The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick
 

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February 7, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 5

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

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

  News Items…
House And Senate Committee Leaders Unveil Preliminary
   Plans For Surface Transportation Authorization Legislation
  Economic Lines…
Public Transit Businesses Predict Layoffs And Overseas
   Investment If Federal Transportation Authorization Bill Is Delayed
  Government Lines…
T&I Chairman John Mica, Others, Warn STB About
   Rail ‘Re-regulation’
  Infrastructure Lines…
Subway vs. Elevated: A 100-Year-Old Chicago Transit Line’s
   Replacement Pondered
Coming To A State Near You: A Vehicle Mileage Tax?
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Expansion Lines…
New Orleans To Expand Streetcar Routes
One New Start, One New Stop For Light Rail In New Jersey
  Commentary…
Good Intentions/Bad Policy?
  Events…
“Connecting New England by Rail”
  Publication Notes …


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

On The Political/Activist Front:

 

House And Senate Committee Leaders Unveil Preliminary Plans
For Surface Transportation Authorization Legislation

From American Public Transportation Association (APTA)

(Reprinted with permission)

WASHINGTON, DC, FEBRUARY 1 --- As the newly sworn-in 112th Congress begins to organize for the legislative business ahead, a few key committee leaders have begun to reveal their plans for the next surface transportation authorization bill.

Last week, in a series of meetings with transportation industry groups (including APTA President Bill Millar), new Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced his commitment to writing a full six-year bill this year, and outlined four guiding principles for the legislation. Chairman Mica plans to introduce legislation that will achieve the following:

1) Stabilize the Highway Trust Fund by ensuring that spending authorized in the bill will not exceed actual Trust Fund receipts.

2) Recapture unspent federal funds within the transportation program.  Specific funds have not been identified, but the Chairman has noted that there are significant un-obligated funds available throughout the federal transportation program.  These funds could be used to supplement trust fund spending.

3) Utilizing public private partnerships and other alternative financing mechanisms to leverage federal funds.  Chairman Mica plans to encourage more investment from the private sector for transportation projects. He expressed interest in expanding and improving current authorized programs that provide loan assistance and innovative financing such as the Transportation Innovative Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and Building America Bonds. He is also open to developing new programs to encourage private investment.

4) Streamline programs and speed project delivery.  The Chairman noted that delays in project delivery add unnecessary costs to programs funded with federal dollars.

Chairman Mica’s goals for the legislation are based on the premise that there will be no new resources available to increase trust fund revenues, and that the political climate is not favorable for a general increase in spending without budget offsets.  Therefore, he is committed to “doing more with less” and finding alternative means of continuing spending at the current or an increased rate. 

Also during these meetings, Chairman Mica announced that he would be traveling to more than a dozen cities across the country during the month of February to conduct a series of field hearings and listening sessions to gather ideas for the new authorization bill.  The Chairman wants a participatory process in developing his legislation, and has encouraged the transportation community to share information and ideas for the policy and financing portions of his legislation.  APTA will play an active role in this process, and encourages all members to attend any events in their local area.  Details on dates and locations of the field hearings and listening session will be forwarded as soon as they are finalized.

In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has also set the passage of a surface transportation bill as a top priority for her Committee in the coming months.  The Chairman has set a goal of moving a bill through her Committee by Memorial Day, but noted she needs cooperation from a number of other committees that have jurisdiction over different components of the transportation program, including the Senate Banking Committee, which must write the transit title.  In related news, Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), was officially named Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee last week.  Chairman Boxer has not discussed in detail her goals for the bill, but has stated that she understands the fiscal constraints, and plans to work together with Chairman Mica in the House with the common goal of completing the bill this year.

Meanwhile, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the Obama Administration hopes that a bill will be completed by August.  The Administration’s outlook on authorization should become clearer the week of February 14, when the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget proposal is submitted to Congress.  While the President called for a new commitment to rebuilding America’s infrastructure during his State of the Union address this week, including access to high speed rail for 80 percent of Americans within the next 25 years, policies and funding specifics were not given.  The President also stated that he will veto any legislation sent to him that includes earmarks.  This could have a significant impact on the development of the next authorization bill, as well as annual appropriations bills for transportation programs.

For questions or additional information, please contact Paul Dean of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4887 or pdean@apta.com.

Continuing Resolution Set to Expire March 4 Amid Republican Calls for Spending Cuts

The continuing resolution (CR) that is currently funding government operations as well as the extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) will expire on March 4. 

Republicans leaders in the House have continued to express their desire to reduce the federal deficit by cutting funds within the federal discretionary budget, including for transportation programs.  Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced that the House will vote on a slimmed down CR the week of February 14 that will reduce non-security discretionary spending to FY 2008 levels, which coincides with the release of the President’s FY 2012 budget. APTA strongly opposes this effort, and urges all members to contact their Senators and Representatives to express your opposition to this measure.

 

Action Alert

When speaking to your member, please make the following points: 

  • State your opposition to any legislative proposal to reduce the current level of funding for public transportation programs.

  • Explain to your members that continued federal investments are critical in your community to maintain assets in a state- of-good-repair, begin or complete critical projects, and maintain current levels of service.

  • Let them know that investments in public transportation infrastructure creates jobs and is vital to maintain our country’s economic competitiveness.

Efforts among House Democrats to preserve transportation funding include a sign-on letter addressed to House Leadership spearheaded by Representative Mike Michaud (D-ME).  

For questions or additional information, please contact Paul Dean of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4887 or pdean@apta.com.


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ECONOMIC LINES... Economic Lines...  

Public Transit Businesses Predict Layoffs
And Overseas Investment If Federal Transportation
Authorization Bill Is Delayed

Survey Of Private Sector Transit Businesses Indicates Economic Growth And Health
Is Directly Linked To Investments In Public Transportation

From APTA

WASHINGTON, DC FEBRUARY 1 - While public transportation-related businesses were encouraged by President Obama’s State of the Union commitment to investing in America’s infrastructure, new research shows that they remain deeply concerned about the negative effects that a delay in passing a long-term surface transportation authorization bill will have on their businesses. In a survey released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), 80 percent of private sector businesses surveyed indicated that the level of federal investment in public transportation has a large influence on business revenue.

The survey also showed a grim outlook for the industry if federal surface transportation authorization is further delayed, with 84 percent of respondents predicting revenue losses. The consequences on jobs could be significant, with 50 percent predicting that they will lay off employees and 49 percent predicting hiring freezes if Congress fails to enact a well-funded, long term bill soon.

“As unemployment rates stay stubbornly high, public transportation is a smart investment that creates and supports jobs, while improving our communities,” said APTA President William Millar. “Conversely, the survey shows that Congress’ delay in passing an authorization bill has the opposite effect – forcing private sector businesses to lay off employees and to invest overseas.”

The Association also notes research that shows every dollar invested in public transit yields four dollars in economic returns and every $1 billion invested creates or supports over 36,000 jobs.

(D:F Editor’s underline)

Patrick Scully, chief commercial officer of Daimler Buses North America, said that an authorization bill would help stabilize the industry. He stated “Congressional action would provide much needed certainty to our industry to allow transit agencies the needed time horizon for long term capital planning, which in turn should turn into vehicle procurements and thus would help our business know how much we can invest in human capital and other resources.”

Jeffrey Wharton, president of IMPulse NC, which manufactures overhead electrification contact systems for light rail and trolley systems, reiterated that investments in public transit will help to put America to work. “With increased federal investment, we hope to increase our payroll, while also expanding jobs for our sub suppliers,” said Wharton.

“The uncertainty and continued delay in authorization is having a serious negative impact on all businesses, including DRI,” said David Turney, CEO of the DRI Corporation, which makes digital communications technology that is used in transit systems. “We can’t afford to delay any longer. We are increasingly turning to international markets instead of the United States because of the delay in authorization. We urge Congress to follow President Obama’s lead and commit to long-term funding for public transportation in America.”

More than 700 of APTA’s private-sector businesses were surveyed for the report, with a 10 percent response rate. Investment in the public transportation industry creates and supports over 1.9 million public and private sector jobs and is a $54 billion a year industry. The full survey is at www.apta.com.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems

Virginia Miller
Senior Manager-Media Relations
American Public Transportation Association
Washington, DC
202-496-4816


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GOVERNMENT LINES... Government Lines...  

T&I Chairman John Mica, Others,
Warn STB About Rail ‘Re-regulation’

By DF Staff And From The Journal Of Commerce

WASHINGTON --- “House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and several other key members of that panel from both political parties are warning the Surface Transportation Board against taking steps that hurt railroads’ ability to invest in their networks,” The Journal of Commerce reported this past week.

“The warning comes ahead of STB hearings Feb 24 and May 3 that could lead the agency to toughen some of its policies on railroad cargo exemptions and granting competitive access to other rail carriers for long-distance shipments. It also comes the same week President Obama doubled down on his infrastructure investment plans and the intercity passenger rail expansion that mostly depends on access by Amtrak or similar operations to freight-owned tracks. And several railroad CEOs visited the White House this week to discuss their concerns over regulations with the president’s chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee,” wrote reporter John Boyd.

The conflict between railroads and what are called “captive shippers” who must use rail, but have only one carrier from which to choose, has been growing as railroads have merged over the past three decades following the passage of the Staggers Act that repealed most regulation of the railroads. Many rail lines disappeared, and much track was taken up as a result. Shippers claim they are being overcharged, but railroads say they have to make a profit to continue re-investing in their systems, and argument that goes back to the dawn of railroading, and which is at the core of the business model of the very capital-intensive railroads.

BNSF CEO Matt Rose, widely regarded as one of the most gifted railroad managers in the United States, has also warned of the “unintended consequences” of Federally-mandated implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), a locomotive safety system that must be phased in by 2015, but which the railroads must pay for out of their own pockets; this contrasts with highway costs, which are largely borne by the taxpayer, but whose main income source, the gas-tax-funded Highway Trust Fund, has required repeated general tax revenue bailouts. The multi-billion PTC program will crowd out other needed improvements, warned Rose, including those critical to the success of the Obama Administration’s push for higher-speed passenger rail lines across the country.

Jim RePass, Chairman of NCI, stated: “The freight railroads cannot be asked to front all of the costs of capital improvements, either for passenger rail or to benefit safety, at a time when the need to get ever heavier trucks off of the nation’s highways is growing more critical by the year; we subsidize highways and air travel, but tax the freights as well as requiring (mandating) a number of costly, albeit essential, programs such as PTC. Something is going to give, and a fair solution found, or the gridlock on the nation’s highways, although somewhat lessened over the past two years by the Great Recession, is going to come roaring back, and the highway maintenance budgets already underfunded for years will fall even farther behind.”


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INFRASTRUCTURE LINES... Infrastructure Lines...  

From The Transport Politic:

 

Subway vs. Elevated: A 100-Year-Old
Chicago Transit Line’s Replacement Pondered

 

CHICAGO ---The cost of subway construction is generally seen as a more costly alternative to surface or elevated construction, but “An early scoping report suggests that a subway replacing the Red and Purple Lines in Chicago’s North Side could cost less than an elevated modernization program,” reports The Transport Politic (
www.thetransportpolitic.com):

Elevated rapid transit — like any kind of physical infrastructure — degrades over time. Faced with decades of carrying hundreds of thousands of people daily in a notoriously extreme climate, the rail line that runs local Red and express Purple trains north from Chicago’s Belmont Station to Linden Terminal in Wilmette Evanston along 9.5 miles of track has seen better days. While much of the rest of the elevated and subway system operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has been renovated in recent years, this section of rail corridor and the stations associated with it has continued to degrade, resulting in slowed-down, unreliable trains and damaged structural conditions. Of the 21 stations concerned by this corridor, only 6 have handicap access. That’s bad news for the about 125,000 daily users who take advantage of the line every day.

Thus last month the CTA began holding public meetings on what it calls the Red & Purple Modernization Project, an initial step towards the eventual creation of an Environmental Impact Statement, which in turn allows the CTA to apply for federal funds to renovate the corridor.

In this case, there will be no easy options for the city’s transit authority. Certainly nothing will be cheap. But what might be expensive elsewhere — a subway — could turn out to be the most cost-effective solution for Chicago.

In preparation for public events this year, CTA planners have performed simple evaluations on a number of potential options for the corridor, summarized in the chart below.

The CTA has four fundamental options: Maintain the track in its current condition, allowing it to degrade, slowing trains and requiring constant upkeep and high operating costs ($280 million); Rehabilitate the track, putting it into a state of good repair for a short period of time (20 years) and potentially introduce new transfer options from express to local trains ($2.4-2.9 billion); Build a new elevated line along the Chicago section of the corridor, either with three or four tracks, and rebuild the embanked Evanston portion ($4-4.2 billion); and Construct a subway along the southern half of the line, eliminating the existing elevated portions there ($4 billion).

The second pair of options would require removing some existing stations, a possibility that is making some locals nervous already. Some stations on the current line are less than 1,000 feet apart. CTA planners argue that the construction of a new elevated or underground track would reduce travel times and that the insertion of new stations with multiple access points (today most stations only have one entrance) will, on the whole, reduce average walking time to and from transit.

The fact that the subway option may cost about the same as an elevated alternative is a surprise, but these are preliminary alternatives that will be compared in more depth if the CTA finds the funds to advance the study over the next two years. Chicago mayoral race front-runner Rahm Emanuel has suggested that his top transportation priority for the city is to modernize this portion of the Red Line and also extend it south to 130th Street. Even so, neither project currently has any funding specifically devoted to it.

Nevertheless, ridership on this corridor — possibly the densest 10-mile strip in the Midwest — is growing along with a booming residential population. These people need good access to Chicago’s downtown. What choice does the city have but to find the means to pay for the renovation of the line?

Chicago has completed renovations of several of its transit lines in the past, including the Brown Line in 2009, the Dan Ryan stretch of the Red Line in 2007, the Pink Line in 2006, and the South Side Green Line in 1996. Yet the closest comparison to the project may be the renovation of Philadelphia’s Market Street El, which wound up in September 2009. There, the local transit agency spent $740 million effectively turning a 100-year-old, 2-mile line into a brand new two-track corridor, replacing all track, all of the support structures, and all of the stations. At an average cost of $370 million per mile, it is no surprise that Chicago’s planners estimate at least a $4 billion cost ($421 million/mile) for the replacement of their two to four-track line.

Maintaining the status quo or a basic rehabilitation will do little for the city, resolving few of the existing problems and simply postponing needed repairs to a date not so many years off.

Thus a serious, long-term approach to handling the structural conditions of the North Side elevated will require either constructing a new elevated viaduct or building a subway.

From the perspective of maintaining existing operations along the line, the first solution would be extremely difficult since it would require shutdowns of the portions of the line in which the new elevated structure is being built. Chicago rebuilt the South Side Green Line in the early 1990s — by closing it for two years. That is not much of an option along this corridor, where there is no alternative (unlike the South Side, where the Red Line runs just a few blocks from the Green) and where far too many people rely on these rail services to cut them off entirely. It would be extremely expensive from an operations perspective to introduce a bus service capable of carrying hundreds of thousands of people along the corridor, and the result of such a construction period — it could last years — could be thousands of permanent riders lost.

On the other hand, the subway option offers a distinct advantage in this regard because it could theoretically be built even as operations continue on the existing elevated above, much as Boston’s Big Dig added a highway tunnel underneath the city’s downtown expressway, ensuring permanent road access throughout the construction period. That comparison, however, raises the question of whether the underground alternative is really as good a deal as the planners, comparing it to the elevated route, seem to make it, since the Big Dig’s cost escalated exponentially over the course of its development.

Moreover, while fewer stops, fewer curves thanks to the new alignment, and more reliable track would speed the underground trains much faster than today’s elevated, the subway would only have two tracks, versus the four now offered. This would eliminate express Purple Line trains between Howard and Belmont Stations — a service that saves commuters almost half their travel time compared to the local Red Line (12 versus 22 minutes) — and require everyone to take the local. On the other hand, all local commuters in the areas now served by both the Purple and Red Lines would then get generally quicker travel times. Planners estimate that this could attract more riders than the other options. Could this be an acceptable trade-off?

The tunneled train alignment does offer one possibility that the city should study very seriously: The option of selling the development rights to the parcels where the elevated trains once ran. Unlike in many places, where elevated trains run directly over a street, on this corridor, the trains run in the middle of blocks. If a subway were built below, a long stretch of real estate would suddenly be available for sale. This could offset construction costs tremendously.

It will be sad if Chicago has to spend a great deal of money on the renovation of an existing line rather than the construction of a new one — if not now, then sometime in the next twenty years. With a large expansion program in the works, the CTA will have to rely on a generous federal commitment to make any of these projects work. In today’s difficult political environment, finding those funds may be difficult.

For an image of the chart see:

http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2011/02/02/a-100-year-old-chicago-transit-lines-replacement-pondered/


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From The Infrastructurist

 

Coming To A State Near You:
A Vehicle Mileage Tax?

See: http://www.infrastructurist.com/2011/01/31/is-a-vehicle-mileage-tax-coming-to-a-state-near-you/

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the sudden, meteoric rise of EVs and ultra-fuel-efficient hybrids – with gas prices showing no sign of decreasing, fuel supplies showing equally no sign of increasing, and carbon emissions showing the polar opposite of a decrease, we should be thrilled to see momentum building for a drastic change in the way we get from home to work, and everywhere in between.

Still, one glaring question lives amid all the hype and celebration: If the gas tax pays for America’s roads, and that gas tax is already barely covering the costs of said roads, what will happen when more and more drivers start buying less and less gas? We’re already facing a pretty hefty budget dilemma when it comes to infrastructure (and everything else) – and while President Obama has put forth plenty of inspiring plans for infrastructure expansion (including alternatives to road transport, in the form of high-speed rail), he, and the federal government as a whole, have thus far been skimpy on details as far as how to pay for it all.

One could argue that the gas tax is already pretty impotent – it doesn’t even cover the cost of our roads as it is, so why would it matter whether we’re collecting less of it? But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. As such, we’re glad to see that a few states are beginning to test out alternatives. Like Hawaii, which is reportedly developing a pilot program for a mileage tax.

According to the Honolulu Civil Beat:

The program would tally the number of miles traveled by particular vehicles and collect payments from their owners. The state would refund fuel taxes paid by those drivers, and could otherwise compensate the participants through a sweepstakes. The bills are light on specifics, and it would be up to the Hawaii Department of Transportation to figure it all out.

Hawaii isn’t the only state warming to this idea: Pilot programs for a “vehicle miles traveled” tax have sprung up in Austin, Texas, Oregon, and Nevada. The downsides: They’re difficult to implement, and require a technological hurdle or two – drivers will have to use a low-tech odometer or a chip will need to be implanted in every car to measure miles traveled. Which presents another problem: chips measuring when and where and how much you drive and reporting those stats to the government could be a violation of your civil liberties, at least, according to the ACLU, which has already opposed Nevada’s mileage tax. Nonetheless, plenty of technology that we already use gathers this data, including EZ Pass and GPS – so why not simply repurpose some of it for the new tax? It’s either that or start paying tolls every time we leave our driveways. Or simply letting our roads continue to sink into disrepair.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)68.3867.76
Canadian Pacific (CP) 66.9267.15
CSX (CSX)69.7069.28
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)52.3150.82
Kansas City Southern (KSU)51.1148.87
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.0760.38
Providence & Worcester(PWX)17.5718.05
Union Pacific (UNP)94.2593.54


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

New Orleans To Expand Streetcar Routes

By DF Staff And From The New York Times

Found at: http://Intransit.Blogs.Nytimes.Com/2011/01/31/New-Orleans-To-Expand-Streetcar-Routes/

The on-line In Transit blog of The New York Times is reporting that New Orleans is once again expanding its streetcar system:

“Add to the list of post-Katrina comeback efforts from the City of New Orleans a circuit of new streetcar routes. The project, announced last week, will include two and a half miles of new track, to run past the Central Business District and the famed French Quarter, and then eastward into residential, working-class neighborhoods like Treme, Marigny and Bywater, with the hopes of serving those still-struggling communities,” reported Dan Salzstein

“Two main extensions are planned: the first, expected to cost $45 million, with funding from a federal grant, is scheduled for completion in June 2012; the second, at a cost of $79 million, financed by revenue from a city sales tax bond, is scheduled for completion by late 2013,” he reported.

New Orleans re-started the Canal Street line in 2004, which had been converted to buses in 1964, at a time when many American cities, pushed by highway and oil lobbyists, went about the business of destroying their rail transit systems. It began a new Waterfront line in 1988 as the result of years of pro-transit activism by New Orleans citizens, and the extension announced this past week will not only serve the famed Desire Street neighborhood, made famous by the Tennessee Williams play, via Rampart Street from Canal, but will include a spur down Elysian Fields to the riverfront, allowing French Quarter workers to benefit from that line as well; the Riverfront Line at present runs from Canal Street the entire length of the French Quarter on its Mississippi River side; the Elysian Fields spur will greatly increase the functionality if that line.

Also in the works is a streetcar direction from Canal Street to Union Station, and other routes are proposed as a way of restoring to life what was once one of the most successful urban transit systems in America.

About In Transit:

In Transit is a blog on travel news, deals and tips, written by the editors and reporters of the Travel section of The New York Times. It’s also the home for Globespotters, a travel blog that covers news and events from 10 cities around the world. The Times requests: Q&A submissions should include the writer’s name and location, and should be sent to  t. Please keep in mind that The Times is not a travel agency and cannot answer specific questions about fares, flights, hotels and the like.


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System Map

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail
One New Start, One New Stop
For Light Rail In New Jersey

By David Peter Alan

New Jersey Transit’s light rail system grew by one mile on Monday, January 31st, when service on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit (HBLRT) Line was extended to Eighth Street in Bayonne. Since November, 2003, service had terminated at Twenty-Second Street, now the next-to-last stop. The opening ceremony was held at 11:00 on a cold and windy, but sunny, day. In attendance were NJT managers, rail fans who wanted to be on the first revenue run, and a number of politicians who, in all likelihood, will not ride the line on a regular basis.

There was some confusion about the actual start time for service to the new station. NJT’s web site said that revenue service would not begin until 12:35 from Hoboken Terminal, but the operator of the 12:15 departure was informed during the middle of the run that she was directed to go to the new station. Automated announcements and destination signs continued to announce Twenty-Second Street as the terminal later in the day, but riders knew about the new station and used it.

The opening marks the first time that service has gone from Eighth Street in Bayonne to Jersey City in almost 44 years. Bayonne is located at the end of a peninsula, south of Jersey City. The portion of the line that goes through the two cities is part of the historic right-of-way of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. Until 1967, trains ran from a terminal in Jersey City, east of Liberty State Park, and proceeded along the route to Allentown, Philadelphia, the Jersey Shore and other places. When the historic terminal was taken out of service, the CNJ continued to run a shuttle between Cranford (then the connection point for trains to and from Newark Penn Station) to Bayonne. That service ran to the west from Bayonne, over Newark Bay and was discontinued on August 6, 1978. The bridge over the bay was then demolished.

Now, more than 32 years later, new service at the same station location now runs in the other direction. The platform is elevated: a structure that would allow eventual expansion of the line over the Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island. Such an extension would require approval by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Still the MTA’s S-89 bus runs between Bayonne and Staten Island today, so light rail might make a similar connection in the future.

Today, only the shell of the station building stands; former interior spaces have been replaced with stairs and an elevator to the platform, and a former interior wall is now covered by a new mural that depicts transportation through the years. James C. Greller, Senior Transportation Planner for the Hudson Transportation Management Association, remembers the old service from the 1960s. “That beautiful, elaborate station was more than just a place for the trains to stop; it also housed the bridge tender and his family,” Greller said. The bridge is gone, but Greller welcomed the line, which he said would bring better transportation to the community, and greater prosperity with it.

The southern end of the HBLRT is now complete. Although “Bergen” is part of the official name of the line, it still does not enter Bergen County. It is unclear when it will. The NJT Board has approved plans to extend the line along the former Northern Branch of the Erie Railroad to Tenafly, but it’s not clear when, if ever, this extension will be built. The Tenafly Council has come out against the new line, and New Jersey cannot afford capital projects for transit at this time. That is why Gov. Chris Christie killed the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) Project, which would have built new commuter rail tunnels to Manhattan and a deep-cavern terminal below Thirty-Fourth Street for an end point.

Rider advocates are pushing for an affordable ARC Project that would bring new tunnels into the existing Penn Station, as well as for other needed projects, including the extension of light rail service northward into Bergen County. Given the state of New Jersey’s economy, it does not appear that NJT will inaugurate any more new starts in the foreseeable future.

 

For a more detailed system map see:
http://www.njtransit.com/pdf/LightRail/sf_lr_hblr_map.pdf

 


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Good Intentions/Bad Policy?

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary Volume III, No. 2. January 31, 2011

By Richard L. Beadles

The Commonwealth of Virginia -- including all of its political subdivisions, agencies, commissions and authorities -- needs a better way to coordinate and prioritize transportation initiatives. We need to insure that such initiatives are consistent and do not negate the intent of each other.

At times they seem to do just that. This occurs from top to bottom -- from the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly to the lowliest echelons at VDOT, DRPT, Aviation and Ports. We also need a better financial scoring methodology, some way of getting to the bottom line. How else could one explain:

o PPTA planning for a potential new Route 460 to, among other things, speed trucks hauling cargo containers to and from the ports in Hampton Roads, which highway, if built, will require a large public subsidy to induce those trucks to actually use it.

o A proposed $50 per-cargo-container income tax credit to encourage shippers to use rail or barge transportation, instead of highway, to move such cargo to the ports.

o Construction in downtown Richmond of yet another costly state-funded parking garage, which will presumably offer parking to state employees at below-market rates, while at the same time, the state seeks, by financial inducements, to promote employee use of public transit, a mode of travel heavily funded by all levels of government.

o The RIC Airport Commission has initiated, and is apparently funding, a $600,000 outreach program to beseech travelers to forsake legacy airlines which have served this market for decades in favor of “low cost” carriers which have a history of dropping short-hop flights. At the very same time, the Dallas Morning News is telling us that Southwest, our highly-coveted new carrier is seeing a significant reduction in short-haul flyers. Delta and Jet Blue tell us they can’t make money on some short-hauls due to high fuel and other operating costs, regardless of how many passengers use them. Are we chasing the wrong rabbit? We can’t be making any friends at United, Delta or American!

o Encouraged by Norfolk Southern’s successful public-private Heartland Corridor project, CSX is promoting something called the National Gateway. No question that the Virginia Avenue freight tunnel in D.C. needs to be fixed, but by whom and for whose benefit? Virginia has programmed $30 million, or more, to help CSX, on the apparent assumption that this will benefit the Port of Virginia, but no credible evidence has yet been forthcoming that Virginia will see much, if any, direct benefit. Are there better places for the state to invest on CSX in Virginia? Are we asking the right questions?

Regrettably, Virginia’s one-term gubernatorial limitation does not lend itself to development of much expertise, and certainly not continuity, at the cabinet level. Meanwhile, the state transportation agencies tend to continue their “silo” routines, and the General Assembly is faced with many inconsistent special interest requests. Wow! Real world reform is difficult, but it should not be viewed as impossible!


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EVENTS... Events...  

SAVE THE DATE!!

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011

RAIL CONFERENCE IN NEW HAVEN
At The New Haven Public Library

“Connecting New England by Rail”

Sponsors:

Sierra Club of Connecticut
Rail Users Network
National Corridors Initiative

Keynote Speaker Art Guzzetti from APTA
Other speakers from New England states and more.

Topics will focus on what is happening now and what are the opportunities to connect the New England states with Eastern Canada to the north and the mid-Atlantic - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania - and points south.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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