The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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

Contribute To NCI

August 9, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 33

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

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

  News Items…
SF To San Jose Rail Project Trying To Figure Out How To
   Appease Irritated Communities
  High-Speed Lines…
The American High-Speed Rail Alliance Adds Weber,
   Simmons To Advisory Board
  Political Lines…
Important Legislation Acted-On By House And Senate
  Off The Main Line…
A Day In The Life Of A Railway Docent
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Prospects For Freight And Passenger Rail Sharing ROW
   Looking Up
  Across The Pond…
Manchester Light Rail Approved For Major Expansion
Trenitalia Orders 50 Bombardier Zefiro High-Speed Trains
A Tale Of Two Airports
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …

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

SF To San Jose Rail Project Trying To Figure Out
How To Appease Irritated Communities

From Bay City News On The Internet

AUGUST 6 -- The California High-Speed Rail Authority is working to appease communities in the peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose where the new high-speed trains will go. Residents are worried about the width of the rail right-of-way and the possibility that the high-speed train will interfere with their existing local system run by Caltrain.

“The Authority plans to study three approaches to creating a four-track system along the Caltrain corridor through the Peninsula, which would be shared by both rail systems. The planned width of right of way– 120 feet – is one of the major concerns, and the authority is looking for ways to reduce it to 80 feet.

“Our challenge is to build a statewide high-speed train system that works in concert with local commuter rail systems and respects the communities through which it passes,” Authority chairman Curt Pringle said in a statement.

A draft environmental impact statement, which will analyze the alternative alignments, will be released some time in December. After that report is approved, the Authority and the Federal Railroad Administration will select the alignment. During the four-month outreach effort, community members stressed priorities including the protection of natural resources and improvements to existing rail service and track crossings.

The authority’s response comes on the heels of a sharply worded letter sent to a coalition of Peninsula cities by the president and CEO of the business-backed Bay Area Council.

A sharply worded letter sent in late July from the President and CEO of the Bay Area Council – a business-backed group—alarmed the mayors and council members from five communities in the Peninsula - Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Menlo Park and Palo Alto- which have formed the Peninsula Cities Consortium.

“High-speed rail is too important to let a small, vocal minority decide its fate,” wrote one of the Council members on his blog, where he posted the critical letter in toto. The council represents more than 275 of the Bay Area’s largest employers and lobbies for a stronger regional economy.

California’s 2.3 million unemployed are anxiously waiting for the rail project with all its construction projects to start. The 800-mile project between Sacramento and San Diego is expected to generate as many as 100,000 construction-related jobs each year while the project is being built, according to the authority.

The funding awarded to California, $2.25 billion, is part of the $8 billion in federal stimulus money devoted toward building a national high-speed rail network. Construction must begin by September 2012 and finish five years later to remain eligible for that allotment, according to the consortium.

Applications were due last Friday for the latest round of federal funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Authority is seeking $1 billion of the $2.3 billion that will be distributed among state projects.

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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

The American High-Speed Rail Alliance
Adds Weber, Simmons To Advisory Board


WASHINGTON, DC--- The American High-speed Rail Alliance today announced the addition of two top state rail directors to its Advisory Board.

The new members named to the Alliance’s Advisory Board are George Weber, Chief, Bureau of Railroads, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Patrick Simmons, Director, Rail Division, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The federal high-speed rail stimulus grants awarded to the IDOT, $1.2 billion, and to NCDOT, receiving $545 million, mean the start of high-speed rail projects that will bring jobs and improve environmentally friendly travel through these states.

“The American High-speed Rail Alliance’s focus on federal advocacy will help drive dollars to states and corridors to build an improved passenger rail network,” said George Weber, Chief, of the Bureau of Railroads, at the Illinois Department of Transportation. “I look forward to working with the Alliance to inform lawmakers about the significance of a continued investment in America’s future passenger rail system.”

“I joined the American High-speed Rail Alliance’s Advisory Board to help strengthen the partnerships needed to revive passenger rail as a major transportation option in America,” said Patrick Simmons, Director, Rail Division, of the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “I look forward to working with the Alliance to advocate for high-speed rail funding on a national level.”

The newly named members of the Advisory Board will provide guidance to the Alliance on its mission to advocate for the development and implementation of an improved passenger rail network in the United States. The Board will support the Alliance’s policy agenda, participate in strategic planning sessions, maintain a dialogue with stakeholders in the high-speed rail industry and help to establish the permanent Governing Board of Directors for the Alliance.

For more information about the American High-Speed Rail Alliance, see

For more information on AHSRA’s grassroots activities, see

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Important Legislation Acted-On
By House And Senate

From Passenger Transport, The Weekly Newsletter of APTA - American Public Transportation Association

Sections reprinted with permission

House Approves Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Bill
Amendments to Cut Transportation Spending Defeated

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY 2011 THUD appropriations bill by a vote of 251-167. The bill provides funding for U.S. Department of Transportation programs in the upcoming fiscal year.  As one of only two appropriations bills to pass the House at this stage in the appropriations cycle, it is possible that the THUD bill could become the vehicle for an omnibus appropriations package later this year.

A long list of amendments cutting programs and projects were filed with the House Rules Committee prior to the bill’s consideration, but the rule governing floor debate limited the number of amendments allowed to be offered.  Several amendments proposed cuts to transportation programs, including transit and rail.  Ultimately, all of the amendments to cut transit spending allowed under the rule were either defeated or not offered.   APTA issued a Legislative Alert on these amendments and APTA member opposition helped ensure their rejection.

The bill passed by the House is essentially the bill reported out of the House Appropriations Committee on July 20, 2010.  For details on the legislation, view APTA’s Legislative Alert on July 23, 2010.

Further action on transportation appropriations will wait until the Senate returns after the August district work period.

The Livable Communities Act Clears Senate Banking Committee

On Tuesday, August 3, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs reported favorably S.1619, The Livable Communities Act, by a 12-10 vote. The bill statutorily authorizes the Office of Sustainable Communities within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and authorizes the existing Interagency Partnership between HUD, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The bill also authorizes two competitive grant programs which would be contingent on future appropriations. A total of $475 million over four years is authorized for the Comprehensive Planning Grant program, which would assist communities in developing comprehensive regional plans that must consider transportation needs, affordable and accessible housing, economic development, and environmental concerns.

The bill was approved by a voice vote and has seen relatively broad support. At a hearing in June, rural senators expressed concerns that the bill would be too targeted to urban areas, but Dodd said behind-the-scenes work with Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) had ironed out some of those concerns.

The second competitive grant program, the Challenge Grant Program, authorizes $2.2 billion over three years to implement projects identified as priorities in comprehensive regional plans.   These grants would provide funds for projects such as public transportation improvements, support for transit-oriented development, pedestrian and bicycle enhancements, the preservation and creation of affordable housing, and to promote economic development.  Communities that have not yet reached the stage of creating a comprehensive regional plan would be eligible to use targeted grant funds to update local land use, zoning, and building codes to encourage sustainable development.

Amendments adopted at the markup would permit the creation of a credit facility to provide loans and loan guarantees that support the initial infrastructure for transit-oriented development. Eligible projects include transit facilities, structured parking, environmental remediation activities, sidewalks and bikeways.

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

A Day In The Life Of A Railway Docent

By Pieter Terwilliger

[ Publisher’s note: not long ago we asked an old friend of ours, Pieter Terwilliger, formerly of New York City, now residing in North Carolina, to recount his experiences as a (new) traveling rail docent, or railway host as the North Carolina Train Host Association calls them. The NCTHA, writes Pieter, “…is the brain-child of the NCDOT, which a decade ago, through the help of enthusiastic supporters of North Carolina train travel, formed the NCTHA, a volunteer train host association of people who have been interviewed by the State of North Carolina and approved as official goodwill ambassadors for the State, aboard those trains that are outright funded or subsidized by the State. At the moment these trains include the Carolinian, the Piedmont, and new as of this year, the Piedmont” Noon” train. You might call it an ‘extra section’ brought on by popular demand.” ]

At long last I’m able to provide you with the narrative for my NCTHA activities!

My first solo train host assignment was Saturday July 3, 2010 aboard Train 80, Amtrak’s Carolinian, Northbound between Charlotte, North Carolina (CLT) and New York’s Pennsylvania Station (NYP).

I detrained at Raleigh, NC (RGH); my return trip was aboard Train 75, Amtrak’s brand new additional Piedmont service, Southbound between Raleigh and Charlotte. Funded entirely by the State of North Carolina but operated by Amtrak, this train is stored in the Capitol Yard and originates in Raleigh. It was added in June 2010 due to the demand for an extra “noon” train and to supplement the existing Piedmont.

Anyway, being a holiday, #80 was sold out all the way to NYP (Penn Station NY). The printer was not working at the station in CLT, so I had no way of obtaining a passenger manifest to determine en route how many passengers were boarding, how many were detraining, how many had special needs, etc. I estimated there were well over 150 boarding (all reserved), and that number could easily have been 200, a continuing and resounding success for any Amtrak day train in the country. Because of the tremendous number of passengers, two extra coaches were added to the consist [as many D:F readers know, the cars and locomotive[s] that make up a train are called the “consist”].

Luckily, I was soon joined by Bill Cole, a seasoned veteran Volunteer Train Host with 15 years of experience. Due to the overwhelming number of reservations, he realized two of us were needed on this day, so he was handling the front line passengers by dividing them into lines for baggage to be checked, business class, and coach.

While he was franticly lining them up at the station train departure area, I covered the station entry doors and the parking lot. For lack of space, permission was given for people to park on the grass, and at one point, I had the passengers on my end lined up and overflowing outside the station. I gave them the mandatory luggage tags, directed people with computer-generated boarding passes to the ticket kiosk to print out their tickets, sent those without them to the ticket agent window, and answered all questions in between.

We both breathed a sigh of relief as we quickly boarded and the train just barely left at 7:30 AM, its scheduled departure time. The Café Car opened after Kannapolis, NC (KAN), on time. Fortunately we kept within five minutes of our scheduled departure times except after departing Cary, NC (CYN), where we stopped due to debris on the track. After about ten minutes of removing the debris we were underway again and made fine time until Highpoint, NC (HPT), where we fortunately located and assisted a lady amongst the physically challenged group who had just become aware that this was her stop. Her disability was that she was blind, and was in need of a rest stop as well. The crew managed to roll the platform wheelchair elevator apparatus up to the vestibule door and she detrained without incident; elapsed time 20 minutes for this activity.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, although we lost time which could not be made up, so our arrival in RGH was 35 minutes late. That wasn’t a bit too soon as I was covering the return train 75 and had about 10 minutes to do my station work and board. In actual fact with 80 occupying the single track, 75 couldn’t pull in until 80 departed Northbound.

The return trip on 75 was uneventful. My manifest revealed we would have a total of 77 passengers aboard. This was indeed a manageable number so I could spend more quality time with the passengers to explain some of the points of interest along the way and pass out brochures noting places of interest, games and stickers for the kids, etc.

We had two Amfleet Coaches in the consist to substitute for the gorgeous NCDOT Heritage Coaches that were severely damaged in a grade crossing incident a few weeks prior. NCDOT’s Heritage Fleet, used on all Piedmont service, is lovely equipment, the best of the 1950’s heritage fleet beautifully refurbished to state of the art in Capitol Yard. Two Combines are used for food service of which we had one, not attended. Instead, they have vending machines for soda, candy, buns and cookies, plus coffee and cocoa dispensers, as well as hot water for tea. These are all dispensed on the honor system and are free to the passengers. The Combine baggage compartment will accommodate bicycles as well, also at no extra charge.

My duties as a Volunteer Train Host consist of noting passenger comments, comments on food service, notes on equipment, notes on station conditions, bathroom supplies, on-time performance, crew members working that day and other events of an operational nature. These form part of an extensive trip report I turn in for each train traveled. That’s two reports - one for each of the trains I was aboard.

Since the Volunteer Train Host Program to date takes place within NC (and Maine as well!), we only accompany the Carolinian as far as Rocky Mount (RMT), that is, on days when I go that far. The next stop would be Petersburg, VA, (PTB out of our jurisdiction. This day I detrained at RGH to work the Piedmont back to Charlotte.

However, many states have made inquiries of the NCDOT for information as to how to set up and implement the Volunteer Train Host System for Amtrak trains funded in whole or in part by their states.

For your ready reference, I have furnished the stops for each of the trains I worked that day:

Train 80
The Carolinian
CLTCharlotteAM 7:30
HPTHigh Point8:48
(I turned here)
WLNWilsonPM 12:01
RMTRocky MountARR 12:23
Train 75
Piedmont ‘Noon’
RGHRaleighAM 11:50
CYNCaryPM 12:02
HPTHigh Point1:40
CLTCharlotteARR 3:02


In conclusion, biographically, I can’t lay claim that anyone in my family tree was ever connected in any way with trains. Having said that, I have always had an interest in trains, beginning with the New York, Susquehanna & Western, a Class One, but nevertheless Regional, railroad that passed through my New Jersey town of Franklin Lakes in my youth.

Since then I have been a hobbyist in the model train craft, with much of my train collection being built from scratch or modified to emulate a certain model. In the world of work, I fulfilled a dream of mine to work in the railroad industry by my departure from corporate America in the 1990’s to get my start as an Amtrak Sleeping Car Attendant and Train Attendant. Some years later I became an Amtrak Assistant Conductor in Zone 5, between NYP and WAS, or New York’s Penn Station and Washington, DC. For medical reasons, I returned to corporate America before retiring and moving south.

The NCTHA has offered a chance to return to the rails and capitalize on my lifelong love of railroading, bringing to the traveling public a unique opportunity to serve them one on one.

For a photo of us all, go to

For more details and photos, go to

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)64.2062.97
Canadian Pacific (CP) 60.5559.87
CSX (CSX)53.4052.72
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)40.8040.88
Kansas City Southern (KSU)37.7536.70
Norfolk Southern (NSC)57.0656.27
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.0011.92
Union Pacific (UNP)77.0474.67

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FREIGHTLINES... Freight Lines...  

Prospects For Freight And Passenger Rail
Sharing ROW Looking Up

Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) And Union Pacific
Reach Milestone Purchase Agreement

AUGUST 6 -- Denver’s RasTracks transit expansion program received a boost last week when the transit authority made a $78 million agreement with Union Pacific to purchase property needed for three transit projects, one of which will connect the Denver Union Station to Airport Boulevard.

This is the second property transaction between RTD and Union Pacific; the first was a $118 million purchase of right of way in 2009 which opened the door for FasTracks to build the North Metro Corridor.

“It is great to celebrate yet another milestone for the FasTracks investment initiative,” said Phil Washington, RTD General Manager. “The agreement we came to with Union Pacific is a demonstration of how well agencies can work together to benefit the greater good.”

“Today marks the culmination of several years of diligent work by many,” said Tony Love, Union Pacific Railroad Assistant Vice President of Real Estate. “The end result of this hard work is an agreement with a focus on safety and customer service for both freight and commuter rail traffic.”

The signing ceremony was held on Wednesday, August 4, at the law office of Jacobs Chase LLC in Denver, Colo.

The FasTracks program calls for building 122 miles of commuter- and light-rail lines, constructing 18 miles of bus rapid-transit lines, adding 21,000 new parking spaces, and redeveloping Denver Union Station.

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

Manchester Light Rail Approved
For Major Expansion

Phase 3b Extensions To Metrolink Get The Green Light

via GMPTE Press Release

Manchester, England - This week has been a landmark for Manchester’s Metrolink system as contractors were selected to construct new Metrolink lines to Oldham and Rochdale town centers and to Manchester Airport via Wythenshawe. GMPTE has appointed MPact-Thales (MPT) to design, construct and maintain the three new tram lines. In addition to the 48 new trams ordered for Greater Manchester’s expanding Metrolink network, 14 new trams are being procured to serve the extensions to Manchester Airport and Oldham and Rochdale town centers, bringing the total number of trams on order with Bombardier to 62.

David Leather, Chief Executive of GMPTE, said: “Following the approval of funding support from AGMA and GMITA, we have concluded negotiations for the delivery of the long awaited expansion of the Metrolink network. Contracts have now been signed for new lines to Manchester Airport and the town centers of Oldham and Rochdale, adding to the construction that is already underway from Manchester through Droylsden to Ashton, from Manchester through Chorlton to East Didsbury and the conversion of the former heavy rail line to Rochdale via Oldham. This milestone in Metrolink history will see the system almost treble compared to today’s network.”

A Bombardier Flexity Swift tram

Photo: GMTPE / Metrolink.

A Bombardier Flexity Swift ™ tram is seen in Manchester Victoria station during post-delivery testing in 2008.

“With the support of our Delivery Partner, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and the experience of MPT we are confident of successful delivery of the new lines,” added Mr. Leather.

MPT, a consortium of Laing O’Rourke, VolkerRail and Thales U.K., has already begun work on the three new lines and it is anticipated that trams will be running to Oldham and Rochdale town centers during spring 2014 and to Manchester Airport during mid 2016.

Bryan Diggins, MPT Project Director, stated: “It is a great achievement for the consortium to continue working together on this critical project. This award will allow us to complete the original vision for Manchester, providing the vital link from the urban areas of the city to the Airport, and essential town center links for both Oldham and Rochdale.”

Nick Flew, Managing Director of Parsons Brinckerhoff Europe, said: “We are very proud to be integral to the expansion of Greater Manchester’s iconic Metrolink network and this latest landmark, further improving transport facilities for the region.”

Manchester Metrolink is one of the U.K.’s few light rail systems, the others currently operating in part of London, as well as in Birmingham area, Blackpool, Sheffield and Nottingham. In most of the U.K.’s small and medium cities buses are typically the only form of public transit, unlike most of continental Europe, where a significant number of small to medium sized cities have one or more street tram lines or light railways. A significant part of the Manchester light rail system was created from existing heavy rail lines operated previously with conventional commuter trains, a couple of lines which had been dormant for a number of years, another line which was operated with a unique DC third-rail power supply and non-standard EMU train-sets, unlike the rest of the rail network in the region.

The system in Manchester operates with high-floor Ansaldo-Breda T-68 and Bombardier Flexity Swift ™ rail vehicles, the high-floor in the trams is required due to most stations on the system were former British Rail stations with high level boarding platforms. The rail vehicles are equipped with retractable steps in order to operate at a few downtown street-level stations with only curb-high platforms.

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Trenitalia Orders 50 Bombardier
Zefiro High-Speed Trains

Incumbent Italian Rail Operator Selects Zefiro Over Rival AGV From Alstom

First Major Order For Zefiro Series In Europe

via HAZ newspaper

Milano, Italy – Trenitalia, the main intercity rail operator in Italy, has selected a joint bid from Bombardier Transportation and Ansaldo-Breda for a contract to supply 50 high-speed EMU train-sets of the Zefiro series. The company’s board o directors approved the agreement on the 5th of August. A pre-production prototype should be completed within 300 days and entry into service in mid or late 2013 is planned.

The joint bid was reported to approach EUR 31 million (US $40 million) per eight-car train-set, which is allegedly EUR 5 million less per train-set than the Alstom offer for its AGV high-speed EMU train. The AGV high-speed train is currently undergoing route proving in Italy in order to begin revenue service with independent Italian passenger rail operator NTV later next year. NTV is held by a number of investors, including French state railroad SNCF, and is a competitor to Trenitalia.

“A good competition was concluded with high scores achieved by both bidders”, said FS Group Chief executive Mauro Moretti, who has criticized the quality of trains delivered in Italy in recent years. He added that the order was an important step. ‘This shows that there are various ways to buy trains: either go to the OEM and buy sight unseen, or instead, as we did, strongly support innovation.”

Image from Bombardier Transportation

A family resemblance – The V300ZEFIRO trains ordered by Trenitalia will appear somewhat similar (but not identical) to the Zefiro380 shown in this artist concept sketch.

The new trains are derived from Bombardier’s Zefiro platform supplied to China, with the designation CRH1, but significantly modified to meet European rail standards and market requirements, including a narrower body width (loading gauge) than the trains in China, which has a loading gauge similar to North America. The 200 m (656 ft) long trains will have distributed traction motors (as do the Alstom AGV and Siemens Velaro series) and will be capable of running as fast as 400 km/h (249 mph), although the planned maximum speed in revenue service will be 360 km/h.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

A Tale Of Two Airports

By David Peter Alan

The airports are not in Two Cities; both are in the City of New York and the Borough of Queens. Ironically, two persons affiliated with this publication became caught up in intermodal connectivity difficulties in that borough, separated by only a few miles and four hours of time.

D:F publisher Jim RePass wrote in last week’s edition of his difficulty in getting from LaGuardia Airport to Manhattan, where he planned to catch a train at Penn Station. Essentially every traveler to or from that airport who declines the option of an expensive ride in a taxi shares his complaint, and he is on solid ground. The route between LaGuardia and Manhattan is a bus between the subway and the airport. There is no rail link now, and there are no plans to build one in the foreseeable future.

A few miles away and four hours earlier, this writer waited for a group from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to complete a ride on the JFK Air Train and connect at Jamaica for a train to Port Jefferson on the Long Island Rail Road (also reported in last week’s edition). The air-train tour took longer than planned, so everyone missed the connection with the Port Jefferson train and spent an extra 85 minutes at Jamaica. The transit professionals from APTA took the event in stride and adjusted the itinerary for the rest of the day. RePass (for one) had to be somewhere, so he bore it, even though he was probably not grinning. The writers of the Letters to the Editor in this edition offer differing suggestions on the best way to make the journey, although all seem to concur that it is not easy.

The quality of transit connecting airports to cities varies greatly, depending on the city. Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, have local rail transit that will take riders between downtown and the airport area. In Baltimore, Amtrak goes near BWI Airport (on the Northeast Corridor Line), while transit advocates in Los Angeles and elsewhere are pushing for rail to go to their airports someday.

In the New York area, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey controls the three local airports; the two in Queens plus Newark. Newark Airport has a monorail that connects with New Jersey Transit trains. It is an incompatible operation, which requires a change and an expensive fare. An engineer proposed through-rail service between Penn Station and the airport terminals in the 1980s, but the proposal was not taken seriously. The situation is similar at JFK. The Port Authority built a separate train and charges a high fare to connect from it to the subway for a local ride to “the City” or to a train on the LIRR. LaGuardia has never had rail. One authority, three airports, and three different systems; none of them good.

Who can do anything about this? Probably no one. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is concerned with safety in the air and airport capacity, but not with how airline passengers (and workers) get to and from the airport on the ground. It is up to transit providers to do the job, and the quality of transit that airport passengers get is spotty, depending on the airport they use.

It is easy to say that first-rate service to the local airport should be a top priority for every transit provider, but this is not always feasible, and may not be particularly desirable. If an airport authority does not want rail transit on airport property, it will not go there. So Jim RePass and thousands like him will have two choices: an expensive taxi ride or questionable transit.

Air travel as a marketable product seems to have reached maturity and is beginning to decline. Short-haul air travel is expensive, wastes fuel and is bad for the environment. A strong rail corridor is time-competitive and offers the convenience of downtown-to-downtown travel. As security regulations for air travel become more onerous and time required at the airport increases, rail becomes even more competitive with air over longer distances.

Air travel will not go away entirely, but the time may come soon when it is essentially limited to long distances, especially overseas destinations. Airlines have been cutting service in recent years, and not all of the airline capacity that exists is actually in use today.

High-speed rail will deal a hard blow to the airlines. A new high-speed rail line in China recently blew the regional air carrier in the vicinity out of business in a matter of days. It appears that, wherever high-speed rail is introduced, air travel is reduced at least commensurately.

In the long run, the airport may become a less important transit destination than it is today. Large-scale capital investment in airport expansion is not a good investment. Still, airline passengers (and airport workers, too) need and deserve a reliable way to go between the airport and the city. Rail transit generally provides the most efficient and pleasant connection but it is expensive to build. So it appears that an express bus to a major transit terminal in the downtown area makes the most sense for many air travelers. For others, the old advertising slogan may still offer good advice: Next time, take the train!

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

[ Jim RePass’s article last week on Intermodal transfers in New York City, (Intermodal Transfers LaGuardia To Penn Station: Welcome To Third-World America-Or Worse – DF August 2, 2010), prompted a number of reader responses. Here are a few: -Ed ]


NYC And Intermodalism

First, although the physical connections at Jamaica Center and Howard Beach are not perfect, the actual idea of the SkyTrain IS the correct one for JFK. For tiny airports like BWI, Hopkins, or Washington National, a single rapid transit station fairly near the terminal works well. JFK is very different such that no matter which terminal one chose to terminate either a LIRR or Subway route, those using the other 6 would still need the SkyTrain. Ultimately the SkyTrain should be made part of the subway as to fares and better physical connections should be built at Jamaica Center. Restoring the ROW from Howard Beach to the LIRR main stem will be a major fight with NIMBYS but should be done so an express to NYP can be instituted. The next major step should be running C DOT trains to Jamaica Center so that Connecticut flyers have better access. (The track connections exist; it is more a matter of third rail shoes or extending catenary.) Either the Newark AirTrain should extend to Newark Penn Station or PATH should extend to the AirTrain.

Second, as BART has demonstrated, full length subway trains to the airport rarely fill up. More importantly, pricing of airport services is critical in making them useful. BART overspent so massively that it is nearly as expensive as a shuttle door to door in SF. What that also does is depress usage by the daily staff at the airports be they airline mechanics or concession clerks. In the SFO case this has been particularly tough for the lower wage workers as BART forced the local bus agency to scrap express bus service to the airport which was covered by a single monthly all county pass.

Bottom line, turf concerns have hobbled intermodalism in the NYC and other metro areas as well as short sighted designs (Newark air train to nowhere as opposed to connecting to PATH, LA Green Line to nearby but not LAX)

David Vartanoff


Jim RePass Got Bad Directions

For the best public transit from LaGuardia to Penn Station, I’d say take the M-60 and do NOT get off at that Astoria Boulevard Station, but continue over the Triborough Bridge into Harlem on 125th St. Get off at next stop after Fifth Avenue -- which confusingly can be called Lenox Avenue or Malcolm X Boulevard.

Go downstairs one flight to the subway (I think it has an elevator, but I’m not sure). Take any downtown train. The #2 and #3 both run express after leaving Harlem, and you should arrive at 34th St-Penn Station in fast time. That stop will be under Seventh Avenue. Down one flight from the platform and you will be on a concourse in Penn Station, in the Long Island RR section. The concourse leads directly on to the Amtrak boardings half a block away. (From Astoria Boulevard your stop will be under Sixth Avenue, and it’s a hassle to get over to Penn Station.)

BTW Harlem is quite safe during all daylight hours, both on the street and in the subway stations. And I would use this route in the evening myself, as a 65-year-old white man. But I hesitate to recommend it much after dark to strangers to the city. After the stores close, the metal window gates come down, and few pedestrians are on the street.

Wilton Woods


On Your La Guardia Nightmare

I’ve had this same experience late at night with the same amount of luggage. Truly an antiquated and arduous experience. One option is to fly into Newark EWR instead of [LaGuardia] LGA. Then it is a cleaner shot to Penn Station.

John Maybury


LGA “No Train To The Plane”

It looks as though you suffered the indignities of getting to Manhattan on the M60 and dual contract Astoria line. So did your fellow passengers.

The BEST way to deal with it is to take the Q33 to Roosevelt Ave. It’s a slightly shorter ride but you go into an actual bus terminal that leads 25 feet directly to the IND and IRT #7 lines station.

I live exactly between both airports so I grab The E Train east to Jamaica or West to Roosevelt Ave. I like the quick AirTrain Ride to JFK naturally.

In typical non-planning by NYPANJ/TA/LIRR the AirTrain turns East into Jamaica Station, an overbuilt terminal and long walk to the E/J Station. Heading east precludes the AirTrain ever going directly to Manhattan/Points West.

Firstly, there’s the problem of AirTrain using linear induction coils along the center of the track at an additional cost of $25 million/mile. A totally incompatible mode to ever use the LIRR Atlantic Branch. Secondly, even without linear induction the cars are not FRA compliant for crashworthiness so that leaves that option out-permanently.

As for somehow connecting to the subway, not only does the propulsion system preclude it but even if the cars had standard axle mounted motors there’s the going from CBTC to manual wayside regulation that would require both a Motorman and trip cocks installed to operate with NYCTA signals.

Howard Beach would be a natural connection to the A/C lines BUT the terminal seems to almost on purpose point to the southwest whereas it should have been built facing northwest. There are 2 out-of-service express tracks that would make an easy ramp connection if all the other problems could be surmounted.

As for LGA, there’s a plan for a line branching off just south of that decrepit Astoria Blvd station to underground stations within the airport. One little problem-the branch would have to cross the NEC approach trestle to the Hell Gate Bridge. To clear the large structure and catenary would require a sharp 90% turn and at least a 5% grade approx 1/2 long. The grade leading to the tunnel would require 3/4 miles of the same grade to continue at a lesser grade into the terminals tunnel. It’s an unobtainable feat using steel wheel/rail technology. Trains would simply slip in wet/icy conditions. In this option it’s all open area over the Triboro Bridge Approach Road (The Grand Central Parkway changes names approx 1 mile east of the bridge.) so there would be no eminent domain needed-the area is a 2 level highway/street bridge and is wide open.

There’s a route plan that I first saw 15 years ago. If it was feasible don’t you think that it would be constructed by now? There’s also a route plan to continue past Ditmars Blvd 2 blocks north and due to a Con Ed plant a sharp 90% curve would need to be built. This would require property takings which would be difficult as Astoria is one of the most heavily populated areas in the city. The area is built up with large 6 story apartment buildings. The line would be buildable with a portal near Hazen Street, the street that runs along the shore of LI Sound. There is a vehicular bridge going out to Riker’s Island and the portal could be constructed just east of it.

So, how can rail get to LGA, which is actually doable? The #7 already has a ramp in Corona Yard that the route could start in the rear of the yard by running NE through a mild curve into a portal built opposite CitiField. The tunnel would have to run 2 miles to get to the terminals where the 4 stations would need to be built. They would be: 1) US Airways, 2) Delta, 3) Main Terminal, and pardon the wishful thinking, 4) Marine Air Terminal. This would require a Heathrow type of tunneling under runways with moles and a length of 3/4 miles.

Fortunately LGA is 1/10 the size of JFK so the line would be I/2 the length of AirTrain at JFK. I’ve never seen a route plan for this option but a few smart managers that I described this to like the idea.

The running time from the new 34th/11th to 111 street, the beginning of the ramp will be 22-25 minutes express when CBTC is added by 2013 so the route could be built and probably open in 2014/5 with CBTC, if started soon.

Think about it-with walking O’Hare style ramps and the ride will yield a 30 minute trip to GCT, Times Square and the new 34th Street terminal.

This in my opinion is a perfect route- direct LGA to stations that all the tourists and other travelers use.

There is a plan to construct a LIRR/Amtrak/possible Metro North Hell Gate route station at Queensboro Plaza. North and southbound passengers could save 15 minutes by changing at the intermodal station. Although the logistics would require a 2 block walk so passengers with luggage would benefit from taking the #7 to a Manhattan station.

As for the actual service: As much has to be worked out with installing CBTC when it’s finally installed Airport Express trains would have to be run. Regular service gets down to 4 minutes during the rush hour, so a 20-minute headway or one out of 5 trains would provide the headway. This would be a throwback to the 1964-5 World’s Fair

Super nonstop expresses, but Airporters would stop at express stations to even out the flow of trains.

As the 111 Street leads are only reachable by the local tracks, the Airporters could run on the Express track to the new 74th Street interlocking and run the 5 stops to 111 Street on the local track. The opposite situation exists for westbound trains.

On another tack, there’s actually talk buzzing around to extend PATH to at least EWR/Liberty airport station. It’s a start at least. Of course a line will have to tunnel to the terminals and building that route is no problem as PATH relay tracks next to the NEC come within 1 mile of the station. There’s room to build portals with a reasonable grade into the tunnel over to the terminals. Believe it or not, this connection is being considered because of that ARC tunnel and whatever they’re building around 34th Street.

July’s Railway Age letters have 3 opulent condemnations of the changed plan. 1 is 2 pages long-the longest I’ve ever read and even the much shorter other 2 say a lot with few words. I highly recommend reading them.

Vincent Reiner Jr.


Editor’s note: We invite our readers to contribute articles and commentaries. We would welcome new writers.

Molly McKay

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