The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Mar. 20, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 11

Copyright © 2017
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Founded 1989
Our 17th Newsletter Year


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

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

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

  Guest Opinion…
To Stay Safe, Chicago Area Public Transit
   Needs Investment
  Ridership Lines…
BART Incentive Program Helps Alleviate Morning
   Traffic Congestion
  Funding Lines…
Trump Administration’s ‘Skinny Budget’
   Cuts Infrastructure Investment
  Political Lines…
APTA Makes Case For Including Transit In
   Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commuter Lines…
Brightline Gets Second Train, Announces
   Limited Service Starting In July
Boston’s MBTA Considering Ending Weekend
   Commuter Rail Service As Way To Make Up
   Budget Shortfall
  Restoration Lines…
Amtrak Voices “Firm Commitment” To Gulf Coast
   Service Restoration
  Intermodal Lines…
New Program Assists Rail Passengers
  Publication Notes …

GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

To Stay Safe, Chicago Area Public Transit
Needs Investment

From The Chicago Sun Times
Letters To The Editor Column

I write about “Metra’s wild glitch” (March 13), in which a Metra train operated by the BNSF pulling out of a station had a door pop open and then automatically close three seconds later. Metra’s top priority is always safety, and the door’s electrical circuit was repaired immediately. The cause is extremely rare.

Readers should know the American Society of Civil Engineers last week rated public transit a D-minus, the lowest of all infrastructure categories. It’s amazing that the CTA, Metra and Pace perform as well as they do in an environment that doesn’t provide our transit system roads or bridges the funding they desperately need.

Our fleet is safe, an issue I take personally since I am a daily Metra and CTA commuter myself. Chicago mass transit has the fewest mechanical breakdowns among its peers per mile even with Chicago’s weather, aging equipment and financial challenges. Metra’s on-time performance last year was 96 percent, above its 95 percent goal, though it operates at the mercy of seven complex private railroads and Amtrak.

We at the Regional Transportation Authority estimate that Chicagoland mass transit requires $37 billion over the next 10 years to achieve a “state of good repair” for our existing network. Much like your personal vehicles, our aging fleet is more expensive to maintain as cars and locomotives get older. More than 30 percent of our assets are beyond their useful life, including rolling stock, stations and guideways. The Metra car in the Sun-Times story was delivered in 1961. Metra rebuilds and repairs cars continually, but BNSF riders still travel on some cars delivered during the Eisenhower administration.

The RTA has set an annual funding target of between $2 billion to $3 billion per year to address the backlog, maintain the system and undertake limited modernization enhancement and expansion. Unfortunately, the RTA has no state construction money due to Springfield inaction. Illinois has not had an infrastructure spending plan since 2009, leaving us with no funds to match President Donald Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure vision.

Nationally, in the fall elections, other cities and states passed more than 70 percent of referendums increasing mass transit outlays. Those voters know where transit goes, the economy grows!

Kirk W. Dillard, chair,
Regional Transportation Authority

Found at:

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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

BART Incentive Program Helps Alleviate
Morning Traffic Congestion

From Progressive Railroading

A trial incentive program has helped encourage some Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) riders to travel outside of peak morning traffic hours, the agency announced last week.

Under the “BART Perks” program, riders earn points for each BART trip they take. If passengers travel outside morning rush hours, they’re eligible to earn up to six times as many points. Riders then exchange these points for small cash rewards.

During the six-month trial period, an average 250 Perks participants shifted their ride to before or after the peak morning rush hour each weekday. That’s equivalent to freeing up two full BART cars during the agency’s busiest hour, according to the agency.

Before the program started, 2,600 Perks participants traveled during the peak hour, BART officials said.

The first program of its kind in North America, Perks was modeled after international transit rewards programs and showed comparable results to a similar program in Singapore.

Nearly 18,000 BART riders participated in the Perks program trial, which began in August 2016 and ended last month.

“Through BART Perks, we see that incentives can be used to shift behavior and create strong customer interest in rewards programs,” said Tilly Chang, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA). “While a complete program analysis is still to come, we are encouraged by the program’s results to date, including the ability to manage peak demands while garnering overall rider satisfaction and employer support.”

BART and SFCTA expect to finish their full evaluation of the program’s results by fall 2017. Based on the findings, the agencies will consider how to proceed with their efforts to reduce rush-hour crowding.

From an article appearing at:

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Trump Administration’s ‘Skinny Budget’
Cuts Infrastructure Investment

Statement By Acting APTA President And CEO
Richard A. White

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is surprised and disappointed that at the same time the Trump Administration is proposing to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure, the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation/and public transit infrastructure programs in its proposed “Skinny Budget,” for Fiscal Year 2018. The federal government currently covers only 43 percent of all capital spending for public transit and any cuts will only add to the significant shortfall that already exists.

The American economy and communities of all sizes would be losers if the proposed reductions in the FTA Capital Investment Grants (CIG), the TIGER program, and Amtrak are enacted. As it stands now, America is already under-investing in public transportation, as noted in the recently released American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card.  These proposed cuts would make the existing $90 billion of State of Good Repair gap even worse.   

Cuts to the CIG program would put public transit projects and the associated thousands of direct and indirect jobs at risk in a number of communities including Kansas City, MO; Indianapolis, IN; Dallas, TX; Grand Rapids, MI; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; and Jacksonville, FL.  For a complete list of the more than 50 CIG public transit projects in 23 states that could be at risk if they don’t have Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) click HERE.

Facilitating efficient surface transportation, including public transportation, has long been recognized as a federal responsibility and it is critical to our global economic competitiveness. In fact, 87 percent of the 35 million public transportation trips taken each day directly impact the economy – because Americans ride public transit to commute to work or to spend money at retail businesses and entertainment venues.  

Congress reaffirmed this federal responsibility when it authorized $2.3 billion annually, through 2020, for the CIG program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by bipartisan votes of 83-16 in the Senate and 359-65 in the House of Representatives.  In the FAST ACT, Congress also saw the value in Amtrak and authorized nearly $5.5 billion through 2020 for Amtrak’s national network.  Additionally, in recognition of TIGER’s huge popularity, Congress annually funds this program at significant levels, which is routinely oversubscribed and supports important multimodal projects that do not always lend themselves to the traditional formula funding programs.

According to a recent APTA poll, most Americans, including President Trump supporters, would not support these cuts to public transportation.  A 2016 poll showed that 3 out of 4 Americans support increased public transportation investment.  Additionally, a November election poll found that 81 percent of Americans who voted for Donald Trump oppose any cuts to the current levels of public transportation investment.

APTA calls on the Administration and Congress to reject these cuts and reaffirm its support for these programs as part of the FY18 budget process.  In addition, APTA calls on Congress to include increased investments in public transportation as part of any new infrastructure initiative.

About APTA

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, para-transit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail.  This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation.  APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.

For more information contact:

Virginia Miller
Director-Media Relations
American Public Transportation Association
Washington, DC

From a press release at:,2017105936.aspx

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

APTA Makes Case For Including Transit
In Trump’s Infrastructure Plan

From Progressive Railroading

Including public transit in President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan would help create and sustain millions of U.S. jobs, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) concluded in an analysis released yesterday.

A $200 billion investment in the nation’s public transportation infrastructure over a 10-year period would create and sustain 10 million U.S. jobs, and could contribute $800 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product over 20 years, APTA officials said in a press release.

The $200 billion estimate in the “APTA Infrastructure Analysis” is based on three separate analyses as the association developed recommendations for the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. APTA researchers examined what $200 billion of a $1 trillion investment flowing to the U.S. transit infrastructure could do over 10 years.

“This additional investment is the key to addressing the nation’s aging public transportation infrastructure,” said APTA Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Richard White. “Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows we need to invest nearly $90 billion just to bring our systems into a state of good repair. More than 40 percent of buses and 25 percent of rail train assets are in marginal or poor condition.”

APTA’s analysis was based on data collected from four federal funding formula programs and local metropolitan planning organizations. Calculations of job creation were derived from economic models developed by APTA through its established published economic studies.

Recently, APTA noted in a demographics study that 90 percent of public transit trips directly benefit the economy by transporting people to their jobs and connecting them to local businesses.

Also, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) last week rated the nation’s public transit infrastructure a D- in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. It was the lowest infrastructure grade of ASCE’s 10 critical infrastructure sectors and showed transit infrastructure’s further degradation from the 2013 report, APTA officials said.

The association urged Congress and the Trump administration to “dramatically” increase current investment in transit and intercity passenger-rail systems.

“We live in a time where there may be a number of policy issues that separate us, but investing in our public transportation infrastructure is the one issue that unites us,” said White.

From an item at:

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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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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

New Services

Brightline Gets Second Train, Announces
Limited Service Starting In July

By Lisa Broadt

Brightline this week heralded a milestone — arrival of its second train — and at the same time announced an apparent setback: When passenger service commences in July it will be even more limited than previously announced.

Instead of carrying passengers between West Palm Beach and MiamiCentral, a sprawling downtown-Miami rail station with commercial, retail and residential space, Brightline in late July will begin service only between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Service is to expand to Miami in late August, when work on MiamiCentral is complete, according to Brightline. Stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale are “nearing completion,” Brightline said in a news release.

The project’s second phase, full service to Orlando, is at least several years away, with service commencing in 2019 at the earliest, the company estimated in January.  On Monday, Brightline said it is “currently finalizing permitting and will have a better idea of timing to Orlando after operations begin this summer.”


Screenshot from a video by Patrick Dove, TCPalm.Com

The second Brightline trainset is under tow by a Florida East Coast (FEC) motor through the Vero Beach area.

The project has faced opposition from Treasure Coast residents who say the railroad would endanger the public and the environment. It is facing lawsuits by Martin and Indian River counties.

Meanwhile, BrightPink, Brightline’s second completed passenger train, on Monday afternoon rolled through the Treasure Coast on the final leg of its trip from California to the railroad’s maintenance facility in West Palm Beach.

The four-car, two-locomotive train — named for its vivid hue — passed through Vero Beach at 3:45 p.m. and Stuart at 4:25 p.m. The passenger railroad’s first train, BrightBlue, was delivered Dec. 14, but rolled through the region in the early-morning hours.

BrightPink and BrightBlue are the first in Brightline’s five-train fleet that will run along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, eventually between Miami and Orlando.

BrightRed, BrightOrange and BrightGreen are to be delivered from manufacturer Siemens’ Sacramento plant every six weeks, with all five trains assembled in West Palm Beach by early July, according to Michael Cahill, president, Rail Systems Division.

Brightline said it will hold a grand opening and official launch of the railroad in September.

From an item at:

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Boston’s MBTA Considering Ending
Weekend Commuter Rail Service
As Way To Make Up Budget Shortfall

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) weekend commuter rail service and transit services for individuals with disabilities are on the [Gov.] Baker administration’s “menu” of potential service cuts to help close a $42 million gap in the transit agency’s $2 billion budget.

“This is really about resetting the MBTA’s budget in a way that is financially sustainable not just for fiscal 2018, but over time,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told reporters before a presentation to the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday. She said, “We need to ask questions, hard questions, about what we want to run.”

Suspending weekend service for a year and making capital upgrades to the rail lines during that time would save the MBTA $10 million, T officials said.

Another option under consideration is suspending for one year “premium trips” on The Ride, the T’s para-transit service for people with disabilities, which would save $7 million, according to the T. The premium trips are those not mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and include journeys outside of the MBTA’s core area, more than three quarters of a mile from active bus and subway service.

The proposed service cuts would likely encounter resistance from people that use premium trips on The Ride and weekend rail service.

If the T decides to move forward on those cuts, there would need to be additional processes followed, according to Pollack, who envisioned a public conversation about the budget over the next month.

Other proposed savings could be attained by outsourcing repair work and customer service, along with expected new revenue from ads and a Kolas Commuter Services plan to boost revenue on the commuter rail, both through promoting railway commuting and enforcing fare collection.

“These are the things that have been left that haven’t been done yet, and there’s a $42 million gap to fill,” Pollack said, describing a “menu of options” for balancing the budget. She said, “We definitely need to tap at least some of these options.”

The T has also sketched in a $7 million increase for “strategic operations hires” that could be made if other savings are realized. In general, the T plans to keep headcount flat.

Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed $187 million for the T, on top of other long-term state subsidies, through the annual budget. If the T closes its structural budget gap, those proposed additional dollars could be poured into capital repairs or could be spent on enhancing other areas of the operating budget.

Pollack said the control board wanted to see what a balanced budget would look like, but the board could decide to devote some of the expected $187 million toward existing operating expenses.

The weekday per-trip operating subsidy on the commuter rail is $5, while the weekend subsidy is $34 per trip and on some lines it exceeds $100 per trip, according to the T. MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shirtsleeve said there are about 8,000 commuter rail trips on Saturday and about 4,000 on Sunday. Weekday commuter rail boardings number about 129,000, according to a June 2016 presentation by the T.

The T is also in the process of installing positive train control, a federally mandated safety measure, on the commuter rail, which would be aided by suspending weekend service, according to T officials.

Last summer, MBTA officials discussed planned weekend closures to facilitate the installation of positive train control, which is designed to keep trains from speeding dangerously or crashing into one another. T officials at the time said the construction work would begin this year.

Under the MBTA’s budget process, the control board sends a preliminary budget to the MBTA Advisory Board for review, and the board can then amend it before approving a final budget by April 15. Expenses in the proposed fiscal 2018 budget total $1.95 billion, which is $20.5 million less than the recast fiscal 2017 budget.

Shortsleeve said the T has challenged Keolis to develop weekend service that includes only a $15 subsidy per trip. While the Fairmount, Greenbush and Kingston/Plymouth lines run at a more than $100 subsidy per-trip on weekends, the Lowell line has an $18 weekend subsidy and the Providence/Stoughton Line - the busiest on weekdays - has a $19 per-trip subsidy, according to the MBTA.

T officials are willing to hear other ideas for balancing the budget.

“We’re very open to other ideas,” Shortsleeve said.

[ Editor Note:  Needless to say a wide swatch of the public and elected officials have resoundingly made it clear that closure of weekend rail service on the MBTA is not acceptable.  The question becomes, what is this a bargaining chip for? ]

Article appeared at:

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RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Amtrak Voices “Firm Commitment”
To Gulf Coast Service Restoration

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman reiterated his railroad’s commitment in a letter to seeing rail service restored along the Gulf Coast.

The letter was issued at the first 2017 quarterly meeting of the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) and was presented to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards by Mark Murphy, Amtrak vice president, long distance services business development.

The SRC said the letter “may be Amtrak’s strongest showing of support in print for states’ efforts for passenger rail service.” The Amtrak letter includes references to the Gulf Coast service in addition to longer-term SRC goals for new routes from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and across Central Mississippi and Northern Louisiana through Eastern Texas.

Moorman’s letter read in part:

“We are committed to operating both the long distance and corridor services on the Gulf Coast route as soon as the necessary funding can be arranged, and the necessary agreements are in place to implement the service... Amtrak strongly supports these projects and will continue to do everything we can to work with you to bring these services to completion. I am committed along with the rest of the Amtrak team to working with the Commission and the Gulf Coast states to obtain the necessary commitments from the host railroads to determine the capital and operating needs of each service, in order to advance all of these important projects.”

Gov. Edwards voiced support of the SRC’s work and noted that during the 2015 election, all gubernatorial candidates were in favor of a Baton Rouge to New Orleans rail. He stated the need for a regional approach to economic competitiveness for workers commuting between jobs along the river, as well as access to sports arenas in both cities and service to the new airport terminal in New Orleans.

From an item at:

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INTERMODAL LINES... Intermodal Lines...  

New Program Assists Rail Passengers

From The North Carolina News Network

Rail passengers will now be able to reach their local destination through public transportation after getting off the train by using a transit pass, made possible through a partnership between the N.C. Department of Transportation Rail Division and 11 local transit systems along the Raleigh-to-Charlotte rail corridor.

“This new transfer pass will help our NC By Train riders complete their journey using the existing and available transit options offered by our local partners,” said Paul Worley, director of NCDOT’s Rail Division. “This new program will provide our customers with a seamless option from boarding the train to their next stop.”

Starting March 18, the NC By Train transit pass will be available at no additional charge to passengers on board the Piedmont and Carolinian trains in select cities. Passengers should request the pass from conductors while on the train and present it when boarding the transit partner’s bus. The pass is valid for one ride and one transfer only on the day of travel.

“The transit pass will help connect travelers safely and efficiently to their next destination,” said Debbie Collins, director of NCDOT’s Public Transportation Division. “This option also offers a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly transportation alternative that reduces congestion on roadways.”

The pass can be used with the following transit partners:

NC By Train’s Piedmont and Carolinian trains are sponsored by NCDOT and operated by Amtrak. These trains provide daily service from Raleigh to Charlotte, plus seven additional stops in between.

From an item at:

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2017 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. (NCI) as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI and Destination: Freedom (DF) are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Logo courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI & DF remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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