The National Corridors Initiative Logo

June 19, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 24

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


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

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

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

  Guest Editorial…
Thumb Down: Long-Distance Amtrak Florida Routes
   Face Extinction
  Commuter Lines…
Brightline Rail Will Start With Deeply Discounted
   Fares Denver Sees G Line Testing Begin
  Builders Lines…
Phoenix Orders Siemens LRVs
  Planning Lines…
OKC-Kansas City Passenger Train Under
   Consideration By Amtrak
MBTA To Launch $3 Million Commuter Rail
   ‘Vision Study’
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Political Lines…
California: Rail Commission Bill Moves To Senate
APTA Pushes To Preserve Federal Transit Funding
  To The North…
How China Built A Global Rail Behemoth
   That‘s Leaving Western Train Makers Behind
Trudeau Confirms $1.283 Billion In Federal Cash
   For REM Train
  Publication Notes …

GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Thumb Down: Long-Distance Amtrak
Florida Routes Face Extinction

By Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board

Nearly 1 million people rode Amtrak trains in Florida last year, but if President Donald Trump gets his way, they’ll have to find another mode of transportation.

Trump proposes to ax Florida Amtrak long-distance service entirely, meaning the two New York to Miami trains and the popular auto train that runs from Orlando to Washington, D.C. would go the way of the steam engine.

All told, 23 of the 45 states where Amtrak now runs would lose all service.

Critics correctly note that Amtrak’s long-distance routes lose money, but the trains also provide a vital transportation alternative, and the auto train in particular is a boon for long-distance travelers who don’t want to put mileage on their vehicle.

Not everyone wants to cram into an increasingly cramped airline seat, but if the cuts go through, flying — or the long, long drive up Interstate 95 — might be the only ways to go.

Found at:

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Brightline Rail Will Start With
Deeply Discounted Fares

Written By Miami Today

The new Brightline rail service linking Miami to West Palm Beach with a stop in Fort Lauderdale will start with deeply discounted fares when it takes its first runs in late summer and offers full service in the early fall, CEO Dave Howard says.

While he wouldn’t reveal the fare structure, Mr. Howard told a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation meeting last week that the discounted cost is “going to be less than the cost of driving your car.”

Fares, he said, won’t be revealed until just before operations begin. He did not provide specific dates.

The full service in the fall, he said, will amount to 32 round trips daily between Miami and West Palm Beach.


Courtesy Image via Miami Today

One of the Brightline trainsets

The West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations, built expressly for the Brightline service, are getting their final touches, Mr. Howard said, while the massive station complex in downtown Miami handled by parent All Aboard Florida continues to rise.

Asked to predict the status of the railroad next June, he said that Brightline will then be on the way to carrying 3 million passengers a year.

“The railroad is the answer of the future,” traveling on a line that was built by railroad magnate Henry Flagler just before 1900. “What an awesome opportunity to reinvent that system.”

The railroad as conceived by its owner, Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, was to be a link between Miami and Orlando, linking to Orlando’s cluster of globally known theme attractions. But communities along the route have tried to sidetrack the planned operations, delaying that longer part of the run.

Mr. Howard said only that the Brightline will be “ultimately connecting to Orlando in phase 2 of our project.” He did not provide an estimate of how long that might take.

He did note, as he has in the past, that no privately funded passenger rail service has been completed in the US in the past 100 years. “This is a privately funded project that has enormous public benefits,” he said.

He said the level of service planned on the line now exists nowhere in the nation.

That might help to cut into the car-centric culture in the region.

“Yes, we need to change behavior, Mr. Howard conceded, “but the behavior that we have to change is painful. So it should be relatively easy” to motivate South Floridians to ride the rails rather than suffer in heavy traffic.”

As for the impact on the community, Mr. Howard, who arrived here in March from New York, where he ran sports-oriented organizations, said that he hears a lot from employers about dependency on cars impeding business growth. “They can’t afford to lose people for hours in the day in their cars just to attend meetings,” he said.

As for getting Millennials to ride the Brightline, he said that the generation is much more favorably inclined to alternative travel modes than their elders and they already feel connected to city centers. Brightline, he said, is one of the solutions to connect the cities together.

Mr. Howard said that the owners of the Brightline feel good about their investment. The cost was low, because they already owned the right-of-way. At a cost of a little more than $1 billion for the five train sets and stations combined, he said, “this is actually an extraordinarily efficient investment.”

From an item at:

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Denver Sees G Line Testing Begin

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Railway Age

Denver Regional Transportation District and its contractor, Denver Transit Partners (DTP), have been given regulatory approval to begin testing along the G Line on June 14.

Commuter rail trains will begin moving along the corridor from Wheat Ridge through Arvada and into unincorporated Adams County. The initial phase of testing on the G Line will be limited with only a few test trains running during weekdays, but the number of trains and frequency will increase as testing progresses toward the fully published G Line schedule. Testing could take up to 90 days to complete.

“We are excited to begin testing along the G Line. Authorization to perform testing on the G Line is evidence of the dedication RTD and DTP have in working with the regulatory agencies to ensure a safe system for our riders,” RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova said. “Safety is RTD’s top priority, and it is important for the public to be aware and exercise caution when walking, biking or driving near the commuter rail alignment.”

The current testing process is focused on communication systems, signaling systems and the communication of traffic and rail signals at railroad crossings. While these systems are tested, railroad or at-grade crossings along the alignment are subject to closures. Those who attempt to bypass the gate arms and enter the testing area are at risk for serious injury or death and are illegally trespassing.

Found at:

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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

Phoenix Orders Siemens LRVs

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

Phoenix Valley Metro Rail has ordered 11 new S70 light rail vehicles from Siemens.

The order also includes an option for up to 67 additional vehicles, Siemens Urban Transport of Munich announced.

The value of the order was not disclosed.


Image Via Railway Age

One of Metro’s vehicles

The new vehicles offer a larger interior than previous cars, energy-efficient LED lighting, and heavy-duty air conditioning systems. The cars for Valley Metro will be built at Siemens’ manufacturing plant in Sacramento, Calif.

“Investment in transit is a major contributor to powering this nation’s ongoing economic growth, both locally and across the country,” said Valley Metro Rail Chair, Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell. “We look forward to successful collaboration and partnership with Siemens who plays a critical role in the expansion of our Valley’s light rail system.”

Siemens said Phoenix is the 18th city in North America to order its light rail vehicles.

Found at:

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PLANNING LINES... Planning Lines...  

OKC-Kansas City Passenger Train
Under Consideration By Amtrak

Amtrak Is Considering Possible Expansion Of
Heartland Flyer Line Through Kansas

By Ben Felder
The Oklahoman
Via Tulsa World

The state’s only passenger train line survived a last-minute budget raid attempt and will continue to operate as a connection between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth for another year.

The Heartland Flyer Amtrak line has been in survival mode for years during an era of bleak state revenue collections, and a proposed state budget last month sought to take money out of the Passenger Rail Revolving Fund to help shore up a nearly $900 million budget hole, which would have put the rail line in jeopardy.


File Photo:  The Oklahoman

The Heartland Flyer enters the station at Oklahoma City.

But officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation were successful in convincing lawmakers to look elsewhere for the money and the state will spend the $2.9 million next year to maintain the Heartland Flyer, which makes five stops in Oklahoma.

Texas contributes $2.4 million for the Heartland Flyer.

Found at:

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MBTA To Launch $3 Million
Commuter Rail ‘Vision Study’

By Patriot Ledger Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) says it will spend $3 million on a 2-year “vision study” to evaluate how its commuter rail service is being used now and how it could be improved to better serve commuters in the future.

The T says the study, which is expected to start this fall, will look at whether the agency is using the right kinds of trains, whether infrastructure upgrades would be needed to expand service and whether some parts of the commuter line rail network should be electrified. It will also include an evaluation of existing commuter line service, which the T says is keeping it from getting more people to ride the trains outside of peak commuting times.

The T says it expects to award a contract for the study project in September. The study is excepted to take 2 to 2.5 years and start shortly after the contract is awarded.

The T will begin soliciting proposals for the project starting Friday.

The MBTA’s commuter rail network, which includes 14 lines with stations in 50 cities and towns, sees about 122,000 daily passengers trips on an average weekday, representing about 9 percent of the agency’s ridership. The commuter rail fleet includes 82 locomotives and 421 coaches.

From a story at:

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

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

California:  Rail Commission Bill
Moves To Senate

By Sam Matthews
Tracy Press

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, author of legislation to create a new regional rail authority to develop a light-rail system connecting Tri-Valley BART service to this area, is optimistic that bipartisan support will continue in the state Senate.

Assembly Bill 758 was passed June 1 in the Assembly on a 72-0 vote and is now headed to the Senate Transportation Committee.

“Working closely with Assembly-member Catharine Baker, a Republican from Dublin, developed the kind of strong bipartisan that has become very rare in Sacramento,” Eggman said. “We are confident there will be that kind of bipartisanship in the Senate.”

She said some opposition to AB 758 has emerged, mostly from Bay Area unions of BART employees concerned about a different rail authority being established in BART territory, but that has not threatened the bill.

“We believe the BART unions will come to the table as AB 758 moves through the Senate,” Eggman said. “There is already a strong consensus that we must get people commuting over the Altamont out of their cars.”

That consensus is being broadened by those concerned with environmental issues such as pollution and quality of life, she added.

Eggman said solid cooperation between the light-rail system proponents and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which operates the Altamont Corridor Express system, has already been established and is expected to continue.

She said Gov. Jerry Brown’s transportation funding law, SB 1, is one likely source of funding for the light-rail system proposed between Lathrop, through central Tracy and over the Altamont Pass as far west as BART’s Pleasanton-Dublin station. Providing “inter-rail connectivity” is included in the goals of the legislation, Eggman noted.

Already, ACE is assured of $400 million in SB 1 funds to extend its service to Manteca, Modesto, Turlock and Merced, with the possibility of connecting to high-speed rail tracks extending north from Fresno.

A more tentative aspect of what is called the ACEforward program is “the possibility” of running ACE trains through central Tracy and establishing new stations east of town at River Islands and Banta and up to two stations to the west.

How those possibilities would mesh with the light-rail proposal would be a part of ongoing discussions as planning evolves, Eggman said.

Found at:

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APTA Pushes To Preserve
Federal Transit Funding

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Public transit leaders joined together at the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) annual conference in Baltimore, Md., to discuss and express their concerns regarding the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget proposal to phase out the Capital Improvement Grant (CIG) program.

The FY18 budget reflects a $928-million reduction in the CIG program and limits the requested $1.26 billion to projects that hold existing full funding grant agreements (FFGA). The budget says, “future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use the benefit from these localized projects.” The administration justified the reduction and phase out of the CIG program by stating that “federal resources should be focused on making targeted investments that leverage private sector investment” and noted that “localities are better equipped to scale and design infrastructure investments needed for their communities.”

APTA says cuts to the CIG program would put public transit projects and the thousands of associated direct and indirect jobs at risk in more than 50 communities. The transit association conducted a study on the cuts, the Economic Implications of Proposed Public Transit Capital Funding Cuts, which found that 800,000 jobs would be at risk and there would be a possible loss of $90 billion in economic output nationally if the proposal was to be implemented.

“I must emphasize that APTA and its 1,500 members are very concerned about the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget proposal to phase out federal investment of public transit programs that are vital to our local communities and millions of Americans,” said Doran J. Barnes, APTA chair and executive director, Foothill Transit. “The Administration’s proposed cuts to public transit impact more than 50 projects in 23 states worth $38 billion in planned projects.”

A complete list of the more than 50 CIG public transit projects in 23 states that could be at risk if they don’t have a FFGA in place us available here.

“This proposal is wholly inconsistent with the Administration’s approach to improve our nation’s infrastructure,” said Richard A. White, APTA acting president and CEO. “It is contrary to the 35-year federal partnership that was created under the Reagan Administration, which has led to a rail renaissance that has transformed our nation’s communities.”

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

The release of the president’s budget proposal is the first step of the budgetary process. It must pass through both sides of Congress, including the appropriate subcommittees, before a final budget is solidified.

In a stroke of irony, the U.S. Department of Transportation posted a blog entry on June 12, which details 2016 data that found American drivers spend more time stuck in traffic.

The blog is written by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Associate Administrator for Operations Martin Knopp and begins, “According to new data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s FHWA, drivers are spending more time stuck in rush-hour traffic than ever. Increased congestion is outpacing system improvements gained from investments in gridlock reduction strategies, such as road widenings, better intermodal connections and traffic and demand management technologies.”

Gary Thomas, president and executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), said, “Sustainable, predictable and substantial federal funding is essential if transit agencies like DART are going to be able to continue providing effective mobility choices for our customers. Our customers and stakeholders are ready for our projects to get going so they can begin taking full advantage in their investment in mobility.”

From an item at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

How China Built A Global Rail Behemoth
That’s Leaving Western Train Makers Behind

By Nathan VanderKlippe And Nicolas Van Praet
The Globe And Mail

On May 11, just hours after Bombardier Inc. shareholders streamed out of a jet hangar near Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport, the company’s train executives received a phone call from the city’s regional commuter-rail agency advising them they had lost a bid on a tender to Chinese rival CRRC Corp.

For Bombardier, the decision was wholly unexpected, and marked the Chinese rail-manufacturing giant’s first significant contract win in Canada. Details of the agreement are fairly straightforward: Montreal’s regional commuter-rail service – Réseau de transport métropolitain (RTM) – picked CRRC to supply 24 double-decker train cars. The agency had expected to spend $103-million; the Chinese manufacturer bid just $69-million.

Behind the numbers, however, is a more complicated back-story that includes RTM voiding the initial request for proposals and opening a second bidding process. Staff from RTM even travelled overseas to entice foreign bidders. In its new tender, the RTM changed some of the terms, deciding to nix a previous requirement that bidders have a service-proven vehicle that was already running. It also lowered the Canadian manufacturing-content requirement. The outcome has angered Bombardier, which says it is “baffled” by the decision and vowed to rethink its rail-manufacturing footprint in Canada if lower local-content rules become the new norm.

The Montreal-based train maker is facing other woes at the same time. The World Bank has launched a probe into possible wrongdoing by Bombardier in connection with a deal to supply signaling equipment for a rail project in Azerbaijan.

But the bigger story may involve the rise of the successful bidder.

Nine years since it stepped outside its own borders and made its first overseas acquisition, CRRC has embarked on a global pursuit for market share. The mega-manufacturer, formed in 2015 through the merger of China’s state-owned makers of locomotives and train cars, is the largest industrial company of its kind on Earth. And with its first contract win in Canada and plans to build its first Canadian plant under way, it is changing the game for global train making.

The Montreal order comes after other CRRC wins, in Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles. It took less than five years for China to build the world’s biggest high-speed rail network, a system running almost entirely on rolling stock supplied by CRRC’s former entities – CNR and CSR. It might take even less time for CRRC to assume its spot as the yardstick against which the planet’s rail-equipment manufacturers are measured. With 190,000 employees and annual revenue topping $32-billion, CRRC has become a new national export champion.

“The new player is the biggest in the world and has already changed the game,” said Maria Leenen, chief executive officer at transportation consultancy SCI Verkehr in Hamburg, Germany.

For the full story go to:

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Trudeau Confirms $1.283 Billion In
Federal Cash For REM Train

By Jason Magder
Montreal Gazette

As anticipated, Montreal’s planned electric train network has landed key federal funding.

Thursday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Ottawa will provide $1.283 billion in funding. He was accompanied during the announcement at Montreal’s Central Station by Premier Philippe Couillard, Mayor Denis Coderre and Michael Sabia, the chief executive officer of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

The Caisse de dépôt, Quebec’s pension plan manager, is spearheading the train project, known as the Réseau électrique métropolitain, or REM.

“I’m proud to announce the government of Canada will partner with the government of Quebec and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in the REM,” Trudeau said Thursday.

Quebec has already said it will contribute $1.283 billion to the project.

Under the plan, Quebec and the federal government will each own 24.5 per cent of the system, with the Caisse owning the remaining 51 per cent.

However, Trudeau said the federal money will come in the form of a subsidy for now, not an investment. He said the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, which the government plans to create, will have to decide whether to invest in the project once it comes into being.

If that bank decides to invest, the federal pledge can be used for other priority transit projects for the region, Trudeau said, including a long-awaited extension to the Blue Line. Trudeau, however, stopped short of saying federal money was a sure thing for a Blue Line extension.

The REM, a 67-kilometre electric-train system, will cost $6 billion, according to the latest estimate. The network will connect downtown Montreal with the South Shore, Deux-Montagnes, the West Island and Trudeau airport.

The train is scheduled to begin service in 2020, and construction is set to begin this fall.

But on Wednesday, La Presse reported that the planned start date is in jeopardy.

Since it looks unlikely that the National Assembly will be able to pass Bill 137 before the end of the session on Friday, it will be difficult to reach the 2020 target, according to the newspaper.

The bill will solidify the agreement between the provincial government and the Caisse de dépôt. If the bill does not pass before summer, there will be an impact on the project’s timeline, according to Caisse spokesperson Maxime Chagnon.

The Caisse de dépôt will face additional costs and unexpected obstacles because of this, La Presse said.

From an article at:

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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