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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June 20, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 24

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

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

  News Items…
Congressmen Shuster And Mica Submitting Bill To
   Separate, ‘Privatize’ Amtrak’s NE Corridor
International ‘Peer Review’ Of Amtrak’s NEC High-Speed
   Plan Supports Company’s Approach
Mass DOT Secretary Jeff Mullan Hosts APTA 2011
   Rail Conference At Boston
APTA Rail Conferees In Boston Sample Region’s Modern,
   As Well As Historic, Transit
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Expansion Lines…
“Brenda,” Will Dig Sound Transit Light Rail Tunnels
 
  Commuter Lines…
Your Commute Is Killing You, Says Slate
  Across The Pond…
Huge PPP Agreement To Build Brittany – Loire Valley
   High-Speed Line
Stuttgart 21 Construction Resumes Despite Protests
  In Memoriam…
Peter E. Lynch, 1945-2011
  Editorial…
Amtrak, The Baby, And The Bathwater
  Publication Notes …


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

Congressmen Shuster And Mica Submitting Bill
To Separate, ‘Privatize’Amtrak’s NE Corridor

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON---Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) and vice chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) will introduce legislation next week to cut off Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor from the rest of the company, and sell it off to the highest bidder, putting Amtrak once again in a fight for its life.

In the late 90’s, a similar risk threatened Amtrak. The “Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997” was passed by a GOP-dominated Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in December 1997 and implemented in 1998. It created an Amtrak Reform Council, and also demanded that Amtrak become profitable or face dissolution.

The definition of “profitable” was never clear, because publicly-controlled agencies like Amtrak, the highway system, the quasi-private US Postal Service, and other similar organizations do not account, in the traditional financial sense, for depreciation in capital equipment or infrastructure, assuming that whatever capital is necessary will be provided by the government to replace what is worn out.

No national transportation system of any kind anywhere in the world makes a profit in the strict business sense of the word because they do not recover their cost of capital, which is seen as the responsibility of government since the Romans built the Appian Way and ruled the world with it.

Amtrak responded to the demands of the “Reform Council” by radically increasing fares, and by promising to put itself on the “glide-path” to profitability in the words of the late George Warrington, Amtrak President at the time. This had the effect of improving Amtrak’s bottom line, but not fast enough to avoid near-shutdown in 2002 when David Gunn took the reins and discovered, on the first week on the job, that Amtrak was less than 30 days’ short of missing payroll. Gunn was eventually fired in 2005 by the Bush-appointee dominated Board of Directors for flatly refusing to dismantle the railroad; he is now widely seen as the most successful Amtrak President since Graham Claytor Jr. (1982-1993), who drastically pared middle-management at Amtrak and brought an unyielding, often abrasive discipline to the railroad.

The current attempt at Amtrak “reform” by Mica and company is therefore not the first, but it is by far the most aggressive.

In a press briefing and accompanying statement announcing their intention to file the bill, and presenting details of its content, they called their bill “…a dramatic new plan and new direction to bring competition to high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country, including the nation’s Northeast Corridor.”

In a prepared statement bluntly critical of Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail company created by Congress in 1970, which began operating in 1971, Congressmen Mica said:

“After 40 years of costly and wasteful Soviet-style operations under Amtrak, this proposal encourages private sector investment and operations in U.S. passenger rail service. Competition in high-speed and intercity passenger rail will cut taxpayer subsidies, improve service, and bring our nation into the 21st century of passenger rail transportation.”

Cong. Mica frequently refers to Amtrak as a “Soviet-style” bureaucracy, which he wants to replace with a modern private-sector business structure by putting up for sale Amtrak’s most valuable asset, the Northeast Corridor, and seeking bidders who agree to upgrade and operate it.

The bill also seeks to privatize Amtrak’s long-distance corridor service, but that is seen as a more difficult “sell” by industry observes: the Northeast Corridor operates at a profit “above the rails,” that is, exclusive of capital replenishment costs, largely due to the Acela Express which has become the travel mode of choice for more than half of the business men and women in the ticketed air-rail market Boston-New York and New York-DC; the long-distance trains are not profitable even “above the rails,” yet provide the only transportation link to the outside world for thousands of small cities and towns in rural and semi-rural America’s West, Midwest, and South.

“Our plan,” Chairman Mica continued in his press statement, “will create jobs by finally bringing real high-speed rail to the one region of the country where it makes the most sense – the Northeast Corridor – and do so in a dramatically shorter time than Amtrak’s 30-year plan, at a fraction of their proposed $117 billion cost.”

Chairman Mica added: “Amtrak has repeatedly bungled development and operations in the Northeast Corridor, and their new long-term, expensive plan to try to improve the corridor is simply unacceptable. The nation cannot afford to continue throwing money away on this highly subsidized, ineffective disaster.”

The House Republican initiative to privatize the Northeast Corridor is likely to encounter strong opposition in the Senate, which is still controlled by the Democratic Party, but may also run into opposition in the House itself, as House Republicans as well as Democrats have long given bi-partisan support to Amtrak over its 40-year history.

Also, earlier in the week, an internationally-based peer review of Amtrak’s own, more gradual plans to create 220-mph service in the Northeast Corridor was released, and was largely supportive of Amtrak’s proposed approach.

The study was conducted by rail operators from around the world who have cumulatively among them more than 100 years of true High-Speed Rail operating experience, including the highly respected East Japan Railway Company (JR East), a major rail operator of that country’s famed “Shinkansen” Bullet Trains.

“Leading European and Japanese high-speed rail operators reviewed the Amtrak next-generation high-speed rail vision plan and are expressing support for its phased approach to achieve 220 mph (354 kph) service on the Northeast Corridor. The operators also suggested that while Amtrak’s total assessment is sound and reasonable, the proposed service may generate more ridership, revenue, and market share and may cost less to build than initially estimated,” Amtrak said this past week in announcing the completion of the peer review.

Peer reviews in industry are considered critical, because they are conducted by companies and persons actually experienced in the industry or program being reviewed, and therefore carry greater weight than non-professional reviews and opinions issued by politicians, academic researchers, and journalists. The media will likely give the positive peer review little play, however as the political firestorm erupting over Amtrak is likely to drown that out, industry observers noted.

“The positive feedback from our experienced colleagues around the world is encouraging and demonstrates that Amtrak’s high-speed rail plan is a proper response to meet the region’s need for increased transportation capacity and is a viable way forward,” said Al Engel, Amtrak vice president, high-speed rail. He added that “Amtrak’s initial projections of ridership, revenues, and costs for this new system were appropriately conservative and we are pleased that many of the world leaders in high-speed rail have offered their ideas to help refine and improve our plans.”

Amtrak submitted its vision plan for international peer review and invited comments on identifying opportunities to strengthen the business case, improve the operations plan, and achieve construction efficiencies, among many other areas.

In his press statement this past week Chairman Mica said that “The Mica/Shuster proposal will also give states greater control and authority over their intercity passenger rail services, currently operated by Amtrak.  Ridership on state-supported routes has increased significantly over the last 15 years, and incentivizing private sector competition for rail services on these routes will ensure states and taxpayers get the best possible deal and the best possible service.  The initiative will also open up other Amtrak long-distance money-losing routes to competition, allowing the private sector the opportunity to bid on any intercity route and potentially improve service.”

“Both around the world and right here in the United States we have seen that competition works,” Shuster continued.  “When Virgin Rail began operating the West Coast Line in Britain, the company doubled the corridor’s ridership in six years and turned a profit.  Here at home, in an open bid process, Veolia won over Amtrak for Florida’s Tri-Rail South commuter line at $97 million to Amtrak’s $162 million.  Success and cost savings like this can happen here if we end the Amtrak monopoly on intercity passenger rail and open it to competition.  Done right, what in the past has been a liability can become an asset, generating jobs, economic development, and value for hardworking taxpayers.”

In their statement, the two Congressional leaders said:

“The Mica/Shuster initiative will bring real high-speed rail to the nation’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, DC, New York City and Boston.  The NEC is the region of the country where high-speed rail offers the greatest chance of success and the most national benefits.  The corridor is already owned almost in its entirety by Amtrak.  It is the most densely populated and congested area of the United States, and has the essential transit connections necessary for a successful high-speed system.  Unfortunately, Amtrak’s Acela currently averages only 83 mph between Washington and New York, and just 65 mph between New York and Boston.”

The GOP interpretation of the forthcoming Mica-Shuster bill can be found at: http://republicans.transportation.house.gov/Media/file/112th/Railroads/Rail_Competition_Bill_Section_by_Section.pdf


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International ‘Peer Review’ Of Amtrak’s NEC High-Speed Plan
Supports Company’s Approach

From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON --- An international peer-review committee of successful high-speed rail operators from around the world this past week issued the conclusions of a peer review report, supporting Amtrak and its plans to bring 220-mph service to the Northeast Corridor (Washington-New York City – Boston).

The review committee also stated that Amtrak’s cost/revenue projections for the project might be too conservative, and that the project would be less costly, and produce greater revenue, than Amtrak estimated in its own study.

Amtrak released the following statement regarding the peer-review report:

“Leading European and Japanese high-speed rail operators reviewed the Amtrak next-generation high-speed rail vision plan and are expressing support for its phased approach to achieve 220 mph (354 kph) service on the Northeast Corridor. The operators also suggested that while Amtrak’s total assessment is sound and reasonable, the proposed service may generate more ridership, revenue, and market share and may cost less to build than initially estimated.

“The positive feedback from our experienced colleagues around the world is encouraging and demonstrates that Amtrak’s high-speed rail plan is a proper response to meet the region’s need for increased transportation capacity and is a viable way forward,” said Al Engel, Amtrak vice president, high-speed rail.

He added: “Amtrak’s initial projections of ridership, revenues, and costs for this new system were appropriately conservative and we are pleased that many of the world leaders in high-speed rail have offered their ideas to help refine and improve our plans.”

Amtrak submitted its vision plan for international peer review and invited comments on identifying opportunities to strengthen the business case, improve the operations plan, and achieve construction efficiencies, among many other areas.

Responses were received from high-speed rail operators in Europe and Asia as well as several railcar equipment suppliers. Most respondents focused on the technical analysis report, in particular sections on conceptual engineering, operational planning, operating and maintenance costs, travel demand/market analysis, ridership and revenue forecasts.

Most reviewers agreed with the phased approach as outlined by Amtrak for a clear, structured and coordinated path to achieve 220 mph service on exclusive operational segments between Washington and Boston, the railroad stated.

The East Japan Railway Company (JR East), a major operator of the Shinkansen bullet trains in Japan, said that it is “extremely important to build capital from early project phases so that additional profits can be obtained and invested in future phases,” as they did themselves for a previous extension of their service.

There also was the recurring theme by the reviewers that the Amtrak plan would likely generate more ridership and revenue than projected in the plan given current market conditions and expected increases in travel demand. JR East said the Amtrak next-generation high-speed rail system may result in larger intercity travel market share than what is projected in the plan and another reviewer offered that the market share may be higher depending on station connectivity to existing networks.

Many of the reviewers commented on the initial projected $117 billion cost of the plan.

One long time developer and high-speed operator noted that the capital costs discussed in the report were somewhat higher than their experience and another high-speed operator wrote that the cost for the train equipment may be less than what is proposed if the procurement is similar to their own. Others suggested facilities and structures could be redesigned to reduce their footprint, thereby reducing total land acquisition costs.

More detailed studies in specific areas to analyze and verify assumptions made in the Amtrak vision plan reports are already underway. The peer review comments will be addressed in these and future study phases that will refine engineering needs, develop a business and finance plan, and embark on a major corridor environmental review and alternatives analysis.

Separately, due to numerous questions from potential bidders, Amtrak has extended the deadline to June 20 (from June 10) for its request for proposals for a fully implementable and robust business and financial plan for its proposed next-generation high-speed rail system. The in-depth plan will maximize private investment opportunities and address fundamental issues of risk, credit, debt and investment phasing among other criteria.

Furthermore, Amtrak is a partner in the 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail that will be held in the United States in July 2012. As a partner with the International Union of Railways, the American Public Transportation Association and the American Association of Railroads, Amtrak will host the world congress in Philadelphia.

The event is expected to attract some 2,000 attendees worldwide to exchange views on the development and achievements of high-speed rail.


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Mass DOT Secretary Jeff Mullan Hosts
APTA 2011 Rail Conference At Boston

By DF Staff

BOSTON --- Massachusetts DOT Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan brought a good dose of Boston sports humor with him when he addressed the attendees at the American Public Transportation Association’s annual Rail Conference, in his role as the meeting’s local host this past week, a performance he repeated twice, at a host forum Sunday, and in opening the general conference meeting Monday morning,

Asking the crowded room if there were any Vancouver Canuck fans present --- and of course there were, as this is an international gathering --- he noted the raised hands, and informed those people that as head of the DOT he was in charge of transportation, and had some buses running at the front door of the Marriott Hotel, just for them.

“Just leave” he dead-panned. “Really. I mean it.”

The lifelong Bruins fan from Worcester then smiled broadly as the crowd roared.

It was a stellar opening to a stellar performance, as Mullan, who is emerging as one of the most effective Massachusetts Transportation Secretaries in many years, then switched from humor to a description of the struggle facing Massachusetts’ road and public transportation systems.

Public transportation has a long and great history in Massachusetts, and Secretary Mullan spoke of that story, but he also made it clear that it was time to step up and rebuild what was once a truly great system, but with some exceptions has been allowed to deteriorate, for reasons both financial and managerial, as well as cultural, over the decades. Other cities have similar challenges. And he placed the responsibility for that squarely on the shoulders of the people in the room, and to the broader audience beyond:

“These challenges that we share are a generational responsibility. Governor Patrick addressed a crowd recently at an event on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. During his remarks, he spoke about what Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, has called the “grasshopper generation.” The Governor and many here this afternoon, including me, are members of this group. Friedman has written about the greatness of ‘The Greatest Generation’ – the men and women of America who defeated Hitler, rebuilt Europe, conceived of the interstate highway system, and created the United States as we know it today. The grasshopper generation are those of us who have been feeding off of the greatest generation’s hard work ever since. Governor Patrick spoke to those in attendance that day that it is time for us grasshoppers to step up, to assume responsibility, and to pursue the level of excellence that our predecessors once did.”

He was speaking to a gathering of transit operators, but his message was deeper than that, and deserves to be heard by all those who care about public transportation, and the essential role it plays in the economic system, as well as fostering freedom of mobility for all Americans, not only those who drive automobiles.

Herewith, then, in their entirety, are Secretary Mullan’s Remarks to the 2011 APTA Rail Conference Host Forum delivered June 12:


Good afternoon and thank you all for being here and for inviting me to be with you all.

Let me start off by saying, on behalf of Governor Patrick, Lt. Governor Murray, and the entire Massachusetts Department of Transportation, welcome to Boston. We are excited and honored that APTA has chosen Boston to host this year’s conference. And what a fitting honor it is- as you may know, Massachusetts is home to some of the most significant transportation innovations in American history. Among the inventions made here: the first American lighthouse, the first commercial-use canal, the first American rail road, the first successful gasoline-powered car, and of course, the first American subway system. And here this week, we hope that Boston will serve as your inspiration as you develop, discuss, and share the latest innovations in rail technology with your counterparts from around the nation.

And of course, that’s what [MBTA] Administrator [Rich] Davey and I are here for, as well. To learn from all of you about your best practices, about what works and what doesn’t as we find new ways to accomplish our shared goal: to deliver better and more efficient service to our customers. Finding and implementing better and more innovative approaches to service delivery is exactly what the new MassDOT is all about.

I am happy to be here this afternoon to talk with all of you about the historic transportation reform initiative that is currently taking place in Massachusetts. The new MassDOT, now well into its second year, is on what I believe to be a successful path in fundamentally transforming the way state government handles the people’s transportation business. Decades of talk about transportation reform in the Commonwealth is now the new reality. And, while it is certainly harder to implement reform than to talk about it, we have taken the first critical steps and are making real progress on implementing true, lasting reform.

We once led the nation in many areas of transportation, and we boasted of local, nationally recognized figures such as Eliot, Callahan, Volpe, Sargent, and O’Neill. It was Tip O’Neill after all, who is credited with one of the great transportation quotes of all time – “I love anything with wheels.”

Transportation reform has brought us to the start of what I believe is the beginning of the third phase of Massachusetts transportation since the end of World War II.

The first phase began with the 1948 Highway Master Plan and the efforts to construct our spoke and wheel highway system that helped drive our postwar economy with the assistance of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 and the creation of the Interstate Highway System. That era continued until the late 1960s when the “Stop the Highway” movement took root right here in Boston, leading to Governor Sargent’s moratorium on highway construction within Route 128 in 1970 and his famous 1972 cancellation of the Southwest Expressway and Inner Belt highway projects – an announcement that led directly to the Boston Transportation Planning Review, renewed attention on people and planning in our business, transit expansion at the MBTA, and, of course, the Central Artery/Tunnel Project. We completed work on the Central Artery Project in 2007, an event that marked the conclusion of the second era.

We are now firmly in the third phase – a period dominated in these early years by reform. Sometime between 1948 and 2006 – perhaps it was in the late 1990s and early part of this century - people in Massachusetts lost faith in our ability to plan, design, construct, manage, and operate our state’s transportation system.

Past leadership, perhaps well intentioned, presided over a series of siloed organizations with varying missions, little long term vision, built-in rivalries, and in some cases, personal grudges. It began simply enough in an attempt to isolate funding structures and focus on specific needs. It ended in unfortunate rivalries – all competing for a smaller share of funding in increasing isolation at a time when cooperation, a shared vision, and a balanced transportation system were so obviously necessary. Governors who ran from the Central Artery/Tunnel project as its costs spiraled out of control, heads of similarly-situated organizations not speaking with each other let alone not cooperating for the benefit of the traveling public, and a lack of investment statewide that have left us with a gap between what we have and what we need, estimated by the non partisan Transportation Finance Commission, at $20 billion over the next twenty years.

These conditions led to large-scale inefficiencies, waste, and burdensome red tape that hampered any effort to effectively address our state’s long-neglected transportation infrastructure needs, much less our long-term needs. It also led to widespread calls for a new system – with some asking for us to do anything and others urging us to be careful with something that is such an important part of the Commonwealth’s future.

Our work in transportation reform is framed by three simple overarching concepts.

First, we will run transportation like a business, with a focus on outcomes, an understanding of the value of investments, strategic decision making for the long term, and teamwork. Unless you are a student of American business, it will not be sexy or exciting. It will be more efficient.

Second, we will operate as one – one transportation agency, one mission, one goal, one system. Like the Governor’s own personal vision, MassDOT is all about one. This requires that we break down the silos that exist in transportation over such things as jurisdictional boundaries and a lack of understanding, or appreciation, for how customers – commuters, businesses, travelers – use the system. I have told the Governor that he is an expert in transportation and is particularly well suited for these times because he has not, like many of us, spent most of his career working in the transportation business. He views the system from the eyes of a consumer, and he demands that we plan, manage and operate it from that perspective as well. Put another way, he has, quite simply, pushed us to turn transportation around by turning and facing our customers. In its simplest form, our customers might ask - what is the best way to get from point A to point B? We must ask ourselves the same question.

Third, we will create a culture of safety across transportation. As we spend record amounts to rebuild our infrastructure, the safety of the public and our workers must be foremost in our minds.

Under the leadership of Governor Patrick and Lt. Governor Murray, we have now reorganized into one central governing body with a unified Board of Directors, and a strategic plan consistent with our stated values. That plan includes our vision to be the best DOT in America, and a mission and goals and objectives that highlight the first critical steps toward reform – toward real, transformational change about which we can all be proud.

To get there, we are beginning with some basics. When we started, we laid out four goals we needed to achieve to be successful in earning back people’s trust and faith in us. First – find ways to save money. Secondly – improve customer service. Thirdly – rebuild employee morale and focus on our workforce. And lastly – make investments in the entire Commonwealth.

We have saved over $124 million in our first year alone and we continue to empower staff to identify and implement even more efficiencies and savings across MassDOT for this year and beyond.

In the area of customer service, we have a customer-focused website, a transportation blog, even a popular Twitter account. Our managers are out in the system engaging directly with our customers. We have grown our web presence to the point where our most popular RMV branch is online, handling 1.5 million transactions every year. We have begun the second phase of our “You Move Massachusetts” initiative and are hosting outreach efforts around the state, and we have started a “How Can I Help You Today” initiative with our front line and mid level workers. These people are the face of state government for many of our citizens. But it is also more than that – it is recognizing that, while they may not be paying fares or tolls or fees to use our systems, business leaders and local officials are our customers. Indeed, part of our efforts are aimed at recognizing that very nearly every citizen in the Commonwealth is our customer in one way or another.

Like most of you I am sure, we face an issue of poor morale and a less than optimal culture. We have continued to focus on our workforce and built morale through an employee-driven Transportation Round Table, which convenes monthly to give employees a chance to speak directly with senior transportation leaders and share their suggestions and concerns for improving the MassDOT workplace. We have empowered our employees to engage in, be responsible for, and feel pride and ownership in, the transportation decisions we make. For too many years, our organization has been managed in a command and control, top down manner. This, in my view, has resulted in far too few of our employees engaging in, being responsible for, and feeling pride and ownership in, the transportation decisions we make. There are, quite simply, too many decisions to be made, systems to be fixed, and projects to be built for us to adopt anything but an approach that empowers our employees to act. Once armed with a clear vision, a central mission, and the knowledge that, so long as they are giving their very best I have their back, I know that our employees and our organization will thrive. It is this strategy that will produce lasting, generational change that will be with the bureaucracy long after the current leaders have departed.

Lastly, we are making Commonwealth-wide investments on an unprecedented scale that has resulted in us administering one of the largest public works initiatives in the history of Massachusetts, with well over a billion dollars a year in investment in our highway and transit systems - nearly a doubling of our capital program from four years ago. Indeed, you cannot drive or ride or bicycle far in any direction in any corner of this state before you come upon a construction crew rebuilding a road or bridge or street or train track. Our Accelerated Bridge Program, created under the vision of Governor Patrick, has already reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges by over 16 percent in just over two years. Part of that program includes the I-93 Fast 14 project, which will replace 14 bridges on one of the busiest highways in Massachusetts in just ONE summer. It represents one of the most ambitious and innovative construction projects in the entire country, and with construction beginning just last weekend, we are already ahead of schedule.

The I-93 project is representative with the new normal at MassDOT. Administrative red tape has been reduced by over 66%, and over 70% of our projects are finishing on-time and on-budget, compared to just 15% a few years ago.

The goals that I share with you this afternoon are simple and straight forward and are common in today’s business world. I hope that they resonate with all of you. All that I describe and all we are working for are focused on regaining the citizen’s trust in us. Proving that we can be efficient, that we are focused on service, that we are building a program to last, and that we can deliver important, some would say critical, projects sooner rather than later are the central objective of our efforts at transportation reform. In short, people want proof that we are proper stewards of the transportation system.

People also understand that money is tight, as you all know. They like capital investment, but also ask us to simply get their bus there on time. They see the need for new highway investments, but also want us to clear the side of the roads we already have and to pick up the litter. They want to know that we are listening to their calls for change, for service, and for projects.

As we approach our two year anniversary, MassDOT is still a work in progress. We know we must regain the people’s trust and prove that we are proper stewards of their money. I know that the challenges that we face here in Massachusetts are faced by most or all of you across the nation. We have chosen to address these challenges in the way I have described. You may choose to address the challenges in a different way. But, what we all have in common is that we must address them – if not for us, for our children and for their children.

These challenges that we share are a generational responsibility.

Governor Patrick addressed a crowd recently at an event on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. During his remarks, he spoke about what Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist, has called the “grasshopper generation.” The Governor and many here this afternoon, including me, are members of this group. Friedman has written about the greatness of “The Greatest Generation” – the men and women of America who defeated Hitler, rebuilt Europe, conceived of the interstate highway system, and created the United States as we know it today. The grasshopper generation are those of us who have been feeding off of the greatest generation’s hard work ever since.

Governor Patrick spoke to those in attendance that day that it is time for us grasshoppers to step up, to assume responsibility, and to pursue the level of excellence that our predecessors once did.

For our industry, it means that we must address the challenges that I discussed tonight. As you spend time at the conference and enjoy your time here in Boston, the hub of the universe, I ask that you think about this responsibility. For our part, MassDOT pledges to continue our progress and deliver a transportation agency that will leave a lasting legacy for the people of the Commonwealth.

Thank you again for being here today, and for the opportunity to highlight what we are doing to move Massachusetts forward.


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APTA Rail Conferees In Boston Sample Region’s
Modern, As Well As Historic, Transit

By David Peter Alan

Managers from the nation’s rail transit providers, as well as from the consulting firms that service them, flocked to Boston last week for the annual Rail Conference sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). But the conference was not entirely about high-speed rail, multi-modalism and rail operations. Conferees were also offered the opportunity to sample the variety of transit available in the Boston area, as well as a taste of the region’s transit from the past.

Click for larger Map - Adobe PDF
Boston has one of the most diverse transit operations in the nation and is one of the few cities that has always had a major commuter rail network. That network is larger today than it was fifty years ago, and a significantly higher level of service is offered today on many lines, compared to the 1960s. There are also three heavy-rail lines (designated Red, Orange and Blue) and the Green Line, a collection of four light-rail lines. There is also a heritage trolley line operated with Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) cars from the 1940s, as well as three commuter ferry lines. There are also several electric trolley bus routes, in addition to the conventional diesel buses. Except for some bus lines to the suburbs, all of this is operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), known locally as the “T”; a name derived from its logo of the letter “T” in black on a white circle.

Conference attendees had an opportunity to ride four of those modes over a four-hour period last Wednesday afternoon, as Thomas R. Hickey, a planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff and veteran transit manager led a multi-modal tour. The group rode the Orange Line in the downtown area and the Huntington Avenue “E” branch of the Green Line. A short walk and two rides on other branches of the Green Line later, everyone was at North Station, ready to take a break and then catch a commuter train.

One of the highlights of the tour was the unusual “super station” at North Station; a facility that was placed in service to replace a former streetcar viaduct that was torn down a few years ago. Orange Line trains (heavy rail) and Green Line trains or single cars (light rail) arrive on both sides of an island platform on the journey toward downtown Boston, so riders have a choice of lines. The lines go to different downtown locations, but they are not far apart; so many riders can take whichever train comes first and still reach their destination quickly, even if that requires a short walk. There is a side platform for outbound Orange Line trains, and the outbound Green Line platform is located on a different level.

North Station is the terminal for North Side commuter rail service and for Downeaster trains to Portland, Maine; all on lines that were historically part of the Boston & Maine Railroad (B&M). Today, the station is located beneath the “Garden”; the arena where the Celtics play basketball and the Bruins play hockey. Less than seven hours after the tour group was at the station, the city erupted in celebration as the Bruins defeated Vancouver (played at Vancouver, not Boston) to win the Stanley Cup.

The commuter rail segment of the tour was a 17-minute ride on a westbound train, to Waverly, where everyone boarded an electric trolley bus bound for Harvard Square in Cambridge. That stop is home to the nation’s oldest university (Harvard, founded in 1636) and was, for nearly a century, the terminal for the Red Line. More recently, the line was extended northward to Alewife. The tour concluded with a ride to the Downtown Crossing station, a walk to the Quincy Market and dinner at Durgin Park, one of the nation’s oldest restaurants. The most popular menu selection was Yankee pot roast and a pint of locally-brewed draft beer. The restaurant has a policy of including a free portion of Indian pudding for customers who have a ticket or pass to show that they arrived on transit. So, for the transit tour, dessert was on the house. Indian pudding is a baked pudding made with corn meal and molasses, and served with vanilla ice cream on top. It is a local specially, seldom found outside the Boston area.

Although the conference ended with a tour of the local transit, it began with a journey into history. On Saturday morning, a slightly different group took the Downeaster train to Wells, about one half hour short of Portland. There, a 1960s-vintage bus met the train and took the participants to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, the nation’s oldest trolley museum. There was time to see the museum exhibits, visit the shops where historic streetcars are restored, tour the two barns where the cars are kept and displayed, and ride four vintage streetcars. One originally ran in Wheeling, West Virginia and another in Connecticut. There was a PCC car from Washington, D.C., which was similar in design to the ones that run between Ashmont and Mattapan on the “T” today, and which museum managers said ran under its own power for the first time since it was retired when the Capital city lost its streetcar service.

Boston Type 5 Streetcar 5821

Photo: Jim Schantz, Seashore Trolley Museum

A legend: Boston Type 5 #5821

The highlight of the trip for Boston transit historians was a ride on Car #5821, a “Type 5” car built by J.G. Brill that ran from 1924 until the late 1950s. There is a similar car on static display in Boston, but Seashore claims to have the only one in operating condition. The ride on the historic Boston car gave participants an opportunity to compare yesterday’s transit in that city with the equipment that runs today.

Boston still has streetcars but, during the “golden age” of transit, nearly every city and town had them. Lowell, an industrial town about 45 minutes north of Boston by commuter rail, was no exception. Unlike other cities, Lowell has revived streetcars to help showcase the city’s history; a unique operation. The National Park service operates the cars as part of Lowell National Historic Park, a collection of buildings from the era when cotton was king and the cotton mills brought prosperity to the towns along the Merrimack River in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Conference attendees visited Lowell, also.

The Park Service operates the cars on former B&M freight track, which has been upgraded, with overhead wire installed to power the cars. The Lowell fleet consists of one closed car and two open cars for summer use, the first streetcars built by Gomaco in Iowa, as replicas of the cars that ran in Lowell until 1935. The other car is a Perley Thomas car, owned by Seashore and originally from the fleet that runs on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans today. There is also a trolley museum in Lowell, a branch of Seashore that is open on week-end afternoons and tells the story of the streetcars in that city.

Prosperity came to Lowell in the 1830s, when the cotton mills opened, and left with their decline in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, Lowell has come back, due in part to National Park facility that celebrates the town’s industrial history. The Boott Cotton Mill Museum tells the story of the Lowell mills and features a room with antique looms that still operate, giving visitors an idea of the noise and discomfort that confronted mill workers through the years. There are two other museums, one that depicts the life of “mill girls” as well as an immigration museum, in a boarding house that was built by a mill company and is now preserved. There is a visitors’ center with a video about Lowell, a canal tour and, of course, the streetcars. City Hall and the old commercial buildings on Merrimack Street are well-preserved, and the city’s diverse ethnic heritage is celebrated, at both special events and a variety of ethnic restaurants.

There are plans to extend the streetcar to the Gallagher Transportation Center, to connect with trains to Boston and local buses. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to downtown from there. Today, Lowell has enough to offer for an interesting day trip or two. The city provides many visitors, including the APTA tour participants, with a glimpse into New England’s transit past, as well as its industrial past.

Between the historic streetcars at Seashore, the replica streetcars in Lowell and the different modes of transit that the “T” offers to Bostonians and visitors every day, transit professionals from all over the U.S and Canada had a chance to experience a wide variety of transit and see how millions get to their destinations today, as well as how they got there in the past.

 

[ Webmaster Notes: - Late in the conference schedule arrangements were made for NCI columnist David Peter Alan, NCI’s foreign editor David Beale, and webmaster Dennis Kirkpatrick, to meet up for a dinner in Boston. As fate would have it, the two Davids were in the city for different reasons, and Dennis lives on the outskirts of the city. They meet downtown for a dinner at Boston’s infamous and historic Union Oyster House, shared stories, and looked forward to our next edition. When the planets align next for that to happen is unknown, but clearly we hope it is soon, and for a longer visit. After dinner David Peter Alan departed for his local accommodations, David Beale to Logan International Airport, and after seeing David Beale off at the international terminal, Dennis hopped the subway across the city to get home. NCI’s Jim RePass was expecting to attend but was delayed due to the untimely passage of beloved railroader Peter Lynch earlier in the day. See the obituary and story further on. ]


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)75.4475.11
Canadian Pacific (CP) 60.4560.62
CSX (CSX)24.8173.53
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)54.6054.78
Kansas City Southern (KSU)53.5352.37
Norfolk Southern (NSC)70.9770.82
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.9715.65
Union Pacific (UNP)100.0199.60


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

“Brenda,” Will Dig Sound Transit
Light Rail Tunnels

By Scott Gutierrez
From
www.Seattlepi.com

In the next few weeks, Sound Transit plans to start tunneling through Capitol Hill as the next phase of construction starts on a subway from downtown to the University of Washington.

A 21-foot diameter boring machine nicknamed “Brenda” will do the work. Brenda was named as a tribute to the project manager’s wife.

“He named the last tunnel boring machine Mary-Margaret, which was the name of his mother,” said Glen Frank, quality control manager for the contractor, JCM U-Link Joint Venture, formed by Jay Dee Contractors of Michigan; Frank Collucio Construction Company of Seattle; and Michaels Corporation of Wisconsin.

Sound Transit took reporters for a tour of the future Capitol Hill light rail station at Broadway and East Denny Way, on the northwest corner of Cal Anderson Park. Right now, it’s a cavernous concrete shell about 70 feet deep. Brenda waits at the bottom like a giant mechanized worm.

Brenda is more than 300 feet long and weighs more than 800,000 pounds.

Brenda, the tunnel boring machine

Two Photos: Scott Gutierrez / seattlepi.com / SL

“Brenda,” a 21-foot diameter tunnel boring machine

“Basically the tunnel boring machine is designed as very simple submarine,” Frank said.

The machine will burrow through 40 feet of dirt per day until it reaches the Downtown Transit Tunnel at Pine Street, where it will be disassembled, loaded onto trucks, and hauled back to the Capitol Hill site. Then, it will bore the second tunnel.

That’s the last time the machine will see the light of day. Once the second tunnel is completed, crews plan to remove the cutter-head and the machine’s guts and entomb the outer shell within the tunnel’s concrete lining beneath Pine Street.

Tunneling will last for the next 12 to 18 months. It will be a 24-hour operation. Residents aren’t likely to hear the tunneling itself, although there will be trucks hauling dirt away from the station site.

So far, 800,000 cubic yards of dirt have been excavated to build the station’s box. The tunneling machine will dig from 15 feet below the surface to about 130 feet.

The boring machine is equipped with an array of sensors and instruments to monitor the amount of dirt removed. Crews will watch the data closely to avoid over-excavation. The machine has a 10-person crew, with the operator working from a control center about 60 feet from the cutter-head.

“There is potential for some settling. We anticipate some settling, but it is very small. If we do what we’re planning to in terms of monitoring performance of the machine, we shouldn’t have any problems,” said Rick Capka, construction manager.

The tunnel boring machine at Capitol Hill is 330 feet long.

Sound Transit encountered a number of problems with tunneling through Beacon Hill for Central Link light rail, which opened in 2009. Soils settled after construction by the contractor, Obayashi Corp., and opened up voids under several residents’ properties due to over-excavation. A 21-foot-deep void opened in one resident’s yard and Sound Transit wound up purchasing the property for $400,000, with the total price of the mitigation work reaching close to $4 million.

With lessons learned from the other hill, this time will be different, Sound Transit says.

“It is different in that we have more oversight,” Capka said. “We also have different technology.”

The excavated dirt is carried out on a conveyor belt as the machine presses onward. Massive prefabricated concrete rings with rubberized gaskets are left in place to form the tunnel. Brenda is an “earth pressure balance” tunneling machine, meaning excavated dirt is used to fill a chamber behind the cutter-head to counterbalance the pressure it’s up against as it grinds away.

Two other tunneling machines will start from the University of Washington to build the segment between campus and Capitol Hill. Together, they’ll complete a 3.15-mile, $1.9 billion line. It’s expected to serve an additional 70,000 riders.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Long Commutes Cause Obesity, Neck Pain,
Loneliness, Divorce, Stress, And Insomnia.

 

Your Commute Is Killing You, Says Slate

By Annie Lowrey For Slate

This week, researchers at Umea University in Sweden released a startling finding: Couples in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40 percent likelier to divorce. The Swedes could not say why. Perhaps long-distance commuters tend to be poorer or less educated, both conditions that make divorce more common. Perhaps long transit times exacerbate corrosive marital inequalities, with one partner overburdened by child care and the other overburdened by work. But perhaps the Swedes are just telling us something we all already know, which is that commuting is bad for you. Awful, in fact.

Commuting is a migraine-inducing life-suck—a mundane task about as pleasurable as assembling flat-pack furniture or getting your license renewed, and you have to do it every day. If you are commuting, you are not spending quality time with your loved ones. You are not exercising, doing challenging work, having sex, petting your dog, or playing with your kids (or your Wii). You are not doing any of the things that make human beings happy. Instead, you are getting nauseous on a bus, jostled on a train, or cut off in traffic.

In the past decade or so, researchers have produced a significant body of research measuring the dreadfulness of a long commute. People with long transit times suffer from disproportionate pain, stress, obesity, and dissatisfaction. The joy of living in a big, exurban house, or that extra income left over from your cheap rent? It is almost certainly not worth it.

First, the research proves the most obvious point: We dislike commuting itself, finding it unpleasant and stressful. In 2006, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Princeton economist Alan Krueger surveyed 900 Texan women, asking them how much they enjoyed a number of common activities. Having sex came in first. Socializing after work came second. Commuting came in dead last. “Commuting in the morning appears particularly unpleasant,” the researchers noted.

That unpleasantness seems to have a spillover effect: making us less happy in general. A survey conducted last year for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, for instance, found that 40 percent of employees who spend more than 90 minutes getting home from work “experienced worry for much of the previous day.” That number falls to 28 percent for those with “negligible” commutes of 10 minutes or less. Workers with very long commutes feel less rested and experience less “enjoyment,” as well.

Long commutes also make us feel lonely. Robert Putnam, the famed Harvard political scientist and author of Bowling Alone, names long commuting times as one of the most robust predictors of social isolation. He posits that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer “social connections.” Those social connections tend to make us feel happy and fulfilled.

Those stressful hours spent listening to drive-time radio do not merely make us less happy. They also make us less healthy. The Gallup survey, for instance, found that one in three workers with a 90-minute daily commute has recurrent neck or back problems. Our behaviors change as well, conspiring to make us less fit: When we spend more time commuting, we spend less time exercising and fixing ourselves meals at home.

According to research from Thomas James Christian of Brown University, each minute you commute is associated with “a 0.0257 minute exercise time reduction, a 0.0387 minute food preparation time reduction, and a 0.2205 minute sleep time reduction.” It does not sound like much, but it adds up. Long commutes also tend to increase the chance that a worker will make “non-grocery food purchases”—buying things like fast food—and will shift into “lower-intensity” exercise.

It is commuting, not the total length of the workday, that matters, he found. Take a worker with a negligible commute and a 12-hour workday and a worker with an hour-long commute and a 10-hour workday. The former will have healthier habits than the latter, even though total time spent on the relatively stressful, unpleasant tasks is equal.

Plus, overall, people with long commutes are fatter. National increases in commuting time are posited as one contributor to the obesity epidemic. Researchers at the University of California–Los Angeles, and Cal State–Long Beach, for instance, looked at the relationship between obesity and a number of lifestyle factors, such as physical activity. Vehicle-miles traveled had a stronger correlation with obesity than any other factor.

So, in summary: We hate commuting. It correlates with an increased risk of obesity, divorce, neck pain, stress, worry, and sleeplessness. It makes us eat worse and exercise less. Yet, we keep on doing it.

Indeed, average one-way commuting time has steadily crept up over the course of the past five decades, and now sits at 24 minutes (although we routinely under-report the time it really takes us to get to work). About one in six workers commutes for more than 45 minutes, each way. And about 3.5 million Americans commute a whopping 90 minutes each way—the so-called “extreme commuters,” whose number has doubled since 1990, according to the Census Bureau. They collectively spend 164 billion minutes per year shuttling to and from work.

Why do people suffer through it? The answer mostly lies in a phrase forced on us by real-estate agents: “Drive until you qualify.” Many of us work in towns or cities where houses are expensive. The further we move from work, the more house we can afford. Given the choice between a cramped two-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from work and a spacious four-bedroom house 45 minutes from it, we often elect the latter.

For decades, economists have been warning us that when we buy at a distance, we do not tend to take the cost of our own time into account. All the way back in 1965, for instance, the economist John Kain wrote, it is “crucial that, in making longer journeys to work, households incur larger costs in both time and money. Since time is a scarce commodity, workers should demand some compensation for the time they spend in commuting.” But we tend not to, only taking the tradeoff between housing costs and transportation costs into question.

How much would we need to be compensated to make up for the hellish experience of a long commute? Two economists at the University of Zurich, Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer, actually went about quantifying it, in a now famous 2004 paper entitled “Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox.” They found that for an extra hour of commuting time, you would need to be compensated with a massive 40 percent increase in salary to make it worthwhile.

But wait: Isn’t the big house and the time to listen to the whole Dylan catalog worth something as well? Sure, researchers say, but not enough when it comes to the elusive metric of happiness. Given the choice between that cramped apartment and the big house, we focus on the tangible gains offered by the latter. We can see that extra bedroom. We want that extra bathtub. But we do not often use them. And we forget that additional time in the car is a constant, persistent, daily burden—if a relatively invisible one.

Do not take it lightly. People who say, “My commute is killing me!” are not exaggerators. They are realists.  

[Annie Lowrey reports on economics and business for Slate. Previously, she worked as a staff writer for the Washington Independent and on the editorial staffs of Foreign Policy and The New Yorker. Her e-mail is annie.lowrey@slate.com]


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Huge PPP Agreement To Build
Brittany – Loire Valley High-Speed Line

RFF Selects Eiffage As Partner

Via RFF Press Release

Paris – Réseau Ferré de France (RFF), the main rail infrastructure network provider in France, has selected Eiffage as its "preferred bidder" for the public-private partnership (PPP) contract to design, build, maintain and fund the Brittany – Loire Valley LGV (the French acronym for high-speed rail line) . This EUR 3.4 billion (US $4.7 billion) infrastructure project will be one of Europe’s biggest work sites over the next five years.

As the extension to the existing high-speed line between Paris and Connerré (20 km to the East of Le Mans), the project should substantially enhance accessibility to the most westerly parts of France. It is consistent with the undertakings emerging from the Grenelle Environment Forum namely 2,000 km (1,200 miles) of new high-speed railway lines by 2020.

Public-private partnership contract

For this high-speed line, which was declared in the public interest on 26 October 2007, the decision to opt for a public-private partnership contract dates back to December 2008.

Following negotiations with the three potential candidates – Bouygues TP, Eiffage, and Vinci Concessions – each submitted its final bid on 13 October last year. These bids were analyzed in detail and, at an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors on 18 January, RFF nominated Eiffage as its preferred bidder. The bids were scored on the basis of the five criteria of cost, financial robustness, technical and environmental quality of the project, line construction times and involvement of SME.

The target is for the PPP contract to be signed in the first half of 2011. Once the contract has been signed, the contractor will have the task of building and maintaining the new line for a total of 25 years and, in return, will receive public funding as well as allowances from RFF. Organization and control of train movements will remain the responsibility of RFF.

The money to fund the project is being put up by all the public partners, in other words RFF together with (in equal proportions) the French State and the regional authorities : the Brittany Region with the departments of Finistère, Morbihan, Côtes d’Armor, l’Ille-et-Vilaine, Rennes Métropole and the Pays de Saint Malo, and the Pays de la Loire Region.

A high-speed line in the Brittany and Loire Regions

The new LGV line will vastly improve access to the most westerly parts of France : it will slash 37 minutes off trip times between towns in these regions and Paris and will dock 8 minutes from trips between Paris and Nantes or Angers. The high-speed line will be a further link in the European network and will contribute to improving accessibility and boosting the attractions of the areas concerned. It is also part of an ambitious modernization and development program for the westernmost regions of France.

For Hubert du Mesnil, Chairman and Chief Executive of RFF : “The culmination of this large scale railway project will be one of the longest high-speed lines in Europe, a single 360-km link between Paris and western parts of France. It will be huge boon for the economic development and appeal of the regions concerned, which have joined forces with RFF in launching this major project. The candidate selected submitted a competitive bid that will enable the State, local authorities and RFF to meet their financial targets.”

Key Phrase: rail infrastructure network provider

What is a “ rail infrastructure network provider” ? These are companies, also called very often “rail network managers” or “rail network management companies” are involved, as their names imply, in maintaining and servicing the railroad network in various countries including France. In theory these companies maintain the rail network and sell / provide train paths to various train operators in completely neutral, unbiased manner. These companies came into existence over the past two decades in nearly all European Union countries as well as in a number of other countries well beyond Europe such as Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

In the USA such companies do not exist, instead the functions that these companies provide are contained in one or more departments of a railroad such as Norfolk Southern, CSX, BNSF or even Amtrak (in the case of Northeast Corridor). Train operating companies in the EU pay various fees to these rail infrastructure providers for access and use of the rail network, much like Amtrak pays a freight railroad such as Norfolk Southern access and usage charges in order to run its trains on their tracks.

The reason these companies have formed in Europe is due to various legislation and treaties within the EU to “liberalize” rail transport, or in other words, move railroads out of their previous business model of state-owned and operated monopolies and into a new business model whereby (theoretically) the train operators are equal and compete against other on a level playing field provided by autonomous track / railway infrastructure providers. Think of an interstate highway owned and operated by a state government or perhaps a private toll highway company, which allows trucks and buses to drive on that highways without preference or prejudice towards certain trucking or bus companies over others.

Anderten commuter rail / bus station

Photo: David Beale

Born Free? In theory the rail network and related infrastructure, such as these tracks at the Anderten commuter rail and bus station are managed independently of the main train operating company which uses them. The Hannover – Lehrte rail line and the Anderten commuter rail / bus station in the inner eastern Hannover suburb of Misburg were extensively rebuilt back in 1998-2000 with Lower Saxony state funding. Commuter trains use the two tracks in the right-hand side of this photo taken in May 2011. The two other tracks on the left side are used only by intercity trains passing through without stopping in Anderten.

In practice there continues to be a very strong link between some track / rail network providers and their former owners, the previously state-owned railroads. In France, the ties between RFF and state-owned train operator SNCF remain quite strong, regarded as even being “joined at the hip” by some railway industry experts.

In Germany a similar situation exists, where Deutsche Bahn, which is in theory a train operator, continues to be directly connected to the track network and rail infrastructure via its subsidiaries DB Netz (track , signals and other infrastructure) and DB Energie (railway electrification structures and related hardware and plant). The German government has attempted to force Deutsche Bahn to not interfere with decision-making at DB Netz and to ensure that DB Netz provides train paths to Deutsche Bahn’s various freight and passenger train competitors fairly, but several recent court cases brought against DB Netz and its parent DBAG by several independent train operators suggest that not everyone is satisfied that the theory of an independent rail infrastructure management company is realized in daily practice.

In the UK, which launched in the mid 1990s a disastrous break-up of state-owned British Rail (BR) into dozens of privately owned train operators as well as privately owned / stock-held Rail Track, the separation and independence of the rail infrastructure company – now state-owned Network Rail – from various train operators is the most distinct in all of the EU. Rail Track, the privately stock-held rail infrastructure company, which was created during the break-up and privatization of BR in the mid 1990s, became bankrupt several years later, thus forcing the UK government to again take over the rail system infrastructure via newly formed Network Rail.

Although Britain’s Network Rail is considered today as the most independent of the EU’s rail infrastructure managers, as it has few or no historical ties to the current spectrum of train operators active in the UK (including Deutsche Bahn), a number of rail industry experts point out, that the UK rail system as a whole continues to cost train passengers, rail freight shippers and the UK government (UK taxpayers) far more today than it did when the system was unified under state-owned British Rail. Today’s proponents of a “privatization” of Amtrak and/or of a sale of its Northeast Corridor rail infrastructure to a private infrastructure manager would be well advised to review the massive, nearly decade-long nightmare that gripped the UK’s rail system in the wake of privatization of British Rail – unless their real intention is to inflict this nightmare on Amtrak’s customers and employees as part of an agenda to eliminate rail transit.

But new public-private partnerships (PPPs) all across Europe and elsewhere for funding new rail projects may help break the grip that some train operators still have on their one-time track and right-of-way subsidiaries. Neither the public (the government) nor private investors have an interest in the dominance of one particular train company using their asset / investment to the detriment of other train operators (customers), especially if in reduces the income that asset generates.


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Stuttgart 21 Construction Resumes
Despite Protests

Surface Rail Terminal To Underground Through Station Project Restarted

Via Deutsche Press Agentur (DPA)

Stuttgart, Germany – Deutsche Bahn restarted work on the controversial Stuttgart 21 rail project this past Tuesday after police broke up a group of protestors trying to halt construction. About 130 people tried to prevent building on the site staging two sit-ins before police ordered them to leave.

Some demonstrators left voluntarily and some had to be forcibly removed, police said. No severe clashes were reported, although protestors have vowed to continue fighting against the unpopular project, which was a decisive factor in causing the election defeat of the long-ruling conservative pro-business CDU / FDP political coalition in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The Green party, which is decidedly against Stuttgart 21 won the state election in an upset a little over two months ago.

Deutsche Bahn, which is leading the construction project, decided shortly after the election victory of the anti-Stuttgart 21 Green Party to place the project on temporary hold until the political future of the multi-billion dollar project could be better estimated. The two-month building moratorium, which was put in place after the state election in Baden-Württemberg, officially ended last Friday after politicians declined to demand an extension.

Stuttgart 21 consists of a massive construction effort, involving rebuilding the city’s main train station underground and turning it around 90 degrees, as well as laying 57 kilometers of new tracks. The aim is to make the city a major European rail hub. But opponents mounted massive protests against the project last year, calling it too expensive and unnecessary. In October, more than 100 demonstrators were injured in a violent clash with police.

The demonstration was followed by lengthy talks between state officials, national rail provider Deutsche Bahn and Stuttgart 21 opponents. But officials ultimately decided to go ahead with the project after making a few minor changes to plans.

Some believed the state’s new left-leaning government would more strongly challenge the project because the Greens opposed it before the election, but they have so far failed to do so. But state leaders have promised citizens will have the opportunity to vote on the future of the project, probably in the autumn in a state-wide referendum.


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IN MEMORIUM... In Memoriam...  

Peter E. Lynch, 1945-2011

Peter E. Lynch of Old Saybrook, CT, passed away unexpectedly in Worcester, MA on Tuesday, June 14th.

He died shortly after completing a Hi-Railer survey the morning of the right-of-way of the Providence &Worcester Railroad between Worcester and the Rhode Island state line. At the time of his death, he was working on a railroad project with P&W President Scott Conti and Vice President Engineering Bernard Cartier, and with National Corridors Initiative Chairman James P. RePass, looking at a project to increase capacity and service on that line through infrastructure improvement.

“Peter was a force of nature,” stated Jim RePass, who was with him that day, along with Scott Conti and Bernard Cartier, “and his passing is devastating to all who loved him, his family, his friends, and the thousands of people he touched in his storied railroad career. There is no doubt in my mind that the world is a better place because Peter was in it, not just because of the passionate devotion he brought to his work, but because of the honesty and directness he brought to the table, which benefitted everything and everyone he touched.”

Peter was the beloved husband of Kathryn P. Lynch. He was born in Bronxville, NY on Oct. 23, 1945 the son of the late Robert Merrill and Janet (Tee) Lynch. Peter was raised in Pelham, NY and as a teenager worked at the Pelham Railroad Station selling tickets; this began a lifelong love of railroad transportation.

He was a graduate of Brown University and received his MBA from Rutgers University. Peter served his country in the US Army during the Vietnam War.  He enjoyed a 47- year career working in management positions for the New Haven Railroad, Penn Central Railroad, Conrail, and the Housatonic Railroad. He retired in Dec. 2010 from AECOM as a railroad consultant. He was an author and had 3 books published about the New Haven and Penn Central Railroads and also wrote Silvio, a memoire of the late Congressman Silvio O. Conte.

Peter was an active member of New York-New Haven Railroad Historical & Technical Assoc. and will be remembered for his passionate campaigning for rail service in the Northeast. He was a lover of everything Italian, classical music, opera, history and politics. Besides his wife Kathi, he leaves his daughter, Kelley P. Moueix (Edouard) of France, his sister, Susan Lynch Gannon (Raymond) of Larchmont, NY, and his brother Robert S. Lynch (Laurie) of New Hampshire; a loving family and many dear friends.

A memorial service was held on Sat, June 18th at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 82 Shore Rd, Old Lyme at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the New York-New Haven Railroad Historical & Technical Assoc., c/o Tom Curtin, 160 Riverside Blvd, Apt.11a NY, NY 10069 or to Brown University, PO. Box 1893 Providence, RI 02912. To sign the guestbook or leave a condolence for the family please visit www.rwwfh.com.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Amtrak, The Baby, And The Bathwater

By Jim RePass
Publisher
Destination:Freedom

The first thing to understand about Amtrak is that it has been the whipping-boy of politicians ever since Congress created it in 1970.

Amtrak is also the creature, by default, of America’s freight railroads. For a century and more the freight railroads were required by law to provide passenger service (and give discounted fares to government employees (read, “Congressmen and their families”) in return for the land grants that helped build them.

But that all came to an end in the 1960’s as the Interstate Highway System, begun in the 1950’s, was built out, on top of the extant National Highway System federally funded in 1916. These massive taxpayer-funded highway projects, providing in effect and in fact the capital needed to allow hundreds, and then thousands, of trucking companies to go into business in direct competition with the railroads, creaming off the most profitable shipments and leaving the freight railroads with the low-value, low-tariff bulk shipments that trucks simply could not handle.

These highways were usually built along routes that the railroads themselves had paid to survey in the 19th century, but which were now given over to the truck and the automobile, at zero upfront infrastructure cost to the trucking industry.

On the passenger side of the ledger, the Boeing 707 (1950’s/60’s) and its derivatives decimated the railroads’ high-end, high-revenue (Pullman Sleeper) long-distance market.

The Boeing 707, the Douglas DC-8, and their commercial aircraft successors were based upon 100% taxpayer-funded World War II military aircraft. The 707 for example was based on the military’s KC-135 Stratotanker, which was itself derived from earlier military planes. These planes were sold to airlines, who were also given relatively high regulated fares by the taxpayer-funded Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA also provided the taxpayer-funded air traffic control system (railroads paid their own dispatchers); the various municipal airport authorities issued bonds to build airports, to be repaid with parking-garage revenues made possible by traffic from the massive new interstate highway, thereby removing that start-up cost from those seeking to enter the airline industry.

While the highways and airlines prospered with their huge subsidies, the Interstate Commerce Commission continued to regulate freight railroads, dictating what they could charge to ship a given commodity, and often taking years to respond to railroads’ requests for rate reductions needed to compete with the heavily-subsidized trucking industry. By the 1960’s the freights, still required to provide passenger service on routes once subsidized by now-absent freight business, and unable even to respond to market conditions in a timely fashion because of the leaden hand of the Interstate Commerce Commission, were near death, or already there.

Getting out from under the legally-dictated (“common carrier”) requirement to provide passenger service, no matter how sparse the customer base, became a high priority of the freight railroads, at the same time that key politicians such as the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) realized that, whether officially helped or not, the freight railroads were on the verge of collapse, and that some other means of providing passenger service had to be invented.

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (first named “Railpax”, and then “Amtrak”) was the result, created by Congress in 1970, signed into law by President Richard Nixon, and launched in May of 1971.

From the very beginning, Amtrak was given just enough money to fail, slowly.

The original law assumed that the freight railroads would contribute capital to the new venture to help get it launched.

Instead, they contributed in lieu of cash a vast collection of used-up, clapped-out, un-maintained passenger cars and locomotives already showing the result of years of neglect. About six weeks after Amtrak began operation, I took one of those trains, from New York City to St. Petersburg, FL (yes, the train ran all the way into St. Pete in 1971), in July of 1971. The equipment was from different railroads all over America, although the bulk of my train seemed to be old Seaboard Airline and Seaboard Coast Line equipment.

The air conditioning did not work, which that July became unbearable south of Washington, DC, the cars were filthy, and the food served --- sandwiches with green mold, really --- was inedible. Anyone who talked about the romance of rail on that train would have been shot on the spot --- or might have done the shooting.

Since 1971, until recently, the funding of Amtrak has been a joke. The paid shills of the oil/highway lobby, such as the fake think-tank Cato Institute and its equally fake sister, the Reason Foundation, and other intellectually dishonest lackeys of the oil industry that supports them, have issued endless “reports” and “studies” which always use words like “lavish” and “subsidy” in describing Amtrak’s tiny annual government support, in an attempt to cut off competition from rail. Consider this: the Congressional ethanol subsidy is $6 billion a year, compared to Amtrak’s $1.5 billion (which is an improvement). That subsidy benefits only agro-business, and has driven up the price of corn to the point where Mexico’s people (and not only them) are even more impoverished than they were before, and driven to emigrate to…guess where.

All this leads back to the following: John Mica (R-FL) is not wrong.

Now, given what we have just written, that will come as a surprise.

The T&I Chairman and his Vice Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) have quite literally thrown down the gauntlet: let’s get out from under what Chairman Mica calls this “Soviet-style” bureaucratic failure called Amtrak, and do something else.

You bet.

It is time to address passenger rail in the same way as we addressed the need for a national interstate highway system half a century ago, and how we created a national airline system that, despite plenty of lumps (especially recently) has worked: as a system.

Amtrak has done astoundingly well given the penurious help it has gotten, as is obvious if you look at European or Asian rail systems. Nevertheless, we can do better.

Cutting Amtrak apart willy-nilly to get private bidders to step up is a mistake, but the fundamental idea of private investment as embodied in the Mica/Shuster bill is a good one, and should be pursued. Amtrak has superb and deeply experienced operations and engineering departments, which must at all costs be held together no matter what the eventual structure of passenger rail in America. To do otherwise would jeopardize public safety, precisely as the British did to their eventual dismay. We do not have to repeat the same mistake here.

But we can structure corridor systems that benefit from private sector investment, especially if the public sector cooperates (Federal, state, local) by creating/enabling special Transportation Infrastructure Investment Zones (TIIZies) that return a portion of the economic benefits the corridor creates, to the entity --- very likely a public private partnership --- that operates the corridor. That is, we must find a way to put back into any transportation corridor the funds needed to sustain in perpetuity basic operations, and renew capital investment, by capturing a piece of the value that derives from the very presence of the corridor itself.

It is not a new idea. The Land Grant system that built America’s rail system is an example of it, although that process was corrupted by the rail robber barons who stole so much of the money generated in that manner, through the Credit Mobilier and other devices. We do not have to repeat those mistakes. But we do have to build America again, especially in the teeth of this Deep Recession. Some political leaders would repeat the errors of 1936-1937 and reign in Federal spending on infrastructure, and President Obama seems dangerously close to agreeing with them, much as Franklin Roosevelt did in the run-up to the 1936 elections. The results would be disastrous now, as they were then. Roosevelt’s programs had cut unemployment from a high of 23.6% in 1932, the year he was elected, to 16.9% in 1936, when he had to run again – and was advised to cut back on public spending, because the Republican Party was attacking him just the way they are attacking President Obama now, even using some of the same epithets – like “Socialist” --- when what Roosevelt was doing, as is clear with the hindsight of history, was rescuing this country from the threat of Communism.

Unfortunately, he listened, and reduced stimulus programs. Unemployment jumped back up to 19%,and stayed high until Adolf Hitler declared war on Poland in 1939, and brought the American worker back into the factory to prepare for the world war that was coming (unemployment in 1940 dropped to 14.6%. In 1942, it was 4.7%. After that, it was essentially zero.)

The time to build infrastructure is NOW. The rail system, the most neglected of our transportation modes, is also the greenest, and most likely to help free us from the domination of foreign oil, and foreign countries whose abysmal human rights records we have ignored while we have fed our petroleum addiction. Enough!

Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Mica and his Vice Chair Bill Shuster have started the debate; in a way that will make many unhappy. We need to take those ideas, and use them, and make them work, because that is the right thing to do, and what is more, we have no other choice.


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