The National Corridors Initiative Logo

July 31, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 30

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...

  We Thank You…
Maybe Not A Farewell, But A Change
It’s Time To Say Good-Bye, Again
  Guest Editorial…
Keep Away From Railroad Tracks, Stay Alive
  Amtrak Lines…
East Coast Rail Future Laid Out, But Is Far
   From Paid For
  Restoration Lines…
Service Provider Selected For CTrail Hartford Line
  Expansion Lines…
Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Passenger-Rail
   Service Proposal Enters Next Phase
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Funding Lines…
NY Gov. Cuomo Announces Details Of $5.6B
   Rail Initiative
MBTA, Keolis To Step Up Rail Ticket Checking
 
  High-Speed Lines…
High-Speed Rail Discussion Draws Standing Room
   Only Crowd To Greenwich
  To The North…
Time To Derail Studies And Improve Train
   Service Now
Infrastructure Bank Studied As Funding Option
   For U.S.-Canada High-Speed Rail
Is There A Plan B For Our Rail Passenger Service ?
  Across The Pond…
A Pause In Our Journey To Destination Freedom
  Publication Notes …


WE THANK YOU... We Thank You...  

Maybe Not A Farewell, But A Change

By Dennis Kirkpatrick
Managing Editor & Webmaster

With the release of this edition, the printed version of Destination: Freedom is coming to an end... somewhat.  After some 18 years of publication, every week for 50-weeks a year, we have opted to bring this format to an end.

We continue to seek a new managing editor and webmaster and certainly we can use correspondents and commentators.

That said... the remaining staff is also considering a change in format.  Among the ideas being bandied about is a one-hour, monthly podcast with guests that can offer commentary.  With some technical magic, this may also become a call-in program.  It would of course be based on the Internet.

Image

Photo:  Our Waiter That Day For Dennis Kirkpatrick

Left-to-Right;  James P. RePass, Sr., CEO of National Corridors Initiative and Publisher of Destination: Freedom; David Beale NCI Foreign Editor; Dennis Kirkpatrick, Managing Editor & Webmaster.  This photo was taken in late May of 2017 while David was passing through Boston, MA. on his way back home to Germany  We arranged to meet-up and have a lunch at a wonderful restaurant near Logan International Airport in Boston, MA.

The age of technology is here and we think this may be of interest?  What do you think?  Let me know at:  webmaster@nationalcorridors.org

If we elect to move forward with the podcast idea, we will be taking about a 2-month hiatus which will allow us to revamp the website and set up the necessary tech items.

So stay tuned.  While the print version is being retired something new may be in the making. Are you on our direct E-mail list?

[ For an interesting historical take on Destination: Freedom, please also read the “Across The Pond” section below by David Beale, author, and friend. ]

–– Dennis Kirkpatrick
     Managing Editor


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Another Farewell Column

It’s Time To Say Good-Bye, Again

By David Peter Alan
Contributing Editor, Emeritus

ImageFile
David Peter Alan

At the end of last year, I wrote my farewell column for D:F.  I had been writing here for twelve years, starting as a reporter and columnist in 2004 and continuing as Contributing Editor from 2009.  I hope that I kept you better-informed through my efforts than you would have been otherwise.  

As part of preparing for this column, I reviewed my original farewell remarks from more than seven months ago.  The latest developments are going as I predicted and feared, although it now looks more likely that we will keep Amtrak, at least for awhile.  I stand by what I said then, and I am as concerned as I was then.

One thing is truly different now.  Dennis Kirkpatrick, our Managing Editor, said at the time that I would be welcome if I wanted to come back.  That opportunity no longer exists.  Dennis is moving on, toward a new venture; a different way to keep you informed of developments in the world of rail and transit.  I wish him every success.  I am still Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition in New Jersey, and I am still active with the Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee (SCDRTAC) at New Jersey Transit, and the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) on the national level.  But we will not be active at D:F, because D:F will soon be only an archive on the web, like the morgue of a newspaper that has folded and, as its last act, gave that morgue to the local library.

I remember when newspapers were biting the dust all too often.  It happened in New York in the 1960s, when the city started the decade with seven papers and ended it with three.  The demise of local media happened in other places, too, and it continues to happen alarmingly quickly today.

I suppose that everybody’s first impulse under the circumstances would be to mourn the loss of one of the few voices for better transit and an improved Amtrak.  I understand that any improvements must start with appropriate political action, without which the people who make the decisions about our mobility will have no reason to care about us, or about how well or poorly we get around.

The situation today reminds me of another turbulent time, more than a century ago, and of Joe Hill, a legendary labor organizer.  He was executed for a murder in Utah in 1915 but, to this day it is unclear whether or not he actually committed the crime.   Before he went to the firing squad, he said: “Don’t mourn for me.  Organize.”  

While we will all remember Destination: Freedom fondly, l say to you: Don’t mourn for it.  Organize.

For the final time, that’s it!

–– David Peter Alan

[Editor Note: On Friday July 28, 2017, David Peter Alan and Dennis Kirkpatrick managed to meet-up in Boston, MA at South Station to catch-up, share a brief brunch, and a coffee, while David was on lay-over for the Amtrak Lake Shore Limited for a trip westward. It is always good to sit with friends and break bread together.]


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GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Safety Lines

Keep Away From Railroad Tracks, Stay Alive

Editorial From The Aegis
The Baltimore Sun

The railroads have had a presence in Harford County since the dawn of the age of the steel rails in the 18th century.

Today, the two major lines on the East Coast still traverse the county from east to west. The trains are different than those of 150 years ago, but one thing that hasn’t changed is they are still a danger to life and limb and to property.

The recent death of a 20-year-old Joppa man who was struck by a CSX freight train near the Joppa Farm Road crossing points up the sad and largely preventable incidence of train-related deaths in this and other places. Few years go by that someone isn’t struck by a train in Harford County, and the results are nearly always fatal — and not to the train or its crew nor any passengers.

The CSX tracks which parallel Route 40 to the north are accessible to anyone and there are still a half a dozen grade level highway crossings from Joppa to Havre de Grace. Most of the CSX line has a top speed of 50 mph, plenty fast to seriously maim person or machine in the path of the railroad’s 100 or more car freight trains, pulled by multiple-unit diesel electric locomotives.

Even though these trains are loud and appear to be lumbering along, you might be surprised to find out just how quickly they can rush up behind you if you aren’t paying attention. And, even if the engineman sees you first, a train that large and heavy will take over a mile, probably longer, to come to a full stop.

Frankly, the tracks aren’t a place to be around at anytime on foot, and vehicles crossing should always “stop, look and listen” as the traditional cross-buck signs warn those who approach. Only a fool with a death wish would try to beat an approaching train to the crossing, incidentally, because, again, the train will almost always win.

The local other line, owned by Amtrak and also used by Norfolk-Southern RR freights, parallels Route 40 to the south. Access is restricted by fences along the right-of-way, and grade crossings were eliminated years ago by highway overpasses and underpasses and by a pedestrian overpass near the Aberdeen station.

Amtrak’s Acela passenger trains can reach speeds of 135 mph in Harford County and the slower regional passenger trains also can eclipse the 100 mph mark. Trust us when we say you won’t see or hear one of these until it’s too late to get out of the way, especially because there are two to three tracks on the line, and you won’t have any idea which one the train is on. Even the freights, which mostly run at night, can reach speeds of 60 mph.

People still manage to get onto the Amtrak tracks and get hit and killed. Some train-related deaths are usually deliberate — people wanting to die — but others are the result of simple carelessness of being too close to the tracks or trying to take a shortcut across them.

All we can say is keep away and stay alive, which should be obvious.

[ Editor note:  Safety around and near railroad tracks is sound advise no matter what railroad. ]

Found at:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/aegis/opinion/ph-ag-edit-train-danger-0721-20170728-story.html


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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

East Coast Rail Future Laid Out,
But Is Far From Paid For

By Jason Laughlin
Philadelphia Enquirer

A final plan to modernize and revamp Amtrak’s rails on the East Coast came out last week, but without funding, it may not get beyond a drafting table.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s Northeast Corridor Futures plan would bring faster service from Philadelphia to Washington and New York City, and create a link to Philadelphia International Airport for Amtrak. It also would straighten the Frankford Curve, in the Port Richmond section of the city, where an Amtrak train derailed in May 2015, killing eight people. The next step for the FRA is to prepare a service development plan for the proposal, but doing that requires funding, officials said, and the federal government will have to take the lead.

“Significant federal funding participation is needed to create incentives for states to participate,” said Richard Kirkpatrick, spokesman for PennDot. “Without that federal investment, it will be difficult to achieve the FRA vision” to improve the Northeast Corridor.

Politicians expressed hope in December that a campaign talking point of a $1 trillion infrastructure package from then-President-elect Trump could help make the Northeast Corridor Futures project a reality, but six months into Trump’s presidency, there has been little movement on a significant infrastructure bill.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R., Pa.), who heads the House Transportation Committee, did not reply to questions about federal infrastructure spending, nor did the U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Northeast Philadelphia Democrat, issued a statement:

“Six months into the Trump administration, Republicans’ failure to make infrastructure a priority means the NEC Future Project is stalled without federal funding — a huge missed opportunity. Democrats like me stand by hoping President Trump will get serious about delivering on his campaign promises on infrastructure. This funding would create real jobs while repairing and rebuilding our nation’s failing infrastructure and improving our economic competitiveness, safety and efficiency.”

Philadelphia officials have expressed interest in the plan but said funding is up to the federal government.

“While the funding of interstate rail is a federal responsibility,” said Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the city, “the city will work with the FRA, Amtrak, SEPTA, and other partners to improve regional access on the Northeast Corridor.”

PennDot also has expressed interest, saying it will work with SEPTA and Amtrak to evaluate the proposal and determine how much the state will contribute if the federal government kicks in money first.

The final recommendation announced last week was the plan the FRA had expressed a preference for in December 2016. In the last seven months, the FRA has sought public comment on the proposal, but the plan for the Philadelphia region is essentially unchanged from the proposal released last year, the FRA reported.

The plan would cost $121 billion to $153 billion for 30 years of work on the 457-mile Northeast Corridor. Beyond Philadelphia, the plan includes a long-awaited rail tunnel expansion under the Hudson River and faster, more frequent trains between the East Coast’s metro areas. The only significant alteration from the proposal unveiled in December was the elimination of improved, faster service between New Haven, Conn., and Providence, R.I.

[ Editor Note: Richard Kirkpatrick mentioned in the article above is no relation to this newsletter’s managing editor.]

Found at:
http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/amtrak-northeast-corridor-improvements-trump-infrastructure-bill-20170724.html


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RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Service Provider Selected
For CTrail Hartford Line

By Maggie Lancaster
Rail, Track, And Structures

A joint venture between TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts has been selected as the service provider that will operate and manage service on the CTrail Hartford Line.

Through a “thorough service provider bidding process and cost-benefit analysis for the Hartford Line program,” the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) says it selected TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts (TASI/ACI). The companies are forming a joint venture solely for the purpose of serving the Hartford Line.

The $45-million contract between TASI/ACI and CTDOT will last five years, plus approximately ten months of preliminary mobilization work that is required to prepare for the launch of the service. As the Hartford Line service provider, TASI/ACI will be responsible for operating trains, maintaining stations and parking facilities, and performing various customer service functions.

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“The Joint Venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts has the experience and background necessary to deliver passenger rail services that are equal to the nation’s best,” Scott Perry, TASI/ACI president, said. “We look forward to working with our partners at CTDOT and Amtrak to ensure a seamless launch and provide the more frequent, convenient and faster rail service that riders in this corridor want and deserve.”

The Hartford Line is currently under construction. It will provide more frequent train service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. The rail line is anticipated to launch in May 2018. Once launched, the line is expected to more than double the daily round trips currently offered in the corridor.

“We are getting closer each day to launching commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and our friends in Springfield – a service that we’ve needed in the central Connecticut area for decades and will finally allow an option to move people, goods, and services with greater ease,” Governor Dannel P. Malloy said. “Creating the Hartford Line is just one part of our efforts toward building a best-in-class transportation system for Connecticut residents that drives growth, attracts businesses, and stimulates job creation, all while improving the overall quality of life for our residents. For the sake of our economy and our future, we cannot sit and let our infrastructure deteriorate – we are stepping up, moving forward, and getting this project done.”

The Hartford Line will act as a regional link with connections to existing rail services, including Metro-North, Shoreline East and Amtrak Acela high-speed rail services on both the New Haven Line to New York and on the Northeast Corridor to New London and Boston. There will also be direct bus connections to the Bradley Airport Flyer and to CTfastrak.

Amtrak will remain responsible for maintenance of the railroad infrastructure, including track signals, train dispatching and right-of-way security. Amtrak’s existing service will not be altered by Hartford Line service. CTrail trains will operate together with Amtrak trains on the rail line to provide Hartford Line service.

When the Hartford Line service launches, CTDOT says a total of 17 roundtrip trains between New Haven and Hartford will operate each weekday, with 12 of those roundtrip trains continuing to Springfield. On weekends, a total of 13 roundtrip trains will operate between New Haven and Hartford, with 9 of those trains continuing onto Springfield.

Found at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/track-maintenance/off-track-maintenance/service-provider-selected-for-ctrail-hartford-line.html


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Passenger-Rail
Service Proposal Enters Next Phase

From Progressive Railroading

A “purpose and need” statement has been completed for a proposed expansion of daily passenger-rail service between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced yesterday.

The statement’s release defines the project’s purpose and marks a milestone in the project’s development. It also begins the project’s public involvement and environmental processes, MnDOT officials said in a statement.

The proposal calls for adding a second daily roundtrip on the Amtrak Empire Builder route between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago (TCMC), with stops at smaller cities along the route.

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Proposed service route

Image via MnDOT

Public information meetings for the project will begin Sept. 6 at the La Crosse County Administrative Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and Sept. 7 at St. Paul’s Union Depot.

The next steps in the process involve evaluating alternatives for the project and necessary infrastructure upgrades.

The Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois departments of transportation are working with the Federal Railroad Administration, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission and La Crosse Area Planning Committee on the initial planning effort for the proposed TCMC project.

The 418-mile TCMC corridor connects the regions around Minneapolis and St. Paul, Milwaukee, Chicago and provides service to Red Wing and Winona in Minnesota; La Crosse, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, Portage, Columbus and Milwaukee in Wisconsin; and Glenview in Illinois.

The TCMC corridor now is served by Amtrak’s long-distance Empire Builder service that operates between Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. This service provides one trip per day in each direction.

From an item at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/Twin-Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago-passenger-rail-service-proposal-enters-next-phase--52227


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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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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

NY Gov. Cuomo Announces Details
Of $5.6B Rail Initiative

By Kim Slowey
The Construction Dive

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled more details about his administration’s $5.6 billion plan to overhaul the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) system and ease rail congestion around the New York City metro area.    

The project will include a $2 billion, 9.8-mile third track; a $387.2 million, 12.6-mile double track; a $128 million storage yard; a $375 million overhaul of the line’s Jamaica Station, in Queens, plus renovations to 38 other stations; and upgrades to bridges and electric power substations.

The LIRR initiative encompasses 100 capital projects, some of which have been on the drawing board for 70 years.

Construction Dive Insight:

The LIRR project is just one piece of a $100 billion state infrastructure initiative that Cuomo announced back in January 2016. At the time, officials said the projects included in the massive program would generate more than 250,000 jobs.  

Also included in Cuomo’s plan is a new, $12.9 billion Hudson River tunnel between New York and New Jersey; a renovation of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station; the conversion of the nearby Farley Post Office Building into the Moynihan Train Hall; and construction of the East Side Access tunnel.

After work at Penn Station is complete, LIRR riders will be able to access trains there without having to go inside the station. Meanwhile, the East Side Access project will open up a first-time path to New York City’s Grand Central Station for LIRR commuters.

Cuomo has said that the billions of dollars of improvements for his infrastructure program would be financed through a variety of local, state and federal sources as well as private money. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it had decided to loan the state $537.1 million for the Moynihan Train Hall project through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.

Lawmakers are considering expanding the TIFIA program because it allows state and local agencies to borrow money at lower interest rates than they could find through traditional financing. Congress heard testimony from previous loan recipients earlier this month. Although the feedback was generally positive, they cited excessive program costs and lack of outreach to rural communities as drawbacks.

A reliable stream of funding is critical if President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure program is expected to make it off the ground, especially considering its anticipated use of government funds to generate additional private financing.

Found at:
http://www.constructiondive.com/news/ny-gov-cuomo-announces-details-of-56b-rail-initiative/447800/

[ Editor Note:  The article continues to suggest readers also access a more-detailed account at the New York Government web site at:   https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-historic-56-billion-transformation-long-island-rail-road  ]


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MBTA, Keolis To Step Up
Rail Ticket Checking

From Progressive Railroading
And DF Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and Keolis Commuter Services yesterday announced plans to improve the agency’s ticket checking system for its commuter-rail network.

The initiative includes a revenue-sharing partnership between the agency and Keolis, which operates the MBTA’s commuter-rail system. The agreement expands a marketing and ridership growth initiative aimed at allowing additional investment into the system, Keolis officials said in a press release.

Keolis will conduct focus groups with commuter-rail passengers traveling through North Station. The purpose is to solicit input on customer-friendly approaches to fare collection systems.

Focus group results will be reviewed and incorporated into a phased approach of new ticket-checking systems.

“Through this work, we’re aiming to bring ‘best practice’ ticket selling and ticket-checking systems into operation here in Massachusetts,” said David Scorey, Keolis Commuter Services’ chief executive officer and general manager.

In a recent survey, two-thirds of riders said their fare was collected or passes were checked “all the time,” Keolis officials said. MBTA estimates it could recover up to $24 million in uncollected fares by modernizing the ticket-checking system.

At present, conductors check tickets on board with a punch-card system.

A new process under consideration would see ticket agents collecting and/or “punching” tickets on train platforms at busy stations as passengers board a train.  Such a plan would be implemented at Boston’s South and North stations and/or others with high volume ridership.

Some material from an item at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/MBTA-Keolis-to-step-up-rail-ticket-checking--52243


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

NEC Future

High-Speed Rail Discussion Draws Standing
Room Only Crowd To Greenwich

By Ken Borsuk
Greenwich Time

A critic of a proposed high-speed rail system through parts of Connecticut’s Gold Coast said unity, political pressure and pull may be the only way to stop the plan’s progress.

“The broader the coalition and the more it serves the entire state and the less it pits one town against another, the more likely you are to get state-wide support,” Gregory Stroud of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation told a standing-room-only crowd at Town Hall Wednesday that included officials and residents from much of lower Fairfield County.

“In Southeastern Connecticut, we managed to get every single municipality between Branford and Providence, R.I., against it. That’s how you stop it ... There are the resources here. There is the clout here. There’s the heft. If you guys speak together, they have to take you seriously,” he said.

The proposed rail line is part of a larger plan called NEC Future, the Federal Railway Administration’s vision for the Northeast Corridor that would increase the role of rail travel in the region through 2040, and build on infrastructure that already is near capacity, according to necfuture.com.

Early information describes a raised rail system that would follow Interstate 95. Stroud said historic areas, like Cos Cob’s Bush Holley House, and residential neighborhoods were at risk from disruption.

“I don’t think the Federal Railway Administration came to Fairfield County to say, ‘Let’s build a terrible project through the wealthiest real estate in the hardest market to run rail through,’” Stroud said to the 100 people at the meeting. “They didn’t propose this because they thought, ‘What the heck’ or because there’s no problem. There’s a real reason.”

The environmental review of the proposed plan is complete. A 10-year-plan is being drawn up over the next 12 months to cement the details. Stroud said it was unclear how much flexibility remains in the potential route and that some details are available.

A call to NEC Future Spokesman Douglas Gascon for comment was not immediately returned.

“I would strongly urge representatives and the public to ask for access to these maps going forward,” Stroud said. “It seems like a reasonable request whether you’re for it or against it.”

Stroud said residents should request a meeting with the FRA in Fairfield County to get their questions answered directly.

Jim Cameron, head of the Commuter Action Group, said discussion needs to be strong on facts with emotion left to the side.

“We have to have a reasonable conversation with the FRA,” Cameron said. “We cannot come off looking like rich NIMBYs who in theory support the idea of high-speed rail unless it effects our own property values.”

Wednesday’s meeting drew people from throughout the county, including Darien First Selectwoman Jayme Stevenson, state Rep. Gail Lavielle and other government representatives and state residents.

“We are concerned with the environmental and residential disruption this plan could have on our community,” said Sarah Harris, a representative from Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe.

Todd Bryant, president of the Norwalk Preservation Trust, said, “The more people the better. Everybody on the line from Greenwich to Green’s Farms to Westport needs to work together. They listen to numbers. They ‘grade by weight,’ as we used to say in college. The more people show up at the meetings and the more emails and letters and more public officials they hear from the better.”

Greenwich resident Heather Brower said she was frustrated that previous efforts to get hard information about the plan, even with the support of town resident U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

Rich Kehoe, state director of Blumenthal’s Connecticut office, said the senator would remain involved in the high-speed rail discussion and would look at convening a meeting with representatives of the FRA.

“We will lay the groundwork for bringing people together and getting the voices heard early on in this process because there is still a lot of time for things to change and things to actually halt,” Kehoe said.

Stroud urged attendees to call NEC Future Spokesman Douglas Gascon at 203-493-0239 with their questions and concerns.

Found at:
http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/High-speed-rail-discussion-draws-standing-room-11438884.php#photo-13418192


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Time To Derail Studies And
Improve Train Service Now

What Ontario really needs here is a consultant to tell the two levels of train-happy politicians — which don’t seem to talk to each other — that millions of public money being wasted on studies could be doing some good for the public right now.

By Greg Gormick

To profit from passenger trains in Canada, don’t build or operate them, just win government contracts to study them to death.

There are now three publicly funded studies of improved rail service under way, one provincial and two federal, at a total cost of about $20 million. All are part of multi-year processes that have been grinding away and only pick up steam when an election looms.

At other times, these studies chug along just like chronically ineffective Via Rail Canada, itself a pre-election bauble from Pierre Trudeau’s government. When unveiled in 1977, VIA was promised as a salvation for Canada’s remaining trains. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and we’ve paid the price for it, usually with the conveyor belt of funding for unnecessary studies.

Federally, there’s currently a $1 million study of VIA’s desperate need for $1.5 billion of new rolling stock to maintain its current service. Without new cars, says VIA’s corporate plan, they’ll have to start trimming services by 2020. Never mind that proven cars are rolling off production lines right now to serve VIA’s U.S. counterpart, Amtrak. No, VIA has to study the issue, which allows its federal masters to avoid making a decision.

Next, there’s a $3.3-million, three-year study of VIA’s proposal to create a new route linking Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal at breathtaking speeds of, perhaps, 200 km/h. It would use a meandering route through the backwoods of eastern Ontario that Canadian Pacific abandoned more than 40 years ago.

Rather than say no to this fantasy flyer, Transport Minister Marc Garneau commissioned the study. It will investigate VIA’s claim that this multi-billion-dollar project will pay for itself and cross-subsidize VIA’s other Quebec-Windsor Corridor trains.

In towns along the proposed route, this is viewed as a done deal. One mayor has already told VIA he wants a rustic, heritage-themed station, similar to the one flattened after CP canned the passenger service on this route in 1966.

Next up is Queen’s Park, which has a $15-million study to beat them all: 250-km/h high-speed rail (HSR) for Southwestern Ontario. At election time, HSR is to politicians what cat nip is to felines and they go wild for it.

Image

Photo:  Matthew G. Wheeler

When it comes to transforming passenger rail service in Canada, a process plagued by expensive but fruitless studies, politicians won’t make immediate improvements but will instead “continue to ramp up the promises before elections and scale them back after, thus avoiding any action or expenditure,” writes Greg Gormick.

The latest dream scheme started with a pre-election report in 2015. It said Toronto-London HSR would to be a snap, partially because it wouldn’t encounter any mountains. As for impediments, such as hills and towns, the consultant said the track could just be “wiggled.”

That study led to another after the election, this time extended to Windsor. After 18 months, the verdict was another study of this $21-billion project, which might be running by 2031. More consulting fees are just down the track as a result.

Obviously, what we really need here is a consultant to tell the two levels of train-happy politicians — which don’t seem to talk to each other — that this public money could be doing some good for the public right now.

Southwestern Ontario? Put the consulting fees into refurbishing a couple of GO trains for 160-km/h intercity service on the Toronto-Kitchener-London line as a joint federal/provincial venture. That would at least stop GO from eating VIA’s lunch on the Toronto-Kitchener segment, as is the case today.

East of Toronto? Give VIA the money to piggyback on those Amtrak orders to quickly get us some decent trains that would reduce operating costs and cut the outrageously high VIA fares that keep Canadians off the rails.

Alas, none of this will happen. The bureaucrats will retain their jobs supervising the consultants and the consultants will rub their hands with glee. The politicians will continue to ramp up the promises before elections and scale them back after, thus avoiding any action or expenditure.

Meanwhile, around the world — even in Donald Trump’s Great America — public money is being invested to expand the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail service. Any wonder why we’re losing the competitive battle for jobs and investment to places such as California and North Carolina, where they have modern passenger trains?

Perhaps our governments could study that phenomenon.

Greg Gormick is a Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser. His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.

From an article appearing at:
https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/25/time-to-derail-studies-and-improve-train-service-now-opinion.html

[ Editor Note: Our special thanks go out to Greg Gormick who has been the primary contributor to the “To The North” section for these many months.]


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Infrastructure Bank Studied As Funding Option
For U.S.-Canada High-Speed Rail

By Andy Blatchford
The Canadian Press Via The Globe & Mail

Washington state is exploring whether Canada’s new infrastructure bank could help finance a multibillion-dollar proposal for high-speed rail between Vancouver and the U.S. northwest.

The Trudeau government’s soon-to-be-launched, $35-billion infrastructure bank will seek to use public funds as leverage to attract billions more in private investment for major infrastructure projects, such as bridges, transit systems and rail lines.

The legislative blueprint for the infrastructure bank also allows for the use public money to help bankroll projects “in Canada or partly in Canada,” provided there’s a financial benefit and a physical connection to the country.

The state of Washington has taken notice.

It’s looking at the infrastructure bank as a potential financing option for a long-discussed high-speed rail connection between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, says one of the governor’s senior policy advisers.

Charles Knutson, an adviser for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, said Ottawa’s infrastructure bank will be analyzed as a financing option in an ongoing feasibility study for the rail proposal.

Earlier this year, Inslee committed US$1-million towards a cost-benefit analysis of the “ultra high-speed” rail line that would see trains run at speeds of at least 400 km/h. The final report is due in December.

“We’ve heard from some of our Canadian counterparts that that’s a tool that we could explore and we’re open to looking into that further,” Knutson told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“The fact that it is something that could support cross-border projects seems to be a good match, but we’d need to know more.”

He added that the cost-benefit analysis will provide a better sense of the scope of the project and help determine what kinds of financing options would be available.

The high-speed rail link has support from political leaders in the region and from the business community, including high-tech giant Microsoft. They see it as part of a broader plan to deepen regional economic ties and contribute to a Seattle-Vancouver technology network dubbed the Cascadia Innovation Corridor.

Knutson, who attended a meeting between Inslee and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May, said they discussed the potential benefits of the high-speed rail project, including construction jobs, better workforce mobility and reduced road traffic.

“They both expressed their support for ultra high-speed rail that could improve connectivity, help grow business opportunities on both sides of the border,” he said.

“They talked about how this is an idea that’s time has come.”

Knutson said he doesn’t specifically recall hearing the infrastructure bank come up during the discussion, but noted other Canadian leaders have spoken about it with Inslee.

A spokesman for Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s infrastructure minister, said the proposed Portland-Vancouver rail line would be legally eligible under the bank’s legislation.

“But ultimately any decision to move forward with assessing the project for a potential investment will be the bank’s to make,” Brook Simpson wrote in an email.

The bank is central to the Trudeau government’s economic growth strategy. It’s committed more than $180-billion for new projects over the next 11 years and, as part of the effort, its hoping to further boost investments with a lift from private cash.

But in order to attract private capital the projects will have to be designed to generate steady, reliable returns for investors through revenue streams such as user fees.

Sohi has argued the bank will be a tool to fund infrastructure projects that may not otherwise be built, or projects that public or private bodies can’t afford on their own.

The infrastructure bank has also been a source of controversy.

The government has faced heavy criticism about the bank, including allegations that argue it will put the priorities of wealthy investors ahead of Canadian taxpayers, who will be stuck assuming too much of the risk.

Political rivals have warned the Crown corporation will likely force Canadians to pay twice for their infrastructure – first via the public treasury and then through user fees that will generate corporate profits.

The Liberals also faced repeated calls to slow down its plan to create the bank amid concerns Ottawa was rushing through the legislation to create the bank without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Found at:
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/infrastructure-bank-studied-as-funding-option-for-us-canada-high-speed-rail/article35779464/


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Is There A Plan B For Our
Rail Passenger Service?

A Press Release From All Aboard St Marys

As the federal and provincial governments spend $20 million on studies of multi-billion-dollar solutions to our rail passenger problem, All Aboard St. Marys wants to know what will happen to our existing services if these big-bang projects fail to launch.

“There doesn’t appear to be a Plan B and that concerns us greatly,” says Chris West of the St. Marys citizens’ committee.  “There is no assurance the $21-billion Southwestern Ontario high-speed rail (HSR) proposal or VIA’s $5.5-billion high-frequency rail (HFR) scheme for a new route east of Toronto will happen.  At best, they’d both take many years to construct, their funding is far from assured and the data supporting them remains sketchy and unconvincing.  What we’re hearing from Ottawa, Queen’s Park and VIA all sounds like spin doctoring.”

Without any back-up plans, All Aboard St. Marys is especially concerned by VIA’s own report on its future prospects.

Says West, “VIA’s Summary of the 2016-2020 Corporate Plan identifies half of its fleet as having ‘structural-related life expectancy issues.’  In plain English, more than 200 of VIA’s cars are deteriorating rapidly, they cannot be rebuilt again and VIA will have to start retiring them in 2020, leading to service reductions.  A $1 million study by VIA was supposed to prevent this by making the case to Ottawa for $1.5 billion in new cars and locomotives.  But VIA didn’t get that funding in the 2017 Federal Budget.”

In a recent Toronto Star article, All Aboard St. Marys campaign coordinator Greg Gormick pointed out that new passenger equipment is now being produced for VIA’s U.S. counterpart, Amtrak.  While VIA continues to study its options, modern equipment perfectly suited for Canada is rolling off the production lines in Sacramento, CA and Elmira, NY.

The Toronto Star article dealing with the lengthy stream of government studies is available at  https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/25/time-to-derail-studies-and-improve-train-service-now-opinion.html

“VIA is close to the breaking point,” says West.  “We don’t need any further studies and we certainly can’t count on long-range dream schemes that sound like the pre-election promises we’ve heard repeatedly in the past.  We need real solutions to a problem that could easily finish off Canada’s remaining passenger trains altogether.”

All Aboard St. Marys finds this chillingly similar to the situation that existed in the 1980s, when VIA operated a system twice as large as today using a fleet composed mainly of old equipment long overdue for replacement.

“The Mulroney government’s own Rail Passenger Action Force spelled out what was required,” says West.  “Instead of heeding their advice, the government eliminated half of VIA’s fleet by hacking off half of VIA in early 1990.  One of the flimsy excuses was that the old equipment made VIA too expensive to maintain.  Totally ignored was the fact that the government’s own experts had warned of this and developed an affordable plan to prevent it.”

This followed a similar cutback in 1981 by the Trudeau government, which cited the rising cost of VIA’s ancient fleet as a reason to cut off 20 per cent of its national system.  The anticipated savings were to be applied to new cars and locomotives, but the government failed to buy the promised number, leading directly to the Mulroney government’s cuts in 1990.  This also contributed to the Harper government’s VIA cuts of 2012.

Says West, “This is not just a problem for us here in Southwestern Ontario.  It affects VIA’s services throughout the entire Quebec-Windsor Corridor and the Ocean, the last train in the Maritimes.  The clapped out equipment mentioned in VIA’s corporate plan is used on all of these trains and all are threatened.”

Also of concern is the fact that VIA’s Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal HFR plan has recently gained an extension to Quebec City, but without any change in the estimated cost to reflect the addition.  As well, the whole VIA plan is dependent on a new corridor fleet, which the government has failed so far to authorize.

With every indication that a slashing similar to 1981, 1990 and 2012 awaits our remaining passenger trains, All Aboard St. Marys will focus on making this an issue with backbenchers in the current governments in Ottawa and at Queen’s Park, and their opposition colleagues.

Says West, “The MPs and MPPs must become the real advocates if this mess is to be resolved.  Elected officials of all political stripes need to work on the public’s behalf if we’re to have an affordable, practical and urgent Plan B.  That can only start with an immediate order for modern, high-performance equipment.  If not, VIA will tumble into a free fall by 2020.”

For more information, please contact:

Chris West
All Aboard St. Marys
chriswest@kwic.com
Tel: (519) 284-3310
Fax: (519) 284-3160
Toll free:  1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

View From Europe

A Pause In Our Journey To
Destination Freedom

An Invitation To The Next Generation To Climb Aboard
And Act For More Degrees Of Freedom Of Movement

By David Beale – Foreign Editor
(All Photos By David Beale)

Ravensburg, Germany – 28 years ago James RePass organized a small movement, which later would become National Corridors Initiative.  The initial goal was to improve, indeed to revolutionize rail travel in the US Northeast, specifically New York City – Boston intercity train service with electrification of the route from New Haven to Boston – 157 miles of the 231 mile route, which had long been proposed for electrification ever since the original New York City – New Haven section of today’s Northeast Corridor was electrified with overhead alternating current (AC) catenary in the decade after World War 1 ended.  The long overdue completion of the “wires” above this history-rich rail line would eliminate a time consuming change of locomotives from electric to diesel or vice versa on trains running between two of the most important cities in northeastern USA – New York and Boston – and provide more raw power to enable trains to accelerate faster between cities and towns along this rail line than the diesel powered trains of the time.

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SNCF TGV Duplex high-speed train in Stuttgart (Germany) in December 2012

The decades-long dormant concept to extend the 40 – 50 year old Pennsylvania Rail Road and New Haven Rail Road electrification on the main Northeast Corridor (NEC) came back to life during the White House Administration of Jimmy Carter.  When President Carter entered office in January 1977, the United States was still recovering from the first “Energy Crisis” of 1973-74, when Middle East tensions boiled over, leading to an Arab embargo of oil exports to the USA as well as the beginning of the oil cartel OPEC.  The energy crisis of the early 1970s during President Nixon’s final years in the White House made America’s growing dependence on oil (and other fossil fuels) imported into the USA painfully obvious.  President Carter and his cabinet sought to attack America’s growing demand and consumption of foreign oil by implementing a number of measures, many of which involved expanding use of public transportation, especially rail transportation, as an alternative to gas-guzzling automobiles and jetliners of the day.  The Carter Administration looked to US government owned Amtrak, less than a decade old at the time and built, almost literally, out of and upon the massive ash heap and scrap pile of the once great American passenger railroad network, to restore passenger trains – inherently energy efficient by design – back to a far more prominent role in the US transportation system.

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First Great Western HST train set in Cheltenham Spa (England) in March 2013

Early on in the Carter White House plans to restore and upgrade the now decrepit and un-electrified New Haven - Boston section of the NEC quickly firmed up. The rails along the rail line would be converted to welded rail with concrete ties in order to support speeds of 100 – 130 mph, rather than the existing 45 – 60 mph top speeds on much of the route at the time.  And a key component of the project was to finish electrification all the way to Boston South Station, thus eliminating the 10 – 15 minute long change of locomotives in New Haven on each and every Amtrak train running on the New York –Boston route.  By the end of the 1970s the proposed welded rail and high-tech concrete ties were installed on the NEC between New Haven, CT and Boston, MA.  The next major steps would be the installation of catenary masts, construction of several new electric distribution stations and finally the threading of the overhead catenary wires above the tracks.

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RENFE AVE S102 (Talgo) high-speed train set in Cuenca (Spain) in May 2013

By then Jimmy Carter, who was wildly popular at the start of his first term, was sinking fast in the opinion polls as yet another gas crisis gripped the USA, this time due to the cut-off of oil by Iran after its Islamic revolution of 1979 and the end of the rule of the hated Shah of Iran and the invasion of next-door Afghanistan by the USSR.  Carter spent the entire final year of his White House administration dealing with a major hostage crisis in the US Embassy in Tehran, including the fall-out of a badly botched rescue mission to extract the US hostages out of Iran.  The escalating situation in the Middle East, including the USSR’s military invasion of Afghanistan, a growing violent civil war in Lebanon – similar in brutality and scope as the current civil war in next-door Syria –  a more aggressive Soviet Union stance, and mounting price inflation at home in the USA doomed Carter’s campaign for a second term in the White House.  The Reagan Revolution swept across the USA in November 1980 and shortly after President Ronald Reagan and his new cabinet, hungry and energized to drastically cut domestic spending, eliminated the budget for extension of electrification on the NEC to Boston and other Amtrak infrastructure / capital projects.  

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SNCF class B81500 dual-mode electric / diesel EMU / DMU regional train set in Aix En Provence (France) in December 2013.

So with the Ronald Reagan’s cancellation of NEC electrification extension from New Haven to Boston, travel times remained more or less unchanged for the next decade on the New York – Boston rail corridor, with perhaps just minor improvements and speed increases where new welded rail with concrete ties replaced decades-old jointed rail on rotting wooden ties during the 1978 – 1981 time period.  When Reagan finished his second term in the White House and his vice president, George H.W. Bush, succeeded Reagan in the Oval Office, Jim RePass saw an opening to bring the proposed electrification of the New Haven – Boston section of the NEC back to life.  He founded what later would become National Corridors Initiative (NCI) and started advocating to sympathetic decision makers in the Bush 41 White House for completion of the long proposed and oft deferred New Haven – Boston railway electrification project.  The rest, as the cliché goes, is history:  funding of the electrification project was restored during the early 1990s and by early 2000 Amtrak was finally operating electrically powered trains along the entire length of the Washington DC – New York City – Boston NEC.  With successful completion of the New Haven – Boston electrification on the NEC now in the success category by early 2000, Jim RePass focused NCI on the big picture – rebuilding and expanding passenger rail in all forms across the USA.  An important component of this expanded goal was a new on-line newsletter for passenger rail advocates: Destination: Freedom, which began publishing stories and news about rail and public transportation developments across the USA.  

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Ex-Southern Pacific Baldwin steam locomotive in Boulder City NV (USA) in January 2015

In the year 2000, as Jim RePass and his newly acquired editor of Destination: Freedom Leo King began publishing the initial issues of the newsletter, I started my third year of working and residing full time in the Hannover, Germany area along with two young daughters (the second daughter born in Hannover in mid 1998) and my wife of just over 10 years.  In the USA I had been somewhat active in volunteer groups involved in public transportation dating back to my time living in northern Kentucky in the greater Cincinnati region and later in the Phoenix, AZ metro area with the non-profit rail advocacy group Arizona Rail Passenger Association (ARPA).  I wanted to stay involved in the advocacy scene, but it was extremely difficult to do this with ARPA from several thousand miles away in a different country, most of all because the members lived in the region and met in-person perhaps 4 – 8 times per year.

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SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) Re 420 electric locomotive in Singen (Germany) in February 2015

Also at this time (2000 -2001) I became a member of ProBahn here in Germany.  Unlike the small rail advocacy groups to which I joined in the USA previously, Germany’s ProBahn is neither small nor particularly friendly towards the principal passenger train operator in the country, Deutsche Bahn.  Unlike the USA, passenger rail in Germany does not really require advocates to lobby for it in the general public or at various levels of government.  Passenger rail travel in Germany, as in most of western Europe, is well established, well maintained, and fully present in everyday life.  Here there is no need to argue for the advantages and benefits of the various forms passenger rail, as it is here in multiple forms (light rail, urban rail, intercity trains, suburban trains, etc.) in widespread use – it is a fact of daily life here.  Being an advocate (evangelist) for passenger rail transit in much of Europe (and in the U.K.) has a lot in common with preaching to the choir in a church, most of the general population are already believers and do not need convincing.

In most of North America far beyond the big cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and perhaps Dallas, Montreal, Seattle and Toronto, advocating for passenger rail transit, or public transit of any kind, is truly like trying to preach the Gospel to the masses of unbelievers, skeptics, transit “atheists” and agnostics and often outright avowed enemies of public transport and passenger rail.  I saw this in both the Cincinnati area and in the greater Phoenix area, where there was (and perhaps still is) organized, energized, highly vocal and apparently well funded anti-rail transit groups engaged in fighting whatever proposed passenger rail project was on the local agenda or referendum ballot.  On the surface these anti-public transit groups appear to be local, grass roots groups, but upon closer look, at least some of them have close ties to and financial support of a handful of powerful and well-funded nationwide extreme right-wing think tanks, foundations and institutes backed by the Koch Brothers, American Petroleum Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council and others.  In other words, as a passenger rail advocate in the USA, one has no shortage of challenges, active opposition and perhaps even outright foes.

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Breng Transit electric trolley bus in Arnhem (Holland) in May 2015

I remain actively involved in the passenger rail advocacy association ProBahn here in Germany, but I simply have accepted and understood, that ProBahn has mostly a different mission and agenda than NCI, ARPA, or the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) in the USA, all of which tend to be in the passenger rail transit “preacher” or “evangelist” roll.   ProBahn in Germany, and I believe several similar groups and organizations in other parts of Europe / U.K., are more often playing a roll similar as AARP plays for senior citizens, AAA plays for automobile drivers and owners, and even the roll labor unions assume in advocating better pay and working conditions for their members, or – dare I even say this – the role which NRA takes on behalf of American gun owners and Second Amendment enthusiasts.  This mission and roll of ProBahn often places the organization and its numerous local chapters in direct and sometimes heated conflict with passenger train companies, public transit authorities, local and state lawmakers, and occasionally even with the ten ton gorilla/elephant in the room itself, federal government-owned Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railways).  For me it was a big change in gears in voluntary participation in a passenger rail advocacy organization, and a somewhat uncomfortable one.  I wondered if I could still participate in some manner in the rail advocacy scene back in the USA from 5000 km away in Europe.  

Several years after Destination: Freedom began publishing I came into contact with Leo King and NCI for my first time, via a mutual contact at ARPA or Southwest Rail Passenger Association (with whom ARPA was affiliated).  Leo was already posting on occasion short news clips on developments in passenger rail developments in Europe, Asia and few other corners of the world in a semi-regular segment he titled “Across The Pond” within certain Destination: Freedom newsletters.  I agreed to help Leo with material for the “Across The Pond” segment from my location near to Hannover, Germany, including material from parts of Asia, where I was visiting on business trips rather frequently at the time – it was mid 2004 when I began sending written and photographic material to Destination: Freedom via Leo King.  Sometimes Leo attributed the material which I submitted to him for “Across The Pond” to me, and sometimes he didn’t.  I remained in contact via e-mail and phone calls with Leo until he decided in mid/late 2005 to retire from his job as editor of Destination: Freedom.

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Praha Metro light rail / tram vehicle (built by Skoda) in Prague (Czechia) in September 2016

With Leo no longer at NCI, I decided that I needed to develop direct contacts with Jim RePass and Dennis Kirkpatrick.  NCI at the time (June 2005) hosted and organized a small conference called Transplan 21 in Washington DC about the future of passenger rail in the USA.  Among the attendees were former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, several mid level executives from Amtrak, a number of staffers of several US Congressmen, several rail transit advocates from several US cities and Jim RePass as host and conference chairman.  President George W. Bush, just six months into his second term in the White House, his cabinet, and GOP members in the U.S. Congress were once again doing whatever they could to defund Amtrak and in general public transit across the USA, often with some success.  The mood at this NCI conference was dark and pessimistic.  The number one threat to public transit and passenger rail in the USA had just decisively won six months earlier a second term in the Oval Office, and his younger brother, the governor of Florida, who several years earlier, killed nearly single handedly, Florida’s voter approved in-state high-speed passenger rail program before any major construction had started, appeared to be the most likely successor for the Oval Office when George W’s second term ended in January 2009 (Jeb Bush eventually decided against running in the 2008 presidential campaign well before the first primary elections and presidential caucuses took place).

I continued to work with and support NCI for the next decade, mostly with submission of news material and stories from this part of the world.  Jim RePass joined me in September 2008 in Berlin for the InnoTrans rail transit exhibition, the “Paris Air Show” of the international railroad industry.  He then went on a week or two week-long tour of Europe by train to other parts of Germany, Switzerland and then France, if I recall correctly.  Jim was (and perhaps still is) utterly amazed with the state of rail transit in Europe compared to the state of the passenger rail sector in North America.  He asked me to develop a program to host a delegation from the USA, consisting of local and state-level lawmakers and civic planners, and possibly a few current and former state governors from New England, New York State and perhaps from New Jersey, for an NCI conference in Europe.  I was able to secure a large conference room for a potential two day conference in the upper part of the recently fully renovated and modernized Hannover central train station at no cost, courtesy of the regional HQ of Deutsche Bahn.  I also received a commitment from the local chamber of commerce and Hannover’s public / visitors’ relations office to assist at no or minimal cost with this conceptual NCI conference, if and when it happened.  The United States Consular Office in Berlin also signaled to me that they would provide guidance and some kind of advice and instructions regarding the security and PR aspects of hosting a delegation with potentially a small number of elected officials from several US states in the delegation.

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CD Czech Railways DMU train set (built by PESA in Poland) in Plzen (Czechia) in September 2016

The idea of pulling off a NCI conference in Hannover Germany, similar to past NCI conferences and events in the USA remained just that – an idea.  Money / funding for this proposed conference was a major issue, and the aspect of taking the time of state legislators and perhaps one, two or more sitting state governors over three or four days in total (including travel time over the “Pond” in both directions) was daunting.  The concept was excellent, but the execution of such a conference proved to be just too great of a challenge for the perhaps three or four remaining key players in NCI.  My goal in my work within NCI has always to use my living situation and experiences in central Europe to provide examples of the many numerous advantages and pluses of modern rail transit to a mostly American audience.  And also from time to time to show some aspects of the European transportation network, which do not work so well here, and should be avoided “across the pond.”  This was a key goal of mine for this proposed NCI conference in Hannover and perhaps elsewhere in Europe back in the 2009 – 2010 time frame.  

I was already keenly aware that NCI needed new members before the idea of hosting a conference far outside the borders of the USA came up.  I had advocated constantly to put a far greater effort into recruitment of new members.  The preliminary work I performed to see if NCI could host a conference in Europe made it crystal clear to me, that the organization needed more members and more people power across the pond in the USA, if it was going to survive as a viable advocacy group.  Alas the new active members and more people power did not come.  The reasons for this are too complex to discuss here at length.  I think it is enough to say, that all of us at NCI could have and should have been far more aggressive in recruiting new participants and new “blood” than was the case in the past decade.  At this point in my personal life, it now too late to wait for the situation to change, that is why I tendered my resignation about three months ago.  My resignation and the resignation of Dennis Kirkpatrick, current D:F editor and webmaster, just days after my resignation is what has precipitated this major change to the Destination: Freedom newsletter and NCI.

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RZD (Russian Railways) EMU regional trains in Novokuznetsk, Siberia (Russia) in June 2017

Passenger rail and public transit in the USA are once again under a very serious and dangerous threat to their continued existence, and once again that threat is coming from none other than the White House, the halls of the US Congress, numerous state legislatures and governor mansions.   President Donald Trump and his cabinet secretaries and advisors have now shown that this White House will fight to shut down most of Amtrak and try to end financial support to dozens if not hundreds of local and regional public transit projects across the USA, despite encouraging comments from 2016 Candidate Trump about increasing investment in public infrastructure and asking why can’t the USA build a massive high-speed rail network like China has been doing for the past two decades.  It is now clear that China need not worry about its impressive new high-speed train network being challenged by a similar American high-speed passenger rail network anytime in the next 4 – 8 years . . .  with the possible lone exception of the new HSR project in the state of California.  The same goes for existing or emerging modern high-speed rail networks in various other countries raging from Spain, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Poland and Austria to Russia, India, Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and even Australia.  Americans need to stand up and let it be known, that they refuse to let America’s passenger rail networks gutted and left behind in the station as all of these other countries – some perhaps friends, others foes, and all of them rivals – gain speed and distance passing the USA in the global rail transportation race.  

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Historic Deutsche Bundesbahn Rail Bus in Aulendorf (Germany) – current home town of NCI foreign editor David Beale – during a special excursion trip in November 2015

Aside from President Trump’s new-found animosity to passenger rail transit, the well-established and funded anti-passenger rail lobby in the USA continues to recruit new voices and develop new tactics in its goal to force America to abandon the extra degree of freedom, which passenger rail transit offers, and simply surrender to a transportation future based on massive, traffic-clogged highways and expressways, millions of acres of parking lots, and increasingly hostile, belligerent, crammed and ever more expensive airlines and airports.  The latest new tactic of the far-right anti-rail movement is now to label any type or kind of public transit, be it rail-based, bus-based or even on the water, as “public / social assistance,” a code term which is meant to simply equate any and all forms of public transit with other right-wing talking points and objects of hate, such as public schools, food stamps and EBT cards, public housing, publically funded health care, college tuition assistance, public parks, government based mental health and drug rehabilitation clinics, Social Security for retirees and similar.  Publically funded and paid roads, highways and airports have escaped the “social assistance” label now being applied with vigor by the far-right to the other forms of transportation.

The current and next generations of public transit advocates have their work cut out for them.  It will not be easy, nor will it be boring and routine.  And often it will be frustrating and aggravating, as it has been for decades already, as the effort to bring electrification to the New Haven –Boston section of the NEC shows.  Are clean air, clean water, livable neighborhoods, environmentally . . . and . . . human-friendly transportation worth advocating for . . . .indeed worth fighting for?  Let the past 18 years of Destination: Freedom and the 28 years of NCI be an inspiration for you! Get active, organize, and fight for your right to another degree of freedom!


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2017 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. (NCI) as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI and Destination: Freedom (DF) are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Logo courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI & DF remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Photo submissions are welcome. DF is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocol (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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