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 16, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 48

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…
CTA Says No Fare Increases
  Commuter Lines…
Light Rail To Sea-Tac Airport Begins Dec. 19
Week-End Rail Service On New Jersey Transit To Montclair
   Gains Momentum After A Rough Start
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak To Launch Single Agent And Operator Web Address
  Financial Lines…
Buffett Says Burlington “Not A Bargain” For Berkshire, However…
Compensation Clause Waived
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Despite A Slight Upturn In The Economy, AAR Reports
   Rail Traffic Remains Down
 
  Events…
Urban Pathways to Liveable Communities - Feb. 2010
  Across The Pond…
Trains Gain Market Share From Airlines in China
Bombardier Delivers First ALP-46A Locomotive to NJ Transit
Metronom Trains Now Alcohol-Free
  Commentary…
Is This Project Worth It?
When Fame, Success, Depression And Trains Collide
  Editorial…
It’s Not Merely A Lagging Indicator, Mr. President:
   It’s A Warning Bell That Your Presidency Must Heed
  Publication Notes …


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

CTA Says No Fare Increases

From Internet Sources

The Chicago Transit Authority agreed last week to not to raise fares for at least two years in a deal with the state of Illinois, however the agency still plans proposed service cuts and more than 1,000 layoffs of office staff and transit workers.

“We have some stability here, we do not want the fare increases to take place,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in announcing the deal.

The Governor said the state will pay some $15 million to cover the cost of borrowing money for CTA capital projects. The Regional Transportation Authority will issue those bonds, freeing up other funds set aside for capital projects that the CTA can then use for operations thus avoid fare increases.

The state will give an additional $17 million over two years to the Pace bus system to cap fares for para-transit services that helps disabled individuals.

Quinn said he found money to help the transit agencies because the state was able to capture more federal health care dollars, leaving him discretionary money to spend.

The CTA originally had agreed to hold fares steady if lawmakers held back on a program that would give free rides to senior citizens, but lawmakers couldn’t raise enough support to limit the perk for low-income seniors during last month’s session.

CTA board chairman Terry Peterson said he’s glad the agency is no longer looking at increasing fares because that coupled with proposed service cuts could have done harm to the public transit system.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Light Rail To Sea-Tac Airport
Begins Dec. 19

From Internet Sources

Light rail service from downtown Seattle to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is slated to begin on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009

The nearly 14-mile line between downtown and Tukwila opened this past summer, but passengers destine for the Sea-Tac airport have to take a shuttle bus between the Tukwila station and the airport until the remaining 1.7-mile line to the airport garage opens.

“With more than 30 million passengers through Sea-Tac every year, and 15,000 airport employees, we anticipate light rail will be a welcome ‘green’ alternative for travel to and from the airport,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton, in a statement.

Sound Transit is also building a light rail line from downtown Seattle north to the University of Washington campus, which is expected to open in seven years.

The Airport Link, which runs from Tukwila International Boulevard Station into the heart of Sea-Tac, is the final stage of Central Link, which connects the state’s largest airport to downtown Seattle. Over the next two decades light rail will expand to the north, south, east, and west, with the construction of University Link, East Link, North Link, and South Link.


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Week-End Rail Service On New Jersey Transit To Montclair
Gains Momentum After A Rough Start

By David Peter Alan

New Jersey Transit now operates week-end trains to Montclair for the first time in fifty years. Full Saturday and Sunday service between Hoboken and Montclair was discontinued in 1959, although limited Saturday service continued to run until 1966.

The new week-end service began last Sunday, November 8th. Saturday service began six days later. The current service is limited, running every two hours during the day and less often during evening hours. Trains run between Hoboken Terminal and Bay Street Station, at the eastern end of the Town of Montclair. The service is scheduled to connect with Morris & Essex Line trains, running between Dover and Penn Station, New York, at Broad Street Station in Newark. This affords all riders a choice of destination; Hoboken or New York. The schedule also allows relatively convenient connections between Montclair Branch stations and points on the Morris & Essex Line west of Newark.

It did not work that way on Sunday, as the service day began. The first two trains from Montclair, which left at 7:05 and 9:05, were held west of the Newark stop until the New York train from the M&E Line had gone through, so the riders missed their connection to Penn Station. The 11:05 train pulled into Newark on time, but not on the island platform, which would have allowed a convenient cross-platform transfer. Instead, an estimated 81 passengers had to scramble down the stairs, under the tracks and up to the other platform, but they all made their train to New York.

By the next run, which left Montclair at 1:05, the problem was rectified, and the operation went smoothly for the rest of the day. Jishnu Mukerji, a Short Hills resident and member of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) complimented NJT management for a speedy resolution of the difficulty. “Once the problems were brought to the attention of a trainmaster, they were fixed very quickly,” he said.

The operation went much more smoothly on Saturday, with no operating difficulties. Representatives of NJ-ARP rode the trains both days and took counts of riders getting on and off at all stops. The estimated ridership in both directions for Sunday was 700, with 129 counted on the busiest train. Saturday was a significantly busier day, with ridership count estimated at slightly more than 1000, despite the rainy weather.

NJ-ARP member and Montclair resident Philip G. Craig specifically praised the train crews, saying they did “an excellent job” and expressed sympathy for the crew members, who had to punch cash fare receipts for most of the riders who boarded at the Montclair Branch stops of Watsessing Avenue, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Bay Street (Montclair). Craig speculated that, once riders learn where the ticket vending machines are, they will use them and ease the burden on the crews. He also suggested that the machines be placed in more conspicuous locations on the platforms.

Conductor Sal Laspisa was more succinct in his comment on week-end service. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

Local rail advocates, especially NJ-ARP and the Lackawanna Coalition, have pushed for week-end service to Montclair for many years. This effort intensified when mid-day and evening trains were added on week-days in 2002, when the Montclair Connection opened for service. Service on the line had run during peak hours only for the previous 34 years.

The advocates hope that strong ridership numbers will convince NJT management to increase week-end service to hourly, and to extend it to more stations. NJT has resisted extending service or increasing frequency, because doing so would require paying additional crews.

Riders appeared satisfied with the new service, at least for now. Several of them spontaneously told the NJ-ARP representatives that they liked the new week-end trains and hoped they would run further and more often. If enough riders say that to NJT management and keep using the trains, these improvements may actually happen.


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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Amtrak To Launch Single Agent And Operator Web Address

Amtrak has set the stage to put its agent and operator booking tools under a single web address from the start of 2010 to simplify trade sales.

The company’s www.amtrakagentsupport.com website will become a one-stop shop for both agents and operators starting January 1.

Amtrak senior director travel industry sales Craig White said: “Any agent or operator can sign up and they will have access.

“There were a lot of websites to remember, so they will be brought under the support.com name by January.

“Amtrak makes only about 2% of its sales from abroad and hopes that simplified booking, agents’ webinars, and a program of family trips in 2010 will increase this.”

The company had a record year in 2008, and predicts that 2009 will see it carry around 27 million passengers, or about 5% less than last year.


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FINANCIAL LINES... Financial Lines...  

Buffett Says Burlington “Not A Bargain”
For Berkshire, However...

From Internet Sources And DF Staff

According to a report appearing at Bloomberg.com, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett is said to have stated that the acquisition of BNSF railroad was “not a bargain.”

The take-over of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. is Buffet’s biggest takeover, yet while not a ‘bargain’ he also stated that the railroad’s results in the next 100 years will justify the $26 billion that will be spent.

“It’s a good asset for Berkshire to own over the next century,” Buffett said in an interview with Charlie Rose to be broadcast on PBS. “You don’t get bargains on things like that. It’s not cheap.”

Buffett’s company will borrow in the vicinity of $8 billion and will also risk Berkshire’s triple-A credit rating at Standard & Poor’s to buy the railroad in what he calls an “all-in wager” on the future of the country’s economy. The stock-and-cash bid, announced on Nov. 3, values BNSF at $100 a share, 31 percent more than its closing price the day before.

Compensation Clause Waived

The planned purchased of BNSF Railway by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway will not trigger a special compensation package for the railroad’s CEO, who plans to stay aboard, and has officially waived his rights to either stock or retirement severance awards in connection with this deal.

Matthew K. Rose, who is chairman and president of the rail firm as well as CEO, had already said that he and other top managers are staying in place at BNSF, and that the Berkshire acquisition will not put in a new team to run the nation’s second-largest railroad. The carrier issued a message to customers as well; reassuring them the current team will remain.

But a BNSF spokesman said Rose gave the company a formal waiver as a way to underscore that he is not getting any extra personal benefit from the deal with Buffett, which takes BNSF private and makes it a Berkshire subsidiary.

Rose also waived his right to compensation or benefits from the pertinent section of his retirement agreement “in the event that I terminate my employment for any reason following the transactions.”

While the acquisition took some by surprise, those who follow rail stocks already know that Buffet had been quietly buying up BNSF stock for well over a year.

“It was an opportunity to buy a business that’s going to be around for 100 or 200 years that’s interwoven with the American economy in a way that, if the American economy prospers, the business will prosper,” Buffett said.

At $100 a share, Buffett agreed to pay 18.2 times Burlington’ estimated 2010 earnings of $5.51 a share, according to the average analyst projection in a Bloomberg survey before the deal was announced. That compares with the 13.4 multiple for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index as of Nov. 2.

Meanwhile, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s will sell its shares of Norfolk Southern Corp. and Union Pacific Corp.

In a recent regulatory filing, Berkshire Hathaway said it would sell its stakes in the two other railroads in which it holds an interest which are worth more than $690 million. As of June 30, the company held 9.5 million shares of UP stock and 1.9 million shares of NS stock — representing 2 percent of UP’s and less than 1 percent of NS’ shares. The sale is expected to take place before Berkshire Hathaway closes the BNSF buyout in first-quarter 2010.

Many analysts have speculated that the BNSF deal would pass anti-trust muster despite Berkshire Hathaway’s minor UP and NS holdings.

Meanwhile, a group of BNSF investors have filed a lawsuit in a Texas court against Berkshire Hathaway and the BNSF claiming the deal wouldn’t maximize shareholder value. The parties didn’t provide shareholders with sufficient information to enable them to determine whether to tender their shares for the merger agreement, the investors claim.

Whether that will have an impact on the final sale is yet to be seen.

Of course, the sale of BNSF to Berkshire Hathaway also begs the question of whether railroads are a good investment.

In an article appearing in Forbes magazine, Ron Roge, chief executive officer of R.W. Roge & Co., said, “It is also about moving raw materials and finished goods.”

Roge sees the transportation sector playing a key part in the US financial recovery process, as there will be an increase in raw materials and goods to start with, which will require movement. After that will come more jobs, as companies gain revenues and can afford to hire more people. When people are more securely employed and have more money saved up, they’ll begin to take vacations and travel more on airplanes and trains.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)97.9797.23
Canadian National (CNI)54.3351.61
Canadian Pacific (CP)48.8246.72
CSX (CSX)48.9547.69
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)32.4731.63
Kansas City Southern (KSU)28.9227.93
Norfolk Southern (NSC)51.6752.07
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.8511.33
Union Pacific (UNP)63.5562.36


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Despite A Slight Upturn In The Economy,
AAR Reports Rail Traffic Remains Down

From an AAR Report and Trucker News Service

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that freight rail traffic remained down at the end of October. U.S. railroads reported originating 275,439 carloads for the week, down 13.7 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and down 18.2 percent from 2007.

In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR plans to report 2009 weekly rail traffic with year over comparisons for both 2008 and 2007.

In the western segment of the U.S., carloads were down 14.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 18.3 percent compared with 2007. To the east, carloads were down 12.9 percent compared with 2008, and 18.0 percent compared with the same week in 2007.

Intermodal traffic totaled 203,860 trailers and containers, down 11.1 percent from a year ago and 15.5 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume fell 5.4 percent and trailer volume dropped 32.3 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 8.9 percent and trailer volume dropped 38.6 percent.

While 15 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in grain mill products (9.9 percent), chemicals (3.6 percent), and waste and scrap metal (.7 percent and nonmetallic minerals (.3 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from 2.2 percent for the all other carloads category to 55.6 percent for metallic ores.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Oct. 31, 2009 was estimated at 31 billion ton-miles, down 12.7 percent compared with the same week last year and 13.2 percent from 2007.

For the first 43 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,482,619 carloads, down 17.9 percent from 2008 and 18.3 percent from 2007; 8,173,640 trailers or containers, down 16.2 percent from 2008 and 18.6 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.23 trillion ton-miles, down 17 percent from 2008 and 17.1 percent from 2007.

Elsewhere in North America:

Canadian railroads reported volume of 71,023 cars for the week, down 8.7 percent from last year, and 42,869 trailers or containers, down 12.2 percent from 2008. For the first 43 weeks of 2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,656,713 carloads, down 21.1 percent from last year, and 1,763,759 trailers or containers, down 15.8 percent.

Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 12,952 cars, down 17.2 percent from the same week last year, and 7,087 trailers or containers, down .5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 43 weeks of 2009 was reported as 494,437 carloads, down 11.9 percent from last year; and 231,525 trailers or containers, down 17.2 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 43 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 14,633,769 carloads, down 18.3 percent from last year, and 10,168,924 trailers and containers, down 16.2 percent from last year.

The Trucker staff can be contacted to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.


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Save The Dates - February 25 and 26, 2010
For an Important, Timely, and Fun Conference
in New Orleans, Louisiana...

 

Urban Pathways
Transportation Institute
     To Livable

Prevention Resource Center
Communities:

Building Partnerships for Healthy Neighborhoods

 


Hosted by...
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The University of New Orleans Transportation Institute
Harvard School of Public Health
and
Tulane University Prevention Research Center
In association with
The National Corridors Initiative

 

Over the course of 2 days, transportation, public health, and urban planning professionals will gather in New Orleans to explore key strategies for building effective partnerships to catalyze the development of healthy, walkable neighborhoods, to restore and rebuild communities. Urban Pathways to Livable Communities will bring together key partners from the Public Health, Smart Growth, and Urban Transportation communities in a series of sessions that examine implementation of livable communities from multiple angles. The conference will bring together both local and national experts to engage the issue of livable communities from the streets of New Orleans to the hallways of Capitol Hill.

Urban Pathways to Livable Communities is hosted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, University of New Orleans Transportation Institute, Harvard School of Public Health, and the Tulane University Prevention Research Center, and is supported and endorsed by The National Corridors Initiative. Join us in New Orleans February 25 and 26, 2010. For registration information and conference updates, email your name, address, and contact information to:

webmaster@nationalcorridors.org

 

The National Corridors Initiative


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

Trains Gain Market Share From Airlines in China

via ATW Online – Katie Cantle

Shanghai - Chinese airlines are facing the prospect of canceling once-profitable domestic routes owing to increasing competition from high-speed rail. Spring Airlines, the country’s most successful LCC, has stopped flying from Shanghai to both Zhengzhou and Wuhan because it was losing passengers to the train. “Currently our solution is to avoid opening short-haul routes that are shorter than 1,000 km.,” a Spring spokesperson said. Sichuan Airlines will shutter its Chengdu-Chongqing service on Nov. 16 as loads have fallen below 50%.

China Southern Airlines Chairman Si Xianmin recently admitted that high-speed rail is a more attractive option for passengers because of its better safety record, convenience and lower fares. “We have more than 160 domestic routes, with about 38 competing against high-speed rail. Most of China’s big cities and secondary cities will be connected by high-speed rail by 2020, which will have a big impact on domestic carriers,” he said. In response, CZ intends to expand its international network and allocate more capacity to profitable international routes. It plans to raise its proportion of international routes from the current 17% to 20% in the next 3-5 years.

Bombardier high-speed train in China

Image by Bombardier

A Bombardier high-speed train in China in this artist conceptual image.


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Bombardier Delivers First ALP-46A Locomotive to NJ Transit

36 Unit Follow-on Order to Original ALP-46 Order of 2001-02

via Bombardier Transportation press release

Kassel, Germany - The first of 36 type ALP-46A electric locomotives being built for New Jersey Transit was ceremonially handed over at Bombardier Transportation’s Kassel plant in Germany on the 12th November. The ALP-46A locomotives were ordered in a deal valued at US $317 million as a follow-on from 29 ALP-46 locomotives which have been in service on passenger trains between New Jersey and New York City since 2002.

Delivery ceremony for first ALP-46A to NJ Transit

Photo: Der Mobilitätsmanager

Delivery ceremony for first ALP-46A to NJ Transit in Kassel, Germany on the 12th of November 2009.

The ALP-46A has more modern power electronics, and the top speed has been increased from 160 km/h to 200 km/h. The ALP-46 and ALP-46A are both derivatives of the German DB 101 series electric locomotive model developed by Bombardier and its predecessor ADTranz. The DB 146 and 145 series were in-turn developed out of the ALP-46, except the headlights, couplers, driver controls and brake system were redesigned or reconfigured to meet UIC and German EBA standards and regulations. Like the ALP-46 and ALP46A, the 146 series (also marketed as TRAXX P160AC) is primarily used in commuter and regional train operations of DB Regio, Metronom and NOB in Germany. The somewhat older 101 series is used mostly on intercity trains by Deutsche Bahn, with a few dozen of the series re-geared in the last few years to haul freight trains. The 145 series is used almost exclusively in rail freight operations.

A NJ Transit ALP-46 in operation near New Brunswick

Photo: Der Mobilitätsmanager

A NJ Transit ALP-46 in operation near New Brunswick (Neu Braunschweig) New Jersey in 2006.

Bombardier will also supply 26 electro-diesel variants, the ALP-45DP, to enable NJ Transit to provide a one-seat ride into New York Penn Station from non-electrified lines. Montreal suburban operator AMT has also ordered 20 of these dual-mode locomotives. The ALP-45DP is equipped with two diesel engines to provide electric power to the traction motors when the train is operating in non-electrified territory.

Metronom 146 locomotive with Bombardier mulit-level coaches

Photo: Metronom

Son of ALP-46: a Metronom 146 locomotive with Bombardier mulit-level coaches in operation south of Hannover, Germany in 2007.


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Metronom Trains Now Alcohol-Free

Long anticipated alcohol ban on company’s commuter and regional trains begins on 15.11.2009

via Lok Report and Metronom website

Uezeln, Germany – In a long-anticipated move Metronom will officially start a total alcohol ban on its trains operating in the Hamburg region and in the German state of Lower Saxony. The independent rail operator, which has won contracts in the past several years to operate several regional train lines for the state government of Lower Saxony, decided to proceed with its zero-tolerance approach to consumption of alcohol by passengers on its trains and station facilities under its control. The past several weeks have seen a number of news releases, distribution of brochures and application of large decals to the doors of its trains, all of which announce the introduction of its new zero-tolerance policy towards alcohol-fueled rowdy behavior and vandalism in its trains and facilities. The alcohol ban goes into effect on the 15th of November.

Passengers who violate the alcohol ban will be cited with a €  40 fee. The violation will be handled as a breach of the terms of service contract which exists between Metronom and anyone who boards its trains, and therefore considered a civilian legal issue and not as any kind of criminal offense. However the rail company indicated it will energetically and aggressively seek criminal prosecution of anyone who violates existing laws and government regulations concerning rowdy behavior, public intoxication, violence, verbal abuse, vandalism, racial / ethnic epitaphs or public endangerment. Metronom formed alliances with a number of agencies, NGOs and charities which are aligned against alcohol abuse and alcohol consumption by minors during this introduction phase of the alcohol ban.

The company responded to critics who complained that only Metronom in northern Germany is introducing an alcohol ban while on other rail lines operated by DB Regio, NOB EuroBahn, or Nordwest Bahn where there is no equivalent alcohol ban, by saying it was also the first train company to introduce a total smoking ban in its trains in 2003. The smoking ban in trains has now become a nationwide standard – smoking is not allowed anymore on any passenger trains in Germany.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Is This Project Worth It?

By David Peter Alan

If you have read these columns, you probably know that I am a staunch rail advocate. This nation needs a lot more rail service: intercity trains, corridors, commuter rail, light rail, heritage-style streetcars, and any other conveyance that uses steel wheels to run on rails. Since you are reading this column, you are part of the choir, and I don’t need to preach to you.

Despite this orientation, my recent experience in Austin, Texas has made me think about cost-effectiveness of rail projects in a new way. I learned some facts during my visit to Austin and reported them to you in this column (“Austin Riders and Their New Light Rail; They Still Don’t Know When they’ll Get It” D:F, October 26, 2009). The fact that the line was promised seven months ago and there is still no firm start date is bad enough. The level of service proposed for the line makes the situation even worse.

Capital Metro plans to operate six peak-hour trips in the prevailing direction, with three scheduled trips in the “reverse” direction. That’s it. Presumably, the other vehicles will deadhead back to their point of origin. While there is some talk of eventual mid-day service, there is no proposed date for those trips to start running. For the moment, the projected level of service will accommodate about 600 to 700 seated riders, with room for some standees. That’s not many riders for a line that cost millions of dollars to build and suffered delays for months, perhaps even years.

To make matters worse, the outlying stations are almost all of the park-and-ride variety, where few (if any) people live near enough to the station to walk there. Some bus routes will serve the station, but a bus originating from a central location downtown would still bring commuters to the transfer point. In short, the projected passenger load of the Austin operation could probably be handled by running twelve to fifteen buses during the peak hour as a “commuter express” route. There would have been no need to buy railcars, build platforms, upgrade track or deal with the Federal Railroad Administration.

Traditional rail operations in cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago are very different from the operation planned for Austin. There is a high level of service on local rail transit, and service runs all day, seven days a week. Commuter rail runs throughout the day and on week-ends. It has even caught on in Los Angeles; MetroLink seems to add a few off-peak trains with every timetable change. Even small commuter operations like Shore Line East in Connecticut and Rail Runner Express in New Mexico now run seven days a week.

Good rail operations provide transportation for people who do not have access to an automobile, and they provide a relaxing and environmentally-friendly mode of conveyance for people who do. The key to a strong operation is to provide access to places where people want to go, at convenient times.

There is a fine line between a valorous effort to start service in the hope that people will embrace it (like Music City Star in Nashville) and an operation that may never get past the peak-hour-only stage (like Austin or the new commuter-style line in the Portland, Oregon area). It appears that the difference is PLANNING. A line that carries a few hundred commuters at a high cost denigrates the credibility of the transit agency. With a slow start, but solid and workable plans for expansion, a transit provider can attract new riders, transit-oriented development and a growing ridership base.

During the Bush Administration, the foremost concern of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was to make sure that any new rail start would get automobiles off the highway, especially at peak commuting hours. There was little concern for people who might walk to the station and catch a train. Things are changing in Washington, and transit providers now have an opportunity that has not come their way in living memory. A well-planned and expanding transit system will gain popularity among area residents and can eventually revitalize a city. This is happening in Los Angeles and elsewhere, too.

Transit is for PEOPLE, and not all people adhere to the commuting patterns of the past century. They are “on the go” more than ever, and they want transit that will run at the time they want to go somewhere. Systems that meet this need are always cost-effective, and will eventually prove their value. The sooner our political leaders and transportation professionals realize this and serve the public’s need for mobility, the more mobile and more efficient our nation will be.


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When Fame, Success, Depression and Trains Collide

[ Ed Note:- Suicide by train is a disturbing reality that can have a serious impact on not only the family of the deceased
but also on the lives of passengers and train operators. We present this story of one such event.
]

 

Hannover’s Star Football Goalie Robert Enke Joins a Long,
Sad List of Persons Who Commit Suicide by Train

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

Neustadt am Rübenberge – Robert Enke, the successful and talented goalie for Hannover 96, the local professional football (soccer in the US) team, had enjoyed incredible success and suffered major setbacks over the past decade. Like many in professional sports he had experienced defeat and victory, bad times and good times. It’s a roller coaster for many living their life in the public eye -- a long emotional roller coaster ride that had made young Robert increasingly sick in the past few years. But lately things were all pointing up for Robert Enke, a position on Germany’s team for the World Cup in South Africa next year was a sure thing.

All human beings suffer at one time or another from illness – illnesses which can inflict the body in many forms – the common cold, tumors, diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis , influenza. And humans can also suffer from illnesses which inflict and ravage the mind and spirit just as cancer weakens and destroys the flesh. Few of Robert’s fans and teammates knew it, but Robert was becoming critically ill. Despite his outward physical fitness and great skills on the playing field, a cancer was eating away at his soul from inside out, cancer fueled by bottomless remorse and endless loss he continued to feel over the death of his young daughter from a defective heart three years earlier. The seeds of this cancer were planted over a decade earlier when Robert went pro and soon tasted both defeat and success, but became clinically depressed over his perceived failures. Some years later the tragic death of his then two-year old girl began to feed his illness like a dry wind fans a forest wild fire.

On Tuesday (10. Nov. 2009) the popular and beloved Hannover 96 goal tender was losing the battle to the illness raging in his mind and soul. He failed to show up for a scheduled afternoon team practice, although he had been to a morning fitness training session. Later in the last hours of the gloomy November afternoon he climbed into his new Mercedes SUV and pulled out of the driveway of his farmhouse in the Hannover suburban village of Empede in the township of Neustadt am Rübenberge and headed north towards the small village of Eilvese, which straddles the Hannover – Wunstorf – Bremen mail rail line. He drove his glossy black Mercedes SUV through the winter-time darkness onto a narrow side road next to an empty wheat field and cow pasture just beyond the village center, then parked the vehicle, sat silently for a while, then got out, leaving his wallet and car keys behind in the unlocked vehicle. 6:30 PM in Eilvese, Germany – at this time of year dark as midnight despite being just the start of the evening.

Despair had now overtaken reason, devotion, logic and lust for life: 32 year-old Robert – new father of a 9 month-old baby girl, husband, successful football player, teammate, roll model for countless thousands of children, teenagers and adults – now consumed with overwhelming grief, walked a few dozen meters back up the slight hill to the grade crossing in the village center, then crossed over the road and walked along the Eilvese rail station platform parallel to the tracks and waited. As the rails began to hiss, the glare of the approaching headlights became brighter and brighter in the airborne mist and the thunder of the approaching locomotive punching through the rain soaked night air grew ever louder, Robert calmly stepped onto the tracks – this world simply did not make sense to him anymore.

Football Goalie Robert Enke

DB Regio’s train number RE 4427 was in the home stretch of its run from the seaport town of Norddeich to Hannover, now blasting along at 160 km/h (100 mph) southeast out of Nienburg towards Neustadt am Rübenberge. Just two more stops and 20 minutes to go before finishing for the evening in the city which the Hannover 96 football team calls home. Most of the evening rush-hour commuters on their way home from downtown Bremen had gotten out in Nienburg, if not earlier, and the remaining passengers were folks traveling on RE 4427 to Hannover for evening activities, work or other events. In the cab of the 146 series (Bombardier TRAXX) locomotive, all was quiet other than the soft rushing sound of the equipment cooling blowers behind the access door to the machine room of the 6000 hp electric locomotive and the distant whine of the wheels and traction motors below the heavily sound-and-crash-impact-insulated cab. Normally only one locomotive driver occupied the cab on RE 4427, but tonight a second, off-duty, locomotive driver made small talk with the driver sitting in the right seat at the controls of the 350 ton train, as they gazed out of the rain-speckled windshield at a long string of green signal lights along otherwise unlit tracks.

The 42 year-old locomotive driver of RE 4427 paused his conversation with his colleague as he began to anticipate applying the brakes in a minute or so to make their next stop 4 kilometers down the tracks in Neustadt. Even with generous application of both the regenerative and standard air brakes the five car-long set of double-decker coaches plus locomotive needed nearly 1500 meters (4900 feet) to slow from 160 km/h to a stand still in the Neustadt train station. As the windshield wiper made another stroke across the windshield the veteran locomotive driver well into his 19th year of service for Deutchse Bahn suddenly noticed a man walk towards the tracks from the Eilvese station platform barley 300 meters in front of him. His colleague standing to his left immediately noticed the man as well. The driver immediately switched the headlights over to high beams and frantically flicked the lever for the air horns. The man just stood there in the middle of the track – now plainly visible in the high intensity light of the high beams of the rapidly approaching DB 146 series locomotive. Surprise, followed almost instantly by horror, flashed from head to tow of the locomotive crew of RE 4427.

Ohhh, nein, nein, nein! ! ! Raus von den Gleisen, du Arschloch! ! ! Bitte, raus, bitte ! ! ! Verdammt!”, the two screamed in vain at the trespasser through the bullet and rock-proof windscreen, as the Series 146 locomotive’s horns blasted away. The driver had already thrown the brakes into emergency braking mode in a completely futile attempt to avoid the unavoidable. They both knew all too well what was going to happen next. It took only about another five seconds for RE 4427 to reach the point where Robert stood – still at a speed well above 100 km/h. Perhaps the longest, most agonizing, most painful five seconds in the careers of the two seasoned train drivers.


Photo: Stern Magazine.

RE 4427 sits on the tracks between Eilvese and Neustadt on the 10th of November while police and fire / rescue personnel investigate the suicide death and go about the grim task of collecting the remains of Robert Enke.

A lone jogger ran at a slow pace through the night drizzle with his collie dog on a leash beside him away from the center of Eilvese and away from the tracks. Other residents of Eilvese went about getting their evening meal ready and chatting with their kids after another late autumn weekday at work and school. The jogger could hear the approaching rushing sound of RE 4427 off in the distance behind him, but paid no attention – six or more trains passed through the village every hour, only the S-Bahn train stopped there once per hour in each direction. A number of cars had now formed a line behind the crossing gates on both sides of the tracks, patiently waiting for RE 4427 to speed across the small two-lane road so that they could continue their trips. No one in the line of cars sitting at the grade crossing noticed the human figure standing alone on the southeast-bound station platform a few dozen meters beyond the grade crossing.

Daytime view of the tracks in Eilveses

Photo: David Beale

Daytime view of the tracks in Eilveses – probably the last thing (along with the headlights of RE 4427 ) Robert Enke saw before his death.

All at once the night air was pierced with the high-pitched double-tones of train horns – a rare event indeed. The jogger stopped and instinctively looked back towards the grade crossing several hundred meters behind him. The air horns blasted a couple more times for several seconds, then no more, but nearly simultaneously the damp night air in the village was filled with the angry hum of RE 4427’s forty-eight sets of disc brakes groaning under full application. The humming sound continued steadily for nearly a half a minute as it traveled south out of the village. Then total silence. The bewildered jogger and his dog began to run back towards the tracks. People in their cars waiting at the grade crossing began getting out of their cars to see what had just taken place. A few residents walked out of their homes and looked in the direction of grade crossing. Within three minutes the night air was alive with the sound of police, fire truck and ambulance sirens.

A makeshift memorial at the Eilvese S-Bahn train station

Photo: David Beale

A makeshift memorial at the Eilvese S-Bahn train station where Robert Enke took his own life.

The news of Robert’s suicide sped like lightning across the radio, Internet and TV within a few hours of the collision. By the next morning the incident was topic number one on talk radio stations, in the headline of the newspapers across Germany and in countless offices, classrooms and homes all across Europe. Hannover 96 quickly and spontaneously organized a candle light vigil for the evening at the AWD stadium where Robert played in home games. Soon it was made public that Robert had left a suicide note behind. His wife made a tearful appearance at a press conference, admitting that he was battling chronic depression, but she had thought she would be able to help him out of it.

One of hundreds of notes left at the makeshift memorial to Robert Enke in Eilvese

Photo: David Beale

“? ? ? We miss you.” One of hundreds of notes left at the makeshift memorial to Robert Enke in Eilvese.

Robert's secret illness left much damage in its wake. Many thousands of bewildered football fans, grief stricken parents and family members, a distraught widow, puzzled teammates and colleagues, a fatherless baby girl, and the shocked residents of the small village of Eilvese as well as the traumatized locomotive drivers, train staff, police, fire / rescue responders, and passengers of RE 4427 on the night of the tenth of November 2009.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

It’s Not Merely A Lagging Indicator, Mr. President:
It’s A Warning Bell That Your Presidency Must Heed

By James P. RePass, Publisher, Destination:Freedom
And President & CEO, The National Corridors Initiative

It’s not simply a lagging indicator, Mr. President. It’s a warning bell.

And it is what could turn you into this Depression’s Herbert Hoover, unless you act boldly, and soon, which would be a terrible outcome for all of us.

Winning the Presidency, by overcoming great odds, not least of which were your race and America’s history of latent and not-so-latent racism. That is no small thing. Indeed, it is wonderful thing,

But as you observed yourself,  Mr. President, it can not be the Main Thing. And even if you realize that, as I know you do, some of the members of your Administration and Congress seem not to understand the dangerous path we are heading down, even as most people still have great affection for you.

10 % unemployment combined with outrageous unregulated credit card fees, plus millions of foreclosures on predatory or shady mortgages with devastating escalator clauses glossed over by the loan brokers --- are now yielding the banks effective interest rates that are three, five and even ten times the banks’ current cost of money ---- said money provided to the banksters by the tax dollars, present and future ,of the very taxpayers who they are now cheerfully raping. This situation can not continue to obtain, or your Presidency and the nation itself will founder upon it.

You are within a hairsbreadth of the Herbert Hoover phenomenon. As bright as you are, I think you do not know that yet. The bubble you are in isn’t as calculated as the surreal world George Bush inhabited during his Presidency, but it is still there. Look past the bubble, because you absolutely, positively, can not wait for Congress to figure out what to do to get us out of this zero-jobs, lose-your-house-and-starve recovery. Lead us out, Mr. President, lead us out.

Most Americans have a view of Herbert Hoover that is perforce deeply colored by the Great Depression, for which calamity Herbert Hoover is seen as the fumbling, out-of-touch midwife, if not, via the ignorance of his political and business colleagues, the outright enabler. Given the opportunity to make things better, he and Congress made them far worse, or at least allowed them to become worse.

In fact Hoover was a skilled administrator and [at first, like you] a very popular leader, who tried to implement a number of measures that Roosevelt later proposed. Hoover’s Presidency fetched up on the rocks of an economic crisis he and his party did not understand, because he and they failed to act upon it with the alacrity it demanded.

Don’t make the same mistake, Mr. President.

The mortgage crisis needs to be addressed not with Congressional debates taking months, but with a Presidential Executive Order issued yesterday. Be one of the Marines you command, Mr. President. Shoot first, and let God sort it out. I’m sure He’ll find a place for the Harvard MBAs who engineered this crisis, shame on their sorry, greedy, unethical asses.

You did it to General Motors, whose overpaid, oblivious CEO steered that once-great company straight onto the rocks, not once but several times over a decade, and then came to you for 25 billion dollars in tax money. It’s time you placed the same kind of call to the Chase Banks and Jimmy Dimonds of the banking world, too. They need to hear directly from you, and soon.

The banksters are using our money and near-zero-cost Federal funds to line their own pockets, instead of slashing their fees and interest rates and re-doing mortgage terms, as they must do if the money you have correctly pumped into the economy for infrastructure and re-growth via the stimulus program isn’t simply sucked right out again. They are not going to do this voluntarily, and the access they have gained in Congress through the legal bribery system known as campaign contributions makes that body hopeless. How else can you explain a 2013 date for the implementation of some of the modest bank reforms they have passed? People are losing their houses as you read these words.

The banking sector is extracting every last dime of cash from the economy, with no regard to anyone else, and that must be stopped. Cap their interest rates, cap their charges, cram-down new interest rates on mortgages, do whatever you have to do --- and if they don’t like it nationalize them. We have pumped enough low-cost and no-cost money into the banking sector to own it. Why are they still making the rules? Don’t ask them. Tell them.

But do it, act now,  or no one is going to begin spending, or hiring, or doing anything other than bury their money in the mattress --- whatever little the banks haven’t stolen through confiscatory charges, interest rates, and mortgages, that is. If you act, and lead, people will spend, they will hire, they will start buying homes again. But their faith and trust in the banking sector is gone for this generation, and deservedly so. Only bold action, by you, can restore it.

Without leadership, this Potemkin, no-jobs “recovery” will collapse. Make no mistake about it, the whirlwind awaits. Make sure you don’t take a ride on it, and make sure that your Presidency, begun and conducted by you with courage and all the hallmarks of greatness, responds before it is too late. Now is not the time to stand pat, but to rise up, Mr. President. Rise up.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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