Vol. 8 No. 50
Copyright © 2007
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
In this edition...
First Carmichael Conference on the Future of American Transportation
Sierra Club of the United States Joins National Corridors Initiative
To Support National Meeting of Transportation Advocates, Leaders
Gathering January 28-29 at St. Louis Historic Union Station/Hyatt
Vermont Dumps DMU Deal
The State of Vermont has backed out of a $17.5 million deal to purchase modern diesel multi-unit rail cars that would replace cars on Amtraks Vermonter route.
The five rail cars known as diesel multiple units or DMUs were seen as a way to shave costs because the new cars would be less expensive to operate than the much older equipment used by Amtrak.
The diesel multiple units, or DMUs, would have been deployed on Amtraks Vermonter the state-subsidized route that runs from St. Albans to Springfield, Mass., and onto New York City and Washington D.C.
Photo: Colorado Rail CarColorado RailCar Test Units - The DMU series are available in single and bilevel designs.
The deal fell through when Colorado Railcar Manufacturing and Amtrak could not provide sufficient guarantees to buy back the cars or resell them at 90 percent of the purchase price after three years of service. Vermont required the guarantee in the event the rail cars failed to provide the promised savings.
An investment of $17.5 million is substantial, and everyone had to be comfortable that the states investment would be protected, said State Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville.
We continue to believe that this type of equipment is the future of passenger rail, Lunderville continued. We believe that such equipment will be more affordable, have a smaller environmental impact and allow improvements to Vermonts passenger service.
The Vermont Legislature approved the purchase earlier this year on the condition that there was a guaranteed buyback.
The State Agency of Transportation (AOT) spokesman John Zicconi said all the parties agreed that a three-year buyback was a good idea. The problem, Zicconi said, was that neither Colorado Railcar nor Amtrak had the financial resources to make it happen. At best, all that they could offer was a verbal agreement.
Colorado Railcar could not put a financial instrument together, he said. They could make verbal guarantees.
The purchase would have included three self-propelled engines and two passenger cars. Each diesel-powered car and coach has a capacity of 60 passengers. The plan called for the new cars to begin service by January 2009.
Norman Forde of Colorado Railcar Manufacturing declined formal comment according to printed reports.
Im not in a position to comment right now, said Forde, when contacted at the companys headquarters in Fort Lupton, Colorado. Until I have that in writing and confirmed, Id rather not comment at this stage.
The purchase of the DMUs would have allowed the state to run two round trips a day one from St. Albans and a second originating at White River Junction. However, unlike the current Vermonter, which runs one round trip a day from St. Albans to Washington, D.C., the new route would have the Vermonter terminate in New Haven, Conn., where passengers would change for New York, Boston and other destinations along the Northeast Corridor.
In the last fiscal year, Vermont paid Amtrak some $3.3 million to operate the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express. The Ethan Allen operates one round trip a day from Rutland to New York.
Governor Patrick Has Massachusetts in a Tizzie!
BOSTON, DECEMBER 14 -- Gov. Deval Patrick is proposing the idea of raising funds to help pay for a commuter rail line from Boston to Fall River and New Bedford by encouraging economic growth along the rail corridor, according to a story by Brian Boyd in the Standard-Times.
The Governors idea is virtually the same as that of DF Publisher Jim RePass, who has persistently promoted the idea that a small portion of the profits from economic development spurred by the rail service be used to maintain and improve the rail infrastructure itself. RePass calls this a Transportation Investment Zone, or TIZZIE.
Now, the Patrick Administration is looking for creative ways to build resources for transit and rail projects. The Boston-based firm of Goody Clancy is being asked to study the economic and land-use patterns in 31 cities and towns along the proposed rail line. Goody Clancy also will study ways in which the state and local communities can encourage economic growth along the rail corridor.
South Coast Rail is more than just a transit project, said state Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen in a news release. It will provide considerable economic development opportunities for South Coast communities, and a responsible corridor plan will provide the blueprint to achieve that goal.
We are planning this line in an innovative way and are making sure we build the best possible project for the communities of Southeastern Massachusetts.
The plan will be released in the summer of 2009.
Patrick has committed to spending $17.2 million on preliminary planning and permitting for the project over the next three years, the story continues. The project would be completed by December 2016 under a plan Patrick unveiled in April.
Goals of the plan include recommendations to protect natural resources, identify sustainable development opportunities, and to involve cities and towns in guiding growth to areas that are ripe for development while protecting sensitive natural areas.
The state agencies and a consultant team will be holding meetings with each community in the region in early 2008.
The plan will be overseen by both the state Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. State and regional agencies are also helping.
Commuter service to Fall River and New Bedford has the added benefit of creating boundless opportunities for economic development and job growth in the south coast area of the state, said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Daniel OConnell. The economic ripple effect of this rail service will spark business development and encourage companies to consider relocating to this part of state once rail service becomes available.
Planning VP To Leave Amtrak
Vice President of Planning and Analysis Roy Johanson will leave Amtrak to pursue another opportunity in his field. Johansons last day at the company will be Dec. 28, 2007.
I am saddened by Roys departure but am grateful for his corporate strategy development skills and expertise, which were of great value to Amtrak and helped advance a number of the companys initiatives, said President and CEO Alex Kummant.
John Bennett, chief, Business Strategy will manage the department starting Dec. 31, until a permanent selection is made.
France: Tax Gas Guzzlers, Reward Green Cars
DECEMBER 6 -- France has embarked on a plan to encourage consumers to think ecologically when buying a car: they will impose a hefty tax on gas-guzzlers and give a state-funded bonus for purchase of vehicles with low emissions of carbon dioxide.
Under the scheme, which may fall foul of European Union competition law, reported The Times Online, a tax of up to € 2,600 ($3,822) will be slapped on four-wheel-drive cars such as SUVs and high-powered sports cars, while purchasers of small cars will receive a government payment of up to € 1,000 ($1,470).
Auto congestion in paris - German carmakers will be hit by the new taxes.
A Renault Clio, One of various low-emissions cars that people may receive a cash bonus for operating. There will be neither a tax nor a bonus for cars whose emissions are between 131g and 160g.
Paris said that the scheme would have no impact on public finances because the discounts would be funded by the new taxes. About 25 per cent of new vehicles fall into a category that will now be taxed -- about 1 per cent at the highest rate -- and about 30 per cent will be eligible for a payout, according to the Transport Ministry.
The goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions in France. The plan goes into effect in January 2008.
We are the first Western country to give a bonus to virtuous products, Jean-Louis Borloo, the Ecology Minister, said.
The move is expected to anger German manufacturers, such as Mercedes and BMW, which will be hit by the new taxes, the story continues. They suspect President Sarkozys Government of using ecology as a pretext for a programme to favour Renault, Peugeot and Citroën, the French carmakers, which tend to produce smaller vehicles.
The amount of the bonus is relative to the level of emissions of the car: For a Renault Megane, which emits between 121g and 130g, the buyer will receive 200 Euros ($249); 700 Euros ($1029) for a Renault Clio which emits 101g to 120 g, and so forth. Taxes for gas-guzzlers like the Opel Zafara, the BMW 3 Series, the Mercedes Class E, and the Volkswagen Touareg range from 200 Euros ($249) to 2600 Euros ($3,822).
There will be neither a tax nor a bonus for cars whose emissions are between 131g and 160g.
There is also a € 300 ($435) hand-out for people who consign cars more than 15 years old to the scrapheap in order to take older vehicles off the roads. Drivers will be able to claim a € 300 ($441) payment from the State if they scrap the old car and replace it with a small, environmentally friendly one.
A study by the French Automobile Observatory said that the move could generate 110,000 new car sales next year, boosting a market stagnating at an annual total of two million, compared with 2.4 million in Britain.
Selected Rail Stocks...
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Two Critical Decisions on Tracks in Tacoma
TACOMA, WA DECEMBER 14 --How to run the passenger train safely through a downtown and what to do about relinquished air rights: these are major decisions facing the Sound Transit Board in planning rail commuter service between Tacoma and Lakewood, Washington, according to a story in the Tacoma News Tribune
The route will mostly follow the existing freight tracks, which makes the $220 million project relatively inexpensive as rail construction goes, but two key issues remain concerning 1.2 miles of new rails that must be laid in front of the Tacoma Dome Station.
Should they build a railroad bridge over Pacific Avenue, a busy downtown thoroughfare, to connect with existing tracks, or settle for an at-grade crossing, which is dangerous?
The board is expected to come out in favor of the bridge, even though it is costly and would require an embankment in the Dome District that could block one of the local streets and wind up blighting the neighborhood. The bridge itself could turn out ugly and utilitarian, continued The Tribune.
Those potential disasters can be avoided with the creative engineering Sound Transit promises to do. Separating the train from the heavy traffic on Pacific is the safest and most sensible thing to do and was the choice voted for by the Tacoma City Council.
Another critical decision has to do with the space above the trains. The City Council and Sound Transits staff have tentatively agreed that the agency will relinquish air rights over a section of the tracks in the Dome District. That may be a decision of greater consequence than the bridge, as it opens up opportunity for development.
Architect Jim Merritt, a student of urban design, has proposed his vision of a plaza perhaps four blocks square over the tracks where commercial and retail developments would sit, with trains running underneath the plaza, just as they do in some European cities.
Sound Transit is receptive to the idea, which pleases some city officials as they know that without air rights, development of a plaza could not happen.
System Schedule Change Brings French TGV to Munich
MUNICH -- French TGV high speed trains started regular scheduled services (four times daily) to Munich from Paris via Stuttgart on 9th December with the annual European train, bus and public transport system schedule change, which took place between Saturday and Sunday. Likewise Deutsche Bahn ICE trains started operating five times-per-day services from Frankfurt to Paris.
Photo: Deutsche Bahn AGA SNCF TGV-POS train-set and DBAG ICE-3 train-set approach Paris Est Station in May 2007.
Both services make use of the newly built LGV-Est high-speed rail line in northeastern France, which runs approximately from Paris to Metz. The TGV-POS and ICE-3 train-sets which travel on these services are equipped to operate from the 1.5 kVDC and 25 kVAC 50 Hz power in France as well as 15 kVAC 16.7 Hz power in Germany and are equipped with cab signaling and automatic train protection systems used in each country. They are staffed with train drivers and conductors who are bi-lingual in French and German and who have received hundreds of hours of training regarding operating procedures and rules used on each countrys rail network.
At the premiere TGV trip to Munich and return to Paris on the 7th December SNCF (French National Railways) Chairman Guillaume Pepy stated that; ...thanks to these new services between Paris, Frankfurt and Munich, traveling by train is now really an alternative to flying. This is also a success story for Railteam Alliance, which is primarily driven by SNCF and DBAG.
Dr. Karl-Friedrich Rausch, president of Deutsche Bahns passenger train operations, stated: ...the French-German high-speed rail connection is a success story for DBAG. In the first six months of operations more than 500,000 passengers have ridden on TGV and ICE trains between the two countries.
Photo: Deutsche Bahn AGA group of German 8th grade school students travel to Paris on-board a TGV-POS for a weekend class trip in the French capital city in June 2007.
Dr. Rausch added: ...the main reason for the success of these operations are the travel time and comfort. Today the train is the most attractive transportation alternative between Paris, Frankfurt and Stuttgart. Our goal is clear: by 2012 we want to increase the traffic on these international routes to more than 1.5 million passengers annually.
(translated/edited by David Beale from the DBAG press release of 7th December 2007)
The November 26th issue [ of Destination: Freedom ] stated that a new diesel locomotive rated at almost 5,000 hp was the most powerful such locomotive in the world. I believe both GE and EMD have produced 6,000 hp single engine diesel locomotives for the North American market, the [ GE ] AC6000CW and the [ EMD ] SD90MAC respectively. For a number of reasons, these locomotives havent sold particularly well, but they are still in service.
Indeed the SD90MAC is 6000 hp and is in use, but according to Wikipedia.Org is no longer in production due to the EPAs Tier 2 locomotive emissions regulations. It also didnt seem to do as well in the marketplace as the AC6000CW which operates under various names depending on the carrier. - Ed.
Regarding your Trent Lott, Bi-Partisanship, and the Future of Passenger Rail commentary [ D:F Vol. 8 No. 48, Dec. 3, 2007 ], as for the future of domestic passenger rail I say this:
The November 4, 2007 Parade magazine cover story A Better Way To Travel? by author Peter Richmond, and incidentally, the one in which you were quoted, undoubtedly left readers contemplating whether there really is a better way to travel given the current passenger transportation landscape. In a sidebar to the main Richmond article, reference is made to the very high-speed rail systems that countries such as France, Spain, China and Japan have long enjoyed Japan since 1964 and why in this country, were still lagging way behind. In fact, the lead-in reads: While U.S. railways have languished, the rest of the industrialized world has been building up its high-speed rail systems.
If that werent enough, just recently a specially prepared Train a Grande Vitesse train in France made a record-setting 357.2 mph run, thereby breaking all previous TGV speed records. While land speed records are being set and broken a half a world away, the top speed of our passenger trains seems frozen at 125 mph on Amtraks electrified Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington, D.C.; 135 mph on the NEC on short stretches north of New York.
Compared to whats typical on Japans and Europes very high-speed train systems, I find that troubling indeed, especially considering the recent record-setting TGV run. Imagine land travel where a distance of one mile is covered in 10 seconds! It seems almost incomprehensible!
That said, what would true high-speed rail mean for us landlubbers here at home? For starters, it would mean freed-up air and highway space which has implications in terms of it resulting in these being far less dangerous places to fly and operate motor vehicles, respectively, not to mention reduced dependence on oil, reduced mobile source-exhausted greenhouse gas emissions, and the possibility of there being created tens if not hundreds of thousands of new jobs domestically.
Here in California, the effort to create a 700-mile high-speed rail system was afforded considerable attention via the press on May 23, the California High Speed Rail Authority recommending a system be built between Anaheim and the San Francisco Bay Area. However, without overwhelming state voter support for high-speed rail at the polls a year from now, and absent tremendous private and public investment, the likelihood of the Golden States (and quite possibly Americas as well) first true high-speed train system ever being built is slim to none.
Whether domestic high-speed rail actually comes to fruition or not is anyones guess. The point that should not be lost here is that passenger rail domestically needs to be move forward, even if as the November 29th CHSR article title suggests, it just Chugs Ahead.
No question that high-speed rail is possible but we have to be careful how we make comparisons. Indeed the TGV broke a record but on closer examination the locomotive was specially modified to perform the task and the catenary voltage was also cranked up above present standards. Also, European trains are manufactured to a different standard, a much-lighter metal, and different crash standards. In the USA, we could meet what they do in Europe provided there is the will. The speed restrictions currently on the Acela Express are greatly due to aging infrastructure in great need of repair and replacement. Imagine what speeds we could accomplish here if we just fixed what we have. - Ed.
NCI Takes Holiday Break
With the publication of this edition, NCI takes a holiday break for approximately the next two weeks. We resume publication with the January 7, 2008 edition.
We would like to wish each and everyone of our readers a Joyous Holiday Season and a prosperous New Year.
- DMK - NCI Webmaster
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