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
 

Contribute To NCI

April 4, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 13

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

This E-Zine is best viewed at
1024 X 768 screen resolution

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

  News Items…
Governor Nixon Determines; Improved Rail Service In
   Missouri’s Interest; Major Projects
   Moving Forward
Locals Seek Federal Funds For VT. Rail Project
  News From Amtrak…
Gladys Knight Joins Amtrak To Celebrate National Train Day
  Off The Main Line…
Meet Amtrak’s Singing Café Car Guy
  Commuter Lines…
Open Letter to the Governor of MA
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Freight Lines…
Continued Gains In Weekly Carload And Intermodal Traffic
  Across The Pond…
Fallout From Japanese Earthquake Freezes Stuttgart 21
  Commentary…
Transportation Fantasy Land
  Opinion…
Motorists Get Clean Highways, But Pedestrians
   Don’t Get Clean Sidewalks!
  Events…
We CAN Connect New England By Rail (Apr 29-CT)
  Publication Notes …


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

Governor Nixon Determines;
Improved Rail Service In Missouri’s Interest;
Major Projects Moving Forward

From The Midwest High Speed Rail Association

Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri announced this week that Missouri will submit two groups of applications for federal high-speed and intercity passenger rail funds.

The first group, totaling $373 million, is to modernize the existing St. Louis to Kansas City Amtrak service.  The state will also apply for $600 million to begin designing and buying land for a dedicated high-speed passenger line between St. Louis and Kansas City. We are excited that Governor Nixon is taking this dual approach of short-term improvements and long term planning for high-speed rail.

Proposed HSR in MO

Image: Midwest HSR

Existing and proposed routes in MO.

Farther north in Wisconsin, Governor Walker will apply for $150 million in federal funds to improve the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago. The money would pay for two train sets, replacing the train shed at the Milwaukee station and building a maintenance facility in Milwaukee. 

While Governor Walker and Governor Nixon are now pursuing funding, Governor Branstad of Iowa still has not decided whether to accept federal funds awarded to the state for Amtrak service from Chicago to Iowa City. Last October, Iowa and Illinois received $230 million for a Chicago - Quad Cities - Iowa City line with service beginning in 2015. 

[Join Midwest High Speed Rail at: at www.MidwestHSR.org]


Return to index
 

Locals Seek Federal Funds For VT. Rail Project

WCAX News On Internet
Writer: Susie Steimle And DF Staff

RUTLAND, VERMONT, MARCH 28 --Western Vermonters are anxiously looking at an opportunity to improve transportation by upgrading a rusted, but active rail line. The line carries both passengers and freight daily, but it is very slow. Business leaders and lawmakers met recently with the Obama Administration’s top rail official, Karen Rae, to ask for nearly $60 million in federal funds for a higher-speed rail in the region known as the Western Corridor project.

The project would link the entire western side of Vermont from Bennington to Burlington, and potentially expand into Montreal and New York City via the Ethan Allen Express.

“We really need the connection to New England and the Northeast and really the world,” said Andrew Mayer of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce.

“We all know that Rutland is transportation challenged without an interstate on the western side,” said Governor Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

“We can do this thing,” Shumlin said. “I’m convinced that with the help of this great administration and all the New England governors we can be the first to deliver medium speed rail.”

Vermont is among the 33 states vying for the $2.4 billion that Florida declined for its high speed rail. Vermont leaders wanted to show Rae just how much an improved rail line would give a boost to businesses. Westminster Cracker for example, receives flour daily from freight cars, but President Larry Cirina says the corridor would bring bigger trains and increase business.

“We do not bring in full-sized rail cars because of the condition of the tracks, so my plea is simply from an economic standpoint,” Cirina said.

VT Freight Tracks in aging condition

Photo: Via WCAX

Rails showing their age, and reduced speed as a result

Rae was impressed with the community support for this project, but she is facing the probability that there may be 100 applications for the money.

“Bring us projects that are well thought out, that have good solid staff work and are compelling, because I have to tell you we think right now we will get 100 applications,” she said.

Applications for the funding are due April 4, and it will take months for the Department of Transportation to decide whose project to pick.

The Vermont Rail Action Network, an advocacy group with approximately 5,000 members, has been active in promoting this project. They are working with the New England Rail Coalition (NERC) to encourage New England governors to plan and collaborate on major infrastructure projects that will boost the region’s economy.


Return to index
NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Gladys Knight Joins Amtrak To
Celebrate National Train Day

Grammy ®-winning vocalist to host signature event on May 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Empress of Soul, singer, actress and philanthropist, Gladys Knight will share her love of trains and join thousands of rail fans to celebrate the fourth annual National Train Day on May 7, 2011. Knight serves as the national spokesperson and will host the signature event at Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Union Station where she will open the festivities.

Ever since recording her GRAMMY®-winning single, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” which Gladys Knight and the Pips requested the name be changed from the original title “Midnight Plane to Houston,” Knight has felt a deep connection to trains and wanted to partner with Amtrak.

“Trains are tightly woven into the history of our country and have definitely played a leading role in my life and career. I’m thrilled to be a part of the National Train Day celebrations, especially this year as Amtrak commemorates its 40th anniversary,” says Knight.

“I’m a big fan of train travel,” adds Knight. “I not only love the comfort and convenience of trains, but also like knowing that I’m doing my part to help the environment every time I choose to travel by rail.”

“Gladys Knight is a natural fit for Amtrak and National Train Day. Just as her music bridges generations by connecting with young and old alike, Amtrak and trains connect people to one another – both onboard and from coast-to-coast,” says David Lim, Chief Marketing Officer, for Amtrak.

National Train Day commemorates the 142nd anniversary of the transcontinental railroad’s inception by bringing to life the rich history of how trains have transformed America.

In addition to the Washington, D.C. event, Amtrak is hosting National Train Day festivities at other stations across the country – including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Each free event in the four major markets takes place from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and will feature live entertainment, interactive and educational exhibits, kids’ activities, model trains and tours of Amtrak equipment, freight and commuter trains, and notable private railroad cars.

“This year’s event will kick-off the 40th anniversary of Amtrak and is an opportunity to celebrate the company’s contributions to the history and future of passenger rail in this country,” said Emmett Fremaux, Vice President – Marketing and Product Development, Amtrak. “National Train Day promises to delight the kid in all of us with a day dedicated to celebrating all things rail.”

National Train Day Exclusive Exhibits

Events in the four major markets will feature an exclusive element to further excite and educate train enthusiasts, including:

National Train Day Exhibits

In addition to the exclusive exhibits, each signature event will include the following exhibits:

Local communities nationwide are encouraged to develop and host their own National Train Day celebrations. More than 185 local celebrations took place in 2010.  For more information, visit www.nationaltrainday.com.

About Amtrak®:

Amtrak is America’s Railroad, the nation’s intercity passenger rail provider and its only high-speed rail operator.  A record 28.7 million passengers traveled on Amtrak in FY 2010 on more than 300 daily trains – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces.  Amtrak operates trains in partnership with 15 states and four commuter rail agencies. Amtrak also is a strong financial performer achieving an 85 percent cost-recovery ratio in FY 2010.  Enjoy the journey at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information.  Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Amtrak and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/Amtrak. [Membership in these services is required to access content. - Ed.]

Contact: Christina Leeds at 202-906-3860, or Stephanie Aenchbacher Edelman at 312-233-1247.


Return to index
OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Meet Amtrak’s Singing Café Car Guy

AOL Travel News On The Internet
Writer Fran Golden

Amtrak Singing Employee

Amtrak Employer Anthony Bryant (Photo: Amtrak)
APRIL 1 -- Anthony Bryant loves his job as café car worker on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, which serves the in Southern California coast from San Diego to Los Angeles and up to San Luis Obispo. He wants the riders to enjoy the train as much as he does, so a few years ago he started singing on the job. He likes to refer to himself as a “train singer” even though he is not a “trained singer!”

As the train pulls out of the station in San Diego, he starts singing on the PA system. As much as the songs are for passengers’ enjoyment, it’s also a marketing strategy.

“I started to sing primarily when it’s not too busy in the café car, and people are sitting up and enjoying the fine scenery of the ocean, they need a little push to come downstairs and purchase something,” Bryant says. He starts every trip with his own little ditty that includes the line, “Every day’s a beautiful day for a train ride,” followed by a melody of favorites on the café car menu – sandwiches, snacks and beverages.

But he says he also sings to make people happy.

Bryant us 52 and has been working for Amtrak for 18 years. A typical day starts for him at 4:15 am, heading straight to the commissary, about two miles from the station in L.A., to stock up. The café car employee does a rotating work cycle on the train, which has him doing some 15-hour days followed by days off.

“I have a passion about this job and seeing people enjoy themselves,” he says. “People have problems, so anything you can do to enhance a person’s experience, and bring an interchange between people, I think is good.”

He grew up in Philadelphia and now lives in San Diego. Bryant loves California and often sings the state song, which, according to him, many people have never heard: “I love you, California; you’re the greatest state of all. I love you in the winter, summer, spring, and in the fall.”

His repertoire also includes “Happy Birthday” when appropriate. He does not sing “I’ve been working on the railroad!”

Bryant, who has also worked in food service at restaurants and hospitals, says he’s always been a fan of train travel and doesn’t drive.

“For me trains are just a beautiful way of traveling,” he says. “When I was a kid I went from Philly down to Baltimore and up to New York by train. And you could meet a lot of different people n the train and in the café car.”

Riders are most likely to see him on the route between Los Angeles and San Diego, which takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, with 12 daily round-trips. But Bryant also sometimes works the train farther north up to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

The bi-level Pacific Surfliner has panoramic windows to view ocean stretches including around San Juan Capistrano – Bryant’s favorite. Because this is California – there are also racks on the train for both bikes and surfboards.


Return to index
COMMUTERLINES... Commuter Lines...  

An Open Letter From The
Association For Public Transportation

 

Massachusetts Association of Railroad Passengers
P.O. Box 51029, Boston, MA  02205-1029
apt@aptmarp.org;     www.aptmarp.org
APT Message Line : 617.482.0282     Tel: 732.576.8840     Fax: 732.576.8839

Richard J. Arena President
rjarena@aptmarp.org

April 1, 2011

The Honorable Deval L. Patrick
Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Massachusetts State House, Room 280
Boston, MA 02133

 

Dear Governor Patrick:

Despite intense efforts by many interested parties over the past month, it appears unlikely that MassDOT will submit requests for any of the $2.4 billion of Florida’s returned High Speed Rail (HSR) funds for use on the North/South Rail Link (NSRL). APT strongly recommends the following funding requests for the NSRL: (1) $60 million for preliminary engineering work, and (2) $6 million to complete NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requirements. Time is of the essence funding requests are due to the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) by 8:00 PM, Monday April 4, 2011.

Massachusetts has had three opportunities, in 2009, 2010, and now 2011, to request HSR funds for this important project, and each time the Commonwealth has declined. This underground South Station – North Station rail connection would add capacity to both of Boston’s congested commuter rail stations, create thousands of jobs, remove 50,000 cars from the region’s highways, and provide the infrastructure for a future 200+ mph HSR gateway station in the Commonwealth. This failure to act would be another missed opportunity by Massachusetts to construct what is arguably the most strategic and critical rail project for the Commonwealth and the New England region.

Massachusetts has fared poorly in earlier attempts to secure HSR funds. To date, the entire New England region has received only 2% of available federal HSR funds. These projects are far from what is considered “true” 200+ mph HSR. The “Knowledge Corridor” in western Massachusetts will have a top speed of only 60 mph and an average speed of 46 mph. The Haverhill bridge replacement, for which MassDOT is making an application, supports commuter rail traffic and the Portland Downeaster train which has a top speed of 79 mph and an average speed of only 50 mph. These projects pale in comparison to published HSR plans which project Boston to New York City trip times of 84 minutes, with a top speed of over 200 mph and an average speed of 160 mph. This “true” HSR project is a game changer for the economies of not only Massachusetts but also all of New England. The NSRL is Massachusetts’ investment to advance this critical project and make sure the Commonwealth stays in the hunt for future HSR funding to make this vision a reality.

MassDOT Secretary Jeffrey Mullan is doing a credible job under severe constraints but one must conclude the Commonwealth is making the wrong call in not advancing the NSRL and HSR. Secretary Mullan is working closely with Amtrak, clearly the correct thing to do. Amtrak is of the opinion that the NSRL is a very good project or it would not have funded a $4.5 million feasibility study on it. However Amtrak will not go out of its way to support the NSRL prior to the awarding of the latest HSR grants. Amtrak’s dilemma is that it must focus on the Washington to New York City segment of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) due to severe capacity and maintenance issues in New York and New Jersey.

Therein lies the problem – Amtrak’s interests and the Commonwealth’s interests are not necessarily aligned. Amtrak’s number one priority is the New York / New Jersey Gateway tunnel project and rail station expansion because Penn Station in Manhattan, and the Hudson River tunnels that connect to it, are at capacity today. The second Amtrak priority is a Washington to New York City 200+ mph HSR line. Travelers on the Washington - New York HSR corridor will see dramatic system improvements in just over 10 years. Best case, the Commonwealth gets 200+ mph HSR service in 25 years, 15 years later. But Massachusetts’ 200+ mph HSR service is far from a firm commitment.

Both Amtrak and Congressman John Mica (R-FL), Chair of the influential House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, have expressed the desirability, if not the need, for a true HSR demonstration project to convince Americans that 200+ mph HSR is worthy of their support and tax dollars. The Washington to Boston Northeast Corridor (NEC), with a distance of 455 miles, would be great route; but Washington to New York City, a distance of 225 miles, is more than good enough to make the case for HSR. The important point -- HSR does not need Boston or Massachusetts to prove its viability. But Boston and Massachusetts and New England do need HSR to remain competitive with other regions that will be the beneficiaries of “true” 200+ mph HSR services.

There are serious concerns that proactive, forward-thinking states on the Southeastern Corridor will use their increasing political muscle to extend the 200+ mph HSR Northeast Corridor southward to Atlanta via Richmond and Charlotte. Their objective is rational and clearly understandable: after the New York to Washington HSR corridor is completed, either leapfrog or replace the New York to Boston HSR leg with the Southeast Corridor HSR leg running from Washington to Atlanta. This would not only affect Massachusetts, it would also impact the rest of New England as well as the development of a federally designated high speed line to Canada from Boston. The bottom line is that Massachusetts’ future is far from assured, and there is a significant risk of falling behind economically. Is this delay in the Commonwealth’s best interests? If New England’s 200+ mph rail service is preempted, Massachusetts will be left with slower service than we have now. What’s that picture? Imagine the condition of the ageing Acela trainsets on the tired Northeast Corridor rail bed in 20 to 30 years.

It is in the Commonwealth’s and the region’s best interests that MassDOT submits requests for funds to complete NEPA reviews as well as preliminary engineering for the NSRL. MassDOT is in the best position to determine the amount of the request, but numbers presented in the past are in the vicinity of $6 million for NEPA to complete environmental reports and $60 million for preliminary engineering. The $6 million figure is also the amount that APT and other groups, at MassDOT’s recommendation, have requested as an earmark from the Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation.

The time to make this HSR funding request is short. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) must receive all project funding requests by 8:00 PM on Monday, April 4, 2011. To reiterate, the Association for Public Transportation along with many other transportation professionals and advocates are very disappointed that the Commonwealth is not making a funding request related to the NSRL any of the $2.4 billion of HSR funds recently returned by Florida. While a request for $60 million in preliminary engineering funds has been referenced in earlier reports, and APT would wholeheartedly endorse such a request, the Commonwealth should at minimum put in a request of $6 million for funding to complete all the NEPA environmental requirements.

Thank you in advance for your timely consideration of this very important matter.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Arena
President
Association for Public Transportation


Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)75.8173.79
Canadian Pacific (CP) 64.6664.48
CSX (CSX)79.3979.16
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)57.9457.63
Kansas City Southern (KSU)54.4754.23
Norfolk Southern (NSC)69.3268.68
Providence & Worcester(PWX)16.8616.35
Union Pacific (UNP)98.2797.59


Return to index

FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines  

Continued Gains In Weekly Carload
And Intermodal Traffic

From The Association Of American Railroads (AAR)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is reporting rail traffic gains for the week ending March 26, 2011, with U.S. railroads originating 299,903 carloads, up 1.9 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week was also up 5.7 percent compared with the same week last year, totaling 223,034 trailers and containers.

Eleven of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases from the comparable week in 2010. Those groups posting significant increases included: pulp, paper and allied products, up 19.4 percent; motor vehicles and equipment, up 12.7 percent; chemicals, up 12.1 percent, and petroleum products, up 12.1 percent. The commodity groups reporting a notable drop in weekly traffic were primary forest products, down 20.6 percent; coke, down 15.4 percent, and waste and nonferrous scrap, down 11.1 percent.

Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was down 1.4 percent compared with the same week last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was up 4.2 percent compared with the same week in 2010.

For the first 12 weeks of 2011, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,468,044 carloads, up 5 percent from last year, and 2,621,919 trailers and containers, up 7.9 percent from the same point in 2010.

Canadian railroads reported 77,241 carloads for the week, up 2.4 percent from last year, and 46,455 trailers and containers, up 1.9 percent from 2010. For the first 12 weeks of 2011, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 854,073 carloads, down 1 percent from the same point last year, and 541,976 trailers and containers, up 3.1 percent from last year.

Mexican railroads reported 15,256 carloads for the week, up 4.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 6,593 trailers and containers, down 0.4 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 12 weeks of 2011 was 174,065 carloads, up 7 percent compared with the same point last year, and 84,876 trailers and containers, up 8.2 percent.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 12 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 4,496,182 carloads, up 3.9 percent compared with the same point last year, and 3,248,771 trailers and containers, up 7 percent compared with last year.

[About AAR: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is the world’s leading railroad policy, research and technology organization. AAR members include the major freight railroads, or Class I railroads, of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak. For more information, visit www.aar.org. For more information at AAR contact: Holly Arthur, harthur@aar.org, 202-639-2344 or Nell Callahan, ncallahan@skdknick.com, 202-464-6913.]


Return to index
ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments From David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Fallout From Japanese Earthquake Freezes Stuttgart 21

Political Support For Massive Underground Rail Station Project Swept Away
By German Political Tsunami

Via N24 News, Financial Times Deutschland And Spiegel On-Line

STUTTGART -- The multi-billion dollar Stuttgart 21 project, which would transform the city’s existing surface level passenger train terminal into an underground through-station and connect the city to nearby Ulm, Germany with a new high-speed rail line, suddenly faces a most uncertain future with a complete change of the state government of Baden Württemberg, of which Stuttgart is state capitol. In an historic shift in political power, the ruling conservative CDU and pro-business FDP parties lost control of the state government in a closely watched election last Sunday (27th of March) to the Bundis 90/Green Party and social democratic SPD party, making it the first time in nearly 60 years that the CDU has not had political control over the southwestern German state, which is home to world-wide industrial heavyweights Daimler-Benz, SAP, Bosch and Porsche. The Bundis 90/Green Party has been actively campaigning against the Stuttgart 21 project for several years.

Numerous mainstream news media sources in Germany attributed the stunning victory of the Greens and SPD over the current CDU/FDP government to developments in post-tsunami and earthquake ravaged northern Japan, where three and perhaps four nuclear reactors near Fukushima have apparently suffered uncontained reactor core damage, meltdown and radiation release. The events in Fukushima over the past three weeks have dramatically enraged the anti-nuclear movement in Germany, thus sending numerous pro-nuclear power politicians and the nuclear power-friendly CDU/CSU and FDP parties scrambling for political cover. Incumbent governor Peter Mappus of the CDU party suddenly found himself on the wrong side of the newly energized nuclear power debate in the final weeks of the election campaign, although he was already in a considerable amount of political hot-water for his full support of Stuttgart 21 rail station project, which has become increasingly unpopular with voters and tax payers in the region.

Aided by the high anti-nuclear power emotions sparked by the catastrophe in Japan and a clumsy response by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) to enact a 90 day long ‘moratorium’ on a moratorium on the phase-out of nuclear power plants in Germany, the anti-nuclear Bundis 90/Green and SPD parties won the state elections in Baden-Württemberg last Sunday. Although the SPD Party has officially supported the Stuttgart 21 in the recent past, a number of politicians from the SPD have voiced objections to the project on the grounds that money would be more effectively used to support smaller but more numerous transit improvement projects elsewhere across Germany. The two largest pro-rail transit advocacy groups in Germany, Pro Bahn and Verkehrsclub Deutschland (VCD), have maintained strong anti-Stuttgart 21 positions over the past several years, and have proposed several less costly and less disruptive improvements to incrementally increase the capacity of the existing Stuttgart passenger train terminal.

End of Stuttgart 21 Sign

Image: via K21

End of Stuttgart 21 – the anti-Stuttgart 21 coalition took a common German road sign, which indicates that one is leaving the town or city limits, and made it perhaps the most recognizable emblem of the movement to stop the massive rail station construction project. Buttons, decals, bumper stickers, flyers and t-shirts with this emblem are a common sight now in Germany.

With ascent of Green Party candidate and anti-Stuttgart 21 activist Winfried Kretschmann to governor of Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart 21 backers, including Deutsche Bahn, decided last Tuesday (29th March) to put the entire project on work-stop until at least early May, in order to assess the future of the project, now that it has little political support remaining in either the city of Stuttgart or in state.

Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) and the city of Stuttgart are reportedly discussing exit strategies from the € 4.1 billion (US $ 5.6 billion) Stuttgart 21 project (excluding costs for the high speed connector rail line to Ulm) in the wake of the radically changed political climate following Sunday’s state election in Baden-Württemberg. Deutsche Bahn chairman Rüdiger Grube said this week the operator had already spent € 1.5 billion on the project.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung reported Friday that Deutsche Bahn board member Volker Kefer and Stuttgart Mayor Wolfgang Schuster of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) recently discussed by phone whether the city would be held to a financial agreement that includes penalties if the project is canceled.

The massive project to make Stuttgart a European transport hub requires 16 new tunnels, 18 new bridges, 60 kilometers of new train track and three new stations, including a new underground through-station and the high speed line to Ulm. In theory the proposed high-speed rail line to Ulm, which would roughly parallel an existing double-track rail line full of steep gradients, speed restrictions and tight curves, could still be built and connected to the existing Stuttgart rail terminal.

SPD state leader Nils Schmid said Monday that he would support the project in the event of a referendum, saying that pulling out would burden Baden-Württemberg with major compensation damages. But ultimately the decision remained with Deutsche Bahn and the federal government, he said.


Return to index
COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Transportation Fantasy Land

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary
Volume III, No. 6

By Richard L. Beadles

A certain strain of the political right has of late sought to discredit the Obama administration’s vision of an expanded role for passenger rail in America as a 1950’s nostalgia trip back in time.

They fail to acknowledge that there are several layers to the Administration’s plans for rail, including investment in freight rail and considerable shared infrastructure development, which is greatly needed, regardless. In many cases, but certainly not all, appropriately utilized rail, is less costly, more energy efficient, and more environmentally friendly than highway and aviation transportation alternatives.

If the critics of “Obama-Rail” were really concerned about the future of transportation in the U.S.A., they would take an objective look at our 1956-era highway transportation model, which seems to have about exhausted its potential for affordable economic benefit. Our federal-state partnership in highway development and maintenance is falling short in the radically-changed world of 2011.

Arguably, visions of perpetuating the road-building model of the 1950’s are no less nostalgic than some of the potentially-misguided applications of rail. Consider some of the findings of a recent Congressional Budget Office assessment of the highway situation, together with supporting Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) information:

Since 1980, national highway route miles have increased about 5%, lane miles a bit over 7%, and vehicle-miles-traveled, 100%. Does this sound like a healthy trend?

About 25% of the nation’s highways, which carry about 85% of all road traffic, are paid for in part by federal user-taxes, but such taxes do not yield enough revenue to support the current level of federal highway spending. Since 2008, more than $30 Billion of federal general fund revenue has been required to supplement road taxes [not to mention more than $70 billion in state and local tax revenues every year that according to AASHTO subsidizes the automobile owner – the editors]

FHWA estimates that to maintain the current level of highway utility would require a 50% increase in current funding levels, which are now in excess of revenues. Automobiles and buses account for more than 90% of all vehicle-miles-traveled, and are the major contributors to urban congestion, thus requiring costly lane-mile expansion, yet we permit anyone to drive anywhere, anytime, without regard for the demand-cost imposed upon the system. Easy solutions are still politically unpalatable.

Trucks account for the other 10% of mileage, yet they have been found to be responsible for almost all of the pavement damage. Depending upon truck weight, number of axels, etc., FHWA and the CBO estimate that the cost of truck-related pavement damage ranges from 5 to 55 cents per mile—a huge public subsidy.

This reminds one of the old stories of the merchant who lost a bit on every sale but reconciled himself to that reality with the dream that he might make it up on volume! It’s time to take transportation seriously, including rail -- even passenger rail!

[Editor’s note: Richard L. Beadles is one of the few railroad and transportation commentators in America who has actually been Chief Executive Officer of a major railroad. An organizer and founding member of the Virginia Rail Policy Institute board, as well as being a VRPI fellow, Dick is an independent rail and transportation analyst, commentator and critic, and has had extensive experience in both rail transportation and urban real estate asset management and development. Originally an up-from-the-ranks railroader, becoming President of the RF&P Railroad, Beadles has had more than fifty years experience as both a practitioner, as well as a follower, of transportation and land planning, development and asset management with both the RF&P and CSX. Over the past three decades, environmental and energy issues have become an area of particular interest and focus to Beadles, who currently serves on the Virginia State Rail Advisory Board. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and resides in Richmond].


Return to index
OPINION... Opinion...  

Motorists Get Clean Highways, But Pedestrians
Don’t Get Clean Sidewalks!

By David Peter Alan

The Spring Equinox has passed, but at this writing, there are still traces of snow on the ground. If you go by the calendar, winter is over and it is now spring, although it certainly does not feel much like it. This year, winter was almost universal. Atlanta and Birmingham got a white Christmas, and workers were chopping ice before the Super Bowl game in Dallas. Still, in the Sun Belt and in places where winter comes every year, the cold and snow demonstrate to us in a seldom-mentioned way that much of America is designed for motorists, and pedestrians don’t count.

The Northeast was hit with two major blizzards this year, one month apart. These are the kind of storms that usually happen once every ten or fifteen years. Albert L. Papp, President of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, lives in Maplewood, New Jersey (a suburban town on the Morris & Essex Line about fifteen miles west of New York City) and said that the snow piles on the streets reminded him of Aspen, Colorado.

Many of those piles came from plows that promptly removed the snow from the roads, usually at public expense, so motorists could have a clear path for their automobiles. Is there any requirement that sidewalks be equally clean and free of ice and snow for pedestrians? Probably not and, if a town has such a rule on the books, you can’t count on it to be enforced. Towns complain that they use up their snow-removal budgets quickly, but you can’t prove it by anyone who has to walk. After all, the towns spend money plowing roads, not sidewalks.

Even when property owners shovel their sidewalks, there is little or no access to the street, because the plows leave the snow in a pile between the street and the sidewalk. If the snow banks are high enough, pedestrians must walk to a driveway to get to the street, even if it is one third of the way up the block. On top of that, some property owners don’t bother to shovel their walks, others were out of town when the big storm came, and other properties are vacant, so there is nobody around to shovel.

It all seems to boil down to one fact about America these days. As longtime New Jersey transit advocate William R. Wright said: “If you don’t drive, you don’t count.” We know this is true about getting from one place to another, and about having to pay taxes for highways. Even non-drivers, who do not even use highways directly, pay for them. In the winter, there is the additional inequality: motorists don’t have to worry about slipping and falling on ice or packed snow, and possibly breaking a bone. Pedestrians do. Risk of injury is a hazard added to the general discomfort of having to wait out in the cold for a train or bus.

Motorists don’t gloat over having a clean road in the winter; they probably do not even think about their benefit. While pedestrians are stuck with slippery sidewalks surrounded by piles of snow, motorists can travel in their comfortable, heated automobiles.

Is there a solution to this inequality? For the most part, no. Cities and towns can enforce ordinances that require property owners to keep their sidewalks clean, and can enact other ordinances that would require building owners to shovel clear paths to the street at corners. Still, in these times of scarce money, it is unlikely that municipalities will have the funds to enforce such ordinances strictly although fines would provide some extra revenue. Otherwise, winter will continue to be the longest time of the year for people who must be out in it. All we can do is breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear us doing that now. Happy spring, when it finally comes!


Return to index
EVENTS... Events & Conferences...  

                     

 

We CAN Connect New England by Rail !

A One Day Event Sponsored by
Rail Users Network  •  National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club  •  New England Rail Coalition

Friday, April 29, 2011  •  8:30 a.m. 4:45 p.m.
At the New Haven Public Library  •  133 Elm Street, New Haven, CT
Registration:  $45 up to April 20  •   $55 after April 20   •  $65 at the door
Includes continental breakfast, lunch, afternoon break
Free shuttle from Union Station  •  (Optional tours Saturday, April 30)

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.

For Additional Information and Registration - Click Here


Return to index
END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2011 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

|| Top of Page || Past Newsletter Editions || NCI Home Page || Contact Us

  || page viewings since date of release.