Vol. 8 No. 43
October 29, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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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…
Amtrak Breaks Its Own Record, Nears 26 Million Ridership Mark
Senate Defeats Measure to Cut Long Distance Trains
  Conference Highlights…
Regarding Passenger and Freight Rail Operations in
   New England Corridors
  Commuter Lines…
Board Approves Funding For “7 Line” Extension
Public Transit Becomes Statewide Issue in Idaho
Amtrak pledges revisiting Pioneer service
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Maintenance Lines…
Talgo Trains Back in Service on West Coast As Trains Are
   Repaired and Re-Introduced
  End notes…

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

Annual Amtrak ridership reaches 25.8 million


Amtrak Breaks Its Own Record,
Nears 26 Million Ridership Mark

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

WASHINGTON ---- Amtrak ridership in Fiscal Year 2007 increased to 25,847,531, marking the fifth straight year of gains and setting a record for the most passengers using Amtrak trains since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971, the railroad announced this week.

This total also breaks the previous all-time high of 25.03 million, set in 2004, by three-quarters of a million riders, even though Amtrak spun off some of its high-volume trains to a commuter rail operator, that also serves the Philadelphia-New York corridor, artificially reducing Amtrak’s numbers

Total ticket revenue for the fiscal year, $1.5 billion was an 11 percent increase over the $1.37 billion in FY06. If other income from contract services is included, the railroad’s total revenue was $2.2 billion for the fiscal year. Almost 25 per cent of ticket sales came from the wildly successful Acela train service, which offers high speed and greater amenities at a premium price over regular regional train fares, yet is less costly than air travel while serving more market end points per train than air travel.

The Acela was introduced in 1999, after the New Haven-Boston segment of the line was at last electrified, allowing fully-electric rail travel DC-Boston. Electric trains can travel faster than diesels, because they can accelerate and decelerate much faster than fossil-fuel locomotives.

“Highway and airway congestion, volatile fuel prices, increasing environmental awareness, and a need for transportation links between growing communities, are some of the factors that make intercity passenger rail extremely relevant in today’s world,” said Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak. “Combined with the efforts of the hardworking men and women of Amtrak who make our service work, our investment in the Northeast Corridor is paying dividends with improved on-time performance (OTP), and that draws in more ridership and revenue.

“Our record setting ridership and ticket revenue in FY07 indicate the stage is set for Amtrak to take on a role as not only a contributor to the nation’s transportation network, but as a leader among modes,” he added.

East Highlights

Revenue growth was the greatest in the Northeast, where revenue reached $829.3 million, a 14 percent increase over last year’s ticket revenue.

The popularity of the Acela Express service continued in FY07 as is evidenced by the 20 percent increase in ridership (3.1 million passengers) and 23 percent climb in ticket revenue ($403.5 million) versus last year. Acela Express service saw an increase in OTP, frequently surpassing its goal of 90 percent. At year-end, the OTP for Acela Express was 87.8 percent, up more than three percent over the same period last year. The popularity and high demand for this service also prompted the creation in July of another weekday Acela Express round trip between New York and Washington.

Regional Service ridership continues also to rise: 6.6 million passengers rode Regional trains in FY07, an increase of 1.2 percent. Additionally, Regional passenger ticket revenue for period rose 7.2 percent.

The Keystone Service, which operates between Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and New York City experienced significant growth with a 20.7 percent increase in ridership, reaching 988,454 in FY07. Moreover, ticket revenue increased by nearly 30 percent, to $20,582,838.

Last fall, Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation with support from the Federal Transit Administration, introduced all-electric service with speeds up to 110 mph on the Keystone Corridor, which has reduced travel times between Harrisburg and Philadelphia and Harrisburg and New York City by between 15 and 45 minutes. Weekday roundtrips have also increased from 11 to 14 – with ten traveling through to New York.

The Downeaster, operating daily between Portland, Maine and Boston, Mass., added a fifth round trip to its service this past August. The service achieved a seven percent increase in ridership in FY07, reaching 361,634. The Downeaster also brought in $4.8 million in ticket revenue, a 5.3 percent increase from a year ago.

Central Highlights

Huge gains are tied to increased frequencies in Illinois, with the three routes between Chicago and downstate communities showing large increases. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has more than doubled the size of its contract with Amtrak, providing three of the five round-trips on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor and two round-trips each on the Carbondale and Quincy routes, starting late last October.

On the Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service corridor, ridership is up by 55.8 percent for the state trains and 42 percent for the corridor, with total of 477,888. Ridership between Chicago and Carbondale, the route the Illini and Saluki trains share with the City of New Orleans, is up by

67.4 percent for the state-supported trains and 46 percent for the corridor, totaling 263,809. For the Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy route of the Illinois Zephyr, Carl Sandburg and other trains, ridership has gained 41.4 percent for the state-sponsored trains and 33 percent for the route, with 194,535 passengers, Amtrak said.

Also from the Amtrak hub in Chicago is the Hiawatha Service, with up to seven daily round-trips sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation with IDOT. Nearly 600,000 passengers rode the trains between Milwaukee and Chicago last year, an increase of 2.6 percent.

The state-supported routes in Michigan – Grand Rapids-St. Joseph-Chicago Pere Marquette and the Port Huron-East Lansing-Chicago Blue Water – also posted increases. Ridership on the Pere Marquette was up 2.8 percent and on the Blue Water, 3.1 percent.

West Highlights

California’s Capitol Corridor service which operates between Auburn and San Jose, carried more than 1.4 million passengers in FY07, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year. Ticket revenue topped $18 million, a 21 percent increase over the previous 12 months. In addition, the San Diego-San Luis Obispo Pacific Surfliner, showed a nine percent increase in ticket revenue, reaching more than $46 million.

National Highlights

Among the trains on the Amtrak national network, the Empire Builder is again the most popular overnight train. With more than a half-million passengers, the daily Chicago-St. Paul-Seattle/Portland train showing an increase of 1.6 percent.

Also, the Auto Train, which operates between the Washington, D.C and Orlando areas, posted a ridership increase of five percent from last year.

Long-distance trains recording above-average ridership performances include the New Orleans-Tucson-Los Angeles Sunset Limited (up 22.1 percent), Chicago-Albuquerque-Los Angeles Southwest Chief (up 5.4 percent) and Chicago-Memphis-New Orleans City of New Orleans (up 3 percent). In addition, the New York-Miami Silver Service trains (Silver Meteor- Silver Star) achieved ridership gains of 6.9 and 5.7 percent respectively and the Palmetto’s passenger number jumped by 7.5 percent over the previous 12 months.

Ridership on long distance trains improved despite continuing on-time performance problems caused by the freight railroads over which Amtrak’s trains are required to run (except on the Northeast Corridor). Under the law which created Amtrak in 1970, at the request of the freight railroads, who up until 1971 were required to operate passenger trains as part of the common carrier laws then in effect, Amtrak passenger trains have the right to operate over those freight lines, and must be dispatched first, ahead of freight trains.

This law has been increasingly ignored by the freight railroads because the current Administration in Washington does not enforce it, creating frequent late train arrivals completely beyond Amtrak’s control, for which it is then blamed by the public, or by late-night talk show comedians who have a shallow knowledge of what is actually happening.

The freight railroads’ defense it that they are under great capacity pressure and need to deliver freight to their customers, and can not shunt aside lucrative freight trains in favor of Amtrak passenger trains, which pay them less.

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Senate Defeats Measure to Cut
Long Distance Trains

DF Staff and Internet Sources

WASHINGTON — An amendment to the Amtrak authorization bill that would have effectively killed the long-distance train system in America, introduced by Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) to kill all trains that “lose” over $200 per passenger after a certain time was overwhelmingly rejected October 24 by a 66-28 vote.

The amendment was offered to the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act of 2007 (S. 294). The bill reauthorizes $11.4 billion over the next six years for Amtrak’s operating costs and capital projects to maintain current operations and infrastructure.

The vote reflects likely Senate support for an over-ride of a threatened Presidential veto of Amtrak funding, which is expected to pass at about $11.4 billion for the six-year authorization, rather than the shutdown level of funding proposed by the Bush Office of Management and Budget. The White House has been trying to close down or sell off Amtrak for most of the Bush Administration.

Senator Sununu said he wanted to make Amtrak more fiscally sound and reduce federal subsidies for train riders. Ironically, his state is served by the DownEaster, a Boston-New Hampshire-Maine train that is the number-one ranked train in the United States in terms of customer service. It was largely funded through the efforts of Maine Senator George Mitchell and Wayne Davis’ TrainRidersNorth East, but has greatly benefited New Hampshire communities as well.

The Senate could complete work on the bill very soon. If signed into law, it would be the first measure to reauthorize the Amtrak program since its last authorization expired in 2002. However, Congress often appropriates funds without a specific authorization bill.

Since 2002, Congress has provided $1.3 billion annually for Amtrak. This Senate-passed level is $570 million above the Bush administration’s request and $76.5 million above FY2007 funding. The House version included $1.4 billion for Amtrak.

On Thursday, Sununu’s amendment was defeated overwhelmingly on a 28-66 vote. The majority of senators understood how the lack of rail service would deprive citizens of transportation outside the eastern seaboard. The proposal would have eliminated 15 long distance trains, including the Sunset Limited, which runs from Orlando to Los Angeles, and the Texas Eagle, which runs north to Chicago. Both lines run through San Antonio, Texas.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said, “Texas rail passengers depend on these routes daily.” More than 42,000 passengers boarded or disembarked trains in San Antonio last year, according to Amtrak. In Fort Worth, the busiest train depot in Texas, 81,000 passengers got on and off trains.

Overall, more than 268,000 passengers boarded and alighted trains in Texas last year. Amtrak also employs 250 workers in Texas, and spent $12.7 million on goods and services in the state.

“Amtrak must be ‘national or nothing,’ and eliminating the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited would be a step backward in this pursuit,” Hutchison said.

The senator is a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, which has oversight of federal funding for Amtrak.

Senator Sununu, who has been a strong opponent of federal subsidies to Amtrak, pointed out that 43 percent of operating funds were being spent on 15 percent of Amtrak riders, particularly on routes in rural areas of the country.

When NCI President Jim RePass was asked by DF staff what he thought about this cost disparity, he commented: “America is one country, with one national passenger rail system. This is not the Balkans. We don’t split up our transportation system cutting out whole segments that would leave large sections of our population, especially in the south and west, with no access to public transportation. Sometimes the market place can not solve all problems. Sometimes what is required is actual leadership.”

“Also, percentages don’t tell the whole story,” he continued. “Since there are so few long distance trains, and they operate only once a day, that leaves very limited availability to travelers, resulting in relatively low ridership. If there were, say, three trains a day, you would have over time at least six times as many passengers, or more, because it would be possible to come and go from each station in normal daylight or early evening hours, instead of at 3 or 4 in the morning as is often the case on these trains, which run so infrequently. The way to bring per-passenger costs down is to operate a real system, as opposed to the skeleton system we have.”

Train service for cities along the East Coast costs less per passenger to operate because ridership is heavy and because, a few years ago, Amtrak raised fares substantially on both the Northeast Corridor and long-distance trains because Congress ordered the railroad to operate without federal subsidy by the year 2002.

Vote tally, Sununu Amendment #3453 to S. 294. A “Yea” vote represents a vote to shut down long-distance trains.

YEAs ---28

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)

NAYs ---66

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hagel (R-NE)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)

Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Tester (D-MT)
Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Not Voting - 6

Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
Obama (D-IL)

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CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS...  Conference Highlights...

 [Publisher’s Note: NCI’s October 11 Conference “We’re All In This Together” had far too many speakers, not to mention attendees fully qualified to keynote let alone attend any conference, to do justice to the issues raised. We are therefore taking the step of serializing, as they become available over the ensuing weeks and months, not only speakers’ presentations but attendees comments in Destination: Freedom, both to give them a thorough airing, and provide their thoughts to our readers whether or not present at the event. While the conference concentrated on New England and the Northeast and its deteriorated infrastructure, the lessons learned, and ideas put forward, have relevance to infrastructure issues across the continent. All thoughts and comments are also welcome, and will be likewise published by us. Last week we published CT State Senate President Don Williams address calling for the creation of an interstate compact to build a true regional rail system. This week, we have the comments of conference attendees Vincent Terrill and Ronald O’Blemis on the subject of regional rail --- Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom and President and CEO, NCI ]


Post-October 11 Conference Comments to The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.


Regarding Passenger and Freight Rail
Operations in New England Corridors

By Vincent Terrill, Terrill Track Consultants
And Ronald O’Blenis, HDR Engineering, Inc.

BOSTON --- The National Corridor Initiative conference on October 11, 2007 in Boston, MA provided a full day of discussion by State and industry leaders regarding rail transportation in the Northeast Region of the country. In response to the suggestion of the conference leaders, the following comments have been prepared by Terrill Track Consulting and HDR Engineering, Inc. to highlight the importance of the dual purpose of rail in the New England region to carry both freight and passengers.

The increasing use of the region’s highway system has resulted in many of the major and minor roadways being forced to carry volumes of vehicles and trucks that far exceed their design capacities. The results are increasing gridlock and deterioration of our roadway system. This situation was highlighted by many of the Conference speakers. There were even several participants who noted that they were late because of the overburdened highway system and the resulting long and frustrating trip by automobile.

As most transportation officials would concede, the likelihood of building new major roadways in New England is very low. It is therefore natural, and in our opinion appropriate, to look to the existing rail system to provide potential solutions for our transportation needs. The conference speakers all shared the vision of an improved regional railway system that works with our highway system to provide an integrated transportation network.

Many of the speakers focused on the need to increase the use of passenger trains to respond to additional commuter and intercity travel needs. The success of the Amtrak Acela intercity service, and the MBTA and Metro-North commuter rail operations were cited as evidence of the premise of “build it and they will come.”

To that end, we applaud the Connecticut initiative to expand passenger rail service from New Haven to Hartford and beyond to Springfield, MA – a true regional approach. In this regard, HDR Engineering will be undertaking the evaluation of Union Station in Springfield, MA to determine ways to maximize its revitalization as a prominent multimodal facility to serve the western portion of Massachusetts and the entire region. In short, Terrill Track Consulting and HDR Engineering are most supportive of the focus on improving and restoring passenger service to many lines within the Northeast region.

As with the highway system, the utilization of the rail system for both increased passenger and freight rail will not be accomplished by the building of new rail lines on new rights-of-way. Rather, the existing rail lines will need to be restored, if inactive right-of-ways, or upgraded if they are currently being used for passenger or freight service. This seemingly simple task has several major realities that must be considered: First, most railroad right-of-way is either owned by private railroads operating freight trains on the lines or on lines owned by others on which freight carriers have retained rights to operate freight trains; and secondly, there is a general reluctance to invest public funds in a private business, and in some cases regulations against it. These considerations are not stated to discourage the use of rail for passenger or even freight initiatives, but rather to note that these issues must be understood and addressed head on to create a successful, long term rail-related transportation plan.

Industry experience here in New England and elsewhere around the country demonstrates that the joint use of railroad lines for both passenger and freight can be accomplished successfully. The positive present-day story of the Amtrak DownEaster, so eloquently and passionately described at the conference by Patricia Quinn, Executive Director, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, (NNEPRA) is a perfect example of how passenger and freight service can co-exist, and even complement each other. However, the long path to the success of the DownEaster highlighted the fact that railroad owners who feel that their primary business is the moving of freight are not willing to share the use of their property for public use and benefit without sufficient investment for rail capacity improvements. Such improvements are essential if both passenger and freight services are to co-exist and thrive.

The stumbling block for many passenger initiatives comes when the improvements required by the rail line owners are viewed by some as excessive and giving the railroads a “windfall” at the expense of the public. The purpose of raising this point is not to try to define an appropriate answer for any situation, but to suggest that policy makers and railroad industry leaders must work together to define and quantify the value of investment in rail projects for the traveling public, the freight railroads, and associated with the related environmental and social benefits. The objective of this value-based approach is to demonstrate that the investment in railroad projects, whether on private or publicly owned lines, is worthwhile when viewed from the perspective of total public benefits.

Terrill Track Consulting and HDR Engineering staffs have long recognized that defining the public benefits associated with investment of public funds or resources in private operations is paramount to moving public-private partnerships forward. The efforts to fully define such public benefits can only be accomplished when both the public and private entities are engaged in the defining of a project’s purpose and needs at the outset of the planning process of which Conferences such as this are an integral part.

As illustration, adding improvements to a rail line to support new or additional passenger service can also result in the increase of freight-handling capacity. This in turn would provide the opportunity to divert freight traffic to rail from trucks or to increase the capacity to move additional freight within a region of already “at capacity” highways without adding additional roads. At HDR Engineering, we have developed methodologies that quantify such benefits. Application of such methodologies to demonstrate these benefits has led to successful partnerships for rail passenger and freight-related projects. Thus, it is our opinion that the ability to define, quantify, and articulate the benefits to the public will be, and should be, the single most important part of any rail investment project.

We would like to conclude our comments by saying that, as active members of the engineering and railroad community, we are encouraged by the increasing level of awareness that the railroads are a key component of our local, regional, and national transportation system. The regional approach evidenced by the participation at the Conference of representatives from many states and regions is commendable. And finally, it is our recommendation that the movement of both passengers and freight be equally considered when developing future rail improvement policies and plans.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter Lines...

Board Approves Funding For
“7 Line” Extension

From Newsday

MTA Control Center in New York

New York City Transit’s new high-tech Rail Control Center will one day serve as the hub for all subway operations.

NEW YORK CITY --- The funding for the “7 Line” extension is in place, and New York City’s MTA is moving forward with plans to extend the line further west into Manhattan, Newsday reported this past week.

At this past week’s MTA board meeting, transit officials approved a $1.1 billion contract to extend the 7 Line to 11th Avenue. The MTA expects to break ground on the project by the end of the year.

The extension will add one new 7 Line station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue near the Javits Center. Plans to partially build a second station at 41st Street and 10th Avenue were scrapped because of cost concerns, the paper reported.

But, if the city and agency can come up with $450 million in the next nine months, there is an option to add the 10th Avenue station back into the contract.

The 7 Line extension is scheduled to be ready for 2014.

Meanwhile, New York City Transit announced Wednesday that it is beefing up its fleet of hybrid buses, Newsday said.

The agency said 850 more buses will be added in the next two years. NYC Transit already has almost 550 environmentally friendly buses in service.

Hybrids get better fuel economy than those with gas engines and the exhaust is less harmful to the environment, the paper reported.

For the full story and related transit news go to:

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Public Transit Becomes Statewide
Issue in Idaho

From The Idaho Business Review

IDAHO --- You might not think of a largely rural state like Idaho as a place where transit matters get a high priority, but that is changing as the state’s towns and cities grow, in part due to a population influx for California.

“Legislators, mayors, city council members and business leaders from around the state met at Boise State University last week for the first Idaho Transit Summit - a forum held to discuss the future of public transit and roads in the state,” reports Eddie Kovsky of the Idaho Business Review

The summit, which was organized by Idaho’s mayors, was held to discuss the impact local transit issues will have on the state, “…and hopefully convince legislators to allow residents to vote on local funding.”

During the last legislative session, the Coalition for Regional Public Transportation lobbied for a bill to allow Ada and Canyon counties to approve, through a two-thirds vote, a local-option sales tax to fund public transit. The proposal failed in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, reported the Review.

But the public transit issue will likely be revisited during next year’s legislative session. The coalition, whose members includes local civic and business leaders, have drafted a new proposal that would allow local-option funds to go towards roadways as well as public transit.

Charles Hales, senior VP of HDR Engineering and a former Portland city commissioner, and LaVarr Webb, policy director for former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, gave the keynote addresses on their state’s strategies for developing public transportation, the Review reported.

“I think there needs to be some pain before people are willing to act,” Webb said.

It takes visionary leadership and a coalition between businesses and the legislature to build a transit system, he said.

The Utah Legislature created the transit act in 1969 and began funding transit with property taxes in 1973. The state now has 140 miles of light rail.

Local option taxes fund both transit and highways, and are always approved with a simple majority.

“The idea being that if a majority of citizens want to impose tax they ought to be able to,” Webb said. “The philosophy has been that state government, for the most part, funds highways; local government funds local transit as authorized by the legislature and approved by voters.”

Hales said, “Salt Lake City shows what’s possible in a short amount of time,” reported the Review.

[ D:F note: Salt Lake City’s transit system was fiercely opposed by paid oil lobby activists, but once it was built has proven popular. Tens of millions of dollars in transit-oriented development has been built or planned along the line, and a new line is being planned as well. ]

There are a lot of reasons to follow Utah’s example, including easing congestion and providing public transit for people who can’t afford to drive, he said, reported the paper.

The more compelling reasons are environmental: there is a growing consensus about global warming, while foreign production of oil is expected to peak even as demand continues to rise, Hales said.

It also makes good business sense.

“People are returning to city life, seeking livable communities,” he said. “Capital and talent are mobile; some places will attract them. People don’t have to live where the factory is any more. We do a lot of crazy things in this country because we don’t have any other choice. “

Supporters of public transit still think a lot of work needs to be done to convince the legislature.

“Unless we get a statewide effort going, I don’t think we’ll ever turn the legislature to provide local option taxing,” Chuck Winder said during a panel discussion later in the morning, the paper reported.

[ Thanks to D:F reader Christopher Hart for alerting us to this story - The Editor ]

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Meanwhile, also in Idaho…


Amtrak pledges revisiting Pioneer service

WASHINGTON --- Railway Age Magazine reports this week that “In a letter Wednesday to U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Amtrak President and CEO Alex Kummant said Amtrak would ‘immediately’ evaluate resumption of Pioneer passenger train service in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Colorado if an $8.2 billion funding bill is approved by Congress.”

“Kummant said the rail passenger corporation would weigh the feasibility of all or part of the long-distance route between Tacoma, Wash., and Denver,” the magazine reported. The Pioneer was discontinued in 1997.

“Sen. Crapo believes potential ridership on the route is greater than that of 10 years ago, and noted that other long-distance Amtrak trains recently have fared well. Crapo also said Amtrak critics are mistaken to demand that the railroad operate without some federal assistance, a view reinforced by the U.S. Senate Thursday as, by vote of 66-28, it rejected an amendment by Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., to reduce Amtrak funding in stages for long-distance trains.”

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)85.6582.48
Canadian National (CNI)53.3052.87
Canadian Pacific (CP)69.0570.32
CSX (CSX)44.7644.62
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.0828.30
Kansas City Southern (KSU)37.9634.49
Norfolk Southern (NSC)51.1551.91
Providence & Worcester (PWX)17.7018.91
Union Pacific (UNP)127.90122.62

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MAINTENANCE LINES...  Maintenance Lines...

Talgo Trains Back in Service on West Coast
As Trains Are Repaired and Re-Introduced

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

OREGON-WASHINGTON STATE-BC --- The popular Amtrak Cascades passenger service, which is operated using American-manufactured versions of the Spanish “Talgo Train”, is back in service, Amtrak reports.

The trains had been pulled from service in August when cracks were found in suspension systems of the unusual trains, which are very popular in Spain as well as the Pacific Northwest but unique in the United States.

Unlike conventional rail cars, Talgo cars share axle sets at the end of each car and are semi-permanently coupled; the cars are also considerably shorter than conventional Amtrak Amfleet (single level) or Superliner (double-decker) cars. They are very low-slung and easy to board, and wider as well. With large picture windows and very comfortable seats, they have been an immense hit since being introduced on the Oregon-Washington-British Columbia “Cascades” route in the early 1990’s.

The trains are paid for in part by state funds, and in part by Amtrak ticket sales. Like highways and airlines, passenger rail service requires outside support, primarily for basic infrastructure and operating costs. The Talgos are operated by Amtrak under contracts from Washington and Oregon Departments of Transportation.

The last of the Talgo-manufactured railcars used in the operation of Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon and Seattle, Washington returned to service on Sunday, October 21, after undergoing repairs at the maintenance facility in Seattle, Amtrak said.

All Amtrak Cascades train schedules will be effective with Amtrak’s Fall/Winter Timetable that takes effect October 29.

In early August, small cracks were discovered in welds of the upper portion of the car body structure suspension support system of several cars. WSDOT, Amtrak and Talgo agreed to remove the trains from service as a precaution.

“We are glad the Talgo trainsets are back in service before the busy holiday season and thank Amtrak, WSDOT and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for all their cooperation and support through this period,” said Nora Friend, Talgo’s spokesperson. “All of us at Talgo moved quickly, focusing our experience and resources intensely to understand and fix the problem because we know how important this equipment is to the Pacific Northwest.”

With the return of the Amtrak Cascades equipment, the amenities featured on this service, such as reduced travel time, business class, feature movies, checked baggage and bicycle accommodations, are reinstated. During the disruption, substitute train service operated on the route and did not include some of these features.

“We are pleased that the trainsets were repaired and returned to service in time for the upcoming holiday travel season,” said Kurt Laird, Amtrak’s District Superintendent. “Amtrak Cascades passengers will once again be able to enjoy the many onboard amenities they’ve grown accustomed to on this popular service.”

“Governor Chris Gregoire and I feel that safety is a top priority and we took extra precautions by taking the trainsets temporarily out of service for inspection and repair,” said Paula Hammond, Washington State Secretary of Transportation. “The trainsets were repaired earlier than originally anticipated and train travelers will be delighted to get back to the faster train schedules.”

Amtrak Cascades consists of four daily round-trips between Portland and Seattle, with service between Bellingham, Washington, and Portland, via Seattle; between Eugene and Seattle, via Portland; and between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Amtrak continues to operate trains 510 and 517 between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., utilizing Superliner train equipment.

Ridership on the trains continues to grow, despite weather related and equipment service disruptions on the Amtrak Cascades service in the fiscal year 2007 just ended. Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene, Ore. and Vancouver, B.C., carried more than 674,000 passengers, an increase of 7.4 percent over FY06. This is the eighth consecutive year of record ridership for the Amtrak Cascades service. Ticket revenue topped $18 million, a 9.9 percent increase over the previous year.

“We are pleased with the Amtrak Cascades ridership increases,” said Scott Witt, Washington State Rail and Marine Director. “We added a fourth round trip between Seattle and Portland in July 2006 to give our travelers even more choices and convenience. The additional service combined with rising fuel prices has made train travel even more popular.”

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