The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

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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December 7, 2010
Vol. 10 No. 51

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

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

  News Items…
New Orleans Is The Site As DOT’s Secretary LaHood Announces
   $280M For Transit
  Off The Main Line…
Historic Oklahoma Town Hosts Special Train To Help
   Celebrate The Holidays
  Political Lines…
Center For Public Integrity Takes Dim View Of Born-Again
   Rail Advocacy
  Selected Rail Stocks…
Urban Pathways To Liveable Communities (Feb 2010)
  Across The Pond…
Y-Corridor Financing Back On Track
  In Memory…
Bess L. Hawes; folklorist Co-wrote “Charlie On The MTA”
High-Speed Rail’s Brave New World: Who are the Players,
   and Who Are The Frauds?
  Publication Notes …

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

New Orleans Is The Site As DOT’s Secretary LaHood
Announces $280M For Transit

By DF Staff

NEW ORLEANS---The City where the Streetcar Named Desire once ran from Canal Street to the Bywater --- and may do so once again ---- was the site this past week when U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $280 million for urban circulator projects such as streetcars, buses, and bus facilities to support communities, expand business opportunities and improve people’s quality of life while also creating jobs.

An illustration, from the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, including a restored Desire Streetcar route, one of a number of urban livability projects seeking Federal funding.

The grants announced are a part of the Obama Administration’s “Livability Initiative,” an innovative program linking three major Federal departments --- the DOT, the EPA (Environmental Protection), and HUD (Housing and Urban Development) --- in a coordinated way in order to attack the issue of “livability,” defined in various ways but centering on the creation of a sustainable urban environment that fosters walking, biking, and transit, while reducing dependency on the private automobile.

The Obama Administration has from the outset approached transportation issues as a systems challenge, as opposed to a mode-based problem, the first time any American administration has taken that view, which by its very design presents a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to problem solving. “Connecting the silos” has become a mantra in the transportation (and other) advocacy communities because it is both more efficient, and a more cost-effective way, of providing policy solutions to national problems, such as transportation, which affect everyone.

“This represents a significant effort to promote livable communities, improve the quality of life for more Americans and create more transportation choices that serve the needs of individual communities,” Secretary LaHood said. “Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects will stimulate America’s neighborhoods to become safer, healthier and more vibrant.”

Secretary LaHood made the announcement at the historic Carrollton Car Barn streetcar facility with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin during a tour of the city’s Katrina recovery efforts.

“Not only will these urban circulator and bus projects provide Americans with new neighborhood-friendly transit systems, they will give us a cleaner environment and create much-needed jobs,” Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said.

A maximum amount of $25 million per project will be made available from approximately $130 million in unallocated discretionary New Starts/Small Starts Program funds. Eligible projects include streetcars and other urban circulator systems. Priority will be given to projects that connect destinations and foster the redevelopment of communities into walkable, mixed use, high-density environments.

A second pot of money totaling $150 million in unallocated discretionary Bus and Bus Facility funds will be available for projects that will foster the preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by providing new mobility options which provide access to jobs, healthcare, and education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) plans to announce grants early in 2010. Key lawmakers on Capitol Hill greeted the news with enthusiasm.

“This grant program will create jobs and reduce pollution while saving commuters in Connecticut and across the country time and money,” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), author of legislation to help towns and regions plan and implement development projects that integrate needs for transportation, housing, land use, and economic development. “I look forward to working with the Department of Transportation, along with HUD and EPA, as we work to make communities across the country more livable.”

“I applaud this important step in recognizing the environmental and economic development benefits of streetcars and other sustainable transit projects,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) said. “I have always embraced the vision to improve the sustainability of our communities through new transit and livability initiatives, and I look forward to working with the Administration to accomplish our shared goals.”

“Unlike the Bush Administration and its failed transit policies, this Administration clearly understands the need to fund low-cost, energy-efficient, made-in-America projects like streetcars,” Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee said. “These competitive grant programs will invest in good-paying jobs, livable communities, and a less-congested, more fuel-efficient future.”

“This investment in buses, streetcars and sustainable transit projects will reduce congestion and lay a strong foundation for jobs and economic growth in communities around the country,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, who included funding for the Administration’s livable communities initiative in the 2010 Senate bill. “I applaud the Obama Administration for making good on the promise to invest in infrastructure that strengthens both our economy and our environment. I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration on these sustainable, livable and job-creating investments.”

“This is exactly the kind of effort that I have been urging the Department to take. The Secretary’s call for transit investments in innovative streetcar, bus and transit systems will build more livable communities for families while helping to reduce our nation’s carbon footprint,” said Congressman John W. Olver (D-MA), Chairman of the House Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee.

“As a longtime champion of streetcars, it is rewarding to see this administration prioritize community livability and invest in our nation’s transportation systems,” Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said. “Making a down payment on streetcars, better bus access, and improved public transit means investing in our Nation’s economic success. The Obama Administration is following through on its commitment to be a better partner to local communities by laying the physical groundwork for good jobs and healthier, more secure communities.”

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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Historic Oklahoma Town Hosts Special Train
To Help Celebrate The Holidays

By David Peter Alan

Guthrie, Oklahoma, the state’s most historic town, always celebrates the holidays in style. This year, visitors will have an extra added attraction; a special train to take them to the celebration. Amtrak will extend the Heartland Flyer north of its regular terminal of Oklahoma City this coming weekend.

The train will run on its regular schedule between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City and then head north for an additional 31 miles, arriving in Guthrie at 10:55 pm this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, December 10th, 11th and 12th. Returning, the train will leave Guthrie on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:15 am and continue on its regular schedule to Fort Worth. The extended runs will provide travelers with a rare opportunity to visit Gurthrie, since the town is not served by any scheduled public transportation. It had daily rail service on Santa Fe’s Texas Chief and later on Amtrak’s Lone Star Limited, until the train was discontinued in 1979. Visitors from as far away as Chicago and San Antonio can visit Guthrie for this special occasion, since the Heartland Flyer connects with Amtrak’s Texas Eagle at Fort Worth.

The town celebrates its history during the holiday season with a locally-produced adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol entitled A Territorial Christmas. Historic homes and commercial buildings are decorated for the Christmas season, and the town celebration includes walking tours, concerts and other activities. According to Mary Coffin, President of the Chamber of Commerce, residents in period attire will be on hand to ride the special train and greet visitors when they arrive in Guthrie. Due to the train’s schedule, visitors will need to spend two nights in town, and the Chamber encourages them to stay at one of the town’s historic inns.

The special train service was planned by the Chamber, in cooperation with Oklahoma Rail, the state’s passenger rail advocacy organization. Matthew Dowty, Chair of the Board of Oklahoma Rail, said it was a shared collaboration, but “we were the genesis of getting them to re-open the issue after the success of a special run for the Guthrie Bluegrass Festival in 2005. We hope the Christmas specials this year will be successful, too. Our passenger surveys show that the train will stimulate travel that would not have taken place otherwise, so we expect to have some visitors who would not have come to Guthrie without the train.” The organization’s president, Roger Elliot Carter, praised the partnership with the Chamber and elected town leaders, whose combined efforts were able to convince Amtrak, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and BNSF Railway to do their parts. “The celebration is a lot of fun, and I hope the train brings some people without cars to Guthrie, so they can enjoy it” he said.

Oklahoma Rail, also known as the Oklahoma Passenger Rail Association, is not content to see Guthrie served by rail on only a special, one-shot basis. It has formed the Northern Flyer Alliance, whose goal is to extend the Heartland Flyer north to Newton, Kansas. It would connect there with the Southwest Chief, whose current schedule would allow connections in both directions between Chicago and Los Angeles. Dowty said that the partnership between town officials and rail advocates that resulted in the Christmas trains demonstrates community interest in rail service. He added that a passenger train north of Oklahoma City could run next week at a freight-train speed of 75 miles per hour.

The organization hopes to eventually see through-running equipment between Chicago and Fort Worth, so riders would not have to change trains in the middle of the night. They are also advocating for service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, service east of Tulsa on the historic Frisco Line, light rail in Oklahoma City and eventually a second train on the historic Santa Fe route, which operated until 1979. That train would run between Chicago and Kansas City on an overnight schedule and between Kansas City and Fort Worth on an all-day schedule.

Guthrie came into existence almost overnight on April 22, 1889, during the first great land run, when the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) was opened for settlement. The town had a population of 10,000 by the end of the day and later became the capital of the Oklahoma Territory and the first capital of the state. Many of the town’s historic buildings were constructed during this period, including the original capital, which is now the courthouse. The early history of Oklahoma is interpreted at the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, located in the former Carnegie Library, also built during that era.

Photo: Dwane Stevens

As suddenly as it became a town, Guthrie lost its status as state capital, when the state seal was moved secretly to Oklahoma Station (now Oklahoma City) in 1910. The removal of the state capital was controversial at the time, but not everyone in Guthrie believes that the loss was bad for the town in the long run. Many historic homes are still standing, and much of the historic downtown area is intact. A docent at the Frontier Drugstore museum told this writer: “They [Oklahoma City] may have the capital, but we still have our town.” Few historic buildings are still standing in downtown Oklahoma City.

People living along the Texas Eagle and Heartland Flyer routes will have a rare opportunity to visit Guthrie this weekend. If the members of Oklahoma Rail have their way, Guthrie will again have daily rail service someday. The organization succeeded in establishing the current service between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City in 1996, and is still fighting to extend that train to Newton. While the struggle continues, that extension could be a long time off.

Amtrak Heartland Flyer Northbound
Train 822 December 10, 11 & 12, 2009

5:25 p.m.Depart Fort Worth
6:42 p.m.Depart Gainesville
7:23 p.m.Depart Ardmore
8:12 p.m.Depart Pauls Valley
8:38 p.m.Depart Purcell
8:55 p.m.Depart Norman
9:39 p.m.Depart Oklahoma City
10:55 p.m.Arrive Guthrie, OK

Amtrak Heartland Flyer Southbound
Train 821 December 11, 12 & 13, 2009

7:15 a.m.Depart Guthrie
8:25 a.m.Depart Oklahoma City
8:49 a.m.Depart Norman
9:06 a.m.Depart Purcell
9:31 a.m.Depart Pauls Valley
10:23 a.m.Depart Ardmore
11:05 p.m.Depart Gainesville
12:39 p.m.Arrive Fort Worth

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

“Washington’s Newest Gravy Train: High-Speed Rail:”


Center For Public Integrity Takes Dim View
Of Born-Again Rail Advocacy

WASHINGTON --- An author writing for the Center for Public Integrity, a DC-based watchdog group, has taken a skeptical if not dim view of the emergence of new “high-speed rail” advocacy groups, some linked to private development interests, in the way of the announcement of Obama Administration “stimulus” funds for rail development.

This past week Matthew Lewis of The Center for Public Integrity, in a piece carried on “Truthout’s” website,, wrote:

The U.S. High Speed Rail Association’s October conference opened like any large Washington gathering. The congressmen were seated in the front row. A powerhouse Beltway law firm laid out prints of its lobbyists’ biographies on a display table. And as the upscale J.W. Marriott meeting room went dark, a short film offered romantic visions of bullet trains in America’s future.

As far back as 1965, planners, transportation experts, visionaries, and American train buffs – President Lyndon Johnson among them – have coveted the sort of sleek high-speed trains that crisscross much of Europe and Asia at speeds of more than 180 miles per hour. But after millions and millions of dollars spent studying, planning, and mostly falling short, the American incarnation of high-speed passenger rail is but a single line that travels from Washington to Boston at an average speed of under 80 miles per hour.

Now, though, the Obama administration is looking to change all that, starting with $8 billion in federal stimulus money to be awarded starting this winter. Equally captivated, Congress is considering adding as much as $4 billion more in next year’s budget. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, is talking $50 billion after that.

That helps explain the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, which didn’t even exist a year ago. Actually, the group was just formed in June, and the timing is no accident. High-speed rail is Washington’s latest potential bonanza, it seems, and that $8 billion dollars – just for starters – is attracting lots of attention. In fact, an examination by The Center for Public Integrity found that more than 50 public and private groups explicitly lobbied on high-speed rail policy last quarter – a three-fold increase from a year ago. Even that number fails to capture dozens of other actors likely lobbying on high-speed rail that keep their specific lobbying targets as vague as Washington does its spending plans.

A Long Time Coming

Advocates hope that high-speed rail’s future is brighter than its past. “We have set our rail systems up to fail,” says transportation consultant and lobbyist Tom Skancke. “It’s never been a priority.” Skancke served on a congressionally-chartered commission that in 2008 recommended spending $8 billion per year on intercity passenger rail as part of an overhauled federal transportation policy.

The $8 billion did indeed emerge from final negotiations over February’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – a total that shocked the acting federal railroad administrator, among others. And in the nine months since, leaders on both sides of the aisle have boarded the spending train. The Senate passed $1.2 billion more for high speed rail in the fiscal year 2010 budget, topping the $1 billion called for by the President. Meanwhile, the House blew past both numbers with a proposal for $4 billion. The final figure awaits budget negotiations between the two chambers, but the broad support has been cause for great excitement. Rail backers are also jockeying for advantage in the ongoing debate over a new six-year bill guiding U.S. transportation policy that may ultimately be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

“Everybody stands to benefit,” the President argued at an April press conference after running through the list of reasons high-speed rail has gained traction. Large airports are operating at capacity. Highway congestion is costing tens of billions per year. Trains promote energy independence and run cleaner. And, of course, there’s the primary focus of legislators during a recession – the potential for long-term job creation and economic development.

“I submit,” former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said at the rail conference, “that this is our moment. This is our time.” The Clinton-era Cabinet member is now a partner at Washington’s most prolific lobbying firm, Patton Boggs. Already representing six of the nation’s 15 largest cities and more than 40 transport-interested clients in all, Patton Boggs listed lobbying on high-speed rail for six of them in the third quarter of 2009, including the cities of San Jose, California, and Mesa, Arizona.

Looking for a Blueprint

Now the fun begins. At least 34 states submitted proposals valued at $57 billion chasing that initial $8 billion, and rail fans and skeptics alike are anxious to see who gets the money and how – and why – the decisions are made. Washington has designated 10 logical high-speed rail corridors since 1991, in addition to Amtrak’s northeast corridor, based on projected ridership, public benefit, and anticipated partnerships, but it is unclear which of those areas might win funds.

With interest throughout the country, Representative John Mica of Florida, the top Republican on the House Transportation Committee, argued at a recent hearing that “We have to focus on areas where there is the greatest demand for high-speed rail, like the Northeast corridor.” Sounds responsible enough. The Acela, which travels from Washington to Boston at speeds up to 150 miles per hour on select segments, is already Amtrak’s most successful line, and could no doubt make progress with a new funding stream.

But there are lots of other ideas from lots of other proposed rail corridors that want money too, and many of them have powerful patrons. It will – technically – be up to the Federal Railroad Administration to decide who gets all the stimulus cash between this winter and October 2012. But there won’t be any shortage of pressure on an agency that already has to “overcome staffing shortfalls and insufficient expertise” according to a Department of Transportation inspector general’s report this past spring. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, for instance, wants a high-speed rail link between Las Vegas and Southern California. The administration just designated that line in July as an extension of one of those 10 corridors. The chairwoman of the Senate’s transportation appropriations subcommittee, Democrat Patty Murray, endorsed the $1.3 billion in applications submitted by her state of Washington, and Senate Public Works chairwoman Barbara Boxer’s state of California is seeking$4.7 billion of its own. Even House Republican whip Eric Cantor of Virginia celebrated the program’s potential for funding a D.C. to Richmond line.

And therein lies a potential problem. Rail experts worry that the money might be spread around too thinly, a bit here and a bit there to please various power politicians and constituencies and keep the spigot flowing. Trouble is, $8 billion or even $12 billion is a drop in the bucket to fund the type of national network the President is calling for. Just the nation’s 11 currently designated high-speed corridors, including the Northeast, would cost at least around $100 billion to complete according to experts; the American Public Transportation Association’s rail chair, Rod Diridon, says in the end that is “undoubtedly a low estimate.” And additional funds would no doubt be susceptible to the congressional gauntlet of special interests and earmarking.

“That’s the subject that worries me the most,”  says Martin Wachs, a transport policy expert with the RAND Corporation. Wachs explains the myriad criteria that should be considered in deciding on high-speed rail funding – like whether cities and states will provide matching money and whether stations would be placed in locations that maximize ridership and revenue potential. Most transportation professionals get this, he argues.

“But that wouldn’t stop [a legislator] from writing an earmark and bringing a project to a particular corridor in which he or she has friends or owns land or wants to get votes,” Wachs says. Especially if an army of new lobbyists are pushing this proposal or that.

It makes the railroad administration’s ongoing task of crafting a national rail plan ­ into which funded high-speed rail lines logically fit – monumentally important. Without a rational long-term plan with a minimum of political interference, experts say the entire venture is doomed to fail. The agency declined to comment on its ongoing work, which was mandated by the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, but it did release a preliminary version of the plan last month. It hit many of the right notes, transportation experts say, but the report admits it “does not generally offer specific recommendations.” An actual plan will coordinate individual states’ rail plans sometime next year, after the stimulus money has already begun to flow.

“Handing out pieces doesn’t create a national system,” says transportation consultant Skancke.

There’s also tension over what the cash awards will actually be for – some want money to make incremental upgrades in existing rail lines while others argue that America needs to think big – with brand new dedicated lines that can deliver 200-plus mile per hour speeds.

A Troubling Past

The history of funding for high-speed rail provides plenty of cause for concern. Georgia received a $2 million earmark to study a southeast corridor in the last transportation bill, for instance; that bill authorized a total of $100 million for high-speed corridors through 2013. Most of that money was appropriated to eliminate rail grade crossings. Bigger numbers like the $800 million for a National High-Speed Ground Transportation program in the 1991 federal transport bill were authorized by Congress but never actually appropriated. States and private investors have spent their own dollars as well, with Florida and Texas projects coming the closest to fruition. Neither project proceeded past the study phase, however. Florida’s project secured a few hundred million dollars in state and private financing before the state, responding to concerns over budget and ridership forecasts, ultimately balked and eliminated funding in 1999. The Texas project met opposition from Southwest Airlines in the early 1990s and ultimately suffered cost overruns in the planning stage. The project stalled in 1994 and was abolished by the state government the following year.

“Whatever money was available wound up going into these feasibility studies or analyses of routes,” says Tim Gillespie, a rail consultant and former congressional aide who lobbies on behalf of French companies Alstom and Veolia.

One federal program awarded $104 million to a variety of sponsors to study magnetic levitation technology for high speed rail over the last decade. Pittsburgh and Atlanta received $28 million and $14 million respectively in September as part of that initiative to continue studying the levitation technology for regional projects. The Transportation Department had big plans for the Pittsburgh initiative a few years back, but Congress lost interest.

“Nothing ever gets off the ground,” laments transportation researcher Yonah Freemark of the program. A sobering Government Accountability Office report this past spring has served as the conscience of the debate. It identified more than $1 billion already spent by governments at various levels on just 11 high speed rail proposals currently in the environmental review phase. Some of that money went to upgrade rail crossings or improve track along existing lines. But none of it resulted in any high-speed rail. Project sponsors must be prepared to sustain political and public support “over several electoral cycles,” the report cautioned. Advocates know they need to achieve something substantive ­ like a real, working high speed rail line ­ built before political will fades.

Skancke called Congress’ decision to commit billions more in next year’s budget “courageous,” but warns that even the planning can take decades. “So by 2030 we should see the first studies done,” he argues. “That’s not a vision.”

“We need to deliver, not study.”

The Lobby Bulks Up

But for K Street, it’s “all aboard.” General Electric turned heads this summer by hiring Linda Hall Daschle, previously the Federal Aviation Administration’s Deputy Administrator – and wife of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle – to lobby on rail. Signing up such an influential Washington player – just last month the Daschles hosted a fundraiser for House Transportation chairman James Oberstar’s political action committee – suggested one of the world’s largest companies sees real opportunities. Last week the firm announced an agreement with China that would allow GE to pursue American projects using Chinese rail technology.

“There will be a lot of consultants all over this stuff,” says consultant Gillespie, who got his rail start while working for Republican Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania and then Amtrak. “There already are.”

The 50-plus groups that filed last quarter as explicitly lobbying on high-speed rail include labor unions such as the AFL-CIO and big freight railroads such as BNSF Railway, as well as supply companies, transit agencies, 15 cities and counties, and even the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Law and lobby firms Patton Boggs and Ball Janik represent many of the local governments, while others, such as Kelley, Drye & Warren lobby, for specific rail-interested niche groups such as the steel industry.

French conglomerate Alstom, which provided the design and some equipment for the Amtrak Acela project, hired a new in-house lobbyist this year to augment Gillespie’s work. The company has already spent $1.6 million in lobbying fees this year. Before 2009 its expenses never topped $1 million. Other foreign firms such as Siemens and Canada’s Bombardier also maintain their own lobbying teams. Bombardier led the consortium that won the Acela project over Siemens, and along with Alstom, was a sponsor of the failed Florida and Texas attempts.

“Established foreign competitors with their huge marketing budgets are beginning to position themselves,” noted upstart US Railcar’s chief executive, Michael Pracht, at a recent hearing. US Railcar, which would like to manufacture rail cars in Ohio to compete with foreign outfits such as Spain’s Talgo, just inked its own lobbyist: former deputy FRA administrator and Senate Commerce staffer Donald Itzkoff of Nossaman LLP.

Similar examples abound on the design side. Los Angeles-based AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering firm, already boasts former Transportation Secretary James Burnley on its lobbying payroll. In August the firm also signed up Greenberg Traurig’s Alan Slomowitz, a former staffer on the House Transportation committee. Earlier in the summer Georgia’s American Maglev Technology, which has a major branch in Florida, signed a former congressional aide to Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat and chairwoman of the House railroad subcommittee.

A New Lobbying Power

Some of the established transportation interests are highly skeptical of the new organizations trying to bring disparate interests together – such as the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. Rod Diridon, the former head of the American Public Transportation Association who now leads the group’s high speed rail committee, refers to these new players as “vultures.” “They’ve definitely stirred things up,” says one lobbyist of the new association, which just last week announced the hiring of its new president, Eric Peterson, a former deputy administrator at the Transportation Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Its chairman, Lewis Goetz, understands the sentiment. “They have a right to be skeptical,” says Goetz, who is personally bankrolling the new high-speed rail association and operating it out of his Georgetown-based design firm Group Goetz Architects. “I would be.”

Many of Goetz’s development clients would certainly be interested in the 17,000-mile national network the association mapped out for 2030 – a proposal that’s widely considered unrealistic in that timeframe. Nevertheless, Goetz is pressing ahead. The association hopes to enlist as members firms in the real estate development, finance, renewable energy, engineering, and of course train manufacturing sectors.

“I think they’re looking to cash in just as others are,” says association advisory board member Dr. Anthony Perl, a leading expert who heads a National Research Council panel on intercity passenger rail. “But my view is, if the groups that were there forever were committed to do this, why didn’t it happen?”

NCI recommends our readers take a look at Truthout ( for independent, skeptical, thoughtful journalism of a kind increasingly missing from mainstream newspapers, where downsizing and mergers have eviscerated traditional enterprise journalism. “Whether the Web will provide a valid replacement remains to be seen,” stated NCI President Jim RePass, a journalist trained at The Washington Post and The St. Petersburg Times, “but Truthout represents a good start”

Here is how the website describes Truthout’s Mission

Truthout works to broaden and diversify the political discussion by introducing independent voices and focusing on under-covered issues and unconventional thinking. Harnessing the ever-expanding power of the Internet, we work to spread reliable information, peaceful thought and progressive ideas throughout the world. We are devoted to the principles of equality, democracy, human rights, accountability and social justice. We believe ardently in the power of free speech, and understand that democratic journalism can make the world a better place for all of us.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)98.6698.26
Canadian National (CNI)54.1552.51
Canadian Pacific (CP)50.8548.85
CSX (CSX)50.1347.53
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)33.4031.01
Kansas City Southern (KSU)29.5628.36
Norfolk Southern (NSC)52.8451.19
Providence & Worcester (PWX)10.7510.85
Union Pacific (UNP)65.2263.19

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EVENTS... Events...

Urban Pathways To
Liveable Communities

Building Partnerships For
Healthy Neighborhoods

Feb. 25 & 26, 2010
New Orleans, LA

Click Here For
More Information

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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


Y-Corridor Financing Back On Track

Germany Releases €  20 Million For Planning / Design
Of Hamburg – Bremem – Hannover Corridor

Vi a Haz

Hamburg – In a reversal of an earlier decision (reported in D:F Vol. 10 No. 49) the German federal government will release €  20 million to begin detailed planning and design of the so-called Y corridor between Hamburg, Bremen and Hannover. The cities are located roughly at the end points of a Y-shaped pattern. Peter Ramsauer, German secretary of transportation, made the announcement on the 4th of December in Hamburg, thus officially changing the earlier block placed on the project by Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's secretary of finance and treasury.

Diesel Multiple-Unit (VT 628 series) train-set from Soltau approaches Munster

Photo: Tobias-Maverick Neumann

A Diesel Multiple-Unit (VT 628 series) train-set from Soltau approaches Munster in the middle of the Lünenburger Heide in October 2009. Some residents of the region are opposed the potential increase in noise and other disruption the construction a new high speed rail network could bring to the region. Other residents are concerned about the possible loss of local passengers train services such as this, if the existing regional rail lines become super highways for freight trains and ICE high speed trains.

With release of the funds planning work can begin on determining exact routing and layout of Y-corridor, which will include both all-new stretches of rail corridor along with expansion of currently existing rail lines. The three northern German cities are already connected with existing rail corridors but two of the routes are now at full capacity: the mostly two-track (with some limited three- and four-track sections) Hannover – Celle – Hamburg line as well as the mostly four-track Hamburg – Bremen are nearly maxed out. The third existing leg, the Hannover – Wunstorf – Bremen two-track line is also approaching full capacity. A mostly single-track secondary rail network between Hannover (Langenhagen), Walsrode, Soltau, Buchholz (Hamburg) and Verden (Bremen) maybe used to build much of the new Y-corridor., but strong local opposition to creating a heavily utilized high-speed rail network in the heart of a huge rural region containing countless thousands of acres of farmland, horse pastures, dozens of centuries-old small villages and numerous forests known as the Lüneburger Heide (Luneburg Heath) may influence greatly the end design.

The Y-corridor rail lines will handle growing containerized rail freight traffic anticipated in the sea ports of Hamburg, Bremen (Bremerhaven) and Wilhelmshavem as well as expected increases in passenger rail traffic in the region. Plans call for the Y-corridor to be operational by 2019.

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IN MEMORY... In Memory...  

“And the Train Goes Rumbling Through...”


Bess L. Hawes; Folklorist
Co-Wrote “Charlie On The MTA”

By DF Staff, MBTA Press Release And
and Michael J. Bailey, Boston Globe

Few people rinding the rails these days would know the name Bess Hawes, but if you lived in Boston you would know the all-but immortal words that she penned those many years ago.

Bess Lomax Hawes lived at one time in Cambridge, Massachusetts (next to Boston) but left that address some 60 years ago. She left behind the story of a harried soul named Charlie forever rattling through the subterranean subway tunnels of Boston.

Bess Lomax Hawes
Ms. Hawes, was the co-writer of the political ditty-turned whimsical hit “Charlie on the MTA,’’ She died last week of natural causes in Portland, Ore. She was 88.

Bess was a homemaker in Cambridge in the 1940s when she began singing with local folk groups and writing songs. She was born into a family of folk music and she would make the songs and their history her life’s work. Her father, John Lomax, started the folk song archives at the Library of Congress and her brother Alan, was an anthropologist who traveled from the Mississippi Delta to the alleys of Europe in an effort to document the role of music in changing cultures and to preserve the songs. His recordings of sharecroppers, prisoners, and cowboys helped form the backbone of traditional American music.

Back then, one of the hottest issues for the working people of Boston was the complicated fare system of the subway: It took nine pages to explain it. To avoid updating turnstiles, officials would implement increases by tacking on an additional fare that passengers had to pay when leaving a train. In the late 1940s, another fare increase, from 10 to 15 cents, was a prime target for protesters and politicians.

In 1948, Ms. Hawes and her friend Jacqueline Steiner created the saga of poor Charlie, who “on a tragic and fateful day’’ left home with 10 cents for his train fare, only to be condemned to ride the trains forever when he could not come up with the nickel exit fare in Jamaica Plain.

As the song’s refrain goes: Well, did he ever return, no he never returned. And his fate is still unlearned (what a pity). He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston. He’s the man who never returned.

The fare increase became a major campaign issue in the mayoral race in the City of Boston in 1949, and the two writers included a plug at the end of the song for their favorite candidate from the Progressive Party: “Fight the fare increase, vote for Walter O’Brien, get poor Charlie off the MTA’’ (The system was then called the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the precursor to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.)

The song was recorded by a group of folk singers that included Ms. Hawes, her husband, Baldwin “Butch’’ Hawes, and Steiner. O’Brien’s bandwagon would blare “MTA’’ along with other political tunes through the streets of Boston.

“Those were the days when candidates rode around in cars with loudspeakers, and you played music to attract voters,’’ Ms. Hawes told the Globe in 1993.

The appeals failed; O’Brien finished last in a race won by John Hynes. But “The MTA’’ helped protesters collect about 100,000 signatures to reverse the fare increase.

The song was recorded by the Kingston Trio about a decade later and became a worldwide hit thanks to radio and television. Sympathizers from as far away as Germany sent nickels to the Transit Authority to secure the release of “Charlie.’’

More recently the popular rock band, the Dropkick Murphy’s did a punk remake of the song called “Skinhead on the MBTA.’’

When the subway token was replaced by an electronic payment card, officials proclaimed it the “Charlie Card” in homage. Charlie can still be seen hanging out a trolley car window on the passing train. Of course, today he smiles.

Those living in Boston who commute to work are sometimes referred to as “Charlies” and a sometimes-heard phrase by commuters is that “they Charlie-it to work.”

Clearly, Bess Hawes would never have expected that her simple tune would also have an impact on the colloquialisms of Greater Boston.

Originally born in Austin, Texas, Bess (nee Lomax) was home-schooled by her mother, who also taught her to play piano. After her mother died, the family moved to Washington, D.C., and she assisted with her father’s musical research.

She later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bryn Mawr College in 1941 and worked during World War II as a radio programmer for the Office of War Information. After bumping into Pete Seeger in New York City, she became one of a rotating crew of vocalists in the Almanac Singers.

The MBTA “Charlie Card“

After her marriage to Baldwin Hawes in 1943, the couple moved to Cambridge and lived there until 1952, and from there they moved to California. They settled into what was then a bohemian community in Topanga Canyon.

One on the west coast she joined the faculty at California State University at Northridge, eventually becoming head of the anthropology department. She also made several documentary films exploring American music and folklore, including “Pizza Pizza Daddy-O,’’ showing schoolgirls singing and clapping on a Los Angeles playground in 1967.

With Bessie Jones she made another film, “George Sea Island Singers,’’ and she and Jones wrote “Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage’’ (1972).

“To me, it’s another way of getting to the human mystery, why people behave the way they do,’’ Ms. Hawes said in a 2000 Los Angeles Times interview in explaining the value of studying folklore.

In 1977, she joined the National Endowment of the Arts, directing the agency’s folk and traditional arts program. She retired in 1992 and the next year was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.

Ms. Hawes also leaves six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1971.

A private family service was planned with public services expected later.

- Material from the Los Angeles Times was included in this story.

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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

High-Speed Rail’s Brave New World:
Who are the Players, and Who Are The Frauds?

This week’s D:F contains a lengthy piece carried on Truthout, an investigative journalism blog, written by the Center for Public Integrity, which raises a series of questions about the sudden outburst in corporate support for high-speed rail, and the new “advocacy” organizations springing up to take advantage both of that interest, and of the $8 billion in initial funding for high-speed/intercity rail announced by President Obama in April.

The point is well-taken, in our view.

It is not the first time in American history that quick-buck artists have sought to elbow to the Federal trough, once it is being filled for a particular purpose.

While there is no doubt that Federal programs have often spurred the development of new technologies --- the space program of the 1950’s and 1960’s, with its emphasis on miniaturization, was a driving force in the invention of ever-smaller, faster, and lighter computing technology --- Federal programs have also spawned great waste.

And some have done both.

The most famous of these double-pronged programs is of course the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, which was simultaneously an infrastructure program absolutely essential to America’s growth, and also one of the biggest public frauds of all time.

Just as today, the commercial interests of the 1860’s recognized a rich Federal program --- the Transcontinental Railroad and its related Land Grant Program, in this case --- when they saw one, and proceeded to set up a system of self-dealing on construction of the Union Pacific Railroad via “Crédit Mobilier of America,” a construction company whose officers were virtually identical to those of Union Pacific Railroad, and whose vastly inflated invoices were paid by the railroad and then turned over to the Government for re-imbursement.

This fraud enriched the builders of the railroad while cheating the taxpayer. Will today’s commercial interests conduct themselves in the same manner? It would be nice to think that our society’s business practices have developed beyond the outright theft represented by the Crédit Mobilier scandal at the heart of the funding of the Transcontinental Railroad completed 140 years ago this past May, until we think back a few months to the sub-prime mortgage scandal inflicted by the securities and banking industries, which makes the Crédit Mobilier affair look like kindergarten.

So what is to be done? We clearly cannot rely on the good offices and high ethics of the commercial interests to regulate themselves – if the stakes are rich enough, people will do anything, even the graduates of the “best” schools, shame on them --- but we also don’t need to stifle America’s high-speed rail program in its cradle.

This is one of those challenges that we face every now and again, and it comes down to this: as Pogo once said, “We have met the Enemy, and He is Us”. In other words, it is up to each of us not just to scrutinize every proposal we read about, but to be involved with Congress and the Administration in making sure they do so. This takes work, of the kind NCI has been doing for 21 years now, and it has been expensive. We hold conferences and those conferences have some corporate sponsorship, but the vast bulk of our expenses come from our own resources, and that has been a very expensive sacrifice for all of us at NCI.

If you want to make sure high-speed Rail comes to America, you can do three things: do your homework, stay in touch with your Congressman/Senator, and support the National Corridors Initiative ( We have been fighting this fight for 21 years, independent of any corporation or anyone’s pet technology --- we don’t care what technology is used so long as it works --- and one thing we’ve never done is blur the line between the truth, and private interests. We invite you to join with us in that.

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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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