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 2, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 22

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Iowa, Illinois Senators Ask Amtrak To Ready Rail Cars
   For Quad Cities Route
Kansas City Maps Out Audacious Metro Rail Plan To Restore
   Its Region’s Competitiveness, Livability
Next Stop For Air Passengers: Nearest Amtrak Depot?
  News From Amtrak…
Alleman Tapped For Top Spot In Amtrak’s Mid-Atlantic Division
Internal Marketing Plan Focuses On “Big Six” Services
 
  Legal Lines…
Minority Amtrak Stockholder Sues Railroad For $52 Million
  Commuter Lines…
Fox Lake To Get More Metra Trains
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Business Lines… go Environmental
CSXT, Michigan DOT, Regional Michigan Governments
   Testing Cleaner Genset Locos; UP California
  Publication Notes …


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

Iowa, Illinois Senators Ask Amtrak
To Ready Rail Cars For Quad Cities Route

From Quad City Times and the Internet

DAVENPORT, IA --- The growing interest in passenger rail travel as gasoline prices head North of $4/gallon is mounting, and the pressure is already beginning from those already in the “queue” for better service to locate and obtain the new equipment that will be needed as service demands increase, as expected, over the next few years.

The Quad City Times’ Ed Tibbetts reports that all four Iowa and Illinois Senators “…are asking that Amtrak move quickly to prepare rail cars in the event Amtrak connections between Chicago and Iowa are built.”

“U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Barack Obama, D-Ill., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, made the request in a letter dated Tuesday. Rail advocates are seeking funds for high-speed rail connections between Chicago and Iowa City through the Quad-Cities and also from Chicago to Dubuque,” the paper reported

“To accommodate the expected boom in ridership ... we want to ensure that we have the absolute best rolling stock available,” the senators said in a letter to Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Alexander Kummant, the paper said.

“An Amtrak feasibility study in January said the supply of rolling stock is limited and train sets for the new lines would likely have to come from its inventory. The cost and time needed for repairing rail cars is significant, however. The feasibility study estimated the cost of rail cars for the Chicago to Quad-Cities route at $4.2 million,” said the paper.

Paul Rumler, executive director of the Quad-Cities Passenger Rail Coalition, was quoted in the paper as saying “the letter is a sign the congressional delegation is being proactive. It’s one of the question marks out there that was identified in the feasibility study,” he said.

The Amtrak feasibility study put the cost of track upgrades for 79-mph service between Chicago and the Quad-Cities at $22.7 million and $32.5 million for similar service from here to Iowa City, the Quad City Times reported.

Ed Tibbetts can be contacted at (563) 383-2327 or etibbetts@qctimes.com.


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Kansas City Maps Out Audacious Metro Rail Plan
To Restore Its Region’s Competitiveness, Livability

By DF Staff, From The Kansas City Star, And From Internet Sources

KANSAS CITY --- Taking a page from the successful playbook of Portland, OR, Denver, CO, and Salt Lake City, UT, and other American cities, Kansas City this past week released a wide-ranging plan to begin to re-create its extensive urban and suburban rail network.

On May 28, as reported by the Kansas City Star’s Jeffrey Spivak, Brad Cooper, and Lynn Horsley, Mayor Mark Funkhouser released a $1.2 billion transportation plan that would help reconnect the city with its Missouri-side suburbs.

The plan includes the building of streetcars, a light rail line, and commuter (“heavy”) rail.

The two communities named Kansas City straddle the Kansas-Missouri border, but the Missouri side is by far the most populous of the two, and in addition the enabling legislation applies only to the Missouri side.

“The plan includes five different types of transit services, including light rail and modern streetcars through downtown, an east-west express bus across the Northland, plus commuter train service for suburbs in Jackson and Clay counties,” reported the Star, and would allow a rider on “...any of the rail lines [to] reach Kansas City International Airport with one or more transfers,” the paper said.

The mayor is seeking a half-cent sales tax in ballot measures in the neighboring counties of Jackson, Clay and Platte to help pay for the system.

Typically, communities via their state DOT’s can get 90% Federal re-imbursement of their costs if they build additional lanes of highways, but get nothing, or next to nothing, if they choose to build transit. This is the phenomenon known as “the color of money”, which essentially makes local decision-makers favor the form of transportation that brings in the most Federal funds, rather than a system that is actually wanted by the community.

The Federal law, whose drafting over the decades has been dominated by lobbyists from the petroleum industry (oil, autos, tires) is therefore heavily skewed in favor of highway construction, sprawl development, and exit ramp architecture, all of which have contributed to the gutting of the centers of many American cities, which are only in the past decade or two fighting their way back as attractive places to live and work.

The difficulties in bringing back transit, light rail, and streetcars have been compounded by the very thorough destruction of those systems in the 1930’s and 1940’s via the National City Lines scandal, wherein General Motors, Standard Oil, Firestone Tire, and a few other large corporations secretly bought control of the National City Lines bus company, which in turn then began buying up what eventually totaled about 100 cities’ streetcar and trolley systems across the United States. They would then rip up the tracks and literally burn the streetcars so they could not be used elsewhere, so that “modern” diesel buses were all that could be used by those same municipal and local transit companies.

The companies were caught and convicted of this new type of economic crime in the late 1940’s, but the fines amounted to only $4,000, effectively allowing them to essentially get away with one of the most destructive acts of economic terrorism in American history.

Even Kansas City’s current efforts to renew its transit system face legal hurdles: as the Star reported, “…the plan is hampered by a 15-year limit on a transportation sales tax — fewer than the 25 years [the Mayor] assumed would be available by law. Still, Funkhouser thinks a regional system makes more sense than a light-rail starter line being pursued by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (ATA). A larger system would serve more people and offer better connections to jobs and destinations, he said.”

“A lot of people are desperate for transit options,” Funkhouser noted, as quoted in The Star: “They want whatever we can give them.”

The Star reports that “… the plan seems to offer a little something for everyone:”

•An 11-mile light-rail spine crossing the Missouri River. It follows a slightly different route from the ATA’s starter line. Funkhouser’s spine would reach farther north, into Gladstone, and south of downtown it would travel along Troost Avenue instead of Main Street.

•A modern streetcar line through the central business corridor, between downtown and the Country Club Plaza. A modern streetcar looks like light rail and runs like light rail on rails in city streets, but it’s slower because it operates amid street traffic instead of in its own transit-only lane. In all, Funkhouser’s plan envisions about 15 miles of streetcar and regular light rail, compared with the ATA’s 12 miles.

•Commuter rail lines extending north, east and south. Commuter rail is like light rail except it runs on existing railroad tracks instead of in city streets. Such tracks, either currently operational or available, would connect downtown to Liberty, Independence, Blue Springs, Raytown, Lee’s Summit and Grandview. Tracks are also close enough to the Truman Sports Complex to make that a destination.

•Express buses across the Northland to KCI. Express buses are limited-stop buses typically along highways. Funkhouser’s plan calls for these to connect with light rail in Gladstone along North Oak Trafficway, operate east-west along Missouri 152, plus follow Interstate 29 to the airport.

•Bus rapid transit along Bruce Watkins Drive and tying into the Bannister Mall area. Rapid buses have limited stops and more identifiable stations. This would serve as a feeder commuter line to light rail from the south, but it would require the ATA to shift its current bus rapid transit planning from Troost to Watkins.

Planning and coordinating all this would involve an entirely new transit agency, according to Mayor Funkhouser’s plan. For the full story Go to KansasCity.com


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Next Stop For Air Passengers:
Nearest Amtrak Depot?

By Theresa Novak
Corvallis Gazette Times
Copyright © 2008 Corvallis Gazette Times, A Lee Enterprises Subsidiary.
Reprinted By Permission

CORVALLIS, CA --- This past week brought yet more bad news for those of us who have lamented how air travel increasingly means more money and hassle and less fun.

To wit: American Airlines announced that it would begin charging $15 for the first piece of checked baggage. AA’s Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard J. Arpey said this move would raise “several hundred million dollars” and help offset skyrocketing jet fuel costs.

Last month, American joined other major carriers in adopting a $25 charge for second checked bags. Those other carriers indicated they might follow American in charging for the first bag as well.

It’s all about weight. The more weight an aircraft carries, the more jet fuel it consumes. American officials said they’ve spent $3 billion more on fuel since the first of this year over the same period in 2007.

A thoughtful friend, who has almost no body fat himselt, wondered “Why don’t the airlines just start charging tickets based on the weight of passengers and their luggage?”

“Well, U.S. passengers won’t put up with that,” I huffed. “Besides, the airlines would spend more time hassling with customers than collecting any savings.”

But upon further reflection, I’m not so sure.

Southwest Airlines already charges passengers who can’t get their seat belts to latch for an extra seat, despite the outcry from groups who advocate on behalf of larger people.

In these days of expensive travel, it’s possible that an airline that advertises discounts for passengers who weigh in — baggage and all — below a certain number would find favor with consumers.

But airlines already have lost me. I’m going by train whenever I can.

A winter trip to Southern Oregon convinced me this is a transportation pleasure more travelers must try. The seats were more comfortable than first-class airline seats, and they reclined almost flat.

Dinner was a crisp salad, fresh salmon and Oregon wine in a stemmed glass. It was served on a cloth-covered table. Cutlery was silver, and it included a knife. I watched passing landscapes I’d never seen from the highway.

The same one-way trip today, from Albany to Klamath Falls, would cost $41.

It’s bad news for the airlines if more people discover what it’s like to enjoy a journey and arrive well-rested — with luggage intact.

(Theresa Novak is the city editor at the Gazette-Times in Corvallis).


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

Alleman Tapped For Top Spot
In Amtrak’s Mid-Atlantic Division

WASHINGTON --- Steven J. Alleman, deputy chief engineer, Construction, has been appointed general superintendent, Mid-Atlantic Division, effective June 1, replacing Acting General Superintendent Mike Sherlock. Sherlock will assist in the transition process until June 15, before resuming his duties as operations superintendent.

“Steve offers a wealth of experience and knowledge, and he’s demonstrated great skill and leadership as manager for a number of complex projects and operations,” said Vice President, Transportation Richard Phelps. “We should also applaud Mike for stepping up and serving in exemplary fashion during the search for a permanent replacement.”

Alleman joined Amtrak in 1977 as a track worker while attending Virginia Tech. He has served in a variety of roles including New England Division general manager, High Speed Rail program director and senior program director of Fire and Life Safety.


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Internal Marketing Plan Focuses On “Big Six” Services

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2008 --- A new internal education campaign is now underway to help Amtrak call-center agents and travel agents better sell the features and benefits of the Marketing department1s “Big Six” trains that comprise the FY 108 Route Improvement Plan: City of New Orleans, Auto Train, Coast Starlight, Hiawatha Service, San Joaquins and Northeast Regional.

“We want to focus on our sales agents who, in addition to on-board service employees and ticket agents, directly touch customers,” said Hank Koppelman, senior director, Product Management, “and ensure that they have the most accurate information about a particular train service, which should enhance the reservation and sales process.” The City of New Orleans was highlighted in April and the Auto Train was the featured service in May. The Coast Starlight is the Train of the Month for June.

As part of the plan, route product managers brief and subsequently quiz call-center agents and travel agents on the features of a given service, such as upgraded dining car services, equipment or special promotions. The anticipated outcome is an increase in revenue and ridership. For example, the City of New Orleans showed a 17 percent revenue increase over last year.

Additionally, a promotion enabling Amtrak Guest Rewards members to earn a 25 percent point bonus for travel on the Auto Train resulted in a 2,270 registrations in May, according to Vicky Radke, senior officer, Loyalty Marketing.

Train of the Month is a collaborative effort among Product Management, Marketing, Loyalty Marketing, eCommerce, the Western and Mid-Atlantic Reservation Sales Call Centers and the Travel Agent Sales Center.


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...

Minority Amtrak Stockholder
Sues Railroad For $52 Million

By DF Staff And From The Cincinnati Business Journal

CINCINNATI --- The Cincinnati-based American Financial Group, an insurance holding company, has sued Amtrak for the company common stock it owns, The Cincinnati Business Journal reported this past week.

The company got stock --- most of which is held by the United States Department of Transportation --- via successor transactions involving the defunct Penn Central Railroad, which went belly up in 1969.

Amtrak was created in 1970 at the request of the freight railroads, who up until that time were required by law to provide costly passenger service, as part of their “common carrier” obligations under the laws of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

The freight railroads were at that time supposed to capitalize Amtrak, and take its stock in return, but most simply gave Amtrak used passenger locomotives and equipment, and walked away from the railroad. Congress, which had also promised funding to build up the condition of passenger service, also failed to act, and until recently has given Amtrak only enough money to fail, slowly.

The Business Journal reported that an official with a national trade group speculated that AFG’s timing is opportunistic, as there has been recent bipartisan progress to reauthorize Amtrak subsidies. Legislation to fund Amtrak over six years, at about $14.4 billion, has been approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and sent to the full House. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Fox Lake To Get More Metra Trains

From the Lake County Journals

FOX LAKE, IL – New commuter trains could hustle a few thousand new riders each weekend from Fox Lake to Chicago, reports By Regan Foster of the Lake County Journals. (rfoster@nwnewsgroup.com)

“Six new trains began weekend service between Chicago and Fox Lake on May 23, Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

The paper reported: “We’re really seeing ... on the weekends, quite an increase,” Pardonnet said. “We’re also seeing quite an increase on the reverse commutes, so our nontraditional rides are up.”

In March, 13,726 weekend travelers bought tickets on the Milwaukee North Line, Metra numbers showed. That was a 24 percent increase over March 2007, the paper reported.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)113.05106.14
Canadian National (CNI)56.4155.30
Canadian Pacific (CP)73.1671.30
CSX (CSX)69.0666.73
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)40.8238.17
Kansas City Southern (KSU)49.9646.31
Norfolk Southern (NSC)67.3862.74
Providence & Worcester (PWX)20.7519.35
Union Pacific (UNP)82.31152.16


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines.... go Environmental

New Ultra-low emission diesels

 

CSXT, Michigan DOT, Regional Michigan Governments
Testing Cleaner Genset Locos; UP California

From CSXT and MiDOT, Internet Sources,
and the Roseville (CA) Press Tribune

DEARBORN, MI, and ROSEVILLE, CA---In a city whose name is almost as synonymous with “automobile” as is Detroit’s, local and state officials are working together to introduce some cleaner-burning locomotives to the area.

CSX Transportation (CSXT), the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) have introduced two ultra-low emission GenSet locomotives at CSXT’s Rougemere Yard in Dearborn, Michigan.

The GenSet locomotives, from Montreal’s Rail Power locomotive works, reduce nitrous oxide and particulate matter emissions by 80% and can create carbon dioxide emissions savings of approximately 50%. The locomotives were retrofitted through a partnership between CSXT, MDOT and SEMCOG and are the first low emission locomotives to be deployed in Michigan and on CSXT’s 23-state rail network.

CSXT hopes that this public-private partnership will serve as a model that it can replicate in other states where it operates.


Photo: CSX Corp.

One of the new CSX Genset Locomotives on display

About GenSet Locomotives

About the Public-Private Partnership

Meanwhile across the continent, greener locomotive are going to work at Union Pacific’s JR Davis Yard, reports Nathan Donato-Weinstein of the Roseville The Press Tribune.

“From the outside,” writes Donato-Weinstein, “the newest locomotive to arrive at Union Pacific’s J.R. Davis Yard in Roseville appears virtually indistinguishable from its brethren. But officials say it’s what’s inside this new locomotive, the second generation of UP’s GenSet line of diesels, that will substantially reduce harmful emissions from the area’s largest pollution trouble spot.”

Last week UP and regional air quality officials “…joined forces to welcome the first of six such locomotives, all diesel-powered switchers to be used within the yard shuttling rail cars where they need to go,” reported the Press Tribune.

“This is a good solution to part of the problem,” said Tom Kristofk [CQ] air pollution control officer for Placer County, whose office helped finance the purchase, the paper reported.

“The locomotives will be used on the ‘hump and trim’ section of the yard – pushing cars up an incline “hump,” then down the “trim” into specific tracks. Officials say locomotive activity there accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all emissions from the yard. About 30,000 locomotives pass each year through the yard, which is Roseville’s fourth-largest employer, the paper noted.

The U.S. EPA is also implementing stricter rail diesel pollution standards, with newer, progressively stringent rules to take effect in 2012 and 2015, the paper said.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2008 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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