The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Oct 31, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 44

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 Editorial…
Measure B To Decrease Traffic And Offer
   More Mass Transit
  Transit Lines…
A Pair Of Futuristic New Rail Cars Now Ready
   For A Test Run
  Safety Lines…
Amtrak Bans Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone From Passenger Trains
CTDOT Initiates Rail Noise Mitigation Efforts
   Becomes New England’s First State To Install
   Wayside Horn Systems
  Labor Lines…
SEPTA Strike Looming As Contract Negotiation
   Near Oct. 31 Deadline
Bombardier To Axe 7500 Jobs
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Political Lines…
Congressman Michael Capuano Asks DOJ To Review
   Possible Civil Rights Violations Over MBTA
   Fairmount Line Cancellations
  Across The Pond…
Germany Approves Funding For Second Commuter
   Rail Tunnel Route Through Munich
  To The North…
House Of Commons Investigation Of VIA Rail Timely
   And Necessary, Says Citizens’ Advocacy Committee
  Off The Main Line…
National Park Service Offers The “Roosevelt Ride”
   From Metro-North
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Measure B To Decrease Traffic
And Offer More Mass Transit

Andrew Pouliot
La Voz News

Traffic in the South Bay [CA] has grown worse in the last few years, according to a report by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. There is no sign that the situation will improve without the passing of Measure B. The measure is on the ballot for Santa Clara County this year. Voting yes on the measure would mean passing a 25 cent general sales tax, which is estimated to bring in over $38 million a year. Carl Guardino, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, has spearheaded a committee of private citizens that are gathering support for Measure B. “We aim to bring more traffic relief and transit alternatives to Santa Clara County,” Guardino said in an interview with La Voz News. Measure B has three main goals: relieve traffic, provide more transit options, and fix the crumbling condition of roads and streets within the county. The leadership group has worked with the Valley Transit Authority, CalTrans CalTrain, and the councils and departments of all 15 towns and cities in Santa Clara County for three years to bring Measure B to the ballot.

Measure B has collected $900 million in federal money and $835 million in state money for the improvements.

“If we hadn’t created a local measure,” Guardino said, “that money might have gone to different regions in the state.”

“The first thing we want to do is finish the BART extension that’s being built into Silicon Valley,” Guardino said. “The first ten miles of the BART extension are not only being built right now, but the project is a year ahead of schedule, $75 million under budget, and it opens for passenger service in the fall of 2017.”

The BART extension will have two stations, one in Milpitas and one in the North San Jose neighborhood of Berryessa. The station in Milpitas will have platform-to-platform connections with the Light Rail System. Measure B would add six additional miles to the BART extension, with four more stations at the Five Wounds Church in Alum Rock, San Jose State University, the SAP Center, and Santa Clara University.

The station at SAP Center has platform connections to Diridon Station, which will enable passengers to move from BART to shuttle buses or CalTrain; the station at Santa Clara University is across from the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, enabling passengers to use the three-terminal transit system so that they can get to their flights.

“BART carries over 440,000 weekday riders,” Guardino said. “They are choice riders, which means they make the choice to take BART instead of driving, which means less cars on our roads every day.” Funding the BART extensions adds 90,000 more weekday riders from the San Jose area, further decreasing road congestion in the county, Guardino said.

CalTrain carries 65,000 weekday riders, a number that has steadily risen every month for four years straight, Guardino said. “Measure B will provide funding for electrifying CalTrain, nearly doubling ridership to 110,000 weekday riders.”

Currently, CalTrain uses diesel-powered trains, which can pull five or six train cars of passengers. “With electrified train cars, CalTrain can pull eight train cars,” Guardino said. “You can also run them more close together because they start and stop faster than diesel trains.”

Two of three riders on CalTrain are choice riders, according to Guardino. The third rider, which adds up to 300,000 people every year, are senior citizens, students, disabled persons, or the working poor.

“They don’t have a choice, they don’t own a car, or they’re no longer able to use a car,” Guardino said. “We can’t leave them stranded at the curb. Half a billion dollars is going into retaining and growing lifeline service and core transit service for those who need it.”

The Measure B report released by the leadership group indicates that Santa Clara County has become the second most congested area in California, behind Los Angeles.

According to the leadership group report, the average car trip in Santa Clara County is five miles; 28 of 100 car trips are only two miles. With 330 days of sunny weather every year, Measure B will infuse $250 million into installing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and safety improvements, especially near schools (with priority on colleges and universities).

“Many trails end at creeks or freeway interchanges,” Guardino said. “We want to make it safer by closing gaps and making a system county-wide for biking.”

Supporters of Measure B also want to improve Highway 85, which has become one of the most congested roads in California. The highway was originally built in 1995 in response to worsening traffic in the county, a project Carl Guardino supported and worked on.

“The center median on Highway 85 is empty,” Guardino said. “It was always planned, but never funded, for a future form of transit.”

If Measure B passes, Guardino explained, then the VTA, with existing funds, will conduct an alternatives analysis, which is a legal process for looking at all the alternatives for that corridor. Once the study is complete, the VTA would select the right transit medium to put in that empty corridor. The plan would not take away existing lanes, but utilize the empty centerline for something like bus transit or light rail.

The Sierra Club is one of the outspoken opponents to Measure B. Gladwyn D’Souza, who represents the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club in Palo Alto, cited five reasons the Sierra Club stands against the measure: Deception, lack of accountability, impacts of reduced public transportation, climate change and lack of alternatives.

“VTA has a history, of offering one set of projects in a measure, and doing something else with the money,” D’Souza said in an email. “The rail connection from San Jose Airport to BART, light rail and CalTrain were all cancelled. Light rail and CalTrain extensions in past measures were also cancelled.”

According to D’Souza, the VTA has actually given up on their multibillion-dollar light rail system. The VTA wanted the empty center lane on Highway 85 to be used for a new light rail system until a few weeks ago, when they apparently scrapped that idea in favor of turning the center lane into a toll road.

Guardino had indicated the opposite. “The center median had always been set aside for a form of transit . when you do an alternatives analysis, you’re not supposed to bias it with a conclusion that you’re already driving to, but what most people talk about is either bus rapid transit, or light rail,” he said. “The VTA will set their criteria, whether it be traffic congestion relief, or greenhouse gas emission reduction, or getting the most people out of their cars, but the ultimate goal is a future form of transit. There is absolutely no interest in making toll roads out of the center line.”

The Libertarian Party has also been a long-standing opponent to Measure B because they oppose taxation. The leadership group has supported measures for open spaces and affordable housing in the past, which were all strongly opposed by the Libertarian Party.

Mark Hinkle, the president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, explained that the association does not have a direct link to the Libertarian Party, but several board members in the Taxpayers Association are also members of the Libertarian Party.

“The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association does not support Measure B because we don’t need taxpayer dollars for these projects,” Hinkle said. “There is no reason to burden taxpayers with extra taxes.”

Found at:
http://lavozdeanza.com/news/2016/10/26/measure-b-to-decrease-traffic-and-offer-more-mass-transit/


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

A Pair Of Futuristic New Rail Cars
Now Ready For A Test Run

By Lance Dixon
Miami Herald

The promise of a sleek, new way to get around on public transportation is inching closer as Miami-Dade unveiled the first two new Metrorail cars that are ready for testing.

The two cars, unveiled Monday, are the first of a planned 136 new cars that will be introduced into the system between 2017 and the end of 2019. Miami-Dade transportation leaders hope to have these two cars on the rails by the end of next year.

Image

Photo: Roberto Koltun

Prototype of a new Metrorail car on display in May 2016.

The new fleet is being designed and built by Hitachi Rail USA and the cars will keep some existing features like free Wi-Fi while adding new digital media displays, interior bike racks, an improved audio system for announcements and a new overall look that’s been described as futuristic.

The pair of cars will be tested over the next eight to nine months at both the Hitachi USA facility in the town of Medley and the Lehman Center for Transportation Research. The cars will be tested for any electrical and mechanical issues, balance ability and for connectivity between the cars.

Alice Bravo, the director of the county’s transportation and public works department, said regular Metrorail riders will definitely see a difference in their experience.

“You’ll have improved lighting, new air conditioning, the digital boards will give information on nearby destinations,” Bravo said. “The ride is going to be smoother and we shouldn’t have any disruptions in service due to the conditions of the vehicles.”

The testing of the cars comes after some delays in the $313.8 million project, which was approved in 2012, as county commissioners wanted to see a new look for the cars and the Hitachi facility just opened in March. Bravo said the department still expects the project to remain on time and on budget.

Read more here:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article110307102.html#storylink=cpy


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Amtrak Bans Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone
From Passenger Trains

By Aaron Mamiit
Tech Times

The list of places where Samsung’s beleaguered Galaxy Note 7 is not welcome continues to increase, as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, more popularly known as Amtrak, has banned the explosive device from its passenger railroad services.

The Galaxy Note 7 started off with a lot of promise after it was launched. However, there then came reports of units catching fire due to their batteries exploding. After a worldwide recall that saw the replacement devices still proving to be too hot to handle, Samsung has decided to end the production and sales of the Galaxy Note 7.

Shortly afterwards, the Department of Transportation issued an official ban on the smart phone from being taken on U.S. airline flights, which is a major escalation from the previous restriction that Galaxy Note 7 owners only needed to turn off the device before boarding airplanes.

The ban of the Galaxy Note 7 on airplanes, including being brought into aircraft as cargo, took effect on Oct. 15.

Unfortunately, there are still some customers who are still holding on to their Galaxy Note 7 smart phones. Whether that is by choice due to the impressive specs and features of the device or lack of knowledge on the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 despite the wide media coverage that it has received, there are still some units of the smart phone out there.

For Galaxy Note 7 owners looking to circumvent the airline ban by travelling through rail, Amtrak’s issuance of its own ban eliminates that option as well.

Through the ban, the Galaxy Note 7 is no longer allowed from being brought into trains, platforms, stations and connecting buses. That is understandable given the damage that the smart phone can cause if it explodes while within a train, which could cause travel disruptions, passenger evacuations, and a lot of lost income.

It is not clear if other train operations around the world will enforce such a ban on the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung has placed exchange booths for the Galaxy Note 7 in airports across the globe so that owners can have their devices exchanged before boarding their flights, which is something that Samsung might do for entry points of other forms of transportation.

However, instead of further bans being applied against the smart phone and more exchange booths being put up, it would be much better if all the Galaxy Note 7 units still out in the wild would be replaced by owners as soon as possible.

Found at:
http://www.techtimes.com/articles/183178/20161022/even-more-places-where-samsung-galaxy-note-7-is-not-welcome-amtrak-bans-smartphone-from-passenger-trains.htm


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CTDOT Initiates Rail Noise Mitigation Efforts
Becomes New England’s First State To Install
Wayside Horn Systems

A Release From Connecticut Dept. Of Transportation

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) today announced that Connecticut would become the first state in New England to install automated horn systems, commonly known as wayside horns, at various rail at-grade crossings. Installed as part of CTDOT’s noise mitigation efforts along the CTrail Hartford Line, the first hornbecame operational today (October 24, 2016) atthe Cooper Streetcrossing in Meriden.

CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker states, “As we gear up for service launch on the Hartford Line, we are eager to be at the forefront of wayside horn system installation in Connecticut and recognize the benefits it brings to communities along the line.”

A wayside horn system consists of stationary horns mounted on poles at active rail at-grade crossing. The system is designed to provide a consistent audible warning to motorists and pedestrians upon the approach of a train to the at-grade crossing. Wayside horns take the place of train-mounted horns, which typically are activated up to ½ mile in advance of the crossing. By focusing audible warnings toward the roadways approaching at-grade crossings, wayside horns reduce noise associated with railroad at-grade crossings.

The installation of wayside horns helps CTDOT satisfy one of the conditions of the 2012 Environmental Assessment prepared for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program, which requires noise associated with the enhanced rail service to be mitigated near sensitive noise receptors, such as residential neighborhoods, educational institutions and recreational areas.

“The installation of wayside horns is consistent with CTDOT’s commitment to safety at grade crossings and fulfills our obligation to reduce noise associated with the Program, thereby improving quality of life for our neighbors along the corridor,” said John Bernick, CTDOT Assistant Rail Administrator. “We will look to install additional systems along the Hartford Line in specific areas to reduce train horn noise as we approach service launch.”

The CTrail Hartford Line will provide more frequent, convenient and faster passenger rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield by increasing the number of round trip trains from six daily Amtrak intercity and regional trains to a total of 17 round trip trains a day to Hartford, and 12 trains per day to Springfield. The majority of the existing rail stations will be replaced and several new stations will be built. The expanded service and new stations are expected to increase ridership, improve the high speed and passenger rail system serving the northeast, expand intermodal transportation options, encourage economic development and create more livable and sustainable communities.

Found at:
http://www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?A=1373&Q=587060


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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

SEPTA Strike Looming As Contract
Negotiation Near Oct. 31 Deadline

By Bowman Cooper
The Daily Pennsylvanian

With only a week until the contract expires between the Transportation Workers Union and SEPTA, it looks increasingly likely that the public transportation organization will suspend service.

The union voted to authorize a strike last week, which could occur in November if the union cannot reach an agreement with SEPTA on a new contract by Halloween.

TWU President Willie Brown told Philadelphia Magazine that the union and SEPTA are in conflict over pension and health care issues.

“TWU Local 234’s recent vote to authorize a strike is not an unusual step in the course of negotiations,” SEPTA said in a statement. “SEPTA is committed to bargaining in good faith with TWU Local 234 on a new contract that is fair to customers, employees and the taxpayers.”

Jeff Kessler, SEPTA Youth Advisory Council executive chairman and a graduate student in both the Engineering and Law Schools, also said strike authorizations are not uncommon, and typically stem from negotiations over healthcare benefits and wage increases. Kessler said that authorizing a strike ahead of time is a commonly used strategy by the union during negotiations as a way of increasing their leverage over SEPTA.

“It’s not uncommon for the union to hold a strike authorization vote in advance of when they’re legally permitted to strike because there are rules that govern when they’re able to strike,” he said. “In this case the first day that they could strike would be when the contract expires, which would be Nov. 1st.”

Kessler said that he hopes the strike does not actually occur, adding that it seems as if all parties are trying to avoid that situation.

“It really just depends on what SEPTA and the union are able to agree upon,” he said.

Kessler added that SEPTA regularly deals with multiple unions, and that the company even has a labor relations department that deals specifically with union contract negotiations.

“Their entire staff is focusing on discussing this contract with the head of the TWU, Willie Brown, and their staff to effectively consider what are our options, what is or isn’t on the table and whether or not they’re able to come to terms before the end of their contract,” he said.

The main concern about this potential strike is the fact that it would take place so close to Election Day, Kessler said.

“If there were to be a strike, it’s not so much that it would affect people’s ability to get to their polling place via SEPTA, but for those that don’t have other means of travel to get to their jobs,” he said. “They would have to leave their homes earlier and probably arrive at home later which could prevent them from getting to the polls with enough time to vote before the polls close.”

Additionally, a strike by the TWU would have a substantial impact on transportation options in the city due to the union’s large size.

“The TWU is the largest of all of SEPTA’s unions,” Kessler said. “If that union were to go on strike, the Market-Frankford Line, all of the trolleys, the Broad Street Line and all of the buses that operate within the city of Philadelphia would be suspended.”

Kessler did not predict that a strike would interfere with voter turnout on Election Day, as the strike would have to last at least seven days for that to be an issue. He said the most recent strike in Philadelphia only lasted for one day and had minimal impact.

From an item at:
http://www.thedp.com/article/2016/10/septa-strike-looms-as-contract-negotiations-near-deadline


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Bombardier To Axe 7500 Jobs

By  Dan Templeton
International Railway Journal

As part of its turnaround plan, Bombardier announced on October 21 that it will cut 7500 jobs, or over 10% of its workforce, in an effort to deliver recurring savings of $US300m by the end of 2018.

Bombardier told IRJ that two-thirds of the jobs effected would come directly from Bombardier Transportation, with the remainder from its aerospace branch.

In addition to the recurring savings of Bombardier anticipates that $US 225m - $US 275m in restructuring charges which will start in the fourth quarter of 2016, continuing through 2017.

The company is aiming to build its earnings growth potential by improving productivity and reducing costs. Specifically, it is streamlining its administrative and non-production functions across the organization, and will create centers for design, engineering and manufacturing activities in both its aerospace and rail businesses.

The turnaround plan included the sale of a 30% stake in Bombardier Transportation to Canadian pension fund last year in a deal worth $C 1.5bn ($US 1.1bn), and has become more prominent since Bombardier reported at the end of June that it had $US 8.96bn of debt and $US 4.4bn of accessible liquidity.

“After successfully de-risking our business last year, our focus has shifted to building a clear path to profitable earnings growth and cash generation,” says Mr. Alain Bellemare, president and chief executive officer of Bombardier. “The actions announced today will ensure we have the right cost structure, workforce and organization to compete and win in the future.”

“We are confident in our strategy, our leadership team, and our ability to achieve both our 2016 goals and our 2020 turn-around objectives.”

More detail of which jobs will be impacted are expected in the coming weeks.

From an item at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/financial/bombardier-to-axe-7500-jobs.html


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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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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Congressman Michael Capuano Asks DOJ
To Review Possible Civil Rights Violations
Over MBTA Fairmount Line Cancellations

By Marc Fortier
New England Cable Network News

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) is asking federal investigators to look into whether the state’s commuter rail operator violated civil rights laws.

The Boston Globe reports the Massachusetts Democrat wants the Department of Justice and Federal Transit Administration to review a decision by Keolis Commuter Services to take trains from a line that serves lower-income communities to use on suburban lines. The Globe reported Sunday that Keolis cancelled 17 trains on the Fairmount Line, which runs through Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester.

In a letter, Capuano said diverting trains from lower-income and minority neighborhoods where residents rely on public transportation to get to work raises questions of economic and racial injustice.

“I knew about the cancellations, but up until Sunday, my presumption was it was just typical problems between the state and management,” he told NECN last Tuesday. “When you take service away from a lower income, predominantly non-white population and you take that exact same service and transfer it over to a more affluent, white population, it raises questions of discrimination.”

Keolis spokeswoman Leslie Aun said in an email to the Globe that the company is 14 coaches short of the 359 required because of a maintenance inspection backlog. She said the company is adding to its mechanical team to complete inspections faster.

The MBTA said in a statement that it has asked Keolis to correct the problem.

“The cancellation of any train is unacceptable,” the statement said, “and we are especially concerned if a cancellation could be perceived as inequitable to our low income or minority riders.”

Found at:
http://www.necn.com/news/new-england/Congressman-Michael-Capuano-Asks-DOJ-to-Review-Possible-Civil-Rights-Violations-Over-Fairmount-Line-Cancellations-398367461.html


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


Germany Approves Funding For Second
Commuter Rail Tunnel Route Through
Munich

Munich’s 45 Year-Old First Commuter Rail Tunnel
Is Now Maxed Out During Rush Hour Periods.

VIA Süddeutche Zeitung Newspaper And dpa

Munich, Germany – The commuter rail network, called S-Bahn in German railway terminology, in Germany’s second most populous city Munich is now in its mid 40s – the start of middle age for people, but prime time for public transit infrastructure.  However the heart of the city’s commuter rail network, a 6 km (4 mile) long double track tunnel in the city center is now at the upper limit of the number of trains it can handle per hour with one train every 90 – 120 seconds in each direction.  A heart bypass operation, in the form of a second parallel two-track tunnel, which has been in planning for several years already, was approved this past week for formal start.

Image

Image from Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

Diagram of existing and proposed S-Bahn rail routes in downtown Munich Germany, the existing S-Bahn commuter rail lines shown in black, the proposed new parallel S-Bahn rail route in orange.

Germany’s federal government will provide 60% of the funding required for a second east-west S-Bahn tunnel beneath the city center under an agreement signed in Munich back on the 25th of October by federal transport minister Alexander Dobrindt and the state governor of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer.  Following recent cost increases, the project now has an estimated price tag of around € 3.84 billion (US $4.4 billion), including a € 640 million risk contingency. The German federal government will contribute around € 1.5 billion to the project through the German municipal transit financing law (known by its German acronym GVFG), with € 1.4 billion coming from the state of Bavaria, € 155 million from the city of Munich, and € 150 million from Deutsche Bahn – German Railways. Any additional costs will be divided on a 60:40 basis between the federal and state governments.

The project involves constructing a 14 km long new line from Laim in the west to Leuchtenbergring in the east running parallel with the existing line with a 7 km twin-bore tunnel between Donnersbergerbrücke and Munich East Station (Ostbahnhof).  Three new underground stations are planned at Munich Main Station (Haupt Bahnhof), Marienhof, and Munich East Station (Ostbahnhof).  Groundbreaking is due to take place in April 2017 and the tunnel is expected to open in December 2026.

The term “S-Bahn” in German language refers to a dedicated conventional commuter rail network built through and around a major city or urban area with local / commuter trains.  Often (but not always) S-Bahn rail tracks are located underground in city centers, thus avoiding the dead-end terminal train stations up on the surface level of the city.  The term “S-Bahn” is in widespread use in German-speaking Austria, Switzerland and, of course, in Germany.  The same kind of commuter rail system in France and Belgium goes by the French acronym “RER”.  With a few exceptions, S-Bahn and RER commuter trains travel on conventional rails lines built to the same standards of the national rail system in areas beyond the city center.  The exceptions include Hamburg and Berlin, where S-Bahn trains in those two cities run on a dedicated track network with its own signal system and DC third rail electrification.

Aside from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, France, and Belgium with S.Bahn / RER commuter rail networks running through city centers to outer suburbs, a number of other countries also have built similar type of commuter rail networks including Melbourne, Sydney and Perth Australia, Wellington New Zealand, Milan Italy, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Warsaw, Prague, Madrid, Barcelona, Moscow, Budapest, and most recently London, UK with its brand new Cross Rail project.  In the USA perhaps only Philadelphia, PA with its SEPTA commuter rail network fits the general layout and configuration of a German “S-Bahn” or French “RER” rail network, although the rail mass transit systems in Atlanta (MARTA), Washington DC (WMTA), and BART in the San Francisco / Oakland / Silicon Valley area come close to resembling an American “S-Bahn” system with the end points of their lines in suburban areas beyond the main city center.  The commuter rail networks in Boston, New York, and Chicago, where suburban commuter trains terminate in the city center do not really conform to the S-Bahn / RER commuter rail concept, as they do not continue beyond the downtown area to smaller cities or towns on the other side of those metro areas.  


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

House Of Commons Investigation Of VIA Rail
Timely And Necessary, Says Citizens’
Advocacy Committee

From All Aboard St. Marys

The All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee is delighted by the release of the first special report into  VIA Rail Canada by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

“The fact that a high-ranking committee within Parliament is taking a close look at VIA is music to our ears,” says All Aboard St. Marys’ Chris West.  “We’ve been amazed at just how far VIA has been able to get by flinging out unfulfilled promises of service improvements and claims about the corporation’s alleged business acumen without anyone in a position of authority asking some serious questions.”

The parliamentary committee’s first report on its investigation of VIA is available online at:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/Committee/421/PACP/Reports/RP8500984/421_PACP_Rpt17_PDF/421_PACP_Rpt17-e.pdf

The special investigation by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts is a result of an earlier probing of VIA by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).  Among other disconcerting observations, the OAG confirmed that VIA had missed its scheduling and budgetary targets on several big-ticket capital projects it undertook, beginning in 2007.

Says West, “What pleases us the most about the current report by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts is that the MPs are demanding some firm answers from VIA on several major issues.  It appears to us that VIA management didn’t succeed in trying to convince the MPs that all is well with our publicly-owned passenger railway.  They once again trumpeted their unproven and unfunded plan for a Dedicated Tracks Project in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto segment of the Quebec-Windsor Corridor.  That didn’t seem to get them very far, we’re pleased to say.”

The evidence provided by VIA to the committee is available online at:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=e&Mode=1&Parl=42&Ses=1&DocId=8375331#Int-9004368

The members of the parliamentary committee have given VIA management a set of nine questions to answer, on a strict timetable, covering everything from the corporation’s lack of enabling legislation to the measures necessary to improve VIA’s dreadful on-time performance by compelling the freight railways to deliver adequate service.  The committee is also holding Minister of Transport Marc Garneau’s department accountable on three of these points.

“We congratulate the MPs of all political stripes who sit on this committee for undertaking this investigation,” says West.  “As we have said in the letter we sent to them today, we are ready to assist them in probing the shroud of secrecy that always seems to envelop VIA and the Ottawa civil servants who oversee it.”

A copy of All Aboard St. Marys’ letter to the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts is included in this release, as is the exhibit regarding VIA’s capital projects from the earlier report by the OAG.

For more information, please contact:

Chris West
All Aboard St. Marys
chriswest@kwic.com
Tel: 519 284-3310
Toll Free: 1-866-8632 Ext. 238
www.allaboardstmarys.ca

For the full report including informational comparisons see:
http://allaboardstmarys.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/AASM-Press-Release-Oct-212016.pdf


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

National Park Service Offers The
“Roosevelt Ride” From Metro-North

By David Peter Alan

The National Park Service (NPS) seldom encourages visitors to use public transportation when coming to our national parks.  There are some urban museums operated by NPS, such as the Gold Rush Museum in Seattle and the Old Courthouse Museum in St. Louis.  There is also a Visitors’ Center in New Orleans devoted to that city’s jazz heritage.  These sites are accessible by local transit, but they are the exceptions.  For the most part, the “big” national parks are off-limits to people without access to an automobile.  There are only a few trips to a National Park available on public transportation: the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park, the Grand Canyon Railway, and a local bus to Yosemite from Merced, where Amtrak’s San Joaquin trains stop.  In his documentary about the national parks, Ken Burns noted that the Park Service discouraged visitors from traveling to the parks by train and encouraged them to come by private automobile as early as the 1920s.  So, when the NPS provides a shuttle that connects with scheduled transit and brings people to a park, it’s news.

There is such an operation in New York State.  It brings people from New York City to Hyde Park, a few miles north of Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River.  Hyde Park was the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the nation’s longest-serving president, and his wife Eleanor.  The bus is labeled the “Roosevelt Ride” and there is no additional charge to ride it; the bus ride is included with admission to the sites.

There are various historic sites under the Roosevelt umbrella.  They include Springwood, the Victorian home where Franklin grew up and lived throughout his life; now preserved as a house museum, and an extensive museum about his years as President (1933-45).  There are other house museums, which are located several miles from the Hyde Park home and museum: Val-Kill, the Top Cottage and Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt’s ornate Gilded Age mansion.  During the late 19th Century, Vanderbilt was the President of the New York Central Railroad.  

Val-Kill was Eleanor’s retreat.  She and two friends started Val-Kill Industries to provide work for local people who were unemployed.  The company manufactured traditional furniture on a small scale.  After Franklin died,  Eleanor lived in the house, which had previously been the Val-Kill factory, for the rest of her life. The Top Cottage was Franklin’s retreat, which he helped design.  Franklin had contracted polio, which paralyzed his legs, so he normally used a wheelchair and could only walk a few steps, and only then with a great deal of help and with difficulty.  He built Top Cottage to accommodate his disability.  It is one of the first buildings in the nation that was designed for such accommodation.

Because these sites are located far from the Hyde Park home and the museum, the Roosevelt Ride shuttle was introduced to take visitors between the visitors’ center and those far-flung places.  More recently, a round trip from the train station in downtown Poughkeepsie has been added to the schedule.  The service day begins with a run from the station to the Visitors’ Center, near the museum.  It connects on weekdays with the 8:46 Metro-North Hudson Line train from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, which is due to arrive in Poughkeepsie at 10:36.  The train leaves New York at 8:44 and is scheduled to arrive at 10:44 on week-ends.  The bus runs seven days a week and waits for that train.  Riders arrive at the Visitors’ Center shortly before 11:00, where receptionists at the desk assist visitors in planning their itineraries for the day and collect admission fees.

The shuttle leaves the Visitors’ Center at 5:00 for the station, arriving about 5:20.  On weekdays, the next train to Grand Central leaves at 5:34 and arrives at 7:14.  On week-ends, the next train leaves at 5:50 and arrives in New York at 7:48.

For anyone with a serious interest in the Roosevelt Era, it is impossible to see the entire museum in one day.  This writer made two trips and only saw Springwood, the Top Cottage and most, but not all, of the exhibits in the museum.  It would require a third day to see everything.  Fortunately, especially for New Yorkers who use transit to get around, it is not necessary to have an automobile.

There is more to see in Hyde Park.  The train station, which the Roosevelts and other local residents used, is now a railroad museum.  It is open on Monday evenings, conveniently after the Roosevelt sites close for the day.  The old station is located on the river, within walking distance of downtown Hyde Park.  There is also the Hyde Park History Museum, which is open on week-ends.  Hyde Park is served by the “C Route” operated by the local bus authority, Dutchess County Public Transit.  For visitors wishing to see the Hyde Park Station, there is a bus that connects with the Roosevelt Ride about 5:15 and goes to downtown Hyde Park, returning about 7:10, for a tight connection to the 7:54 Metro-North train to New York.  The route also runs on Saturdays, allowing a visit to the downtown museum.  The service is limited, however, and the Dutchess County buses do not run on Sundays.  When it runs, the “C” route goes beyond Hyde Park to the small and scenic towns of Rhinebeck, Red Hook and Tivoli; towns which provide a contrast to the busy urban look and feel of New York City.

The Poughkeepsie train station is beautiful, and it deserves a close look.  The town also has some interesting neighborhoods.  Little Italy, which features some good restaurants and bakeries, is located within walking distance of the station.  So is the downtown area, on and around Main Street.  It is run-down, but there are some interesting buildings and good ethnic restaurants there.  The Southside, which is a further walk beyond downtown, features a large collection of well-preserved Victorian-era houses.  

The tracks on the old railroad bridge that formed part of the Lehigh & New England Railroad were destroyed by fire in 1974, but the supporting structure remained intact.  Today, there is a pedestrian bridge called the “Walkway Over the Hudson” and it is popular with visitors from New York City and elsewhere.  It is located within walking distance of the train station.  There are way-finding signs near the station that direct arriving visitors to the attractions in town.  The Roosevelt Ride and local buses leave from the station, out the door and to the right of the train concourse.  UCAT (Ulster County Area Transit) buses also leave from there, going to Kingston on weekdays, and to New Paltz every day.

The season is about to end for the Roosevelt Ride; it runs from May 1st through October 31st.  In the meantime, Dutchess County Public Transit “C” buses take visitors to within walking distance of the Visitors’ Center and museum.  The full experience, complete with the shuttle bus, will be available again next spring, and it is time to think about taking a day trip “up the Hudson” when the weather warms up again.  Hyde Park is one of the few places where the National Park Service offers transportation, so persons without an automobile can have access to an NPS site.  For that reason alone, it would be worthwhile to visit there.  The museum and historic sites enhance the experience.  So does the scenery, both at the destination and on the way.  Just remember to sit on the left side of the train on the way there from New York City.

The web site for the Hyde Park attractions is http://www.nps.gov/hofr.   The phone number for the site is (845) 829-9115.  Metro-North’s web site is http://www.mta.info/mnr, and the MTA phone number is (877) 690-5116.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

On “Fuel Cells Power Alstom’s Coradia iLINT”

There are many compelling reasons for the Northeast Corridor’s passengers to be excited about the emergence of a Fuel-Cell-powered passenger trainset.  This engineering breakthrough has many implications for the future expansion and enhance of passenger rail service.  Electric-powered trains are currently perfectly clean modes of transportation, but the cost of expanding electrification infrastructure is high and can therefore only be supported on very high traffic routes.   Hence, we have the vast electrification infrastructure of the Northeast Corridor.

There are at least three areas where the Fuel Cell Trainset could enable cost-effective expansion of passenger service.

1. Passenger service on non-electrified branches of the NEC.  New Haven-Springfield, South Norwalk-Danbury and New York-Albany are examples of existing services, and Providence-Worcester is an example of a proposed service that would benefit from the improved system cost effectiveness of a Fuel Cell trainset.

2. Passenger service over routes with two different electrification systems.  The MTA has at least three different modes of electrification.  The Fuel Cell trainset would allow routing innovation over multiple systems and the standardization of trainsets.

3. Passenger service through tunnels with or without electrification.  Why aren’t Fuel Cell trains already being used to repair and service rail tunnels?

I suggest the following questions for Alstom regarding the iLINT:

1. Is the iLINT planned to be deployed in tunnels?

2. How much water does a trainset generate during a typical layover at a passenger terminal?

3. How long does it take to refuel with Liquid Hydrogen?  How does this compare with a comparable refuel with Diesel fuel?

Keep up the good work, NCI!

Arthur Salvadore


 

Dear Editor,

Your Destination: Freedom issue of October 24, 2016 describes the sale of Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway, but did not delve too deeply into the possible reasons why it is being sold.

It now appears that a major underlying reason why it’s being offered for sale may be because of a lawsuit recently brought by Martin and Indian River Counties along Florida’s east coast against All Aboard Florida (AAF) and its “Brightline” train project from Miami to Orlando.  (See: http://archive.tcpalm.com/news/shaping-our-future/all-aboard-florida)

This lawsuit has been accepted for review by a federal court

It appears to me that, if said court rules in favor of these two counties, the loan that Brightline (All Aboard Florida) is seeking from the D.O.T. would be rendered null and void - meaning that AAF would have to raise money from other sources to finance the portion of its line running between West Palm Beach and Orlando - hence a reason why the Florida East Coast Railway is being offered for sale.

My view is that if the FEC Railway is sold to outside owners, said owners might refuse Brightline trains access to the very tracks they need to get to Orlando and, possibly, Jacksonville.

That would be a remarkable irony: Brightline gets the money it needs, but then no longer has ownership or control over the very tracks it would need !

It looks increasingly likely that Brightline Trains may be limited to running only between Miami and West Palm Beach.  This would defeat the purpose of establishing this service in the first place, because it is the ORLANDO-MIAMI service that has the greatest potential..

My take on this whole sad affair? We’ll be bidding farewell to this (and perhaps all future) efforts to set up privately-funded passenger rail in these United States. It will be a great setback and a shame if this first-in-generations effort to privately finance passenger rail is not allowed to come to its full fruition - demonstrating once again just how anti-passenger-rail our country and its leaders still are!

(I’ve copied and pasted the article related to this story, from the October 21, 2016 edition of ‘The TCPalm’ newspaper; It appears below, with the section referring
to the sale of the Florida East Coast Railway underlined.)

Sincerely,

Eric Talbot
Chicago, Illinois

   

All Aboard Florida’s Financing In Jeopardy As A Result Of Legal Action

By Lisa Broadt
TCPalm.com

A major strike against All Aboard Florida  one that would rescind $1.75 billion of tax-exempt financing  has been initiated by Indian River County in legal action filed Friday.

For 1 1/2 years, both Indian River and Martin counties have argued that issuing the private-activity bonds before a final environmental report was completed violated federal law.

In August, federal court Judge Christopher Cooper said the counties’ case against the U.S. Department of Transportation and All Aboard Florida had merit, and on Friday, the counties asked the court to nullify financing for the $3.1 billion passenger railroad.

All Aboard Florida officials declined to comment.

The court’s decision could determine whether Brightline passenger trains run only between Miami and West Palm Beach, or whether service eventually continues through the Treasure Coast and on to Orlando International Airport.

Now is the time for the court to take action, according to Indian River County, before All Aboard Florida can sell the bonds and begin work on the second phase of the railroad.

“This is not a case where the ‘egg has already been scrambled,’” the county said in court documents filed in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia.

Losing the ability to sell the bonds would force All Aboard Florida to seek alternate financing. The company could try to complete the process of obtaining a federal loan or try to court private investors, but both options have challenges, according to court documents.

For example, Cooper in his August ruling said obtaining a $1.6 billion Railroad Rehabilitation Investment Financing loan would seem to be the most logical substitute for the tax-exempt bonds. But statements made by the Department of Transportation, which would issue the loan, described it as “hypothetical,” indicating All Aboard Florida might not obtain the funding “easily,” Cooper said in court documents.

All Aboard Florida has failed on at least four occasions to sell the tax-exempt bonds at 7.5 percent interest, according to experts cited in court documents. The company would have to offer the bonds at about 12 percent in the traditional bond market, but the company has described that interest rate figure as a “non-starter,” the experts said.

It’s also unclear how much aid would be provided to All Aboard Florida by parent company Fortress Investment Group.

Bloomberg on Oct. 13 reported that Fortress is considering selling Florida East Coast Railway, the freight railroad with which All Aboard Florida would share tracks. Fortress, an investment management firm, is working with Barclays and Morgan Stanley to “weigh options” for the company, according to the Bloomberg report.

Should Indian River prevail, the county could recoup attorneys and experts fees.

All Aboard Florida already has begun building its first phase, with stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Service there is set to begin next year.

From an item at:
http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local/shaping-our-future/all-aboard-florida/2016/10/21/all-aboard-floridas-financing-jeopardy-according-court-documents/92516274/


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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives, state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals, as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

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