Vol. 8 No. 34
August 27, 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…
Wall Street Journal Feature Sees Amtrak’s Progress and Challenges
   in Balanced Report
New York Times Misreports Infrastructure
  Off The Main Line…
Former Amtrak President, NJ Transit Chief Forms
   New NYC Management Consulting Firm
  TOD Lines…
FTA puts hold on major Massachusetts TOD Project
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
DBAG (German Railways) Reports Strong Growth
   For First Half 2007
  We Get Letters…
  End notes…


Next weekend the USA celebrates the Labor Day Holiday in honor of the working person.

NCI is no different, and we will be taking that holiday off.

The first edition of Destination: Freedom for the month of September will be published on Tuesday September 4.

Enjoy your holiday! - DMK, Webmaster

 

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

Wall Street Journal Feature Sees Amtrak’s
Progress and Challenges in Balanced Report

By Df Staff And From Internet Sources

AMERICA --- The Wall Street Journal, whose editorial and Op Ed pages often cater to the anti-Amtrak, anti-rail ideologies of the libertarian right, took a far different tack in its regular news section this past week in a well-researched, dispassionate report by its most experienced transportation writer, Dan Machalaba, that gave a fair assessment of Amtrak’s post 9/11, and now, post-Minneapolis, performance.

Meanwhile The New York Times, whose editorial pages have been strongly pro-rail, and which prides itself on straight news coverage (although its conservative critics feel otherwise about its Iraq war coverage) inexplicably ran, as a news story, a badly slanted, error-filled analysis on the related subject of American infrastructure, also on page one.

In an August 23, B section, page-one piece the Wall Street Journal headline reported, “Crowds Heed Amtrak’s ‘All Aboard’: Improved Service, Air Woes; Lure Travelers in Northeast; Long Hauls Still Suffer” and then proceeded to detail those facts in a thorough manner seldom seen in either general or business news media

“Airplanes are getting stuck in lots of traffic jams this summer, but Amtrak is on a roll. Ridership on the passenger rail system is up 6% so far this year, the biggest jump since the late 1970s. On the Acela Express, trains that run at higher speeds between Washington, New York and Boston, the number of riders has surged 20% over the past 10 months. That’s enough new passengers to fill 2,000 Boeing 757 jets,” writes Machalaba, who has covered transportation for the Wall Street Journal for nearly 25 years.

Machalaba cites the comments of Richard Rosen, a pharmacy-fulfillment company CEO in Boston, “who is making as many of his trips to New York as possible on the Acela.” “Flying to New York, with traffic to and from La Guardia Airport, flight delays and security lines, has become ‘an absolute horror show,’ he says. A recent one-hour flight turned into four hours of exasperation. Mr. Rosen says the Acela, which takes about 3 1/2 hours to get from Boston’s Back Bay Station to Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan, is more comfortable and reliable. ‘The train is much better, and you can do your work and use your cell phone during the whole trip,’ he says,” reported Machalaba.

Another popular feature of the Acela, not cited in this article, is the “quiet car”, where cell phones and other electronic devices must be switched off, and which is a very quiet place indeed on the early-morning Boston departures to New York that can and do arrive before 9 a.m. in the Big Apple. Dan Machalaba’s Wall Street Journal article continues: “While airlines are running later and with more delays than ever -- a third of flights arrived late at La Guardia Airport between June 1 and Aug. 15, according to Flightstats.com -- Acela’s performance is improving. The train is running on time 88% of the time, so far this year -- up from 84% a year ago. It was 90% on time in June. With Amtrak selling every seat on some Acela trains in peak travel periods, Amtrak recently added another weekday Acela round trip between New York and Washington to keep up with growing demand. The new train dropped all but one stop, Philadelphia, shaving 15 minutes off the normal 2 1/2 -hour, five-stop New York-Washington trip.”

“All this represents a big change for Amtrak, the perennial Rodney Dangerfield of passenger transportation, which has faced scathing criticism in recent years for late trains and poor service,” the Journal; story continues. “The Bush administration has in recent years tried to cut or eliminate its federal subsidies, which total $1.3 billion in 2007. And allies of the White House remain harsh critics. ‘Amtrak still needs to change its way of doing business,’ says Joseph Boardman, the Bush administration’s top rail official as head of the Federal Railroad Administration and an Amtrak board member.”

The entire Wall Street Journal story can be found at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118781538275205642.html?mod=todays_us_marketplace

 

Meanwhile, the [usually] editorially pro-rail New York Times got it very wrong in its news columns at about the same time, with badly slanted and error-filled coverage of the debate following the Minnesota I-35 highway bridge collapse, including an Astro Turf manufactured controversy over spending choices that comes directly from the highway lobby.

In the following article, NCI President Jim RePass takes a hard look at what happened.


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News Analysis:

 

New York Times Misreports Infrastructure

By NCI Publisher Jim RePass

It is rare when America’s newspaper of record gets a story completely wrong but this past August 7 The New York Times did just that, in a front page item that should have set off alarm bells on the editor’s desk long before it made it into print, but apparently did not. While the paper’s editorial pages are expected to have opinions, its news pages should not unless so labeled, especially when those opinions, reported as fact, originate with paid lobbyists with an agenda to advance.

The story in question was one of many that week written in the aftermath of the fatal Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, and ran on page one of The Times with the headline: Bridge Disaster Revives Question About Spending.

The premise of the article, written by Times’ reporters Susan Saulny and Jennifer Steinhauer in Minneapolis, is clear from the story’s subhead, which states:

“In the days following the disaster and deaths of at least five, people and politicians are asking themselves if they have their spending priorities straight or if politics are getting in the way.”

While itself a perfectly legitimate course of inquiry for a news story, the premise very quickly becomes a platform to subtly disparage one type [pro-transit] transportation expert, while citing other coincidentally pro-highway “experts” who are in fact largely paid for and supported by the oil industry via “think tanks” which mask the real funding sources. Four paragraphs into the story, we get the set-up:

“Even as the cause of the bridge disaster here remains under investigation, the collapse is changing a lot of minds about spending priorities. It has focused national attention on the crumbling condition of America’s roadways and bridges - and on the financial and political neglect they have received in Washington and many state capitals.”

“Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.”

Then follows the first blind citation of experts, who state an opinion inferentially legitimized by their alleged “expert” status, which is nevertheless misleading at best:

“Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems...”

And finally, we get the Big Lie of the petroleum lobby, told and re-told over the years, systematically and deliberately by their paid shills, but now repeated as blunt fact by America’s newspaper of record, The New York Times:

“…expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.”

It is hard to quantify the amount of damage The New York Times has done with this half-truth, cleverly planted over many years by a host of libertarian “institutes” and “think tanks” --- all of whom are supported heavily by the petroleum industry or its front foundations --- via innumerable Op Ed pieces in small town newspapers and letters to the editor. But until August 7, those well-planted falsehoods had never made it into the news columns of The Times as facts.

The Times’ story will now undoubtedly be inserted into the Congressional record by oil’s many [well-supported] representatives in Congress as a long-awaited validation of their on-going anti-rail or anti-transit position, and it will appear, indeed has already appeared, in scores of newspapers who subscribe to the New York Times news wire.

Since The Times’ reporters do not cite the origin of this outrageous falsehood, allow us to do so: it comes from a series of articles written and distributed over the past 20 or 30 years by a number of different individuals and organizations, or cited by individuals supported or conned by those organizations --- as well as by those who use it to advance their agenda, even while knowing it to be false. It goes like this --- readers have undoubtedly heard or seen these statements before, and may even believe them to be true:

“Why do we keep spending money on rail, when it is used by less than 1-2% of the people making trips?” and this, “Why do we keep lavishing money on Amtrak, when the cost-per-ticket subsidy on long-distance trains can be hundreds of dollars?”

These organizations include the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and other less well-known oil lobby fronts with innocuous-sounding names, who churn out op eds and letters to the editor by the score, or make their spokesmen very available, every time an Amtrak appropriation bill goes forward, or the news media look into transportation funding --- as The Times did in this case of infrastructure collapse.

What’s wrong with the “less than 1%-2%” claim? It is wrong because it counts every trip made by every individual as a trip --- even a drive to the convenience store to get a loaf of bread. What’s more, it counts trips taken by the entire United States population, even those who live in places that have no train service. Which is much of the country, since Amtrak, created by Congress in 1970 at the request of the freight railroads to get them out from under the then-mandated requirement to operate passenger trains, has been given only enough money over the years to fail, slowly, and because, from the 1930’s until the late 1940’s, transit systems around the nation were systematically bought up and destroyed by National City Lines, a bus company secretly controlled by General Motors, Firestone, and Standard Oil, until they were caught and convicted in 1948. The trolleys in American cities didn’t die a natural death; they were murdered, via an economic crime now long forgotten, but very much still at the center of the long-term decline of the American city, where superhighways and sprawlburbs replaced trolleys and close-knit, stable city neighborhoods in the Post WW I era.

In terms of the national rail system, the Congressional budget office cited a $6 billion shortfall in basic infrastructure replacement on Amtrak’s heavily traveled Northeast Corridor ten years ago. And by the way, since people can take the train between major cities on the Northeast Corridor faster than they can fly between them, do they? Amtrak’s share of the ticketed market (air, rail, bus) between Washington and New York is more than 40%, and would be even greater if the Congress appropriated the money to make the Corridor reliable, which it has not.

As one wise man said, “You can’t take a train that isn’t there.”

In the August 7 story, how does The Times treat rail advocates? Like this, in the story’s very next paragraph:

“Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota’s share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.”

“Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.”

“The $286 billion federal transportation legislation passed by Congress in 2005 included more than 6,000 earmarks, which amounted to blatant gifts to chosen districts, including the so-called Bridge to Nowhere in rural Alaska (that earmark was later removed after a political uproar).”

Thus Jim Oberstar, one of the Congress’ most knowledgeable transportation experts well known for his advocacy of rail, comes off as a braggart --- for obtaining $10 million for a commuter rail line in his home state in a transportation budget of $286 billion. Some braggart.

But at least that “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska was cited by The Times, so here we have a balanced report, critical of unnecessary highways? Well, not exactly: the bridge in question was indeed removed from the bill, but the very same dollar amount was put back for Alaskan roads without a specific geographical description being listed. This may have fooled The Times (it has fooled lesser mortals) but it certainly pleased the politician whose bridge earmark was and is intact, just better hidden from the press and the public.

In only one instance does the article get anything close to right, in the assessments by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. John Mica (R-FL), and even then there are serious omissions:

“Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a telephone interview Monday that earmarks for transportation in federal legislation were ‘almost always new construction and not maintenance.’ Earlier, Mr. Schumer said that he would introduce legislation next month to double a proposed federal transportation bill appropriation, with a focus on upkeep to $10 billion.

“The bottom line,” Mr. Schumer said, “is that routine but important things like maintenance always get shortchanged because it’s nice for somebody to cut a ribbon for a new structure.”

True, but the story is incomplete: the reader also needs to know that Federal legislation allocating highway funds is written to require new lanes of capacity for a state to receive the magical 80-90% Federal reimbursement of highway costs, while maintenance projects that do not result in greater vehicle capacity come largely out of the state’s own funds. This forces states to widen and expand highways even when they don’t want to --- which then gives a state even more lane-miles of highway to maintain in the future --- which they can only afford to maintain if they widen the road again. This kind of Orwellian pro-highway bias is not an accident. The law is written by and for highway lobbyists and has been for decades, because lobbyists fund campaigns, and oil lobbyists have the most money. This is arcane stuff that most reporters do not have the time to understand, and the highway lobby counts on that fact. But the readers need to know.

Here again, another partly-true statement:

“Last week, Representative John L. Mica of Florida, the ranking Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, met with advisers to the Bush administration to urge a nationwide plan to address transportation needs. Rebuilding the I-35W bridge would be only ‘a Band-Aid’ Mr. Mica said, ‘to a much more serious problem. We don’t have any kind of strategic plan to deal with infrastructure, and we’re falling behind,’ he said.”

But…the GOP has been in control of the White House for seven years, and for most of that time until this January, of both the House and Senate transportation committees, including one that Rep. Mica chaired. Where have they been for the past seven years? Where exactly is the strategic plan? If The Times is going to write this story, it needs to ask those questions [Note: US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, regarded as one of the few truly well-qualified Bush cabinet-level appointees, has been chairing The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission for the past two years, which was created by Congress in 2005. The report is due out in December].

After a few anecdotes from some individual states’ reaction to the bridge collapse, we get a recent history of the Federal gas tax, and a notation that the National Conference of State Legislatures, meeting in national conference at Boston that week, was “calling for” a 3-cent boost in the tax, a hopeful sign for those wanting to fund infrastructure repair.

The federal budget for transportation comes largely from excise taxes, particularly on gasoline, set by Congress at 18.4 cents in 1993 and eroded over time by inflation and fuel efficiency. As such, over the last decade, state legislatures in 14 states have voted to raise the state gas tax 19 times. And several states are looking at toll roads and congestion pricing initiatives to help shore up the roads.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, a group with members from all 50 states, is calling for a 3-cents per gallon increase in the federal gas tax.

Unfortunately, that reporting is also inaccurate. The NCSL did indeed consider a resolution on a Federal gas tax increase at its recent convention in Boston, but it was defeated after heavy lobbying from the trucking industry, which does not want to pay higher gas or diesel fuel taxes even though trucks, per vehicle, cause far more damage to highways, especially bridges, than do automobiles. That defeat should have been page-one news, but The Times missed it.

Lastly, we learn from Randal O’Toole, identified as a fellow at the Cato Institute, commenting via email to The Times, the following:

“Too many American cities are spending far too much money on expensive rail transit projects, which are used for only 1 to 2 percent of local travel, and far too little on highway projects which are used for 95 to 99 percent of local travel.”

Leaving aside the fact that both highway and rail projects in urban environments are both extremely expensive, but that intercity rail projects cost a fraction of highway projects because of the much smaller land footprint, and because the tracks are often already there (if underutilized or old), The Times fails to identify Mr. O’Toole as a famous anti-transit spokesman who has made many quotable statements, and is one of those people most responsible for spreading the “1-2%” half truth about highway trips vs. rail usage, knowing full well that by using averages and percentages, as he often does, he can make what looks like jaw-dropping statements of fact when in fact he is deliberately swapping causes with effects: we have disinvested in rail, but built so many unmaintainable highways to the [new and growing] suburbs, that we have in effect dismantled the infrastructure that used to support rail service (freight and passenger) while also emptying out our towns and cities of their middle and upper class taxpayers, leaving a shrunken infrastructure --- and tax base --- for the people who remain, and isolating the poorest of them without any hope of getting to the (auto-accessible) jobs in the suburbs.

The Times’ August 7 article “Bridge Disaster Revives Question About Spending” may not be the worst piece of reporting ever to make its way into The New York Times --- but it’s close. The facts are often wrong, the (paid) agenda of anti-rail advocates is hidden, and the structure of the article leads to the opposite direction in which the actual facts should tend.

Since this is an analysis by an interested party, let me say: I am an infrastructure advocate because I want America to be competitive in world markets. I favor rail investment as part of an intermodal transportation system because it works, is by far the most efficient and effective transportation mode, and is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than highway or air travel, especially on trips of 300-500 miles. It has been badly neglected not by accident but by the deliberate policies of the government, whose elected representatives’ campaign funds often come in large chunks for the oil and highway industry.

Unlike the “experts” who work for “institutes” I don’t conceal my agenda under a cloak of fake scholarship. I do what I do because I believe in it. Who pays me? Over the past 18 years, from time to time, we have held conferences, and sometimes get sponsorship money from companies who want to build railroads or sell equipment, but that has never even begun to cover our costs. It comes for the most part from my wallet

Therefore it is particularly galling to see a great newspaper utterly taken in by a well-financed disinformation campaign lavishly supported by the oil interests, while those of us who beg to differ get to fight with our knuckles, and barely that.

It is bad enough to have The Wall Street Journal slipping into the hands of a skilled propagandist like Rupert Murdoch, who’s Fox network is already a slick example of what happens when a political agenda drives news coverage, but for The New York Times to go down that road is truly frightening.

The oil lobby couldn’t have written the Times story better if it had been sitting at the keyboard. While The Times editorial pages have “got it right” about transportation, the news department’s editors need to be more careful in the future with coverage of the subject: the oil lobby has all the money; all we’ve got is a few people like me, and our supporters, who don’t have the common sense to quit.

The original Times article, in its entirety, can be found at: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60A17FD3E540C748CDDA10894DF404482

The Times will charge you $4.95 to buy it.


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

Former Amtrak President, NJ Transit Chief
Forms New NYC Management Consulting Firm

By DF Staff and From Internet Sources

NEW YORK --- Former Amtrak CEO and New Jersey Transit Chief George D. Warrington has formed a high-level management consulting firm with two other leaders of the American transportation industry, former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Jamie Fox, and a former top advisor to two New Jersey governors and the NJ Department of Transportation, attorney Eric Shuffler.

Warrington Fox Shuffler Strategic Counselors is located in New York City.

In announcing the company’s formation, the firm stated, “The firm’s founders are seasoned problem-solvers who understand the nuances that enable successful outcomes. They have executed effective policy and communications strategies involving high profile, complex and sensitive matters. They have proven experience managing large-scale projects, implementing far-reaching changes at government agencies, and creating and carrying out strategic plans that achieve demonstrable results in difficult areas.”

Former President of Amtrak, Executive Director of the Delaware River Port Authority, Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation and most recently Executive Director of the nation’s third largest public transit system, New Jersey Transit.

Warrington’s 30-year career has established him as a national leader in transportation policy, with extensive and hands-on experience in project and service development, economic development, coalition building, communications and media strategy, emergency management, complex problem solving and legislative relations at all levels of government.

As President of Amtrak, George presided over the development and launch of Acela Express, the nation’s first high-speed rail service, which now dominates the air-rail travel market between New York and Washington, DC. As Executive Director of NJ Transit, he effectively built a coalition of business, labor, environmental, federal, state and local interests that today serves as the foundation for the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC), the $7.3 billion passenger railroad tunnel complex which will connect New Jersey and New York.


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George Warrington

TOD LINES...  TOD Lines...

FTA puts hold on major Massachusetts TOD Project

By DF Staff and from The Boston Herald

BOSTON ---The Federal Transit Administration has without warning put a hold on a key Massachusetts “transit-oriented development” (“TOD”) that was being fast-tracked but is now side-tracked, the Herald reported this past week.

Reporters Casey Ross and Marie Szaniszlo wrote:

“A massive plan to redevelop Assembly Square in Somerville is on the rocks after federal officials blocked efforts to fast-track construction of a $40 million MBTA station needed to support an explosion of retail shops and office space, the Herald has learned.”

“Federal transit officials confirmed they have nixed plans to build the proposed station under a streamlined regulatory process, delivering yet another blow to the train-deprived city after years of efforts to improve public transit,” wrote the Herald.

The halt came as a shock to local and state politicians, who vowed to get around FTA delays:

“The shocking blow comes two weeks after the Patrick administration delayed a separate effort to extend the Green Line to Somerville and Medford, citing the need to leverage federal funding. That project, already years behind schedule, could now be put off two years beyond its 2014 completion date. The snafu with the proposed Assembly Square Orange Line station caught several public officials off guard, creating a scramble to ensure the delivery of $25 million in federal money for the project.

“Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone insisted the T station - considered a linchpin for the Assembly Square development - will not be thrown off course. ‘You can rest assured, that T stop is going to get built,’ Curtatone said to the Herald. “In the end, this is going to be inconsequential. All systems are 'go'.”

But, reported The Herald, sources with knowledge of the situation “said the MBTA now expects to miss an early September deadline for submitting an application to get funding for the station. That means T officials must go back to the drawing board for months of work to develop cost-benefit data needed for a more detailed regulatory review.”


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)80.5579.56
Canadian National (CNI)52.4049.62
Canadian Pacific (CP)69.4165.80
CSX (CSX)43.0841.55
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.9426.13
Kansas City Southern (KSU)31.0830.59
Norfolk Southern (NSC)51.5350.97
Providence & Worcester (PWX)16.5416.50
Union Pacific (UNP)111.07105.93


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

DBAG (German Railways) Reports
Strong Growth For First Half 2007

Berlin - Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) - German Railways - announced a 44% increase in earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) amounting to EUR 1.35 billion (US $1.84 billion) for the first six months of 2007 compared with the same period in 2006. This enabled DBAG to reduce its net debt by EUR 658 million. DBAG increased its capital spending by nearly 20% during the first half year to EUR 2.8 billion.

Turnover for the first half of this year increased by 5.8% to EUR 15.3 billion. An extra 4 million passengers traveled by train during the period, taking passenger journeys to 913 million, while passenger-km increased by 525 million to 36.7 billion. Tonne-km was up by 4% at 49.9 billion. DBAG forecasts a 10% growth in rail freight traffic on both DBAG’s rail freight division and its competitors for the full year. The increase in traffic has led to a 3.1% increase in requests for freight train paths for the 2008 timetable, which starts on the 9th of December, and a 5.7% increase in passenger train path requests. As a result, DBAG subsidiary DB Netz will provide an extra 46,000 train paths for the 2008 timetable.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We Get Letters...

Dear Editor,

Indeed the laws of physics are international, but the conditions are not. FRA’s recent moves to increase crashworthiness date to the 1996 Amtrak MARC wreck in Silver Spring. The cause of the wreck was ultimately failure to comply with warning signal indication. FRA had a clear choice insist on better signaling such as ATS, cab signals etc or make the cars more like tanks. The political/financial likelihood of forcing all commuter operations to upgrade signaling on the host railroads is staggering. And as recent wrecks in southern California have shown, a random SUV on the tracks can trigger a nasty crash no matter how sophisticated the signaling system. There is serious lobbying to outlaw all push pull operations as a result. The reality is that between extremely heavy diesel locomotives be they freight or passenger, and auto intruders we just don’t have the luxury of lighter weight construction unless the rail system is completely isolated.

David Vartanoff
Oakland Ca

Editor replies - This also speaks to a long-standing NCI position that all grade crossings need to be eliminated. No grade crossings - no SUV accidents.


Dear Editor,

I read, with interest, the following quote from David Gunn, as told to a reporter in a Nova Scotia newspaper and as repeated in Destination:Freedom’s Aug 13th newsletter:

“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.”

Surely this is incorrect, seeing how Gunn was hired May 15, 2002, well into the first Bush term. I can see how a Canadian reporter and her editor might miss this basic fact, but surely Destination:Freedom knows better the chronology of Mr. Gunn’s tenure at Amtrak.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Wilson, AIA, PhD
Paul Wilson Architect PLLC
Washington DC 20003


Dear Editor,

In response to Mr. Dawson’s letter re: Jay Leno, and his Amtrak japes (8/20/07- D:F), yeah, they’re simplistic and uninformed, but the initial fault resides in a poorly researched and written AP report; and the subsequent fallout was all but inevitable. To expect GE to lay a heavy hand on Mr. Leno’s shoulder is unrealistic, and in the long run would be unwise. He is, after all, just doing his job.

On the other hand, he loves most any form of mechanical conveyance, and would undoubtedly be charmed and excited to learn about the mechanics of railroading and it’s history and evolution. Imagine the enjoyment he might have spending a day at LAUPT in the company of some of Amtrak’s highly skilled craftspeople (it wouldn’t hurt if those showing him around were car and motorcycle nuts, too), explaining what it takes to get a passenger train over the road from LA to Seattle or Chicago. Sure, he can remove the master cylinder from his Harley or Corvette with a wrench and screwdriver, but to similarly service a Superliner, he’ll first need a forklift. He appreciates horsepower and its judicious application - a cab ride from LA to San Luis Obisbo, climbing the hills, negotiating the curves and experiencing the skill it takes to navigate a couple 4000 HP locomotives and a dozen or more 100-ton passenger coaches across the mountains would give him a new outlook on the dynamics of passenger railroading.

How about the respective Public Relations Departments of Amtrak and GE’s Locomotive Division make a mutual effort to reach out to Mr. Leno, and show him the skill, professionalism, brains and brawn inherent in 21st Century Passenger railroading? I’d be willing to bet that, once he knew it was possible, he’d end up adding a nice pre-war Pullman to his collection, and in the end become worthy passenger rail advocate.

Peter Hine
New York City


To the Editor,

Perhaps David Beale has been away too long and has forgotten this country’s inbred hubris: for the better part of two centuries, the national zeitgeist has been that we are The Way of The Future, that the Old Country has nothing it can teach us. Therefore, why ask the rest of the world it’s opinion on rail safety when we are not inclined to ask on any other subject? This attitude seems to have become more manifest over the last, um, six years or so, especially.

As for his “unintended consequences,” considering the USDOT’s attitude toward anything rail during this administration, from Amtrak to rail-based transit, to supporting freight rail infrastructure improvements, I do not believe that the first three are unintended at all, but rather the expectation of certain people within FRA, FTA and FHWA who are desperate to promote Bus Rapid Transit as the new Light Rail. They must know that the next administration is likely to change their policy direction somewhat at least (or a lot depending), and so they are hoping to force the issue through policies like this new rule.

Of course, there is also the influence of our litigious society that leads the Nannies in government to try to protect us from everything in the whole world, or at least use that as their excuse. Funny how they’ve let the whole clean water and clean air thing slip by....

As for the fourth consequence, I have heard that one stated in one form or another so much that it must have reached “chicken-little” status in Washington, much as the “panic” over global warming will do in a few years. I don’t think that they believe it, and so don’t give it any credence.

This might be a good time to start requiring all new rules, which are in effect laws, to require approval by Congress and signed by the President as laws. That’ll slow things up but good!

Doug Alexander
NCI Vice Chairman
Atlanta, GA


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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, and intermodalism, as well as of current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size and number. Descriptive text which includes location, train name, and something about the content of the image is encouraged. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your e-mail address or web site.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King and other photo journalists should contact our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org for additional information.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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