Vol. 8 No. 32
August 13, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American transportation update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKay
European Correspondent - David Beale
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists, and
elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items…
Former President of Amtrak, Now Helping Nova Scotia
   Revitalize Transit
Paul Weyrich Comments
AP Story Misleads Public on Amtrak
  Commuter lines…
New Mexico’s Commuter Service Advances to Santa Fe
  Labor lines…
Norfolk Southern and BLET Reach Tentative Agreement
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Financial lines…
Warren Buffett Buys 1.6 Million More Shares In BNSF (BNI)
  Across The Pond…
Think-tank Calls For Hong Kong – Shenzhen High Speed Rail Link
South Korea’s Roh Could Use Rail Link On State Visit
Appeals Court Blocks Train Driver’s Strike Against Deutsche Bahn
  Commentary…
Reader Comments on “It’s The Infrastructure, Stupid” (DF 8/6/07)
  We Get Letters…
  End notes…


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News items...

Dismissed by Bush Administration:

 

Former President of Amtrak, Now Helping
Nova Scotia Revitalize Transit

U.S.’s Loss is Cape Breton’s Gain

From Internet Sources

HALIFAX, AUGUST 6 -- Many years ago small communities throughout Nova Scotia were connected by daily train and bus service.

Today, as reported by Allena MacDonald in an article for the Chronicle Herald, a local group of committed volunteers, with the help of former Amtrak president David Gunn, is working to re establish low-cost accessible transit in the Strait area.

“You actually could live here without a car,” said Dave Gunn, who lost his job as president of Amtrak because he would not agree to help break up the railroad corporation.

“I was appointed as president of Amtrak...prior to George Bush’s election, and the Bushies ended up firing me. I am proud of it...I was not on board with destroying the company.”

Paul Weyrich Comments

Dave Gunn is a scholar at the Free Congress Foundation as well. Gunn is the most talented transportation expert we have in North America. The fact that he is willing to advise Cape Breton is a measure of Gunn’s humility as well as his ability. I am honored to call Dave a friend.

The committee Mr. Gunn joined has evolved into the Strait Area Transit Co-operative and is gearing up to start its bus runs in 2008, the article continues. The plan includes the purchase of a 40-seat bus and two vans.

While the proposed system is small in comparison to the transit systems of his past, the project is exciting and challenging, Mr. Gunn said.

“Sometimes running a small property is more difficult than running a big property,” he said. “When you’re running New York City, you’ve got a legal department, a purchasing department, a maintenance department - and if you need advice on something, you’ve got people there who are expert on whatever it is you want to know.”

The co-operative plans daily commuter service between Richmond County, Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury. They are committed to serving seniors, students, low-income earners and the disabled who have had almost no transit available for decades. They also want to offer more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

The public agrees. Surveys of sample groups have shown a high level of support for the project.

“Of all the places we’ve been, there hasn’t been a negative thought put forward since we formed our board,” said Almon Chisholm, a former Port Hawkesbury mayor and chairman of the co-operative’s board. “The need is there - many people have no means of transportation.”

The board is already planning the next phases of the service which will include connections with existing transportation systems, writes MacDonald.

“The second phase of our project will be to look at transportation to Whycocomagh, up Route 19, possibly to Inverness, and then possibly into Antigonish,” Mr. Chisholm said.

Mr. Gunn’s extensive experience in transportation is a win for the co-operative. As general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the New York City Transit Authority, the Washington, D.C., subway and bus system, and the Toronto Transit Commission, he was instrumental in revitalizing and greatly improving the efficiency of operations and management.

Lack of public transportation for seniors, the disabled and people with lower incomes has put this population at the mercy of depending on others to drive them, Mr Gunn said. It’s risky to be so dependent on cars, he added.

“We’ve put all our eggs in one basket. All economic activity is built around cheap fuel and cheap transportation by auto, which is going to become less available and more expensive.”


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AP Story Misleads Public on Amtrak

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON---The Associated Press Washington Bureau, which transportation advocates such as the National Corridors Initiative say has had a history of hostile, mis-representational, or simply false coverage of Amtrak, has struck again, this time with broad repercussions.

In an August 1 story with a Washington dateline, headlined “Amtrak Offers Free Booze” the AP’s Devlin Barrett writes (quote):

“Amtrak is trying to gin up new business by offering $100 in free alcohol to customers on some overnight trains. The national passenger rail company is making the unusual offer to promote a new high-end service being offered on a trial basis for certain sleeper car trips.

Members of Amtrak’s guest rewards program — the railroad equivalent of frequent fliers—can get a $100 per person credit for alcohol between November and January,” he states.

“The offer of free drinks comes on top of the dinner wine that is already included in the cost of a ticket for GrandLuxe trips on the California Zephyr—chugging between Chicago and San Francisco—the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles, or the Silver Meteor between Washington, D.C., and Miami or Orlando, Fla.,” says Barrett.

Unfortunately for the AP, the story is simply not true, as Amtrak stated in its response the next day:

“GrandLuxe Rail Journeys, a private luxury rail cruise company, has partnered with Amtrak to offer ‘GrandLuxe Limited’ passenger rail service on select long-distance routes between November and January. In order to promote the new service, GrandLuxe is offering members of Amtrak Guest Rewards a premium of up to $100 worth of beverages aboard GrandLuxe trains as an incentive to potential ‘GrandLuxe Limited’ customers. The beverage credit is being offered only aboard the ‘GrandLuxe Limited’ sections of some Amtrak trains, a low-volume, luxurious train service on overnight trips for which Amtrak does not sell tickets and on which Amtrak provides no staff,” an Amtrak statement issued August 2 said.

“A recent AP story has left the false impression the on-board credit is available to Amtrak passengers, when in fact it is only for ‘GrandLuxe Limited’ passengers who are also Amtrak Guest Rewards members,” the railroad continued. “Unlike Amtrak passengers, who can be ticketed to intermediate stops, the ‘GrandLuxe Limited’ passengers are ticketed for journeys of one or more nights and have premium and super-premium-priced beverage options on trips between Washington, D.C., and Florida and between Chicago and the East and West Coasts.”

Unfortunately, Amtrak’s response was too late to reach comedian Jay Leno, who used the story as a punch line for his on-going series of anti-Amtrak jokes, which were at one time so numerous that a former Amtrak President pulled its advertising off of NBC. Leno’s response at that time was to increase the number of anti-Amtrak jokes, repeatedly showing a clip of two old locomotives having a head-on collision, as a visual about “Amtrak”.

The erroneous AP Barrett story is spun so as to make Amtrak look like it is promoting alcoholism and a booze-soaked train trip, by continuing, “At about $6 for a house wine or $7 for a top-shelf scotch, that credit could fuel a long ride. The credit would not go nearly as far for, say, a $250 bottle of Dom Perignon—also available.”

Even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is brought into the picture by the AP story.

“Mothers Against Drunk Driving questioned whether $100 in free alcohol was too much.

‘This sounds like a lot of credit toward possible overindulging,’ said MADD spokeswoman Misty Moyse.

Finally, toward the bottom of the story, the reporter at last notes:

“GrandLuxe offers separate cars, with their own private dining and lounge sections, attached to regular Amtrak trains. Tickets for such trips range from $789 per person for a two-day, one night trip on the East Coast to $1,599 or higher for three days and two nights for travel to or from the West Coast,” but fails to note the the perk is available only on the luxury section, where patrons are sleeping overnight, and not to Amtrak passengers on the rest of the train, who typically do not ride the entire distance on long distance trains, but embark and debark for shorter trips of a few hundred miles. Amtrak often is the only form of affordable non-automobile transportation available in large areas of the United States, particularly the West, Midwest, and South.

NCI managed to reach Associated Press in time for this article. The following is what was exchanged:

To: Mike Silverman and Tom Curley, Associated Press

Dear Mike:

I have attached an AP story by Devlin Barrett of your Washington Bureau which completely misrepresents a private party’s promotion as a booze-filled Amtrak scheme to “gin up” business. This is the type of careless nastiness that Amtrak gets all the time, and it is not fair. Jay Leno picked up this story false story and re-broadcast it to his millions of viewers that night, making the damage far worse, never mind all the AP affiliates who ran the story. How many are there of those? How many hundreds of thousands of people are snickering at the [false] story?

Please call me; I’ll call this afternoon. I want to request a conference call with your senior management.

Jim RePass
President & CEO,
National Corridors Initiative, Inc


Dear Mr. RePass:

I’ve reviewed your note and our story, and my conclusion is that our report was accurate and fair.

I’m attaching the original press release Amtrak put out to announce the new business arrangement with GrandLuxe. As you’ll recall, the lead of the release itself fails to make any distinction between Amtrak and GrandLuxe. It says: “Amtrak is excited to introduce ...” Further blurring any distinction, the story notes that the free booze offer is available only to members of Amtrak’s Guest Rewards program. And Amtrak does get new business out of the public-private deal; GrandLuxe pays the rail line a fee for every car it inserts into an Amtrak train.

As for the light-hearted “gin up” pun in the lead, that might raise objections from some copy desks as cliched, but it’s certainly neither careless nor nasty.

Sincerely,

Mike [Silverman]
Managing Editor,
Associated Press


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter Lines...

New Mexico’s Commuter Service Advances to Santa Fe


By DF Staff from Internet Sources

SANTA FE -- The second phase of Governor Richardson’s commuter rail initiative took another step forward last Wednesday when New Mexico’s Dept of Transportation awarded a $115 million contract to build 18 miles of new track from near La Bajada to the southern edge of Santa Fe.

A joint venture of Twin Mountain Construction II Company of Albuquerque and the Missouri-based Herzog Companies won the contract.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2007 and be completed by November 2008. The passenger service will run on tracks owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company.

This project represents Phase II of the governor’s commuter rail restoration plan.

Background: A Governor’s Commitment to Rail

After decades of discussion about bringing back passenger rail, Governor Bill Richardson announced in August of 2003 that his administration would pursue the implementation of commuter rail service. Later that same year, grants were given to NMDOT and MRCOG to begin the effort, and the New Mexico State Legislature passed Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership (GRIP), a transportation improvement package. The Rail Runner was one of the projects in that bill.

Rail Runner train in Albuquerque
The New Mexico Rail Runner Express is a commuter rail system serving the metropolitan area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is administered by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and the Mid Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), a regional government planning association. The system is in Phase I of planned development, operating on an existing BNSF Railway right of way from Belen to Bernalillo. Phase II, scheduled to open in 2008, will extend the line northward to Santa Fe.

When the federal Transportation Reauthorization Bill passed in 2005, with the help of New Mexico’s Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, $89 million in funding was secured for Phase II of the state’s commuter rail initiative. It was clear that Richardson understood the need for better rail service to boost the economy and improve the quality of life for the people of New Mexico.

Upon receiving news of the funding, the governor said, “This is a major step forward in our efforts to bring state-of-the-art commuter rail service to the Rio Grande corridor and continued economic growth to southern New Mexico. I applaud the bipartisan efforts of both Senators in helping to get this critical funding passed by Congress. They understand exactly what this means to New Mexico in terms of offering our citizens safer, more efficient commuting, as well as boosting economic development and tourism. This is true progress that will directly benefit the citizens of New Mexico and improve our quality of life.”

The first phase of the commuter rail initiative started in 2005 and ran between Belen and Bernalillo.. The New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Mid-Region Council of Governments had already purchased five locomotives and 10 train cars for this service, which will pick up commuters from nine train stations, including Downtown Albuquerque. Construction was necessary on eight rail stations --- Belen, Los Lunas, Isleta Pueblo, Rio Bravo/Airport, Paseo Del Norte/Jefferson, Sandi Pueblo, Downtown Bernalillo, and Sandoval/US 550.

Much effort went in to choosing the name of the service – RailRunner – and the design of the logo.

The following press release from the governor’s office in 2005 describes the careful planning laid out for this project, not only for the name and design of the logo but also for the comfort and enjoyment of the passengers.

“Governor Bill Richardson today unveiled the name and designs for locomotives, railcars, and interiors of his commuter rail initiative. The New Mexico RailRunner is scheduled to begin service between Belen and Bernalillo by the end of the year, and extend the service to Santa Fe by the spring of 2008.

“Commuter rail represents our vision for the future of transportation in New Mexico,” said Governor Richardson. “The trains have been designed to represent that vision. The paint scheme chosen for the locomotive and railcars brings to life the RailRunner name. The entire train becomes a symbol of fast, efficient, progressive public transportation.” The symbol for the RailRunner is a sleek, flowing rendering of a Roadrunner, the State Bird of New Mexico. The colors for both the interior and exterior of the railcars and locomotives incorporates the traditional New Mexico colors - brown, deep orange, yellow, and red.

The Mid Region Council of Governments took great care to seek out the opinions of many New Mexicans to make sure the name, colors and design appealed to a wide cross section of the community. MRCOG sponsored several public meetings, conducted six focus groups, and hired a local design firm, Vaughn Wedeen Creative, to develop the design.

“This design turns what is usually a boring stretch of steel into something with personality and character,” said Governor Richardson. “Seamless design from train paint, to stations, to interiors, to signage, to brochures, to system maps - - all will carry through the RailRunner concept. The train will be a welcome sight, running across the New Mexico landscape and will make a significant contribution to the culture and economy of the state.”

The RailRunner project is part of Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership (GRIP). GRIP is a $1.6 billion transportation-improvement initiative aimed at constructing safer highways, forming new forms of travel and creating local jobs.


Belen to Bernalillo

Rail Runner Express Phase I commutes passengers along existing track between Belen and Bernalillo. Phase I cost approximately $75 million, which was funded through Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership--the only non-asphalt project within the partnership program. This first phase was completed in December 2005. Commuter rail platforms were constructed in Belen, Los Lunas, Albuquerque’s South Valley, Downtown Albuquerque, North Valley on El Pueblo, Downtown Bernalillo and NM 550 Bernalillo. An evaluation of sites for platform at Sandia Pueblo is currently underway. Most of these commuter rail stops include Park and Ride areas.

Bernalillo to Santa Fe

Phase II of the Rail Runner Express project will extend the commuter rail from Bernalillo to Santa Fe. Currently, there is no existing rail that streamlines Santa Fe, so project officials are researching alternative options. Phase II of the project will be complete in 2008. Herzog Companies has a contract to operate and maintain the commuter rail service


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LABOR LINES...  Labor Lines...

Norfolk Southern and BLET
Reach Tentative Agreement

Norfolk Southern Press Release and other Internet Sources

AUGUST 7 -- Norfolk Southern Railway Co., the fourth largest U.S. railroad, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen reached a tentative new agreement last Tuesday which continues to link engineers’ compensation to the railroad’s performance.

The agreement covers approximately 5,100 locomotive engineers and provides an annual bonus opportunity based on the same performance criteria that is used for managers. It includes wage increases, pension contributions, changes in work rules to improve operations efficiency, and annual bonuses for a few.

BLET General Chairman Ray Wallace said he felt the agreement would benefit his workers and that they would accept it. If ratified, it will take effect in 2010.

“It’s a great agreement,” Wallace said. “It’s good for the people we represent, and it’s good for Norfolk Southern.”

The union and the carrier were involved in negotiations for approximately one year before reaching the agreement announced last week. Wallace said the ratification process would probably start on Monday and last 30 days.

Neither Norfolk Southern nor the union, part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, would release details of the deal Tuesday.

The contract is in addition to the agreement approved in June between the engineers’ union and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents the railroads in national labor bargaining efforts. That agreement primarily covers health care benefits, Terpay said, while the pact between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and Norfolk Southern deals largely with compensation.

Norfolk Southern had about 30,500 employees in 2006, with an average wage of $62,000, according to company documents on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The railroad’s stock price fell 15 cents Tuesday to close at $50.14 on the New York Stock Exchange.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)80.5879.10
Canadian National (CNI)53.5452.17
Canadian Pacific (CP)71.6272.42
CSX (CSX)47.0046.74
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.3226.11
Kansas City Southern (KSU)34.3133.70
Norfolk Southern (NSC)51.3050.84
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.6518.50
Union Pacific (UNP)116.65114.25


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FINANCIAL LINES...  Fianncial Lines...

Warren Buffett Buys 1.6 Million
More Shares In BNSF (BNI)

Forbes.com and other Internet Sources

Warren Buffett’s investment company Berkshire Hathaway bought 1.6 million more shares of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNI) last week at prices around $80. This latest investment in the railroad follows his purchase last April of 39 million shares of BNI.

The two purchases make Berkshire Hathaway the largest shareholder of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.. with shares totaling 40,647,730, which is about 11.5% of total outstanding shares. These shares are worth more than $3.2 billion today.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp, through its subsidiaries, is engaged primarily in the freight rail transportation business. BNSF transports a range of products and commodities derived from manufacturing, agricultural and natural resource industries. Its freight business consists of consumer products, industrial products, coal and agricultural products.

In 2006, Buffett also bought two other rail companies: close to 4 million shares of Norfolk Southern Corp and about 8.2 million share of Union Pacific Corporation.

Railroad stocks jumped significantly following the date that Buffett’s purchases were reported, but the recent market decline has brought prices back to where it was when Buffett first bought the shares.

In a story about Buffett and freight rail at Forbes.com, Andrew Farrell writes that “Buffett’s purchase of rail companies has surprised a lot of his followers.” During the Berkshire annual meeting in May, Buffett said that railroad business would never be “sensational,” yet its prospects had improved. Charlie Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, commented [that] .... Buffett and he himself “used to not like them because they needed large amounts of capital, had tough unions, and stiff competition from the trucking business. The paradigm had shifted. Now the railroad industry has a competitive advantage by double-stacking freight. With all of the imports from China, the U.S. has a huge amount of freight being sent across the county.”


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

Think-tank Calls For Hong Kong – Shenzhen
High Speed Rail Link

HONG KONG - The South China Morning Post reported that the think-tank Bauhinia Foundation has called for a high speed rail link between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports. The link, according to the think-tank, will be required to efficiently move passengers and freight between the two airports, which are about 65 km (41 mi.) apart, and today tend to compete with one another for passengers and air freight.


Photo: David Beale

An MTR “Airport Express” EMU train set from Hong Kong and Kowloon leaves Hong Kong International Airport’s departure level en-route to the Asia Expo convention center complex, its final destination, on 10th August 2007. The track behind and below is used by trains headed back towards Hong Kong city center. MTR’s Airport Express EMU trains were designed and built in Spain by a joint venture between CAF and Adtranz (now Bombardier). The car closest to camera (without side windows) in this picture is not a locomotive or power car, but a baggage car used to carry checked-in airline baggage from airport check-in counters located in the city.

The proposed rail link would connect with China’s national rail network and it would cut travel times between the two airports to 17 minutes one-way. The Hong Kong International Airport is currently connected to the Hong Kong mass transit system by a 40 km long dedicated passenger rail line into the city center. Due to the presence of airport express trains running at 12 minute headways and local public transit trains running at 10 minute headways on this line, the addition of freight trains or intercity passenger trains on this line seems improbable without major expansion of the tracks and tunnels from two tracks to four. Much of this rail line runs in tunnels, viaducts and across the lower deck of two large suspension bridges (the Tsing Ma Bridge and the Kap Shui Mun Bridge) which link Lantau Island, location of the airport, to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

The neighboring cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen are currently linked by the KCR East rail line, which terminates in the Kowloon district of Hong Kong. This two track rail line provides frequent local commuter rail services to stations in Hong Kong’s New Territories as well as conventional intercity trains from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, Guangzhou and beyond. KCR (Kowloon Canton Railway) is currently in the process of merging with MTR Corporation, the rapid rail transit operator in Hong Kong.

The Foundation stated that a new high speed rail link would strengthen economic ties between Hong Kong and mainland China, provide for easier transit of people and freight and spread economic development around the Pearl River Delta region more efficiently. A spokesman for the Hong Kong International Airport welcomed the idea. However a spokesman for a Hong Kong association of freight forwarders was less optimistic: “the costs appear to outweigh the tangible benefits, as far as we can see.”


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South Korea’s Roh Could Use Rail Link On State Visit

SEOUL – News service company Reuters reported in Hong Kong and elsewhere in East Asia that South Korea’s president Roh Moo Hyun may travel to North Korea on a newly opened rail link during a state visit planned for week of 28th of August.

“We plan to request that the President and his delegates travel by land”, stated Unification Minister Lee Jae Joung. “I believe the North will be able to accept.”

The late August summit between the two Koreas will be the second in 50 years. At the first summit in June 2000, the two countries, still technically at war, then pledged to build rail and road links through the DMZ. The first test train rolled across the Korean DMZ in May of this year.

Two rail lines, one on the east side of the Korean Peninsula, the other near the west coast of the Peninsula, will provide a direct rail link for the South Korean rail network to the Chinese rail network. The South Korean rail system had been physically isolated from the mainland Chinese rail network since the 1950 – 53 Korean War.

South Korea wants to develop both highway and rail connections to China and beyond to central Asia and Europe via China and Russia in order to be less dependent on marine and air transport of its many export products and imports of raw materials. South Korea’s plans dovetail with plans of Russia, China and several central Asian countries to build a multi-lane limited access toll highway from Europe to East Asia as well as to dramatically improve and expand rail service along the so-called “Silk Road” route.


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Appeals Court Blocks Train Driver’s Strike Against Deutsche Bahn

Source: “Die Welt”

NÜRNBERG – An appeals court in this Bavarian city issued an injunction against GDL, the German train driver’s union, which had planned to stage strikes against Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) as early as next week. The court order prohibits the union from staging any strikes through the remainder of August.

The train driver’s union is seeking a 31% pay increase for its members, which management at Deutsche Bahn (DBAG) has repeatedly rejected. DBAG has instead offered a pay increase of 4.5 %, similar to what other rail labor unions accepted in July of this year. Salary for train and locomotive drivers in Germany currently tops out at approximately EUR 28,000 (US $ 38,000) per year before overtime, considerably less than in certain other western Europe countries such as France, Belgium and Italy, but far more than in Germany’s neighbors to the east. Many train drivers in Germany earn far less than this top salary rate, some as little as EUR 19,000 per year.

The court issued the injunction against any strikes based on concerns that a national strike against DBAG would seriously damage commerce and business of many companies and firms unrelated to DBAG. GDL had argued that many companies and industries in Germany are shut down during part or most of August for their summer break, and therefore would be minimally affected by a shut-down of the rail company due to strikes.

The ruling was praised by German industrial associations as well as by Michael Glos, Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development in the German federal government. Glos stated: “this potential strike has been hanging over our nation’s economy like the Sword of Damocles.”

The high profile struggle between DBAG and the train driver’s union is taking place as politicians in both the German federal government and its 16 states debate full privatization of the company. Most state governments in Germany are strongly opposed to pending legislation in the German Parliament for further privatization of the railroad company on grounds that there not nearly enough safeguards in the proposed law to prevent further reductions in services and abandonment of rail lines after DBAG is privatized.


Photo: David Beale

An ad-hoc freight train operated by independent rail cargo operator ITL rolls through Haste Germany in July 2007 on tracks owned by DBAG subsidiary DB Netz. Train drivers in Germany earn about the same or even less than truck drivers, but sit at the controls of far larger and heavier loads of cargo. The second locomotive in this train, a Siemens Euro Sprinter series, is being hauled, it is not in operation. The lead locomotive is a Bombardier TRAXX locomotive. Unlike North America, locomotives in Europe are generally not able to operate in multiple, unless they are of the same model series.


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COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

Reader Comments on “It’s The Infrastructure, Stupid” (DF 8/6/07)

The tragedy in Minneapolis is only the latest warning of an infrastructure scheme on the verge of total collapse. The news media is fraught these days with stories of just how dire the situation has become and the nine figure price tag for a supposed resolution. What is especially troubling are articles such as seen from the August 7th New York Times, “Bridge Collapse Revives Issue of Road Spending.” The authors all but blame this incident on funds spent on “a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.”

Nowhere in the mainstream press has the question been asked as to whether or not the status quo is still the direction that’s best for the country. That we are a nation on rubber tires has gone beyond a mere notion to become a foregone conclusion. Such recalcitrance is evidence of arrogance and, if history has taught us anything, arrogance always meets its just reward. As a whole, the populace is culpable for sustaining the status quo. Sadly, a handful of deaths will not be enough to question foregone conclusions. Rather, what few resources remain shall be squandered on maintaining an infrastructure that cannot be mended.

Calls for fueling a larger trust fund have been heard for as long as the establishment of the highway trust fund. (The “Am-penny” and half-penny gas taxes come to mind.) But increased gas taxes result in increased gas prices which result in less gas purchased which nets less money for the highway, or any, trust fund. It is literally a ‘no win’ situation for either highway users or maintainers. Sadly, a handful of deaths will not result in any change of the federal gas tax or state gas taxes in the other forty-nine states.

It is time to reconcile the simple reality that the federal government has been a poor steward of transportation. The Federal Highway Administration made sense when there were few highways across the country at the close of World War II. Today every state has an Interstate and a division of their individual DOT’s to oversee such. To this end it is time to disband the Federal Highway Administration as well as the trust fund. The states have matured to such an extent so as to fund, manage and maintain their individual piece of the Interstate pie. The maintaining of national highway standards and remediation of interstate differences can be handled by a smaller branch of the USDOT. With the Congress free of the conundrum of Interstate Highways perhaps they can finally find the time to deal properly with Amtrak.

D. Carleton
Cortlandt Manor, NY

Author Bio ; Mr. Carleton is Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer for the Danbury Railway Museum. Professionally, he has for 20 years been with a Fortune 250 company working on commercial electrical generation and currently is supervisor for mechanical maintenance.

Also, he is the son of Paul Carleton, the late author and founder of D. Carleton Railbooks, which was the first publishing house established for the sole distribution of railway related books.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We Get Letters...

Dear Editor

In the “Investment vs. Subsidy” discussions that consider the hidden subsidies for road and air transport, one factor is almost always overlooked. The land that publicly owned airports and expressways occupy was once privately owned and the owners paid taxes into our cities and states. Now these public facilities do not pay property tax, and the remaining tax-paying owners of property must pay more to maintain our public safety and services. This amounts to a significant subsidy of those modes as the lands and improvements are valued in hundreds of millions.

I think that strategic planners and economic analysts should consider whether these entities could/should pay property taxes on their land and improvements, and pass that cost on to the users (for airports, as landing fees, for highways as higher motor fuel tax).

My rather limited understanding of our common law heritage is that property owners have a right to the public roads that abut their property, and are even taxed for the improvements to those roads on some occasions. A limited-access road (expressway/freeway) is by definition no accessible from adjoining property. It is analogous to a private right of way (e.g. private RR). Using this as precedent, could we devise some way to have the economic “rent” or tax value of the lands used by these competing modes be included in the cost of service by those modes? It might level the economic parameters when attempting to pay for public transport out of local taxes or farebox revenues.

Sincerely,

Michael E. McGinley P.E.
La Crescenta, CA 91214


Dear Editor

I’m happy to see Amtrak repeat their photography contest (D:F August 6, 2007).

But have you ever tried to take a photo of an Amtrak train at Boston South Station? If the Amtrak Pollice don’t hassle you, the contract security guards will. And so will Amtrak and MBTA/MBCR employees (even now that the MBTA has a more “photo-friendly” policy).

Last year when taking a photo of an Acela train at South Station, I was stopped by an Amtrak Police Officer. I showed him a copy of the contest ad, and he told me it couldn’t be real, since photography of Amtrak trains was “illegal.”

Rail buffs and other transit-knowledgeable people can be a great source for noticing REAL suspicious activity. The new catch phrase should be, “See Something? Snap Something!”

Todd Glickman
Cambridge, MA 02139

Webmaster Replies: Similar stories have been reported from various rail interests on the internet. We suggest contacting Amtrak via their web site at: http://www.amtrak.com/photocontest/ or speak directly to the MBTA Customer Service folks at 617-222-3200. Conflicts in policies need to be resolved. In more recent times (and as noted by you above) the MBTA has relaxed its photo policy with respect to pre-registration of intent, but still requires positive ID to be available on request by MBTA transit police or employees. Personally speaking, I find it helpful to approach the T-police or station master (or CS rep) within stations in advance of clicking away to advise of your presence and intentions to take photos within established guidelines. One still cannot wander beyond public areas, no flashes in subways (blinding hazard) and no camera support tripods or monopoles (tripping hazard).


Dear Editor

Regarding DF Vol. 8 No. 30, July 23, 2007, (“Sacramento LRT System To Store Electricity”), I am a little bit surprized that it took so long to develop capacitor technology, in that they can almost instantly absorb energy from regenerative braking. They have already made their way into the transit bus world for diesel engine starting, but not braking. It seems only a matter of time that they find their way onto hybrid drive buses. Here is the URL from a recent article in Mass Transit magazine: http://www.masstransitmag.com/print/Mass-Transit/Maintenance-Matters/1$3366.

We’ve all seen capacitors on a small scale -- that’s the device that charges up to fire a strobe flash. In stationary applications I have seen them as large as a roll-on roll-off dumpster.

This is a technology whose time has come.

Joe Zearfoss
Baltimore, MD


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