The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

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

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

 

Contribute To NCI

 

November 21
Vol. 12 No. 46

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...

  Editorial…
Zeroing Out High-Speed Rail
  Commentary…
Amtrak At 40, A Rider’s Perspective: The Incredible
   Static Network
Transportation Funding Challenges
  News Items…
Congress Passes Transportation Bill; Amtrak Survives,
   High-Speed Rail Program Is Zeroed-Out
A Statement From The Midwest High-Speed Rail Association
  Funding Lines…
TIGER Grant Applications For Funding Exceed Available
   Funds By 2600%
CT Congressman Joe Courtney Urges Support For Tiger III
   New England Freight Lines Boost
Speaker Boehner, House Committee Chairs Announce
   Five-Year Surface Transportation Bill
Amtrak’s Downeaster Service Survives House Fiscal Assault
 
  Airline Lines…
The Catch-22 Of U.S. Air Travel
  Transit Lines…
CTA Approves A Budget, Will Implement
   New Fare-Collection System
  Commuter Lines…
Football Fans ‘Commute’ To The Game
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Publication Notes …



EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Zeroing Out High-Speed Rail

Well, they did it after all.

Despite the Senate’s [feeble] attempt to keep high-speed rail funding as a [tiny] part of the 2012 Transportation Appropriations Bill, the nominally Democratic “controlled” but effectively Tea-Party-intimidated Senate has caved entirely to the Tea Party –controlled House, and zeroed out funding for the President’s High-Speed Rail program for 2012.

Is High-Speed Rail dead?

Only if democracy is dead.

The Tea Party is a bought-and-paid for subsidiary of the Koch Brothers multi-billion oil fortune, and of all of its front groups and Astro-turf “Citizens For [fill in the blank]” fake grass roots committees that spring up whenever anything that looks like a good idea for the Middle Class, but a bad idea for the increasingly entrenched American plutocracy, comes along.

The reason we don’t have High-Speed Rail funding this year is the same reason we don’t have any tax reform that includes repeal of the Reagan-Bush tax cuts for the rich, which over the past 30 years have turned America from a vibrant democracy to a tottering third-world, large scale version of the Banana Republics the right wing in this country used to run in Latin America. To quote Warren Buffet, “The rich are winning.”

The vote to kill High-Speed Rail funding for 2012 is not, however, the “end of the line” for that program, although the propagandists for the right will inevitably use that cliché.

What is different this time around, and why there is hope for the future, is that the American people are beginning to wake up to the con job pulled on them during the 2010 elections, when a frightened, angry and ignorant electorate voted in the lackeys of the very people who had screwed them in the first place.

Ignorant? You bet. Any chance at a fair election in 2010 was shouted down by a well-funded and carefully organized mob --- and unlike the Occupy Wall Street kids, a dangerous mob at that --- who showed up at Congressional district hearings on the Obama health care plan in the Fall of 2010, and literally shouted down anyone who dared to suggest that we need major health care reform in this country. Screaming at Obama Care was of course just a stalking horse for taking over the electoral debate, and it worked, with the 2010 elections pitching out the “ins,” as an angry electorate will often do.

2012 is just around the corner, but in elections across the country this month the Tea Party got a taste of what may well be coming its way, as a wised-up electorate begins to recognize that killing health care, or killing High-Speed Rail, or refusing to tax the rich, are all a part of the same Brownshirt game plan: weaken the middle class, so that the plutocrats can rule with a free hand.


Return to index
COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Amtrak At 40, A Rider’s Perspective:
The Incredible Static Network

Fourth In A Series

By David Peter Alan

A lot has happened in the past 40 years. The Interstate Highway system, which killed many of America’s long-distance trains in the first place, was completed. The airline industry has been deregulated and downgraded, to the point where many airline passengers complain about essentially every aspect of the airline experience, except speed. Americans have become concerned about the environment. Gasoline prices tripled in 1973, hardly increased for the next three decades, and have tripled again during the past few years. More Americans than ever complain about driving on the highways and using the airlines.

It seems logical that the result of these changes would be a vastly-increased rail network, offering a safe and pleasant travel experience, with the operational flexibility to ensure enough capacity to satisfy a growing demand for transportation by rail. Unfortunately, the Amtrak experience has been nothing like that. Rather, it has been a continual series of service cuts, alternating with threats of total elimination. Remarkably, the long-distance network is about the same size as it was forty years ago. The original plan called for 16 long-distance trains in the original Amtrak network, outside the Northeast region and 13 other trains on routes that have become corridors in other parts of the country. Today there are only 13 long-distance trains that carry sleeping cars and serve meals.

There have been some areas of growth of our rail system. There is more service on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) today than there was then, especially with the addition of the Acela trains to the conventional trains than have run throughout the years. Empire Service has grown, and again connects Chicago, Toronto and Montreal to New York. Three corridors in the Mid-west (Chicago to St. Louis, Detroit and Milwaukee) have more trains than they did in 1971. So does the Cascade Corridor between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. There are also trains between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. which did not run until comparatively recently.

The California corridors have been a remarkable success story. In 1971, there were three trains between Los Angeles and San Diego. Today, there are eleven, with slightly more service on week-ends. In 1971, the only train between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara was the Coast Daylight. Today, there are five daily trains, in addition to the through train to Seattle. The highly-successful San Joaquin service (Sacramento and the Bay Area to Bakersfield, with connecting buses to Los Angeles) and Capitol Corridor (Bay Area to Sacramento) routes were not part of the original system; they began later under state auspices and grew.

There are also a number of state-supported trains that run in New York State, Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Michigan. Some states have also been active in developing and financing corridors, especially California. Washington and Oregon have augmented service on the Pacific Northwest (Cascades) corridor, while Illinois has set a pace with its strong support of corridors within the state and to St. Louis. Wisconsin has also helped Illinois to finance trains between Chicago and Milwaukee. Ironically, these highly-successful trains are under threat of total elimination. A critical House subcommittee has reported a bill that would prohibit Amtrak from using federal funds to support any trains that also receive state support. The loss of the effective combination of Amtrak and state financing would almost certainly result in the elimination of most of these trains, if not all of them.

A few state-supported trains take all day to go from one end of the route to the other; the Adirondack between New York and Montreal and the Carolinian between New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, are examples. Most of the state-supported trains traverse routes less than 300 miles long (Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois is slightly longer), and most run as part of a corridor operation. Elsewhere, there has been no growth in the network of long-distance trains that links not only the corridors, but nearly all of the nation’s commuter rail lines.

The skeletal network of long-distance trains has changed remarkably little over the years. Some routes are the same or nearly so: the Empire Builder between Chicago and the Northwest, the California Zephyr between Chicago and the Bay Area with the originally-proposed D&RG routing, the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles, the Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles, the Southern Crescent between New York and New Orleans (incorporated into Amtrak in 1979). Some still use most of their 1971 routing, but the routes have otherwise changed to some extent: the Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and New Orleans, the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans, the Cardinal between New York and Chicago through West Virginia, and the Silver Star and Silver Meteor between New York and Florida.

There was one train between New York and Chicago in the original network, and there still is today. It was the Broadway Limited through Pennsylvania then, and it is the Lake Shore Limited through upstate New York now. For over 20 years, both trains ran, but the Pennsylvania route now requires a transfer at Pittsburgh, with a four-hour layover westbound and a connection in the middle of the night eastbound. The Texas Chief, later renamed the Lone Star Limited, ran between Chicago and Houston in 1971, through Kansas City, Oklahoma and Fort Worth. Today, the Texas Eagle runs on a different route from Chicago to San Antonio, through St. Louis, Arkansas and Dallas, with only the portion from Fort Worth to Temple, Texas in common. There was a Washington, D.C. section of the Broadway Limited during the early days of Amtrak, and the Capitol Limited was added in 1981 to cover that city pair.

While these changes are significant to someone living along one of those lines who could gain or lose rail service with the rerouting of a train, the Amtrak long-distance network is essentially the same size as it was forty years ago. There have been a few long-distance trains added over the years, but there have also been more trains discontinued during that time. In addition, Amtrak has faced several threats to its entire existence, which also means that all long-distance trains were threatened with elimination as part of the threatened demise of the entire Amtrak system. The next article in this series will discuss these threats and cutbacks.

 

David Peter Alan has ridden approximately 500,000 miles on Amtrak during the past 15 years, including every train currently operatilng on Amtrak and some that no longer exist. He is a Board Member of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and has previously been a Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or organization.


Return to index
 

Transportation Funding Challenges

Virginia Rail Observations & CommentaryBy Richard L. Beadles
Volume III, No. 21     November 16, 2011

From strictly a political perspective, the real winners in last week’s Virginia Legislative contests may have been the losers! Of course, no candidate wants to lose, but now that one party controls all three branches of Virginia government, there will no longer be a place to hide from the challenges that lie ahead. Transportation is just one of the major funding shortfall issues that those in power will soon have to confront. It is increasingly obvious that this problem will not go away. This space is primarily devoted to rail in Virginia, but the highway funding challenge looms so large that it will inevitably impact everything else that moves, whether by road, rail, air or water.

Ironically, as our highway funding situation becomes more critical, there are seductive messages which may sound enticing to the average motorist, but drivers and politicians would do well to think further. The current issue of AAA World carries a hopeful message from the organization’s president, predicting that federally-mandated fuel efficiency improvements required by 2025 might save the average motorist as much as $6,000 over the life of their vehicle. The other side of this coin is that such fuel savings might well reduce the combined federal and state gasoline tax revenue stream to Virginia by as much as $400 million, or more, per annum. [This writer’s estimate]. Granted, 2025 is a long way off in the future, but the trend has already begun.

Transportation revenue flows, and the amounts involved, at both the state and federal levels of collection, are variable for many reasons. The total picture is hard to describe and quantify in simple terms, but the squeeze is coming, and something will soon have to be done. Already, the so-called Virginia gas tax appears to generate less than half of available Virginia (excluding federal) transportation revenue, the balance coming from the general sales tax, as well as from taxes on the sale of vehicles, and other less significant sources. To this must be added the amounts received from the federal transportation tax collection system However, we are told that there currently exists a $12 billion gap between what the feds are currently collecting and the promises previously made to the states. Increasingly, general funds of the U. S. Treasury (about $34.5 billion+ to date) are being used to subsidize surface transportation (air and water subsidies would be in addition to this), due to the failure of policy makers to collect from users based upon cost of infrastructure and services actually provided all modes. Federal grants for the benefit of freight railroads (CSX, NS, UP,BNSF) are also now on the books.

If general tax revenue is to play a more significant role in transportation funding, a good argument can be made for allocating such funds where they will generate the best return in terms of capacity, service, mobility and competitiveness, and less where negative “externalities” come into play. If this were the basis for public funding of transportation, we would presume that transit, rail and water would get somewhat more, and that new highway and new aviation projects a bit less. Don’t we want to squeeze out waste and inefficiency? The next few years will be worth watching in Richmond as well as in D.C. There are no entirely free-market solutions in transportation.


Return to index
NEWS ITEMS... News Items...  

Appropriations OK’d For FY 2012

 

Congress Passes Transportation Bill; Amtrak Survives,
High-Speed Rail Program Is Zeroed-Out

From The American Public Transportation Association

Found At: www.apta.com/gap/legupdatealert/2011/Pages/2011November18.aspx

WASHINGTON --- the House and Senate passed the Conference Report on a package of three appropriations bills, including the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill. The Conference Committee itself approved the bill with near unanimous bipartisan support, by a vote of 38-1. The House passed the bill 298-121, while the Senate approved it with a vote of 70-30. The bill now heads to the President, who is expected to sign it, thereby completing work on the FY 2012 budget for the Department of Transportation.

 

[ In a “breaking news” article on Friday, November 18 at 2:52 pm, Passenger Transport reported that the President did sign the bill one day after the full House and Senate approved the legislation. That completes the DOT budget process for Fiscal Year 2012].

 

Included in the Conference Report is an extension of the current FY 2012 Appropriations Continuing Resolution (CR), which expired November 18. Congress needed to act to pass the extension to avoid a potential government shutdown of those agencies not included in the three-bill “minibus” package. The latest CR allows the government to continue its operations through December 16, giving Congress nearly a month to wrap up work on the remaining FY 2012 spending bills.

The conference report provides a total of $10.6 billion in FY 2012 funding for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), a 3 percent increase over FY 2011 funding levels. Increased funding was provided to the Formula and Bus Grant programs which will receive $8.3 billion, an $18 million increase, as well as the New Starts Capital Investment Grant Program, which is funded at $1.9 billion in FY 2012, a $358 million increase over the FY 2011 level. The bill includes legislative language limiting the federal share for FTA New Starts projects to 60 percent (up from 50 percent proposed in the House version of the bill). The bill also retains language contained in the Senate version directing bus rapid transit (BRT) projects to be funded under the Bus and Bus Facilities program rather than the New Starts program. Under this provision, the following BRT projects will still be administered as part of the New Starts program, but funded with bus program dollars in FY 2012:

ProjectFunding
CA Fresno, Fresno Area Express$17,800,000
CA Oakland, East Bay BRT$25,000,000
CA San Francisco, Van Ness Ave BRT$30,000,000
FL Jacksonville, JTA BRT$6,443,200
MI Grand Rapids, Silver Line BRT$12,887,943
TX El Paso, Mesa Corridor BRT$13,540,000
WA King County, RapidRide E BRT$21,629,000
WA King County, RapidRide F BRT$15,880,000
CT Hartford-New Britain Busway$45,000,000

 

The conference agreement identifies the following New Starts projects as being funded under the bill:

ProjectFunding
NY Long Island Rail Road East Side Access$203,424,000
NY Second Avenue Subway$186,566,000
TX Dallas Northwest/Southeast$81,606,000
UT Salt Lake City Mid Jordan LRT$78,889,510
UT Salt Lake City Weber County$52,047,490
VA Northern VA Dulles$90,832,000
WA Seattle University Link LRT$104,078,000
MN Central Corridor LRT$93,144,000
L Orlando Central Florida$47,308,000
CO Denver Eagle$140,920,000
TX Houston North Corridor$94,616,000
TX Houston Southeast Corridor$94,616,000
UT Salt Lake City Draper$100,468,000

Additional programs funded in the conference report include $500 million for National Infrastructure Investment (TIGER) grants and $150 million for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

The bill also includes a provision, originally offered as an amendment in the House THUD subcommittee markup by Representative John Carter (R-TX), which makes up to $100 million in grants for fuel or electricity costs associated with the operation of transit vehicles to be classified as capital maintenance expenses under the Transit Formula and Bus grants program.

The FTA’s research program, which among other programs funds studies through the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), was cut by nearly 25 percent, down from $58.9 million in FY11 to $44 million in FY 2012. Additionally, zero funding was provided for either the greenhouse gas and energy reduction (TIGER) grant program or Livable Communities Initiative.

On the rail side, the bill provides $1.6 billion in FY 2012 for Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) programs. Despite an amendment in the Senate which provided $100 million for high-speed and intercity passenger rail grants, the conference report zeroed out FY 2012 funding for this program. Funding for Amtrak capital grants was set at $952 million, a $30 million increase from the previous year’s funding level, as well as $466 million for Amtrak operating grants - a significant decrease from the FY 2011 enacted level of $562 million.

The final funding levels for Department of Transportation portion of the Conference Report can be found in the table below.

Federal Transit Administration
Program
FY 2011 Enacted
FY 2012 Conference Report
Change from FY 2011 to FY 2012
 
(Millions)
(Millions)
Millions
Percent
5316 Job Access and Reverse Commute (a)164.2164.50.310.2%
5320 Alternative Transportation in Parks (a)26.826.90.110.2%
5335 National Transit Database (a)3.53.50.010.2%
5339 Alternatives Analysis (a)24.925.00.110.2%
New Starts and Extensions1,596.81,955.0358.2122.4%
Research and University Centers58.944.0-14.91-25.3%
Federal Transit Administration Operations98.798.70.010.0%
Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction (TIGER)49.90.0-49.91-100.0%
WMATA Preventive Maintenance and Capital149.7150.00.310.2%

 

Federal Railroad Administration
Program
FY 2011 Enacted
FY 2012 Conference Report
Change from FY 2011 to FY 2012
 
(Millions)
(Millions)
Millions
Percent
High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail00 0.0---
Amtrak Operating Grants561.9466.0-95.9-17.1%
Amtrak Capital and Debt Service921.8952.030.23.3%
Positive Train Control000.0---

 

Office of the Secretary of Transportation
Program
FY 2011 Enacted
FY 2012 Conference Report
Change from FY 2011 to FY 2012
 
(Millions)
(Millions)
Millions
Percent
National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund/National Infrastructure Bank000.0---
Livable Communities000.0---
National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER)526.9500.0 -26.9-5.1%

(a) Individual programs under Formula and Bus Program funding are not specified in the Appropriation Bill. The amounts listed for FY 2012 are twice the amount authorized in P.L. 112-30 for the period October 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012.


Return to index

 

A Statement From The Midwest High-Speed Rail Association

 

In response to the zeroed-out high-speed rail funding in the bill, the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association, which has been building tremendous support, especially for the HSR project between St. Louis and Chicago, sent out a determined and passionate message to their supporters around the country asking for help and refusing to give up in their efforts:

 

NOVEMBER 16: “House and Senate negotiators this week agreed on a fiscal 2012 “minibus” spending bill that includes transportation.

“The bill funds Amtrak at $1.42 billion and protects state-supported Amtrak routes by eliminating language passed by a House subcommittee that would have prohibited the use of federal operating funds on state-supported routes. Unfortunately the bill did not include any funding specifically for the High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The Senate had proposed $100 million for this, the House proposed nothing. The bill is expected to pass both House and Senate this week.

“Like many of you who are working hard to advance high-speed rail, we are extremely disappointed in the Appropriations Conference decision to eliminate new spending for high-speed rail. It is apparent to all that the American transportation system is not working for its users, and this action has made matters worse. 

“As we've stated in the past, it is time for the United States to hit the reset button and reshape and modernize our transportation infrastructure to meet the needs of the present and future. To do that, we need to move away from the mentality that is rooted in the unsustainable status quo to one that assesses and addresses new realities.

“If we’re going to be serious about reclaiming our leadership, high-speed rail is an essential addition to our menu of national transportation options, and one that is frankly long overdue. It’s a proven worldwide commodity, it utilizes existing technologies, it will create thousands of American jobs, it will bolster economic growth, and it fosters cleaner travel. High-speed rail creates a release valve for travelers who rely on fast, safe and affordable mobility.

“The story of high-speed rail in the U.S. is still being written. As we speak, leaders across the country are working on critical projects that will connect Washington to Boston, San Francisco to Los Angeles, and Chicago to Detroit. We will continue to pursue a long term framework that makes high-speed rail a reality.

“Now we begin building the case for the FY 2013 HSIPR appropriation.

“These are our funding goals for the FY 2013 HSIPR program:

1. Funding to continue aggressive planning for 220-mph rail infrastructure in the Midwest.
2. Continued funding for state rail infrastructure projects and Amtrak modernization.
3. An appropriation to Amtrak for a rolling stock order for their long distance train service.
4. In the interim, continued support for moving California high-speed rail forward and breaking ground this year is critical.

“Will you continue to help us achieve these important goals in 2012 and advance high-speed rail in the United States?”

Madeline Grennan
Manager of Education and Outreach
Midwest High-Speed Rail Association
4765 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
773-334-6758

Join us at: www.MidwestHSR.org


Return to index

 

FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Demand Is 26 Times The Supply

 

TIGER Grant Applications For Funding
Exceed Available Funds By 2600%

From Progressive Railroading

WASHINGTON --- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has announced that the demand for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery III (TIGER III) grants once again has surpassed available funding. The department received 828 applications from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia with grant requests totaling $14.1 billion, more than 26 times the $527 million set aside for the TIGER III program.

“The tremendous demand for TIGER grants clearly shows that communities across the country cannot wait any longer for crucial upgrades to the roads, bridges, rail lines and bus routes they rely on every day,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a prepared statement. “It’s important to make these vital investments in transportation so we can put Americans back to work rebuilding our nation’s crumbling transportation systems.”

Earlier this month, President Obama directed the USDOT to complete the application review and award processes for TIGER III grants by year’s end, months ahead of schedule, said LaHood.

In 2009 and 2010, the USDOT received a total of 2,400 applications for TIGER II and TIGER II grants requesting a total of $76 billion, “greatly exceeding” the $2.1 billion available, USDOT officials said. In those two TIGER rounds, the department awarded construction and planning grants for 126 freight, highway, transit, port and bicycle/pedestrian projects in all 50 states and D.C.


Return to index
 

Joined By Senators Lieberman, Blumenthal

 

CT Congressman Joe Courtney Urges Support
For Tiger III New England Freight Lines Boost

 

WASHINGTON, DC –Today Congressman Joe Courtney, along with Sens. Joe Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in support of New England Gateway’s TIGER III grant application to improve and modernize freight lines. If secured, the grant would fund critical freight rail infrastructure improvements along the New England Central Railroad Corridor (NECR), which extends from New London, CT, to Montreal.

The grant, if approved in tandem with a grant to the Providence & Worcester Railroad which interchanges with the New England Central at Willimantic, CT, would create a powerful new 286,000-lb freight route from Canada to East Coast ports in New England, noted NCI President Jim RePass in commenting on the announcement. “This would be a major victory in the fight to get trucks off of the highways in New England, where only 5% of the freight currently moves by rail.

Congressman Courtney has been a strong supporter of this project. Last month, in a phone call with Governor Dannel Malloy, Courtney stressed the positive economic impact of the project on eastern Connecticut. Immediately after, Connecticut co-sponsored the multi-state application.

“Currently, the NECR serves 77 rail freight customers and annually handles 38,000 carloads of freight; a total that already keeps 133,000 trucks off of New England highways every year,” the letter says. “Upon this project’s completion, NECR’s yearly freight total is anticipated to increase by almost 40 percent to 52,633 carloads.”

The letter also stresses that the project would “encourage and sustain long-term economic activity in economically distressed regions along the corridor by connecting major ports, expanding opportunities for businesses, and creating local jobs.”

The full text of the letter is below:

 

November 9, 2011
The Honorable Ray LaHood
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

It is our pleasure to write in support of the application submitted by New England Gateway for funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER III grant program.  This project, which is sponsored by the Vermont Agency of Transportation and supported by both the Connecticut and Massachusetts Departments of Transportation, will fund critical freight rail infrastructure improvements along the 325-mile New England Central Railroad corridor.

The New England Central Railroad (NECR), which extends from New London, Connecticut to Montreal, Canada, connects all four of the major Class I railroads operating in eastern North America (CN, CPRS, CSXT, and NS).  However, the NECR does not meet the current freight rail standard of 286,000 lb. as established in 1995 by the Association for American Railroads. Due to the weight restrictions, the NECR is unable to accommodate many contemporary freight cars loaded to their full capacity.  Without modernizations, the NECR will be forced to confront the prospect of declining and diverted shipping traffic; an outcome that would limit the economic growth of NECR’s customers and neighboring communities.  TIGER III funding will upgrade the Central Corridor rail system to accommodate 286,000 lb freight railcars, and in the process, will ensure local businesses are not hindered by avoidable shipping restrictions.

In addition to restoring and upgrading NECR’s existing infrastructure to a state of good repair, this project will provide significant long-term local and regional benefits by reducing vehicular congestion along key interstate routes such as I-95, I-91, and I-89.  Currently, the NECR serves 77 rail freight customers and annually handles 38,000 carloads of freight; a total that already keeps 133,000 trucks off of New England highways every year.  Improved load carrying capacity, speed, safety, and reliability will further encourage companies to view the NECR as a viable and elite shipping option.  Upon this project’s completion, NECR’s yearly freight total is anticipated to increase by almost 40% to 52,633 carloads.

TIGER III funding will also encourage and sustain long-term economic activity in economically distressed regions along the corridor by connecting major ports, expanding opportunities for businesses, and creating local jobs.  In addition to 565 short term construction jobs, the project could generate hundreds of jobs in manufacturing and warehousing services, a process that will foster the redevelopment of local brownfields and vacant manufacturing facilities. The project enjoys strong support from a broad array of stakeholders, including local communities along the corridor, state DOTs, as well as current and potential customers along the line. 

New England Gateway’s TIGER III proposal, which will receive a 20% private match from NECR, is a key step in preserving the functionality of Connecticut’s railroads.  We support the proposal set forth by New England Gateway and respectfully request that their application for funding receive full and fair consideration.  Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,
Joseph I. Lieberman
Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator

Joe Courtney
Member of Congress


Return to index
 

“To Be Funded Through Energy Exploration”

 

Speaker Boehner, House Committee Chairs
Announce Five-Year Surface Transportation Bill

From The American Public Transportation Administration

WASHINGTON --- Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and other Republican Members of Congress have announced their plans to introduce the “American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act,” which they insisted will be considered in the House before the end of calendar year 2011.

The Speaker indicated that the bill will include a five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, as well as legislation expanding offshore oil and gas drilling, expanded oil shale production, and Arctic National Wildlife Reserve oil exploration. Speaker Boehner said the bill will be introduced as H.R. 7, however, few details on the specifics of the bill, such as total spending or programmatic distribution of dollars were given.

For questions on these issues, please contact Brian Tynan of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4897, or btynan@apta.com.


Return to index
 

Amtrak’s Downeaster Service
Survives House Fiscal Assault

From Mainetoday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Rifkind

WASHINGTON ---- Deep cuts that would have crippled the Downeaster rail service between Portland and Boston have been sidetracked, the Portland Press reported this past week.

“We fought hard to preserve Amtrak funding, and I am pleased that, after vigorous debate, we were able to maintain funding for state-supported routes such as the Downeaster,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, wrote in an email Monday announcing a deal that preserves the funding. Collins is a member of the transportation appropriations subcommittee.

A House transportation subcommittee earlier this year approved a 2012 spending bill that cut Amtrak’s operating budget by 60 percent and prohibited Amtrak from using federal dollars for state-supported inter-city rail lines such as the Downeaster, which stops at a total of 10 stations in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and next year is to expand to stations in Brunswick and Freeport.

This week, Congress votes on the final House-Senate compromise on a broad 2012 spending measure that includes transportation and agriculture. The final House-Senate agreement, which still must be approved by each body, is for $1.4 billion.

Rail passenger advocate Wayne Davis of Topsham said he heaved a “big sigh of relief” at the news.

The move to preserve Amtrak funding “means that the (Downeaster) service that over 500,000 people a year have come to enjoy will continue,” said Davis, chairman of the nonprofit TrainRiders/Northeast, a volunteer organization that pushed for the Downeaster route, which began operating in 2001.

“Preserving Amtrak funding is the right thing to do,” Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said in a statement. “The bill the House passed would have devastated rail service in Maine and across the country.”

The Senate had passed a version of the bill granting Amtrak $1.48 billion, and maintaining federal support for state-supported routes. The House gave Amtrak a total of $1.1 billion, and cut the operating budget to $227 million from $563 million.

Rail funding proponents say they didn’t think the Senate would accept a final bill with such deep cuts.

“The House bill cut funding way back below where Amtrak could even survive,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which manages the Downeaster on behalf of Maine and contracts with Amtrak to operate the service.

Quinn said that she and others in the rail industry “had a level of confidence that it wasn’t going to be that bad but you never take anything for granted.”

The authority’s total 2011 operating budget is $15.1 million, with $12 million of that paid to Amtrak to operate the Downeaster. The authority brings in $8 million in revenue from sources such as ticket sales and food concessions, leaving a $7.1 million shortfall. Most of that shortfall is made up by federal surface transportation formula funding that goes to the states, as well as from a state-imposed car rental sales tax.

Quinn noted that Congress recently approved spending $38 million to extend Downeaster service to Brunswick and Freeport and millions of dollars more to improve rail lines in Massachusetts.

One disappointment to rail advocates was that $100 million for high-speed rail projects contained in the original Senate bill was not included in the final agreement.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: jriskind@mainetoday.com


Return to index
AIRLINE LINES... Airline Lines...  

From The Infrastructurist

The Catch-22 Of U.S. Air Travel

Found At: www.infrastructurist.com/2011/11/15/the-catch-22-of-u-s-air-travel/

WASHINGTON---Twenty months ago, the Department of Transportation instated a rule that any airline that kept its passengers on the tarmac for more than three hours would be fined up to $27,500 per passenger.

A cursory glance at the numbers indicates that the rule was successful: Between May 2010 and April 2011 (the first 12 months after the time limit went into effect), airlines reported 20 tarmac delays of more than three hours, and none of the delays lasted more than four hours. By contrast, in the 12 months before the rule took effect, airlines had 693 tarmac delays of more than three hours, and 105 of those lasted longer than four hours. Fantastic! Problem solved!

Except that the solution took us straight into unintended consequences territory — now, to avoid any possibility of long delays/fines, airlines are simply canceling more flights. According to one airline analyst, “If there’s a 20% chance of [a flight being delayed long enough to incur a fine], an airline will cancel.”

Now that the first fine has been doled out — the honor went to American Eagle Airlines, which received a $900,000 fine yesterday for holding hundreds of passengers on delayed planes in Chicago — the glove has been thrown down, and airlines are taking countermeasures. This includes preemptively canceling flights that wouldn’t have wound up getting delayed, simply to avoid ever getting stuck with a fine (and the bad PR that comes with it).

Some uncertainty is inherent in air travel — when you’re dealing with a large-scale transportation system that’s vulnerable to weather changes, you’re always going to have the occasional diverted flight or five-hour delay. But the fact is that we have a tool at our disposal to fight the battle against air travel delays — it’s called Nextgen.

We’ve written about Nextgen before, but its potential can’t be overstated — it’s basically a technological transformation of modern air travel. As Chris Mims put it:

If the existing air traffic control system is operated more or less like a giant ham radio club, then NextGen is the dawning of the Internet age. Planes in the sky are part of a digital mesh network, in which every one of them can see and be seen by all the other nearby planes. They can communicate with one another without interfacing with the ground, transmitting their heading and velocity as well as a host of other information — weather, conditions, even the margin of error of their own instruments.

Giving pilots all this data lets them react to each other in real time, fly in tighter formations, stick with pre-programmed computer-plotted routes to create shorter travel times, increase overall safety, and save fuel by shifting engines to idle when approaching airports.

So why haven’t we rushed to adopt this delay-eliminating new system already? Ten points if you answered: “the costs.” The FAA has budgeted $7 billion for the full installation, $4.4 billion of which has already been spent. Plus there’s the cost to airlines of making the transition, which will be in the realm of $25 billion. Planes will need to be retrofitted with new ADS-B systems and may need new navigational systems as well.

There’s also question of who should foot the bill. While the initial investment is high, NextGen ultimately will reduce costs for the FAA by eliminating the need for expensive radar installations and the chronically-overworked air traffic controllers who run them. All of which has fueled an argument that the agency should foot most of the bill.

Of course, there’s a potential happy ending — by the end of 2012, all the radio receivers replacing conventional radar will have been installed in the U.S. But all those upfront costs mean that many airlines are fighting tooth and nail about implementing the most important aspects of the system. Still, as the DOT tarmac rule shows, airlines respond more to the stick than the carrot — so maybe it’s time for another regulation.

Oh, and massive airport upgrades. Those would help, too.


Return to index
TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

CTA Approves A Budget, Will Implement
New Fare-Collection System

From Metro Magazine On The Internet And Progressive Railroading

CHICAGO, NOVEMBER 15 -- Last Tuesday, Chicago Transit Authority’s board approved a $1.24 billion budget for fiscal year 2012 that will not increase fares nor cut service. “The agreement,” said CTA officials in a prepared statement, “will hold the line on fares and maintain current service levels, while relying on deep management cuts and work-rule changes from labor unions.”

The budget is 5.1 percent less than the 2011 budget, they said. It will reduce the $277 million deficit by $177 million through not only work-rule changes but also health care reforms and restraint in wage growth consistent with other metropolitan transit agencies.

The agency has borrowed heavily since 2008, implemented a fare hike in 2009 and made deep service cuts in 2010. Despite the changes, costs have been escalating.

Also last week, the board approved a new, open standards-based fare-collection system that will help riders and save money for the agency. It will be an open-fare system with contactless cards that use financial and information security industry “open standards” technology.

“The change in technology, expected to be implemented by early 2014, will modernize and streamline the current fare-collection systems,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool, adding that Chicago will become the largest U.S. city to switch to the new fare technology.


Return to index
COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Football Fans ‘Commute’ To The Game

From Taryn Plumb Of The Boston Globe

MANSFIELD, MA --- They start arriving about an hour ahead of time, trickling in in cars and trucks with slapped-on Patriots bumper stickers, most of them sporting the NFL team’s bright blue.

Lining up on the narrow platform beside the track, they chat, read, text, check the time on their cellphones. Some appear impatient, peering off into the distance, straining to hear the din and bells of the coming train.

Finally, the double-decker arrives; they crowd around in anticipation and climb on board. The conductor does one last check of the platform - then it’s off. It’s game time.

The dedicated MBTA trains that travel to and from New England Patriots home games at Gillette Stadium have become an essential for fans looking to avoid traffic, high parking fees, and just the overall hassle of driving into Foxborough. And reflecting a recent record-breaking surge in MBTA ridership, more are ditching the drive into “Foxy” and hopping on the so-called football train.

“We didn’t want to drive to Gillette Stadium,” Trevor Knell said from the driver’s seat of his idling SUV at the Mansfield T station before the train arrived for last Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

He and his wife, Beth, decked out in a Tom Brady (No. 12) jersey, had just driven three hours from their home in Monmouth, Maine, overshooting the turnoff to the stadium on the highway by about 20 minutes specifically to catch the train.

“We wanted less hassle getting out,” said Knell. “You hear horror stories.”

We all have: The pre- and postgame traffic in Foxborough is the gridlock of legend.

While there’s no way to tell exactly how many cars come through the town on game day, the stadium parking lots have the capacity for 22,000 of them, according to Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary.

As he put it, people trickle into the stadium over a roughly four-hour period before the game. But on the other end, “as soon as it’s over, 60,000-plus people want to leave and head home,” he said. “There’s an immediate flood of cars. It’s bumper to bumper, and it’s slow.”

For the complete story see: www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/south/2011/11/13/football-train-picking-new

Taryn Plumb can be reached at: tarynplumb1@gmail.com.


Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)75.3776.97
Canadian National (CNI)77.3879.99
Canadian Pacific (CP) 59.2461.91
CSX (CSX)21.6022.31
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)58.9960.62
Kansas City Southern (KSU)68.0267.23
Norfolk Southern (NSC)73.1173.79
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.4812.40
RailAmerica (RA)14.0113.97
Union Pacific (UNP)102.82103.40
 


Return to index

END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2011 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

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.

|| Top of Page || Past Newsletter Editions || NCI Home Page || Contact Us

  || page viewings since date of release.