The National Corridors Initiative Logo

February 8, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 5

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...

  Obituary…
Gil Carmichael Remembered
Mississippi State Republican Patriarch
   Gil Carmichael Dead At 88
  Guest Commentary…
Late Trains Aren’t Amtrak’s Biggest Problem
  Storm Lines…
Blizzard Knocks Out Transit In Northeast,
   But Amtrak Suspends Trains Elsewhere, Too!
  Funding Lines…
Baker-Polito Administration Launches Complete
   Streets Funding Program In Massachusetts
  Transit Lines…
MBTA’s Government Center Subway Station
   To Reopen March 26
  Builders Lines…
Siemens Expanding Sacramento Footprint
Metra Seeks Design Proposals For New Railcars
 
  Ridership Lines…
SunRail Recruits Riders By Pitching To Employers
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Maintenance Lines…
Defects Plague New MBTA HSP46 Locomotives
  Safety Lines…
NTSB Opens The Accident Docket On The
   Philadelphia Amtrak Derailment
  Across The Pond…
UK Train Passenger Volume Breaks
   90-Year Record
  To The North…
Two Transit Projects To Benefit From Ontario’s
   Second Green Bond
  Events…
RUN Conference - Boston, MA - April 2016
  Publication Notes …


OBITUARY... Obituary...  

Gilbert E. Carmichael, 1927-2016

 

Gil Carmichael Remembered

By James P. RePass
Founder, The National Corridors Initiative

This past Friday, February 5, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Meridian, Mississippi was packed with the friends, colleagues, and family of former Federal Railroad Administrator Gilbert E. Carmichael, widely regarded in the industry and in government as one of the most progressive and effective leaders of that agency in its history. I was privileged to be one of them.

My friendship with Gil goes back nearly 30 years, to the Administration of George H.W. Bush, and the founding of our organization, the National Corridors Initiative, which was created in 1989 to pry from the Bush administration the embargoed funds needed to re-start the Northeast Corridor Electrification Project. That project had been approved by Congress under Jimmy Carter, but then blocked by Presidents Reagan and Bush when Carter was defeated for re-election in 1980.

I first met Gil in 1990, on one of NCI’s three trips to the White House at the invitation of then-Office of Management and Budget Director Dick Darman in pursuit of that project. We knew that project when completed would cut Boston-New York City rail travel times by about two hours, to just under 3 1/2, from the then-5-6 hours in effect. We also knew that by electrifying the Northeast Corridor’s last diesel-only gap, we would increase rail ridership, while opening up landing slots at Boston and New York airports by obviating the need for inefficient, short-hop NYC-Boston air travel. Indeed, although we did not know it at the time, ridership would eventually quintuple on that route once electrification was in place.

I was I confess, very apprehensive as I waited to meet FRA Administrator Gil Carmichael, for a number of reasons.

I knew that the electrification project had been the first Carter-era project killed by incoming President Ronald Reagan in early 1981, just after his inauguration. The new Reagan OMB Director, “Laffer Curve” acolyte David Stockman --- although he later recanted --- had made a point of singling out Amtrak in press interviews as an example of the “wasteful Federal spending” Ronald Reagan had come to Washington to reign in. He announced, with some relish, the death of NECIP.

I also knew, before meeting Gil that day in 1990, that he was a successful car dealer in Mississippi, holding among other things one of the largest Volkswagen franchises in the South. He was also a major real estate developer in Mississippi, as well as a former GOP candidate for Governor of that state. His resumé did not exactly have “rail advocate” written all over it.

I was not hopeful. But I was wrong.

Shepherded into Gil’s impressive suite of offices at the US Department of Transportation in Washington, and expecting a David Stockman-type economic ideologue, I was at first a bit taken aback by the warm smile of the man, and his graciousness.

Gil was not only open and accepting of this first visit from a Boston man he did not know, which had been arranged by our group’s contacts in the White House, he was a perfect host, even apologizing for the coffee he served me --- it was nothing like the wonderful, distinctive, chicory-and-coffee blend common in the deep South, that he was used to --- he told me with a smile.

This made me smile as well, for although a long-time resident of Boston and the Northeast (60 years) I am a Southerner, too, a native of New Orleans, where the Café Du Monde in the Vieux Carré (French Quarter, in English) serves every morning its famously strong New Orleans café-au-lait to that city’s visitors --- and to many of its natives. I told Gil this, and what’s more, I promised to have my Mom, still living in New Orleans then, get him some authentic CDM New Orleans coffee and send it North in a care package to DC (which she did a few days later; I had it with Gil the next time I visited).

As should be obvious, I was charmed by this man. He was open to me and my passion for better American rail service, and what’s more, he shared it completely, including a deep understanding of the importance of passenger rail to our nation’s strength and economic development --- and that included finishing the electrification of the Northeast Corridor that I was pushing.

I look back on that day, so many years ago now, with a fondness I can hardly describe, for I had met not only a man willing to talk with a stranger about an issue that concerned us both, but had made a new and dynamic friend. Gil, over the next 27 years, became one of my closest advisers, and a loyal ally in the cause we, as it turned out, deeply shared. He spoke at so many of our conferences in Washington, and St. Louis, and Atlanta, and New Orleans --- often flying in overnight from California or Mississippi or wherever he was at the time ---- that I have literally forgotten how many he helped to lead, and to inspire. Never once, in 27 years, did he let us down.

I know that some readers must be wondering, “How could a Republican appointee from the Deep South, in a very anti-Federal-spending Republican Administration, be such a strong and consistent voice for putting tax dollars into passenger (and freight) rail infrastructure, both while in office and after leaving that office in 1993?”

The answer is not really complicated. First, the George H.W. Bush Administration (1989-1993) was not as ideological as its predecessor. But more importantly, while Gil was a loyal Republican his entire life, he was a man whose vision went far, far beyond politics or ideology. Gil’s loyalty to his country was strong, and it was personal, as was his bravery: the current movie The Finest Hours in theatres now is actually about Gil and his Coast Guard shipmates’ incredible 1952 high-seas rescue off Chatham, MA, of the survivors of a tanker accident, that earned them their service stars --- although Gil neither mentioned that story, nor his Silver Star, for as long as I knew him. I only found out it at his funeral this past week.

Gil was loyal, all right, to his Party, and to his country. But he also had a higher loyalty, to those and other things, such as the idea of Freedom, and that a strong, functioning transportation system --- including passenger rail --- is essential to the notion of Liberty.

Gil Carmichael fought for that all his life, and my friend Gil is resting now, at last. That means it’s up to us.

Written aboard the Northbound Amtrak Crescent, February 6, 2016 - JPR

For more on Gil Carmichael and his life, see the additional article below - Ed.


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Mississippi State Republican Patriarch
Gil Carmichael Dead At 88

By Geoff Pender
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Gil Carmichael     

Photo: Special To The Clarion-Ledger
Mississippi Republican patriarch Gil Carmichael, twice the GOP nominee for governor, a former transportation adviser to President George H.W. Bush and successful businessman has passed away at Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian.

He was 88.

State House Speaker Protem Greg Snowden, (R-Meridian), said the Lauderdale County coroner had confirmed that Carmichael died shortly after 8 p.m. on Sunday.

“Just the term visionary -- that’s what comes to mind with Gil Carmichael,” Snowden said. “I admired the man. He was a visionary not just in politics, but in business. He could see the far shore. He could see what the future held.”

Carmichael, a successful car dealer and real estate developer, was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1972 against veteran Democrat James O. Eastland. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1975 and 1979 against Democratic nominees Cliff Finch and William Winter. His final race was in 1983 against Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Brad Dye.

“Gil Carmichael inspired a generation of Republicans in 1975 when he became a force in Mississippi politics,” Gov. Phil Bryant said Sunday night. “I was one of them. He was a mentor and a friend and he will be missed.”

Bryant, noting the death last week of public education champion and business and political leader Jack Reed Sr. of Tupelo, said Mississippi has “lost two great men who made this state a better place for us all.”

Secretary of state Delbert Hosemann said Carmichael was a mentor to many state leaders and “an example of how to be a statesman.”

“Gil blazed a political trail many of us still follow,” Hosemann said.

Carmichael in 1973 joined the Highway Safety Advisory Committee and from 1976 to 1979 was a member of the National Transportation Policy Study Commission.

From 1989 to 1993 he was the head of the Federal Railroad Administration for the Bush Administration. He founded the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver and was a former chairman of Amtrak.

Found at:
http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/31/gil-carmichael-death/79624628/

Additional obituary details and arrangements were published here at Legacy.Com:
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/clarionledger/obituary.aspx?n=gilbert-carmichael&pid=177569071&fhid=21437


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GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

Late Trains Aren’t Amtrak’s Biggest Problem

A New Analysis Points To An Even Bigger Impediment To Ridership.

By Eric Jaffe
CityLab

Amtrak has broken lots of ridership records lately, and it’s especially popular relative to air travel in the Northeast Corridor. But America’s train service recently announced that passenger trips fell (if only slightly) in 2015, and that revenue was a bit down, too. It’s dangerous to draw too many lessons from a single year, especially one that involved a terrible wreck, but there are two larger trends working strongly to Amtrak’s disadvantage.

The most obvious culprit is on-time performance. Amtrak has struggled with late train since a 2013 court decision ended the track priority it was granted by Congress over freight operators in the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA). The Supreme Court remanded that decision last year in Amtrak’s favor, but the updated ruling isn’t expected for quite some time, and until then many passenger trains will continue to wait for cargo hauls.

But an even bigger change that’s occurred over the past few years is cutting into Amtrak’s success: the price of gas. It stands to reason that when filling up a tank rivals the cost of buying a train ticket, more people will choose to drive instead of riding the rails. And according to a new analysis of Amtrak ridership and revenue trends, low fuel prices account for as much of the overall problems facing train operations as on-time performance—if not more.

Amtrak recently asked the transport consulting firm Steer Davies Gleave to study the impact of both punctuality and cheap fuel on its ridership and revenue outcomes. The SDG team analyzed 10 years of data on station-pairs throughout the Amtrak system (ultimately dropping the Northeast Corridor from the study). They modeled these figures alongside on-time rates and gas prices while adjusting for outside economic factors like employment.

Lateness and gas prices each led to a decline in ticket revenue of about 4 percent, but fuel costs played a much bigger role when it came to ridership. The SDG models found that worse on-time performance from 2013 to 2014 led to a 2.7 percent dip in overall system ridership (outside the Northeast Corridor, where trains tend to run on schedule). But the drop in average pump prices from 2014 to 2015 led to a 4.2 percent ridership plunge.

Chart

Chart: CityLab / Feldman et. al, 2016

Late trains tend to hurt Amtrak’s long-distance routes more than others. Amtrak’s on-time rate is up a bit so far in 2016 over 2015—hitting 78.5 percent for the first three months of the fiscal year—but it’s post-PRIIA slump is noticeable across the board. Since the 2013 ruling, long-distance trains are a full hour late, driving the overall system-wide average delay to a half hour, and the SDG model predicts a 6.5 percent decline in long-distance ridership as a result of late trains.

Falling fuel prices, meanwhile, seem to do the most ridership damage to mid-length trips. The SDG model found that cheap gas didn’t much impact short Amtrak routes (less than 250 miles); these might be commuting or business trips, and thus too routine to change or taken on a company dime. Nor did it hurt on long routes (more than 550 miles), with many riders likely choosing these trips for the scenic experience rather than speed or cost. But routes between 250 and 550 miles took the biggest hit as gas prices fell; via the report:

These trips are more likely to be made by occasional train users, traveling for non-business reasons, and are long enough that fuel prices are a major factor in the decision whether to take a train or to drive.

Mark Feldman of SDG says Amtrak is already using this model to plan operations and budgeting. A better model would incorporate the Northeast Corridor, though it seems likely that gas would have a bigger impact on ridership there, too. Trains are less susceptible to delay between Washington, D.C., and Boston, because Amtrak owns most of the track in this region, so the fact that most intercity travelers in this region still drive suggests the price is too good to pass up.

It’s hard to see things changing anytime soon. People are more sensitive to high gas prices than low ones; Amtrak might see a ridership spike if gas climbs from $3.50 to $4 a gallon, but not if it goes from $2 to $2.50. Considering that average national fuel prices just hit $1.86 a gallon—its lowest mark since January 2009—the tipping point from driving to riding is a long ways off.

From an original piece at:
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/02/amtrak-on-time-ridership-gas-prices-revenue/458928/


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STORM LINES... Storm Lines...  

Blizzard Knocks Out Transit In Northeast, But
Amtrak Suspends Trains Elsewhere, Too!

By David Peter Alan

As we reported last week, the Blizzard of 2016 knocked out rail transit from Washington, D.C. through Connecticut for two days, and a third in some places. There were exceptions: the Gladstone Branch on New Jersey Transit was suspended for four days, while the Broad Street and Market Street subways in Philadelphia kept running throughout the week-end, and so did the underground portions of the New York subway system.

Amtrak never suspended service totally on its Northeast Corridor (NEC) line, but there were few long-distance trains running anywhere else east of Chicago and New Orleans during and shortly after the storm. The storm forced the shutdown of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore transit on Friday night, January 22d. By Saturday, the shutdown had spread as far north as Connecticut. Amtrak kept limited and sporadic service going on the NEC through the week-end, although the operation bore little resemblance to the normal week-end schedule.

Amtrak had already planned service cuts in view of the approaching storm. On Thursday, January 21st, Amtrak posted this announcement at 4:45 pm:

Amtrak will be operating a modified schedule in the Northeast, due to a winter storm forecasted to impact the mid-Atlantic region. Passengers holding reservations are strongly encouraged to keep a close eye on conditions and make any necessary changes in advance of their scheduled departure using Amtrak.com or our mobile apps to check their train status.

Acela Express, Northeast Regional and other services between locations in Virginia and Boston, as well as Keystone Service between Harrisburg, Pa., and New York, will be operating throughout the weekend, but will have modified schedules. Most Northeast Corridor service between Washington, D.C., and Boston will operate as scheduled on Friday, Jan. 22. Passengers who have reservations on affected services are being contacted and accommodated on other trains with similar departure times or offered alternate travel dates.

At this writing, that announcement cannot be found in the “News & Media” section of Amtrak’s web site, www.amtrak.com. More significantly, the announcement also included a list of trains that would be canceled on Friday and Saturday, January 22d and 23d.

Several Amtrak national services to and from the East Coast are canceled or truncated, including:

So a snapshot of the entire Amtrak operation east of Chicago and New Orleans on the day of the storm, Saturday, January 23d, would show limited operations on the NEC and almost no trains running elsewhere. There was some service between Chicago and Pittsburgh, but not between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., although Amtrak did not mention that service between New York and Pittsburgh would be canceled.

Further south, the Carolinean ran between New York and Charlotte on a “modified schedule” while the Crescent between New York and New Orleans did not run at all, even though there was no weather event that would have justified canceling service on the southern portion of the route. The same could be said of the Florida trains, where there was no weather event to justify cancellation of service on the southern portion of the route. An examination of the maps prepared by the National Weather Service for those days revealed precipitation in the area south of the Northeast region, but it did not appear to this writer that the weather maps indicated a disastrous blizzard far south of the Washington, D.C. area. Ironically, the Silver Star ran between Miami and Jacksonville, while the Silver Meteor did not. Amtrak did not explain why only one of the two Florida trains ran, and only on that portion of the route.

The only long-distance train that ran in the East throughout the storm days was the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York, with a connecting train to Boston from Albany. New Jersey advocate Stephen Thorpe was on that train, having traveled with his wife and granddaughter to Chicago and Milwaukee. His train arrived at Penn Station, New York on Saturday without incident, despite the near-record snowfall in New York City. South of New York, the situation was vastly different. He could not get to his home in New Jersey, because New Jersey Transit (NJT) was shut down. He had hoped to take the last Keystone train from New York to Harrisburg on Saturday and stay with a relative there. Harrisburg had also suffered heavy snowfall and the Keystone train he hoped to ride had been canceled, so he and his family spent the night in Penn Station. He was able to get near home on an Amtrak train on Sunday morning, before NJT was up and running again.

Most of the cancellations remained in effect on Sunday, the day that much of the Northeast spent digging out from the storm. The Crescent ran from New Orleans to Atlanta, but not southbound. The northbound Carolinian ran only from Charlotte to Raleigh, joining the two Piedmont trains in that service, but it did not run between Raleigh and New York. Its southbound counterpart did not run. One train from New York to Albany was canceled, although Empire Service was generally not affected.

On Monday, January 25th, there were essentially no long-distance trains south or west of Washington, D.C. The northbound Carolinian, which had run only from Charlotte to Raleigh on Sunday, did not run on Monday. The Crescent was the only long-distance train to or from the Nation’s Capital on Monday, and it only ran to Atlanta. The rest of the trip to New Orleans, had previously been canceled for planned track work on Norfolk Southern.

Even as late as Tuesday, the Cardinal ran from Chicago only as far as Indianapolis, with the rest of the run to New York canceled. At the time, there were calls for Amtrak to use the Hoosier State train set that Iowa Pacific Holdings operates between Chicago and Indiana’s capital when the Cardinal does not make its tri-weekly run between those two cities. Those calls turned to complaints when Amtrak refused to use the privately-owned train set that was available to provide service, even if regularly-assigned Amtrak equipment was not.

By Wednesday, four days after the storm, Amtrak announced that service on the NEC was essentially back to normal. As we reported last week, local rail transit in the region was essentially back to normal by that time, too.

It is disquieting, at least to this writer, that Amtrak decided to shut down most long-distance train service east of Chicago and New Orleans due to a storm that unleashed most of its fury in the Northeast region of the country. Historically storms have always disrupted air travel, and they still do. Rail travel was different, though. The trains always seemed to get through. Decades ago, train crews and railroad managers complained about the railroad’s “foul weather friends” who rode the train only when bad weather threatened airline operations. Under Amtrak operation, the trains do not get through in bad weather, and last month’s storm demonstrated that trains do not even serve areas where the weather was not sufficiently severe to justify canceling service.

We do not know why Amtrak canceled so many trains, even though some trains still ran in the areas that were most-heavily impacted by the week-end storm. If CSX and NS prohibited Amtrak from operating on their railroads during that time, such an order would explain why Amtrak trains did not run. However, Amtrak did not mention such a prohibition, and we have not received word that CSX or NS had suspended freight operations in the affected areas, either. It also does not appear that lack of equipment would force Amtrak to cancel so many trains, either. While it is well-known that Amtrak is short of equipment, there should have been train sets in Chicago, Miami and New Orleans that could have been used to continue daily operation of trains in areas where such operation was feasible.

Could Amtrak management have taken advantage of the storm to cancel trains where they could have operated safely? Advocates will probably debate that question for some time to come. Such a debate also appears irrelevant, because the opinions of riders and their advocates seldom persuade Amtrak to provide more service, or upgraded service, when Amtrak management does not wish to do so.

Trains are no longer the “all-weather” transportation that they once were. Amtrak has drawn criticism for acting too much like an airline and not enough like a railroad; at least the way railroads operated historically. It seems that canceling service on a massive scale in the face of an impending storm is one of the ways in which Amtrak acts like an airline, with the result that some customers end up stranded.


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Baker-Polito Administration Launches
Complete Streets Funding Program
In Massachusetts

$12.5 Million Available To Municipalities In Accessibility Improvement Projects

From a MassDOT Press Release

The Gov. Charles Baker-Lt Gov. Karyn Polito Administration and Massachusetts Department of Transportation have announced a $12.5 million “Complete Streets Funding Program” and online program portal in an effort to encourage cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to design and construct projects to make street networks safer and more efficient for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and users of mass transit. The new Complete Streets effort follows a robust, year-long stakeholder engagement process to gather feedback from municipal representatives, advocates and state agency representatives and focuses one-third of the funding on municipalities below the state median household income level.

“We are proud to offer communities this opportunity to improve the accessibility of neighborhoods, retail areas, and city and town centers, making them more accommodating to people of all ages regardless of their method of transportation,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Complete Streets designs encourage more environmentally friendly ways of travel, support safe pathways for commuters and the traveling public, and allow each community to approach their own unique and specific needs.”

A Complete Street is one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes – walking, biking, transit and vehicles – for people of all ages and abilities. The Complete Streets Funding Program includes three primary requirements that deem a municipality eligible for up to $50,000 for technical assistance, and up to $400,000 for construction funding with additional consideration in the qualification process for Community Compact communities.

“We are excited to launch the Complete Streets Funding Program to support municipalities and strengthen local transportation networks,” said Lieutenant Governor Polito. “Through Complete Streets and the Community Compact program, we are committed to continuing our local partnerships and investing in transportation improvements for our cities and towns.”

“It is wonderful that we can help with providing resources to continue encouraging safe, healthy, and sustainable transportation for cities and towns throughout the state,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “Authorized by the 2014 Transportation Bond Bill, the objective of this program is to provide an incentive for municipalities to adopt Complete Streets Policies and best practices, and the funding program is a key component in making the program a success.”

Program requirements are attendance of a municipal employee at a Complete Streets training, passage of a Complete Streets Policy that scores 80 or above out of a possible 100 points (Tier 1), and the development of a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan (Tier 2). MassDOT has developed a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan template, and provides technical assistance funding for municipalities to conduct a needs assessment, network gap analysis and/or safety audit to determine a targeted investment strategy for Complete Streets infrastructure. Upon completion of these requirements, a municipality is eligible for construction funds (Tier 3). Reimbursement for technical assistance and project funding will be managed by the appropriate Highway District Local Aid Office. MassDOT is currently accepting Tier 1 applications.

Online Portal and Program Guidance and Training

MassDOT has developed a full Complete Streets Funding Program Guidance document that explains the program requirements, model policy guidance and scoring system, and eligible infrastructure. A two way interactive online portal has been developed to guide and assist municipalities through the Policy Development, Prioritization Plan and Project Approval Tiers of the program. Please go to www.mass.gov/massdot/completestreets to register and begin the process of becoming a Complete Streets Eligible municipality.

MassDOT provides statewide Complete Streets 101 training sessions through the BayState Roads Program that include basic design concepts and an overview of the Complete Streets Funding Program requirements. To date, over a third (130) of the Commonwealth’s municipalities and six regional planning agency representatives have attended training. Seventeen additional classes are scheduled with more being added continually. To register for a session, please visit Baystate Roads’ website.


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

MBTA’s Government Center Subway Station
To Reopen March 26

Closed For Renovations Two Years.

By Adam Vaccaro, Boston.Com
And DF Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) shuttered Government Center transit station in Boston’s downtown district will reopen March 26 after undergoing renovations for two years, an official said in an interview posted online.

The MBTA’s General Manager, Frank DePaola, revealed the reopening date in an interview with the news program Comcast Newsmakers, which was posted online last Monday.

DePaola described Government Center as “a good example” of the kind of construction project the MBTA hopes to take on.

Since closing for renovations in March 2014, the MBTA had said the project was scheduled for completion sometime in the spring of 2016. The project has remained on schedule throughout construction, but a specific opening date had not yet been announced.

By closing the station entirely, construction crews were able to work full schedules while streetcars passed behind safety barriers without stopping. Had the station been rebuilt on a limited scale at night and weekends the project could have extended to as much as 7 years. While some service passing through the station was disrupted for track work and other efforts on or near the rails, most of it was limited to late evenings and select weekends.

The station provides the only direct connection between the T’s Green and Blue lines. Its closure has created a two-year-long commuting headache for people who rely on that link. During construction, the ridership had to access other nearby subway stations for their connections or use a bus service loop that connected the closed station to other service access points.

“The crews have worked extraordinarily hard to ensure that the T’s pledge to re-open the station in two years is fulfilled,” DePaola said in a statement last Tuesday. “The MBTA is very excited about opening a completely rebuilt station that will be accessible to people of all abilities.”

The project will be completed on budget, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

Government Center’s $82 million renovation has focused on adding wheelchair accessibility, improving the station’s platforms and adding a new, glass aboveground entrance to the station. The station was one of less than a handful in the system that still required modifications to be fully compliant with the American’s With Disabilities Act.

“We feel that even though there was an inconvenience for having that station unavailable for that period of time, it allowed us to get the station done in a relatively short schedule where we would have been in there for several more years if we had to do it and keep access to our passengers,” DePaola told Comcast Newsmakers.

Construction crews had to replace glass panels for the new entrance in 2014 because of a sealant issue, but it did not come at the expense of the MBTA or delay the project. The construction project also made news when workers found old, bizarre, ghoulish costumes buried underground just before Halloween.

The station itself has undergone numerous changes throughout its history. Originally it was known as Scollay Square Station and was slightly moved and rebuilt into the current Government Center Station during urban renewal in the 1960s with a new entrance created at Government Center Plaza. The upper level serves the MBTA’s Green Line streetcar system. The lower level was known as Scollay Square Under and serves the Blue Line. Nearby, was a stub-end station known as Adams Station which had already closed many years before and was partially filled in during the Government Center urban renewal project. Some remnants of Adams Station were found during the recent station rebuild.

From a story at:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2016/02/02/government-center-station-reopen-march/tIKHdj60yTI0iRZq9vP9sK/story.html


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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

Siemens Expanding Sacramento Footprint

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-In-Chief
Railway Age Magazine

Siemens Mobility announced on Feb. 1, 2016 that it is expanding its footprint in Sacramento, Calif., with a new 60,000-square-foot plant dedicated to its rail service, maintenance and repair operations.

The new site, located in McClellan Park, will be Siemens Mobility’s Customer Services U.S. headquarters and West Coast logistics hub. It will house the company’s rail refurbishment operations, rail bogie service center, accident repair, spare parts delivery and administrative offices. It will complement Siemens’ existing rail manufacturing plant in South Sacramento, which has been in operation for almost 30 years, currently employs more than 800 people and includes a recent 125,000-square-foot expansion to accommodate growing production needs.

Siemens will employ more than 30 people at the new McClellan Park facility and will begin operations in early February. McClellan Park, formerly known as McClellan Air Force Base, is undergoing a privatized revitalization. The 8 million square-foot business park is now home to more than 200 industrial and office tenants.

One of the first projects at the facility will be a $21 million contract to modernize 32 SD160 light rail vehicles for Calgary Transit in Alberta, Canada. The refurbishment project will include upgrading passenger information systems for better interoperability across the fleet, improved wheel-set systems for easier maintenance, updated flooring and seating, and modernizations to the operator’s cab interior and control console. “These improvements will result in a similar look and feel to the 63 new S200 light rail vehicles for Calgary currently being manufactured by Siemens Rolling Stock in Sacramento,” the company said.

Siemens’ Customer Services business is also partnering with Sacramento Regional Transit (RT) to complete refurbishment of 21 LRVs, adding approximately 15 years of additional useful life to the vehicles. Refurbished lLRVs are currently in operation on the RT Blue Line Cosumnes River College extension.

“We’re thrilled to expand our already significant footprint in the Sacramento region with the opening of this new rail service facility,” said Chris Maynard, head of Customer Service for Siemens Mobility. “This expansion signals our dedication to servicing and modernizing rail systems across North America while continuing to deliver industry-leading manufacturing expertise, ensuring that our customers can continue to make the most of their rail systems.”

“We worked aggressively to assure that the facilities at McClellan Park could be redesigned and built to accommodate Siemens’ specialized requirements,” said Ken Giannotti, Senior Vice President of McClellan Business Park LLC. “We are looking forward to a long term relationship with the Siemens organization at McClellan Park.”

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/light-rail/siemens-expanding-sacramento-footprint.html


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Metra Seeks Design Proposals For New Railcar

By Matt McCall, Contact Reporter
Chicago Tribune

Metra in Chicago is requesting proposals for the design and production of 367 new railcars as part of its 10-year, $2.4 billion modernization plan, according to a statement released Tuesday.

“This is a major step forward as we begin the second year of our long-range rolling stock plan — the first in Metra history,” Metra Chairman Martin J. Oberman said in the statement.”Replacing and rehabilitating railcars and locomotives will help Metra continue to provide high-quality, reliable and comfortable service to customers for years to come.”

The agency estimates a two-year production time once the firm is selected, and that it will receive its first railcars in 2018. Metra’s 2016 budget allows for the purchase of 10 new railcars. If state funding becomes available, as many as 106 new cars could be delivered between 2018 and 2019 with an additional 261 coming between 2020 and 2024. The last time Metra received new railcars for lines other than Metra Electric was in 2006.

“With the oldest fleet of any of our peer railroads, we can’t keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to investing in our fleet,” said Don Orseno, Metra executive director and CEO, in the statement. “This purchase will reduce the fleet’s average age from 28 years to 16 years by 2024.”

The modernization plan, adopted in 2014, seeks to fund the purchase of new passenger cars and locomotives, a rehabilitation program for existing trains and a federally mandated safety system called Positive Train Control. Metra expects to pay for the plan with a regular schedule of fare increases, money from federal and state sources and $400 million in borrowing.

Metra is expected to request proposals for new locomotive engines when funding is secured and allocated, according to the statement.

The agency will hold a pre-proposal conference March 3 at the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, 222 S. Riverside Plaza. Proposals are due June 8.

Found at:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-metra-new-car-proposal-met-20160202-story.html


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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

SunRail Recruits Riders By
Pitching To Employers

Train Still Trying To Meet Ridership Projection Of 4,300 Daily

By Mark Harper
Daytona Beach News Journal

It didn’t take long for Sandy Ward to adapt.

Ward has driven to downtown Orlando from her Deltona home for much of the last 30 years, but now she uses SunRail, checking email and reading.

“It really is nice,” she said. “I think I have a lot less stress, honestly.”

But Central Florida as a whole has yet to fully embrace commuter rail. A federal-government projection that 4,300 riders would tap on and tap off the train daily in its first year proved high. With paid ridership a key revenue-generating source for the 20-month-old system, SunRail officials have embarked on a new marketing effort to convince more people like Ward to make the switch.

The marketing campaign has involved putting rider-submitted “selfies” on billboards along some of the most congested parts of Interstate 4, to get the attention of commuters stuck in traffic, and giving away Star Wars Pez dispensers on the release date of “The Force Awakens.”

SunRail officials have also been meeting one-on-one and in groups with downtown Orlando CEOs of large employers to help sell companies on offering SunCard fares as employment benefits.

Some of these meetings have resulted in “Try the Train” days, where employers and SunRail give workers a chance to get on a train, see how it feels, learn how to buy a SunCard and load it with fares — the nuts and bolts of rail commuting.

“If we can make a fun day of it,” said SunRail consultant Carson Chandler, “it can be transformational.”

The early returns show it’s working somewhat. The three fall months, September, October and November, showed a 7-percent ridership increase over the same time in 2014. But even the best month, November, fell some 700 riders shy of that 4,300 mark.

Ridership is important because it generates revenue. Operating SunRail in its first year cost $34.4 million. Ridership only accounted for $2.1 million. The train had other revenue sources, such as advertising totaling another $5 million, but that left the state to pick up the rest of the $27 million.

And the state of Florida is not scheduled to cover those costs starting in 2021. That burden falls on the five local partners — including Volusia County.

County officials haven’t said much about ridership concerns. They are planning to meet with Noranne Downs, the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 5 secretary, sometime soon, county spokesman Dave Byron said.

“We would agree that the ridership on SunRail is not as good as it could be. And why that is or what to do about it ... just opens a lot of questions,” Byron said.

Chandler and other SunRail officials say a car-culture region, such as Central Florida, takes years, not months, to embrace public transportation.

SunRail

Photo: Artystyk386 via Wikipedia

A SunRail train leaves the Winter Park Station on the way to Orlando.

But they are confident that the more potential riders are exposed to the train, the better the chances will be of capturing them.

Mark Schrieker, who recently moved from Las Vegas to work as a heavy equipment operator on the I-4 widening project in Orlando, took a trip on SunRail on a recent day off to assess whether it might be a viable alternative for him. Exiting at the DeBary station, he said it was just his second time ever riding a train, and he liked it.

“It is opening up a whole other world,” he said. “I don’t have to live in an urban setting. I can live in a more rural place and take the train.”

He said he would consider moving to Volusia and using the train. But he also said SunRail needs to reach other destinations, such as Daytona Beach, in order to really boost ridership.

Ward, the Deltona commuter, had never used public transportation until SunRail’s arrival in May 2014. But she’s the perfect candidate: A paralegal, she works for a downtown law firm, mainly eight hours in the office.

“I’ve been riding since it started. I’m very happy. To count on I-4 is very unreliable,” Ward said. “You can leave every morning at 7 o’clock and it really should take you 40 minutes to get to downtown Orlando. But an hour isn’t enough.”

And with the massive, $2.3 billion I-4 overhaul underway, traffic is only expected to worsen.

That’s part of the message SunRail officials are delivering to downtown employers.

“You need especially in the early stages to develop your outreach and to get to employers ... paying for expensive parking spots downtown to say (SunRail) may be an alternative,” said Steve Olson, a SunRail spokesman. “If your employees are late arriving for work, SunRail is more dependable sometimes than the surface streets.”

One of the employers that has bit on the message is FBC Mortgage, which has about 150 downtown workers that it encourages to use the train when possible, said Stephanie Simmons, marketing director.

Actually, FBC does more than encourage train use. It offers to pay for workers’ monthly SunCard rather than providing a parking space in its building, which is one block from the Church Street station.

About a dozen employees have taken FBC up on the offer and have become train commuters.

“The people who ride it love it,” Simmons said. “It kind of makes them more efficient. They get here earlier and are spending an hour at work, not on I-4. ... And they’re not as stressed, not having to worry about fighting that gridlock.”

FBC hosted an event last summer where employees could meet with SunRail officials and get their questions answered. One of the biggest concerns: What if I ride the train and there’s an emergency?

The Florida Department of Transportation program “reThink” helps point commuters to alternative modes, and will even provide reimbursements such as cab fare to those who sign up for the Emergency Ride Home program.

Chandler, whose firm Align Public Strategies consults for SunRail, said part of Orlando’s vision for diversifying its economy is expanding its transportation modes to appeal to millennials, the generation of workers that embraces alternatives to the car culture, such as Uber service.

“Ownership of things is not nearly as important to people who are 20 to 30 years old. ... SunRail is an important part of that business development effort,” Chandler said.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who has participated in the meetings with employers, also said expansion of the train line to DeLand and the Orlando International Airport will be critical to building ridership.

“It is positive that month over month, every month for the second year, ridership has grown,” Dyer said. “We are making efforts. However, the question now is should we have expanded hours and service, both geographically and weekends and times of day. That’s where some of the focus is.”

Found at:
http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20160201/NEWS/160209965/101040?Title=SunRail-recruits-riders-by-pitching-to-employers

[ Ed Note: Transit systems in many cities offer commuter rail or transit passes at discounted rates through employers or through cost sharing between the employer and employee. Such partnerships are beneficial to all parties. Such plans are available to transit riders in some businesses in the MBTA system service area in Greater Boston.]


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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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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

Defects Plague New MBTA
HSP46 Locomotives

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe Staff

A mix of mechanical failures, operator errors, and other problems has led to multiple delays with nearly every new commuter rail locomotive recently put into service by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to a Globe analysis of the rail service’s performance from June to December 2015.

The 40 new locomotives, Model HSP46, which cost $222 million, were brought into service gradually in 2014 and 2015. In the fall, when the majority were finally in service and being used more frequently, MBTA workers struggled with delays on at least one train set led by the new locomotives on the majority of weekdays, when commuters count on the service the most.

The new locomotives are more reliable than the system’s 50 older trains and have helped to drive down delays overall, but it’s clear bugs still exist: The MBTA is working with its manufacturers to fix at least nine defects on the locomotives while they’re still under a two-year warranty, and it may need to fix even more.

MBTA HSP46

NCI File Photo. Original by MBTA

An HSP46 in MBTA livery awaits delivery

Two of the trains have had such troubles with a frozen engine and overheating in the propulsion systems in January that they are being sent back to an Erie, Pa., facility owned by General Electric Co., for tests. GE supplied the engines for the locomotives, which were assembled by Motive Power Inc.

In addition, workers were told to keep the locomotives running overnight because they feared mechanical issues with a battery charger could keep them from restarting in the morning, according to MBTA officials.

“We’ve known that there have been issues with these locomotives since we’ve purchased them,” said Thomas Murray, president of the union that represents workers who clean the coaches. “It’s going to take a lot of money and man hours to make them road-worthy.”

Frank DePaola, general manager of the MBTA, said many of the defects were only discovered once the locomotives were being heavily used. The authority, DePaola said, is aggressively tackling the problem by asking Motive Power and GE for systemic repairs.

“I don’t think we expected to get anything with no defects at all,” he said. “Our intent is to make sure that we can manage those defects so that, in the end, the people who pay for the locomotives are getting what they paid for.”

The MBTA has already solved some problems, such as malfunctioning fuel valves and electrical problems that led to fires.

Other systemic defects include software trouble.

Of the 961 total [passenger trip] delays recorded between June and December [of 2015], about 32 percent were related to train sets with new locomotives. But the MBTA points out that the new machines — even with their defects — are far more reliable than the old locomotives. Marked improvements in December and January, when all 40 new locomotives were available, bear this out.

On average, five groups of older locomotives traveled between 450 and 6,215 miles between mechanical failures in December. But the new locomotives were able to travel much farther, about 18,273 miles, according to the MBTA’s data.

Keolis Commuter Services, which runs commuter rail service for the MBTA, reported that December marked its best on-time record of 2015, with 92.4 percent of its trains arriving within five minutes of their scheduled time. That’s a marked increase from June, when 87.5 percent of trains ran on time.

The new trains experienced regular problems as they were being put into service, according to the MBTA’s daily mechanical failure reports. Throughout the summer and fall, problems included dead batteries, a software glitch, a faulty speedometer, brakes that wouldn’t release, and operator error.

But the MBTA says that in December, there were 10 mechanical failures with the new locomotives. That’s compared to 18 and 19 failures with two other groups of older locomotives (F40 class and GP40 class) that operated for fewer miles.

The new locomotives were already delayed from service for months: After they were delivered to the MBTA beginning in 2014, the majority were immediately sidelined for repairs. It took until the end of December 2015 for all 40 to be ready for service.

Asked for comment, Clarissa Beyah-Taylor, a spokeswoman for General Electric, directed questions to Motive Power. Tim Wesley, a spokesman for Motive Power, declined to comment.

Joseph A. English, a union representative for commuter rail maintenance workers, said last year that mechanics feared “ongoing reliability issues,” but representatives from that union also declined to comment last week.

The MBTA says it is continuing to train Keolis [locomotive] engineers on the new trains, so it can further reduce human error. Keolis Commuter Services employs its workers, but the MBTA is responsible for buying the equipment.

Keolis, which declined to comment, took over the commuter rail service in the summer of 2014, after beating out the longtime operator, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. The new company came under fire last winter, after record-setting snowstorms hobbled Greater Boston’s transportation network and the commuter rail bore the brunt of the delays.

Since then, the company has made several leadership changes.

So far, the repairs for the defects — including the system-wide replacements — will not cost the MBTA, since the locomotives are under warranty.

But if the two locomotives sent to the Pennsylvania facility have problems that are related to Keolis’s maintenance, the T could run up a hefty bill.

DePaola said riders should not be worried about the new locomotives.

“The team is doing a great job of managing through and getting this to the point where they exactly meet the specifications we put out,” he said.

From an article at:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/31/commuter-rail-struggles-with-new-locomotives/uy7k30xspXPtzLlmQt8nRM/story.html

[Editor notes: I first became concerned about the new HSP46 units from personal observation last fall when after departing a train at my destination, I watched one of the new locomotives start up from a stop. It threw quite a bit of black smoke and “chugged.” This is a diesel, not a 4-4-0 steamer. Not something one would expect of a brand new locomotive fresh off the assembly line and in new service. - DMK ]


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

NTSB Opens The Accident Docket On
The Philadelphia Amtrak Derailment

From The National Transportation Safety Board

WASHINGTON — Last Monday the National Transportation Safety Board opened the accident docket and publicly released more than 2,000 pages of information as part of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation of the May 12, 2015, Amtrak passenger train derailment in Philadelphia.

Amtrak passenger train #188 derailed, after entering a curve at 106 mph where the speed is restricted to 50 mph. Of the 250 passengers and eight Amtrak employees who were on board, eight passengers were killed and more than 200 others were transported to area hospitals.

Included in the docket are documents containing interview transcripts, letters, factual reports, photographs and other investigative material.

The public docket contains only factual information collected by NTSB investigators, and does not provide analysis, findings, recommendations or probable cause determinations. No conclusions about how or why an accident occurred should be drawn from the docket. The docket opening marks a transition in the investigative process where the majority of facts needed for the investigation have been gathered and the NTSB can move ahead with analysis of those facts. Opening the docket affords those with a need and desire for its contents the opportunity review what factual information has been gathered about the accident. Any analysis, findings, recommendations, or probable cause determinations related to the accident will be issued by the Board at a later date.

The docket material is available at: http://go.usa.gov/cEecP.

Additional material may be added to the docket as it becomes available.


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

UK Train Passenger Volume
Breaks 90-Year Record

Via Railnews UK

London – New figures published by the UK Office of Rail and Road reveal that more people are now travelling by train than at any time since the early 1920s in Great Britain. The measurement, of individual journeys, shows that passenger figures are now challenging totals not seen in peacetime since dancing the Charleston was the latest craze.

The official total for individual journeys in 2014-15 was 1,393 million, compared with just 589.5 million in 1995-96. The rise in the nineteen years since then amounts to 136 per cent. Until this year, the highest total for individual journeys since the 1920s had been achieved in 1945, when ‘demob’ traffic of forces personnel returning home from wartime service briefly swelled the total to 1,372 million.

Before that, the last comparable figure occurred as far back as 1923, when 1,319 million journeys were recorded jointly by the ‘Big Four’ companies. But the railway network then was much larger – roughly twice the size – which means that the system is now by far the busiest it has ever been, with passenger kilometers in 2014 provisionally calculated as 61.8 billion by the ORR. Such a figure is easily an all-time record, because the length of the average rail journey in the 1920s was much shorter.

The latest figure of 1,393 million has been calculated as ‘end to end’ journeys, while the even higher figures often quoted by the industry and government come from the modern ‘Lennon’ database, which counts each ‘leg’ or train involved. This exaggerates the total by more than a fifth, so that the latest Lennon figure now stands at 1,654 million, which is also a new record. The transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin stated that the government is taking action. “We are building 3,000 new train cars, and laying more tracks,” he said.

Network Rail itself is tackling the challenge in more than one way, pointing out that reinforcing the infrastructure by simply laying more track or adding platforms and loops is expensive. Although new track and related infrastructure continues to be installed in strategic places, Network Rail is also pointing to the ‘digital railway’ as an alternative and more effective solution.

New systems of traffic management and signaling can improve capacity dramatically by allowing trains to run more closely, but still in complete safety. One digital railway project is aimed at improving capacity on the heavily congested ‘Wessex lines’ from London Waterloo, while the plan to run Thameslink trains through central London every 2.5 minutes from 2018 would probably not be achievable without automatic train control.


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Two Transit Projects To Benefit From
Ontario’s Second Green Bond

From Rail, Track, And Structures

Ontario has successfully issued its second green bond, raising CA$750 million (US$542 million) to support environmentally friendly, low-carbon infrastructure projects. Proceeds from the bond will help fund eight projects including, transit, and create jobs in communities across Ontario. The bonds have a maturity date of January 27, 2023.

Ontario is making the largest infrastructure investment in the province’s history - more than CA$134 billion (US$97 billion) over 10 years, which is making 110,000 jobs possible every year across the province. Green bonds help support Ontario’s efforts to fight climate change, alongside initiatives including the province’s Climate Change Strategy, working with industry and other partners on the design of a cap and trade program, ending coal-fired electricity generation and electrifying and improving Ontario’s commuter rail network.

Boring Machine

Image: Metrolinx

One of four tunnel boring machines that began digging the Sglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT tunnel in June 2013.

The two rail-related projects to benefit from the bonds include the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which will receive up to CA$402 million (US$291 million) to help with construction of the project and GO Transit Regional Express Rail, which will receive up to CA$200 million (US$145 million) to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using electricity instead of diesel in trains and LEED gold-level certification for all Regional Express Rail stations and facilities.

All proceeds raised through green bonds will be used to fund green infrastructure projects. Funding amounts are estimates based on total eligible costs. Final amounts provided to each project will be confirmed in the coming year.

“Green bonds build on our track record of infrastructure investments and support this government’s commitment to priority transit projects like the Eglinton Crosstown, York Viva Bus Rapid Transit and GO Regional Express Rail,” said Ontario’s Minister of Transport Steven Del Duca. “These investments will help to manage congestion, connect people to jobs and improve the economy and residents’ quality of life.”

From an article at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/commuter-regional/two-transit-projects-to-benefit-from-ontarios-second-green-bond.html


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EVENTS... Events...  

Save the Date!

 

RUN To Boston !

Breaking News !!

Thanks to a generous sponsor, registration will be FREE this year, but all attendees MUST register in advance.

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.

The conference will take place at the facilities of the Boston Foundation, 75 Arlingston Street, in downtown Boston, MA. The location is accessible by the MBTA’s Green Line subway. (Arlingston Street Station). You must have an ID to display in order to gain entrance into this building, so please have a picture ID with you on the day of the conference.

Your fare for the optional MBTA tour event (a day pass will do) will be your own responsibility. If you want more information, or wish to register, 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...

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