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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November 2, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 46

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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

  News Items…
Amtrak’s New Strategic Plan Is Upbeat --- And History-Making
  Political Lines…
Congress Renews Extension Of Transportation Programs
   Through Dec. 18
Lahood, Millar Testify Before Senate On Climate Change Legislation
DOT Announces New Transportation Safety Council
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
AAR: Rails Continue To Post Weak Carload, Intermodal Numbers
  Commuter Lines…
Plaistow Commuter Rail Mulled
SEPTA Strike Looming Over Busy Weekend
 
  Legal Lines…
Supreme Court Denies State’s Petition, Keeps Ruling
   From Appellate Court Intact
  Across The Pond…
Pro-Transit Groups See Warning Signs Aplenty
   In Latest German Government
Cross-Border Trains To Resume Operation Between Iraq And Turkey
SNCF Awards Alstom A Contract Worth € 800 Million
New High-Speed Rail System Boosts Real Estate Values in Kent
  Commentary…
Detecting The Green Light: Local Chambers Ahead Of Washington
Failing The Density Test: Our Biggest Goblin
  Publication Notes …


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

Amtrak’s New Strategic Plan
Is Upbeat --- And History-Making

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- The National Railroad Passenger Corporation released its 2009 Strategic Plan this week, and for the first time in the company’s 39-year history, it did so against the background of a new Administration in Washington that, for the first time in the nation’s history, has not only made a public commitment to intercity passenger rail, but is funding it.

Amtrak Board Chairman Tom Carper writes, in a cover letter to the Strategic Plan, words that many Amtrak Board members would have wanted to write, but could not, because of so many decades of under-funded neglect by the Congress and, often, the active opposition of a hostile Federal Administration and bureaucracy:

“Over the next couple of months, you can expect to see something new when you board an Amtrak train. All across our system, you will find groups of Amtrak employees in hard hats working on the stations and along the right-of-way as your train passes. They are the backbone of a massive investment program [emphasis added] that will make our system more durable, resilient, and accessible,” wrote Board Chairman Thomas Carper, who has won widespread admiration for his stewardship at Amtrak, often under very difficult circumstances.

“This strategic overview will tell you something about what we are doing, and why and how we are doing it. Amtrak is America’s national passenger railroad, and we are entering an exciting and transformative chapter [emphasis added] in our nation’s transportation and rail service history — and in our own. We are at the heart of a vision and plan for the growth of passenger rail and the development of critical new regional service corridors designed by states and Amtrak in partnership to meet state and regional rail transportation needs. This new strategic direction was established by Congress in Amtrak’s 2008 reauthorization legislation, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), and was robustly supported by the Obama

administration through appropriations and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). It supersedes Amtrak’s 2005 Strategic Reform Initiatives which the company adopted in the absence of a Congressionally mandated policy, program and appropriations authorization. We now have that authorization, and it joins Amtrak, states and the freight railroads which own most of the existing rights-of-way in new partnerships to improve the speed and service quality of existing passenger services and to build new services for underserved and un-served communities and travelers,” notes Chairman Carper.

“This is a monumental task, but we are up to it. Amtrak has spent the last few years refining and improving its operations. We made the investments our infrastructure and our workforce need to move trains safely and reliably. Our moment has arrived, and I expect that everyone will do their best in the next couple of years to fill every minute with “sixty seconds worth of distance run.”

Nobody knows more about the needs of high-speed and intercity passenger rail in

America than Amtrak’s employees, and nobody wants to see the company succeed in our new national mission more than we do.”

“For those of you who are state, local and federal policymakers and those who work for or with our freight partners, these are going to be particularly rewarding years. You will see changes coming to stations, trains and the railroad as we invest to make our people, our system and our service safer, greener, and healthier. In some places, you’re going to see Amtrak trains where they have never been before, and in others you’ll see them moving at higher speeds. These improvements are the emblems of vision and progress toward a future that lowers emissions, cuts airport and highway congestion, and provides you with the mobility choices that will keep your towns and cities economically competitive,” wrote Carper.

“This is a big need, and we’re making a big promise. But I am confident in our management, proud of our employees, and above all, I am grateful for our supporters and passengers. You have stuck with us through the last thirty-eight years, and have helped us meet the challenges of building our railroad. I am glad we’re all here to welcome our great moment. Let’s work together to make it count!” he concludes.

For the complete Strategic Plan, go to www.amttrak.com.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

“Passenger Transport Express”
APTA’s News On The Internet

Congress Renews Extension Of
Transportation Programs Through Dec. 18

WASHIINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 30 -- Both houses of Congress on October 29 passed a bill that will extend surface transportation programs and appropriations through December 18. The 2010 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act includes the extension of SAFETEA-LU as part of a further continuing resolution providing appropriations for all departments of the federal government. The bill (H.R. 2996), will next go to the president for his signature.

Previous negotiations regarding a proposed six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU were unsuccessful.


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Lahood, Millar Testify Before Senate
On Climate Change Legislation

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and APTA President William Millar testified this week before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to express support for climate change legislation under consideration, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), and to emphasize the critical role sustainable transportation plays in the nation’s climate change efforts.

LaHood, who testified on October 27, noted that the Federal Transit Administration is funding a new synthesis on greenhouse gas emission savings from public transit, through the Transit Cooperative Research Program, and is developing a handbook for transit system managers on low carbon practices, as well as offering training on environmental management systems. Also testifying were the secretaries of energy and the interior, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Millar, testifying on October 29, stated that APTA “strongly endorses the bill’s proposed funding to expand and improve public transportation service throughout the country. ... It is now clear that if we only address vehicle efficiency (corporate average fuel economy standards) and the carbon content of our fuels, we will fall far behind in achieving environmental goals.”

“Public transportation investment, transit-supportive land use policies and other strategies that promote transportation choices are proven ways to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, and they must be addressed in climate legislation. The transit industry and others who are interested in ‘green’ transportation are very pleased” with the bill’s transportation provisions, Millar said.


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DOT Announces New Transportation Safety Council

OCTOBER 26 --The Department of Transportation has introduced a new Department of Transportation Safety Council, chaired by Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari. The council will address safety issues for all 10 agencies of the DOT: the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Maritime Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration and the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. 

Newly Formed Safety Council to Take Safety Commitment to Next Level

Secretary Ray LaHood today convened the first meeting of a newly created U.S. Department of Transportation Safety Council formed to tackle critical transportation safety issues facing the department’s 10 operating administrations.

“Now is the time to identify and address the top safety issues that cut across our agencies,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Council will take our commitment to safety, which is our highest priority, to the next level.” 

Before taking office, Secretary LaHood saw that many important safety initiatives were being pursued in the department’s agencies without a formal process for sharing data, best practices and strategies.  Secretary LaHood created the Safety Council to serve that broad-based safety leadership role and help break down organizational stovepipes, enabling an even stronger safety culture. 

The goals of the Safety Council are to further enhance the safety focus throughout all agencies of the department and improve the impact of the department’s safety programs.

The Council, chaired by Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari, is comprised of the heads of the Department’s 10 agencies: the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Maritime Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration and the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation. 

Deputy Secretary Porcari said the Council will be action oriented, data driven, emphasize open dialogue about common issues and provide a forum for fresh ideas and new perspectives. 

“The Council will enhance the department’s safety culture which should then resonate out into industry,” said Deputy Secretary Porcari.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)76.1279.12
Canadian National (CNI)48.0050.30
Canadian Pacific (CP)43.1146.79
CSX (CSX)42.3443.32
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.0131.07
Kansas City Southern (KSU)24.2326.80
Norfolk Southern (NSC)46.7346.88
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.3011.30
Union Pacific (UNP)55.5657.73


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

AAR: Rails Continue To Post
Weak Carload, Intermodal Numbers

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending October 24, 2009 was estimated at 31.1 billion ton-miles,
down 13.4 percent compared with the same week last year and 11.1 percent from 2007.

The Trucker News Services

WASHINGTON — The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported that rail traffic remains down year over year for the week ended Oct. 24. U.S railroads reported originating 276,357 carloads, down 14.8 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and 17.3 percent from 2007.

It was around this time last year notable declines in rail carloads and rail intermodal traffic showed the first significant signs of the nation’s economic downturn. Therefore, the AAR will be reporting 2009 weekly rail traffic with year over comparisons for both 2008 and 2007 going forward.

In the West, carloads were down 14.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 15.8 percent compared with 2007. In the East, carloads were down 14.8 compared with 2008, and 19.4 percent compared with the same week in 2007.

Intermodal traffic totaled 207,401 trailers or containers, down 10.1 percent from a year ago and 14.5 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week last year, container volume fell 3.6 percent and trailer volume dropped 34.7 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 7.4 percent and trailer volume dropped 40.1 percent.

While 17 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down from the same week last year, grain mill products were up 9.6 percent and grain was up 6.2 percent compared with the same week in 2008. Declines in commodity groups ranged from 1.9 percent for chemicals to 66.1 percent for metallic ores.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending October 24, 2009 was estimated at 31.1 billion ton-miles, down 13.4 percent compared with the same week last year and 11.1 percent from 2007.

For the first 42 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,207,180 carloads, down 18 percent from 2008 and 18.3 percent from 2007; 7,969,780 trailers or containers, down 16.4 percent from 2008 and 18.3 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.2 trillion ton-miles, down 17.1 percent from 2008 and 15 percent from 2007.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 71,097 cars for the week, down 9.9 percent from last year, and 44,849 trailers or containers, down 13 percent from 2008. For the first 42 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,585,690 carloads, down 21.4 percent from last year, and 1,720,890 trailers or containers, down 15.9 percent.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 12,447 cars, down 2 percent from the same week last year, and 7,412 trailers or containers, down 6.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 42 weeks of 2009 was reported as 481,056 carloads, down 12.6 percent from last year; and 225,008 trailers or containers, down 17.5 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 42 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 14,273,926 carloads, down 18.4 percent from last year, and 9,915,678 trailers and containers, down 16.3 percent from last year.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be contacted to comment on this article at kevinj@thetrucker.com.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Plaistow Commuter Rail Mulled

From The Union Leader On The Internet

PLAISTOW, NH, OCTOBER 30 – Summer travelers bound for northern Maine or New Hampshire are likely to be familiar with the long lines of cars crawling along Route 125, a seemingly endless stretch of strip development in southern New Hampshire. Plaistow has become home to that kind traffic and development. The two-lane country road that wended its way through a kind of funky section of a once rural town has become a typical utilitarian four-lane highway where travelers have no sense of where they are --- it’s just another “Anywhere USA.”

But local officials hope to put a plan to bring commuter rail service from Boston back on track, reports Jason Schreiber in a story for the Union Leader.

The town has been eyeing commuter rail for years, but there’s been renewed interest in recent months of getting the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to extend its commuter rail north of the border.

Proponents of Plaistow rail service met with the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority last week to outline the plan. They were joined by Massachusetts Senator Steve Baddour, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“There are a lot of great reasons why this makes … sense, ” said Plaistow Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald. The service would ease congestion on Route 125 and would also “open up intermodal transportation, help plug Plaistow and the southern New Hampshire region into metro Boston commerce, education, technology, art and culture, and open up interstate commerce opportunities for the region,” he said.

Pan Am Railways owns the rail line that passes through Plaistow and is used by freight trains and Amtrak’s Downeaster service that runs from Portland, Maine, to Boston.

MBTA has had discussions with Pan Am Railways about an agreement to allow access to the tracks in New Hampshire. Also, the MBTA is looking for a new layover facility closer to the New Hampshire border where it can park its trains.

Cliff Sinnott, executive director of the Rockingham Planning Commission, said Plaistow has a location near the existing tracks where the trains could park.

Local officials have suggested that a train station could be located at the Plaistow park and ride just off Route 125.

“We are very strongly behind it and would like to see it happen. It does seem to us to be a very cost-effective way of getting passenger rail service to southernmost New Hampshire,” Sinnott said.


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SEPTA Strike Looming Over Busy Weekend

Philadelphia Region Local News

Photo: SEPTA   

A SEPTA train arrives to pick up riders at theNorth Wales station.
PHILADELPHIA, OCTOBER 30 -- Thousands will be filing to Philadelphia this weekend for Game 3 of the World Series, an Eagles game, a Pearl Jam concert and a visit from the President, but they may have a lot of walking to do.

SEPTA is warning millions of riders to prepare for a possible transit worker strike if an agreement cannot be reached by midnight.

SEPTA’s largest union, Transport Workers Union Local 234, is going back to the bargaining table at 5 p.m. Without a new contract in place by 12:01 a.m. Saturday, union officials say they will strike.

TWU 234 represents roughly 5,000 SEPTA operators and mechanics. They operate the Broad Street Subway and Market-Frankford El trains, along with all city trolleys and buses.

“It’s going to be tough,” admitted SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey Thursday morning. “It’s going to be tough for the region. It’s going to be tough for our daily commuters.”

Talks between SEPTA and union representatives continued behind closed doors at the Old City Holiday Inn Thursday, but a union spokesperson told Eyewitness News there are still several unresolved issues.

In the event of a strike, the El, subway, and all city buses and trolleys would stop running, along with SEPTA bus lines in Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties. Just the regional rail trains, the Norristown high speed line, the 101 and 102 Media and Sharon Hill trolleys and some Delaware County buses would continue service.

At the heart of the matter: wages, benefits and pensions.

Union officials say SEPTA is seeking a four-year contract with no raises the first two years followed by two percent raises in the third and fourth years. SEPTA also wants to freeze pension benefits and is asking workers to pay more toward health insurance.

“It really will look bad,” said SEPTA rider Kamena Payton. “New York will look better than us because they have transportation and we don’t to get to the Phillies game.”

A spokesman for Governor Ed Rendell (D, Pa.) says he will get involved in negotiations if asked by either party. As of Thursday morning, that had not occurred.

Beyond the perception of a mass transit shutdown on the eve of the World Series, most transit riders say they’re upset because strikes happen all too often at SEPTA.

“I think it’s ridiculous that they would go on strike,” said Shawn Gauthney of West Philadelphia. “The only people it hurts is the consumer, the millions of SEPTA riders.”


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Transit Victory In California Made Official

 

Supreme Court Denies State’s Petition,
Keeps Ruling From Appellate Court Intact

By David Peter Alan

Transit providers and transit riders in California breathed a sigh of relief last week as their victory from last June 30th became official. The California Supreme Court denied the State’s petition to review the decision of the Third District Appellate Court which held that funds earmarked for public transportation could not be used for other purposes, even other transportation purposes. The State had argued that “mass transportation” funds could be used for debt service on capital projects, paratransit for disabled persons, school buses and other transportation purposes that did not constitute public transit. The court said that such transfers of funds away from transit were improper.

The Appellate Court’s ruling was hailed as a victory by California’s transit agencies and riders at the end of June, but there remained lingering apprehension that the State would appeal the ruling and it could be reversed (see coverage of the case in all editions of D:F from July, 2009). Now, three months later, the high Court denied the State’s petition for review in Shaw v. Chiang, Case No. S-175357, and sealed transit’s victory by leaving the ruling undisturbed.

Plaintiff Joshua Shaw is Executive Director of the California Transit Association. Defendant John Chiang is the State’s Controller. In cases where state action is challenged, it is customary for the state official with appropriate authority to be named as defendant. Shaw and his association were supported by a broad coalition of public interest, environmental and transit advocacy organizations.

The California Transit Association captioned its report on the Court’s action: “Case Closed: A Resounding victory for Transit riders” and continued to decry what it termed “annual raids on transit funding” by the Schwarzenegger Administration. “By denying the state’s appeal, the supreme Court has affirmed once and for all what we always maintained was true: that it’s illegal to shift dedicated state transit funds away from transit agencies and their riders” Executive Director Shaw was quoted on the Association’s web site, www.caltransit.org, as saying. He went on to say: “This decision validates our position that this practice has been illegal since even before 2007, and that the definition of mass transportation adopted by lawmakers since then to mask these decisions is illegal.”

The Transit Coalition, a rider advocacy organization based in the Los Angeles area, was equally ecstatic. The Coalition reported the victory in the October 6th edition of its Weekly Transit eNewsletter: “Earlier this year an appellate court brought the hammer down on California’s illegal raids on transit funds taken to balance the state budget. When the state cried to the California Supreme Court, the judges didn’t want to hear it, effectively ending the fight over diverted transit money.”

Right now, the legal victory won by California’s transit providers exists only on paper. Transit receives no state subsidy in the Golden State, and ridership is increasing. New transit starts continue to open for service, including the Metro Gold Line light rail between downtown Los Angeles and “East L.A.” which is scheduled to begin service later this fall. Financial difficulties have forced California’s transit agencies to raise fares and cut service, although this grim scenario is also occurring in many other states and cities through the nation.

The Court has sent the transit funding ball back to the politicians in Sacramento. The next fiscal year does not begin until next July 1st; nearly nine months from now. In the meantime, Californians who provide or use transit expect plenty of negotiations, with a large dose of uncertainty thrown in.

As The Transit Coalition reported: “What actually happens next remains to be seen. Does that mean that struggling transit agencies facing deep cuts such as the OCTA, may be granted a reprieve from disaster? Let the speculation begin.”

While there is no plan yet to restore operating funds to California’s transit providers, rail in the Golden State may also take a hit on the capital side. There has been no effort to obtain Federal “Stimulus” funding for improvements in the Capital Corridor, for conventional rail in Southern California, or for other conventional transit projects. Instead, the state’s request for Stimulus funds only covers the proposed high-speed rail line from Anaheim (the home of Disneyland) to San Francisco, through Los Angeles and San Jose. This request asks for $4.7 billion; more than half of the $8 billion to be awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration this year under the program. Even if this request is granted (and this appears unlikely), it will do nothing for today’s riders on existing rail lines.

Meanwhile, the OCTA (Orange County Transit Authority, which operates bus service in the suburban areas south of Los Angeles) and other transit providers are planning and implementing deep cuts and fare increases. After all, the Court only refused to change a lower court’s ruling that it was illegal to divert money earmarked for transit toward other programs. How the ruling will be implemented, and how much benefit will actually reach transit providers and transit riders, are anybody’s guesses. In fact, the speculation has probably already begun.

David Peter Alan is a practicing attorney in New Jersey who follows legal issues concerning transit.


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

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

Pro-Transit Groups See Warning Signs Aplenty
In Latest German Government

Hefty Criticism Of “Pro-Automobile” Policies Of New CDU/CSU-FDP Coalition In Berlin

via various press releases, reports from HAZ and story from Lok Report

BERLIN – With the swearing in of the new conservative leaning German parliament in the past week along with appointment of ministers to head various government ministries such as transport, commerce and environmental protection came fresh criticism from several powerful pro-transit groups, who are unhappy with a perceived pro-automobile tilt in the new administration. VCD (Verkehrs Club Deutschland) and Allianz Pro Schiene delivered press releases critical of the direction that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new center-right coalition is taking with rail transit in Germany. Mrs. Merkel’s CDU/CSU party narrowly won a majority of seats in Parliament along with their new coalition partner, the pro-free market, pro-business and fiscally conservative FDP party on the 27th September. During the past four years the center-right CDU/CSU party shared power with the left leaning SPD political party.

With the new tilt to the right in the federal government in Germany, it has become clear that rail transportation, including state-owned Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) will face increasing pressure to reduce their intake of both capital and operational funding from the German government. The junior partner in the new government, the fiscally conservative FDP political party, has made it clear that they will strive to cut domestic spending in a number of areas, including subsidies provided to state and regional governments for public transit as well as demanding that Deutsche Bahn get on with the task of becoming a publicly stock-held company traded on the stock market instead of a 100% government owned corporation.

Dirk Flege, chairman of Allianz Pro Schiene, referred to the latest policy statements of the new government as “totally absent of imagination, spirit and clear targets” in a statement in Berlin on the 25th of October. Flege added: “the status-quo is being glued in-place and the willingness to break-through (out of current transportation trends) is completely lacking. Necessary changes such as tolls (congestion charge) in large cities, higher tolls on trucks and nationwide speed limits on the autobahns are being categorically rejected through a ‘not during our watch’ policy”.

Flege continued: “instead of strengthening the roll of rail in energy conservation and climate protection, the Government looks to electric automobiles as the salvation for climate change. The Government equates electrically powered transportation with future electric automobiles. The reality is that electrically powered transportation is already here in Germany – on the rails.”

The national chairman of VCD, Michael Gehrmann, stated separately that neither Peter Ramsauer (CSU, newly appointed transportation minister) nor Norbert Roettgen (CDU; newly appointed environment minister) have done anything in the past for climate and environmental protection. The VCD sees in both gentlemen a continuation of truck and automobile-friendly policies of former transportation minister during 1993-98 Matthias Wissman, who now is head of the German automobile industry association VDA.

Rail labor unions Transnet and GDL also issued official statements during the week which referred to the new direction of German transportation policy as short-sighted and unimaginative.


Photo: David Beale

Son of Boston’s Big Dig? - In Stuttgart a massive € 3 billion (US $4.5 billion) project to replace the terminal-style surface level main train station with an underground through-station, called Stuttgart 21, has already attracted significant local opposition – including the election of anti-Stuttgart 21 Green Party members to the city counsel last June. Will a new wave of fiscal conservatism at the federal level kill or delay the project, which is now entering the start of construction phase? D:F will continue to follow this story as it unfolds. Photo of the Stuttgart main station (Hauptbahnhof) from the historic observation tower on the station’s south side by David Beale in October 2009.

With clouds of doubt gathering over the future direction of German rail transit, rail industry observers are nervously looking at the upcoming general elections in Great Britain, planned for early to mid 2010. Fears are running high that the current prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his Labour Party will lose to the Conservative / Tory party, thus spelling massive uncertainty for rail and public transportation in the U.K. Under previous Conservative governments in the U.K. rail transportation languished severely. During the 1979 to 1997 rule of the Conservative / Tory government in the U.K., development of Britain’s rail system lagged far behind its European rivals in continental Europe and the national rail system fell into a state of near total collapse in the late 1990s after Conservatives forced a poorly written and badly-planned rail privatization plan into law in 1996. In the past five to six years, rail transportation system in the U.K. has recovered significantly from the two previous decades of neglect with renewed government support of privately owned train operators, rebuilding of many parts of the British rail infrastructure and an infusion of lots of new rolling stock, although overcrowding remains a chronic problem on many British passenger rail lines.


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Cross-Border Trains To Resume Operation Between Iraq And Turkey

TCDD Says Services To Mossul To Restart

ANKARA – In a press release from last week the Turkish state railroad TCDD state that freight trains between Turkey and the northern Iraqi city of Mossul will resume. At first, the trains will transport mostly steel and concrete. The trains will actually be operated via a rail line which crosses part of Syria via Nusaybin. The rail line continues from Mossul to Baghdad.


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SNCF Awards Alstom A Contract Worth € 800 Million

From A Press Release By Alstom

New Order For 100 Coradia Polyvalent Regional Trains – With Options Could Approach € 7 Billion Total

Photo: Alstom  

SNCF Polyvalent EMU train set in artistic conception
The French national operator, SNCF, has awarded Alstom the market of the new generation of single-deck regional trains to modernize and increase the national fleet over the period 2013-2021.

The contract includes a firm part worth € 800 million (US $1.2 billion) for the delivery of 100 Coradia Polyvalent train sets to eight French regions. The customer has already expressed intention to take up the option for 35 additional trains could quickly bring the contract value to € 1 billion. The total volume could eventually reach 1,000 Coradia Polyvalent train sets up to 2021, for an amount of around € 7 billion. The deliveries of the first 100 trains are planned from 2013 and will be completed in 2015.

The highly modular Coradia Polyvalent is a single level regional train that offers several technical configurations along with modular fittings for passengers. The train can travel at a speed of 160 km/h in both its electric or hybrid versions and at two different voltages (25 kVAC and 1500 VDC). It is also available in a trans-border version for operation on the German and Swiss rail networks at a voltage of 15 kVAC.

The Coradia Polyvalent has a low-floor, allowing travelers optimal accessibility and great visibility, thereby strengthening security. Motor bogies are positioned at the far ends of each carriage to reduce vibrations and noise levels. It will consume less energy than its competitors in order to reduce CO2 emissions and its design incorporates eco-friendly materials. It will be equipped with more compact and more efficient permanent magnet motors which sustain less energy loss than traditional electric motors. The technical choices incorporated into its design will fulfill the dual objective of facilitating maintenance and optimizing life-cycle cost.

The new train will be designed, manufactured and assembled in Alstom Transport’s facilities in France.

With an average annual growth of 6 %, the French regional rail transport market recorded a 40% increase in passenger numbers since the end of 2002. Every day, 800,000 people travel on 5,700 trains on 260 lines. On the basis of its current growth, French regional rail transport will quadruple by 2030.


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New High-Speed Rail System
Boosts Real Estate Values in Kent

By DF Staff and Internet Sources

A new high-speed rail service, planned for operation along England's High Speed 1 (HS1) rail line between London and the Channel Tunnel, has added to the “saleability” of properties in east Kent, a county that includes some current London suburbs such as Dartford, Maidstone, Medway and Chatham as well as other towns which are a bit far for a daily commute to London, such as Ashford, Canterbury and Dover. That’s the latest from real estate agents in the county, according to a story by Jo Earle in the San Francisco Bay Area Transit news on line.

Dover, Folkestone, Ramsgate and Canterbury have been getting a taste of what it can offer since September. Property experts believe the new service will increase house prices further once high speed regional trains, with the brand name of Javelin (in reference to the 2012 Olympics in London), begin their full service in December between central London and the southeastern English coastline.

Simon Barker, from Strutt and Parker estate agents in east Kent, said the housing market now looks promising. He said: “It will open up a whole swathe of east Kent from Deal to Sandwich that has traditionally not been commutable.

“What it has added is saleability. There will be an increase in values, but because of the whole economic climate at the moment, the market is improving. There is a little bit more confidence and buoyancy coming back into the market place, which previously there wasn’t here in East Kent.”


Photo: Sunil Prasannan via Wikipedia

One of the new high speed regional trains which will operate along HS1 and elsewhere in southeastern England as shown at Ebbsfleet International station in the town of Dartford.

Neil Boswell is managing director of Caxtons in Canterbury. He admits it has been significantly noticeable over the past two years that people are searching for properties in the area.

“It has made an improvement to the housing market and the demand for houses in Canterbury,” he said. “The buy-to-let sector of the market has been sustained throughout this year and kept the market going, so to that extent the high speed service has been an asset and a benefit.”

Elsewhere in east Kent, Fell Reynolds Estate Agents based in Folkestone said they should be able to tell if house prices have gone up by the spring.

Manager Rod Mallet said: “It’s very difficult to tell if house prices have gone up because of the high speed rail link.

“House prices going up are justified and inevitable, but hopefully they will not go up by that much, as it tends to cause troubles. It’s also thought the high speed service will give property experts access to the commuter sector of the market which they may not have seen before.

Mr. Mallet adds: “We’ve some Londoners moving into Kent so there’s no reason why it won’t happen more.”

The news comes just months after we reported how house sales in Ashford had increased after the high-speed link was launched in early summer - while around Ebbsfleet there had been little noticeable difference.

Original material from Jo Earle and San Francisco Bay Area Transit on Line Yahoo Group - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/42920


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...

 

[ Note from Destination:Freedom: Two important pieces appeared this week on Cituwire.Net, the news net of the CitiStates Group.

The first, by Neal Peirce, the pre-eminent journalist in America on the subject of regionalism, describes a significant break in the anti-environmental front of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Washington-based group that has made a practice of being resistant to any and all proposals that might help America, and the world, deal with climate change: some important corporate members of the United States Chamber have broken with its leadership, and are vocally supporting measures to confront climate change.

The second article, by CitiStates Group author Sam Newberg, takes a look at transit-oriented development, and observes that this growing field needs to grow even faster, if we are to address America’s housing needs in the 21st century, which simply can’t be met by the old road-and-sprawl formula.

Both articles are courtesy of CitiWire.Net, a service of the CitiStates Group, which specializes in the coverage of regionalism ]

 

From CitiWire.Net

 

Detecting The Green Light:
Local Chambers Ahead Of Washington

By Neal Peirce

© 2009 Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON — OCTOBER 30 -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s cautious if not hostile approach to climate control legislation isn’t just putting it at odds with the Obama administration. Progressive corporations like Apple and Pacific Gas & Electric have resigned their memberships over the issue.

And there’s a fresh breeze blowing at the grassroots too. A growing coterie of local chambers of commerce is pushing both members and their communities to think and act “green,” to surge ahead of the curve in cutting carbon emissions.

And why? It’s because “they see green as a huge marketing opportunity as consumers increasingly respond to firms that are environmentally responsible,” says Carly Grimm, author of a new report on chambers’ initiatives financed by the Energy Foundation and produced by Partners for Livable Communities.

The report– “Enterprise at Home–Chambers of Commerce as the New Players in Environmental Sustainability” – focuses on green/climate change initiatives of leading chambers spread from New England to southern California. The chambers, including Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Columbia, S.C., were identified by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, a professional association of leaders of 1,250 local chambers that’s separate from the U.S. Chamber.

The new survey doesn’t focus on such likely suspects as Berkeley or Portland (Ore.) –far from it. Case in point: Waco, Texas. The Waco Chamber of Commerce recently built the nation’s first chamber headquarters up to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. In fact, it attained the U.S. Green Building Council’s coveted LEED Gold certification with such features as a 1,400-square foot reflective roof, solar panels and natural lighting.

The Waco chamber building is also the first LEED-certified structure in its city. But it’s proving contagious as McLennan Community College, Caterpillar Logistics, Wells Fargo and Baylor University all follow the Chamber’s example by seeking LEED status for their new buildings in town. Chamber leader Jim Vaughan hopes the city’s expanding commitment to sustainable development will create a magnet for businesses and young professionals–or, as he asserts, “put Waco on the map.”

In Bridgeport, Conn., first steps to create a set of green citywide goals and action items originated with the mayor, Tom Finch. But the Bridgeport Regional Business Council responded quickly, leading to founding of the Bridgeport Sustainability initiative–B-Green 2020–as a public-private partnership. Over 100 city and business leaders met to develop specific green agendas ranging from buildings to water resources.

Among specific plans, with help of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, are energy upgrades of local sewage plants that constitute Bridgeport’s largest carbon emitters. A green energy park and a street tree adoption plan are being developed. And B-Green 2020 is out evangelizing through a Mayor’s Conservation Corporation of 30 door-to-door canvassers promoting energy conservation, recycling and storm water management.

But how to draw firms to sustainability and carbon-cutting strategies nationwide? Surveys show that overwhelming numbers of firms would like to be known for their commitment to the environment. But many have little idea how to start down a green path.

An ingenious program to fill that gap has sprung up in North Carolina’s Research Triangle area, a region rich with academic talent. Interested faculties at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill have teamed up with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce to create, with local philanthropies, what they’re calling their “Green Plus” program.

Local firms are offered a Green Plus How-To-Guide. But more than that, they’re connected to mentor companies and get free counsel on sustainability initiatives. There’s even an initiation: candidate firms must stipulate where they stand on three areas–performance (written strategic plan and accounting practices), planet (energy use and conservation), and people (compassion for employees and awareness of community needs).

If a firm stumbles in filling out its Green Plus questionnaire, it’s not left high and dry–university-connected experts in business-related environmental policies will coach it on how to improve its score.

Now Green Plus is ready to “go national.” It has announced a partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce Executives to create a countrywide network of local chambers ready to reach out to their own business communities on climate and related sustainability issues. The idea is not just to “spread the word” but also to help firms across the nation share their experiences in going green.

The optimism, the contrast to the U.S. Chamber’s position, is hard to miss. While it’s officially for promoting “energy conservation and efficiency,” the Chamber’s is overwhelmingly defensive, worried about threats to American jobs and competitiveness of our industries.

The green thrust of an emerging group of progressive local chambers is positive, looking to expansive green initiatives designed to make American businesses more vibrant, on the cutting edge of new and best practices, ready to compete vigorously locally and on the world stage. It’s a proactive, optimistic–and refreshing–position.

Neal Peirce’s e-mail is npeirce@citistates.com.

For reprints of Neal Peirce’s column, please contact Washington Post Permissions, c/o PARS International Corp., WPPermissions@parsintl.com, fax 212-221-9195. For newspaper syndication sales, Washington Post Writers Group, 202-334-5375, wpwgsales@washpost.com.


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Failing The Density Test:
Our Biggest Goblin

By Sam Newberg

From Citiwire.Net

OCTOBER 30 -- Halloween’s ghouls and goblins make for a spooky night in our cities and towns. But nothing fills me with more fright than missing the opportunity to build dense, attractive transit villages around our rail stations, thereby reducing sprawl and lowering our collective carbon footprint.

I’ve seen the upside opportunity in London, New York City, Chicago and elsewhere–housing, offices, shopping and leisure destinations all within a short walk of transit stations. The overriding equation is density, a notion that is frightening to many.

A number of leading urban experts, demographers and think-tanks are forecasting that more cities will develop like this in the future. The Urban Land Institute’s recent “The City in 2050 is loaded with visions of high-tech, denser cities with improved transit systems and a reduced carbon footprint. Coupled with these visions are studies by the likes of the demographer Arthur C. Nelson, who predicts that demand for large-lot single-family housing will be negligible in the next 20 years, whereas the future of housing development lies in attached housing.

The stars seem to be aligning. Or are they? The popular strategy for accommodating the future vision of smarter, denser cities, coupled with meeting forecast housing demand, is transit villages like those found in our older and popular cities. The idea is that these transit villages will have areas next to urban rail stations that accommodate intense development, thereby reducing the population’s carbon footprint and making cities more efficient.

A number of very attractive and popular transit villages have emerged in the past decade in cities like Dallas, Denver and Portland. Well-known places like Mockingbird Station, Englewood, and Orenco Station are favorites among planners, developers and transit village advocates. I’ve seen these and other newer transit villages, and they are not ghost-towns–far from it. They are popular for good reason, as they provide very attractive, walkable places with a mix of uses and access to the regional transit system.

However, I’ve noticed in many cases that these newer transit villages lack the density achieved in older, established cities. Perhaps these newer transit villages are just testing the waters, a primer for cities and developers to ramp up density in the future. But I wonder if we are selling ourselves short.

Are we greening our cities, or are we just dressing up auto-dependent sprawl in a transit village costume? Do we really have the proper regulatory tools, and more importantly, the public and political will, to achieve the density required for truly greener, more efficient cities?

True, most new rail lines in the United States connect to major employment centers, stadiums, university campuses, airports, and other major destinations. All that boosts ridership–as it should. Too frequently, though, plans for residential development within a half-mile of rail stations call for too few housing units to make a dent in cities’ growth projections.

For example, the two new light rail lines planned in the Twin Cities will add 30 new stations to the metro area. Current station area plans call for approximately 30,000 new housing units in the next 20 years. That seems like a lot, but it is just 10 percent of the 300,000 new households forecast for the Twin Cities in that time period. We need to ask: shouldn’t these station areas handle more of the total, like one-quarter or one-third? Increased intensity around each station will accommodate more of the metro area demand for housing and increase transit usage, reducing strain on roads and lowering vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Multiply this by upping the density around new train stations around the country and you start to curb the effects of sprawl.

Furthermore, increased density and a more robust mix of uses within transit villages makes them more active and increases trips on foot, even for people not using the transit system. A common standard for the number of housing units required to support a small, full-service grocery store, for example, is 10,000. Building a small fraction of that total in a transit village won’t support a grocer.

Arlington, Virginia, is appropriately cited as a top example of recent policy to create appropriate intensity around transit stations. There, a “bulls-eye” policy–to locate an intense mix of housing and other uses close to the five train stations along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor–has resulted in the appropriate density to boost demand for retail and other services within each transit village.

The corridor also boasts very high ridership and modal splits. Arlington County’s success in getting a disproportionate amount of its real estate taxes from the intense uses along the corridor is a positive outcome of good land use policy. What is so spooky about that?

The ideal vision of the city in the future is more density built around transit villages.

Demographic and housing demand forecasts support this vision. One cannot wave a magic wand and reverse sprawl, however. Lurking in the shadows are the NIMBYs, who will affect the political will to intensify uses at station areas, and increase the specter of sprawl-as-usual. But let’s not run in fear from the creation of attractive dense transit villages. Why? Business-as-usual is our scariest option, indeed!

(Sam Newberg’s e-mail address is sam@joe-urban.com)


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