The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Nov. 28, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 48

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...

  Commentary…
What Is Ahead For Transit?
  Amtrak Lines…
Amtrak Sets Revenue And Ridership Records
   In Fiscal 2016
Amtrak Ridership Up In Iowa; Sparks Hope
   For Rail Enthusiasts
Amtrak Upgrades: High-Speed Proposals Could
   Affect Eight States
  Expansion Lines…
South Coast Rail Oversight Shifted From MBTA
   To State DOT
  Commuter Lines…
Caltrain Starts Pre-Construction Work
   For Electrification Project
 
  Safety Lines…
WMATA Removes 4000-Series Railcars In
   Safety Concern
FRA Proposes Safety Standard Updates To Allow
   For High-Speed Passenger Trains
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Freight Lines…
AAR “Anxious” For Trump’s STB Shift
  Across The Pond…
Irish Rail Launches New Dublin Cross-City Link
  To The North…
Network Battling To Restore Passenger Rail
   In Northeastern Ontario, Canada
  Publication Notes …


COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

What Is Ahead For Transit?

By David Peter Alan
Contributing Editor
Destination: Freedom

Over the past twenty years, this writer has probably ridden on more transit in the United States and Canada than anybody else; 255 properties, including many bus systems and every rail transit system currently operating.  There are a few “new starts” left to ride, but only a few.  That summarizes the problem: if one person can ride essentially all of the rail transit in the country, there simply is not enough of it.

So what does the future hold for transit, especially on rails, but also on local buses and community transportation?  The answer varies somewhat from place to place, but it appears that the prognosis will be guarded for the best systems and grim for many of the others.

This writer depends on transit for mobility, and has been an advocate for almost 32 years.  At that time, not many cities had rail transit systems, although a few had started service in the 1970s.  Highways were still expanding, although many transit systems appeared to limp along well enough to serve the local transit-dependent population.  In many places, motorists seldom, if ever, rode transit, especially buses.  Over the past three decades, there has been a revival of interest in streetcars and their slightly-larger cousin, light rail.  Riders tried rail transit, and they usually liked it.  Unfortunately, the new popularity of rail transit is not necessarily enough to allow it to grow, or maybe even to keep it going.

The biggest problem is funding.  Since the Reagan Administration during the 1980s, federal transportation statutes like the FAST Act cannot include funding for the operating side of transit.   Except for a few limited exceptions, federal funding is only available for capital expenditures, like infrastructure projects, new buses and railcars.  There may be money to build these projects, but not to keep them going.  Throughout the Bush  Administration, transit providers cut service and raised fares because of funding cuts.  Riders and their advocates hoped that the situation would change when President Obama took office, because he came from Chicago, where many people use transit.  It did not help.  Because of the economic downturn that began in 2008, the public sector was especially hard-hit, because it could not raise the revenue need to support transit and other services.  Fares have continued to rise, rail and bus service has been reduced in many places, planned rail transit projects were not built, and safety has become compromised.  In short, transit riders have not had it this bad; at least since the dark days of the 1960s, when transit was eliminated at a dizzying pace.


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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Amtrak Sets Revenue, Ridership Records
In Fiscal 2016

By Eric Strauss
NJBiz.Com

It was a strong year for Amtrak, as the nation’s passenger railroad set records for ticket revenue and number of riders, while posting its lowest operating loss in more than 40 years.

Amtrak said last Thursday that its ticket revenue for fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 30, reached $2.14 billion, up $12 million over fiscal 2015. Amtrak served 31.3 million passengers for the year, up more than 400,000 from fiscal 2015 and the sixth straight year the railroad has served more than 30 million customers.

“The results demonstrate the value we deliver to our customers and the vital role Amtrak plays in our nation’s transportation system,” board Chairman Anthony Coscia said in a prepared statement. “We are off to another strong start for the new fiscal year and will provide a great travel experience for customers who choose Amtrak in the upcoming holiday season.”

Amtrak said its ticket sales and other revenues covered 94 percent of operating costs, up from 92 percent in fiscal 2015. Total revenue came in at a record $3.2 billion, while the operating loss of $227 million was $78 million smaller than the year before and the lowest operating loss since 1973.

Amtrak also reduced its long-term debt by $71.4 million during the fiscal year.

Among the Amtrak services that saw record ridership and revenue were the Northeast Regional and Keystone lines, which both serve the New York region.

“More and more customers recognize Amtrak as a smarter way to travel,” CEO and President Wick Moorman said in a statement. “We will continue to enhance the customer experience and strengthen our market position through investments such as next-generation high-speed rail for the Northeast Corridor, while at the same time remaining focused on running an efficient and effective company.”

Amtrak also said it will be investing in improvements that include the creation of the Moynihan Station in New York City, as well as other major investments and developments in Philadelphia and elsewhere.

The fiscal 2016 figures are unaudited, the railroad said.

Coscia, also a partner with the law firm Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf LLP, which has offices in New Brunswick and Madison, has been chairman of the Amtrak board since 2013, and a director since 2010.

From an item at:
http://www.njbiz.com/article/20161117/NJBIZ01/161119829/1005/amtrak-sets-revenue-ridership-records-in-fiscal-2016


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Amtrak Ridership Up In Iowa Sparks Hope
For Rail Enthusiasts

By William Petroski
Des Moines Register

Amtrak ridership in Iowa is on the upswing, despite low gasoline prices that are increasing traffic on the state’s highways.

A total of 61,374 riders got on and off Amtrak passenger trains at six stations in southern Iowa for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2016, according to the National Rail Passenger Corp, which does business as Amtrak. That was up 6.5 percent over the same period ending in 2015, although it’s short of Iowa’s best year ever for Amtrak when 68,744 riders were reported in 2010.

With gasoline prices currently less than $2 a gallon in some Iowa cities, the Iowa Department of Transportation reports that motor vehicle traffic statewide has risen by 2.1 percent for the first 10 months of 2016 compared with the same period last year. Competition from cheap gasoline is causing discount bus carrier Megabus to drop its Chicago-to-Omaha bus in January. The route includes stops in Davenport, Coraville and Des Moines. Megabus officials said more people are driving themselves to destinations.

But Amtrak appears to hold a special niche that is still drawing riders who see passenger trains as a pleasant alternative to driving. Amtrak enthusiasts cite amenities such as dining cars, sleeper cars, and the ability to get up and walk around the train while traveling.

Nationally, Amtrak reported a record 31.3 million passengers for the recently concluded federal fiscal year – nearly 400,000 more than the previous year. This was the sixth consecutive year Amtrak has carried more than 30 million customers, officials said.

“More and more customers recognize Amtrak as a smarter way to travel,” said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman in a prepared statement. “We will continue to enhance the customer experience and strengthen our market position through investments such as next-generation high-speed rail for the Northeast Corridor, while at the same time remaining focused on running an efficient and effective company.”

George Davision Jr., a Des Moines lawyer, said he prefers taking Amtrak’s California Zephyr train for business in Chicago, if he can arrange his schedule to accommodate driving to Osceola’s railroad depot.

“You can eat breakfast as you go over the Mississippi River at Burlington. What a beautiful sight that is. It’s a refined way to travel,” Davison said. In contrast, driving on an increasingly congested Interstate Highway 80 across Iowa has become an ordeal that “makes me feel like I need a 4-point seatbelt, a roll bar and a helmet,” he added.

Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota Iowa, said it’s clear that more people have returned to their personal vehicles as gasoline prices have declined. She cites federal statistics showing record traffic volume nationally for the first half of 2016, which typically results in declining interest in public transportation.

“Amtrak is public transportation in some ways because it gets you from one place to another. But a lot of folks have discovered Amtrak for vacations and cross-country activity,” Weinholzer said. “So I think there is a unique aspect to Amtrak.”

Iowa is served by two Amtrak passenger trains that operate daily in each direction between Chicago and the West Coast. The California Zephyr stops in Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Osceola and Creston. The Southwest Chief serves Fort Madison.

Iowa officials, led by former Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, led a push with Illinois six years ago with the goal of establishing daily passenger train service between Iowa City and Chicago. The federal government subsequently awarded a $230 million federal grant to both states for the project. However, the Iowa section of the route has been declared dead in the Iowa Legislature because of repeated failure to approve state money needed to subsidize Iowa City train service.

Grinnell Mayor Gordon Canfield, a former president of the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers, said last week he still has hopes of someday riding a daily train from Chicago to Omaha that would pass through Iowa City, Grinnell and Des Moines. “But the reality of it is, ‘Who knows?’ “ he said. One glimmer of optimism comes from President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to rebuild America’s infrastructure, he said.

The Iowa DOT continues to conduct environmental and preliminary engineering studies on a possible passenger train route between the Quad Cities and Iowa City that are expected to be completed sometime next year, said Amanda Martin, the Iowa DOT’s railroad passenger and freight policy coordinator. But there are no immediate plans to add more passenger trains in Iowa.

Nationally, Amtrak said the company covered 94 percent of its operating costs in the 2016 fiscal year with ticket sales and other revenues, up from 92 percent the year before. Unaudited total revenue was a record $3.2 billion. In addition, Amtrak reported an unaudited operating loss of $227 million, a reduction of $78 million over last year, and the lowest operating loss since 1973. Amtrak was also able to make a net reduction in long-term debt of $71.4 million.
Amtrak ridership in Iowa

Here is a breakdown of Amtrak ridership in Iowa for the federal fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016. These numbers included people getting on trains and getting off trains:

Burlington     :  9,242
Mount Pleasant : 13,504
Ottumwa        : 12,155
Osceola        : 16,019
Creston        :  3,843
Fort Madison   :  6,611

Thanksgiving and Christmas trips

PLAN AHEAD - Amtrak says it is prepared to handle a surge of holiday travelers by operating every available passenger rail car in its fleet. But tickets sell out quickly so customers are encouraged to plan ahead and book as early as possible for best availability and pricing. Make sure to check holiday train schedules prior to arriving at the station with an online-only timetable provided by Amtrak. In 2015, more than 751,000 customers traveled to and from holiday gatherings using Amtrak and similar demand is expected this year

HOW TO GET TICKETS - Travelers may purchase tickets on Amtrak.com;, Amtrak mobile apps, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

From an item appearing at:
http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2016/11/21/amtrak-ridership-up-iowa-sparks-hope-rail-enthusiasts/94068750/


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Amtrak Upgrades: High-Speed Proposals
Could Affect Eight States

Proposals By The Federal Railroad Administration To Upgrade The High-Speed Rail
Corridor Through The Northeast Have Raised Concerns . And Some Enthusiasm.

By Matt O’Brien
Construction Equipment Guide

Proposals by the Federal Railroad Administration to upgrade the high-speed rail corridor through the Northeast have raised concerns, and some enthusiasm, from residents in the eight states containing the route of Amtrak’s Acela Express from Boston to Washington. After reviewing three major alternatives and a fourth option of doing nothing, the agency plans to release its recommendations later this year. The proposals attracting the most attention:

Connecticut

The most vehement opposition has come from southeastern Connecticut, where residents in Old Lyme and neighboring shoreline towns fear construction of a 50-mi. (80.5 km) bypass to avoid the current curvy route that hugs the coast would ruin their communities.

Less attention has gone to a proposal for a “second spine” that would create a new inland route stopping at Hartford and possibly the University of Connecticut. One proposal would route that spine beneath Long Island Sound through a nearly 25-mi. (40 km) tunnel connecting the New Haven station to New York’s Long Island.

Delaware

Some residents are concerned about a new high-speed route option that could bypass Wilmington, a banking hub and the state’s largest city.

Maryland

The biggest proposed change would replace the Baltimore and Potomac tunnels underneath Baltimore. The greatest concern voiced by residents and environmental groups has been over a proposed parallel track that could cut into the edge of the Patuxent Research Refuge, a national wildlife refuge.

Massachusetts

A proposed alternative route could steer inland, stopping in Worcester, the state’s second-largest city, before reaching the end point in Boston. Or, as others prefer, the railroad agency could focus on upgrading and speeding up the existing route that comes through Rhode Island.

The plans have disappointed some by not offering a way to connect high-speed rail north to New Hampshire and Maine by linking Boston’s two major stations.

New Jersey

Major upgrades — some already in the works in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — would include new railroad tunnels beneath the Hudson River that would improve frequency of trains bound for New York.

There also are proposals for relieving chokepoints, building new parallel segments for high-speed travel and adding even more Hudson River tunnel tracks.

New York

The most radical proposal would be for a new high-speed route crossing Long Island and down through a nearly 25-mi. tunnel beneath Long Island Sound, emerging near New Haven, Connecticut.

“It would literally destroy Garden City,” warned Nicholas Episcopia, mayor of the village that’s the seat of Nassau County, in a letter opposing that option because it would cut through dense neighborhoods.

A separate alternative would create a new route through the northern New York suburbs on its way to Hartford, Connecticut.

Pennsylvania

One proposal would create a new rail segment connecting to Philadelphia International Airport. Some residents have expressed concerns about how new rail lines would affect the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Rhode Island

The biggest concern of Rhode Island leaders hoping to strengthen economic ties to Boston and New York City is making sure any new Acela route doesn’t skip over Providence — a possibility if the railroad agency favors a more inland route through central Connecticut. And though it has heard heavy opposition on the Connecticut side, less attention has been paid to a proposed bypass through southwestern Rhode Island.

From an article appearing at:
http://www.constructionequipmentguide.com/amtrak-upgrades-high-speed-proposals-could-affect-eight-states/31534


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EXPANSIONLINES... Expansion Lines...  

South Coast Rail Oversight Shifted
From MBTA To State DOT

By Bruce Mohl
Commonwealth Magazine

Last Monday, Massachusetts officials shifted oversight of the South Coast Rail commuter rail [expansion] project from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to the state Transportation Department (MassDOT) and said they are now analyzing two route options through Middleborough that would allow service to Boston to start in as little as six to seven years.

The officials said the Transportation Department is assuming oversight of the project to take pressure off the “T,” which is struggling to improve existing service and extend the Green Line [subway/streetcar] into Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts. The officials said no decision has been made on whether to proceed with commuter rail service between Boston and the South Coast, even though $158 million has already been spent on the project.

Image

Image:  MassDOT

A map of the proposed “Stoughton Alignment.”  A different route is also under consideration extending from the existing Middleborough/Lakeville branch via the Middleborough Secondary.

South Coast Rail became a question mark in June, when state officials said the consensus route to Fall River and New Bedford from the terminus of the Stoughton commuter rail line would cost $1 billion more than initially projected ($3.4 billion versus $2.23 billion) and not be completed until 2029. As the Stoughton option has faded, Baker administration officials have suggested running service to Fall River and New Bedford from the terminus of the Middleborough line. The officials said that approach would take six to seven years to complete at far less cost, but it would mean fewer trains could operate on a daily basis.

The trip itself would also take longer on the Middleborough line. Officials said this summer that the trip to Boston via the Stoughton line would take 77 minutes. A presentation on Monday said the trip via Middleborough would take 105 minutes. Officials said bus trips take 2 to 2.5 hours.
James Eng, the state’s deputy administrator for rail who is now in charge of South Coast Rail, said two Middleborough options are under consideration. One would run trains from New Bedford and Fall River up to Taunton and then over to the Middleborough line and from there up to Boston. The other option would run shuttle trains to Middleborough, where riders would transfer to trains to Boston. Eng said the second option would be cheaper and allow three peak period trains between Middleborough and Fall River/New Bedford instead of two, but it would take 12 minutes longer.

Neither of the Middleborough options would add more trains to the line to improve service. To add more trains, a pinch point on the Middleborough line at Savin Hill in Dorchester would have to be addressed, which could involve putting an additional train track underground.

[ Editor Note:  The proposed route extending from the Stoughton station would require the re-activation of segments of a long-abandoned rail right-of-way (ROW) and would include associated issues with property abutters, environmental studies, and more.  The track along this former ROW has long-since been torn up leaving strips of barren land along its path.  The route extending from (or near) Middleborough would use an existing freight line that has regular traffic, but would require upgrades to trackage and signals as well as the addition of a second track in some locations.  The bottleneck in the Savin Hill section of Dorchester (Boston) is a single-track segment extending approximately 4.5 miles from Boston’s South Bay rail yard to the Savin Hill neighborhood that includes some curves requiring reduced speeds.  During the construction of the MBTA’s Red Line surface-running extension to Quincy and later to Braintree, MA, in the 1970s, that route essentially followed this rail line and used most of the available ROW.  A single track for occasional freight moves was left in place, but reflected its usage in that time period.  Unfortunately in the decade in which this transit extension was built, there was no foresight or consideration that the leftover freight track might ever be re-opened to passenger rail traffic. ]

For the full article see:
http://commonwealthmagazine.org/transportation/s-coast-rail-shifted-from-t-to-state/


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COMMUTERLINES... Commuter Lines...  

Caltrain Starts Pre-Construction Work
For Electrification Project

From Rail, Track, And Structures

Caltrain is gearing up to perform pre-construction work immediately that will continue through the end of February within the right-of-way as part of the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP).

The PCEP is described as a major component of Caltrain’s modernization program and will electrify the Caltrain Corridor from San Francisco’s 4th and King Caltrain Station to its Tamien Caltrain Station, convert diesel-hauled to Electric Multiple Unit trains and boost service with six Caltrain trains per peak hour in all directions.

Image

Photo:  Caltrain

Caltrain has begun pre-construction work for its Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project.

During the pre-construction work, Caltrain crews will be work in the field to locate utilities, confirm soil conditions and test cables. The work will primarily take place during the day, but some night activities will take place between 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Representatives say some single-tracking may be necessary during non-peak hours to accommodate the project’s progression.

After the pre-construction work wraps up, the project team will begin construction-related activities in the spring/summer of 2017.  The scheduled pre-construction and full construction work will be updated weekly on Caltrain’s website.

The PCEP is scheduled to be operational by the winter of 2020–2021.

Found at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/news/caltrain-starts-pre-construction-work-for-electrification-project.html


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

WMATA Removes 4000-Series Railcars
In Safety Concern

From Railway Age

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld ordered on November 17 the immediate removal from service of all 4000-series railcars from the lead position of trains following the identification of a potential safety concern involving the vehicle’s automatic train control (ATC) system that could result in a “false indication” to a train operator going undetected.

Metro says its “ATC system keeps trains properly spaced and a safe distance from other trains by displaying “speed commands” on a control panel in the operator’s cab. When operating in “manual mode,” the train operator responds to the speed commands, which indicate the train’s maximum authorized speed relative to the train’s location and distance from other trains. Train operators receive “zero speed commands” -- indicated by a double zero -- when the train is not authorized to move (i.e. the equivalent of a “stop signal”).”

Metro railcar engineers believe the potential exists for an undetectable failure of the 4000-series ATC system control board that could result in improper speed commands being given to a train when a 4000-series car is in the lead position, though they say they believe the potential to be remote.

“Today’s action is being taken in an abundance of caution and, while we believe that the risk is small, it is a risk I am unwilling to take,” Wiedefeld said. “Everything we do here is going to put safety first, no matter what.”

Based on a preliminary investigation initiated today, Metro says “it appears that the 4000-series railcar manufacturer recommends annual testing as a way to mitigate the risk of a false indication. Such testing is not currently done at Metro.”

Metro reports it may consider “bellying” 4000-series cars in the center of trains -- similar to 1000-series cars: “The ATC issue identified today is not a risk when the 4000-series cars are not in the lead position.”

Metro says “the 4000-series is the smallest and least reliable of Metro’s six “legacy” fleets.” There are 41 married pairs of 4000-series cars currently in active service, and Metro was already considering retiring all of them by the end of 2017. Metro may further accelerate the 4000-series retirement in light of this newly identified issue.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/safety/wmata-to-remove-4000-series-railcars-in-safety-concern.html


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FRA Proposes Safety Standard Updates To
Allow For High-Speed Passenger Trains

Provides New Path For Passenger Safety To Be Evaluated And
Achieves Agency Invites Comments On Proposal

FRA Press Release

WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today proposed updates for the passenger train safety standards used in the United States as the country looks to add high-speed trains that can travel up to 220 miles per hour and replace its aging passenger fleet. The proposed updates represent nearly a decade of work by FRA’s passenger rail division.

“As several regions of the United States build faster passenger rail service, the trains on those tracks must keep passengers safe,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “To do that, we want to allow manufacturers to innovate and achieve all-new levels of safety. These proposed changes put us on track to do just that.”

The proposed updates would establish a new category of passenger equipment, Tier III, for trains traveling up to 220 mph. The updates would offer an alternativemethod for evaluating how well passengers and crews are protected in an accident, often called crashworthiness. The public, railroad industry, railroad labor, manufacturers and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide feedback and comment on the proposed rule during the next 60 days.

In addition to measuring a train’s crashworthiness based on whether it meets current prescriptive strength standards, the proposed changes would allow a train’s crashworthiness to be evaluated based on it meeting an equivalent level of safety achieved through crash energy management technology or other innovative engineering methods.

“We look forward to hearing from everyone on how this proposal can help our country build a stronger passenger rail network – one that is not only faster but allows for new technologies to make passenger trains even safer,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

Although Tier III trains will be required to have exclusive track to operate at speeds above 125 mph, the new standards will allow Tier III trains to safely share track with current Tier I and Tier II commuter, intercity, and Acela trains. Compatibility between equipment types is a key strategy to allow trains to share existing corridors to reach downtown stations.

The proposed updates can be found at:    http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L18433#p1_z5_gD.

From an FRA press release at:
https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/fra2616


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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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FREIGHT LINES... Freight Lines...  

AAR “Anxious” For Trump’s STB Shift

By  Frank N. Wilner
Railway Age

Regarding the Association of American Railroads Nov. 17 request that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board delay regulatory proposals until the U.S. Senate confirms a full slate of Board members appointed by President-elect Donald J. Trump,  waiting until all STB vacant seats are filled could stall any further STB rulemakings until summer 2017 or later.

This is because two of the seats were created by the 2015 Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act to increase the STB size from three to five and have never been filled. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) is a principal author of that act, and one of his senior aides cautioned on Nov. 14 at an STB Bar Association function that Congress may not provide the STB with an increased budget to fund those new seats until sometime in 2017.

A federal fiscal year 2017 transportation-related budget has yet to be passed by the long politically fractured Congress, which more likely will extend an existing “continuing resolution” into 2017 that funds the federal government at fiscal 2016 levels. The 2016 STB budget level is almost entirely consumed by STB salaries, benefits, information technology and rent, and the STB already faces increased rent charges as it will relocate its offices early in 2017 and is in the process of updating its information technology systems. To confirm new STB members prior to a budget increase would risk not filling existing staff vacancies and/or forcing layoffs of existing staff, which would be counterproductive to conducting STB business that, in many cases, has a statutory time clock attached to decision making. The current annual STB budget is some $32 million.

The purpose of the AAR demand to the STB is to prevent regulatory decision-makings on captive shipper petitions for open access, simplifying the Stand Alone Cost (SAC) test and reconsidering the formula for determining railroad revenue adequacy. In all cases, the AAR prefers the status quo. A similar demand was issued by House Republicans earlier in the week to federal agencies that either are part of the currently Democratic-led Administration or, as is the case with the STB, independent of political control. The AAR is lobbying the Trump Administration to nominate two “railroad friendly” Republicans that most likely will be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. Thus, the AAR is anxious that the STB majority, now two Democrats and one Republican, shift to three Republicans and two Democrats before any further regulatory decisions are issued.

As for the FRA, a new Republican Administrator will be nominated by Trump after his inauguration on Jan. 20, but given that there are some 4,000 Presidential nominations pending, all of which require Senate confirmation, a new FRA Administrator might not take office before summer or later. Democrat FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg will step down on inauguration day, with the agency run temporarily by an internal career employee acting as a caretaker until a new Administrator is nominated and confirmed. Here, also, the AAR intent is to delay a final rulemaking on a two-person train crew requirement, any rulemaking on electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes and further action on Positive Train Control deadlines until a new Republican Administrator is in place. Again, the AAR is lobbying for a “railroad friendly” Administrator.

Railroads seem well positioned to enjoy favorable nominations by the Trump administration. The transition team member advising on STB and FRA nominations is Norfolk Southern Vice President Robert Martinez, while another transportation team member is transportation lobbyist Martin Whitmer, whose firm has held a $130,000 annual lobbying contract from the AAR for several years.

From an item at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blogs/frank-n-wilner/wilner-aar-anxious-for-trumps-stb-shift.html


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

Irish Rail Launches New Dublin Cross-City Link

By David Briginshaw
International Railway Journal

Irish Rail (IE) introduced a new cross-city passenger service in Dublin on November 21 following the completion of a Euro 13.7m project to upgrade an existing line which was formerly used by freight trains and empty passenger trains.

The work involved upgrading the 692m-long Phoenix Park tunnel and Drumcondra and Tara Street stations, track renewal, and re-signalling. The project was funded by Ireland’s National Transport Authority.

The new link provides a direct service between stations in southwest Dublin and north Kildare via the city centre, linking Newbridge, Hazelhatch and Parkwest with Drumcondra, Connolly, Tara Street, Pearse and Grand Canal Dock. Although the trains will by-pass Heuston station, passengers will be able to connect with long-distance services at Newbridge or Hazelhatch.

IE is operating 10 trains per weekday during the morning peak and 14 trains during the evening peak period, but it plans to expand services in the future to include off-peak and weekend services.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/commuter-rail/irish-rail-launches-new-dublin-cross-city-link.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Network Battling To Restore Passenger Rail
In Northeastern Ontario, Canada

By PJ Wilson
The Nugget

Every person in Ontario, Canada pays $155.62 a year to support the GO trains and buses that operate in southern Ontario.

Meanwhile, the provincial subsidy for the now-defunct Northlander passenger train cost 86 cents for every man, woman and child in the province, according to Eric Boutilier.

Boutilier, a member of the Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network, said Tuesday it is possible to bring passenger rail service back to northeastern Ontario.

It’s going to take a fight to do so, he said, but it’s a fight that’s well worth the effort.

“In Northern Ontario, we have very limited options for transportation,” Boutilier said. “If you want to get anywhere, you have to take the highway.”

But particularly in winter, he said, that option is not always do-able.

Over the past three years, he said, Highway 11 has been closed close to 200 times in winter between Muskoka and Hearst.
The average delay was six-and-a-half hours.

Highway 17 between Mattawa and Sudbury, he said, was closed 178 times in that same period, at an average of 13 hours.

“This is what we are dealing with,” he said. “It’s not like southern Ontario. We don’t have the luxury, if the highway is closed, of taking an alternate route. There probably isn’t going to be a detour,” or any detours will take much longer to traverse.

NEORN, he said, is trying to bring the issue of passenger rail service to the attention of Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.

Last week, the provincial Ministry of Transportation held consultations locally on a multimodal transportation strategy for Northern Ontario.

Boutilier noted in a submission to the province that “while the draft report elaborates on the merits of highway, air, marine and freight rail transportation, the province continues to ignore the role that passenger trains can provide to residents of this region.”

He said the province “does little more than to acknowledge that passenger rail services are limited in Northern Ontario,” with only one large urban centre – Sudbury – benefiting from year-round access to passenger rail service.

“Is this truly the absolute best the provincial government can do for Northerners?” he asks.

And, despite provincial promises to offer “enhanced transit coach service” after the Northlander was derailed in 2012, Boutilier said NEORN has found there has been a reduction in bus service along the Highway 11 corridor.

But even enhanced service, he said, doesn’t replace passenger rail.

“It’s not comfortable riding a bus for 10 or 12 hours,” he said, pointing out that some northeastern Ontario residents must travel more than 1,000 kilometers to get from their homes to medical appointments in Toronto.

To the west, he said, residents and First Nations communities along the Algoma Central corridor between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst have been without passenger rail service for more than a year because the provincial and federal governments have refused to provide basic transportation services to the region.

In both regions, he said, “the infrastructure is already there,” so no new rail lines need be built.

But “it’s going to take political will to move forward.”

He said some politicians have showed sympathy to the effort, and “it’s just a matter of whether the people who decide policy” will be swayed.

NEORN is a grassroots organization advocating for the retention of existing rail corridors and the reinstatement of passenger train and corresponding shuttle services through Algoma, Cochrane, Greater Sudbury, Kenora, Manitoulin, Muskoka, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Rainy River, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Timiskaming.

From an item at:
http://www.nugget.ca/2016/11/23/network-battling-to-restore-passenger-rail-in-northeastern-ontario


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