The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Aug 29, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 34

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th Newsletter Year


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

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

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

  Guest Commentary…
ASLRRA Applauds Amtrak’s Selection Of Moorman
  Travel Lines…
A Long Journey Between Two Indiana Cities
  Funding Lines…
VP Biden Announces Upgrades For Amtrak’s
   Northeast Corridor
San Francisco Muni Awarded $45 Million Toward
   10 New Trains For Future Fleet
California Allocates Funds For Rail Projects
Oregon DOT Approves Nearly $12 Million For
   Rail Projects
  Transit Lines…
SeaTac’s Angle Lake Light Rail Station To
   Open Sept. 24
  Expansion Lines…
Massachusetts South Coast Rail Public
   Meeting Schedule
  Commuter Lines…
Fort Worth Launches Tex Rail Construction
  Selected Rail Stocks …
  Legal Lines…
No Acela To NYC? Amtrak Suggests MBTA Dispute
   Threatens Boston Rail Service
  Future Lines…
Researchers Work To Predict Future Of Transit
  Station Lines…
Penn Station’s Amtrak Departure Board Will Be
   Demolished & Replaced With Digital Displays
  Safety Lines…
FRA, AAR Warn Pokemon Go MakerAbout
   Gamers Near Railroads
  To The North…
Applause For Senator Bob Runciman’s Open Letter
   On Inadequate Via Service
Rail Success Requires Wider Network Approach
  Publication Notes …

GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

ASLRRA Applauds Amtrak’s
Selection Of Moorman

From Railway Age

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) released the following statement by President Linda Bauer Darr in response to the Amtrak Board of Directors’ introduction of Wick Moorman as President and CEO of Amtrak, succeeding Joe Boardman.

“We applaud the selection of Charles “Wick” Moorman to lead Amtrak. His deep experience in the railroad industry, his commitment to safety and customer service, and his understanding of the partnership of commuter and freight rail in delivering a transportation system that is the envy of the world bodes well for all. We are pleased that he has chosen to step out of retirement to engage in serving the public.”

Found at:

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TRAVEL LINES... Travel Lines...  

Report From Indiana


A Long Journey Between Two Indiana Cities

By David Peter Alan

The new Hoosier State is a wonderful travel experience, comparable to the sort of rail travel that Americans enjoyed half-a-century ago.  With that exception, travel in Indiana without an automobile is difficult and time-consuming.  It is not an experience that many people would endure voluntarily and, for people who depend on public transportation, its only positive feature is that it is better than walking hundreds of miles.

Last month, this writer set out to visit two Indiana towns that once hosted an Amtrak train.  Fort Wayne was on the historic Broadway Limited route of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Amtrak re-routed the train onto the historic Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) line through Garrett and Napanee before it was discontinued in 1995.  Terre Haute is a college town west of Indianapolis.  It was on the historic “Pennsy” line between New York and St. Louis.  Amtrak ran the train as the National Limited from 1971 until 1979.  It was named after the National Road, an east-west wagon road that was built through the area in the 1840s.  That train also stopped at Indianapolis and Richmond, a town located between Indianapolis and Dayton, Ohio.  Richmond is an interesting and historic town, served by two daily buses from “Indy” on Miller Trailways, as part of the state’s “Hoosier Ride” program that supports some intercity buses.  This writer visited Richmond a few years ago.

This writer has now visited every stop on the route of the 1970s-vintage National Limited; Terre Haute was the last.  The Miller bus between Indianapolis and Terre Haute left at 4:30, in the middle of the night.  That meant an overnight wait at the Indianapolis station after the Hoosier State train arrived about 1:15; approximately 90 minutes behind schedule.  The long-distance buses use the same station.

The bus departure time was inconvenient, but it arrived in Terre Haute at 7:10 in the morning and at a convenient location: the downtown terminal for the local buses.  The town itself is busy, due in large part to the presence of Indiana State University and other colleges.  It is located on the Wabash River, across from Illinois.  The town has a rich history, a number of museums, and a large collection of historic houses in the Farrington Grove neighborhood.  Socialist political activist Eugene V. Debs came from there, as did Paul Dresser, composer of My Gal Sal and Indiana’s State Song: On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away.  Their homes are both preserved as house museums.

The limit for a day visit to Terre Haute is eleven hours, imposed by the bus schedule.  This writer’s next destination was Fort Wayne, the largest city in eastern Indiana.  The fare was about $25; probably an artifact from the time when it was a relatively-short trip between the two cities (and, at a different time of day, it still is).  In reality, the trip was long and grueling, and required two transfers and more than nine hours of waiting time between buses.

The first segment was the return trip from Terre Haute to Indianapolis; a bus that was scheduled to leave at 6:20 pm and arrive at 7:35.  It ran late that evening; too late to get to Shapiro’s, this writer’s favorite restaurant in “Indy” for dinner.  Still, the bus terminal is located at the train station, in downtown Indianapolis.  So it was possible to grab some dinner elsewhere and take a walk before leaving on the 10:15 bus for Chicago.  That bus arrived at 12:30; the beginning of six-hour, uncomfortable, all-night wait at the Greyhound bus station in the Windy City.  Chicago is not an all-night city, and even the eateries on Halstead Street in Greektown (within walking distance of the bus terminal) are no longer open all night.  Lou Mitchell’s, the iconic coffee shop located a block from Union Station, does not open until 5:30, which allowed just enough time for morning coffee.

The first bus to Fort Wayne was a 6:30 departure on Barron’s Bus Line.  It did not arrive until about 11:45, although it is the first bus of the day scheduled to arrive in Fort Wayne from anywhere else.  The total travel time from Terre Haute to Fort Wayne was 17 hours, after an 11-hour visit to Terre Haute and before a ten-hour visit to Fort Wayne.   

Fort Wayne is a medium-sized city with museums and other attractions that are often available in cities of that size.  The history museum is located in the former City Hall, a gem from the 1890s, built in the style pioneered by famed Boston architect H.H. Richardson.  The city also has a number of historic neighborhoods with beautiful Victorian-era houses; a reminder of the prosperity it once enjoyed.

The city had rail service until the early 1990s, when the Broadway Limited was re-routed onto the historic Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) line, a route that was later discontinued completely.  There was once a bus to Fort Wayne from Waterloo, a stop on the Capital Limited and Lake Shore Limited routes, but it was also discontinued in the early 1990s.  Today, the elevated platform and canopy of the station on the former Nickel Plate Road is still standing (the last passenger train on that line was eliminated in 1965 and the stairs that once provided access from street level are blocked).  The beautiful former Pennsylvania Railroad station is still standing and has not changed since service ended almost 25 years ago.  It now houses offices and looks like it could host passenger trains again, if Amtrak or anybody else ever wants to run them.

It took this writer 17 1/2 hours to traverse the State of Indiana by bus; eight hours on three buses and 9 1/2 hours of waiting time, including a six-hour overnight wait at Chicago’s Greyhound station.  For this writer, the trip was an adventure, and one that will not be repeated.  There is no reason to expect that anyone who has access to an automobile would ever take such a trip.  It is true that people who depend on public transportation have a means for going from one side of Indiana to the other, but it is a truly miserable trip.  This writer enjoyed visiting Terre Haute and Fort Wayne, but the misery involved with going between the two would never justify a return visit under current circumstances of transportation.  There is a morning bus from Terre Haute to Indianapolis at 7:30 on Miller Trailways, with a 30-minute connection to a Barron’s bus to Fort Wayne, scheduled to arrive at 12:50.  That combination allows a trip time of five hours and 20 minutes, but the schedule was inconvenient for visiting Terre Haute, and the bus from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne does not run on Mondays or Wednesdays.  Fort Wayne had a passenger train until 1992.  Terre Haute and Richmond, an interesting and historic town in southeastern Indiana, had one until 1979.  Travel was different then, especially for people without automobiles or for motorists who wanted to let a professional “driver” take them to their destinations.

Greyhound buses stop at the local bus terminal in Fort Wayne, about two blocks from the former train station.  There is a 9:40 departure for Cincinnati, scheduled to arrive there at 3:15 the next morning.  This writer took that bus, looking forward to a day in the “Queen City”; a city that is difficult to reach by public transportation, as we reported in D:F two years ago.  Local transit in Cincinnati is about to improve, though, as Cincinnatians will soon have a new streetcar to ride.  We will report on the city’s preparations for the return of rail transit in our next edition.

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

VP Biden Announces Upgrades For
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post

Vice President Biden has good news for Amtrak riders along the Northeast Corridor, announcing $2.45 billion in federal loans to help pay for new trains and other upgrades along the busy corridor.

Biden, a well-known Amtrak commuter during his tenure in the Senate, was on home turf at the Wilmington, Del., station that bears his name when he made the announcement Friday. He was joined by Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez.

“This loan is a key step to providing investments needed to help keep high-speed trains moving throughout the region, and to help all commuters in the Northeast Corridor,” Biden said.  “We need these kinds of investments to keep this region — and our whole country — moving, and to create new jobs.”

It is the largest single loan in the Transportation Department’s history.

Part of the money will be used to upgrade the passenger railroad’s current fleet. Amtrak will contract with Alstom to build 28 next-generation high-speed train sets that will replace the trains used as part of Amtrak’s Acela Express service. The trains will be built at Alstom’s Hornell and Rochester, N.Y., facilities.

“Amtrak is taking the necessary actions to keep our customers, the Northeast region and the American economy moving forward,” said Amtrak chief Joseph Boardman. “These train sets and the modernization and improvement of infrastructure will provide our customers with the mobility and experience of the future.”

The new trains will have one-third more seats than the current fleet and offer a smoother, more reliable ride, Amtrak officials said. They can also be upgraded to provide many of the amenities passengers have come to expect: WiFi access, personal outlets, USB ports and adjustable reading lights.

The new trains also will allow Amtrak to increase service on the busy corridor — including half-hourly Acela service between Washington. D.C. and New York City during peak hours and hourly service between New York City and Boston, officials said.

“As more people rely on Amtrak, we need modernized equipment and infrastructure to keep the region moving,” said Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak’s board of directors. “These train sets will build on the popularity and demand of the current Acela Express and move this company into the future as a leader in providing world-class transportation.”

Initially, the new trains will operate along the Northeast Corridor at speeds up to 160 mph. But Amtrak officials said they are capable of traveling up to 186 mph, enabling them to take advantage of planned infrastructure improvements in the corridor.

Amtrak officials will use revenue generated from growth in the Northeast Corridor to pay back the loans.

The loan package also will pay for  “significant” station improvements at Washington’s Union Station and the future Moynihan Station in New York, as well as track capacity and ride quality improvements to the Northeast Corridor that will benefit Acela Express riders and other Amtrak and commuter passengers. Amtrak will also modify fleet maintenance facilities to accommodate the new trains. In addition, money also will be used to upgrade tracks in Maryland between New Carrollton and Baltimore.

The first prototype of the new train sets will be ready in 2019. Amtrak officials expect the first set of trains to begin carrying passengers in 2021.  All of the new train sets are expected to be in service by the end of 2022, when the current fleet is expected to be retired.

Original Article at:

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San Francisco Muni Awarded $45 Million
Toward 10 New Trains For Future Fleet

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
San Francisco Examiner

Ten new trains will bolster the San Francisco Muni’s fleet thanks to a $45 million grant from California’s cap-and-trade fund.

More than 40 agencies applied for the funds, 14 of which were awarded, according to the California State Transportation Agency.


Photo: SFMTA

One of the SFMTA cars in the shop

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has 64 trains on the way to expand its fleet, 32 of which are already funded, SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said.

With the addition of the cap-and-trade grant, a total of 42 trains are now funded, Rose said.

“While these funds are extremely helpful,” said Mayor Ed Lee in a statement, “we look forward to working with our funding partners and San Francisco residents to secure the additional money needed for all expansion vehicles, while making further investments in a safer, more reliable and efficient transportation network.”

Found at:

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California Allocates Funds For Rail Projects

CTC Allocates $55M To Rail, Safety Projects In California
By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Railway Age

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) allocated $814 million to 135 transportation projects in the state and includes $55 million to four rail and safety projects.

The source of the funds includes $732.7 million from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program for 72 “fix-it first” projects; $2.1 million from Proposition 1B, a transportation bond approved by voters in 2006; $52.7 million for Traffic Congestion Relief Program projects that will relieve congestion, connect transportation systems and provide for better goods movement and $14.4 million from various state and federal transportation accounts.

The rail and safety projects to benefit from the latest round of allocations include:

“Each of these projects is an opportunity to improve safety, access and mobility for all travelers in California, whether you choose to travel via car, bike or transit,” said Malcolm Dougherty, director of the California Department of Transportation.

Found at:

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Oregon DOT Approves Nearly
$12 Million For Rail Projects

By Kyra Senese
Rail, Track, And Structures

The Oregon Transportation Commission has approved nearly $12 million in funding for rail projects statewide.

The five rail investments are among 39 total approved multimodal non-highway projects totaling at $49,518,726 in funding, allocated through the ConnectOregon VI program.

Among the awarded applicants concerning rail projects are Union Pacific Corporation & Subsidiaries, Marion Ag Services, Inc., Morrow County Grain Growers, Inc., LRY, LLC and Wallowa Union Railroad Authority.

The commission approved Union Pacific’s application for about $8.3 million to fund its Portland Passenger-Freight Rail Speed Improvement Project, which was the highest monetary award to any of the rail applicants.

Union Pacific’s project proposal stated that the project is intended to reduce passenger and freight rail wait times by up to 21 minutes per train with the completion of track, signal and elevation improvements “at a critical BNSF/UP junction in the Portland rail network.” The proposal also said the project will remove the need for an existing 10 mph speed limit that currently causes delays for the 35 daily Amtrak, UP and BNSF trains that travel along the junction.

Morrow County Grain Growers received $2.5 million for its Boardman Grain Elevator Unit Train Unloading Project with a total cost estimated at $6.5 million. In its application for the award, Morrow Country proposed to expand the existing track to barge grain-handling facility to accommodate the unloading of unit trains of grain coming to markets in the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest or the country.

“The expanded facility would then be able to reload this grain to barge for export or to supply the increasing demand from local dairies and feedlots with grain for feed,” the proposal stated.

Marion Ag Service received its requested amount of $498,565 for its Marion Ag Service Rail Spur project a rail spur reaching 5,400 feet that will consist of three tracks to serve a new 28,000-ton bulk fertilizer storage and blending facility.

“The new facility adds needed rail and storage capacity, adds 22 new jobs, takes trucks off highways and lowers cost for Oregon businesses,” the proposal also noted.

Wallowa Union was awarded $350,000 for its application to complete the Elgin Complex Rail Spur Repair project. Wallowa Union’s proposal focused on replacing an 85-lb. rail currently running from the rail spur to the Elgin complex mills with 136-lb. rail.

“The upgrade is required because the Elgin complex has been utilizing the bigger 286k rail cars to ship out plywood and lumber,” the proposal read. “Along with this, the complex will [be] replacing the damaged railroad ties and resurfacing a half mile of lead track.”

LRY received $325,000 toward its Lake Railway 5,000 Ties to Support Growth project to purchase the 5,000 crossties.

“These ties will be installed throughout the county’s 55-mile long railroad,” the proposal noted.

Modal and regional committees received 75 applications for ConnectOregon VI, requesting a total of $88,402,249 in funding. Officials say lottery-backed bonds generated more than $380 million of the funds for the projects.  

Projects were required to meet certain standards to qualify for monetary awards, such as aiming to reduce transportation costs for Oregon businesses, bringing an economic boost to the state, connecting transportation modes, showing preparedness for construction, project cost borne by the applicant as well as showing a worthwhile project life expectancy.

Focusing on non-highway projects, the Oregon legislature initially approved the ConnectOregon program in 2005 and has since funded more than 180 public transit, rail, marine, aviation and pedestrian and bicycle projects throughout the state.

ConnectOregon uses grants for private sector applicants, municipalities, cities, counties, governing organizations and other transportation-related entities.

Found at:

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

SeaTac’s Angle Lake Light Rail Station
To Open Sept. 24

By Steve Hunter
The Kent Reporter

Light rail’s coming a bit closer to Kent, WA. next month with a lot more parking spaces.

Sound Transit officials announced on Tuesday that they plan to open the Angle Lake light rail station in SeaTac on Sept. 24 with 1,050 parking spots in a new garage at South 200th Street and 28th Avenue South, just west of International Boulevard. The 1.6-mile extension, which includes an elevated track and station, will stretch from Sea-Tac Airport to the new station.

“In one month’s time, the benefits of light rail will be opened up to thousands of new riders in Kent, Des Moines and SeaTac,” said King County Councilman Dave Upthegrove, whose District 5 includes those three cities, in a phone interview. “This is a really big deal for South King County because with the new Angle Lake station comes over 1,000 new parking spots.”

People quickly fill up the Tukwila Station’s 600 parking spots for commutes to Seattle for work or sporting events or other destinations. The new station also will include 70 surface lot parking spaces across the street.

“I will be ditching my car and taking advantage of the consistent and frequent 40-minute trip from my home in Des Moines to my job in Seattle,” said Upthegrove.

Construction started in 2013 on the $383 million project that Sound Transit expects to draw 5,400 daily riders by 2018. The cost of the parking garage is $32 million.

The station could benefit University of Washington students and staff from Kent and surrounding cities as well.

“UW students and employees will be able to get to campus in 48 minutes without having to deal with the stress and delays of downtown traffic,” Upthegrove said.

Trips to the stadiums will take 34 minutes. Trips to Westlake Center in downtown Seattle will take 41 minutes.

The trains will run every 15 minutes from 5-6 a.m.; every six minutes from 6-8:30 a.m.; every 10 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; every six minutes from 3-6:30 p.m.; every 10 minutes from 6:30-10 p.m.; and every 15 minutes from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

To keep people from parking at the garage for airport trips out of town, Sound Transit security will staff the facility 24 hours a day seven days a week, as it does at its Tukwila International Boulevard Link station. Cars parked more than 24 hours will be ticketed and towed.

The agency will also launch a paid parking permit program this fall for transit riders accessing the station though carpools and other high-occupancy vehicles. It will launch the same permit program for single-occupancy-vehicle transit users next year.

“As a long-time Sound Transit board member and lifelong South King County resident, I am excited to see light rail progress south through the county,” Upthegrove said.


Photo: Steve Hunter, Kent Reporter

Crews finish up work on the new Angle Lake light rail station parking garage in SeaTac at South 200th Street, just west of International Boulevard. Sound Transit announced on Wednesday the blue-colored garage and station will open Sept. 24.

The parking garage includes retail space on the ground floor, but Sound Transit has yet to find a tenant for the space.

“We plan to begin advertising for this space once construction is complete,” according to a Sound Transit media release.

The design-build plans for the garage also set aside 35,000 square feet of land for transit oriented development.

Sound Transit plans to extend the line to Kent near Highline College, South 240th Street and Pacific Highway South by 2023. Funds for the Kent station were already approved by voters in 2008. If voters approve in November the $54 billion ST3 measure, as part of that package the agency will extend the line to South 320th Street in Federal Way by 2024 and delay the Kent station by one year.

Original article at:

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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Massachusetts South Coast Rail Public Meeting Schedule

From A MassDOT / MBTA Press Release

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) will host a series of public meetings beginning next month on the proposed restoration of passenger rail service between the South Coast and Boston.

Designers are considering a new connection making use of the existing MBTA Stoughton Commuter Rail Line. The design for this route is currently 15 percent complete. In addition, MassDOT and the MBTA are also considering an alternative rail route between Boston and the South Coast that could potentially be designed and constructed more quickly than the Stoughton route. The meetings will be held to inform the public on the status of the project, discuss next steps, and seek public comment.

Public meetings all begin at 6:30 p.m. and are scheduled as follows:

Wednesday, September 7th, New Bedford
Greater New Bedford Vocational High School Auditorium
1121 Ashley Boulevard

Monday, September 12th, Taunton
Bristol Community College - 2 Galleria Mall Drive

Wednesday, September 14th, Fall River
Bristol Community College - 777 Elsbree Street
Building G, Commonwealth College Center, Faculty Lounge

Thursday, September 15th, Easton
Middle School Auditorium - 98 Columbus Avenue

Monday, September 19th, Canton
Canton High School Auditorium - 900 Washington Street

Thursday, September 22nd, Middleborough
High School Auditorium - 71 East Grove Street

If unable to attend a meeting, a copy of the presentation will be available at

Public comments and questions may also be submitted by email to:

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Line...  

Fort Worth Launches Tex Rail Construction

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal
Via Railway Age

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in Fort Worth, North Richmond Hills, and Grapevine, Tex., on Aug. 24, 2016, to officially launch construction on the $996 million Tex Rail commuter rail project.

The 27-mile line will connect Fort Worth city center with Grapevine and Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) Airport Terminal B, serving 10 stations.

Commercial operations are due to begin in late 2018, and the line is projected to carry 8,000 passengers per day by the end of the first year of operation, increasing to nearly 14,000 passengers per day by 2035.

Services will be operated by a fleet of eight Stadler DMUs.

From an item at:

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

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific

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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

No Acela To NYC? Amtrak Suggests MBTA
Dispute Threatens Boston Rail Service

By Greg Ryan
Boston Business Journal

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) legal battle with Amtrak is getting so ugly that it could potentially put your ability to grab an Acela train from Boston to New York or Washington, D.C., in danger.

In a court filing this week, Amtrak signaled that it may not be able to offer rail service to riders in the Bay State unless the MBTA begins meeting its obligations under what is known as the Attleboro Line Agreement.

“MBTA’s refusal to honor its contractual payment obligations has resulted in financial harm to Amtrak, which could potentially jeopardize Amtrak’s ability to provide rail service in Massachusetts,” Amtrak said. “Amtrak depends on timely payments from MBTA for services rendered to ensure its financial stability, fund its operations, and provide service to rail customers traveling to and from Massachusetts. No business partner should have to wait over five years to receive payment on a valid, authorized, and undisputed invoice that is contractually required to be paid within 30 days.”

The filing came in a lawsuit filed by the MBTA against Amtrak earlier this year. According to the lawsuit, the MBTA allowed Amtrak to use the Attleboro Line for trains heading south from Boston, in exchange for Amtrak performing certain maintenance and other services at no cost. But Amtrak pulled back from the agreement in October after a government commission called for Amtrak and states to share the costs of rail access, and demanded nearly $30 million this year for the same services, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was put on pause for the spring and much of the summer as the two sides attempted to hammer out a new agreement. At least so far, that effort has failed, and on Tuesday Amtrak leveled claims of its own in the case and asked a federal judge in Boston to dismiss the MBTA’s allegations.

Amtrak claims that it was supposed to be paid for some of the engineering and other work it provided to the MBTA under the agreement, but that the MBTA never paid for the services, including for invoices dating back to 2011. It called the MBTA a “chronically delinquent business partner” and said the MBTA’s assertion that Amtrak was in violation of the Attleboro contract was “nonsense.” As late July, the MBTA owed Amtrak more than $1.3 million under the Attleboro agreement, according to a letter from an Amtrak executive to MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve and others.

Amtrak declined to speak to the Business Journal about how exactly continued nonpayments from the MBTA would affect rail service in Massachusetts.

In an email, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo called Amtrak’s filings “without merit” and said the agency “firmly believe(s) in the strength of our case.” A recent decision by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., bolsters the MBTA’s claims, he said.

The MBTA has not hesitated in the past to publicly put the blame on Amtrak for maintenance issues. When a broken signal caused cancellations and delays at South Station in February, for instance, the MBTA repeatedly referred to the issue as an “Amtrak failure” in updates to commuters.

Editor Note:  NCI’s David Peter Alan reviewed this contractual issue in our February 22, 2016 edition.  Readers should reference this review at:

From an item at:

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FUTURE LINES... Future Lines...  

Researchers Work To Predict
The Future Of Transit

From Northeastern University
Via Phys.Org

Haris N. Koutsopoulos believes that our ability to predict the future has the potential to enable various innovations in public transit. The short-term future, that is.

Is a subway station or train about to get overcrowded during rush hour? Is an impending storm about to wreak havoc on the system, or is a bus station about to be flooded with fans leaving a baseball game or concert? Should I, as a commuter, consider taking an alternative route home or leaving work a bit later?

These are the types of public transit questions Koutsopoulos, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern, is focused on addressing by way of real-time predictive analysis. In one project involving Transport for London—the body that oversees London’s transit system, including the London Underground, which is one of the world’s busiest metro systems—he and Peyman Noursalehi, one of his doctoral students, are developing real-time predictive models that forecast subway transit activity 15 or 30 minutes into the future. Such models, he explains, are based upon analyses of large swaths of automated fare-collection data that can reveal past travel patterns as well as real-time factors such as weather, events, and eventually, even social media chatter. Koutsopoulos’ team has developed an initial prototype of a predictive model as well as an accompanying visualization tool.

“A lot of the work with this data has basically looked at what happened yesterday, where passengers enter and where they exit the system,” Koutsopoulos says. “Now what we’re thinking about is what can we learn from the travel patterns in all this data and using what we learn from the past to make short-term predictions about the future. It’s about being proactive, not reactive. For example, sometimes in those systems, if a station gets too crowded, the gates are closed and passengers aren’t allowed to come in until the crowd subsides. This is reactive. But if you can predict that demand will increase in the near future, maybe you can take action earlier and prevent the problem from becoming bigger later on.”


Photo: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Haris Koutsopoulos, professor of civil and environmental engineering, stands at Northeastern station on the MBTA Green Line in Boston, MA.

The goal of Koutsopoulos’ research is to develop tools that help transit operators optimally manage their systems and commuters make informed trip decisions. For example, he says, predictive analytics could be used for real-time gate management to prevent overcrowding at major stations or feed into a transit app that sends real-time predictive information to riders.

The London project is part of Koutsopoulos’ work in the MIT-NEU Transit Lab, a collaboration between Northeastern and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to Transport for London, Koutsopoulos and his doctoral students are studying how passengers on the MTR in Hong Kong use the underground transit system with the goal of developing strategies to alleviate congestion in the main parts of the network. These strategies include helping operators improve crowd management and incentivizing riders to alter their travel patterns.

Koutsopoulos and his students are also pursuing separate, but related, research focused on observing how different riders use a transit system and then inferring underlying traits about these travel behaviors. By clustering riders into different groups based on these behaviors, he explains, you can better understand ridership patterns—and therefore improve your predictive models.

A Traffic Simulation Pioneer

His work represents an example of the next-generation of how we think about transportation—using Big Data to make informed decisions about how, when, and where people move. Koutsopoulos describes his research as being focused primarily on intelligent transportation systems. As he puts it, “The idea is to use technology to improve how well we use the capacity that is actually available in the system to minimize inefficiencies.”

Koutsopoulos has been a pioneer in the field of traffic simulation modeling for more than 20 years, and earlier this year he was honored with the Traffic Simulation Lifetime Achievement Award by the Transportation Research Board.

Prior to joining Northeastern in 2014, Koutsopoulos founded the iMobility lab at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, where he used real-time GPS data from taxis to develop traffic management and prediction tools for local authorities.

As a globally renowned researcher in this field, Koutsopoulos recently co-hosted an international conference at Northeastern, called TransitData2016, where scholars and transportation officials worldwide convened to discuss new research and advancements centered on using data from automated sources to improve planning and operations at public transit systems. He noted that three trends he observed were more discussion about data fusion—using data from a variety of sources to make transportation management, evidence based decisions—increased use of visualization tools by researchers and practitioners to better communicate how transportation systems are functioning, and increased interest by agencies in data warehouses and open data.

“We view all the work we’re doing with transit agencies as building blocks that they can use to improve service, be more responsive, communicate better, plan their systems better, and overall be more competitive in providing mobility options,” Koutsopoulos says.

Our thanks to Joe Calisi for bringing this item to our attention.

Found at:

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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

Penn Station’s Amtrak Departure Board Will Be Demolished
And Replaced With Digital Displays

By Emma Whitford
The Gothamist

Amtrak is in the process of replacing the central departure board at Penn Station—which you’ve probably squinted at while sitting on a duffle bag and drinking a Jamba Juice strawberry smoothie—with digital information screens. The switch over to digital is scheduled for completion this year, and Amtrak will demolish the existing departure screen in the process.

“We have a project underway to improve the passenger information displays at New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz in an e-mail to Gothamist on Monday. “We’re making good progress on it and hope to have it online later this year.”


Photo:  User WP3 via Twitter

The current departure board, soon to be replaced

“The idea is to improve the passenger experience through more dynamic, easier to read and strategically located information points throughout the concourse,” he added. According to Amtrak, the new boards are intended to improve the flow of passengers through the station and make departure times more accessible to passengers with disabilities.

Reporter Jason Rabinowitz tweeted out the news on Sunday, clarifying that while the Penn Station departure board is old, it doesn’t make a nice, vintage “flippy” sound.

But while New Yorkers view Penn Station more or less unanimously as an airless, dignity-crushing, optimism-evaporating subterranean maze that simultaneously smells like Dunkin Donuts and Subway, the departure board is, for some, far from Penn Station’s most pressing problem.

From a piece at:

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SAFET YLINES... Safety Lines...  

FRA, AAR Warn Pokemon Go Maker
About Gamers Near Railroads

From Progressive Railroading

Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg and Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger have asked Niantic Labs Inc. to change its “Pokemon Go” game to discourage players from hunting virtual Pokemon characters near rail property.

In an Aug. 17 joint letter to software developer Niantic’s CEO John Hanke, Feinberg and Hamberger expressed concerns about the safety of certain individuals playing the game, which requires players to walk around environments to capture the virtual “Pokemon” creatures.

The pair said they’ve been contacted by railroad companies about “Pokemon, Pokestops and other virtual objects” being located on or near railroad tracks, stations and rail-yard facilities.

“We are seriously concerned that the focus demanded of Pokemon Go users in play of the game distracts them from their surroundings when near railroad tracks,” the letter stated. “This not only puts them in danger of being hit by a train, it also endangers the safety of both passengers and crew members aboard trains, workers along the track and members of the public who live or work in the nearby area.”

Feinberg and Hamberger asked Hanke and the company to “consider ways to promote safety, particularly through action to avoid placing Pokemon and virtual points of interest in Pokemon Go on or near railroad tracks.”

Trespassing and highway-rail grade crossing incidents account for nearly all rail-related fatalities, they noted.

“Safety is our shared concern and we at FRA and AAR are prepared to partner on ensuring the safety of both Pokemon Go users and railroad passengers and personnel,” the letter concluded.

Full item at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Applause For Senator Bob Runciman’s
Open Letter On Inadequate Via Service

Press Release From All Aboard St. Marys

ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – In an open letter to VIA Rail’s CEO, Senator Bob Runciman of Brockville, Ontario, called the publicly-owned railway to account for its inadequate service to intermediate communities in the Quebec-Windsor Corridor and its outrageously high fares.

“We agree wholeheartedly with what Senator Runciman has said in his letter to VIA,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “We have the same situation here in Southwestern Ontario, where VIA operates many trains through communities such as Glencoe, Ingersoll and Woodstock without stopping because it imagines itself to be a chichi high-speed service catering only to the major end points. Heaven forbid that VIA should concede it isn’t time competitive on the full length of many routes and its real market is serving and linking the intermediate communities with each other and the larger terminal cities.

“Bypassing communities to save a few minutes on already overlong schedules strikes us as the height of business folly and a fine way to disenfranchise millions of citizens who pay for this deteriorating rail passenger service.”

Senator Runciman’s open letter to VIA may be found on his website at:

Also of interest is the coverage of Senator Runciman’s concerns in his hometown newspaper, the Brockville Recorder, which includes a response from a VIA public affairs staffer:

Says West, “When a Senator is moved to speak out against this continuing insensitivity by VIA management to the real needs of Canadians and their communities, then we say this is proof the people’s railway is on a course that is destructive and may be irreversible if not soon checked. A feel-good response from a public affairs functionary – not the CEO – about how our Crown railway is conducting yet more studies is grossly inadequate.

“This is but the tip of the growing mountain of VIA problems. We’re distressed by the fact that we’re still not seeing any action by our federal or provincial government. If they’re truly committed to battling climate change, they can prove it by fixing what is the safest and most energy efficient form of intercity transportation.”

All Aboard St. Marys campaign coordinator Greg Gormick has been in touch with Senator Runciman about this situation, as well as Senator Art Eggleton, both of whom sit on the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications. From 1989 to 1991, Gormick served as transportation policy adviser to Toronto City Council and then-Mayor Eggleton, who led the fight by municipal governments against the arbitrary hacking away of half of the VIA system by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government.

“We look forward to exploring this issue further with Senators Runciman and Eggleton,” says West. “We have also brought it to the attention of all the members of that Parliamentary committee, which possesses broad investigative powers.”

For more information, please contact:
Chris West
All Aboard St. Marys
Tel: 519 284 3310
Fax: 519 284 3160
Sans frais/toll free 1-866-8632 ext 238

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Rail Success Requires Wider Network Approach

By Greg Gormick
Special To The London Free Press

The campaign by the mayors from Toronto to Kitchener for improved GO service is welcomed by all of us who want a modern rail system in Southwestern Ontario. But to succeed fully, that municipal push requires some adjustments.

The mayors need to recognize that citizens west of Kitchener need improved rail service, too.

Traditionally known as the North Main Line, the route on which the mayors want to see rapid rail improvements implemented continues west through Stratford, St. Marys and London to Sarnia. At London, it connects with the South Main Line from Toronto, Brantford and Woodstock, which extends west to Windsor. Both of these routes are served over their entire lengths by VIA Rail.

To be fully effective, any Toronto-Kitchener plan needs to be part of a network approach that includes these two longer and interlocking rail services. This is especially necessary now that we have the possible added dimension of high-speed rail (HSR) on at least a portion of this network.

HSR is being studied for the province by former federal minister of transport David Collenette, who will deliver his recommendations in November. If it’s ever built, HSR will overlap GO’s Toronto-Kitchener route and duplicate or supplant some of VIA’s services.

Furthermore, adding HSR to this mix will complicate a situation already strained because of the competing needs of the current players, both passenger and freight.

With the provincial assessment of HSR now occurring, the opportunity is here to minimize duplication and deal early with the questions of ownership, operating priority and capacity.

A realistic master plan that recognizes the very real capacity problems that exist now, and are preventing the implementation of increased Toronto-Kitchener GO service, is required.

One mayor has said he doesn’t believe the limitations of the existing infrastructure are as severe as they’ve been portrayed. Not only is he mistaken, but his statements are building up false public expectations about fast delivery of improved Toronto-Kitchener service.

There are several impediments to passenger improvements and they need to be recognized — not lightly dismissed — and then aggressively pursued.

The first is between Toronto Union Station and Bramalea, where the province needs to expedite the construction of a fourth main track on its own right-of-way to accommodate GO, VIA and its Union Pearson Express trains.

The next chokepoint is from Bramalea to Georgetown, which is a key component of CN’s Montreal-Chicago freight route. Completing the required third main track through downtown Brampton and over the Credit River will not come easy or cheap and this stumbling block needs to be addressed realistically.

West of Kitchener, the provincially-owned Georgetown-Kitchener line segment also requires substantial infrastructure work to accommodate GO, the Goderich-Exeter short line railway’s freight trains and VIA. HSR would expand these needs greatly.

A basic question also needs to be asked about the multiple operators on this line and whether this is delaying service improvements. Does it make sense to have federally and provincially funded services competing for passengers and scarce track time by operating trains that often run within minutes of each other? Should we be following the U.S. example, where the federal government has transferred operating responsibility for corridor routes of up to 1,200 kilometers (746 mi) to the states, which then co-ordinate intercity and commuter services?

It will be in the best interests of all if Waterloo Region’s urgent need for improved rail service is considered as part of a broad and comprehensive examination of our transportation needs between Toronto and the U.S. border. That needs to be undertaken with the informed input of users, operators and all levels of government.

The one thing we cannot afford is a narrow and unrealistic viewpoint based only on the needs of one portion of this region or the traditional roles of each player. Those U.S. regions that have knocked down politically-built boundaries and co-operatively crafted regional transportation solutions demonstrate how we can and should do it here in Southwestern Ontario.

Our future economic, social and environmental competitiveness demands that we do so.

Greg Gormick is the campaign coordinator for the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee.

Originally published at:

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