The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Mar. 27, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 12

Copyright © 2017
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Founded 1989
Our 17th 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.
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…
How We Can Turn Railroads Into A
   Climate Solution
  Builders Lines…
CRRC Breaks Ground On Chicago Plant
SEPTA Planning China Commuter Car Pact
CRRC To Build LA Metro Subway Cars
  Ridership Lines…
SunRail Sets Ridership Record
  Commuter Lines…
Arrival Of BART Brings “Real Transit Options”
   To Warm Springs Innovation District
  Legal Lines…
Washington DC Court Rejects Feds’ Bid To
   Save Amtrak Regulatory Power
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Funding Lines…
Trump Administration’s Proposed Budget Cuts
   USDOT Funds; TIGER, Amtrak Long-Distance
   Train Funding Gone
  Labor Lines…
MBTA Moves To Privatize Customer Service Jobs
  High-Speed Lines…
Amtrak Offers More Acela Express Service
  To The North…
VIA Rail Popular With Students Over March Break
  Events …
RUN To Seattle
  Publication Notes …


GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

How We Can Turn Railroads Into
A Climate Solution

By Patrick Mazza
Grist.Org

Railroads have become a nexus of controversy in recent years due to their role in transporting climate-twisting fossil fuels. But they could become a locomotive driving the growth of clean energy. That is the aim of a new proposal to electrify railroads, run them on renewable energy, and use rail corridors as electricity superhighways to carry power from remote solar and wind installations to population centers.

The proposal, called Solutionary Rail, has been developed by a team of rail experts, economists, and public interest advocates assembled by the Washington state–based Backbone Campaign. Bill McKibben writes in the foreword to the recently released Solutionary Rail book that he has “been following the debate over energy, transportation, and climate change since the late 1980s . So it’s hard to come up with an idea I haven’t come across before. Rail electrification, as proposed in this remarkable book, is that rarest of things: a genuinely new idea, and one that makes immediate gut sense.”

An activist movement, sometimes known as the “thin green line,” has grown up in the Northwest in recent years to resist coal and oil shipments through the region, between the rich fossil resources east of the Rockies and the growing markets of Asia. The Backbone Campaign, a group that develops innovative strategies and tactics to build grassroots democratic movements, has been enmeshed in this movement.

The movement has been successful in stopping many fossil fuel export facilities from being built along the Pacific Coast. But it’s largely been a defensive campaign rather than a proactive one. In 2013, a rail labor leader challenged Backbone Executive Director Bill Moyer to green a labor concept for modernizing rail lines in the northern states, a “yes” to accompany the “no.” Moyer took up the challenge, and the result is Solutionary Rail.

Rail electrification is common in other parts of the world. Around the globe, electricity serves nearly a quarter of railroad track miles and supplies over one-third of the energy that powers trains. But in the U.S., under 1 percent of tracks are electrified. That’s due to high upfront capitalization costs, an obstacle that publicly owned railroads in other nations do not face. Railroads in other countries also do not have to pay property taxes on electrification infrastructure, which U.S. railroads do.

Few industries are as well positioned as railroads to lead a transition to a clean economy. Unlike other heavy, long-haul transportation vehicles such as ships, planes, and semi-trucks, trains can be easily electrified, and electricity is increasingly coming from clean sources such as sun and wind. Rail is already the most efficient form of ground transportation, and it has an unparalleled capacity to provide clean freight and passenger mobility.

Under the Solutionary Rail plan, electrification would be accomplished in conjunction with track modernization. Together, these would allow express freight service running above 80 miles per hour and high-speed passenger service up to 125 mph. Very high-speed passenger rail operates above 180 mph in Europe and Asia, and is being developed in California and the U.S. Northeast, but it generally requires dedicated tracks. Solutionary Rail’s more modest increase in speed is the economically practical option for most U.S. lines. Existing tracks can be upgraded, and freight and passenger trains can be accommodated on the same lines.

The proposal also includes running power transmission lines through the rail corridors. It’s currently difficult to get the rights-of-way needed to build new long-distance, high-capacity transmission lines, which means that some renewable energy, like wind power produced in the Great Plains, is stranded and can’t get to where it’s needed. But rail corridors are already being put to industrial use, so they could easily accommodate new power infrastructure, connecting renewable-energy-rich rural areas to big metropolitan areas.

To pay for all this, the Solutionary Rail team developed the concept of Steel Interstate Development Authorities, public agencies that would be able to raise low-cost capital from financial markets and take advantage of federal transportation dollars. SIDAs for different rail corridors would be created by interstate compacts and work in public-private partnerships with railroads. The electrification would remain under public ownership, managed by the SIDA, alleviating the property tax issue. Backbone is initially pushing a SIDA in the Northern Corridor, which has rail lines stretching from Chicago to the Northwest, to demonstrate the feasibility of electrification on lines mostly owned by BNSF, a property of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Image

Cover Art

Cover Image of “Solutionary Rail” By Patrick Mazza

Rail in the U.S. is not a huge contributor to climate disruption — it’s responsible for only 2 percent of greenhouse gases from the nation’stransportation sector. But it could be a huge part of the climate solution. A cleaner, more robust railroad system could replace substantial amounts of truck traffic, while making intercity passenger service more reliable and competitive with highways and aviation. This could help railroads thrive without being reliant on transporting bulk shipments of fossil fuels. The Solutionary Rail strategy still relies on resistance movements to stop those shipments, but offers the “yes” to strengthen the “no.” That is why the proposal has drawn support from labor leaders: It would help railroad workers make a “just transition” away from fossil fuels.

The huge, public benefits of rail electrification justify a public expenditure. But electrification would also greatly benefit privately owned railroads, and so they must offer public benefits in return. One is labor justice. Solutionary Rail has adopted the justice agenda of Railroad Workers United, a group that unites rail labor across union lines. It includes good working and safety conditions. The Solutionary Rail plan also calls for right-of-way justice for native tribes, renegotiating easements where tribes have historic grievances.

With Solutionary Rail, the oldest form of mass mechanized transportation can create a track to 21st century clean transportation and become an engine for sustainably and broadly realized prosperity.

Patrick Mazza is an independent journalist-researcher-activist focused on climate, clean energy, and global sustainability, and coauthor of the new book Solutionary Rail. Mazza has more than one way of “working on the railroad.” He also was one of the Delta 5 oil train blockaders.

From an opinion piece found at:
http://grist.org/climate-energy/how-we-can-turn-railroads-into-a-climate-solution/


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BUILDERSLINES... Builders Lines...  

Builders Lines...

[ Editors Note:  The following three articles shows that China Rail Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) is making a major investment in the rail market in the USA.  While that may sound positive for rail, the fact that CRRC is supported by the Chinese government, and substantially undercuts other bids by private ownership companies is of concern.  The proof will be in the final working product, which is yet to be seen on US soil. The first rolling stock will show up at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Red and Orange line subways in 2019.  Some of these additional rail contracts will see final assembly and other work done by CRRC at its Springfield, Massachusetts plant that is currently under construction for the MBTA contract. ]

CRRC Breaks Ground On Chicago Plant

By Dan Templeton
International Railway Journal

CRRC Sifang’s American subsidiary held a ceremony on March 16 to mark the beginning of construction of its new assembly plant in Chicago, which will produce 846 of the 7000 series metro cars for Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), and create over 300 jobs.

The contract, which was awarded in March 2016, comprises a firm order of 490 trains with an option for 356 more vehicles. The $US 100m plant is being built on the southeast side of Chicago’s Hegewisch neighborhood, and will employ 169 factory and warehouse workers. Around 200 jobs will be created during construction.

The first pre-series cars are due to be completed in 2019 and will enter passenger service the following year.

The 110 km/h (63 mph) 14.63 m-long (48 ft) vehicles will also be equipped with LED lighting, modern passenger information systems, and ac traction motors, and will allow CTA to withdraw its 2600 series trains which were supplied by Budd between 1981 and 1987.

From an item at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/metros/crrc-breaks-ground-on-chicago-plant.html?channel=525


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SEPTA Planning China Commuter Car Pact

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

Pressed to accommodate surging ridership, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is buying 45 bi-level coaches from China Railways Rolling Stock Corp. valued at $137.5 million.

The plan was expected to be approved by the SEPTA Board meeting Thursday.

The Authority has seen ridership grow by 52% since 2000.

The bid by CRRC, the world’s largest railcar builder, was $34 million less than Bombardier of Canada, and $47 million under the bid of Hyundai-Rotem of South Korea.

Hyundai produced Silverliner V cars for SEPTA at a plant in South Philadelphia. But the agency pulled those cars from service in 2016 due to defective parts.

For the China order, SEPTA will bring in EWI, formerly the Edison Welding Institute, to supervise construction. The coach shells will be produced in China.

The Chinese company is building an assembly plant in Springfield, Mass., where it is also will build cars for Boston’s MBTA.

Delivery of the SEPTA cars is expected to begin in the fall of 2019.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/commuter-regional/septa-crrc.html


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CRRC To Build LA Metro Subway Cars

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) has contracted with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build 64 new subway cars for the Metro Red and Purple Lines.

Metro in a Notice To Proceed said that the HR4000 heavy rail vehicles will replace older equipment on routes between downtown Los Angeles, the Mid-Wilshire District and North Hollywood, the Los Cerritos News reported.

Also, 34 of the new cars will be routed to the Purple Line to transit the four-mile extension from the Mid-Wilshire District to Beverly Hills, set to open in 2023.

The first pilot vehicle is slated for delivery in the spring of 2020, with the base order of 64 cars due in September 2021. The deal includes five options by Metro to purchase an additional 218 cars.

The total contract is valued at as much as $647 million.

The contract is expected to create approximately 50 local jobs. A new facility will be purchased in the L.A. area to manufacture major components for propulsion, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting systems. The cars’ exterior shell will be manufactured at CRRC’s facility in Changchun, China, and final assembly will be done in Springfield, Mass.

The contract exceeds the federal government’s “Buy America” provisions, which require 60% of component parts be American-made.

From an item at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit/la-metro-buying-china-railway-subway-cars.html?channel=62


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

SunRail Sets Ridership Record

By Kevin Spear
Orlando Sentinel

Despite lagging ridership, construction delays and doubts about funding, Central Florida’s SunRail was the little train that could Saturday when it recorded its busiest day for paying passengers since it went into service in 2014.

The Saturday count of 12,842 passengers, which is more than triple the daily average, appeared linked to the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and, to a lesser degree, Orlando’s college basketball playoffs and an Orlando City Soccer match.

The previous highest daily count for paying passengers had been Jan. 2, 2015, when SunRail carried 8,842 riders, said Jen Horton, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

SunRail ordinarily operates only on weekdays; Jan. 2 two years ago was a Friday following the New Year’s holiday.

Saturday also was by far the busiest — and possibly the last — of eight Saturdays sponsored as a trial of weekend service by businesses and government entities. Each Saturday cost the sponsors more than $20,000.

Winter Park’s station near Park Avenue has been among the busiest of the SunRail’s 12 stations.

According to Winter Park and state Department of Transportation analysis, the Winter Park station is in a virtual tie for ridership with the DeBary station at the north end of SunRail’s route and with the Sand Lake Road station at the south end.

“I think the numbers suggest that we are a destination,” said Kyle Dudgeon, manager of Winter Park’s Community Redevelopment Agency.

On Saturday, about 4,000 riders got off at Winter Park; the station was busy with riders getting on and off there from late morning until early evening.

The second-busiest station was at Church Street, where 2,200 passengers arrived. Most riders got off there from late afternoon through early evening, and a surge of boarding began at 9:30 p.m.

SunRail occasionally has offered free service, resulting in daily counts comparable to Saturday’s record.

From an item at:
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/sunrail/os-sunrail-record-ridership-20170322-story.html


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Arrival Of BART Brings “Real Transit Options”
To Warm Springs Innovation District

By Maggie Lancaster
Rail, Track, And Structures

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) announced its arrival to the Warm Springs South Fremont Innovation District.

While the area currently surrounding the new station is open field, it is considered to be a hub for green and other cutting-edge technology. Expectations are rising for growth in the innovation district. There are an estimated 20,000 jobs already there and Fremont officials say that number could double in the years ahead.

Warm Springs’ emerging community has attracted large companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific. The biotech firm employs about 700 people at its campus on Kato Road.
Company general manager John Kody says the arrival of BART is huge when it comes to attracting and retaining employees who want real transit options.

“Traffic is the number one topic,” said Kody. “Having moved from the Midwest, everyone speaks about the weather. Here they speak of traffic. And when I asked them where I should live everyone starts talking the traffic patterns. So the ability to access BART and to have the BART train come this far down to our facility will make a big difference in everyone’s lives.”

The most well known company in the district is Tesla. The electric-car maker anchors the district at the former New United Motor Manufacturing plant. The company recently came out with plans to roughly double its footprint in Fremont.

Fremont Economic Development Director Kelly Kline says the innovation district immediately surrounding the Warm Springs BART Station is about two-and-a-half times the size of Mission Bay in San Francisco.

New BART stations in Milpitas and San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood are also expected to open later this year.

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/track-maintenance/on-track-maintenance/arrival-of-bart-brings-real-transit-options%E2%80%9D-to-warm-springs-innovation-district.html


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Washington DC Court Rejects Feds’ Bid
To Save Amtrak Regulatory Power

By Linda Chiem
Law360.com

A Washington D.C. federal judge on Thursday rejected the government’s bid to preserve a federal statute allowing Amtrak to set performance and scheduling standards along the nation’s passenger railways, saying the D.C. Circuit unequivocally struck down the statute as unconstitutional last year.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg denied the U.S. Department of Transportation’s request for the entry of a final judgment that “severs” an arbitration provision — known as Section 207(d) — in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 but preserves the rest of the law giving Amtrak power to regulate freight railroads that compete with it for track use.

The judge said the D.C. Circuit had already ruled in April 2016 that PRIIA violated the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause because the statute granted self-interested party Amtrak regulatory authority over its competitors — the freight railroads that use and actually own much of the same tracks on which Amtrak travels.

“Because the Court of Appeals premised its due-process holding (in part) on the presence of Section 207(d), defendant contends there would be no constitutional issue absent that clause,” Judge Boasberg said. “That is a ticket this court cannot punch ... Just because there certainly is a due-process violation with Section 207(d) does not mean there is not a violation without it. Nothing in the D.C. Circuit’s opinion expresses this latter reading, and this court refuses to place this footnote four in the constitutional-law pantheon.”

To back its argument, the DOT had zeroed in on a footnote in the D.C. Circuit opinion that referenced several cases where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld joint public-private regulatory actions on the basis that, in this instance, “the Federal Railroad Administration’s authority to hold the line against overreaching by Amtrak is undermined by the power of the arbitrator.”

But Judge Boasberg declined Thursday to expand that and sided with the Association of American Railroads, which had launched the constitutional challenge to PRIIA on behalf of the nation’s largest freight railroads in 2011.

“The opinion likewise could have embraced the department’s counterargument or said more in its footnote four,” the judge said. “That it did not do so signals that the constitutional infection spread more broadly — at the very least, it forecloses this court from repeating these inquiries.”

Judge Boasberg added, “On an issue the Court of Appeals duly considered, this court will not propose a narrower possible holding than what it adopted; otherwise, AAR would be correct that this court would essentially be ‘overriding the holding of the D.C. Circuit and transforming AAR’s hard-earned win into a loss.’”

His order declared void and unconstitutional Section 207 of PRIIA and vacated the DOT and FRA’s “Metrics and Standards for Intercity Passenger Rail Service,” which took effect May 12, 2010.

The federal government had moved for a final judgment on Feb. 13. The DOT argued that the D.C. Circuit did not specify a remedy for the constitutional violations it identified in that ruling and that it thus now falls to the district court to craft a judgment “effectuating” the D.C. Circuit’s decision. The government asked the district court to set aside the existing performance metrics and scheduling standards on the books that Amtrak jointly developed with the FRA, and to sever PRIIA’s arbitration provision, Section 207(d), from the remainder of the statute.

The Association of American Railroads then filed an opposition brief explaining that the D.C. Circuit had held Section 207 was in its entirety unconstitutional and that the district court lacked the discretion to enter a judgment that went against what the circuit already decided.

The railroad trade group said Thursday it is just happy the long-running case is now closed.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision that brings this litigation to a close and look forward to our continued partnership with Amtrak in ensuring a fluid rail network for both freight and passenger service,” AAR spokeswoman Jessica Kahanek said in a statement.

The D.C. Circuit had said in its April 2016 ruling that Congress “piled anomaly on top of anomaly” when it drafted the statute endowing Amtrak — a for-profit corporation indirectly controlled by the U.S. president — with agency powers and authorizing it to regulate its resource competitors under Section 207.

The appeals court also ruled that PRIIA violated the Constitution’s Appointments Clause because it authorized either a private citizen or an improperly appointed government official — picked by the Surface Transportation Board — to exercise significant governmental power in the event that Amtrak and the FRA disagreed on what metrics or standards to come up with.

The government claimed that both of those constitutionality holdings depended on the arbitration provision, so getting rid of just that problematic section in the law would be enough to render the rest of the statute kosher in the eyes of the D.C. Circuit.

The DOT had fought tooth and nail against the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, pushing for a rehearing or a rehearing en banc last summer. The agency insisted that the three-judge panel invalidated an act of Congress on “novel constitutional grounds” and based its holding on the “mistaken conclusion” that Amtrak’s role in promulgating the metrics and standards amounted to regulatory authority.

However, the D.C. Circuit denied the DOT’s rehearing bid in September 2016. The agency and the federal government had until Feb. 6 to petition the Supreme Court to review the case, but even after requesting extensions of the deadline, they ultimately did not file a petition.

Representatives for the DOT could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

AAR is represented by Thomas H. Dupree Jr. and David A. Schnitzer of Gibson Dunn and in-house counsel Kathy Kirmayer and Daniel Saphire.

The government is represented by Chad Readler, Channing D. Phillips, Judry L. Subar, and Justin M. Sandberg of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case is Association of American Railroads v. U.S. Department of Transportation et al., case number 1:11-cv-01499 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and case number 12-5204 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

From a summary article found at:
https://www.law360.com/articles/905350/dc-court-rejects-feds-bid-to-save-amtrak-regulatory-power


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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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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Trump Administration’s Proposed Budget
Cuts USDOT Funds; TIGER, Amtrak
Long-Distance Train Funding Gone

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

The Trump Administration released its proposed 2017 budget, which includes reducing funds to the U.S. Department of Transportation and eliminating Amtrak’s long distance train funding, as well as popular transportation grants.

The budget requests $16.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, a $2.4 billion or 13 percent reduction. The proposal also “terminates federal support for Amtrak long distance train services, which have long been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.” The budget document said by eliminating Amtrak’s long distance train funding, the railroad could “focus on better managing its state-supported and Northeast Corridor train services.”

Other programs to see elimination under the proposed budget include the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program and the Economic Development Administration, which provides formula grants to state from the USDOT.
Another rail-heavy program to take a hit in the budget include the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts). Funds would be allocated to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only. The budget document said, “future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”

The administration’s proposal is the first step of the federal budget process. The Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will add their own reviews and resolutions before a final budget is reached.

[ Editor Note:  numerous press articles in the last week have outlined multiple issues and losses to ongoing rail projects and supplementary funding for both long-distance and shorter lines.  How the administration in Washington DC will be supportive of rail as suggested during the campaign is yet to materialize or be defined. ]

From an item at:
http://m.rtands.com/index.php/track-maintenance/off-track-maintenance/trump-administrations-proposed-budget-cuts-usdot-funds-by-13-percent-tiger-amtrak-long-distance-train-funding-gone.html?channel=


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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

MBTA Moves To Privatize
Customer Service Jobs

MBTA Station Staff Would Move To Operator Positions, Other Jobs.
“Ambassadors” Would Take Over At Stations

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority plans to privatize the jobs of many customer service employees in its stations, a move intended to manage costs by shifting some agents to needed roles as subway operators while hiring contractors to interact with riders.

Dozens of workers assigned to customers service posts at MBTA stations would be replaced by private-sector “ambassadors” under the plan, which the transit agency said could reduce the cost of the services they provide by more than $8.3 million annually.

As part of a deal with the MBTA’s largest union, however, current union employees would stay on or transition into other roles, according to Nicholas Easley, the MBTA’s director of flexible contracting, which oversees privatization.

“With private sector support, we could improve customer experience,” said Easley. “It would allow us the ability to manage and hold vendors accountable.”

Officials plan to discuss the proposal at a meeting Monday of the MBTA’s fiscal and management control board.

The agency wants to begin the process soon by asking companies to submit proposals for how they would carry out the change. Eventually, the MBTA says, it hopes to have more people working with customers in stations than it does now.

The agents can currently be seen throughout the system’s stations, where they help with fare collection, safety, and assisting disabled riders. But officials say the job description is vague, and agents’ responsibilities vary widely across the system.

The new customer service employees would be trained to do similar duties, but also take on some cleaning, safety, and reporting faulty equipment.

MBTA officials say the new employees would be able to use technology, such as tablets, to give customers better answers and guide them to their destinations. The agency also could request more bilingual workers for certain stations.

The MBTA has 187 customer service agents, 88 of whom took on the job after their former positions were eliminated.

Some are former token collectors whose old jobs were made obsolete when the T stopped using that payment system. Others are former train attendants, who used to ride trains to assist subway operators with announcements and checking on passenger safety.

Ninety-nine other agents are in transitional roles, waiting to move into positions as subway operators.

Under an agreement between their labor group and the MBTA’s management, the former token collectors and train attendants will keep their jobs until they retire or leave the organization, while the others will be given a chance to take on subway operating responsibilities.

The customer service agents cost the MBTA about $19.6 million in salaries, benefits, and overtime, officials said. The agency says those costs rise to $27.2 million when accounting for long-term costs, such as retiree health care and pension values.

The average wage of these employees is about $60,000 to $80,000.

The costs of many of those employees would not disappear, as they would be shifted into driving roles instead or be retrained in the new program.

The MBTA believes, however, that private industry can make customer service more efficient, allowing the agency to hire more workers without paying agents union wages, with pension and retiree benefits.

In all, the MBTA believes it can cut the cost of the customer service agents to about $16.4 million for the current level of service, or to $18.9 million with a 50 percent increase in services.

A spokeswoman for the Boston Carmen’s Union did not immediately return a request for comment.

The MBTA has created a new “customer experience” group to focus on how passengers interact with the system. That could include reevaluating its station and vehicle announcements or changing the roles of its customer service agents.

The MBTA in December hired Margaret Young as its chief customer experience officer. She has worked at IBM, Ogilvy Consulting, and The Cambridge Group.

“It isn’t that the T hasn’t been focused on customers, but all of our customer focus resources have occurred in individual functional departments,” said Young. “There hasn’t been a laser focus in putting them all together.”

From an item at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/19/mbta-moves-privatize-customer-service-jobs/yTkYzgU1w2VQuS3xtguyPJ/story.html


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HIGH-SPEED RAIL... High-Speed Lines...  

Amtrak Offers More Acela Express Service

From Mass Transit Magazine

Weekend Amtrak travelers will soon have more high-speed options for Northeast Corridor (NEC) service between Boston and New York City, as Amtrak expands its popular Acela Express service between the two cities, with an additional round trip on Sunday. Schedules will also be adjusted to add more departures Saturday morning and Sunday evening when customers have requested more service.

These changes will go into effect April 8, 2017. Tickets are now available online, the Amtrak mobile apps or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL. With these schedule changes, Amtrak is responding to customer feedback to provide more options for customers traveling the busy NEC.

Acela Express has long been the preferred premium choice for travelers between Washington, New York and Boston,” said Mark Yachmetz, Amtrak vice president of NEC Business Development. “Our responsibility is to listen to our customers and continually improve our product to make sure Amtrak is always recognized as a smarter way to travel.”

In an effort to meet the increasing demand for high-speed rail service and provide additional capacity on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak contracted with Alstom to produce 28 next-generation high-speed trainsets that will eventually replace the existing Acela Express equipment.

Found at:
http://www.masstransitmag.com/press_release/12318754/amtrak-offers-more-acela-express-service


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

VIA Rail Popular With Students
Over March Break

From VIA Rail, Canada

Last Sunday was the final day of the Ontario and Quebec March break period, which lasted four weeks (Thursday, February 16 to Sunday, March 19, 2017). During this time, VIA Rail welcomed approximately 353,000 people to its Québec City – Windsor corridor trains.

Taking advantage of additional departures offered since last November, the majority of passengers (close to 53,000) travelled between Toronto and Ottawa. Friday, February 17 was most popular day for travel with some 18,000 people taking the train. The last week, travel plans for those who made the smart choice to take the train were not affected by the major snowstorm that struck southern Québec and Ontario. On Tuesday, March 14, and Wednesday, March 15, VIA Rail transported an average of 12,000 passengers per day to destinations in the Québec City – Windsor corridor, during a time of the year when there is usually a daily average of 8,600 passengers.

“Our strong performance over March break reflects the ongoing efforts to implement initiatives that facilitate our customers’ travels, and offer a schedule that matches theirs,” said the President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano.  “These changes, which were inspired by our customer-centric strategy, are the driving force behind our successes for the last few months.”

The Train Is Popular With Young Travelers

Among travelers, many students sought to avoid traffic jams and opted instead to travel in the comfort of the train during their reading week. A more than 30% increase in travel among semester pass holders was seen compared to the same period last year. The Corridor trains also welcomed more children, and children’s ticket sales increased more than 10% over the last three weeks (February 27 to March 19, 2017) compared to the three March break weeks last year.

“Whether it’s to travel home from university, or to explore a new destination, VIA Rail allows everyone to travel efficiently and stress-free all while reducing their carbon footprint.  The train is also a great place to do school work, study for an exam, or simply relax,” added Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano.

A Large Turnout Over Family Day

Over the Family Day long weekend (Thursday, February 16 to Wednesday, February 21), VIA Rail transported 74,000 people on its Québec City – Windsor Corridor trains, an increase of 7.5% in ridership compared to the same period in 2016. Several trains had an occupancy rate of more than 85% over the long weekend.

About VIA Rail Canada

As Canada’s national rail passenger service, VIA Rail (viarail.ca) and its 2,600 employees are mandated to provide safe, efficient and economical passenger transportation service, in both official languages of our country. VIA Rail operates intercity, regional and transcontinental trains linking over 400 communities across Canada, and safely transports nearly four million passengers annually. The Corporation was awarded seven Safety Awards by the Railway Association of Canada over the last eight years. For more information, visit: www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail

From A VIA Rail Press Release at:
http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/media-room/latest-news/217245/21-march-2017-via-rail-popular-students-over-march-brea


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Events... Events...  

Rail Users Network (RUN) Annual Conference

RUN to Seattle

The Pacific Northwest Passenger Rail Summit is being held Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. at the Columbia City Theater, 4916 Rainier Ave South, Seattle, Washington. This regional conference, sponsored by the Rail Users’ Network, and All Aboard Washington (AAWA) will examine passenger rail and trail transit issues in the Pacific Northwest. The focus will be on recent success stories, projects which are moving forward, and those which are standing still and need support. We will also highlight the strategies of rail advocates in other parts of the country to promote and expand passenger rail.

An optional tour on Friday, May 5, will give Conference participants an opportunity to experience public transportation in the Greater Seattle area, which has one of North America’s most varied transit systems. Sounder commuter rail, Link light rail, modern streetcars, ferries, and even a 1962-vintage monorail. In fact, some of the city’s buses are electric “trolley buses”, which were once ubiquitous, but now only run in a few cities.

Who should attend:

The registration fee for the Pacific Northwest Rail Summit is $55 before March 31, $60 before May 1, and $65 at the door.

Registration includes morning refreshments, lunch, an afternoon refreshment break, and all conference materials/handouts. The optional tour on Friday is free, however participants are responsible for their own rail/transit fares. If you wish to stay in Seattle before or after the conference, we recommend you look at Seattle’s official tourism website www.visitseattle.org.

For the full write-up, speaker list, and discussion panel schedule see:  http://www.railusers.net/annual-conference/

To Register early go to:  http://www.railusers.net/conference-registration/


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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