The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

Contribute To NCI

August 15, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 32

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

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

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

  News Items…
Georgia County: Fight Penny Tax Boost Unless Rail
   Is Put Back On The Agenda
China HSR Woes Continue: Government Takes Probe
   Away From Railway Ministry
  Safety Lines…
FRA Issues New Regulations To Reduce Rail Employee Fatigue
  Funding Lines…
Rhode Island Considers Tolling I-95
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Transit Lines…
New York and New Jersey Advocates Call Planning
   Organization to Task Over Employment Forecasts
TECO Takes Tourists Through Tampa
  Across The Pond…
High-Speed Trials And Tribulations In China
Deutsche Bahn Finishes Refurbishment Of
   Hannover – Berlin High-Speed Line
A Letter From Europe
  Publication Notes …

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

Georgia County: Fight Penny Tax Boost
Unless Rail Is Put Back On The Agenda

By DF Staff And
From The Atlanta Constitution

ATLANTA --- A key part of that great Southern metropolis that made its modern-day name as “the city too busy to hate. ...,” but then proceeded to pave itself into “the city too congested to move about …” by vastly over-building its highways while building a relatively tiny rail transit system, has taken on a new role: militant rail advocate.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s April Hunt is reporting that sprawling DeKalb County’s “…politicians, activists and residents have united to fight a proposed penny sales tax for regional transportation plans unless the final project list gets trains running in south DeKalb.”

“So far, the 5.4-mile rail line to link the Indian Creek MARTA station to Wesley Chapel Road, known as the I-20 project, isn’t a transit priority for the roundtable executive committee that is recommending projects.

DeKalb leaders held a news conference before the committee’s meeting Tuesday to urge the I-20 project be added -- or else,” wrote the Atlanta daily.

“If we do not have that rail, we cannot support the penny,” said Larry Johnson, the DeKalb County Commission’s presiding officer, as quoted in the AC.

“Voters in 10 metro Atlanta counties will decide next year whether to approve the 1-cent sales tax to pay for a $6.1 billion list of projects of regional significance. Already there has been debate about how much the executive committee, made up of mayors and county commissioners, should set aside for roadwork versus transit. DeKalb has traditionally supported transit. For 30 years, its residents and those in Atlanta and Fulton County have paid an extra 1-cent sales tax to fund MARTA,” wrote Hunt.

“That disparity already has prompted threats from mayors in DeKalb and Fulton, that they won’t support the 2012 vote unless other counties chip in for a new regional transit system,” she reported.

DeKalb’s determination to have at least some alternative to commuting by the automobile is resonating with the transportation community, which for years has watched as oil company lobbyists have for decades paid for local “grass roots” --- actually “grass tops” --- anti-rail organizations whenever a public transit system has been proposed, and trotted out their “experts” (i.e., shills) to distort whatever statistics they can lay their hands on to thwart alternatives to the automobile. They have often succeeded in delaying transit systems for years, or stopping them altogether, as a part of the industry’s long-running strategy to destroy any potential competition to the automobile, or that if transit is to be put in place, that it be bus-only [Google “National City Lines” conspiracy].

For the complete story go to:

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China HSR Woes Continue: Government
Takes Probe Away From Railway Ministry

By DF Staff And From The Financial Times
And The Infrastructurist

BEIJING --- In an ominous decision for any bureaucracy, the Chinese Railway Ministry is finding itself Odd Man Out in the probe into the causes of the deadly High-Speed Rail crash as the government responds to growing public pressure to undertake a complete and open investigation, the Financial Times and other media outlets are reporting.

The central government has launched a new investigation into the July 23 crash near Wenzhou that killed 40 people, including prominent Chinese academics, and excluded the Railway Ministry, which has had previous problems with corruption and management.

The Chinese have built the world’s largest High-Speed Rail system, 8,100 kilometers, in barely a decade, and had planned to more than double that by 2020.

The Financial Times reports: “In yet another sign of the sudden turn of fortune for Chinese rail ambitions, China Railway Group ( has dropped a plan to raise about Rmb6.2bn ($969m) in a share placement. The company, the country’s largest railway builder, cited ‘uncertainties in the regulatory environment.

Most of the country’s fastest trains will also see their speed cut from 350 km/h to 300 km/h, while ticket prices will also be reduced to win back passengers, according to the railway ministry.”

“On Friday, train-maker China CNR Corp also announced that it would recall 54 bullet trains on the Beijing-Shanghai line, citing safety reasons. July’s accident was the most damaging of a series of setbacks for China’s high-speed rail plans. A series of officials, including the former railway minister, have been detained this year in a widening investigation into corruption that has tarnished the image of the country’s railway program. A new showcase line between Shanghai and Beijing has also been plagued by delays,” wrote the FT’s Simon Rabinovitch in Beijing

The Infrastructurist’s Eric Jaffe writes, citing Bloomberg:

“It’s been more than two weeks since two high-speed trains collided in China, but the country is still feeling the impact. Immediately following the crash the government fired three railway officials and promised a thorough review of the ministry. The changes could run deeper than that, reports Bloomberg. Currently the ministry (which Bloomberg says employs more people than the entire U.S. government) both regulates and operates China’s trains; now many are calling for these roles to be divided,” writes Jaffe.

“The collision may also diminish China’s ability to export its trains. The country has long touted the superiority of its equipment — even amid speculations that it has based its technology off others — but shares in CSR, the company that built the trains involved in the accident, have fallen since the crash, and one industry expert said there’s ‘probably little chance’ of China winning a high-speed train bid in the United States anytime soon. As if the rail sector’s problems weren’t enough, some worry that the safety failures suffered by the high-speed lines might indicate problems with the nuclear sector — since the firm that installed the faulty train signals, Hollysys, ‘provides similar equipment’ to the country’s reactors, according to the IEEE Spectrum. The similarities between China’s trains and its power plants don’t end there, writes Jaffe:

“China’s nuclear industry shares two dangerous characteristics with its high-speed rail network: explosive expansion and strong whiffs of corruption. According to a recent statement by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection the country had 13 reactors operating as of June, 28 more were under construction, and 100 should be generating power by 2020. And, like the rail network, a leading nuclear official was recently sacked under suspicion of corruption. Kang Rixin, head of the state-owned nuclear plant operator China National Nuclear Corporation, was sentenced to life in prison last November for accepting 6.6 million Yuan ($1 million) in bribes from an equipment vendor.”

For the complete FT article go to:

For the complete Infrastructurist article go to:  

Editor’s note: Although we have two similar stories about the high-speed rail accident in China, I have decided to run both since there is enough different information to interest our readers. See the additional article below in our Across The Pond segment  

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SAFETYLINES... Safety Lines...  

FRA Issues New Regulations To
Reduce Rail Employee Fatigue

From Railway Age

The Department of Transportation on Friday issued a final rule limiting the number of consecutive hours passenger railroad workers can be on the job. The new Federal Railroad Administration regulation will reduce risk and improve safety for the railroad industry, and for the first time, differentiate between freight and passenger service, DOT says.

Designed to reduce accidents related to fatigue, the final rule applies “fatigue science” to employee work schedules to determine maximum on-duty periods and minimum off-duty periods. DOT is engaging in a broad initiative to bring scientific data into work scheduling, and the FRA rule is the first rule in that effort to be completed.

The final rule becomes effective October 15.

“Safety is job one, and by focusing our attention on proactive risk reduction strategies like these, we will be able to reduce the number of accidents on our railways”, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (pictured at left). “This new program will let us recognize and prevent fatigue problems for passenger train crews before they arise.”

Through the use of fatigue modeling tools and data on human alertness factors, this new rule will guide the scheduling of train crews to reduce the likelihood of a hazardous work schedule. This rule recognizes the difference between work during daylight hours and work during nighttime hours when fatigue is most likely to occur. The final rule includes:

• Maximum on-duty periods and minimum off-duty periods for passenger train employees including locomotive engineers, conductors, crews, dispatchers, and signal maintainers;

• Requirements for railroads to identify schedule-specific risks of fatigue using an approved, scientifically validated, and calibrated bio-mathematical model of human performance and fatigue; and

• Requirements for railroads to develop and carry out plans to mitigate fatigue risks before safety may be compromised.

The final rule also requires railroads to submit certain work schedules of their passenger train employees and fatigue mitigation plans to FRA for approval, and to provide fatigue training.

DOT says fatigue management is also a key part of FRA’s Risk Reduction Program — an industry, labor, and FRA initiative designed to improve safety and build strong safety cultures. It seeks to identify and correct safety risk factors using predictive data beyond the traditional accident and injury data currently used. Recognizing risk indicators before an accident happens provides one of the greatest opportunities for improved safety and performance.

This final rule is authorized by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which, DOT says, for the first time in history gives FRA the authority to replace the existing statutory limitations (first enacted in 1907) with a new set of hours of service regulations governing train employees providing passenger rail transportation.

The final rule was developed with the assistance of FRA’s Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from the railroad industry, railroad labor, and other stakeholder groups.

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FUNDINGLINES... Funding Lines...  

Rhode Island Considers Tolling I-95

From The Huffington Post

PROVIDENCE, R.I. --- “One of the greatest engineering achievements of the last century was the completion of the Interstate Highway System,” Michael Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, told HuffPost.

“We all take it for granted now, because it’s always been there,” he said. “But the problem is, it ages.”

Now the nation’s road system is so arthritic that tiny Rhode Island is grappling with an estimated transportation funding gap of $4.5 billion over the next ten years. This year, the state DOT says, it will spend $101.4 million just to service the bond debt it has already issued to keep up with the funding shortfall.

As the gap widens, roads and bridges worsen; out of the state’s bridges, 21.6 percent are structurally deficient, the fourth-worst record in the nation.

To fix the hemorrhaging, Rhode Island applied in June to enter a little-known federal pilot program that would allow it to convert its primary artery into a toll road. As motorists on I-95 cross into the state from Connecticut, they could be asked to pony up about $3. Such tolls could raise around $50 million a year for the ailing system.

Nobody likes a toll. But Rhode Island’s move may be a harbinger of similar efforts across the country, even in the depths of an economic slowdown. Gas tax money has long been used to fill the Highway Trust Fund, which maintains the grand Eisenhower-era public works project Lewis extolled. The fund’s revenues, however, have flattened. Cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and Congress is more reluctant to raise the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal levy. At the same time, inflation keeps eating into what states can do with the gas tax funds they do have.

In Rhode Island -- perhaps even more so than in New Jersey, where residents famously conflate hometowns and highway exit numbers -- I-95 is a part of the fabric of life.

From the southwestern town of Hopkinton to the compact metropolis of Providence and the aging mill city of Pawtucket in the northeast, virtually no place in the state can be reached without a trip on the highway, which is never very far away.

Even at The Middle of Nowhere Diner in Exeter, which has a website advertising itself as a place “where the women are beautiful, attentive, charming, and like the food, worth the detour,” the great road is only a five minute drive away.

The state Department of Transportation’s tolling plan, then, was bound to raise popular hackles, just as it did when it was first floated under a previous governor in 2008. When Brown University polled the state’s voting public in March of this year, 72.5 percent were opposed to the idea, making it even less popular than a proposed sales tax on coffins.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s administration is nonetheless pushing ahead with the tolling plan, even in the face of objections raised by federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who told local TV station WPRI in May that “we don’t support the kind of approach, though, for roads that have already been built with taxpayer dollars then to be tolled.”

Rhode Island believes it has found an exception to the federal government’s general rule against instituting new highway tolls that aren’t accompanied by road improvements. A 1998 pilot program created by Congress would let states put tolls on old roads, and Rhode Island hopes to become the first state to take advantage of that provision. So far, the federal government hasn’t ruled whether it is eligible.

The state’s tolling pilot program application garnered letters of support from Chafee and the General Assembly’s House speaker and Senate president, but it may face increased political opposition should it come closer to a reality.

Lloyd Albert, senior vice president for public and government affairs at AAA Southern New England, said that the proposal wasn’t a good one for the state’s drivers.

“Taxpayers have paid for these highways through the gas tax and other funding mechanisms,” Albert said, “and to ask them to ante up once again is not a good plan.”

In Newport, an old money harbor town that is a magnet for travelers from across the region, business owners seemed mostly sanguine about a tolling plan that could potentially put a dent in the tourism trade.

“They’d keep coming. It’s six dollars a beer,” said Tim Keys, who owns a clothing boutique on Thames Street, a shopping thoroughfare, referring to prices in the city’s bars and eateries. “I don’t think it’ll affect business at all.”

He was far more irked at the prospect -- raised by a 2008 Blue Ribbon Panel for Transportation Funding -- of putting tolls on I-95 where it meets the two major spurs of the interstate system in the state, I-195 and I-295. That, Keys and others in Newport pointed out, could lead to increased traffic congestion on the road to Providence for people taking trips within the state.

For that very reason, the state’s proposal to the federal DOT only suggested tolling I-95 near the first or second exit past the Connecticut border.

Lewis, who was previously the director of Boston’s “Big Dig” Central Artery Tunnel Project, is well versed in shepherding unpopular programs through to completion. He acknowledged the state transportation department had “a lot of work to do with public outreach,” but said he was committed to finding some sort of fix to the state’s transportation woes.

If the federal government gives the proposal a green light, it could take two years before tolls actually go up. Until then, Lewis said, his department would “let the chips fall where they may, but the first step is to get the approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

In the meantime, he said, what is left over for his department’s operating funds after bond debts are serviced is “more of an allowance than a budget.”

The state’s mass transit system, which also relies on dwindling state and federal gas tax receipts, faces similar financial woes. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, which runs buses throughout the state, is $4.6 million short in funds this year. Seven lines could be cut entirely, as could holiday and summer beach bus service in the Ocean State.

“The way RIPTA is funded currently is not a good way,” Charles Odimgbe, the system’s CEO, told HuffPost before a public hearing in Pawtucket that was held because of bus line cuts there. “Using the gas tax to fund any public entity is not a good way.”

The state’s transit system won’t find a savior any time soon in the form of I-95 tolls, however. The federal government’s pilot program won’t allow states to spend toll money on mass transit.

That is a mistake, said John Flaherty, director of research and communications for Grow Smart RI, which advocates for increased mass transit funding. Sending toll money to buses, he argued, “makes the same sense as saying we’re going to use gas tax proceeds to help support transit.”

The personal impact of Rhode Island’s bus cuts -- and the ramifications of the general gas tax decline throughout the country -- was made clear in the Pawtucket service cut hearing Odimgbe attended. One woman spoke for her son, who has autism and uses the bus to visit friends. Seniors, fearful of losing their sole connection to the outside world, spoke up against the cuts as well.

Brenda Schenck, a resident of Central Falls who works the night shift at McDonald’s cleaning windows and doing other maintenance work, also asked that her line be saved.

“I have arthritis in my hips and my knees,” Schenk said. “After my work, I’m lucky if I can crawl home.”

If the Route 80 bus, which she takes home in the morning, gets cut, she may lose her job and even her home. “My work is physical. I’m dead ... Now they’re going to beat me some more,” Schenk said.

Last year, stimulus funds saved the line from elimination, but no such hope is on the horizon this time around. If I-95 tolls could help, she’d be happy to have them fund RIPTA.

“Anything that would work,” Schenk said. “I don’t care where the money comes from -- I want my bus.”

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Canadian National (CNI)71.57 70.58
Canadian Pacific (CP) 59.6359.41
CSX (CSX)22.6021.97
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)49.8751.69
Kansas City Southern (KSU)54.4752.13
Norfolk Southern (NSC)68.1769.19
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.9114.00
Union Pacific (UNP)92.7292.47

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TRANSITLINES... Transit Lines...  

New York and New Jersey Advocates
Call Planning Organization to Task
Over Employment Forecasts

By David Peter Alan

Much of the capital investment that transit providers make is designed to serve riders at peak commuting hours. This is true of both equipment purchases and new infrastructure. Delivering an appropriate level of service at off-peak hours requires much less equipment, and often less infrastructure. A case in point is the proposal for the former Access to the Region’s Core Project (ARC) that was proposed as an extension from Penn Station on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side. Over the years, the project changed to a new set of tracks and tunnels into a deep-cavern terminal, to have been located 20 stories below 34th Street, immediately north of Penn Station. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie terminated the project last fall due to its excessive price. He also called the project “flawed,” because it would not have gone to the East Side or to existing Penn Station, but instead “only to Macy’s basement.”

Such investment decisions are based on ridership predictions, particularly the number of peak-hour commuters into the central business district of the City. These projections are based on 20-year employment and population forecasts developed by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) for the area served by the transit provider. New Jersey Transit (NJT) relies on forecasts developed by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), the MPO for New York City and surrounding suburbs in New York State. NYMTC produces forecasts for a 31-county, tri-state region (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut), in consultation with other MPOs in the region. Beyond the city itself, the region includes northern and central New Jersey, Long Island, New York State as far north as the northern borders of Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and eastern Connecticut itself.

Last month, NYMTC released a draft of new 30-year county-by-county forecasts of employment and population in the region through 2040. Transit advocates from New York and New Jersey have expressed concern that these forecasts are based on faulty models and/or political adjustments that have yielded incorrect results in the past.

New York rail advocate Joseph M. Clift, past Director of Planning for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), said that current and past NYMTC forecasts, combined with the trip-generation models that follow them, have overstated the number of peak-hour riders, forcing transit providers to consider, or make, major investments to serve riders that do not exist. Clift gave the following example: the LIRR’s forecast of 2010 morning peak-period ridership was 26% higher than actual 2009 ridership, with the overestimate reaching 35% or more by 2020, if trends continue. Thus, most, if not all, of the predicted peak ridership increase used as one of the key justifications for the railroad’s East Side Access Project, will not occur. And local cost of the project has more than doubled to over $5 billion, placing a major burden on an already overstressed capital program.

“In addition to poor predictive performance, there is no transparency in the current forecasting process,” said Clift. “We don’t know if the problem was with the input data, the NYMTC ‘black box’ model’s manipulations to arrive at employment and population forecasts, or political adjustments to the model’s output, or the trip-generation models that are based on the forecasts. What we do know is that the current forecasting process overestimates peak ridership, using the same “black box” for the draft 2040 forecast. Also, NYMTC will not have an econometric consultant onboard until 2012 at the earliest.”

“NYMTC’s draft 2040 forecasts imply that the downturn of the past three years represents a lull in the economy, not a ‘new normal’ where new forecasts of employment would be substantially lower than previous employment projections,” said Clift. He called for a complete revamping of the “black box” modeling process and more transparency and opportunity for meaningful public input, prior to release of the 2040 forecasts. “NYMTC has said they are in the process of hiring a new econometric consultant to do exactly that, and the 2040 forecasts should wait until that is done.” He added: “In the meantime, the existing 2035 forecast should be updated to reflect the current major economic downturn. By separating these two events, NYMTC will add credibility to its forecasting process: on the one hand, they are confirming that the current forecasts did not reflect the economic downturn and, on the other hand, they are clearly stating that they will make improvements in their forecasting process by producing a new model with expert econometric support. Since the Feds only require a 20-year planning horizon, they have until 2015 to make those improvements.”

The Lackawanna Coalition, representing New Jersey rail riders, also called for new methodology, which would be tested for reliability and criterion-related validity against past performance, before being used to make forecasts for the future.

As Clift said: “This forecasting process is esoteric, but it is also has an extremely important practical implication.” He and his colleagues at the Lackawanna Coalition have argued that NJT used overly optimistic ridership predictions, based on NYMTC’s forecasts, to claim that capacity for 48 trains arriving in Manhattan was needed in the busiest hour of the morning commuting peak, and that a deep-cavern, stub-end terminal would be needed as a key component of the ARC project, along with the existing Penn Station, to accommodate all of those trains.

With the ARC Project terminated, advocates are turning to other plans to increase rail capacity under the Hudson River and improve railroad operations. The Lackawanna Coalition and the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) have endorsed an incremental approach, developed by Clift and fellow rail advocate James T. Raleigh, a New Jersey resident and former manager at Bell Labs. Their plan would add trans-Hudson infrastructure in stages, eventually delivering a one-seat ride from New Jersey to Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side. Clift, Raleigh and their colleagues are concerned that, if NYMTC overestimates the number of employees who will work in Midtown, as well as the New Jersey population, NJT will again consider themselves forced to pursue a more expensive project than is needed, and shun the more affordable approach that the advocates propose.

Are NYMTC’s draft forecasts valid, or are they fictitious? No one knows for sure, but advocates fear the latter, knowing that excessive forecasts lead to bad investments of scarce capital dollars. Remember an acronym from the early days of computers: “GIGO”, which stands for “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition and authored that organization’s statement concerning the NYMTC Draft 2040 Demographic and Socioeconomic Forecasts: Employment and Population. Joseph M. Clift is Technical Director of the Lackawanna Coalition.

Written comments on the NYMTC Draft 2040 Forecasts will be accepted until 4 p.m. Friday, August 19th. This article will be submitted for the record in the proceedings concerning the Draft Forecasts. Comments can be submitted to NYMTC’s web site is Reports and presentations concerning the Draft Forecasts are available there.

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TECO Takes Tourists Through Tampa

By David Peter Alan

At one time, streetcars ran in almost every city in the nation, including Florida. Today, streetcars are alive and well in only one Florida city, Tampa. The TECO Streetcar Line, named for the Tampa Electric Company, takes visitors to the city, as well as locals, on a 2.7-mile trip between Franklin and Whiting Streets, at the edge of downtown Tampa, and Ybor City, the historic neighborhood where Cuban and other ethnic communities thrived for over a century, while residents made cigars by the millions. Many of Ybor City’s original buildings are still standing, local museums commemorate the neighborhood’s history, the Columbia Restaurant continues to serve Cuban and Spanish food (as it has done since 1905), and tourists flock to the neighborhood. Many of them arrive on the streetcar.

TECO Standard Model

Three images by

TECO Standard

The original 2.4-mile line opened for service in October, 2002, and the three-tenths of a mile closest to downtown were added last December. Between downtown and Ybor City, the cars pass the cruise ship terminal, several museums including the new Tampa Bay History Center, and other tourist attractions. The line serves primarily as a tourist circulator, beginning service at 11:00 in the morning (12:00 noon on Sundays) and continuing until 10:00 in the evening, Monday through Thursday. Service ends at 8:00 on Sundays and operates until 2:00 on Friday and Saturday nights.

Cars run every 15 or 20 minutes for most of the service day, and nine recently-manufactured cars made by Gomaco (replicas of double-truck Birney cars, similar to those running in Little Rock) provide the service. Although the cars are new, they contain the traction motors and controllers that give the cars a “heritage” style. There is also a Gomaco-made “breezer”; an open car with full-width benches and a running board, and original TECO Car #163, a single-truck Birney built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1922. Both of these cars are used for special events.

TECO Birney Model

TECO Birney

The line is operated as a partnership between the City of Tampa, Hillsborough Regional Transit Authority (HART) and Tampa Historic Streetcar, Inc. Although HART operates the line, it has a separate fare structure. The base fare is $1.75 on HART buses and $2.50 on the streetcar. A day pass is available for $5.00. There is an unusual “family fare” on the streetcar: a day pass for two adults and three discounted fares, children or seniors. That fare is $12.50; a saving of $5.00, compared to regular day-pass rates. There is also an annual pass for $200.00 and a half-fare 20-ride ticket for local residents, business owners and employees.

Peter Mikos, HART Assistant Manager for Streetcar Operations, initiated the discounted family fare. Mikos is a former New Yorker and veteran of the Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT) line, now the Staten Island Railway (SIR). He understands the primary mission of his line, to carry tourists. “A lot of our demand is event-driven” he said. “When we have an event that draws a crowd and I put on extra cars, those extra cars always make a profit.” No transit line, including the TECO Streetcar, makes a profit through normal operations, but it appears that visitors and locals alike are ready to take the streetcar to an event in town.

TECO Breezer

A TECO Breezer

Mikos looks for employees who can provide an enjoyable experience for riders. “It’s easy to train someone to operate a streetcar, but we want operators who can do more than that. We provide “transportainment”; a word that Mikos appears to have coined, and an appropriate one.

The original streetcars began running in Tampa in the 1890s, and service ended in 1946. According to Mikos, TECO was using a portion of its revenue from electric bills to subsidize the streetcar and keep the fare at a nickel. When this arrangement was challenged in court and found unlawful, TECO ended the streetcar service and switched to buses.

The future appears bright for the TECO Line, at least as it operates today. There are no current plans to expand it further into the downtown area, although managers would like to go there in the future. At the other end of the line, much of Tampa’s tourist activity is concentrated in Ybor City, and the yellow streetcars of the TECO line add extra style to that historic neighborhood.

David Peter Alan rides and writes about rail transit around the U.S. and Canada. More information is available on the line’s web site, HART’s web site is

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

Installments from David Beale
NCI Foreign editor

High-Speed Trials And Tribulations In China

A ‘Recall’ Of 54 Chinese High-Speed Train-Sets Heightens Safety Concerns

Via Various News Sources Including South China Morning Post, Lok Report,
Fox News And Financial Times Deutschland

Beijing – Chinese bullet train manufacturer CNR announced a recall Friday of 54 trains in the latest embarrassment for China’s quickly expanding high-speed rail following a July crash in Wenzhou that killed 40 people. It is the most deadly high-speed train accident in the world since the June 1998 derailment and crash of a German ICE-1 train set north of Hannover and Celle, which killed 101 people and injured over a hundred other passengers. A cracked wheel was blamed for that derailment.

The recall adds to growing signs official attitudes toward the bullet train are shifting and Beijing might scale back its rapid expansion of the high-speed rail network. A moratorium on new rail projects was imposed this week. However industry observers of the Chinese rail industry expect that the moratorium on high-speed rail construction will be short, as it was for the moratorium imposed in China on construction of new nuclear power plants after the earthquake and tsunami-induced multiple core meltdowns at the nuclear power station complex in Fukushima, Japan.

The recall applies to model CRH380BL trains, designed and built by CNR, and used on the new Beijing-Shanghai line, which has suffered repeated delays blamed on equipment failures, state-owned China North Locomotive and Rolling Stock Ltd. (CNR) said in a statement through the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

It gave no indication the recall was linked to the fatal July 23 collision on a separate line in southern China. The company said it would carry out “comprehensive inspection and rectification” on the trains but gave no other details.

The trains involved in the July collision were a CRH1 (a derivative of the Bombardier Regina series EMU used in Germany and Scandinavia as regional passenger trains) and a CRH2 (a derivative of the Hitachi / Kawasaki Rail Car / Nippon Sharyo E2 Shinkansen “Bullet” high-speed train used in Japan). Allegedly one or more lightning strikes caused the power in the CRH1 train set to fail, thus leaving it stranded on the rail line on a viaduct in the city and also caused the signaling and PTC system installed on that route to drop off-line, which apparently allowed the following train (the CRH2 train set) to run into the rear of the stalled CRH1 train set. The exact sequence of events and circumstances of the signal failure remains a sort of mystery, as statements from the Chinese Ministry of Railways to the press have tended to be unclear and contradictory. The Chinese government has also tried to suppress independent news reporting over the accident investigation.

Earlier this year, even before the accident in Wenzhou, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) reduced speeds on several new high-speed lines, including most notably the Beijing-Tianjin line, from 350 km/h (218 mph) to 300 km/h or even 260 km/h. The official reason given by MOR press relations was to conserve electric power consumption and reduce wear of the tracks and trains. But industry observers also suspected that there were growing concerns within the MOR that there was not enough industry experience to maintain such high-speeds and therefore the risks may have been far greater than previously estimated. The traditional leaders in high-speed trains – Japan, France and Germany – generally have little or no experience with speeds beyond 300 km/h. Most high-speed trains in Germany and Japan operate in the 200 – 280 km/h speed range. Germany has only one rail line where train speeds are above 280 km/h: the Frankfurt – Cologne high-speed line, which operates only with ICE-3 EMU train-sets.

A mechanical engineer with Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – confirmed that reducing speeds on high-speed lines from 350 km/h to under 300 km/h would significantly reduce both track wear and energy loss from aerodynamic drag. He stated that aerodynamic drag on a high-speed train increases dramatically at speeds above 250 km/h and that by 350 km/h nearly 90% of power from the train’s traction motors is fighting aerodynamic drag. Power consumption of a modern 8-car long high-speed train running at 350 km/h could be in the 9 mega-watt range, or 12,000 horse-power, he added. By reducing the speed from 350 to 250 km/h the power consumption would be slightly under half of the power used to maintain 350 km/h, or approximately 4 MW.

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Deutsche Bahn Finishes Refurbishment
Of Hannover – Berlin High-Speed Line

From Internet Sources and Local News Reports

Hannover – Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – announced that a four-month long program to completely refurbish rails and ties along the Hannover – Wolfsburg – Berlin high-speed line will be finished as of the 14th of August. ICE and IC trains operating on this busy corridor will increase their speeds back to previous levels. ICE trains will be about 20 minutes faster than during the construction period. When sound barrier installation work, still in progress in the outer Berlin suburb of Rathenow, is completed at the end of August, travel times for ICE trains between Hannover and Berlin will decrease by another 10 minutes. ICE trains between Berlin and cities to the southwest such as Göttingen, Kassel, Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich will also have reduced travel times along the Berlin – Wolfsburg section of their journeys. Commuter and regional train services between Braunschweig and Wolfsburg will return to operation and the temporary “bustitution” replacement bus service will end.

The construction program on the Hannover – Berlin route replaced some 186 km of track and over 130,000 concrete ties. Construction work continues west of Hannover in the German state of North Rhine – Westphalia for several more weeks, where construction crews are replacing wooden ties with concrete ties and new rail along the four-track Minden – Bielefeld – Hamm mainline. IC and ICE passenger trains from Berlin to Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf run along this route. The Berlin – Amsterdam Schiphol Airport IC trains also run along this route as far as Löhne, where they switch over to a double-track rail line to the Germany / Holland border via Osnabrück and Rheine.

D:F readers who might be traveling to Germany and using the passenger rail network in northern and eastern Germany are advised to check the schedules of trains they plan to ride on via the Deutsche Bahn website

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

A Letter From Europe

By David Beale
D:F Foreign Editor

If they can make I-95 into a toll road, then they can do the same with I-295.

There continues to be a debate here in Germany about making the autobahn network into toll roads for automobiles, small trucks, vans, buses, etc.  The autobahns are already toll roads for large trucks in Germany.  Basically the fight / debate has gone towards that any tolls on cars and light trucks will have to be overall revenue-neutral for highway users, i.e. if tolls are charged, then something else like the motor fuel tax must be reduced.  The large automobile lobby in Germany including the ADAC (Germany’s version of AAA) are fighting against tolls hard, but the Greens and the Neue Linke (new left), who have a combined approx. 30% of the votes in German parliament, do not want a decrease of any other fees if/when a toll becomes law, i.e. make driving even more expensive than it already is now. 

I am not really sure why there is a discussion to tax automobiles here even more.  I am no fan of subsidizing automobiles and highways (obviously), but in Germany the amount of money one forks over to the government for driving a car is rather astonishing - car drivers /owners pay for the road system upkeep and costs and then some - the additional cash from automobile owners / drivers goes to other government spending such as unemployment insurance, welfare programs, salaries / pensions of government workers, etc.  The TEA party would go totally nuts with it here. 

It starts first with the purchase of a new car: 19% sales tax in the price of the car.  Then when you fill it up, the taxes on the fuel make up about 70% of the purchase price of the fuel.  Then there is an annual registration fee which is calculated on the displacement of the engine and the emissions class the car was certified to when new:  the older (i.e. laxer emissions standards at the time the car was built) and the bigger the engine, the more you pay.   A mid 1980s diesel car with a large displacement engine (such as an older Mercedes E-class with a 3.3 liter diesel engine, no cat converter and no particulate filter) could cost something on the order of EUR 750 (US $1100) per year to keep registered.  A brand-new Honda Civic or VW Polo with a 1.4 liter engine and Euro 4 emissions class will be about EUR 120 / year fee.  An all-electric car (if you can buy one) will be EUR 50 / year registration fee.  My 11 year-old Opel Astra with a 1.9 liter diesel engine and Euro 3 emissions class costs nearly EUR 330 / year for the registration.

At lastly, all motor vehicles in Germany have to go through a very strict and extensive inspection (called TÜV) every two years - that inspection costs EUR 80.00 alone, not including any repairs or parts replacement that the inspection finds as not in compliance with safety regulations.  Relatively young cars which have been well maintained by their owners / drivers usually get through TÜV without any repairs mandated.  But once a car is about six years old or older, that becomes increasingly difficult to avoid - they will require parts or all of the muffler / exhaust to be replaced due to corrosion or cracks, worn brake discs, worn wheel bearings, worn steering linkages, defective emission controls, etc. A favorite TÜV finding:  tires with less than 4 mm of tread depth - off they come and new ones get installed.  Rusted-through body panels / sheet metal is not allowed at all.  Leakage of any fluids is also not allowed.  If your car is slowly leaking a little bit of oil when parked, you will be getting that oil leak fixed one way or another, or it will lose its registration at the next TÜV due-date.  If that oil is coming from the front or back crankshaft seal, that repair could easily cost EUR 400 or more.

I would guess that from what I have seen on the roads of New England during my last few visits there, that maybe 60% maximum of the cars and light trucks on the road in Mass., Conn. NY and RI would get through the German TÜV vehicle inspection system.

All this adds up quickly.

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