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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July 26, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 31

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

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

  News Items…
The British High-Speed Train Set To Challenge
   Asia’s Dominance
SilverRail Announces Plan To Be ITA
   Software Of Rail Travel
  Political Lines…
House, Senate Mark Up FY 2011 Appropriations Bills
UP CEO Hits Congress For Anti-Freight Policies
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak Applauds ADA 20th Anniversary
Amtrak To Purchase 130 Rail Cars For Long-Distance Fleet
CAF USA
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Station Lines…
Quinn Announces $641,000 For Galesburg’s Amtrak Depot
  Opinion…
Times Are Hard For Transit Riders, But Big Consultants
   Still Get The Big Bucks From Management
  Publication Notes …


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

The British High-Speed Train Set
To Challenge Asia’s Dominance

From Internet Sources

JULY 19 -- A sleek new design for Britain’s latest high-speed train is being touted as the next British transport design icon. This is the first time since the Concorde that a transport model design is one a Brit can be proud of, they are saying.

Dubbed the “Mercury,” it is being called the “Concorde of the tracks!” Designed by the British company Priestmangoode, this train is supposed to “persuade people to travel by train,” by making train travel “as exciting as air travel and as sexy as the latest car!” The train is up to 400 meters or 1,312 feet long, has a huge nose and travels at speeds reaching 360 km or 225 mph.

Artist Concept

Image: Priestmangoode.Com

Artist concept of exterior of the Mercury

Here is what the promoters are saying:

“Mercury” – The Next Great British Design Icon

We believe that the new high speed train is vital for the future of Britain, both as the low-carbon, sustainable transport of the future and because it offers a crucial opportunity to champion British design and engineering at a time when we need to fight as hard as possible in an increasingly competitive global economy.

We need a new British design icon to follow in the footsteps of Concorde, the Spitfire, Rolls Royce and the Routemaster bus and to reawaken Britain’s authority as a global leader in design and technology.  Mercury is our idea of what that might be.

Mercury is a double-decker train with a unique interior design that we believe will revolutionize domestic rail travel.

The exterior of the 400m long train, designed to emulate those great British design classics, will have an extended nose section which will be one of the most extreme in the world – vitally important for the aerodynamics of a train which will travel at 225mph.

For further information about Mercury please download the PDF below

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-concorde-like-high-speed-train-designed-to-race-through-britain-2010-7#ixzz0ucslqPzo


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SilverRail Announces Plan To Be
ITA Software Of Rail Travel

Boston Business Journal On Line
And DF Staff

An enterprising businessman who graduated from Northeastern University 14 years ago, Aaron Gowell founded a company that, in just one year, has built the first global ecommerce platform for rail travel. The company, SilverRail Technologies, has built a ticketing system designed to integrate the high-speed rail systems criss-crossing Europe, and eventually the globe.

At present, travelers must visit multiple sites to buy separate tickets when piecing together their high-speed rail travel plans from country to country. SilverRail plans to aggregate ticketing for all those services in one application programming interface (API), making it available to travelers via its own direct site and through online travel-search sites such as Orbitz, Expedia and Reardon Commerce.

With $9 million in venture capital commitments, Gowell launched SilverRail Technologies in August 2009. The newly-formed company paid $500,000 to acquire the technology assets of Wandrian, a now-defunct leisure travel business that had been working on a rail ticketing system. He also brought on board William Phillipson, a former ITA employee, who designed a Java-based system to handle the complicated packaging of multiple databases and the inventory and pricing systems.

Venture capitalist companies who committed funds are Grand Banks Capital of Wellesley, PAR Capital of Boston, and Sutter Hill Ventures of Palo Alto, California.

Putting together an integrated service has been challenging, said Gowell. For instance,” the UK has 20 privately owned rail companies. Tickets are handled through a central clearing house, but that itself comprises five different systems – one for inventory, one for fares, one for payment, etc,” he said.

The ticket packages also include hotel reservations: “Rail is actually wiping out air in a lot of (European) markets, and the world,” Gowell said. “Bundling hotel deals with flights is a cash cow for travel sites, but so far there’s been no way for them to reach rail travelers with those offers. “If you don’t have the rail, you’re out of the hotel game.”

Gowell expects profitability in the first quarter of 2011. The company now has about 25 employees with offices in London and Boston. It estimates its addressable market – the global market for long-distance rail travel – at $180 billion.

About Gowell: Aaron is a founding member the Boston-based venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners in Boston ($1.3B under mgmt), a former associate at Bain & Company, and a highly decorated veteran of the US Army’s 82nd airborne division. Before launching SilverRail, he built and sold one of the largest travel technology companies in the US, National Leisure Group (NLG), a $1B ecommerce business with 2,000 employees between Boston and Miami. A graduate of Northeastern University, he credits his NU experience as a key ingredient to his success!


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

House, Senate Mark Up FY 2011
Appropriations Bills

From Passenger Transport, Newsletter From
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA)
Reprinted with permission

WASHINGTON, JULY 23 --The House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week each passed a version of the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bill that funds public transportation.

These committee votes pave the way for the bill to move forward in Congress. It remains unclear whether the bill would be considered separately or as part of omnibus legislation for multiple federal agencies.

The House Appropriations Committee’s FY 2011 bill would include $11.3 billion for public transportation--roughly half a billion dollars more than both the president’s request and last year’s level. The bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee would include $10.8 billion for public transportation, nearly the same amount provided in FY 2010.

For high-speed rail, the House committee version would provide $1.4 billion. The Senate committee version would provide $1 billion, the same as the president’s request. This is below the $2.5 billion provided in FY 2010. Positive train control would receive $150 million from the Senate committee, versus $75 million from the House; both represent significant increases over the $50 million in the FY 2010 appropriation.

Either bill if passed would require an extension of the surface transportation authorization law, set to expire December 31. The House bill’s significant increase in funding would also require legislation to raise the program authority for public transit.

Look for more details in the July 23 APTA Legislative Alert.


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UP CEO Hits Congress
For Anti-Freight Policies

From Bloomberg News And From Internet Sources
By Theo Keith - Jul 23, 2010

OMAHA---Union Pacific Corp.’s chief executive officer said U.S. lawmakers are discouraging needed investment even as federal transit authorities call for $77.7 billion in rail- and bus-system improvements, Bloomberg News reporter Theo Keith reported this past week.

“Congressional legislation now in committee would increase government oversight of mergers and allow shippers to challenge rates. The measures are making it hard for rail companies to plan,” Chief Executive Officer Jim Young said yesterday in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.

“I’m having a hard time seeing how those policies encourage new investment,” Young said. In addition, he said the government’s push for high-speed passenger rail service distracts from the more pressing concerns for freight.

Shippers have contended in recent years that rate-setting practices by the freight railroads --- deregulated by the Staggers act in 1980, which effectively ended 60 years of rate-setting by the Interstate Commerce Commission --- have abused “captive” customers, that is, customers who must ship by rail but who have only one choice of rail service due to simple geography. They have been lobbying hard for a form of re-regulation to give them more leverage on rates.

Bloomberg also reported, “Union Pacific, based in Omaha, Nebraska, agreed July 20 to move forward on a high-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis after settling with the government on minimum terms, including recovery of its initial investment. Work is scheduled to begin in September”.

“If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be doing this investment,” he said. “We need to focus on freight for our good and for the good of the country.”

The Chicago-St. Louis route received $1.1 billion from last year’s $787 billion economic-stimulus package. Passenger trains will travel 110 miles an hour on the new line, Young said, in the Bloomberg interview.


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

Amtrak Applauds ADA 20th Anniversary

America’s Railroad Offers Accessibility, Mobility And Connectivity For Passengers With Disabilities

WASHINGTON – July 26 will mark the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Amtrak is proud of its role as an important mode of travel for people with disabilities and of its special services to the disabled community.

Over the course of the last two decades, Amtrak has taken significant steps to make travel on Amtrak more accessible for passengers with disabilities, offering increased mobility and connectivity to family, friends, recreation and work. All of Amtrak’s trains meet or exceed the ADA requirements for accessible seating and 94 percent of Amtrak passengers begin or end their trip at accessible stations.

The Amtrak experience — from trip planning, to booking tickets, to stations, to equipment, to on-board and station services — includes accommodations for passengers with disabilities. All front-line employees are trained to provide special services for passengers with special needs, all Amtrak-operated trains nationwide have accessible restrooms and all long-distance, overnight trains have accessible bedrooms.

Furthermore, Amtrak is currently the only intercity passenger transportation company that offers discounts to passengers with disabilities and their companion traveler, a practice that began more than 30 years ago. By booking through a reservation call center, about 288,000 riders took advantage of the 15 percent discount last year, and that number is on pace to increase by six percent this year.

Stations are a key component of traveling by rail, and while Amtrak owns only a small percentage of the stations it serves, the railroad is committed to working with all station owners to create a nationwide rail system that is fully accessible to each and every passenger.

Approximately 74 percent of stations served by Amtrak and subject to ADA requirements provide barrier-free access for passengers with mobility-impairments. Amtrak is also taking steps to further improve accessibility at many stations including the repair of platforms, ramps and sidewalks, and the replacement of aging or obsolete wheelchair lifts and placing new ones in locations where there had been none.

In addition, Amtrak is moving forward on several other fronts including: voluntarily modifying rail cars to allow for on-board storage of Segway devices used by passengers with mobility impairments; ensuring the design of each new rail car to be purchased in the future provides for more accessibility; upgrading passenger information displays in stations to improve communication for deaf or hard of hearing passengers and passengers with visual impairments; and hiring an ADA program director to coordinate ADA work across the company as well as a Disability Outreach coordinator.

About Amtrak

As the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator, Amtrak connects America in safer, greener and healthier ways. Last fiscal year (FY 2009), the railroad carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second-best year in the company’s history. With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more than 300 trains each day—at speeds up to 150 mph (241 k/ph)—to more than 500 destinations. Amtrak also is the partner of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for several commuter rail agencies. Visit Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information.


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Amtrak To Purchase 130 Rail Cars
For Long-Distance Fleet

About CAF USA

CAF USA, along with its parent company, Spain-based Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, is an experienced rail car manufacturer for the global market. CAF USA currently produces rail equipment for several U.S. transit systems at its Elmira, N.Y., facility.

The Elmira plant is the result of the intense activity of the company in the North American market over the last few years.

The high volume of orders in the US market (more than 600 million dollars in sales, in three years) has driven us to establish a solid infrastructure in North America.

For this purpose, CAF USA acquired the plant in December 2000. This factory has produced railway vehicles since 1986 under the ownership of ABB and later Adtranz. Highly skilled workers and managers, experienced in the North American railway market, work in Elmira.

In order to serve its customers’ needs in the USA, CAF has several customer service and maintenance centers in Sacramento (California), Greenbelt (Maryland) and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania).

The Elmira plant is CAF’s North American manufacturing headquarters, centralizing the management, the coordination with all the US suppliers and on site support for the US customers.

Basic Data – CAF Elmira
Total area: 38 acres
Covered surface 440,800 square feet

Special Employee Advisory

JULY 23 -- Amtrak has agreed to buy 130 new single-level rail cars to support national long-distance service as the first step in a long-term, comprehensive fleet renewal plan. The five-year, $298.1 million contract was awarded to CAF USA, which will manufacture the cars in Elmira, N.Y., where it will add 575 jobs to support the work. The first car is scheduled to roll off the assembly line in October 2012.

“This major equipment purchase demonstrates our strong belief in the future of intercity passenger rail in America and Amtrak’s leading role in meeting this critical national transportation need,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Included in the purchase are 25 sleepers, 25 diners, 55 baggage cars and 25 baggage/dormitory cars. They will replace and supplement the existing fleet. The new equipment will also allow Amtrak to retire some of its oldest cars, which have been in service for over 60 years.

“Passengers will have a better experience traveling with us but these new cars will also make it easier for our crews to provide great service,” said Boardman.

The new equipment will have modern interiors with better layouts along with better lighting, more efficient HVAC systems and improved accessibility for passengers with disabilities. Passengers will also benefit from additional power outlets and bicycle racks in the baggage cars.

The first year of the five-year contract will be paid for with $29.8 million from Amtrak’s current revenues which are running above budget estimates due, in part, to ridership that is on a record-breaking pace. Amtrak will seek to fund subsequent years of the contract with other sources such as loans or direct Congressional appropriations.

This equipment purchase is just the first step in Amtrak’s multiyear Fleet Strategy Plan to replace its entire fleet of passenger rail cars and locomotives over the next 30 years and help support the growth of a domestic rail manufacturing industry. Amtrak is currently reviewing bids to replace many of the electric locomotives used along the Northeast Corridor and may make a contract award later this summer.

 


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)62.6459.22
Canadian Pacific (CP) 58.9456.36
CSX (CSX)52.6550.27
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)38.79336.98
Kansas City Southern (KSU)38.3534.72
Norfolk Southern (NSC)56.4653.39
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.0812.40
Union Pacific (UNP)73.9068.91


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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

Quinn Announces $641,000 For
Galesburg’s Amtrak Depot

Money would help renovate Amtrak station

From The Register on the Internet

GALESBURG, ILLINOIS, JULY 23 -- The City of Galesburg has been awarded $641,000 to renovate the Amtrak Depot and build a new transit maintenance facility for city buses.

Governor Pat Quinn announced last week that the funding was being made available under the Illinois Jobs Now Capital Construction Program.** $308,000 of the funding will pay for the construction of a new transit maintenance facility, $40,000 to “renovate the Amtrak station to include intercity bus” and $293,100 to “purchase maintenance equipment, dispatching hardware/software” and security cameras.

The city also is in the process of applying for funding through the federal TIGER II grant program to fund a major redevelopment of the Colton Park area, which would expand the existing transit facilities further and tie-in with the proposed development of the National Railroad Hall of Fame in the area.

“Our mass transit systems drive Illinois’ economy and we must invest in them to continue our economic recovery and create jobs,” a statement from Quinn said. “This important capital investment will improve the safety, reliability and efficiency of the public transportation systems that people throughout Illinois rely on every day.”

The state is investing $500 million in mass transits infrastructure throughout Illinois, including the funding for Galesburg.

The governor expects to receive matching funding through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for part of the Galesburg projects.

NOTE:

On July 13, 2009, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law bills that create the $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! Plan, which will revive the state’s ailing economy by creating and retaining over 439,000 jobs over the next six years. At a bill signing ceremony, Governor Quinn stressed this is the first statewide capital construction effort to become law in over a decade.

For some good images of the station see: http://www.trainweb.org/amtrakpix/stationphotos/GBB/gbb.html


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OPINION... Opinion...  

Times Are Hard For Transit Riders, But Big Consultants
Still Get the Big Bucks from Management

By David Peter Alan

I am sure that you remember that “boom” years that ended in 2008. It seems that just about everybody mortgaged their homes to the hilt, because they believed that real estate values only went up and never down. Corporations and public agencies also saw streams of income that they thought would never stop. Some transit providers took on overly-expensive capital projects, because their managers believed that the “government” would always have money to complete any project, no matter how grandiose. After all, that’s how highways get built. Parenthetically, unfortunately, they still do.

It is a different story for the part of transit that the riders experience; the part that operates the buses, trains and light rail vehicles that actually take riders to their destinations. Essentially every major transit provider has raised fares, reduced service, or both during the past year or so. As far as the riders can tell, this nation has fallen on hard times, and one of the consequences is that people who depend on transit have less mobility and pay more for the mobility they still have.

While transit riders are paying more for less, it does not appear that large contractors are sharing the burden. On the macro side, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is still planning to build a “deep cavern” terminal on Manhattan’s East Side for “East Side Access” for the Long Island Railroad. New Jersey Transit is still pushing for its own “deep cavern” 180 feet below street level on Manhattan’s West Side. Both projects are extremely expensive (price range in the billions of dollars), backed by huge consulting firms, and apparently unaffordable in these economic times. At least, funding from both State and Federal sources appears to be increasingly precarious as time goes by.

On the micro side, “smaller” sums are still being allocated to large consulting firms. A recent expenditure by New Jersey Transit is a case in point. Despite recent cuts in service, NJT ordered 100 new multilevel push-pull cars from Bombardier, essentially identical to the 329 that are already on NJT property. The cost per car is $2,975,619. Adding the 5% for contingencies (whatever that means) which was approved at the July 14th Board meeting, that comes to $2,935,559.95 (is that on sale from $2,935,560?) per car.

To make matters worse, the same budget item included $92,153.42 per car for LTK Engineering Services of Ambler, Pennsylvania for “engineering, quality assurance, testing, and project management services” for the manufacturing project. With the additional 5% for contingencies (again, whatever that means), the authorization comes to $96,761.10 per unit.

Rail advocates were amazed to find that NJT was authorizing such a sum to be paid for these services for railcars that were identical to those NJT had already purchased and were now coming “off the line.” Jack May an advocate who was instrumental in securing the restoration of week-end service to Montclair last fall, asked NJT Executive Director James Weinstein if he intended to hire a high-priced consultant when he bought an automobile for himself. NJT management attempted to defend the LTK contract, but did not cite specific reasons why such a high price would be justifiable, except to say that the services were needed. May’s question makes sense. If there is a compelling reason why NJT’s riders should pay more than $92,000 out of pocket to inspect each car that comes off the assembly line, NJT should be required to prove the need to pay that much.

To add insult to injury, NJT raised off-peak rail fares 47% to 64%, effective May 1st. NJT management claimed that the singularly-large hike in off-peak rail fares (described to the public as the “elimination of the 15% discount for traveling outside peak commuting times and on week-ends) was needed to bring in $8 million that merely raising all rail fares, including off-peak, by 25% could not deliver.

Thus, NJT plans to pay LTK at $1,215,342, and possibly as much as $1,676,110, more than the expected revenue from charging riders an increase of at least 22%, and up to 39%, more than the increase that commuters and other riders at peak commuting hours are now required to pay. In other words, NJT could have kept the former discount for off-peak rail travel and still had more than $1.2 million to pay in-hours engineers to go to the Bombardier plant and inspect the new cars. This is a common practice, and it would have given a break to riders who refrain from jamming trains at peak commuting hours.

There is another way NJT could have saved enough money to restore the former off-peak fare. At the same meeting, the Board voted to buy ten “dual-mode” locomotives, in addition to the 26 already on order. The price was set at $78,849,571 plus 5% for “contingencies” or $7,994,957.10 per unit. It appears that buying only nine units, rather than ten, would have saved nearly $8 million, which would also have presented an opportunity to eliminate the need to require off-peak rail riders to pay an enormous fare increase. Bombardier would have had to take a slightly smaller order, but thousands of transit riders would have received a benefit.

It is not the purpose of this column to deprecate Bombardier or LTK. Both companies enjoy strong reputations, but that does not mean that NJT has the money to pay their prices for everything they want to buy. Spendthrifts run up big bills, and somebody has to pay. In this case, rail riders who travel outside of commuting time are being stuck with the bills. If NJT had controlled its spending urges, one less locomotive or hiring a few engineers to eliminate an exorbitant consulting fee could have kept rail riders during off-peak hours from experiencing fare increase in the neighborhood of 50%.

It is not too late to reverse these decisions. As with all of these major expenditures, the Board approves them “subject to the availability of funds.” In this case, the fact that NJT has raised fares, especially off-peak rail fares, drastically and cut service is a clear and convincing statement that funds are not available. If one of these errors is corrected, off-peak rail riders could get their prior discount back. If both of these errors were corrected, the same riders could enjoy a discount approaching the historic 25%, which was in effect from the 1920s to 2005.

It is time to face the fact that the “business as usual” practices from the “boom years” no longer make any sense. It is not a good management practice for transit providers, or any other business in the public or private sector, to waste money. It is especially unfair to force transit riders to pay out of pocket for managerial extravagance. It is time for all transit managers to learn this lesson and start to think of their riders first. The riders deserve no less.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition. He noted the connection between the consulting fee authorized for LTK and the sharp increase in off-peak rail fares in a statement made on behalf of the Coalition during the July 14th NJT Board meeting. The opinions expressed in this column are his own.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2010 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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