The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Sept 19, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 37

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

 Destination:Freedom 

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

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

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

  Guest Opinion…
Why North Texas Needs The Cotton Belt
   Commuter Train Line
  Funding Lines…
Money In Pocket, Amtrak Set For Update
  Government Lines…
Change Thy Bookmarks: STB’s New Website
Voters To Consider Nearly $200 Billion In
   Transit Initiatives
  Study Lines…
Transit Ten Times Safer Than Autos
  Legal Lines…
Suit Raises Questions About All Aboard
   Florida’s Orlando Link
  Commuter Lines…
South Line Sounder Train Expands Service
Downeaster To Expand Freeport Service
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Transit Lines…
Metro Says Expo Line To Santa Monica Converted
   Solo Drivers To Transit Users
MBTA Will Now Let Mobility Impaired Riders Take Uber And Lyft
  Safety Lines…
SEPTA Recalls “Fixed” Train Cars For Another Fix
MBTA Plans To Ramp Up Capital Spending
  Across The Pond…
Battlefield On Rails
Increase In Daily Security On Board Germany’s
   Trains Long Overdue
  To The North…
St. Marys, Ont. Urges Perth On Rail Link:
   Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
  Off the Main Line…
A Community Shuttle Runs At The Jersey Shore,
   But Its Utility Is Questionable
  Events…
RUN To Indiana
  Publication Notes …


GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Why North Texas Needs The Cotton Belt
Commuter Train Line

By Lee M. Kleinman
Dallas City Council Member
Dallas Morning News

The Cotton Belt is good for Dallas.

The proposed east-west commuter line that would connect Dallas, Richardson and Plano with Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and, ultimately, Fort Worth, would help not only those people living in towns that are members of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and not only those who actually ride the train. This line benefits everyone.

That’s important because as Dallas Area Rapid Transit considers advancing the Cotton Belt delivery date from 2035 to 2022, critics have put the agency on the defensive.

“We’re hearing how DART is going to make this less painful, but what does it do for us?” I heard one person say at a DART community meeting about the project. As with any transformative infrastructure project, there are many people who object to its development. In this case, some Dallas home owners along the existing rail corridor are well organized and have formed the Cotton Belt Concerned Citizens.

Here’s why everyone in Dallas and the northern suburbs should cheer for the Cotton Belt line. The line will offer an inexpensive alternative for people to travel to the airport. It will juice economic growth near the stations, which will lift area property values. And, perhaps the most popular benefit: It will relieve traffic, or at least slow the growth of congestion, on major highways, LBJ Freeway and the George Bush Turnpike.

To a large degree, the Cotton Belt is about getting to DFW Airport from North Dallas and its neighboring DART member cities (Plano, Richardson, Addison and Carrollton). That’s why commuter rail is the offering as opposed to light rail. DART will cover more distance with fewer stops. The Cotton Belt line gives Dallas residents an inexpensive option for getting to DFW airport with a dependable travel time that is not subject to traffic congestion. This reliable alternative to driving also saves the expensive parking fees at the airport.

Four Cotton Belt stations will be in the city of Dallas and at least six serve Dallas residents. This is more than half the of the station count. And some of the stations are in major growth areas for North Dallas. Rail access increases the value of these developments and helps mitigate the associated traffic.

And, this new regional rail service creates easy access for Dallas residents to entertainment and restaurants in Addison and new office developments in Richardson’s CityLine development and Plano. Further, as other transportation projects come online, the Cotton Belt will provide access to the Midtown Commons Park, as well as the Galleria and Valley View area redevelopment in North Dallas.

The Cotton Belt may increase property values in North Dallas as new residents move in for jobs in CityLine, Midtown, Cypress Waters and other new commercial developments along the corridor. Access to rail service enlarges the geographic area these new residents will search when moving to our area. As many studies have shown, access to public transportation increases neighborhood property values.

This line gives people in North Dallas new access via rail to a system that they have been helping to pay for since inception. In addition to the destinations previously mentioned, it opens up direct service to higher education such as the University of Texas at Dallas and all three University of North Texas campuses as plans for an expanded rail system come to fruition.

Significant growth along the corridor is coming regardless of this project, and the Cotton Belt can be an alternative to the traffic choked east-west corridors such as the Bush and LBJ as well as street grid thoroughfares such as Beltline, Arapaho, Campbell, Frankfurt and Plano Parkway. The rail line removes pass-through traffic from these facilities making more capacity available for local users. As a commuter rail project, the Cotton Belt relieves rush hour traffic.

Further, as shown in DART’s recently proposed financial plan, building both the Cotton Belt and the second downtown light rail line (the D2-U) is financially feasible. Funding the Cotton Belt does not interfere with the additional Federal Transit Agency grant funding and local match that DART would seek in order to run the downtown line underground.

The Cotton Belt would be funded via the Federal Railroad Agency with rail infrastructure financing, a low-interest loan program with very favorable terms. DART has analyzed its financial capacity and determined that both projects can be funded.

Both projects are important to Dallas and our region. Each will help improve mobility, economic development, system reliability and transportation options, for, ultimately, a better quality of life for the residents of Dallas. We will stay focused on these goals to deliver both projects for the city of Dallas.

Lee M. Kleinman is a Dallas City Council Member representing North Dallas.  He is chairman of the city’s Transportation Committee and co-chairman of the Dallas Regional Mobility Coalition, and he serves on the board of the North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional Transportation Council.

This item originally appeared at:
http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20160913-why-north-texas-needs-the-cotton-belt-commuter-train-line.ece


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Money In Pocket, Amtrak Set For Update

By Lori Aratan
Washington Post
Via Hartford Courant

Faster trains, more seats and WiFi that works?

The $2.45 billion federal loan that officials awarded this summer to Amtrak will help pay for those upgrades and more as the railroad continues its push to modernize service and rebuild aging infrastructure along the busy Northeast Corridor, including in the Washington region.

The package is the largest single loan ever given by the U.S. Transportation Department.

“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,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who made the announcement at the Amtrak station in Wilmington, Delaware. “We need these kinds of investments to keep this region - and our whole country - moving, and to create new jobs.”

The additional dollars are a significant boost for Amtrak, which has spent years lobbying an often-skeptical Congress for money to pay for a backlog of capital needs.

“Simply put, this investment is a game-changer,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York. “It means more riders and faster trip times along the Northeast Corridor, which will boost Amtrak revenue and pave the way for further infrastructure and safety upgrades throughout the Northeast. While this loan is just a small fraction of what we should be investing in Amtrak, it’ll go a long way toward proving that Amtrak can make smart business decisions that improve the service, ridership and revenue.”

The loan also comes at a time when Amtrak is transitioning to new leadership.

Last month, Charles “Wick” Moorman, a former top executive with Norfolk Southern Railway, was named president and chief executive, replacing the retiring Joe Boardman. Moorman began his job Sept. 1.

Amtrak officials emphasized that the money is a loan that will be repaid with revenue they expect to generate along the corridor. Under conditions of the agreement with the Transportation Department, the passenger railroad will have 29 years to pay back the money, with repayment beginning no later than 2022. The loan comes through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program.

The bulk of the money will be spent to buy 28 new trains for the popular Acela Express service. The current fleet of 20, which debuted in the early 2000s, will be retired as the new trains come online, expected to begin in 2021.

The billions in federal loans also will pay for other improvements to tracks and stations along the 457-mile corridor. One such project is the proposed multibillion-dollar makeover of Washington’s Union Station. Money also will go toward the construction of Moynihan Station in an old post office across from Penn Station in New York.

In addition, the loan will help pay for new platforms at Baltimore’s Penn Station and at New Carrollton in Prince George’s County (Maryland), as well as for 30 miles of track between New Carrollton and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport. Those track upgrades were part of a project that began in the 1980s but was stopped when funding ran out, according to Mark Yachmetz, Amtrak’s senior vice president for strategic rail initiatives.

“A lot of people get sticker shock when they look at these kinds of investments,” said Jim Mathews, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. “But the fact is not doing it also imposes a cost. We would argue that this is how you do this with the most bang for the buck.”

The Northeast Corridor is among the passenger railroad’s biggest sources of revenue.

The addition of eight trains to Amtrak’s inventory means it will be able to increase Acela service between Washington and New York, officials said. Currently, Acela trains leave on the hour; once the new trains are in service, frequency will increase to every 30 minutes during peak hours. Between New York and Boston, where the time between trains can reach two hours, Amtrak hopes to increase service to trains every hour during peak periods.

Amtrak executives said they are making this purchase with an eye toward the future.

“We’re not buying this equipment for the demand that will exist in 2020 when we start introducing them,” Yachmetz said. “We’re really looking at the size of the market in 2035.”

Demographers project that between 2010 and 2040, the population in the corridor will grow to 64 million, an increase of roughly 23 percent. Six of Amtrak’s busiest stations are in the Northeast Corridor, considered the crown jewel of the railroad’s operations, with New York and Washington ranked first and second for passenger traffic.

Amtrak’s new trains will be lighter and faster and will be able to accommodate one-third more passengers, depending on how they are configured, Yachmetz said. Unlike the current trains, which each have roughly 300 seats, the new cars will have flexible configurations so additional seats can be added depending on demand.

The new trains will be capable of traveling at speeds up to 186 mph but will travel at speeds up to 160 mph when they make their Northeast Corridor debut, officials said. Yachmetz said the trains will be able to travel faster once associated non-train infrastructure upgrades are made. Currently, it takes roughly 2 hours to travel from Washington’s Union Station to New York’s Penn Station on Acela trains, which can travel roughly 135 mph.

“We’re trying to avoid overpromising,” Yachmetz said on future travel times. “Personally, I think we’ll see something that takes several minutes off the schedule.”

The new trains will be a technical leap for Amtrak, he said. While the current fleet might not be considered old by some standards, technology has evolved.

Yachmetz offered this example: When the current Acela fleet was being designed in the 1990s, space on the trains was set aside for onboard pay phones - a technology that at the time was considered cutting edge, Yachmetz said.

“At the time, no one envisioned that we’d all have our own cell phones,” he said. By contrast, the new trains are designed to accommodate current and future technology. The hope is that once delivered, the trains will be in service for 30 years.

The trains will include small details that passengers have come to expect: USB ports and individual reading lights at every seat - and that ever-so-frustrating WiFi service will be vastly improved, he said.

The first prototypes are expected to be ready in 2019, with all of the new trains expected to be in service by the end of 2022.

Originally appearing at:
http://www.courant.com/business/hc-amtrak-federal-loan-20160912-story.html


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GOVERNMENT LINES... Government Lines...  

Change Thy Bookmarks: STB’s New Website

From Railway Age

The Surface Transportation Board is advising the public of an upcoming change to its Internet website address.

After the close of business on Friday, September 9, 2016, the agency’s website address changed to http://www.stb.gov replacing the former address, http://www.stb.dot.gov.

The address change reflects the STB’s status as a wholly independent federal agency, as a result of the STB Reauthorization Act of 2015, which eliminated the STB’s administrative affiliation with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Original item found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/regulatory/stb-website.html


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APTA:

Voters To Consider Nearly $200 Billion
In Transit Initiatives

From Progressive Railroading

More than 30 local ballot initiatives valued at nearly $200 billion will be put to voters on Nov. 8, asking them to approve funding related to improving public transportation in their communities, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday.

Among communities with ballot measures and their dollar values include Los Angeles, $120 billion; Seattle, $54 billion; San Diego, $7.5 billion; San Francisco, $3.5 billion; Santa Clara County in California, $3 billion; and Atlanta, $2.5 billion.

“Communities of all sizes are asking citizens to vote for initiatives that will determine their future,” said APTA Chair and Foothill Transit Executive Director Doran Barnes in a press release. “These initiatives and referendums are critical to expanding mobility options and to increasing the economic vitality of their communities.”

Meanwhile, APTA yesterday announced its newly elected board for 2016-17. The new board includes Chair Barnes, who succeeds Valarie McCall; Nathaniel Ford Sr., chief executive officer of Jacksonville Transportation Authority, who was elected vice chair; and Kim Green, executive director of business development for GENFARE of Elk Grove Village, Ill., who will continue serving as secretary-treasurer.

APTA announced the ballot initiatives and new board membership during its annual meeting held this week in Los Angeles.

Found at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/APTA-Voters-to-consider-nearly-200-billion-in-transit-initiatives--49455


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STUDY LINES... Study Lines...  

APTA Study

Transit Ten Times Safer Than Autos

From Railway Age

The most effective life-saving traffic safety tool for a commuter and a community may be the daily metro transit pass. A new study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) shows that a person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90% simply by taking public transit as opposed to commuting by car. This means traveling by public transportation is ten times safer per mile than traveling by auto.

In the study, The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation (downloadable at the link below), authors reveal that transit-oriented communities are five times safer because they have about a fifth the per capita traffic casualty rate (fatalities and injuries) as automobile-oriented communities. APTA says this means public transit cuts a community’s crash risk in half even for those who do not use public transit. Public transportation communities spur compact development which reduces auto miles traveled and produces safer speeds.

The study was prepared by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute for APTA. “It is time we employ public transit as a traffic safety tool because it can dramatically reduce the crash risk for individuals as well as a community,” said APTA Acting CEO and President Richard White. “While no mode of travel is risk free, the safety of public transit is striking when observing the number of fatalities that are a result of auto crashes.”

According to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 35,092 fatalities as a result of auto accidents in 2015. That is an increase of 7.2% from 2014, the largest since 1966.

While APTA officials note that even one death is one too many, the small number of fatalities related to public transit travel pale in comparisons to the tens of thousands of lives lost on our roadways every year. The study authors of The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution:Public Transportation emphasize that auto deaths and injury rates tend to decline in a community as public transit ridership increases.

Cities that average more than 50 annual transit trips per capita have about half the average traffic fatality rates as cities where residents average fewer than 20 annual trips.

Since Americans average about 1,350 annual trips on all modes, this increase from less than 20 to more than 50 annual transit trips represents a small increase in transit mode share, from about 1.5 percent up to about 4 percent. That equates to an increase in transit mode share of less than 3 trips a month per person.

“We must address expanding public transit with urgency and ensure the reliability and safety of these systems,” said White. “Nationwide, there is an $86 billion backlog of state of good repair needs for the nation’s public transit systems. Addressing this backlog is directly tied to maintaining the safest public transit network possible.”

When paired with traditional roadway traffic safety strategies, public transit can be very valuable in addressing high-risk and vulnerable driver groups, according to the study.

Efforts to reduce higher risk driving, such as graduated licenses for teens, senior driving testing, and impaired and distracted driving campaigns, become more effective if implemented in conjunction with public transit improvements.

For instance, urban teens take five times as many public transit trips and drive half as much and have about half the per capita auto death rate.

“This study makes clear that public transportation investment and supportive policies continue to save lives and reduce injuries for travelers and our most vulnerable road users as more shift from the automobile to public transit,” said White. “The community-wide crash reductions, as a result from decreasing auto travel and safer speeds, multiply as areas become stronger transit oriented communities.”

The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation was prepared by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute for APTA. The results were derived from an analysis of public transit, traffic safety and public health data.

The full study (16 MB PDF) can be downloaded here:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&task=download&id=75_5db6f557ab51a4374ad68386009142ea

From an article appearing at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/safety/safety-first-apta-releases-study-to-quantify-transit-safety.html


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

Suit Raises Questions About All Aboard
Florida’s Orlando Link

All Aboard Florida Seeks Financing To Extend Planned Rail Service
From South Florida To Orlando

By Mike Seemuth
The Real Deal Real Estate News

A lawsuit to block All Aboard Florida (AAF) from developing passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando is raising questions about the Coral Gables-based company’s ability to extend the service from South Florida to Central Florida.

AAF, a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, LLC, is building three railroad stations in South Florida in Phase I of the development of its Brightline passenger rail service, scheduled to start operating next year.

Upon completion of Phase II of the railroad development, AAF plans to start running trains from South Florida north to the city of Cocoa, near Cape Canaveral, and west from Cocoa to Orlando.

AAF estimates the total cost of both phases will exceed $2.9 billion. Phase 1 is well under way in South Florida, where AAF is building downtown train stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

But AAF has limited funds to start Phase II construction in Central Florida, according to disclosures arising from a lawsuit by Martin County and Indian River County, which are trying to block the development of the passenger rail service.

The counties allege that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by approving the issuance of $1.75 billion in tax-free bonds to finance All Aboard Florida’s rail service development.

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper recently ruled that NEPA requires AAF’s planned rail service to undergo environmental reviews by multiple federal agencies, including the Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the judge also rejected a motion by DOT lawyers to dismiss the case brought by Marin and Indian River counties, and he suggested that AAF may be unable to complete Phase II of its rail service development without $1.75 billion of tax-free bond financing.

In 2014, the DOT gave conditional approval to a $1.75 billion bond offering to finance Phase II of AAF’s rail service development. One condition required completion of the bond sale by July 1, a deadline that has been extended to January 1, 2017. Another condition requires a NEPA review of AAF’s planned rail service and prohibits the use of bond offering proceeds until a final environmental impact statement is issued.

Without waiting for the results of a NEPA review, All Aboard Florida tried three times last year to find buyers for the bonds, offering different terms each time, but found none, according to court records.

AAF once told Judge Cooper it had  escrowed $405 million in debt financing from private investors to fund Phase II of its rail development, extending service Orlando. But AAF now says this amount is no longer escrowed for Phase II.

Found at:
http://therealdeal.com/miami/2016/09/11/suit-raises-questions-about-rail-lines-orlando-link/


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

South Line Sounder Train Expands Service

From KIRO News

South Sound commuters [in Washington State] are getting a new travel option to get to Seattle Monday.

A new midday Sounder commuter train has been initiated from Lakewood to Seattle, making stops in South Tacoma, Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila along the way.

The expanded service will be the 11th weekday train on Sound Transit’s south line.

It currently operates eight trains between Lakewood and Seattle and two trains from Tacoma to Seattle.

South Sound transit riders have been pushing for expanded service, especially during the middle of the day.

This new train will leave Lakewood at 10:18 a.m. and get to Seattle about an hour and 15 minutes later.

It will be a two-car train to start. Next year, they plan to expand to a seven-car train.

According to transit numbers, ridership for south line trains jumped more than 10 percent since this time last year.

Found at:
http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/south-line-sounder-train-expands-service/444403884


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Downeaster To Expand Freeport Service

By Larry Grard
keepmecurrent.com

Completion of a train layover facility in Brunswick, ME will enable the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority to add one more Downeaster southbound stop and another northbound stop in Freeport.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the rail authority, which manages the Amtrak Downeaster, said that the third round trip out of Freeport will begin on Nov. 21 – just in time for the town’s busy holiday shopping season. The weekday southbound departure will be at 11:15 a.m., while the northbound trip out of Boston will arrive in town at around 8:45 p.m. On weekends, the southbound train will remain a late-morning departure from Freeport, but the northbound trip from Boston won’t get into town until about 1:30 a.m., Quinn said.

Quinn said that the late-morning southbound Amtrak train leaving Freeport will work well for people visiting from the Boston area.

“One of the things we found out in Freeport is a lot of people from Boston like to overnight in Freeport,” she said. “That’s why this 11:15 a.m. departure will be great.”

Image

Image: Via KeepMeCurrent

The Amtrak Downeaster arrives in early September at the Brunswick layover facility, which will be completed in November and facilitate a third round trip in Freeport

Quinn said that the Amtrak layover facility in Brunswick, which was opposed by a group of residents, will make the new Freeport stops possible.

“It’s a place the trains can stay overnight,” she said. “Right now they all overnight in Portland. That’s why we’re able to add more service for the area, despite having no more trains.”

A citizen oversight board of the Maine Department of Environment Protection last year rejected an appeal of a storm water permit issued for an Amtrak train layover facility in Brunswick. The Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, a citizen’s group opposing construction of the maintenance and layover facility for Downeaster trains, appealed the permit granted in July. The group unsuccessfully argued there were “fundamental flaws” in the DEP’s permitting process, including deficiencies in groundwater and soil modeling.

The Board of Environmental Protection, however, unanimously denied the appeal and sided with DEP staff, which had recommended the permit.

And sometime in 2018 – for a totally different reason – the Downeaster will have five roundtrips in Freeport. Quinn said that the addition of a four-mile section of track through Falmouth and Cumberland will facilitate the added service. As it is, one track between Brunswick and Portland is used for both passenger and freight trains. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Service will install siding parallel to the track now in use, allowing trains to pass each other.

“The passing track will be constructed in two years,” Quinn said.

According to numbers provided by Amtrak on the Downeaster’s website, ridership levels from Boston to Brunswick are on the upswing this year. Last year, from July to May, ridership was 418,868, compared to 431,318 this year. Those numbers are not broken down by station stops, and Quinn was on vacation this week and unable to provide more details.

Found at:
http://news.keepmecurrent.com/downeaster-to-expand-freeport-service/


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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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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Metro Says Expo Line To Santa Monica, CA
Converted Solo Drivers To Transit Users

Meghan McCarty
KPCC Radio - scpr.org

More than two-thirds of riders on the recently opened Expo Line Phase II to Santa Monica, CA are new to the train line and more than 40 percent of them switched to transit from driving alone, according to a survey released this week by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Image

Photo: Steve Hymon/Los Angeles Metro

An Expo Line train travels west of Bundy in Santa Monica along the new Expo Line extension on May 6, 2016.

The new Expo Line section opened May 20, bringing a ridership surge of about 20,000 new rides per weekday and double the number of Sunday riders on the entire line.

The line’s ridership, in the new section’s first two months in service, has already hit 70 percent of the rider projection made for 2030, though some experts and officials have said the long-term projection was too low.

Metro surveyed about 1,000 riders at the Expo Line’s seven new stations and found 70 percent of them were new to the Expo Line. Of the new riders, nearly half used to drive alone while 23 percent had switched from bus service.

Image

Three Graphs - LA MTA

While existing regular Expo Line riders mostly traveled east to destinations around downtown L.A., about two-thirds of the new riders surveyed traveled west to Santa Monica. New riders were most likely to ride occasionally or two to three times a week.

Image

The most common ways riders surveyed arrived at the stations were by walking, biking or skating (50 percent). That was followed by those driving (16 percent) and those taking the bus (15 percent).

Image

The results are in line with Metro data on riders of the whole system that show the vast majority (79 percent) walk or bike to catch the bus or train. Recent research from the nonprofit Transit Center, shows transit located in walkable neighborhoods encourages higher ridership.

Riders who access the Expo Line by driving alone to stations do so at a higher rate, 16 percent, compared to Metro riders as a whole at 5 percent.

But those who do drive to catch the Expo Line have not overwhelmed the three new parking lots along the line as was feared. Metro reported in July the new lots are only 30 to 50 percent full on most days.

Survey respondents reported feeling safe on the train overall, but complained of the low frequency of service that has led to overcrowding.

Metro has been struggling with a train shortage on the Expo Line due to manufacturing delays. But officials have promised that enough new cars will be in service by December to allow trains to run every six minutes during peak hours. They now run about every 12 minutes or more.

Our thanks to Andy Sharpe of the Rail Users Network for sending us this item.

Found at:
http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/09/13/64624/metro-says-expo-line-to-santa-monica-converted-sol/


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MBTA Will Now Let Mobility Impaired Riders Take Uber And Lyft

It’s A ‘First-Of-Its-Kind’ Pilot.

By Spencer Buell
Boston Magazine

In a partnership that officials said was likely the first of its kind, the MBTA announced today that, as part of a new pilot program, mobility impaired riders will be able to choose to take a subsidized Uber or Lyft as an alternative to the T-operated para-transit service, The Ride.

Gov. Charlie Baker and his staff made the announcement in a news conference at the Perkins School for the Blind. Which was streamed live on Periscope.

“The reliability of our transportation system depends on the MBTA’s ability to improve its core infrastructure and provide efficient, innovative transit options that meet the needs of the system’s one million daily riders,” Baker said in a prepared statement. “This initiative represents the MBTA’s efforts to increase accessibility in a more cost-effective and efficient way that also delivers more convenient service for its para-transit customers.”

What to do about The Ride, a fleet of vehicles for use by disabled riders, has been among projects undertaken by the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, which Baker convened last summer. The service, the T says, is costly (the state pays an average of $31 per ride) and can be inconvenient (users typically have to book their rides 24 hours in advance). Uber and Lyft cars, meanwhile, can be hailed on-demand, and will cost the T less than half as much, at a maximum of $13 each way, officials said. Commuters who use the pilot program will be responsible for the first $2 for the trip, and will have to pay the remainder on trips that cost more than $15.

Uber has wheelchair-accessible vehicles in its fleet via its UberACCESS program. Lyft will provide accessible vehicles by partnering with a firm that provides accessible vehicles, according to a press release.

An earlier test-run of a public-private collaboration, which let Ride customers use subsidized taxis, had been underway since the start of 2016.

“Independent, reliable transportation is critical for people with disabilities to get to work, school or other community activities on time,” Dave Power, President and CEO of Perkins School for the Blind, said in a written statement. “Para-transit riders can now access the same on-demand services enjoyed by people without disabilities—bringing us another step closer to inclusive public transportation.”

Found at:
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2016/09/16/mbta-uber-lyft-ride/


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

SEPTA Recalls “Fixed” Train Cars
For Another Fix

SEPTA And Car Manufacturer Hyundai-Rotem Discovered
A Design Error During An Inspection.

By Claire Sasko
Philadelphia Magazine

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has temporarily sidelined 18 of its recently “fixed” Silverliner V Regional Rail cars after discovering a design error during a joint inspection by the transit agency and manufacturer Hyundai Rotem on Saturday, September 10th.

Hyundai Rotem, a South Korean company, will make further design modifications to a part of the train car called the “foot,” which supports the cars’ new equalizer beams. Fatigue cracks in the cars’ old equalizer beams were discovered in early July, prompting the removal of 120 Silverliner V cars — more than a third of SEPTA’s entire fleet — and heavy adjustments to SEPTA’s Regional Rail service.

A design error in the re-redesigned cars led to undesired contact between the cars’ new and old components, SEPTA officials said. Damage from the contact would have resulted in the need for “increased inspection and maintenance efforts,” according to a press release.

“SEPTA is committed to making sure the repair process is done correctly to ensure a long-lasting life,” SEPTA general manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel said in a statement today. “This is why we are conducting thorough tests and inspections, such as the one on Saturday that revealed this problem.”

The sidelined cars had been either returned to service or deemed ready to return to service. SEPTA has not said whether removing these cars from service will affect the current modified schedule the agency is running. Newly repaired cars will be available next week.

SEPTA officials said normal weekday Regional Rail schedules are expected to resume sometime between October 3rd and October 10th, assuming Hyundai Rotem returns a necessary number of Silverliner V rail cars to service by then. Regional Rail has been running on an adapted schedule, made possible by leased rail cars from other transportation agencies.

All Silverliner V cars are expected to return to service by mid-November.

“All parties involved are working around the clock to restore the Silverliner V fleet to service in a timely fashion,” Knueppel said. “We sincerely regret the continued inconvenience to our customers.”

Read more at:
http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/09/12/septa-recalls-fixed-train-cars/#8WHpEqdq7dMuZb5c.99


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MBTA Plans To Ramp Up Capital Spending

Currently, There’s A $7.3 Billion Backlog In Maintenance Of The T System

By Colin A. Young, SHNS / WWLP
And The State House News Service

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is preparing to more than double its spending on capital projects over the next five years, aiming to spend $6.5 billion to chip away at its state of good repair backlog and expand the transit system over the next five years.

Forecasting that the agency will spend between $850 and $950 million this fiscal year, T officials said Monday they hope to ramp up capital spending to an annual average of $1.3 billion, an amount they said would allow them to finally get ahead of system’s upkeep.

“Long-term, the key to improving the rider experience for our 600,000 commuters every day that ride the system is rebuilding the system, and that means really significant capital improvement,” Acting MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve said. He added, “This capital plan for fiscal 17 to 21, forecasts a doubling in spending. So the total program of $6.5 billion over the next five fiscal years is more than twice what the T has historically invested.”

Faced with a $7.3 billion backlog in maintenance of the T system and its vehicles, transit officials said Monday the agency estimates it would have to spend at least $765 million per year to bring the entire system to a state of good repair by 2040.

“The backlog of state of good repair is certainly a challenge we need to deal with every day,” MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville told reporters. “It’s probably one of our highest priorities and something that we’re really going to be focusing on both within operations and overall . at the MBTA. That will not only have an impact on immediate customers, but certainly a much greater impact as it relates to the future MBTA as you look down the road.”

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said the changes are expected to allow the MBTA to whittle away at its maintenance backlog more efficiently while also running and handling the day-to-day upkeep of the transit system.

“That’s really where the focus is,” the secretary said. “We’ve got to get up to that $765 million and then keep it up year after year after year or every year what’s happening is as many assets as we’re fixing the same number are falling out of a state of good repair and you’re sort of in a steady state.”

Capital spending over the last five fiscal years totaled $3 billion and the MBTA was not spending all of the capital funding that it was allocated. The acceleration of capital investment — a more-than-doubling to $6.5 billion over five years — will not require the Legislature to authorize more capital spending at the T, Pollack said.

“We do not need to find the $6.5 billion,” she said. “We need to spend the $6.5 billion.”

Pollack said the T will also work to better align the capital projects it funds with its priorities of making the system more reliable and more modern. Of the $743 million of capital spending at the T in fiscal year 2016, $502 million was dedicated to reliability and modernization, with the rest allotted for expansion efforts.

Pollack said the T’s projections for fiscal year 2017 would represent a 59 percent increase in capital spending for reliability and modernization — about $800 million in total. The secretary said an 80/20 split between capital spending for reliability and modernization, and expansion would be ideal.

The T is also planning to change the way it ushers projects from the initial design and engineering stages to the actual implementation.

In addition to switching to a more modern project management software, the T is also overhauling its “flawed contracting processes,” which Shortsleeve said “have slowed down the rate at which the MBTA can get projects done even when the funding is available.”

Working off the model established last year for winter resiliency work, the T is aiming to shorten the construction procurement process to between 60 and 90 days, which Shortsleeve said would represent a 50 percent reduction in the time between the contract being advertised and the contractor being given a notice to proceed.

“Our goal with all of these changes . is we believe we can run the system, and we can fix the system, and we can do them both faster than we’ve done it in the past, and safely for our workers and our riders,” Pollack said. “But doing that is complicated and requires a level of coordination, organization and resources that have not previously been hardwired into the MBTA and we’re going to hardwire them into the MBTA.”

Found at:
http://wwlp.com/2016/09/12/mbta-plans-to-ramp-up-capital-spending/


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

Installments by David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Battlefield On Rails

Deutsche Bahn Wants To Arm Train Conductors
With Pepper Spray And Martial Arts Skills

Via dpa And Internet Sources

Berlin – Following a massive increase in attacks against train employees in the past year, Germany’s largest train company, Deutsche Bahn (DB), is planning to up their security efforts.

In the first half of 2016, more than 1,100 DB employees were victims of violence, including spitting, cursing, or even life-threatening attacks, marking a surge of 28% compared to last year.  During the second half of 2015, hundreds of thousands migrants and asylum seekers flooded into Germany mostly from the Middle East, but also from Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as northern and central Africa.  The vast majority of these migrants at the time were males in the age range of 14 to 50, a group which has since proved extremely problematic to deal with in numerous refugee centers across Germany and the main suspects in a series of hundreds of rapes, physical sex harassment incidents across the country in public swimming pools, local recreation centers, bars and discos, outdoor music festivals and most infamously the New Year’s Eve celebrations in several German cities including Cologne.  

In one of many instances in the past few months, a passenger on a train in the town of Fulda started swearing at a 33-year-old conductor and put him in a headlock without apparent reason, reports the Fuldaer Zeitung newspaper.  On another occasion, a train attendant in northern Bavaria was attacked and injured by a man whom he had asked for his ticket, according to the Main-Echo.

Now, Deutsche Bahn is planning to take action:  “We’re no longer going to let crazy people walk all over us,” said Deutsche Bahn head of security Hans-Hilmar Rischke.  DB-authorities want to arm train attendants with alarm devices and pepper spray, and are even reviewing if specially trained employees should carry truncheons - though the latter two would only be used as a last resort, they say.

Employees who are in contact with customers would also undergo basic training concerning de-escalation and self-protection, including fitness and elements of martial arts.  In addition, Deutsche Bahn wants to up security staff by around 500 people nationwide, who would form patrols consisting of three to five officials along with guard dogs.  “We will really invest in this thing,” said Rischke. “Dogs give you more authority even with difficult customers.”

As another central measure, DB are planning to install video technology, which will be able to recognize abandoned luggage, people on train tracks and pick-pockets.  Moreover, authorities are currently testing cameras attached to employees’ bodies, so called Bodycams.

“First experiences have shown that there are much less attacks as soon as the perpetrator realizes that he is being recorded and that he has to watch his own actions on the mini-monitor,” said Rischke.

And the German train and traffic union also thinks it’s time to act.  “Every attack is one too many.  Nobody has to be the victim of cursing, spitting, groping, harassment or even attack,” said Klaus-Dieter Hommel, the vice president of the union.


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Opinion

Increase In Daily Security On Board
Germany’s Trains Long Overdue

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Affairs Editor

I am a daily user of the transit system here in Germany, specifically I use the local commuter rail system every day in this corner of Germany squeezed between Austria, Lake Constance and Switzerland, plus a few times a week the local bus system.    As such I have, a monthly pass to pay for my use of the system.  Millions of commuters across the world from Germany to Greece, from Boston to Bangalore and Bangkok, from Sydney to Syracuse to Sao Paulo, from Moscow to Minneapolis, and hundreds of other places around the world pay for their local transit this way.  The alternative is to travel with a single ticket, which makes sense for once-in-a-while occasional travelers but a hassle for daily commuters, if not far too expensive.  

In many cities and regions gates and turnstiles are installed on station entrances and exits to ensure the fares are paid (either by monthly passes of the electronic variety) or by tickets.  But here in Germany such control devices are almost never installed in rail stations, and often during rush hours passes and tickets are not checked by bus drivers as all doors are used on the bus to board and de-board the vehicle.  This is not unique to Germany, this sort-of honor system is in wide spread use in many European countries ranging from the UK to Hungary, Spain, and numerous other places.  The “honor system” is however almost always backed-up by inspectors, conductors and even security personal, who will show up unannounced on the train (or bus) and start asking passengers to show their ticket or pass to travel on the public transit in question.  It is often at this point that certain individuals and small groups become aggressive and threatening to the official performing the check.  And my own personal observation over the past couple of decades is that these folks who resort to aggression and threaten physical violence are typically: a) under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or b) recent immigrants who do not understand (and willfully refuse to understand) the fare rules and regulations in order to save a few bucks and cheat the taxpayers. Such rules are easily visible in the German language and often in other languages such as Turkish, French, English, Russian, and others.

I can most certainly confirm that in the past six months aggressive and threatening behavior towards uniformed train conductors and plain clothes ticket / pass detectives has notably increased.   Almost without exception the fare dodgers, who immediately resort to threats, intimidation and aggressive behavior, are obviously recent arrival to Germany from the Middle East or North Africa, estimating from what I have personally witnessed.   These punks take the expression “bite the hand which feeds you” to a new violent extreme.  The rather moderately paid conductors, security personnel, ticket inspectors and law enforcement certainly are not paid enough to be placed at risk of serious physical harm by this riff-raff.  To be sure this is not an everyday occurrence, however I have seen this behavior directly in front of me or around me perhaps ten times since the year 2016 started, which is perhaps once every four weeks.  Previously I saw such confrontations between rowdy travelers and the train staff perhaps twice in the four years I have lived in southern Germany, and perhaps four times in the 15 years I lived in northern Germany.  The time for forceful and severe consequences for this law-breaking behavior is long overdue in my opinion, and should include up to, and including, permanent expulsion of such individuals from Germany and the rest of Europe.  And it does not end with fare dodging in public transit.  A similarly new and pervasive problem exists in rampant group shop-lifting in numerous stores and shops, aggression and violence in bars and clubs, and other parts of public life in Germany, thanks to the new peace-seeking arrivals in the numbers of over one million since August 2015.

The other apparent factor with the recent migrants and refugees is that the language of tolerance and “second chances,” the reason many of them say they left war torn places such as Syria or parts of Africa to come here, is simply not understood in their culture.  The culture of violence, aggression and intolerance has often simply walked across the borders from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere into Europe and Germany to be continued here by the very folks who say they are trying to escape this violent culture at home. I can only respond to DB’s initiative regarding this problem:  thank you and a get on with this important job as quickly as possible.  

The views an opinions expressed are those of the author.


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

St. Marys, Ont. Urges Perth On Rail Link:
Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

By Desmond Devoy
Perth Courier
Via Inside Ottawa Valley

St. Marys, Ont., is warning Perth that the promised VIA Rail Canada rail link from Peterborough to Smiths Falls may be a long time in coming – if it ever comes at all.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Al Strathdee, mayor of the town, during a telephone interview on Friday, Sept. 9. “Your situation is not too different from us.”

Last year, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, CEO of VIA Rail, was in the nearby community of Stratford, where, according to Strathdee, the rail boss promised the return of a 6:30 a.m. train to Toronto.

In the intervening year, Strathdee has not heard any more on the project from VIA.

“He (Desjardins-Siciliano) made a guarantee that it would happen and it hasn’t happened,” said Strathdee. “I have not seen any commitments. I had a lot of optimism when there was a change of government.”

He chastised the federal government for not investing more in VIA Rail in the last budget. “It’s death by 1,000 cuts,” he said. “I don’t see any reinvestment in VIA. You have to reinvest to keep it up.”

St. Marys is situated between London and Stratford in south-western Ontario, and Strathdee said that several municipalities offered help to VIA to get the Stratford project up and running.

“I don’t know why they would make that announcement and get our hopes up,” said Strathdee. “This country was built on rails.”

St. Marys is not giving up on trying to keep this issue to the fore. A rail advocacy group, All Aboard St. Marys (AASM) fronted by a local car dealer, Chris West, will be holding a rally on Sept. 16, to raise awareness about the service.

One of the consultants for AASM is Greg Gormick, “this is part of a whole scam,” he said during a telephone interview on Thursday, Sept. 8. He heard about the plans for the proposed Peterborough-to-Smiths Falls line from The Perth Courier, and said that, “in theory, (it) sounds great. It’s bull.It’s an inferior route. There is a reason why it was abandoned.”

The proposed route would run along a portion of the Trans Canada Trail, which uses the former rail bed (the last train to service Perth ran through in 1965). However, the trail dips to the south to avoid the Canadian Shield, he said.

“That means a lot of curves and hills,” he said.

If the proposed link is being done to get some traffic off the Toronto to Montreal line, the Peterborough to Smiths Falls route “makes no sense.” His solution is to “build more capacity along the lakeshore.”

“Why is he (Desjardins-Siciliano) doing this?” asked Gormick. “I really don’t know.”

(A VIA Rail press release obtained by this newspaper, dated June 15, 2015, said that Desjardins-Siciliano hosted a roundtable discussion on June 16, at the town hall in St. Marys, where Gormick, West, and Strathdee, as well as St. Marys’ Deputy Mayor Carey Pope, were in attendance.)

Gormick said that he is concerned that Perth, like St. Marys, “is being led on.Perth’s greatest hope is having a decent bus service,” to connect to the Smiths Falls VIA station.

Gormick, a former VIA Rail employee, makes no bones that he is a long-time critic of the arms-length Crown corporation.

The plan, announced by Perth Mayor John Fenik at the Aug. 30 town council meeting, would see the service run on electric rails, something Gormick said would “add a billion (dollars) to the cost.”

There is another similarity between St. Marys and Perth: multiple ownerships of the different tracks in question. To the south, the line from Toronto’s Union Station, according to Gormick, is owned by GO Transit, the provincial transit agency for the Greater Toronto Area. The portion of line from Bramalea, a suburb northwest of Toronto, to Georgetown is owned by Canadian National (CN), while GO Transit then runs the remainder of the line from Georgetown to Kitchener. From Kitchener onwards to London, CN leases the track to the Goderich-Exeter Railway.

For the Peterborough to Smiths Falls line, however, for the portion along the Trans Canada Trail, “have they discussed this with the trail owners?”

VIA Rail Response

In an email response to a query from The Perth Courier, Mariam Diaby, a senior media relations advisor for VIA Rail Canada, received late on Monday, Sept. 12, she wrote that “VIA Rail is currently conducting due diligence on its proposal to build a dedicated passenger railway track in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor. One of the options under consideration by VIA Rail include the Shining Waters Railway Plan, which aims to provide passenger service from Toronto to Havelock, and its extension all the way to Ottawa, using existing or discontinued railroad rights of way.” She added that contractors are in the midst of conducting “basic inspections on former railway beds and infrastructure that is under consideration for the project. Technical assessments will provide a better understanding of the potential route options.”

She also stressed that this proposal “is a VIA Rail management initiative and does not reflect the government of Canada’s policies.”

As for the train service in southwestern Ontario, “last summer we announced our plans to increase frequencies between Toronto and London and dwell trains overnight in Stratford, therefore having trains that would start in Stratford or even in St. Marys, going into Toronto. We also would like to have trains going from Toronto southwest towards Kitchener-Waterloo in the morning.” She went on to write that VIA has been in discussions with Canadian National (CN) Rail. “We have co-funded a capacity study to see what type of work would have to be done in order to facilitate this schedule.”

From an article appearing at:
http://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/6853384-st-marys-ont-urges-perth-on-rail-link-don-t-get-your-hopes-up/


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

A Community Shuttle Runs At The Jersey Shore,
But Its Utility Is Questionable

By David Peter Alan

For several years, this column has complained about the lack of public transportation in resort areas; a situation that often prevents or limits access to those areas for people who do not have access to an automobile.  One such area is the Jersey Shore, which is New Jersey’s hottest tourist mecca all summer long, and has been since the railroad starting bringing Philadelphians to Atlantic City and Cape May.  

Today the Atlantic City Rail Line runs a full-service schedule, although service is not as frequent as on many “commuter rail” lines.  Places further south, like Ocean City and Cape May, lost their trains more than 35 years ago.  New Yorkers and people from northern New Jersey frequent places located further north at the Shore; places on New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line.  

Between the New York and Philadelphia spheres of influence at the Shore lies Long Beach Island (LBI), a narrow barrier island eighteen miles long.  The island is a seasonal place, with a tiny year-round population.  It is located six miles from the mainland, connected by a causeway which can be crossed only by automobile.  

It was not always that way.  Ron Marr from the Long Beach Island Historical Museum told this writer that the elite members of the early “summer colony” in the 1870s and 1880s were Philadelphians who managed the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baldwin Locomotive Works.  Some were members of the Board of Directors of the “Pennsy”; a railroad that did not go to the island.  That service was provided by the Tuckerton Railroad, an independent short line, which provided service from 1886 until a hurricane blew it down in 1935.  It from the mainland at Manahawken, across the bridge to Ship Bottom in the middle of the island, and from there north to Barnegat Light (the site of a historic lighthouse) and south to Beach Haven.  It was never rebuilt, and there has not been a train on LBI since.  There are pictures of buses on LBI at the museum, but there were no buses on the island for decades, either.

That situation changed somewhat last summer, when the island’s Chamber of Commerce began to sponsor a seasonal shuttle van that the length of the island, north to south.  It does not connect with any other public transportation.  Because of the difficulty in connecting with it, this writer could not work out an opportunity to ride it during the summer of 2015, but there was such an opportunity last month.

As this column has demonstrated over the years, this writer believes strongly in community transportation.  Good community transportation can make the difference between a person who must live essentially under house arrest, and one who can enjoy at least a modicum of freedom and mobility.

Because the Island Shuttle does not connect with any other transportation, it was necessary to plan a difficult itinerary to connect with it.  Ocean Ride, the transportation provider within Ocean County (where LBI is located) operates a van from LBI to the mainland one day a week, so Island residents can take a weekly shopping trip.  The schedule does not work for anyone who wishes to visit the island.  So it was necessary to arrange with the demand-response portion of Ocean Ride to get over the six-mile bridge.  

This writer’s odyssey began with an early train that arrived at New York’s Penn Station at 7:00 in the morning, in time to walk uptown to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and catch the first bus to Atlantic City at 7:30 on NJ Transit’s #319 line.  That bus arrived at the Toms River Park-and-Ride (near Exit 81 on the Garden State Parkway) in time to connect with the #559, a local bus that takes 160 minutes for its entire route to Atlantic City.  It was a 50-minute ride to Manahawkin, where this writer had arranged for an Ocean Ride driver to meet the bus and provide a ride across the bridge, to Ship Bottom on LBI.

By that time, it was about 10:20.  This writer called the information number for the shuttle and was informed by a dispatcher that a van would be along in about 15 minutes.  Because LBI did not have any bus service for decades, there were no signs to mark bus stops; potential riders had to flag the van down and get on.  When 30 minutes went by, this writer called the information number and was informed that the a van had gone by on another street, because the route had recently changed.  The right place to wait was actually two blocks further south; a useful bit of information that the dispatcher had failed to disclose to this writer.  A van finally came along at 11:25; 65 minutes after this writer began to wait.  The ride took about 25 minutes, but it was impossible to see the buildings along the Boulevard (the main street of the island), because the van was a “rolling billboard” completely wrapped with advertising, including the windows.  The advertising panels over the windows obscured vision to the point of rendering the windows translucent, rather than transparent.  

This writer’s original plan had been to visit Beach Haven, at the south end of the island.  Then, the next day, the plan was to use the same itinerary and reserved ride to catch the shuttle to the north end of the island, to visit Barnegat Light.  Beach Haven is a historic town, boasting a number of Victorian houses.  Some of them belonged to people with ties to the railroad.  There was enough time to see the Long Beach Island Historical Society Museum, the small local history museum located in the town library, and the historic neighborhood.  There is also a large maritime museum, but it would have required another visit to see that.  

Beach Haven was interesting, but the trip was grueling.  There seemed no point in going back another day to see the northern half of the island, because it was impossible to see anything from the windows of the shuttle van.  The van schedule was also so unreliable that it appeared impossible for this writer to meet the objectives of the planned visit.  

It remains essentially impossible for anyone to get to LBI without an automobile.  There is no line that connects with the LBI Shuttle that would take potential visitors between the #559 bus on the mainland and the island.  So, no matter how useful the shuttle might be once a visitor gets to the island (and it appears to this writer that the shuttle was not particularly useful), it is still an isolated service with no access from the New York or Philadelphia areas.  On top of that, the view from the windows was covered with advertising, and the 65-minute wait for the van was unconscionable.  In theory, the van is supposed to run every 20 to 30 minutes every day from late June to Labor Day, and on week-ends into the fall.  In practice, it did not appear to do that well.

In theory, also, there is a privately-operated carrier that claims to go from New York City and Newark Airport to LBI.  That carrier’s reviews on Yelp.com were devastating.  Even if that carrier is not as unreliable as commenters on the site claimed, its buses will not carry passengers locally between the mainland and LBI.  So there remains essentially no non-automobile access to the island.

Can the service become useful?  Maybe, but that would require adding infrastructure typically associated with bus stops, running a reliable schedule, providing connections to the bus on the mainland and taking the ads off the windows, so riders can see what they are passing as they ride.  All of that sounds like a tall order.


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Events... Events...  

RUN to Lafayette, Indiana!

The Annual Meeting of the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) will take place at the Lafayette, Indiana train station on Saturday, October 8th.

The main attraction of the day will be a Rail Summit about the Hoosier State train, presented in cooperation with the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance (IPRA).

Here is an opportunity to learn about the most unusual train in the Amtrak system, with its unique appearance, level of service and governance structure. Ed Ellis, head of Iowa Pacific Holdings (IPH), which provides equipment and on-board services for the train, will be on hand to tell us more about this one-of-a-kind train and his future plans for it. The mayors of Lafayette and other towns, who advocated for keeping the Hoosier State on the rails, will recount their experiences. Representatives from Amtrak, IPRA and RUN will present their views, as well.

So RUN to Lafayette, Indiana to learn more about an interesting and comfortable train, and about the advocacy effort by elected officials and rider advocates that kept it going.

From the East, you can take Amtrak’s Cardinal on Friday, October 7th and return from Lafayette on Saturday evening, after the event.

To learn more, please check the RUN web site, http://www.railusers.net, or contact RUN Chair Richard Rudolph. His phone number is (207) 776-4961 and his e-mail is rrudolph1022@gmail.com


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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