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 23, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 20

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

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

  News Items…
Vermont Senator Leahy Pushes To Restore
   Long-Discontinued VT-Canada Amtrak Service
FRA’s Karen Rae Is Named WTS Woman Of The Year
  Political Lines…
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff Alerts Senate To Rising Demand For Transit
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Photo Op
 
  Off The Main Line…
‘Best Buy’ Less Of A Buy?
  Commentary…
We CAN Connect New England By Rail, But It Won’t Be Easy
  “Back To The Future” Lines…
Whose Northeast Corridor Trains Are Really “The Fastest?”
   --- Today’s, Or Yesterday’s?
  Correction…
Vermonter And Unfit Tracks
  Publication Notes …


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


Vermont Senator Leahy Pushes To Restore
Long-Discontinued VT-Canada Amtrak Service

By DF Staff And From The Office Of
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

WASHINGTON --- Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is pushing for the restoration of passenger train service between Canada and Vermont via Montreal, which was discontinued in 1995 due to border, operational and costs issues.

Leahy asked that the top official of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) work with state officials to help restore important Amtrak service from Vermont to Montreal.

The Commissioner of CBP, Alan Bersin, testified at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing focused on security and commerce along the northern border and at ports of entry. Vermont officials, including Governor Peter Shumlin, have made it a priority to reestablish the rail service. A discussion of the major challenges preventing restoration of the services, including passenger screening concerns, is expected at a cross-border transportation conference in Burlington on May 25.

Sen. Leahy’s actions coincide with those of Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who has also been vocal in support not only for better rail connections, but for the construction of high speed passenger service between Quebec and the United States. Premier Charest has appointed one of Canada’s senior diplomats, former Ambassador Raymond Chretien, as delegate for high speed rail to the United States from Quebec.

The push for better rail also coincides with the announcement of Quebec’s Plan Nord, an ambitious development plan on the scale of a Marshall Plan for Northern Quebec, “one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Québec and the project of a generation. The Plan Nord first offered a perspective of sustainable development in Québec and is now one of the biggest economic, social and environmental development projects in Québec’s history,” in the words of Premier Charest, and will “…over 25 years engender investments of over $80 billion. It will create or consolidate 20,000 jobs a year, on average, and generate $14 billion in revenue for the government and Québec society. The economic spinoff and social development stemming from the Plan Nord will enhance the living conditions of northern populations. Through the needs for manpower, knowledge and expertise that it engenders, its benefits will be felt throughout Québec. The Plan Nord will be to the coming decades what the development of La Manicouagan and James Bay was to the 1960s and 1970s,” Premier Charest said.

One of the most ambitious development projects in North America in the past half-century, the Charest Plan Nord will generate millions of tons of shipping, and is therefore one of the reasons why Quebec is pushing so hard for rail development, not only in Quebec, but in its principal trading partner, the United States, particularly in the New England states and New York State which serve as Quebec’s gateway to the United States.

In his U.S. border/rail hearings Sen. Leahy stated, “I understand that one of the obstacles to reestablishing this critical transportation link is determining the appropriate level of Customs and Border Protection screening. I know it can be done, though; trains already operate across the border in New York State and Washington State. I hope that CBP will work with me, the Governor of Vermont, Amtrak, and the Canadians to find a reasonable solution to the passenger screening issue.”

Also testifying at the hearing was John Morton, the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Leahy is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing was held in the Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security Subcommittee, which is chaired by New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

At the hearing, Leahy also raised questions about filling authorized positions at the Law Enforcement Support Center in Williston and about the Interstate 91 border patrol checkpoint.

Here is the complete statement of Senator Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, at the May 17 hearing on “Improving Security and Facilitating Commerce At America’s Northern Border and Ports of Entry”:

“I thank Senator Schumer for chairing this hearing on Northern Border security, an issue of great importance to the states we represent. I also thank Senator Schumer for offering to accommodate the request of several members of the Committee, and expand the scope of this hearing to also address commerce at the ports of entry. I also thank the President for his statement last week at the southern border about his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. I look forward to working with him to make that a reality.

“Director Bersin, I start by honoring the two Border Patrol Agents who died in the line of duty last week. Eduardo Rojas, Jr., and Hector Clark. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and with the women and men who serve in Border Patrol and our other law enforcement and national security agencies. Just Sunday we had the annual National Police Officers Memorial. No one should take for granted or even forget the sacrifices made by the agents of Border Patrol.

“In Vermont, the issues we will discuss today are all inextricably intertwined. We look to our Canadian neighbors as partners in trade and commerce, and as joint stewards of our shared communities, while both nations strive to ensure that the border is secure.

“The Northern Border is a vital link in our national security chain. It is very challenging to guard and protect the longest, non-militarized border in the world. Those who want to do us harm will look for openings in gaps like the mountain wilderness of New England, the vast Great Lakes, and the rural plains of the Midwest. 

“Before September 11, 2001, the Northern Border had been chronically understaffed and neglected. Since then, Congress has allocated considerable resources to increase staffing, purchase updated equipment and vehicles, build new stations, and deploy technology that can help detect illegal entry. A recent GAO report on Northern “Border security shows that more can be done, especially in deploying technology, and developing partnerships with local and state law enforcement officials who can help mitigate the vulnerabilities. 

“I previously raised concerns with the Secretary of Homeland Security, because Customs and Border Protection (CBP) staffing in Vermont has dipped considerably in recent years, in part because resources were shifted to the Southern Border. In addition to security concerns, I worry that insufficient staffing levels will cause excessive delays at the ports of entry once the summer tourism season kicks off in a few weeks.

“The ties between Canada and Vermont run deeper than trade and commerce, and they are based on much more than tourism. Many Vermont families have members on both sides of the border. And some towns, like Derby Line, spread across the international line. We must ensure that border points of entry are modern and secure, and that they serve the needs of these communities. I want to thank Commissioner Bersin for working with me so constructively to try to resolve the issues surrounding the port at Morses Line.

“Finally, I would like to discuss the restoration of Amtrak rail service between Vermont and Montreal, Quebec. I understand that one of the obstacles to reestablishing this critical transportation link is determining the appropriate level of CBP screening. I know it can be done, though, as Senator Schumer has two cross-border trains in New York State and there is another one operating in Washington State. I hope that CBP will work with me, the Governor of Vermont, Amtrak, and the Canadians to find a reasonable solution to the passenger screening issue. And because CBP is such a key player in these discussions, I encourage the agency to send an operations and infrastructure official to represent CBP at a cross-border transportation conference in Burlington, Vermont, next week.


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FRA’s Karen Rae Is Named
WTS Woman Of The Year

From The Woman’s Transportation Seminar

WASHINGTON --- Deputy Federal Railroad Administrator Karen Rae was named Woman of the Year by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), an international organization dedicated to the professional advancement of women in the transportation field.  With 35 years of knowledge and expertise, Karen was selected to receive this top honor by her peers in transportation for her decades of leadership building transit and passenger rail systems across the country.

Appointed by President Obama in March 2009, Karen serves as the second highest-ranking official of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) where she leads day-to-day agency operations, overseeing the nation’s rail network. With a focus on leveraging state DOT partnerships, she plays a leading role in FRA’s efforts to successfully implement the President’s historic vision for high-speed intercity passenger rail that will connect 80 percent of Americans to fast and efficient rail service in the next 25 years. 

Speaking at the WTS annual meeting in San Francisco, CA., U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “We are extremely proud of Karen.  Thanks to her leadership and enthusiasm, we are moving forward, building the nation's first innovative, high-speed rail network.  She is a trailblazer among women in transportation and her passion for giving Americans a choice in how they travel speaks to her dedication, perseverance and hard work.”

Deputy Administrator Rae is dedicated to the advancement of women in transportation-related fields.  Over the years, Karen has mentored a variety of young professionals, most recently, serving as a mentor for the Washington D.C. chapter of WTS.  She was an early advisor in the development the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pilot program to engage more girls and women in the transportation field. 

Karen began her career in transportation at the age of 18, working as a monorail operator in Hershey, PA.  From there, her focus on moving people and goods continued and Karen grew to become a seasoned industry expert with a diverse background in transit, rail and public transportation.  Prior to joining FRA, Karen served in several senior transportation policy and management positions in state and municipal government including appointments as Deputy Commissioner of Policy and Planning at the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT); Deputy Secretary for Local and Area Transportation at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT); and Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.   Earlier in her career, she worked for 18 years as director and general manager of transit systems in Austin, Texas, Glens Falls and Buffalo, New York.


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POLITICALLINES... Political Lines...  

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff Alerts Senate To Rising Demand For Transit
And Obama’s Plan To Reduce Oil Dependence By One Third By 2025

From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON -- On May 19, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs held a Hearing on Transportation Policy Priorities and Federal Transit Programs.

FTA Administrator Rogoff’s testimony addressed several areas of the Obama Administration’s priorities. While goals are being set for building transit and expanding what we already have, an immediate concern is to bring our aging transportation infrastructure up to a state of good repair. Rogoff cites an FTA study completed in September 2010 which “found that the nation’s transit systems, including bus systems, have a $78 billion backlog of assets in marginal or poor condition and that our nation’s transit systems will require an estimated $14.4 billion annual investment to continue to maintain a state of good repair once that backlog is addressed.”

The Obama plan emphasizes long term measures, not simply quick reactions to the fluctuations of gas prices. He wants to reduce our dependence on oil by one-third by 2025, not only by increasing exploration of the U.S. supplies but also by providing more transportation choices to more people, especially for Americans who cannot afford cars or for other reasons, do not drive.

Transit agencies nationwide are experiencing marked increase in demand for service – that’s another impetus to expand service and provide better training for professionals who run the transit agencies.

The complete statement is reprinted below:

May 19, 2011

Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Shelby, and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Obama Administration’s policy priorities for the next authorization of federal transit programs. We appreciate the Committee’s hard work to develop this important legislation. And we believe it is in the best interests of the American people to support a legislative framework that will enable us to strategically rebuild and expand our national transit infrastructure in ways that will create new jobs, enhance competitiveness, and spur economic growth in communities nationwide, while also reducing our nation’s dependence on oil. 

Almost all Americans–from families to business owners–have been affected by the spike in gas prices lately, as they were in 2008 and back in 1973.  But we can’t keep proposing policy changes when gas prices rise, only to forget about them once they go back down.  President Obama has noted that while there is no silver bullet to address rising gas prices in the short term, there are steps we can take to ensure the American people do not fall victim to skyrocketing gas prices over the long term.

Toward this end, the President has laid out a blueprint to put America on a path toward a cleaner, safer, and more secure energy future. The Administration has pledged that by 2025, we will reduce our net imports of oil by one-third and put forward a plan that produces more oil domestically, reducing our dependence on oil with cleaner fuels and greater efficiency. That is achievable, it is necessary, and for the sake of our future, we will get it done. 

To ensure that this strategy succeeds, we are making historic investments in high-speed rail and public transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering Americans–urban, suburban, and rural–the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.

We at FTA have been hearing from transit agencies all over the country, who tell us they are experiencing a surge in ridership that they attribute, at least in part, to the pain people are feeling at the pump. For example, in New Orleans, Louisiana, ridership on the RTA transit system is up more than 20 percent over last year. In Kankakee County, Illinois, local buses have added more than 3,000 new riders this spring. In greater Philadelphia, there’s been a 4 percent increase on SEPTA’s trains and buses over a recent 8-month period. And in northern Virginia, 7 percent more riders chose to ride the VRE commuter rail in February than the same time last year. 

These increases represent millions of new trips taken every day.  Many of these trips are taken by hard-working Americans who simply cannot afford to purchase and maintain privately owned vehicles. Suburban commuters who are also concerned about the high cost of gas—and would prefer not to waste gas sitting in traffic—are also turning to transit. According to the American Public Transportation Association, riding public transportation saves individuals, on average, $10,116 annually, or $843 a month, compared with driving. 

Implementation of our priorities for reauthorization—together with enactment of the President’s budget request for fiscal 2012—will ensure that America’s transit systems are reliable, desirable, efficient, and safer than ever for the millions who use them every day in our urban, suburban, and rural communities. Our priorities reflect the Administration’s dual commitments to expanding transit in areas with little or no transit while also bringing our older, urban transit systems into a state of good repair.  But transit service is only as strong as the agency that runs it.   Therefore, it’s equally important to support workforce training and development within the transit industry as well as temporary, targeted operating assistance for transit providers in distress. To improve FTA’s capacity to oversee and manage the billions of dollars we award annually to state and local transportation providers, and ensure that taxpayers’ transportation dollars are wisely spent, the Administration is also committed to streamlining and consolidating core programs to improve efficiency and become even more responsive to local transportation priorities. Specifically, we recognize it is vitally important to strike the right balance between good stewardship and the need to advance capital transportation projects in a reasonable timeframe.  That is why we propose significant changes that will accelerate the development and financing of critically needed projects to expand transportation options in the United States. Additionally, we will reduce the administrative burden now experienced by FTA’s grant recipients for programs that offer mobility for older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals. To this end, we will merge and consolidate three separate programs. 

A description of FTA’s policy priorities for the next authorization follows.

STATE OF GOOD REPAIR

During his State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out an aggressive but achievable plan to out-build, out-innovate, and out-educate our global economic competitors. At the heart of the president’s challenge is public transit. The Administration supports making a groundbreaking commitment to not only expand transit options for Americans, but just as importantly, maintain our transit systems in a state of good repair.  A September 2010 FTA study found that the nation’s transit systems, including bus systems, have a $78 billion backlog of assets in marginal or poor condition and that our nation’s transit systems will require an estimated $14.4 billion annual investment to continue to maintain a state of good repair once that backlog is addressed.

Through a new State of Good Repair program, one that would replace the existing fixed guideway modernization and discretionary bus programs, formula grants would be provided to transit agencies over the next six years to enable them to improve the condition of their existing capital assets.  We will work closely with this Committee to develop a reformulated two-tiered formula for both bus and rail that closely reflects the capital needs of transit agencies. This formula should allocate funds based on the relative cost to restore public transportation assets to a state of good repair. We also recommend that the formula give priority to transit agencies with the most pressing capital investment requirements.  The formula should not inequitably reward public transportation agencies that have failed to adequately maintain their capital assets. We should require transit agencies to use asset management techniques to target their state-of-good repair investments.  Also, it should assure equitable treatment of the relative needs of rail and bus systems and provide an incentive to transit agencies for developing and implementing structured asset management techniques.

SAFETY

Secretary LaHood has regularly stated that “safety is our highest priority and we are committed to keeping transit one of the safest modes of transportation in the nation.” Our commitment to safety is demonstrated by the Administration’s repeated requests that Congress enact new authority for FTA to ensure the safety of rail-transit riders across America.  

In December 2009, Secretary LaHood transmitted to Congress legislation that would establish national rail transit safety standards. This was the first piece of legislation that any President, in any Administration, transmitted to Congress that was solely about public transportation, and appropriately, it was about safety.

We’re also very grateful that this Committee unanimously passed a safety bill in June 2010. While it differed in some respects from the Administration’s proposal, it includes the core components that will put us all on a better path for improved safety.

I want to thank all the Committee members that have worked on that legislation.  I can promise you, FTA will continue to work with the leadership in Congress until public transportation safety legislation is enacted as a stand-alone bill or as a part of the reauthorization of the Federal Public Transportation Assistance Programs.   I am grateful to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for their recommendations on how to improve safety legislation as well as their support of this much needed legislation as it moves through the process.

To achieve the goal of putting safety first, it is imperative that Congress rescinds an antiquated 1960s era law that forbids the federal government from issuing even the most basic safety regulations now.  When Secretary LaHood and I testified before the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development on December 10, 2010, we expressed concern about warning signs regarding the frequency of derailments, collisions, and passenger casualties and reported on a number of accidents serving as the basis of our concern.   While transit is a safe way to travel, we continue to see too many preventable accidents. For example, on March 13 of this year, a BART train derailed as it approached a station, causing the evacuation of 65 passengers. Four people were injured, and the accident resulted in $800,000 in damage. And, on April 20, 2010, 20 people were injured because of a fire in a tunnel just outside the MBTA’s Downtown Crossing Station.  The cause of the fire was due to trash near an electrical cable.

Clearly, FTA needs the tools to ensure that public transportation remains safe as our systems age and experienced employees retire in increasing numbers. Enactment of this commonsense safety legislation is long overdue; we request that Congress move quickly to provide those necessary tools to us to help keep the public safe. 

TEMPORARY AND TARGETED OPERATING ASSISTANCE

The Administration’s proposed flexibility to use Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Grant funds for operating expenses is an important recognition that some of our public transportation agencies need help addressing their operating shortfalls in the short run. In smaller urban areas and in rural areas, FTA formula funds can already pay for operating assistance.  But now we are proposing that FTA funding be available for temporary operating assistance specifically in economically distressed urbanized areas with a population of over 200,000.

This flexibility would phase out over three years.  In the first year, grantees in these targeted areas would be permitted to use up to 25 percent of their urbanized area apportionment for operating expenses and declining portions during the second and third years. To prevent the substituting of Federal funds for local dollars, each transit agency would have to certify to FTA that its local funding partners did not reduce the proportion of local funding dedicated to transit and that service levels are maintained and not cut below previous levels.

PROGRAM STREAMLINING AND DELIVERY

I.  Capital Investment Program

The Administration supports transforming the New Starts program (Section 5309), into a Capital Investment Program that would feature a simpler and more streamlined process for funding the construction of new fixed guideway projects and extensions to existing fixed guideway projects, such as heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit.  Currently, FTA follows a rigorous, time-consuming process based on requirements set by the law when reviewing grant applications for program funding. This process focuses on awarding federal dollars to the highest rated projects. However, sometimes project timelines are sacrificed along the way, resulting in higher project costs.

We believe that such changes will expand transportation options in the United States by accelerating the development and financing of critically needed projects.  Importantly, streamlining the Capital Investment Grants process will be a true catalyst to long-term economic development and job growth surrounding the new rail line.

The goal of streamlining Capital Investment Program is to strike the right balance between stewardship and the need to advance New Starts projects in a reasonable timeframe.  To that end, FTA supports eliminating the duplicative Alternative Analysis requirement since it is already required by the National Environmental Policy Act.  

We support merging Preliminary Engineering and Final Design into a single Project Development stage under our proposal.  Entry into the Project Development phase would require FTA approval.  The current six project performance criteria would be reduced to four—transportation effects, environmental effects, economic development and comparison of project’s effects to costs.

Streamlining the project development process would permit us to discontinue the current “Small Starts” category—projects requesting less than $75 million in New Starts funds with a total capital cost of less than $250 million.  Instead, the program would include two new project categories: the larger Capital Investment Grant projects and Exempt projects, which request less than 10 percent of their funds from this program, and in any case, no more than $100 million. Exempt projects would be subject only to basic Federal grant requirements and would not be evaluated and rated under the program criteria.

One set of project evaluation criteria would be applied to all non-exempt projects. Projects’ sponsors seeking more than $100 million in Capital Investment Grant Program funds would receive construction funds through a Full Funding Grant Agreement while projects seeking less than $100 million would receive construction funds through a simplified Project Construction Grant Agreement.  We propose to maintain the five-tier project rating system of low, medium-low, medium, medium-high and high for project ratings. We also provide comparable, but not necessarily equal, weight to each of the project performance criteria.

II. Consolidated Specialized Transportation Grant Program

Over time, FTA’s grant recipients have had to devote increasing time and resources to administer the various requirements of FTA’s programs that offer mobility for older adults, people with disabilities and low-income individuals. To address this burden, the Administration supports creating a Consolidated Specialized Transportation Grant Program to improve mobility and job access for low income persons, and provide transportation options for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.  This program would merge the existing Elderly Individuals and Individuals with Disabilities Program, the New Freedom program, and the Job Access and Reverse Commute program. The objective of this program reform would be to ensure transportation services are made available in urbanized and non-urbanized areas, and are designed to fill gaps in or enhance transportation services available to meet the particular needs of older adults, low-income individuals, and people with disabilities who are not well served by existing public transportation service.

Funds would be distributed by formula and apportioned to urbanized areas and rural areas based on the number of each targeted population in those respective areas.  Funds would be used for planning, capital investments, and operating costs of projects derived from a locally coordinated public transit–human service transportation plan.

PERFORMANCE-BASED PLANNING

Over the past few decades, federal surface transportation law has increasingly recognized the importance of transportation planning as the basis of transportation spending decisions by State and local officials. However, States and localities need to better identify and address their planning problems and needs by making full use of performance data, improving coordination among jurisdictions, and integrating economic, housing, and other planning efforts into their transportation decisions. The Administration supports enhancing the effectiveness of States and MPOs in developing and implementing transportation plans and improvement programs while also ensuring transparency and accountability in public investments, and believes that three changes to the current planning provisions would accomplish this.

First, both metropolitan plans and statewide plans are required to include performance based goals, outcomes and targets.  These address not only transportation based outcomes, but environmental and economic development considerations, among others. Furthermore, MPOs and States would be required to demonstrate how the outcomes and performance targets contained in their adopted transportation plans—Transportation Improvement Programs and Statewide Transportation Improve Programs (TIPs/STIPs)—directly link plans to investments.

Second, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) designations are split into a Tier 1, encompassing areas of 1 million or more population; and Tier 2, encompassing areas of 200,000 to 1 million in population.  Tier 1 MPOs are held to more rigorous performance based planning requirements.  This recognizes that areas with more people, more complex transportation challenges, and more resources to address those challenges should clear a higher bar than smaller areas.

Third, States are expected to significantly strengthen the performance and financial rigor of their plans and programs, and increase their collaboration with small urban (less than 200,000) and non-metropolitan areas whose transportation needs and priorities are incorporated as part of the statewide process.

LIVABLE COMMUNITIES

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has prioritized its Livable Communities Initiative and Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is exploring areas where program funds may be used to promote these efforts. The initiatives aim to help families in all communities—rural, suburban, and urban—gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs, while protecting the environment in communities nationwide. 

While all of FTA’s programs work to enhance the livability of communities by providing transportation options for people and communities across the country, in further support of the Administration’s Livability Initiative, FTA is proposing a new Livability Demonstration Grant Program to support innovative projects that improve the link between public transportation and communities. Projects would be evaluated based on innovative or best practices, and local incentives for integrating transit with the community development in accordance with the DOT-HUD-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Community’s livability principles.  More specifically, projects would test different design and conceptual approaches to promoting livability in urban, rural, and tribal communities nationwide.  This approach would allow FTA to evaluate and compare their relative effectiveness.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL HIRING PREFERENCE

FTA believes that the nation’s transit industry should be equipped with a workforce that has the skill-set necessary to fill future transit jobs by establishing, among other things, workforce development and registered apprenticeship programs.

Such a Workforce Development Program would target training funds at under-represented populations in areas of high unemployment areas using up to 0.5 percent of the amounts made available to carry out FTA’s urbanized area formula grant program and would be developed and administered in consultation with the Secretary of Labor. 

Currently, FTA is prohibited from allowing local hiring preferences on projects using Federal transit assistance.

The Workforce Development Program we support would advance local hiring goals set forth in the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance for recovery spending issued April 3, 2009. We believe that local hiring is an effective tool that could be used to maintain and promote the working population by giving local workers a leg up on projects they pay for as taxpayers—projects that are being built in their own backyard.  For this reason, the Administration supports establishing standards under which a contract for construction may be advertised that contains local hiring requirements in limited circumstances. This provision would be applied only if construction were being conducted in a designated area of high unemployment (per Department of Labor data) and the contract’s total capital cost were over $10 million.  Workforce Development Program funds could be used to train individuals hired under contracts allowing local hiring preferences.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION EMERGENCY RELIEF PROGRAM

In many communities public transportation provides critical services to residents to carry on daily activities. A temporary interruption in transit service because of a natural or manmade disaster can be disruptive and even cause economic dislocation to those that rely on it for work, medical appointments, and other activities. Additionally, in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Government Accountability Office found that existing federal emergency and disaster relief programs were not sufficiently responsive to the public transportation needs of communities.

The Administration believes that an Emergency Relief Program should be established to provide funds necessary to quickly restore transit operations in the wake of a disaster. This new program would fund the evacuation costs and temporary operating expenses of transit agencies during and after a disaster, as well as capital replacement and repair costs. 

BUY AMERICA

The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that projects built using United States tax dollars generate the maximum number of jobs right here in the United States.   

As such, we request that Congress implement the necessary legal changes to increase the “Buy America” standard for federally funded transit equipment and components over time to 100 percent U.S. content.  The Administration proposes to achieve this goal by gradually increasing the percentage of rolling stock components and subcomponents that must be produced in the United States.  This increase would take place over a five-year period to enable vehicle manufacturers to enlist a greater number of U.S.-based vendors, and to give vendors time to relocate or commence manufacturing activities in this country.  By 2016, 100 percent of the cost of components and subcomponents for rolling stock, including rolling stock prototypes, would have to be produced in the United States and final assembly would have to occur here as well.

CONCLUSION

As high gas prices take a bite out of family budgets, the Obama Administration will continue to work with communities to make sure commuters have affordable, convenient ways to get to work, school or the grocery store.  The Administration’s policy proposals outlined above are a major step in that direction. In addition, there are other policy proposals that benefit several modes of transportation, including public transit. Examples are the Transportation Leadership Awards Program that will reward States and MPOs that are at the forefront of implementing best practices, including developing innovative ways to connect people to opportunities and products to markets and establishing a National Infrastructure Bank within the DOT as an innovative infrastructure financing mechanism for infrastructure projects of regional and national significance that would otherwise be difficult to fund.  

The Administration is eager to work with this Committee to ensure that Congress authorizes the Federal Transit Assistance Programs to assist our nation’s transit passengers—both those that use transit every day and those that want to use transit in the future.  I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)77.0275.64
Canadian Pacific (CP) 61.7061.66
CSX (CSX)77.4074.75
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)58.2459.07
Kansas City Southern (KSU)56.8054.66
Norfolk Southern (NSC)72.2671.57
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.7115.55
Union Pacific (UNP)101.99100.46


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments from David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Ed Note – As David is traveling this week there are no articles to include at this time, but David did manage to catch this snapshot as he was traveling to his destination.

A new Velaro D train set (ICE-3 family) in Deutsche Bahn colors and a TGV POS Duplex train set in SNCF / French State Railways livery

Photo: David Beale

Double Play - a new Velaro D train set (ICE-3 family) in Deutsche Bahn colors and a TGV POS Duplex train set in SNCF / French State Railways livery pause in the passenger train marshalling / servicing area in Hannover North Station on the 15th of May 2011. Both train sets are involved in separate test programs on the Hannover - Würzburg high speed line. The Velaro D, which Deutsche Bahn plans to use for services to London from Frankfurt via the Channel Tunnel and from Frankfurt to Paris, is undergoing a year-long series of tests and route-proving runs to ensure that all technical and maintenance problems are resolved before starting revenue service. The ICE-3, from which the Velaro D was derived, has had a lengthy and painful history of assorted technical problems and faults since it started operating a decade ago. The TGV POS Duplex train set is undergoing testing in order to obtain EBA (German equivalent of the U.S. FRA) approval to operate on the German rail network. TGV POS Duplex (multi-level passenger coaches) train sets will soon supplement existing TGV-POS single level trains on the Paris - Stuttgart route.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

As Reported Earlier

 

‘Best Buy’ Less Of A Buy?

By DF Staff

It seems some ideas don’t always take root, or so it appears to be with the installation of some of the Best Buy vending machines in the greater Boston area.

As reported in DF in the November 29, 2010 edition (Vol. 11, No. 49 (http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df2/df11292010.shtml), the Best Buy chain of stores had at that time installed vending machines in two heavy traffic subway stations within the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) system.

The machines would sell a variety of small consumer electronics such as USB stick drives, cell phones, and other products.


Photo via UniversalHub.Com

Having seen better days the Best Buy machine at the Forest Hills Station in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston is empty, unplugged, and its showcase glass papered-over.

However, after just 6 months of operation not all machines have produced the desired results. The pictured machine at Forest Hills Station was subject to a “smash and grab” robbery in March of this year, with a suspect almost immediately arrested thanks to station surveillance equipment and a quick response from transit police.

Since then the machine, though repaired, has remained empty and unplugged like some vacant storefront with waxed-out windows.

Yet other station vendors at Forest Hills, such as the news and candy store, an independently operated coffee and donut shop, and various ‘on the cart’ vendors continue to do well. The station even offers a fresh produce vendor.

Planned transit-oriented development on vacant real estate surrounding the station is also reported to be bringing in additional commercial interests that will target the ridership coming to and from the station.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

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

Connecting Beyond New England

Third In A Series
By David Peter Alan

Although New England is located in the Northeast corner of the United States, it is possible to connect it to other regions in three directions; south (actually southwest) to New York and beyond, west to Upstate New York and the Midwest, and north to Canada. Of these directions, only the connection to New York remains strong today. Elsewhere, only one train connects Massachusetts with New York State and west to Chicago, and there is no train between New England and Canada; nor has there been since the 1960s.

The passenger rail map of New England looks much like it did forty years ago. When Amtrak began operations on May 1, 1971, the Northeast Corridor (NEC) was the only line between New England and anywhere else. There was less service on the New England portion of it than there is today, but the NEC trains never stopped running. Amtrak also took over the branch line between New Haven and Springfield. Elsewhere, there was only commuter service. Penn Central, which included the former New Haven Railroad, operated branch lines in Connecticut, and they are operated by Metro-North today. Commuter service in Boston has improved in the past forty years. It goes to a few more places today than it did then, and several lines that ran only a few peak-hour trains in the 1970s now run full-time service. Some of the lines where trains run today had lost their service in the past, and it has come back.

With respect to local transit, the MBTA has lost some lines, opened other segments and moved the Orange Line, which had previously been an elevated line, partly above Washington Street. Two primarily street-running light rail lines, the “A” Line to Watertown and part of the “E” line to Arborway, which connected to the Orange Line at Forest Hills, were lost. All of the MBTA’s light rail lines, except for the streetcar line between Ashmont and Mattapan, are known collectively as the “Green Line;” the three other lines and part of the former “E” line are still operating. There are plans to extend the “Green Line” northward from Lechmere in Cambridge, toward Somerville and Medford. The Red Line, a heavy rail line, has also been extended. It now runs north to Alewife in North Cambridge, and south to Braintree. Only the Blue Line to Revere remains unchanged.

Two new regional rail services have started in the past twenty years. The Downeaster, which runs trains between Boston’s North Station and Portland (although not downtown Portland) is a very successful operation, representing the first passenger rail service to Maine since 1965. Shore Line East now operates commuter trains to previously-unserved communities east of New Haven, although this operation adds no mileage to the region’s passenger rail map. Another commuter rail service into Rhode Island has been extended recently: the MBTA, which previously ran commuter trains only as far as Providence, is now continuing south to T.F. Green Airport, although at present, there are so few trains that ridership is minimal. More expansion is planned, in the direction of New London.

There is significantly more service on the NEC between Boston and Washington, D.C. today than in the 1970s. The number of conventional trains is essentially unchanged, but the addition of Acela service has increased overall frequency. There is an infrastructure issue west of New York, however. The tunnels between Penn Station and the New Jersey Meadowlands are over 100 years old, and one track is taken out of service for maintenance every weekend. Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, which schedules around Amtrak, must schedule trains to accommodate this closure. While the present level of service runs smoothly, the limited capacity of a single track creates a choke point that can hinder operations on the entire corridor, and stop them completely in the event of an emergency.

Rider advocates in New York and New Jersey continue to propose plans to remedy this situation, as presented at the conference in New Haven last month. They propose an affordable capacity improvement; new track directly into Penn Station from New Jersey, with the minimum of new construction necessary to deliver that capacity improvement. Their long-term goal is still East Side access, which would require new track from Penn Station on the West Side, to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan.

East Side access from New Jersey would bring an additional benefit to New England; riders could get on trains at Penn Station or GCT. Until the early 1970s, some trains from Boston went to GCT, while others ran over the Hell Gate Bridge route to Penn Station and south to Washington. All inter-city trains use the latter route today. With a track connection between the two stations in New York, both sides of town would again have access to Boston and other New England points.

The last surviving passenger rail link between New England and upstate New York was severed on May 1, 1971. So was service on the former New York Central line, west of Buffalo. Suddenly, Empire Service between New York’s GCT and Buffalo became infrequent and isolated. The Lake Shore Limited came back briefly in 1971, but only from New York, and it was discontinued again early in 1972. It came back in the mid-1970s, and the Boston section was added later. That train still runs today, and it connects Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield with Albany and points west to Chicago. No other train connects New England with points west.

Connections between New England and upstate New York were never strong. Before and during the 1960s, there was more service between Boston and Albany, including the New England States, a New York Central train that ran exclusively between Boston and Chicago, with no New York section. Essentially, the “B&A” was the only game in town. The Boston & Maine once ran limited service on a parallel line further north, but that line bypassed intermediate cities and did not have the population density to support frequent service. Essentially, New Englanders who wished to go west had to go to Boston or Springfield first. This is still true today. While more service on the line would improve travel options for New England riders, it does not appear that the line will be upgraded to allow for the capacity that would support frequent service between Boston and Albany.

In theory, riders from Boston and other Massachusetts cities could go to Montreal or Toronto by changing trains at Albany. In practice, the current schedule does not permit such access. The westbound train from Boston arrives after the Montreal and Toronto trains have left Albany, and the train to Boston leaves Albany before the trains from Canada arrive. While a rail fan or a tourist who wants to enjoy the scenery might be willing to spend the night in the Albany area and spend two days on the journey, this schedule does not met the needs of most travelers. A second train between Boston and Albany would allow connections for upstate New York and Canada, but even such a modest improvement appears problematic at this time.

Northern New England was once a gateway to Canada, but the region lost most of its service more than 50 years ago. Trains once ran on the Maine Central Railroad through northern Maine, to Halifax. That service was gone by 1960. In the other direction from Boston, there were two routes to Montreal, on the Boston & Maine and either the Canadian National (CN) or Canadian Pacific (CP). There was even a train from Portland, Maine to Montreal. All of these trains disappeared during the 1960s.

The last train between New England and Canada, the Montrealer, ran during the 1970s and into the 1980s. It was an overnight train, from New York and through Springfield and Vermont, and into Montreal on CN. When it later became the Vermonter, a daytime train that terminates in northern Vermont, it still had a bus connection to Montreal. Today, that Montreal connection gone. The Montrealer may come back come day. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has called for the restoration o fservice between his state and Montreal (as reported earlier in this edition).

It is still possible to go between Boston and Vermont, with a change of trains at Springfield. Going toward Vermont, there is a one-hour layover. Going toward Boston, the layover is more than three hours, even if the Boston train leaves Albany on time. Ironically, part of the Vermonter travel time includes a detour to Palmer, on the way to Boston from Springfield. There are plans to improve the track north of Springfield, which would reduce travel time significantly. With the long travel time between Boston and Vermont that today’s operation requires, it is unlikely that there would be many riders on that combination of trains, except to enjoy the scenery. More riders could be attracted to the train if running times were shorter and the train again ran through to Montreal.

In addition, it makes sense to restore the line from Boston to White River Junction, to provide direct service between Boston and Montreal. This would shorten running time considerably, although it would require cooperation and probably funding from New Hampshire. With the recent difficulties in getting New Hampshire to help fund the Downeaster, which is a successful corridor, it is highly unlikely that direct service between Boston and Vermont will run anytime soon.

While the improvements needed to build a comprehensive passenger rail network in New England will probably not be built anytime soon, there are some relatively inexpensive near-term improvements that can bring better rail service to New England in the near future. The next, and final, article in this series will propose some of these improvements.

This writer wishes to thank NCI Webmaster Dennis Kirkpatrick for his incisive comments during the writing of this article.


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BACK TO THE FUTURE LINES... “Back To The Future” Lines ...  

A Look At What We Had In Mid-Twentieth Century

 

Whose Northeast Corridor Trains Are Really
“The Fastest?” --- Today’s, Or Yesterday’s?

By Peter E. Lynch

 

From the Publisher:

[From time to time articles appear in Destination:Freedom and elsewhere that reference the Amtrak travel times experienced by riders on the Northeast Corridor. Invariably, we get letters declaring that today’s Acela train speeds aren’t all that much better than those of the olden days, and that in fact, back in the 1950’s, you could get from Boston to New York in just three hours and 55 minutes, only twenty minutes or so longer than it takes today’s fully-electrified Acela runs

To set this record straight, and put it to rest – we hope --- once and for all, we turned to the legendary Peter E. Lynch of Old Saybrook, CT, who made his bones in railroading starting on the old New Haven Railroad in 1962. After picking up a Brown University undergraduate degree and an MBA from Rutgers, he went on to a storied career as a railroad operator in the Northeast, as a highly successful author, and as a collector of extensive railroad memorabilia, timetables, and history that now repose in the Dodd Transportation Center at the University of Connecticut. We asked Peter to weigh in on this debate, and he was kind enough to send us the following insights]:

 

SHORE LINE TRAIN TIMES – NY TO BOSTON

Questions have arisen about New York-Boston running times on the New Haven’s Shore Line. A schedules review shows when service improved or deteriorated. In 1930 the New Haven established the Yankee Clipper that left Boston and New York at 3:30 pm and ran on a 4 1/2-hour schedule. In February of 1933 it was changed to the 1 pm slot, in which it ran for many years. This train and the Merchants Limited that left Boston and New York at 5 pm were the New Haven’s fastest trains, although the Merchants ran on a 5-hour schedule. Others took 5 1/2 hours except for slower mail and express trains.

In early 1939 trains were speeded up because of the 1937 arrival of the I-5 Hudson-type locomotives that could accelerate faster with heavy trains. The Clipper and the Merchants ran on the 4 1/2-hour schedule and most other trains were reduced to 5 hours. In 1941 the Merchants was reduced to 4 1/4 hours and others were reduce to 4 hours 40 minutes. During the war trains had 5 minutes added for travel.

On March 1, 1949 the New Haven speeded up this service putting the Clipper and the Merchants on a 4-hour schedule and reducing many others to 4 hours and 20 -30 minutes. The first talk of the 3’ 55” schedule came from this change but that was the time consumed between GCT and Back Bay, not South Station! Because of traffic volume the New Haven added trains in the early 1950s. In April 1952 the NH made an Advance section, one that ran ahead of the regular leaving time, a scheduled train. Trains 24 and 25, the Advance Merchants Limited began running Sundays through Fridays 15 minutes ahead of the regular 5 pm trains. These trains stopped in New Haven to change between electric and diesel locomotives. Out of New York the first and only intermediate stop was Back Bay. In 1954 and 1955 the eastbound train No. 24 did have a 3’55” schedule but the westbound No. 25 did not because it stopped at 125th St. in New York. These trains ran 6 six a week from 1952 until January 1958 except in 1956 they ran on Fridays and Sundays only; after January 1958 until mid-1960 only the eastbound train ran and only on Fridays. In June 1960 the Advance Merchants Limited was permanently discontinued.

The fastest and most reliable running times on the New Haven lasted through 1955. In 1956 the New Haven replaced semaphore signals with color-light signals between Providence and Boston, installed cab signals and eliminated all crossings in Mansfield allowing speed to be raised from 79 MPH to 90 MPH. Despite this the Yankee Clipper and the Merchants’ running times were increased to 4’15” for the remaining days of the New Haven. The arrival of the ill-fated lightweight trains that ran sporadically in 1956 and 1957 never had schedules of less than 4 hours.

Once Penn Central took over running times increased on all trains due to deteriorating track conditions. Amtrak took over the operation of the Shore Line in 1976 and began extensive upgrading. Some Metroliner service ran but never improved on 1949-1955 running times. With electrification construction running times increased to accommodate extensive track outages. Similarly, Metro North catenary, bridge and track work added running time; at any given time, some tracks are not in use. In 2011 an Acela takes 5-7 minutes more from New Rochelle to New Haven than it took a New Haven express 1949-1955! [That is ConnDOTs doing, not Amtrak’s --- the Publisher]

Amtrak trains still lose time crossing between tracks to divert around track work. Completion of catenary replacement and ongoing signal spacing improvements should reduce running times in a few years. Despite these problems the electrified service on the Shore Line is a huge improvement over the old New Haven service. Not only is it faster but riders have 10 fast trains each way, not merely 2 or 3. Regional trains are 4’ to 4’15.” Anyone who questions the degree of service improvement with electrification and Acela need only look at the volume of passengers now using the New York-Boston route. [Rail’s ticketed market share on the route has gone from 10-15% in 1995, to 50%, and growing, on the Boston-New York City run, since electrification was completed in 1999 as the result of NCI’s first major intervention in public policy--- the Publisher ]


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CORRECTION... Correction...  

Tracks NOW Unfit

In last week’s edition, in the continuing series, “We CAN Connect New England by Rail, But It Won’t Be Easy,” it was noted that, “The Vermonter does not even run directly north of Springfield toward Vermont, because the track has deteriorated so badly that it is -not- unfit for passenger service. This should have read, “The Vermonter does not even run directly north of Springfield toward Vermont, because the track has deteriorated so badly that it is now unfit for passenger service.”


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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