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A Weekly North American Transportation Update

Publisher:  James P. RePass
Managing Editor:  Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor:  David Beale
Contributing Editor:  David Peter Alan
Webmaster:  Dennis Kirkpatrick
For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

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February 4, 2013
Vol. 14 No. 5

Copyright © 2013
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 13th Newsletter Year

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

Good-Bye, Mr. Spikes
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Will Fly Again
Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Train Technology, Etc.
  News Items…
Ray LaHood Will Step Down As Transportation
  History Lines…
Grand Central Terminal Celebrates 100 Years:
   More Than Just A Train Station
A Follow-Up On New Jersey Transit And
   Hurricane Sandy
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Political Lines…
Congress’ Five-Year-Old Kick-The Can Vote
   Starts Hitting States Now, In Mid-Recession
  Transit Lines…
It’s Not Easy Being A Transit Advocate
   In Atlanta
  High-Speed Lines…
Mexico Getting High-Speed Rail
Senior Citizens Are The Force Pushing
   Increased Infrastructure
  Publication Notes …

EDITORIALS... Editorials...

US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood Makes It Official


Good-Bye, Mr. Spikes…

By James P. RePass

If you look closely at Ray LaHood, as I had a chance to do when we spoke Monday a week ago in New Orleans, you’d say, “There’s a pretty tough fellow in there.”

And there is.

But beneath an exterior that says “I am The Boss” in a way that Central Casting would be happy to use in any number of tough-but-real school-teacher roles – and LaHood in fact DID teach school as a young man --- is a creative and inspiring leader, beloved by his staff, who will I believe go down in history as the best transportation secretary the United States has ever had, and that includes a number of good leaders from both parties.

Ray LaHood is a Republican in a Democratic Administration, at a time when basic civility between the two parties, even in the club known as the United States Senate, has gone out the window. Perhaps it is simply a sign of the times, perhaps something else, but it seems that we all used to get along better.

Ray LaHood, born in 1945, is from that better era, yet he served in Congress from Illinois (1995-2009), which was the early Newt Gingrich era, and the start of the hate-speech-by-design politics that Gingrich actively promoted as a tool to discredit opponents, and divide the country, using culture-war issues designed to mask the true agenda of the Gingrich GOP, which was and is the creation of a plutocracy.

Republican Ray LaHood refused to take part in that behavior, and was known while in Congress as a bridge-builder between the parties. In 2008, he loyally supported and campaigned for GOP Presidential nominee John McCain, but made headlines when he criticized the divisive language of McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

On policies, he was a progressive from Peoria. He had in fact decided not to seek re-election when Barack Obama picked him for Transportation Secretary.

On LaHood’s watch, as all who read these words know, we saw the launching of the first sustained program of national rail building by the Federal government since the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad 1866-1869. The Obama Administration has successfully laid $8 billion in groundwork for a true rail renaissance in America via the Stimulus Act, with a little help from other programs.

And, despite attacks from the petrol-right, including the recent CNN “investigative reports” on high-speed rail that could have been written lock, stock, and half-truth by the petroleum-lobby-funded Cato Institute and its fellow-travelers, America IS going to build high-speed rail.

It won’t happen overnight, or anywhere nearly as fast as it should, but it will happen; after all, as Churchill said in another context still-rings-true: “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”

The money spent so far is pitifully small, compared to other nation’s programs, and of course it hasn’t produced any “bullet trains” yet, but not so long ago we did build the 165-mph Acela service in the Northeast, enabling three-hour city-center service Boston-New York and New York-Washington.

That pre-Obama milestone was achieved via completion of the long-blocked Northeast Corridor Electrification Project (approved by Congress under President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970’s, but blocked by Presidents Reagan 1981-1989, and George Bush (I) from 1989 until September 21, 1991 when a bi-partisan (yes, we are) delegation to the White House from the National Corridors Initiative Changed His Mind), but the achievements of this Administration under Ray LaHood are no less important, even if they are less visible to the ordinary citizen (or television reporter).

The California Legislature bucked a massive anti-rail spending onslaught by the petroleum lobby last year and voted to fund construction of that state’s Los Angeles-San Francisco High-Speed Rail system. Chicago and St. Louis will soon be nearly an hour closer, and eventually 3-4 hours apart by rail, beating flying and helping capacity issues at Midway and O’Hare airports; Michigan recently got 110 mph service on a key line.

All small steps, all less than what we want --- but still, steps in the right direction, and an amazing achievement on the tiny amount of money (yes, $8 billion is tiny in a multi-trillion-dollar economy). They wouldn’t have happened as fast as they have, with as much impact as they will have, if Ray LaHood hadn’t been at the switch.

So, good-bye, Mr. Spikes. We will miss you. But we won’t forget you.

Ray LaHood has agreed to serve as Secretary of Transportation until his successor is confirmed

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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Will Fly Again


If you are a sentient being who cares about transportation it was hard this past week not to miss the growing woes of the Boeing Aircraft Company, whose bet-the-company plane, the 787 “Dreamliner” was grounded when a number of its ultra-new-technology Lithium-Cobalt batteries, from Japan’s respected Yuasa battery manufacturing company, failed recently, either after landing (Boston) or in actual flight (Japan). And, as it was reported later, airlines using 787’s had quietly replaced a number of failed batteries without causing headlines, not a good start for a [very] new plane.

These batteries are important because they take the place not only of much heavier old-technology batteries, but also of compressors and other devices used to start or re-start the main engines as needed.

It might be surprising for rail advocates to see a headline like the one above: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner Will Fly Again in a pro-rail newsletter like Destination:Freedom, but that would be the wrong response.

The National Corridors Initiative is indeed pro-rail, but we are not “anti” anything else, with the sole exception of being, very much, anti-stupidity.

The Dreamliner is a plane at the very cutting edge of technology, starting with its carbon-fiber fuselage; by weight the plane is only 10% steel, 15% titanium, 20% aluminum (formerly the primary metal in aircraft frames) --- and 50% carbon fiber. But it doesn’t end there. There are many elements in the plane which are new, and, although tested in laboratories, relatively speaking they are untested in the Real World. Well, they’re getting tested now. Fasten your seat belts.

During the on-going investigation, one of two things is going to be discovered: 1) either the charging regulating system (in your car, we would call this “the voltage regulator”) is wildly out of control, leading to over-charging of the batteries, which will quickly cook them and in the case of large-cell cobalt-lithium batteries (as in the Yuasa in the 787), set them on fire pretty quickly or 2) the batteries themselves have a defect. It is either a design effect, in that large-cell lithium batteries, i.e., bigger than the one’s in your cell phone, get too hot too fast, OR, that Yuasa designed a brilliant battery, whose prototypes passed all Boeing and other tests with flying colors, but when it out-sourced the manufacturing of the actual battery to China (sound familiar?) lost control of the manufacturing quality-control process.

Unfortunately, the Chinese are famous for this (bought any Chinese-made brake rotors for your car recently? You’d think the Chinese consider heat-treating a specification option best saved for Peking ravioli).

In any event, the Boeing Dreamliner is a bold statement, and a great solution for very efficient, low-cost long-distance flight. These kinks will be worked out, and thanks to the FAA division of the US DOT, they will be worked out before the plane actually crashes, not after.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Guest Commentary:


Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Train Technology, Etc.

Virginia Rail Observations And Commentary
By Richard L. Beadles   Volume V. No. 2.

Who could have missed Boeing’s current technical difficulties with their new 787 Dreamliner? But then, who remembers from a decade ago the not-too-dissimilar difficulties that Amtrak had with their then-new Acela train, and the criticism then leveled at Amtrak by a few politicians? Now Amtrak and the California High-Speed Rail Authority have joined forces to explore the procurement of up to 59 new high-speed trains; Train “X” for our purposes in this piece (actually there was a “Train X” back in the fifties).

What do all three projects have in common? RISK! The challenge of converting innovative design and construction plans into a safe, serviceable, reliable product. The problem recurs from time to time. Recall the ill-fated Lockheed Electra turboprop of the late fifties and early sixties, which had a history of falling out of the sky. Trains have been much less in the news, on this score, because there has been less radical technological change. However there should be, and there must be, if rail transportation -- both freight and passenger – is to attain its full potential in the United States.

Much of what has occurred in railroading over the last fifty years has been of the nature of incremental technological progress. Cumulatively, there has been quite a lot of it. However, without the direct benefit of huge public funding of NASA and DOD projects, which have very dramatically inured to the benefit of aviation, rail transportation in the U.S., as a mode, has inched along into the 21st century.

Much in railroading today would still be somewhat familiar to George Westinghouse and Commodore Vanderbilt. It is refreshing to see California and Amtrak --- the latter doing so to add capacity and expand service in the Northeast Corridor --- pushing the envelope of technical possibilities, e.g. a new Train “X” capable of 220 m.p.h. when track infrastructure will permit. We hope that when, and if, such trains begin to roll off of U.S. assembly lines that the Wall Street Journal, and other normally skeptical business voices, will be as empathetic with California and Amtrak as they now appear to be with Boeing’s headache, and with United and other airlines’ grounded 787’s.

The really big rail breakthrough would come in freight railroading when -- weaned of coal, and forsaken once again (at some future date) by petroleum shippers once sufficient new pipelines are in place -- the railroads come face to face with the imperative of creating a viable business future out of handling highway-competitive cargo, using a combination of yet-to-be revealed new handling technology, together with innovative service and commercial arrangements that might make it almost as easy to use intermodal rail freight as to take the on-ramp of the nearest Interstate.

But it will take more. It would help to level the competitive playing field by assisting in the provision of certain intermodal rail freight services by using, for example, a portion of the Virginia State general sales tax for rail freight, as we already do for highway freight. Now, that’s public policy innovation, which has its own risks and rewards. Think about it.

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NEWSITEMS... News Items...  

Ray LaHood Will Step Down
As Transportation Secretary

Huffington Post, APTA, And Other Internet Sources, DF Staff

Ray LaHood

Outgoing Sec. of Transportation,
Ray LaHood

Ray LaHood announced last week that he would not serve a second term as the country’s Secretary of Transportation, but that “we still have much work to do.” His parting words give the impression that he is pleased with some of the accomplishments of his term, but that America must face the “inconvenient” fact that when it comes to infrastructure, we are behind in the developed world.

Here is part of his message to the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

“It has been an honor and a privilege to lead the Department, and I am grateful to President Obama for giving me such an extraordinary opportunity.  I plan to stay on until my successor is confirmed to ensure a smooth transition for the Department and all the important work we still have to do.

“As I look back on the past four years, … what I am most proud of is the DOT team. You exemplify the best of public service, and I truly appreciate all that you have done to make America better, to make your communities better, and to make DOT better.

On Safety

We have put safety front and center with the Distracted Driving Initiative and a rule to combat pilot fatigue that was decades in the making.  We have made great progress in improving the safety of our transit systems, pipe lines, and highways, and in reducing roadway fatalities to historic lows.  We have strengthened consumer protections with new regulations on buses, trucks, and airlines.

On the Economy

“We helped jumpstart the economy and put our fellow Americans back to work with $48 billion in transportation funding from the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, and awarded over $2.7 billion in TIGER grants to 130 transportation projects across the Nation.  We have made unprecedented investments in our nation’s ports.  And we have put aviation on a sounder footing with the FAA reauthorization, and secured funding in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act to help States build and repair their roads, bridges and transit systems.

“And to further secure our future, we have taken transportation into the 21st century with CAFE Standards, NextGen, and our investments in passenger and High-Speed Rail.  What’s more, we have provided the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with the funding and leadership it needs to prepare a new generation of midshipmen to meet our country’s rapidly-evolving defense and maritime transportation needs.

“Closer to home, we also have made great strides.  In December, the DOT was recognized as the most improved agency in the entire Federal government in the 2012 “Best Places to Work” rankings published by the Partnership of Public Service.  Even more impressive, DOT was ranked 9th out of the 19 largest agencies in the government.

In an exit interview with Huffington Post, he said that he was leaving “the best job I’ve ever had” and then proceeded to make some predictions: Everyone, he argued, would own either a hybrid or a battery-powered vehicle by 2025, owing to new fuel efficiency standards; renewable energy would be a predominant fuel component for most forms of transportation; and infrastructure investment would become a second term policy priority for Congress, along the lines of immigration reform.

He expressed his hope that infrastructure would be a high priority for the country and for members of Congress. “The president has spent four years talking about infrastructure. Every speech that he gives about putting America to work, he talks about infrastructure. And I hope that since the election, people come to realize that if you really want to get America back to work and put people to work, you have to make investments in infrastructure.” Congress needs to understand the risks they have been taking by underfunding the country’s infrastructure future.”

LaHood also became a major proponent of an environmentally friendly urban transportation agenda. He spoke out against elevated highways and in favor of “livable neighborhoods,” used federal money to help build trolley lines and became a champion of bike lines and cyclist’s rights. (To demonstrate his commitment, he once donned a helmet and rode a bike to work himself.)

Concern that America is behind

For the first time since people have been looking at infrastructure, America is behind,” LaHood said. “We are behind other countries because other countries are making the investments that we used to make. We got a two-year [highway] bill because they could only find $109 billion. We need to do better and we need to make sure that America does not fall further behind when it comes to infrastructure.”

Beyond their stinginess, however, LaHood criticized lawmakers -- his fellow Republicans in particular -- for lacking a comprehensive vision for improvements to infrastructure.

LaHood’s views on the matter were shaped, in part, by his attempts in spring 2011 to convince Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to accept federal funds to build high-speed rail lines in his state. Scott, in a nod to the fiscal hawks in his party, declined to take the funds, arguing that the project would have required too heavy an investment from his own budget.

“My thought was there is only one person in Florida who doesn’t want this money,” LaHood said of the episode. “He is a governor without a vision when it comes to transportation.”

In the end, the Obama administration allocated $12 billion for high-speed rail nationwide – a historic investment in its own right. But when pressed, LaHood says that more needs to be spent.

“Look, we are behind on high-speed rail,” he said. “But because of the president’s vision and because of the work of those of us here at DOT, we have come a long way ... As long as President Obama is in the White House, whoever sits in this chair will have high-speed rail as one of their top priorities.”

Let the people lead

“As members of Congress understand that the people are way, way ahead of them on this -- they are way ahead of most members, certainly on the Republican side, when it comes to high-speed rail, or walking and biking paths, or livable, sustainable communities, green energy, the people are so far ahead of the politicians on this -- eventually it will catch up with them,” he said.

Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of APTA (American Public Transportation Association), paid tribute to Secretary LaHood’s broad vision of transportation in these parting words:

“Secretary LaHood understood that transportation is not a collection of monolithic modes, but is instead an interconnected system. He highlighted how strategic investments in our transportation system have far reaching positive ripple effects that benefit a much larger base than just those people who directly use the systems.  … transportation does not exist in a vacuum; it impacts communities and the people [in them.] Part of Secretary LaHood’s legacy is that he approached transportation planning with an awareness of the total system.

“In addition, LaHood placed the issue of sustainability and livable communities on the front burner of federal transportation policy through programs like the interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and through the TIGER and TIGGER grants. To a degree that no other DOT Secretary had previously done, he emphasized the importance of including sustainability and livability into transportation planning.

“Another historic transportation initiative under his leadership was the introduction of the High-Speed Rail program, which started in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.   He is a great supporter of high-speed and intercity passenger rail, as he is for all modes of public transportation.

“APTA thanks Secretary LaHood for a job well done.  It has been a pleasure to work with him.”

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HISTORY LINES... History Lines...  

Grand Central Terminal Celebrates 100 Years:
More Than Just A Train Station

By David Peter Alan

This is a time for big anniversaries. On Tuesday, January 29th, London’s Underground celebrated its 150th. Slightly over one month ago, the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) celebrated its 100th. Last Friday, February 1st, was the day for New Yorkers and everybody else to celebrate one hundred years of Grand Central Terminal. Historian Sam Roberts told WNYC radio that the first train actually left the station at 12:03 on the morning of February 2d for Boston, but February 1, 1913 was the day the crowds came to look at the station. In a similar manner, February 1, 2013 was the day when different crowds came to look at the station.

Sure, Grand Central Terminal (or “GCT”) is a train station, but it is also much more. It is a cultural icon, a pacesetter in design, a leader in urban planning and a trailblazer in historic preservation. It was often called by an incorrect name: “Grand Central Station.” The actual “Grand Central Station” is the subway station for the IRT Lexington Avenue Line downstairs. The other actual “Grand Central Station” is the post office on Lexington Avenue, where letters went after arriving in mail cars at Grand Central Terminal. There was another “Grand Central Station” which was known, not only locally, but everywhere in America. It was a radio program that aired on CBS from 1937 until 1954, set in New York and featuring stories of “ordinary” people. The stories were corny, but the opening came on with the pace of the fabled Empire State Express coming into the famous station:

As a bullet seeks its target, shining rails from every part of our great country are aimed at Grand Central Station, heart
of our nation’s greatest city. Drawn by the magnetic force of this fantastic metropolis, day and night great trains
rush toward the Hudson River, sweep down its eastern bank for 140 miles, flash briefly by the long red row of tenement
houses south of 125th Street, dive with a roar into the two-and-one-half-mile tunnel which burrows beneath
the glitter and swank of Park Avenue and then … Grand Central Station! Crossroads of a million private lives!
Gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily!

Such was the Grand Central that most Americans imagined. Never mind that it was misnamed. Never mind that the narrative was accompanied by the sound of a steam locomotive barreling toward the station. The tunnel was electrified, but the near-silence of electric trains was not dramatic. The great trains of the era did rush, sweep, flash and dive with a roar. The long red row of tenement houses, the long tunnel, and the glitter and swank of Park Avenue are all still there. Only today, Grand Central Terminal is the crossroads for thousands of Metro-North commuters playing out their daily drama of getting to their offices.

Image David Lliff via

The concourse at Grand Central Terminal

The trains actually terminated at “Grand Central Station” at one time, and at “Grand Central Depot” during an even earlier era. The original “GCD” was a Second Empire masterpiece that looked like a larger version of Washington, D.C.’s Willard Hotel. It had three head-houses linked together; for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, the New York & Harlem Railroad, and the New York & New Haven Railroad. Over the years, they morphed into today’s Hudson, Harlem and New Haven Lines. Forty-Second Street was north of the “city” then; some tracks even extended south along Fourth Avenue. The “Depot” was beautiful; it had a neoclassical look, and it did not last long, replaced by “Grand Central Station” in 1900. By 1913, the current “Grand Central Terminal” came into service, with tracks that approached it through a long underground right-of-way. The surface over the tracks became Park Avenue with its “glitter and swank” of days gone by and its superbly tasteful wealth of today.

The building was amazing, for its time or any other. It features European-inspired beaux-arts design by the famous architectural firms of Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore. There are a total of 44 platforms on two levels, serving 67 tracks. The “upper level” is below ground, reached by ramps and gently sloping floors from 42d Street. There are stairs on the east and west sides of the building for traversing the same vertical distance. The ceiling above the great hall is decorated with an impossible celestial mural; the night sky with the signs of the zodiac, all backwards, as if looking toward earth from somewhere beyond the stars in space. The columns, the clock with its giant figures of Mercury, Hercules and Minerva, and the eagle from the old Grand Central Station still grace the outside of the building. The great building has its secrets, too: the hidden platform from which General John J. Pershing and President Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the Waldorf Hotel from their private rail cars, and the power plant in the basement, where security was so tight during World War II that anyone seen with sand near the elevator leading to it could be suspected of sabotage and shot on sight. A bucket of sand could have disabled the rotary converters that supplied power to the electric trains on their way into and out of the terminal

During GCT’s golden days, the great trains of the New York Central and the New Haven Railroads originated there: the Twentieth Century (1902-1967) and the original Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, other trains to such Midwestern destinations as St. Louis, Cincinnati and Cleveland ran on the New York Central. Dan Brucker, Metro-North’s retired public affairs manager, told National Public Radio (NPR) that the Century always left from Track 34, and that the railroad rolled out a red carpet for the train’s passengers, which was the origin of the expression “roll out the red carpet.” Trains to Toronto, Montreal and other points in Canada started from GCT, as well. So did trains on the New Haven to everywhere in southern New England, including such famous trains as the Yankee Clipper and Merchants’ Limited to Boston. Other trains used the New Haven to get to Hartford and Springfield and continued north to Canada, or to Maine, bypassing Boston.

When Amtrak started in 1971, the Boston trains had been rerouted to and from Penn Station, over the Hell Gate Bridge route. Amtrak had no plans to run from GCT to Chicago over the old New York Central route; only Empire Service trains to Albany and Buffalo originated from GCT. The Lake Shore Limited came back in June, ran for the rest of 1971 and died again. It came back again in 1974 and has operated ever since, as did the Adirondack to Montreal. One of the Buffalo trains was later extended to Toronto and became the Maple Leaf, and Amtrak continued to run Empire Service from GCT until April 7, 1991, when the Empire Connector from Penn Station was completed

People did not just come to GCT for the trains. The building once hosted the Grand Central Art Galleries and School of Art, CBS’s television studios and, for a while in 1957, a Redstone missile in the main hall. Today, the non-rail attractions are not quite so dramatic, but they include a gallery featuring the history of New York’s transit, as part of the New York Transit Museum. There are also a number of shops and eateries, including a food court on the lower level that was installed a few years ago. There is also a famous seafood restaurant, the Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant, customarily known only as the “Oyster Bar.” It is an upscale establishment, as old as the station itself, and one of New York’s dining institutions. The menu proclaims that it is “below sea level” and it is, almost as deep as the Lower Level of the station

Around the station, today’s East Side of Midtown sprang up shortly after the station opened. New “skyscrapers” with names like Graybar, Lincoln, Chrysler and Pershing Square rose around the station in the 1920s. There were also the great hotels of the past; the Commodore (named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, who made his reputation in the shipping business and then built the New York Central Railroad) and the Biltmore. People met under the clock at the Biltmore and sipped Tom Collinses at the Commodore Bar. Neither hotel is operating today

The great station almost met the same fate as the magnificent Penn Station, a mile away, which was demolished in 1963. The New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central (PC), and the New Haven was swept up in the merger. The fortunes of the railroads had declined, and Penn Central was in bankruptcy under Chapter 11. The railroad wanted to build a 55-story office tower over the building, which would have destroyed its historic look. The Municipal Arts Society sounded the alarm, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, widow of President John F. Kennedy, led the charge to save it, and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed, giving the building protected status. Penn Central and successors fought the case for ten years, up to the Supreme Court. The Court upheld the city’s authority to protect the building for preservation in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978). Penn Central argued that the City’s refusal to allow it to sell the building’s air rights for the tower constituted a “taking” that deprived the company of a fair return on its investment in the property, but the Court held that PC still had the expected return on the property, so it was not unfair for the City to order the building preserved. Ironically, the terminal fell into disrepair and, eventually the MTA, as parent of Metro-North, restored it and operates it today. Penn Central’s wish that GCT be maintained by a public agency was fulfilled, although PC did not survive as a railroad for long enough to see that happen. According to Brucker, GCT was the first building that was saved under the Landmarks Preservation Act

Friday’s ceremony was almost upstaged. New Yorkers woke up to hear their radios report the death of Edward I. Koch (1924-2013), the feisty and outspoken mayor who held office from 1978 through 1989. Koch was bigger than life, but Grand Central Terminal was bigger still, and the great station still dominated the headlines. At the ceremony, a representative from the Guinness Book of Records proclaimed GCT the world’s largest train station, in terms of area. The National Park Service paid tribute to the station as a National Historic Landmark, and the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a stamp depicting the Great Hall, with sunlight streaming through the station’s high windows onto the travelers below. It is an Express Mail stamp, with a price of $19.00. Ironically, Express Mail never travels by train. Neither does first-class mail; most mail was removed from passenger trains in the late 1960s, and the trains themselves disappeared shortly thereafter.

While the great long-distance trains will probably never come to GCT again, advocates in the region are pushing to expand the station’s reach. Even though the Long Island Rail Road is not going into the Lower Level of GCT and is building its “East Side Access” project with a stub-end terminal far below the Lower Level of GCT, there is a strong call for New Jersey Transit trains to come to GCT through a new track connection from Penn Station. The original Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project included Alternative “G” in 1995, which called for such an extension. Today, the Lackawanna Coalition, the Empire State Passengers’ Association (ESPA), the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility (a New York transportation consulting firm), and the Rail Users’ Network (RUN; a national rail advocacy organization) issued a joint statement calling not only for new tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station, but also for those tunnels to be extended to GCT, rather than terminating on the West Side. They want New Jersey’s rail riders to have access to both the East and West Sides of Midtown Manhattan.

New Jersey advocate Albert L. Papp, Jr. called for a connection, too. He appeared in his capacity as President of the New York chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS). Papp recalled the trips he took from the great station in the past, but also looked toward the future: “Imagine a future with high-speed trains coming to Grand Central, and with New York’s two grand stations being connected” he said. Papp is also a Vice-Chair for Policy and Legislative Strategy of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), which also called for such a connection, saying that it is “much needed.”'

Papp is also a Vice-Chair of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), which also called for such a connection, saying that it is “much needed.”

The rider advocates want their own version of “East Side Access” soon. If they prevail, more lines and more riders will have access to the legendary GCT and everything it has to offer. It may not be the “crossroads of a million private lives” but it will be the crossroads for more people than it serves today, and it will bring thousands of people who work on the East Side of Midtown considerably closer to their offices than the train can take them today.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and occasionally rides Metro-North trains from GCT. His first long-distance train ride was on the Lake Shore Limited from GCT to Chicago in 1969.

Here is a list of web site with more information about Grand Central Terminal and its history:

There are a number of museum exhibits and events planned as part of a continuing celebration of the station and its history during the rest of 2013. For a complete schedule of these events, see the station’s web site, Information about Metro-North can be found on the MTA’s web site, A gallery of slides of the station, provided by Time Out, New York, can be found at, and a larger gallery of modern and historic pictures, with architectural information, can be found at There is also a 48-minute documentary about the station, produced by National Geographic and available at

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The following is an update from David Peter Alan on the New Jersey Transit Story from last week:

A Follow-Up On New Jersey Transit
And Hurricane Sandy

By David Peter Alan

The slow recovery of New Jersey’s transit from Hurricane Sandy continues, and so does the news about it.  This report comes from Hoboken.  The good news is that last Wednesday, January 30th saw the restoration of PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson trains between Hoboken and the “World Trade Center” station in New York’s downtown financial district.  Service runs from 5 am until 11 pm, and it marks the first service on that line since the storm flooded much of the PATH system three months ago.

New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken service still lags behind New York service.  Because of mold contamination, the first floor of the historic Hobooken Terminal, including the waiting room, was locked on December 19th.  NJT had placed a train on Track 8, with an idling diesel locomotive to provide power, and a restroom in every car.  According to a report by Karen Rouse in the Record of Bergen County, published on Friday, January 25th, Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) demanded that the waiting room be opened, or he would call a legislative hearing.  Sarlo is Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

NJT issued a press release after the close of business that day, saying that the waiting room would open on Tuesday.  It actually opened last Monday, although only one door is open, and there are only five small plastic benches, with a seating capacity of 10 persons.  The historic benches, shoe shine stand and newsstand are walled off with plywood, and the ticket office and restrooms are sealed off.  We called Sen. Sarlo’s office to ask if he was satisfied with NJT’s “opening” of the waiting room, but our calls were not returned.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)98.0097.39
Canadian National (CNI)95.9494.92
Canadian Pacific (CP) 116.08111.94
CSX (CSX)21.9222.24
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)85.1985.23
Kansas City Southern (KSU)94.3494.02
Norfolk Southern (NSC)69.6069.69
Providence & Worcester(PWX)16.0016.33
Union Pacific (UNP)133.96134.77

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Congress’ Five-Year-Old Kick-The Can Vote
Starts Hitting States Now, In Mid-Recession

From Internet Sources And DF Staff

WASHINGTON---In 2008 Congress voted --- quietly – to strangle Amtrak service in certain locations.

That vote is starting to have its effect now.

The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Peters handled the story this way:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA---Amtrak is shifting costs for some of its shorter passenger-train routes to the states, forcing them to decide between paying more or cutting back on rail services that many have been trying to expand.

States from California to Vermont are just now starting to tackle the cost increases, which kick in later this year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed Tuesday setting aside $44 million to ensure service on a variety of routes, including ones from New York City to Buffalo and to Albany. States such as Pennsylvania and Indiana are considering cutting service instead of picking up all of the new costs themselves, officials said.

“We are put in the position of either paying for the Amtrak services or having no Amtrak services,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of the office of rail for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

He estimates the state’s annual cost for Amtrak service could more than double to $25 million, with most of that on its route between Chicago and Detroit. The state has been working to speed up that line and increase ridership on it.

In 2008, Congress approved shifting to states the costs Amtrak pays for routes under 750 miles, while exempting the heavily traveled corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The requirement starts this fall.

Most Amtrak routes require subsidies because revenue collected through ticket sales is less than the cost of providing the service. Amtrak officials say the decision to increase the contribution of several states reduces its costs, while making Amtrak’s support of rail service more uniform nationally. Amtrak traditionally has subsidized some local routes, while leaving others up to the states to support.

Pennsylvania transportation officials expect state costs for Amtrak service to more than double to $19.2 million a year for two major lines. While the state likely will pick up some of the new costs to keep the same service, it will be a challenge to do so for all the routes, said Toby Fauver, deputy secretary for local and area transportation for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

He said, for example, the route between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh is slower than driving and would need considerable updates to become competitive. “It is a struggle for me to want to pay for that service,” Mr. Fauver said.

But the state is expected to face pushback from residents of western Pennsylvania. A ridership group held a rally last fall to start drumming up support for the route, which has stops in small towns and cities such as Altoona, Johnstown and Latrobe.

The loss of service would hit Huntingdon, Pa., particularly hard. The town is home to Juniata College, a growing population of retirees and two prisons, but has no other form of public transportation, said Thomas R. Kepple Jr., the college’s president.

“There is a lot of us here in the wilderness, too,” said Mr. Kepple, who said he takes the train several times a year.

Amtrak hasn’t cut major routes since 1997, although it shuttered service between New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina [Destination:Freedom’s Publisher’s note: CSX has continued to block re-start of this service, despite receiving Federal aid to restore track damaged by that 8-year-old hurricane]. At the same time, Amtrak has been expanding service in the Pacific Northwest, Virginia and North Carolina.

Maine added service between Portland and Boston a decade ago, recently extending the line farther north to Brunswick. The state supports the service itself, hiring Amtrak to run the trains, while handling marketing and food service on its own, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

She expects the cost shift over the next year will make states become more involved in their train service and look for ways to become more efficient. They also are likely to push Amtrak to become more efficient and could look elsewhere for certain services.

“It will force states who haven’t paid attention to take a closer look,” Ms. Quinn said.

Write to Mark Peters at:

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

It’s Not Easy Being A Transit Advocate In Atlanta

From The Atlantic Cities

Last July, residents of Atlanta took their long pent-up frustration with some of the worst traffic congestion in the country to the voting booth. On the ballot: a one-cent sales tax increase, projected to raise billions of dollars over 10 years to improve local roads, upgrade the transit system, build out streetcars, trails and Bus Rapid Transit. The vote was, in and of itself, a major milestone in this car-bound city.

“Congestion is bad here and we’re not unaware of it – everyone in Atlanta wants to do something about it,” says Ted Bradford, a local transit advocate. “It really came to a head when we decided ‘are we going to come together and cooperate and tax ourselves at a higher rate and do something about it?’ “

The answer, at the end of the day, turned out to be ‘no.’ Nearly two-thirds of voters rejected the referendum, leaving Atlanta, now six months later, in a particularly painful predicament.

“There’s definitely a feeling here that the people who ride the bus are not ‘people like me.’ “

“How do you change something without a budget for it?” says Matt Santy, another Atlanta transit advocate, posing the question as if it were a bleak inside joke.

Atlanta, like a lot of Southern cities, long ago passed on transit infrastructure – and the kind of culture that grows up around it – for an all-in commitment to the car. Now, people like Santy and Bradford will endeavor to make up for that inheritance with the only assets they can afford: human capital and cheap technology.

“Even if we change hearts and minds all over Atlanta and Georgia,” Bradford says, “we’re never going to be in a situation where we’re going to start recreating a massive subway-heavy infrastructure like New York. It’s no longer that time. We don’t have a Robert Moses, we don’t have the money. We don’t have anything like that.”

There’s no point in waiting for big projects, let alone the next big referendum. “There’s a realism here,” says Bradford, who has been planning along with Santy and others to jumpstart the conversation with a one-day conference, TransportationCamp South, next Saturday February 9. It’s planned as the kind of grassroots, developer-friendly confab that happens regularly in New York City.

But even the idea of hacking transit data is novel in Atlanta: The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, one of the last major metro transit agencies in the country that still guards its real-time arrival data, finally opened it to the public in the fall.

So where do Atlanta transit advocates start at this point? The best they can do now, Bradford figures, is to try to improve existing service at the margins – for one thing, make bus service more predictable by building a reliable tracking app. That relates to Bradford’s other goal, which is, as he puts it, to “ennoble” bus ridership.

Southern cities often overly rely on bus service in the absence of more rail infrastructure. But the ridership on those bus systems still pales in comparison to similar-sized cities elsewhere. As Eric Jaffe has previously written, less than 4 percent of Atlanta residents get to work by transit. The city has a small-scale rail network best known for shuttling people to and from the airport, with pretty predictable arrivals every 12 or 15 minutes.

“Most people in Atlanta don’t live close enough to a train station to really care when a train is coming,” Santy says. Passengers can wait for the bus, on the other hand, for 45 minutes, and that unpredictability compounds the stigma attached to riding it. There’s even a cottage industry of viral videos on YouTube, Bradford laments, mocking MARTA riders.

“There’s definitely a feeling here that the people who ride the bus are not ‘people like me,” says Kari Watkins, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech who is also helping to organize the conference. In other cities, people ride transit for a variety of reasons that go beyond financial necessity: because it’s the quickest alternative, or because it affords passengers the opportunity to get work done on a smart phone, or because it’s the more environmentally friendly option.

But those motivations – especially that last one – aren’t terribly prevalent in cities like Atlanta. And it can be hard to understand this from, say, a New York City subway platform.

“They have a storied subway system, and it’s steeped in history, and it’s kind of considered a noble thing,” Bradford says. “It’s easy for people to participate in something that’s noble and historic, that has these good connotations with it, whereas MARTA is more of a Great Society, mid-century liberalism project.”

And it’s one that many people in Atlanta (and even legislators in the statehouse) never really embraced. Now advocates will try to improve MARTA’s reputation by gradually improving its service. A traffic signal system that prioritizes transit could be one way to do that without a major construction project. And ultimately, slowly, Watkins suggests, as transit’s image changes, maybe more residents will be willing to see the value in it with future funding decisions, even if they don’t choose to ride transit themselves.

Other improvements – like bike lanes – wouldn’t require costly construction either (come to think of it, our emphasis on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in the Recession era completely ignores the fact that sometimes shovels aren’t necessary at all). In all of this, Atlanta doesn’t really have other cities to look to.

“I don’t know that there is another model for us,” Watkins says. Similar-sized transit agencies and cities are mostly on the West Coast, the Northeast, or in Chicago. “And we are not those,” Watkins says. But Southern cities with similar challenges might make progress if they begin to band together, as she, Bradford and Santy now hope they will. “It’s easier to do all of these things,” Watkins says, “if you’re also changing Raleigh and Chattanooga.”

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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Mexico Getting High-Speed Rail

From Internet Sources

MEXICO CITY--- Mexico’s federal government and officials from the central state of Queretaro have signed an agreement to build a high-speed rail system, Mexican news sources report.

Initially, the train will be able to cover the approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Mexico City to Queretaro City in less than two hours, Communications and Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said.

The train will have state-of-the-art technology and operate at speeds of up to 180 kph, official said.

The project will cost between 25 billion and 32 billion pesos ($1.95 billion and $2.5 billion), with the federal and state governments funding the project, Ruiz Esparza said.

Engineering studies are to be completed in late February or early March, with the train expected to start operating between 2015 and 2016.

Found at:

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LIVEABILITY... Livability...  

The Baby Boomers’ Revenge


Senior Citizens Are The Force
Pushing Increased Infrastructure

By Kathryn Smith, Politico

It’s no secret that America’s population is getting old.

And aside from figuring out the future of Medicare and Social Security, policymakers have another big challenge: helping older people get out and about.

That mobility actually plays an underappreciated role in health and well-being — and mayors and state officials are beginning to make it part of how they think about infrastructure spending. They are making the case that planning and building ahead for the rapidly aging population should be a big consideration as they divvy up their state budgets.

It was one of the themes raised at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting this month in Washington. And some mayors are thinking about ways of encouraging seniors to move from the suburbs back to the city.

(Destination:Freedom’s Publisher’s note: they are doing that anyway, with or without encouragement. Who wants to pay taxes/upkeep on a four bedroom suburban house when your kids are not only grown up, but want to move back in?)

That way, they can take advantage of the infrastructure in place and build from that.

“The more we can do to attract baby boomers to the heart of the city, the better off our city will be,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said at the conference, which included a panel on this topic.

By 2050, America’s population of people older than 65 will exceed 88 million — more than double that population in 2010, according to the Administration on Aging.

Policies that help older people “age in place” without relocating or moving into facilities like nursing homes are key to keeping an aging population connected — even after they give up their car keys — health advocates say. But they need to be mobile. An 85-year-old who can’t get transportation to the doctor to control her five chronic diseases, for instance, is at risk of ending up in an ambulance instead. And there are social and emotional consequences, as well — which in turn affect health.

“The whole deal with healthy aging is to stay connected and stay involved, and the enemy of healthy aging is social isolation,” Ruth Finkelstein, senior vice president for policy and planning at The New York Academy of Medicine, told the panel.

Research suggests that the “single most important predictor” of life expectancy in the U.S. is a rich social network and social engagement, Finkelstein told POLITICO.

She noted that psychologists at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina had analyzed studies about mortality conducted on more than 300,000 people over 70 1/2 years. They found that those with strong social ties were likely to outlive those without strong social ties — no matter their age, gender, general health or cause of death.

Many officials have concluded the easiest way to facilitate social interaction is to encourage older people to move from the suburbs to downtown. “So many folks in the city government, when the question comes up, ‘Hey, what are you doing for your senior community?’ the answer is always, ‘We’ve got a few senior centers going up,’ and they leave it at that,” Phoenix’s Stanton added. “And of course, we know that senior centers are just the beginning of the conversation.”

Phoenix, along with communities in Georgia, Indiana, Missouri and Florida are recipients of Pfizer Foundation grants to help their areas address transportation and encourage social interaction for older individuals.

But Stanton, along with Mayor Greg Ballard of Indianapolis and Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo., admitted they’re up against two challenges: America’s reliance on cars and its suburbs.

“One of our biggest problems is transportation,” James said. “There is no rail in Kansas City yet, and it’s absolutely crucial that we have it because otherwise we cannot get the cars off the road, we cannot bring people back in from the suburbs.”

Stanton, James and Ballard are all considering ways to improve mass transit, make their cities more pedestrian-friendly and change zoning laws to attract housing and businesses to the city centers.

Finkelstein added that such policies benefit the community in general, not just the elderly.

“If you start recognizing … what’s good for older adults is good for the community, then it stops being this separate burden of, ‘Oh, I have to make up something separate for these people to do,’ “ Finkelstein said.

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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