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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May 7, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 18

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

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

  News Items…
Bin Laden Death Raises Increased Threat Of Revenge Attacks:
   Us Rail Seen At Risk
  Commuter Lines…
Alignment Questions For Detroit’s Rail Line, As
   Construction Nears
Portland Streetcar Expansion Proceeds
  Ridership Lines…
Boston’s MBTA Shows 5 Percent Jump In Ridership
   Last Month
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commentary…
FTA vs. NJT Over ARC Money: The Battle Is Just Beginning
Rail In New England Today:
  We Get Letters…
  Editorial…
Raise the Gas Tax Now
  Publication Notes …


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

Bin Laden Death Raises Increased Threat
Of Revenge Attacks: Us Rail Seen At Risk

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- The killing of Osama Bin Laden last week at his hideout/mansion in Abbottabad is heightening concern s of revenge attacks, particularly aimed at the U.S rail network, government officials said this week.

While evidence pointing to plans for such attacks were found amidst Bin Laden’s effects at his compound not far from the Pakistani capital, Department of Homeland Security officials stressed that there is no imminent threat, but that rail passengers and crew members should be especially vigilant for unusual activity or behavior, or any out-of-place or abandoned objects or packages.

In addition to attacks designed to kill and injure rail passengers, or blow up strategic tunnels or bridges, U.S. security officials have long feared a remotely-detonated high explosive or “dirty” bomb (filled with radioactive waste) hidden in a shipping container, like one of the millions that enter U.S. ports on both coasts or via the Gulf of Mexico each year, and are then trucked or shipped by rail across the U.S. to their destinations.

In a statement Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said, “We want to stress that this alleged Al Qa’ida plotting is based on initial reporting, which is often misleading or inaccurate and subject to change. We remain at a heightened state of vigilance, but do not intend to issue an NTAS alert at this time. We will issue alerts only when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public. Our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond appropriately to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the coming days and beyond.”

“Since Sunday,” he continued, “ DHS and its partners have taken a number of actions, including but not limited to: reviewing protective measures for all potential terrorist targets, including critical infrastructure and transportation systems across the country; deploying additional officers to non-secured areas at our nation’s airports; and identifying any new targeting rules that should be instituted to strengthen the ways we assess the risk of both passengers and cargo coming to the United States. As always, we urge our state, local, tribal and private sector partners, as well as the general public, to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to federal, state or local law enforcement.”


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

From: Yonah Freemark’s The Transport Politic:

 

Alignment Questions For Detroit’s Rail
Line, As Construction Nears

Found At: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com

Unlike similar projects in nearby cities like Cincinnati, Detroit’s planned light rail line for Woodward Avenue has near-universal support from just about everyone in local and state government — even though it is being constructed in a city that is shedding population quickly. The $528 million route, which would by 2016 extend 9.3 miles from downtown to the city’s borders at 8 Mile, has been the priority of regional transportation planners for years. And with federal support for the first phase of the corridor announced in February 2010, construction is supposed to begin later in 2011, at least for the 3.4-mile section from Hart Plaza to Grand Avenue.

Aligning the project with other transit offerings in Downtown Detroit, however, has become a contentious issue. The Detroit DOT, which is running the Woodward Rail project in cooperation with a private entity called M-1 Rail (which has contributed much of the funds for the start-up line), will recommend later this month the preferred alignment — and decide whether it will run in its own lanes in the median of Woodward or along the street’s edges.

The first controversy — just where the line should go once it reaches downtown — is the result of years of indecision and missteps about just how transportation planning should evolve in the Detroit region. The much-maligned People Mover, an automated rail line that since 1987 has been circling aimlessly around downtown in a one-way loop, was built to distribute passengers coming in from a Woodward rail line decades ago, but the latter project is of course only being built now. In the meantime, the city constructed the (beautiful) Rosa Parks bus transit center in 2009, but neglected to put it along Woodward (despite the fact that rail was being planned at the time), instead locating it a few blocks away in Times Square. On the other hand, the metropolitan area transportation plans suggest a bus rapid transit line along Gratiot Avenue that would terminate at Campus Martius Park, right on Woodward.

Thus three options for the rail line’s downtown alignment are being considered, as shown below. In response to the Detroit DOT’s insistence that the rail line serve the bus center, the first two options would loop from Woodward onto Washington Street and then turn along Congress and Larned Streets to form a two-way loop running from the Cobo Convention Center to the Municipal Building. The fact that this route would parallel the People Mover almost directly — eliminating its very limited raisons d’être — should be bothersome to anyone who is paying attention.

The other possibility, which would run trains directly down Woodward, would be cheaper and faster (because of a shorter track length), and it would at least attempt to provide a downtown service that does not duplicate the People Mover. Though it would not connect directly to the bus station, it would allow transfers to the future BRT. And it would serve to highlight Campus Martius, which has been the focus of downtown revitalization.

Also raising challenges in Detroit has been the question of how the rail line meets the street downtown: Will it run in the median of Woodward, in its own right-of-way (as planned for the sections of the route further out), or will it run along the curb in lanes shared with automobiles, like a streetcar?

The M-1 financiers, whose $100 million down payment on the initial line’s construction was more than the city’s $73 million or the U.S. government’s $25 million, have suggested that putting the trains adjacent to the sidewalk would, in the words of the Detroit Free Press, “boost tourism and redevelopment.” This claim is based on the highly questionable assumption that people are afraid to cross the street (a logic that denies the fact that riders would of course have to cross the street on the way back) and the assertion that packing eight stops on the 3.4-mile trip between Hart Plaza and Grand Avenue would be more beneficial than installing five there. Stations every half mile or so are considered standard for light rail lines in the centers of U.S. cities.

To a group of local enthusiasts who have created a Lego-based video advocating “trains down the middle,” the answer is obvious: The median alignment would be safer, faster (by 2 minutes 30), and less likely to be encumbered by automobile traffic. Their logic is sound. The fact that the route would remove two lanes for automobiles does not seem to be the issue, fortunately, so it is quite possible that they will get their way.

The bigger question, though, is the importance of this line for the future of Detroit.

In a city that lost 240,000 inhabitants between 2000 and 2010, the necessity of this project must be evaluated. The city is overbuilt — ready for its 1950 population of 1.85 million, not the 700,000 that reside there today. What is the point of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new transit project in a place that has few issues with traffic congestion and where transit ridership has declined from 136,000 daily users in 1996 to 121,000 today, despite the much-heralded completion of the new transit center and the supposed revival of the city’s downtown?

Those who doubt the importance of new infrastructure for Detroit have a point — there might be some value in simply redirecting the funds appropriated for the rail line towards poverty alleviation. Yet there is no clear mechanism by which to do that: Poor residents of Detroit cannot simply be handed checks because they live in the Motor City. That would be unfair to the impoverished people everywhere else. Investing in affordable housing is unnecessary in a city with extremely high vacancy rates and the lowest housing prices in the nation. The U.S.’s lack of state-owned enterprises means direct public job creation is almost impossible. But simply abandoning government efforts to aid the city would be a cruel endnote for a city that has suffered half a century of neglect.

So transportation improvements like the light rail line act as an indirect approach in an attempt to remediate this city’s ills. It will not work alone, but perhaps it is worth the effort, especially if the city builds it in coordination with the densification of areas along the line, a process that is currently being planned.

Moreover, despite Detroit’s long downfall, the signs of its resurgence (or at least plateauing) are perking up. Though the city lost a huge percentage of its population in the last ten years, several areas along the Woodward rail line actually gained population between 2000 and 2010. Those included parts of the downtown and the New Center — the two places to be served by the first phase. And just off Woodward, the two mini cities-within-Detroit of Hamtramck and Highland Park, saw some growth in areas near the avenue.

Nor is city revival impossible. Between 1970 and 1980, we should remember, New York City lost 820,000 inhabitants. Gotham is now bigger than ever. Though a changing global economy and increasing interest in urban living likely played an important role in producing that turn-around, investments in that city’s public transportation system, which began wholeheartedly in the early 1980s, likely produced significant change as well. Who says the same approach cannot work in Detroit?


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Portland Streetcar Expansion Proceeds

From Railway Age

PORTLAND, APRIL 21 -- Portland’s City Council, in a recent 4-1, approved plans to expand the city’s growing streetcar line from the city’s South Waterfront to suburban enclave Lake Oswego, south of Portland.

The favorable vote, generally expected, followed a closer 4-3 approval Tuesday of the $458 million extension by the Lake Oswego City Council, following heated debate among community leaders over the streetcar’s economic worth, potential ridership, and perceived negative impact on the community’s quality of life.

This vote followed a more controversial battle.

The streetcar option, designed to offer an alternative to congestion on Oregon State Highway 43, long has been considered the favored option despite opposition to it; both enhanced bus service and the obligatory “no-build” option generally were not seriously regarded.

Cost remains a concern even among those who support streetcar expansion. “No one has explained to me why it is so expensive,” said Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “My support for this preferred local alternative should by no means be construed as support for this project at any costs. We need more information before we can say go.”

Portland Streetcar, owned by the city, began operations in 2001 as a roughly 4.8-mile loop route, connecting with the city’s older and better-known MAX light rail transit service. Extensions were added in 2005 and 2007, and construction began in 2009 to complete a $148 million, 3.3-mile Eastside Extension straddling both sides of the Willamette River.


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Boston’s MBTA Shows 5 Percent
Jump In Ridership Last Month

From The Boston Globe

MASSACHUSETTS --- Ridership on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Association’s Red, Orange, and Blue subway lines grew 6.9 percent in March, compared with last March, to 516,000 per weekday, the Boston Globe reported this week. The Green Line, which is a combination subway and streetcar system, saw a 7.7 percent surge, to 227,900 daily.

That was “the largest percentage ridership increase in more than two years, probably propelled by recovering employment and soaring gas prices in the Boston area,” wrote The Globe’s Eric Moskowitz.

“The T — including the subway system, buses, and commuter rail — recorded an average of nearly 1.3 million passenger trips each weekday in March, a 5 percent increase from the year before. The sharpest growth was registered on subway and trolley lines, where ridership swelled 7.1 percent, according to statistics released by the transit agency this week,” wrote The Globe.

The increase in MBTA ridership occurred even as travel on highways also rose, albeit at a much slower rate than ridership on the T. Toll booth collections and automated traffic counters on major highways in the Boston area showed an average increase of 2 percent or less in March when compared with a year before.

“The uptick across the board in traffic — whether it be public transportation or vehicular traffic — is a good sign for the economy,” state Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey B. Mullan said. “People moving around is always a good thing.”

Mullan cited the recovering economy as the most important factor behind the increases, which could explain why both mass transit trips and vehicular travel rose. Gas prices, he said, play a secondary role and could shed light on why T use is rising faster than highway travel, The Globe wrote.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)76.6477.43
Canadian Pacific (CP) 65.1766.24
CSX (CSX)79.1078.69
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)59.5761.98
Kansas City Southern (KSU)56.4458.11
Norfolk Southern (NSC)73.0274.68
Providence & Worcester(PWX)15.5015.99
Union Pacific (UNP)102.34103.47


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

FTA vs. NJT Over ARC Money:
The Battle Is Just Beginning

By David Peter Alan
For Destination: Freedom

The timing was supremely ironic. On Friday, April 29th, this writer moderated a panel at the New Haven conference on the topic of Connecting New England with South Of New York. Panelists spoke of the importance of such connectivity and described a proposal to accomplish it in an affordable manner. The impetus behind the slimmed-down plan was that New Jersey Transit’s former ARC plan, as well as Amtrak’s Gateway plan are too expensive, although there are other flaws in both, as well.

Ironically, within a few hours after that presentation, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) rejected New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) request to be let off the financial hook for $271 million that the agency advanced for preliminary engineering and construction on the project. Within an hour after the conference had adjourned, the news was out, reported by Patrick McGeehan in the New York Times (reproduced here last week), Larry Higgs in the Asbury Park Press and other Gannett newspapers in New Jersey (www.mycentraljersey.com) and others.

The arguments presented by both sides make sense, from a legal point of view. The FTA argues that NJT knew what it was getting into when it accepted FTA funding under an Early Starts Work Agreement (ESWA), so it should repay the money. NJT argues that costs rose as much as they did because of circumstances beyond its control. This is the sort of situation that does not lend itself to a speedy resolution. When both sides make arguments that strongly disagree with each other, but both appear reasonable form that sides perspective, it may take extended litigation to resolve the dispute. Often, the parties reach a settlement, but that does not happen during the early stages of the contest.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this dispute, it is the risk caused by the overconfidence that led NJT to request funding in advance of the normal time for such a request, under an ESWA. Except for a few dedicated rider advocates, nobody doubted that the FTA would give the project a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), while New Jersey and the Port Authority would raise the rest. Over time, the cost got too high, so Gov. Christie decided that New Jersey could not afford the ARC Project. He also noted the flaws in the project, which rider advocates had been criticizing for several years.

NJT had hired Patton Boggs, a politically-connected Washington law firm, to fight the FTA on the issue. According to McGeehan, NJT has paid the firm about $800,000. A review of the brief submitted by NJT shows that it was well-prepared and well-argued, in this writer’s opinion. Still, $800,000 is a great deal of money, even for the best brief; more than virtually any New Jersey attorney would charge. Is NJT getting political magic for its money? Apparently not, at least not yet.

Can this issue eventually be settled? Of course, it can. Can the specific work for which the FTA advanced the money for which it now demands repayment be used toward a useful project that will be built someday? It is too early to tell, but Amtrak’s Gateway project appears to be an effort to serve that purpose. Can the money advanced by the FTA be used for construction of an affordable and useful project, as our Editor asks? The answer is not easy to ascertain. We all hope for an affordable and useful project that delivers the connectivity that New Jersey’s rail riders need, and that the entire region (including New England) also needs. Unfortunately, ascertaining that answer may require spending a great deal more time and money.

David Peter Alan is chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and remains active in the effort to secure a useful and affordable project that will improve access to Manhattan for New Jersey rail riders, as well as improved rail connectivity for the region. He lives and practices law in South Orange, New Jersey.

[Editor’s note: David wrote this week’s commentary in part as a response to our question/comment last week: All interested parties now agree that new tunnels are necessary and that they must tie in with Penn Station. The existing tunnels are 100 years old and every weekend one is closed for repairs. If the $271 million is ultimately used for construction work that would be useful when the tunnels are built, why should New Jersey have to repay it?)


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We Can Connect New England By Rail, But It Won’t Be Easy

 

Rail In New England Today:

First Of A Series

By David Peter Alan

We CAN connect New England by Rail! That was the rallying cry at a conference held in New Haven and April 29 and sponsored by NCI, the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club.

Attendees heard from presenters from around New England, and from New York and New Jersey, about connecting rail transit within the region, as well as well as with the rest of the nation, south of New York City. Still, transit is not a high priority with government these days, as Arthur L. Guzzetti, Vice-President for Policy at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported. Nonetheless, Guzzetti said that transit will continue to grow, and that recent rejections of rail projects by newly-elected governors will not stop the momentum toward a growing rail transit network.

There is strong transit in some places in New England today. The Boston area is connected locally by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, otherwise known as the “T”), and the Shore Line between New York and Boston is part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line from Washington, D.C. Other places in New England are not well-connected by rail. This series will focus on improving connectivity within the region, between New England and other regions, and will propose some ways to improve this connectivity.

Today, there is strong transit in some New England localities, but little connectivity. Boston has an extensive transit system, despite the ubiquitous threat of funding difficulties. The “T” maintains an extensive network of commuter lines on both the North and South Sides from Boston, three heavy-rail lines, four light-rail lines and a heritage streetcar line. Further south, there is frequent commuter rail service between New York’s Grand Central Terminal and New Haven on Metro-North, with less-frequent service on three branch lines in Connecticut; a legacy from the fabled New Haven Railroad. Amtrak also runs frequent service between Boston and Washington, through New York, with Acela and conventional trains.

Elsewhere in New England, rail service is infrequent, although passenger service has been restored on two lines during the past twenty years: commuter trains from New Haven to Old Saybrook and New London on Shore Line East, and the Downeaster service from North Station in Boston to Portland, Maine. Shore Line East runs, essentially, an extended peak-hour service for commuters to New Haven. Recently, though, the line added week-end service, which runs between New Haven and Old Saybrook every two hours. The Portland trains are popular, but connections to points south of Boston are problematic. Amtrak also runs trains between New Haven and Springfield, through Hartford. There is an ongoing initiative to establish local service on that line, but local trains will probably not run there for several years.

There is little connectivity between the northern and southern halves of the region. Symbolically, the “big dig” highway project that connects the north and south sides of Boston had no rail component. A traveler who wishes to go from New York City to Portland, Maine must take one Amtrak train to South Station in Boston, and then walk, take a taxi or take the “T” to North Station on the other side of town. Connections from the train arriving at South Station to the train leaving North Station for Portland are not guaranteed.

Vermont has only two trains, the Vermonter to St. Albans on the Canadian border and the Ethan Allan Express to Rutland. New Hampshire is not served at all, except for trains which stop on the way to or from Maine or Vermont. Coastal Rhode Island hosts Amtrak trains to and from Boston, as well as “T” commuter trains between Providence and that city, but little else. A few peak-hour trains are extended to T.F. Green Airport, and there are plans to extend the line further south in the future.

Except for the busy Northeast Corridor, there is little rail connectivity between New England and other regions. Going west from Boston, there is one daily train each way west of Worcester; it makes its trip through Springfield, Pittsfield and Albany, on the way to Chicago. There is no rail service between anywhere in New England and any point in Canada. The Vermonter does not have a bus connection to Montreal; the only Montreal train is the Adirondack from New York. The only train between Massachusetts and Albany does not connect with it, and its all-day schedule does not allow convenient connections between New York and any point in New England.

Against this backdrop, rail advocates reported on their efforts to improve rail and transit services in the region. They talked about connecting with their constituents for more transit in the community, as well as pushing for more rail projects, but most of these projects are local in nature. As with any new rail starts in the current political and economic climate, any expansion of rail transit will be a hard sell. New rail service between Hartford and New Britain was too hard a sell for D:F editor Molly McKay and her allies, including the Sierra Club. Despite their efforts, the new line will be a busway, instead.

Other lines may have a better chance of seeing the light of day. Local trains may yet run between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. Commuter rail service from Boston to Rhode Island may be extended south of T.F. Green airport, in the direction of New London. Limited service between Portland and Brunswick, Maine should start within the next two years; one of the few survivors of President Obama’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program that several newly-elected governors have repudiated. Once they get to Brunswick, riders should be able to connect with excursion trains to Rockland, which run on a seasonal basis. Still, these enhancements as a whole would stop far short of producing a comprehensive and connected rail and transit network in New England.

The rail advocacy community does not appear to be strong on a regional basis in New England, either. The Connecticut Commuters’ Council is strong, but its host railroad is New-York-based Metro-North. The metropolitan region of New York and New Jersey is a major rail advocacy center, as demonstrated at the conference by attendance of more people from there than from any metropolitan area in New England. There are competent advocates elsewhere in New England, to be sure. People in Maine fought to get Downeaster service through Train Riders Northeast. Now they fight to improve it. Other advocates affiliated with the Rail Users’ Network (RUN), the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), the National Corridors Initiative (NCI) and other organizations do what they can.

NCI President and D:F Publisher James P. RePass lives in New England, as does D:F Editor Molly McKay. So does RUN Chair Richard Rudolph. Still, individual efforts do not constitute a coordinated network, any more than New Englanders can ride on a coordinated network of trains and local rail transit. Local transit initiatives are necessary and beneficial, if they produce results. Still, there is a difference between better service on the “T” and a network that will take Bostonians to a large number of other places in New England by rail.

There are efforts under way to eventually improve connectivity within and beyond New England. For example, The New England Rail Coalition (NERC) is attempting to foster dialog about rail in the region, but the organization is experiencing growing pains. Will NERC become a strong voice for an integrated passenger and freight-rail network that will connect all of New England, both north and south of Boston? Time will tell. Time will also tell if more New Englanders step up to the plate and join the struggle for more trains and better local rail transit.

Everyone at the New Haven conference agreed that we CAN connect New England by rail. In reality, it will take much time and effort before that actually happens. The next article in this series will focus on steps that can be taken to improve connectivity within the New England region.

[David Peter Alan is a RUN Board Member and moderated a panel at the conference on Connecting New England with South of New York. He is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition in New Jersey, and two of his panelists are also officers in that organization.]


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

To The Editor:

Re: The Low Gas Tax:

There’s a simple solution to the problem of the gas tax - link the tax to a percentage of dollar cost at the pump, and not to the gallon itself. It has been frustrating in recent years to watch as the cost of a gallon of gas has risen without any greater benefit to the transportation infrastructure when the opposite should be the case.

In times of high fuel prices, what better moment in the public’s sentiment to have more moneys available to spend on public transportation?

The other current problem at present is that, as fuel prices go up, usage goes down and revenues are reduced and, similarly, when the price at the pump goes down fuel consumption increases. By taxing the cost, rather than the commodity, this trend would be somewhat mitigated, in terms of revenue.

It would also help to stabilized fuel prices by increasing the cost of speculation on fuel as a commodity. Because taxes would rise with the price, the profit for those who benefit from the spike in fuel prices would have to be shared with the public (via increased transportation revenues), and since the price ceiling, as determined by what the market will bear, does not change depending on who benefits from the increase, it can be argued that this would help to subdue the temptation to push the price of a barrel of oil ever higher. Those who set oil prices do not raise the price until they think, “That’s all the money I want now,” but rather, “Any higher and demand will drop dangerously.”

Our opportunity for such a tax change would arise when oil prices drop again (and they will) to a familiar price range, and then set the taxes-per-dollar to cause no increase at that price level. There could even be a “price floor” below which the fuel taxes would revert to per-gallon metrics. While the public always hates an increase in taxes, one can imagine that some might even be glad that, the next time fuel prices rise, not all of the increase is going to the oil companies!

Thanks!

Braden Toan

[Note: Braden Toan is a conductor (the other kind) of Broadway and opera in New York, and was most recently seen conducting the National Tour of the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific which visited 39 cities in the US and Canada.]


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Other Voices…

Trains Don’t Have a Monopoly on Subsidies

From The New York Times Letters to the Editor:

To the Editor:

Re “Fast Train to Nowhere,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/24/opinion/24white.html by Richard White (NY Times Op Ed, April 24), which argues against subsidies for high-speed rail and the development of “lines in places where there is no demonstrated demand”:

All forms of transportation are subsidized. Air travel and car travel require a large army in the Middle East to assure a source of fuel. The next generation of air-traffic control will rely on GPS satellites, as do many automobile travelers, and these satellites are paid for by the Defense Department. And who knows what other tax breaks and financial assistance are given to the various companies that support automotive and air transportation.

We should remember that every person who travels by high-speed rail is not flying in an airplane or driving a car. While this may make the auto companies and airlines unhappy, it makes life easier on all the people who do choose to drive or fly. Preventing traffic jams and delays at airports and reducing the cost of fuel (through reduction in demand) fully justify subsidies.

The fact that investors don’t want to invest in high-speed rail, or anything else that will not see returns on investment, is meaningless. The government — that is, the people of this country — have to look further into the future than investors enamored of the potential high profits from social networking.

With air and ground transportation approaching gridlock, high-speed rail is the only way to ensure that people will be able to go where they want to in a reasonable amount of time.

Michael Laluszek
Plainsboro, NJ

[Note: The writer is president of Princeton Satellite Systems. A graduate of MIT, he is currently leading a project to develop a new optical navigation sensor for geosynchronous and deep space spacecraft, as well as leading the Two Stage-to-Orbit Launch Vehicle project employing horizontal take-off and landing, and using an aircraft first stage with a LH2 ramjet booster. A supporter of green buildings, he designed a new Vertical Axis Wind Turbine which is now entering the prototype stage. He also designed an electrical vehicle kiosk for recharging plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. He is also developing simulations for N on M missile interception scenarios. Mr. Paluszek has developed commercial software products including the Spacecraft Control Toolbox, used worldwide for spacecraft simulation, analysis and control system design. He also developed the newly released Wind Turbine Control Toolbox for Matlab.]


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Raise the Gas Tax Now

 

With gasoline once again above $4 a gallon and flirting in some regions of the United States with $5, we call upon Congress to seize this opportunity and raise the Federal gas tax from the current18.4 cents/gallon either to $1, or to 20% of the retail price of gasoline, whichever yields greater revenue.

Why with everyone hurting with high gas prices should we propose such a thing?

Because, first, it will kill the speculation that has driven the price far higher at present than supply and demand would expect: Wall Street speculators, completely unrestrained from the credit default swap and mortgage derivatives fiasco that brought us to our economic knees, has added massive bets on oil prices to their collection of casino-economy behavior. Don’t be a bit surprised over the next few months, when this bubble collapses, that Wall Street comes looking for bailouts again. There are borrowed billions, if not trillions, in play once again from an increasingly shameless sector of our national culture, and you can bet that their bets are often unsecured.

Gasoline will drop soon in the short run, but will continue to climb in cost in the long run, because demand will recover as China and other growing economies respond to America’s slow economic recovery and begin producing again, but when that happens let’s make sure we have infrastructure in place that can provide an alternative to the automobile. The gas tax needs to go to a transportation trust fund, not just to highways as it has for the past six decades.

While the extremist elements in politics has seized the House and the headlines over the past few months, these Medicare-killing, rail-hating, ignorant bunch of lackeys for the rich have gotten a dose of their own medicine this past week when their constituents turned out angrily en masse during the Congressional recess to demand an answer to their benighted anti-middle-class, pro-rich policies, tax and otherwise.


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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.

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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.

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