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 Destination:Freedom 

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 26, 2012
Vol. 13 No. 47

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

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

  Editorial…
When It Comes To Rail/Transit Fares,
   It Is Time For Economic Justice
  Commentary…
How MAP-21 Pushed Transit To The Edge
   Of Its Own Fiscal Cliff
Transportation Forum At Rutgers University
   Weighs In On MAP 21
  Transit Lines…
Transit In New Jersey: The Long Road Back
  News From Amtrak…
Quinn: High-Speed Rail Service
   In Time For Thanksgiving
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Events…
NCI Conference on Value Capture
   December 5 in Boston
Save The Date! Rail Users’ Network - 2013
  Off The Main Line…
Transit-Business Partnerships
   Can be Good For Everyone
  Publication Notes …



EDITORIAL... Editorial...

When It Comes To Rail/Transit Fares,
It Is Time For Economic Justice

 

Readers of Destination:Freedom know from previous exposure, especially over the recent decade, that we have a very dim view of the current pricing structure at Amtrak, and an increasingly similar dark view of the fares being charged by public transit systems (bus and rail) around the country, as they struggle with higher costs and reduced help from state and Federal government.

We want to make clear that this pricing structure is not brought on by Amtrak management’s desire to gouge, nor are transit hikes due to similar anti-rider sentiment at the transit agencies. They, and Amtrak’s management, are as frustrated as the riders themselves by the on-going lack of systematic operating cost support that places so much of the burden on the ticket purchaser, who is in fact only one of a large number of beneficiaries of a rail/transit systems’ existence.

Amtrak, in particular, was ordered to make a profit or lose funding (by Congress in, 1998, during one of the “kill-Amtrak” cycles that the Congress periodically has engaged in over the years, ever since creating the railroad in 1970). Amtrak’s response was to jack up prices, so that today, even on the [relatively inexpensive] Northeast regionals, the fare structure makes it prohibitive for families to travel, for example, to New York on holiday. Gasoline prices now are at a level that even the auto-option is often foreclosed. Acela fares? The Acela, made possible by tax-payer funded infrastructure improvements that make both the Regionals and Acela successful, is reserved for well-to-do businessmen only. Don’t think so? Take one.

And, the trains are packed.

Transit fares have likewise soared, which affects those on the lower end of the income scale the most, while we still massively subsidize automobile driving in America (the Federal and state gasoline taxes do not even begin to cover the maintenance costs of the roads we have built; those funds, one way or another, come from all of us via sales and property taxes and other fees, to pave the potholes or police the streets and highways, and so on).

The solution? The automobile driver is going to have to pay more, in either a gasoline sales tax pegged to inflation or a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, or both, or rail and transit riders, who actively subsidize the automobile, even those of the increasing number who do not drive, will be left completely stranded.

Or, we can take an entirely new approach, such as utilizing Value Capture, the subject of December 5’s NCI Conference at Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center (see this issue), which is the notion that for the length of a transportation corridor, for a specified width, a portion of all tax revenues generated in that corridor go back to the entity that operates and maintains that corridor, whether Amtrak, the local transit agency, or a private company.

Value Capture is common in Asia and Europe, but little known here in America. It is long past time for America to get back into the developed world, and start providing public transit that the public can actually afford.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

How MAP-21 Pushed Transit To The Edge
Of Its Own Fiscal Cliff

From Dc Streets Blog
By Tanya Snyder

You want to talk about a fiscal cliff? Here’s your fiscal cliff. Source: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Congress has seven weeks to come to some sort of agreement on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” with two of those weeks devoted to photo ops and turkey dinners. The consequences are real: Transportation programs paid out of general fund transfers to the Highway Trust Fund, rather than gas tax receipts, are not exempt from the automatic spending cuts that are part of the fiscal cliff. Non-Trust Fund programs (Amtrak, New Starts, TIGER) are also vulnerable, and are expected to get a 7.6 to 8.2 percent cut taken out of them, according to Larry Ehl at Transportation Issues Daily.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that transportation is set up for a more precipitous fall. The steadfast refusal on the part of political leaders to deal with reality is bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund. Thankfully, Jack Schenendorf, a former chief of staff of the House Transportation Committee, just wrote a report, “MAP-21 and Transportation’s Fiscal Cliff,” to remind us of this fact.

Schenendorf writes that MAP-21, the recently-passed transportation bill, makes many positive changes, but: MAP-21 does not, however, address the long-term financial viability of the Highway Trust Fund. As a result, transportation is facing its own fiscal cliff, a looming crisis that the next Congress will have to address, possibly in the context of tax reform or the so-called “grand bargain.”

Chart

Chart via http://dc.streetsblog.org

Full report with this chart at http://www.aem.org/PDF/Map21.pdf

In the chart above, which Schenendorf references in his report, you can see that the Trust Fund’s Mass Transit Account is due to become insolvent by the end of Fiscal Year 2014, by the CBO calculation of MAP-21’s impacts. The Highway Account goes bankrupt the following year.

Of course, these time estimates are all speculative. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that before MAP-21 passed, the Highway Account was due to fall into insolvency first. What happened?

The general fund transfers (and their offsets) that are propping up the rickety Highway Trust Fund now are almost all going to the Highway Account. Out of $21.2 billion transferred into the HTF, only $2.2 billion of that is destined for the Mass Transit Account. (See the note at the bottom of page 13 of this very informative presentation by AASHTO’s Joung Lee found at: http://www.transportation.org/Documents/Lee-2012-10-16.pdf.)

A year ago, we reported that the Senate was looking for $12 billion to fill the gap between MAP-21 spending and HTF revenues, and that it was all going to go to highways, based on disputed numbers that may have been inflating highways’ shortfall and minimizing transit’s needs. Maybe transit’s lucky to have gotten anything at all, even when the whole pie grew to $21.2 billion.

So there you have it: Exhibit A in how roads don’t pay for themselves and, in fact, are eating more into the deficit than transit.

What does that mean for the fiscal cliff negotiations? First, it means that highways are more vulnerable than transit to the automatic spending cuts, because they have more money that isn’t from gas tax receipts. Second, it means that Schenendorf is right: We need to find a solution to these money problems or transit is going to be bankrupt even before MAP-21 ends.

Maybe a gas tax hike could be part of a “grand bargain.” Maybe a carbon tax could factor in, too — though its revenues wouldn’t likely go to transportation. These would be best-case scenarios for a bickering Congress with a limited amount of time.

For a shortcut, lawmakers can call on endless studies and commissions that have recommended revenue increases for transportation, noting that such spending is an investment in economic development. “While policy reform is essential, it is not sufficient,” Schenendorf notes. “To keep America competitive, significantly greater investment by the private sector and all levels of government, including the Federal government, is also needed.”

We don’t want to fall prey to “infrastructure cult” hysteria, as our friend Charles Marohn over at Strong Towns likes to call it. Many of those calling urgently for many more billions to be pumped into our transportation system want to see that money go toward more sprawl-inducing road construction. But trains and buses — and even cycle tracks — cost money too, and need a healthy Trust Fund.

Experts say a gas tax hike likely won’t come as part of a transportation reauthorization, so it’s not worth being disappointed that MAP-21 didn’t include one. A more comprehensive overhaul of the tax code would be a more appropriate place for it to happen. Just our luck, there’s one about to happen before this year is up. Perhaps it’ll help transportation — especially transit — from going off the cliff in 2014.


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Transportation Forum At Rutgers University
Weighs In On MAP 21

By Steven Higashide, Senior Planner, TSTC

Editor’s note: At their recent forum in New Brunswick, New Jersey, “Mapping It Out: A User’s Guide to MAP-21,” Transportation for America (T4 America) and Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) comment on the law’s impact on New Jersey. What’s at stake for New Jersey is true for all states.

 

Does the new federal transportation law reward states for investing in public transit, or provide perverse incentives to widen roads? Will the cuts to pedestrian and bicycle funding in the law imperil progress towards street safety? And as Congress begins work on a successor to MAP-21, what are the chances that it will be a larger and more reform-oriented bill?

It will be important for local officials and advocates to influence priorities for how money is spent.

MAP-21 does not significantly increase funding, but it does change where the money goes. Transportation for America’s deputy director of government affairs, Georgia Gann, warned that MAP-21 could make it harder for states to fund bridge repair, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and local priorities. That’s because the law boosts funding for the National Highway System (NHS) — the interstate highways and some other major roads — at the expense of other programs.

One of the most important changes in the new law is a 33% cut to federal funds dedicated to pedestrian and bicycle projects, explained Cyndi Steiner of the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition. In fiscal year 2012, New Jersey received about $25 million for these types of projects, but MAP-21 cuts that to less than $18 million/year. Sixty-nine organizations (including Tri-State) and government bodies, “from local touring clubs to environmental commissions,” mayors and police departments, signed onto a letter to NJDOT Commissioner Jim Simpson asking the state to use other federal funds to maintain the commitment to bike/ped projects.

Map21 Sample Image

Image via http://blog.tstc.org

New Trent Street in Trenton, NJ (left) and I-295 in Hamilton, NJ (right) are both considered part of the National Highway System -- but “one’s an interstate, and the other’s a street where people live, walk, and visit friends,” Gann said. States shouldn’t have to apply one definition of “performance” to both roads.

States do maintain substantial control of their funding, because they can transfer funds between the different federal funding programs. For example, New Jersey could reverse some of the changes in MAP-21 by transferring some of its federal money away from the NHS and back into programs that can be used for local bridges.

What Is “Performance” ?

Another risk for states like New Jersey could come as the US Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration begin to work out performance measures as part of MAP-21.  The new legislation tells states to set targets and track progress on state of good repair, safety, congestion mitigation and air quality, freight movement, and performance.  How terms like “congestion” and “National Highway System performance” are defined will be very important.  ”Will performance measures examine the right issues, or will they direct states to fix false problems?” Gann asked.

Will measures be taken during rush hour when congestion is at its peak? Will a local road be measured in the same way as a limited-access highway. Again, local officials and advocates will have to weight in on how measurement is done.

For example, the law asks states to make progress on “traffic congestion.”  Depending on progress is measured, states could be rewarded for investing in public transit that mitigates congestion, and making smart land use decisions that reduce how far people need to travel. Alternately, the performance measure could be narrowly focused on rush-hour highway speeds, giving states no credit for transit and incentivizing them to keep widening highways.

Local Action Needed

Speakers expressed unanimous disappointment with MAP-21, describing it as a transitional law that doesn’t provide the funding or the policy reforms needed to support a 21st century transportation system. “I sometimes see MAP-21 described as ‘historic,’” Transportation for America Campaign Director James Corless said. ”Well, it’s historic in that it’s only two years long. It’s historic as the first bill in decades that doesn’t increase funding.”

With so much at stake, advocates and officials are working to raise awareness in New Jersey — and so far, it’s working. “When I would talk transportation issues five years ago, the response I would get was blank stares,” said Matthew Holt, a Hunterdon County freeholder and the chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. “But times have changed, and people are increasingly engaged.”

“MAP-21 actually creates an opportunity to talk about the next bill because it’s so short,” explained David Behrend, NJTPA’s director of communications and government affairs.

Individual Presentations from “Mapping It Out”; can be found on the websites of T4 American and TSTC.

Georgia Gann, T4America —How MAP-21 Will Impact Your Community and Performance Measures in MAP 21: Opportunity or Risk?

Cyndi Steiner, NJ Bike & Walk Coalition —Navigating MAP-21: The Campaign in New Jersey

David Behrend, NJTPA ---MAP-21: An MPO Perspective


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Transit In New Jersey: The Long Road Back

By David Peter Alan

As she roared through the Mid-Atlantic region on October 29th, Hurricane Sandy brought so much destruction to the New York and New Jersey area that she was dubbed a “Superstorm” by local residents. Transit did not escape the devastation. Throughout the month of November, D:F has brought you coverage of this story. Three weeks ago, we brought you a report from Reuters about the system-wide shutdown of transit in the New York and New Jersey area, as well as a link to an article by William C. Vantuono of Railway Age Magazine, reported on October 31st, about the extent of the damage that Sandy had caused to transit in the region.

Two weeks ago, we reported that the New York Times had called the rapid comeback of subway and rail service in New York City “on the edge of magic.” In the same issue, this writer took note of the situations in New York and New Jersey, which were so different one week after the storm. Vantuono’s assessment from October 31st that the transit situation in New Jersey was “somewhat grimmer” than in New York turned out to be a serious understatement. By Election Day (one week after the storm), New York had most of its transit back, while New Jersey still had little rail service, although buses were coming back.

Despite flooded subway tunnels and comparable losses of electric power to those suffered by many New Jersey residents and businesses, most of New York’s transit was back in a week. Very little of New Jersey’s was. New Jersey Transit (NJT) joined New York in shutting the system down on Sunday, October 28th. It was a pre-emptive shutdown, since the storm did not reach the state until relatively late on Monday, October 29th. NJT’s announcements of the shutdown credited the “Christie Administration” rather than NJT itself, and quoted only Gov. Chris Christie and Transportation Commissioner James Simpson. That announcement mentioned the service shutdown before Hurricane Irene in 2010, and how it saved valuable assets and facilitated the return of service after the storm. In announcing that the shutdown would begin in Atlantic City, NJT Executive Director James Weinstein warned riders to prepare for “the possible, sustained interruption of service,” an indication that NJT management considered Sandy to be a serious threat.

As predicted, Sandy slammed into all of the New Jersey Shore, making landfall near Atlantic City. The main hazard was wind, not rain. Strong winds whipped up waves that devastated coastal areas, aided by higher-than-normal tides. On Tuesday, October 30th, the day after the storm, NJT assessed the damage and announced that only bus service in the Camden area (across the Delaware River from Philadelphia) would run. The next day, NJT (again, on behalf of the Christie Administration) said that River Line light rail service between Camden and Trenton was coming back, but that NJT’s Rail Operations Center was flooded. The next positive announcement was that much of the bus system would be running the next day, Thursday, November 1st. It would take much longer for NJT Rail to resume service.

Amtrak resumed service into Penn Station (New York) on Thursday, and NJT began local service between Trenton and Penn Station on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) on Friday without fanfare. On Saturday, NJT announced (on behalf of the Christie Administration) that service on the Raritan Valley Line and peak-hour service on the Main Line / Port Jervis Line were coming back. Despite the destruction in the Atlantic City area, the Atlantic City Rail Line would be the first to run its full schedule. Limited service on the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail also began on Sunday.

The Monday schedule was to include two experiments that would fail. One was to turn trains to or from Suffern or Port Jervis at Secaucus Station for connection with New York trains. Although Hoboken, the usual terminal for such service, was flooded severely, the Secaucus turns were replaced with Hoboken service, effective Election Day. The other was an attempt to run service to Woodbridge, the first full-service station on the North Jersey Coast Line after it branches off the NEC at Rahway. NJT ran Woodbridge trains for one day, gave up, and advised customers to drive their automobiles to Metropark station on the NEC, instead.

By that time, NJT Executive Director Weinstein was quoted as saying: “the full restoration of service is still several weeks away” while Simpson claimed credit on behalf of the Christie Administration for implementing emergency bus service into Manhattan. Most of those buses ran during peak commuting hours and originated from malls and other places that were not easily transit-accessible or not transit-accessible at all. Motorists got some new commuting options, while most transit-dependent people remained out of luck.

On Election Day, an NJT release said that the Christie Administration advised NJT customers to take free ferry service between Liberty State Park in Jersey City and lower Manhattan. A similar scenario was repeated the next day, when the administration announced that NY Waterway would offer free ferry service with shuttle buses from the Meadowlands Park-and-Ride during peak commuting hours for motorists who could get to the park-and-ride lot.

Monday, November 12th, was a big day in the service restoration time line. Two weeks after service was halted, trains ran again on the Morris & Essex Line between Penn Station and Dover, New Jersey. The schedule was approximately hourly, with some augmentation in the peak commuting hours, but nowhere near full peak service. There were operational problems the first day while crushing crowds of commuters waited for the first trains in two weeks, but NJT overcame those difficulties as the week went on. There was no service on the M&E to Hoboken, but a new ferry between Hoboken and 39th Street in Manhattan was inaugurated. It was not free; round-trip fare was $10.00. Limited service also came back that day on the Bergen County and Pascack Valley Lines, which terminate at Hoboken, as well as a small amount of peak-hour service to High Bridge, the western terminus of the Raritan Valley Line. In addition, some emergency shuttle bus services from a few rail stations were initiated, marking the first time that emergency buses were operated to serve transit-accessible locations.

Two days later, on Wednesday, trains returned to the Montclair-Boonton Line. Montclair trains ran mostly at peak commuting periods. West of there, trains ran only at peak commuting times. Service was very limited, although the line does not offer full service west of Montclair State Station, which is located near the campus of Montclair State University. Service also returned to the portion of the Newark Light Rail line between Penn Station and Broad Street Station in that city. Initial service was to run during peak commuting periods every 30 minutes, but nobody at NJT’s customer service office or the call center knew the schedule.

By last Monday, three weeks after the storm, the Christie Administration, through Simpson and Weinstein, were able to brag that all but one rail line was back in operation. The North Jersey Coast Line, which goes to the Shore region, came back that day, albeit with some operational difficulties. Some lines had resumed normal operation, while others were still running reduced schedules. The Gladstone Branch was still out, although the first shuttle buses from stations on that line ran to Summit, where the line branches off from the Morris & Essex Line. Bus shuttles ran only during peak commuting period. Riders asked why buses did not start running several days earlier, and why NJT did not run diesel trains on the line, since the agency blamed problems with the electrical system. As a further sign of the return to normal operation, several free ferry and bus services were discontinued.

At this writing, NJT felt confident enough to run special event trains to the Meadowlands stadium, “early getaway” trains last Wednesday, and extra shopping trains and bus service to malls last Friday for the “Black Friday” shopping stampede. Still, there is no service on the Gladstone line, and riders are upset at being offered only shuttle buses during peak commuting periods. When NJT plans a service outage on that line (a single-track line), there is always a substitute bus operation that covers the line’s regular schedule. That was never instituted in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Lackawanna Coalition members and other representatives of the riding public made efforts to learn more from NJT than they placed on the web site, but to little or no avail. The agency was not forthcoming with information, either to reporters or to representatives of the riders. There is much that the public does not know, because of the secrecy at NJT.

Could the riders and their representatives have helped NJT recover more quickly if they had been allowed to share their views with senior management? This writer and other advocates believe so, but there is no way to know for sure.

One of NJT’s most serious problems was damage caused to locomotives and rail cars because of flooding at the Hoboken Yard and the Meadowlands Maintenance Complex, two low-lying areas where much of the agency’s equipment was stored. Nearly one third of their locomotives and one quarter of their cars were taken out of service because of flood damage, and NJT is still not operating a normal schedule.

An investigative report from Reuters focused on NJT’s decision to store equipment in these low-lying areas, in the hope that they would not flood. The New York Post also picked up the story. So did New Jersey reporters Larry Higgs in the Asbury Park Press and other Gannett papers in the state and Karen Rouse of the Bergen Record. At this writing, NJT has not told its side of the story, except to allege that the agency made a reasonable decision. This still leaves unanswered the question of whether management behaved reasonably or negligently. That question will be answered eventually. We will look at these investigative reports and their potential effect on New Jersey’s transit agency in our next issue.

David Peter Alan lives in New Jersey and is a regular rider on the Morris & Essex rail line and also uses other New Jersey Transit services. He is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, which has been covering this story on its web site, www.lackawannacoalition.net. New Jersey Transit’s press releases can be found on their web site, www.njtransit.com.


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

Quinn: High-Speed Rail Service
In Time For Thanksgiving

From Amtrak Press Release

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., NOVEMBER 22 - Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider and Amtrak officials announced that 110 mph rail service has started on a 15-mile segment along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor just in time for the heavily traveled Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The Thanksgiving Day announcement represents a historic step towards the establishment of a high-speed rail network in Illinois, one of Governor Quinn’s key priorities as he works to modernize the state’s infrastructure.

“This next generation rail system gives passengers a safer, more reliable way to travel across Illinois and connect with family this holiday season,” Governor Quinn said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates significant progress on this major transportation initiative that will continue to boost Illinois’ economy and make sure our state has the best rail system in the nation.”

Starting on November 22nd, Amtrak Lincoln Service trains will operate at a maximum speed of 110 mph between Dwight and Pontiac.  These include northbound Trains 300, 302, 304, and southbound Trains 301, 305, and 307.  Other Amtrak trains on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor will continue to operate at 79 mph top speeds, including the Texas Eagle (trains 21/321/421 and 22/322/422).

“Governor Quinn’s leadership and guidance on implementing high-speed rail service has been instrumental in moving this major infrastructure project forward,” Secretary Schneider said. “We are extremely proud to introduce 110-mile-per-hour rail service to Illinois Amtrak passengers for the very first time, and look forward to continual progress in bringing enhanced services to riders along the corridor.”

In addition, select Amtrak Lincoln Service trains will have free AmtrakConnect (TM) Wi-Fi service throughout the coaches, business class seating and in the cafes.  Passengers are advised to look for the Illinois High-Speed Rail logo and AmtrakConnect posters on Trains 300, 301, 304, and 305.

“Regular operations at 110 mph for six daily Amtrak Lincoln Service trains are a major milestone in the development of our Chicago Hub network,” said Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman. “Combined with our high-speed trains in Michigan, this means Amtrak now has a total of 14 daily trains to and from Chicago that operate at 110 mph.”

The 15-mile segment showcases major infrastructure improvements, state-of-the-art signaling, and significant technological and safety advancements. The 110 mph service is projected to be in place along nearly 75 percent of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by 2015, reducing travel time by more than an hour.

As the transportation hub of the Midwest, Illinois is a national leader in passenger rail expansion. Total ridership on Amtrak’s four Illinois routes has grown nearly 75 percent over the past six years, rising to more than 2.1 million passengers last year. Ridership on today’s Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service alone has doubled in that time period. When completed, trains traveling from Chicago to St. Louis will reach top speeds matching those of trains now traveling between Chicago and Detroit, the fastest passenger trains in North America outside of the East Coast.

Today’s announcement follows the recent awarding of a $352 million multi-state procurement contract to design, build and deliver 130 bi-level passenger railcars for use in California and the Midwest, including the Chicago to St. Louis corridor. The contract will now allow Rochelle, Illinois-based vendor Nippon-Sharyo/Sumitomo Corporation of America to move forward as the builder of the railcars, the first of which are slated for delivery in fall 2015.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

 
Title
 
Ticker
This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)88.5085.91
Canadian National (CNI)87.9884.94
Canadian Pacific (CP) 93.3790.11
CSX (CSX)19.7119.01
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)72.3467.39
Kansas City Southern (KSU)77.6173.85
Norfolk Southern (NSC)57.7656.34
Providence & Worcester(PWX)14.0714.00
Union Pacific (UNP)121.98117.56


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EVENTS... EVENTS...  

NCI Conference on Value Capture!

A One Day Conference In Boston, MA Sponsored by
The National Corridors Initiative

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

PLEASE REGISTER NOW --- SPACE IS LIMITED!
Email your registration info to: mollynmckay@gmail.com

 

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

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.

 

Continental Breakfast and Box Lunch will be provided. Registration is $60.00
Register via email with NCI Director Molly McKay at: mollynmckay@gmail.com
Please have your bank cut an e-check payable to NCI, 8 Riverbend Drive, Mystic, CT. 06355

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.

For full details and agenda please visit: http://www.nationalcorridors.org/conf/


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Save The Date!
Rail Users’ Network - 2013

The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) will hold its 2013 Annual Conference on Friday, April 26, in Chicago at the offices of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, located at 35 East Wacker Drive.

The theme of the conference will be promoting rail for mobility and economic vitality. Among the presenters will be rail advocates and managers from Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest Region. There will also be an optional tour of rail transit in the Chicago area on Saturday, April 27.

We will have more details soon. To learn more, visit RUN’s website: www.railusers.net


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Transit-Business Partnerships
Can Be Good For Everyone

By Dennis Kirkpatrick
NCI Webmaster

Living in Boston, Massachusetts has certain benefits. We have a great transit system, though often panned, that can get me pretty much anywhere. Arm me with an Internet connection, a transit schedule, and Google Maps ™ and I can plan out my travel to almost anywhere. Add to that Google Earth ™ and I can visit my destination in advance.

In my section of the city which is toward its southwest corner, we have experienced a renaissance in business that has made the community of Roslindale a new destination for many.

Conveniently located just 6 miles from the downtown district we have a unique combination of city and suburban life. That was not always so.

Depending on which historian you listen to, Roslindale was likely founded by rail, or better stated, a rail disaster.

On the morning of March 14, 1887, a steam train bound for Boston left the township of Dedham on its regular weekday morning run, eventually stopping for passengers at South Street Crossing, today’s Roslindale Square Village. As the train proceeded north toward downtown Boston, it eventually came to the Bussey Street Bridge which summarily failed due to poor design and workmanship, dumping most of the train consist into a ravine below.

The accident eventually precipitated a nationwide change in bridge design and inspection.

Some twenty-four people were killed and another 125 were seriously injured. As word spread about the disaster, people from miles away came to assist, but also to view something that was, in a morbid sense, exciting.

As people passed through that section of Boston, then a part of Roxbury, they saw rolling green hills and plains and people eventually started to purchase land there and settle in. Eventually after several community sub-divisions into smaller boroughs, it was time for “South Street Crossing” to come into its own. However, the US Postal Service didn’t like that name and the compromise was “Roslindale” after Roslyn, Scotland which some seemed to think the area resembled. As time passed a business district grew becoming a local center of commerce, replete with grocery stores, clothing haberdasheries, and a movie theater. For the most part it was like any small township near a big city, even though Roslindale was itself contained within the City of Boston.

MBTA F40 pulls a Needham Branch train set into Roslindale Station

All Photos: Dennis Kirkpatrick

An aging F40 locomotive pulls a Needham-bound consist into Roslindale Village station. When traveling in the opposite direction in push-pull configuration, it is a 12 minute ride into the downtown district.

That all ended when the phenomena of the shopping mall was invented, and Roslindale’s small business district eventually fell into disrepair and abandonment.

Roll forward to today, and the view is quite different.

Thanks to the formation of a sound business model driven by the Roslindale Village Main Streets (RVMS) organization, Roslindale is now a destination often featured on area TV travel programs, and is known for its unique bistros, culturally diverse population, and low crime statistics.

RVMS was established in 1985 as the first urban Main Street Program in the nation, with the help of then City Councilor Thomas M. Menino (now long-time Mayor of the City) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Within its first three years, RVMS achieved great success in revitalizing “Roslindale Village” (a Main Streets naming convention for the development zone), with 33 façade changes, 43 commercial building rehabilitations, 29 new businesses, and 132 net job gains - totaling over $5 million in new investments.

But with business growth came growing pains and despite its access to public transit, there was no place to put the burgeoning numbers of cars bringing people in. Many people began to park in the Roslindale Village commuter rail station, but without paying for their spaces, which irked the local transit system, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and soon citations were issued to the offenders, which in turn was turning people off to coming to Roslindale.

Roslindale Station Lower Parking Lot

The Roslindale Village commuter rail station lower parking lot. The track and station are terraced above the business district. The lower parking lot, leased by the local Main Streets organization on Saturdays can handle about 40-50 cars. An upper lot across the right-of-way can handle twice as many autos.

The commuter rail station sees many drivers and walkers during the week and the train, now a part of the MBTA’s Needham branch commuter rail line, offers a 12-minute, one-seat ride into downtown Boston from Roslindale Village. Yet despite the popularity, the parking lot is never full, and less so on weekends. In fact, with the cessation of weekend rail service due to budget cutbacks at the MBTA in 2012, the parking lot is now empty – but still susceptible to parking enforcement.

Thankfully, the Roslindale Square Village business district is within 1 mile of the MBTA’s Forest Hills subway station, and has no less than 10 bus lines converging through its center, 9 of which connected with the subway. But what to do about a business district needing parking, and an available empty parking lot?

Roslindale Business District at Corinth Street

Roslindale’s Corinth Street which funnels several bus lines through the center of the business district. No less than three of the MBTA’s busses are seen passing through here in this image on a typical afternoon.

Enter RVMS with an idea. Lease the MBTA commuter rail lot for a reasonable fee. The business district gets extra parking spaces for its patrons, and the MBTA gets much-needed revenue that it might not otherwise receive from an idle parking lot. And so a partnership was born.

Now, on Saturdays from June through October, RVMS operates a popular “Farmers Market” in Adams Park, the town square, with plenty of parking available, and it is available not just to Farmers Market patrons but to all of those who use the business district. Add to that the traffic from the connecting bus lines and you have a formula for success. On Saturdays, business is booming.

   
The Roslindale Village Main Streets Farmers Market held on summer and fall Saturdays.
The Roslindale Village train station is just 250 feet away, and a bus stop is never more than 100 feet away.

While the initial focus of the Farmers Market was fresh produce, it has evolved into a Saturday destination, held rain or shine, for fresh foods, home-made products, local businesses features, art displays, dance and martial arts demonstrations, and even entertainment for the participants, especially the kids. While the Saturday Farmers Market is only open 9 AM to 2 PM, many people trade throughout the business district throughout the day and evening, with many staying for dinner in one of the many small bistros and pubs that have evolved there. So successful, the market has extended its hours through November and is looking at developing a winter quarters.

One site under consideration be it temporary, is the former MBTA power sub-station building located at the edge of the business district. Built before World War I, it initially powered streetcars that plied the streets of Roslindale, and eventually powering the nearby subway when there was a specific demand. It ceased operations in the early 1960s after busses replaced many of the electric railways in Boston. Since then it has remained unused and abandoned.

Roslindale MBTA former power sub-station

Photo: Historic Boston Blog

The former MBTA power substation in Roslindale Square Village adjacent to Adams Park may serve as a winter destination for the Farmers Market until a formal development plan is adopted.

Now under the development of RVMS, the substation may eventually house offices, a restaurant or other businesses when funding becomes available, but during an interim period may see a winterized Farmers Market.

The idea of partnering with the MBTA for use of its parking lot is not necessarily new, but in this case it has shown that with a little creative thinking, a business community and a transit system can come together on mutual ground in benefit to everyone. The repurposing of the former transit power station will also see additional business opportunities come to this area.

Ed Note: - The Farmers Market closed for the 2012 season on November 17. It will reopen in June of 2013 for another 6-month run. Additional information on the Roslindale Village Main Streets organization can be found at www.roslindale.net.

The author is a life-long resident of Roslindale, and is a “Charlie” (a local term for full-time subway and bus patrons – named after the “Charlie Card” MBTA transit pass) and has been the NCI webmaster and local correspondent for the last 12 years.


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