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A Weekly North American Transportation Update

Publisher:  James P. RePass
Managing Editor:  Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor:  David Beale
Contributing Editor:  David Peter Alan
Webmaster:  Dennis Kirkpatrick
For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

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November 5, 2012
Vol. 13 No. 44

Copyright © 2012
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 13th Newsletter Year

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

Today Brunswick - Tomorrow… The World…?
Election Day
New Jersey Transit Board Revokes Riding
   Privileges For Non-Union Employees
Election Campaign “Whistle Stop” Trains
  News Items…
Downeaster Arrives In Brunswick
Amtrak To Provide Special Service To Northeast
   In Wake Of Super-Storm Sandy
Hurricane Sandy Provokes The Largest
   Preemptive Public Transportation Shutdown
   In U.S. History
Transport Chief: It Could Happen In Boston
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Announcements From Amtrak…
On The Storm
  Across The Pond…
By Train From Bremen To Mallorca
NCI Conference on “Value Capture”
  Publication Notes …

EDITORIALS... Editorials...

Today Brunswick -
Tomorrow… The World…?

Okay, it’s an old joke, but why not?

Last week, as reported elsewhere in Destination: Freedom, Amtrak’s Downeaster arrived in regular service at Brunswick, Maine, the first time in half a century that that city has seen passenger service, and yet another example of how the demand for passenger rail continues to outstrip the supply.

Even as candidates such as Mitt Romney promise to “kill Amtrak” despite the fact that Amtrak’s annually Federal “subsidy” (why is it that we “subsidize” trains but “invest” in highways?”) is a tiny fraction of what we spend on other Federally-subsidized (yes, subsidized) transportation systems such as the airline industry. More than 600 people turned out in Brunswick, complete with a school band, to celebrate the return of rail service. A bit earlier, in Freeport, 400 people turned out also with a band, for the kind of celebrations usually seen, say, at the end of the Second World War!

Much credit goes to the steel child of Maine rail advocate Wayne Davis, Chair of TrainRiders NorthEast and to Northern New England Rail Authority’s Patricia Quinn, who has turned the Downeaster into America’s number One-ranked passenger train (customer approval rating).

So, way to go, Wayne, and Patricia, and former Governors John Baldacci and Angus King, and Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and especially Sen. George Mitchell, who with Wayne Davis, got the Downeaster ball rolling two decades ago, for sticking by the people, for the people, and with the people, to make this train a reality. Across America, others are doing the same, well below the radar screen of the national news media, as passenger rail service from city center to city center brings life back to downtowns and urban centers after generations of neglect and abandonment, because once again you can get there from here…

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Election Day


On November 6, voters who care about transportation have the clearest choice they have had in years: Republican Candidate Mitt Romney, who opposes subsidies for Amtrak and has vowed to kill it, and Barack Obama, who in his first term spent $10 billion on rail improvements, benefiting both passenger and freight rail service, and who has vowed to do more if elected.

It’s your choice…

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

New Jersey Transit Board Revokes
Riding Privileges For Non-Union Employees

By David Peter Alan

“It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.”  So began A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens’ tale of the French Revolution. 

The meeting of New Jersey Transit’s Board of Directors held on October 15th was not as tumultuous as Paris in 1789, but it was one of the most dramatic in memory, even for longtime observers of the New Jersey transit scene.

The meeting ended with a surprise that may signal the best of times for anyone who wants to see open discussion of management initiatives. But before the discussion, they announced a decision that could bring the worst of times for non-union NJT employees; the Board upended the longstanding tradition of giving employees the privilege of riding the transit system as part of their compensation. The announcement sent shock waves through the crowd.

For many NJT employees, especially those who live in the Trenton area and commute to NJT headquarters in Newark, the increased out-of-pocket cost will be about $300 per month, even including the tax break that commuters get on the first $115 per month spent on transit.  Unionized employees are not affected, since riding privileges are subject to the collective bargaining agreements between NJT and the unions that represent NJT workers.  About 1800 management and staff employees, many of whom work at NJT headquarters in Newark, are affected by the change in policy. 

The initiative came from Gov. Chris Christie, who has been cracking down on benefits for public employees.  Earlier this year, there had been talk of revoking riding privileges for non-union employees and retirees, but it appeared that employees had convinced senior management that such a move would prove disastrous for business in downtown Newark, because many NJT employees would drive automobiles instead of commuting on NJT, and take up much of the parking space in the area.

NJT employees received notice of the change only seven days before the meeting, along with the general public.  Employee morale decreased dramatically from previous levels, with many employees believing the Governor’s initiative was a “done deal” and there was nothing they could do about it.

Still, about 25 current employees and several retirees spoke against the proposal at the Board meeting.  Although it is customary to allow speakers five minutes to express themselves, Commissioner James S. Simpson told everyone, including members of the public, the he would allow only two minutes to speak on the “pass issue.”  He said that he and his fellow Board members “were aware of all the issues.”  With the limited time available, the employees and retirees all mentioned their extreme disappointment about the new policy.  Some mentioned that they had given many hours of volunteer effort to NJT, and felt that they were being punished for doing so.  One, an employee lower on the pay scale, questioned how he could afford to pay for his own commute, with his meager take-home pay.  A member of the public who opposed the new policy described some of the employees’ stories as “heart-rending.”

Throughout the pleas from employees and others who supported them, Simpson and the board appeared to show no concern for the speakers.  Simpson himself left the room for a time.  To this writer, it appeared that the disdain for the employees was palpable.  When everyone had been heard on the issue, Simpson told the employees that it was time for them to go back to work.

The vote was taken in the rubber-stamp fashion typical of the NJT Board, quickly and with no dissent.  All NJT Board members are appointed by the Governor of New Jersey, and three come directly from the Administration in Trenton.  Under the circumstances, any dissent or even a compassionate word for the employees who are taking a pay cut, or retirees who are losing a benefit, would have been surprising.

After the vote, a labor representative told this writer that this sort of thing does not happen to employees who have a union, and suggested that staff and management employees join a union as soon as they can.  Negotiations between NJT and its approximately 9200 employees who belong to unions are scheduled for next year, when the existing collective bargaining agreements expire.  Since he became governor, Christie has taken a hard line with public-employee unions.  There has been speculation that he ordered the revocation of riding privileges for non-union employees at NJT, so he can make the case for revoking them for unionized employees, as well.

According to Frank Miklos, a retired planner and an original NJT employee from its founding in 1979, some of the affected employees or their predecessors were represented at the time by the Communications Workers of America (CWA).  These employees came from the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) when NJT was spun off from it by legislation in 1979.  NJDOT is headquartered near Trenton, and NJT has always had its headquarters in Newark.  To encourage employees to use transit, and to allow them to commute without paying fares between the Trenton area and Newark, NJT agreed to allow them to ride as part of their compensation.  The monthly fare between Trenton and Newark today is $324.00, less a tax break on the first $115; a net cost of about $300.00.  The practice has continued until now.

If NJT gave management and staff employees riding privileges in consideration for those employees giving something else up (such as union representation), or if riding privileges are calculated into employees’ compensation packages, it might not be so easy for NJT to discontinue that privilege.  That would also hold for retirees, who had been led to believe that riding the system was part of their retirement pay, like their pensions.

Executive Director James Weinstein defended the policy, saying that none of the affected employees were laid off.  He also said that he is losing his own riding privileges.  However, the change will not affect him.  Part of his compensation includes the use of an automobile.  The same is true for Simpson, in his capacity as Commissioner of Transportation.

In light of the Board vote, the employees are fighting back.  According to a report by Karen Rouse in the Bergen Record dated October 19th, a delegation of the affected employees has given official notice to Weinstein that they are seeking arbitration of the issue.  They argue that Federal law requires that, if unionized employees are given a benefit, then non-unionized employees must receive that benefit, too.  They point to the precedent of employees of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority who won reimbursement of the commuting expenses, after Gov. Christie had ordered them to start paying their own commuting expenses; a similar situation.

Will they succeed?  Time will tell.  In the meantime, the NJT Board continued its meeting and produced an amazing surprise.  We will report on that surprise in the next edition.

The author was present at the NJT Board meeting when the action was taken.  He made a personal statement, expressing support for the employees in their efforts to keep their riding privileges.

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Election Campaign “Whistle Stop” Trains

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary
By Richard L. Beadles
Volume IV, No. 20.   October 30, 2012

When did you last see a presidential candidate speaking to a crowd from the rear platform of a “Whistle Stop” campaign train? Not this time, not last time; maybe “W” in Ohio, very briefly, in 2000, I am not sure? Actually, there have been none, that we can recall, in the grand tradition of Truman, 1948, since the Lady Bird Special of October, 1964, now 48 years ago.

What happened to this grand tradition of presidential politicking which appears to have originated well prior to the Civil War, e.g. James Buchannan 1856, and was very much a staple of the every-four-year national election season until the mid-1960s? Among the answers one might suggest that: (a) the Nation evolved from a limited number of big cities connected by a necklace of main rail routes with small towns like beads on a string, to (b) a sprawling urban nation with more people located off the “main line” than on it – population almost doubled, (c) the railroad route network shrunk by about one-third, (d) more “efficient” communications technology arrived and was quickly deployed by the political campaigns, (e) the trains were increasingly difficult and costly to arrange and operate, and the political “yield” was apparently deemed to be modest, and finally, (f) the railroad companies were greatly relieved to be rid of the costly nuisance, which disrupted normal operations, generated far more expense to these private companies than they received in compensation, and the crowds presented major liability issues.

We will always recall the 1964 Lady Bird Special, a 19-car train, which originated in Washington on October 6 and terminated in New Orleans four days later, having traveled 1,628 miles through eight southern states (LBJ baled off in Alexandria), during which the First Lady was said to have given 47 speeches, on behalf of the President, in the same number of towns, to an estimated 500,000 people. There are many reasons why we recall this grand tour by Mrs. Johnson, the primary one being that little RF&P, and a fine officer by the name of Ed Martin, had responsibility for coordinating rail-related arrangements all the way to New Orleans. While Ed and the RF&P had lots of help from the big roads, little RF&P was the “originating railroad” and drew the short straw. [There was also a rough stop in Richmond, which is another story!]

Former president Harry Truman is said to have advised the Johnsons to undertake the Whistle Stop tour of the South, allegedly saying: “there are a lot of people in this Country who don’t know where the airport is, but they do know where the depot is…” That cannot be said of the population today. And there is a public/private angle as well. For more than a century the private, tax-paying, railroads shouldered the burden of campaign trains, and the like. Now it falls upon tax-consuming F.A.A., and F.H.W.A., states, and local municipal authorities, many of which are beginning to question: “why should we bear all this extra expense?” Railroaders remember yet; they can feel the pain!

Transportation policy is a complex thing, often made more so by the politicians we elect. Would that we could get them to assume more responsibility!

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NEWS ITEMS... News Items...  

Downeaster Arrives In Brunswick

The expansion of the Boston-to-Portland service to Freeport and Brunswick
fulfills the original vision of the passenger rail service launched in 2001.

By Tom Bell, Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK, MAINE, NOVEMBER 1 -- The Amtrak Downeaster arrived at Brunswick Station at 1:35 p.m. last Thursday, marking the beginning of passenger train service to communities north of Portland for the first time in more than 50 years.

At the Brunswick Station, the train was greeted by about 600 people and the Brunswick High pep band. A short time earlier, about 400 people and the Freeport High School marching band had met the train in Freeport.

Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, (NNEPRA) quoted Barry Manilow as the train arrived: “It looks like we made it.”

The crowd cheered.

Both U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree rode the train and spoke at the Freeport and Brunswick stops. Also on board were U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. Angus King and Wayne Davis, a retired banker from Topsham who led the grass-roots campaign to revive passenger rail service in Maine. Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo had planned to attend, but was in Washington because of recovery efforts with Super-storm Sandy.

On her arrival in Brunswick, Snowe said, “This opens up a new era and new chapter for Brunswick.”

Former Gov. John Baldacci was also on hand as the train arrived in Brunswick.

An older couple who appreciate the new service came from Lisbon Falls to greet the train in Brunswick. Ralph and Earline Judd Ralph have to travel frequently to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital for Ralph’s treatment for a disease of the esophagus.

“I’m 86 and I’m getting tired of driving at night,” Ralph said. “This is going to be a lot better.”

During a two-year construction project, the Amtrak, Downeaster service expansion required a multi-million-dollar rehabilitation of 30 miles of track. In addition, 36 grade crossings have been rehabilitated and two station platforms have been constructed. The project was funded primarily with a $38.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act (ARRA).

The Amtrak Downeaster is managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. In FY 2012, Downeaster ridership exceeded 528,000 passengers. With the addition of these two new station stops, an additional 30,000 new riders are expected annually. For more information on this service expansion, visit

Regular service for paying customers started on Friday with two daily round-trip trains between Brunswick and Boston.

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Amtrak To Provide Special Service To Northeast
In Wake Of Super-Storm Sandy

Transportation critical to bringing back the region after Hurricane Sandy;
Free travel provided to uniformed first responders

WASHINGTON – Amtrak is providing modified service throughout the Northeast including between Washington D.C., New York and Boston, providing vital transportation to residents and helping to restore the economy of the region after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.

In addition, as a public service, Amtrak is offering free travel to uniformed first responders, including police and fire personnel, members of the National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Administration, Red Cross and other uniformed agency personnel directly involved in the recovery effort.  The offer is valid from November 2 through November 9 for travel on Northeast Corridor services between Washington and Boston excluding Acela Express.

“Amtrak is committed to doing our part for this recovery - repairing the infrastructure, aiding in the transportation of first responders, moving passengers again and helping to restore confidence that the region will get back on its feet soon,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman.  “We know transportation is a critical piece to reviving the region and its economy. We're looking for ways to help and we intend to be a major force to deliver mobility back to the Northeast.”

The modified service recovery is possible due to the non-stop dedicated work of Amtrak employees that repaired tracks, tunnels, and signal and power systems across more than 500 miles of Amtrak-owned and maintained rail infrastructure in the Northeast.  In addition, Amtrak crews worked with Metro-North Railroad to repair a section of their railroad making the service connection between New York and Boston possible.

“I am very proud of our Amtrak crews who have been working around the clock preparing for the storm, assessing the damage and making necessary repairs.  This historic storm created unprecedented damage, and our hard-working and committed crews returned service to the Northeast sooner than ever expected.  There is more to do and we will continue to work diligently until full Amtrak service is restored,” stated Boardman.

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Hurricane Sandy Provokes The Largest Preemptive
Public Transportation Shutdown In U.S. History

By Somer Mathis, Reuters News, And DF Staff

OCTOBER 29 -- Announcements came the day before the storm – officials ordered widespread shutdown of trains and buses in some of the most densely populated areas of the country – the Northeast. This was a first in U.S. history: where mass transit agencies in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. announced that trains and buses would not operate Monday, bringing those areas to a “virtual standstill,” according to the Reuters article.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, October 29, before the storm made landfall, parts of Atlantic City and New York were already flooded from storm surges. All along the northeastern seaboard, surges were expected to peak at high tide at 8:53 pm. New York City was right in the path of a huge surge from Long Island Sound, and experts knew that the subway tunnels would have some of the worst damage. Surges ranging from two to fourteen feet high were predicted.

Image of storm eye

Photo via TheAtlantic

The eye of Hurricane Sandy as it developed off the eastern USA coast

Closures were ordered in school districts from Virginia to Boston. The New York Stock Exchange remained closed for two days. The federal government in Washington closed. Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered mandatory evacuation in parts of lower Manhattan and Staten Island.

We’re used to hurricanes and tropical storms making landfall on the East Coast, prompting evacuations of coastal areas. Strong Atlantic storms have hit Northeast cities before, of course, notably 1999’s Hurricane Floyd and 1985’s Hurricane Gloria. But so far, there really does seem to be something different about Sandy. She’s been called the largest tropical cyclone ever. Record, life-threatening storm surges are possible. And directly in the path of it all: dense urban populations, large portions of whom rely on public transportation, that have been substantially immobilized.

A surprising incident that happened in southeastern Connecticut brought great luck to a group families whose homes are at the edge of Stonington Harbor. They had evacuated at the last minute after being warned that a surge 11 feet high would be coming their way at high tide.

The hour for high tide came and went …. Nothing happened. Just some rain and light winds. Residents of the area, after hearing reports that Sandy had made an abrupt shift to the west, concluded that the unexpected change had saved their homes.

Editor’s note: A detailed account of the storm’s impact on transit andrail in the Northeast can be found in this well-documented article in Railway Age: “Hurricane Sandy Devastates NY/NJ-area Passenger Rail Systems.” at the link below.

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Transport Chief: It Could Happen In Boston

From the Boston Herald

NOVEMBER 1 -- Boston is severely vulnerable to the kind of ferocious floods that have crippled New York City and its transit system in the wake of super-storm Sandy, reported the Boston Herald last Thursday in an article by Matt Stout. Such a storm could prove “catastrophic” in Boston with its century-old subway system and the Big Dig tunnels.

“Each of our major transportation components are so close to or about on the harbor, it really could have a debilitating effect on our entire structure,” Transportation Secretary Richard A. Davey said, citing Logan International Airport, the T and the underground tunnels that crisscross the city and cut under the harbor.

“The seas are rising. Whether you believe in global warning or not is irrelevant,” Davey said. “Try to imagine the entire MBTA shut down for days, or potentially weeks. It could be catastrophic.”

Parts of the New York subway system began to open on a limited basis three days after the record 13-foot storm surge slammed NYC.

Some experts say that Boston is better protected than New York by geographic formations such as Cape Cod, which shields it from northward-bound hurricanes, and by the city’s long harbor. But, the Herald reports, “according to a study by city and state officials, the Boston Harbor Association and the University of Massachusetts Boston, a 7 12-foot surge on top of the high tide could flood Back Bay, East Boston and South Boston with up to 4 feet of water.”

“Even now, you can go to areas of the waterfront, you get tides up already at the top of the sea wall,” said Bruce K. Carlisle, director of the state’s Office of Coastal Zone Management. “So you start to put a storm surge on an astronomical high tide, there will be inundation. It really is a question of extent.”

In October 1996, after a fierce nor'easater flooded seven underground T stops, closing the Kenmore Station for weeks, officials were prompted to build a double-walled barrier to plug Kenmore Station against a flood threat. At the heart of the Hub’s subway system, there’s also a gate, similar to a bank vault’s door, built in the early 1990s to seal off the South Station side of the Fort Point Channel in case of a major water breach.

That’s in addition to surveillance at every portal of the system, officials say.

“We’re doing everything we can humanly possible do to make sure it doesn’t happen,” said Edmond F. Hunter, the T’s assistant general manager for design and construction.

But UMass Boston professor Ellen Douglas said Boston is vulnerable, and city and state officials are taking it seriously by having the sea level study done.

“They know it’s vulnerable. It’s not something that is just going to go away,” she said of the flood risk.

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)86.9286.66
Canadian National (CNI)87.3886.71
Canadian Pacific (CP) 94.1592.08
CSX (CSX)20.6620.55
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)71.4971.60
Kansas City Southern (KSU)81.1081.25
Norfolk Southern (NSC)61.1362.77
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.0014.00
RailAmerica (RA)- - -- - -
Union Pacific (UNP)123.98123.61

RaileAmerica (RA) is not reported due to its merger with Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)

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ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM AMTRAK... Announcements From Amtrak...  

The Following Information Was Issued
By Amtrak During And After The Storm:


Amtrak will provide Acela Express and Northeast Regional regular weekend service on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C., via New York City, on Saturday, November 3 and Sunday, November 4.

Amtrak services to and from New York City are subject to delay while repairs continue. Most overnight service is restored.

President Obama declared major disasters for New York and New Jersey, making disaster assistance available to those in the heaviest hit areas affected by the storm. Individuals and business owners in the declared areas (counties that have declared a state of emergency) in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey can begin applying for assistance by:

Employee Disaster Assistance Information

Our employees have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy in numerous ways; the tragic loss of loved ones, homes destroyed or severely damaged. Many of our employee families in the hard-hit regions are without power and were forced to evacuate from their homes.

Employee Assistance Program

It is critical that if you have not seen or heard from a fellow employee in several days, please call our 24-hour EAP Hotline at 1-800-327-6448 and report this information.

We know that in such devastating situations employees may have numerous issues which may need to be addressed. EAP is available to help you with crisis support and please don’t hesitate to reach out. This number is for our employees only.

Union Relief and Assistance

There are three important documents being sent to you along with this advisory. They include information on disaster assistance resources, prescription and medical information and links by union on specific disaster relief assistance.

How to Help

Many employees have asked how they can help. At this time we are encouraging donations to the American Red Cross and other relief organizations.

Numerous blood drives have been cancelled as a result of the storm and the Red Cross has a need for blood donations. To schedule a blood donation or for more information about giving blood or platelets, please visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Information on Red Cross emergency shelters was also distributed.

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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


By Train From Bremen To Mallorca

Protect the environment while traveling by night, seeing Paris and Barcelona by day

Journalist and author Burkhard Strassmann writes about his trip with his family from his home town of Bremen, Germany
to the Spanish island and tourist mecca of Mallorca in spring 2012 via long distance trains. Story by Burkhard Strassmann
in original German text in the newspaper “Die Zeit”, English text and commentary by David Beale

Bremen – What does a trip to Mallorca cost? Thirty euro (US $40) with a low cost airline (one way), when you have very good luck and about 2 1/2 hours. Ninety-eight percent of all Mallorca tourists come via airlines. Anything else would be crazy.

Just the thought or mention of this trip via trains among friends leads to worried opinions. The trip will take at least 40 hours, and with a little bit of extras, ten times as much (as the low cost airline), so about EUR 300 per person. One travels through France and northern Spain with three trains and one ferry. Travel to Mallorca without an airplane – only folks with fear of flying do that. Or pet owners ready to make sacrifices, so that the family dog does not have to be locked in the airplane’s belly. Or ourselves.

We, that is, Ms. Li, Ms. La and I, plus three rolling suitcases. We are standing in the Bremen main train station in a cold, wet wind and wait for our commuter train to Hannover. Bremen was cut off years ago from the ICE train network as well as from night train services. But it has to be with night trains, since that is our plan. Instead of jetting to Mallorca, we will make a real trip there. During the night we will sleep and travel, and during the day we will live, learn, and enjoy the cities, which lie along the route: Paris and Barcelona. And where we want, we can add a night in a hotel. Our goal is to enjoy the trip between Bremen and Mallorca. Along the way we will experience some risk and alternatives. And a bit of the Indian in the back of my mind, he causes slightly less CO2 emissions in one entire year than three passengers on the flight to Mallorca – one way. “Slow Travel” is the name of our form of travel with the reduced CO2 footprint.

Mr. Strassmann is not entirely correct about Bremen’s fate with train services. Bremen remains on the ICE network with once every two hour ICE trains to/from southern Germany via Hannover. Night trains with sleeper service travel through Bremen to/from Hamburg and Denmark, but do not usually make a stop in Bremen.

It’s raining as the commuter train pulls into Bremen. Alright, it is 24° (75°F) now in Mallorca. With a jetliner we would be there in a few turns of the clock hands. But “Slow Travel” means among other things that it will only slowly get warmer. At home I thought for quite awhile “jacket or sailors pullover sweater?”. The complex trip to a remote island demands, aside from an interesting day plan, the consideration of the weather forecast and correspondingly appropriate wardrobe. At the last moment, despite a forecast of poor weather, I decided to believe in spring, to honor Paris, and to be a bit elegant. Ms. La had decided exactly the opposite to pack functionally. Now she is reasonably dressed, but feels that she looks ugly and wants to head back to the dressing room. But we would miss our train.

On the train we open a bottle of red wine. Quickly Ms. La and I are in a good mood. Ms. Li, an adolescent, does not like wine-happy parents. But out of my many years of travel on night trains I insist on red wine. Without red wine, no sleep on the train. As the train conductor approaches, I take out my loose-leaf note book packed full of travel documents, all of our reservations, addresses, tips for activities in Paris and Barcelona from friends and co-workers, and recommendations from the internet site, run by VCD (Verkehrsclub Deutschland), which has travel information for our kind of travel. The conductor fishes out of the fat stack of tickets the correct ones, while I reflect a bit tipsy and contently: no luggage restrictions nor fees, no waiting in lines, no demeaning riffling through our luggage and no frisking and pat downs. No cramming into space-optimizing seats. Instead to lounge in these seats and to toast each other with a glass of wine. Slow Travel means freedom.

In Hannover two night trains meet and are coupled together, one from Berlin, the other from Hamburg. We board a car in the train from Berlin. Along with us several backpackers get on board, plus many older couples. In the neighboring compartment are giggling teenagers and their mother. Our compartment has theoretically six beds, but with us three, it is already very tight. Ms. Li absolutely does not want to sleep either in the built-in or the upholstered middle bed and tries to assert her way with lots of tears. But she begins to discover the middle beds have much softer mattresses as the high beds. And better than the low bed. Only contortionists can sleep in the lower beds.

Slowly the train starts moving. Night trains are not in a hurry and often like to travel along bumpy rail routes. After a fair amount of time Alfeld on the Leine slips past outside of the train. We munch on bread we brought along out of our laps. A slice of bread lands with the buttered side down on my dress pants. Pardon, Paris! The climate control system blows ice cold air into our compartment regardless of what we do with the controls. But I find handholds on the wall, which work well to tie bed sheets over the outlet vent in order to block the steady blast of cold air. I page through a magazine named “Verträglich Reisen” (Compatible Travel) and come across an interview with City Night Line (CNL) chief Axel Hennighausen, who gushes about how one can spend a night on board CNL on the rails and the next morning well-slept arrives at their destination.

Mr. Strassmann describes here the typical route, which night trains traveling north to south or vice versa in central Germany follow, namely the “classic” Hannover – Fulda main line, which has existed for nearly 160 years and is heavily used by various freight trains, local trains and, of course, night trains. The route has numerous junctions with other connecting rail lines and crossovers from parallel tracks, especially in areas where it is three or four tracks wide and where it goes through rail switching yards. All of these switches and interlockings tend to give a somewhat bumpy ride. The alternative rail line in this region is the Hannover – Würzburg high speed line, opened in 1991. Night trains tend not to use this high speed corridor for several reasons, including the fact that they are “not in a hurry”, therefore the 120 – 140 km/h speeds on the classic line are perfectly adequate, and because during the very late night hours (midnight to 5 am) there is after maintenance work on-going in the tunnels along the high speed line.

Friday 6:30 AM somewhere in Lothringen (eastern France, not far from Saarbrücken, Germany), when one has falling asleep well after midnight and only a few hours later awoken by loud laughter next door, the festive mood is anything other than infectious. At this point my very best regards to Mr. Hennighausen, who certainly is sound asleep in his bed. Apparently the train staff are also of the opinion that we have snoozed enough, announcements ring out from the PA system – already now in French only. I am able to understand that we will arrive in Paris about 90 minutes behind schedule. How we could have slept for a little while longer!

The primary issue of this environmentally friendly way of traveling is obviously: sleep management. To sleep in the train at night and to tour cities and towns during the day means also that you can really get some sleep at night. Children react especially negatively to sleep deprivation.

At 11:00 AM we reach Paris. A bit dazed we stumble out of the train into Gare de L’est. The air is humid and cool, so a slight improvement compared to Bremen. Even better is that we were able to afford a hotel, in order to enjoy the city more. Quite conveniently the hotel is situated in the vicinity of the train station: on the Boulevard de Strasbourg. And even better: the hotel room is already accessible check in. We could make up the lost sleep right now. But what would we miss? We park our suitcases, take the Metro and head to the Eiffel Tower, Ms. Li wants it that way.

NCI file photo by David Beale

TGV trains to Germany in Paris Gare de l’Est in 2011.

At the feet of the iron construct we are confronted with the second biggest challenge of this trip: the Line. We have to concede, it is not only at the airports. Whatever in a tourist city is interesting to see, everyone wants to see it, and almost everyone has lots of time. We don’t. Tomorrow we move on and Paris has so many centers and desirable locations. Ms. Li’s Eiffel Tower visit has therefore to be dropped since the waiting line at 12 noon on Fridays is as long as the tower is high. We would have to wait an estimated good two hours. Plannable waiting line management would have been good here. Tears, dizziness, sudden hypoglycemia with Ms. Li. We have to get chocolate croissants.

Thirty hours in Paris with a child must be exactly planned. Lines in front of Notre Dame and Centre Pompidou. The alternative tip of a work colleague, a visit to the Musée des Égouts de Paris on the Seine, the city Museum of gullies and sewers does not help. The museum is closed without any particular reason. Then Frau La drags us into the Marais quarter, where there are legendary falafels. Later in the evening in the hotel our feet signal their displeasure with us. We fall into bed dead from exhaustion.

Part 2 next week…

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NCI CONFERENCE... NCI Conference...  

The National Corridors Initiative
Conference on Value Capture


A New [American] Tool for Funding Rail Transportation Corridors
Chairman: Former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Raytheon Amphitheatre
Michael and Kitty Dukakis Center for Public Affairs
Northeastern University, Boston, MA.

Keynote Speaker: Richard Norment, President and CEO,
The National Council on Public Private Partnerships

America’s transportation infrastructure and thus our prosperity, will not be decided on any given Election Day, or in Washington. It will be decided by financial, business, and political leaders, who meet a payroll, make an investment, govern a city or state, or serve in an agency or on a council, commission, or legislature.

Throughout New England, rail corridors are coming back to life, but will need to be financed in a new, sustainable way. This Value Capture conference will deal with both funding and organizational issues, how they have been addressed in Europe and Asia, and how New England can once again lead the way

Note: the Raytheon Amphitheatre is within a short walking distance of the MBTA’s Green “E” Line Northeastern University stop, or the MBTA Orange Line’s Ruggles Station.

No automobile is needed to get to this conference; however, there is a parking garage near Ruggles Station.

Featured Speakers:

  • Former Governor and Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis

  • Basic Introduction to Value Capture:
    National Corridors Initiative Chairman and CEO James P. RePass

  • The Private Investor Has a Stake in Rail:
    Beal Companies CEO Robert Beal

  • Coalition Building to Create Rail Corridors:
    Alan Bergren, City Manager, Norwich CT;
    Charles Hunter, Rail America - Central Connecticut Rail Corridor;
    Christopher Parker, Vermont Association of Rail Passengers

  • The Boston-Concord Capitol Corridor:
    Will Stewart, Manchester NH C of C’s VP for Economic Development and Advocacy

  • Maine’s Billion-Dollar Rail Success Story:
    The Downeaster - Wayne Davis, Chairman and CEO, TrainRiders NE

  • Promising and Delivering:
    Association for Public Transportation President Richard Arena

  • Green Investing:
    Theodore Roosevelt IV, Chairman, Barclay’s Bank Green Team (Invited)

  • What Your State Rep/Senator Needs to Hear:
    CT House/Senate Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Andy Maynard (Invited)

Continental Breakfast and Box Lunch will be provided. Registration is $60.00

Register via email with NCI Director Molly McKay at: or

Please note “Conference Registration” in the subject line.

Mail your check, payable to “NCI” to:
NCI Northeast U.S. Office, c/o McKay, 8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT, 06355.

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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