Vol. 8 No. 46
November 19, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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www.nationalcorridors.org

Destination:Freedom
A weekly North American transportation update

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative Inc.

Publisher - James P. RePass
Editor - Molly McKay
European Correspondent - David Beale
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

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

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  January Conference…
  News Items…
Quinn, Skoropowski, Bronte Earn Top Amtrak Partner Awards
Bush Announces A Bi-partisan List Of Nominees To Amtrak
   Board Of Directors
  Political Lines…
Amtrak, Transportation Appropriations Bill Passes House By
   Big Margin; Bush Veto Looms
Cfe Warns On Dangers Of Taxpayer ‘bill Of Rights’ (tabor)
   Ballot Measures
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Another Train Drivers’ Strike Brings Chaos To Germany’s
   Transportation System
More Misery For French Commuters On Third Day Of Transit
   And Public Works Strike
High Speed Rail Corridor Opened To Central London
  Editor Notes…
DF Holiday Publishing Schedule
  End notes…

 

The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
wishes to extend to all our readers
a Happy and Prosperous
Thanksgiving Holiday

 TM

 

January 28-29, 2008

Carmichael Conference On The Future of American Transportation

For All North American Transportation Advocates and Leaders

St. Louis Hyatt Regency Hotel, St. Louis, Mo.

Click Here For Details And To Register

 

Quinn, Skoropowski, Bronte
Earn Top Amtrak Partner Awards

By DF Staff and from Amtrak

WASHINGTON --- Amtrak has honored three leading American rail operations executives with its highest award, the President’s Service and Safety Award.

Honored were Patricia Quinn of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA), Eugene Skoropowski, Managing Director, California Joint Powers Operating Authority (Capitol Corridor), and William Bronte, Chief, Division of Rail for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Patricia Quinn

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA),was given special recognition among state and local leaders across the nation for her support of Amtrak and her commitment to passenger rail service.

During ceremonies here, Amtrak President and CEO Alex Kummant presented Quinn with Amtrak’s most prestigious award, the President’s Service and Safety Award for state partner. She is one of three people who received the award nationally.

“Your efforts exemplify initiative, commitment and dedication to Amtrak, and our entire organization extends to you our highest appreciation,” said Kummant.

Recipients in the State Partner category “must demonstrate extraordinary and creative efforts in developing resources to preserve and expand rail service. Recipients must demonstrate leadership in promoting rail service on a state and/or local level.”

In her role as the executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Patricia Quinn has led the spectacular success of the Downeaster service, which has experienced steady growth in both ridership and revenue under her leadership. In Fiscal Year 2007, Downeaster ridership reached 361,634 passengers, a seven-percent increase over last year.

Because of the relationship Quinn has forged with Pan Am Railways, the Downeaster enjoys good on-time performance, which helps boost ridership. Quinn continues to work on the expansion of the service to Freeport, Maine. Amtrak has operated the Downeaster service on behalf of NNEPRA since its launch in 2001.

Eugene Skoropowski

Also during ceremonies in Washington, Amtrak President and CEO, Alex Kummant presented Skoropowski with Amtrak’s most prestigious award, the President’s Service and Safety Award for State Partner.

“Under Gene’s leadership, the CCJPA has developed the ability to work constructively with Amtrak and Union Pacific,” said Kummant. “He has developed unique intermodal partnerships with regional transit agencies throughout the corridor.”

Recipients in the State Partner category “must demonstrate extraordinary and creative efforts in developing resources to preserve and expand rail service. Recipients must demonstrate leadership in promoting rail service on a state and/or national level.”

Skoropowski has a vision for intercity passenger rail service in California. In partnership with Amtrak, the Capitol Corridor has increased the number of frequencies from four roundtrips in 1998 to 16 roundtrips today (32 trains a day between Sacramento and the Bay Area and 14 daily trains to San Jose). This expansion was a result of his skilled management techniques which enabled the CCJPA to use existing rolling stock on the route.

The route has seen eight consecutive months of record ridership growth with more than 1.5 million passengers traveling on the route in FY07, making it the third busiest in the nation.

William Bronte

Also honored was William Bronte, Chief, Division of Rail for the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), for special recognition among state and local leaders across the nation for his support of Amtrak and his commitment to passenger rail service.

During ceremonies here, Amtrak President, CEO Alex Kummant said, “Your efforts exemplify initiative, commitment and dedication to Amtrak, and our entire organization extends to you our highest appreciation.”

Recipients in the State Partner category “must demonstrate extraordinary and creative efforts in developing resources to preserve and expand rail service. Recipients must demonstrate leadership in promoting rail service on a state and/or national level.”

Bronte is an outstanding advocate for intercity passenger rail in the U.S. His dedication to the expansion of intercity passenger rail service in California has offered rail passengers many convenient options for business and leisure travel and provides a strong foundation for continued growth. Bronte has led the California Rail Program, Amtrak’s largest state partner, representing approximately 50 percent of all state-supported trains and counting for almost 25 percent of Amtrak’s total ridership since 2005.

Under his leadership, there has been a dramatic growth in ridership on the Pacific Surfliner, from 1.7 million in 2002 to 2.7 million in 2007, an increase of 57 percent. The route is ranked the second busiest outside the Northeast Corridor.

About Amtrak

Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail services to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 22,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com.


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Bush Announces a Bi-partisan List of Nominees
to Amtrak Board of Directors

DF Staff from ProgressiveRailroading.com and other Internet Sources

NOVEMBER 15 -- A former mayor from rural America, a Bush supporter and lobbyist, and two professionals who served under Republican governors in New York and Florida, are President Bush’s choices to serve on the Amtrak Board of Directors.

Tom Carper, a Democrat and former mayor of Macomb, Ill., a rural stop on Amtrak, was recommended to the White House by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and  Democratic Senator Dick Durbin  from Illinois. Carper is a longtime supporter of the railroad and is a friend to the United Transportation Union (UTU).

He is not to be confused with Senator Tom Carper, (D-Del.), a former Delaware governor who served on the Amtrak board from 1994-1998.

“Carper knows first hand what Amtrak service means to smaller rural communities,” said UTU Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo, a former mayor of Chicago suburb Riverdale, who became acquainted with Carper when both served on a U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Amtrak advisory council.

“Tom’s passion for preserving Amtrak as a national intercity rail passenger network is genuine  and quite removed from the White House philosophy of downsizing and privatizing Amtrak,” Szabo said.

When Carper retired as mayor of Macomb, which is about 240 miles west of Chicago, Szabo made Carper an honorary UTU member. Carper was mayor of Macomb from 1991-2003, and was repeatedly recognized for his leadership in fighting to preserve rail passenger service to rural communities, whose stations make up the bulk of Amtrak station stops.

Durbin said that Carper “has years of experience in bringing together business leaders, community leaders and elected officials.”

In Illinois, an average of 48 Amtrak trains operate daily on more than 1,000 miles of track, serving some 2.5 million riders annually.

Donna McLean is the nominee to succeed David Laney as chairman when his term expires at the end of this month.

Ms. McLean owns Donna McLean Associates, LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in transportation policy. She is a Bush supporter, having contributed $2,000. to the President’s re-election campaign in April 2004. She has held numerous positions in government prior to launching her consulting firm: Assistant Secretary of Transportation under Secretary Norman Mineta, Chief Financial Officer at the Federal Aviation Administration and a staff member for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Aviation Subcommittee, in the 1990’s.

Donna McLean Associates is currently a registered lobbyist with the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives for Boeing Air Traffic Management, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Project ACTA, Inc.,Unite Alliance, and for Indiana University (where McLean received undergraduate and graduate degrees).

Two other nominees are Republican Nancy A. Naples of New York, and Republican Denver Stutler Jr. of Florida.

Naples served former New York Republican Gov. George Pataki as commissioner of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, and Stutler, a professional engineer, served former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush as his chief of staff and later secretary of transportation.

All Board appointments must be approved by the Senate.

The Amtrak Board is comprised of seven voting members appointed for five-year terms.


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POLITICAL LINES...  Political Lines...

Amtrak, Transportation Appropriations Bill Passes House
By Big Margin; Bush Veto Looms

By DF Staff and from Internet Sources

WASHINGTON --- President George W. Bush, at the lowest approval level in the polls of any American President in recent history, is nevertheless set to veto a transportation appropriations bill that nearly two-thirds of the House of Representatives --- one of the two houses in a Congress that is just as submerged in the polls as he is --- has just approved.

By a largely bi-partisan 270-147 vote, the House this past week passed a bill that provides $105.6 billion for transportation, housing and community development programs. The measure, which now goes to the Senate, is $5.5 billion higher than what President Bush wants.

President Bush has promised to veto this and other pending appropriations bills because they call for higher spending on domestic programs than he does. Meanwhile, U.S. spending on the war in Iraq consumes more money each month, and sometimes each week, as many of these soon-to-be-vetoed programs would require in a year.

The transportation bill passed by the House this past week is not the same kind of bill as Senate Transportation Authorization Bill S. 294 which passed the Senate last week, and will be taken up by the House early next year. That bill, which would authorize the funding of Amtrak at $12.4 billion over the next six years, is a so-called authorization bill.

In theory, the Congressional spending process starts with a budget from the President which is then modified by Congress, which sets over-all spending figures. Authorization bills are then drafted and passed to set specific spending limits over a several year period, and then, each year, an appropriations bill is passed to actually transfer those funds from the Federal treasury to the department responsible for that particular program.

In practice, Federal agencies and programs can go years without receiving any authorization whatsoever, as money is appropriated on a stop-gap or on-going basis to fund operations. This is what often has happened to Amtrak over the nearly four decades since it was created by Congress in 1970 to relieve the then-bankrupt freight railroads of the costs of providing passenger train service, which they were required to provide under the common-carrier regulations then in effect.

While President Bush has threatened vetoes in a number of cases of legislation this year, transportation advocates are concerned that the House vote fell eight short of the two-thirds majority needed to over-ride this threatened veto.

Amtrak has been under-funded compared to other transportation systems for its entire existence, in part because of widespread misrepresentation of its costs and benefits by public transit opponents. These organizations, such as the Reason Foundation and the Cato Institute, and other less well-known groups, are often funded heavily by petroleum interests who seek to limit competition from rail and alternative energy technologies precisely because they are energy efficient, and because their widespread success would reduce demand for oil.

This strategy has worked for many years because many journalists, working many beats in a cost-driven media world, simply do not have the time to delve into the story. Recently however PARADE Magazine (November 4) published a long, in-depth article by reporter Peter Richmond that for the first time in many years, in the general news media, told the story accurately.


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CFE Warns on Dangers of Taxpayer
‘Bill of Rights’ (TABOR) Ballot Measures

From the Center for Transportation Excellence edited By DF Staff

WASHNGTON---The Center for Transportation Excellence (www.cfte.org) is warning transportation advocates to be on the watch for so-called “TABOR” ballot measures in local elections.

‘Taxpayer Bills Of Rights,’ or TABOR, ballot measures attempt to place tight caps on state and local revenues. These caps limit public sector spending and investment based on a formula linked to population growth and inflation. Voter approval is typically necessary to override the caps, says CFTE.

The proposed measure sounds reasonable but ignores the nature of investment and on-going operational expenses for many public services; it also ignores the long-term benefits of transportation investment, which develop over years and even decades as a region served by transit prospers. TABOR has become a favorite tool for some libertarian and conservative anti-government activists, reports the Center.

These measures can have dramatic --- and disastrous --- effects on the ability of states and communities to deal with an array of infrastructure improvements and investments. In 1992, Colorado became the first, and remains the only, state to adopt a TABOR amendment.

Despite its robust growth and relatively high per capita income, a recent study ranked Colorado 35th in transportation funding, sixth-worst in the nation on highway and transportation maintenance. The state received a “D+” from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the condition of its infrastructure. In 2005, Colorado voters decided to place a temporary moratorium on TABOR in order to invest in needed transportation and other projects.

Despite the evidence from Colorado, TABOR measures are a growing issue with new initiatives proposed in several states. CFTE will monitor the progress of active and potential TABOR ballot measures across the nation.

TABOR Goes Down to Defeat in 3 States

TABOR ballot measures were defeated in Maine, Nebraska and Oregon. Voters rejected the measures by strong margins. TABOR initiatives were proposed in as many as ten states in 2006 only to fail to qualify or lose legal challenges. (Maine - Question 1 -- DEFEATED 46% - 54%; Nebraska – I-423 -- DEFEATED 30% - 70%; Oregon – Measure 41-- DEFEATED 33% - 67%)

For the full story and other resources see: www.cfte.org/success/tabor.asp.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)85.8284.66
Canadian National (CNI)48.4852.23
Canadian Pacific (CP)64.2966.54
CSX (CSX)43.2443.56
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)25.6127.89
Kansas City Southern (KSU)33.7135.67
Norfolk Southern (NSC)50.4450.47
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.0119.05
Union Pacific (UNP)126.48124.65


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI foreign correspondent

 

Another Train Drivers’ Strike Brings Chaos
to Germany’s Transportation System

Is the GDL Train Drivers’ Union Biting the Hand That Feeds Them?

BERLIN (HAZ via dpa) - Freight services froze up across Germany as a train drivers’ strike entered its third day on Friday, with economists warning of long-term damage to the economy coming from the government, industry and the rail company Deutsche Bahn – German Railways (DBAG).

The vast Maschen rail freight yard a few kilometers south of Hamburg, Germany’s largest and Europe’s third-largest freight classification yard, was blocked with idle trains. Roads in the area were jammed with container trucks. Port spokeswoman Christiane Kurt said the yard was still clearing backlogs from the two-day goods strike at the end of last week.

Carmaker Audi shut its Belgian assembly plant near Brussels as components from eastern Europe were unable to get through Germany, although chemicals giant BASF said it was able to continue production, possibly because of continued operation of independent rail freight operator “Rail4Chem.” Elsewhere the rail strike resulted again in nightmarish traffic jams on many expressways and highways around Germany as commuters switched to cars.

The GDL union representing some three quarters of the 20,000 train drivers warned it could call an unlimited strike as early as next week, targeting freight services as well as regional and long-distance passenger trains.

“Things are grinding to a halt all over the place,” said Volker Trier, an economist for the German chamber of commerce. The GDL strike was casting a shadow over the economy currently at the end of a boom, he added.

Hagen Lesch, an economist for the IW economic research institute, told the daily newspaper “Bild” that in a national unlimited strike the GDL could hold out for up to 12 weeks. A DBAG spokesman described the situation as “increasingly critical,” with only the most basic supplies, such as coal for power stations, getting through.

But there was no sign of movement from the company on the GDL’s key demand of a separate wage contract from that struck with two other unions representing the bulk of DB’s workforce. In fact, DBAG’s board of directors took an official vote strongly backing DBAG’s outspoken chairman, Hartmut Mehdorn, and his steadfast line against giving in to GDL demands.

GDL boss Manfred Schell appeared to indicate some movement on the issue when he told national television that, if DB conceded the 31-per-cent wage hike the GDL has demanded, he would accept their offer. Schell stressed that an unlimited strike was a serious possibility. “If nothing changes, what else remains to us?” he asked.

Railway expert Thomas Berndt, an economics professor at Erfurt University, warned that the rail network could lose customers permanently, noting that rail currently carried only a quarter of goods transported in Germany. The GDL was “sawing away at the branch it is sitting on,” he the told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa). Berndt said “The loss of confidence could be more serious in the long term than the short-term economic damage.”

Passenger traffic was also hard hit. GDL passenger train drivers ceased work early Thursday, forcing many of the 4.8 million commuters using the urban and regional networks every day to switch to their cars or stay at home. Regional passenger services were most affected in eastern Germany where only 20 per cent of trains were operating, while in the west part of the country the figure was closer to half.

About a third of long-distance trains were running, while urban services varied widely from city to city, with Berlin badly hit. The strikes on both freight and passenger services were due to end early Saturday morning.


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Photo: Hannover Allegemeine Zeitung (HAZ)  

More Misery For French Commuters on Third Day
of Transit and Public Works Strike

 

PARIS (HAZ) – Meanwhile, in Germany’s largest neighbor to the west and south, French commuters faced further disruptions Friday as a nationwide transport strike entered a third day, although more trains and buses were running again.

On most Paris metro lines between one in two and one in four trains were running, an RATP spokesman said. Traffic was back to normal on two of the 14 Paris Metro subway lines. Services had restarted on the RER line A which links many suburbs to the East and West of the capital, but no commuter trains had moved on the RER line B that runs to Paris’ two main airports.

Nearly one-third of buses were running, bus and subway operator RATP stated.

The main highways leading into Paris had traffic jams of up to 15 kilometres by 6 am, the regional traffic authority said.

French transport workers are striking over government pension reform plans, which propose to raise the typical retirement age for many civil servants, including most railroad employees, from the current 50 years of age to 55 – 63 years age.

President Nicolas Sarkozy last month announced plans to end special retirement schemes, which allow half a million public transport and utility employees to retire as early as 50, thus starting a round of consultations on a reform with the unions.

 

At Left: Commuters in Frankfurt, Germany attempt to board one of the very few S-Bahn commuter trains operating in the region on 15th November 2007


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High Speed Rail Corridor Opened to Central London

Eurostar Trains Move to New Home at London St. Pancras Station

LONDON ( HAZ/dpa) The first revenue service Euostar train on Britain’s newly completed high speed Channel Tunnel Rail Line departed London St Pancras station last Wednesday morning headed for rail-strike bound Paris.

The opening of the last 38 km long section of the GBP 5.8 billion (US $ 11 billion) high speed rail corridor means Eurostar services now run over dedicated high speed tracks from central London to the Channel Tunnel, thus saving an additional 20 minutes of journey times to Paris (2h 15min) and Brussels (1h 51min). The first section of the high speed rail corridor, commonly called CTRL, was opened in 2004.


Photo: P. Guillemin

A Eurostar train set speeds through Sandling, England, a couple miles away from the English Channel coastline in April 2007.

The new line has two new stations, Stratford International in east London, which is situated adjacent to the future site of the 2012 Olympic Games, and Ebbsfleet south of the River Thames, close to the M25 beltway.

St. Pancras is a major rail terminal in the northeast quarter of London’s central business district and is the end point for a number of regional and intercity trains from the northern part of the country. London’s famed Kings Cross rail station is practically next door and Euston Station is only a few blocks away. All three rail terminals host a large number of passenger trains to areas north of London, central and northern England and Scotland. Therefore, the new Eurostar end station at St. Pancras offers travelers a far better chance to transfer to northbound rains than Waterloo station.

Eurostar services to London Waterloo, which ran via existing “classic” British Rail lines from Fawkham Junction, ended Tuesday night in preparation for the move to St Pancras. Eurostar says it has received more than 1.2 million bookings for travel, up 16% over the same period last year.


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EDITOR NOTES...  Editor Notes...

Destination: Freedom Holiday Publishing Schedule

 

Destination:Freedom will publish its last edition for 2007 on December 17. The staff will be on holiday break December 24-January 6, with publication resuming with the January 7 edition.


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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

Web addresses as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial presentation. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our pages.

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