The National Corridors Initiative Logo

June 20, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 24

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...

  Transit Lines…
Ontario Moving Subway Projects Forward
New Access MIT Program Offers Free Public
   Transit To MIT Employees
  Expansion Lines…
Gov. Baker Not Bullish On North-South Rail Link
New Trip Added To Amtrak Route In California
  Funding Lines…
US DOT Innovates With $874 Million Transit Loan
   To Maryland
  Ridership Lines…
Record Levels Projected For MBTA Commuter
   Rail Revenue
Sounder South Trains: So Popular, Sound Transit’s
   Trying To Add More
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  High-Speed Lines…
Bullet Train Connecting Houston To Dallas
   To Break Ground
  Across The Pond…
Ŝkoda Establishing U.S. Subsidiary
  To The North…
Ontario Expanding GO Rail Service To
   Waterloo Region
  Off the Main Line…
A Tourist Railroad Dies; Victim of A
   Larger Epidemic
  Publication Notes …


TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Ontario Moving Subway Projects Forward

From Railway Age

The province of Ontario is providing C$205 million (US$160 million) to help advance work for the Yonge North Subway Extension and the proposed Relief Line to help manage congestion on the Yonge Line in the Toronto area.

The funds are part of the province’s Moving Ontario Forward plan, which is supporting public transit, transportation and priority infrastructure projects by investing C$31.5 billion (US$24.5 billion). About C$16 billion (US$12.4 billion) of this will be invested in priority rapid transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. (A synopsis of the plan can be downloaded at the link below.)

Ontario will be providing more than C$55 million (US$43 million) to Metrolinx to work with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the Regional Municipality of York and York Region Rapid Transit Corporation to continue planning and design work on the Yonge North Subway Extension.

The proposed Yonge North Subway Extension would extend the Yonge Subway Line from the existing Finch Station to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill, giving residents and commuters more transit options when complete.

The Environmental Assessment for the Yonge North Subway Extension was approved in April 2009; an addendum to include an underground train storage facility and surface facilities was also approved in November 2014. Through earlier studies by York Region, it is projected that 58 million riders would use the extension annually by 2031.

Metrolinx will be receiving more than C$150 million (US$117 million) to work with the TTC on advancing the planning and design work that will ensure the proposed Relief Line is shovel ready. The city of Toronto expects to complete its Relief Line Project Assessment Study in 2016.

The proposed Relief Line is a future rapid transit line that would connect downtown Toronto to the Bloor-Danforth Subway east of the Don River. It will assist in relieving crowding on the Yonge Subway line and the Bloor-Yonge interchange station, as well as provide riders with more travel options.

“Under our Moving Ontario Forward plan, our government is committed to providing accessible, modern transit infrastructure that will manage congestion, reduce commute times, create jobs and improve the quality of life for Ontarians,” explained Steven Del Duca, minister of Transportation.

From an item at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit/ontario-provides-funds-to-propel-two-subway-projects-forward.html


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New Access MIT Program Offers Free
Public Transit To MIT Employees

Plan Gives Commuters Flexibility To Choose, Day-To-Day, How They Get To Campus

By Andre Guilleman
MIT News

Between now and September, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will roll out the Access MIT pass, one of several new commuter benefits for Cambridge (MA) campus faculty and staff. The new benefits include free, unlimited subway and local bus usage, and increased subsidies for parking at MBTA stations and commuter rail tickets. The Access MIT pass is a reflection of the Institute’s commitment to sustainability and climate action, and will be accompanied by a shift to pay-per-day parking at most lots in an effort to reduce the number of cars on campus.

The Access MIT program is an initiative to create a variety of affordable, low-carbon transportation options and change the way the MIT community thinks about commuting. By connecting programs, education, decision-making, and modes of transportation, Access MIT strives to create a new awareness and shared understanding of transportation choices and their impacts. Detailed information about MIT’s commuter programs, including Hubway (bike rentals), ZipCar (car rentals), and the AccessMyCommute tool, are available on the commuter benefits webpage.

“Technology offers new strategies to change commuting behavior to the benefit of individuals, the Institute, and surrounding communities,” says Les Norford, the George Macomber Professor in Construction Management in the Department of Architecture, who sits on the Committee for Transportation and Parking. “Access MIT is a significant effort, on the part of many people, to make that change desirable and effective.”

Need For A Sustainable Commuting Solution

In recent years, the area surrounding the MIT campus has become a growing innovation hub, attracting startups and global enterprises from around the world. With these organizations come new researchers, technologists, scientists, students, and entrepreneurs.

In many ways, MIT is at the center of this innovation ecosystem. It is therefore a priority for the Institute to identify innovative ways to proactively address the livability of the area, for both the campus community and the surrounding neighborhoods.

“The question is,” says Julie Newman, director of the Office of Sustainability, and member of the Transportation and Parking Committee, “How does MIT advance its mission in the most sustainable way? And how do we expand our academic initiatives while also minimizing our impact on the community and the environment?”

A commitment to sustainable transit options is part of MIT’s response to questions like these. “MIT works very closely with stakeholders within the Institute, public sector, and in the community to develop smart, sustainable transportation alternatives, from sponsoring transit studies to addressing challenges in the MBTA system to working closely with the Kendall Square Association,” says Michael Owu, chair of the Committee for Transportation and Parking and director of Real Estate at the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo). “We hope that other organizations will follow our lead and implement similar programs.”

In a letter sent today to faculty and staff, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz stated, “Access MIT embraces the goals of MIT’s Plan for Action on Climate Change, and is a visible demonstration of our commitment to lowering MIT’s commuter-related emissions.” He added, “With Access MIT, the Institute will be one of the largest employers in the state to provide this level of universal transit benefits.” Ruiz thanked the members of the Committee for Transportation and Parking for their dedication in bringing these new commuting options to MIT’s campus.

Becoming A Living Lab To Change Commuter Behavior

Over the past seven years, the MIT Transit Lab, in collaboration with the Parking and Transportation Office, has focused on how faculty, staff, students, and visitors travel to and from MIT. One particular challenge was the total cost of building and/or maintaining parking spaces in and around the MIT campus — and whether this could be offset by improving commuter awareness of the problem and incentivizing new behavior.

In 2010 the Parking and Transportation Office, in conjunction with the Transit Lab, launched a pilot program called the MIT Mobility Pass. This represented an exciting, first-of-its-kind collaboration between MIT and the MBTA. The pilot involved approximately 1,000 MIT employees who typically parked on campus, and allowed these employees to access MBTA subways and local buses at no additional cost to them, providing new daily options for commuting to campus.

Based on the success of the pilot, MIT has decided to expand the program to include all benefits-eligible MIT faculty and staff at the Cambridge campus. By becoming a “living lab,” the research team believes that this program may represent a new model for managing commuter demand within densely populated areas.

The Access MIT Pass Program

Supported by the initial research conducted by the Transit Lab, MIT has set out to reduce parking demand on campus by 10 percent over the next two years with the launch of the new program, which combines pay-per-day parking for most parkers with free access to MBTA subway and local bus, among other benefits.

“The decision used to be whether to buy an annual pass and drive every day, or not,” notes John Attanucci, research associate and manager of the MIT Transit Research Program. “With this new approach, commuters will be able to drive one day then ride the T the next and save money in parking fees. By having options, we can begin changing the way people think about commuting.”

To make it easy for MIT employees to use the new MBTA benefits through the Access MIT pass program, CharlieCard chips will be embedded directly into new MIT ID cards. In addition to providing free subway and local bus access to all benefits-eligible faculty and staff on the Cambridge campus, the new program eliminates the need for most parkers to purchase the annual permits that financially commit them to driving for the entire year. This gives commuters the flexibility to choose, day-to-day, how they get to campus.

Andrea Campbell, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor and head of the Department of Political Science, and co-chair of the Sustainability Taskforce, comments, “Faculty and staff often ask how they can make an individual contribution to the global climate challenge. This is an exciting opportunity for community members to use their commute as a way to take action toward combating a big problem.”

The new commuter benefits program will include:

Monthly MBTA LinkPass holders will no longer be required to pay 50 percent of the monthly fee, and employees who bike, walk, or drive to campus will be able to ride the T free anytime.

“By putting people first, we’ve been able to create a collection of programs — everything from unrestricted T passes to emergency ride assistance — that give virtually everyone at MIT more than one way to get to campus,” says Newman. “It’s about developing transportation literacy and providing options so people get to make an informed choice, each day, about how they commute.”

Also launched recently, in collaboration with the Transit Lab, is an online tool that informs and encourages new commuting options. AccessMyCommute is an online dashboard that allows commuters to compare transit modes and analyze their carbon footprint. It also uses points, rewards, and incentives to encourage the use of public transportation and carpooling, as well as walking and biking to work.

Access MIT And The New MIT ID Card

The rollout of this program relies on the issuance of new MIT ID cards that have CharlieCard chips embedded in them. All benefits-eligible faculty and staff at the Cambridge campus wishing to take advantage of the new Access MIT pass need to proactively upgrade their ID cards in one of two ways. Over the summer, employees can visit the MIT Card Office in Room W20-021 to obtain their new IDs. Starting in June, the Parking and Transportation Office will offer on-site visits to departments to swap IDs. New IDs will be activated when issued, so credentials and permissions will transfer, and faculty and staff will have immediate access to their MBTA benefits.

The MIT Parking and Transportation Office will share more details about Access MIT in the weeks to come. For more information on the program, and to learn about how to obtain a new MIT ID card, visit web.mit.edu/accessmit.

For the full story see:
http://news.mit.edu/2016/access-mit-program-offers-free-public-transit-to-mit-employees-0614

[Ed Note: MIT subsidizes transit passes for students on a specific basis. Restrictions apply in some cases. DF Contributing Editor, David Peter Alan is an MIT alumnus]


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Gov. Baker Not Bullish On
North-South Rail Link

By Jon Chesto
BostonGlobe.Com

Governor Charlie Baker (R-MA) made clear last Thursday that he isn’t a big fan of a proposed rail tunnel to connect North and South stations, saying he is focused on making existing Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) lines more reliable.

Baker told business leaders he would move ahead with a feasibility study for the North-South Rail Link. But he indicated he would prioritize state funds for fixing the subway and commuter train lines that are running today. A spokesman later emphasized that Baker is keeping an open mind. But his comments about the rail link followed more general comments about why riders need to see a properly functioning transit service first, before expansions. He criticized previous leaders’ “fascination with growth and expansion . . . to add a few thousand riders” while not updating basic signals and switches for decades.

Baker said three-fourths of his administration’s five-year capital plan for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — about $4.9 billion — is focused on modernizing existing infrastructure and improving reliability. Only about one-fourth of the plan is devoted to expansion, and much of that money would be swallowed up by the Green Line extension already underway from Cambridge to Medford.

One main reason the Baker administration is moving ahead with the rail link study: the tag team of former governors Michael Dukakis and Bill Weld. They have been pushing the Baker administration to champion the once-discarded project.

Found at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/talking-points/2016/06/10/baker-not-bullish-north-south-rail-link/WSVHFXcYOcwNlJZcdBAwTO/story.html


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New Trip Added To Amtrak
Route In California

From An Amtrak News Release

On June 17th, Amtrak San Joaquin planned to inaugurate their new 7th Daily Round Trip -- adding an additional daily round trip train service between Bakersfield and Oakland’s Jack London Square Station -- making it more convenient for passengers to travel between the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley cities, and other destinations throughout California.

With a growing population, growing economy, increasing congestion on our roads, and environmental impacts from car travel, enhancing service on the Amtrak San Joaquin line is a critical investment in our transportation system.


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

US DOT Innovates With $874 Million
Transit Loan To Maryland

From Railway Age

The United States Department of Transportation has awarded a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan of $874.6 million to Purple Line Transit Partners, LLC, for implementation of the Maryland Purple Line.

The TIFIA loan will support the construction of the light-rail line connecting Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Md.

“The Washington metropolitan region is one of the most congested areas in the country, and viable transportation alternatives are needed to accommodate a growing population,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “When completed, the Maryland Purple Line will connect residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties with improved access to jobs, education and medical care and, overall, will help improve the quality of life.”

Image

Artist rendition of the proposed Purple Line

The Maryland Purple Line Project is a 16.2-mile, 21-station, east-west light-rail line that will connect numerous communities in Maryland, from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. The corridor is located inside the Capital Beltway near Washington, D.C., in a densely populated area with commercial, mixed use and residential development. The line will connect major activity centers in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma-Langley Park, College Park, and New Carrollton with communities along the alignment, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Red, Green and Orange Metrorail lines, all three Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) rail lines and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line. Although the project will provide direct connections with WMATA, MARC and Amtrak, it will remain physically and operationally separate.

In addition to the TIFIA loan of $874.6 million, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is working with the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) on a Full Funding Grant Agreement that would provide $900 million from FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program. In addition, MTA will use $36 million of FTA Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Grant funds for the project. FTA anticipates that the FFGA will be signed this summer.

“The Federal Transit Administration is proud to help provide a new transit option for Maryland residents in one of the most highly populated corridors in the nation,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “The Purple Line will help residents access one of the state’s largest job centers, as well as its flagship state university without having to drive on heavily congested roads. Moreover, the Purple Line’s unique public-private partnership allows the state of Maryland to better leverage federal funding.”

The Maryland Department of Transportation will be the owner of the project and its selected private partner, Purple Line Transit Partners, will implement the project on a design-build-finance-operate-maintain basis. The Purple Line project was procured as a public-private partnership under a concession agreement that was executed on April 7, 2016 and expires approximately 30 years after substantial completion, which is anticipated in March 2022.

From an item at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/light-rail/us-dot-innovates-with-dol874-million-transit-loan-to-maryland.html


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

Record Levels Projected For MBTA
Commuter Rail Revenue

Year To Date Growth Up Nearly 6 Percent From Last Year

From A MassDOT Press Release

Fare revenue on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Commuter Rail system has grown 5.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2016 to date when compared to Fiscal Year 2015.

Commuter Rail is on track for record revenue in Fiscal Year 2016, currently forecast at $215 million. The nation’s sixth busiest commuter rail system has lines going as far south as Rhode Island, as far north as Newburyport, and as far west as Worcester and Fitchburg.

“We are committed to continuing to drive strong revenue growth on the Commuter Rail through enhanced fare collection efforts and use of the latest technology,” said MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve.

Revenue for the month of May reached $17.8 million. Over the past 16 months, monthly Commuter Rail revenue has averaged $17.4 million.

Last year, 64 new conductors were hired to bolster fare collection efforts and reduce fare evasion. Plans to boost staffing and on-time performance were part of a service improvement agreement between the MBTA and Keolis, which was approved last year by the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB).

At the April 25th meeting of the FMCB, Keolis presented a new proposal for fare collection that it said would reduce fare evasion on the system while increasing revenue by up to $24 million annually. Under the Keolis proposal, the MBTA fare collection system would be updated to make it easier to buy tickets, but more difficult to evade fares.

[Editor Note: While ridership revenue is up, Keolis, the company currently contracted to operate the MBTA commuter rail service, is still losing money according to recent press reports. Fare collection on commuter rail is especially an issue during peak travel times when over-crowing can prevent a conductor from making his / her way through a coach to collect fares or validate rail pass usage. The report may also need to be framed against the severe winter of 2015 which crippled the commuter rail system shutting it down completely for a number of days and reducing the number of trains that could be operated for several weeks.]


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Sounder South Trains: So Popular,
Sound Transit’s Trying To Add More

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times

Sound Transit is negotiating with BNSF Railway in hopes of bringing all-day service to the Sounder line to serve fast-growing communities in Pierce and South King counties.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff is negotiating with BNSF Railway, to try to bring all-day service to the Sounder train line between Seattle and Pierce County.

Trains now operate during commute hours, plus weekend trips to sporting events in Sodo.

Transit managers are aiming to schedule longer peak periods, or even midday trains, to be funded by this fall’s Sound Transit 3 ballot measure. The “Holy Grail” is hourly service, said Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow, a transit-board member whose city is on the train line.

“It’s a fairly recent idea, a recognition that Sounder South has been such a success, that it’s a shame not to build on that, and use it more,” Enslow said.

Image

Photo: Alan Berner/The Seattle Times

The Sounder train from Lakewood heads north to the platform. Safeco Field rises in the background above the BNSF tracks.

But long-term growth is also expected in freight, and BNSF, which owns the rail line, would be reluctant to guarantee so much passenger time that it compromises the core business of hauling crops, aircraft parts, oil and other cargo.

Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said BNSF is reviewing the Sound Transit proposal and would not provide other details.

The railway would almost certainly expect hundreds of millions of dollars.

Payments would cover not only the value of time on the tracks, but maintenance and signal improvements, to allow more capacity.

Demand is growing as Green River Valley cities such as Kent, as well as eastern Pierce County, emerge as refuges of affordable housing.

South-line ridership grew 15 percent, to an average 14,731 weekday boardings in first quarter 2016 compared with a year earlier. Some trains are standing-room only. (The north line from Everett to Seattle carried 1,561 riders a day.)

“The south Sounder service is growing in popularity in an area we know is going to be growing in population,” Rogoff said. “We want to make sure we can keep up with demand.”

Rogoff said negotiators are also exploring whether to build a third set of tracks along the regional mainline, to carry more freight or passengers. A project that huge would require funding from BNSF and the Washington State Department of Transportation. A third trackway would be necessary if transit trains run all day, he said.

John Niles, co-founder of Smarter Transit, which opposes the ST3 ballot measure, said it’s difficult to extend Sounder hours without creating delay for both freight and passengers.

“Passenger trains are short and fast, freight trains long and unscheduled. It’s just incompatibility,” he said.

Bus-rapid transit could supply enough all-day service for a lot less money, Niles said — and in fact, several Sounder stations are served by ST Express bus lines.

BNSF has proved to be a firm bargainer when it comes to renting space on its tracks.

Sound Transit needed years to hammer out a $250 million deal in 2003 to launch the voter-approved north line to Everett, more than twice the estimate on the 1996 ballot.

And for the popular south line, Sound Transit is paying $185 million to BNSF to permanently add four round-trip trains between Seattle and Lakewood, approved by voters in 2008. The agreement will boost frequency in the far south corridor to 11 weekday round trips to Seattle. The first of these four round trips began in 2013, another starts this fall, and two more begin service next year.

The agency isn’t saying how much it is willing to spend this time, and you won’t find service promises listed in Sound Transit’s promotional materials.

“We’ve been purposely oblique,” planning director Ric Ilgenfritz told a state-appointed ST3 expert-review panel Monday. To divulge dollar figures would tie the transit agency’s hands in negotiations, he said.

Rogoff says the agency’s position is stronger than 2003, when leaders felt pressure to get a rail system started.

This time, the network has been established, and Sounder can still haul more passengers — to solve its most pressing need — even without buying midday access from BNSF, he said.

“If the price is too steep, we will walk away from this contract, precisely because we have ways of adding capacity,” he said.

A draft finance summary of the $54 billion ST3 plan shows $2.2 billion earmarked through 2041 to add capacity on Sounder South.

Most funds would build improvements under Sound Transit’s own control: longer station platforms, new railcars to allow 10-car trains, plus new access roads, 1,700 more park-and-ride spaces, and new stations at Tillicum and DuPont.

That’s in addition to $2.3 billion of investments overall for voter-approved projects from Everett to Lakewood, in 1997-2023. There are 3,741 parking spots now on the south line, with 2,000 more already scheduled by 2023.

Sound Transit also benefits by owning an 18-mile segment from Tacoma to Lakewood, Tillicum, DuPont and Nisqually, where Sounder and Amtrak Cascades can bypass the BNSF freight traffic that chugs around Point Defiance. Washington state is adding $151 million of its federal stimulus money to develop the bypass line, for additional passenger service.

Found at:
http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sounder-south-trains-so-popular-sound-transits-trying-to-add-more/


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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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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Bullet Train Connecting Houston To Dallas
To Break Ground

By Vagney Bradley
Spring / The Observer

Texas does big things.

Texas Central Partners, LLC (Texas Central), a private company that is leading the bullet train project coming to Texas, is developing a new high-speed passenger rail system that will connect Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Texas Central held a railroad update Tuesday, June 7, at the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce. The bullet train will be the first high-speed rail the country has ever seen. Travel time on the train will be 90 minutes between Houston and Dallas with one stop in between in the Brazos Valley area. The high-speed rail will be beneficial to the nearly 50,000 Texans who travel back and forth between Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth more than once a week.

The bullet train is Japanese technology that Texas Central will be purchasing. The technology is one of the safest in the world. The train has never had a crash or fatality due to operations and has been running for over 50 years in Japan. The train has moved tens of billions of people every year, and the average annual delay is less than one minute.

“The train never crosses a road, and there are no cars waiting on trains. Also there are no trains intersecting the cars, and no whistles or horn on the train,” said Holly Reed, managing director of external affairs at Texas Central. “That’s how you get reliability and safety. There’s one track going north and one track going south, so you never have trains going opposite directions.”

Out of 97 city pairs studied across the nation, Houston/Dallas came out on top as the most feasible place for the high-speed rail project to be deployed. Texas Central believes the Houston/Dallas city pair is the best option for the train because there is growth in both cities and demand going in both directions. Also, the path is straight and relatively flat and far enough apart for the high-speed rail project.

There will be approximately 10,000 jobs per year for creating and building the high-speed rail project. Once the train is in full operation, there will be 1,000 new high-tech jobs.

Not everyone is excited for the nation to see the first ever high-speed rail built in Texas.

State Rep. Cecil Bell launched the Texas High Speed Rail Calculator. It is a publicly available tool that the state representative claims measures the profit and loss of the proposed high-speed rail. Bell believes that the calculator gives Texans the direct access to determine the train’s viability.

“I’m not inherently opposed to any private project. I am saying that it does not look economically viable, and if it’s not economically viable, it is only intended to become a subsidized endeavor,” said Bell. “I don’t believe that Texas properties should be taken or private properties should be taken. I don’t believe taxpayers’ dollars should go to fund the endeavor. It’s a big amusement park ride. That’s what it is.”

Texas Central has challenged the accuracy of Representative Bell’s calculator. Texas Central will not be using taxpayer’s money for the bullet train, which is a private sector project. Texas Central has put this information on paper and submitted it to the federal government for the review process.

Others in the community do believe the bullet train is needed and is the best option for Texans’ mobility.

“Our roads are far too congested, and the hyper-growth we are experiencing is making it even worse. Texas is in a position where we must get creative and find better ways for people to get around the state and the major cities,” said Craig Day, a supporter of the high-speed rail. “When an option like this comes up and is well thought out and has contingencies planned for all outcomes, so the state does not have to worry about taking it over later; we need to support and make it happen. It is imperative that this project happen and that Texans use it as a better option than driving or even flying.”

Texas Central describes the high-speed rail project as reliable, convenient, comfortable and productive.

There will be a $10 billion direct project investment through 2040 and $36 billion in cumulative project impact (including indirect investment) through 2040. The estimated tax revenue impact is $2.5 billion cumulative tax revenue to be paid by Texas Central.

“The project is privately financed, and it will take no government’s operating subsidies and no grants for construction. Any entity that the project touches will pay taxes into that,” said Reed. “So, it is different than most public infrastructure projects where we have done public projects and partnerships. It is a private endeavor, and it will pay taxes.”

The first full year of operations is projected to be in 2022. Texas Central does not want to speculate on ticket prices but will be offering competitive priced tickets.

Texas Central will be considering factors with pricing tickets dependent upon booking in advance, last minute, peak time, and off peak time. The Brazos area stop will be in between College Station and Huntsville. There might be possible student pricing for the 80,000 students that are in the Brazos Valley area which includes serving students attending Texas A&M, Blinn, and Sam Houston.

“Today the project can be built and move forward under the existing Texas Law of the Land. There are no changes that need to be made at the Texas legislature,” said Reed. “There are heavy regulatory requirements because it is a railroad and that deals with public safety.”

The train travels 200 miles per hour and is all 2 by 2 seating, which is similar to a first-class airline experience. The bullet train will be the widest body passenger train in operation and will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Amenities such as Wi-Fi and comfortable seating will also be offered.

Even though Texas Central hasn’t purchased the land for the station yet, several sites are under consideration in that northwest area. The Houston area station will be in the area at 610 between 290 and I-10. The location will be in the northwest mall area and METRO Northwest Transit Center area. The Dallas station will be just south of downtown near the Southside of Lamar. During peak times the train will leave every 30 minutes. Off peak times the train will leave approximately every hour.

Texas Central is exploring its options for elevating the train. The possibility of the bullet train being elevated by concrete viaducts is an option. For those concerned about wildlife, fences or barriers will be implemented to protect animals.

Texas Central believes that there will be a positive environmental impact from taking people off of congested highways and having them ride the train. The positive impact will be on Texas’ air quality.

Texas Central is looking to work with the Federal Railroad Administration for their Rule of Particular Applicability (RPA) because currently there are no rules on how to run the railroad at 200 miles per hour.

The company has listed the first round of investors for the high-speed rail project as former Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, Jr. of Houston, Jack Matthews of Dallas, and John Kleinheinz of Fort Worth.

Texas Central’s goal is to break ground on the nation’s first high-speed rail at the end of next year.

“Roads will always be the backbone of how people get around, but this is a project that can take some of that congestion off of roads. Once it is built, you just add capacity by running trains more frequently,” said Reed. “The project is an efficient way of land use.”

Found at:
http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/spring/news/bullet-train-connecting-houston-to-dallas-to-break-ground/article_1a69270c-529c-59ea-8ea1-97b99b2f8f40.html


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

Ŝkoda Establishing U.S. Subsidiary

By David Briginshaw, Editor-in-Chief
International Railway Journal

Ŝkoda Transportation, of the Czech Republic, is to set up a subsidiary company in the United States with a view to selling light rail vehicles and trains in North America.

Ŝkoda Transportation USA will be headed by Scott Ellis who has been appointed director of business development. Ellis joins Ŝkoda from Kinkisharyo, where he was manager of business development. Prior to that, Ellis worked for Dellner Couplers, Sweden, as North American sales manager, and for Voith.

Ŝkoda has supplied trams to Portland and Tacoma and has transferred technology to United Streetcar, United States, to enable it to build trams for Tuscon. Ŝkoda Electric has also supplied 330 trolleybuses to Dayton and San Francisco, and is modernizing 32 trolleybuses for Boston.

“Our goal is to create a fully-fledged U.S. base consisting of business development, technical department, purchasing and project management through to production,” Ellis says. “Establishment of Ŝkoda Transportation USA is the first step in a planned expansion into the North American market.”

From an item at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/light-rail/czech-skoda-to-set-up-subsidiary-in-united-states.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Ontario Expanding GO Rail Service
To Waterloo Region

Agreement Paves The Way For Two-Way, All-day GO Train Service

From Ontario.ca

Ontario is one step closer to building the innovation super-corridor by delivering two-way, all-day GO train service between Toronto and Waterloo Region. Through its agency Metrolinx, the regional transportation authority for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the province has secured an agreement-in-principle with CN that will allow GO Regional Express Rail to be built along the Kitchener GO corridor.

The agreement-in-principle also begins the planning and technical analysis to build a new freight corridor that will allow CN to shift most of its freight traffic from the section of the Kitchener corridor the company owns -- roughly between Georgetown and Bramalea -- to the new corridor. That will free up capacity for more GO service through Brampton to Kitchener.

To build a modern and integrated transit network in the region and seamlessly connect communities and businesses, Premier Kathleen Wynne also announced today that Ontario is committing up to $43 million to help fund the Region of Waterloo’s proposed transit hub in downtown Kitchener. This hub will make it easier for transit users to connect to GO rail and bus service, the light rail transit line being built in Waterloo Region, VIA Rail services, and local and inter-city bus services.

To improve connectivity in the short term, starting in September GO will extend two morning and two afternoon peak train trips that currently run between Georgetown and Union Station to also serve Kitchener, Guelph and Acton. This will double the number of weekday train trips between Kitchener and Toronto. Also in September, GO will introduce a new express bus service running all day between Kitchener and the Bramalea GO Station in Brampton -- with the service timed to connect with GO rail and bus services to and from Union Station in Toronto.

Ontario is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history -- about $160 billion over 12 years. This is supporting 110,000 jobs every year across the province, with projects such as roads, bridges, transit systems, schools and hospitals. Investments in Kitchener-Waterloo’s transit future are essential to attracting new investors to Ontario’s tech and innovation sectors, supporting the growth of existing businesses, and improving productivity and competitiveness.

Investing in priority transit infrastructure is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.

Quick Facts:

Found at:
https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2016/06/ontario-expanding-go-rail-service-to-waterloo-region.html


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off the Main Line...  

A Tourist Railroad Dies;
Victim of a Larger Epidemic

By David Peter Alan

The billboard along the highway near Kingston, New York proclaimed the bad news. “Train rides on the Catskill Mountain Railroad will end on May 30th.” Yes, a tourist railroad died last month. Its demise was a casualty of a transportation disease that has reached epidemic proportions, as we will explain.

The Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) operated on two disconnected portions of the former Ulster & Delaware Railroad (U&D), which eventually became part of the New York Central system, connecting with the West Shore Railroad (also part of the NYC) along the West Shore of the Hudson River. The U&D later became known as the “Catskill Mountain Branch” of the NYC, from which the now-deceased tourist railroad got its name. It lived for only 34 years, from 1982 until 2016.

The final brochure from the railroad, issued last year, proclaimed: “YEAR-ROUND FAMILY FUN! Fun and exciting round-trip excursions through the heart of the Catskills along the scenic Esopus Creek departing MOUNT TREMPER With expanded special event service through the historic Hudson Valley city of KINGSTON” (capitals in original). Both segments of railroad were in Ulster County.

One of the railroad’s excursions originated from a boarding site along a highway at Mount Tremper, about three miles east of the town of Phoenicia. The train included open-air cars and two coaches that once ran on the Lackawanna Railroad as electric multiple-unit (EMU) cars on the Morris & Essex Line, now owned by New Jersey Transit. The CMRR had recently expanded its excursion to include a backup move for about two miles along the Esopus, before reversing direction and going past the Mount Tremper boarding site and to the Phoenicia Station.

The Phoenicia Station was built in 1899 and is now home to the tiny Empire State Railroad Museum. The excursion allowed about 30 minutes for riders to see the exhibits in the museum, which was enough time. The train then headed back to Mount Tremper. It was an enjoyable and scenic ride which, sadly, nobody will ever again see from the window of a train.

The other ride originated in Kingston, near the historic Stockade neighborhood on what is now the north side of town. The consist included open-air cars (useful in mid-90s F, mid-30s C temperatures) and coaches from the Long Island Rail Road that were uncomfortably hot and, therefore, almost unoccupied. The route was not scenic, but it demonstrated the skill and tenacity of the volunteers at the CMRR, who rebuilt the right-of-way and track by hand.

Until this year, the CMRR had offered “Twilight Limited” trains and fall foliage trains, in addition to its regular week-end excursion schedule. The railroad went out in style, with a band playing in an open-air car on every train from Kingston, even on the final week-end of operation. It appeared to this writer that the railroad was observing the New Orleans funeral tradition of a band leading the mourners to the graveyard. The news of the CMRR’s demise came suddenly. Ulster County wants the right-of-way for a “rail trail”; also symbolic of the one-way trip to the cemetery, but for a rail line instead of a person. Had the CMRR been connected to the freight-rail system, it might have appealed to the Surface Transportation Board for protection. Because it was isolated, it could not. The connecting switch had been eliminated in 1996.

Image

Photo: catskillmtrailroad.com

ALCO Locomotive #407, a Model S-1 leads a final farewell trip. This S-1 served the Long Island Railroad in its heyday.

The U&D shared the history of many railroads. It originated in Rondout, a river port located south of Kingston, where the Esopus empties into the Hudson River. It connected with steamships that brought travelers, including tourists, from New York City, as well as places further north like Albany. It also connected with the West Shore Railroad. It extended as far northwest as Oneonta, where it connected with other railroads, including the Susquehanna Division of the Delaware & Hudson to Binghamton. The City of Kingston, whose history goes back to the American Revolution, annexed Rondout in 1872. Today, Roundout and the Stockade District (the oldest part of Kingston and now the northern part of town) are distinct historic neighborhoods at opposite ends of the city, with “Midtown” in between.

Ulster County owns much of the railroad, which has not hosted any through trains since a Hurricane Irene washed out a portion of it in 2011. The county had leased the line to the CMRR, which operated on two separate segments of it until last month. Now, the county plans to convert the line into a rail trail. An article in Wikipedia about the CMRR chronicles the multi-year campaign by Ulster County to evict the railroad and turn the right-of-way into a recreational trail. Like the trip to the cemetery in the previously-mentioned funeral, “tails to trails” is a one-way trip. Part of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, another tourist railroad in the state, is also threatened with destruction for a “rail trail.” The rails there are currently intact (although not entirely in service) from Utica to Lake Placid, but current plans call for tearing up the northern part of the line and converting the right-of-way into a snowmobile trail. That decision is now under review, so there may be some reason to hope that a passenger train may again run to the famous winter resort from a place where it can connect with Amtrak.

Not all of the historic U&D has died with the CMRR. The Delaware & Ulster, a tourist railroad located further west, in Delaware County, will survive. Only Ulster County plans to take out the tracks. The City of Kingston owns slightly more than one mile of track where the railroad began, in Roundout and Kingston Point. That track along the river, and a few blocks of the Strand, a busy street along the riverfront, will also survive. The New York Trolley Museum runs excursions on it seasonally on week-ends with a streetcar that once ran in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and whose electric motors were replaced with a diesel engine. In effect, the streetcar was converted into a rail bus. That may be the only part of the old U&D that survives in Ulster County.

There was a scheduled daily passenger train on the old U&D until 1954, when it was known as the “Catskill Mountain Branch” of the New York Central Railroad. There will never be another. Neither will there ever be another tourist excursion. It is time to chalk up another victory for “Rails to Trails” as another train took its last ride into oblivion. The CMRR went out in style, to the sound of a bluegrass band playing in the open-air car; but it went out, just the same. The railroad that was rebuilt slowly and painstakingly by volunteers, in the old-fashioned way, will now become part of a right-of-way for users who will know nothing of the history of a railroad that once provided reliable transportation, or at least a short and scenic ride, but recently bit the dust.

The former railroad’s web site, www.catskillmtrailroad.com, contains additional pictures of the “farewell runs” on May 30th, along with text which reads: “Our lease with Ulster County ended May 31, 2016, and all train service has been cancelled.”


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