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April 25, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 16

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 Editorial…
Derailment Should Not Be Downplayed
  Guest Commentary…
A New Map For America
Build Transit Villages Atop BART, High-Speed Rail,
   And Other Stations
  Guest Opinion…
Sound Transit Must Add North Seattle
   Light-Rail Station
  Expansion Lines…
Is Amtrak Coming Back To The Gulf Coast?
  Advocacy Lines…
Passengers Seize The Momentum In The Senate
One-Fourth Of 3C In Ohio May Be Downgraded
Passenger Rail In Oklahoma
 
  Commuter Lines…
Transit Study Seeks Alternatives To
   Congested Interstate 80 Commute
   In California’s Bay Area
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Business Lines…
William Crosbie Steps Back from NJT
  Across The Pond…
French High-Speed Project Rejected
  To The North…
Via Rail To Seek Federal Backing For
   Montreal-Toronto Upgrade
  Events…
RUN Annual Conference Friday Apr 29
   In Boston
  Publication Notes …


GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Derailment Should Not Be Downplayed

From The Connecticut Post

It’s unsettling that Metro-North Railroad dismissed the derailment of a train on the New Canaan line last Thursday morning as “minor.”

Yes, no one was on board. Yes, no crew members were injured. Yes, it reportedly occurred in the rail yard.

Nothing involving the unexpected displacement of hundreds of tons of steel should be deemed “minor.”

Hundreds of people might have been on board. There could have been injuries. It could have happened somewhere other than the rail yard.

Also, the New Canaan yard is hardly the relatively barren site we are accustomed to in other municipalities. The end of the spur line is nestled on the edge of a busy downtown area. The line itself only has four stops after leaving the Stamford station, in that city’s neighborhoods of Glenbrook and Springdale, as well as Talmadge Hill neighborhoods before its final destination. Throughout the line, cars and pedestrians cross tracks that wind through busy communities. Under different circumstances, the consequences might have been horrific.

State Sen. Toni Boucher, a Wilton Republican who serves as a ranking member on the Connecticut General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, was correct to express concern about what might have happened if passengers were aboard. We encourage her, and others, to continue to raise their voices.

Though Metro-North is investigating the cause, officials for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says it will not be involved. All the railroad reported after the accident was that the train was rolling slowly when a wheel left the tracks.

Rail officials need to consider the incident as seriously as they would if someone had been killed. For several years, officials downplayed incidents on the line in which trains struck cars at crossings without gates because all of the drivers survived. This problem deserves to be addressed with the same urgency as if it involved deaths or injuries.

Commuters don’t take such incidents lightly. They have been conditioned to flinch when hearing of derailments. They anticipate news of deaths. At the very least, they expect delays in their commute.

On the heels of the derailment, a man was struck and killed by a Metro-North train near the Stratford train station last Friday afternoon. The incident, the sixth such fatality in southern Connecticut since last year, was under investigation. Similar deaths were determined to be suicides.

Death on the tracks has become far too commonplace in the 21st century. The list is becoming too long to casually repeat. Earlier this month, two rail workers were killed and dozens of passengers were injured when an Amtrak train struck a backhoe in Pennsylvania and derailed. NTSB officials responded immediately to try to determine why there was equipment on the tracks.

The New Canaan incident demands answers as well. Metro-North needs to share as many details as possible about the cause of the incident. Taking a grave approach to addressing minor problems can prevent major ones.

Found at:
http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Editorial-Derailment-should-not-be-downplayed-7251416.php

[ Ed Note: The article illustrates ongoing issues nationwide with failing infrastructure that lacks investment for upkeep and safety, as well as problems with grade crossings. Both of these issues are of concern to us and should be of concern to the public. - DMK ]


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GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

A New Map For America

By Parag Khanna
As Appeared In The New York Times

These days, in the thick of the American presidential primaries, it’s easy to see how the 50 states continue to drive the political system. But increasingly, that’s all they drive — socially and economically, America is reorganizing itself around regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters that ignore state and even national borders. The problem is, the political system hasn’t caught up.

America faces a two-part problem. It’s no secret that the country has fallen behind on infrastructure spending. But it’s not just a matter of how much is spent on catching up, but how and where it is spent. Advanced economies in Western Europe and Asia are reorienting themselves around robust urban clusters of advanced industry. Unfortunately, American policy making remains wedded to an antiquated political structure of 50 distinct states.

To an extent, America is already headed toward a metropolis-first arrangement. The states aren’t about to go away, but economically and socially, the country is drifting toward looser metropolitan and regional formations, anchored by the great cities and urban archipelagos that already lead global economic circuits.

The Northeastern megalopolis, stretching from Boston to Washington, contains more than 50 million people and represents 20 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Greater Los Angeles accounts for more than 10 percent of G.D.P. These city-states matter far more than most American states — and connectivity to these urban clusters determines Americans’ long-term economic viability far more than which state they reside in.

MAP

Sources: Joel Kotkin (boundaries and names of 7 mega-regions); Forbes Magazine; Regional Plan Association; Census Bureau; United States High Speed Rail Association; Clare Trainor/University of Wisconsin-Madison Cartography Laboratory.

This reshuffling has profound economic consequences. America is increasingly divided not between red states and blue states, but between connected hubs and disconnected backwaters. Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution has pointed out that of America’s 350 major metro areas, the cities with more than three million people have rebounded far better from the financial crisis. Meanwhile, smaller cities like Dayton, Ohio, already floundering, have been falling further behind, as have countless disconnected small towns across the country.

The problem is that while the economic reality goes one way, the 50-state model means that federal and state resources are concentrated in a state capital — often a small, isolated city itself — and allocated with little sense of the larger whole. Not only does this keep back our largest cities, but smaller American cities are increasingly cut off from the national agenda, destined to become low-cost immigrant and retirement colonies, or simply to be abandoned.

Congress was once a world leader in regional planning. The Louisiana Purchase, the Pacific Railroad Act (which financed railway expansion from Iowa to San Francisco with government bonds) and the Interstate System of highways are all examples of the federal government’s thinking about economic development at continental scale. The Tennessee Valley Authority was an agent of post-Depression infrastructure renewal, job creation and industrial modernization cutting across six states.

What is needed, in some ways, is a return to this more flexible, broader way of thinking. Already, efforts to coordinate metropolitan and regional planning and investment are underway, whether they are quasi-government entities like the Western High Speed Rail Alliance, which aims to link Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City with next-generation trains, or industry-driven groups like CG/LA Inc., which promotes public-private investment in a new national infrastructure blueprint. Ironically, even some states are warming to the idea: Regional cooperation and planning is a top item at the National Governors Association.

These are the groups that are pushing America deeper into the global economy by rethinking how the national economy functions. But they have to go it alone, because Congress still thinks in terms of states. America needs a new map.

We don’t have to create these regions; they already exist, on two levels. First, there are now seven distinct super-regions, defined by common economics and demographics, like the Pacific Coast and the Great Lakes. Within these, in addition to America’s main metro hubs, we find new urban archipelagos, including the Arizona Sun Corridor, from Phoenix to Tucson; the Front Range, from Salt Lake City to Denver to Albuquerque; the Cascadia belt, from Vancouver to Seattle; and the Piedmont Atlantic cluster, from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C.

Federal policy should refocus on helping these nascent archipelagos prosper, and helping others emerge, in places like Minneapolis and Memphis, collectively forming a lattice of productive metro-regions efficiently connected through better highways, railways and fiber-optic cables: a United City-States of America.

Similar shifts can be found around the world. Despite millenniums of cultivated cultural and linguistic provinces, China is transcending its traditional internal boundaries to become an empire of 26 megacity clusters with populations of up to 100 million each, centered around hubs such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing-Chengdu. Over time these clusters, whose borders fluctuate based on population and economic growth, will be the cores around which the central government allocates subsidies, designs supply chains and builds connections to the rest of the world.

Western countries are following suit. As of 2015, Italy’s most important political players are no longer its dozens of iconic provinces, but 14 “Metropolitan Cities,” like Rome, Turin, Milan and Florence, each of which has been legislatively merged with its surrounding municipalities into larger and more economically viable sub-regions.

Britain is also in the midst of an internal reorganization, with the government of Prime Minister David Cameron driving investment toward a new corridor stretching from Leeds to Liverpool known as the “Northern Powerhouse” that can become an additional economic anchor beyond London and Scotland.

What would this approach look like in America? It would start by focusing not on state lines but on existing lines of infrastructure, supply chains and telecommunications, routes that stay remarkably true to the borders of the emergent super-regions, and are most robust within the new urban archipelagos.

Connectivity isn’t just about infrastructure; it’s about strategy. It’s not just about more roads, rail lines and telecommunications — as well as manufacturing plants and data centers — but where those are placed. Getting that right is critical to getting the most out of public investment. But too often, decisions about infrastructure investment are made at the state (or even county) level, and end at the state border.

Consider the Gulf Coast arc from Houston to Tampa, an area growing on the back of the shale energy industry and agricultural exports. The ports of Corpus Christi and Tampa both received federal foreign trade zone status in the early 1980s and have been raising bridges and expanding terminals to prepare for larger ships coming through the Panama Canal — and their modernization also means accelerated export of food, oil and cars from America’s heartland. Their fates are more intertwined than Tampa’s is with Tallahassee or Corpus Christi’s is with Austin, even though they’re in the same state — and yet building out their infrastructure depends largely on the political whims of their respective state capitals. As a result, the region’s ports have built redundant facilities rather than strengthening those best suited to capitalize on new economic connections.

Nor is it just about federal policy. States need to work across borders, too. For example, instead of waging a 1980s Asian-style race to the bottom to attract low-wage auto jobs at Nissan, Honda or Toyota plants, Tennessee and Kentucky should join forces to become an advanced manufacturing hub for the global auto industry, with better cross-border infrastructure. They may end up with fewer plants, but they would be more competitive ones, especially if they could coordinate research and development through the states’ public and private universities.

Where possible, such planning should even jump over international borders. While Detroit’s population has fallen below a million, the Detroit-Windsor region is the largest United States-Canada cross-border area, with nearly six million people (and one of the largest border populations in the world). Both sides are deeply interdependent because of their automobile and steel industries and would benefit from scaling together rather than bickering over who pays for a new bridge between them. Detroit’s destiny seems almost obvious if we are brave enough to build it: a midpoint of the Chicago-Toronto corridor in an emerging North American Union.

To make these things happen requires thinking beyond states. Washington currently provides minimal support for regional economic efforts and strategies; it needs to go much further, even at the risk of upsetting established federal-state political balances. A national infrastructure bank, if it ever gets off the ground, should have as part of its charter an obligation to ignore state lines when weighing projects to support.

Consider how parts of the Rust Belt could benefit from this approach. A Midwestern high-speed rail network that ran from Southern Illinois to Southern Michigan would not just link wealthy investment hubs like Louisville, Ky., and Columbus, Ohio; by tying in high-unemployment cities like Dayton, it would make it easier for workers to commute to where the jobs are.

Such networks would just as easily help poor and rural areas, like Appalachia. Upgraded transportation corridors between New York, Washington and Atlanta could finally lift Appalachia’s isolated and stagnant towns stretching from New York to Alabama by facilitating investment in farms and vineyards, food processing and eco-tourism.

States will continue to have an important political and regulatory function to fill. But the next president has to move beyond platitudes and implement a serious policy of leveraging new infrastructure investment from home and abroad and backing the shift toward a new urban political economy built around transportation engineering, alternative energy, digital technology and other advanced sectors.

The 21st century will not be a competition over territory, but over connectivity — and only connecting American cities will enable the United States to win the tug of war over global trade volumes, investment flows and supply chains. More than America’s military grand strategy, such an economic master plan would determine if America remained the world’s leading superpower.

Parag Khanna is a senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. This essay and map are adapted from his forthcoming book “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization.”

From an item at:
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/opinion/sunday/a-new-map-for-america.html


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T.O.D.

 

Build Transit Villages Atop BART,
High-Speed Rail, And Other Stations

By Rod Diridon Sr.
Special To The Mercury News

As Japan, France, Germany, Italy, China and many other advanced transit countries already know, the construction of infill housing and commercial developments in the air rights on top of rail stations and parking areas is a win, win, win, win:

In less than 10 years, BART will connect us with the rest of the Bay Area and high speed rail will connect Silicon Valley to the Central Valley. This will be in addition to the several fine rail systems already operating in the region. Might we encourage BART, VTA, Caltrain, the Capital Train, The Altamont Express, Bus Rapid Transit providers and our other heavy capacity systems to develop the construction specifications and bid out the air rights developments atop the region’s hundred-plus stations and parking areas?

The region dearly needs the housing; the transit systems need the riders and revenue; we need to fight urban sprawl, pollution, and traffic congestion, and we must support our industry with more sustainable ways to get employees to work and product to market.

Transit Villages will take a decade to fully implement under the best of circumstances. But they can provide hundreds of thousands of more affordable dwelling units without encumbering our neighborhoods with more auto-dependent, congestion-creating density in areas not supported by transit. The region’s tens of billions of tax-payers dollars in transit investments during the past five decades will be optimized by the skillful implementation of transit villages.

Isn’t it time to begin acting like a world class region and take advantage of this proven win, win, win, win opportunity?

Rod Diridon Sr. is chair of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association and executive director emeritus of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University.

Found at:
http://www.dailydemocrat.com/general-news/20160420/rod-diridon-sr-build-transit-villages-atop-bart-high-speed-rail-and-other-stations


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GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Sound Transit Must Add North Seattle
Light-Rail Station

By Debora Juarez
Seattle City Council Member
Special To The Seattle Times

I ran for Seattle City Council because I was tired of North Seattle being ignored in citywide and regional matters. I am hard-pressed to think of a more poignant example of this phenomenon than a future that leaves taxpayers staring helplessly at light rail as it breezes through their neighborhood without stopping.

Neighbors pushed hard for a Northeast 130th Street station. Their efforts were rewarded with crystallized public support, dedicated staff time from Sound Transit and constructive conversations regarding the community’s vision for growth and density.

City of Seattle staff spent months toiling over citywide growth plans and housing-affordability goals, both of which hinged in a meaningful way on new transit and housing at Northeast 130th Street. Then, the Northeast 130th Street station was given a “provisional” designation in the Sound Transit 3 draft plan, with zero guaranteed funding and no targeted completion date. All the ongoing community efforts came to a screeching halt. Once again, North Seattle was ignored.

Research shows investments around Northeast 130th Street could make it an excellent pedestrian and bicycle access point, one which could alleviate stress on the heavy traffic projected to choke the Northgate and Northeast 145th Street light-rail stations. The research also found stopping at a Northeast 130th Street station would add a mere 42 seconds to light-rail travel times. As a matter of comparison, increased congestion has slowed travel times on Interstate 5 by a minute every three months over the last five years.

The Northeast 130th Street Station would be the focal point of a powerful east-west transit connection. Frequent buses would connect the booming urban villages of Lake City and Bitter Lake with light-rail service. These communities have high concentrations of communities of color, English-language learners and low-income households. Car ownership is below the citywide average. These transit-dependent communities lack adequate resources to meet their existing and future transportation demands, and desperately need new ways to get around.

Furthermore, the Northeast 130th Street station was originally estimated to cost $25 million if built concurrently with Lynnwood LINK, opening in 2023. The price would more than triple to $80 million if we were to add the station at an even later date.

Sound Transit board members, as well as agency staff, have told us they understand these facts and agree with them. My understanding is the late-breaking, “provisional” designation was due to concern that adding the station would disrupt a federal grant application.

The grant concern has been portrayed as an insurmountable obstacle. I hear this, but I disagree. Let me explain:

The argument I have heard is that the grant application for the section of rail in question has already been submitted, without a Northeast 130th Street station. Some say adding the station now would put us “in the back of the line” for a billion dollars from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration.

This argument is stunningly defeatist and ignores several crucial realities.

First, the grant application in question is chock-full of mentions of future plans for adding a Northeast 130th Street station. It should come as no surprise that the community is now looking to actually build the station.

Second, a constituent recently drew my attention to a similar project in Denver. There, city and county officials successfully added a station while construction of a federally funded light-rail line was actually in progress. Denver’s federal funding was never jeopardized and the local community was not penalized for prioritizing its needs. As the Northeast 130th Street station is at an earlier developmental stage, it should theoretically be easier for us to modify our application.

The logic behind designating the Northeast 130th Street station as “provisional” is flawed, and the penalty for continuing to do so will be paid for by my constituents as well as all of Sound Transit’s taxpayers.

This is why district representation matters. This is why it is important to have people in leadership positions who know the needs of their communities. That is true democracy. I’m not taking my marbles and going home on this one.

Debora Juarez is a Seattle City Council member (District 5) representing North Seattle.

From an item at:
http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/sound-transit-must-add-north-seattle-light-rail-station/


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Is Amtrak Coming Back To The Gulf Coast?

A Better Schedule For A Gulf Coast Train

Last Of A Series
By David Peter Alan

When Amtrak operated a test train from New Orleans to Jacksonville two months ago, people along the route were excited. There has not been a scheduled passenger train running there since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as far east as Mobile, Alabama in 2005. There has not been a daily train on the route since 1970.

In its early days, the train was called the New Orleans – Florida Limited. It acquired streamlined equipment in 1949, and its name was changed to the Gulf Wind. It ran between New Orleans and Florida on an overnight schedule, and it connected with southbound trains to Miami and northbound trains to the cities of the Northeast at Jacksonville. It served 24 intermediate stops between there and the Crescent City, although it eventually dwindled down to a single coach toward the end of its life. In 1970, sleeping cars and dining service were restored, but the schedule was reduced to tri-weekly, because of a deal with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). The ICC, which had authority to regulate intercity passenger trains before Amtrak was formed in 1971, made a similar deal with the Southern Pacific to reduce the schedule of the Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and New Orleans. The tri-weekly schedules of the two trains did not always connect at New Orleans on the same days, and neither train ever ran on a daily schedule again.

Amtrak killed two-thirds of the nation’s intercity passenger trains on April 30, 1971. The Gulf Wind was one of the casualties. The Sunset Limited was one of the survivors. In 1993, Amtrak extended the Sunset Limited eastward along the Gulf Coast, promoting it as Amtrak’s “Transcontinental Train”; it is unclear, however, how many riders stayed on through New Orleans, taking part of their ride on both sides of the Crescent City. The schedule provided transportation, and the train was comfortable, running with Superliner equipment. For a brief time, it ran to Miami, connecting South Florida to New Orleans and points west to Los Angeles and north to Chicago. Then the route was cut back to the Auto-Train terminal at Sanford, Florida. It was later extended slightly to Orlando. This allowed a faster equipment turnaround, which saved a train set. It also cut off South Florida, with its population centers of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, from Jacksonville and all points west; at least in one direction. The Silver Meteor left Miami sufficiently early to connect with the westbound “Sunset” at Orlando. Nothing connected with it going south from Orlando, since it was the last arrival of the day.

Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as far east as Mobile. The train was one of the casualties of the storm. It was “suspended” along with all other Amtrak trains that served New Orleans. The other trains came back a few months later, but the Gulf Coast route did not. Today, there is talk of bringing it back. It is unclear how likely it is that the train will actually be restored. Still, there has been a test train, which is further than any proposal has gotten before. Amtrak considers the route “suspended” and shows it as a dotted line in system timetables. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) defines the Amtrak “national network” as consisting of routes that actually operated that year, so the Gulf Coast route is not considered a part of that network.

If service is restored along the Gulf Coast, what sort of schedule would make sense? As we commented two weeks ago, restoring the 1993-2005 schedules would not. Amtrak had eliminated service south of Orlando, and there was no southbound connection from the “Sunset” to the populated area containing Miami and Fort Lauderdale. If service is restored, the new train should serve that market. Under the prior schedules, it was also essentially impossible to time a useful trip to any community east of New Orleans, except for a week-end in Pensacola, Florida. While arrival or departure times at some stations must always be inconvenient, due to the difficulties in scheduling any transportation mode, the prior schedules appear singularly useless. If the train returns, it appears that it could not gain an appropriate following, unless it runs every day, as it did until 1970.

It does not seem reasonable to require a brief layover for connection with the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Los Angeles, either as a through train, or as two separate trains. On today’s schedules, no train arrives in New Orleans until after all trains have left. The earliest arrival is Train #58 from Chicago, due at 3:32 pm. The latest departure from the Crescent City is #59 to Chicago, which leaves at 1:45. So nobody has same-day train connections through New Orleans. Without a compelling reason to do so, there is no requirement that passengers going to or from the Gulf Coast or Florida should have one.

The 1949 schedule called for departures from both New Orleans and Jacksonville at 5:00 in the afternoon, with morning arrivals at the other end. Convenient connections were available for points south to Miami at Jacksonville, while there were also less-convenient connections for Tampa and St. Petersburg. The early arrival at New Orleans allowed for many connections there, too. The trip took about 15 hours. In 1971, the trip took about one hour longer. Connections to and from other Florida points were similar, but the westbound departure from Jacksonville was changed to 7:45, so the entire schedule ran later. The departure time from New Orleans was only fifteen minutes later; at 5:15.

Under the 1971 schedule, on the days it ran, the train made a useful schedule for passengers from Mobile or towns in Mississippi who wished to go to New Orleans for the day. They would have had six hours and 45 minutes to enjoy the Crescent City. The train stopped in the middle of the night in both directions at Pensacola, but it made a comfortable overnight schedule for Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

Westbound, the 1993-2005 schedule made sense, although a new schedule should provide for daily operation and Jacksonville would be an appropriate terminal, as long as there are Miami connections available. The 2001 schedule was only slightly slower than the 1971 schedule. The 2001 departure time of 5:00 from Jacksonville was too early for a convenient departure from Mobile and Mississippi towns for the trip to New Orleans. A 7:00 departure time would allow a convenient connection from Miami on Train #98, with arrival in New Orleans between 10:00 and 11:00 the next morning. Visitors would have most of the day in New Orleans, and the departure time of the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles could be restored to the former time of 11:55 am, for a same-day connection going west.

Eastbound, the train would need to leave New Orleans about 3:00 in the afternoon to make a connection at Jacksonville on Train #97 for Miami, which is scheduled to leave about 10:00. This is an artifact of the current schedule between New York and Florida, which operates only two trains, in very close schedule proximity southbound, and relatively close proximity northbound. Such a schedule would provide a relatively-convenient departure time from New Orleans to Gulf Coast communities, but not an optimal one. The drawback of that schedule is the lack of a same-day connection with the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles, but no other Amtrak riders have same-day connections under the current schedule, either. In 1971, if a rider picked the wrong day to leave Los Angeles, the result was almost two days waiting for a connection in New Orleans, not merely almost one. There are some travelers who say that, if you must wait so long for a connection, New Orleans is the place to do it.

This writer has called for Amtrak to restore the pre-2002 Florida schedule, which had early-morning departures from New York for Miami via Charleston, which provided for noontime and evening arrivals in South Florida. Northbound, there were early-morning and late-afternoon departures from Miami, and late-morning and late-evening arrivals in New York. The schedule of the Silver Star, the middle departure from each end, was similar to its schedule today. Under such a plan, riders from South Florida on Train #98 could connect comfortably for New Orleans at Jacksonville. Southbound, Train #97 would leave Jacksonville in the early afternoon, allowing a late-afternoon departure from New Orleans and a noontime arrival in Jacksonville.

Under that schedule, trains could be turned at New Orleans and Jacksonville, and serviced by the New Orleans crew base. A daily train could be operated with two train sets on such a schedule, with appropriate spare equipment.

During the train’s 1993-2005 incarnation, this writer used it to visit Pensacola, Mobile and Biloxi. It was not difficult to get to any of those places, since there was a connection with Train #98, coming from Miami, at Orlando, which could have been made at Jacksonville. The early-morning arrivals at these towns were inconvenient, but the towns themselves were interesting. Getting from those towns to New Orleans was another matter. Bus service was better during those years than it is now, but not much better. The bus stations in Pensacola and Mobile were badly-located then, just as they are now. Getting to the bus station in Pensacola required a local bus and a long wait for Greyhound. Getting to the bus station in Mobile required an expensive taxi ride. The Biloxi bus station is located downtown, but there is only one bus a day to New Orleans from there, but not on Tuesdays. In those days, there were several daily departures.

During a visit to New Orleans last month, this writer heard a rumor that Amtrak was considering extending Trains #58 and #59, which now run between Chicago and New Orleans, along the Gulf Coast to Florida. This rumor has not been confirmed, but that schedule would not be significantly different from the one proposed in this article. In order to allow connections to and from South Florida, some schedule adjustments at Chicago or Miami might be required. So might an adjustment in the schedule of the Sunset Limited, which would require Union Pacific’s agreement.

Currently, the train between Chicago and New Orleans requires three train sets. If it were extended to Jacksonville, it would require five sets; the same as needed for running the two trains separately. An additional set would be required to extend the train to Orlando or Miami. That is one of the obstacles which currently prevent the return of Gulf Coast service to the Amtrak network. It is difficult to fathom where Amtrak could find that much extra equipment.

The other constraint is funding. Amtrak’s funding has always been problematic, and it appears that the entire long-distance network survives from one reprieve to another. There may come a time when the American people and the nation’s elected leaders realize that passenger trains are an important component of the nation’s transportation network. Until that time, though, Amtrak’s long-distance trains will struggle for survival. An extra train requires extra funding, and this money is not likely to come from the railroad’s severely-constrained budget.

Funding a new train will require innovative thinking about how to raise the money. It appears that having a passenger train stop in town, even if there is only one train each day, enhances the value of the downtown area and the property there. John Robert Smith, former Chair of the Amtrak Board of Directors, focused his concept of downtown revitalization around the train station in Meridian, Mississippi when he was Mayor of that town. Town officials in Mineola, Texas fought for years to have their town added to the set of stops on the Texas Eagle and demonstrated their commitment by having a new station built, on the site of the old station. Local officials have embarked on similar programs in other cities.

The key is “value capture”; a concept that D:F Publisher James P. RePass actively promotes. Having a train stop in town enhances the value of the downtown area, and some of the improvement in value is used to fund the train. This concept has not been implemented in many places yet, but it has potential for improving transportation, because transportation benefits the town. It has been most successful for funding the subway system in Hong Kong, but it can also be used as a means to expand the Amtrak network, one train at a time.

It is easy to understand why people along the Gulf Coast want a train. The problem is that a train must operate every day and run on a proper schedule, in order to serve the communities it serves. Amtrak, along with state and local officials, must also find the equipment and the money needed to restore the train. Time will tell if Amtrak is willing to restore Gulf Coast service at all. Time will also tell if such a train becomes viable and useful, or merely depicted by a solid line replacing a dotted line on a map, which would indicate a train that only adventurers and rail fans would be willing to ride.


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ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

Action Alert:

 

Passengers Seize The Momentum In The Senate

Senate Appropriators Increase Rail Funding: Thank Your Senators
Ahead Of Thursday’s Full Committee Markup!

From The National Association Of Rail Passengers (NARP)

The Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD Committee has released its transportation budget and thanks to your calls we saw a positive change in funding for rail and transit:

Significantly, all three passenger rail grant programs created by the FAST Act received funding -- a testament to the work being done by advocates like you!

[The following table updated to include more detailed numbers issued by the Senate Appropriations Committee]

Chart

[The Senate THUD FY2017 Proposed Levels bill summary identified $334 million for Rail Safety & Research Programs, not completely accounted for in this table; the total funding level identified by the Committee is $1.7 billion.]

Members of the appropriations Committee:

Chart2

If you called your Senator in support of this bill, please take a moment to thank them. If your Senator is on the Appropriations Committee (full list included below), then your call is even more important: the full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to markup the THUD bill on April 21st. At this hearing, individual amendments will be permitted, so there’s a chance we could push investment in trains even higher!

Thank you for your action,

Jim Mathews
President & CEO, NARP

For the full release see:
http://narprail.org/news/blog/action-alert-passengers-seize-the-momentum-in-the-senate/


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One-Fourth Of 3C In Ohio
May Be Downgraded

From All Aboard Ohio

All Aboard Ohio has learned from multiple sources that CSX may downgrade its 60-mile Galion-Columbus section (called the Columbus Line Subdivision) of the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3C) Corridor as early as this year. This represents nearly one-fourth of the total route-miles of the overall, 255-mile 3C Corridor.

Downgrading could include turning off and possibly removing the automatic block signal system and not maintaining the track to Class 4 standards (60 mph for freight, 80 mph for passenger). In time, these actions may result in the track on the Columbus Line Subdivision being re-classified as Class 2 track (25 mph for freight, 30 mph for passenger). CSX has yet to announce anything officially.

In anticipation of an announcement, the All Aboard Ohio Board of Directors on April 12 voted unanimously on a policy statement urging regional and state public agencies, authorities and commission “to maintain and preserve the 3C Corridor rail infrastructure in its current condition or better.”

“Local, state and federal officials should be forewarned that there is an uncertain future for this important rail corridor that directly links the largest metropolitan areas in the nation’s seventh-most populous state,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of the nonprofit rail and transit advocacy association All Aboard Ohio. “The State of Ohio, port authorities and transit agencies in our state have a pretty good record in recent decades of preserving and improving vital rail corridors for the future. We believe that experience should be brought to this important rail corridor, too.”

All Aboard Ohio also has learned CSX may lease the Columbus Line Sub to a short line/regional operator. Genesee & Wyoming is a likely candidate considering G&W already has a base of operations in Columbus and because CSX’s highest-volume shipper on the Columbus Line Sub is Anheuser-Busch in Worthington, just north of Columbus.

Why is this happening? CSX is saving money by consolidating shrinking rail freight traffic onto fewer rail lines, especially where parallel lines exist. CSX has recently operated about 5-10 trains a day over the Columbus Line Sub, resulting in just enough gross tonnage of traffic to trigger a federal mandate for installing Positive Train Control. The federal requirement for PTC comes into play on rail lines hosting more than 5 million gross tons of traffic annually, or regular passenger service, or shipments of materials considered a Toxic by Inhalation Hazard (TIH).

Installing this interactive traffic control system involves equipping locomotives with transponders and installing trackside communications, power supplies, cables and other features to complete a PTC system. It is costly to install and to maintain. All CSX locomotives are being equipped with PTC, so for the 60-mile Columbus-Galion line, this installation is likely limited to a trackside investment. But that investment, which averages about $100,000 per track-mile depending on local conditions, could be a $6 million investment for CSX along the Columbus-Galion line.

If it had no other routing alternatives to reach Central Ohio or southern states, CSX probably would make this investment. But they do have alternatives. It can reach Columbus via their Mt. Victory (Greenwich-Bellefontaine) and Scottslawn (Ridgeway-Columbus) subdivisions. And they can reach the southern states by continuing west of Bellefontaine to Sidney, then south on CSX’s Toledo Subdivision to Dayton, Cincinnati and Dixie. Those are high-quality mainline corridors that are being equipped with PTC. There are also high-quality, interlocked (i.e., dispatcher-controlled) track connections in the southeast quadrants of the Ridgeway and Sidney junctions that will permit Galion-Columbus and Galion-Dixie trains to avoid the 3C line south of Galion without much if any infrastructure modifications.

Map

Map Courtesy of CSX via All Aboard Ohio

Ohio CSX Routes

There are several implications from downgrading this section. Not only would this complicate any future efforts to restore passenger rail service on the 3C Corridor, it might also hurt ongoing efforts to get Columbus-Chicago passenger rail service via the Columbus-Marysville-Ridgeway (Scottslawn) portion of the route. It would also put more freight trains into the path of Amtrak’s Cardinal from Hamilton, Ohio to Cincinnati. It could complicate efforts to expand the thrice-weekly Cardinal to daily service. Less freight traffic on the 3C line means more freight traffic on the Scottslawn and Toledo subdivisions. That may mean adding more capacity such as new passing sidings or possibly a longer section of double-track to accommodate new or expanded passenger services.

Less freight traffic could be an opportunity for 3C someday, especially if CSX is willing to sell the Columbus Line Sub to a public entity like the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) or maybe the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). Fifteen years ago, COTA had an agreement with CSX to acquire the Columbus Line Sub as part of a quid pro quo. COTA would build for CSX an intermodal terminal near Marion and CSX would transfer the Columbus Line Sub to COTA for use as the North Corridor light-rail transit. Alas, that deal fell through when Franklin County voters turned down a levy to fund a regional light-rail system.

The North Corridor is Central Ohio’s busiest commuting corridor and 3C Corridor remains as one of the most promising intercity passenger rail corridors in the nation without passenger service. Someday, a passenger rail operator or a public agency on the passenger operator’s behalf could lease the Columbus Line Sub. How much might that cost? Since 2012, Amtrak has leased 85 miles of CSX-owned corridor from Hoffmans, NY just west of Schenectady to Poughkeepsie, NY in five-year renewable terms at $7 million per year. Another possibility is an outright purchase. In 2011, Michigan acquired from NS its 136-mile rail corridor between Kalamazoo-Dearborn for $140 million. That roughly $1 million-per-mile price tag is comparable to other recent rail corridor purchases.

If 3C passenger service were already operating on this line, CSX’s pending action to downgrade the Columbus Line Sub could be seen as a threat or as an opportunity. We would be fretting how CSX is endangering the 3C passenger service by threatening to orphan the Columbus Line Sub and dump all the costs of PTC and track maintenance on the passenger service.

But if someone was willing to pay those costs, we would be making the case that this portion of the 3C could now be elevated to 110 mph service, and even offer Columbus-Delaware commuter rail in this absence of mainline freight traffic. Indeed, these opportunities will always remain just that — opportunities — unless the right of way is abandoned and sold off piecemeal.

In the state’s $400 million, 79 mph 3C Quick Start plan that was derailed in 2010 by Gov.-Elect John Kasich, three stations were proposed to be located on the Columbus Line Sub:

There also have been 3C plans in the past to establish a station in Delaware on a track that deviates from the 3C mainline located east of town and loops through the center of Delaware. That track is operated as a 6-mile-long passing siding for the Columbus Line Sub. It wasn’t included in the state’s 3C Quick Start project because of travel time and capital cost constraints. It would likely have been included in the state’s follow-on upgrade of 3C to 110 mph that would add more trains, including locals and expresses. But the planning funds for the 110 mph upgrade also were killed by Gov.-Elect Kasich.

Ironically, if PTC was installed on the Galion-Columbus portion, it would provide the type of interactive signal system necessary to allow passenger trains to exceed the federal 79 mph limit. For now, the tracks are probably good for 79 mph but crossing circuits for flashers/gates at road crossings would need to be lengthened for 79 mph speeds at about $50,000 per crossing. There is an average of one at-grade road crossing per mile of track. For 110 mph, a unit cost of $5 million per track-mile may be applied, or roughly $300 million for Galion-Columbus. But 90 mph might be had for slightly more than the price tag of 79 mph passenger rail service because few additional track or grade crossing enhancements would be needed.

Until 1999, the 3C Corridor had one owner – Conrail. Before Conrail it was owned by Penn Central (1968-76) which operated the last 3C passenger trains. Before Penn-Central it was owned by and New York Central. Now the corridor is divided among multiple owners. Even among the same owners, it is subdivided into multiple operating lines. The southern half of 3C, south of Columbus, is owned mostly by Norfolk Southern (NS). North of Columbus, it is owned mostly by CSX.

The Columbus Line Sub is only one of three lines into which CSX has divided the Columbus-Cleveland half of the 3C Corridor. North of Galion to Greenwich (23 miles) is CSX’s Mt. Victory Sub that is part of CSX’s overall corridor west to Indianapolis and St. Louis that sees about 30 freight trains a day. North of Greenwich to Berea (40 miles) is CSX’s Greenwich Sub that is part of CSX’s overall corridor west to Chicago and has traffic to/from St. Louis. It sees about 60 trains a day.

Berea to downtown Cleveland (12 miles) is owned by Norfolk Southern, as is almost all of the southern half of 3C from Columbus to the north side of Cincinnati. To reach a station near downtown Cincinnati, either CSX tracks could be used to reach Cincinnati Union Terminal or the Indiana & Ohio’s tracks could be used to used a station near the Boathouse/Sawyer Point area. The latter was the most recent 3C plan.

The longer that a rail corridor is devoid of passenger rail service, the harder it is for passenger rail service to be restored to it. Stations decay or are demolished. Rail traffic patterns change. Ownership changes. And now a significant section of the line may be downgraded. All Aboard Ohio hopes that a new tenant for the Columbus Line Sub will take care of this important rail line until such time that Ohio gains a government that embraces multi-modal transportation policies.

From an item at:
http://allaboardohio.org/2016/04/13/one-fourth-of-3c-may-be-downgraded/


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Passenger Rail In Oklahoma

Action Alert from Passenger Rail Oklahoma
And On-Line Sources

We have learned the Heartland Flyer is being targeted within Oklahoma state budget cuts. Contact State Senator Dan Newberry immediately. The proposal apparently comes from his office.

Let Senator Newberry know the Heartland Flyer, despite its $2.85 million state subsidy, will generate some $17 million in passenger spending in the Oklahoma/ north Texas region. Of this $17 million approximately $1.3 million will be collected in sales taxes. Also let him know that restoring this service will not be as easy as restoring funding. The BNSF Railway, host railroad for the Heartland Flyer, could require up to $150 million to restart the route.

This is not the time to shut down economic engines in the state. Spread this message to your family and friends. This is URGENT!

The Eastern Flyer project will also be jeopardized. While the Eastern Flyer is tagged as a privately funded project, it will depend in part on Heartland Flyer ridership to access the national passenger rail system.

Senator Newbury may be reached at:
Phone: 405.521.5600
E-Mail: newberry@oksenate.gov

Evan Stair, President
Passenger Rail Oklahoma
Passenger Rail Kansas
www.PassengerRailOK.org
www.PassengerRailKS.org
517 Claremont
Norman, OK 73069
405-204-5801


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Transit Study Seeks Alternatives To Congested Interstate 80
Commute In California’s Bay Area

By Tom Lochner
East Bay Times

Transportation planners have rolled out several proposals to tackle the daunting problem of congestion along West Contra Costa’s Interstate 80 corridor that increasingly spills over into secondary arteries.

The West County High-Capacity Transit Study presents eight preliminary alternatives involving freeway-based express buses; buses with dedicated rights of way with priority at intersections -- known in the trade as “BRT,” for Bus Rapid Transit; commuter rail; and northward extension of BART.

The study, launched a year ago by the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee (WCCTAC ), was the subject of recent meetings in San Pablo, Pinole and Richmond. About two dozen people on average attended each meeting.

The study found that almost two-thirds of West County residents drive alone. About 17 percent carpool, about 12 percent use transit, and the rest work from home, bike, walk, or use other means of transport.

The study came up with eight preliminary alternatives:

The express bus alternative would be quickest and least expensive, at up to $250 million in capital costs and three to 10 years to implement. The BART alternative would be the most costly and take longest, at up to $2.75 billion over 20 to 25 years, the study found.

A PowerPoint presentation can be accessed at http://www.bit.ly/1NtevTt. The study’s website is http://www.westcountytransitstudy.com.

WCCTAC is asking members of the public to express their preferences by participating in a survey at svy.mk/1T9Wazc

The WCCTAC staff expects to make recommendations to its board late this year or early next year.

From an item at:
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/breaking-news/ci_29772812/transit-study-seeks-alternatives-congested-interstate-80-commute


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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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BUSINESSLINES... Business Lines...  

William Crosbie Steps Back from NJT

From Internet Sources

William Crosbie, who was to start as New Jersey Transit’s next executive director later this month, has cited concerns over relocating his family from Virginia. As a result, he will decline the offer to head up NJT. The information was provided by an NJT spokesperson

“The decision came as a surprise to us because of the level of mutual enthusiasm we both shared when he accepted the offer,” Richard Hammer, who serves as NJ Transit’s chairman in his role as New Jersey’s acting transportation commissioner, said in a statement.

An engineer by training, Mr. Crosbie served as Amtrak’s chief operating officer before going on to head the North American office of Systra, a France-based transportation-consulting firm.

Mr. Crosbie’s decision restarts a search that has been under way for months to succeed Ronnie Hakim, who left NJ Transit’s top post last year for a top position at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Ms. Hakim earned an annual base salary of more than $260,000 when she started as executive director in 2014. Terms of Mr. Crosbie’s employment weren’t disclosed, as officials said such details hadn’t been hammered out.

Dennis Martin, who previously served as the agency’s chief of bus operations, is expected to remain as interim executive director until a permanent successor is chosen.


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

French High-Speed Project Rejected

By David Briginshaw
International Railway Journal

The declaration for a public utility to build a high-speed line from Poitiers to Limoges, which was granted in January 2015, has been annulled by France’s State Council. This is the first time a French high-speed project has suffered such a fate.

The State Council, which is the is the highest administrative jurisdiction in France and advises the government on the preparation of bills, ordinances and certain decrees, found that the economic and social assessment for the project had shortcomings and, as it considered that the disadvantages outweighed the benefits, the scheme lacked public utility. The project has also been criticized as being unaffordable.

The project would have involved constructing 112km of new line with an operating speed of 320km/h, plus 19km of connecting lines at an estimated cost of € 1.6bn at 2011 prices. The new line would have connected to the existing high-speed network at Poitiers to provide a high-speed service from Limoges to Paris.

There was also considerable opposition to the project from local authorities and pressure groups who favor upgrading the Paris - Orléans - Limoges - Toulouse main line, and SNCF Network has already committed € 1.5bn to upgrade the line.

From an item at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/high-speed/french-high-speed-project-rejected.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Via Rail To Seek Federal Backing
For Montreal - Toronto Upgrade

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

Canadian national passenger operator Via Rail says it is planning to seek federal funding for its proposed $C 4bn ($US 3.1bn) upgrade of the Montreal - Ottawa - Toronto line, which would significantly reduce journey times and increase capacity on Canada’s principal passenger corridor.

The planned enhancements would reduce Toronto - Montreal journey times from 4h 42min to 3h 45min and Toronto - Ottawa from 4h 1min to 2h 30min by eliminating level crossings and segregating passenger and freight trains with new infrastructure.

Via Rail CEO Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano told The Canadian Press in an interview on April 14 that that a number of financing options will be presented to Canadian transport minister Mr. Marc Garneau within the next few months.

Under some of these options, the bulk of the funding required for the project would be covered by pension fund investors, and Via Rail has already held preliminary discussions with potential private sector backers. The federal government would be asked to contribute around $C 1bn.

Desjardins-Siciliano says he hopes the government will make a decision on whether to go ahead with the project before the end of the year. “We’d like to think there will be shovels in the ground by the spring of 2017,” he says.

The federal government’s infrastructure plan, which was announced last month, allocates Via Rail just $C 3.3m over three years for an “in-depth assessment” of the proposals.

Last October Ontario’s provincial Ministry of Transportation appointed former Canadian transport minister Mr. David Collenette to look at options for high-speed rail on the Toronto - London - Windsor corridor.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/north-america/via-rail-to-seek-federal-backing-for-montreal-toronto-upgrade.html


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EVENTS... Events...  

RUN To Boston - April 29

[ Ed Note: On-line registrations closed on April 19. Please e-mail Richard Rudolph at: rrudolph1022@gmail.com or phone 207-776-4961 to determine availability for remaining spaces. ]

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

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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