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

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August 25, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 35

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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

  News Items…
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Proposes Trust Fund for Amtrak Equipment $
  Commuter Lines…
Amtrak July Ridership Sets Record (Again)
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Financial Lines…
Spotlight On California
  Across The Pond…
View from Europe: Rider Comparison
   – American versus German Commuter Rail
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …

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

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Proposes
Trust Fund for Amtrak Equipment $

By DF Staff, from the Chicago Tribune,
and from the Internet

WASHINGTON --- Illinois officials called Wednesday for a major reinvestment in passenger rail travel, proposing a new trust fund to help Amtrak replace aging trains, veteran Chicago Tribune journalist Jon Hilkevitch reported this past week.

“The new locomotives and coaches would for the first time in many years be built in the U.S., creating thousands of jobs, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said as he and Amtrak’s chief executive officer unveiled the strategy at the railroad’s maintenance facility south of downtown Chicago,” reported the paper.

Sen. Dick Durbin

Sen. Dick Durbin
“This is not the past. This is the future,” Durbin said of intercity train travel. “We cannot pave our way out of traffic congestion.”

The proposal comes amid Amtrak ridership setting an all-time record in July, up 14 percent nationally from last year (see separate story).

Amtrak, created by Congress in 1970 at the request of the bankrupt and near-bankrupt freight railroads which were at that time heavily regulated, began operations in May of 1971. Amtrak, originally called “Railpax,” was supposed to receive capital from those railroads, and from the Federal Government, but instead got hundreds of old, worn-our passenger cars and locomotives, and little or no money to repair that equipment, or operate. Unlike the highways, which get automatic funding, Amtrak has never received any regular funding since it was founded 28 years ago.

But the measures that Durbin laid out are likely to face a tough fight in Washington, the Tribune said.

His plan would create a rail trust fund by diverting 1 quarter-cent per gallon from the federal gas tax to buy new rail cars. However, the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by gas tax revenue to pay for roads and mass transit, is expected to go bankrupt this fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Durbin’s plan also seeks authorization for Amtrak to issue up to $2.8 billion in bonds each year to finance train-car projects.

Seats are sold out on many Amtrak trains, but equipment shortages are an increasing problem.

Higher demand for intercity passenger rail service started well before gas prices climbed above $4 a gallon, and it is expected to continue growing amid cutbacks by airlines that already are sending airfares soaring for the Thanksgiving and winter travel periods. Yet despite its success, Amtrak is unable to add more service because many of its rail coaches sit idle in train graveyards because of equipment breakdowns and accidents, the Tribune reported.

Amtrak currently has about 60 cars that are out of service and need refurbishing in order to help fill the demand for more service, said Alex Kummant, Amtrak’s chief executive officer. But the railroad can afford to overhaul only 12 cars in the next year, he said.

Many of the cars are 35 years old and the cost to upgrade them runs as high as $700,000 per car, Kummant said.

Amtrak reauthorization funding legislation is stalled in Congress and likely faces a presidential veto if it does eventually pass, the Tribune noted.

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...

Amtrak July Ridership
Sets Record (Again)


WASHINGTON – Amtrak ridership in July increased to 2,750,278, nearly a 14 percent increase, marking the most passengers carried in any single month in Amtrak’s 37-year history, Amtrak reported this week.

Total ridership for the fiscal year to date, October 1, 2007 – July 31, 2008, reached 23.7 million, topping the 21.3 million from the same period last year, Amtrak said. Total ticket revenue for the fiscal year to date reached $1.4 billion, a 14.1 percent increase over the same period in FY07.  For the month of July, ticket revenue increased by 18.6 percent to $168 million.

“Increasing fuel prices, highway congestion, airline issues and environmental awareness continue to make intercity passenger rail extremely relevant and popular,” said Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak.  “In addition, we continue to work on service improvements and better on-time performance, which draws more ridership and revenue each month.

“Our record-setting ridership and ticket revenue in the month of July alone indicate we will end the year with approximately three million new passenger trips in FY09,” he added.

Eastern Highlights

The popularity of the Acela Express service continued in the month of July with a 5.5 percent increase over July 2007.  Ticket revenue in the Northeast Corridor reached more than $79 million, a 16.2 percent increase. Ridership on the recently relaunched Northeast Regional trains continued to rise with an 8.8 percent increase in the month of July and revenue topping $41 million.

The Downeaster, which operates between Portland, Maine and Boston, carried 48,438 passengers in July, a 33.6 percent increase over July last year. Ticket revenues on this route increased by 34.1 percent to $722,676.

The Keystone Service, which operates between Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and New York City experienced significant growth with a 26 percent increase in ridership, reaching 109,317 in July, and a 19.9 percent increase from October – July with more 975,184 passengers.

The Piedmont, which runs between Raleigh and Charlotte NC, increased ridership by 43 percent in July, and ticket revenue by 48 percent.

Central Highlights

The Midwest trains continued to see significant gains in both ridership and revenue in July.  The Heartland Flyer increased ridership by 40.2 percent and revenue by 70.2 percent last month. The Hiawatha Service, with seven daily round-trips sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Illinois DOT, reached 78,662 passengers – a 37.7 percent increase over July 2007.

West Highlights

California’s Capitol Corridor service which operates between Auburn and San Jose, carried 161,731 passengers in July FY08, a 32.6 percent increase over the same month last year. The San Joaquins continue to increase in ridership with a 32.1 percent increase over July last year and a 47.5 percent increase in revenue.

National Highlights

Among the trains on the Amtrak national network, the Coast Starlight – which operates between Seattle and Los Angeles – was the most popular overnight train in the month of July with more than 47,000 passengers, a 27.7 percent increase.  The Auto Train, which runs non-stop between the Washington, DC and Orlando areas, carried more than 24,000 passengers in July and the New York-Miami Silver Service trains (Silver Meteor-Silver Star) achieved ridership gains of 14.7 and 17.8 percent respectively.

About Amtrak

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 21,000-mile route system.  For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)103.4798.87
Canadian National (CNI)50.7751.03
Canadian Pacific (CP)59.7059.75
CSX (CSX)63.7360.91
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)42.1743.58
Kansas City Southern (KSU)50.5350.48
Norfolk Southern (NSC)70.9970.58
Providence & Worcester (PWX)19.3519.00
Union Pacific (UNP)79.5576.87

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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...

Farebox Recovery Rate Hits An Astonishing 64%


Spotlight On California

By The California Capitol Corridor And From Internet Sources

CALIFORNIA --- Whatever records on ridership and revenue that existed before July 2008 can be considered “smashed” by the July statistics, California’s Amtrak division reported this week. Major growth happened all across California, and the Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins both grew “…at a startling 32+% in riders, and the San Joaquins broke 100,000 for the first time ever in a single month. The Pacific Surfliners carried more passengers than Amtrak’s premier Northeast Corridor “Acela Express” for the third consecutive month,” reported California rail officials

The Capitol Corridor was rated by the riders across the country as Amtrak’s #1 route for customer satisfaction for the 6th consecutive month, and Capitol Corridor returned to the best on-time performance of all but two intercity corridors offering multiple frequency services, they said.

Some basic statistics from the Capitol Corridor (July 2008):

161,731 passengers, up 32.6% vs. 2007 another all-time record, and still the third busiest route in the country, by a wide margin

Passengers for 10 months YTD: 1,390,474 (10 months YTD: +15.5%); (total riders for the latest 12 months: 1,637,130, +15.5% above prior 12 months)

$2,236,661 revenue, up 34.3% vs. 2007 (10 months YTD: +21.3%)

The farebox recovery revenue-to-cost ratio for July is 64.9% (an all time high), and the year-to-date revenue-to-cost ratio is 55%.

On-time performance for July: 86.7% (a complete recovery from June’s trackwork performance) The year-to-date on-time performance delivered to the customers after 10 months is 84.8%, an enviable record. Only the Keystone Corridor and the Hiawatha Corridor have better on-time stats. The premier Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor is 83.5% on-time for the same 10 month period, while Northeast Regional service is at 75.7%.

Eugene K. Skoropowski. Managing Director of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, noted in a statement:

“We had expected a bit of rebound after completion of the June track work, and return to our usually reliable service, but these numbers are overwhelming. Not since we went from 6 trains each way to 9 trains each way (back in 2000-01) have we seen a percentage growth like we have seen in July. It appears we may have also won some permanent ‘converts’ from Davis as a result of Yolo County’s ‘promotional program’ during the I-5 construction in Sacramento (now completed). Union Pacific continues to deliver for us. UPRR performance in July was 95%, and UPRR performance year to date is between 94% and 95%, again the best of any Amtrak-operated intercity passenger rail service in the country, whether Amtrak dispatched or freight railroad dispatched.

Pacific Surfliners (July 2008):

301,374 passengers +12.3% vs. 2007, still the second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin; Passengers for 10 months YTD: 2,369,792 (10 months YTD: +7.3%). As noted above, this is more monthly passengers than the Acela Express on the Northeast Corridor, for the 3rd consecutive month; $6,002,911 revenue +18.1% vs. 2007 (10 months YTD: +9.1%) On-time performance for July: 69.9%; YTD on-time: 76.6%.

San Joaquins (July 2008):

100,564 passengers +32.1% vs. 2007, now fifth busiest in the nation; (overtaking New York State’s Empire Corridor Service); Passengers for 10 months YTD: 777,514 (10 months YTD: +17.2%); $3,444,847 revenue +47.5% vs. 2007 (10 months YTD: +18.3%); On-time performance for July: 80.4%; YTD on-time: 84.0%.

Total California Intercity Corridor Ridership for July 2008: 563,669

Total Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ ridership for July 2008: 922,150

For July 2008, California Corridors are 61.2% of Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ Boston-Washington ridership; Total Northeast Corridor ridership for July 2008 with branches to Springfield, MA; Albany, NY and Harrisburg, PA: 1,152,835; For July 2008, California Corridors are 49% of the total Northeast Corridor ridership.

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

View from Europe:


Rider Comparison – American versus German Commuter Rail

NCI Rides The Rails In Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York
With additional photos and technical material from Jim Lashmer

From David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent


HANNOVER – It has been a few years since I last rode commuter railroads in the USA (not counting the MARTA rail system in Atlanta which I rode a few times in 2006 and 2007). In 1999, I had few days to ride on SEPTA in the Philadelphia area while in the area for a wedding; in 2003, I rode on both Boston’s MBTA and Amtrak’s Acela while in the Boston area for a different wedding, and in 2005 I rode on Amtrak regional express trains and the Washington DC Metro while attending NCI’s TransPlan 21 conference.

Therefore, on a recent trip to the Northeast USA, I had a chance to see what has changed and how things compared to my everyday experience with the commuter rail system in Hannover and other German cities plus other European cities I have spent time in such as Milan and Rome, Italy; Paris, France; and Warsaw, Poland. On this visit, I rode on MBTA’s newest commuter rail line between Plymouth / Kingston and Boston, and on Metro North’s considerably older New Haven Line between Stamford and New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Upon my return to Germany I had to ride on S-Bahn commuter trains in the Frankfurt and Hannover areas (as well as a trip on an ICE-1 high speed train between the two cities) in order to get home.


All along the relatively newly re-built “Old Colony” branch from Boston’s South Station to suburbs southeast of the city, new stations are the standard, as the original passenger rail stations belonging to the line when it was abandoned several generations ago are either demolished or otherwise not in use. Most of the stations along the “Old Colony” line appeared to be of a similar design and configuration:

Photo: David Beale

Sign of the Times – not found in Hanover, MA, Hanover, PA, Hanover NJ or Hanover, NH. An electromechanical passenger information sign over platform number 2 in Haste Germany, about 20 miles from Hannover. Germany. Signs such as this or solid-state LCD signs are standard in most stations in western Europe. The information displayed, as a standard, shows the departure time of the next train, its next as well as final destinations plus key intermediate stops. Also typically displayed (as required) are delay time the train may be experiencing and validity of certain local tickets or passes for that train. Good luck finding similar displays in any American commuter rail station except the main center city stations.

As in Massachusetts, most train stations along the New Haven line in southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County, NY, are equipped with large parking lots or even parking garages, but unlike the Old Colony line, most stations on the New Haven line are also relatively close to town centers and / or shopping and residential areas, probably because most of the stations are in the same location today as they were a century ago when the New Haven line became a major commuter rail corridor. Along the New Haven line, all train stations are equipped with high level station platforms, as on the “Old Colony” part of the MBTA commuter rail system. But age and lack of preventive maintenance appear to be taking a toll on these stations, all of which were re-configured to high-level platforms more than three decades ago. Many of the bridges, embankments and catenary supports along the New Haven line show significant visual signs of neglect, water damage, settling, and corrosion over the eight-plus decades since construction of the four-track rail line was finished by the New Haven Railroad. Infrastructure deterioration on that scale is difficult to find in western Europe, but similar examples can be easily found in numerous locations across eastern and southeastern Europe, where Warsaw Pact governments of the Cold War era invested few resources into transportation infrastructure but spent lavishly on their military and secret police forces.

Also similar to the MBTA, most commuter stations on Metro North’s New Haven line have either no electronic passenger information displays, or if they have such a sign on the platform, it displays little or no useful information. One exception is the Stamford train station, which has recently been rebuilt into a major transportation center, complete with fully staffed ticket offices, city bus station, fast food outlets, TV monitors with real time train information, rental car offices and large parking garages. The design and appearance of Stamford’s new train station is about as unoriginal and architecturally bland as any mid-sized American airport terminal or office park. It reminds one of the airport concourses at Atlanta Hartsfield with five tracks and platforms running underneath. Functional: yes, memorable: no.

Grand Central Terminal and Boston South Station versus Germany’s Central Stations

In Germany, the central train station (Hauptbahnhof) in most large German cities such as Hannover has a large, imposing presence in the heart of the city. Most are located in the center of large plazas or squares with restaurants, cafes and small shops lining the perimeter of the station. The same is true for many rail stations elsewhere in Europe such as Milan, Glasgow, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Zagreb, Budapest and many other European cities. But many of these stations are as unremarkable and dingy on the inside as they are imposing on the outside. A typical example was the Hannover main station, which, until a multi-million dollar make-over at the end of the 1990s, was a dark, depressing and dirty place. Today the interior of Hannover’s central rail station could be confused with a typical modern shopping mall, aside from the stairways and elevators, which lead to the tracks on the upper level of the station.

Photo: Mayor’s office, City of Hannover

Hannover Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) in the middle of Ernst-August Plaza – this station underwent a major interior restoration in two phases between 1999 and 2006. In the first phase the main concourse and ticketing hall were radically reconfigured and renovated with thousands of square feet of new retail space added between the stairways to the tracks, and a food court was built under track platforms 8 – 11. An adult XXX theater and a small 27 room hotel were removed from the building; in their place a new book retailer, restaurant and police station were added. In the second phase, even more retail space and fast food restaurants and cafes were installed in the lower (basement) level. The interior now has a similar appearance to many shopping malls and airport terminals.

In contrast, New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and Boston’s South Station stand in very close proximity to and are dwarfed by a number of large skyscrapers and major city streets. One must be nearly next to the building’s exterior to see it. But the interiors still remind one that the building is a central train station, the heart of the city. Their interiors have retained their original character, and will never be mistaken for a shopping mall or a typical generic airport terminal interior.

My daughters, who had never set foot in Grand Central prior to this trip, shouted in delight when we walked into the center of the terminal from one of the dark and dirty train platforms underneath the MetLife Building (formerly the PanAm Building). They immediately recognized Grand Central’s unique and timeless main concourse hall from a scene in the early part of the children’s film “Madagascar.” Even without that film, the main concourse of GCT is instantly recognizable to many millions of people who do not live in the New York City region, due to a meticulous and precise restoration of the entire interior of the building. With the minor exceptions of some digital displays or flat screen TV monitors here and there or use of energy efficient round fluorescent light bulbs instead of the original clear glass incandescent bulbs, GCT’s classic interior today looks perhaps exactly as it did in 1920, just a few of years after the then state-of-the-art project was completed. A relatively new food court in the lower level of the terminal blends well with the rest of the building, with lighting fixtures and furnishings matching the original designs selected for the building at the dawn of the 20th century.

Despite its stunningly beautiful and restored interior, GCT contains subtle reminders of the long decline rail transit in America has suffered. The platforms where the trains arrive and depart are in deplorable condition. Careful inspection of the train arrival and departure displays reveals that the historic terminal is today nothing more than an end station for three rail lines running to a handful of New York and Connecticut counties. Intercity trains to Boston, Buffalo, Albany, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal are long gone. In contrast, Boston’s South Station suggests a brighter future: recently opened rail routes to Plymouth and Greenbush, MA on long ago abandoned tracks, intercity trains to Washington, New York and Chicago, and newly installed electrification, used today only by Amtrak trains, might one day be expanded to suburban trains, thus liberating hundreds of commuter trains from expensive, noisy and polluting diesel locomotives.

Rolling Stock:

MBTA uses mostly “Comet” series locomotive-hauled, single level coaches built in the late 1970s thru the early 1990s, which are also used by a number of other American commuter railroads such as NJ Transit, Connecticut DOT, Maryland and Metro North in New York. It also has a substantial fleet of locomotive-hauled multi-level coaches built by Kawasaki from the early 1990s thru 2006. Maryland and Virginia also have fleets of the same Kawasaki multi-level coaches as MBTA operates.

Photo: Kawasaki Rail Car

An MBTA multilevel driver-cab coach in an undated photo.

Metro North uses M2, M4 and M6 “Cosmopolitan” EMU train sets built by various manufacturers from the early 1970s until the late 1980s. These EMUs are nearly identical to Budd M1 and M3 EMU trains sets in service with Metro North and Long Island Raid Road except that the M1 and M3 train sets operate on DC third rail power exclusively. In Pennsylvania SEPTA’s Silverliner 4 EMU train sets, manufactured in the mid to late 1970s, were based on Connecticut’s “Cosmopolitan” EMU train set design, although they have a somewhat different car body design and lack the DC third rail power mode, which is installed on all of the Connecticut EMU train sets. In summary, MBTA and Metro North’s New Haven line operate commuter rail rolling stock, which is fairly representative of other commuter railroads in the Northeast USA.

Photo: Connecticut DOT

A Metro North “Cosmopolitan” rolls through Milford, CT in July 2006

In Germany, there are rough equivalents of the above mentioned American commuter rail stock – the ET 420 series of EMU trains sets, single-level “Siberling” commuter coaches and various models and configurations of bi-level and multilevel coaches produced by Bombardier of Gorlitz and its predecessors. The ET 420 series of EMU train sets were produced from 1970 until the late 1980s by various German manufacturers for the commuter rail systems in Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and the Rhine – Ruhr region. They can be considered to be in the same generation as the Connecticut “Cosmopolitans.” The major differences:

Photo: David Beale

A single RMV (Frankfurt Main transit authority) ET 420 train set operating on the S7 S-Bahn routing stands ready for passengers in Frankfurt’s main station in August 2008. The ET 420 commuter EMU train set series is now in its fourth decade of operation, as is the “Cosmopolitan” fleet in Connecticut and New York.

Photo: David Beale

A single RMV (Frankfurt Main transit authority) ET 423 train set operating on the S1 S-Bahn routing stands ready for passengers in Frankfurt’s main station in August 2008. The ET 423, first introduced into service in 2000 will eventually replace the ET 420 series on S-Bahn commuter rail lines in Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart. The ET 423 series suffered from a string of significant reliability problems in its first years of operation, including a penchant for ruining its own wheels when braking on wet or leaf-contaminated tracks.

Fares and Ticket Prices:

Important to short term visitors such as myself are the costs of single day passes or round trip tickets for a small group while visiting a city such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Paris or Berlin. MBTA in Massachusetts and Metro North in Connecticut are clearly more expensive than what one can expect to pay in Germany.


My impression of a one-day sample of ridership during off-peak weekday service on the MBTA “Old Colony” line is that it is very lightly patronized outside of commuter rush hour. Only the previously mentioned large park-n-ride parking lots at each of the stations along this line hinted that a significant number of passengers had in-fact ridden trains on this route earlier in the day – most lots were between 2/3 and 9/10 full of automobiles. Both the mid morning train to Boston and the mid-afternoon train to Plymouth were less than 30% full.

My observation of our three round-trips during three days on the Stamford – New York line is just the opposite. Regardless of time of day or day of the week, the Metro North trains to and from New York appear to be running at nearly full capacity. In many cases our trains were standing room only. This despite 30 minute departure frequencies and 10 or 12 car long trains. A number of people traveling along the New Haven line appear to be traveling between other cities aside from New York. There is simply a huge volume of passenger traffic on the New Haven line. In my home region of Hannover, ridership on the local and regional trains varies between these two extremes. But it is rare to see a local train in the Hannover area in the middle of a weekday with as few people on-board as what I saw on my one round-trip to Boston from Plymouth/Kingston on a typical Wednesday.


The biggest and perhaps easiest-to-solve shortcoming of commuter and regional trains in the USA as far as use by out of town visitors are concerned is the lack of real-time information provided to passengers in stations and on-board trains. In this aspect commuter rail systems in Europe and in some major Asian cities are far superior to what can be found on two of America’s busiest and most experienced commuter rail networks, Metro North Railroad and MBTA. Local residents too can benefit by having clear and concise information provided automatically and in close to real time by digital signs or LCD displays along with automated audio announcements. Visitors and local residents alike now have easy access to various makes and models of easy-to-use intelligent GPS navigation systems for their cars. The existing availability of these devices for automobiles will certainly reduce the tolerance which visitors as well as hardened commuters will show for lack of schedule, operational and arrival information on the nation’s transit systems. The existing decades-old fleet of Comets, Silverliners and other rail vehicles in service with the likes of Metro North, SEPTA, NJ Transit and MBTA could be easily retrofitted with these features at relatively minimal cost, as has been done already in other parts of the world. The same goes for the rail stations.

A second more difficult issue I can see from my American visit is the direct cost of riding local transit in the USA, which appears to be consistently more expensive, at least for short term users or visitors, compared to similar transit systems here in Europe. My reaction to both the fares I paid both in Boston and in Connecticut bordered on sticker shock. I doubt that I am alone. Long term factors such as the USA’s heavily subsidized highway network, minimally subsidized transit network and incoherent planning over the past five decades for a full service transportation system all play a significant roll in the apparent high price of train tickets on Metro North and MBTA.

Photo: David Beale

Blast from the Past or Journey into the Future? View from the front of an M4 Cosmopolitan as it races through Port Chester NY on a New Haven – Stamford – New York GCT express in August 2008. What will the federal, state and local governments in the USA do to maintain and expand energy efficient and fast public transportation such as Metro North’s New Haven Line?

The third and perhaps most troubling observation I had from this trip was the deplorable state of repair on many parts of the nation’s infrastructure. This was most noticeable to me in the New York City area where both the New Haven line rail corridor and numerous highways and roads visibly show signs of lack of preventive maintenance to the basic structure and foundation of these transportation assets. One has to travel to places such as formerly communist Eastern Europe or third world countries such as India, Bangladesh or Egypt to see such infrastructure decay on a massive scale as can be seen around New York City and in other parts of the USA such as Denver, Bridgeport, CT; Oakland, CA, Chicago and Seattle. Such sights are perhaps not impossible to find in places such as western Europe, China, Malaysia, Japan or Australia, but they are typically the exception and not the rule.

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...

Dear Editor,

I found kind of an incredible statement in the otherwise interesting and informative editorial by Mr. Vantuono: “ . .the higher cost of electric locomotives compared to diesel.” (“Time to Reconsider Electrification?”, DF August 18, 2008).

One has to remember that nearly all, about 99.9%, of diesel locomotives in use in North America are diesel electric, therefore they are electric locomotives which carry around their own huge diesel powered electric generating station. So neither the initial purchase price nor the maintenance costs of a modern electric locomotive can be higher than an equivalent diesel electric locomotives in common use here in Britain and in North America.

The only major pieces of equipment which an electric locomotive possesses which a diesel electric does not are the main transformer, the primary circuit breaker / main disconnect switch, and the pantographs. None of these components together are as expensive as a diesel engine, a generator, a fuel tank, an engine cooling system, an engine lubrication system, an engine exhaust system.

With upcoming rules in the USA and in Europe, diesels will soon need to also have particulate filters installed in the exhaust system, which is another several thousand dollars of parts and bits for which electric locomotives do not have any requirement. The only exception to this are the multi-system electric locomotives needed in Europe to cross borders and electrical systems such as 3000 VDC, 25 kV AC and 15 k AC 16 2/3 Hz between Germany, Poland, Hungary, and so on. This option adds about one million dollars or euros to the price, which then could bring the purchase price close to that of a production model diesel electric. With what little electrification exists in the USA, that country is already standardized on 25 k V AC 60 Hz, there would be relatively little need for such multi-system locomotives over there, possible exception of the NEC whereby there are three different voltages in use, only New Haven – Boston has standard electrification.  In fact, it would be relatively simple to convert most American diesel locomotives to electric locomotives by removing their diesel generators, fuel tanks and radiators and installing the required transformer, roof mounted pantographs and a few other minor modifications, something which one could not easily accomplish on the typical all electric locomotive as is in common operation across Europe.

 - James Lashmer

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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