Vol. 8 No. 49
December 10, 2007

Copyright © 2007
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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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…
DC’s Bipartisan Policy Center Launches
   National Transportation Policy Project
Passenger Rail Working Group Recommends Ground-Up
   Rebuilding of America’s Intercity Transportation System
  Commuter Lines…
Charlie Turns One
NYC Subway System Undergoes Management Overhaul
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
Association of American Railroads: “Don’t Forget
   Freight Railroad Capacity”
Don Phillips Speech at the Railway Age Conference
National Corridors Initiative Statement On Passenger Rail
   Working Group Study
  End Notes…


Jan 2008 Conference Poster
Carmichael Conference On
The Future of American Transportation

January 28-29, 2008
St. Louis Hyatt Regency Hotel
St. Louis, Mo.

Click Here For Details And To Register


Douglas Alexander, President, InTrans Inc.
Frank Busalacchi, Chair, States for Passenger Rail and Secty WI DOT (invited)
Gilbert E. Carmichael, Former Administrator, Federal Railroad Administration
Congressman James Costa (D-CA) (invited)
James Coston, Chairman, Corridor Capital LLC
Michael S. Dukakis, Presidential Nominee, Democratic Party
David Gunn, President, Amtrak, 2002-2005 (invited)
Edward Hamberger, President, American Association of Railroads
Rick Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest High Speed Rail Association
John Holtzclaw, Chair, National Transportation Committee, Sierra Club
John Horsely, Executive Director, AASHTO
United States Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) (invited)
Todd Alexander Litman, Executive Director, Victoria Transportation Policy Institute
United States Congressman Jim Oberstar (invited)
Peter Rahn, President, AASHTO
James P. RePass, President, the National Corridors Initiative
Peter Ruane, President, American Road and Transportation Builders Association
Eugene K. Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Power Authority
Paul Weyrich, Chairman, Free Congress Foundation (invited)


Conference fees (until January 1):

Advocates, Non-Profits $199
Unions: $299
Corporate: $499

Major Co-Sponsors and supporters of The Carmichael Conference On The Future of American Transportation Are, Thus Far:
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
American Public Transportation Association
Association of American Railroads
Bombardier Transit
InTrans Incorporated: A New Direction in Transportation Advocacy
Midwest High Speed Rail Association
The National Association of Railroad Passengers
The National Corridors Initiative
National Association of Railroad Passengers
The Sierra Club (invited)
The Surdna Foundation
Train/Riders NorthEast
Victoria Transportation Policy Institute

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News items...

Founded by Former Senate Majority Leaders


DC’s Bipartisan Policy Center Launches
National Transportation Policy Project

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- Former Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D), Former Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) and former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) will lead the National Transportation Policy Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center, BPC founders and former Senate Majority leaders Baker, Daschle, Dole and Mitchell have announced

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a policy-driven organization founded by the four former Senate leaders named above to address the need for Congressional leaders and Senators on both sides of the aisle to work together on policies that affect the major issues confronting Americans today. Their projects include energy, healthcare, transportation, national security, and agriculture.

In late November of this year, the BPC announced the creation of the transportation project. “The National Transportation Policy Project will focus on creating a new, pragmatic vision for U.S. transportation policy. The Project will include a diverse array of leaders from industry, academia, labor, and non-profit organizations,” said the BPC in their announcement.

The Project’s goal is to identify appropriate priorities for national infrastructure funding and work to develop politically viable policies that surmount partisan and regional conflicts. Project conclusions will be released in early 2009 in advance of reauthorization of the surface transportation act.

“Transportation policy and investment are intimately related to national economic growth.” stated Warner “Maintaining domestic competitiveness will require dramatic modernization including a greater integration of our transportation and communications systems.”

Gorton explained, “This project will be an opportunity to examine the question of whether we are developing the infrastructure necessary to support our desired diversification away from complete reliance upon petroleum based fuels.”

Fmr. Sen Baker, Daschle, Dole and Mitchell “The project, which will focus on the links between transportation, economic competitiveness, and energy security, will provide clear direction to transportation policy. The project’s recommendations will, we believe, be of significant value to the incoming Congress and administration.” Boehlert said.

This effort is a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). The BPC is led by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell. Its broad goal is to improve the civility and substance of our political discourse by pursuing projects that are aggressively bipartisan and designed to have a real impact on a national policy debate. Toward this end, the BPC is currently conducting projects on national security, health care, and energy policy in addition to this new transportation initiative. For further information on the transportation or other projects please visit our website: www.bipartisanpolicy.org.

Former Leaders Baker, Daschle, Dole and Mitchell formed the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to develop and promote solutions that can attract the public support and political momentum to achieve real progress.

“Too often partisanship poisons our national dialogue. Unfortunately, respectful discourse across party lines has become the exception - not the norm. The BPC will act as an incubator for policy efforts that engage top political figures, advocates, academics and business leaders in the art of principled compromise. In addition to advancing specific proposals, the BPC also intends to broadcast a different type of policy discourse that seeks to unite the constructive center in the pursuit of common goals,” stated BPC.

The following is a current list of Project Members:

Alan Altshuler; Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design, former Secretary of Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation
Christopher Lofgren, Ph.D.; President and CEO, Schneider National Inc.
Josephine Cooper; Senior Vice President, Toyota Motors
David Goode; Former CEO of Norfolk Southern Corp
Douglas Foy; Principal of Serrafix, former Secretary of Commonwealth Development of Massachusetts and former President of the Conservation Law Foundation
Douglas Holtz-Eakin; Former Director of the Congressional Budget Office
Herb Kelleher; Chairman of the Board and former CEO of Southwest Airlines
Jack Basso; Former Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs, United States Department Of Transportation;
      presently with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)
Jane Garvey; Former Administrator of Federal Aviation Administration, APCO Worldwide
John Bryson; Chairman, President and CEO of Edison International
Dr. John Wall; Vice President - Chief Technical Officer, Cummins Engine
Lillian Borrone; Board Chair of Eno Foundation, former senior executive of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ)
Martin Wachs; RAND Corporation, former Professor at University of California Berkeley
Mike Erlandson; Vice President Government Affairs, SUPERVALU
Peter McNulty; P.E, TRC, an engineering, consulting, and construction management firm
Ralph Peterson; CEO of CH2M Hill
Sean McGarvey; Secretary-Treasurer, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Sigmund (Sig) Cornelius; Senior Vice President, Planning, Strategy & Corporate Affairs, ConocoPhillips
Tom Downs; President of Eno Foundation, former CEO of Amtrak, former Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Transportation
William Lhota; President and CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), former senior executive at American Electric Power

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Recommendation to Joint Presidential-Congressional Surface Transportation Commission


Passenger Rail Working Group Recommends Ground-Up
Rebuilding of America’s Intercity Transportation System

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- In a move hailed as visionary by American rail advocates, the Passenger Rail Working Group of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, assigned to make recommendations on intercity rail, has put forward the broadest and most comprehensive program of transportation infrastructure investment in America since the Transcontinental Railroad was first proposed by President Abraham Lincoln almost 150 years ago.

The report, made public at Union Station in Washington, DC, calls for investing $357.2 billion in the U.S. intercity rail network through the year 2050.

The Passenger Rail Working Group’s report, chaired by Wisconsin DOT Secretary Frank Busalacchi, is called “Vision for the future: U.S. Intercity Passenger Rail Network Through 2050,” and would enhance America’s “…existing intercity passenger rail system, and builds upon the network substantially to create a national system connecting cities and towns that have not had passenger rail service for decades.”

The Vision Plan also recognizes the importance of the freight railroad network to the nation’s economy, and it respects the capacity growth needed for the freight lines. The passenger Vision Plan defines several levels of investment in passenger service, some compatible with freight operations, and some requiring expanded, parallel or separate tracks and facilities, the Working Group stated in a release

The plan will be submitted to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, a bipartisan organization formed last year with 12 members appointed by the president and Congressional leaders. Its mandate is to examine national surface transportation needs and mechanisms for funding these needs.

“I formed the Passenger Rail Working Group to advise the commission in response to a wide range of public testimony calling for a strong national intercity passenger rail system,” said Frank Busalacchi, a member of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission and Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “Highway congestion is only getting worse. Airline congestion and delays are continuing to mount. Gasoline prices are continuing to rise over $3 per gallon. We need to develop and expand our passenger rail system, not only to provide needed mobility for our nation’s travelers, but also to help the nation’s environmental efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.”

The Working Group also said in its statement: “The vision for passenger rail through 2050 maintains the entire existing national passenger rail system, and builds on it in major ways. Future proposed routes are contained in a map within the plan. The Vision Plan is based upon existing travel markets, but is designed as a dynamic document that can be added to or revised according to the travel markets as they develop in the future. The passenger rail network in 2050 includes new services where the population is expected to grow significantly. Some of this service links smaller cities: like Fort Wayne with Chicago; Kansas City with Omaha; Nashville with Atlanta, Knoxville with Chattanooga.”

“The 2050 vision includes upgrading existing service — offering higher speeds and greater frequencies — in many rapidly growing corridors. Examples include the California Coast, Pacific Northwest, Midwest Regional, Gulf Coast, Southeast, South Central, and Florida corridors. The existing Northeast Corridor would strengthen linkages with the Keystone, Empire, and Northern New England Corridors,” it said.

“The plan builds upon the existing national rail passenger network by adding more frequent service, includes development of the federally designated high-speed rail corridors and makes future service extensions designed to connect population centers. The plan also quantifies potential safety, energy, environmental, congestion and mobility benefits. Many of the investments in the improved passenger rail network also will benefit the freight rail network,” it said.

The funding needs associated with the plan are estimated to be $357.2 billion, or $8.1 billion (in 2007 dollars) annually, through 2050. The report recommends that a new “Intercity Passenger Rail Program” be included in the next federal transportation authorization bill to address these needs, with 80 percent of the funding coming from the federal government, and 20 percent from the states.

The Passenger Rail Working Group, formed by Secretary Busalacchi to advise the Commission, is comprised of intercity passenger rail experts and transportation professionals from throughout the country and includes representatives from states, Amtrak, public interest groups and regional rail transportation authorities.

Congress created The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission in 2005 under Section 1909 of the latest version of “ISTEA”, or Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act” of 1991. The present act is the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).”  The Commission was created because, in Congressional language, “it is in the national interest to preserve and enhance the surface transportation system to meet the needs of the United States for the 21st century.”

The Commission is comprised of 12 members, representing:  Federal, state and local governments; metropolitan planning organizations; transportation-related industries; and public interest organizations.  The Commission is working to examine not only the condition and future needs of the nation's surface transportation system, but also short and long-term alternatives to replace or supplement the fuel tax as the principal revenue source to support the Highway Trust Fund over the next 30 years.

The Commission’s members are: Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Chairperson; Frank Busalacchi, Wisconsin Secretary of Transportation; Maria Cino, Former Deputy Secretary of Transportation; Rick Geddes, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cornell University Department. of Policy Analysis and Management; Steve Heminger, Executive Director, Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Frank McArdle, Senior Advisor, General Contractors Association of New York; Steve Odland, Chairman and CEO, Office Depot; Patrick Quinn, Co-Chairman, U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc.; Matt Rose CEO, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad; Jack Schenendorf , Of Counsel, Covington & Burling-Vice Chair; Tom Skancke, CEO, The Skancke Company; and Paul Weyrich, Chairman and CEO, Free Congress Foundation.

Executive Summary, Passenger Rail Working Group Report:

Vision for the Future
U.S. Intercity Passenger Rail Network Through 2050

December 6, 2007


The 109th Congress created the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission to provide a national surface transportation vision, including policy and funding recommendations that will preserve and enhance the surface transportation system of the United States for the next 50 years. In working toward its goal, the Commission considered all modes of surface transportation, including intercity passenger rail.

The Commissioners found that little data was available for intercity passenger rail compared with other modes. To provide the Commissioners with this information and with recommendations for implementing a national intercity passenger rail system, Commissioner Frank Busalacchi established the Passenger Rail Working Group (PRWG). The PRWG is comprised of intercity passenger rail experts and transportation professionals.


Vision of future US Major Rail Map

Basis for Map - RPA 2050

The PRWG considered the historical role of intercity passenger rail in the United States, looked at today’s passenger rail network, examined the costs and benefits of an expanded system, and developed a cost-estimate for its vision. In addition, the PRWG made federal funding recommendations and suggested a governance structure for program development.

The PRWG used an overlay approach to develop its vision map, consisting of:

  1. a base layer of current intercity passenger rail routes;
  2. a second layer of federally designated rail corridors;
  3. a third layer of corridors in planning or development stages; and
  4. a final layer of potential future routes.

The PRWG used its vision map to estimate the investment level needed to implement its vision of expanded intercity passenger rail in the United States. The map is illustrative and does not necessarily constitute the exact routes to be included in the passenger rail network by 2050. The PRWG included some of the potential future routes because they are currently under consideration; they added others because they link major urban areas not currently served by intercity passenger rail. The PRWG believes that a national passenger rail network requires connections to major population centers, with service to rural Vision for the future: U.S. intercity passenger rail network through 2050 areas along the way, much like the Interstate Highway System. Implementation of the PRWG’s vision would ultimately provide passenger rail service to all 48 contiguous states.

For the entire 80-page report go to www.dot.state.wi.us/projects/state/rail-vision-2050.htm.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter Lines...

Charlie Turns One

By NCI Staff and Internet Sources

This month Charlie, or rather the CharlieCard transit-pass system, turns one year old in Massachusetts. Named after the much older Kingston Trio song “Charlie on the MTA,” it was a stressed birth but one that seems to have finally taken its place.

Aside from the association with the former folk song, a somewhat-popular slang in the Boston area calls frequent transit users “Charlies” and getting around town by subway is to “Charlie it.”

In a move to create a token-less and cash-less boarding system, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) based in Boston, opted one year ago to phase in a debit card type system that would allow passengers the ability to “swipe” a card to get on the system’s busses and subway trains.

There were some initial glitches at the beginning when the cards were first implemented and there have been a few hiccups during its childhood but most of those have been overcome. Some of the early problems were associated with segments of the public who were not tech-savvy enough to use the ATM-look-like vending machines. There was also some confusion as to whether it was better to buy a limited-use CharlieTicket made of near-cardboard quality, or a plastic CharlieCard that resembled a debit or credit card. There were also the occasional computer malfunctions at the MBTA itself. For the most part, that all seems to have passed.

The paper tickets operate with a magnetic strip on one side, similar to those seen in use at parking garages. The plastic cards have an embedded computer chip. Each interacts with the MBTA’s vast computer system to add or debit value. Options include a discounted monthly pass, or a cash-value card that is charged by the ride. While the paper tickets are meant to be used and eventually discarded, the plastic cards are durable and meant to be reused over and over.

Since the CharlieCards were introduced in late 2006, more than 2.5 million have been distributed, and usage has risen from 9.8 million rides in January 2007 to 13.2 million rides in October 2007, as offered in the most recent statistics available.

Some 241,000 riders used CharlieCards as monthly passes in September, and they can be purchased at all transit stations and select private business locations, 286 locations in all. The cards have also raised an additional $13.5 million in fare revenues in fiscal year 2007, according to the MBTA, a number that has transit officials quite pleased with the service.

“I guess you’d have to say that Charlie is a precocious child,” said Daniel Grabauskas, general manager of the MBTA.

“Maybe we should have called him Baby Einstein,” Grabauskas mused. “Actually, the smart ones are our customers.”

According to Dennis Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster, “My wife and son use the CharlieCard to get to and from work. I always keep one with me with several dollars programmed on it. Worse case... if I run out of cash, I can still use the card to get home.”

Along with the general-use CharlieCard, the MBTA also offers a special card for seniors and disabled persons who ride at a discounted rate. Persons now boarding the system’s busses with cash and not using a CharlieTicket or CharlieCard are faced with a surcharge, making the card a practical need if you plan on using the system for any period of time.

The next phase will be to implement the card system on the MBTA’s commuter rail system which is still using their existing monthly pass card and paper tickets. The phase-in to the commuter rail system is expected sometime in the next year.

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NYC Subway System Undergoes Management Overhaul

From Internet Sources

NEW YORK - New subway lines and fare hikes aren’t the only changes coming to New York’s public transportation system.

A major overhaul in how the subways are managed is in the works, reports a story by CBS news on the Internet. This will be a sweeping change in the way the entire system is run, announced Executive Director Elliot Sander. Each subway line will be under the management of one supervisor.

To start, two new managers and their deputies will take charge of the 7 and L lines, overseeing just about everything that happens on the tracks and in the trains.

This is welcome news for subway riders who felt that management was often just “hit or miss.”

“It's an old system, it needs a lot of overhaul,” said city subway rider Regina Flecha.

The goal of this management change is to provide better service and make an effort to please passengers.

General Manager Greg Lombardi, who will be in charge of the L line said, “I hate to quote Harry Truman, but I guess the buck stops with us and the accountability rests on us as well. I'm very enthused; I can't wait to get started.”

Sander and City Transit President Howard Roberts are confident this change will be a major step forward in providing customer satisfaction, cleaner stations, and more timely service.

“If all goes well, reorganization of management could spread throughout the system's 24 lines over about three years if officials like what they see,” Roberts said.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)87.0483.52
Canadian National (CNI)50.0449.04
Canadian Pacific (CP)67.7066.92
CSX (CSX)43.7842.00
Florida East Coast (FLA)62.5162.51
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)28.1326.20
Kansas City Southern (KSU)36.0434.43
Norfolk Southern (NSC)53.3251.21
Providence & Worcester (PWX)17.7018.50
Union Pacific (UNP)134.84126.14

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight Lines...

Association of American Railroads:
“Don’t Forget Freight Railroad Capacity”

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- Association of American Railroads President Edward R. Hamberger weighed in almost immediately after the release of the Passenger Rail Working Group’s report calling for greatly increased long-term investment in ground transportation infrastructure.

“America needs a robust passenger rail transportation system, and we commend the study group’s effort and dedication in this area,” said Hamberger. “However, we are afraid the study group is missing a rare opportunity to create a first-class passenger rail system that would give our nation a truly viable rail transportation alternative.”

“Successful passenger rail systems, like those in Europe and Japan” the AAR President continued, “rely on publicly funded track and are almost exclusively dedicated to passenger rail. We support the development of high-speed passenger rail systems like Europe and Japan, where dedicated, high-speed passenger rail corridors separate 200-mile-an-hour passenger trains from 50-mile-an-hour freight trains.”

“This report does the opposite,” said Hamberger. “It rests the future of passenger rail on the freight rail system. Piggy-backing on privately owned and operated freight railroad assets will give America a third-rate passenger rail system, one that is not attractive to passengers or competitive with automobile and air travel. It will place limits on the capacity of freight rail operations, creating delays for freight customers, forcing more freight onto our already overcrowded highways, and harming our economic and global competitiveness.”

“The report does not adequately emphasize that fact that freight railroads need more capacity, not less, to help absorb the huge increase in freight traffic predicted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and others. Building capacity to meet the rapidly growing demand for freight rail service is the most significant challenge facing the freight rail industry. While we appreciate the study group’s efforts, we hope that changes will be made that do not hinder the operations of America’s highly-productive, world-class freight rail system. There must be enough capacity for both passenger and freight operations and we look forward to working with Congress and passenger rail advocates to make this a reality,” concluded Hamberger.

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OPINION...  Opinion...

Don Phillips Speech at the
Railway Age Conference


[ Publisher’s Note: Every now and then some writing comes our way that is so compelling, we simply have to share it with our readers. The following excerpts, from a speech by noted journalist Don Phillips to the recent Railway Age conference in Washington is just such an item. Our thanks to rail advocate Fritz Plous of Chicago for these notes. ]


Don Phillips of the International Herald Tribune was the luncheon speaker on Day 1 of the conference. The following represents my notes on his speech and Q.&A, plus some table talk I picked up from him before the speech. Note: No railroad CEOs or USDOT bureaucrats were harmed during the preparation of this transcript---Fritz Plous.


This is the fifth speech I’ve been asked to do for a railroad or airline group in the last three months. I do not take fees for these speeches. I pay my travel expenses myself. The most recent speech I gave was out in Kansas City, last week.

I will start by telling you the same two things I have told all these other audiences.

  1. This country is in terrible shape when it comes to transportation. We are not facing a transportation crisis or headed for a transportation crisis. We are in one now, and nobody’s doing anything about it.
  2. Do not count on a Democratic administration and a Democratic congress—which is what we’re likely to get—to do anything about it. It could actually get worse.

Amtrak’s ridership is going up—big-time. There’s a simple reason for it: There’s no other way to go. Flying and driving have become impossible in many parts of this country.

Let me ask a question. Most of you traveled to come to this conference today. Does anybody here actually like flying? (No hands go up, people shift nervously in their seats).

I like the sensation of flying, but I do not like the experience of getting on a plane. I have vowed that except in cases of extreme emergency I will not fly from a U.S. airport because of the TSA. If I had to go to Europe again [he lived there for three years] I would take a train to Montreal and fly from Dorval. Everybody else does security better than we do. The Canadian TSA people are at least courteous.

(He talks about the growing congestion caused by increased freight and passenger traffic on the U.S. railroads and how it can be solved only by building additional infrastructure).

Mixing passengers and freight will take subsidies—massive subsidies. The available track mileage that the railroads do not want for freight is vanishing rapidly. Almost all track mileage left is in use now.

Let me make a prediction: There will not be significant cooperation between the freight railroads and the passenger-rail advocates for the next few years. Groups like NARP need to be talking—now—to the CEOs of the freight railroads. At this time there is no coordination. The freight people go up to Capitol Hill to talk to congress about what they need, and they come down again. The passenger advocates go up the Hill and come back down again. I’m not sure the two groups even run into each other in the hallways.

One reason the freight railroads do not want to run more passenger trains is that Amtrak does not pay them enough for the use of their track. The compensation has to be adjusted.

High taxes continue to be used as an excuse for not investing federal funds in rail. “High taxes” have become more than just a phrase. Every candidate now has to campaign on a promise to reduce taxes and has to reassure the voters that he believes taxes are too high.

So the country is not ready to deal with it immobility. The more I see and the more I learn, the more I like Ike. He created our modern mobility when he decided to build the Interstate highway system. He had a vision, he got people to go along with it, and he got them to agree that we had to raise taxes in order to make the vision come true. That’s how we got the federal motor-fuel tax and the Motor Fuel Trust Fund.

Recently I have been attending some very disturbing press conferences. I attended the one announcing the latest AASHTO report--Combating Congestion through Leadership, Innovation, and Resources. Even the railroads and the truck lines are now getting behind AASHTO and pushing the same report because they have seen the congestion first-hand, and they’ve seen how it affects their operations. But you know what? When I go to these press conferences the press isn’t there. The trade press is there, but the mainstream media aren’t there. Congestion is a nationwide problem, and it’s being documented, but when the reports come out, it’s like a tree fell in the forest and nobody heard it.

Alex Kummant is going to start ordering equipment—soon. I’ve been out riding Amtrak a lot. It’s getting better at on-time performance. The crews and the other employees are getting nicer—except at Chicago Union Station. I was trying to board No. 3 for Kansas City last week and the Amtrak people had no idea how they were going to load us. They led us down the platform and we all started piling up at one door. Nobody could hear any instructions because of the noise in the trainshed, and the diesel fumes were awful. When we couldn’t board the train everybody started surging down to another door, but the door wasn’t open, so we surged back to the first door. Evidently they expected everybody on the train to board through one car. You know how they finally decided to prioritize our boarding? They asked, “How many are in your party?” They decided to board the large groups first. The young woman next to me was about to have an asthma attack because of the diesel fumes. She said she would be O.K. once she was inside the train, and she put her arm in mine and said, “Let’s say we’re a two.”

Congestion has become a nationwide problem, but it’s not viewed that way because most of the congestion is experienced only by people from the local area. Wherever you go, people will say, “We got a terrible traffic problem here in East Bejeezus, you know that?” But they think it’s only them. They don’t drive around the country and see that it’s national. My son-in-law out in Denver is a stay-at-home Mr. Mom. His wife is a doctor and makes good money, so he stays home and takes care of the kids. Sometimes he’ll drive up to the mountains in the middle of the week and go skiing. He loves to ski and will take any chance he can get to get out of town and up on the slopes.

But recently he had a long period where he wasn’t able to get away during the week so he had to go skiing on the weekend, like most people in Denver do, and for the first time he found himself in the middle of a huge traffic jam made up of skiers trying to get out to the mountains. He was stuck for hours, and he was totally amazed to find that this happens all the time.

That’s how most American drivers are. They only know about their own congestion problems. They don’t realize it’s going on all over the country. Most of the Interstates in the Eastern part of the country are now over capacity. The media don’t know about it because there are no good transportation reporters out there. That’s why I left the Washington Post. My editor was not really interested in transportation problems, only airline safety and security. Sept. 11 changed American journalism in a very remarkable way. I had been doing aviation-safety pieces, but now they said I had to cover homeland security. I wanted to cover general transportation, but the editor literally said to me, “We don’t want to see any more of that crap about railroads.” That’s exactly what she said: “We don’t want to see any more of that crap about railroads.”

Europe is different. Europe understands everything that’s going on—and more. Europe is in a near-panic over mobility. They know it’s the key to economic integration and development, so they’re spending money like nobody ever heard of. They’ve created a whole new science of tunneling and they’re building 20-mile, 30-mile base tunnels—a tunnel under the Matterhorn—to move trains without having to climb and curve and gain altitude. One of the base tunnels is costing $20 billion. This country is not prepared to spend that kind of money on transportation.

The Greens run things in Europe and they have fallen in love with railroads. In the U.S. the Greens are still in a mentality of “saving” things, not building things. But in Europe the Greens understand that building new railroads is one of the best things you can do to save the environment.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is viewed worldwide—and even in some parts of the Bush administration—as a dismal failure. They’ve dragged Michael Jackson back in to try to fix it. He’s the only one in the administration that seems to know what’s wrong. Michael Jackson and Kip Hawley, the head of the Transportation Security Administration — he’s good too, although he has an almost impossible task in turning that place around.

In Europe they don’t place so much attention on what’s in your luggage. They focus on your eyes. They pull you aside and ask you questions and watch how you react facially. The TSA is starting to do this too.

I was afraid Amtrak was about to go off in the same direction as the TSA [rigorous luggage inspections]. Two Amtrak security directors were forced out because they wanted to go in this direction. They wanted to make Amtrak look like aviation.

Jim Oberstar I like. He has always understood what kind of a passenger-rail system this country needs, and now for the first time in his career he is chairman of a committee (Transportation & Infrastructure) that can do something about it. He is not being led by anyone. This is something he wants to do.

But he also wants to re-regulate the freight railroads, and some of the railroads are giving him ammunition. Jim McClellan at NS is saying that if we get re-regulation the railroads we’ll not be able to raise the capital to add capacity. That will leave them with only one way to stay profitable: use their capacity scarcity to get the rates up, run the cheap traffic off the railroad.

Things have got to get worse before they get better in this country. Europe has a planned economy. The U.S. has an accidental economy. The Greens in Europe are much more sophisticated than Greens in the U.S. They understand how to build, not just save.

I believe the states and the railroads can get together with the feds and do projects to enhance capacity. The railroads still have a lot of suspicion of the federal government, but that is changing. The railroads are doing things today that would have been heresy 10 years ago.

The French—they are different from you and me. They have now electrified most of the main lines in their country, and almost all of the electricity for those lines comes from nuclear plants. They can keep their people moving without petroleum.

In the early part of the 20th century the electrical utilities in America tried to convince the railroads to electrify. They offered them electricity at a discount in return for the railroads’ letting the utilities use their right of way for their long-distance transmission lines. It would have been a great deal for the U.S. railroad industry, but the railroads turned the utilities down. And when the utilities in California offered the same deal to the railroads out there in the 1970s, Gov. Ronald Reagan squashed it. We do things differently in this country.

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COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

National Corridors Initiative Statement
On Passenger Rail Working Group Study


PROVIDENCE --- The National Corridors Initiative today endorsed the report of the Passenger Rail Working Group calling for major new investment in the American intercity rail system, with the proviso that freight rail capacity be addressed simultaneously as solutions to the nation’s transportation systems are found.

“The Passenger Rail Working Group under Chairman Frank Busalacchi has taken a bold and needed step to frame the debate going forward. Decades of under-investment in the nation’s rail system have got to be made up, and fast, or we will continue the diminution of our ability to compete in world markets,” said NCI President James P. RePass.

“Even as we support the objectives of the Passenger Rail Working Group, we need to ensure that the very great capital needs of the freight railroad system for capacity improvements are also met. Those needs can not and will not be met in their entirety by the marketplace. Return-on-investment payback cycles are far too long in the rail transportation industry --- indeed, throughout the transportation sector --- to entice Wall Street to advance those capital dollars. That is largely why we are in the capacity crisis we are in right now,” said RePass.

“Just as highways are funded by the taxpayer, and just as the airline system’s fundamental infrastructure costs are under-written by that same taxpayer, we need to find a mechanism to build up the capacity of the nation’s rail system, both freight and passenger. Doing that in a way that is fair to the taxpayer, and gives a fair return, will be the source of debate, but find that way we must.” he stated. “The alternative is to endure the same long, slow economic decline suffered by other great empires --- and make no mistake about it, America is an empire --- which, having built up a grand edifice of prosperity, forgot how to pay for its upkeep.”

“The National Commission on Surface Transportation created by Congress and appointed by them and by the White House, and chaired by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, will shortly hear the reports of the commission subgroups on transit, led by Free Congress Foundation Chairman and CEO Paul Weyrich, and on freight, headed by BNSF CEO Matt Rose. Those reports, and that of the Passenger Rail Working Group, must become an integrated part of a national solution that is first and foremost systems-based, not modal-specific. The private sector long ago realized that systems integration was a requirement for efficient business functioning; the nation’s transportation system is about to take that step, too, at long last. The Passenger Rail Working Group is a bold step in the right direction. Others must follow,” stated RePass.

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NEWS ITEMS...  End notes...

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