The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Nov 14, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 46

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

 Destination:Freedom 

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

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

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

  Guest Opinion…
Explainer: Why Hudson River Tunnels Are So
   Badly Needed And So Long Delayed
Third Track Is The Charm
  Political Lines…
Nearly 70 Percent Of Transit Ballot Measures Pass
  Funding Lines…
How Much Would Rail In New Hampshire Really Cost?
Transportation Secretary Directs State To Stop Work
   On Virginia Beach Light-Rail Project
  Transit Lines…
A New Streetcar Line in New Orleans, And A
   New Suggestion for Funding More
Six Months In, Downtown Streetcar A Winner
   With Nearby Businesses
MTA NYCT Prepares For 2nd Avenue Opening
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Labor Lines…
SEPTA Strike, Shuttle Services Come To End
  Expansion Lines…
Massachusetts Rail Plan, Passenger Trains In
   Pioneer Valley, Open To Public Comment
MBTA Names Dalton GM For Green Line Extension,
   Shakes Up Capital Project Team
  Across The Pond…
Want To Stay On-Time? Leave Early!
‘Cell Phone Video Game’ Train Dispatcher
   Admits Guilt
  To The North…
Metrolinx Moves To Terminate Bombardier
   LRV Contract
Southwestern Ontario’s Rail Service Keeps Sinking,
   But VIA And Ottawa Take No Action
  Publication Notes …


GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Explainer: Why Hudson River Tunnels Are
So Badly Needed And So Long Delayed

By Meir Rinde
New Jersey Spotlight

Devastating commuter delays and economic hardship just might be avoided if construction of a pair of new tunnels under the Hudson gets going

The $24 billion project to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River and improve related infrastructure on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is slowly moving ahead.

New details of the tunnel plan were recently released, and open houses on the proposal will be held November 10 at Secaucus Junction Rail Station and November 17 in New York. Last month officials said the project has been declared eligible for billions in federal funds and was added to a federal program meant to speed up the permitting process. They say construction work could begin in 2018 or 2019 and take seven years.

Yet six years after Gov. Chris Christie canceled the earlier ARC project under the Hudson, and more than a year after electrical problems in the existing tunnels caused lengthy train delays, many details of the new project still have to be worked out, including how it will be paid for.

What’s Needed:

A pair of new tunnels are needed under the Hudson River, running between North Bergen and Penn Station, to supplement the existing, 106-year-old tunnels used by NJ Transit and Amtrak trains. The current tunnels have long been overtaxed as NJ Transit ridership has grown, and as part of Amtrak’s main artery on the east coast — the one rail line that consistently turns a profit — have created havoc due to persistent delays.

These problems turned into an immediate crisis when the tunnels were scoured by seawater during Super-storm Sandy in 2012, and electrical problems in summer 2015 led to lengthy commuter delays and a public outcry. Amtrak, which owns the tunnels, says they are at risk of failure and are overdue for a lengthy closure and overhaul. New tunnels would allow trains to continue to run during repairs, preventing an economically devastating disruption of the commute. The tunnels support some 200,000 daily train passengers.

How We Got Here:

The tunnels are central to Amtrak’s 5-year-old Gateway plan, which calls for replacing the Portal Bridge near Secaucus Junction station, expanding Penn Station in New York, and other improvements on the Northeast Corridor. It ultimately aims to double train capacity under the Hudson River. Construction of a concrete tunnel box at Hudson Yards in midtown Manhattan began in 2013, but until recently there was little sign of progress on the full tunnels.

Then in June 2015, a top transportation official in the Obama administration attended a summit in New York and called the building of the new tunnels the nation’s “most important rail project.”

The following month, the failure of decaying electrical cables in the existing tunnels caused major train delays, angering commuters and raising fears of a disastrous tunnel shutdown. Under political pressure, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who for years had largely ignored the project — began discussions with the federal government on how to move it forward.

Who’s In Charge?

One major unknown has been which agency will build and own the new tunnels. Amtrak doesn’t have the capacity to do it on its own. NJ Transit will be the main user of the tunnels, but advocates fear that putting the agency in charge would allow the state to suddenly cancel the project, as Christie did with the earlier ARC tunnel.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey already owns bridges and tunnels and has substantial experience overseeing major construction programs. But it is overwhelmed with other huge, expensive obligations, including new bridges, a new Manhattan bus terminal, and the World Trade Center redevelopment, and is politically compromised by Bridgegate and other scandals.

Following on a recommendation by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), a Gateway Development Corporation is in the process of being formed by the two states, the Port Authority, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Currently NJ Transit and the Federal Railroad Administration are leading the environmental impact statement process required before construction can begin, and Amtrak is designing the tunnels.

The Cost:

An official figure has not been released, but a preliminary estimate pegs Gateway’s cost at $24 billion, including $7.7 billion over 10 years to build new tunnels and renovate the old ones. The new Portal Bridge is expected to cost $1.5 billion. Expanding Penn Station could run $5.9 billion, a second Portal Bridge South $1.9 billion, and renovating Secaucus Junction station $1.8 billion, though those numbers are very rough estimates.

Last fall Christie and Cuomo assumed a $20 billion cost for Gateway and proposed splitting the cost between the states and the federal government, an idea the Obama administration welcomed. Port Authority contributions are considered part of the states’ portion.

How To Pay For It:

Relatively small amounts are already being spent. Amtrak has spent $235 million in Sandy recovery funds on the Hudson Yards tunnel box, and $70 million has been authorized for initial engineering work on the tunnels, with half coming from the Port Authority and half from Amtrak. Amtrak is also funding NJ Transit’s work on the federal environmental review.

The billions more needed to bore the tunnels and complete Gateway will likely come from a variety of sources as they are needed. In July USDOT announced that the Hudson Tunnel and Portal Bridge projects are eligible for the federal New Starts program, which had pledged $3 billion for the old ARC project and could provide more for Gateway, pending congressional approval of the federal budget.

Long-term, a likely financing source is the $35 billion federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, which provides low-interest loans that are paid back over 35 years. On the federal side, Amtrak will help to pay for elements of Gateway with revenues from its profitable Northeast Corridor, and Congress may need to approve more direct funding.

New Jersey’s Contribution:

It’s unclear how New Jersey will pay a $5 billion to $6 billion share, given NJ Transit’s serious maintenance needs, the pension crisis, calls for higher education funding, high existing state debt, and other fiscal demands. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has said a 35-year, $3 billion loan to New Jersey would cost the state a manageable $130 million a year, but that might not cover the state’s total costs.

Some suggestions have been offered for ways to raise more revenue, such as adding an additional fee on train trips under the Hudson River that would be akin to bridge tolls. Higher ticket prices are likely to be very unpopular, however. An NJ Transit fare increase averaging 9 percent drew howls of protest when it was approved last summer, and the agency says it hopes to avoid additional increases for at least two years.

Upcoming Activities:

NJ Transit recently released a new fact sheet describing its “preferred alternative” for the tunnels’ route. Detailed information is available at the project’s website, Hudsontunnelproject.com, and project staffers will be on hand to answer questions at public information open houses scheduled for November 10 and November 17. An environmental impact statement is being prepared and will be released for public review next summer, with a federal ruling on it expected by spring 2018.

From a piece published at:
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/11/08/explainer-why-hudson-river-tunnels-are-so-badly-needed-and-so-long-delayed/

Publisher’s Comment:  The National Corridors Initiative supported New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the earlier “Macy’s Basement” dead-end version of the Hudson rail tunnel plan, because unlike the new version it was not going to allow continued DC-NYC-Boston run-throughs via Pennsylvania station.  As to the “profitability” of that line, the Northeast Corridor shows a profit only in terms of operating costs, not recovered capital costs needed for on-going infrastructure improvements or repairs (like replacing the 100+ year-old Hudson River tunnels). Having said that, we need to accelerate that project, and the strongly pro-infrastructure President-elect Donald Trump is just the man to do it: he should take a head-end train ride as soon as possible through those tunnels, perhaps on his next trip back from DC to Trump Tower, and as a construction expert it will be instantly obvious to him that the existing tunnels are becoming truly dangerous

--- Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom.


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Third Track Is The Charm

Eliminating The LIRR Bottleneck In Western Nassau County Will
Unlock The Economic Potential Of Other Transit Investments In
The New York Metropolitan Area

By Richard Murdocco
Crain’s New York Business News

Who knew that the economic future of an entire region can rely upon a mere 9.8-mile stretch of rail?

Between the village of Floral Park on the western end of Nassau County, and Hicksville, a major commuting hub on Long Island, the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) complex rail network converges on its final approach into Manhattan. Many of the LIRR’s tracks come together to funnel into just two, creating a choke point for the railroad.

With a plan to build a third track in this critical corridor, the LIRR is making one of the most important investments in its history. When completed, New York City and Long Island will reap substantive economic benefits as a result of the newly free-flowing and resilient system.

For decades, urban planners have pressed for the construction of a third track as necessary for a transportation system built in the 19th century to meet the demands of the 21st. Aside from the logistical need for the project, it is essential to unlock the economic potential of other transit investments policymakers and elected officials have been making in the last decade.

New York City’s mass-transit connections to its eastern suburbs are antiquated and crumbling. But the aging linkage is more than ever a crucial economic pipeline for workers commuting to Manhattan. Each day, roughly 300,000 rely upon the LIRR, a system built to be used by a fraction of today’s ridership. Today, the network can barely handle the demands placed upon it, let alone the challenges of future decades. When pressured, the LIRR cracks—and the collective economy of the metro region pays a heavy price thanks to losses in job productivity and time. Given the sad state of our rail, riders in the region should embrace the third-track project.

In recent years, such cracks have occurred on Long Island with troubling frequency—from seemingly benign weather events damaging critically important components like tracks or switches, to something as simple as a truck striking an overpass. When these incidents happen in one of the most heavily trafficked rail corridor in the country, that mere 9.8 mile stretch, the losses in productivity and economic activity echo throughout the metropolitan area. The system lacks the resiliency and redundancy needed to keep the trains moving.

Until now, policymakers haven’t been able to find the political will, or funding, to fix what clearly is broken. The third track would alleviate some of this pressure, allowing trains and their commuters to keep moving. Unless something changes with the LIRR system, things will only get worse as the pressures of demand increase.

According to the MTA, East Side Access, the agency’s multibillion-dollar effort of bringing the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal, will be the principal driver behind a 28% increase in ridership over the next 30 years. As such, the railroad is preparing the rest of the system for the new demands and opportunities created by the project. For example, diverting riders to Grand Central Terminal will open track space at Penn Station, which is slated for improvements as well.

In addition, smaller efforts are underway to allow the system to bear new ridership burdens, ranging from station improvements to track additions in other Suffolk County corridors. These pieces are part of a larger cohesive plan, with each amplifying the benefits of another. Again, all this will be for nothing if there are only two LIRR tracks in the 9.8 miles between Floral Park and Hicksville.

An improved railroad can pay off in other ways as well. Overall, the LIRR’s efforts are likely to bring additional development, which must be balanced with sensible land-use practices across the region. As housing prices climb in New York City, local governments must make smart decisions about where to place new housing. Without channeling this growth to be sustainable, these ample public investments will not resonate as powerfully on Long Island as they should.

Moving forward, it’s critical that all levels of government invest the necessary resources to see each effort through to completion. Such investment should be paired with creative ways to incentivize suburban commuters to leave their cars in the garage and take the newly improved mass-transit network to work, reducing the strain on our roads and bridges.

However, such cohesive efforts will only solve our woes if the transit system is fully reliable, resilient, and functional. Simply put, both Long Island and New York City needs the third track for all of these grand plans to work. A 9.8-mile section of rail must not delay us any longer.

Richard Murdocco, whose work is published at TheFoggiestIdea.org, formerly worked within the New York City Mayor’s Office of Capital Project Development during the Bloomberg administration.

From an item at:
http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20161108/OPINION/161109886/third-track-is-the-charm


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Nearly 70 Percent Of Transit
Ballot Measures Pass

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Public transportation across the United States came out a winner of the Nov. 8 election as 33 of the 48 local and statewide public transit measures up for a vote were approved; a passage rate of 69 percent, based on unofficial results.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the 49 ballot measures totaling nearly $200 billion that were voted on were the largest in history.

“Yesterday’s success demonstrates that voters have once again continued their legacy of strong support for local investment in transit options. Since 2000, the average success rate of transit measures is 71 percent,” the association said in a statement.

The largest measure in the country, Los Angeles County’s Measure M, was passing with 69 percent approval with all precincts reporting. The sales tax increase needed two-thirds majority to pass and is expected to raise $120-billion to help fund Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) projects to connect the Los Angeles International Airport to LACMTA’s Green Line, Crenshaw/LAX line and bus service; extend the Purple Line subway to Westwood; extend the Gold Line 11 miles; extend the Crenshaw Line Rail north to West Hollywood; among other transit improvements.

Image

Photo: Juan Ocampo / LACMTA

L.A. Mayor and LACMTA Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti at the Measure M campaign party Nov. 8, 2016.

California’s other big transit wins include Measure RR in the San Francisco Bay area, which will authorize $3.5 billion in bonds for Bay Area Rapid Transit rehabilitation and modernization. It required a cumulative two-thirds vote in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties for passage and received 70 percent approval.

Measure B, which would raise sales tax by a half-cent for 30 years to fund $3 billion in Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority projects, passed with 71 percent approval and required a two-thirds majority to move forward.

One measure that failed to pass was in San Diego where Measure A, an initiative that would have raised $7.5 billion for public transit, did not reach the required two-thirds majority, but did win a 57 percent approval.

In Seattle, Wash., the second largest transit measure being put to voters, $54-billion Sound Transit Proposition 1, also known as Sound Transit 3, passed with 55 percent approval. The measure will up taxes an estimated $14 a month for a typical adult in the Sound Transit district to pay for light-rail, commuter rail and bus extensions.

Atlanta, Ga., voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to raise $2.5 billion over 40 years to fund rail and bus improvements to Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s system.

Jason Jordan, executive director of the Center for Transportation Excellence, said, “Voters nationwide upheld the demonstrated legacy of strong support for transit at the ballot box. Clearly, communities continue to recognize the economic, social, health and environmental benefits transit can provide and are willing to support and invest in its expansion and maintenance.”

Found at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit-light-rail/more-than-70-percent-of-transit-ballot-measures-pass.html


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

How Much Would Rail In New Hampshire
Really Cost?

By Ella Nilsen
Concord Monitor

Recent pre-election gubernatorial debate saw lots of conflicting numbers thrown out for the cost of a proposed rail line.

The project in question is a 33-mile extension of an existing MBTA commuter rail line from Lowell, Mass., to the cities of Manchester and Nashua. Rail has been one of the most hotly contested issues in the race for governor between Democrat Colin Van Ostern and Republican Chris Sununu – and their cost estimates vary widely.

Van Ostern estimates the project will cost the state between $3 million and $4 million per year in operating fees, while Sununu generally lists the total price tag at $350 million.

So who is right?

Breaking Down The Costs

When it comes to commuter rail, there are two sets of numbers you need to know.

First, there’s the capital costs – the money it will take to get the rail line up and running. That amount is about $245.6 million to extend the line from Lowell to Manchester and build train stops in downtown Manchester, the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and downtown Nashua.

However, the project can leverage dollars and money from the MBTA – which could leave the state bonding about $72 million, said Mike Izbicki, chairman of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority Governance Board.

Then there’s the operating cost – the money it will take to maintain the line and trains. That’s about $11 million per year.

However, the rail study estimates that with revenue from tickets, station parking and concessions kicked in, New Hampshire will have to chip in closer to $3 million to $5 million per year.

Bay State’s Role

There is a big incentive for the MBTA to run a line up to New Hampshire; they will be able to pick up more riders, including travelers flying out of the Manchester airport. The way the line currently runs, trains spend the night in Boston and then run empty to Lowell to begin the daily service.

Rail proponents hope that with a Manchester station, the train could start out in the morning by transporting early morning travelers to the Manchester airport and bring the early morning commuters to downtown Boston.

“That way, the MBTA is not running empty trains out of Boston, they’re running trains with people in them,” Izbicki said.

Downeaster Comparison?

The proposed rail line is often compared to Maine’s Downeaster train – which is operated by Amtrak.

Izbicki says that’s not the best comparison because the Downeaster is an intercity operation spanning over 160 miles and there’s a different philosophy in terms of travel time.

“Commuter rail is hub and spoke,” Izbicki said.

Next Stop: Election

It would take about two years to construct the proposed line, but the project depends very much on who is in the Legislature and governor’s seat next year.

Van Ostern has made rail one of the central issues of his campaign, while Sununu is resolutely opposed to the measure, saying it is a “want” for the state rather than a “need.”

The project also needs to get past the Legislature, where it has stalled in the past.

Federal Funding

In March, New Hampshire House members shot down $4 million of federal money that would have covered the cost of permitting and preliminary engineering for the project.

That defeat was narrow, just 12 votes shy of passing. Two months later, the state Senate shot down the measure by two votes.

If Tuesday’s election produces another Democratic governor and flips the Legislature to blue, the project’s chances will probably improve.

Rail Already In N.H.

Right now, the Seacoast, Cheshire County and the Upper Valley are all serviced by rail. In a year, high speed rail will be coming up through Brattleboro and White River Junction, Vt., getting people in Western New Hampshire to New York City in three hours.

If the proposed project fails again, “The spine of New Hampshire is the only part of New Hampshire that will not be served by true multi-modal transportation,” Izbicki said.

Adapted from an article found at:
http://www.concordmonitor.com/a-breakdown-of-passenger-rail-costs-5777926


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Transportation Secretary Directs State To Stop
Work On Virginia Beach Light-Rail Project

By Jordan Pascale
The Virginian-Pilot

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne has told state officials to stop all work on the Virginia Beach light-rail project, according to a letter sent Wednesday morning to Mayor Will Sessoms.

Beach voters overwhelmingly rejected light rail in an advisory referendum on last Tuesday’s ballot. Nearly 57 percent of 166,000 voters said no to the project.

The question read: “Should City Council of Virginia Beach spend local funds to extend Light Rail from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach?”

Most of the City Council members have said they will follow the results of the referendum, although they will have to officially vote on the issue.

“As demonstrated by yesterday’s referendum results, and comments made by you (Mayor Sessoms) and other City Council members, there is no political or local financial support forthcoming for the project,” Layne wrote. “We respect this outcome.”

The state offered $155 million to help pay for the proposed $243 million light-rail extension from Norfolk to Town Center in Virginia Beach, but that money will now return to a statewide pot for transportation projects with a December vote from the state transportation board.

“These monies have been tied up for over two years while the City Council debated action on this project,” Layne wrote. “There are many other pressing transportation needs in the Commonwealth that can immediately move forward with these funds. A further delay in reprogramming these monies is not justified.”

He directed the Department of Rail and Public Transportation to “cease all activities and curtail all expenses related to the Virginia Beach light rail extension grant.”

He also asked the city to stop any activities that would “further encumber state resources.” He asked the city and Hampton Roads Transit to terminate orders for new rail cars.

The city is also on the hook to repay the state $20 million for the light-rail corridor that the state helped purchase. However, Layne said he’s giving the city six months to explore other mass-transit alternatives that may be suitable along the line, like Bus Rapid Transit.

Layne did leave the door open to future state investment in light rail in Virginia Beach, but that now must go through the state’s new transportation prioritization and funding program called Smart Scale.

Layne said although the project is likely dead, the light-rail project will be scored through Smart Scale, which grades projects on safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development and the environment.

If the city wants to explore light rail another way, it won’t be with the state’s $155 million help.

“The state money is gone. It’s gone,” Layne said.

From an item at:
http://pilotonline.com/news/government/local/transportation-secretary-directs-state-to-stop-work-on-virginia-beach/article_5aa92e0b-dc7d-5985-af53-c07d33f88e04.html


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

A New Streetcar Line in New Orleans, and
A New Suggestion for Funding More

By David Peter Alan

The Streetcar Revival may be sputtering in the Nation’s Capital, but it is alive and well in the Crescent City.  At the beginning of last month, a new streetcar line opened in New Orleans.  It runs on North Rampart Street, along the boundary of the French Quarter, and then continues downriver on St. Claude Avenue toward Elysian Fields Avenue in the Bywater neighborhood.  Residents and business owners in the area had complained about the traffic disruptions caused by construction during the past two years, but now they have a new streetcar to ride.  It is the North Rampart Street / St. Claude Avenue Streetcar, which runs on those streets for a distance of 1.6 miles (2.5 km).  North Rampart Street forms the boundary between the French Quarter and the Tremé neighborhood, the city’s historic black community.  St. Claude Avenue runs further downriver, toward Bywater.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) issued this statement about the new line on its web site, http://www.norta.com

The red streetcars that serve the Canal Street and Loyola Avenue lines will also run on the Rampart/St. Claude Line, which will operate from the Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue to Elysian Fields Avenue every 20 minutes. Bus service remains along the line, also operating on 20-minute headways, effectively providing transportation every 10 minutes along the corridor. The line is in operation from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight. The line is accessible to people with mobility impairments.

There were other service enhancements which began when the new line started service, as well.  RTA spokesperson Diana Mateo Hernandez issued this statement about them in a press release on Sunday, October 2d, the day the new extension was placed into service:

All of the streetcar lines will have better interconnectivity via the Half Grand Union at Canal and Rampart, connecting the Canal and N. Rampart/St. Claude streetcar lines. Frequency will also increase at peak hours of the day, with line 47-Canal/Cemeteries streetcar making headway every 10 minutes.  The N. Rampart / St. Claude Streetcar will now run from Union Passenger Terminal (UPT) to Elysian Fields every 20 minutes, plus have more streetcars on evenings and weekends.

The next day, RTA spokesperson Valerie Robinson issued another release, describing the stops along the new segment, and then quoting the city’s mayor.

The six double-sided, lighted stops are situated at Conti, St. Ann, Ursulines, Esplanade, Pauger and Elysian Fields.  Historic light poles along North Rampart Street were refurbished, with replicas replacing the previous cobra-style lights along St. Claude Avenue.

“It’s been almost 70 years since buses replaced streetcars along this corridor, and we have come full circle,” said Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu. “In New Orleans, we always knew that streetcars and light rail, work well in urban areas and are more environmentally friendly than buses.  We are happy that the rest of the country now knows that, and we are calling on our local transit leaders to learn from them.”

Landrieu was also quoted as saying that quality transit service brings economic development.  He mentioned that other streetcar lines in the city brought such development, going back to the original St. Charles Avenue, and said that he expects more such development along the new line.

The headlines on the RTA release were “Everything Old is New Again” and “Streetcars Back on Track along the North Rampart / St. Claude Corridor.”  The last time streetcars rolled along those streets was in 1949.  The public celebration of the opening took place in Armstrong Park on Saturday, October 8th.

The present route combines the new segment with the segment on Loyola Avenue near downtown New Orleans, to the Union Passenger Terminal, where Amtrak trains and long-distance buses stop.  The line from there to Canal Street was opened in January, 2013, in time for the Super Bowl football game.  Until the new line opened, cars ran on Loyola Avenue to Canal Street and made a right turn onto Canal, and continued toward the river.  On week-ends, they also continued along the Riverfront Line to the French Marked near Esplanade Avenue.  In conjunction with the opening of the new line, RTA enhanced service on the Riverfront Line every day, including weekdays.

Patrice Bell-Mercadel, RTA Director of Marketing, said that the project was completed “on time and in budget and described it as “a very successful project for us.”  She also cautioned motorists to be aware of the streetcars.  They operate in mixed street traffic, although they have the right-of-way.  Justin Augustine, head of RTA and Vice-President of Transdev, which operates the line, said: “A piece of history is coming back.  The residents and the merchants along this corridor will see the economic benefit of this . project.”  He added “Access is critically important” and said that the RTA’s streetcars and buses carry 20 million passengers per year.  The agency has plans to build several more streetcar lines in the future, which Augustine said would provide “absolutely wonderful access and connectivity throughout the city.”

Transit and environmental advocate Alan S. Drake, who lives in Bywater, was the second revenue passenger on the line, even though he had to board the car at 6:00 in the morning.  He enjoyed that ride and several others since then, and said that the line had some growing pains.  He mentioned that it was necessary to flag at one of the crossings for a day or two, and there was a derailment on the third day of operation, but he also said the line has been running smoothly since then.

In addition, Drake has seen an increase in ridership on the streetcar system.  “More than half of all trips in  New Orleans are either on streetcars, or on a streetcar with a transfer to or from a bus” he told this writer.  With the recent increase in streetcar ridership, Drake suggested that RTA consider running a circulator route along three sides of the perimeter of the French Quarter.  “It would make the Quarter much more accessible for both residents and tourists” he said.  The Riverfront Line, a part of the Canal Street Line and the new line on North Rampart Street surround the French Quarter; only the side along Esplanade Avenue does not have a streetcar line.

Drake has a suggestion for funding a new streetcar line, wherever it may be built.  His idea concerns the settlement reached in the case where Volkswagen was caught cheating on automobile emissions tests.  The settlement provides for funding for transit, and that has been construed to mean buses, especially electric buses.  Drake suggests that it also be available for streetcars, since streetcars are also electrically-powered.  He further recommends that the funds be available to expand existing streetcar systems, including the one in New Orleans.  

“Building a single electrically-powered line is better than an all-diesel bus system” he told this writer, and continued: “Expanding an electric streetcar system like we have here in New Orleans produces a much greater benefit by expanding the reach of the system and giving people more places to go.  The entire system gains riders, who also contribute more revenue.”  

There are further plans to expand the streetcar system in the Crescent City, including an extension along St. Claude Avenue to Franklin Street.  Whatever else may be said about the continuing enthusiasm for the “streetcar revolution” of a few years ago, it is definitely alive and well in New Orleans.


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Six Months In, Downtown Streetcar
A Winner With Nearby Businesses

By Donald Bradley And Lynn Horsley
Kansas City Star

The cool guy with the black shirt unbuttoned to the navel leans on the street bike, and the girl in the really tight jeans and windblown hair leans on him.

The 34 Heritage ad is part of the window display at Michael’s Fine Clothes, where Kansas City businessmen and professionals have been buying suits and executive wear going back more than a hundred years to the old streetcar days.

Welcome to the new streetcar days.

The streamlined vehicles, which launched May 6, are showing riders parts of the city some people never see. In the case of Michael’s at 1830 Main St., young men on board are finally noticing a store that’s only been around since 1905.

Keith Novorr, who runs the business started by his Russian immigrant grandfather, figures the average age of customers has dropped by 10 to 15 years since the streetcar started running. Nothing against middle-aged — or middle-aged girth, but the change in clientele called for trendier styles and more athletic cuts.

“These young guys are coming in here now,” Novorr said. “All of a sudden we went from being a destination to right in the thick of things.”

Novorr echoes the take of other business owners along the 2.2-mile route from Union Station to City Market: Yes, the construction period was difficult, but now that the streetcars are running, business is better than before.

The system tallied its millionth ride early last month — seven months ahead of schedule. That’s a lot of new eyes seeing storefronts. Some parking issues still need to be resolved, business owners say. But for now, they’re seeing new faces come through the doors of their restaurants, shops and bars.

For City Market vendors, business is up more than 20 percent.

“We’re seeing people who don’t drive, don’t have cars,” said Ahmad Alhabashi at the Al-Habashi Mart. “We see immigrants, many people who have never been down here before. They’re coming on the streetcar.”

At Silk Road Travelers, a small Asian import place at 500 Delaware St., owner Robert Eppes said he almost didn’t survive construction. The shop is off the beaten path, west of the crowded market area, but the streetcar passes in front and now business is good.

“People are coming in saying, ‘We didn’t know you were here,’ “ Eppes said.

Flocks Of First-Timers

Some people will always think the whole streetcar thing was a bad idea:

They weren’t going to ride it. All that money should have gone toward street improvements, emergency services, water and sewer upgrades and other infrastructure projects.

Even some businesses opposed the plan. They got stuck with a higher tax assessment.

But many businesses say it’s been a boon, especially as ridership is averaging 6,400 per day and is especially robust on weekends. The original projection was for 2,700 rides per day. Ridership has dropped slightly as the busy summer season ended, but it’s still been much higher than expected.

“Not everybody will agree with me, but the only way to build taxes and keep this thing going is to get people downtown,” said Lee Burgess, general manager at the Ruins Pub, 1715 Main St.

“No question, construction meant hard times. But now things are good.”

The city recently sent out a survey asking businesses along the route their thoughts and concerns about the streetcar. Those results aren’t available just yet, so The Star went out for an early peek.

The big red letters in front of Gallup Map catch the passing eye:

“Since 1875
Vintage Maps”

New Signage.

Owner Pat Carroll said he put it up after figuring out that the streetcar sure was bringing a lot of riders past his store at 1733 Main St.

“Is it going to be good or bad — I don’t know for sure,” he asked. “But I have to say it’s been good for me.

“There’s already been a million people going by and that’s a million views on my business, a lot of them for the first time.”

Like the woman who came in the other day and bought a framed U.S. map. “Gave $500 for it,” Carroll said. “She had never been in here before. Said she saw the place from the streetcar.”

In the City Market, Dan Spini, with apron and clipboard, stood among the produce bins at his Global Produce. Shoppers crowded past the goods, serenaded by a woodwind busker.

“You have to ask?” Spini said with a smile when asked about the streetcar.

“Customer counts are up. Monday through Friday especially. People coming down for lunch, shopping while they’re down here. Lots of new faces.”

According to Spini, most businesses in the market area are up 20 to 40 percent from last year, during construction.

“So far, it looks like it’s going the right way for us,” Spini said.

Within the City Market at the north end of the streetcar route, gross sales totaled $6.9 million from May through September, the first five months of streetcar operations. That’s up 21 percent from the same period in 2015, and doesn’t include sales for three new tenants that weren’t around in 2015. The City Market also saw gross sales up in 2015, but only by 8 percent.

“So we have seen an increase with development and the streetcar, I think,” said Deb Churchill, City Market property manager. Although City Market has been busy for years on Saturdays, Churchill said the advent of the streetcar has brought more crowds during weekday lunch hours and at the end of the workday.

Howard Hanna, the chef at The Rieger restaurant, 1924 Main St., lives in the River Market area and rides the streetcar to work every day. Sous-chef Karen Anderson rides to City Market to get fresh produce.

For Valerie Auld, sales director for the Marriott Courtyard and Marriott Residence Inn that recently opened at 15th and Baltimore streets, proximity to the streetcar is a big marketing tool.

“We find in selling this hotel every day,” she said, “what a big difference it makes to people that they are able to walk out our back door and hop on the streetcar.”

Image

Photo By:  Keith Myers KC Star Press

“All of a sudden we went from being a destination to right in the thick of things,” Keith Novorr says of the streetcar system’s impact on his store, Michael’s Fine Clothes for Men at 1830 Main St. Novorr figures the average age of his customers has dropped by 10 to 15 years since the streetcars started running. The 2.2-mile streetcar route runs from Union Station to City Market, with most of the route along Main Street.

Parking Problems

If there’s any complaint about the changes brought by the streetcar, it’s related to parking challenges in the River Market.

An audit of parking spaces in City Market’s vicinity shows numerous spaces were available before May 6, but they’re often full now, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. And during the workweek, more employees have been parking for free in the River Market and riding the streetcar downtown to work, filling spaces all day that businesses want for their customers.

The situation generated so much frustration that the city and a consultant held workshops in September. Recommendations are expected by the end of this month.

Parking in the heart of City Market and in some nearby lots and on streets is now limited to two or three hours, to help spaces turn over more frequently.

Kansas City parking services manager Bruce Campbell said plans are in the works to build a 400-space parking garage at Fifth and Main streets, although the timetable isn’t certain.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has a parking lot at Third Street and Grand Boulevard with 193 spots where people can park for free all day. It’s often full on weekends but still usually has spaces during the workweek. The ATA ultimately plans to develop that lot with offices and is considering parking alternatives.

Campbell said that having paid parking in River Market, rather than free parking, was discussed in the workshops but that there have been no policy decisions to go that route.

For the time being, Campbell said, people who come downtown on weekends should know that they can park for free all day in the lot just east of the northbound Seventh and Main Street streetcar stop, and use the streetcar to get around downtown.

Some businesses lost parking spaces to the streetcar, but they’re not grumbling too much.

One of the busiest stops is on Fifth Street near the main entrance to the City Market. On a recent day, 20 to 30 people waited just outside the front door of the Opera House Coffee House & Food Emporium.

“We lost a little parking in front, but on whole this is a positive,” said manager Nathaniel Beam.

Expansion Hopes

The most common request from businesses is to extend the streetcar line to the Country Club Plaza or even Brookside.

Because they’re already paying taxes for the system, they would see nothing but gains if it brings customers from farther south. Any system expansion would expand the streetcar taxes, but downtown businesses wouldn’t pay any more.

A grass-roots group is pushing a $227 million extension on Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Still, any expansion wouldn’t open until 2023 at the earliest.

Sooner the better, Alhabashi said. He said the early success definitely calls for expanding the line to points south.

“It will be beneficial to not just City Market, but the whole of Kansas City.”

From an article at:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/kc-streetcar/article112306362.html#storylink=cpy


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MTA NYCT Prepares For 2nd Avenue Opening

From Railway Age

In preparation of the 2nd Avenue subway line opening later this year, MTA New York City Transit begins Monday, November 7 to operate W trains weekdays between Astoria-Ditmars Blvd and Whitehall St, making all local stops in Queens and along the Broadway line in Manhattan.

The W line replaces Q service in Astoria and provides local service to the Broadway line in Manhattan. The Q line will serve the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway when the new subway line opens.

To accommodate the addition of the W line, N trains make express stops in Manhattan between Times Sq-42 St and Canal St on weekdays during peak hours, midday and evenings. Q trains make express stops in Manhattan and terminate at 57 St/7 Av until Second Avenue Subway opens. W trains will operate Monday to Friday from approximately 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The Second Avenue Subway is expected to alleviate existing crowding conditions on the nearby Lexington Avenue Line, providing relief with an additional subway line to midtown and Lower Manhattan. The cost for these service changes is approximately $13.7 million annually, which has been incorporated into NYC Transit’s approved budget.

From an article at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/rapid-transit/mta-nyct-prepares-for-2nd-avenue-opening.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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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

SEPTA Strike, Shuttle Services Come To End

Riders Said They Had To Endure Long Waits And Unpredictable Stops.

By Julie Christie
The Temple News

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Local 234 workers reached a five-year contract agreement Monday morning, ending a seven-day strike of transit workers that operated the bus, subway and trolley systems throughout the city.

The university implemented an emergency shuttle service to help students, staff and faculty members commute between Main Campus and the rest of the city during the strike. But now that it’s over, students said they were glad to get back to the public transportation that they were comfortable with.

Mike Hazzard, a sophomore psychology major, said the shuttle service Temple put in place was no help at all because it wasn’t accessible for him.

Hazzard, who uses a wheelchair, said he relies on Customized Community Transportation, SEPTA’s specialized bus service for people with disabilities and the elderly. Because of the strike, the buses were overloaded and arrived three hours after his scheduled pickup time on Thursday, forcing him to miss his classes on Friday.

“I called [Temple’s] shuttle service to see if they would be handicap accessible,” Hazzard said. “They didn’t really have a lot of info on it, but [the operator] said she’d talk to somebody with it. And they said only would be only some would be [accessible] and the one at my stop wasn’t, so that was very inconvenient.”

He added that in the event of another strike, he would like the university to look into shuttle services that are useful for people with disabilities.

“Now that the strike is over, I feel relieved,” Hazzard said. “I’m thankful that it lasted as many days as it did and not more.”

“It’s a relief that the strike is over, but I kind of miss the free rides that the shuttles gave me, to be honest,” said Brianna Phillips, a junior public health major. “Even though it was very inconvenient, you can’t really blame Temple because they tried as hard as they could to get us to classes.”

Because of the strike, Phillips decided to stay with her father in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania near Arcadia University, about a 15-minute walk from the bus stop at Cheltenham Avenue and Ogontz.

The first day of the strike, Phillips waited with another student at what they thought was the stop for half an hour when a Temple shuttle drove right past them.

“There was no way for them to know we were Temple students,” she said, adding that when they called the shuttle service, the bus stop was actually in the parking lot of a nearby TD Bank.

Travis Copenhaver, a sophomore sports and recreation management major, was standing in line at Broad Street and Polett Walk just after 4 p.m. on Friday waiting for a shuttle. He said he budgeted an extra hour to get to work in Center City.

“I don’t know how I’m getting home,” he said. “I think the buses end at 9:50 [p.m.] but I usually get out later than that.”

Copenhaver said earlier that week, one of his roommates waited more than an hour for a shuttle before finally getting driven to work by another roommate who had a car.

“I’ve lived through a transit strike in Manhattan,” said Priscilla Holcomb, an academic adviser in the College of Public Health, who was also waiting for the bus on Friday. “This seems more militant.especially when they were in front of the [Regional Rail] trains the first day. People were yelling [in Manhattan], but it wasn’t so action-oriented.”

Holcomb said the first day of the strike was “chaotic” for the shuttle services, but became more organized.

Doreen Conway, the assistant director for graduate academic and student affairs in the College of Public Health, said each day the buses were arriving at different times and stopping in different locations.

“I don’t think the university thought of the number of students and faculty that would be using [the shuttles],” Conway said.

The bus that arrived to pick up Copenhaver, Holcomb, Conway and the others waiting at the stop was a double-decker Big Bus, which normally provides tours of the city.

Temple and Big Bus planned stops two weeks in advance, said Daryl Crosby, a shuttle driver at Big Bus for nine years. He said Big Bus provides shuttles for Amtrak and other companies, like SugarHouse Casino.

“A lot of local businesses know us, so when they heard the rumor that SEPTA was going to strike, our concierge got in touch with Temple,” Crosby said, adding that Temple was one of the first universities to “set things up” with Big Bus for the strike.

Temple already has a contract with Big Bus to provide shuttles to and from Main and Ambler campuses.

“The first day was rough,” Crosby said. “Temple students weren’t aware of the buses, but once they realized how they worked, it’s been fine.”

Phillips said that the complaints about the shuttles provided by the university would help Temple better plan for a future strike.

“If they know that a lot of people were late and a lot of people couldn’t even make it to class,” Phillips said. “Temple would at least be able to do a little bit better if SEPTA were to strike again.”

From an item at:
http://temple-news.com/news/septa-strike-shuttle-services-come-end/


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Massachusetts Rail Plan, Passenger Trains In
Pioneer Valley, Open To Public Comment

By Jim Kinney
Masslive.Com

With the planned reopening of the Springfield, Massachusetts Union Station now just weeks away, officials want the public to learn about and comment on a new statewide rail plan.

A plan update and public comment meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday on the second floor of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, 60 Congress St., Springfield.

The state’s goal is to have the rail plan, which addresses both passenger and freight service, completed sometime in the first three months of 2017, said  Timothy Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and a rail advocate.

The timing is important, with Springfield Union Station due to reopen early in 2017 following its $88.5 million renovation into an intermodal bus and rail transit hub.

Meanwhile, Connecticut is improving rails from New Haven through Hartford to Springfield with the hope of running as many as 12 commuter trains a day to Union Station just more than a year from now in January 2018.

Brennan said the planning commission has three priorities he plans to talk about Wednesday:

1)   Commuter rail: Sort-to-mid-term expansion of passenger rail service along the Connecticut River “Knowledge Corridor.” This would add more service to a newly rebuilt rail line that now only sees one northbound and one southbound Amtrak

2)   Boston, New York and Montreal: A more ambitious plan to add long-distance rail service through Springfield. This would route trains from New York City to Boston via New Haven and from Boston to Montreal through Springfield, Amtrak’s “inland” route.

Cost estimates vary depending on how much work would be done to rails and the number of new trains, but the most elaborate of the plans would cost as much as $1 billion to implement.

For Amtrak, an inland route through Springfield would take trains off the congested shore routes and help the railroad avoid coastal flooding, which is expected to become more common due to global climate change.

3) Freight rail in through Palmer: The New England Central freight railroad that cuts from Vermont to New London, Connecticut, is in poor shape and has too low a weight limit to allow industrial employers that depend on it expand.

The New England Central has committed $6 million but is looking for $25 million to $30 million in public investment, Brennan said. Once upgraded, the rail line would link Vermont with the CSX main line in Palmer and with the ocean port of New London.

Found at:
http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/11/massachusetts_rail_plan_passen.html


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MBTA Names Dalton GM For Green Line
Extension, Shakes Up Capital Project Team

From Progressive Railroading

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has named John Dalton program manager for the $2.3 billion Green Line light-rail extension project.

Dalton has managed major transportation construction projects from Chicago to Dubai, and brings “a wealth of technical knowledge, as well as familiarity with federal funding processes and stakeholder engagement,” said MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve in a press release.

Dalton most recently served as a vice president at Arcadis, a design and consultancy firm, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also served as a program manager for Parsons Group International Ltd. and the general manager of capital construction for the Chicago Transit Authority.

“John’s experience with large and complex public transit projects is exactly what is needed to drive the Green Line Extension forward,” Shortsleeve said.

In May, the MBTA’s board approved a scaled-down version of the 4.3-mile extension, which now includes a downsized vehicle maintenance facility and fewer station amenities.

Meanwhile, Shortsleeve yesterday announced an internal reorganization to accelerate the pace of MBTA spending on state-of-good-repair and other capital projects. As part of that plan, Beth Larkin was named assistant general manager for capital delivery, a new department that replaces the design and construction group.

Larkin and her team will focus on addressing “chronic capital underinvestment, bottlenecked project delivery and flawed contracting processes,” MBTA officials said in a press release.

In addition, Erik Stoothoff became deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure, a newly created position aimed at ensuring better integration between engineering and capital project delivery. Joanna Aalto was appointed assistant general manager for capital program oversight responsible for financial planning, funds management and reporting and project controls for the capital program.

Aalto also was tapped to chair the new “State of Good Repair Accelerator,” through which she’ll ensure that MBTA staff identify, define, procure and deliver needed state- of-good-repair projects.

“Getting capital project funding out the door has long been a problem at the MBTA,” Shortsleeve said. “We must dramatically accelerate how we develop, design and execute capital programs across all of our modes.”

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s capital investment plan calls for the MBTA to spend $6.5 billion on capital projects over the next five years, most of it on state-of-good-repair and other projects aimed at improving rider experience, Shortsleeve added.

Found at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/MBTA-names-Dalton-GM-for-Green-Line-extension-shakes-up-capital-project-team--50015


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Want To Stay On-Time? Leave Early!

Travelling In Germany By Train?  Be At The Boarding Platform At Least
One Full Minute Before The Train’s Scheduled Departure Time.

Via Süddeutsche Zeitung Newspaper

Berlin – Germany may have some of the fastest trains in Europe, but they certainly aren’t the most punctual.  Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) has received some hefty criticism in recent years due to the poor punctuality of its trains.  The solution could infuriate many passengers.

On average, 78.4 percent of Intercity-Express (ICE) trains arrived on time in the first half of 2016.  Compared to intra Europe and domestic German airline flights with on-time performance in the mid 80 to low 90 percent range, that number is not particular impressive, especially to business travelers.

Image

NCI file photo by David Beale

Not Waiting Around Anymore – An ICE service consisting of two ICE-3 train sets from Stuttgart to Berlin leaves the Frankfurt Airport intercity train station back on the 30th of December 2012.  Most airline passengers are already familiar with the nearly universal airline rule to be at the boarding gate not later than 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure, so they should be able to adjust to the equivalent rule for intercity trains: be on the track platform at least one full minute before scheduled departure of the train, or you might be left standing in the station to simply watch the red tail lights of your train fade away into the distance.

And in the larger picture, during the entire year of 2015, one-third of all Deutsche Bahn passenger trains ran by at least five minutes.  But now, the state-owned company believes it has come up with a solution to the problem – shutting train doors on departure 20 seconds earlier than the existing practice of -10 seconds to +20 seconds from published departure time.  Until recently train doors could normally close as much as ten seconds before departure.  Since mid-October however, doors on all long distance trains have been closing half a minute before departure time, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported.  In other words, so that trains can leave punctually, passengers will have to be slightly better than punctual.

Indeed . . . when this policy became more wide-spread a few weeks ago, spreading to a number of regional express commuter trains in Germany, many riders were caught off guard. I observed this issue directly on the regional express train, which I normally take to work daily from my residence to Friedrichshafen 40 km (24.9 mi) away.  The next stop after my boarding station is Ravensburg, the largest city in this region on the northeast shore of Lake Constance in southern Germany.

During the first few days of this new aggressive approach to improving punctuality of passenger trains, my train left dozens standing on the train platform in Ravensburg during the morning rush hour as the train doors closed and locked at the advertised 30 seconds before published departure time.  Many of those running up to the train to board started to pound on the doors in a vain effort to encourage passengers already in the train to somehow unlock and open the train doors, which is, aside from an emergency release lever, not technically possible nor legally allowed  

Deutsche Bahn claims that since the measure has been introduced, their trains have left on time more often, thus avoiding an accumulation of individual delays of perhaps 30, 60 or 90 seconds at each stop becoming a far larger delay of 5, 10 or 15 minutes further down the train’s route.  Some independent passenger train companies in Germany are adopting this policy as well.  This policy is also in use in several other European countries, including the UK, where various passenger train operating companies have implemented some years ago a policy of closing and locking doors on various intercity, long distance and some regional trains as much as 2 minutes prior to published departure times.  


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Epilog …


‘Cell Phone Video Game’ Train Dispatcher
Admits Guilt

Manslaughter Trial Related To The Deadly Commuter Train Crash In
February 2016 In Southern Bavaria (Germany) Opens Proceedings.

Via DPA

A German rail dispatcher admitted at the start of his third-degree murder trial last Thursday (10th of November 2016) that his negligence caused a train collision, which killed 12 people and injured dozens more while he was playing a mobile phone game during his duty time to monitor and control train movements.

Image

Photo: DPA

Criminal case.  View of accident scene involving two electric commuter trains involved in a head-on collision in southern Bavaria on the 9th of February 2016.  The actual crime scene, according to prosecutors, was the rail line dispatch control room in the Bad Aibling train station a few kilometers / miles away from where the collision happened.

Michael Paul, a 40 year-old DB Netz train dispatch controller, stands accused of involuntary manslaughter in the February accident near the southern Bavarian town of Bad Aibling Germany, where two EMU commuter trains collided head-on at high speed.  He faces five years’ imprisonment as the responsible party in one of Germany’s worst train crashes in decades.  Authorities have said after the Bad Aibling collision, that an official accident investigation had ruled out a technical defect as a cause of the train collision.  

Mr. Paul left his lawyers to read out his confession in which he admitted to negligence, but also addressed victims’ relatives personally.  “I know that I cannot undo what has happened, even if I wish I could.” he told them.

His lawyers said Paul admitted to playing a mobile phone game on duty, even though private use of a mobile phone or other electronic device while on duty was (and still is) officially forbidden by DB Netz, operator of the rail line, on which the collision took place.  Both trains were operated by Meridian, an independent train operating company owned by another independent train operating company called BOB and a holding company called Transdev.

The dispatcher ended up setting the wrong track signals on the single-track line, and although he had a chance to prevent the head-on crash through an emergency call placed to the train drivers, he dialed the wrong number, said his lawyer.  One of the passengers, Thomas Staudinger, 23, who was slightly injured in the accident, said he thought that the statement was “heartfelt.”


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Metrolinx Moves To Terminate
Bombardier LRV Contract

By Ben Vient
Railway Age

The Toronto and Hamilton transit authority Metrolinx confirmed on November 3 that it has filed a notice of intent to terminate a contract worth up to $C 770m ($US 574.2m) for up to 182 Flexity Freedom LRVs.

Metrolinx awarded Bombardier the contract to supply LRVs for new light rail lines in the Toronto region in June 2010, with delivery scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2020. However, the order has suffered repeated delays and despite the revision of the delivery timetable, remains behind schedule.

“Metrolinx has issued a formal notice of intent to terminate our LRV contract with Bombardier,” said Metrolinx spokesperson Mrs. Anne Marie Aikins in a media statement. “To clarify: we have not cancelled our order nor our contract with Bombardier. We filed a notice of intention to terminate which does not mean it is cancelled or may be cancelled.”

In an email to the Toronto Star, Ontario provincial transport minister Mr. Steven Del Duca added: “I know that there has been some concerns about Bombardier’s performance as there have been significant quality and manufacturing issues that, to-date, have not been resolved. As a result, we have taken the next step available to us through our contract. We will continue to work with Bombardier on this issue and we will deliver on our transit commitments.”

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/north-america/metrolinx-moves-to-terminate-bombardier-lrv-contract.html


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Southwestern Ontario’s Rail Service Keeps
Sinking, But VIA And Ottawa Take No Action

Press Release from
All Aboard St Marys

ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – While VIA Rail relentlessly pushes a multi-billion-dollar scheme for its Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto route and the federal government promotes more air travel, the reliability of Southwestern Ontario’s rail passenger system continues its long decline.

“VIA’s on-time performance in October was abysmal,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “But a recovery plan isn’t on the agenda at VIA headquarters or in Ottawa. When it comes to passenger trains, all of their attention is on a dreamy proposal to build a freight-free route from Montreal to Ottawa and Toronto years from now. Even if that were practical and affordable, it would do nothing for Southwestern Ontarians.”

Throughout October, All Aboard St. Marys monitored the on-time performance of VIA’s North Main Line trains, which serve St. Marys and six other communities between London and Toronto. Of the 124 trains operated on the North Main Line, none arrived on time and 16 were delayed by more than an hour. A list of these delays is included in this release.

Says West, “This is part of a pattern of deterioration we’ve suffered for years. VIA’s schedules have been repeatedly stretched out, with the travel times growing longer and longer, but this still hasn’t been enough to compensate for a host of problems afflicting the North Main Line.”

Analysis of the delays on a station-to-station basis reveals most are not occurring due to heavy freight traffic on the CN segment between Bramalea and Georgetown, but on the lightly-used track west of Kitchener.

“Track deterioration is the biggest culprit,” says West. “The Goderich-Exeter Railway leases this line segment from CN for lower-speed freight service and they can’t afford to improve it to meet the higher standards required for passenger trains. VIA needs to provide the funding to restore the line to a condition that supports faster and more reliable passenger service.”

In 2009, a previous VIA management team produced a plan in conjunction with GO Transit to fully upgrade the North Main Line’s infrastructure, rebuild several mothballed self-propelled passenger cars and operate six Toronto-St. Marys-London trains in each direction at higher speeds. The plan was scrapped by the next government-appointed VIA board and CEO. While GO has been upgrading the Toronto-Kitchener portion for its commuter trains, VIA has only installed some new signals between Kitchener and London.

Says West, “VIA spent $28 million on signals without upgrading the tracks. That’s like doing a costly refinishing job on a piece of furniture that’s been hollowed out by termites. Signaling can only help to boost the speed and reliability if the track is improved. It’s totally illogical.”

All Aboard St. Marys places the responsibility on the federal government, which hasn’t provided the funding and strategic direction VIA requires to deliver useful, reliable and efficient service. Instead, Ottawa has commissioned a three-year study of VIA’s Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto dedicated-track scheme and allotted some money to repair a few stations. Worse, the government recently unveiled a new national transportation policy calling for increased foreign ownership of Canada’s airlines to allegedly lower fares and boost air travel.

“How can we reconcile this with the government’s commitment to the Paris COP21 accord?” asks West. “Encouraging environmentally-punishing air service instead of investing in efficient passenger trains will only contribute to more climate change. Nor will it do anything for smaller communities that aren’t and can’t be served by air. We need more trains that run faster – and are on time – if we’re going to fight climate change and connect communities large and small.”

All Aboard St. Marys will continue to fight for improvements to the North Main Line and across the VIA system. The group will also be taking its concerns about this situation to Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, his policy advisors and other elected officials in Ottawa.

For more information, please contact:
Chris West
All Aboard St. Marys
chriswest@kwic.com
Tel: 519 284-3310
Fax: 519 284-3160
Toll Free: 1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238
http://www.allaboardstmarys.ca


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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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.

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

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