The National Corridors Initiative Logo

February 16, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 6

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th Newsletter Year

 Destination:Freedom 

A Weekly North American Transportation Update For Transportation
Advocates, Professionals, Journalists, And Elected Or Appointed Officials,
At All Levels Of Government.

Publisher
James P. RePass, Sr.
Editor
Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
David Peter Alan
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick
 
 

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

  Guest Opinion…
How To Build A Streetcar That Works
  Governance Lines…
After Years Of Criticism From Advocates, New Jersey
    Transit Board May Be Getting Serious
  Commuter Lines…
‘Rhody Pass’ Plan In Budget Would Streamline
   Providence-To-Boston Train Service
  Expansion Lines…
MBTA Green Line Extension Project Gets
   New Leader
Union Pacific Puts Brakes On Passenger
   Rail Line Along I-35
  Ridership Lines…
IDOT, Amtrak Reach Agreement On
   State-Supported Routes
  Funding Lines…
FTA Sets FY2017 Funding Priorities
Feds Offer Big Grants For Puget Sound-Area
   Transit Projects
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Transit Lines…
First Azur Metro Train Enters Service In Montreal
  Safety Lines…
FTA Issues Proposed Rule For Public Transit
   Safety Plan
MoDOT Signals ‘Dramatic’ Decrease In Cost
   For Rail Safety System
  Across The Pond…
Dispatch Controller’s Actions Are Focus Of
   Investigation Of Deadly German Train Collision
  To The North…
St. Catharines Wants VIA Rail Service Again
  We Get Letters…
  Off The Main Line…
MBTA HSP46 Side-Tracked
  Events…
RUN To Boston - April 2016
  Publication Notes …


GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

How To Build A Streetcar That Works

By Yonah Freemark
The Transport Politic
And New York Times

Sixty years ago, the last trolley jangled down the streets of Brooklyn, the end of an era for what was once the most common mode of transportation for urban Americans. Now streetcars are making a comeback nationwide. In the past decade, new lines have started running in eight cities; nearly a dozen more will be under construction this year.

With Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed 16-mile, $2.5 billion Brooklyn-Queens Connector, New York will join the parade. If completed, the line would link Sunset Park and Astoria via the East River waterfront.

But experience shows that this project’s success depends on more than just a pair of tracks and new trolley cars. A streetcar line that actually improves quality of life for New Yorkers must be fast, frequent and reliable — all of which require redirecting street space away from private automobiles and toward public transit.

In most American cities with streetcars, success has been limited by faulty design. Forced to share lanes with automobiles, the streetcars get held up in traffic. Unable to maneuver out of their tracks, unlike nimbler buses, they get stuck behind stopped cars or delivery trucks.

Atlanta’s experience is instructive. Caught in the same congestion as the city’s drivers, its streetcar suffers from miserable speeds (less than 10 miles an hour on average) and terrible reliability. As a result, it has struggled to attract riders; the system carries only about 2,000 passengers a day — as many as just one rush-hour subway train in New York. While smoother and more comfortable, it is slower than run-of-the-mill buses, which means people whose bus route was replaced by the streetcar are spending more time on their commutes.

The faster and more dependable a streetcar line, the more time it will save riders, and the more likely people will choose it rather than polluting, expensive and congestion-producing options like personal automobiles or Uber. Given that New Yorkers already suffer through some of the nation’s longest commutes, a problem particularly severe for residents of low-income neighborhoods, speeding up transit times should be a priority for the de Blasio administration.

New York needs a different kind of streetcar. The current plan does not include dedicated lanes, which are needed to keep trams going. The Paris region’s roughly 65-mile streetcar system, mostly completed over the past decade, shows how appealing quick-moving streetcars can be. Carefully chosen routes with very frequent arrivals and reliable service connect areas that previously had poor transit service. The trams save time, so riders make over 900,000 trips each day — far more than on the 117-mile Washington Metro train network, for example.

Other practices can also effectively reduce travel times for streetcar users. At intersections, stoplights should automatically turn green (or be prevented from turning red) when trams approach.

Just as important, New York should limit the number of streetcar stations. Portland, Ore., is eliminating stops along a streetcar line to quicken service, allowing trains to spend more time moving and less time picking up riders.

Thankfully, New York already has a model for such strategies. Select Bus Service, which Mayor de Blasio has worked to expand, has dedicated lanes, priority at signals and limited stops to speed nine routes operating in all five boroughs. Increased speeds have pulled in more riders and reduced commute times for thousands.

Fast transit can play an important role in reducing inequities. The commutes of New Yorkers vary greatly based on where they live, and residents of poor neighborhoods are about 40 percent more likely to have long commutes than their wealthy counterparts. Their limited access to jobs and other opportunities reinforces their already-diminished economic condition.

It is just as vital to get the streetcar’s route right. Rather than connecting to existing subway stations in places like Sunset Park, Gowanus and Williamsburg, the streetcar as now designed would force riders to walk several blocks to transfer. To reduce travel times, the streetcar must make those connections. Similarly, passengers should be provided free transfers from buses and the subway to the streetcar to encourage riders to incorporate it into their trips.

Finally, development policies should support the use of the streetcar. In many neighborhoods along the planned route, zoning law severely restricts the scale of buildings allowed (and therefore potential riders) and requires developments to include a significant number of parking spaces (which in turn encourages driving).

Chicago has begun a smart strategy to promote the right kind of development near transit: A 2015 zoning reform increases allowed building size and reduces the number of mandated parking spaces. Without a similar change, New York’s streetcar will be hobbled by neighborhoods not designed for transit.

It won’t be easy to construct a streetcar worth the money needed to build it. Dedicated lanes and other actions that prioritize transit often run against opposition to reducing space available to cars. People who hold fast to a car-dominated city fight increasing density and reducing parking requirements.

But taking a stand in favor of these measures is vital; without them, the streetcar will be too slow to provide improved transportation for the people who need it, and it will attract too few riders to justify its construction. Devoting more room on our streets to the streetcar and, just as important, to buses, is a policy Mayor de Blasio, and other municipal leaders, would do well to champion.

Found at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/opinion/how-to-build-a-streetcar-that-works.html?emc=eta1&_r=0


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GOVERNANCE LINES... Governance Lines...  

After Years Of Criticism From Advocates, New Jersey Transit
Board May Be Getting Serious

By David Peter Alan

For years, the Board of Directors of New Jersey Transit (NJT) has been called a “rubber stamp.” The seven-member Board, all of whom are appointed by the Governor of New Jersey, had approved every issue unanimously; at least until two months ago. There is also a labor representative, but he is not allowed to vote. This writer and other rider-advocates had criticized those political appointees for approving everything before them. Last year, Bloomberg News reporter Elise Young noted the 12-year unanimity-streak and reported on it.

Then came Richard Hammer. Hammer is the new Commissioner of Transportation for New Jersey. He is an engineer with 33 years of experience at NJDOT, who was tapped for the top job after the sudden departure of Jamie Fox, a veteran political operative who had held the post under Democrat James McGreevy and later under current Republican Gov. Chris Christie. By law, the Commissioner of Transportation is also the Chair of the NJT Board.

Hammer lived up to his name by hitting the ground running when he took his new post late last year. In December, he shattered the twelve-year-and-eight-month streak of over 800 unanimous approvals by the Board. He voted “NO” to a personal-injury settlement for a plaintiff who was injured on NJT property. While no details were released, no defendant has ever objected to a personal-injury settlement because it was too low. Significantly, Hammer objected, which could have begun an era when Board members could discuss issues before them, and maybe even vote against the majority.

Last Wednesday, the entire Board appeared to have demonstrated some independence. It happened at the first meeting since Hammer cast his historic vote. The issue concerned overhauls for the diesel engines that are part of the ALP45-DP locomotives built by Bombardier for NJT and for ATM in Montreal. The units are capable of running under wire and accommodating several different electrical systems (including 25 Hz. as well as the conventional 60 Hz. power), and they can run with diesel power in non-electrified territory. They NJT has 35 of the units, and first placed them in service in 2012. According to Joseph M. Clift, an advocate and former Director of Planning for the Long Island Rail Road, the final cost amounted to $12.1 million per unit. Apparently versatility comes at a high price.

At the Wednesday meeting, Board Agenda Item 1602-06 called for “ALP45 Dual Power Top Deck Overhaul” with major work to be performed on the diesel engines in the top deck of the locomotives. NJT management had requested that the Board approve $8,406,000 “plus five percent for contingencies, subject to availability of funds” (boilerplate language for all such approvals) for overhauls of 70 engines (two per locomotive) by a Caterpillar dealer in Central New Jersey. Caterpillar manufactured the engines at issue, the shop performing the work was considered a “single source supplier” and the total project cost was disclosed as $11,335,000. The work was to be performed over three years, but the NJT documentation did not explain the nearly $3 million difference between the “Requested Authorization” and the “Total Project Cost.”

Technically-minded advocates complained. In a statement at Wednesday’s meeting, Clift asked a number of questions and commented: “Too little information to make an informed vote today.”

Stephen E. Thorpe, Vice-Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, also questioned the proposed expenditure in his statement. He noted that the units in question are less than five years old, and questioned whether such a major overhaul was needed yet. Thorpe said that he thought it might be too soon for such a large job, and questioned whether NJT would need to spend $8 million every five years to keep the diesel engines in a state of good repair.

After the Board had routinely approved the first five Action Items on its agenda, the announcement came that Item 1602-06 would be deferred until after the Board’s Executive Session. Executive sessions are reserved for discussion of items normally considered too sensitive for immediate public disclosure, such as contracts, pending litigation and decisions to hire or fire an employee. The NJT Board holds executive sessions at the end of their meetings, and they normally last for only a few minutes. On Wednesday, they began the private session at 10:25. Some visitors who attended the meeting left, but most stayed in the meeting room, to hear the Board’s closing comments. As the session continued, an air of quiet expectancy pervaded the room. Nobody could remember an executive session lasting nearly that long.

At 11:55, 90 minutes after the session began, the Board returned to the meeting room an announced that Item 1602-06 would be deferred until the next meeting. It is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9th.

Did the Board members listen to advocates like Clift and Thorpe and express their own apprehension about the deal? Did Commissioner Hammer encourage them to discuss the proposal thoroughly when they were behind closed doors? Has a Board that has considered a “rubber stamp” for years suddenly decided to take its governing responsibility seriously? The general public will never know the answers, since the discussions in question took place in private. However, the advocates and others who follow NJT are acknowledging that things have been different lately.

When Jamie Fox suddenly left the office of Commissioner in 2004, he was replaced by Jack Lettiere, an engineer with decades of experience at NJDOT. While Lettiere was not well-known when he took the job, he gained a reputation both in New Jersey and at the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), where he established an Intercity Rail Committee and extolled the benefits of transit to an organization that was mostly highway-oriented.

When he left the Commissioner’s position for the second time, Fox was succeeded by Hammer, another long-time engineer with NJDOT. The advocates, who liked Lettiere, hope that history will repeat itself. That repetition may have started already.

David Peter Alan is Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition, and made a statement in that capacity at the meeting which is the subject of this report. That statement did not mention the item concerning overhauls for the diesel engines on the ALP45-DP locomotives.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

R.I. transportation:

 

‘Rhody Pass’ Plan In Budget Would Streamline
Providence-To-Boston Train Service

By Patrick Anderson
Journal Staff Writer

Among the terms in Governor Raimondo’s proposed budget for next year, born in the Brookings Institution’s plan for improving the Rhode Island economy, is “Rhody Pass,” which the think tank proposed to help business travelers move more easily between Providence and Boston by train.

And what’s a Rhody Pass?

That question is still being answered by leaders of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, who would receive $1.5 million in the budget to flesh out the Rhody Pass concept, described by Brookings as a “ticket option that reduces fares and offers greater convenience to off-peak business travelers entering the state.” It would be “app-based.”

Asked to elaborate, Commerce Corporation spokeswoman Melissa Czerwein offered this description of what the agency is working on:

“It is not extremely convenient to get from Boston to Providence by train,” Czerwein said by phone. “Something like this would help create more interchangeable connectivity between the [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] and Amtrak. The hope is you would be able to get back and forth more quickly and conveniently.”

Beyond that, travelers will have to wait and see.

Czerwein could not say whether the $1.5 million in the budget is seen as going toward discounts themselves or development of the app, or whether the discounts would be open to anyone traveling between the two cities or select businesses for which Commerce wants to provide an incentive.

“We have initiated conversations with the MBTA and Amtrak,” Czerwein said about the Rhody Pass, adding that more details will be available by the time the General Assembly votes on a budget later in the session.

The best idea of what a Rhody Pass might be comes from a section of the 195-page Brookings “Rhode Island Innovates” report, which advocates sweeping improvements in rail service between Boston and Providence, notably “express commuter rail” service and improved frequency.

“Rhode Island’s congested, underdeveloped rail links struggle to provide affordable, frequent and convenient service, which in turn limits regional economic connectivity,” the Brookings team wrote. “For daily peak commuters on MBTA rail and occasional off-peak business travelers on Amtrak, in particular, rail service between Providence and Boston ranks among the slowest, most expensive links between two dynamic neighbors on the East Coast. That inconvenience increases the mental distance between the markets and may well diminish economic opportunities.”

Brookings sees the Rhody Pass as a first step in a rail expansion targeted at “occasional business travelers” that would then be “extended to daily commuters coming into and out of the state in partnership with [the] MBTA.” Transportation agencies should “partner with a state-designated travel agent” to create the Rhody Pass and market it, Brookings said.

Over the longer term, Brookings supports long-sought investments included in the State Rail Plan, such as new “transit hubs,” a Pawtucket commuter rail station and Amtrak service to T.F. Green Airport.

Improving Providence’s public transportation connections to Massachusetts has been a priority of Rhode Island transit planners for years. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is currently exploring new payment systems and would like, if financially feasible, to move to an electronic, account-based model riders could use on both buses and MBTA trains, potentially from their phones.

Neither RIPTA, nor the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which manages the state’s commuter rail partnership with the MBTA, are involved in the Rhody Pass program.

From an article at:
http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20160207/NEWS/160209430/?Start=2


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

MBTA Green Line Extension Project
Gets New Leader

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has appointed a former “Big Dig” highway construction official to temporarily lead its Green Line extension efforts, as it continues to weigh whether to continue with the long-awaited project.

Jack Wright, a former state transportation official now at Weston and Sampson, an engineering consulting firm, will oversee an interim leadership team that will redesign the project to cut costs and find new ways to contract out the work, said Frank DePaola, the MBTA’s general manager, during Monday’s fiscal control board meeting.

Wright was briefly involved in a Big Dig controversy in 2004, when a tunnel sprung a massive leak. It was later discovered that Wright had been sent a memo about problems with leaks in the past, but apparently officials had not done enough to prevent more leaks.

DePaola said he tapped Wright, who served as deputy project manager for the Big Dig, for his “big project experience.”

“We have several moving parts here that we have to deal with: design, budgeting, scheduling, and ongoing construction,” said DePaola, a former highway administrator who worked with Wright in the past. “So we needed someone with that requisite experience who could start essentially today.”

Officials believe they will have a new budget estimate for the project by April 7 and a revised financing plan by May 6, DePaola said. On May 11, the state transportation board could begin its discussion on whether to move forward with the rail extension into Medford and Somerville.

The new leadership team comes after the MBTA moved its staff for the project and wound down deals with contractors related to the Green Line extension. MBTA and state transportation officials have been under increasing pressure to cut costs — or even pull the plug on the project — since officials revealed the cost could be up to $1 billion more than the most recent estimate of $2 billion.

The MBTA has also tapped several contractors to work with Wright, including John Karn, a consultant with Arup Group who was involved in a recent study of the Green Line project, and Matthew Poirier, a vice president at Keville.

DePaola also named several state transportation department employees: Kate Fichter, who has worked as a project manager for the Green Line; David Mohler, executive director of transportation planning; and Jamey Tesler, assistant secretary for procurement.

The board on Monday approved allowing DePaola to pay the contractors up to $1.25 million over the next two weeks, before contracts are drawn up for approval. About $4.09 million in contract changes were also approved for ongoing Green Line construction work.

Questions about the Green Line project come as the MBTA tries several options — including fare increases and service cuts — to balance its budget.

Brian Shortsleeve, the T’s chief administrator, said the agency could encourage 6 percent of its 6,500-person workforce to retire this year in an effort to save up to $36 million, according to one of its top officials.

The MBTA’s retirement incentive program would encourage about 400 eligible workers to retire with a one-time payout that has not yet been calculated. The T would hope to hire 100 people to replace some of those workers.

Shortsleeve said the MBTA would focus on getting administrative-level workers to retire, rather than bus drivers and subway operators.

At the MBTA, about 1,000 workers are currently eligible for retirement.

The news also comes as the MBTA attempted to present a somewhat rosier picture of its finances at its weekly meeting. On Monday, officials said the T had shrunk its expected deficit from $104 million to $51 million from July to November last year — a sign it could finish the fiscal year with a smaller deficit than expected.

Shortsleeve said the T has saved about $6 million on energy costs; cut down on materials, consulting services, and other supplies by about $43.5 million; and generated more revenue from real estate and advertising.

MBTA officials acknowledged there was still a deficit, and that crucial decisions are needed in the next six months. For example, Jeffrey Gonneville, chief operating officer, said the T should take steps toward replacing the entire Green Line fleet and consider replacing the old Mattapan trolleys on the Red Line, possibly with electric buses.

From a piece at:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/11/mbta-considers-retirement-incentives-for-administrative-staff/H9qVDWaknkF7Lz7ULJCORP/story.html


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Expansion Lines - Not!

 

Union Pacific Puts Brakes On
Passenger Rail Line Along I-35

By Katherine Blunt, Staff Writer
MySanAntonio.com

The Lone Star Rail District’s plan to run passenger trains on one of Union Pacific’s (UP) freight lines has been derailed, at least for now.

UP terminated its agreement with the district to study the possibility of running passenger trains on a freight line that parallels Interstate 35. The idea was central to the district’s plans to build a passenger rail line, known as LSTAR, between San Antonio and Georgetown.

MAP

“That is really not a good thing,” said District 9 City Councilman Joe Krier, a longtime proponent of the passenger line. “You have to have an agreement with UP at some point to have access to their right-of-way.”

The agreement, signed in 2010, allowed UP and the district to study the line and the possibility of building a new freight corridor east of I-35, a $1.6 billion endeavor.

Found at:
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/traffic/article/Union-Pacific-puts-brakes-on-passenger-rail-line-6821948.php#photo-9385268


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

IDOT, Amtrak Reach Agreement
On State-Supported Routes

From The Galesburg Register-Mail

The Illinois Department of Transportation and Amtrak have reached an agreement to keep in place existing service levels on state-supported routes at a savings to taxpayers and without having to raise fares on the downstate Illinois routes.

“Passenger rail plays a vital role in connecting our state’s great communities and institutions,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “This agreement preserves the service that riders have come to expect while saving taxpayer money and avoiding a fare increase for our downstate routes. We will continue to look out for the public’s best interests in future service agreements with Amtrak.”

The agreement will maintain the Amtrak schedule for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, at a cost of $38.3 million to the state. In the previous fiscal year, IDOT paid $42 million for state-supported Amtrak service in Illinois.

To keep the schedule in place, IDOT negotiated the use of credits to lower its annual payment to Amtrak. The credits cover previous equipment upgrades IDOT paid for on Amtrak’s behalf, as well as earlier state investments to establish onboard Wi-Fi service. The state also negotiated a $2.7 million reduction from Amtrak’s original request for equipment maintenance for the year.

The state currently supports four daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis on the Lincoln Service, two daily round trips between Chicago and Quincy on the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg lines, and two daily round trips between Chicago and Carbondale on the Illini and Saluki lines. Illinois and Wisconsin split the cost of operating seven daily round trips on the Hiawatha Line between Chicago and Milwaukee, with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation providing for 75 percent of the route’s cost.

“Our partnership with Illinois is one of the longest and the second-largest, growing to more than 2 million passengers a year,” said Jay Commer, Amtrak SVP/General Manager of the State-Supported Service Business Line. “Amtrak looks forward to working with the State of Illinois to continue to provide this important service to its residents.”

From:
http://www.galesburg.com/news/20160207/idot-amtrak-reach-agreement-on-state-supported-routes


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

FTA Sets FY2017 Funding Priorities

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Railway Age Magazine

The Federal Transit Administration on Feb. 10, 2016 highlighted $3.5 billion recommended in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 federal budget to advance the construction or completion of 31 public transit projects in 18 states, including 15 first-time funding recommendations. The projects would be funded through the FTA Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program.

FTA’s CIG Program is the federal government’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments that are locally planned, implemented and operated. It provides funding for investments such as new and/or expanded rapid transit, regional/commuter rail, light rail, streetcars and BRT (bus rapid transit). The program includes funding for three categories of eligible projects, as defined by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act: New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity.

Among the projects recommended for first-time FTA dollars:

Among FTA’s funding recommendations for Fiscal Year 2017:

FTA’s Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for the FY2017 CIG Program, including links to individual project profiles, can be accessed on the FTA website by clicking: http://www.fta.dot.gov/12304_16679.html .

In addition to the FY2017 funding recommendations, FTA also announced FY2016 apportionments and allocations, which include ongoing funding for existing CIG projects. These can be accessed on the FTA website by clicking: http://www.fta.dot.gov/grants/15105.html .

From an item at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/news/fta-sets-fy2017-funding-priorities.html


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Feds Offer Big Grants For Puget Sound-Area
Transit Projects

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times

Uncle Sam is offering to contribute $1.2 billion toward Sound Transit’s light-rail line from Northgate to Lynnwood, according to the president’s proposed budget — just one of three huge transit gifts in the pipeline for Puget Sound travelers.

The proposed First Avenue streetcar line could win another $75 million in federal money, which suddenly places Seattle’s third streetcar corridor on the political fast track.

And the feds want to give an additional $43 million toward Community Transit’s Swift 2 bus-rapid transit line connecting Bothell, Mill Creek, Everett’s McCollum Park and Paine Field.

The three awards, and many others proposed around the country by the Federal Transit Administration, must still be ratified by Congress in its transportation budget.

Each represents at least half the capital cost, and would stoke the transit-construction frenzy under way throughout the region.

Sound Transit is already building a new Northgate Station, to open in 2021, followed by plans to reach North Seattle, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood with another 8 1/2 miles of track by 2023, for a total $2.35 billion. The local share of the money comes mostly from sales taxes, approved by voters in 2008.

Estimated ridership in the Northgate-Lynnwood extension is 50,500 daily passengers the first year, and 67,100 trips by 2035, an FTA summary says.

Despite budget skirmishes between Democratic President Obama and a Republican-majority Congress, history suggests the transit grants have a high likelihood of happening.

The Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts and New Starts programs rolled along under Republican administrations before Obama. The projects are sprinkled around many regions and congressional districts, and they tend to fly under the radar. In 2006, the George W. Bush administration supported $750 million for Sound Transit’s Capitol Hill Tunnel, and in 2003 the initial Seattle-Tukwila route won $500 million despite open criticism from some House conservatives, who said that light rail won’t reduce traffic congestion.

“It’s never a done deal, until it’s done,” said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray. But he pointed out that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has often looked out for the projects on committees where she serves.

Sound Transit has previously won more than $1.3?billion in light-rail grants from FTA. Last month Peter Rogoff, who headed the FTA, moved to Seattle to become CEO of Sound Transit — which can only help it compete for future grants.

If it arrives, a $1.2 billion grant would far exceed the $600 million or so that Sound Transit assumed the feds might provide, when voters in 2008 approved a tax increase for three suburban routes.

It’s too early to know whether a huge grant could free up cash for other Snohomish County lines and stations.

What it does provide is more assurance the Lynnwood line will be delivered as promised, said Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts, vice chairman of Sound Transit’s governing board.

“We’re happy to be on track at this time,” he said.

Maggie Fimia, a longtime critic of Sound Transit, said the award isn’t surprising given the agency’s political lobbying clout.

“That’s $1.2 billion that could have gone to local transit agencies, and it’s not serving anywhere near the majority of transit users. Even by 2040, 90 percent of the transit rides will be on buses,” said Fimia, a member of the Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives.

Seattle’s streetcar line, also known as the Center City Connector, would start at McGraw Square (Westlake Avenue at Stewart Street), turn toward the waterfront, then run on First Avenue to Pioneer Square. That route connects the 2007 South Lake Union streetcar to the just-opened First Hill line, though a fraction of users would travel the entire loop.

A big question is where the city can find another $60?million or so to complete the $135 million budget for construction and trains.

A local funding plan will be released later this year, said Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

Streetcars are divisive enough politically that Mayor Ed Murray didn’t include them in the recently passed $972 million Move Seattle levy, which focused mainly on street rebuilds and safety.

Sheridan said the SDOT does not intend to use Move Seattle funds. To supplant property-tax money, and spend it on streetcars, would require an 8-1 City Council vote, under last year’s ballot ordinance.

Learning from the past, the City Council has resolved that any First Avenue line would run predominantly in its own transit lanes, instead of bogging down in slow general traffic like the first two lines.

Nonetheless, streetcar critics argue that new-generation trolley buses are equally comfortable at a lower cost, and that other transportation methods such as sidewalks, pavement or general bus service are more important.

Operating costs are also a potential headache. The South Lake Union line has needed three infusions of city loans in its first eight years, as operating costs outpace fare and advertising revenues.

In its application for federal money, the SDOT said a full three-line network could be linked by 2019 and serve as many as 25,000 daily passengers. Those include niche markets of tourists, sports fans, and commuters using the Marion Street footbridge to the state ferry terminal.

The planned Swift 2 line, similar to RapidRide within King County, would crisscross the Swift 1 line that now serves Highway 99, as promised in a sales-tax measure that barely passed last fall. Swift buses offer new mobility options to thousands of residents, especially those at apartment clusters that surround Snohomish County’s main boulevards.

From an article at:
http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/feds-offer-big-grants-for-puget-sound-area-transit-projects/


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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

First Azur Metro Train Enters Service
In Montreal

By David Briginshaw
International Railway Journal

The first of 52 Azur metro trains being supplied to Montreal Transport (STM) by Alstom and Bombardier entered passenger service on the Orange Line of the Montreal metro on February 7, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the metro.

The first completed train was presented to officials from Quebec province and the city of Montreal at Bombardier’s La Pocatière plant in Quebec on November 25 2013 prior to the start of testing. The first train will be tested in passenger service for a minimum of 61 days and will be monitored continuously by a dedicated crew.

A second train is being tested without passengers on the Green, Yellow and Blue lines. Once STM is satisfied with the performance of these trains, delivery will start of the remaining 50 trains and will continue until 2018.

Azur Trainset

Image Via RailJournal.Com

Officials ride the inaugural train into a station

The introduction of the nine-car rubber-tyred trains will allow STM to gradually withdraw its fleet of MR-63 trains, which date back to the opening of the first phase of the network in 1966. The new trains are designed to accommodate 8% more passengers than the MR-63s and have wide inter-car gangways.

Bombardier is leading the project and is responsible for design, engineering, production and final assembly, while Alstom is supply the bogies for the 468 cars, automatic train control, communications, passenger information, and video surveillance.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/metros/first-azur-metro-train-enters-service-in-montreal.html


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

FTA Issues Proposed Rule For
Public Transit Safety Plan

From Rail, Track, And Structures

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a proposed rule for the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (Agency Safety Plan) and a notice of availability for the proposed National Public Transportation Safety Plan (National Safety Plan.)

“Public transit systems are an essential transportation option for so many and we must continue and even improve on their strong safety performance records,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The proposals issued today would guide transit agencies in the development of comprehensive plans to manage risk and improve safety for the millions of people who use and work in public transportation every day.”

Both the Agency Safety Plan proposed rule and the proposed National Safety Plan are statutory requirements first authorized by Congress in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act in 2012 and reauthorized in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act in 2015.

“FTA is making great progress in establishing the regulatory framework, which will become the blueprint for the future of safety performance in public transit,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “[The] proposals are about setting safety performance criteria and targets, voluntary minimum safety standards and a means to communicate safety issues industry-wide.”

The Agency Safety Plan proposed rule would apply to operators of public transportation systems that receive federal financial assistance and takes into account their size, complexity and operating environments. It would require that the Safety Management System approach to safety, which provides flexibility in establishing processes to address safety risks, be implemented in agencies’ safety plans. The proposed rule would also require transit agencies to set performance targets based on the safety performance criteria established under the National Safety Plan. In addition, transit agencies would be required to have their plans approved by the board of directors (or equivalent) and perform an annual review and update of the plan.

Additionally, the Agency Safety Plan proposed rule would require rail transit agencies to include an emergency preparedness and response plan consistent with existing regulations. Further, transit agencies would be required to share their safety performance targets with Metropolitan Planning Organizations to aid in the planning process, and smaller transit agencies would be allowed to have their safety plan drafted and certified by the state in which they operate.

The proposed National Safety Plan is not a rulemaking action, but would guide the national effort in managing the safety risks of public transportation systems. Specifically, it would establish the safety performance criteria of fatalities, injuries, safety events and system reliability for all modes of public transportation.

The proposed National Safety Plan would also set voluntary minimum safety standards for public transportation vehicles in revenue service not otherwise regulated by another federal agency, including vehicle crashworthiness, fire-life safety, data recorders and emergency lighting and signage. In addition, it would set voluntary minimum safety standards to ensure the safe operation of rail transit systems, including use and prohibition of electronic devices, roadway worker protection, work zone protections on mainline tracks and in rail yards, operating rules compliance and contractor responsibilities.

FTA intends for the National Safety Plan to serve as FTA’s primary tool for communicating with the transit industry about the industry’s safety performance. FTA expects to provide updates from time to time in response to risk management trends in the transit industry, emerging technologies, best practices, findings from research and other industry developments.

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/safety-training/fta-issues-proposed-rule-for-public-transit-safety-plan.html


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Light At End Of Amtrak’s Tunnel:

 

MoDOT Signals ‘Dramatic’ Decrease
In Cost For Rail Safety System

Ack “Miles” Ventimiglia
Daily Star Journal

Jefferson City Railroad, and Missouri Department of Transportation officials reached an agreement that should keep Amtrak running through Warrensburg, between Kansas City and St. Louis.

“We’ve reached a working agreement that’s fair to all parties,” MoDOT Railroads Administrator Eric Curtit said.

Some University of Central Missouri students use Amtrak to reach Warrensburg.

To keep Amtrak operating in the Kansas City area alone carries a $32 million price tag, with the money being used to install Positive Train Control. PTC is a safety system required federally.

The MoDOT’s estimated share of the cost last year to provide PTC came to about $18 million. Amtrak officials expressed doubt that they could pay their share of the money and talked about shutting down in Missouri.

But the amount has changed, Sen. David Pearce, an Amtrak advocate, said while waiting in his office to begin a Senate transportation meeting Thursday.

“MoDOT has come up with an agreement that has reduced that amount,” Pearce said, “and they’re going to be able to stretch those payments over multiple years.”

For the full story see:
http://www.dailystarjournal.com/news/local/article_ece1130c-5008-57ea-948f-71c74f460888.html


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Dispatch Controller’s Actions Are Focus Of
Investigation Of Deadly German Train Collision

Why Was The PTC System Overridden?
Why Did The PTC System Even Have An Override?

Via Multiple Sources Including Süddeutsche Zeitung Newspaper, ZDF News,
Schwäbissche Zeitung Newspaper And Spiegel Online

Bad Aibling– The early morning collision between two regional trains last Tuesday in this outer suburb of Munich is perhaps now fading from the news headlines nearly one week later, but investigators are now faced with a significant challenge in trying to understand the motive and thought process of the dispatcher or controller of the single track rail line in Bad Aibling, in the outer Munich suburbs, where two commuter trains collided head-on at speed, resulting in deaths of 11 persons in the two trains, plus approximately 20 persons with serious injuries and another 100 passengers with lesser injuries. The collision happened at approximately 6:45 AM local time on a section of single-track rail line southeast of Munich and near Rosenheim, Germany. Both trains were operated by Meridian, an independent train operating company owned by another independent train operating company called BOB and a holding company known as Transdev, which is partially owned by France-based Veolia. One of the trains was heading towards Munich and was relatively full with morning rush hour commuters. Both trains were Stadler FLIRT 3 electric multiple unit (EMU) four-car train sets. Due to a one-week school break for Fasching (southern Germany’s version of Mardi Gras) this past week, both trains had fewer passengers on board as they would have normally had. If the collision had happened one week earlier or one week later, there would have certainly been many dozens of middle school and high school students on board both trains at the time of the collision.

Crash scene

Photo: Web.de / dpa

Utter destruction after head-on collision of two Meridian commuter trains at a closing speed of 200 km/h (125 mph).

Police and investigators from the EUB – a federal government agency in Germany which is similar in function and responsibilities to the NTSB in the USA for rail-related accidents and incidents – have already collected and secured the most relevant evidence from the accident site, including three separate event recorders installed in the two trains, electronic logs of the track signals, track switches and track occupancy status, as well as the telephone records of the GSM-R mobile telephone network in the area. GSM-R is a special cell phone network used exclusively for railroad communications including voice, text, and data formats. Train drivers, conductors, dispatchers, maintenance of way workers and railway security personnel are generally all connected to each other via GSM-R hand-held cell phones and phone sets built into the train / locomotive driver cabs and in the dispatch / control centers and offices.

As both train drivers perished in the collision, there will be no statements available from them. However a track dispatcher / controller working in the control room of the Bad Aibling station was interviewed by both police and investigators from the EUB. As the two trains and this rail line are equipped with PZB 90, Germany’s standard Positive Train Control (PTC) system, investigators have been and still are intensely interested in understanding how two trains could possibly enter the single track section of this route at the same time and drive towards each other at full speed without the PZB 90 PTC system intervening by applying emergency brakes in one or both trains.

After reviewing electronic logs from the signaling and track control system and the logs from the GSM-R cell phone system, investigators quickly ascertained that a manual override of the interlocks in the signal logic and the PZB 90 PTC system installed on this rail line had been initiated twice by the on-duty train dispatcher in the minutes before the deadly collision, thus displaying green signals to the two trains as they approached each other on the single track line. During police and EUB interviews with the dispatcher after the collision, the dispatcher claimed he was attempting to expedite one of the two trains along the line, as it was running somewhat behind schedule. He also told police and EUB investigators that he realized a few moments later that he had made a serious error by activating this override feature in the signal / track control system. The records from the GSM-R cell phone network confirmed his statement, some seconds before the collision the dispatcher had sent an emergency stop signal / notice twice over the GSM-R network to both trains, and one of the two trains even sent an acknowledgement of the emergency stop order just seconds before the collision. Investigators have indicated to the press that so far they have found no evidence of systems or equipment malfunction, all track signals and related systems on board the two trains were functioning as intended.

Both the rescue effort and early steps in the investigation proceeded during the course of the day on Tuesday (9th of February) with live news reports from the accident scene coming over TV, radio and various news websites on the internet throughout the day. The Bavarian state police sent a number of tweets over Twitter during the day with brief updates on the status of the rescue efforts. The collision brought a large response from police and fire departments around the area, including a number of police and fire / rescue units from nearby Austria. As many as 12 medical evacuation helicopters, three of which from Austria, were engaged in the rescue efforts. The ever-present problem with refugees from the Middle East and Africa flowing into Germany also became a minor side story as Austrian police turned back approximately 800 refugees and migrants trying to cross into Germany near the area of the collision site. The news media and the police became involved later in the afternoon and evening in a sort of tussle over the accuracy of the number of dead and injured from the collision, with different numbers stated by different contact persons within the police.

Editorial – Rush To Prosecute Falsely Put On The Express Track –
Facts And Analysis Should Come First

Although there are little or no signs of criminal intent or foul play in this collision, the Bavarian state police have now commissioned a special panel for criminal investigation of the accident, thus indicating that the state police and local district attorney intend to file criminal charges against the dispatcher / controller and his direct management. It is this author’s opinion, that the opening of a criminal investigation and likely prosecution of persons connected to this collision is premature. The focus of the investigation at this point needs to be a complete human-factors investigation of why the dispatcher felt he was under pressure to expedite one of the trains to make up for an earlier delay. The design, installation and operation of a bypass or manual override in the signal / track control and PTC system, which can nullify the safety / anti-collision aspect of the PTC system, needs to be carefully reviewed . . . is such a manual override even advisable? If yes, under which rules, conditions and circumstances may it be used? Have these rules been checked and clearly communicated to all dispatchers and train controllers across the German rail network?

There are many aspects of this tragic accident to carefully review, understand and explain before employees of the railroad are hauled in front of a criminal court to answer for using a system that was built with some sort of override feature that may have not been fully tested and vetted in the court of human factors engineering. Let’s get the facts first and understand exactly why this collision happened before serving people with criminal summons and police interrogations.

Ed – NCI Foreign Editor, David Beale, lives and works in Germany.


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

St. Catharines Wants VIA Rail Service Again

By Karena Walter
The St Catharines Standard

As Niagara continues to make its case for GO train service, at least one city wants to get VIA Rail back on track, too.

St. Catharines council unanimously passed a motion Monday urging VIA Rail and the federal government to restore VIA train service in Niagara that was removed in 2012.

“The VIA option is again back on the table in a viable way,” said Port Dalhousie Coun. Bruce Williamson, who made motion.

Williamson said the request was made previously by St. Catharines but fell on deaf ears.

Council heard the timing may be better now.

Williamson said VIA officials stated they are looking at the opportunity to increase service to Niagara during an annual public meeting webcast.

The new federal government has also announced plans to make substantial investments to upgrade national passenger rail service.

Williamson said the best chance of immediate passenger service in Niagara is VIA and the municipality shouldn’t let a “no-risk” opportunity slip by.

In 2012, VIA cancelled two daily, weekday return trains and Saturday and Sunday trains which ran from Niagara Falls to Toronto. The last commuter train arrived in St. Catharines in October that year.

The change was part of a larger plan by VIA to reduce its workforce by nine per cent, or 200 full-time positions, and cut routes across the country.

Greg Gormick of Transport Action Ontario, a citizens’ group that believes Ontario needs better rail service, spoke in favor of the motion at council Monday.

“The benefits, I think, would be large. It would work with and serve as a foundation for that GO service you want to see.”

Gormick said GO and VIA are not competitors and urging action on VIA would not have a negative impact on getting GO.

“They are two different types of service,” he said, adding GO would be very locally-oriented and VIA is an express service. “The two can co-exist peacefully.”

Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce CEO Mishka Balsom agreed, telling councilors GO and VIA work together in Hamilton and Toronto.

Balsom said the chamber has supported the Niagara GO initiative from the start but support for long-haul rail service is important, too.

“If the Government of Canada is willing to fund it, we should not stand in their way.”

Councilors adopted an amendment by Mayor Walter Sendzik that VIA be asked to present a business case to restore its service to Niagara. The city will also ask that Niagara Falls and Grimsby councils be asked to consider the motion as well.

For the full article see:
http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2016/02/08/st-catharines-wants-via-rail-service-again


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

Very interesting commentary in respect to Mr. Gil Carmichael.

I remember a personal phone call I received from him on an evening in 1992, after I had complained to the FRA how Amtrak had mis-handled the logistics after a freight derailment at Battle Creek, MI blocked the passenger line into Chicago. Mr. Carmichael listened with interest, sharing my exasperation not so much with the extensive delay in sending charter buses from Chicago on a Sunday afternoon in September, but how there was no logistical planning to send the passengers going to Chicago first and on their own designated and non-stop bus(s).

Instead, I explained to him how we all lined up and boarded the buses, making every stop en route the train was to have made. Consequently, we did not end up at Chicago Union Station until 12:10am, long after the last Metra had left. I was forced to hired a one-way limo for the family to get back to Elgin for work and school the next day.

Mr. Carmichael understood the issue and agreed it should have been handled far better, as such a diversion was not Amtrak’s first experience. Thanks to Mr. Carmichael, I was finally properly compensated by Amtrak for the lost rail ticket usage and limo.

Mark. E. Singer
Principal
Marketing Rail Ltd
4250 North Marine Drive, Suite 1731
Chicago, IL 60613
312.656.0779
singer.marketingrailltd@gmail.com

Thanks for sharing  –  Ed.


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

MBTA HSP46 Side-Tracked

By DF Staff

HSP46

Photo: Joe Plett

Side-tracked

The photo says it all.

As reported last week many of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) new HSP46 locomotives have mechanical issues and are being circulated out for repairs.

These two units were found side-tracked just outside of the MBTA station at Gallagher Terminal in Lowell, Massachusetts. The Lowell station is the end-of-the-line for the Lowell branch commuter rail line. We don’t know if the snow-covered locomotives were on their way out, or on their way back from repairs but one thing is for sure, they are not moving commuters.

Our thanks to D:F reader Joe Plett for this image.


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EVENTS... Events...  

Save the Date!

 

RUN To Boston !

Breaking News !!

Thanks to a generous sponsor, registration will be FREE this year, but all attendees MUST register in advance.

Join the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday, April 29th for the RUN Annual Conference. The conference theme will be “Who’s Looking Out for You? The State of Rail Advocacy in New England.”

Plan to stay in town for a tour of the wide variety of transit modes offered by the “T” to Bostonians and other area residents. The tour will take place on Saturday, April 30th, and there may be some other surprises, too.

So mark your calendars and plan to RUN to Boston after the upcoming winter ends and spring returns to New England.

The conference will take place at the facilities of the Boston Foundation, 75 Arlingston Street, in downtown Boston, MA. The location is accessible by the MBTA’s Green Line subway. (Arlingston Street Station). You must have an ID to display in order to gain entrance into this building, so please have a picture ID with you on the day of the conference.

Your fare for the optional MBTA tour event (a day pass will do) will be your own responsibility. If you want more information, or wish to register, please check the RUN web site, www.railusers.net or call RUN Chair Richard Rudolph at (207) 776-4961.


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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