The National Corridors Initiative Logo

April 11, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 14

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

 Destination:Freedom 

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

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

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

  Guest Commentary…
Pittsburgh Could Roll With More Amtrak Service
  Guest Opinion…
Late-Night MBTA Service Crucial To Economic
   Growth And Justice
  Guest Column…
The People Want Rail Service–But States Like
   Georgia Need To Pitch In
  Expansion Lines…
Is Amtrak Coming Back to the Gulf Coast?
  Funding Lines…
FRA Announces $25 Million Available For Positive
   Train Control Implementation
New York State Budget Includes $27b For MTA
  Ridership Lines…
U.S. Rail Ridership Increased As Overall Public
   Transit Use Dipped 1.3 Percent In 2015
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Safety Lines…
Were Rules Violated In Amtrak Wreck That
   Killed Two Workers On The Tracks?
Keolis Giving MBTA’s Commuter Rail Conductors
   400 Specialized iPhones
  Political Lines…
Shuster Opposes Proposed CP-NS Merger
Former Amtrak Executive To Lead
   New Jersey Transit
  To The North…
North Vancouver Wants Passenger Rail Service
  Events …
Rail Users Network Conference - Boston, MA
   April 29, 2016
  Publication Notes …


GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

Pittsburgh Could Roll With
More Amtrak Service

By Brian O’Neill
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I suffer from locomotive envy.

It’s an uncommon affliction, exacerbated on a trip to the East Coast over the Easter holiday. There I choo-chooed around on New Jersey Transit, New York subways and the Long Island Railroad and never had to wait very long for the next train.

Then I tried coming home via Amtrak. After first fearing I’d have to wait until Tuesday to return, a cancellation allowed me to snag the last Easter Monday ticket on The Pennsylvanian, the only train to Pittsburgh. Before I could board in Paoli, about 20 miles west of Philadelphia, conductors had to boot a handful of people to make room for me and the college students heading back to Pittsburgh.

Some who had to get off, accustomed as they were to trains that leave every half hour via SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority), appeared baffled. They had trouble grasping how a train could be a once-in-24-hours opportunity for anyone.

Only one a day? Really?

Yeah. And ours is slow, too.

I was informed later that this was the first time reserved ticketing was required during the Easter holiday. That’s something Amtrak previously had experienced only at Thanksgiving. Having to shuffle through several cars before finding a seat is additional evidence that as infrequent and slow as the Pittsburgh train is, its market is captive and growing.

I’ve used this space to lament the uneven nature of Pennsylvania train travel before. Between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Amtrak trains depart in each direction 14 times a day between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., most of them reaching speeds of 110 mph on a dedicated line.

Here we just have the one train that takes 5 1/2 hours to get from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg on a line shared with Norfolk Southern freight operations. PennDOT has been talking with Amtrak about adding a second Pittsburgh-Harrisburg train, but the conversation moves even more slowly than the trains.

It’s been more than six months since a PennDOT official said Amtrak has enough trains to add a trip here, yet Amtrak can’t even tell Pennsylvania how much that service would cost the state. PennDOT pays $14.5 million to subsidize Amtrak service that’s mostly east of Harrisburg.

An Amtrak spokesman emailed this week that there’s no timetable on when it might answer the question of a second Pittsburgh train. All Amtrak can say is “we are working within our resources to expeditiously provide … a thorough evaluation of additional service.’’

A second train might mean less crowding, but more important would be the increased ridership. Even a slow train would be more attractive if it’s more frequent and convenient. Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail president Michael Alexander said the key is linking with one of the fast trains from Harrisburg to New York, via Philadelphia.

PennDOT understands that “increased frequency is the low-hanging fruit in budgetary terms, as compared to making the trains go a lot faster,’’ Mr. Alexander said.

Train service here still feels like something of a secret. When I last wrote of our skimpy service in November, an online commenter said when he told people he’d arrived in Pittsburgh by train, they “looked at me like I used a hot air balloon.’’

Yet our city’s arrivals and departures on The Pennsylvanian rose from 85,590 to 94,075 last year, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers, even as gasoline prices plummeted and Megabus was offering cheaper rides to New York. The full nine-hour plus Pittsburgh-New York is the most popular ticket, with the 7 1/2 hour Philadelphia train second.

The only other train through Pittsburgh, the Capitol Limited between Chicago and Washington, saw arrivals and departures here rise from 45,748 to 53,441 in the past two years. Fully a fifth of the 223,706 riding that train to and from anywhere along the line sprang for a bed in a sleeper car.

The state’s top five Amtrak stations offer a sense of our isolation: Philadelphia, America’s third-busiest station after New York and Washington, had more than 4.1 million boardings or departures last year. Lancaster was next with 541,252; then Harrisburg, with 508,685; then Pittsburgh, with 149,587; then Elizabethtown — a community of only 11,500 between Harrisburg and Lancaster — with 109,834 arrivals and departures.

My cousin from Bristol, Pa., tells me she thinks nothing of hopping on a SEPTA train to Philadelphia for a quick Amtrak trip to Washington, returning the same day. Pittsburghers can’t even get a same-day round-trip to Lancaster.

From a piece at:
http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/brian-oneill/2016/04/07/Brian-O-Neill-Pittsburgh-could-roll-with-more-Amtrak-service/stories/201604070014


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GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Late-Night MBTA Service Crucial
To Economic Growth And Justice

MBTA Is Working Backwards By Ending Service Before
Completing Civil Rights Analysis Of Impact

By Michael Curry And Jesse Mermell
Originally Published On April 4

Investing in transportation in order to create economic growth is a popular refrain. You’d be hard-pressed to find the business group, community organization, or transit agency that doesn’t talk that talk. But judging by the speed with which the MBTA shut down late-night service, it appears that the only economic growth that matters to the T happens on a 9-to-5 schedule.

Today marks the end of a public comment period to allow interested parties to weigh in about how best to mitigate the impact of canceling the late-night T program, a reasonable and productive step if it had come before the service was axed. Unfortunately, the MBTA is taking this step out of order. The Federal Transit Administration requires that the agency a) conduct a civil rights analysis of how the loss of late-night T operations could impact minority and low-income riders, and b) explore less discriminatory alternatives to lessen the impact of the program cut — all before ending service.

The numbers are clear about who will be impacted by this closing. According to the MBTA’s own data, in 2015, 54 percent of late-night riders were minorities and 64 percent were low-income. When the MBTA conducted an online survey about late-night T service, in 2013, 35 percent of the nearly 26,000 respondents said that they would use the service to get home from work, and about the same percentage said they would take it to get to or from school. Work where these men and women are contributing to the growth of our economy, and school where they are learning the skills they need to contribute in the future.

But late-night T service isn’t about numbers; it’s about people. People who contribute to our region’s economic growth. Their stories are numerous, and have been widely reported.

Earlier this year, WBUR (Boston University Radio) told Melissa’s story. Melissa is a student at Bunker Hill Community College. She works in Boston as a waitress, and used late-night T service to get home after work. Melissa took the T because she felt safer with large groups of people on the train than she did being on her own in a cab or taking a ride-share service. Now, the T is no longer an option for her.

Last November, Boston.com (a part of the Boston Globe newspaper service) profiled Reydi, who gets off work late at night, and for whom taking a taxi is too expensive. Without late-night service, the price to get home after work will go up significantly.

In the same piece, Boston.com covered Wan, whose work requires him to be out and about until 2 a.m. Wan has a bike, but prefers taking the T home from Boston to Cambridge, especially in the brutal winter months.

In recent years the state rightly invested in creating economic growth throughout the region. It invested in the Seaport by creating the Silver Line. It invested in Somerville with the new Assembly Station on the Orange Line. There’s the Fairmount Line, and the widely heralded renovation of the Government Center T stop. All of these projects are good news for some of the Massachusetts economy. Some, but not all. They leave behind the men and women who keep our economic engine running while those of us with the privilege of working during daylight hours are tucked into our warm beds.

When the state leaves behind people like Melissa, Reydi, and Wan, we fail twice: in economic growth, and in economic justice. As an economic growth failure, we stop short of reaching our Commonwealth’s full potential for economic success. We force the Massachusetts economy to slow down each and every night, and as a result we are leaving money on the table. As an economic justice failure, we don’t meet our moral obligation to create opportunity for each and every one of our neighbors, and to do so equally. We send a clear message that we care about the access that some people have to opportunity, but not others.

The MBTA has proposed late-in-the-game steps to mitigate the impact of the loss of late night T, but we fear they do not adequately address this dual failure. And so we have a simple ask of the MBTA: don’t fail us. Engage in this process in the manner prescribed by the Federal Transit Administration. Restore late night service, conduct the requisite equity analysis fully and in good faith, and then — if necessary — explore more equitable options to this vital service.

Michael Curry is president of the Boston NAACP. Jesse Mermell is president of the Alliance for Business Leadership.

Found at:
http://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/late-night-mbta-supports-economic-growth-and-justice/


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GUEST COLUMN... Guest Column...  

The People Want Rail Service ---
But States Like Georgia Need To Pitch In

By Douglas Alexander
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Saturday April 9, 2016
Used By Permission Of The Author

No one expected the crowds. No one.

But there they were. Hundreds upon hundreds of folks who had come out to their train stations along the Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida Gulf Coasts to welcome a train, a special train, a train that had been missing from their communities for over 10 years.

This train was full of national, state and local politicians, government officials, Amtrak officials, mayors, county commissioners, city council members, business representatives, chambers of commerce staffers, members of Congress and even one U.S. Senator, Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi. Yes, you heard correctly, a Republican. Really.

The train had left New Orleans at nine on the dot. Its mission was to carry all of these dignitaries and advocates on a journey to measure the desire of local folks to have a passenger train once again serve their communities.

Our first stop, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is a town of about 11,000. As the train rolled in, we were greeted by what seemed like most of the city’s population, along with cheerleaders, a high school marching band, people dressed for Mardi Gras, city and county officials and hundreds of just plain folks who were there to say, we want ... we NEED our train back!

Every town after that tried to one-up the one before. Enormous 50-foot American flags were suspended from ladder trucks. One town put two pumpers on either side of the tracks to form a water arch for our train. Hundreds lined the tracks, even where the train did not stop, with signs saying “Welcome! We are so glad you’re here!” and “When’s the next train?

But so what? Why did these cities and towns want a train, anyway? Until the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 ended it, these Gulf Coast communities had been served — if a three-day-a-week train that was chronically late is entitled to that verb — by Amtrak’s Sunset Limited. By the time Katrina blew away the tracks and bridges, the Sunset had been running that route for 22 years.

It was America’s first true transcontinental train, but it was plagued with scheduling and equipment problems. Thanks usually to delays on the western part of the run, lateness was chronic; there was even one time when the train was 24 hours behind schedule. So when Katrina forced Amtrak to annul the Sunset east of New Orleans, they were not in any particular hurry to bring it back.

However, the communities on the Gulf Coast thought otherwise. Rebuilding stations that had been destroyed and renovating damaged ones was a top priority for these small cities. In spite of the limited service they had before the storm, they wanted to keep their rail connections. It took the CSX railroad five months and $300 million to rebuild the 40 miles of track and the score of bridges that were gone. Within a year, most of the affected communities had their stations ready for Amtrak. But Amtrak was not ready, and so they waited.

It took an independent organization, the Southern Rail Commission, to get the ball rolling. This commission, known as the SRC, is made up of representatives from the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana who are appointed by their state’s governors. It is tasked with restoring passenger rail throughout the South.

Florida and Georgia have standing invitations to be part of the commission; Florida is now taking the steps it needs to take to join. Georgia, on the other hand, has refused to be part of it, possibly because our leaders are worried that the SRC might actually get some trains running or something, which of course is some kind of Democrat — if not actually Communist — plot to make us give up our automobiles. After all, in Georgia the only allowable answer for all that ails us is more and wider roads.

The SRC is not stopping its efforts with a Gulf Coast train. In addition to planning a new service from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, they are homing in on another new service that would be accessible from Georgia: splitting the daily New York-Atlanta-New Orleans Crescent in Meridian, Mississippi and sending half of the train on to Dallas, Texas.

But to do that, the SRC needs Georgia’s support, especially its political muscle in Washington. Georgia should join the SRC, but not through our DOT. Hopeful statements and occasional studies to the contrary, GDOT has no interest in rail, or really in any other mode that is not a road. If Georgia is to join the SRC, it should be through our Georgia Department of Economic Development, because, as the people on the Gulf Coast know, passenger trains can be engines of economic growth and success.

Just ask them. They’ll tell you.

Former Atlanta city councilman Douglas Alexander worked for six years as rail program manager of the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority. He is a long-time Director of the National Corridors Initiative, as well as an accomplished poster-designer; Doug’s poster artwork has been a key part of nearly all NCI conferences over the past 25 years.


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Is Amtrak Coming Back To The Gulf Coast?

Serving Communities Along The Gulf Coast Will Require A New Approach

Second Of A Series
By David Peter Alan

On February 18th of this year, an eastbound Amtrak train left New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Crescent City and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005. The devastation spread as far east as Mobile, Alabama. In a sense, one bit of it spread as far east as Orlando, Florida. That was the elimination from the rails of the Gulf Coast portion of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, which left New Orleans for the last time before the storm, and has not yet returned.

During most of the twelve years that it ran, it provided only basic access to the places it served. For a brief time, it ran all the way to Miami, so it served the sizable South Florida market. For most of its brief incarnation, it turned around at Orlando; a move that was more understandable from a standpoint of equipment utilization than from a standpoint of customer service. It saved a train set to turn the train at Sanford (the Auto-Train terminal) or from nearby Orlando (both in Central Florida), but it left much of Florida’s population and many of its tourist destinations off the route.

The Gulf Coast train last ran on a daily basis between New Orleans and Florida in 1970. At that time, it was called the Gulf Wind and ran between New Orleans and Jacksonville, with connections at Jacksonville to and from Miami. There were also connections to trains going north from there. It ran on the Louisville & Nashville between New Orleans and Flomaton, a small town between Mobile and Pensacola. It ran on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, later Seaboard Coast Line, the rest of the way to Jacksonville. Toward the end of its life, it ran on a tri-weekly schedule.

It was revived as the Gulf Coast portion of the Sunset in 1993 and ran that way for 12 years. The equipment originated in Los Angeles, and ran through New Orleans to Florida. Amtrak promoted it as a “transcontinental” train and, in a sense, it was. It did not boast an eastern terminus in a major city for most of that time, and the schedule did not provide access to many places at times when many people would want to go to those places.

For that reason especially, as Amtrak, the Southern Rail Commission, and others work on planning a re-introduction of service on the Gulf Coast, they will need to take a hard look at making that service work for the would-be ridership, and that is especially true about frequencies, and scheduling.

Probably the worst aspect of the old service terminating at Orlando was its lack of connectivity going south to Florida’s population centers like Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Going toward New Orleans, the Sunset started from Orlando at 1:15 pm. The Silver Meteor left Miami slightly earlier than it does today, and it was scheduled to arrive in Orlando in time to make the connection. People going to New Orleans or other Gulf Coast points had to change trains, but at least they could get there. There was no connection in the other direction. Because the schedule was established by the portion of the route west of New Orleans, the train was scheduled to arrive in Orlando at 8:45 pm; almost five hours after the last southbound departure for Miami.

Northbound connections at Jacksonville were somewhat better. The train from New Orleans had about three hours of cushion to make connection with the northbound Silver Meteor, and the southbound Silver Star and Silver Meteor both connected there, although the Jacksonville station is not located in a place that allows passengers time to explore the city during a layover, except by taxicab or Uber.

The access provided to intermediate stops east of New Orleans was not convenient for many travelers. Amtrak’s October 28, 2001 timetable shows the train schedule, and gives an indication of where a traveler could go conveniently. The train left New Orleans at 10:30 at night, and stopped at Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama in the middle of the night. The first conveniently-scheduled morning arrival was a Pensacola, Florida, at 6:15. It stopped at the state capital of Tallahassee at mid-day and at Jacksonville in the late afternoon, on the way to Orlando.

On the way to New Orleans, the train left Orlando at 1:15, in the early afternoon. It stopped in Jacksonville in the late afternoon and Pensacola in the middle of the night, scheduled to stop at 1:05. The scheduled times at Mobile and Biloxi were 4:10 and 5:33 respectively, and the train was due to arrive at New Orleans at 9:20. After a layover, it was scheduled to leave New Orleans for Los Angeles at 12:45 pm; almost four hours later than the current schedule.

The schedule east of New Orleans served few places conveniently. The Mississippi Gulf Coast and Mobile hosted the train at inconvenient hours, all in the middle of the night. Greyhound buses at least served these areas with daytime schedules. (While it was possible to take the train from New Orleans to Pensacola on a Friday night, spend the week-end there, and return on Sunday night for a Monday-morning arrival in the Crescent City, that was probably the only arguably-convenient round-trip available on that schedule, since going to Pensacola and returning to New Orleans by rail otherwise required a three-day stay. The same held true for Tallahassee, and the trip from New Orleans was several hours longer.

From Florida points served by the train, the schedule was not much better, except for a vacation in New Orleans of several days’ duration, or the beginning of a trip going through New Orleans. New Orleans is universally-recognized as a great vacation destination, but the former Gulf Coast train schedule did not allow people to go to any other places along its route conveniently.

There are other alternatives to the 1993-2005 schedules, however. In the 1980s, Amtrak ran a train called the Gulf Coast Limited for about a year. It ran a same-day schedule, leaving Mobile early in the morning and returning from New Orleans in the late afternoon. It allowed people in Mobile and the Mississippi Gulf communities a day in New Orleans, and gave them connections to some other trains there. It did not provide a connection to the train to the New York train, since that train has always left the Crescent City early in the morning. There has been talk of reviving a Gulf Coast train to Mobile, and there has been recent talk of reviving service on the short route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which last ran in 1969. That service could have been started already, but former Louisiana Governor Bobbi Jindal in 2009 turned down $90 million in Federal funding he was offered to do just that.

The point? While understanding the fiscal and other constraints under which Amtrak has always labored, this time around, if Gulf Coast service is restored, let’s hope that a way can be found to serve the Gulf Coast towns with a train that will allow riders to come and go at a reasonable time of day. Such a schedule would be far more useful.

We will look at these possibilities at the conclusion of this series, but first, we will examine the route and how people can go to those places today on a Greyhound bus in the next article in this series. While we are and remain rail advocates, the heavily subsidized Interstate Highway System, which covers only a small portion of its true costs with state and Federal gas and diesel taxes, allows Greyhound and other bus companies to compete. We have to give Amtrak the tools to fight back. More on that next week.


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

FRA Announces $25 Million Available For
Positive Train Control Implementation

Administration Has Requested $1.25 Billion To Help
Railroads Achieve Implementation

From The Federal Railroad Administration

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has announced that it is accepting applications for $25 million in competitive grant funding available to railroads, suppliers, and state and local governments for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation. The funding is part of the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act that funds the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Positive train control is a long overdue technology that prevents accidents and saves lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These funds will help us get closer to implementing PTC, and I encourage applications that can make these limited dollars go as far as possible.”

Applications will be accepted until May 19, 2016, and FRA will give preference to projects that would provide the greatest level of public safety benefits. As part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal, FRA requested $1.25 billion to assist commuter and short line railroads with implementing PTC.

PTC prevents certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and trains going to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position. In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous (PIH) or toxic-by-inhalation hazardous (TIH) materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. Last October, Congress extended the original deadline from December 31, 2015 to at least December 31, 2018.

“Any Congressional funding and investment to make Positive Train Control active on our nation’s railroad network is a worthwhile investment,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “But it will take even more significant funding to achieve this important, life-saving goal. We look forward to working with Congress to find these resources and encourage railroads to submit strong applications.”

Since 2008, FRA has provided significant assistance to support railroads’ PTC implementation. Those efforts include:

View a list of when railroads predict that they will achieve full PTC implementation: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0628

To learn more about the grant, visit www.grants.gov.

See more at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/fra-announces-25-million-available-positive-train-control-implementation#sthash.os3an4h9.dpuf


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New York State Budget
Includes $27b For MTA

From Rail, Track, And Structures

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced an agreement on the 2016-17 state budget, including a whopping $27 billion for Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

The budget holds the growth in state spending to two percent for the sixth consecutive year, continuing to reverse a decades-long trend where state spending outpaced the rate of inflation or personal incomes.

The budget contains the largest state transportation plan ever approved, with more than $55 billion of transportation investments statewide, including $27.14 billion for NEW York Department of Transportation (NYDOT) and thruway programs and $27.98 billion for MTA programs. The plan aligns capital programming for NYDOT and MTA over a five-year period (SFY 2016-20) and includes additional commitments for priority projects and programs that extend over a sixth year.

MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast says this is a monumental win for the people of New York and marks the largest investment ever made in the MTA.

“It is an important victory not only for New York City and its suburbs, but for all the communities across New York State,” said Prendergast. “The plan will enable the MTA to maintain critical infrastructure while renewing, enhancing and expanding our system to meet the ridership and growth demands of the future and improving the current experience for the millions who critically rely on our system each day.”

The $27 billion NYDOT capital program includes $21.1 billion for capital improvement of highways, bridges, rail, aviation infrastructure, non-MTA transit and NYDOT facilities throughout the state. It also includes $4 billion for capital investment for a sixth year.

The $27 billion MTA Capital Program includes $26.6 billion for improvement of capital facilities operated by New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and MTA Bus and major initiatives including $1.5 billion for Phase II of the Second Avenue Subway. Specifically, the budget authorizes a record $8.3 billion of state support for the program.

“The governor has once again assured a year-to-year increase in state operating assistance for the transit system and brought us a significant increase in support for the MTA, including a commitment to the second phase of the extension of Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem and billions of dollars for the essential work of keeping the transit system safe and reliable,” Prendergast noted.

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit-light-rail/new-york-state-budget-includes-27b-for-mta.html


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

U.S. Rail Ridership Increased As Overall Public
Transit Use Dipped 1.3 Percent In 2015

From Progressive Railroading

Although total U.S. public transit ridership fell 1.3 percent in 2015, light- and heavy-rail ridership increased, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) year-end ridership report.

Light-rail ridership nudged up 0.4 percent last year, with 12 out of 28 agencies reporting increases. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in Houston, for example, experienced a 24.1 percent increase in this category due to new light-rail lines opening in May 2015.

Additionally, light-rail ridership in Buffalo, N.Y., rose 21.4 percent compared with 2014.

Meanwhile, heavy-rail ridership increased 0.2 percent, with 10 out of 15 systems reporting increases. Cities reporting increased ridership in this category include: Cleveland (3.8 percent); Chicago (1.5 percent); Atlanta (0.7 percent); and Philadelphia (0.3 percent).

Nationally, commuter-rail ridership was flat in comparison to 2014. Two commuter-rail systems logged double-digit increases, however: Orlando, Fla. (56.7 percent) and Seattle (12.9 percent).

Last year, ridership across all modes of public transit declined to 10.6 billion trips compared with 2014’s record 10.8 billion trips. Despite the decline, the figure represents the third highest annual ridership in the past decade, APTA officials said in a press release.

Lower gas prices may have impacted ridership: In 2015, the average price of gasoline was $2.52 per gallon, which was 26.7 percent lower than it was in the previous year. The cost of gas fell to $2.26 in the fourth-quarter 2015.

On average, every 10 percent drop in gas prices leads to a 1.8 percent decrease in public transportation ridership, APTA officials said.

Increased fares also may have led to a decline in ridership. Fares increased 4.8 percent in 2015, rising from a national average of $1.87 in 2014 to $1.96 last year.

Still, some transit agencies reported record ridership system-wide, including Caltrain, the Chicago Transit Authority, MTA Metro-North Railroad and Minneapolis’ Metro Transit, according to APTA.

For the APTA report see: http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2015-q4-ridership-APTA.pdf

From an item found at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/rail_industry_trends/news/US-rail-ridership-increased-as-overall-public-transit-use-dipped-13-percent-in-2015--47829


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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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SAFETYLINES... Safety Lines...  

Were Rules Violated In Amtrak Wreck That
Killed Two Workers On The Tracks?

By Ashley Halsey, Washington Post
And Internet Sources

Basic rules of railroading and federal regulations should have prevented the Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia on Sunday that killed two maintenance workers and injured 31 people aboard the train, those guidelines indicate.

Just what went wrong that caused a southbound Amtrak train to collide with a backhoe doing work on the track is the province of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration.

But in the 212 years since the steam locomotive was invented, railroads have established rules to keep trains from running down their own maintenance workers. Those rules have been cemented with federal regulation and law.

Among them:

Even as they examined a data recorder and video from cameras aboard the train, investigators on Monday scrutinized whether the work crew followed those procedures.

Another mechanism that could have prevented Sunday’s crash is called positive train control, or PTC. Amtrak announced that its PTC system was fully operative on its tracks in the Northeast Corridor in December, seven months after a derailment in Philadelphia that the automatic braking system could have prevented. The May 12 wreck killed eight people and injured more than 200.

Amtrak confirmed Monday that the system was active and installed on the train involved in Sunday’s collision. But while the technology may have been working at the scene of Sunday’s crash, unless the PTC system was notified that workers were on the track, it would not have stopped the train, railroad experts said.

One of the dead workers was described by officials as the operator of a backhoe working on the rail bed. The other was said to be the worker’s supervisor. It was unclear whether there were other members of the work crew as the daily Amtrak Palmetto train bound for Washington and then on to Savannah, Ga., came barreling down the tracks.

The train departed Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station about 18 minutes earlier and had a straight run of more than two miles before it reached the site where it collided with the backhoe.

The FRA’s regulations on railroad work sites are unequivocal about being on the lookout for approaching trains.

“Watchmen/lookouts assigned to provide train approach warning shall devote full attention to detecting the approach of trains and communicating a warning thereof, and shall not be assigned any other duties while functioning as watchmen/lookouts,” Regulation 214.329 says.

It adds that workers should receive a warning “not less than 15 seconds” before a train passes the work location. And it says that all workers must maintain a position that allows them to hear that warning.

Another regulation requires work parties to orally or in writing notify the train dispatcher of the planned work zone. “The train dispatcher or control operator shall not permit the movement of trains or other on-track equipment onto the working limits .?.?. until the roadway worker .?.?. has reported clear of the track,” FRA Regulation 214.323 says.

Work crews also are permitted to shut off the electrical current running through the rail, an action “that precludes passage of trains or engines” into the work zone.

That rule stipulates that no one is permitted to allow trains back into the work area “until receiving permission to do so from the roadway worker who established the working limits.”

Follow Up

In a story published late last week by the Philadelphia Enquirer, it has also been noted that a federal directive issued to Amtrak last Wednesday night confirms the rail agency’s workers weren’t following basic safety rules when a weekend train crash killed two people in Chester.

The directive from the Federal Railroad Administration is the first official confirmation that safety rules weren’t followed in the crash. Specifically, it highlighted concerns about the way personnel working on tracks follow safety standards. It stated both federal regulations and Amtrak’s internal rules were not being followed at the time of the crash, according to information provided by a senior FRA official.

Sources with knowledge of the crash near Booth Street have said a communications lapse between changing shifts contributed to the crash.

The FRA ordered Amtrak late Wednesday night to require all railroad maintenance workers and their supervisors to review safety rules applicable to their jobs. The regulatory agency also required Amtrak to review the rules governing communication between rail workers, their foremen and dispatchers. FRA also recommended that the rail agency conduct a similar safety review for all safety sensitive workers.

In the case of rail incidents, the FRA conducts its own investigation parallel to one underway from the National Transportation Safety Board. The FRA issued the directive because of information received during its investigation, which is ongoing.

Original story Found at:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/were-rules-violated-in-amtrak-wreck-that-killed-two-workers-on-the-tracks/2016/04/04/245885e8-fa79-11e5-80e4-c381214de1a3_story.html


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Keolis Giving MBTA’s Commuter Rail
Conductors 400 Specialized iPhones

By Bree Sison
CBSLocal.Com

The MBTA’s commuter rail conductors are getting an information technology upgrade in the form of a specially designed iPhone.

“They are restricted so they can only do what we need them to do,” says Ric Salvatici, chief information officer for Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the commuter rail.

Using the “mobile computing devices,” conductors can access real-time data on service disruptions, train schedules, on-time performance and emergency contacts like the MBTA Police.

“The purpose of this initial roll out is ensure they have the same information, if not better than what our passengers have through their smart phones and open data they receive through their apps,” Salvatici says.

Conductors and assistants will not be able to access the internet, their email or anything unrelated to Keolis operations.

“Passengers often had information before (conductors) do,” Salvatici said. “We started off in July 2014 and really, what we focused on was improving our internal communication to get what we call ‘the single version of the truth.’”

Keolis won the eight-year contract to operate the commuter rail in 2014. Following a disastrous performance during the winter of 2015, the company was handed millions of dollars in fines and a list of things to improve from state regulators.

When asked how much Keolis spent to purchase and program the 400 mobile devices, the company declined to comment, but they did say it took a couple months to develop the conductor’s new app, which is similar to their passenger app already available to riders.

Editor notes: NCI Foreign editor, David Beale reports that similar cellular GSM devices have been in use throughout many European railroads for a number of years. The phones are restricted to what they can connect-with, assuring they cannot be misused. Keolis is catching up with technology trends elsewhere, and which it likely already knew about for some time.

From an item at:
http://boston.cbslocal.com/2016/04/04/keolis-mbta-commuter-rail-iphones/


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Shuster Opposes Proposed CP-NS Merger

By Carolina Worrell
Railway Age Magazine

Chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) on April 5, 2016 announced his opposition to Canadian Pacific Railway’s proposed merger with Norfolk Southern.

“I have closely followed CP’s attempts to merge with another railroad over the past several years, and after looking at the merits of the current proposal to merge with NS, I do not believe it is in the best interests of the U.S. freight transportation system, railroad employees, rail shippers, and the short line railroads,” Shuster said in a statement.

“Since 2014, CP has been actively pursuing a merger, first with CSX, and now three different proposals to merge with NS, all of which have been rejected. A strong, healthy, and well-functioning freight rail system is critical to the movement of goods in this country. However, CP’s pursuit of a merger over the last two years has done nothing but create uncertainty in the rail industry, and there continues to be no clear path forward for such an arrangement. I have expressed my concerns to the appropriate federal agency, and I believe it is time for all parties to move on from hypothetical merger proposals and focus on improving the transportation of goods and products to help grow the American economy,” Shuster concluded.

On March 29, 2016, CP filed its definitive proxy statement for its NS shareholder resolution asking NS’ Board of Directors to engage in good faith discussions with CP regarding a business combination.

CP says its proposed business combination with NS would create a “true end-to-end transcontinental railroad that would enhance competition, benefit the public and drive economic growth.”

From an item appearing at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/news/shuster-opposes-proposed-cp-ns-merger.html

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Army have also provided testimony that such a merger may not be in the best interest of natioanl defense.


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Former Amtrak Executive To Lead New Jersey Transit

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
New York Times

As New Jersey Transit and Amtrak prepare to work together on building a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, a former Amtrak executive has been named to lead the state agency.

The former chief operating officer at Amtrak, William Crosbie, was appointed executive director of New Jersey Transit last Wednesday. He will arrive at a critical time for the agency, which has been struggling with financial problems and is starting work on an environmental review for the tunnel project.

Mr. Crosbie, 51, will replace Dennis J. Martin, who was the interim leader of the agency after Veronique Hakim left last year to become president of New York City Transit, which runs the city’s buses and subways and is part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He is expected to start on April 25.

“Bill Crosbie brings a depth of background in operations, transportation, engineering, finance and security to New Jersey Transit that is perfectly suited to address the needs facing the agency at this important time,” Richard T. Hammer, the agency’s board chairman, said in a statement.

New Jersey Transit runs the nation’s third-busiest commuter railroad and the state’s light rail and bus systems. Mr. Martin will return to his previous role as vice president of the agency’s bus operations.

Last month, New Jersey Transit’s rail workers threatened to strike during a contentious battle over wages and benefits. The agency and the unions reached an agreement about 30 hours before the strike was set to start.

Gov. Chris Christie said the labor deal would not prompt a fare increase, but he warned that small increases were likely in the years ahead. New Jersey Transit raised fares last year by about 9 percent to close a $60 million budget gap.

New Jersey Transit is leading the environmental review for the tunnel project, which is part of a $20 billion Amtrak proposal known as the Gateway program. The tunnel would be used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains, but would be overseen by a development corporation with representatives from Amtrak, the Federal Transportation department, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Mr. Crosbie, who lives in Montclair, N.J., worked until recently at Systra, a consulting and engineering firm. He left Amtrak in 2010, when the railroad eliminated the chief operating officer position.

David L. Gunn, a former chief executive at Amtrak who worked with Mr. Crosbie at the railroad and at a transit agency in Toronto, praised his former colleague.

“He is an extremely capable person, and those people are very rare,” Mr. Gunn, who is retired, said from his home in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Crosbie’s experience working on the Northeast Corridor will be useful in planning for the new tunnel, Mr. Gunn said. He recalled how Mr. Crosbie was instrumental in making the decision in 2005 to temporarily stop running the railroad’s Acela trains.

“I never worried about his judgment on safety issues,” Mr. Gunn said. “If we found a problem, as we did with the Acelas, he pulled them out of service. Bang, they were all parked. That was a big decision.”

Mr. Crosbie was born in Canada. He studied electrical engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and has a master’s degree in security studies from the United States Naval Postgraduate School.

New Jersey Transit’s rail workers are still voting on the labor deal reached last month. In a recent radio interview, Mr. Christie, a Republican, said the contract had raises of about 2.3 percent per year, or about 1.7 percent when higher employee contributions for health care were factored in.

“Good deal for them, good deal for taxpayers,” Mr. Christie said.

Asked about reports of a $57 million budget deficit at the transit agency, he said he told officials there to reduce the deficit without a fare increase. “They’ll do it,” he said. “You know why? Because they have to.”

Mr. Crosbie will have to find a way to fill the anticipated gap while restoring riders’ confidence in the system amid rising frustration over delays, said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, an advocacy group.

“New Jersey Transit needs a transit finance professional to get it back on track,” she said.

From an item at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/07/nyregion/ex-amtrak-executive-is-picked-to-lead-new-jersey-transit.html?_r=0


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

North Vancouver Wants Passenger Rail Service

By Bryan Mc Govern
24 Hr Vancouver

North Vancouver city council in Canada is joining the chorus asking for a new passenger rail service from Prince George to the North Shore.

Lillooet Mayor Margaret Lampman sent a letter to all the municipalities from Prince George to North Vancouver requesting support for the idea.

“The hope is that we can get some passenger rail entity to come forward and put into service the passenger rail line,” she said.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea and I fully support it, as does this council as well,” said City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto, adding he hopes CN Rail will let the project use a freight line, which according to him “is not as much as it used to be in the past.”

“Hopefully there’ll be a business opportunity. An entrepreneur might want to come forward to purchase some cars,” said Mussatto.

“The loss of the ‘Budd Car’ in 2002 was a loss of economic and social investment in the future of British Columbia,” stated the letter signed on March 7.

Todd Stone, minister of transportation and infrastructure, said in a statement that relatively low ridership and the loss of “several million dollars every year” caused the service to be discontinued.

“Given the fact that market demand for passenger rail service along this route remains marginal, the provincial government is not considering reinstating this service,” said Stone.

Lampman said she’s not asking the province to reinstate the passenger rail service. “I’m asking the premier for help in facilitating talks with CN who has the lease on the line.”

According to Lampman, since Lillooet doesn’t have transit system or a Greyhound station, it’s difficult for people without vehicles to reach other areas.

“If you have a medical appointment with a specialist in Vancouver and you don’t have a vehicle, you have to hire someone to take you down and that is a lot of money for some people to pay up just to go down to access medical care.”

CN Rail declined to comment on this story.

Found at:
http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2016/04/05/north-vancouver-wants-passenger-rail-service


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EVENTS... Events...  

RUN To Boston - April 29

The Rail User’s Network (RUN) national conference will be in Boston, MA this year at the Boston Foundation, 75 Arlington Street - 10th Floor, (downtown), on Friday April 29, from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Thanks to local and national sponsorship, there is no fee to attend this year. Rail advocates from all over will attend. The conference will offer insight into the state of affairs in rail in the six-state New England region.

Hear directly from the heads of agencies.

This year’s speakers and presenters include;

The Rail Users Network (RUN) is a national non-profit with a new concept in the representation of rail passengers. It is based on the successful British Passenger Focus model, created by act of the British Parliament, which has been serving passengers throughout the United Kingdom since 1948. RUN is different, however, in that it represents many different types of rail passengers, including long distance, commuter, and transit riders. It is not sanctioned by an act of Congress - but some of our representative groups are legislatively mandated by their respective states and municipalities, giving riders a seat “at the table,” and bringing the needs of rail users to the attention of those in charge.

Connect to the conference agenda at: http://www.railusers.net/index.php?link=conference

There is no fee to attend this year, but advance registration is REQUIRED by April 19 at: http://www.railusers.net/index.php?link=register

A continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

An optional rail and transit tour of some of the MBTA’s services is being planned for the following day, Saturday, April 30 for those who elect to remain in Boston to participate. Details of that tour are under development.


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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