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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Aug 1, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 30

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

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

  News Items…
Anger Grows In China In Aftermath Of Train Wreck
  High-Speed Lines…
Report Casts Doubt On Forecasts For California
   High-Speed Rail
  Freight Lines…
Deal Between WS DOT And BNSF Will Benefit
   Passenger And Freight
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  And The Winner Is…
MBTA Livery Chosen
 
  Commuter Lines…
Update: Rail Runner Will Keep Running On Week-Ends
  Amtrak Lines (Extended)…
New Bus Connects Roanoke, Virginia
   Into Amtrak System
  Across The Pond…
Deutsche Bahn Reports Improved Results
  Editorial…
The Chinese Train Wreck And America’s
   Transportation Future
  Publication Notes …


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

Anger Grows In China
In Aftermath Of Train Wreck

By DF Staff And From The Internet

BEIJING — Mistrust and anger toward the central government of China is growing wider, in the wake of the collision of two high-speed trains in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.

While the official press continues to cover the aftermath of the accident in a more or less straightforward manner, Chinese bloggers are taking to the internet by the millions to vent anger at the government, and what is seen as widespread corruption not only in the construction of the rail lines, but in the government at large. They are doing so despite internet censorship, which has been unable to keep up with the tide of traffic resulting from the accident.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported this past weekend that “The tragedy was caused by ‘serious design flaws’ in railway signaling equipment, an official from the Shanghai Railway Bureau said Thursday morning.” Originally Chinese officials blamed a lightning strike for the crash, stating that it disabled a signaling system, but that seems to be less and less likely as the investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

The Chinese High-Speed Rail system has until recently been a source of great pride and seen as a symbol of China’s emergence onto the world stage as its modified form of Communism, at least in the economic sense of the word “modified,” has created an economy second only to the United States in a matter of two decades of rapid growth.

However, the massive Chinese High-Speed Rail system had already come under criticism for corruption, when it was discovered that a senior railway official had permitted the use of sub-grade concrete ties in the construction process, because of a shortage of the kind of fly-ash needed to make the stronger concrete ties needed to permit sustained high-speed operation. He was removed, and train speeds on the new lines were immediately cut back to 186-mph, from the previous 220-mph.

The Associated Press is reporting that on July 27 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao vowed Thursday to “punish anyone involved if there was corruption that caused a high-speed train crash that killed at least 39 people, amid growing public resentment of the handling of the accident.”

“Wen, speaking to reporters at the site of the crash between two bullet trains last weekend that also hurt 190 people near the eastern city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province, said that a ‘serious investigation’ was under way and that results would be made public. ‘No matter if it was a mechanical fault, a management problem, or a manufacturing problem, we must get to the bottom of this,’ the AP quoted the Premier as saying. ‘If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law and will not be soft. Only in this way can we be fair to those who have died.’”

In a lengthy article, the Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, entitled “Trouble on the China Express” reporters Jason Dean and Jeremy Page wrote:

“Chinese have always lived by the saying ‘the sky is high, and the emperor is far away,’ even when the emperor was a Communist Party official hidden behind a crimson-walled compound in Beijing. The meaning is obvious enough: that the realities of provincial life are distant from the exercise of power in the Chinese capital. But this week the contemporary rulers discovered that the provinces have never been closer, not only to Beijing but to each other. Rarely before have Chinese felt so connected, so e-empowered as they have in the outpouring of grief and outrage over a tragedy on a high-speed railway line that was meant to be a symbol of modernity and centralized power but has instead become an emblem of political vulnerability. The point was apparent to all when one of those far-away emperors, Premier Wen Jiabao, was forced to pay homage in the provinces at the scene of the accident.”

“Many Chinese recognized that this was not just a train wreck but a collision between China’s past and future, between its ambitions and limitations, and between the necessity of rapid economic growth and the inability of a political system to change. And like any major event in this country of endless over-interpretation, there has been a chain reaction, in Beijing and beyond, whose consequences defy the divination of even the most astute China watcher. As a train carriage dangled perilously over the edge of a damaged track, the fate of passengers, of politicians, of policies, of visions and of vanities hung in the balance.”

And, “Though the public fury has been mostly online, it has also spilled into the mainstream media. ‘The speed of China’s development at the moment is like a high-speed train—it’s the envy of the whole world—but while satisfying our need for speed, we might be forsaking many things,’ said Qiu Qiming, a popular anchor on the state broadcaster’s CCTV 13 channel, in an extraordinary on-air plea after the accident. ‘Can we drink a glass of milk without worrying? Can we live in a house that won’t collapse? Can we drive along a street in a big city without it caving in? Can we ride a train that arrives safely? And if there’s a big train accident, can we be sure that the engine won’t be buried? In short, can we have a basic sense of security necessary for people’s happiness?’”

For the complete Wall Street Journal article go to:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904800304576474373989319028.html?mod=WSJ_LifeStyle_Lifestyle_5


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HIGH SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Report Casts Doubt On Forecasts
For California High-Speed Rail

From L.A. Times Writer: Dan Weikel
And DF Staff

JULY 29 -- Since 1996, when the California High-Speed Rail Authority was established California was being touted as the High-Speed Rail Champion state for planning the first truly “high-speed” (220 mph) rail system, doubters and naysayers have challenged the studies and projections again and again. Now, with a ground-breaking of the $43 billion project possibly only one year away, an internal report by transportation experts at the agency charged with building the system, is forcing the Authority to take a closer look at the analyses. The report is casting doubt on some of the projections, especially regarding ridership forecasts.

CHSRA experts estimate there will be up to 117 million annual riders by 2030, but this may not be believable. And the Authority’s conclusion that such a ridership would generate billions in profits is in doubt. These forecasts are based on studies by Cambridge Systematics, a highly reputed consulting firm commissioned by the Authority.

Meanwhile, the Authority is racing to complete a business plan for the Legislature and hopefully break ground next year on an initial segment in the Central Valley.

“The analysis echoes some of the concerns of transportation experts at UC Berkeley,” the article continues. “They concluded last July that the patronage models were so unreliable that they could not accurately predict whether the train would be profitable or run severe deficits.

“Within days of the Berkeley report [last year], rail officials and their consultants went before the Authority’s board to defend the forecasts as realistic and state-of-the art.”

But the peer review panel, while respecting the work of Cambridge Systematics, Inc., indicated that there are “important technical deficiencies” in the projections by the consultant.

Additional peer review reports are planned in the months ahead as part of an ongoing effort to reexamine the project’s patronage and financial forecasts. Panelists said they cannot draw more definitive conclusions about the agency’s forecasts until issues they have raised are resolved.

Ridership forecasts are important since they form the basis of calibrating ticket income and the amount of public funding that would be required, the stations needed, and the size and number of trains that will be required.

The first phase of the project is the 500-mile link from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Some rail officials are not concerned with the findings of the report and agree that forecasts would be revised in time to complete the business plan by October.

But others are not so optimistic: Elizabeth Goldstein Alexis of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design says that there is not enough information for the review panel to be able to fully give their opinion. “Not only is it bad,” she said, [but] “there is so much missing information that the review panel should not rely on these numbers.”

“Generally, Cambridge is well thought of,” said David Brownstone, a UC Irvine economics professor who worked on the Berkeley study. “But the bigger take-away from all this is that there are now two independent reviews that show things are lacking here.”


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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

Deal Between WS DOT And BNSF
Will Benefit Passenger And Freight

Work Will Improve Amtrak Cascades Service Portland To Seattle

From The Columbian Daily Deal On The Internet And DF Staff

JULY 29 – For two decades or more, passenger rail advocates have been pushing for infrastructure improvements and expansion of freight rail tracks in order to open the door for more passenger service, as well as benefiting the freight industry. Freight CEO’s are starting to get it: they would receive vastly more infrastructure investment, which would come from public and private funds, than they could afford on their own. So they are becoming more open to sharing trackage with passenger trains. In many instances, this means rebuilding track that had been ripped up years ago.

Last week, a deal was made between Washington Dept of Transportation and the Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe Railroad to do just that. Work to improve the Amtrak Cascades rail service between Seattle and Portland will begin this fall, thanks to an agreement signed last Thursday by the Washington State Department of Transportation and BNSF Railway.

As reported in the WS DOT Website:

BNSF plans to build two tracks for freight trains entering the rail terminal in Everett, taking them out of the way of passenger trains. Using a portion of $781 million in federal stimulus funding, the state plans to begin initial rail work this fall. The goal is to add two daily round trips to the Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland for a total of six daily round trips.

The state will begin initial work this fall using some of the $781 million in federal grants awarded to Washington in the past two years. This money is part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) high-speed-rail grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Building bypass tracks and making upgrades to existing tracks shared by Amtrak and BNSF will result in faster and more reliable Amtrak Cascades service while also allowing BNSF the ability to provide world-class freight rail service. The ARRA money will also be used to purchase new locomotives and passenger coaches.

The agreement allows BNSF to move forward on projects, worth nearly $400 million, that are expected to generate 1,000 jobs through 2017. The first rail-improvement project will occur in Everett, where two new tracks will be built for freight trains entering the rail terminal, taking them out of the way of oncoming passenger trains. These added tracks will eliminate a substantial rail-yard bottleneck and the work is expected to support about 30 local jobs.

“The immediate benefit of this agreement is jobs – from engineers to site supervisors, to construction workers,” said Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “The longer-term benefit is that improvements in the rail corridor will reduce travel times and improve the on-time performance of passenger rail, which provides a viable transportation alternative along the West Coast.”

This agreement essentially sets up a clear contractual relationship between WSDOT and BNSF. As such, it outlines mutually agreed upon requirements and performance measures, including project schedules and budgets, contracting methods, procurement and purchasing processes, and budget and billing procedures, among other things.

“We’re pleased with this progress and our long standing relationship with WSDOT,” said BNSF Chairman and CEO Matt Rose. “This is an important step towards improving the trackage infrastructure to help meet current and future demands for both passenger and freight rail service.”

BNSF has been working with the state of Washington for two decades in a public-private partnership that has expanded passenger services while maintaining the ability to move goods and freight throughout the region.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Canadian National (CNI)74.8679.01
Canadian Pacific (CP) 63.8662.25
CSX (CSX)24.5725.38
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)55.0459.16
Kansas City Southern (KSU)59.3561.74
Norfolk Southern (NSC)75.7076.21
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.8813.85
Union Pacific (UNP)102.48103.80


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AND THE WINNER IS... And The Winner Is...  

Planned MBTA Locomotive Livery

Image: MBTA

And the winner is… Option 3. After several weeks of on-line voting, riders of the MBTA system in Massachusetts have chosen this livery for new locomotives to be delivered to the system starting in late 2012. The new locomotives contracted to Motive Power are a new design and are expected to meet Tier 3 emissions standards.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Update: Rail Runner Will Keep Running
On Week-Ends

By David Peter Alan

The news from New Mexico is good. Two weeks ago, we reported the impending demise of New Mexico Rail Runner service between Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Belen. Last Wednesday, the Rio Metro Board rescinded the service elimination by a vote of 14 to 1.

There will still be some service cuts, however. During the week, an evening train will be eliminated and an early morning train will be eliminated and replaced with a bus. The cutback that riders and advocates had feared the most, total elimination of week-end service will not occur. During winter months, Saturday service will be cut back to two daily round trips, the same level of service that operates on Sundays. Rail Runner management did not say how long the winter season will last.

Local rail advocates had complained bitterly about the proposed elimination of week-end service. J.W. Madison, a Board member of Rails, Inc., told the RUN Newsletter: “Cutting back anything related to Rail Runner is a truly bad idea. Bad because the Rail Runner is a train, and trains are the wave of the future, not the past.”

Fiscal realities are still hard for transit everywhere. For the moment, at least, visitors will still be able to ride a train to enjoy the sights of Santa Fe or Albuquerque on a Saturday or Sunday.

David Peter Alan is a Board Member of the Rail Users’ Network, which publishes the RUN Newsletter.


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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

New Bus Connects Roanoke, Virginia
Into Amtrak System

By David Peter Alan

It’s not an Amtrak Thruway bus, but the local transit authority says it’s the Smart Way to connect with the train. On Tuesday, July 19th, the Greater Roanoke Transit Company, also known as Valley Metro, initiated a shuttle bus from Roanoke to Lynchburg, connecting with the morning Amtrak train to Charlottesville, Washington, New York and intermediate stops. The bus leaves Roanoke at 5:50 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and connects with Train #176, which leaves at 7:38. Returning, it connects with Train #171, which is scheduled to arrive in Lynchburg at 8:38 p.m. The bus is scheduled to leave Lynchburg at 9:00 and arrive at Roanoke at 10:25.

Other Smart Way buses run between Roanoke and Blacksburg, the home of Virginia Tech University, which is located west of Roanoke. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Smart Way Connector bus originates and terminates at Blacksburg, connecting that city with the train. All buses also stop in Bedford, between Roanoke and Lynchburg.

Although Valley Metro does not publicize this connection on their web site, the return trips to Bedford, Roanoke and Blacksburg connect with Train #19 to Atlanta and New Orleans and from Train #20 northbound from New Orleans, at least if the train is operating on or close to schedule.

The fare is $4.00 each way. Carl Palmer, General Manager of the Greater Roanoke Transit Company, told WSLS-TV that the fare would not cover operating costs initially, but it would provide a way to gauge demand for extension of the train to Roanoke. “Those who fund the project understand that it will not pay for itself” said Palmer, but he hopes for eventual expansion of the train to his city. Still, he acknowledges that “it would be a major undertaking to get passenger rail service here.”

Rail advocates in Virginia, including the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons (VARP) and Virginians for High-Speed Rail, have been promoting service to Roanoke and Bristol, along the historic Norfolk and Western (N&W) line. The addition of the shuttle bus, which adds access to Roanoke and Bedford, may demonstrate that there is, indeed, unmet demand for rail service on at least part of the historic N&W line. The success of the Lynchburg train appears to support their goal. Amtrak’s original projection when the line opened in October, 2009, was 51,000 boardings per year. Today’s projection for this year is 103,000 boardings, slightly more than double the original goal. With a convenient bus connection from Roanoke, Bedford and Blacksburg, that total should increase.

Richard Peacock, Secretary of the Virginia Association of Railway Patrons (VARP), rode the new service, going to Roanoke on Wednesday, July 27th and returning on Friday, July 29th. He said that Valley Metro used a full-sized coach, rather than a mini-van, as originally planned. He counted 18 riders to Roanoke on Wednesday evening, and 33 to Lynchburg on Friday morning. Peacock was optimistic about rail ridership, based on his trip, saying: “We can increase train ridership if we have reliable and timely bus connections.” He also agrees with other rail advocates that stronger demand for a bus connection signals even strong demand for a through train to Roanoke, and possibly beyond.

Roanoke gained fame in railroad history as the headquarters for the N&W. It lost its service in 1971, when Amtrak began operations. Later in the 1970s, rail service returned to the N&W line, but it was discontinued again in 1979 and has not returned. Since that time, non-automobile access to Roanoke has been limited to a few Greyhound buses each day, only some of which connect with the train. The new Smart Ride Connector from Valley Metro will significantly improve access between the two cities.

A map of the route and the schedule for the new service can be found on Valley Metro’s web site, www.valleymetro.com. Valley Metro has also established a special web site for the Smart Way bus, www.smartwaybus.com. The author once used the non-connecting Greyhound bus to visit Roanoke.


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Deutsche Bahn Reports
Improved Results

First Half 2011 Financial Performance Of Europe’s Largest Transportation Firm Positive

Via Deutsche Bahn AG press release

Berlin – Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) – German Railways – reported back on the 28th of July its financial and operational data from the first six months of 2011 in a press conference held in the company’s Potsdamerplatz headquarters in Berlin. Most indicators show that the company, which is best known for its passenger and freight train operations in Germany but also operates a large highway trucking division, owns train operators in Britain, France, Italy, Poland, and other countries and has numerous commuter and regional passenger bus operations around Europe, is back on a strong growth path.

DBAG recorded gross sales of EUR 18.9 billion (US $27.5 billion) for the first half of 2010, an all-time record for the 17 year-old company, and a increase of EUR 2.8 billion (17.2 percent) over the same period in 2010. Approximately EUR 1.5 billion of the additional sales revenue came from inclusion of sales data of independent train and bus operator Arriva, which DBAG purchased late last year. Arriva’s German passenger rail and bus operations were spun off and separated from DBAG immediately after the DBAG- Arriva merger was completed, as had been required by German anti-trust regulators.

DBAG President and CEO Dr. Rüdiger Grube stated that the first half 2011 financial performance of the company “are a confirmation of and commitment to continue the company’s current course”. Dr. Grube added that an important commitment to its customers is transparency and honesty; therefore the company will begin in September to publish monthly on-time statistics via its internet site for both its intercity trains and its commuter/ regional passenger trains. The practice is already common with transit operators in other countries, especially the USA, where Amtrak and regional transit agencies such as MBTA in Boston, MTA in New York, SEPTA in Philadelphia, Metra in Chicago, Metrolink in Los Angeles and many others provide monthly system on-time performance data via their internet sites to the public.

Operational profit (EBIT) increased to EUR 1.1 billion, a 34 percent increase compared to first half of 2010. Corporate debt increased by 2 percent to EUR 17.29 billion. For the first time in its history, DBAG paid out dividends of EUR 500 million to its current sole stock holder, the German federal government. DBAG’s chief financial officer, Dr. Richard Lutz stated that he expected the financial results seen in the first half 2011 would continue for the rest of 2011, even with the threat of new economic crises coming possibly from on-going Euro currency issues caused by potential defaults of the Greek, Portuguese and other Euro zone governments and the debt ceiling debacle in the USA.

An HVLE train of mineral ore cars blasted through Haste back on the 11th April 2011

Photo: David Beale

Making Moves - independent train operators such as Havelländische Eisenbahn AG (HVLE) of Berlin continue to take market share in Germany away from incumbent operator Deutsche Bahn. An HVLE train of mineral ore cars blasted through Haste back on the 11th April 2011 with a V330 (Bombardier Blue Tiger) diesel locomotive on the front. HVLE has four V330 Blue Tigers (painted silver and orange) in their rather extensive fleet. The Blue Tiger is partly American - the diesel engine, traction generator, traction motors, propulsion controls and other parts were built by GE Transportation in its Erie, PA factories. The Blue Tigers were assembled in Kassel, Germany.

Passenger volume in DBAG trains was essentially unchanged in the first half of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Total passenger volume was up by 1.9 percent to 972.5 million in the first six months of 2011. Total revenue passenger-kilometers (RPK) carried was unchanged at 38 billion. DBAG’s passenger bus operations recorded somewhat fewer total passengers and marginally lower RPK, due primarily to a drop in passengers in its school bus operations.

Rail freight volume increased significantly in the first half of 2011 compared to first half 2010. DBAG’s rail freight operations handled 207.8 million tons of freight in the first half of 2011, an increase of 2.3 percent. Freight hauled per kilometer increased by 8.0 percent to 56.78 billion ton-kilometers (approximately 39.1 billion ton-miles in US customary units).

DB Netz, which is responsible for operation and maintenance of the vast majority of railroad track and related infrastructure within Germany, recorded an increase of train operations on the network of 2.5 percent to 521.4 million km utilization in the first half of 2011 (one train traveling a distance of 100 km or two trains traveling 50 km result in 100 km utilization each). Of that 521.4 million km utilization, 20.8 percent was generated from independent / non-DBAG train operators, the first time this value has exceeded 20 percent in Germany.

Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) has various divisions which operate intercity passenger trains, commuter trains, regional passenger trains, freight trains, commuter and urban buses, logistics management / warehousing, highway trucking, air freight and sea freight. It operates in numerous countries, including France, Great Britain, Holland, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, China, and the USA.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

The Chinese Train Wreck And
America’s Transportation Future

By James P. RePass
Publisher; Destination: Freedom

It should come as no surprise that the opponents of building an American High-Speed Rail system are seizing upon the tragedy in China July 23, when one train rear-ended a disabled train after passing a signal which may, or may not, have been working.

You can summarize their sickeningly gleeful position as follows: “You see, High-Speed Rail isn’t just expensive! It’s dangerous!”

They then proceed to bash President Obama for advancing his high-speed rail program, despite the overwhelmingly bi-partisan political consensus that America’s present passenger rail system is outmoded and slow, especially when compared to European and Asian rail systems such as Japan’s, which in nearly 50 years of operation ---- one half century --- has not experienced a single passenger fatality.

President Obama has indeed been criticized by some of the Republican Party leadership, notably House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL), not for proposing High-Speed Rail, but by building it in an incremental fashion, over many regions of the country simultaneously, rather than concentrating the resources needed to create a true (200 km/h = 124 mph, and up) world-class High-Speed Rail system; Chairman Mica favors the Northeast alone.

There are a number in the advocacy community who agree that we should build real High-Speed Rail, now, but they disagree with the Chairman as to a single location: their stance is to build it now, build it fast, and build it wherever city-pairs 100-600 miles apart exist: there are scores of such city-pairs in America, just as in Europe, and we agree that the resources should be created --- using not just tax dollars, but private sector investment as well --- to bring America into the 21st Century at last.

But what of the Chinese example? They concentrated resources, all right, and built out a system at a rabbit’s pace. Much if it is up and running now.

But what differentiates the Chinese approach from the no-drama Obama approach is exactly that: the White House, and the US Department of Transportation, especially the Federal Railroad Administration whose staff is the best assemblage of talent in decades, have chosen deliberately to build, but to build carefully, and incrementally.

That won’t satisfy some advocates, nor will it mollify the President’s critics, but it will ensure one thing: by the time the second American true High-Speed train cracks the world-standard barrier (the Acela on the Northeast Corridor already achieves this, on parts of its system, and is increasing speed soon), an advanced version of the technology known generically as Positive Train Control will be in place. Positive Train Control, whose American iteration’s total cost burden is being placed, unfairly, almost solely on the backs of the freight railroads, when we believe America should adopt the existing Euro standard ---- would prevent the kind of signaling accident as happened in China, and indeed which happens too often here, too. Advanced PTC is a satellite-based system that uses GPS, or GPS-like technology, to identify the location of any train, at any time --- just as our cell phones do now, in many cases --- and to take over the controls from the engineer and apply the brakes if trains get too close to each other, based on algorithms combining speed, distance, location, weather conditions, and grade.

Advanced PTC is available now, and you can bet the Chinese are going to begin reviewing the systems they have installed. But at least when American passenger trains routinely get up to world class speeds, they will be operating under world-class safety standards from Day One. They had better be.


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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