The National Corridors Initiative Logo

May 7, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 18

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

 Destination:Freedom 

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

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

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

  Advocacy Lines…
Transit Guru Diridon Touts High-Speed Rail Benefits
   At Rotary Club Of Los Altos Meeting
  Funding Lines…
$3.3 Billion Light Rail Cost-Sharing Plan Approved
   By Local Authorities
Appropriations Bill Would Help Transit
NEC Commission Identifies Needs Of $38 Billion
  Expansion Lines…
Sound Transit Announces New Timeline For
   ST2 And ST3 Plans
  Political Lines…
Nashville Selects Gallatin Pike Corridor For
   Light-Rail Project
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Commuter Lines…
Sound Transit Orders Extra LRVs To Support
   Light Rail Extensions
  Maintenance Lines…
Amtrak CEO Tells State Lawmakers Penn Station
   Repairs To Cause More Delays
  To The North…
VIA Rail’s Fleet Is Obsolete. Can’t We Do Better?
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

Transit Guru Diridon Touts High-Speed Rail
Benefits At Rotary Club Of Los Altos Meeting

By Marlene Cowan
Los Altos Town Crier

Considered the “father” of modern transit service in Silicon Valley, Rod Diridon Sr. touted how the implementation of high-speed rail would make the Bay Area and California among the most efficient and sustainable systems in the world.

Diridon, emeritus executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, delivered this message during his April 13 presentation at the Rotary Club of Los Altos.

A six-term member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and former North American vice chairman of the International Transit Association, Diridon is chairman emeritus of the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority Board.

Scheduled to arrive in San Jose by 2025, high-speed rail could take advantage of the soon-to-be electrified Caltrain lines for access to San Francisco, Diridon said. The feeder system for serving high-speed rail, he noted, is already in place locally, with BART, Caltrain, Valley Transportation Authority light rail and a developing VTA electric bus fleet.

The threat of climate change drives the need for high-speed rail and other alternative transit options, Diridon said. He cited a study concluding that petroleum-powered cars were the worst polluters per seat-mile traveled, followed by short-hop airplanes and diesel buses. The best solution, he said, is relying on the environmentally friendlier electric-powered trains riding on low-friction, steel wheels on rails.

The best models to emulate, Diridon advised, are the European and Japanese systems, which concentrate high-rise, multiuse buildings around train stations, leaving ample room for open space.

Catching Up

The world’s “800-pound gorilla,” according to Diridon, is China. The country, with nearly 140,000 miles of rail, is gradually converting from coal and oil to an all-electric train system. China now has nearly 10,000 miles of high-speed trains traveling at speeds of more than 230 mph, and projections for double that number of rail miles at 120 to 140 mph to carry both freight and passengers. France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Korea are among the countries with high-speed rail networks.

“We’re falling way behind in terms of the efficiency and sustainability of our transportation systems,” Diridon said.

Congress has approved a comprehensive high-speed rail master plan but has not provided the funding. California’s 500-plus-mile system from Anaheim VIA Los Angeles and the Central Valley to San Jose and San Francisco is projected to cost $64 billion. The nearly $6 billion portion between Bakersfield and Merced is under construction. A “Valley to Valley” connection from Fresno to San Jose VIA the Pacheco Pass and Gilroy is funded and awaiting the start of construction within three years.

The next major challenge, Diridon said, is to create the sustainable feeder systems needed to bring the public to train stations. The transport systems feeding the San Jose Diridon Station will include BART and high-speed rail.

In response to a Rotarian’s question regarding lawsuits against high-speed rail, Diridon said all but one of the legal challenges were settled in favor of the high-speed rail project. The courts recently authorized the expenditure of the voter-approved 2008 Proposition 1A, the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act.

“Our innovative valley has the opportunity and duty to set the example for the state and nation for fighting congestion and climate change,” Diridon said. “What will you tell your grandchildren in 20 or 30 years? Will you be able to say that you tried as hard as possible to save the world for them ... or could you have tried harder?”

For more information, email Diridon at: rjdiridon@gmail.com.

Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. For more information, visit http://www.losaltosrotary.org

Found at:
https://www.losaltosonline.com/news/sections/community/177-features/55233


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines ...  

$3.3 Billion Light Rail Cost-Sharing Plan
Approved By Local Authorities

By Sarah Kerman
Duke Chronicle, Duke University, Durham, NC

After receiving support from local authorities this week, the Durham-Orange [NC] light rail’s cost-sharing agreement is headed to the Federal Transit Administration for review.

The Durham-Orange light rail—a 17.7 mile project that would connect Durham and Orange Counties and feature stops at Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University—is slated to be complete by 2028. To help finance the operation, planners had been working on a cost-sharing agreement, which was finally approved by four local authorities, including the Durham County Commission Monday and the Orange County Commission Thursday, as well as the Metropolitan Planning Organization and GoTriangle—the regional public transportation authority—Friday.

These decisions represent another step forward in the lengthy process of establishing a regional light rail, said Wendy Jacobs, chair of the Durham Board of County Commissioners.

“The past few months it’s been very challenging because we just had a very tight timeline—really two months to update our plans and come up with a negotiated cost share with Orange County,” Jacobs said.

Initially, the project had qualified for significant state funding, which would have filled close to a quarter of the project’s budget. Jacobs noted, however, that the original cost-sharing agreement had to be revised after the North Carolina state legislature opted to cap state funding for the project at 10 percent.

In addition to the projected federal and state funding, the project will gather the remaining 40 percent from local governments.

The revised cost-sharing agreement will divide the local share, with Durham County covering 81.5 percent, Orange County paying 16.5 percent and the remaining two percent coming from funding from a community collaborations. Jacobs explained that Durham will be responsible for the majority of the local costs for several reasons, including the placement of 14 of the 18 stops in Durham County jurisdiction.

She added that local businesses and universities have been financially supportive of the project and that their contributions have counted toward in-kind donations for the local share of the project.

“We have already signed a number of [memorandums of understanding] with Duke, with UNC Chapel Hill and many large property owners along the light rail corridor,” Jacobs said.  “Really all of our universities—NCCU, Duke, UNC Chapel Hill—they are all strongly behind this project.”

First-year Gino Nuzzolillo—senator for the Durham and regional affairs committee of Duke Student Government—noted that he would personally welcome the greater connection between Duke and other local universities that the light rail was partially designed to bring. He noted, however, that it is still too early to tell how the light rail will impact surrounding communities.

“While on DRA, we would love to have more avenues to work with UNC and other schools. We’re also really concerned about what Duke does that affects the neighboring community and whether those changes good or bad” he said. “So while the light rail might seem like a really cool project—and I think it’s a really cool project—we’d like to see more of how is this going to affect the rest of Durham’s residents.”

GoTriangle will now send the approved cost-sharing agreement to the Federal Transit Association, with the goal of receiving federal funding for 50 percent of the project’s estimated $3.3 billion dollar cost.

Jacobs noted that although many of the project’s prospects look promising thus far, moving the light rail forward will require continued diligence.

“It’s exciting—it’s something that we just have to keep working on,” she said.

Found at:
http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2017/05/3-3-billion-light-rail-cost-sharing-plan-approved-by-local-authorities


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APTA:

Appropriations Bill Would Help Transit

From Progressive Railroading

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) commended Congress for negotiating a fiscal-year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill that includes support for public transportation programs.

The legislation would provide discretionary funding for the federal government through Sept. 30. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are expected to vote on the measure this week, according to an APTA press release.

“This legislative action shows that Congress understands the value of public transportation and how it plays a critical role in the economy and in the lives of millions of Americans in communities of all sizes,” said APTA Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Richard White. “If passed into law, these investment in public transportation will positively impact direct and indirect jobs all around the country.”

The bill would provide $12.4 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration, $657 million above the FY 2016 enacted level. Transit formula grants total $9.7 million. About $2.4 billion would go toward “New Starts” funding, including $1.5 billion for current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects, according to an APTA legislative summary.

Amtrak would receive a $75 million increase to $1.495 billion in FY2017.

Also included in the measure is $199 million for positive train control funding authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act for FY2017.

Additionally, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program would be funded at $68 million; the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program, $25 million; the Restoration and Enhancement Grants,  $5 million; and the Transit Security Grant program, $88 million.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program would be funded at $500 million.

From an item appearing at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/federal_legislation_regulation/news/APTA-Appropriations-bill-would-help-transit--51503


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NEC Commission Identifies Needs
Of $38 Billion

By William C. Vantuono
Railway Age

The Northeast Corridor Commission on May 3 submitted to Congress two reports detailing short-and-long-term capital investment needs totaling some $38 billion for the 457-mile electrified rail line linking Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

“The Northeast Corridor Capital Investment Plan: Fiscal Years 2018 – 2022” and the “Northeast Corridor Annual Report: Operations and Infrastructure, Fiscal Year 2016” are requirements of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act. They “are critical elements of the Commission’s policy framework, which balances cost sharing with improved collaboration, transparency and accountability,” the Commission says. “The policy framework also calls for a federal-state funding partnership to restore the infrastructure of the most important passenger railroad [line] in the country,” which serves four of the nation’s ten largest metropolitan areas, supports more than 780,000 trips daily on eight commuter railroads and more than 40,000 trips on Amtrak’s intercity services.

A 2014 Commission study found that a loss of all NEC services for a single day “could cost the economy $100 million in lost productivity, added congestion on the regional highway and aviation networks and other transportation-related costs.”

The Capital Investment Plan identifies the Commission’s top-ten NEC-wide unfunded priorities, “which are focused on addressing the Corridor’s $38 billion backlog in state-of-good-repair needs. While the backlog would be addressed over many years, the Plan shows a five-year need, constrained by available resources, of $29 billion for a combination of investments that address the state-of-good-repair backlog as well as infrastructure and capacity enhancements to support the region’s growth. Roughly $9 billion of that need is currently funded.”

Many projects included in the Capital Investment Plan are eligible for funding from the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program. “This competitive grant program is authorized to provide direct federal funding to supplement the large amounts of state and local dollars that are going to replace, rehabilitate or repair basic infrastructure assets,” the Commission notes. “Congress will vote on the Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus bill this week to provide $25 million to the Federal-State Partnership Program, which is authorized at $175 million for FY18.

The Plan was completed “just as recent events (two derailments within a 10-day span) in the vicinity of Penn Station New York highlighted how infrastructure failures impact travelers across modes with serious consequences for the economy,” the Commission said. “We will adjust these plans as necessary to redirect available resources where they are most needed.”

“The states and Amtrak have stepped up to fund the Corridor’s basic infrastructure and regular maintenance needs,” said James Redeker, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Co-Chair of the Northeast Corridor Commission. “With the Capital Investment Plan in place, we lay the foundation for the federal government to begin to help address the $38 billion state-of-good-repair backlog, infrastructure assets that, while safe, are operating beyond their useful lives, increasing maintenance costs and decreasing reliability.”

In 2015, the Commission adopted the NEC Commuter and Intercity Rail Cost Allocation Policy, an agreement committing each passenger railroad using the Corridor to share approximately $1 billion annually in operating and normalized replacement capital costs based on use. “This policy does not, however, fully fund the Corridor’s extensive capital needs, including the backlog,” the Commission stresses.

“Reliable Amtrak and SEPTA service is essential to Delaware’s economic growth,” said Jennifer Cohan, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation and Chair of the Commission’s Planning Committee. “Failure to address the Corridor’s significant investment needs identified in the Capital Investment Plan puts our future at risk.”

The Northeast Corridor Annual Report: Operations and Infrastructure, Fiscal Year 2016 is the Commission’s first annual report. It documents the operational performance of NEC trains in FY 2016, “allowing Commission stakeholders to identify and track performance trends over time, improving the understanding of the causes of delays and potential opportunities for performance improvement.”

The Annual Report also addresses the implementation of the capital program for Fiscal Year 2016 and contains recommendations on improving capital planning and the annual One-Year Implementation Plan. Northeast Corridor stakeholders invested $1.06 billion in infrastructure in FY 2016. Some of these dollars were applied to the Cost Allocation Policy’s Baseline Capital Charge (BCC) Program covering normalized replacement of basic infrastructure assets. Through this program, owners and operators contributed almost $460 million to replace more than 7,800 concrete ties, 43,000 wood ties, 348,000 feet of rail, and 51,000 feet of overhead catenary. The program also paid for more than two million feet of track surfacing and 107,000 feet of undercutting. The other $600 million funded Special Projects aimed at addressing the major bridges and tunnels in the state-of-good-repair backlog or improving the NEC.

“The funding committed by states and rail agencies through the cost allocation policy provides a critical lifeline to the aging NEC,” said Stephen Gardner, Executive Vice President, Planning, Technology, & Public Affairs at Amtrak. “However, without significant new state and federal investment to address the Corridor’s aging infrastructure, commuter and intercity rail service will continue to be at risk.”

Both reports can be download at the links below.

The Northeast Corridor Commission was authorized by Congress in 2008 to improve coordination on the Corridor. It is comprised of one member from each of the NEC states and the District of Columbia; four members from Amtrak; and five members from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Commission also includes non-voting representatives from NEC freight railroads, states with feeder corridors, and commuter rail authorities not directly represented by a Commission member.

NEC Capital Investment Plan:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&task=download&id=111_170a2cd88814246662494a4f850b251e

NEC Annual Report:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&task=download&id=112_a65f840c5b33bf0552d35fd73ea66863

From an item published at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/intercity/nec-commission-identifies-needs-of-dol38-billion.html


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Sound Transit Announces New Timeline
For ST2 And ST3 Plans

By Maggie Lancaster
Rail, Track, And Structures

Sound Transit unveiled plans to kick off what the company calls “one of the most ambitious public transit capital investment programs in the nation’s history.”

By the end of 2017, Sound Transit will be planning, designing or building 24 train and bus projects in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

“Today we’re pushing the ‘go’ button on critical infrastructure expansions to serve the people of our region,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “These projects will help keep commuters, freight, and our economy moving as our population grows and our congestion worsens. It’s imperative we deliver the projects voters have approved with an eye towards saving money and being as efficient as possible.”

To meet the expedited timelines in the final Sound Transit 3 package, the agency will start projects sooner and collaborate with cities, stakeholders and private citizens earlier and more intensively. The agency will focus on identifying preferred routes and station locations earlier, streamlining the number of alternatives studied, acquiring real estate sooner, and developing early permitting plans with partner agencies.

Upcoming transit expansions will dramatically increase ridership, as previewed by the more than 80 percent growth in Link light-rail ridership since Sound Transit opened its University of Washington and Angle Lake extensions last year. By 2040, overall weekday system ridership is projected to grow from 147,000 today to up to 695,000. To prepare, internal changes will increase the agency’s focus on customers’ experience, including everything from facility designs to technologies to signage.

Last week, Sound Transit executed the latest step toward moving forward with further expansions, issuing a request for qualifications that will help identify the consultant that later this year will support kicking off planning for light rail between West Seattle, Downtown Seattle and Ballard. This summer and fall, the agency will also solicit bids to begin planning for the Federal Way-Tacoma light-rail extension, bus rapid transit projects on I-405 and SR 522, and Sounder south line capital improvements. Light rail will move closer to Snohomish County next year as Sound Transit begins construction of Lynnwood Link and construction of East Link light rail will continue to intensify.

Sound Transit explains that with the November 2016 adoption of Sound Transit 3, the people of the Central Puget Sound region took a historic action to continue building the true mass transit system that has been talked about for decades. ST3 is equal in scope and timeline to the first two phases (Sound Move and Sound Transit 2) combined. It will establish a 116-mile light-rail network with more than 80 stations serving 16 cities, growing five-fold beyond its current size, at a scale comparable to the largest systems in the country.

By 2021, Sound Transit will complete light rail to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. In 2023 trains will reach Mercer Island, Bellevue, Overlake/Redmond, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. From there, Sound Transit will keep building until the agency has completed the 116-mile system. Next up will be getting light rail to Federal Way and downtown Redmond in 2024. From there, continuing expansions will focus on Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard, Everett, South Kirkland and Issaquah.

Improvements are also coming to Sounder commuter rail service, which will serve 13 cities when planned extensions to Tillicum and DuPont are complete. Following the establishment of bus rapid transit along the north, east and south sides of Lake Washington the agency’s ST Express system will serve 26 cities.

View Sound Transit’s complete summary of timelines for all projects at:  https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/project-documents/system-expansion-project-timelines.pdf

The full draft plan is also available at:  https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/project-documents/system-expansion-implementation-plan.pdf

From an article appearing at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/track-maintenance/on-track-maintenance/sound-transit-announces-new-timeline-for-st2-and-st3-plans.html


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Nashville Selects Gallatin Pike Corridor
For Light-Rail Project

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Nashville, Tenn., Mayor Megan Barry said the city would pursue its first light-rail project along the Gallatin Pike corridor during her “State of Metro” address on April 26.

“We cannot wait another year to start the process of building our first light rail,” said Mayor Barry. “I’m very happy to announce that today the work begins to create light-rail service on the Gallatin Pike corridor. I’m excited to have the city start the process of making light rail available to our citizens. I’d drive across the river and put a shovel in the ground this afternoon if I could – and I might just do it anyway!”

In August 2016, Nashville leaders released a 25-year transit plan for the region that included light rail along four corridors, expanded commuter rail and several other bus and rapid transit options at a projected price tag of $6 billion.

According to her office, Mayor Barry has committed herself to working with the Metro Council and community partners to develop and present a transit plan to Nashville voters that will include dedicated sources of revenue to build high-capacity transit along the Gallatin, Nolensville, Murfreesboro and Charlotte Pikes, along with a Northwest Corridor from North Nashville to Clarksville.

Mayor Barry noted that the Gallatin Pike corridor is an obvious choice to start that process as it currently carries the most transit riders in the region, development along the corridor has demonstrated a market for transit-oriented development and planning processes have shown that the neighborhoods along Gallatin support comprehensive mass transit.

“Nashville cannot wait any longer to embrace our future,” Mayor Barry said in announcing her intention to move forward with community partners to develop a transit referendum for the voters of Nashville. “We will be a 21st-century, transit-oriented city, and we are not going to look back 10 years from now and say we failed when we had to succeed.”

Nashville voters are expected to take action the regions transit plan through a 2018 transit referendum.


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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Sound Transit Orders Extra LRVs
To Support Light Rail Extensions

From Global Rail News

Siemens is to supply an additional 30 light rail vehicles (LRVs) for Seattle’s public transport operator Sound Transit.

The agency’s board of directors today (May 3) approved the order which will provide the necessary capacity for the opening of Sound Transit’s Link extension projects to Federal Way and Redmond in 2024.

The deal, which is worth $131 million, is an option left over from an order placed in 2016 for 122 vehicles. Sound Transit said it would allow it to take advantage of a lower unit price.

Image

Image: Siemens

Sound Transit Link LRV

Manufactured in Sacramento, California, the additional LRVs are scheduled to arrive no later than 18 months after final delivery of a previous order – the first of which will be delivered in 2019.

Sound Transit chief executive Peter Rogoff added: “Ordering more Link cars earlier than planned is just one example of how we’re moving aggressively forward to build a light rail network that will serve up to 188 million riders a year by 2040.

“By the time pre-revenue testing begins in 2024 on the first two Link extensions approved by voters last November, we’ll be ready.”

The total number of LRVs procured under Sound Transit’s contract with Siemens is 152.

Found at:
https://www.globalrailnews.com/2017/05/03/sound-transit-orders-extra-lrvs-to-support-light-rail-extensions/


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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

Amtrak CEO Tells State Lawmakers Penn Station
Repairs To Cause More Delays

From Metro Magazine

Amtrak’s CEO Wick Moorman told New Jersey lawmakers, who want answers about recent rail problems at the transportation hub that have created chaos for commuters, that accelerated repairs at Penn Station this summer will require two or three “significant” disruptions to service, CBS New York reports.

Moorman, who was joined by Amtrak’s VP Scot Napastek and NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro, issued an apology to commuters at the start of his testimony and said that reports that Amtrak was not working to keep the Northeast Corridor in a state of good repair were categorically false.

Amtrak officials plan to meet with LIRR and NJ TRANSIT officials next week with the hope of publishing a plan for track closures by the second week in May so that commuters can plan ahead, as part of its 14-month track renewal project plan.

For more on this story see:
http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/04/28/amtrak-nj-transit-trenton-hearing/

Found at:
http://www.metro-magazine.com/rail/news/722231/amtrak-ceo-tells-state-lawmakers-penn-station-repairs-to-cause-more-delays


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Opinion

VIA Rail’s Fleet Is Obsolete.
Can’t We Do Better?

By Jason Shron
Ottawa Citizen

Riding the train in Canada is like stepping into a time warp. VIA Rail Canada’s passenger car fleet is a hodge-podge of mismatched equipment built as long ago as 1947, and it is a national embarrassment.

In February, VIA placed a bid for 12 RDCs – Rail Diesel Cars – that were offered for sale by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). These RDCs were built in the 1950s and were originally owned by Via. They were sold to DART in 1993 following the cuts to VIA by the government of Brian Mulroney in 1990. VIA placed a market-value offer but were outbid by a Vermont startup interested in developing regional rail services in and around Burlington.

VIA intended to refurbish the RDCs for expanded regional services in Ontario and the Maritimes. However, the fact that VIA placed a bid on 1950s-built railcars in 2017 is reflective of a bigger problem with Canada’s national passenger railway. It is starved of capital funding and as a result its fleet truly is ancient.

If you board a train in Montreal, you will ride on one of three types of equipment. The newest cars are VIA’s Renaissance trains. These cars were purchased from the United Kingdom by the government of Jean Chrétien in late 2000. The fleet was built for proposed overnight Channel Tunnel services and was entirely unsuited to Canadian weather and track, but as the cars were surplus they were very affordable. Today, the Renaissance cars are the most expensive to operate: Each train requires an extra non-revenue car to provide controls to the coaches; the cars are not interchangeable with any other railcars in Canada; and the fleet has exhibited serious corrosion problems, with many cars stored unserviceable.

VIA’s LRC (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) fleet was built by Bombardier between 1981 and 1984. The LRCs are in the final phase of a major refurbishment program, but this does not alter the fact that these lightweight train cars were not designed to operate for 36 years and counting. Many are exhibiting structural problems and will need to be replaced soon for safety and reliability reasons.

The oldest trains in VIA’s fleet are HEP-2 (Head End Power) cars. These were built between 1947 and 1953 for American streamliners. They were purchased secondhand and refurbished by VIA in the 1990s without any extra government capital funding. These antique trains are not used out on quiet remote services. They are used on fast intercity trains in southern Ontario and Quebec. Some of our nation’s busiest trains are 70 years old, and this is a disgrace.

VIA’s mismatched fleet requires expensive duplication of skills and materials for maintenance. It may be a rail enthusiast’s dream to ride on a 1940s’ passenger car between Toronto and Montreal, but for a national passenger railway it is an embarrassment.

Canada is the only G7 nation that has not seen significant capital funding in intercity passenger rail in a generation. Since 2000, VIA has only received a total of $1.6 billion (2017 dollars) for capital investments. In comparison, the United Kingdom spends more than that on passenger rail capital projects each year, with work wrapping up in 2018 on a new, $26-billion passenger rail line through London. When VIA received its last purpose-built passenger cars in 1984, China still had trains pulled by steam engines. Today, China has the largest high-speed rail network in the world. Canada has yet to build a single high-speed line.

A new fleet needs to bring standardization and flexibility to VIA’s operations in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, and allow expansion of services in western Canada. It needs to be reliable, and must thus be an adaptation of a current intercity passenger train product offered by one of the major suppliers: Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Siemens. The supplier needs to offer a “build and maintain” contract, so reliability issues are the responsibility of the supplier and not the Canadian taxpayer.

Most importantly, a new fleet for VIA needs to be modern and reflective of 21st-century Canada and its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint by providing fast and efficient intercity train service. It should not be a British hand-me-down or a rebuilt train from the 1950s.

Jason Shron is a model train manufacturer and advocate for passenger rail in Canada.

Found at:
http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/shron-via-rails-fleet-is-obsolete-cant-we-do-better


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

The following is a letter sent in to Newsday in response to its Editorial-Opinion piece appearing on April 30, 2017entitled “Amtrak still on the wrong track at Penn Station” and found at:  http://www.newsday.com/opinion/editorial/amtrak-still-on-the-wrong-track-1.13539480

Commentary by M.E. Singer May 1, 2017:

Your editorial deriding Amtrak (Apr 30) conveniently omits salient points. Contrary to diminishing the respected experience record of Amtrak’s new CEO, Mr. Wick Moorman, who rose thru the ranks of the Norfolk Southern and knows more about track infrastructure than your politicians and media, you should be thankful that he understands what must be done now. For those who have any semblance of an idea of the history to this problem know it goes back to 1976 when your regional political power bloc foisted the Northeast Corridor upon Amtrak, but without the requisite funding to maintain and improve the infrastructure.

How would this funding issue been better resolved had the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act of 2008 required the states served by the Northeast Corridor contribute for their trains based upon the same Amtrak derived full cost allocation methodology used for all other states, instead of free loading? Coupled to that financial equation, the Northeastern commuter lines enjoyed a free ride on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor since 1976. Although required to make payment to Amtrak initially by this act in 2008, Amtrak deferred collection in an apparent play to its Northeast political patronage base, until directly mandated by Congress in December, 2015. What would the passenger rail infrastructure bank look like today under different political circumstances?

Even before Super Storm Sandy enhanced the deterioration of the Hudson River tunnels in 2012, it was quite obvious of the need for their replacement; yet, the nation as a whole has been dragging its heels on infrastructure since the 1980s to keep taxes artificially low. But why was their such a lax mentality by the region’s federal, state, and municipal politicos towards relieving such a singular economic bottleneck for their region, as identified by Penn Station? Indeed, the imbedded political issues of your NY/NJ Port Authority are well known west of the Hudson. Even now, PANYNJ ignores Penn Station; electing instead to line-up $57 Million to extend PATH to Newark Liberty Airport. Another dose of reality is the multi-tiered priorities of Governor Cuomo for re-building LaGuardia, a tunnel between Penn Station-Grand Central (originally killed by Governor Pataki), expanding new 2nd Avenue subway, repairing “L” and “R” lines from Hurricane Sandy, a new Port Authority bus terminal; perhaps even a replacement for Carnegie Deli.

The Northeast media and it politicos deliberately elected to forgo the fact that the Northeast Corridor conveniently ignores basic GAAP by falsely claiming “profitability” before infrastructure costs are included. Convinced how the Corridor’s profits subsidized the national system of long distance trains, your federal politicos succeeded to recently shear off and isolate the Corridor, not understanding how the Corridor’s excessively high infrastructure and overhead costs are amortized across the national system. So, what’s the next play, given that even now, NJT and LIRR fail to pay their fair share of costs at Penn Station?

Digesting these salient points, a caveat to the media and politicos of the Northeast from former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who said in 2003: “Either we commit to dramatically improving rail for the entire country or we abandon the pretense of a national system and turn it over to the states and private companies. Our motto for passenger rail is National or Nothing!”

Your conflicting political problems are incorrectly laid off on Amtrak’s new CEO, when the past nine years of a non-rail Amtrak CEO from NY state was tolerated, as well as the perpetual Northeastern domination of Amtrak’s Board of Directors, with a cavalier wink and slap on the back from the region’s politicos and media.

Marketing Rail Ltd
M.E. Singer
Principal
singer.marketingrailltd@gmail.com

[ The opinions expressed are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinions of NCI , Destination: Freedom, or its publisher, or its contributing staff. ]


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