The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

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

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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October 27, 2008
Vol. 9 No. 45

Copyright © 2008
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Europe’s Transportation System Inclusive, Efficient, And Accessible
France May Help Economy With Aid To Car Industry, Rail Projects
  Off The Main Line…
Sikorsky Bridge Bike And Pedestrian Path Offers Scenic Views
   And Wildlife Encounters
  News From Amtrak…
Improved Website Enhances Travel Choices
Amtrak Makes Its Best Offer Yet: Discounted Rail Passes
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
CNG Powered Busses Collide, But No Fire Or Explosion
70 ICE Train Sets Still Out Of Service
  Commentary…
New Jersey Transit’s “T.H.E. Tunnel” Project:
   Who Wins And Who Loses
  The View From Europe…
Hannover (Germany) Adds Large Shopping Mall To City Center
  Publication Notes …


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

There’s No Excuse --- Part 2 Of Several

 

Europe’s Transportation System
Inclusive, Efficient, And Accessible

By Jim RePass
Publisher, Destination:Freedom

 

GERMANY/SWITZERLAND/FRANCE/GERMANY---When it comes to a transportation system that is inclusive, efficient, and accessible to all, the Europeans aren’t perfect.

But they’re close.


All Photos: Jim RePass, NCI

ICE for Basel pulls in to Berlin.

In mid-September, I traveled to Europe for the first time in just over a decade to see what had changed since last I visited in 1996, and to investigate first-hand some promising technologies and management practices that might have application in the United States, if the powers that be ever decide that America is to become a first-world country again and commit to build infrastructure in this country.

A City Night Lines train arives at Berlin 8 AM from Zurich.

Fortunately, I missed the almost total recall of German ICE-3 and ICE-T train sets which is still on-going, because of an axle flaw detected in the heavily used high-speed system which criss-crosses Germany. Just as fortunately, a German safety inspector caught the flaw before it became a fatal one. But laying aside that [very major] problem, for the better part of three decades high speed rail has become an increasingly essential part of European transportation systems.

DB ICE First Class Coach.

What I found, from Berlin to Switzerland to Paris and back, over an eight-day period that started with a visit to the world’s largest trade show for railroad equipment at Berlin Messe, was a smoothly-functioning and integrated transportation system, not just a rail system, that works well because it was planned to work well, and because the Europeans have spent the money necessary --- by taxing themselves --- to create a robust, redundant system that can handle anomalies and go around problems, without missing a beat.

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof.

The Berlin trade fare InnoTrans is held every two years and attracts a world-wide audience of transportation operators, construction companies, and transportation equipment and rolling stock manufacturers. European Editor David Beale reported on that fair in D:F, with accompanying photographs, so I will concentrate more on the follow-up to the fair, which was my deliberately quotidian inspection of how things work in the real world: how do Europeans travel, and how easy/hard is it for them to make travel arrangements. I’ll start with the trip from Berlin to Zermatt.

The answer is, “Things usually work well, and making reservations, even in a foreign country, is easy because of multi-lingual transportation workers (in most countries) and announcements in several languages of station stops, information on track assignments for connecting trains, and other helpful information. The exception was France, where with typical Gallic hauteur, on board they spoke seulement en Francais, and where station agents could usually be counted on to treat non-Francophiles with appropriate contempt. More on that later.

My Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) train from Berlin to Basel, with connections onward to Zermatt, glides gracefully and silently out of Berlin’s Haupbahnhof exactly on time at 8:32 a.m. The Siemens-built Inter City Express No. 875 passes back through Zoological Garten station, where I had boarded an S-Bahn local train earlier that morning to get to the main rail station, and then crossed the River Spree, which bisects Berlin on its way to the Havel in western Berlin.

An electric taxi in Zermatt, where private internal combustion engine cars have been banned since 1966.

We pass by a series of tiny houses and miniature gardens alongside the track, which look of a size that should be worked by trolls. Within a few minutes at 8:47 a.m. we stop at Spandau and then we are beyond city regions, and suddenly into the countryside, with a complete absence of the kind suburban sprawl found outside of American cities. Looks like trolls work here.

By 8:54 we are accelerating smartly through countryside, farms already on both sides of the track, as we move through the former East Germany. Five minutes later we are whipping through an enormous wind farm, with giant wind turbines along the tracks for what seems like miles, and stretching to the horizon on this slightly gray Thursday morning in a September Germany.

Wind Farms outside Berlin on a grey day, taken from DB ICE 875.

We are now hurtling through the countryside at about 175 mph. The ICE train is as smooth as glass, and silent. A slight smell of manure from the adjacent, blurred farms permeates the cars. The train’s windows are immaculate, and crystal clear.

At 9:41 we stop at Wolfsburg, dominated everywhere by signs for VW, which is headquartered here, then at 9:42 off we go; in seconds there are farms again, and zero suburban sprawl is apparent, and then at 9:45 we are in yet another giant wind farm. Installed amidst impossibly neat fields – 90 degree angles on the furrows, and perfectly graded at the edges. We hit rough track at 9:51, for the first and almost only time on the trip, and then it is gone. The first at- grade crossing appears.

Strong acceleration, and the Escherberg tunnel, then lots of tunnels and bridges as the track levels out the hilly countryside, as the fog deepens, then clears as the sun breaks through. The villages on hillsides look like toy houses on a model railroad layout, neat and perfect, right out of the box. Germany is a huge model train layout, but with real trains. At 10:56 we stop at Göttingen, then pull out at once; a Gypsy caravan is parked near the tracks, and the fields, filled with ripening corn, look like Nebraska at harvest time. At 11:05 we are accelerating and climbing, with higher and higher bridges, a long tunnel, then light, then another tunnel; we emerge onto bridge over a river, and ten minutes later we are at Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe railway station, stopped.

Clean, functional dining car aboard ICE 875 Berlin-Basel.

At 11:17 the train doors slam shut, and off we go again; at 12 noon I move to the dining car for lunch, where I select “six small sausages w/potato salad” and a beer; at 12:18 the lunch I ordered arrives. Not bad. Ketchup, mustard, sausages, potato salad – real silver, linen, china, no plastic. Cost: about 10 Euros ($14.00 at the time; less now)

Luncheon on Board ICE 875 - sausages and salad.

At 1 p.m. we are stopped at Frankfurt’s Main Hauptbahnhof (Hbf), with newer looking ICEs here (new “Series 3”).We reverse direction to leave Frankfurt, and travel on to Mannheim. Frankfurt has a second major terminal at its airport, with direction connections to the Hauptbahnhof as well as rail service directly to other major German cities such as Cologne.

At 2:05 p.m., or 14:05 as Europeans would say, We arrive at Karlsruhe, home of some of the most innovative street rail systems in the world, where I will return next week for a longer visit.

At 3:55 p.m. (15:55) we arrive at Basel, and detrain to await the Swiss Railways Intercity to Visp, which shows up on Track 9 exactly on time.; we board SBB CHF IC 1081 from Basel to VISP. The Swiss ICE is older and well-used but still very clean equipment, and taker my Window Seat 61. The windows trim rattles a little; first sign of any less-than-perfect equipment. At 17:27 we arrive at Bern, and then, as we did on the German ICE at Frankfurt, pull out of Bern by reversing direction; European Intercity Trains are bi-directional, sometimes during the same trip.

Swiss village scene from the Visp-Zermatt Regional 259.

At Visp, we detrain from the Swiss ICE and get on Matterhorn-Gotthard Regional Train 259 to Zermatt; waiting on Platform 3 as we pull in; it is a brand new Stadler-built train of the Matterhorn-Gotthard Bahn, a privately owned line which does not accept Eurail passes, although they do offer a 25% discount to card holders. This is a cog railway, meter gauge. We begin moving, steeply, vey steeply, up the side of the mountain next to Visp, climbing the canyon wall, as the sun begins to fade. We wait briefly and a freight train meets us and heads on down the mountain to Visp. We meet the famed Glacier Express, going down the mountain, then wind through numerous often curving tunnels. This cog railway is incredibly smooth; except when the train first engages the rack, you can’t feel it or hear it at all.

We meet another train—one loco, one freight car –and then a short stop. A look at the track shows no spikes: everything is bolted or screwed down tight. A series of small stops, and then we are at Zermatt’s main station, jut before 8 p.m., the terminus of this line. It is dark, but not too cold (we are at about 10, 000 feet) and I take a tiny electric taxi to Le Petit Hotel; I could have walked, but it has been a long day, and my wheeled luggage has decided to become dragging equipment. I arrive at Le Petit Hotel (I had made reservations online while at Berlin); it is quintessentially Swiss; small, very charming. Frank the proprietor is very friendly. Small rooms, but nice; the bathroom immaculate.

[ Next week: exploring a car-free town in the Alps ]


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France May Help Economy With Aid
To Car Industry, Rail Projects

Reuters On The Internet

PARIS, OCTOBER 20 -- President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering stimulus measures such as speeding up rail projects and supporting faster development of electric cars in order to help the French economy through the financial crisis, the newspaper Le Monde reported last Monday.

He is also expected to announce measures to fight rising unemployment.

An agreement was struck on October 4 between France, Germany, Italy and EU officials to invoke an emergency clause in EU rules which allows countries to run up their deficits in emergency circumstances, but some economists warn this could wreak havoc with the financial situation.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon feels the spending is necessary. “We need to stop the financial crisis and get the economic machine going,” he said.

Le Monde reported that France would take national measures to help the development of electric cars, to create a network of service stations capable of replacing batteries, or supporting research into fuel cells.”

The government also plans to speed up big rail infrastructure projects.

Sarkozy’s office announced that supporting environmental projects with the aim of boosting the economy is also “totally on the table.” He is facing pressure from his party to help ordinary French people after he announced 360 billion euros in aid last week for the banking sector.

Bank of America economist Gilles Moec wrote that the stimulus spending France is planning could bring their deficit to 4 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, far higher than the EU's 3 percent limit and the government's official forecast of 2.7 percent for next year.


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

Sikorsky Bridge Bike And Pedestrian Path Offers
Scenic Views And Wildlife Encounters

From “CT Environmental Headlines” on the Internet

 

[ Editors’ note:] Sometimes, we just need to report the good news. In our efforts as rail advocates to make sure America builds a world class transportation system, we also must recognize the successes of those fighting for the connecting pieces. ]

In the rebuilding of the Sikorsky Bridge, which spans the Housatonic River between Milford and Stratford, Connecticut, citizens fought for and got a beautiful bike and pedestrian path. Here are some scenic views taken from that path and observations from the photographer, Linda Hoza, Chair, Merritt Parkway Greenway Alliance:


Photo: Linda Hoza

Nature meets civilization - Ryders Lane Shopping Center in the background, deer in the foreground.

“I happened upon the Sikorsky Bridge bicycle and pedestrian path at the Sikorsky Bridge.

The path begins alongside the bridge next to what looks like a birding area between the Merritt Parkway and the Ryders Lane Shopping Center with a bridal shop, a Quiznos and a dozen or so other stores.

The path, connecting Fairfield and New Haven counties, also provides a link in the Maine-to-Florida East Coast Greenway.

In addition to nearly filling a standard kitchen garbage bag full of trash, I took these shots.”


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AMTRAKL NEWS... News From Amtrak...

Improved Website Enhances Travel Choices

iSeatz One View Will Enable Customers To Book More Than Just Rail Tickets - Hotels, Cars And Entertainment - All In One Online Transaction

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Amtrak has launched an enhanced, fully-integrated website that offers passengers more choices and flexibility when making travel plans online. Powered by iSeatz, visitors to Amtrak.com can now book more than just rail tickets, including lodging, rental cars, entertainment and other amenities, via a single shopping cart and checkout process. To further enhance the overall travel booking experience, Amtrak.com features iSeatz OneView, a ground-breaking tool that synchronizes a passenger's multiple reservations and cancellations in real-time and enables passengers to easily manage all of the components of their trip, both on- and off-line.

Amtrak worked with iSeatz to build a one-of-a-kind booking engine that fulfills Amtrak's business requirements and the wide array of travelers' trip and entertainment needs. Customers on Amtrak.com will be able to choose from thousands of hotel properties and destination service products. Amtrak.com will also offer car rentals at or within one mile of 70 major stations. In addition to travel and hotel options, customers can purchase tickets to shows, theater, sightseeing tours and other special events.

“At Amtrak, we understand that there are a myriad of transportation and travel options available online today,” said Kathleen Gordon, senior director, E-commerce. “With the use of iSeatz' technology, we can now offer travelers another reason to visit Amtrak.com and thousands of travel options to choose from.”

“Amtrak invested in a technology solution that complements its core business, strengthens its level of customer service and provides a source of added revenue,” said Kenneth Purcell, Founder and CEO of iSeatz. “We are pleased to help Amtrak to enhance the overall travel experience and we look forward to supporting the successful launch of Amtrak.com.”

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 Amtrak.com.

About iSeatz

iSeatz is a global provider of customized online travel and entertainment solutions that offer immediate access to more than 100,000 services and products. iSeatz powers differentiated loyalty programs, ancillary revenue and brand devotion by seamlessly integrating its flexible booking engine into its clients' relevant customer touch points. The proprietary supplier and transaction aggregation application, iSeatz OneView, enables clients to consolidate the components of multiple transactions into a single real-time record that can be easily managed online. iSeatz is the choice of industry leaders including Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Air Canada, MasterCard and CitiBank, and was ranked in the 2008 Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. To learn more about iSeatz visit www.iseatz.com.


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Amtrak Makes
Its Best Offer Yet:
Discounted Rail Passes

 

Posted by: Sean O'Neill

 

OCTOBER 21 --- It seems like every country in the world offers discounted rail passes to foreign visitors that aren't available to local citizens. The point of these discounts is, of course, to encourage tourism. And here in the U.S., Amtrak has been doing the same trick for years: offering its best discounts on train travel to foreign visitors.

But Amtrak has changed its mind and is now offering Americans the same discounted rail passes that only people living overseas could buy before.

The USA Rail Pass is available for 15, 30, and 45 days of travel, but you can space out that travel over the span of six months. As the AP reports, “the 15-day pass offers eight segments of travel for $389.” A “segment” is whenever you board a train. There are no restrictions or blackout dates, so you can travel during peak times—assuming a train hasn't sold out. There are a few exceptions, of course. For example, you can't redeem the passes for travel on Amtrak's high-end services, such as Auto Train and Acela Express.

 

At left - Scenes from Amtrak travel. The view from the train window riding from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara (Courtesy emdot/Flickr)

 


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)80.0080.10
Canadian National (CNI)38.9839.70
Canadian Pacific (CP)36.7539.82
CSX (CSX)42.3843.33
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)28.9427.25
Kansas City Southern (KSU)27.0130.29
Norfolk Southern (NSC)53.1252.54
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.1215.30
Union Pacific (UNP)58.2855.49


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

Photo: HAZ   

Accident scene of two busses after collision with each other.
CNG Powered Busses Collide,
But No Fire Or Explosion

One Dead, Ten Others Critically Injured - CNG Fuel Remained Mostly Contained

From Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung

Bad Harzburg – Two CNG (compressed natural gas) fueled transit busses collided head-on with each other near the resort towns of Wernigerode and Bad Harzburg last Thursday towards the end of the morning rush hour. The driver of one bus died, the other seriously injured. Both busses were operating bus route 877 between the two cities, however the bus traveling from Harzburg was empty aside from the driver.

Approximately 60 police, fire department and emergency medical technicians responded to the accident scene, however the rescue effort was delayed until the fire department was able to examine and secure a gas leak from one of the roof-mounted CNG cylinders on one of the two busses. Due to risk of fire and explosion, fire department personnel remained ready and poised to discharge both fire retardant foam as well as high pressure water on the busses in case a fire broke out as other rescue personnel removed the drivers and passengers from the busses. However the CNG never ignited and rescue personnel were able to secure the heavily damaged busses by mid afternoon. Medivac helicopters transported several of the injured to University Hospital in Göttigen, one of them the surviving bus driver who remains in critical condition.

Police would not speculate on how the head-on collision occurred, but they had ruled out excessive speed and weather factors as contributors. The collision provided a real life test of the crashworthiness of VNG powered busses.

Aside from bus route 877, Bad Harzburg is connected to Wernigerode by regional passenger trains via a connection in the town of Viennenburg at approximately 1 hour frequencies.


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70 ICE Train Sets Still Out Of Service

Significant number of ICE services cancelled, other trains standing room only

[ A Continuation of last week’s story: Concerns Over Axle Cracks Sideline 130 ICE Trains ]

 

MUNICH - Chaos continued to rule over a number of intercity rail routes in Germany for a second week with approximately 70 ICE train sets out of service while waiting for inspections of their axles for cracks. Nearly all of the remaining 70 out-of-service train sets are of the ICE-T variant, a tilt body EMU train set based on the ICE-3 design. Both train models have been affected by recently enacted reduced inspection intervals of 30,000 km of their wheel axles. With daily utilization of the fleet in the 1200 - 1500 km (746 - 932 mile) range under normal circumstances, the new requirements from Germany's EBA (equivalent to the U.S. FRA) amount to a full ultrasonic inspection of the affected wheel axles every three to four weeks. The trigger for the new inspection requirements was the discovery of a 2 mm crack in an axle from an ICE-T train set two weeks ago, which in turn was found due to new inspection requirements introduced after a cracked axle caused an ICE-3 train set to derail just outside of the central train station in Cologne last July.

Worst affected this week and next week are ICE routes in southern and eastern Germany as well as ICE services between Berlin and Hamburg. The massive cancellation of ICE services around the Deutsche Bahn system has drawn the ire of several passenger rail advocacy groups such as Pro Bahn, Alliance Bahn für Alle and Alliance Pro Schiene as well as numerous politicians from various levels of government. Pro Bahn chairman Karl-Peter Naumann stated that it is time that the federal government take direct action, including requiring Deutsche Bahn to provide upto 50 reserve trains for the fall-out of ICE trains due to the new inspection requirements.

Deutsche Bahn looked to the manufacturer for support, with DBAG chairman Hartmut Mehdorn stating that the trains purchased from a consortium headed by Siemens and including Bombardier and Alstom need to be backed up by guarantees that the trains would be free of safety related issues such as axle cracks. But instead, according to Mehdorn, the consortium has confronted DBAG with unreliable and unclear position statements regarding the axle cracking issue. A spokesman for Siemens Mobility strongly denied the accusations from Mr. Mehdorn.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...

New Jersey Transit’s “T.H.E. Tunnel” Project:
Who Wins And Who Loses

Fifth In A Series

By: David Peter Alan

The battle lines are clearly drawn. New Jersey Transit (NJT) is eager to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River to increase rail capacity into Midtown Manhattan. Transit managers say they need this additional capacity to bring peak-hour commuters into the City, and that some rail lines will have direct access to Manhattan for the first time. NJT wants to terminate the proposed tunnel in a deep-cavern terminal far beneath the street. The proposed terminal will form a dead-end for the trains, since the current plan does not allow expansion of the line toward the East Side of Midtown. Advocates for the riders on both sides of the river oppose the project on several grounds, including the lack of potential East Side access. The advocates also contend that there is insufficient money available to build the project as NJT envisions it, and they decry the proposed loss of access to the existing Penn Station for riders on some of NJT’s rail lines.

This article will summarize the two plans now under discussion; NJT’s current version of the project, and the version favored by the Lackawanna Coalition, the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), the Empire State Passengers’ Association (ESPA), the Regional Rail Working Group and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). The next task will be to summarize which interests win and which lose under each of the proposed plans.

In the interest of fair disclosure, it should be noted that this writer is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which represents the riders of the Morris & Essex (M&E) and Montclair-Boonton Lines. The Coalition has taken strong objection to the current NJT plan, since it proposes an operating plan that would evict riders on the M&E and Montclair-Boonton Lines from the existing Penn Station and divert all trains on those lines to the new proposed terminal, nearly 20 stories below the street. The Coalition has joined with the other advocacy organizations in opposing the NJT plan as currently devised.

The plans at issue have been discussed thoroughly in previous articles in this series. To summarize, NJT plans to build a two-track rail tunnel from Swift Interlocking (a junction in the New Jersey Meadowlands eight miles west of Midtown Manhattan) into a Midtown location near the existing Penn Station and far below it. The project would include a stub-end terminal with tracks located 175 feet (early 20 stories) below street level. There are no plans for expansion to the East Side of Midtown, since the proposed terminal is so deep that New York City’s water tunnel gets in the way. At this point, even extending the line far enough to build tail tracks would require permission from New York’s Department of Environmental Protection. We estimate the cost of the portion of the project for which Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding is sought to be $7.6 billion in current dollars. The Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project, a companion project that must be built if NJT’s operating plan is to be implemented, would replace an existing bridge over the Hackensack River with two spans located higher above the water. We estimate the cost of the Portal Bridge project to be $1.7 billion.

NJT never links the projects together in its public pronouncements. If they did, they would essentially be required to admit that they are actually proposing a mega-project that would cost $9.3 billion at current estimate.

We, the advocates for the riding public, prefer that the tunnel terminate differently than proposed in NJT’s plan. We would take the proposed new tunnel into the existing Penn Station, where it would provide additional capacity for both NJT and Amtrak trains. We also call for the extension of the line to the East Side of Manhattan, preferably to the Lower Level of Grand Central Terminal. That way, New Jersey rail riders would gain access to the East Side without any downgrade in the quality of their access to the West Side. We also anticipate a saving of $2 billion that would be realized from eliminating the proposed deep-cavern terminal from the plan.

Who wins under NJT’s current plan?

The big winners are the political, business and labor establishments who back the plan. Rail capacity into a location in (or, more correctly, far under) Midtown Manhattan will be increased sooner under NJT’s plan than under ours, because engineering work is proceeding for it. Going back to the principle of the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) plan, and redesigning the plan in accordance with that principle, would take time. The establishment interests want something built as soon as possible, and they seem more concerned with speed than with the quality of the project. NJT wins, because the plan they currently propose would be implemented. Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade & Douglass (“PB” or “Parsons”) wins, also. The firm, one of the most powerful civil engineering firms in the nation, has been paid huge fees for this work and would continue to be paid large fees. Compared to New Jersey rail riders, commuters from New York State and Connecticut come out ahead. They will have access to both the East and West Sides of Midtown, under other proposed or ongoing projects for Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road. NJT riders will not have East Side access under the proposed plan, and West Side access for some riders will be severely downgraded. NJT also claims that riders on lines that do not currently have direct one-seat access to Manhattan, also come out ahead under their plan. This is unclear, however.

Who loses?

Morris & Essex and Montclair-Boonton Line riders will be the biggest losers, since they will no longer have direct access to the existing Penn Station. They would be forced to ascend 175 feet to the surface under the NJT plan, while the tracks in the existing Penn Station are only 38 feet below street level. The additional time required to ascend the additional height would be significant, and the new proposed tunnel would come with consequent safety and security risks, because it would be located so far underground. Amtrak would also lose under the NJT plan, because the new proposed line and station do not connect with Amtrak’s existing Northeast Corridor (NEC) Line into the existing Penn Station. Amtrak trains could not make practicable use of the new proposed line, and riders on NJT and Amtrak could not transfer easily between the two carriers. New Jersey rail riders generally lose, because they would have access only to the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, whether their line would continue to go to the existing Penn Station, or whether it would be diverted to the new proposed terminal. As mentioned previously, there are plans to give Connecticut riders access to Penn Station, and the LIRR has started construction on its East Side Access project.

Who wins under our plan?

The biggest winners would be the riders on the M&E and Montclair-Boonton Lines, who would continue to have access to the existing Penn Station. Amtrak also wins, because the new tunnel would connect with Amtrak’s existing NEC Line, providing an additional means for moving trains into and out of Penn Station. The entire New York metropolitan area (including New Jersey) would benefit from our plan, since it provides for connecting the existing Penn Station with the existing Grand Central Terminal. Such a connection not only gives New Jersey rail riders access to both sides of Midtown Manhattan, but it also allows regional through-running of trains. Such an operation would save equipment and money, while providing new destinations and a new level of convenience for riders anywhere in the metropolitan area. All taxpayers in New Jersey would win under our plan, since the price of our proposed project is lower than that for NJT’s proposed project. In this era of funding shortages throughout the public sector, any project that saves money and provides better service for the riders than the more expensive alternative is clearly superior.

Under our plan, NJT and their backers would appear to come out the losers.

Such a status would only be temporary, however. It is true that some engineering redesign and a new public relations campaign would be needed. Nonetheless, any delay that would actually result in a project that is good for the riders and also saves money is time well used. We believe that the choice of project is so important that any time dedicated to making decisions that benefit the riders is well-invested.

Some constituencies may come out about even, whichever plan is selected.

Parsons Brinkerhoff will collect a large fee for engineering work no matter what the outcome. It is also unclear how results will balance for riders on the Raritan Valley, Main-Bergen and Pascack Valley lines, which currently do not have direct service to Midtown New York. Modest improvements to the Secaucus Station (which cost $600 million and opened for service in 2003) could deliver those riders to the existing Penn Station in less time than NJT’s currently-proposed operating plan would deliver them to the deep-cavern terminal that NJT would like to build. The riders would not have a one-seat ride to Manhattan, but a two-seat ride with a transfer at Secaucus would actually be faster and more convenient under our plan. This particular issue cannot be easily quantified for calculating costs and benefits.

The saga continues, and it appears that NJT’s desire to have final funding approval from the Federal Transit Administration by the end of 2008 will not occur. We believe that time is on our side, which means it is also on the side of the riders. We know that money is scarce in New Jersey, and many legislators in Trenton know this. We also know that Governor Paterson in New York is talking about rail improvements and the Moynihan Station project in particular. This is the sort of “regional” thinking that was lacking when NJT decided to push for its own new line, independent of Amtrak and not capable of being extended to the East Side.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the battle, for transit providers, rider advocates, politicians and even the FTA. These lessons will be the subject of the next article in this series.


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VIEW FROM EUROPE... The View From Europe...

Hannover (Germany) Adds Large Shopping Mall To City Center

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

A Little Bit of ‘New Asia’ in ‘Old Europe’ as Hannover Joins a Growing List of Cities with Urban Shopping Malls

 

The central train station (Hauptbahnhof) in downtown Hannover welcomed the opening of a new next-door neighbor late last week: the Ernst-August Galerie shopping mall. A week after the grand opening visitors continue to stream into the mall by the hundreds per hour to review the city’s latest addition to downtown shopping. Multi-level indoor shopping malls in urban city centers may be part of everyday life in other parts of the world, most notably the numerous fast growing mega-cities of East and Southeast Asia, but in Old Europe, they are still a novelty.


Photo: David Beale, NCI

Shop-n-Go – The new Ernst August Galerie shopping mall is directly across the street from Hannover central train station (in the foreground). The city’s main light rail station / hub is located in an underground complex about a five minute walk away.

Photo: David Beale

Construction of the three-level mall had been, for certain periods of time in the past three years, the largest construction project in Germany. In order to build the mall, Hannover’s central post office, located on the northwest side of the central train station was demolished. The German post office (Deutsche Post) had long ago stopped using a rail siding in the central train station for shipment of mail and packages via rail. Its remaining functions were moved to other locations around the city over the past eight years.

Mega-Mall . . . well “Mega” for Germany anyway

The 40,000 square meter (431,000 sq.-ft.) mall was developed by the German real estate developer and construction firm ECE. At the grand opening of the in door shopping center last week nearly all of the 144 shop spaces and stalls had been leased, an impressive vote in confidence by numerous retailers in these not so certain financial times. The location of the mall directly across the street from the central train station as well as a just five-hundred-meter walk from the city’s main underground light rail station, Kröpke, access to a large customer base is not likely to be a problem. Less certain is the effect the new mall will have on existing retailers in Hannover’s city center. The city had already experienced a significant increase in retail space over the past eight years in the downtown area, thanks to a major renovation of the central train station as well as new retail space added in a semi-underground passageway between the central train station and the “Kröpke” underground light rail hub. But unlike those projects, the Ernst-August Galerie is the Hannover area’s first large scale indoor shopping mall. In the background, is a city and suburban area, which together are essentially not growing at all. The city of Hannover is losing population, while modest growth in the suburbs just barely compensates for what Hannover has lost.

The exterior of the Ernst-August Galerie is surprisingly inconspicuous, its glass, steel and concrete exterior blends in quite well with many other post-war office and apartment buildings in the city center. However, the mall’s interior is most un-European, in-fact downright new Asia. Unlike many American shopping malls which are typically dressed up in faux decorating elements to generate the look of . . . you name it . . . the French Quarter of New Orleans, Colonial Boston, a ski lodge in Utah, art-deco Miami, Spanish Colonial California, or other far away places or other time era, the interior of this shopping center is all business, just like its Asian counterparts. There are absolutely no decorating elements which make an attempt to transport the shopper to old Paris, a tropical island paradise, ancient Athens, the Wild West of the 19th century American West or oriental themes from ancient China or Japan. The interior design is unremarkable but well done, with many design themes common with modern urban shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Singapore and Tokyo.

 

 

At Left - New Asia in Old Europe – no, this is not City Gate in Tung Chung, Hong Kong or Pavilion KL in Malaysia. Interior view of Ernst August Galerie in central Hannover.


Photo: David Beale

Window of Opportunity – A window in the top floor of the Ernst August Galerie (in a hallway where public restrooms, baby changing room and luggage lockers are located) is eye level with tracks of the Hannover central train station next door.

In the greater Hannover area there are several indoor shopping malls already, nearly all of them located in nearby suburban towns of Langenhagen, Garbsen, Laatzen and Isernhagen. But each of these suburban shopping centers with less than 25,000 sq. meters of space, is hardly comparable to the typical American suburban shopping mall or Asian urban shopping center with 50,000 sq. meters or more of retail space. Similarly, as in North America, the main street of many smaller towns in northern Germany has suffered from the arrival of shopping malls, internet retailers such as Otto, Bon Prix, and Quelle and European big-box store chains such as Real, Metro, Marktkauf and Ratio, and home-grown grocery discounters Aldi, Lidl and Plus. The battle between the small retailers on “Main Street” and these various challengers is now fully underway. Ease of access by the shopper will play a key roll. Aldi, Lidl and Plus have already shown that their strategy of thousands of small stores in nearly every city neighborhood and small town in Germany, easily accessible via foot, bike or automobile, is a recipe for success.


Photo: David Beale

Open Air – the city of Hannover spent millions in the late 1990s and early part of this decade to make a major face-lift of this downtown shopping arcade which runs along two levels of Bahnhof Strasse from the central station (in the background). Prior to the face lift and renovations, the arcade, originally built in the early 1970s as part of the “Kröpke” underground light rail station (directly under and behind the location of this photo), was falling out of favor with shoppers. Since completion of renovations it has been a commercial and urban planning success story.

Traditional department stores in central Hanover are perhaps the most vulnerable to the newly opened Ernst-August Galerie. German retailers Kaufhof and Karstadt, roughly similar to Macy’s or Nordstrom in the USA, both have large five-story stores just a few minutes walk from the new downtown mall. Both companies have been under financial pressure in recent years as German shoppers spent more time and money at discount retailers such as Ratio, Kiks, Takko and other outlets in suburban strip malls. It will be interesting to see if the new arrival in the city center helps or hurts these traditional department store chains located just a few minutes away from Hannover’s new shopping mall.

What Does It Mean For Transportation?

The greater Hannover area is not unique for Germany. The composition and distribution of retail space here is similar to much of the rest of the country. And Germany is relatively similar to many other countries in Europe with minor differences. Large urban shopping centers have opened in recent years in Leipzig, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Warsaw, Milan, Copenhagen, Bristol (UK), Liverpool (UK), Lisbon, Zagreb (Croatia) and elsewhere around Europe. With shopping generating traffic at a rate similar to commuting to work or school, the placement of these shopping centers has a huge influence on transit and traffic patterns. In many cases, these urban or suburban shopping malls are co-located with public transit resources. In Hannover, renovation of the main central rail station has been, in fact, part of the explosion of retail space in the city, as previously reported in D:F.

As in other European countries as well as in some of the Asian mega-cities, in Germany many shopping malls are located in or near public transit hubs. Two major German urban shopping malls are actually part of the central rail station in their respective host cities: Leipzig and Nuremberg. In both cities, the oversized train station buildings, designed and built for another era and way of life became redundant in the past couple of decades. Both have been converted into large indoor shopping centers, while retaining their primary function as rail transportation hubs and while keeping their historic outside structure and appearance. In the Hannover area, three of the four previously mentioned suburban shopping malls are directly connected to the region’s light rail system with a station just a couple of minutes walk to the mall entrance. One of them, Langenhagen CCL, also serves as a regional bus terminal. The “Nordwest Shopping Center” in Garbsen does not yet have a connection to the Hannover rail system, but a planned extension of Line 5 of the Üstra light rail system in Hannover could soon change that.

Asia Mega Malls In The Lead

Some of the largest urban shopping malls in the world can be found in Asia’s mega cities, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Seoul. In many cases these shopping centers sit next to or on top of a mass transit rail line. There is simply no other way for these Asian mega-shopping malls to connect with their customers. Real estate is simply too expensive to build American style suburban mall parking lots the size of multiple football fields, or even parking garages that will accommodate the thousands of shoppers which come to these retail centers. Here in Europe it is a similar calculation: the costs of acquiring land for thousands of automobile parking spaces, as is common in the USA, are simply not affordable nor recoverable. Therefore, in most cases, the mall has to charge for parking, or the mall has to locate near public transit so that a majority of the shoppers can choose public transport to travel to the mall.


Photo: David Beale

Prime Location – George St. in central Hannover, which intersects Bahnhof Strasse at Kröpke, has been the traditional address of choice for high-end retailers, restaurants and bars for several decades. Tenants include H&M, Benetton, Christ Jewelers, Karstadt, and various other high end German and European brands. Time will tell if the latest shopping mall challenge will hurt George St. or make it a better place for shoppers.

The Future of Shopping

Only time will tell if Hannover’s current grouping of retailers located along streets and pedestrian zones in the city center will survive the latest shopping mall opening. In a country where e-Bay is one of the most popular web sites, where carbon-copy discount stores Aldi, Lidl and Plus are in nearly every city neighborhood and small town, and where big-box stores such as Media-Mart, Marktkauf, OBI, Saturn, and Ratio have made surprising inroads, main street shopping has survived mostly intact. The new wave of urban shopping malls based on their larger Asian equivalents is the latest challenge to main street stores and retailers in Germany’s cities and towns. But both forms of shopping have one thing in common: a transportation link to their customers, which is not 100 percent dependent upon the automobile.


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