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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 19, 2012
Vol. 13 No. 46

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

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

  NCI Conference…
Update On Conference On ‘Value Capture’
   December 5 At Dukakis Center, NU, Boston
Obama’s New Cabinet Can Make Trains
   Run On Time
A Lesson For Rail Advocates
Harry Byrd Would Be Amazed!
  News Items…
California-Style Law Could Cut Taxes
   For NY Businesses And Transit Riders
  High-Speed Lines…
Rod Diridon To Chair USHSR Advisory Board,
   Will Headline Rail Conference Dec. 3-5
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commuter Lines…
Ticketing App for MBTA Rail Expands
  News From Amtrak…
Amtrak Vacations Launches New Rail Journeys
Jane Holtz Kay
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


NCI CONFERENCE... NCI Conference...

Update On Conference On ‘Value Capture’
December 5 At Dukakis Center, NU, Boston


James P. RePass, Chairman, President & CEO
The National Corridors Initiative
Boston Office: 59 Gates Street Boston MA 02127
Northeastern Office 8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT., 06355
Telephone:  617-269-5478 Email:

Dear Friend and Colleague:

As someone committed to building up the economic strength not only of the state but of the New England region as a whole, I know you share my belief that innovative solutions are needed to re-build our passenger and freight transportation infrastructure --- in the face of the most difficult economic circumstances our country has faced in generations.

And, as someone who has played a role in building that infrastructure --- our organization successfully negotiated, at the White House in 1990 and in 1991, the release of Federal funds needed to complete the electrification of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor --- I call your attention to the December 5 “Conference on Value Capture” from 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. at Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Public Affairs.

‘Value Capture’ is a new idea in America, but well-known in Europe and Asia, that helps fund rail transit corridor operating costs while simultaneously reducing or eliminating the need for that corridor, or system, to seek annual operating subsidies from the state legislature.

Take a look at the people speaking December 5, and you will see that both national and local leaders will be a part of this intense one-day event; PLEASE REGISTER NOW with as space is limited; the cost (which covers both Breakfast and Lunch) is only $60.

With the MBTA in financial crisis, and a number of passenger/freight regional rail corridors in the construction stage right now, plus others that are getting ready to go forward all over New England, it is urgent that we figure out NOW how to pay for these systems in a responsible way that ensures their success.

Feel free to contact me personally with any questions at 617-269-5478, and forward this announcement and conference agenda to your colleagues as you see fit.


Jim RePass
The National Corridors Initiative

Email your registration info to:

NCI Logo

Conference on Value Capture

A New [American] Tool for Funding Transit and Rail Transportation Corridors

Chairman: Former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis

Wednesday, December 5, 2012     8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Raytheon Amphitheatre, Egan Research Center
Michael and Kitty Dukakis Center for Public Affairs Northeastern University, Boston, MA

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

Special Guest Speakers!

The fate of 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 “Conference on Value Capture” introduces an innovative new way to fund the building of infrastructure that DOES NOT rely on annual trips to the legislature/Congress for 100% of a system’s or corridor’s operating subsidies. The conference will deal with funding, organizational, and related issues regarding infrastructure finance, including examples both home-grown (rare) and foreign (widespread and successful) and how New England can once again, as we did in the 19th century, build the way forward.

The Conference on Value Capture/Speakers:

Welcome, Conference Chairman
Former Governor and Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis

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

All Speakers Are Confirmed Unless Otherwise Indicated:

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

  • The Private Investor Has a Stake in Transit/Rail Corridor Development:
    Beal Companies CEO Robert Beal

  • The Boston-Concord Capitol Corridor:
    Will Stewart, Manchester NH C of C’s VP for Economic Development and Advocacy;
    Tom Mahon, Chair, New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority

  • Coalition Building to Create Rail Corridors:
    Alan Bergren, City Manager, Norwich CT;
    Charles Hunter, Rail America - Central Connecticut Rail Corridor;
    Blake LaMothe, Chairman, Palmer Redevelopment Authority, Palmer, MA.

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

  • Promising and Delivering on Rail:
    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:
Please have your bank cut an e-check payable to NCI, 8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT. 06355

Conference Sponsors Include:


The Raytheon Amphitheatre in the Egan Research Center at Northeastern is within a short walking distance of the MBTA’s Green “E” Line Northeastern University stop, as well as the Orange Line and Commuter Rail Line Ruggles Station.

If connecting via Commuter Rail or Transit From Logan Airport, take the Silver Line to South Station, the Red Line inbound to Park Street station, and then the Green “E” Line to the Northeastern University stop; if arriving by the Orange Line detrain at Ruggles Station; also detrain at Ruggles if coming from Providence/TF Green Airport via Commuter Rail; from North Station take the Orange Line to Ruggles.

No automobile is needed to get to this conference; however, there is a parking garage near Ruggles Station. The Egan Research Center is located approximately 100 yards from Ruggles Station.

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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Guest Commentary


Obama’s New Cabinet Can
Make Trains Run On Time

By Stephen Smith, Contributor To Bloomberg

As President Barack Obama selects his second-term Cabinet, all eyes are on the big departments -- State, Treasury, Defense and Justice. Yet he can set the tone for his new term with changes in a less-likely place: the Department of Transportation.

The current secretary, Ray LaHood, is probably stepping down in 2013, and Obama’s signature transportation policy, a national high-speed-rail network, is in disarray. The president’s original goal was to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years, but so far only California’s increasingly embattled system is scheduled for completion by then.

High-speed-rail lines in Wisconsin and Florida were canceled by the states’ Republican governors, and Amtrak’s $151 billion plan to bring real bullet trains to the Northeast corridor is a nonstarter.

With a divided Congress unlikely to finance any significant portion of Obama’s high-speed-rail projects, he has to nominate a secretary who cares as much about reform and good engineering as securing funding and undertaking flashy projects. A focus on efficiency over spending should please House Republicans, whose support the administration will need if it ever hopes to increase federal transit funding.

David Gunn, the president of Amtrak from 2002 to 2005, cited a lack of technical knowledge as the biggest problem at the Transportation Department, which he said has devolved into “an agency that just distributes money.”

Misused Money

“If you look at the Federal Railroad Administration and the Department of Transportation, they’ve never really had professional leadership,” argued Gunn, who managed most passenger trains on the Eastern seaboard at one point or another during his career. (Gunn was fired by President George W. Bush’s Amtrak board in 2005 after objecting to what he viewed as the administration’s politically motivated attempts to break up the railroad.)

Although most transit advocates view a lack of funding as American transit’s biggest obstacle, some, such as David Schonbrunn, a longtime San Francisco Bay area transit activist who is suing to change California’s high-speed-rail plan, agree with Gunn’s assessment.
“We’re spending our money in incredibly stupid and political ways,” Schonbrunn said, “and the only answer from the leaders of these agencies is ‘Give me more money.’”

Gunn was also critical of the way the Obama administration allocated the $8 billion in stimulus funds for high-speed rail.

“There are two groups that are absolutely critical to getting high-speed rail done: freight rail and Amtrak,” he said. Yet the administration went to state transportation departments and local politicians, who, Gunn said, don’t know what they are doing.

The administration has shut out the freight railroads and Amtrak California from its high-speed-rail plans, instead vesting power in the new California High-Speed Rail Authority, which has little operational experience and a barebones staff.

Another problem, Gunn says, is the silo approach that the Department of Transportation takes to financing air, highway and rail projects.

“They desperately need somebody who understands the interaction between modes,” Gunn said. He cited a costly O’Hare International Airport expansion in Chicago, where he says passenger capacity goals may have been better addressed by a high-speed-rail network for the Midwest.

Bad Projects

Right now, air, highway and rail interests frequently compete against one another to fill the same need. The government often finances projects to widen and build new highways parallel to new rail routes, depressing ridership and limiting the cost-effectiveness of transit.

David Schonbrunn had praise for Peter Rogoff, the current head of the Federal Transit Administration.

“Peter Rogoff made some really excellent comments about how we can’t continue to throw money into new projects without maintaining our current infrastructure,” Schonbrunn said. He credited Rogoff with canceling the federal contribution to a widely panned elevated-rail connector from the airport in Oakland, California, to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station.

But Rogoff also signed off on and defended federal appropriations for San Francisco’s controversial Central Subway under political pressure from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Transit advocates have roundly criticized the project for its high cost and limited utility.

Beyond spending existing funds more responsibly, the Transportation Department must make regulatory changes if Obama’s goals for high-speed-rail access are to be met.

The Federal Railroad Administration is already making progress on one long-overdue reform: rationalizing crash-safety rules for suburban and intercity passenger rail.

The agency’s current safety standards require trains to be bulked up to survive crashes, whereas regulators outside of North America allow lightweight trains, which are faster, cheaper and more efficient, on existing freight and intercity tracks. Crumple zones built into modern European and Japanese designs protect passengers during accidents, and advanced signaling technology makes such accidents unlikely to occur in the first place.

In June, federal safety regulators issued a waiver to a small Dallas-area commuter rail line to use lightweight Swiss railcars, and the FRA also indicated a willingness to grant more such waivers in the future. This first move toward modern trains was driven from within the agency, and reform could be sped up with political support from higher-ups in the department.

Another aspect of rail policy under the administration’s control is labor. The president nominates members to Amtrak’s board and could use this power to push for desperately needed staffing reforms.

California Success

One candidate whom Gunn said he could recommend for transportation secretary is Eugene Skoropowski, who made a name for himself managing California’s Capitol Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento via Oakland. During his tenure, ridership tripled and the number of trains scheduled per day quadrupled, turning it from a lowly intercity line into a bustling commuter system. And he did this without any additional state subsidies.

Because Capitol Corridor trains run on tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, Skoropowski had to work with the freight carrier to achieve these ridership gains. Today he works for Florida East Coast Industries, a freight railroad that is starting private passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando, the first in more than a half-century.

Skoropowski’s history of cooperation with the freight-rail industry stands in marked contrast to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s hostile relationship with the Union Pacific -- hardly the cooperative partnership that David Gunn suggested is necessary for high-speed rail to succeed in the U.S.

Other transit analysts, such as Joshua Schank of the Eno Center for Transportation, a research group, agreed that it might be time for a transportation secretary from a technical rather than political background. (The office is sometimes used for bipartisan gestures: LaHood, Obama’s first-term transportation secretary, was a Republican U.S. representative from Illinois, and Norman Mineta, who served under George W. Bush for five years, was a Democratic congressman.)

“With a technical nominee, you usually give them more leeway,” Schank told me in an interview.

Whomever Obama nominates, the administration should learn from the failures of its grand and expensive first-term ambitions. If the White House is willing to listen to the engineers and technocrats within the department, it might find some of its goals within reach.

As Gunn put it, “They need somebody that understands how you accomplish physical things.”

(Stephen Smith is a contributor to Bloomberg View who covers land use and transportation. The opinions expressed are his own. See Bloomberg.Com)

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A Lesson For Rail Advocates

By David Peter Alan

Two weeks ago, Americans re-elected President Obama and kept the Democrats in control of the Senate and the Republicans in control of the House. This essentially ensures that the next two years will be like the last two, especially at the federal level. Other commentators are still pouring over the results and analyzing why the voters made the choices they made. To this writer, there was one especially interesting demographic, which should serve as a lesson to the rail and transit advocacy community.

That lesson lies in the diversity of the American population, and how times have changed as the nation has become more racially and ethnically diverse. The numbers mentioned here are approximate, and were only stated briefly as part of election-night broadcast coverage. If there are errors in the percentages, they are not so significant as to dilute the importance of the message that the advocacy movement can and must heed.

In the early days of the United States, only a narrowly-defined portion of the population was allowed to vote. Almost without exception, voters were adult white men who owned land. It took over a century for the nation to accept the idea that people of all races and heritages, both men and women, should be allowed to vote, whether or not they owned land. Notwithstanding differences in voting patterns for age and gender, Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote to President Obama’s 39%. If the election were held under the rules of the past, he would have won by a landslide.

What made the difference was that almost everybody else voted for Obama. He got about 93% of the black vote, 72% of the Hispanic vote and 75% of the Asian vote. A commentator on National Public Radio said that the Romney campaign had acted as if the entire nation were the “white South.” There appears to be some truth to that statement. Romney and his campaigners appeared shocked at his loss. Perhaps they were counting on white voters alone to carry the day. It seems that they had ignored the “everybody else” portion of the population, who turned out strongly for Obama.

It appears that demographic trends favor the Democrats in the long run. The “everybody else” segments of the population are growing faster than the white segment of the population, in terms of both birth rate and immigration. Whether the old guard like it or not, the nation is becoming more diversified.

Rail riders are diversified, too. In the cities, where transit is strong, people of all colors and heritages ride together. Men and women of all ages are on the train and the streetcar. Because Amtrak serves so many cities, the mix of riders on Amtrak trains is similar to the mix of riders on transit in those cities.

Unfortunately, the rider advocacy movement does not currently reflect the diversity of the rest of the nation, including the riders on the trains. Most of the active rail advocates, including this writer, are older white men. It is not the intent of this article to disparage any of them. To the contrary, they are making a tremendous effort to keep Amtrak and rail transit going, against the will of politicians whose attitudes toward Amtrak and transit are indifferent, if not openly hostile. Maybe the reason for the predominance of seniors in the movement is that we are old enough to remember when there were more trains and when transit was better. It has been a long time since then. Even though they are not a diversified group, the advocates who fight for more trains and better transit deserve a great deal of respect.

Still, the demographics of the movement do not match the demographics of the nation. There are only a few nonwhite men in the movement, along with only a few women of any heritage. Even worse, there is a striking lack of age diversity among advocates. Many are over 60, and most are over 50. There is an alarming lack of younger people on the scene, even though they are discovering the excitement of urban living, which includes transit. Unless the current members of the advocacy movement can recruit many more young people to lead it tomorrow, it could become extinct within 20 or 30 years.

The transit management cadre has become much more diversified in recent years, than it had been in the past. The same is not true of the advocacy cadre. It is not this writer’s intention to blame anyone for this. To be fair, the advocacy movement has spent the last several years dealing with one crisis after another, from funding shortages for local transit to governors who vetoed new rail starts. It is difficult to expand and diversify a membership base while “putting out fires” all the time. Still, the advocacy movement is spread thin, and recruitment must become top priority.

That includes a concerted effort to recruit a diversified mix of people that resembles the mix found on Amtrak, the commuter train or the light rail line. We must present to the communities a vision of transit that makes it not only relevant, but a high priority in political decision-making that can only be influenced by strong action in which many voters participate. That means voters of both genders and all ages, races and heritages.

The survival of the advocacy movement depends on it, and the very survival of Amtrak and local rail transit may depend on it, too. Mitt Romney won the support of white voters by a landslide, but he received so little support from the rest of the population that he lost the election. The advocacy movement cannot afford to engage in similar conduct. Instead, it must reach out to other communities and create a diverse base of support for rail. The Romney campaign did not, and probably could not, reach out beyond its core constituency to diversity its base of support. The rail advocacy movement cannot afford to make the same mistake.

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Harry Byrd Would Be Amazed!

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary
By Richard L. Beadles    Volume IV, No. 21.

Post-election buzz about demographic factors invites a review of the Old Dominion’s urban population explosion. Those of us of a certain age (read as “old”) tend to benchmark everything as being before World War II, or after. In 1940, as FDR’s preparation for the inevitable U.S. involvement in the European War gave economic lift to the nation’s recovery from the Great Depression, Virginia had a population of only 2,677,773, of which 65% was classified as “rural”. Today, the State count is slightly above 8 million, of which perhaps 80% is probably urban and suburban. How did this happen? Look at Virginia’s Eastern Urban Crescent for the answer, at least most of it:

Federal spending created jobs associated with wars and preparation for wars, space-age technology, the “wars” on poverty and terror, dozens of new agencies and hundreds of government contractors -- the infamous “Beltway Bandits” – all a manifestation of Big Government, which Virginia politicians hypocritically condemn only to protest when funding cuts are proposed. Federal programs have provided the most significant single economic impact upon eastern Virginia, driving our population explosion. Note that Richmond-Petersburg, being somewhat less dependent upon federal programs and relatively more dependent upon State employment, has lagged Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Our Urban Corridor represents about 66% of total State population, and mirrors in many respects the Northeast Corridor, demographically and even politically -- nothing like the country courthouse network that Byrd once controlled. All of this contributes to the current “split personality” in our political relationship with Washington. We say we object to Big Government, but we can’t seem to live without it!

The implications for transportation are enormous. Harry Byrd, elected governor in 1925, is credited with getting Virginia out of the mud. From his early oversight of the Valley Turnpike to the last days of the “Organization”, the Byrd name was synonymous with road building. While much work needs to be done to maintain and get the most out of our highway system, other options must now be pursued with equal vigor. That would include, among other things, rail and transit. Virginia Beach voters seem to understand, with their recent 62% approval of the Tide Light Rail question. Currently the Feds are seeking input on the future of the Northeast Rail Corridor, which arguably ought to include Richmond and Hampton Roads. Many have spoken in favor, but official Virginia remains silent. Are we constrained by our conflicted view of Washington? Time to get un-constrained!

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NEWS ITEMS... News Items...  

California-Style Law Could Cut Taxes
For NY Businesses And Transit Riders

From A Blog By Steven Higashide For The Tri-State Transportation Campaign

A recent California law requiring many San Francisco-area businesses to provide federal transit commuting benefits will bring pocketbook relief to businesses and transit riders, and could be a good model for New York City, writes Mr. Higashide. The federal tax code allows employees to deduct up to $125/month for transit commuting expenses, but only if their employer chooses to offer this benefit. (Perversely, the tax code provides a larger benefit — $240/month — for parking. Between 2009 and 2011, the transit and parking benefits were equal, but due to Congressional inaction, the transit benefit was cut at the start of the year.)  

The MTA has estimated that, for a worker in the 15% federal tax bracket, the transit benefit acts as a 29% fare reduction. With the tax savings factored in, a $104 monthly MetroCard costs an employee just $73.74, saving that rider over $360 per year.

California’s law (SB 1339), which passed last month, effectively requires businesses with at least 50 employees in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area to provide a direct subsidy for transit commuting, run their own shuttle service, or provide the federal transit benefit. Most businesses are likely to choose to provide the federal benefit, because, in addition to providing tax relief for transit users, the benefit also lowers businesses’ taxes. Because of this, the law passed with strong support from the business community.

The Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco, in a letter to Governor Jerry Brown described the ordinance as “a win-win whereby the employer saves on federal payroll taxes, the employee saves on their commuting expenses and we are all better off as a result of lower traffic congestion and better air quality.” 

Stuart Baker of Edenred, a benefits company, estimates that a firm where 3,500 employees take the transit benefit will save about $300,000 in annual payroll taxes (assuming participants spend $100/month on public transit).

In 2009, San Francisco passed an ordinance which required businesses in the city to provide the transit benefit, a measure which gave impetus for the state law. The environmental benefits are significant. San Francisco’s Department of the Environment estimates that in 2011, use of the benefit by employees of San Francisco companies reduced vehicle miles traveled by 2.8 million miles a day, and cut daily carbon emissions by over 1,000 metric tons. Forty percent of San Francisco companies which offer the benefit did so because of the city’s 2009 law, according to an agency survey.

According to TransitCenter, 15,000 companies in New York City currently offer the benefit, and a half-million employees use it. A California-style law would extend the benefit to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of additional employees. In our region, a local approach may be the best way to start. If New York City passed such a law, it would be a de facto tax cut for many employers and a fare cut for transit riders throughout the region, at a time when transit fares continue to increase.

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

Rod Diridon To Chair USHSR Advisory Board,
Will Headline Rail Conference December 3-5

From Internet Sources

WASHINGTON and SAN JOSE, CA -- The US High-Speed Rail Association (USHSR) has appointed Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the US High-Speed Rail Association. He will assume this new role at the High-Speed Rail Conference in Los Angeles.

The event is set for Monday-Wednesday, December 3-5. The conference comes on the heels of the California legislature voting to move forward with the first $6 billion phase of the statewide system. ( Journalists are welcome. See note at the end. ) 

“We are very proud to have Rod Diridon chair our Advisory Board and headline our conference,” said Andy Kunz , USHSR President and CEO. “Rod is a great leader and one of the strongest advocates for high-speed rail in America. We welcome his participation.”

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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)85.9185.18
Canadian National (CNI)84.9486.28
Canadian Pacific (CP) 90.1189.86
CSX (CSX)19.0119.88
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)67.3970.05
Kansas City Southern (KSU)73.8576.91
Norfolk Southern (NSC)56.3458.00
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.0013.51
Union Pacific (UNP)117.56120.25

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Ticketing App for MBTA Rail Expands

From The Boston Globe

BOSTON --- The MBTA has launched an App which allows rail customers to purchase and display tickets on their smartphones. The commuter rail customers on all North Station lines were able to utilize the new system starting last Monday. South Station lines and ferries are expected to follow after Thanksgiving

“The launch follows a successful test among some South Shore customers,” the Globe articles continues, “and comes half a year after the T signed an agreement with a British mobile-ticketing developer to make it the first major US commuter rail to offer passengers an alternative to paper.

Widespread use would save the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from handling much of the $20 million in cash that is paid on board the trains, often a slow process as conductors try to reach everyone in the crowded cars. It would also cut down on the punch-ticket debris littering cars at the end of each day.”

The biggest winners will be the three-quarters of customers who carry smartphones, noted Massachusetts transportation secretary Richard Davey. They will no longer need to wait in lines at ticket windows or vending machines, or scrounge for cash on board, which the majority have to do now since only one in five commuter rail stations offers a vending machine or a ticket-selling retailer, such as a coffee shop.

“The goal [is] to give people as much time back as possible,” said Davey, “Here, literally, the ticket machine is in your pocket.”

Masabi, the company that developed MBGA’s mobile ticket, has already created apps for half of Britain’s rail lines. These applications are already being used throughout Europe.

The MBTA is a leader in launching the app. New York’s Metro-North Railroad has announced it will start a pilot with Masabi in July. Dallas’s DART and TriMet in Portland, Ore., are following suit having recently signed agreements with developers to create mobile ticketing for their commuter rail, light rail and bus services.

Customers who have the app will be able to purchase one-way, round-trip, or 10-ride tickets using credit or debit cards. Monthly passes will likely be added this winter.

For the full story go to:

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NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

Amtrak Vacations Launches New Rail Journeys

Twenty-Two New Vacation Packages Cover Every Region Of The Country

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 13 -- Amtrak Vacations® announces the release of a new brochure for 2013-2014 that features 22 new vacation packages that include escorted rail journeys, independent rail journeys, rail getaways and a new rail & sail program.

Along with the new programs, the number of departure dates for the escorted rail journeys has doubled, giving travelers even more opportunities to visit some of the most popular and exciting destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“Travelers are always looking for different vacation options, and Amtrak Vacations is an excellent vacation to recommend to your clients.  Train travel is a relaxing and great way to see the magnificent landscape our country has to offer,” said Amtrak Chief Marketing Officer David Lim. 

Amtrak Vacations newest programs continue to focus on popular vacation destinations such as National Park locations like Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.

“With the growth in domestic travel, our product team has created a number of amazing new programs for every region of the country.  One such program is The Great American series.  These three unique coast-to-coast vacation packages offer multiple night stays in some of the greatest cities across the U.S.,” says Frank Marini, president of Yankee Leisure Group, the tour operator managing the Amtrak Vacations brand.

With the Amtrak Vacations Early Booking Discount, customers can save up to $600 per couple for 2013 Escorted Rail Journeys or up to $300 per couple for 2013 Independent Rail Journeys booked by December 31, 2012.

The new 2013-2014 Amtrak Vacations Brochures are now available to order online at  Additionally, Amtrak Vacations has officially launched a new online travel agent booking engine.

About Amtrak ®:

Amtrak is America’s Railroad®, the nation’s intercity passenger rail service and its high-speed rail operator.  A record 31.2 million passengers traveled on Amtrak in FY 2012 on more than 300 daily trains - at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) - that connect 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Amtrak operates intercity trains in partnership with 15 states and contracts with 13 commuter rail agencies to provide a variety of services.  Enjoy the journey® at or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and more information.  Join us on and follow us at

About Amtrak Vacations ®:

Amtrak Vacations is the leading supplier of vacation packages featuring Amtrak® rail services. Vacation packages include Escorted Rail Journeys that are designed to offer travelers an exciting vacation while all the daily activities are coordinated by an experienced escort; Independent Rail Journeys give travelers a multi-city tour inclusive of hotels, sightseeing and meals; Rail Getaways are the perfect way to enjoy a single-city vacation with over 40 United States and Canadian destinations to choose from. Amtrak Vacations is operated by Yankee Leisure Group, Inc.

About Yankee Leisure Group, Inc.:

Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Beverly, Massachusetts, Yankee Leisure Group has been providing packaged travel programs throughout the United States and Canada for over 40 years. In 2011, Yankee Leisure Group introduced a new brand that features international escorted vacations with the flexibility and independence of customized travel. In addition to offering unique vacation experiences for customers, Yankee Leisure Group operates with honesty and integrity, striving to be a leader in the rapidly changing travel industry.  A leading tour operator, Yankee Leisure Group currently manages three distinct brands: Yankee Holidays, Amtrak Vacations and Unique Journeys.

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OBITUARY... Obituary...  

Jane Holtz Kay

From the Boston Globe

Gazing at a nighttime skyline, Jane Holtz Kay might glimpse a lit steeple that “transforms the architecture of the evening,” its gentle beauty adding to Boston’s “smudged but endearing glamour.”

With homegrown love backed by extensive research, her lyrical writing celebrated, and sometimes chastised, the city that was her home.

“Boston was a maze of masonry and greenery, unwinding endlessly as a child’s vistas unwound,” she wrote in the preface to “Lost Boston,” her book-length meditation on the city’s vanishing architectural heritage. Recalling the sights that made up her own early memories, Ms. Kay asked: “When does a child realize that the frame for all these splendors is architecture?”

In books and in her architecture criticism for the Globe and The Nation magazine, she was at once a preservationist, a historian, and a guide toward what she hoped would be a more sensible approach to endless urban evolution.

“She was one of the people who helped preserve the best of Boston and promote Boston as a city where the beautiful old could coexist with the entrepreneurial new,” said her younger sister, Ellen Goodman, a former Globe columnist. “I think Jane in her work helped save Boston, not to be too dramatic about it.”

Ms. Kay, who in 1991 gave up her car to more fully embrace city living in the Back Bay, died Nov. 4 in the Springhouse senior community in Jamaica Plain. She was 74 and had Alzheimer’s disease.

Bringing to her writing both practical experience and a philosophical commitment to an urban existence, Ms. Kay contributed a chapter to the 2003 book “Toward the Livable City.”

“Is the city cacophonous? Irritating? Disrupted? Yes. Is the glass half full? Half empty? Yes, of course, both, and at the same time. Name it what you will, but add one thing: it is also this fragile planet’s last, best hope,” she wrote.

City living, she believed, is “the only alternative to settling on the ever-contracting fringes, consuming the last chance landscape, extinguishing resources and species. If we are ever to become ecofluent, as the green warriors put it, the strengthening of our lived-in cities is where it must take place.”

Despite her affection for cities, she had a sharp eye for miscues, and shook her head as Boston let advertisers turn every spare space, from kiosks to light poles to bus stops, into mini-billboards.

“Call it the spamming of Boston,” she wrote for the Globe in 2003.

“This is how the city slides,” she added. “Not with a bang, but inch by inch, row by row.”

Born in Boston, Ms. Kay was the older of two daughters and grew up in Brookline. Her father was a lawyer who served in the state Legislature and ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

Campaigning with him took her “from the tree-shaded houses of Jamaica Plain to the tenements of Mission Hill,” she wrote in “Lost Boston,” and provided an “education of the eyes.”

She graduated from what was then the Buckingham School for girls and went to Radcliffe College, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1960, majoring in American history and writing a thesis on Lewis Mumford, a renowned 20th century cultural critic and urban authority.

“That probably started her down the road of thinking about city planning and art and architecture,” her sister said.

Ms. Kay worked as a reporter for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, married, and had two daughters: Julie, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jacqueline Cessou, who lives in Paris.

After the birth of her daughters, Ms. Kay worked mostly as a freelance writer and author. Her marriage ended in divorce.

“I think everybody who knew Jane knew that she was wonderfully lively and funny and engaging, and at the same time really committed to her work,” her sister said.

In the emotional architecture of Ms. Kay’s life, the wall between work and home was thin.

“So much of what my mother was professionally was what she was personally,’’ Julie said.

That was particularly true with “Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take it Back,” the 1997 book Ms. Kay wrote in the years after she gave up her car.

“This is not a proposal for nostalgia,” she wrote in the concluding chapter. “It is a search for creative forward motion to shape the way we transport ourselves and hence live.”

In an e-mail, Kenneth T. Jackson, a history professor at Columbia University, said “Asphalt Nation” was “a powerful and persuasive indictment of the car culture that came to dominate and define the United States in the 20th century. Quite simply, Jane Holtz Kay called it as she saw it.”

As she walked from her home on Marlborough Street to work and nearly every place else, Ms. Kay interacted with the city “in a much more visual and visceral way,” her daughter Julie said. “What she experienced, and what I learned from her, is that it really is a better lifestyle. You see more and you experience more.”

At home, Ms. Kay had a “love of colors and crafts and things around her,” Julie said. “She also always had one or two cats hanging around.”

Ms. Kay “had a very strong aesthetic sense,” said Dorothea Hass, who cofounded the pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston and for many years shared office space with Ms. Kay not far from Faneuil Hall. “Her apartment looked lovely. She put herself together in a very artful way in terms of her clothes and so forth.”

Haas added that Ms. Kay “was intellectual, eccentric, loyal, and always very willing to help out. And she was full of fun.”

A service has been held for Ms. Kay, who in addition to her sister and two daughters leaves four grandchildren.

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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

One policy that should be re-evaluated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)’s requirement that transit systems dismantle all track inter-connections with the national rail network.

As I understand them, the standards require that connections be thoroughly dismantled, not just locked. The policy is intended to prevent accidents that could occur if heavy rail equipment collides with transit cars, which generally do not meet FRA crash-worthiness standards. But such connections could be invaluable in cases of natural disaster or terrorist attack, allowing repair supplies and equipment, such as maintenance of way trains, to be efficiently transferred to an affected transit system. Links could also be used to evacuate rolling stock to safer areas prior to a storm like Sandy.

Surely there is a better way to protect such track connections from dangerous inadvertent use.

Arnold Reinhold
Cambridge, MA

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