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 22, 2010
Vol. 11 No. 48

Copyright © 2010
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 11th Newsletter Year

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

  News Items…
NYC Subway Systems Seeks To Scoop Up NJT’s $3 Billion
   In “Dead ARC” Project
Extend A Subway Line Under The Hudson? Sierra Club Leader
   Proposed It Years Ago
  High-Speed Lines…
China Completes Tracks for Longest Bullet Line
National High-Speed Rail Plan Unveiled, Despite
   Political Roadblocks
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  View From Europe…
The Cost Of Doing Nothing – America’s Transportation
   Infrastructure Under Attack
  Editorial…
Get It Right From The Start, Next Time
  Commentary…
The Appalling Washington Post
  Guest Editorial…
Election Implications For Rail
  Publication Notes …


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

 

A Partial Fix?

 

NYC Subway Systems Seeks To Scoop Up
NJT’s $3 Billion In “Dead ARC” Project

By DF Staff and From Internet Sources

NEW YORK CITY---New York City Transit and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are close to snagging the $3 billion FTA appropriation that had been part of the now-dead 34th Street ARC (“Access to the Region’s Core”) Trans-Hudson tunnel project.

Questions about the future of New York City rail transportation access, seen as essential to the economic growth and development of both the New York-Boston-Montreal and New York-Washington-Atlanta/Miami travel corridors, have been very much in the news because of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s October decision to kill the ARC project.

Gov. Christie stated at the time that he killed the 2010 version of the ARC project due to massive cost over-runs of $3-$5 billion – those are Federal estimates, although they were suppressed as “staff recommendations” and therefore unofficial, before Christie’s decision announcement made them public --- that had been hidden from public view by New Jersey Transit, the project’s managers since 2007.

Most of the cost over-run was in fact associated with the 2007 decision by New Jersey Transit to cut former project partner Amtrak out of the deal, and re-align the Trans-Hudson tunnel to a new deep-cavern dead-end train terminal under 34th Street, instead of the original through-route to Penn Station that had been a part of the ARC plan for more than a decade.

What is back on the table, and likely to get a positive response from a furious US DOT that had pushed hard for the dead-end ARC, championed especially by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), is a long-proposed (by the New Jersey Association of Rail Passengers and others) extension of New York City’s Number 7 subway line under the Hudson to Secaucus.

That subway line was already being extended to the West Side of Manhattan from Times Square, so continuing under the Hudson, while not “cheap,” would be relatively less costly, in terms of providing New Jersey commuter access via the Number 7 to not only the West Side but the East Side as well.

The Number 7 subway extension is seen as a good solution to New York City access issues, and a considerably better one than the dead-end ARC project it will likely replace, but the extension does not address the principal issue surrounding the ARC controversy, and which helped to kill it: the decision in 2007 to cut out Amtrak, and therefore capacity growth/redundancy for intercity passenger trains to and from New England and Eastern Canada. That growth is not only an assumption made both by Amtrak and New England elected leaders; new Penn Station tunnels under the Hudson River are also essential to the construction of true High-Speed Rail between Washington DC and Boston, a distance of 457 miles that in Asia or Europe would be a routine three hour-four hour trip by rail --- faster than flying, by far, considering airport travel delays ---but in 21st century America still takes three-four times that long.

The political infighting and positioning over what to do about that now-postponed Amtrak alignment is expected to remain the subject of intense debate as expected incoming House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) is an intense High-Speed Rail advocate, but Amtrak critic, who has championed immediate construction of a Euro-style Northeast High-Speed Rail Corridor that, while still passing through New York City, would revive much of the century-old airline route through Waterbury and Putnam CT and on through Rhode Island to Boston, avoiding the twisty Shore Line Route in use today.

One significant and long-over-due rail management step taken by Mica has been to coordinate commuter (FTA) and intercity (FRA) rail staff functions on his own staff, addressing a growing problem illustrated by the present FTA/FRA separation over projects that should be led by one agency, such as was the case with the original ARC tunnel alignment that assumed both Amtrak Intercity and New Jersey Transit commuter rail trains needed new tunnels and would share the new Hudson tubes to be built as part of that version of ARC. Turf battles between Amtrak and New Jersey Transit are in fact one of the sources of the decision to split off the ARC to New Jersey Transit.

The issue is not whether “commuter” and “intercity rail” should run on the same track; the issue is that both kinds of trains will be run on the electrified Northeast Corridor, and as speeds on the corridor are increased to 220 mph over the next two decades, the distinction between “intercity” and “commuter” will blur. As one industry observer noted, “If you can travel between Washington and New York City in eight minutes or less, and do it frequently, is that intercity rail, or commuting?”


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Extend A Subway Line Under The Hudson?
Sierra Club Leader Proposed It Years Ago

New York Times
Writer Patrick McGeehan

NOVEMBER 17 --- Steve Lanset said he was “totally blown away” when he read on his computer last Tuesday night that New York City officials were thinking of extending a subway line to New Jersey.

Mr. Lanset, transportation coordinator for New Jersey Sierra Club, and colleague Ralph Braskett had the idea of a subway extension five years ago.

Mr. Lanset, who lives in Jersey City, liked the idea so much he helped create a Web site dedicated to it -- SubwaytoSecaucus.com. But few people warmed to the idea back then. “It didn’t seem to have the wildfire effect that we had hoped,” Mr. Lanset said last week.

His collaborator, Ralph Braskett, said he had received a lot of “abuse” and very little praise for promoting a subway stop alongside the New Jersey Turnpike.

Thus, the two men were more than a little surprised to learn that stretching the No. 7 line westward to Secaucus was gaining traction at City Hall.

Steve Lanset

Photo: Michael Appleton via The New York Times

Steve Lanset, shown here, and Ralph Braskett had the idea of a subway extension five years ago.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg attributed the idea to recent “thinking totally out of the box” by Robert Steel, his new deputy mayor for economic development.

Neither Mr. Braskett nor Mr. Lanset had any expertise in transit planning when they first broached the idea. Neither is even a commuter anymore. They simply believed there was a better, less costly way to ease the crush on trains and buses between New Jersey and Manhattan.

After Mr. Braskett proposed the idea at a hearing five years ago, the two men wrote an essay in The Record newspaper in Bergen County in February 2006 that made the case for the subway to Secaucus.

“We were not greeted with open arms and great enthusiasm over this idea,” said Mr. Lanset, who recently left a longtime job as a programmer for an investment bank in Manhattan.

Mr. Braskett described the response as less charitable. “I received abuse from N.J. Transit, I received abuse from the rail nuts,” he recalled, referring to ardent fans of train service. “They’d tell me I’m crazy.”

New Jersey Transit officials had considered a subway extension about 10 years ago, but dropped the idea. They believed it would not adequately relieve congestion in the existing rail tunnels and would not provide as much “passenger convenience and time savings” as a rail tunnel.

New Jersey Transit representatives declined to comment about the revival of the idea.

Jeff Tittel, spokesman for New Jersey Sierra Club, said: “There have been people within the Sierra Club for 15 years talking about it. It just seemed to make common sense.”

Lanset and Braskett feel that the new plan was borrowed from their idea even though no official has contacted them about it.

“I certainly felt some validation and vindication,” Lanset said.

They both feel that their advocacy has not been wasted.


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HSR... High-Speed Lines...  

China Completes Tracks for Longest Bullet Line

From The Infrastructurist, Wall Street Journal, And DF Staff

China HSR Map

Map via The Infrastructurist

NOVEMBER 16 -- China just finished laying tracks for the longest high-speed rail line in the world an 800-mile bullet line that will connect Beijing, the Chinese capital in the north, and Shanghai, an economic hub in the east.

Travel between the two cities will drop to four hours—down from 10—when train service begins in 2012.

The BBC reports that five years ago China had no high-speed rail track to speak of. Today, they have roughly 4,000 miles of bullet train network, making it already the world’s most extensive, and that total is expected to double within two years.

The trains on the Beijing-Shanghai line, called the CRH380A, will travel up to 236 miles per hour, reported the Wall Street Journal last week, and they will be part of a national network expected to reach 9,700 miles by 2020. By that time, China will have more high-speed rail lines than the rest of the world put together.

This new line will link China’s two important economic zones - the Pan-Bohai Bay area in north China and the Yangtze River Delta region - by passing through some of China’s richest and fast-developing provincial-level regions - Tianjin, Shandong and Jiangsu.

Construction started in April, 2008 and cost 220.9 billion Yuan (33.3 billion U.S. dollars). It is scheduled to open in 2012.

The Chinese are reaping benefits from high-speed rail already built. The central city of Wuhan, where high-speed rail connects with Shanghai in about four hours (covering roughly the same distance as Chicago to New York) has been “transformed,” said Janie Corum, president of the Wuhan American Chamber of Commerce, speaking to NPR.

“Income is going up, as seen by the increasing number of people who own cars. We’re putting in a subway line; American companies like Wal-Mart are coming in and adding more and more stores,” she said.

China launched its first high-speed line - a service linking the capital and the port city of Tianjin - at the time of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Since then, more fast-train lines have been put into service: the Wuhan-Guangzhou line linking central and south China; the Zhengzhou-Xi’an line connecting central and western China; and the Shanghai-Nanjing line in the country’s east.

Last month, a 202-km high-speed line linking Shanghai and Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, came into operation, extending the nation’s in-service high-speed rail network to 7,431 kilometers.


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National High-Speed Rail Plan Unveiled,
Despite Political Roadblocks

A Transportation Option Established In Europe And Booming
In China Faces Regional Challenges In The U.S.

From Reuters News Service Online And www.Solveclimate.Com
By Kevin Murphy
Guest Writer At www.Solveclimate.Org

NOVEMBER 17 -- At a three-day conference in New York City last week the US High-Speed Rail Association unveiled its vision for a 17,000-mile network of rail service that would crisscross the United States by 2030 with electric trains traveling up to 220 mph.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other current and former transportation leaders endorsed the plan despite opposition from some newly-elected governors in the Midwest and elsewhere who want billions in federal money for highways instead.

The Obama administration has awarded over $10 billion in economic stimulus money for high-speed rail including $2.4 billion to 23 states for their HSR projects. The President sees high-speed rail as a crucial part of our transportation system not only because of its clean energy but also as an important boost to economic development by attracting new industry and business opportunity to areas it serves. Labor organizations favor the high-speed rail because of jobs it would create in the construction phase and beyond.

Obama has lamented how the United States has fallen behind China and Europe in high-speed rail.

Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio, who were elected to governorships on November 2, are putting the brakes on high-speed rail with the argument that the cost is too high and money should be used to shore up and expand our highway system. Secretary LaHood wrote the two governors-elect stating that the money cannot be used for other purposes and will be redirected to other states if they turn it down.

“LaHood likened the dawn of high-speed rail,” writes Murphy, “to other turning points in American transportation history, such as the Interstate highway system in the 1950s.”

“‘Just like with interstates in the 1950s, we haven’t yet drawn every single route on the map,’ LaHood said in prepared remarks. ‘We don’t yet know what every single financing agreement will look like. But it took 50 years to build a state-of-the art interstate system and I believe that 25 years from now we’ll have a state-of-the-art high-speed rail system, built by American workers right here in the Unites States.’ ”

For the complete article, go to http://solveclimatenews.com/news/20101117/national-high-speed-rail-plan-unveiled-despite-political-roadblocks


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)64.4963.44
Canadian Pacific (CP) 65.4064.11
CSX (CSX)62.4460.85
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)46.2045.05
Kansas City Southern (KSU)46.9044.74
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.3860.96
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.8012.62
Union Pacific (UNP)91.8290.29


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VIEWFROMEUROPE... View From Europe...  

The Cost Of Doing Nothing –
America’s Transportation Infrastructure Under Attack

Will The 2010 Mid-Term Elections Mortally Wound
The USA In The Global Logistics Race?

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Hannover, Germany – The results of the November mid-term elections are in – and the immediate winners are hard-right wing Republicans, who the mainstream media has alternatively labeled as dying (2006 mid-term elections and the 1992 and 2008 general elections) or a “Conservative Wave Sweeping The Nation” (1994, 2002 and 2010 mid term elections, and the 1984 and 2004 general elections). The mainstream news media, which former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accurately calls the “lame stream media” has spent the past several weeks and will likely spend a few more weeks 'ooing' and 'awing' about how the Republicans, allied with the ultra-right wing Tea Party, decisively took control over the House of Representatives and a large majority of governorships in states all across the country. But who were the real losers in this election? And are the real winners in-fact the USA’s biggest global rivals such as China, Russia, Europe and several oil-rich Gulf states?

Fair and Balanced or Ratings, Spin and Distortion?

As I was on two business trips in Asia during the past four weeks, I had the opportunity to listen to much of the “lame stream” news media during evening hours and during the mornings as I got myself dressed for the day’s meetings in my hotel room via the likes of CNN, CNBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News tuned in on my hotel room flat-screen TV. While at home here in the Hannover area, I rarely get the time to watch such news programs, and in the case of CBS, ABC and Fox News, they are not even available on my satellite service. I heard plenty from the “lame stream media”, while on these business trips in Asia, about how and why the mid-term election turned out the way it did and why their army of political pundits, Washington DC reporters and commentators thought the Republicans (with the exception of the US Senate) swept nearly all of the major election battles. The lame analysis from the lame stream press ranged from:

A) “Americans hate Big Government”, mostly in reference to the recently enacted health care bill, but also to other perceived injustice from the government such as potential increased costs on purchasing polluting, non-renewable energy via a proposed carbon “cap and trade” bill and proposed legislation aimed at preventing Big Banks and Big Insurance from executing yet another financial crisis, as they did in 2008. All the associated bail-out cash taken from tax payers and hefty million-dollar bank bonuses given away to incompetent and unethical bank and insurance executives, like clowns give away balloons to children in a circus, are apparently more acceptable to Tea Party Patriots than regulation of the out-of-control banking sector.

B) “Americans are mad as hell about unemployment and foreclosed homes”. This is obviously true, but with near zero intelligent analysis by the lame stream media into why the majority of voters believed that the way to register their anger with a deep recession – caused by massive mismanagement, greed and fraud committed on a wide scale by a number of large banks, insurance companies and Wall Street investment firms – is to put the political party, which advocated for and presided over the deregulation and removal of government oversight over these industries during the past 14 years, back in charge.

C) “Americans hate Government Spending”, which according to the lame stream media, is spending on the Stimulus Bill of 2009, plus other government spending programs either real or imagined such as government grants given to the group ACORN (real), bailout money given to. Big Banks, Big Automobile Companies and Big Insurance (real), and welfare checks, free college tuition and free government housing given to illegal immigrants (imagined). History shows that Americans actually love federal government spending, as long as it goes into their own pocket in one form or another, such as tax credits and subsidies for buying a home, Medicare for their elderly parents or grandparents, massive subsidies for roads and highways where they live, or various government contracts awarded to defense contractors in their states or cities and any number of “ear mark” spending clauses which direct a few million-dollars at time in federal money for pet projects of their local senator or representative.

The Tall Tale of The Disney – Sin City Express

Early on during the Spring 2009 discussions about the Stimulus Bill, the President made it clear it was time to make major investments in the country’s crumbling and out-of-date infrastructure, especially in the high-speed rail (HSR) and rail transit sectors. It took little time for the lame stream media moguls at Fox News, CNN, and various news papers to sum up the proposed HSR initiative as a new high-speed maglev train line from Disney Land in Orange County, CA to The Casino Strip in Las Vegas, NV as the flagship project of the President’s high-speed rail investment program. In reality, such a high-speed train between those two amusement centers was never part of the official high-speed rail proposal. But facts are an annoyance and a possible TV ratings killer for the mainstream news media, so they ran with the Disney – Vegas high-speed maglev train story as far as they could, in America’s new corporately owned news networks, profits, ratings-generating rumors and ad revenue-enhancing controversies come first – facts, and accurate news stories are several notches lower on their priority list.

The Disney – Vegas maglev fantasy train story was hatched by several anti-rail politicians at the time, and quickly became the face which they wanted to slap on the whole concept of high-speed rail in the USA – a useless high-cost spending program to connect the fairy tale Magic Kingdom with Sin City, the perfect negative image in a nation deeply scarred by unemployment, home foreclosures, and declining retirement fund values. By 2010 the Disney – Vegas maglev fantasy train created by anti-rail transit forces had run out of steam. But it had served its purpose and created a significant amount of doubt, just as intended. However the battle to defeat Obama’s high-speed rail proposal was not yet over, so new rumors and other misinformation were injected into the debate, most notably in Ohio and Wisconsin, where the new Republican governors-elect utilized several provocative but false anti-rail transit rumors to aid their campaigns.

The basic heart of these rumors is that rail transit is expensive taxpayer boondoggle that does not do anything. Of course this description could be applied to countless other government projects over the past few decades, including a large number of highways and freeways, numerous new airport runways, the F-22 and F-35 fighter airplanes, the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the defunct ‘Star Wars’ SDI defense shield of the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, the great S&L bailout of the 1980s and more recently the TARP bail-out. Strangely, these other dead-end programs have largely escaped the scrutiny of the new wave of Tea Party candidates.

The motivation for these anti-rail transit misinformation fed to the lame stream media, which then is predictably and regularly reported by the lame stream news media is to keep the status quo in place. There are many special interests on Washington’s K Street and elsewhere, who fear what a truly energy efficient and people-friendly rail transit network will do to their employers. Foremost is Big Oil, which can not stand a transportation mode that consumes a fraction of the crude oil used currently by cars, trucks, and airliners. Right behind Big Oil are the various lobbies connected to the automobile, truck and highway industries. Oddly many of the companies which are engaged in building highways and roads could also just as easily participate in construction or expansion of rail corridors – the construction machinery, engineering, and materials are nearly the same.

Lastly, there is a false but persistent mind-set in American culture that Amtrak and local transit authorities are “socialist” but tax-subsidized freeways and highways are somehow “capitalist”. In reality 99.5 percent of the freeways and highways across the nation (including toll roads in states such as Illinois, Massachusetts; New York; New Jersey Oklahoma, Ohio, etc.) are totally government operated, tax-payer funded and far from self-supporting. The government subsidies for the highway network can be measured in the multi-hundred billion dollar range per year, i.e. several hundreds times what Amtrak receives in government funding each year.

USA’s Rivals Switch Over to the High-Speed Track

Around the globe, the picture looks quite different than in the USA. Our economic rivals and competitors are investing heavily in rail transit, both passenger and freight. The most obvious is China, where the high-speed rail network is growing by hundreds of new kilometers of rail lines per year. China continues to expand its “classic” rail network as well, in order to move ever large volumes of raw materials and finished goods by rail. Japan, a long standing industrial rival to the USA since the early 1970s, has one of the most extensive rail networks in the world and is the home of the world’s first true high-speed passenger trains. France, slowly but surely, adds to its already large network of high-speed rail lines, known by their French acronym LGV – starting with a single route between Paris and Lyon in the early 1980s, the system now covers a significant portion of the country and continues to expand.


Photo: David Beale

Trademark Train – The highly successful TGV (French acronym for high-speed train) has become one of France’s international calling cards and trademarks, along with the Eiffel Tower, the French Mediterranean coast, famous wines and vineyards, French cuisine, and the Paris-based fashion industry. High-speed trains in numerous other countries such as Japan, China, Spain and Germany are likewise regarded of objects of national pride and symbols of the country’s advancement and economic power. Seen here is an early generation TGV set in Paris Gare du Nord (North Station) in August 2009.

Likewise in Spain and Italy relatively modest high-speed rail lines first built 20 years or more ago have now expanded into country-wide networks and extend into neighboring countries. Russia has introduced high-speed trains to the Moscow – St. Petersburg corridor in the past year and plans many new high-speed rail routes, mostly radiating out of the Moscow area in the next five years. Germany entered the high-speed rail club in the early 1990s with two ICE corridors; Hannover – Würzburg and Mannheim – Stuttgart. Nearly 20 years later, the number of high-speed rail lines in Germany has quadrupled compared to 1991. The UK completed its first true high-speed rail line in 2007, and has funding committed to build at least one more (London – Birmingham) in the next years, while completing upgrades to several existing rail corridors to near-high-speed status (200 km/h) in the past decade. US allies and economic rivals South Korea and Taiwan have also opened high-speed rail lines in the past ten years and plan more. India, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are all planning to build high-speed rail lines.

Even on the conventional rail freight and passenger rail transit fronts, numerous countries are expanding their networks and capabilities, including Morocco, Algeria, Australia, Israel, Turkey, Malaysia and Canada plus many of the countries already mentioned above. It begs the question: why? What do these diverse groups of countries see in rail transit that the likes of Scott Walker (R-WI) and John Kasich (R-OH) do not see (or want to avoid seeing)? What will it mean for Americans if the new crop of US Representatives, Senators and governors decide to turn back the clock yet again to let the existing rail network rot and fend for itself in an ocean of highway and airport subsidies? What is the motivation to spend even more tax money on expanding the highway network or on tax-cuts for millionaires, who surely will simply deposit their tax cut-cash into Swiss bank accounts and off-shore investment funds, which among other things will finance the booming rail and infrastructure projects in Switzerland, China, South Korea, Italy, India, etc.?

America’s War On Public Transit Intensifies

The financial crisis of 2008 -2010 has played havoc with many of the USA’s local and regional transit authorities and providers. Numerous rail and bus lines have been either eliminated or have reduced service compared with just a few years ago. Several regional transit authorities have simply disappeared, unable to obtain public financing and resources to continue operations. Stimulus Bill funds were painfully slow to be distributed in 2009 and early 2010 and restricted mostly to capital spending and generally were not allowed to be used in day-to-day operating budgets, thus Stimulus Bill funds provided little or no short-term relief to hundreds local transit agencies dealing with massive revenue short fall related to the recession.

The new wave of Tea Party conservatives have made it clear that they will continue this trend – the all-out war and heavy attacks on publicly funded local transit is clearly gone up a notch since the November mid-term elections. The most obvious examples are in Ohio and Wisconsin where newly elected GOP governors plan to derail the high-speed train projects in those states. But the situation is no less critical in other states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, all of which have elected conservative governors, who appear to be rather hostile to public transit.

As America’s competitors and rivals across the globe increase their investment in energy-efficient rail transit and automobile-independent cities and communities made possible by rail transit, thereby freeing up time, energy and resources for innovation and economic growth, will the USA be punished yet again for falling behind the learning curve, due this time to short-term populist tendencies and knee-jerk decisions fanned by Tea Party radicals? What price will Americans pay in the future for the decision to not decide anything? What will be the costs to American taxpayers and workers for a policy of doing nothing to reform the nation’s out-dated and crumbling transportation network? How much more money will Americans be forced to fork over in the future to Big Oil, Big Banks, Big Auto, and OPEC as Tea Party radicals slash investment on numerous rail transportation projects across the nation in the name of taming Big Government? And how will the Lame stream Media spin the story in the coming months and years?


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Get It Right From The Start, Next Time

By DF Staff

Delta Airlines this week broke ground at New York’s Kennedy Airport for a new $1.2 billion terminal, following Jet Blue’s own huge terminal project at Kennedy, and doing much to modernize and update what had become an increasingly outdated airport facility.

So where is the intercity rail connection?

In Europe or Asia, in any world-class city, as New York wishes to remain --- I know, we are tired of reading this --- an airport train station would have been built a decade ago, included in the planning for any major airport expansion, and already operating.

Yet in America, because government continues to treat transportation as a random collection of modes rather than the system that it is, and must be, we continue to slip further and further behind China, Korea, Japan, and most of Europe by failing to understand the systems nature of transportation.

Kudos therefore to likely incoming as House T&I Chair John Mica (R-FL) for beginning to combine, and better coordinate, FRA and FTA staff functions.

Maybe one day, when airlines plan or authorities plan and build new airline terminals, they remember that people don’t travel in order to get from one airport to another --- they travel to get somewhere they actually want to be, and that is often the downtown of a major American city --- where the railroads go.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

The Appalling Washington Post

By James P. RePass
Publisher: Destination: Freedom

To anyone who thinks the news media is monolithic, take a look at last Tuesday’s Washington Post editorial on rail, which in a single 500-word essay manages to set back the cause of rail in America a decade or two. Here are a few choice quotes from an editorial November 16 entitled, “A rail reality check that President Obama should heed.” It starts out:

“PRESIDENT OBAMA wants Americans to zip around in high-speed trains, just as many Japanese, French, and Chinese already do. For him, the goal seems almost as much about national pride as job creation or energy savings. “There’s no reason that Europe or China should have the fastest trains,” he has said. Congress included $8 billion in the 2009 stimulus bill for passenger rail projects, and Mr. Obama spread the money among 13 corridors around the country. But there is a problem: to the extent that the Nov. 2 election was a referendum on those plans, voters rejected them.”

NCI Response:

No, it wasn’t. Trains weren’t on the ballot in Ohio or Wisconsin. On the ballot were People In Power, who were clearly rejected in favor of people Out of Power. [We wonder what will happen in two years to the new House. Will it be like what happened to 2008’s “new” House in 2010?]

In those states or cities where rail projects actually were on the ballot – and there were quite a few of those --- voters overwhelmingly voted “Yes” to rail.

The Post continues about rail critic Governor’s elect:

“They [the critics] have a point. Passenger rail’s competitiveness with air and automobile traffic is far from established - as Amtrak’s perennial federal operating subsidies show.”

NCI response:

That is completely false and/or misleading (take your pick). As anyone who takes more than a cursory look at the numbers can tell you (or could tell the Post) rail’s economic superiority is demonstrated in virtually every place where high-speed rail has actually been built. In France and in Spain, to take two easy examples, the domestic air travel ridership is down to nil, because short-hop flights (100-600) miles have been mostly replaced by rail. What is clear is that the expense of air and auto travel is far more heavily subsidized in America, but in a way that is hidden from view, unlike Amtrak’s “perennial” subsidy, which is tiny [and Amtrak is not a flower, thank you].

The Post goes on:

“Governors-elect Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio thought the total of $1.2 billion in rail money slated for their states could be better spent on roads and bridges. The Obama administration says no: On Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that they could either use the money for trains or lose it. This blunt refusal to heed the fresh mandate of Ohio and Wisconsin’s voters seems hard to justify - especially since using the money for other infrastructure would have created jobs, just as building trains would have.”

NCI response:

There is no doubt that we need highway repair in many places. What we do not need is more miles of new highway, which is what hard-core rail haters like Kasich would use that money for. For once in American history, we have committed a [small] amount to rail. Let’s not completely blow this one, OK?

The Washington Post can do better. As someone trained at The Washington Post under the late, great Peter Milius, this writer knows that for a fact.


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GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Election Implications For Rail

From: Virginia Rail Observations And Commentary
By Richard L. Beadles
Volume II, No. 21 - November 8, 2010

It came as no surprise, but the Republican take-over of the House, plus the equally-significant wave of victories among state governors, does not bode well for some new rail infrastructure and service development projects. In the short run, it is likely to slow, or even stop, recent rail progress. Over the longer term, it means little. Why? Because there are so few other good options and alternatives to expanding rail capacity and service – both freight and passenger. Rail is destined to play a larger role in our future. The recent political changes will likely add time and cost to the inevitable.

The following will offend and possibly infuriate the Tea Party types, but we are already socialists; we have been, and increasingly so, since the 1930’s with the coming of FDR’s New Deal. The Tea Party folks couldn’t get out of their driveways in their SUV’s without our socialistic transportation system, and we don’t have the stomach to change that. Watch what happens to the recent 460 “privatization” proposal to construct and operate a new Route 460 east of Petersburg with toll charges up to $75 per tandem trailer.

They can rant and rave, and wear funny-looking hats, but the drift toward a more socialistic society reminds one of watching the Atlantic Ocean chew up and wash away the sand dunes along North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Some years the ocean takes out quite a bit of dune line; other years it restores some, but over the decades it just keeps moving the line of dunes inland. And so it is [regrettably] with our socialistic migration.

Should we do anything to amend the political process, as related to transportation policy and funding? By all means, the answer should be a resounding “Yes”. Missed opportunities are legend, but let us stick with Virginia rail. Public funds are sometimes disbursed, as though they were an entitlement, without getting good value in return. We regularly hand out grants of free cash to some of the most affluent private corporations operating in the state, sometimes with questionable public justification and less public accountability. And then there is the $45 million recently awarded (or promised) by the Feds to Virginia for planning and preliminary engineering on the Richmond-DC High(er) Speed Rail project. One can hardly imagine how we could spend so much money efficiently and productively without constructing a single thing. Part of this is due to overblown federal regulations, or at least the interpretations placed upon such regulations. The other part of the problem is at the State level, where the Virginia Dept. of Rail has spent millions over the past decade on consultants, studies and reports that now, it appears, are to be redone. Fortunately, Virginia is making progress, but the past decade of State rail advancement was not nearly as productive as it might have been.

There will likely be some positive results arising from the recent election. The history of public sponsorship, and funding, of rail development in Virginia goes back to 1830. The pendulum has swung several times. Our prediction is that come 2030, the bi-centennial of rail in Virginia, those of you who are still around will see more, rather than less, public support of rail in the Old Dominion. It simply has to happen!

[ Dick Beadles is the former CEO of the Richmond, Fredericksburg, & Potomac Railroad, and a founder of Virginians for High-Speed Rail ]


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