The National Corridors Initiative Logo

March 7, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 9

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...

  Amtrak Lines …
National Train Day Appears To Be ‘Dead.’
  Labor Lines …
New Jersey Riders May Lose Their Trains,
   As Labor-Management Negotiations
   Go Down To The Wire
  Expansion Lines …
Study To Gauge Ridership For Connecticut
   Commuter Railroad
MBTA Cancels Late-Night Weekend Service
  Funding Lines …
Sound Transit Restores Funding For
   Two Light-Rail Extensions
 
  Transit-Oriented Development …
DeBary Plans Its SunRail District
  Selected Rail Stocks …
  Safety Lines …
‘My Fault’: Operator Takes Blame For
   Runaway Train In Boston
  To The North …
Via Rail Seeking Federal Budget Funding For
   $1.3b Passenger Car Upgrade In
   Toronto-Montreal Corridor
  Publication Notes …


AMTRAKLINES... Amtrak Lines...  

National Train Day Appears To Be ‘Dead.’

By DF Staff

According to reports available, it appears that Amtrak’s observance of National Train Day, a staple in its public relations toolbox, is being discontinued.

As quoted in a statement from Amtrak, “Since its inception, Amtrak Train Days/National Train Day has been a popular program with customers and employees, allowing us to celebrate the value that Amtrak brings to local communities nationwide. In light of the financial challenges we are currently facing, we have chosen not to continue the Amtrak Train Days program and to prioritize our resources more efficiently.”

“We would like to thank all of the Amtrak personnel who have devoted their time and effort over the years to making these celebrations of Amtrak and passenger train travel a success.” (Source: Amtrak).

Whether localized observances will continue remains to be seen.


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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

New Jersey Riders May Lose Their Trains, As Labor-Management
Negotiations Go Down To The Wire

By David Peter Alan

Hundreds of thousands of riders who use New Jersey Transit’s trains may have to find another way to get around next week, if they can. The union representing NJT’s train crews may go out on strike at the end of the service day this Saturday, March 12th, or NJT management may lock them out. Either way, next week could mark the first time that NJT trains come to a halt because of a labor dispute since 1983, when NJT Rail was formed to keep the trains rolling after the Consolidated Rail Corporation (ConRail) was prohibited by statute from continuing to operate local passenger trains.

Rail labor at NJT has worked without a contract for the past five years. The Transportation Division of the SMART (International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers) Union and NJT management participated in hearings before two Presidential Emergency Boards (PEBs), Nos. 248 and 249. The former United Transportation Union (UTU) is now part of the SMART Union. The boards recommended settlements closer to the union’s position than management’s. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), which represents bus drivers and some other employees, reached a settlement with management, so the buses and light rail lines will continue to run in and around New Jersey, even if the trains do not. “Non-Agreement” employees, including managers at NJT, have also not received a raise in several years. A coalition of seventeen unions is negotiating with management as a unit.

Recent reports have indicated that the sticking point is employees’ contributions to health-care costs. NJT claims that the agency cannot afford the package recommended by PEB #249, even though that board’s recommendation would have been somewhat less costly to NJT than the prior board’s proposal. Daniel J. O’Connell, Legislative Director for the union, disagrees, and told the Lackawanna Coalition that it would not be necessary for NJT to raise fares to pay for a settlement. Several members of Congress have called on both sides to come to an agreement before it is too late, and a supporter of the union started an on-line petition at www.change.org. At this writing, several hundred people have signed it.

If the union calls a strike or management imposes a lockout, the result will be the same: no trains. Most New Jerseyans who depend on the train will find it difficult, if not impossible, to get around without them, even though NJT buses and light rail will still operate. These services could not replace the mobility lost if the trains stop running, because there are a limited amount of buses available for extra runs, and capacity is already strained at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. Stephen Burkert, General Chairman of the union representing the train crews told the Lackawanna Coalition that NJT has 300,000 rail riders, and that 900,000 daily trips involve rail and bus segments.

Last Thursday, NJT unveiled its plans to augment bus service, in the event of a strike or lockout. There would be four park-and-ride lots, providing buses toward New York in the morning and back in the late afternoon and evening. A private bus operator, Academy Bus L.L.C., will operate a fifth. Some buses would not go directly to Manhattan, but to connect with ferries of Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains for connections to Manhattan. The Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in Manhattan is almost filled to capacity at commuting hours, so there is little room for extra buses there. The temporary buses would operate only toward New York in the morning and back in the afternoon and early evening, and at no other time. NJT estimated that about 16,000 commuters would take existing NJT buses; another 3000 would use buses on privately-operated lines, while 21,000 more would use the temporary park-and-ride buses. According to NJT, 40,000 or 38% of the estimated 105,000 commuters would be able to take a bus to New York City. This means that the other 65,000 would be out of luck.

NJT’s numbers did not mention commuters within New Jersey or rail riders who take the train outside peak-commuting hours. Current NJT bus routes into New York City will continue to operate, as will local NJT buses. So would privately-operated bus routes, NJT light rail, ferries and Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains to and from New York City. Motorists would still be able to get where they want to go, at least within New Jersey, and at least, in theory. Highways and other roads would be clogged, though. Buses will be, too, as commuters and other train riders attempt to board the buses along with the regular bus riders. For motorists, mobility would become difficult. For people who depend on transit, it may become even more difficult, or it may become impossible. That depends on whether or not there are buses that duplicate a specific rail trip.

South Jersey would not be affected severely, because only the Atlantic City Rail Line, which runs between there and Philadelphia about every two hours, and not on a commuter-oriented schedule, is the only affected rail line operating in the region. NJT plans to run extra buses on the line that runs nearly parallel to it.

There are more rail lines in North and Central Jersey, so those regions would be affected more severely. The Morris & Essex, Gladstone and Montclair-Boonton Lines would be hit the hardest, because there are few buses that run parallel to, or even near, those rail lines. On the entire Gladstone Branch, only a single peak-hour-only bus route would serve only one station, Murray Hill. It would take passengers to Summit, where the could get a bus to Newark, or Plainfield, where they could get a bus to New York City. On the Morris & Essex Line, only South Orange, and no other stations, would have a direct NJT-operated bus line to New York. Privately-operated buses would continue to serve a few other communities on that line. Ironically, the strongest rail lines do not have many bus routes nearby, so the people who live on those lines and have come to depend on their trains would have the fewest alternatives if the trains are suspended.

Some trips would still be feasible in theory, but not in practice. Today, trains rush between Newark and Trenton in slightly more than one hour. It would still be possible to travel between Newark Penn Station and Trenton, but it would require taking five buses, none of which are scheduled to connect with each other. Four are local NJT bus lines, and the other is operated by a private company. A one-way trip would take about six hours.

The 1983 strike lasted for 34 days, and NJT ran extra buses. Some operated from temporary park-and-ride facilities, with charter buses, only during peak-commuting hours. There were similar operations again in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated much of New Jersey, including NJT. These operations did little to replace the mobility that persons who depend on transit normally have. In the North and Central Jersey areas, there are bus routes that go to the PABT in New York City, as well as other routes that go to downtown Newark.

NJT has touted ferries as part of the solution but, without trains, it would be difficult or impossible for riders to get to the ferries. Some of the boats go to the Financial District in Downtown Manhattan from Hoboken Terminal, which would not have any NJT trains in the event of a work stoppage.

North and Central Jersey would be profoundly affected, including economically, if the trains do not continue to run. In theory, motorists would still have the mobility that comes with an automobile, but the roads would be clogged with hundreds of thousands of rail riders who would need to use their automobiles, if that is a feasible alternative. Unless there is a local bus line handy, people who depend on transit for their mobility needs may not be going anywhere.

Elected leaders, advocates and ordinary citizens, riders and non-riders alike, have called for both sides to reach an agreement, so the trains will not come to a halt this coming Saturday night. By the time our next edition comes out, we will know if these calls were heeded, and if New Jerseyans still have their trains.

It could be worse; at least NJT is making an effort to help some displaced rail riders. D:F Foreign Editor David Beale added this perspective from Germany:

“Labor strikes against passenger trains are no fun. I speak from experience. I find it interesting that NJT is attempting to organize some sort of alternative transportation for the affected passengers. That was not the case here in Germany during the past three labor strikes in the past 5 - 6 years. Everyone was on their own. I wish everyone in New Jersey all the best and lots of patience.”

For more information on the potential strike or lockout from the rider’s perspective, see the Lackawanna Coalition web site, www.lackawannacoalition.org. For New Jersey Transit’s perspective, see the NJT site, http://www.njtransit.com. The union’s web site is http://www.smart-union.org.

Additional information may be also found on the web site of the Lackawanna Coalition at: http://www.lackawannacoalition.org


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Study To Gauge Ridership For
Connecticut Commuter Railroad

By Mary Ellen Godin
Record-Journal Staff

With construction of the new train station and transit center underway in Meriden Connecticut, city and regional officials want to measure how many people use public transit and how many employers would support it.

The study, titled “First Mile, Last Mile,” will draw from surveys and focus group data from daily riders and occasional passengers to help develop a usage plan for the new Meriden Transit Center.

The South Central Regional Council of Governments has hired Milone & MacBroom Inc. to conduct the study of commuting habits and available options.

Station Construction

Photo: Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

Steel framing installed for the new train station on State Street in Meriden, CT

Supporters of transit-oriented districts here and in other communities along the New Haven to Springfield rail line, hope to make train and bus stations the driving force behind communities that offer living, shopping, entertainment and employment opportunities in their downtowns. Transit-oriented districts also link job markets across regions and states, supporters say.

In January, the city expanded the scope of the Milone & McBroom ridership survey to include businesses and employers.

“This is a study that identifies gaps in service and other barriers to the use of public transit,” said Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski “At our request, we will be surveying area business with the purpose to identify businesses that are interested in exploring ways to offer more transportation choices for their employees and ultimately encourage the use of the commuter rail service and other public transit services.”

The city will pay Milone & MacBroom $7,500 from a state grant to collect and analyze the survey data and incorporate it into the SCRCOG study, Burdelski said.

The Midstate Chamber of Commerce has agreed to distribute the survey to its approximately 600 members and conduct follow up calls with approximately 14 large employers from the region.

The chamber has begun administering the survey through Survey Monkey.

According to chamber President Sean Moore, the data will be used to provide usage plans in Berlin and Wallingford as well as Meriden.

“Every day, businesses host large groups of people called employees or shoppers,” Moore said. “These may be individuals who arrived in Berlin, Meriden or Wallingford on ‘The Hartford Line’ commuter rail service. We want to be certain that residents, employees and visitors have the best transportation options to get to their jobs as well as being able to frequent shopping, dining and entertainment destinations.”

According to Moore, the region needs to plan for a robust, extended day and frequently used transit system. “This survey is just one of the tools to gauge who will use such an improved system and determine how the business community might participate,” Moore said.

Among other questions, the survey queries employers on parking issues, transit access, and infrastructure. It also asks the business owners the average commute of its employees, and whether they are aware of a carpool/van pool, and the pending arrival of the increased New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail service in 2018.

Milone and McBroom and the Study Advisory Committee will assimilate survey results and meet with the focus groups to review results, discuss current bus transit system issues, and illicit input on how the business community can partner with the city to improve transit opportunities for its employees.

“We expect to have a final report ready by June 30,” Burdelski said.

Found at:
http://www.myrecordjournal.com/meriden/meridennews/8484234-129/study-to-gauge-ridership-for-commuter-railroad.html


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Expansion Lines - Not!

 

MBTA Cancels Late-Night Weekend Service;
The Service Will End By March 18.

By Adam Vaccaro
Boston.com Staff

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) riders out late on weekend nights will need to find a new way home starting in mid-March.

The MBTA’s governing board voted last Monday to cancel late-night service by March 18. Doing so will save the T about $9 million next year, according to Assistant General Manager Charles Planck.

Were FTA Rules Followed?

As DF went into layout, additional press was surfacing suggesting that the MBTA did not follow all necessary procedures prior to its vote to discontinue the late-night weekend transit surface. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) rules require an equity analysis prior to any major service changes to determine whether getting rid of said service will have a disproportionate impact on low-income or minority residents. The late night service had been running just short of two years possibly placing it within the FTA requirements for such an analysis. While the MBTA has agreed to author such an analysis, it has not attempted to change the service ending date in just two weeks time raising some eyebrows.

In a communication sent by the FTA, the federal agency stated that further action is required and the analysis must still be completed and the agency must revisit their decision. The FTA further noted that unless a waiver of said analysis was granted, it is expected the MBTA will comply with their guidelines.

It also noted that while the MBTA can still cancel the late-night service if the analysis shows a disproportionate impact, the MBTA must also show a substantial legitimate justification for the service changes and that less-discriminatory alternatives were explored and implemented wherever possible.

As of this writing the justification for this service termination appears to be budgetary, reduced funding from the private sector, and a ridership that did not meet original expectations. The MBTA has also taken a position that as a pilot program, an equity analysis was not required. The FTA has rejected the MBTA’s position.

A similar analysis should be required for any service changes or terminations associated with the Mattapan-Ashmont streetcar service which has been reported in recent editions of DF. The neighborhoods through which the streetcar operates is deemed to be underserved by transit and primarily populated by minorities. Recently the MBTA has also stepped back from plans to add a commuter rail station in the Mattapan neighborhood on the Fairmount branch line citing budgetary restrictions even though said station has been planned for several years as part of upgrades to the line and service frequency requests.

The board voted 4-0 in favor of dropping the service. One board member, Brian Lang, was absent from the meeting. Following Planck’s presentation, the board did not discuss the matter before voting.

Board members have signaled for months that they planned to cut the service.

Late-night service began in 2014 as a pilot program, extending the subway’s normal closing time of 12:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings. After a poor financial showing, the hours were shortened to 2 a.m. last summer and some bus routes were canceled.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the service would likely operate the night of Friday, March 18, but would not operate the following Saturday.

Board members in recent months have said the late-night hours make it difficult to perform maintenance work on the T on weekend nights, that the service is overly costly, and that the private sector had not provided as much money as the agency expected to fund the added operations.

In preparing to cut the service, Planck last month said that early returns on an “equity analysis”—a federally required study of how ending the service would affect different subsets of riders—indicated canceling late-night hours would disproportionately affect low-income and minority riders.

But last Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the T reached a “legal conclusion” that it could forego the equity analysis.

“The staff had begun one, but equity analyses are only needed for major service changes, and the conclusion was reached that this did not meet the legal definition,” she said.

Late-night riders had called for the service to continue, with many citing the need for reliable and affordable transportation for off-hours workers. Planck, however, said the argument was negated by the service only running two nights a week.

“There aren’t that many jobs that are only two nights a week,” he said. “So we think that this late-night service pilot is not a broad solution to economic access because it’s not a seven-day-a-week service.”

The T has said it logged about 13,000 late-night rides per weekend night.

[ Editor’s Note - The MBTA’s extension of service on Friday and Saturday nights was partially funded by the private sector. It was never truly a system-wide service extension. Rather, it provided a limited service from inside-Boston communities to the core downtown district. There was no cross town service and some neighborhoods were not served at all. This writer lives in Boston and in one of the communities that never had a bus service extension from the nearest subway station. As such, for him, the much-touted late night service was non-existent. This raises questions as to whether this service had a chance to begin with. Various alternatives had been suggested by community and transit advocacy groups.]

From an item at:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2016/02/29/mbta-cancels-late-night-weekend-service/dUvNpu5XAMnc3I79CWLDZM/story.html


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Sound Transit Restores Funding For
Two Light-Rail Extensions

From Progressive Railroading

Sound Transit’s board late last week restored funding for preliminary engineering on the Federal Way and Redmond Link light-rail extensions, which gives agency staff the green light to move forward with design on the two projects.

Voters approved funding for the extensions’ preliminary engineering work in the 2008 Sound Transit 2 (ST2) ballot measure, but the recession in 2007 through 2009 wiped out $4.2 billion in projected tax revenue. In response, the Sound Transit board in 2010 initiated an ongoing “realignment process” to bring project plans in line with the lower revenue forecast, agency officials said in a press release. This included suspending some projects and project phases until funding could be identified.

Recent projects show the recession’s cumulative impact on ST2 funding through 2023 will represent an approximate 26.8 percent reduction, improved from the earlier forecast of 29.7 percent. Under current forecasts, sufficient resources now exist for restoring preliminary engineering on the Federal Way and Redmond Link extensions, agency officials said.

Boarding the train

Image courtesy of Sound Transit

Passengers board Sound Transit

Staff will continue to monitor the financial plan and work to advance several other suspended projects where possible. Late last month, Sound Transit’s board restored funding for access improvement projects at commuter-rail stations in Auburn and Kent, Wash.

Following the realignment of ST2 projects, the agency’s board determined that funding was available to move forward with constructing the Federal Way extension from South 200th Street in SeaTac to Kent/Des Moines, Wash. In 2012, the board approved an additional $24 million o develop a shovel-ready plan for extending the light-rail route to downtown Federal Way, Wash., when funding becomes available.

Final design on the 2.5-mile segment to Kent/Des Moines begins in 2017, with service starting in 2023, agency officials said.

The Redmond Link project will extend the East Link light-rail line by 3.7 miles from the Redmond Technology Center to downtown Redmond, Wash.

Elsewhere, Sound Transit has restored funding for preliminary engineering on the Federal Way and Redmond Link extensions.

Voters in 2008 approved the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure that included funding. The recession cut $4.2 billion from projected tax revenue for ST2 and forced officials to make cuts that included engineering for the two projects.

Recent projections show the recession’s impact on ST2 funding through 2023 will be a 26.8 percent reduction, improved from an earlier forecast of 29.7 percent.

The Federal Way project connects Kent/Des Moines to the Federal Way Transit Center. The Redmond project connects Overlake to downtown Redmond.

A composite story from:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/Sound-Transit-restores-funding-for-two-light-rail-extensions--47427
and
http://www.djc.com/news/ae/12086713.html


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TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT... Transit-Oriented Development...  

DeBary Plans Its SunRail District

Opinion By The News-Journal Online

Across Central Florida, SunRail stations have sparked an estimated $3 billion (and counting) in new development, including apartments, offices, shopping and connections to other forms of transit.

But DeBary — the current northern terminal of the commuter-rail line — seems to have been left out. There are a few automotive businesses and a convenience store nearby, which were there before the rail stop was constructed, along with some houses and a mobile home park. But more than 80 percent of the land in the identified “transit oriented development” district around the station is vacant, leaving plenty of room for development to occur.

But the question is: When will it come, and what will it look like?

To their credit, city officials aren’t waiting around for someone else to answer those questions. Last year, they hired Roger Van Auker to serve as the city’s SunRail-related development marketing manager. In a December land swap, the city acquired three acres near the station for future development, and is talking with the St. Johns River Water Management District about acquiring a 100-acre tract that would fill in a “hole in the doughnut” in the available land for growth near the station. And the city hired an Orlando consultant, the Littlejohn company, to prepare a 25-year master plan for the area.

Last week, the City Council got its first look at the plan for the area near the station. Littlejohn’s John Jones started with some good news: With 140,000 annual riders, DeBary is the second-busiest station on the SunRail line — second only to Winter Park, “and not by much.”

He described the long-term vision for the half-mile radius around the station, and it’s impressive. It incorporates plenty of options for commercial, technology, entertainment and office space, as well as space for single- and multi-family residential, senior housing and possibly an eco-lodge that would play off nearby environmental treasures. The area will also need connections to local roads, as well as options for pedestrians and bicyclists to access the station.

“This is the skeleton that we’re going to hang all the development around,” Jones said.

Those interconnections will be crucial no matter which options DeBary decides to pursue — and master planning means the city will be able to build a flexible framework that accommodates the kind of development it wants, with relatively dense developments surrounded, and enhanced, by open space.

The plan — and a demonstrated commitment to the vision it lays out — will give DeBary a potent marketing tool to attract the kind of business and residential growth the city wants and needs.

This opinion piece appeared at:
http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20160229/OPINION/160229533/101027?Title=DeBary-plans-its-SunRail-district


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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


      Return To Index


SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

‘My Fault’: Operator Takes Blame
For Runaway Train In Boston

The Information Was Included In The MBTA’s Final Report
On The Incident, Released Last Tuesday

By Marc Fortier
NBC Dallas-Fortworth

The operator of December’s runaway Red Line train in Boston forgot to set the emergency brake and accepted full responsibility for the incident, according to a report released this past Tuesday.

“It was operator error, my fault,” said David Vazquez, according to a written statement included in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s final report on the December incident. “The light was off in the cab I could not see the situation at hand. I forgot and misplaced what I had done after talking to the dispatcher.”

Tied-off Cineston Controller

Image Via MassDPU

The Cineston Controller (train throttle and brake handle) as found by MBTA authorities on the day of the incident.

The train operator’s public address microphone and cable was wrapped around the controller so as to disable the safety system that would stop the train if an operator’s hand was not present.

The report confirms what New England Cable Network news has been reporting in the months following the incident: that Vazquez tampered with the throttle by tying a public address system microphone cord around it and failed to secure the brake.

That set the train in motion with no operator on board. The Red Line train from Braintree Station — with 50 passengers on board — traveled through four stations before coming to a stop. No one was injured.

The report also notes that Vazquez had 13 previous rule violations, five of them safety violations.

Vazquez, 53, was terminated from the MBTA in the days following the incident. Philip Gordon, his attorney, said Tuesday that he has not had a chance to review the report or talk with his client about whether he will have a response.

Found at:
http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/national-international/My-Fault-MBTA-Operator-Accepted-Blame-for-Runaway-Red-Line-Train-370698861.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Via Rail Seeking Federal Budget Funding For $1.3b Passenger Car
Upgrade In Toronto-Montreal Corridor

By Jason Fekete
The Ottawa Citizen

Via Rail Canada Inc. is looking for funding in the March 22 federal budget for a new fleet of cars costing upwards of $1.3 billion that would go with a dedicated Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal passenger rail corridor that could be operational in fall 2019 with the government’s blessing.

Via chief executive Yves Desjardins-Siciliano told the Ottawa Citizen the rail carrier also wants the federal government to allow it to proceed with plans to have large pension funds invest in the $2-billion construction of the corridor, a move that requires a cabinet order.

Any budget dollars for a new fleet of Via cars for the corridor could be a potential boon to Bombardier Inc., which is looking for some federal financial aid and whose rail division could produce the passenger trains the Crown corporation wants.

Channeling federal dollars and powers to separate freight and passenger rail networks to allow for a dedicated Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor was a key recommendation from a sweeping review of Canada’s transportation system, was tabled last week by the Liberal government.

This past Monday, Desjardins-Siciliano said Via’s hopes for a dedicated passenger rail corridor fits nicely with the Liberal government’s plans to invest billions of dollars in large infrastructure projects that generate jobs, long-term economic growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We believe it is a transformational project and it certainly meets a lot of the policy objectives we’ve been hearing about from the new government,” Desjardins-Siciliano said in a phone interview.

Via’s present operations in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor continue to be hampered by slow speeds and limited access to track that is owned by Canadian National Railway Co., whose freight trains run on the same track and are given priority over passenger rail. Via uses CN’s track for much of its service and also pays CN and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. for track access.

“It’s an economic absurdity that we’re asking a privately funded operation to agree with it, so that’s why the time has come to make both freight and passenger railways more efficient in their operations. And the only way to make them efficient is to uncouple them,” he said.

The Crown corporation is targeting large public sector pension funds for the approximately $2 billion it would cost to build the track and signaling infrastructure for a dedicated Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal passenger rail network.

Via is looking for the new Liberal government to announce funding in the budget for a rolling stock renewal of its rail cars in the corridor, which is a 1970s fleet undergoing its third refurbishment.

A renewed stock of diesel cars, like those currently in use, would cost just over $1 billion, while electric cars would cost approximately $1.3 billion.

Should the federal government proceed with the electric option, another $850 million would be added to the cost for an electrical infrastructure grid, bringing the total project price tag to around $4 billion.

“We’re hoping that fleet will be renewed earlier rather than later because cars are coming to end of life over the next decade,” Desjardins-Siciliano said.

He assumes the federal government would invest in the electric project over the diesel option because of its focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Via would repurpose existing rail beds or rail lines in a corridor that is already secured.

Via would put the rail cars out to tender if it snares federal funding, potentially a huge opportunity for battered Bombardier, which is looking to the Liberal government for help.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Transport Minister Marc Garneau were unavailable for comment Monday.

Should Via get a federal funding commitment for rail cars, it would be the impetus for the carrier to go to the markets and solicit investment from pension funds for track infrastructure.

“A decision now means we would build in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and it would be ready by summer or fall 2019,” Desjardins-Siciliano said.

A dedicated track for Via would substantially increase speeds and reduce travel times between stops, something the Crown corporation believes would help dramatically increase ridership.

Currently, Via’s average speed in the shared corridor is 103 kilometers per hour (64 mph), but a dedicated track for passenger rail would see the average speed increase to between 145 km/h (90 mph) and 153 km/h (95 mph), with a top speed of 177 km/h (109 mph), Desjardins-Siciliano said.

Via expects a dedicated track in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor could increase its annual passenger load from 2.1 million, currently, to 6.8 million within 15 years.

Via’s status as a Crown corporation currently forbids it from borrowing or raising capital. However, it would simply need a cabinet order to proceed with plans to have public pension plans invest in the dedicated passenger corridor.

Read the full story at:
http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/via-rail-seeking-federal-budget-funding-for-1-3b-passenger-car-upgrade-in-toronto-montreal-corridor


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2016 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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

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

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

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

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

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