The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Sept 26, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 38

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 Opinion…
Open Access: What’s It All About?
  Legal Lines…
New Jersey Legislature Does An About-Face And
   Increases NJ Transit’s Authority To Cut Service
  Transit Lines…
MTA Reopens Two Stations Following Renewal Efforts
MBTA Could Pour Hundreds Of Millions Into
   Boosting Red Line Capacity
Sound Transit Places $554m Order For More
   Light Rail Cars
  Expansion Lines…
LACMTA Wants To Accelerate Rail To
   West Hollywood, CA.
  Commuter Lines…
60 More M-8s For ConnDot/Metro-North
  Safety Lines…
Senators Want To Ensure TSA Protects Trains,
   Buses And Ports
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  High-Speed Lines…
Texas High-Speed Rail Project Faces Fight Over
   Eminent Domain
Electrification Enhances Bay Area Commuter Rail,
   Sets High-Speed Stage
Seattle To Vancouver In 57 Minutes?
  Political Lines…
Brooklyn Councilman Calls For A ‘Freight-Capable’
   Gateway, Setting Off A Political Spat
  Across The Pond…
East Midlands Rail Report Calls For New Trains
   And More Capacity
Innotrans To Expand In 2018
  To The North…
All Aboard St. Marys To Be More Direct,
   More Aggressive
  Off The Main Line…
Christmas Saved: Polar Express Has Railroad’s Permission To Make Trips Through 2019
  Publication Notes …

GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Open Access: What’s It All About?

By Charles A. Turek
Appearing In MultiBriefs

First, let’s make sure we are clear what open access means — what it is and what it is not in a railroad context in America.

Generally speaking, an open-access railway is one that sells slots on its track for trains operated by other companies. In its purest form, these other companies are called train-operating companies (TOCs), and they own trains but no tracks. This is essentially the original U.K. model for open access.

In a strictly non-U.K. variation, a TOC can also be a railway, and universal open access can mean that any railway can operate its trains on any other railway’s tracks. The giant elephant in the engine house for this concept is the proviso that the railway or railroad has track slots to sell and can do so without hindering its own trains running on its own tracks.

The socially progressive version of open access has the local, state or federal government owning the infrastructure and no trains. A degree of fairness would have any government-owned trains — such as passenger or transit agencies — bidding on equal footing with private TOCs. Fairness suggests this variation of open access would need a civilian watchdog agency to monitor operations.

Early Amtrak was another form of open access, where the TOC was Amtrak and the various railroads were required to move Amtrak’s trains over their tracks. In this early example, only Amtrak had open access. Those railroads carrying Amtrak trains did not have to allow other entities to run passenger trains.

The subject of open access comes up most often today when private shippers served by the tracks of only one railroad demand that the Surface Transportation Board order that railroad to allow the trains of other railroads to serve the shippers. The concept of “reciprocal switching” is a form of open access.

What seems to be right about open access is what most Americans see as right in the matter of other forms of transportation.

Any truck can use a highway. Any airline (subject to permission from the FAA) can use any airport, and all aircraft duly registered can use the air traffic control system. Any barge can use navigable waterways. All of the uses must be within statutory or regulatory limitations. So why not any train on any track?

The wrong side of open access can be seen through two different sets of eyes.

The first eyes are those of the railroads. Sans the pre-Staggers Act regulations, railroad corporations are making profits today that were once thought impossible for railroads, and are doing so with less infrastructure and fewer employees than in those times before Staggers.

They are lean and mean and don’t want anything to upset the temperature-controlled boxcar full of apples that serves as their applecart. Legally requiring the railroads to carry TOCs’ trains opens up a magnificent puzzle of how to prioritize access without destroying that bottom line and all the careful contingencies corporations like to keep on the back burner.

Though I’m sure most of the Class I railroads have some of those contingency plans addressing mandatory open access.

The other eyes though which we can see the wrong side of open access are the constitutional ones. How can we institute such a system without unlawfully forcing the owner of property — in this case the tracks — to relinquish control or actual ownership of said property and still honor the sacred American right to property in all its forms? I’m not a lawyer and don’t know the answer to this one.

Last, but not least, there is the practical side. It would be a mess!

Imagine all of the railroads suddenly merging into one big system and having to address access requests from anybody with a boxcar and a locomotive to pull it. The worst nightmare of congealing systems, gridlocked track, crashing computers, clashing cultures and incompatible signal systems (for example: Union Pacific/Southern Pacific merger) is probably nothing compared to what will actually happen.

Perhaps an incremental approach to open access is what’s needed. Reciprocal switching and Amtrak are a good start.

Maybe the next step it just firmly telling the railroads, if they like their profits, they shouldn’t be that closed-minded about running other people’s trains once in a while.

Charles A. Turek is a writer and novelist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After four decades working in areas of the insurance industry related to transportation, he now writes on all aspects of American railroading. Charles can be contacted at

Found at:

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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

New Jersey Legislature Does An About-Face And
Increases NJ Transit’s Authority To Cut Service

By David Peter Alan

The New Jersey Legislature pulled a switch on New Jersey Transit’s riders, which Gov. Chris Christie signed into law on September 14th.  The vote was essentially unanimous: 38-0 in the Senate and 78-2 in the Assembly.  Christie is a Republican, while Democrats hold majorities in both legislative houses.

The measure which was enacted (Public Law 2016, Chapter 52) did not reflect the original intent of the bill (A-227 and its companion S-308).  Originally, the bill required NJT to notify the public and hold hearings before reducing rail, bus or light rail service.  It was introduced in the wake of service cuts which NJT implemented last September, mostly without notice to affected riders.  NJT management eliminated the last trains of the evening on Monday through Friday nights, leaving riders with an earlier “curfew” for leaving New York City or another point of origin for their trip.  The magnitude of the cutbacks ranged from 45 minutes on the Morris & Essex Line to one hour and 42 minutes for stations on the North Jersey Coast Line south of Long Branch.  Some of that “lost time” has been restored on the Morris & Essex and Gladstone lines, apparently as a result of a campaign by the Lackawanna Coalition, of which this writer is Chair.  None of it has been restored “permanently” on any other lines.

NJT had maintained that it was under no obligation to give the public notice of any service cuts of two hours or less, although some riders had reported that they did not know about the service reductions before they were implemented, so they were stranded for the night.  As a result of the elimination of the last trains on several rail lines without notice to the public, several legislators introduced a bill that would require NJT to notify the public and hold hearings when it planned to reduce service on any line.  The bill was amended three times.  The first change amended some technical language and did not alter the substance of the measure.  The second change added language which allowed NJT to cut service by up to one hour without notice to the public or a hearing.  The third change doubled that time, allowing NJT to cut service by up to two hours without telling the public before implementing the cuts.

The Transportation Act of 1979 originally established New Jersey Transit as a replacement agency for the former Commuter Operating Agency within the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).  The provision of the 1979 Act that dealt with service cuts, N.J.S.A. §27:25(8)(c), required notice and a hearing when NJT proposed a fare increase or elimination or “substantial curtailment” of service on a line.  Last year, advocates argued to NJT management that eliminating the last train of the evening constituted a “substantial curtailment” of service, because it required riders to leave New York City or another point of origin for their trip significantly earlier than they could before the cut was implemented.  NJT rejected the argument, although the last opportunity to get home is at least 90 minutes earlier for riders on three rail lines than it had been prior to the service reductions last year.    

NJT must still hold hearings on proposed fare increases or plans to eliminate all service on a line.  The statutory change is that riders and their advocates can no longer argue that a proposed cut constitutes a “substantial curtailment” of service.   NJT now has full authority to eliminate two hours of service on any line, at any time, with no limit on how often cuts of that severity can be implemented; all without notice to the riders who will lose their service.  In other words, NJT can issue schedules that give riders an unpleasant surprise, and perhaps a serious one, whenever management wishes to do so.

During the legislative process, a bill that began as a requirement that NJT give the public notice and a opportunity to be heard whenever it wishes to cut service turned into blanket permission for the agency to reduce service on any line by up to two hours, whenever management chooses to make such cuts.  The original sponsors of the bill all voted for the revised legislation, which has the opposite effect of the original proposal.  One Democrat and one Republican in the Assembly cast dissenting votes.  At this writing, neither has returned this writer’s requests for comment.  A veteran Trenton-watcher blamed the Governor’s Office, but that does not explain why every member of the Democratic majorities in both houses, except for a single Assemblyman, voted for the measure after it had been changed so drastically.

The new measure took almost everyone by surprise.  The news release issued by legislators reported that the new provision required NJT to hold hearings.  The exemption for cuts of up to two hours was placed at the bottom of the document.  There were press reports that NJT was subject to stricter notice-and-hearing requirements, although the new provision actually had the opposite result.  Advocates from the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) and the Lackawanna Coalition (including this writer) told reporters that they had not been consulted, or even informed, about the new policy.

For several years, the advocates have been fighting for more transparency at NJT, an agency known locally for its secrecy.  Nearly every member of the New Jersey legislature and Gov. Christie have dealt a severe blow to the advocates’ hopes for more transparency at NJT and more disclosure to riders about adverse changes to their transit service.  Despite initial reports to the contrary, the new statute places them in a worse position, with no right to be told if they are about to lose up to two hours of service on their bus or rail line.  Len Resto, President of NJ-ARP, told this writer he was “amazed” that the sponsors of the original bill kept their names on the one that was later enacted into law.  He complained that “riders can no longer voice their opinion about service cuts” and said that service reductions “create a death spiral” because, when there is less service, fewer people ride, and reduced ridership brings more service cuts.  It is customary for advocates to make that argument when a transit agency proposes actual reductions in service, but NJT is no longer required to propose service cuts of up to two hours.  Instead, the agency can merely announce a service reduction after the decision has been made.  

Can the situation change for the better, for the sake of the riders and for the transparency their advocates want?  Certainly, that cannot happen until Christie leaves office at the end of next year. He and other Republicans are unpopular in New Jersey these days, and it appears likely that the next governor will be a Democrat.  Democrats are also expected to maintain control of the Assembly next year.  The Senate is not up for re-election until 2019.  If the Democrats make a strong showing in the 2017 elections, it may be possible for advocates to mount a campaign to repeal the latest change and require NJT to inform the public before reducing service.  Still, that would require a majority of sitting legislators to change their positions, since they just voted to give NJT blanket authority to curtail service without informing affected riders beforehand.

Under the circumstances, it is also unclear how much transit service the riders will still have at that time.   

Ten years ago, NJT Executive Director George Warrington referred to riders who did not ride the trains at peak-commuting hours as “incidental” riders.  Warrington died in 2007, but that attitude has lived on at the agency ever since.  Now it is doing better than ever; it has even been enshrined into law.

David Peter Alan is also Chair of the Lackawana Coalition, which advocates for NJ Transit’s riders.

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

MTA Reopens Two Stations
Following Renewal Efforts

From Rail, Track, And Structures

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit (NYCT) has reopened two stations—the Saratoga Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue 3 line stations—Sept. 19 as the projects draw closer to completion.

Both of the newly reopened stations had been shuttered for renewal work since early April in compliance with plans set forth in an $88 million capital project to renovate seven elevated 3 line stations on the New Lots Avenue Branch.

Both stations saw structural enhancements including the installation of new columns, platform-rubbing boards and updated mezzanine floors. Remaining work entails the installation of new windows and a new exterior façade to the mezzanine, which will continue while passenger service moves forward, officials say.

“Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s leadership has helped provide funding for the MTA’s capital program, which helps fuel our station renewal program in Brooklyn and throughout our system,” said NYCT President Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim. “The completion of work at Saratoga Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue and planned work at other stations will provide a welcoming atmosphere for our customers, bringing seven stations that originally opened in the 1920’s to a state of good repair.”

The stations also saw improvements such as the installation of new windscreens, platform lighting, benches, trash receptacles, guardrails and Americans with Disabilities Act-approved tactile warning strips on platforms. Both of the stations have been given a fresh coat of paint and the fare control areas were reorganized to allow for better accessibility and decreased congestion in the space.

EE Cruz Company Inc.’s construction contracts outline future station renewal work at Sutter Av-Rutland Rd, Saratoga Avenue, Rockaway Avenue, Junius Street, Pennsylvania Avenue and Van Siclen Avenue. Component repairs are set for completion at New Lots Avenue, and renewal work was completed in March at Rockaway Avenue and Van Siclen Avenue.

Two upcoming station closures are set for renewal work along the New Lots Branch are Sutter Avenue-Rutland Road and Junius Street. Work is currently planned to begin at the stations on Oct. 3 with a five-month timeframe, finishing work in spring 2017. During this period, 3 trains and late night 4 trains will bypass Sutter Avenue-Rutland Road and Junius Street in both directions.

Originally appearing at:

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MBTA Could Pour Hundreds Of Millions
Into Boosting Red Line Capacity

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) could spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new batch of Red Line cars, a move that officials say would possibly increase capacity on the line by about 50 percent.

Jeffrey Gonneville, chief operating officer of the MBTA, told the agency’s fiscal control board Monday that replacing 86 Red Line [Bombardier] cars — rather than simply overhauling them — while adding additional vehicles should markedly improve service.

“We’ve seen today that upgrading the vehicles with a more modern vehicle would have a substantial impact on our system’s performance,” Gonneville said.

Expanding the fleet could mean a Red Line train would come every 3 minutes, rather than every 4.5 minutes, Gonneville said.

While preliminary, the proposal would mark a significant shift from the MBTA’s current plans. The agency has set aside about $200 million to refurbish the 86 cars and is already spending $566 million to replace nearly 300 Red and Orange line cars.

But Brian Shortsleeve, the MBTA’s interim general manager, said elected officials and customers alike have called for more capacity on the Red Line, the system’s busiest at more than 280,000 rides a day.

“We know the Red Line is booming, and we know we need more capacity,” he said. “I think one thing everyone can agree on is, more capacity on the Red Line is a good thing.”

Gonneville told the board that replacing the 86 cars and adding about two dozen more could allow the Red Line to carry 50 percent more passengers per hour. Currently, just over 20,000 customers are moved per hour, according to the MBTA.

Gonneville said officials believe that newer cars would have much better brake systems that allow cars to travel faster between stops, increasing the number of trains running at any given time. The MBTA is already replacing about 60 percent of its Red Line fleet, and the remaining cars had been scheduled for an overhaul.

MBTA officials did not estimate how much the new cars would cost, but it would likely be substantial, and comes as the agency replaces 284 Red and Orange line cars, which are being built by the China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.

That means a newer batch of Red Line cars would not be ready for quite some time. Delivery of the new Orange Line cars is slated to begin in 2018, with Red Line cars arriving the following year. The new cars should be in service by 2023, according to the MBTA.

MBTA officials would not say whether they plan to buy more cars from China Railway, or provide a timeline for the new proposal. Gonneville said that he would move forward in “exploring all options,” after presenting the idea to the board.

Gonneville also told the board that replacing the technology behind the MBTA’s outdated signal system, estimated to cost as much as $1 billion, would not improve service as much as new vehicles. The MBTA still hopes to upgrade the current signal system to a digital version, he said.

Meanwhile, the MBTA awarded a five-year advertising contract to Outfront Media Inc., which will lead to 600 more digital advertising panels across the system. The new contract will give the MBTA 70 percent of Outfront’s advertising revenue, and requires that the company pay for the new panels.

Shortsleeve also proposed a policy that would allow outside companies to provide unsolicited proposals to the MBTA for service improvements or partnerships. The policy was not meant to replace the current public procurement process, he said.

“Any proposals that we do take from the public or from other potential parties would trigger a public review process and evaluation,” he said.

From an item at:

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Sound Transit Places $554m Order
For More Light Rail Cars

By Daniel Demay

Sound Transit announced Thursday afternoon that it has ordered 122 new light rail cars, set to start arriving in 2019 ahead of the Northgate and other planned extensions.

The $554 million order will nearly triple the fleet from its current 62 cars, adding needed capacity as rail begins to extend north, south and east as part of the Sound Transit 2 package, the agency said in a news release.

The transit agency is opening its Angle Lake extension south of Sea-Tac Airport on Saturday, the last extension set to open until the Northgate link is finished in 2021. After that, Lynnwood, Overlake and a Kent-Des Moines extension will follow.

News of the order comes as the sweeping Sound Transit 3 campaign is underway to convince voters to sign off on a $54 billion transit package that would roughly double the mileage of light rail in the region. It would also add heavy rail and bus rapid transit, as well as other infrastructure across the region.

New cars will be roughly the same overall dimensions, but will have slightly more passenger room, as well as more luggage and bike storage thanks to better use of space, said Bruce Gray, Sound Transit spokesperson. The current cars were essentially designed in 2003, he said.

Siemens Industry will build the new cars in Sacramento, California.

From a piece at:

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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

LACMTA Wants To Accelerate Rail
To West Hollywood, CA.

By Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor
Rail, Track, And Structures

West Hollywood, CA would see rail service become a reality through an accelerated schedule per a letter from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) to the city.

On Friday, Sept. 16, LACMTA CEO Phil Washington outlined LACMTA’s commitment to proceed with key technical studies for a proposed LACMTA rail project that would connect the Metro Red Line and Metro Crenshaw/LAX Northern Extension through West Hollywood. The city of West Hollywood has been conducting outreach for the proposed line, which would more directly connect the city of West Hollywood to the existing LACMTA regional rail network and to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and provide new mobility choices for underserved communities along the corridor.

Officials noted that the proposed Crenshaw/LAX Northern Extension through West Hollywood would connect four existing lines (Red, Purple, Expo and Green), which would optimize the existing rail network by greatly enhancing regional connectivity.

The schedule to move forward with the proposal is part of LACMTA’s “Operation Shovel Ready Initiative,” which represents a potential 20-year acceleration of the project. Metro has confirmed that it will:

West Hollywood says the city has long supported increasing its transit options.

On Sept. 20, the City Council unanimously approved support of Measure M, LACMTA ballot measure, which Los Angeles County voters will decide upon in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Measure M, the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, proposes to increase the sales tax countywide to support transportation improvements to regional bus and rail transit networks, streets and highways.

If approved by two-thirds of voters in Los Angeles County, Measure M would generate approximately $860 million annually. Measure M proposes a Local Return program for municipalities to use for transportation-related capital and program expenditures. Based on 2018 projections, Measure M’s proposed 17 percent Local Return program would generate an additional $509,000 annually for the city of West Hollywood.

Additionally, the West Hollywood City Council adopted a Resolution to support LACMTA in placing Measure M on the ballot in 2015 and it called for the formation of an advocacy committee, West Hollywood Advocates for Metro (WHAM), which has been working to engage the community. A countywide grassroots coalition, All on Board, was formed to demonstrate the project’s regional benefits.

The city says residents in West Hollywood have consistently demonstrated support for additional transit options by voting in significant numbers in favor of countywide tax measures for transportation projects.

“The city of West Hollywood always strives to find collaborative solutions to traffic and gridlock,” said West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. “That’s why we are extremely pleased with the progress the city has made advocating for [LACMTA] rail to come to our community in the near term. Also, Measure M will help fund a comprehensive approach to mobility — not only rail, but also active transportation projects and new technologies.”

From an item at:

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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

60 More M-8s For ConnDot/Metro-North

By Ben Vient, Managing Editor
Railway Age Magazine

One of the busiest commuter rail lines in the U.S. is accelerating a buy of 60 new railcars.

The State of Connecticut will purchase an additional 60 M-8 EMU (electric multiple-unit) cars by 2019, each equipped with 105 seats, to accommodate more than 6,000 expected additional commuters on MTA Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) owns a portion of New Haven Line, all of which is operated by Metro-North Railroad under contract to ConnDOT. In 2015, the line carried more than 40.3 million passengers, up 2% from the prior year and setting an all-time record. Ridership overall is up about 12% over the past five years, with peak-hour ridership up 27%.


Image via Railway Age

The M8 EMU

ConnDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker noted that the New Haven Line is now carrying as many passengers today as had been predicted for 2021. He added that ConnDOT is evaluating the M-8s for possible use by its subsidiary Shore Line East, which operates diesel-powered commuter trains between New Haven and New London.

An allocation of $200 million is anticipated to be considered later this month at the next meeting of the State Bond Commission to approve the purchase of the new M-8 cars.

Connecticut has already purchased 405 M-8s, which entered service in 2011 and are now standard on the New Haven Line. Most of the older M-2 rail cars have been retired, but a small fleet remains as back-ups.

“More and more, Connecticut residents are choosing public transportation to go about their daily commutes. If we want to remain competitive in the 21st Century, modernized economy in a way that attracts new businesses and creates high-skilled jobs, we must update our infrastructure and give our commuters a best-in-class transportation system,” Governor Malloy said. “We have witnessed what decades of underinvestment has resulted in, and we can no longer afford to sit back and let the status quo remain. This is just one of many bold steps we are implementing statewide toward making a modernized transportation system reality, because our economic future depends on it.”

Found at:

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Senators Want To Ensure TSA Protects
Trains, Buses And Ports

By Melanie Zanona
The Hill

The top lawmakers on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee want to ensure that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) adequately safeguards all modes of transportation – not just aviation.

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the panel, and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member, are planning to drop legislation “soon” that would ensure that TSA resources allocated towards surface transportation security efforts match up with the relevant risks.

The lawmakers said they were concerned by comments from TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger earlier this year, when he testified that the agency only spends 3 percent of its annual budget protecting trains, subways, buses and ports.

Although aviation remains a top target for terrorism, the duo pointed out that terrorists have killed civilians at rail and transit stations in Europe. There has also been an increasing shift towards so-called “soft target” areas, especially as airport and airplane security has ramped up in recent years.

“While TSA’s role at airports is most visible, and remains critically important, the agency has a responsibility to stay ahead of threats and secure all U.S. transportation systems,” Thune said in a press release.

“To help ensure that complacency and a lack of analysis described by the inspector general does not create vulnerabilities for terrorists to exploit, the Commerce Committee will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to improve how TSA assesses and responds to security risks.”

The senators were encouraged to write the bill after a recent report from the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, which determined that TSA lacks an intelligence-driven, risk-based security strategy to help the agency make security and resource decisions across all transportation modes.

“TSA’s publicized ‘intelligence driven, risk-based approach’ was designed for the aviation mode and chiefly for air passenger screening,” the report says. “Though TSA has security programs for the surface modes, its agency-wide risk management organizations provide little oversight of these programs.”

The report also found that the TSA does not have a formal process to encompass security risks in its budget decisions, which “would help ensure all transportation modes consistently implement risk-based security and help decision makers align resources effectively.”

The inspector general is urging the TSA to create a risk-based security strategy that reflects all transportation modes and establish a budget planning process that uses risk to make resource decisions.

“I find it troubling that 15 years has passed since the 9/11 attacks and TSA is still struggling to allocate resources to protect travelers, especially in our rail and transit systems,” said Nelson. “This report only underscores the need to shore up any security gaps before it’s too late.”

In a statement, the TSA said it agrees with the report’s recommendations.

“TSA’s enterprise risk management program is a benchmark recognized across federal agencies, based on a comprehensive and systematic approach to apply risk management across the enterprise,” the statement read. “TSA agrees with the recommendations provided by the OIG and they will help further strengthen TSA’s overall risk management program.”

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

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Faces
Fight Over Eminent Domain

By Gordon Dickson
The Star Telegram

As far as David Risinger Sr. is concerned, just because a company calls itself a railroad doesn’t make it one.

Especially, he said, when the company in question, Texas Central Railroad and Infrastructure Inc., didn’t exist until 2012 — and to this day owns no depots, locomotives, tracks or ties.

That’s why when Risinger, who owns a 220-acre farm near Ferris (TX) — about 25 miles south of downtown Dallas, TX — was contacted by a land consultant representing the high-speed rail company who was seeking permission to enter his property for a survey, he refused.

Texas Central Railroad and Infrastructure, which is trying to buy up land for a proposed high-speed rail line between Dallas and Houston, then filed a lawsuit alleging that Risinger, 81, had no right to stand in the way of the project.

That lawsuit and more than 30 others filed in mostly rural counties up and down the corridor are the latest in a series of legal moves that have raised eyebrows along the proposed Texas Central Railway route.

“They said I’m costing them millions of dollars and the project was so big that it just could not be stopped,” said Risinger, whose family has raised cattle and grown cotton, corn and other crops on their Ellis County property since 1892. “I want to know who gives a private company the right to come and take my property — for their profit.”

The courthouse drama is only part of the activity.

Texas Central also is gobbling up purchase options on land along the route, offering property owners upfront payments equal to a percentage of the purchase price in exchange for their cooperation. The options give the company until December 2019 to decide whether to buy the land outright and pay the owners the balance.

A handful of property owners have accepted the offers, officials on both sides of the issue say, although the precise number cannot be determined by public records.

The land rush is reminiscent of the early days of a big oil and gas play, with property owners receiving mineral rights bonuses whether or not the explorer actually drills a well on or near their land.

Except this time, the payoff isn’t black gold bubbling out of the soil — but instead a $12 billion to $18 billion, Japanese-style bullet train.

For the full story and additional detailed coverage, continue at:

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Electrification Enhances Bay Area
Commuter Rail, Sets High-Speed Stage

By Charles R. Lynch, PE
Metro Magazine

Two-thirds of Americans would use high-speed trains if they were available today, according to a 2015 survey released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Many metropolitan transit organizations are already seeing an increased demand for mass transit services, especially as commuters and travelers look for additional transportation options. However, in order to meet this demand and prepare for high-speed rail, transit organizations need to begin modernizing their current systems now.


Image:  Caltrain

A Caltrain consists passes over a viaduct above local traffic.

Ridership Growth

One area of the U.S. seeing substantial ridership growth is the California Bay Area. For more than 150 years, residents and visitors have used passenger rail to travel between San Francisco and San Jose. In a region that has become the epicenter of modern technology and innovation, the Caltrain system now handles 60,000 daily riders along a 77-mile route with 32 stations. After years of significant increases in ridership, demand has outgrown system capacity.

“The California Department of Finance has identified the Bay Area as the fastest-growing region of the state,” explains Eric Olson, PE, West Region director of Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail Systems (GFT&RS). “In 2013, San Jose surpassed one million residents and continues to see an increase in population and transit needs.”

As owner/operator of Caltrain, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board is implementing a $1.7 billion modernization program, which has gained tremendous support among the ridership, residents and major business interests in the region. Funded through a nine-party agreement that leverages local, regional and federal funding to match $705 million in voter-approved high-speed rail bond revenues, the Caltrain Modernization Program includes the electrification of the existing San Francisco to San Jose corridor.

ImageFile Map Via CalTrain   

Caltrain provides commuter rail service along the San Francisco
Peninsula, through the South Bay to San Jose and Gilroy

Accommodate High-Speed Rail

Electrification has been part of Caltrain’s long-term plan for years and is a step toward preparations to accommodate California’s statewide high-speed rail service, planned for 2029. When complete, the modernization project will not only electrify the system, but upgrade the performance, operating efficiency, capacity, safety and reliability of commuter service.

GFT&RS is serving as the owner’s representative on the Peninsula Corridor electrification project, which will transform the system from a diesel-locomotive-based service to an electrified system. The new system will be equipped with high-performance, multiple-unit electric trains that operate from overhead catenary. The new trains enhance capacity to an 111,000 daily ridership, with improved service frequency and faster trips.

By 2040, the modernization project is expected to reduce greenhouse gases by 176,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, reducing the agency’s emissions by up to 97% and helping to meet California’s emission reduction goals. Additional capacity reduces daily traffic congestion by 619,000 vehicle miles. The project also helps with noise pollution, by reducing engine noise from the trains, as noise from electrified train engines are measurably less than diesel train engines.

Fleet Conversion

GFT&R is overseeing the new electrification system of nearly 52 miles of Caltrain right-of-way. Caltrain is converting their current diesel push/pull service on this route to a 25 kilovolt/60 hertz electrification system. A new fleet of electric multiple-unit trains is being sourced for the system and is scheduled to be in service by 2020 or 2021.

“Significant modifications have already been made to the signal and positive train control systems,” shares Bryan Mulqueen, PE, director, GFT&RS. “This communications-based overlay signal system equips the corridor with federally-mandated safety technology to monitor and control train movements and improve system performance.”

Caltrain installed conduit and fiber optic cable for the upgrade, which was operational by the end of 2015.

The electrified Caltrain system sets the stage for an enhanced, modern commuter rail service and future blended high-speed rail service. The current project does not include all of the necessary infrastructure to implement high-speed service, but the electrical infrastructure will be compatible.

While the electrification will allow for the eventual move to high-speed rail service, that is not the only reason Caltrain elected to move forward with the project. They had done research for decades and determined that the overhead contact system being used was a logical choice, given its standard proven design, which is used in the U.S.’ Northeast Corridor and multiple European services.

The Caltrain Modernization and Electrification Project is on track and on budget to reach completion in late 2020 or early 2021. When the project is complete, Caltrain will have a solid foundation for the next step to high-speed rail service for its riders.

Charles R. Lynch, PE, is Vice-President of , Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail Systems. (

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Seattle To Vancouver In 57 Minutes?

Political Leaders Push For Cross-Border High-Speed Rail

By Nat Levy

Plenty of barriers have kept Seattle and Vancouver from becoming a single, connected region. Chief among them, the international border and the numerous traffic jams that travelers inevitably encounter one a journey between the two cities.

One solution to that: high-speed rail. As part of the Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference in Vancouver B.C. Tuesday, political leaders from both sides of the border pitched an idea to build trains that would travel between Seattle and Vancouver in less than an hour.

Though a fully-baked plan was not proposed, King County Executive Dow Constantine and former Member of the Legislative Assembly Kevin Falcon argued the idea is less of a fantasy than most would think. This isn’t the first time such a plan has been discussed. High-speed rail connects disparate regions all over the world. Why not build it between Seattle and Vancouver?

“Though some may look at this as a moon shot or the kind of idea that’s never going to happen . I’d rather view high-speed rail as a bold idea that deserves serious research and consideration,” Falcon said.

If you think traffic is bad now, just wait until 2040. Constantine cited figures saying the Vancouver area’s population is expected to increase by 50 percent from 2.2 million to 3.4 million in the next few decades. In Seattle, population is expected to rise about 30 percent, to approximately 5 million people in the region by 2040.

“The future is coming whether you like it or not,” Constantine said. “The growth is coming, and we’re either going to allow it to overwhelm us, or we are going to face it squarely.”

The discussion did not go into exactly how such a project would get done. Falcon recommended building a task force of high-ranking government officials, engineers and contractors to work together and build a plan, a feasibility study of sorts. Constantine said regional consensus as well as influential people and groups championing high-speed rail would be key.

Constantine laid out some specifics of how the trains might work. They would travel 200 to 250 miles per hour, multiple trains would come every hour at all hours of the day. Trains could have on-board customs and the latest technology to speed up boarding and arriving at a destination.

Any project of such grand scope is going to be tough, Constantine and Falcon said. Big transportation projects inevitably face challenges from inception to completion. Further complicating a high-speed rail corridor between Seattle and Vancouver is the border. But Falcon said British Columbia and Washington transportation officials have a strong history of working together.

However, there are already competing visions for rapid travel between the cities. A report this week by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, proposing exclusive lanes for driverless vehicles on Interstate 5, argued against high-speed rail as an alternative, saying that the estimated cost is $250 million a mile, or $30 billion for the Seattle to Vancouver corridor. For that cost, Madrona said, every household in Seattle and Vancouver could be given a self-driving Tesla.

Undaunted, Constantine closed his comments today by challenging the many tech luminaries at the conference — he and Falcon followed a rare joint public appearance by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and its CEO Satya Nadella — to advocate for high-speed rail.

“The people in this room have made their mark harnessing their creativity, and making things that were impossible, possible,” Constantine said. “You are literally in the business of changing the world. So Let’s do that. Let’s connect Seattle and Vancouver; let’s build high-speed rail. Let’s create the prosperous future that we on both sides of this border deserve.”

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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Brooklyn Councilman Calls For A ‘Freight-Capable’ Gateway,
Setting Off A Political Spat

By Dana Rubinstein

If the feds and the states are going to spend billions of dollars to build a new, two-track tunnel under the Hudson River, they might as well make it accessible to both passenger and freight trains.

Or so goes an argument advanced by Councilman David Greenfield of Brooklyn, NY, who, together with 12 other elected officials, has sent a letter to U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, Amtrak president Charles “Wick” Moorman, and NJ Transit interim executive director Dennis Martin, arguing that the new Gateway tunnel should be “freight-capable.”

At least two of the signatories have since removed their name from the letter, which was circulated to the press on Tuesday, including Councilman Ben Kallos and State Sen. Diane Savino, who declined to comment. Kallos said he didn’t understand when he signed the letter that the press release pitted one proposal (making Gateway “freight-capable”) against another proposal, building a separate cross-harbor freight tunnel. The latter proposal is the pet project of U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, who does not get along well with Greenfield.

“I signed it because I support any investment in infrastructure in the City of New York that will improve freight and make food less expensive, and I’m fairly agnostic as to whether that’s the cross-Harbor or Gateway or any of the other projects that we are trying to get funded,” said Kallos. “But I do not support one project over the other.”

Nadler has been advocating for a freight-specific tunnel beneath the harbor for decades. While Greenfield’s letter does not take explicit aim at the Nadler project, the accompanying press release does.

“Unfortunately, some bureaucrats would rather waste billions of dollars for a dedicated freight tunnel that will likely never materialize,” says Greenfield in his press release. “We need to add freight to this passenger tunnel so that we can save money and actually get it done.”

In an ensuing interview, Greenfield said any dispute among signatories was due to a mere “misunderstanding.”

“Maybe it’s generational, but I think we have to go with the best public policy ideas and push those and not be worried about some folks saying, ‘You stepped on my turf and I have an exclusive right to all transportation ideas,’ “ said Greenfield, in an apparent reference to Nadler. The congressman had no comment.

All that being said, some experts, though not all, support the substance of Greenfield’s proposal.

Earlier this year, the Port Authority, in its study of cross-harbor freight alternatives, dismissed the notion of making a cross-Hudson tunnel to accommodate both passenger and freight, saying it would “result in minimal windows for freight, at best.”

In May, however, the Regional Plan Association submitted testimony to the federal transportation department and NJ Transit arguing for much the same thing, since ultimately — after the new two-track tunnel comes online, and the old two-track one gets repaired — there will be four tracks running under the river, not just two.

The association further argues that an expanded Penn Station — another element of the Gateway program — should allow for through-running, rather than serve as a terminus for the new tracks. Freight trains could then run through Manhattan to Queens with a connection to, say, the lower Montauk Branch of the Long Island Rail Road.

“We don’t believe we should be building a tunnel just for people and a tunnel just for freight,” said Richard Barone, the association’s vice president for transportation. “We think we should be building facilities that can do both. Money isn’t infinite.”

Greenfield and his compatriots agree.

“Trucks currently move more than 98% of freight in New York City. Our overreliance on truck traffic makes our air harder to breathe and our streets more difficult to navigate,” they wrote in their letter. “It overburdens our infrastructure and challenges our businesses’ ability to grow in place and create jobs locally. Now, with the first new Hudson River rail tunnel in more than a century visible on the horizon, we have never had a better occasion to fix an age old problem, one which has only worsened over time. “

None of the letter’s recipients would comment for this article.

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

East Midlands Rail Report Calls For
New Trains And More Capacity

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

Britain’s East Midlands rail franchise will need to see renewal and expansion of its train fleet to meet the demands of the next decade, according to a report published on September 16 by incumbent operator East Midlands Trains (EMT).

The report, entitled East Midlands: A Railway for Growth, has been prepared with input from local authorities, businesses, academic institutions, and other key stakeholders in central England. It is intended to support the forthcoming consultation on the new East Midlands franchise, which starts in 2018.

Priorities identified in the report include:


Photo:  Keith Barrow

The report calls for the replacement of ageing HSTs with a new fleet of bi-mode trains.

The report notes that the forthcoming electrification of the MML offers an opportunity for fleet renewal on the franchise’s core inter-city corridor. Under Network Rail’s revised schedule for the project, electric services are not due to reach Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield until December 2023, but extending the life of the HSTs beyond 2020 is likely to cost around £5m per train, which the report considers to be poor value. A fleet of 200km/h bi-mode trains is therefore proposed to provide the benefits of new rolling stock before electrification is completed and to serve stations beyond the wires.

According to statistics from the Office of Rail and Road, the average age of the EMT fleet at the beginning of 2015 was 23.3 years, compared with a national average of 20.1 years. Operators of franchises with older rolling stock, including Great Western, East Anglia and Thameslink, have committed to major renewal programs over the next few years, which will drastically reduce the average age of their respective fleets.

The Department for Transport (DfT) plans to invite expressions of interest for the new East Midlands franchise in December. An invitation to tender will be issued to shortlisted bidders in April 2017 and the contract will be awarded in March 2018, with the franchise starting in June.

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Innotrans To Expand In 2018

By David Briginshaw
International Railway Journal

Speaking at the opening press conference for InnoTrans 2016 in Berlin, Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin, said a new exhibition hall will be ready in time for the 2018 edition of InnoTrans to cope with increasing demand for exhibition space.

This year’s exhibition will set a new record with 2950 exhibitors from 60 countries, with 200 of these companies exhibiting for the first time. International participation has reached a record high at 62% with exhibitors from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam attending InnoTrans for the first time.

“This year’s InnoTrans is the largest ever and with it, the physical limits of the exhibition grounds have finally been reached,” Göke says. “Just over a year ago the trade fair had a waiting list for 6000m2 of floor space. By optimizing all available areas on the outdoor display and in the halls we were able to satisfy every exhibitor’s request.”

There are 123 vehicles on display on the 3.5km of track on the show ground. These include Stadler’s new EC250 Giruno train for Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the Siemens Velaro high-speed train for Turkish State Railways (TCDD), a Siemens train for the new Riyadh Metro, and a DE 18 locomotive from Vossloh Locomotives. In addition, 140 products will on show at InnoTrans for the first time.

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

All Aboard St. Marys To Be More Direct,
More Aggressive

By Steve Rice
Stratford Beacon Herald

The familiar woo-woo of the whistle sounded across a sunny St. Marys morning as the train pulled into the station.

The cardboard locomotive and cars, leading a parade of about 35 protesters last Friday, is the only extra train the town has seen since cuts were made to service across the region four years ago.

Reports, petitions and rallies like the one last Friday have not produced the desired results. And those that gathered on the platform heard that it’s time for a change in tactics.

The advocacy group known as Save Via will move forward under the banner All Aboard St. Marys.


Photo: Steve Rice/The Beacon Herald

A train of protesters, led by local business owner Marlene Forman in the engine, heads up George Street hill in St. Marys toward the Via Rail platform at the end of a half-hour parade through town last Friday.

“One of the reasons why I suggested and the members of the group accepted the change of name is we really don’t want to Save Via because Via has been a total loss for 39 years,” campaign coordinator Greg Gormick told the gathering. “We need to do something differently.”

“We have a plan coming up called Fast, Fast, Fast Relief, and we’ll be able to show the federal and provincial governments how, if they really wanted to ... we could have five trains in each direction not just on the North Main Line but for our friends down in Niagara, and improved service in Ingersoll, Woodstock and Brantford,” he said to applause.

Later, Gormick said that Via will never work due to the very nature of its structure – headquartered in Montreal and tightly controlled by politicians in Ottawa, with no real mandate and “certainly none of the rights that Amtrak was given at the very start when it took over the passenger trains from the private railways.

“We need a new start and we need to follow the model that they’re using on many of the corridors in the United States,” he said, describing how communities along the line work cooperatively in the funding.

The name change, and a stepped-up campaign, also have something to do with the man who will be announced next week as the honorary president of the group, Gormick said. It’s David Gunn, the retired former president of Amtrak, who has been working with the group in an advisory role.

Gunn has told Gormick that the group needs to be much more pointed in its approach.

“He’s said to me consistently, ‘you’re making too many assumptions about many of these politicians. You think that if you put things out there suggesting what they could do, they’ll figure it out and attempt to do it.’ And he said, ‘no offence because you and I know some of them and have worked for some of them who are quite smart and are decent people. But for the most part you’re dealing with a lot of dummies. So you need to start saying not, we suggest this, we think this, you need to say this is what you need to do.’

“We’re going to stick with what I would have to say is a much more focused and aggressive campaign.”

The parade got help from the local Cascades container board plant, which donated the cardboard that they pressed into the shape of an old engine and four cars. Local business owner Marlene Forman spray-painted them for the half-hour parade, and guided the engine that led the group through side streets.

At the station, signs on the grass next to the rail line cried out “Save Our Trains,” “Trains Fight Climate Change” and “Stop the Train Robbery!” The Rotary Club cooked up hot dogs and hamburgers.

Local businessman Don Van Galen, playing Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald, encouraged the group with Macdonald’s speech on the ceremonial Last Spike driven in on Nov. 7, 1885, which welded East to West and “turned a patriotic notion into a practical nation.”

Gormick loved the performance.

“There should be some fun to it because this can get so dire and depressing. If you’re going to do this you have to keep people optimistic. Can we say that we’re going to deliver new and better trains, more frequent service? No. But we’ll never know unless we do this.”

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

Christmas Saved: Polar Express Has Railroad’s
Permission To Make Trips Through 2019

By Nancy Molnar

The future of the Polar Express has been secured through 2019 with a contract between the Dennison Depot Railroad Museum and the company that leases the track.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta (GA), announced the agreement with the Genesee & Wyoming Railroad during a press conference Monday at the museum.

“This December, we’re excited to say ‘Full steam ahead,’ “ Johnson said. “There’ll be more journeys to the North Pole. The elves will be there. And I’m sure Santa will show up at the appropriate time as well.

“A lot of children are going to be able to take advantage of this, this December or this holiday season.”

The news also helps the museum continue its mission of sharing the history of the community and the railroad.

“Over half of the budget for the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum comes directly from the Polar Express rides,” Johnson said.

He called Dennison the dictionary definition of a “railroad town” with its location midway between Pittsburgh and Columbus.

“It was specifically chosen as a depot because back in the day, a stream engine could only go a hundred miles before it had to stop and take on coal and water to do what it does,” Johnson said.

Just as the depot once helped build the foundation of the community’s manufacturing economy, it now contributes to tourism.

“Ten-thousand visitors a year come into Tuscarawas County to participate in the Polar Express and to visit the museum here,” Johnson said. “They go to restaurants. Sometimes they often stay overnight. That’s a lot of economic boost to a small community like this.”

A prepared statement from the museum estimates tourism spending related to the Polar Express at $1.5 million. The press release credited Johnson with saving the Polar Express trips.

Museum Director Wendy Zucal said it was not certain the Polar Express would be able to run until an agreement was reached with the railroad in a November meeting in Washington, D.C., attended by Johnson and a Tuscarawas County delegation.

The state of Ohio owns the Panhandle railroad line on which the local Polar Express runs. Ohio’s Rail Development Commission leases the track to the Genesee & Wyoming, which has a 25-year contract to use it. The lease allows for up to 10 days of excursions.

Dennison’s Polar Express is one of two in Ohio with the right to use the official Warner Bros. copyright for the story. Both the local trips and those run by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad sell out.

Zucal and Johnson both expressed appreciation to others for ensuring the continued operation of the Polar Express excursions.

She said it takes 150 volunteers to make the trips operate.

Johnson said U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, also contributed to the success of negotiations.

“A U.S. representative can do a lot of things, but we can’t do everything,” Johnson said. “We can’t come down and tell private companies and businesses what to do, how to do, who to hire, who they can contract with and who they can’t.

“But one thing that a U.S. representative can do if they’re interested in their communities — and I certainly am — is to bring the people together, bring the groups together, and sit down around the table and talk about what’s important and try to find a solution that everybody’s going to be able to walk away with, saying ‘We won something out of that.’ “

Johnson credited his Cambridge field representative Ashley Karlen with preparing the parties to come to an agreement.

The Polar Express re-enacts a story written by Chris Von Allsburg about a boy who travels to the North Pole on a train.

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2016 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Logo Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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