted is a necessity. It often leads to delays to one’s destination from clogged roads or getting lost in a strange city, but it has been the only choice for getting around in many places for a very long time.

That is changing.

A recent USA Today story by Roger Yu reports that “......a growing number of domestic airports are building or have plans for a rail link that will connect passengers from the terminals to regional metro-rail systems, allowing road warriors and vacationers to ditch their cars.”

Photo: Lacy Atkins / The Chronicle 

Travelers wait for the BART train to stop before boarding it to go to SFO.
“There is a consensus building that this is a desirable piece of overall strategy to deal with ground transportation challenges,” says Matthew Coogan, director of New England Transportation Institute who has written extensively about the subject.

Near term projects in Seattle, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth and Oakland are expected to open during the next five years.

Denver Washington Dulles and Los Angeles have similar plans, but their projects are years from completion.

Only eight of the 20 largest U.S. airports, based on 2008 boardings, have rail service that drops passengers off within walking distance of the terminals: Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, New York John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston and Philadelphia. (Boston’s Silver Line, an excellent rail to airport connection, is actually a bus.

For environmental reasons – reducing carbon footprint – and cost – building parking garages and expansive lots – the airport/rail agenda is being pushed forward despite opposition from taxi, rental car and bus opponents.

Availability of federal money has encouraged rail/airport connections in Portland and Phoenix. In Phoenix, the connection will be an above-ground people mover, the Phoenix Sky Train, which will connect to a nearby light rail line.

In Salt Lake City, which had no public rail at all ten years ago, a five-mile 5-mile downtown-to-airport connection is under construction and scheduled to open in 2012, says Michael Allegra of Utah Transit Authority. He expects about 6,000 riders daily when it opens. The Authority also built a 150 mile commuter rail system, which at this stage does not extend to the popular ski resort Park City, but plans are in the works to do so.

Experts cite Washington, D.C.’s metro service to Washington Reagan National, Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) connection to San Francisco International and New York JFK’s 8-mile AirTrain that links to the local subway as the most heavily used and popular systems in the USA.

“When I fly to SFO, I always take the BART from the airport to my office in downtown San Francisco, and I love it,” says business traveler Marc Belsher, a health care technology consultant. “It is inexpensive, reliable, relatively fast and ultra-convenient. It is the natural choice for me, especially in this economy.”

One of the largest construction projects in the nation’s capital is a 23-mile extension of the region’s Metro to Washington Dulles. The new line will also serve the Tysons Corner area, Virginia’s largest employment center. The completion date hasn’t been determined.


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CORRIDOR LINES... Corridor Lines...  

Virginia Rail-Corridor Study Will Address
Landowners’ Concerns

By DF Staff from American City Business Journals and Other Internet Sources

WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 27 - A proposed new tax district to help pay for the Dulles Metrorail Phase 2 expansion has some residents worried. But states are struggling with dwindling revenue to continue operating transit and rail service in the face of rapidly rising demand, so innovative ideas get put on the table that often illicit local opposition.

In early 2008, the Metrorail expansion to Dulles International Airport, a $4 billion-plus project, was so uncertain that developers weren’t sure whether to proceed with their transit-oriented development (TOD) plans near proposed stations. Some were forging ahead, such as the Calilfornia-based Macerich project for several hundred spare feet of residential units, office space and a hotel in Tyson’s Corner. But others were facing the difficult decision of whether or not to start.

When the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced they would not provide $900 million in financing to help fund the project, officials had to come up with alternative plans. They proposed a tax district in Herndon and Reston which would raise $400 million to build three Metro stations as part of the Metrorail expansion. This proposal generated much apprehension among developers and landowners. So the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on May 19 to conduct a special study of the Reston-Dulles corridor to learn what the impact of the tax would be. The study will provide an expedited review of property owners’ individual requests for increased density along the corridor. It will begin immediately and be completed by September.

The action could appease landowners who have been privately grumbling about the proposed tax district.

“[These locations where the stations will go] are highly visible and are going to be really important to the county and its taxpayers,” said Patricia Nicoson, president of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, a nonprofit group that supports rail to Dulles. “They should capitalize on it.”


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EVENTS... Events...  

There is still time to register for the remaining events at The Providence Conference Center

 

EXPO 2009: The Time To Come Together
Has Never Been More Important

Join your colleagues and friends from around the country as we make sense of these remarkable times for the transit field and for the nation. The Economic Stimulus legislation, the looming transportation reauthorization, the new Obama Administration and Congress, energy and environmental opportunities, ongoing health care trends and dire national, state and local economies, among others, are all combining to present a series of challenges and opportunities never before seen in our field. The time to come together has never been more important.

See you in Providence!

Editor’s Note: This event began this past weekend but runs through June 5, 2009. Additional information is at:

http://web1.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/anmviewer.asp?a=1174&z=65


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ECONOMIC LINES... Economic Lines...  

Tough Economy Hits Hard On Freight And Commuter Rail

 

BNSF Cuts Jobs: Freight Traffic Down

From the Internet (Scottsbluff Star-Herald)

ALLIANCE, Nebraska, MAY 27 — Burlington Northern Santa Fe laid off more than 100 workers last week because of a decrease in rail traffic.

The workers were furloughed and told they would be called back when freight traffic picks up.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway General Director of Public Affairs Steve Forsberg of Kansas City, Kan., said 307 positions have been eliminated throughout the network in the mechanical department.

All told, 307 positions were eliminated and out of those 267 employees were furloughed.

“However, we still employ nearly 1,600 employees in Alliance,” said Steve Forsberg, General Director of Public Affairs for BNSF, “and we plan to call those employees that have been furloughed back when the economy improves and rail traffic volumes increase. We do not know at this point when that might be.”

Since 2008, 3,000 BNSF employees have been furloughed, in addition to the most recent ones.

“....transportation in general such as airlines and trucking is down,” Forsberg said. “No one is immune.”


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MBTA To Cut Jobs: Budget Is Slashed

From the Internet (WBUR Radio)

BOSTON, MAY 28 — The group that has final say over the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s finances is cutting $160 million out of the T’s 2010 budget. It presents its final report Thursday morning.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Advisory Board is cutting $160 million out of the T’s upcoming budget which will result in eliminating 1,200 of the T;s 6,000 jobs.

When the MBTA presented its first-draft budget in March, it included an anticipated $160 million dollar deficit.

When T officials reported an anticipated $160 million deficit in the budget in March, they were hoping a proposed gas tax increase would bail out the MBTA, but that didn’t happen.

Last Thursday, the advisory board said it would gladly authorize a supplemental budget if legislators provide the T with a fresh revenue stream by the time the budget goes into effect on July 1.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)72.4468.17
Canadian National (CNI)43.4641.39
Canadian Pacific (CP)40.9437.63
CSX (CSX)31.7628.16
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)28.9227.34
Kansas City Southern (KSU)16.4915.77
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.2035.21
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.7511.50
Union Pacific (UNP)49.2746.16


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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...  

CSX Moved To ‘Top Pick’ By UBS

From Rail Transport on the Internet

MAY 26 - UBS analyst Rick Paterson praises the business success of CSX, criticizing those who have the misconception that the company is mismanaged. CSX is trading at a discount to its peers, giving them stronger pricing power and more room than its peers for margin improvement, he said.

Based on its current valuation, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad trades at 22% price-earnings ratio discount to other top-tier rails,. CSX has a “buy” rating on the stock and a $51 price target.

CSX was trading at $29.98 a share as of 10:16 a.m. on the New York Stock Exchange last Tuesday.

“The only push-back we get on CSX relative to the group remains the “poor management” criticism. Four or five years ago that was probably true, but we think those days are long gone and (mis)perception is lagging reality. These guys know what they’re doing,” Mr. Paterson said.

“If anything, we believe CSX deserves a premium to the group, not a discount,” he added.

As such, Mr. Paterson moved CSX to his top pick Tuesday, replacing Union Pacific, based on its current valuation and its short term opportunities.

He also noted he still prefers Canadian National Railway Co. (CNI) to Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) in Canada.


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Patrick Orders Review Of T’s Safety Practices

Hiring Standards Also Study’s Focus

Source: Boston Globe Online

BOSTON, MAY 27 - Governor Deval Patrick has ordered an independent review of MBTA safety practices, another indication that recent accidents on the Green Line have prompted scrutiny of the transit agency’s lack of crash-prevention equipment, and of its hiring and training practices. The review will take several months and is being conducted under the authority of the American Public Transportation Association and will be carried out by three to five managers from other transit agencies.

Grand Jury Convened

The collision event of May 8 has also prompted the convening of a Grand Jury in Suffolk County (Boston, MA) to review the evidence and possibly pursue criminal charges against trolley operator Aidan Kelly who stated to authorities just after the crash that he was “texting” a message to his girlfriend on a hand-held device at the time the impact occurred. The event has also precipitated the passage of a new MBTA employee directive that bans the mere possession of cell phones and other hand-held devices on one’s person while operating a bus, trolley, or train. The ban was also reinforced by a state regulatory body. - Webmaster.

Both the May 8 Green Line crash that injured nearly 50 people and a similar crash last May that killed a trolley operator involved apparent mistakes by 24-year-old operators who were relatively new to the T. The Green Line, a light-rail system, is particularly vulnerable to operator error because there is no automated system to stop drivers from running red lights or rear-ending trolleys. Most other subway and trolley systems around the country have had automated systems in place for decades.

The Globe reported last Monday that the T is six months behind schedule in hiring a consultant to evaluate how to install such a system.

An investigation of the two crashes is also being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board. This peer review will focus less on the details of the crash and more on specific technology and policy recommendations based on outside experience, said Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association.

During peak hours, the Green Line enters and leaves stations every 30 seconds. MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said he would like to install an automated crash prevention system, but has not found one in use elsewhere that would allow trolleys to come and go in and out of stations that frequently.

“There isn’t a system out there today that you can pull off the shelf and plug in on the Green Line and increase the level of safety and not decrease the level of service,” he said.

Others believe the transit agency should be more aggressive to find and install a system that will work.


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

A Scenic Rail Journey In Eastern Quebec

By David Peter Alan

Many of us in the rail advocacy community are old enough to remember when each train had its own personality, when customer service was the key to a pleasant rail travel experience, and when food that was freshly-prepared and served with style in the dining car was the highlight of the trip. This experience is no longer available on Amtrak, due to budget and service cuts during the past several years. However, it is available on Via Rail, departing from Montreal.

The Chaleur leaves Montreal every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 6:30 pm, even though the public timetable lists the departure time as 6:15. What follows is a 38-hour journey to Gaspe, the town at the end of the peninsula by the same name, and back to Montreal. This is a trip that many people take just for the ride, and the crew members know several rail fans who often do just that.

The train leaves Montreal as Train #16, and even the boarding experience is unique in North America. The Chaleur is combined with Train #14, the Ocean to Halifax, and placed at the head end. The equipment on the Halifax train is European-made and designed for corridor, not long-distance, operation. Via Rail calls it “Renaissance” equipment, but some passengers and crew claim the experience compares more accurately to the Middle Ages. At the head end of the train, the equipment suddenly changes. The cars at the front are stainless steel long-distance passenger cars built by the Budd Company for the Canadian Pacific Railroad in the 1950s. This equipment ran on CP’s premier train, the Canadian, through the 1970s and has been used on Via Rail since then.

The Gaspe train is short; behind the single engine (typically an F40) and baggage car are two sleeping cars, a single coach and a diner-lounge called a “Skyline” car. The Skyline cars are dome cars, with a small lounge section on one end of the car and six dining tables on the other end. The dome is in the middle of the car, and the lounge attendant’s area for selling snacks and beverages is under the elevated dome seats along with the galley, where the chef prepares meals.

Via Rail’s Chaleur making it’s station stop at New Carlisle, QC
In the fall of 2008 and the spring of this year, I treated myself to a trip on this elegant train. The dinner menu included fish (salmon or cod), a smoked meat sandwich (a Montreal specialty) and pot roast (a standout and this writer’s choice). The pot roast, along with the vegetables and mashed potatoes that accompanied it, were cooked fresh. Fish chowder, cheese cake and coffee completed the meal. To accompany the main course, l’oprelleur, an excellent medium-dry white wine from Quebec, was available by the glass.

Pierre, a veteran of over 35 years on the railroad, served our dinner expertly. Like most Montrealers and the rest of our crew, he spoke English and French fluently. He seemed to banter with his French-speaking customers, while maintaining a more formal approach with his English-speaking customers. Lyle, the lounge car attendant, is a blues fan who enjoyed talking about his favorite music when he had the chance. Roger, the Service Manager, was also a musician, playing trumpet in an orchestra in Montreal when he was not out on the railroad.

On the eastbound trip on Friday evening, dinner and the crew were the highlights, as the St. Laurence River was too far from the rail line for us to enjoy the scenic views. At Matapedia, a junction near the New Brunswick border, the Chaleur separated from the Halifax train. For the last seven hours of the trip, the line follows the shoreline of the Bay of Chaleur, on the southern coast of the Gaspe Peninsula. The rugged coastline and small maritime villages were reminiscent of old New England villages, but the disproportionately large churches in every small town served as reminders that our train was passing through Quebec.

The final destination, Gaspe, is the largest town in the region, with a population of about 15,000. Its name means “land’s end” in the language of the Micmac, the native people who settled in the area. The name fits the town well, and there is not much to do there. Fortunately, the train is only in town for about two hours, which allows just enough time for lunch.

A fifteen-minute walk across a long bridge takes you into downtown, if the wind does not blow you off the bridge. It was cold there, even in mid-May, and patches of snow could still be seen on the ground for the last hour of the trip. Lyle’s restaurant recommendations were Café des Artistes, which this writer tried last fall, and Brise-Bise, the choice on last month’s trip. I tried a salad and sandwich at the former and Italian Poutine (mozzarella cheese and meat sauce on top of French Fries; normally a Montreal specialty) at the latter. Both were good, and both restaurants also serve good locally-brewed red ale.

After lunch, it was time to board Train #17 for the trip back to Montreal. The trip back was the reverse of the trip out, with the same crew, but a different collection of passengers. Even if you do not speak French, you will probably find enough English-speaking people to make the trip interesting. The scenery is certainly interesting. There is an hour of slack in the schedule between Matapedia and Montreal, so Train #17 (combined with Train #15 from Halifax) will probably connect successfully with Amtrak’s Adirondack to New York.

Via Rail’s Chaleur provides a journey into the past, to a time when rail travel was gracious and fun, and dinner in the dining car was a highlight of the journey. This experience is no longer available on Amtrak, and a comparable experience is not available on any of Via Rail’s other long-distance trains. While passengers use the Chaleur to go to Gaspe and the small towns on the way there, the train itself is the true highlight of the trip.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition in New Jersey and serves on the Board of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and the Council of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). He has ridden every line on Amtrak and most on Via Rail. This article is based on his experiences riding from Montreal to Gaspe and back, departing Montreal on October 31, 2008 and May 15, 2009.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2009 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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