The National Corridors Initiative Logo

January 25, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 3

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...

  Storm Lines…
  Commentary…
Two-Star Transit At Five-Star Prices
  Transit Lines…
Trans-Hudson Mobility: Will They Get It
   Right This Time?
  Station Lines…
5 Quick Fixes To Ease Commuter Pain At N.Y.
   Penn Station
  Equipment Lines…
Calgary Transit Unveils New Siemens S200 LRV
First Look At EMD’s Tier 4, F125 Locomotive
  Funding Lines…
China Plans $US 121.6bn Rail Investment In 2016
  High-Speed Lines…
Bullet Train Opponents Urge Japanese Ambassador
   Not To Support The Houston-To-Dallas Line
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Amtrak Lines…
Amtrak Says New York Region’s Rail Projects
   Could Cost Up To $23.9 Billion
  Maintenance Lines…
All Aboard Begins Construction Of Train
   Maintenance Facility
  Business Lines…
CSX to Consolidate Operating Divisions
  Labor Lines…
150 BNSF Locomotives Sit Idle At Donkey
   Creek Rail Yard
  Legal Lines…
CP-NS: Government Advocacy Is
   Protected Speech
  We Get Letters…
  Events…
RUN To Boston
  Publication Notes …


STORM LINES Storm Lines...  

As Destination: Freedom went into copy deadline this week a major snow storm was battering the mid-Atlantic region of the USA with blizzard conditions. The storm has also resulted in the cancellation of most air flights in and out of the region, modified interstate rail schedules, and in some instances outright shutdowns of rail and associated transportation services. Some US states will see record-setting accumulations of snow.

DF Travel Advisory

The storm is impacting most USA eastern states in various ways to the point that all modes of travel will be impacted. Anyone traveling by air, rail, or highway should reference conditions along your planned route to determine feasibility, and expect delays, especially and including regions around New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and even southward into the Carolinas. Associated delays to and from cities connecting these regions can also be expected for some days to come.

Amtrak service along the Northeast Corridor is currently on a modified schedule.

Editor


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COMMENTARY Commentary...  

View From Europe

 

Two-Star Transit At Five-Star Prices

Where And When Did America’s Infrastructure Construction Industry
Fly Off The Rails And Lose All Control Over Costs?

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

Ulm, Germany – We at National Corridors Initiative (NCI) are a small group of people, who every week publish this e-magazine Destination: Freedom (D:F), which you are reading right now. Each week there is an internal discussion or round of comments via e-mail among us about the news stories we are writing about. The point of one recurring segment in Destination: Freedom is “Across The Pond”, which is a look at rail and transit developments beyond North America, and most of the material for “Across The Pond” comes through me and my desk located in a small town in Germany. I attempt to keep up with rail and transit related news in Europe by monitoring various press outlets across Europe and even in Asia, which is not easy considering that I have a full time job unrelated to rail transit, this voluntary position at D:F, plus the time I spend on being a father to two girls, one of whom is still a teenager, the other just now 20 years old and well into her transition to becoming an adult living independently on her own. Thus I have only a limited amount of time to cover news development in the rail and transit scene perhaps the way it needs to be at Destination: Freedom. This is especially true of coverage of trends and complex stories in the rail and transit world, where the stories are often best told by looking at lots of data, figures and all sorts of numbers, which requires time and resources to find these detailed facts and figures and to present them in a compact and understandable form.

Perhaps the most important aspect of reporting on rail and transit issues in any part of the world is the capital cost of a project. Capital cost is the number most people, including private citizens, politicians and the news media focus on – it is essentially the one-time sticker price of the project to plan, design, build and place into service. i.e. the closing price you paid for your home, the price you pay at the car dealer to buy a car, the price of you agreed to pay a building contractor to remodel your kitchen.

This includes what do these projects cost to build and to operate? What is the budget? Where is the money going? How were the budgets calculated? And last, but certainly not least, how well and effectively is this money being spent? Over the past few years I have observed the project or capital costs of a number of proposed transit projects in the USA as reported by several other staff members of NCI. Often my reaction in my head and gut to some of the budget numbers reported from the USA is shock. I know roughly what numerous rail and transit projects across Germany and Europe will cost and what their budgets are via press releases and public news reports in the public domain. Often the reported cost estimates and budgets of various transit projects in the USA appear to me to be anywhere from 100% to 500% more expensive in terms of capital costs than similar large scale transit projects in Europe.

Appearances can sometimes be deceiving, and the comparison I make in my head is perhaps somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison. There are a lot a variables to consider, but in the end analysis, we have to look at what is the final price tag for a project and what was delivered. The quickest and easiest way to do this is first to compare projects which are similar, i.e. a proposed high speed rail line in the USA vs. a high speed rail line in Germany, France or Spain, or an urban light rail extension project in an American city to an urban light rail extension project in Europe or Asia. We can also consider a large underground transit tunnel project in the USA, such as the Gateway project in New York City versus a similar large underground transit tunnel project elsewhere in the world. In all of these cases one quick and easy calculation is capital cost per mile or kilometer of new track or transit route installed, another would be capital cost per number of passengers carried per month or per year. The former value is quite easy to calculate assuming the capital cost estimate is accurate or final cost is known. The second value is less certain as many transit projects end up carrying far more passengers over time, or in a few cases less passengers, than were originally expected.

Image

NCI file photo by David Beale.

What the public wants – clean, efficient and frequent trains and transit, however at a fair price. Spain has an extensive rail transit system including local trains, light rail, regional trains (seen here in Barcelona in September 2015) and an impressive high speed train network. Despite economic difficulties in Spain since 2008, the public there remains solidly behind the country’s expanding high speed train network.

In these internal discussions with my other NCI colleagues I often would try to question or debate if the capital costs being reported for a project they had in their story was correct, as the numbers simply did not seem to make sense to me. James RePass, publisher of D:F asked me to to provide a rough analysis of a few American and European transit projects and how they compare regarding capital costs.

Before I could finish my own detailed cost comparison project, the Boston Globe (Boston, MA, USA) published an extensive article about the exploding cost problems of an extension to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Green Line light rail line. Their article does not include costs of transit projects beyond the USA, but does contain an extensive list of recent US transit projects including costs and length of the rail line in the project. The article can be read here:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/02/green-line-extension-would-far-more-costly-than-past-mbta-expansion-projects/vtEMOVWfbI1bEYToFH53qM/story.html

The article in the Boston Globe is truly interesting regarding the story of how a relatively simple extension of a light rail line, which will be built mostly along an already existing rail right of way, has simply gone completely off the map and beyond all reason regarding project and construction costs. It would not be the first time for the Boston area, where the infamous “Big Dig” project to relocate sections of the Interstate I-93 and I-90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) highways underground and partially under the Boston Harbor and then on to a new suspension bridge, nearly tripled in cost from 2.8 billion to 8.1 billion as measured in 1982 US dollars.

The Boston Globe’s list does not include the California High Speed Rail project nor the proposed Gateway project, which will replace the current Amtrak tunnels in New York City under the Hudson River. Both projects are creating intense discussions with their enormous capital cost projections. Both can be compared to two similar projects here in Europe in order to give a rough idea of how far out of control costs of American transit projects have gone.

One example would be the first phase of the California HSR project and the Wendlingen (Stuttgart) – Ulm new high speed line, now well into heavy construction with completion in the 2019 – 20 time frame. The new Wendlingen (Stuttgart) –Ulm rail corridor is being built through extremely hilly terrain with a number of geological problems and issues. Almost exactly one half of the double track line is in tunnels, and a number of kilometers of the line on bridges, thus making this project one of the most expensive high speed rail line projects per kilometer anywhere in Europe. The entirely underground (under the Alps mountain range) double track Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, now completed, came in at US $206 million per kilometer. This is also a sort of high speed line with speeds of 200 to 240 km/h (approximately 125 to 150 mph) allowed through this 57 km (35 mi) long tunnel.

Meanwhile in London, Europe’s largest current infrastructure project is underway and nearing completion. The project known as “Crossrail,” is an east-west heavy commuter / regional rail connector line running directly through the heart of London and out to London’s suburbs, and directly connected to the UK national rail network. Most of the rail line is underground including several stations. This is also an extremely complex and challenging project with parallels to the proposed Gateway project in New York City to replace the Amtrak Hudson River tunnels.

Obviously there is a massive discrepancy and problem in the way the United States executes major public infrastructure projects when such projects cost anywhere from 50% more to 500% more than equivalent projects in western Europe and the UK. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world for both living costs and business expenses, not unlike Manhattan, NY. Germany and Switzerland are also not known for being low cost places to live and do business, and may be as expensive as central California or more likely more expensive than the middle of nowhere in California farm lands and desert.

As the current debacle in Boston with the Green Line Extension proposal, and in California with its now under construction high speed rail corridor show, wildly expensive costs for this infrastructure threaten to kill or severely limit such infrastructure projects. Numerous opinion polls conducted in the USA over the past two decades consistently show that the public would rather have more public transit including rail transit than more roads and highways. But the cost troubles many of these transit infrastructure projects have run into, also show the American public is not ready to pay wildly out of control prices for these large projects. There is statistical information from other projects around the globe that proves the American public is right; transit project costs in the USA compared to the rest of world are generally out of control, and have been for a decade or more.

Where is the problem? It is beyond my expertise to say. It could be a monopoly power of a few general contractors and infrastructure engineering firms in the USA. It could be too much red tape from numerous federal, state, and local agencies, which often impose requirements which directly conflict with requirements of other government agencies and/or simply add cost with no benefits. Possibly, some construction contractors use such large projects to simply fleece and steal from the taxpayers. There needs to be a full evaluation of where things have gone badly off track and why.

One thing is certain in the USA, the public’s appetite for paying for just so-so, minimum level new transit infrastructure at solid-gold prices is vanishing quickly. This trend will certainly cause a number of transit projects to go into the paper waste basket before they get off the drawing board. The recent Boston Globe in-depth article on the costs of various public transit lines is a wake-up call for public transit advocates and various levels of government. Time to snap out of the slumber and start asking questions about how the USA has unfortunately landed at the top of the list of the most expensive countries on the planet for building new major transit infrastructure projects, while remaining at or very near to the bottom of the list of first world industrial countries in terms of the reach and utilization of public transit.

David Beale is a former US resident now living and working in Germany for the last 18 years. He is our foreign editor contributing material to the Destination: Freedom newsletter e-zine. His column, “Across The Pond” may be found in most editions of D:F.


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TRANSIT LINES Transit Lines...  

Trans-Hudson Mobility: Will They
Get It Right This Time?

Can the Region Avoid A Transportation Disaster?

Last in a Series
By David Peter Alan

If there is one place in the United States where railroad infrastructure is vital to the economy of the region and to the personal economies of its millions of its residents, it is in the New York City area. Today, all is not well with the region’s railroad infrastructure. The two tunnels on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) between New Jersey and Penn Station, New York are packed to capacity with commuters every weekday, especially in the morning. To make matters worse, the low-lying portions of those tunnels were flooded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Amtrak officials say that they must be taken out of service for major repairs. This must happen by 2034 at the latest, and maybe sooner.

Since November, this column has examined efforts to build new tunnels and improve other infrastructure on this critical segment of railroad, which is the busiest stretch of passenger railroad in the nation. We looked at the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project, which started with the best of intentions twenty years ago. Over the years, it was so severely downgraded that advocates for better transit fought against it until New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie terminated it in October, 2010. We also looked at Amtrak’s Gateway project: the present proposal to build new tunnels, a new station called “Penn South” for New Jersey Transit (NJT) trains, two new bridges and other features.

While Christie mentioned the downgrades that had made the ARC project less useful for riders than it would have been under the original plan, he emphasized its high cost as the primary reason for killing it. Gateway, in its entirety, is significantly more expensive. At the same time, New Jersey, New York State and Amtrak are all experiencing financial difficulties. As this column noted last week, it is difficult to imagine where enough money would come form; at least to the extent of paying the entire cost of Gateway, now estimated at $23.9 billion.

To place that number in perspective, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) counted trans-Hudson rail riders for its 2014 Hub-Bound Report, which was released in November, 2015. On the average weekday, NYMTC presented counts of 90,623 inbound passengers and 91,129 outbound riders, for a total of 181,752 one-way trips, or 90,876 round-trip riders, on average. This includes commuters (essentially all of whom make a round trip), occasional riders on NJT, and Amtrak passengers. Dividing $20 billion (the number generally accepted as the cost of Gateway until last week) by this number yields $220,080, which rounds out to a share of the total cost for each of today’s riders of $220,000. This amounts to several years of income for almost all salaried employees.

The figure of $20 billion for the overall cost of the project is no longer valid, although it is useful for making the illustration in the previous paragraph. Last Wednesday, Emma G. Fitzsimmons reported in the New York Times that Amtrak said in a presentation to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx that the current estimate is now $23.9 billion, an increase of 19.5% over the previously-accepted number. The new figure includes repairing the existing tunnels, which were damaged when Hurricane Sandy flooded the area in 2012, so the scope of work might be slightly larger than the original scope of the Gateway project when it was first proposed five years ago. Any increase in the cost due solely to an increase in the scope of the project would not comprise a major component of the overall project, so the cost per rider, using the NYMTC ridership figures currently available, now amounts to $263,000.

[ Ed Note: For the Fitzsimmons article see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/nyregion/amtrak-says-regions-rail-projects-could-cost-up-to-dollar23-9-billion.html?_r=1]

It is difficult to imagine that the current Congress, which nearly killed a program designed to improve transit in the Northeast Region, would allocate billions of scarce Federal dollars to the cause of new rail infrastructure which would benefit New Jersey residents who commute to New York City. The program in question was saved through the efforts of Democrats on the Conference Committee for the new FAST legislation, three of whom represent New Jersey. Still, there is no reason to expect that the Federal share of the nearly twenty-four-billion-dollar Gateway project would consist entirely of grants. It is far more likely that much of that amount would be tendered as loans, which must be repaid. When Gov. Christie killed the ARC Project in 2010, he specifically balked at repaying loans from the federal government.

In an effort to move Gateway forward, elected leaders from New Jersey and New York recently joined with Federal transportation authorities to create the Gateway Development Corporation, within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority). The company will have four Directors: one from U.S. Department of Transportation, one from Amtrak, and two from the Port Authority; one each appointed by the governors of New York and New Jersey.

The problem with the Port Authority is that nobody seems to trust it to act in the public interest. The agency is known for scandals, waste and secrecy. It remains impervious to all efforts to reform it, and it represents a fiefdom that the two governors own and do not wish to lose. It is highly doubtful that the Port Authority could accomplish the gargantuan task of building a project as large as Gateway, on time and within budget. This is especially problematic, since it is expected that the Port Authority will soon plan to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan and currently has plans to replace the monorail at Newark Airport. The “PA” (as it is known) also intends to spend $1.5 billion to extend the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) rail route from Newark Penn Station to the Newark Airport monorail; two endpoints that are already served by NJT and Amtrak. Some advocates believe that the PA should commit those funds toward new tunnels, instead. A press release from the Port Authority dated last December 10th refused to commit the PA to contribute funding for the Gateway project, at least at this time. The release said: “Today’s Board action makes no funding commitment on behalf of the Port Authority and the agency’s exact role in the construction, operation and maintenance of the project have yet to be determined.”

It remains unclear how the Gateway project would be funded, there is doubt about the fitness of the Port Authority to manage the project, and there is not much time between Amtrak’s estimation of when Gateway would be completed (2030) and the outer limit of the deadline for taking the existing tunnels out of service for repairs (2034). Given the record of delays faced by all transportation agencies in the area, it is unlikely that the entire Gateway project could be finished in time to repair the existing tunnels without a disastrous service disruption. If the damage to the tunnels is actually more serious than Amtrak officials believed in 2014, it may already be too late to build Gateway tunnels before the existing tunnels are shut down. The Port Authority, along with everyone else concerned, is aware of the importance of the project. Referring to the tunnels, the PA news release of December 10th said: “If they were taken out of service for even one day, it is estimated that the cost to the nation would be $100 million in transportation-related impacts and productivity losses.”

While the political and business communities hail the formation of the Gateway Development Corp. and look forward to new tunnels, their statements do not indicate that Gateway constitutes much more than just tunnels. In actual fact, it also includes two new spans to replace and augment Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, additional tracks between Newark and New York, Penn South (an additional station south of the existing Penn Station for NJT trains, so Amtrak would have the existing station to itself for most of the service day) and a loop around Secaucus Station that drew criticism and ridicule from advocates when it was first proposed as part of the ARC Project nearly a decade ago.

Is there a solution that would cost substantially less than Gateway while still providing needed tunnel capacity and other infrastructure? Advocate Joseph M. Clift believes so. He, along with the late James T. Raleigh, developed their “Better Gateway” proposal in 2011, shortly after the Amtrak Gateway plan was unveiled. We described Clift’s proposal in detail in the December 14st edition of D:F. Clift’s plan uses a phased approach to add infrastructure and open each segment for service as it is built. It begins with a single new tunnel and track improvements, with a second tunnel to be added later. Each segment of the project would be built as funding becomes available. If the Clift-Raleigh plan is built completely, the result would be a four-track line from Newark to New York, with two new tunnels into Penn Station. The Clift-Raleigh plan also provided for a track connection to Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s East Side, which was the goal of Alternative “G” of the original ARC proposal. The plan also includes improvements to Penn Station that would enable trains to turn around more quickly, which would increase capacity by freeing each track at Penn Station sooner. Clift claims that a faster turnaround time will deliver much of the capacity benefit of a new station, at a considerable cost saving.

It is also unclear how much new infrastructure would actually be necessary; because NJT has not done everything it can, without new construction, to reduce the pressure on peak-hour capacity at Penn Station. NJT can adjust its fare structure to encourage riders to take trains outside peak-commuting hours, or to use Hoboken Terminal, which has unused capacity. NJT could encourage both of these behaviors, but has refused to do so, despite calls from advocates for fare structures that would reduce the morning-commute crush at New York Penn Station. These changes would cost NJT some fare-box revenue, but those costs could be miniscule, compared to the billions of dollars required to build an expensive structure like Penn South; especially if enough riders can be diverted away from coming into Penn Station during the morning commuting peak, when Penn Station capacity is severely constrained.

Until the spring of 2010, rail fares for trips outside peak-commuting hours were lower than peak-hour fares. This is no longer the case, so riders have no incentive to avoid contributing to the peak-hour crush into New York. Historically, the “off-peak” discount was 25% (sold as a round-trip ticket, and compared to two one-way fares). Restoring a substantial discount would encourage price-sensitive riders to avoid the crowds of morning commuters into New York, which would make some capacity available for commuters, especially if NJT had off-peak single-trip fares like the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North do.

It is also less-expensive to commute directly to Penn Station than to take NJT to Hoboken and take PATH into Manhattan, even though the latter routing is less convenient and more time-consuming, for riders who have a choice. If NJT changed its fare structure to make it less expensive to commute to Manhattan through Hoboken than to commute to Penn Station, or for occasional riders to make their trips through Hoboken, some riders would use the Hoboken option, instead.

There is no research currently available that estimates how many riders would be diverted away from the peak-hour commute unto Penn Station if either or both of these changes in fare structure were implemented. Still, there is reason to believe that both policies will divert some riders to the Hoboken route, and other riders onto trains that arrive after peak-commuting hours are over. Traditional commuting on the LIRR has decreased in recent years, and it is reasonable to expect that traditional commuting everywhere will decrease as technology frees some workers from the responsibility of showing up at the office five days every week, and as the “baby boom” generation begins to retire. It seems possible that “Penn South” station proposed as part of Gateway may not be needed. Without Penn South, the rest of Gateway becomes significantly less-expensive and, therefore, more affordable.

Until NJT changes its fare structure to encourage alternatives to commuting into Penn Station at the busiest hours of the morning, and until obstacles on the Penn Station platforms are removed and NJT changes its operations to clear tracks more quickly, we will not know exactly how much new infrastructure will be needed for future service. Almost nobody believes that NJT and Amtrak can provide enough service in the future with the current infrastructure, especially since the two existing tunnels must be taken out of service for repairs within the foreseeable future. Although something must be done within the next few years, this writer does not expect to see sufficient funding for all of Gateway, or even the majority of it.

To this writer, the Clift-Raleigh “Better Gateway” plan that was proposed in October, 2012 and profiled in our December 14, 2015 issue, may be the only viable proposal, if funding is so constrained as to preclude any other. Clift and Raleigh proposed building a single new tunnel and making associated improvements between Newark and New York, before building a second new tunnel into Penn Station. This is a difficult sell to people who believe that two new tunnels absolutely must be built. It is less expensive to build two new tunnels separately than to build one and then the other, although it is possible to obtain some savings by planning for the second tunnel while building infrastructure that appertains to the first.

Clift says that a third tunnel would allow eight more trains to enter Penn Station during the busiest sixty minutes of morning-peak-commuting time. That would constitute enough additional capacity to bring trains from the Raritan Valley Line into Penn Station (a longtime goal of the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition) and also make room for more trains to come from other lines. Clift told this writer that Phase 2 of his plan would result in a “35% to 40% boost in NJT peak hour trains,” from the current twenty NJT trains (plus four that Amtrak now runs) to 27 or 28 NJT trains during the busiest hour of the morning-commute peak. In addition to the two existing tracks and tunnels, Phase 2 would add a third track and a third tunnel into Penn Station. Clift claims that such a capacity enhancement “will handle trans-Hudson ridership growth for a very long time to come” and says “that’s the minimum scope of work that must be funded for the foreseeable future.” 

As with any transportation project, the decision about the best course to take boils down to funding. If there is enough money available to build two new tunnels at the same time, it will be done, because nearly all elected officials and others concerned want to do it that way. If there is only enough funding available at the start of the project to build a single tunnel and a single new track as Clift and Raleigh proposed, that third tunnel would prevent disaster if one of the existing tunnels must be taken out of service before a fourth tunnel (the second new tunnel) can be completed. In such a scenario, after both of the original tunnels are repaired and placed back into service, three tunnels would provide enough capacity to serve riders for a substantial period of time.

Although Amtrak owns the NEC, in the final assessment, everything that would be done to expand trans-Hudson capacity would inure to the benefit of NJT and its riders. Amtrak does not need any additional capacity to run its current schedule, and it could survive temporarily if one of the existing tunnels is taken out of service for repairs. In that event, NJT commuters at peak-hours would have a very difficult time getting to Manhattan for the start of the business day. The Port Authority Bus Terminal and the approaches to it are already filled to capacity. Some additional riders could get from Hoboken Terminal to Lower Manhattan on ferries, but it is unclear whether there would be enough room on those ferries, or on the subways that would take many of them to Midtown offices. Decades ago, PATH ran twice as much service into and out of Hoboken during peak-commuting hours as it runs today, so that system has capacity that is currently not fully-utilized. Without rail access to Penn Station, however, rail access to Hoboken would become constrained.

Last fall, NJT officials blamed Amtrak for the difficulties that NJT’s commuters experienced last summer. While Amtrak owns the railroad, it is NJT’s commuters who strain its capacity. There have been efforts to persuade NJT to take the initiative and build the new tunnel capacity that its riders, especially commuters, could use. Given the agency’s budgetary problems and those of the Garden State generally, that appears impossible at this time, unless the Port Authority abandons its plan to extend PATH to the Newark Airport monorail and funds a new trans-Hudson tunnel instead. If Amtrak builds Gateway or any portion of it, NJT will still be required to pay for the improvements that its riders use, under Section 212 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA).

Whatever new infrastructure is needed to allow New Jersey commuters to reach their offices in New York City, New Jersey’s taxpayers and New Jersey Transit’s riders will eventually have to pay for it. In the long run, the amount that the Garden State’s taxpayers and rail riders are willing to pay for more rail infrastructure will determine how much infrastructure they will get. Amtrak is now participating in the process and will pay some of the cost. Still, any part of Gateway that is built, even if only the tunnels, will be built for the benefit of New Jersey rail riders. Ultimately, it will be up to New Jersey to make something happen, no matter how much or how little New York and Amtrak participate.


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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

5 Quick Fixes To Ease Commuter Pain
At N.Y. Penn Station

By Larry Higgs
NJ Advance Media For NJ.com

Commuters are used to being told to suffer in the short term, while waiting for long term solutions to their daily problems, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $3 billion plan to make-over Penn Station.

But several quick fix ideas suggested by commuter advocates and riders could address some of the issues that riders say range from the annoying to the dangerous.

The running of the riders: The dash of commuters after a track number has been announced for their train makes Spain’s running of the bulls look like a fun run. Announcing track locations at least 10 minutes before departure time could alleviate that, said David Peter Alan, Lackawanna Commuter Coalition chairman (*). The Long Island Rail Road, which shares Penn Station, already does this, he said.

“The last minute announcements create dangerous situations with hundreds of people desperately trying to get down a couple of stairways with only a few minutes to go before the train leaves,” said commuter Stacy Sass McAnulty.

The disclaimer: Penn Station is the busiest train station in North America and ridership is growing, which will eat up any short term gains, said Richard Arena, Association for Public Transportation president.

Up the down escalator: This is a big frustration for commuters, when everyone on the platform is going up, but the escalator is going down. It adds to the time it takes to get to street level, but commuters said it’s dangerous is when two trains load of people empty on to one platform.

“It’s an operational issue. Amtrak should have people there to flip the escalator (direction) as needed,” Alan said. “They should know when trains arrive, and flip them so they go up.”

Clear tracks faster: The Long Island Rail Road can clear a train from a track faster than NJ Transit or Amtrak, Alan said, which opens it up for another train to unload or load passengers. He suggested they follow the LIRR example.

“One train delayed for 10 minutes can fill up the entire NJ Transit waiting area, which makes for a lot of fun when trains do get called,” said commuter Dan Isaacs.

Remove the obstacles: Passengers have to squeeze into spaces between trains and walls and navigate other obstacles on the platform, which adds to the congestion, Alan said. Except for the necessary support pillars, Alan suggested getting rid of the unnecessary stuff, including replacing some escalators, with stairways, which take up less space.

Use Moynihan Station: Conversion of the existing Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue to a station is being financed by New York State and Amtrak and will help NJ Transit commuters by moving Amtrak riders out of Penn Station. Why stop there? The first phase extended Penn Station platforms under Moynihan. Alan said NJ Transit trains could unload there too, giving commuters more exits to get out of the station, he said.

Moynihan’s first phase will help, but is a short term solution at best, Arena said. Adding tracks and platforms under the station is the long term solutions that’s needed, he said.

Bonus idea: Bring back off-peak fares: Encouraging riders to travel outside rush hour for a discount is a reason commuter railroads offer off-peak fares, which NJ Transit ended in 2010. Bad idea, said Alan, who mentioned that other commuter railroads use them to manage travel patterns.

“If they restore off-peak fares, it will divert occasional riders on to off-peak trains to free-up capacity during peak times,” Alan said. “It won’t cost a dime in infrastructure.”

Fare incentives could be used to encourage commuters to travel to Hoboken and take PATH trains or ferries to New York, he said

From an item at:
http://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2016/01/5_quick_fixes_that_could_help_ny_penn_station_right_now.html

[ * David Peter Alan is a contributing editor to Destination: Freedom. - Ed.]


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EQUIPMENT LINES... Equipment Lines...  

Calgary Transit Unveils New
Siemens S200 LRV

By Carolina Worrell, Managing Editor
Railway Age magazine

Calgary Transit (CT) unveiled its new S200 LRV on Jan. 15, 2016 at the Oliver Bowen Maintenance Facility. The high floor vehicles are being designed and manufactured by Siemens at its Sacramento, Calif. plant and include new features that allow for full accessibility, increased energy efficiency, new passenger comfort and safety features, improved operator and maintenance systems, and specific adaptations for the Calgary climate.

LRV car

Image: Seimens Corp for Calgary Transit

One of the new S200 LRV units

The new vehicles, dubbed The Mask, were designed based on direct input from the riding public and CT. Calgarians were asked to help choose the design of the front of CT’s new cars by voting on three options: The Bow, inspired by the Bow River; The Buffalo, inspired by the buffalo; and The Mask, inspired by a hockey goalie mask. The winning design of The Mask represents individuality, reliability, style and protection, a fitting design to represent Calgary, CT says.

“It’s not just about timelines and budget but whether a project can be delivered in a way that both parties are happy with the outcome,” said Russell Davies, Transit Fleet Manager, Calgary Transit. “Siemens appreciated the importance of our project and what it means to the city if Calgary was a major factor in the success of the S200 project.”

“Siemens has provided Calgary with its entire light rail fleet of vehicles since 1981 and we’re excited to look toward the future with the introduction of the new S200 light rail vehicle,” says Patrick O’Neill, Vice President Mobility, Siemens Canada. “Calgary Transit runs one of North America’s largest light rail systems and we’re honored to collaborate with them to provide Calgarians with the latest technologies that will improve the riders’ experience, operation and maintenance, and overall mobility in and around Calgary.”

Siemens has designed the LRVs to withstand the challenging Calgary environment by including thermal insulated walls, triple-pane windows with low solar transmittance, electric floor heating and forced air heating and cooling system, providing a comfortable passenger environment in all weather conditions. The vehicles, Siemens says, are fitted with the most advanced corrosion protection coatings available in the industry to protect them from the elements.

The new LRVs feature various systems that will help improve reliability including back-up power systems and improved communication and diagnostics systems between the driver and the maintenance shop to resolve issues promptly. The vehicles were also designed with passenger comfort and safety in mind and now include slip-resistant flooring, on-board security systems, GPS mapping displays and larger windows and doors to increase natural light and provide visual security.

The S200 vehicles are fully compliant with the City of Calgary’s Access Design Standards, providing barrier-free access at all vehicle doors, making them easily accessible for passengers with disabilities and those pushing strollers or transporting bicycles or bulky objects.

To improve operation and maintenance, the new vehicles offer a larger, redesigned operator cab and a larger, heated windshield and side windows with a nearly 360- degree view. Diagnostic data is now transmitted automatically and wirelessly to wayside operations, allowing the source of any issues to be detected and resolved quickly.

Siemens will be delivering a total of 63 vehicles by early 2017 for the CT LRT as part of a contract announced in September 2013. CT expects the new vehicles to begin operation this spring.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/light-rail/calgary-transit-unveils-new-siemens-s200-lrv.html


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First Look At EMD’s Tier 4, F125 Locomotive

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) has released the first images of the Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) F125 Spirit locomotive, which will be compliant with the latest US EPA Tier 4 emissions standards.

F125 Locomotive

Image via Metrolink

One of the new F125 locomotives in preparation at the shop.

Metrolink ordered 20 F125s in June 2013, becoming the first US operator to place an order for Tier 4 diesel locomotives. The 200km/h ac traction F125 is equipped with a 20-cylinder four-stroke Caterpillar C175-20 engine, generating an output of 3.5MW. The single-cab monocoque body shell was designed for EMD by Vossloh Rail Vehicles (now part of Stadler Rail) and features a crash energy management system to absorb energy in the event of a collision.

The locomotives, which are being assembled at EMD’s plant in Muncie, Indiana, will also be equipped with VRV high-speed running gear and inverter-controlled head-end power.

EMD says the F125 is compliant with the US Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act’s 305-005 Next Generation Locomotive specifications and offers an 85% reduction in emissions compared with older Tier 0 diesel locomotives. This is achieved through the use of a selective catalytic converter-only after-treatment system and electronic fuel injection.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/north-america/first-look-at-emds-tier-4-f125-locomotive.html


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Off-Shore Investments

 

China Plans $US 121.6bn Rail Investment
In 2016

Written By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

China Railways Corporation (CRC) announced on January 17 that it has set itself a fixed asset investment target of Yuan 800bn ($US 121.6bn) for the third consecutive year.

CRC general manager Mr. Sheng Guangzu told journalists at a press conference in Beijing much of the focus for 2016 will be on developing links to central and western regions.

CRC says it invested Yuan 823.8bn last year, compared with Yuan 809bn in 2014, and opened 9531km of new railway, including 3306km of high-speed lines, taking the total length of the high-speed network to more than 19,000km.

However, while CRC has maintained a consistently high level of investment, losses have begun to rise. In the first three quarters of last year losses reached Yuan 9.4bn, more than three times the deficit in the corresponding period in 2014. CRC’s freight business has been struggling with volumes dropping 10.5% to 3.4 billion tons last year. This follows a 4.7% drop in 2014.

Nonetheless, the rate of investment in the expansion of the network looks set to remain steady or even increase. According to a report in the Economic Information Daily at the end of November, Yuan 2.8 trillion will be invested in new line construction between 2016 and 2020 as part of Beijing’s 13th economic plan, close to the total for 2011-2015. However, with economic stimulus money thrown in, the final total is likely to be closer to Yuan 3.5 trillion, and the Beijing-based business publisher Caixin Media reported on January 4 that the final figure could be as high as Yuan 3.8 trillion.

More than 23,000km of new lines will be added to the network, which will grow to around 150,000km with the high-speed network set to reach 30,000km.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/asia/china-plans-dolus-1216bn-rail-investment-in-2016.html


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

Bullet Train Opponents Urge Japanese Ambassador
Not To Support The Houston-To-Dallas Lin

By Dianna Wray
Houston Press

Texans Against High-Speed Rail has long been vocal about its opposition to Texas Central Partner’s plans to use Shinkansen technology to build a Houston-to-Dallas high-speed rail line. But now it has really upped the ante with, well, a letter.

On Monday the coalition that’s formed to fight the bullet train found an unexpected way to make it clear that they intend to fight the project tooth and nail. How? They wrote a letter to Kenichiro Sasae, the Japanese ambassador to the United States, pledging to oppose the project.

Yeah, we were a little puzzled by this one, too.

The group is intent on fighting the project, a high-speed rail line that will take passengers from Houston to Dallas in just 90 minutes, as we wrote in our August cover story “On the Line,” citing the damage to rural land, the fact that there probably won’t be stops between Houston and Dallas, and a slew of other concerns as motivation.

Monday’s letter was written by Grimes County Judge Ben Leman and signed by 33 officials including state legislators, county judges, county commissioners and sub-regional planning commission members, and was sent off to the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C.

Leman, who is also one of the founders of Texans Against High-speed Rail, explained the reasoning behind sending the letter to Sasae. Leman contends Texas Central is primarily being funded by the Japanese, and not by Texas investors the way Texas Central officials have claimed. “Instead of relying on TCP to convey our sentiments to those Japanese parties involved in this project we decided to relay our sentiments directly,” Leman says. “We’re not clear on which parts of the Japanese government is involved, so we’re relying on the ambassador to convey our message to all the different parties involved.” Hence, the letter.

There has indeed been news that the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport & Urban Development, a fund partly owned by the Japanese government, has kicked in $40 million with Texas Central. Leman maintains that the $40 million invested by the Japanese fund is another indication that Texas Central is a project focused on Japanese interests and can’t be trusted, so he decided opponents should go around the company and address the Japanese directly. Or, at least, you know, Sasae.

(Texas Central denied that the Japanese investment meant anything. “The recent investment in our Texas project by a leading public-private partnership in Japan shows that this project is of national and global significance, and expect that kind of interest continuing to grow,” the company stated.)

The letter to the Japanese ambassador starts off firmly but politely declining the Japanese plan to bring bullet trains to Texas. “While we respect your country’s ambitious goal of exporting the Shinkansen technology, as residents and leaders in East Texas, we remain opposed to the HSR Project because it will cause irreparable harm to our communities,” the letter states.

Leman and the others who signed off on the letter seem to assume that Sasae is in on the Japanese plan to export Shinkansen technology to other countries — and it’s true, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing the sale of these trains for a while now — and that Sasae keeps minute-by-minute tabs on everything that goes on here in Texas, especially when it comes to the high-speed rail project.

“As you are probably aware, during the recently concluded Texas legislative session, the Texas Senate unanimously voted to prohibit any state support for the HSR project,” it reads, before acknowledging that the budget prohibition was ultimately removed after state lawmakers got assurances and legal analysis that concluded the state won’t end up supporting the Houston-to-Dallas line.

The letter also mentions that Texas Central officials have stated that the company “does not desire to use eminent domain to acquire the necessary rail of right-of way,” before making it clear that Texas Central is going to have to use eminent domain to get this thing done, because “in Texas pride of family heritage has no price tag” and there are “multitudes of private property owners who do not want to sell their farms, ranches and private property” to Texas Central.

The whole thing wraps up with assurances that, basically, the Japanese should give up on bringing their fancy bullet trains to Texas because there’s a whole bunch of Texans who won’t be allowing it. In fact, they’re just letting Sasae — and from there, we’re assuming all Japanese officials — know out of concern for the Japanese interests, according to the letter:

“Just as much as we do not want this [high-speed rail] project to destroy our communities, we do not want the Japanese citizens who invest in the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to lose money when the [high-speed rail] project fails. There may be other places that are far better suited for and would welcome your Shinkansen technology. We encourage you to seek out a different market where this would provide an actual transportation solution and where you may encounter less opposition.”

A hard copy of the letter was mailed to the Japanese embassy, and Leman says he’s following up with an email version to confirm that Sasae received the letter. “We’re hoping Japanese interests read the letter and then reach out to us to discuss the details of the letter more directly. We see this as a fight just getting started. There are many ways to oppose this project, and we will continue to coordinate our efforts in the corridor; we’ll continue our efforts to educate state officials and ultimately we’re going to stop it,” Leman says.

Fingers crossed that Sasae replies, also via a letter, and promptly.

From an item at:
http://www.houstonpress.com/news/bullet-train-opponents-urge-japanese-ambassador-not-to-support-the-houston-to-dallas-line-8066114


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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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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Amtrak Says New York Region’s Rail Projects
Could Cost Up To $23.9 Billion

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
NY Times

Amtrak officials last Wednesday provided the most detailed public account yet for the projected costs of building a new Hudson River rail tunnel and improving other critical parts of the rail infrastructure in the New York region.

The project, known as the Gateway program, has been championed by Anthony Foxx, the federal transportation secretary, who on Wednesday visited the deteriorating rail tunnel that runs between New York and New Jersey.

In a presentation to Mr. Foxx, Amtrak officials said the entire project could cost as much as $23.9 billion, with the largest share of about $7.7 billion going toward building the new Hudson tunnel and repairing the existing tunnel. The project includes a host of other elements, including expanding Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan at an estimated cost of $5.9 billion, and replacing rail bridges in New Jersey.

The project gained momentum last year after Mr. Foxx raised concerns about the existing century-old tunnel, which has two tubes and needs repairs because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. After a contentious debate over how to pay for the tunnel project, federal and state officials agreed to split the costs and to create a corporation within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to oversee the plans.

After Mr. Foxx toured the tunnel on Wednesday, he said he would continue to advance the plans during the final year of the Obama administration.

“I’d like to have a financing package that is solid enough by the time we walk out of the door that everyone has the certainty that the project will happen, and the funding set aside to get it done,” he said.

Seated at the front of a special train car with panoramic windows, Mr. Foxx examined the tunnel’s crumbling bench walls and the line where floodwaters rose during the storm. A top Amtrak official, Stephen Gardner, stood nearby outlining the scope of the Gateway program and rough estimates for the cost and timeline for the plans.

Amtrak officials have been reluctant to provide specific figures for the cost of the project while they are still in the early stages of planning. On Wednesday, they cautioned that the numbers were preliminary estimates, and the real costs would be determined after conducting engineering work and an environmental plan and considering available financing.

The expansion of Penn Station, by adding tracks to the south, could start in 2024 and be completed by 2030, according to the presentation. Work to replace the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, an old swing bridge that often causes delays, could start next year. There was no timeline provided for the Hudson tunnel project, but Amtrak officials have said that work could take about a decade.

On Wednesday, when Mr. Foxx asked whether the existing tunnel was safe, Amtrak officials said that it was structurally safe, but that service was becoming less reliable. Amtrak’s chairman, Anthony Coscia, and its chief executive, Joseph Boardman, attended the tour, along with Sarah Feinberg, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration.

After a series of bad train delays at the Hudson tunnel last summer, Mr. Foxx helped jump-start long-stalled plans to build a new tunnel under the river. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican who is running for president, canceled an earlier tunnel project in 2010.

This month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, announced a new effort to renovate Penn Station and to turn the James A. Farley Post Office across the street into a train station and waiting room. But questions remain over how to pay for that project’s $3 billion cost and the governor’s other transportation proposals for the region.

After the tour, Mr. Foxx praised Mr. Cuomo’s big infrastructure plans for the state, but he said officials must remain “laser-focused on fixing what is broken under the Hudson River.”

“That’s where our department’s focus remains,” he said, “until we get that project on an irreversible path toward completion.”

From an item at:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/nyregion/amtrak-says-regions-rail-projects-could-cost-up-to-dollar23-9-billion.html


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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

All Aboard Begins Construction
Of Train Maintenance Facility

By Jennifer Sorentrue
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

All Aboard Florida on Monday began construction on a rail repair facility that will service its Brightline trains when they begin shuttling passengers between South Florida and Orlando next year.

The facility, just north of downtown West Palm Beach, will be used to repair, maintain, clean and store Brightline’s trains, All Aboard officials said. About 50 people will work out of the 12-acre site at 601 15th Street, which is also expected to serve as an office for the company’s conductors, engineers, and on-board service staff.

Initially, five Brightline trains will be housed at the site, officials said.

Construction

Photo: Jennifer Sorentrue, The Palm Beach Post

Crews on Monday, January 18, 2016 began vertical construction on a rail repair facility that will service All Aboard Florida’s Brightline trains.

“Every morning when the train services begin, the train will be leaving from this area,” said Adrian Share, Brightline’s executive vice president of rail infrastructure.

Crews for Archer Western, the firm selected to build the facility, started preliminary work at the site this fall. On Monday, the construction team poured the first batch of concrete in what will become a “maintenance pit.” The pit will allow Brightline crews to work underneath trains to perform required inspections and other daily service.

As part of the project, a warehouse on the site, which had previously been used by the Florida East Coast Railway, is being converted to offices, crew quarters and training rooms.

Brightline officials said they plan to have several full-time employees working at the site. Siemens, the company contracted to build and to perform maintenance work on the trains, will also have employees at the repair facility, officials said.

The repair facility is expected to be completed in July and ready for use in August, Share said.

Monday’s work marks another milestone for the company, which plans to run 32 trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. The company plans to launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017. The West Palm Beach-to-Orlando span is expected to begin by the end of 2017.

“This is a transformative transportation project and it really does change the way people live,” said Adrian Share, Brightline’s executive vice president of rail infrastructure. “Everything we are doing here is state of the art in terms of design and construction.”

Construction has started on the company’s four stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, and crews in South Florida have begun work needed to add a second track to the Florida East Coast Railway line.

Brightline’s trains are under construction at Siemens’ solar-powered plant in Sacramento, Calif. The shell of the first passenger coach is expected to be completed next week, Brightline officials said.

From an item at:
http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/business/employment/all-aboard-begins-construction-of-train-maintenanc/np7G9/


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

CSX to Consolidate Operating Divisions

From CNN Money Online
And CSX Press Release

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 18, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As CSX (Nasdaq:CSX) continues to match its network resources to business demand and drive additional efficiency, the company announced today that it is consolidating its operations administration from 10 divisions to 9 divisions and closing administrative offices at Huntington, West Virginia. Huntington Division administrative responsibilities will be reassigned to five adjoining divisions: Atlanta, Baltimore, Florence, Great Lakes and Louisville.

CSX will continue to run trains over the territory, and its yards and other facilities in the Huntington region – including the Huntington locomotive shop – will continue operations. The company remains committed to the Huntington community, which has played a vital role in railroading and American commerce since its namesake Collis P. Huntington completed the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1873.

The 121 management and union employees who currently report to the Huntington Division offices will remain employed in the area supporting the transition of administrative responsibilities over the next several months. At the conclusion of the transition period, the timing of which may vary by role, many employees will be given an opportunity to fill positions in other areas of the network.

Primarily serving customers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, the Huntington territory encompasses the Central Appalachian coal fields, which have been significantly affected by low natural gas prices and regulatory actions. Over the past four years alone, CSX’s coal revenues have declined $1.4 billion. Today’s announcement is part of CSX’s focus on reducing structural costs and aligning resources with demand in its coal fields, and follows the reduction of train operations at Erwin, Tennessee and the closing of mechanical shops at Corbin, Kentucky.

CSX remains firmly committed to providing safe, reliable rail service to customers throughout the region. CSX maintains more than 2,000 miles of track in West Virginia and handled more than 1.7 million carloads of freight in the state in 2014.

About CSX

CSX, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is a premier transportation company. It provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services and solutions to customers across a broad array of markets, including energy, industrial, construction, agricultural, and consumer products. For nearly 190 years, CSX has played a critical role in the nation’s economic expansion and industrial development. Its network connects every major metropolitan area in the eastern United States, where nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population resides. It also links more than 240 short-line railroads and more than 70 ocean, river and lake ports with major population centers and farming towns alike. More information about CSX Corporation and its subsidiaries is available at www.csx.com. Like us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/OfficialCSX) and follow us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/CSX).

CSX Press Contact:
Melanie Cost
(904) 359-1702

From:
http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/globenewswire/6149935.htm


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LABOR LINES... Labor Lines...  

150 BNSF Locomotives Sit Idle
At Donkey Creek Rail Yard

Rail Official Cites Decreased Demand For Parking Dozens Of Engines

By Cathy Brown
Gillette News Record

About 150 locomotives or rail engines are being stored in the Donkey Creek, WY. area by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad because of decreased demand.

The rail engines and two sets of box cars are being stored at the railroad’s yard between Rozet and Gillette temporarily because of a downturn in rail shipping, according to BNSF spokesman Matt Jones.

From an item found at:
http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com/news/local/article_d5dd510f-4e7a-57e5-b872-3c33bb706a04.html


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

CP - NS Saga Continues

 

CP-NS: Government Advocacy
Is Protected Speech

By Frank N. Wilner, Contributing Editor
Railway Age Magazine

Canadian Pacific (CP) is pursuing a hostile takeover of Norfolk Southern (NS). CP is asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether NS and other U.S.-based major railroads—some of which oppose the takeover—are unlawfully conspiring for “the primary purpose of restraining trade.” CP says “fear of competition does not justify the collective action of competitors.” Yet the Supreme Court long ago ruled that “joint efforts to influence public officials, such as railroad regulators, do not violate the antitrust laws even though intended to eliminate competition.”

Let us begin by returning to 1954, when Marilyn Monroe was wed to the Great DiMaggio; Al Perlman became president of the New York Central Railroad; and railroads, even then, were strategizing against longer and heavier trucks poaching railroad traffic. Yep, special interest lobbying, arguably out of fear of competition, with railroads successfully defending their actions as permissible governmental advocacy.

It was 62 years ago when a then-subsidiary-assemblage of the Association of American Railroads, the Eastern Railroads’ Presidents’ Conference, hired the New York public relations firm of Carl Byoir and Associates to design and execute a grass-roots advertising and lobbying campaign to convince lawmakers to increase user charges imposed on heavy trucks so as to better match cost responsibility with pavement damage.

In response, the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and 37 Pennsylvania truckers filed suit in federal court against the Byoir agency, the Eastern Railroad Presidents’ Conference and 31 railroads, alleging a conspiracy in restraint of trade. Among the allegations was that the railroads had persuaded the governor of Pennsylvania to veto a bill that would have increased maximum weight limits for trucks using Pennsylvania highways.

In a scathing 200-page opinion, a federal district court found the defendant Byoir agency and railroads guilty of conspiring to “injure the truckers in their competitive position in the long-haul freight industry in the Northeastern United States.” The court rejected the defendants’ contention that the activities were directed solely to obtain legislation and, hence, were within free speech guarantees.

Ruled the federal district court:

“[It was the intention of the defendant railroads] to hurt the truckers in every way possible even though they had secured no legislation; it was their purpose to restrict the activities of the truckers in the long-haul industry to the greatest possible extent ...

“[To accomplish this, railroads would] seek out or create ‘independent’ organizations [front groups, such as Garden Clubs of New Jersey against Big Trucks] favorable to the railroads’ point of view and opposed to the truckers; use these groups to focus attention upon the trucks as destroyers of the highways ... and interest writers of important magazine articles [to attack] the truckers.”

The federal district court granted injunctive relief and assessed the defendants hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages payable to the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. As for the 37 individual trucking firms that were among the plaintiffs, the court ordered them paid six cents each in damages, which was increased by three-fold to nine cents under the treble damages remedy of the antitrust laws.

Had the decision held, it is quite probable that lobbying activities might be quite different today.

But the decision did not stand. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1961 that antitrust law should not be construed to deprive citizens of their right to petition government.

Ruled the Court:

“In a representative democracy such as this, these branches of government act on behalf of the people and, to a very large extent, the whole concept of representation depends upon the ability of the people to make their wishes known to their representatives.

“To hold that the government retains the power to act in this representative capacity and yet hold, at the same time, that the people cannot freely inform the government of their wishes, would impute to the Sherman Act a purpose to regulate not business activities, but political activity, a purpose which would have no basis whatever in the legislative history of that act.

“It is neither unusual nor illegal for people to seek action on laws in the hope that they may bring about an advantage to themselves and a disadvantage to their competitors. The right to petition is one of the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, and we cannot, of course, lightly impute to Congress an intent to invade these freedoms.”

That 1961 decision (Eastern Railroad Presidents’ Conference v. Noerr Motor Freight, 365 U.S. 127), established that bona fide joint activities of competitors to influence public officials do not violate antitrust laws—that the Sherman Act was not intended to embrace political action, the right of free association, or the right to petition government for redress of grievances.

This decision was expanded in a second Supreme Court case in 1965 (United Mine Workers v. Pennington, 381 U.S. 657) to embrace bona fide joint activity aimed at public officials and intended to eliminate competition.

Ruled the Court once again:

“Joint efforts to influence public officials do not violate the antitrust laws even though intended to eliminate competition.”

These judicial edicts have come to be known as the Noerr-Pennington doctrine. CP says the Noerr-Pennington doctrine does not apply to this situation.

The Supreme Court did subsequently hold in 1972 that antitrust liability may attach, but only if a group’s activities prove to be a sham whose intent is to bar competitors from meaningful access to administrative agencies (California Motor Transport v. Trucking Unlimited, 404 U.S. 508).

Frank N. Wilner, past president of the Association of Transportation Law Professionals, is author of six books, including, Amtrak: Past, Present, Future; Understanding the Railway Labor Act; and, Railroad Mergers: History, Analysis, Insight. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics and labor relations from Virginia Tech. He has been assistant vice president, policy, for the Association of American Railroads; a White House appointed chief of staff at the Surface Transportation Board; and director of public relations for the United Transportation Union.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/blogs/frank-n-wilner/government-advocacy-is-protected-speech.html


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

Your comments on the status of the Mattapan trolley line (DF Vol 16, No 2 - http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df4/df01192016.shtml#The) are right on. I would hope the [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] doesn’t commit to something goofy like a busway as a replacement. Far better, in my opinion, would be to give a contract to Gomaco. http://www.gomacotrolley.com/index.html to build replacement trolleys or hire Brookville http://www.brookvillecorp.com to rehab the current PCCs as the company is doing now for El Paso.

Sloan Auchincloss
DF Reader

Editor Replies The streetcar line and its rolling stock were refurbished and rebuilt in conjunction with a rebuild of the Ashmont (Red Line subway) station with a long-range plan that they would last for as much as 20-25 years more. At present only about half of that time has passed - if that.

Replacement of the streetcars with more-modern rolling stock would have restrictions on weight per car due to certain bridge crossings over the Neponset River. Further, the wire catenary service that powers the trolley cars over this former rail line right-of-way is configured for a trolley pole whereas modern equipment utilizes a pantograph in most cases. Paving of the right-of-way for a bus or electric bus has its own issues with respect to weight restrictions and the catenary. Rider advocacy will play a serious role in this issue. At present when ever substantial snow fall occurs this is the last line to get cleared and during the wait “bustitution” occurs. This also happens during periods of mechanical failures on the line given this is a closed-loop track, requiring any fallen car to be pushed out of the way by the next one on the loop. Again, buses fill-in

The reader brings up excellent points regarding the availability of alternate parts suppliers and also the potential for investment in compatible rolling stock for this line. Either way, this line serves a defined and loyal ridership that should not be discounted in the name of dollars. In the last generation the MBTA has closed more than one streetcar line in the name of saving money or lack of ridership, concentrating only on lines that are standing-room-only at peak hours. That as well is also not acceptable.

Other signs? The MBTA has placed the commuter parking lot at Mattapan Station up for sale and development citing lack of usage. Hmmmm…


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EVENTS... Events...  

Save the Date!

 

RUN To Boston!

Join the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) in Boston, Massachusetts on Friday, April 29th for the RUN Annual Conference. The conference theme will be “Who’s Looking Out for You? The State of Rail Advocacy in New England.”

Plan to stay in town for a tour of the wide variety of transit modes offered by the “T” to Bostonians and other area residents. The tour will take place on Saturday, April 30th, and there may be some other surprises, too.

So mark your calendars and plan to RUN to Boston after the upcoming winter ends and spring returns to New England. If you register now, the cost is only $45 for the conference, plus your fare (a day pass will do) for the tour. If you want more information, please check the RUN web site, www.railusers.net or call RUN Chair Richard Rudolph at (207) 776-4961.


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, weíd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCIís webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

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 ñ state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals ñ 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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