The National Corridors Initiative Logo

February 29, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 8

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...

  Editorial…
Everything’s Up To Date In Kansas City And
   Even Washington, DC Is Heading There Too
  Guest Editorial…
Boston Shouldn’t Derail The Mattapan Trolley
Streetcar’s Grand Opening Will Be A Defining
   Moment For Downtown Kansas City
  Streetcar Lines…
D.C. Streetcar Finally Begins Carrying Passengers
  Expansion Lines…
Virginia Beach Is Spending $1 Million From Fund
   To Pursue Light Rail
  Political Lines…
Amtrak Protests Move To Prioritize Freight Trains
  Commuter Lines…
Freeloaders On Board: Can Sacramento Tackle
   Its Train Problem?
Low-Income Riders Can Get Reduced Fare
   On Sounder Trains
 
  High-Speed Lines…
Study: 110 mph Detroit-To-Holland, Michigan Rail
   Would Make Money
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Builders Lines…
Amtrak President: Gateway Tunnel Project
   ‘Top Priority’
Amtrak Boss Pledges Hartford Line Will Be
   Done On Time
  Across The Pond…
London’s Crossrail Renamed To Elizabeth Line
ÖBB Plans 300 EMU Order
France To Put Night Train Services Out To Tender
  To The North…
Cape Breton Railroad In Grave Danger
  Events…
RUN Conference In Boston - April 29
  Publication Notes …


EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Everything’s Up To Date In Kansas City ---
And Even Washington, DC Is Heading There Too

By James P. RePass, Sr.
Publisher, Destination: Freedom

The opening of Kansas City’s new downtown streetcar system in May is symbolic in more than a few important ways --- and is in every way a cause for much celebration.

Once upon a time, as is the case with so many American cities, downtowns grew and prospered to the tune of streetcars as they gently rolled along city streets, clanging the bell for the occasional pedestrian or wagon in the way, and yet, while an understated and very low-key form of transportation, provided a solid base to economic development by enabling easy, frequent, and cheap local transportation from neighborhood to neighborhood.

That era in Kansas City lasted until 1957, when the last of its once numerous lines was shut down in favor of buses.

Bringing the streetcar back has not been easy. Aside from paying for it, the city has had to overcome the well-funded opposition of citizens’ groups who --- in city after city over the past two decades --- mysteriously spring to life everywhere in America that streetcars or other rail-based transit have been are proposed.

Washington, DC had a great streetcar system up until January 1962, when it, too, fell victim to the oil and gas lobby’s push for diesel buses. It’s comeback has been even more contentious than Kansas City’s, although starting this weekend a small new line is at last running on H Street, near Union Station, after years of “tests” and trials, will take a small step to reverse that trend.

In both cases the return of streetcars is nothing but good news. Aside from replacing some street traffic, the very existence of streetcars has, and has always, exerted, a positive influence on city life. Aside from the ease and convenience, there is also the chance to travel in relaxed circumstances with your neighbors, whether getting to work, or doing an errand. Democracy takes place when there is an actual, visible demos, and streetcars play into that truth.

The automobile dominated American transportation for much of the 20th century, especially the last 50 years when the Interstate Highway System was built and opened. For half a century the cities were hollowed out in favor of suburbs, and urban life became dreary, polluted, and sometimes dangerous for many when cities, with few exceptions, switched to buses.

We will see how much the streetcar, and other forms of rail-based surface transportation will do in restoring street life to American cities, but we have seen it work again, and again and again in the past few years, in places like St. Louis, and Salt Lake City.


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GUEST EDITORIAL... Guest Editorial...  

Boston Shouldn’t Derail The Mattapan Trolley

The Boston Globe Editorial Staff

Boston Massachusetts already has what many large cities have spent millions of dollars trying to create: a streetcar serving an otherwise transit-starved area. So there’s considerable irony that just as Washington, D.C., prepares its long-awaited streetcar for opening, and as New York City mayor Bill de Blasio proposes a new 16-mile streetcar line in Brooklyn and Queens, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) administrators and their new fiscal control board has raised the possibility of eliminating the Mattapan trolley. It’s not a decision that the board should make without a full consideration of the long-term lost opportunities.

The control board, charged with whipping the T’s finances into shape, put the 2.5-mile Ashmont-to-Mattapan line on the chopping block because maintaining its fleet of ancient trolleys likely costs more than replacement buses would. It’s an attractive target: T workers have to make some parts for the World War II-era trolleys by hand at their Everett shops. Only about 5,000 riders use the trolleys every day, less than the ridership on some bus lines. The control board’s job is to ask tough questions, and whether the Mattapan line has a future is certainly a conversation that needs to happen.

PCC streetcar

Photo: Tom Herde / Globe Staff

A Mattapan-bound PCC era streetcar (a “trolley” to Bostonians) is entering the Milton Station. The station sits just a few hundred feet inside the Town of Milton’s boundary on the edge of Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.

“There’s vehicles running on the Mattapan line that were procured in 1946,” said Steve Poftak, one of the control board members. “The notion of running them for another 15-30 years is not practical. I’m concerned that they are very expensive to run, and the MBTA needs to take a look at all its operations and figure out how it can operate sustainably and reliably. There’s a limit to the amount of subsidy we can put in.”

The T could clearly save money by ditching the trolleys, paving over the tracks, and running buses along the right-of-way instead (exactly how much money is one of the questions the control board will need to answer before making any decisions). But that may well be a short-sighted way to frame the question. Board members should give some thought to why New York, Salt Lake City, Washington, Portland, Tucson, and other US cities have committed to streetcar lines, despite what sometimes seem like unfavorable economics. What those cities have concluded is that streetcars make communities more attractive and liveable in ways that buses don’t. One need only walk down the H Street corridor in Northeast Washington, where the streetcar is due to start running on Saturday, to see how much the neighborhood has already changed.

Those new streetcar lines generally went hand-in-hand with rezoning efforts, which contributed to their success. That’s a process that’s never really been launched around the Mattapan line stations in Boston, because the line was already there. But it’s an idea worth exploring. Tim McCarthy, the city councilor who represents Mattapan Square and supports the trolley, touted the area as a possible anchor for transit-oriented development. Those development opportunities would be lost if the trolley goes.

The profits from more development wouldn’t accrue to the T’s bottom line, and a hard-nosed board might decide to ax the trolley anyway. That just underscores the need to link transit funding to development. Measures under consideration on Beacon Hill would provide a way for the T to realize some upside when its services create growth. But at least in the case of the Mattapan line, the T will feel the economic ripple effects anyway. The agency is currently trying to sell its real estate next to the Mattapan station. It’s hard to see how taking away the neighborhood’s signature transit amenity would make the T’s 2.5-acre parcel more valuable. If anything, by ending the trolley, the T could be shooting itself in the foot.

Given the age of the equipment, it was only a matter of time before the T called the question of the Mattapan line’s future. The board is only doing its job by considering its options. Now that that discussion is here, though, the goal should be to get the most out of a unique asset that the region would miss if it were gone. “Once you pull up those tracks, you’re going to regret it,” says McCarthy. Indeed, the T and the city should be recommitting to the Mattapan line, not allowing it to fade away.

From an editorial at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2016/02/22/boston-shouldn-derail-mattapan-trolley/yJUnnLobU7k1s0GjhblR9L/story.html

Editor’s Note: New York has not committed itself to a streetcar line as yet, and there are none running in the city now. Mayor DiBlasio has spoken in favor of the proposed line in Brooklyn and Queens, but the City has not promised any funding. We tend to be skeptical about the possibility that it will actually be built.


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Streetcar’s Grand Opening Will Be A
Defining Moment For Downtown Kansas City

The Editorial Board
Kansas City Star

The praising of — and caterwauling about — the new downtown streetcar system won’t end May 6.

But Kansas Citians sure will have a better idea of which side of this debate they’re going to choose going forward.

The long-scheduled service on the 2.2-mile line starts that day, highlighted by a giant celebration. Street parties up and down the route from the River Market to Union Station are being scheduled, featuring food trucks and entertainment.

The hoopla is well earned. It also will mark a major turning point, giving the streetcar system the opportunity to prove its value as a public transit service and redevelopment catalyst to help further revive downtown. We disagree with skeptics who think it will be an embarrassing and costly flop.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority and City Hall deserve praise for delivering a publicly financed project that is on budget and will open generally in the time frame long ago promised of early 2016.

KCS Streetcar

Photo: John Sleezer

Kansas City’s long-awaited downtown streetcar system will begin offering free rides to the public on May 6.

Critics who have lambasted the streetcar as a waste of money have no legitimate complaints to make about large cost overruns or super long delays in opening to the public, as have occurred in Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati.

Also intact are the promises for the rides in Kansas City to be free, supported through sales and property taxes imposed in a downtown district that includes the streetcar system, as well as frequent service on weekdays.

The streetcar will operate 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday, 7 a.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

The grand opening should turn out to be yet another positive event for Kansas City and its leaders, especially Mayor Sly James.

Just this past week, legal obstacles vanished to construction of a needed downtown convention hotel and airlines that serve Kansas City International Airport made it clear they’re ready to help finance a $1 billion new terminal.

To be sure, the streetcar undertaking has had its shares of problems.

Some restaurants, shops and other businesses endured many months of construction along the line, leading to deserved complaints.

The company that made the streetcars did not deliver them as quickly as expected.

During the long and continuing training runs, far too many motorists are still parking their cars, trucks and delivery vehicles too close to the track or — amazingly — on top of the rail line itself.

That last fact has emerged as one of the key concerns about the efficiency of the new system. The streetcars are on a fixed rail and can’t move around parked vehicles. If the streetcar grinds to a halt carrying dozens of passengers going to work or to and from lunch, that will harm its reputation and potential ridership. Streetcar officials, tow truck drivers and police will have to be extra vigilant in taking care of these concerns.

On a more upbeat note, streetcar backers say they have seen a big improvement in how motorists are dealing with the dictate of “parking within the white line” along the route. This issue may mostly resolve itself, especially since opening day is more than two months away.

The construction of Kansas City’s system stands in contrast to recent media reports that have pointed to big problems with streetcar lines in other cities such as Atlanta, where ticket machines are installed to collect fares on a line that used to be free. All of that costs money — expenses Kansas City decided to avoid by offering free fares.

James and downtown’s biggest proponents have spent the last few years talking about the potential for the streetcar to bring a surge of investment into the heart of the city.

The mayor last week claimed “more than $16 billion in construction” in the streetcar district over the last three years. It’s an impressive feat, though not all projects obviously were prompted by the rail line.

Some have proceeded without taxpayer subsidies. However, the city and other taxing entities still are diverting tens of millions of future tax dollars from providing public services over to private businesses, helping them build hotel rooms, housing units and other projects.

Can the new streetcar system help shut off that siphon of incentives? That should be a goal. With the streetcar as a magnet for residents and workers, developers should be able to capitalize on that interest to complete their projects without such large helpings of tax dollars.

On May 6, the streetcar will begin to prove what its real value will be to the crucial future of downtown Kansas City.

Read more here:
http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article62752357.html#storylink=cpy


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STREETCAR LINES... Streetcar Lines...  

D.C. Streetcar Finally Begins Carrying Passengers

By David Peter Alan

For the first time in more than 54 years, passengers can ride on a streetcar in the Nation’s Capital. On Saturday, the H Street / Benning Road Streetcar made its first run with riders. The line had been running its full schedule in “non-revenue testing” for the past fifteen months. The new service cannot properly be called “revenue” service, because there is no fare charged for the ride; at least not yet.

The new route, which is 2.2 miles long, runs on H Street and Benning Road. The nearest station on Metrorail is at Union Station on the Red Line. The streetcar line begins about one block from Union Station; the city’s transportation hub, which is served by Amtrak, MARC commuter trains to Maryland, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter trains, and a number of bus lines. These include the D.C. Circulator buses, which are operated by the D.C. Department of Transportation (DC DOT), which also operates the streetcar line.

A news release from the agency, which ran in last week’s edition of D:F, quoted Mayor Muriel Bowser as saying: “I’m proud to announce that Streetcar is ready for passenger service” Her statement continued: “I want to thank the residents of the H Street and Benning Road communities for their patience during the construction and testing of the system. As a way of saying ‘thank you,’ fares will be free on the system for an initial period of time.”

Former Mayor Vincent Gray had hoped that the streetcar line would begin service before the end of 2014, when he left office. Pre-revenue testing began in November of that year, but various difficulties delayed the opening of the line for “revenue” service. Shortly after taking office, Mayor Bowser announced that the extensive streetcar network planned under the Gray Administration would be cut back. City officials had commissioned the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to conduct a thorough investigation of the line and prepare a report concerning steps to be taken before the line was opened to the public. This writer’s attempt to obtain a copy of the report was unsuccessful, as an APTA official said that it was “proprietary” and not available for public review.

The ceremony included Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of the strongest supporters of transit in the House. Some other elected officials from the District made remarks as did American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President Michael P. Melaniphy. DC DOT chief Leif Dormsjo and Mayor Bowser both committed the District to extending the line eastward to the Benning Road Metrorail station and westward. Station signs indicate that the line will eventually be extended west to Georgetown, which is currently served by DC Circulator buses from Union Station.

Special Guests

Photo: Terry Owens, DDOT

Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Congressman Earl Blumenauer Oregon 3rd District

Not everyone at the event was celebrating. The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) held a demonstration, calling for unionization of the streetcar operators. The streetcar is operated by the D.C. Government, and not the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA or “Metro”).

Most of the line runs on H Street, and then it takes a slight right turn onto Benning Road. It continues to Oklahoma Avenue NE, and ends under the underpass for Metrorail, but does not go to the station yet. At the other end, the line narrows from two tracks to one west of the Third St. Station and ends at a small terminal station. A pedestrian walkway goes the rest of the way to Union Station itself. The walk is about one block long, and leads to the northern entrance of the Union Station passenger area.

Local advocate M. Paul Shore was on hand to ride the line, and was particularly struck by the number of supervisors and other support personnel who were helping to get the service started. He estimated the crowd that showed up for the opening ceremony at about 1000. The Eastern High School Band performed for that crowd, even after the first car left around 10:30.

Shore said that the streetcar was noticeably slower than the automobiles on the street and slightly slower than city buses, but speculated that one cause of the slow operation could have been the large crowd of riders taking their first ride on opening day. He added that he does not expect such large crowds on ordinary days. Shore estimated that the average speed of the cars, under these crowded conditions, was seven or eight miles-per-hour. He added that he guessed that the average speed to increase to about ten miles-per-hour, including stops, under regular operation.

Map

Image: DC Streetcar

An interactive map that tracks the location of each streetcar is available

He noted four advantages of the streetcar: it was more comfortable, more spacious, more stylish and had far more capacity than a bus. Despite these advantages, Shore expressed his concern that the operation could give streetcars, and transit in general, a bad name. “They are not using rail technology to achieve a clear advantage of speed” he said, and added: “The money they spent on this could have been used instead to get an extra mile or two of Metrorail.” Shore also expressed his concern that clearance between the streetcar and automobiles parked on the street is small, due to the width of the streetcar. He speculated that such tight clearance could lead to collisions and could distract operators, by forcing them to scan the street for improperly-parked cars.

Until now, the last streetcars that ran in the Nation’s Capital were operated by D.C. Transit. The last routes were operated with Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars, built in the 1930s and 40s. That service ended on January 30, 1962. More recently, there was an effort to build a streetcar line in the Southeast portion of the city, connecting with Metrorail’s Green Line at Anacostia. About eight-tenths of a mile of track was built in the area, but the project was later abandoned. There are no plans to revive it.

Streetcar

Photo: Terry Owens, DDOT

People prepare to board the new service.

Riders can learn more about the streetcar on the project’s web site, www.dcstreetcar.com. There is a map of the line, a “streetcar tracker” that gives real-time information about the expected arrival time of the next car, and more about the line.

The web site also shows the current schedule for the line. It runs Monday through Saturday for a full service day. There is also a “holiday” schedule, but there is no Sunday service; at least not at the present time.

With the difficulties in getting the line open and the slow speed of travel on the cars, a major streetcar system in Washington, D.C. may be a hard sell. Still, this marks the first time in 54 years that such a car plied the streets of the Nation’s Capital. That, in itself, is a step in the right direction.


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Virginia Beach Is Spending $1 Million
From Fund To Pursue Light Rail

By Alissa Skelton
The Virginian-Pilot

The city of Virginia Beach plans to spend more than $1 million to pay for a consultant and to lease an office space for staff working on the light-rail extension project.

A week after state officials said they need a strong commitment from Virginia Beach on the light-rail project, the city manager released a memo detailing how much and where the city is spending its money.

City Manager Dave Hansen laid out the expenditures for light rail in a Friday memo to the City Council. The expenditures are being paid for by the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Project fund, which includes $20 million in city and state money that has been set aside to extend the light rail from Norfolk to Virginia Beach.

Last week, the Commonwealth Transportation Board expressed concerns that the city wasn’t spending money set aside for the light-rail extension. The board said Virginia Beach must sign a memorandum of understanding by April 30 to avoid losing the state’s $155 million contribution. The council plans to vote April 5 on that agreement, which would require the city to buy passenger cars and continue pursuing light rail.

Hampton Roads Transit has said Virginia Beach needs four cars, with the city and state splitting the estimated $20 million cost. Hansen said the city has set aside $2.5 million in city dollars for their down payment and acquisition. That cost is half of the total price of one rail car, Hansen said. It takes 30 months to build rail cars, so the city would need to purchase the cars in advance of testing and operation.

These costs are being considered before the council votes in the spring of 2017 on whether to approve building the extension.

So far, the city has paid Kimley-Horn $793,219, Hansen said. The consultant is being paid to review HRT studies, designs and cost estimates; to create design build procurement protocols and project management proposals required by the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation; and to perform other duties.

The city also is spending an estimated $542,428 on an office for the Light Rail Extension Project Implementation Team, which will manage the project, Hansen said.

The city signed a four-year lease on an office near Town Center at 4801 Columbus St. for $68,607 a year, Hansen said. The lease begins April 1.

The 5,082-square-foot office can hold 20 employees and is located next to the light-rail corridor. Hansen said six city staff members, consultants and other project partners will work there.

It’ll cost $68,000 to outfit the office with furniture and equipment. Hansen said the city is currently procuring those funds. The office needs about $200,000 worth of tech equipment.

The rental agreement, Hansen said, includes the cost of electricity, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, elevator service and exterior building maintenance.

Found at:
http://pilotonline.com/news/government/local/virginia-beach-has-spent-million-pursuing-light-rail-so-far/article_85d83e9a-58cd-5f73-9f67-0ad9a8d819eb.html


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Amtrak Protests Move To
Prioritize Freight Trains

By Keith Laing
The Hill

The panel of federal regulators that oversees operations on the nation’s railways is moving to allow railroads to prioritize freight trains over passenger systems such as Amtrak.

The proposal, from the Surface Transportation Board, would reverse a current federal mandate that requires freight railways to give preference to Amtrak on tracks that are shared between passenger and freight trains.

The surface transportation panel has said the mandate to prioritize passenger trains was not spelled out in federal law, although it has been enforced since Amtrak was established in the 1970s.

“The law requires that ‘[e]xcept in an emergency, intercity and commuter rail passenger transportation provided by or for Amtrak has preference over freight transportation in using a rail line, junction, or crossing … However, ‘preference’ is not defined by statute,” the panel said in a notice of its proposed policy change.

The surface transportation board is now proposing a change to a system where railroads that own tracks shared between passenger and freight trains are able to make more nuanced operational decisions.

“Currently, we do not view the preference requirement as absolute,” the panel said. “In other words, a host rail carrier need not resolve every individual dispatching decision between freight and passenger movements in favor of the passenger train. Under this view of preference, the Board would take a systemic, global approach in determining whether a host carrier has granted the intercity passenger trains preference.”

Amtrak and passenger rail groups have complained that the proposal would violate a long-standing federal mandate and result in delays for passengers on long-distance and commuter trains.

The company said the proposal “ignores the clear, plain and unambiguous words of the statute” in comments that were submitted to the panel.

“The language of [federal law] is clear and unambiguous. Amtrak trains are entitled to preference over freight transportation except in an emergency,” the company said.

“Any deviation from this clear and plainly-stated obligation requires the host railroad to apply for relief from its statutory obligation, and to sustain its burden of proving that granting preference to Amtrak trains would materially lessen the quality of freight transportation to shippers,” the company continued.

Freight rail companies have applauded the effort to allow railways to determine the priority of trains on a case-by-case basis.

“The Board has it exactly right in recognizing that ‘the statute calls for comprehensive consideration of the factors affecting performance,’” the Association of American Railroads said in separate comments that were submitted to the panel.

The rail group, which normally represents both Amtrak and freight companies, added that delays on passengers trains are not always caused by problems with freight railways.

“In some cases, unsatisfactory on-time performance may be attributable to ‘Amtrak’s own behavior,’ which is all the more reason for the Board to undertake ‘a comprehensive and impartial on-time performance investigation, in which the Board considers Amtrak’s role in delays as well as the host carrier’s role,’” the AAR said.

Passenger advocacy groups have sided with Amtrak, saying the proposal to eliminate the preference for passenger trains on shared tracks “will change how intercity passenger services like Amtrak will be treated by host railroads, which have legal obligations to give passenger trains right of way.”

“The right of preference for passenger rail was established approximately 30 years ago by Congress, and has been reaffirmed by lawmakers ever since,” National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) President Jim Mathews said.

“The law was first written so host railroads — rescued by taxpayers in 1970 when Amtrak was created to relieve hosts of running passenger trains — had to give passenger trains preference unless they could win an exemption,” he continued. “This was done by proving preference for passenger trains would ‘materially lessen the quality of transportation provided to freight shippers.’”

The surface transportation board has said that eliminating the preference mandate for passenger trains would boost the efficiency of the nation’s overall rail system.

“A requirement of absolute preference might not, in the long run, promote efficient passenger service,” the panel said in its notice of the proposed change.

“Due to increased traffic density, the rail operating environment has become more complex since Congress first established a preference requirement in 1973,” the notice continued. “This environment requires complex decision-making by the host carriers’ dispatchers. Past rail service crises, such as that during the late 1990s, have demonstrated that congestion at one location can adversely affect the rail network at large.”

Found at:
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/270612-amtrak-protests-move-to-prioritize-freight-trains


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Freeloaders On Board: Can Sacramento
Tackle Its Train Problem?

By Tony Bizjak
Sacramento Bee

Anyone can just walk onto a Sacramento (CA) light-rail train. There are no turnstiles at the stations, no ticket checkers at train doors.

Hundreds of fare cheats play “catch me if you can” on Sacramento Regional Transit trains every day. If they see a transit officer on board, they hop off and take the next train. Fare evasion is RT’s long-standing Achilles heel, costing the agency money, angering riders and discouraging potential customers who feel uncomfortable riding with rule breakers.

“It’s irritating,” said regular rider John Holland. He’s among those who say they go weeks without seeing a fare checker. “I paid for my fare. It always struck me that they don’t check more fares. It’s outright silly not to check fares.”

After downplaying the issue for years, transit officials acknowledge they have a problem that needs fixing. RT security chief Norm Leong and General Manager Mike Wiley say they hope this summer to launch what could be the biggest crackdown on fare cheats in the system’s near 30-year history.

“The system of fare inspection is broken,” Leong said. “People have come to believe they can get away with riding without fare. We need to change that culture.”

The plan would involve hiring 30 additional people to do fare inspections and having them on trains by summer. Leong said that would allow the agency to check fares on almost every train. “People will get checked just about every ride,” Leong said. “I think that is a game changer for us.”

RT currently has only nine transit officers, also known as fare checkers, and their presence on trains is sporadic. For a while last year, RT says its crews were checking 16 percent of passengers. But that number dropped below 10 percent in several recent months, RT data show.

How bad is fare evasion? RT officials say they can only estimate. Leong said the number may range between 5 and 10 percent of riders. Some riders say they think the figure is much higher, especially on evening and other non-commuter hour trains, although most agree it is hard to tell for sure who has a ticket.

RT board Chairman Jay Schenirer, a Sacramento city councilman, agrees the transit agency needs intervention to reduce fare evasion. Paid ridership is down, the agency is in the red, and community leaders are pushing RT to improve cleanliness and security before the downtown arena opens in the fall.

“We want to do this as soon as possible,” Schenirer said. “It’s critical. We need to increase revenues rather than raise fares. We (will then) make the system safer and more attractive.”

The trick is to do it without costing RT more money, officials said. RT wants to create a new job classification that will allow it to hire the new fare checkers at lower salaries. The agency will need the cooperation of the local Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents drivers, train operators and transit officers.

RT officials have asked union leaders to agree to the new job classification on a test basis this year. If it works out, the agency would like to make it permanent next year when the current union contract ends and a new one is negotiated. The union has not yet agreed, but ATU local President Ralph Niz said RT needs to improve safety for drivers, operators and riders.

“People have to feel safe to ride,” he said. “Something like that would help.”

RT General Manager Wiley said the agency would likely reduce the number of private security guards at stations and hire some of them at a slight pay bump for the new RT fare checker job. Private security guards are not allowed to issue citations. The change would give some of those now working for private security firms a chance to get an entry level job with the agency then move up to better paying RT jobs later.

RT officials also are talking about a change in the way fare checkers will deal with nonpaying passengers. Currently, transit officers issue standard $35 tickets. State court fees and charges pump the actual ticket cost up to $150. Most of that money goes to the state, not RT, local officials say.

Leong said the agency has begun to look into whether its fare checkers can give nonpaying riders the option to avoid the $150 ticket by paying RT a fee on the spot when they are caught – possibly $18, which is triple the cost of a daily pass. The entire amount would go to RT. The passenger would receive a daily pass. That program may require RT to buy electronic fare payment devices, however, so that fare checkers will not have to deal in cash with customers.

The proposed plan to hire fare checkers would mean RT’s main law enforcement group can get back to spending more time working on crime response. RT employs two dozen officers from the Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and Folsom Police Department. Those officers have been required in recent years to help transit officers with some ticket checking on trains.

The officers still would participate in regular “fare evasion blitzes,” where officers and fare checkers congregate at one station to check tickets for everyone on board several trains in a row. Fare blitzes continue to be one of the agency’s best weapons against freeloading passengers.

RT employees checked the fares of 775 passengers during an hour-long blitz at the Broadway station two weeks ago. They issued 52 citations to riders who didn’t have a ticket or pass.

One of the riders ticketed that day told The Bee he was a student at Sacramento City College and was headed to the school to get his pass. Another said he was an employee at a midtown restaurant and didn’t have time to validate his daily ticket because he was late to work. RT officials say they hear such excuses repeatedly. They usually cite, but not always.

A man getting off the train at the 65th Street station during a recent blitz told officers he had tried to buy a ticket at the previous station, but the fare machine was broken. Officers determined his story was true and allowed him to buy a ticket when he exited the train.

RT’s “open” station light-rail system was built in the mid-1980s on a shoestring budget. Officials said Sacramento could not afford to build a gated system, which would have been far more expensive. It’s a typical setup for a light-rail system – one shared by Portland, Ore. Officials there told The Bee via email that an estimated 8 percent to 10 percent of Portland train riders get on without paying. Portland riders also complain about fare evaders, according to news reports.

In contrast, “medium rail” systems such as BART in the Bay Area are separated from city streets and have turnstiles at their entrances. Longer distance, or “heavy rail” systems, such as Amtrak, have conductors on every train checking tickets at the beginning of the ride.

RT riders complain about loiterers at stations. In response, the RT board recently gave fare checkers and transit police the right to exclude anyone from the station area who does not have a ticket or pass in hand. RT crews are painting red lines on the pavement at the outer edges of light-rail stations. The agency plans to put signs up telling people they cannot loiter inside the red line if they do not have a ticket. If they refuse to leave, they can be cited.

“We think a ‘virtual’ closure of our stations is a secondary layer that will make people feel people have a fare,” Leong said. “A guard and staff can point, and say that is where the line is.”

The RT plan to bring on 30 lower-paid fare checkers prompts the question of how well those employees can handle a tough job. Transit officer Jim Farrall, a fare-checking transit officer for 10 years, said he likes his job, especially the aspects that involve helping riders, but he says confronting un-ticketed passengers every day can be tough.

“If you’re not a people person, you’re definitely going to have a hard time, and if you are a people person, you’ll still have a little rough time,” he said.

At a recent blitz at the 65th Street station, Farrall and other transit officers ran into several un-ticketed passengers who became indignant and confrontational when caught. One woman tried to slip away and had to be ordered to stop by an officer.

“Why you arresting me?” she shouted in front of other passengers.

“We’re not arresting you,” you’re being cited, a transit officer said.

“Same s---,” she said.

Leong, RT’s security chief, acknowledged the fare-checking job can be difficult and cause burnout, but he said he thinks entry-level employees can use it as a career steppingstone.

RT officials said they hope the proposed program will lead to increased fare payment and more revenue. But the main goal is to reduce nuisance behavior on trains, making paying passengers feel more comfortable and attracting new passengers.

“When we get to the point when we can robustly check for fare, it’s our hope some of the people who cause some of the feelings of an unsafe system and create some of the nuisance behavior are eliminated,” Leong said. “It is not just about revenue for RT, but rather trying to create a system where people feel safer.”

Jeffrey Callison is among many riders who take the train during commute hours and say they don’t feel uneasy on board. But he said he recognizes the need for RT to improve service and improve its financial position.

“I don’t see that people riding Sacramento light rail without tickets necessarily makes the trains more dangerous,” he said, “but it probably makes it more likely that other people will also choose to ride without tickets, and that loss of revenue undermines the quality of the system for everyone.”

Found at:
http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/article61415112.html


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Low-Income Riders Can Get Reduced Fare
On Sounder Trains

Staff Article
Kent Reporter

Starting March 1, qualifying riders on any Sound Transit ST Express bus or Sounder train can pay a new low-income fare with an ORCA LIFT card.

Sound Transit is kicking off efforts to encourage all riders who may be eligible to sign up for the expanded ORCA LIFT program. The Sounder includes stops in Kent.

“More people in our region can afford to get to work, school and services each day now that ORCA LIFT cards work on all Sound Transit trains, buses and light rail,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine in a media release. “By making transit service accessible to all, we’re better connecting people to opportunity.”

Sound Transit

Photo: Sound Transit

Low-income riders will be able to get reduced fares on the Sounder train starting on March 1 with an ORCA LIFT card.

Sound Transit will provide the fare discount to all riders who pay with special low-income ORCA LIFT cards, expanding a program that is currently available only in King County on Link light rail and Metro bus routes.

The reduced fare will be available to adult riders with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — about $23,500 in annual income for an individual. To qualify, a household of four must have an annual household income at or below $48,500.

Qualifying riders will pay $1.50 to $2.75 for ST Express bus trips and $2.50 to $4.25 on Sounder depending on the length of the trip. ORCA LIFT fares on Link light rail will remain $1.50. Regular Sounder fares are $2.75 to $5.25 one way.

Riders can visit orcalift.com to find out if they qualify for the card. They can also visit Public Health – Seattle & King County locations across King County for enrollment assistance.

Found at:
http://www.kentreporter.com/news/369858211.html


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

Study: 110 mph Detroit-To-Holland, Michigan
Rail Would Make Money

Leonard N. Fleming and Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

A 110-mph passenger rail route between Detroit and Holland, Michigan would cost up to $540 million but spur $14 million annually in profit, according to a new study.

The Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail Study, funded by communities along the proposed line and managed by the Michigan Environmental Council, analyzed three prospective routes from Detroit through Lansing to Holland but decided that only two are viable for further study.

The study gives refreshed specifics to the long-discussed concept of connecting Michigan’s two largest cities by train. Michigan hasn’t had a Grand Rapids-to-Detroit line since Amtrak was created in 1971, although four prior feasibility studies were done from the 1980s through 2002.

System Map

One route would travel between Detroit, Wayne, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Holland. The other would follow much the same path but go to Howell, rather than Jackson, in between Ann Arbor and Lansing.

It would cost less up front to establish service at 79 mph, but the faster and more frequent service could turn a profit in part because the ridership forecast would be much higher.

“This service is viable and worth looking into,” said Liz Treutel, a transportation expert with the Environmental Council, who explained that the study looked at whether coast-to-coast rail made sense from an economic and ridership perspective. “I think the biggest thing the report revealed is that, yes, the ridership potential is there and the costs are relatively reasonable for a transportation project.”

Treutel said establishing coast-to-coast rail service would likely take seven to 10 years, beginning with full feasibility and environmental impact studies.

The $100,000 feasibility study indicates that a 110 mph service could see 1.71 million riders annually by 2040 for the Lansing-down-to-Jackson route and 1.59 million for the Howell-through-Ann Arbor route. Also involved in the effort are the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

The “more frequency you have and the faster you go, the more riders” you will see, Treutel said. The 79 mph route would have either two or four daily trips, while the 100 mph service would offer four or eight daily trips.

Carmine Palombo, the deputy director for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, which helps regional leaders with transportation planning, said the idea is a good one but the cost factor and competition for funding would play major roles in whether it gets done.

“Having a train that connects three major cities ... it makes sense,” Palombo said. “I’m not surprised that the ridership would be fairly good. It all comes down to money. Will this give you your biggest bang for your buck with what you’ve got?”

Initial estimates for the Jackson route show that securing and upgrading 202.8 miles of rail line to handle 79 mph trains would cost about $141.6 million, and selling tickets on four roundtrip trains a day would require an operating subsidy of about $6 million a year. Setting up the same route for 110-mph service would require $540 million in capital improvements, but eight round trips a day could generate $14 million a year, per the study.

Upfront costs for the 186.1-mile Howell route are a bit lower but follow the same trend, with capital costs of $131 million and yearly losses of $5.2 million for 79 mph service, compared to $436 million in upfront costs but $12 million a year in profit for 110 mph service.

The next steps would be to do a comprehensive environmental study of the corridor, develop a detailed implementation plan and examine the potential for a public-private partnership to attract private capital to the project.

“We look forward to the results of the statewide rail study and the recommendations that this study will produce,” Michael Ford, CEO of the Regional Transit Authority, said in a statement. “We will work with our partners in Grand Rapids as we explore opportunities to expand the mobility options of people in this state, specifically in our region.”

Other lines are being explored, including establishing a rail connection from Ann Arbor to Traverse City.

Found at:
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/02/22/study-mph-detroit-gr-rail-make-profit/80761258/


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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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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

Amtrak President: Gateway Tunnel
Project ‘Top Priority’

By Jonathan D. Salant
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Recently enacted legislation setting transportation policy for five years will make it easier to build the new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, Amtrak President Joseph Boardman said Tuesday.

Boardman told the Senate Commerce Committee’s surface transportation subcommittee that the Gateway project is Amtrak’s “top priority among a long list of major priorities.”

The legislation sets aside $305 billion for roads, bridges, transit and railroads over five years, and makes changes to federal railroad loan programs that will enable Amtrak to get more funding for the tunnel and the replacement of the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River.

Construction of the new tunnels will enable Amtrak to close and repair the existing Hudson River tunnels that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Boardman said the new tunnel’s environmental impact study is planned to begin in April, and a Gateway Development Corporation has been formed to build the project. Even so, Boardman said, “major federal funding is needed to advance the program.”

He said the transportation bill “will allow us to create a pathway to financing it.”

The federal government has agreed to pay half the cost of the project.

“We have begun to take on the challenge of bringing the Northeast Corridor toward a state of good repair,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee.

The measure earmarks $8 billion for Amtrak over the next five years and requires the railroad to spend profits earned along the Northeast Corridor to improve service between Washington and Boston rather than use them to subsidize money-losing routes elsewhere.

From an item at:
http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/amtrak_president_gateway_is_our_top_priority.html


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Amtrak Boss Pledges Hartford Line
Will Be Done On Time

By Don Stacom
Hartford Courant

There will be no more cost overruns or construction delays on the Hartford Line commuter rail project, the president of Amtrak said at a Senate hearing.

Amtrak is keeping close watch on the $574-million construction job and is confident it will be ready for trains to start running in January of 2018, Joseph Boardman said at the hearing Tuesday.

Connecticut had initially hoped to start running commuter trains between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield by next winter, but Amtrak — which oversees construction — declared two months ago that it would take 13 months longer and $135 million more.

Under questioning by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Boardman acknowledged that completing projects on time and budget “hasn’t always been standard practice” at the railroad. But he said a switch in senior management has changed that.

“I believe our new chief engineer is very different in his focus and his effort to get this delivered, so I am confident that we will get it delivered,” Boardman said at a subcommittee hearing of the Senate’s commerce, science and transportation committee.

State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told The Courant on Wednesday that construction is now running slightly ahead of the revised schedule, and that Amtrak’s new project management team is keeping the DOT well informed about progress.

“I think they’re doing everything in their power to meet or beat their commitment,” Redeker said.

For the full story see:
http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-boardman-amtrak-hartford-0225-20160224-story.html


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

London’s Crossrail Renamed To Elizabeth Line

Britain’s Longest Serving Monarch To Be Honored With
The New Name For The Multibillion UK Pound Transit Project

Via Railnews UK

London’s new underground railway, which has been built using the name Crossrail, will have a new name when trains start running in 2018. Her Majesty the Queen visited the station site at Bond Street on the 23rd of February, where the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced that the route will be known as the Elizabeth Line. The huge project in London has been for a significant part of its nearly eight year construction phase the largest construction project in the European Union, competing with the now-completed Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland and the problem-plagued new Berlin-Brandenburg international airport for the title of largest civil engineering project in Europe.

Crossrail Tube

Photo: Crossrail Limited

The view inside of one of the Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) tunnels under central London in December 2015. Although the track is installed, the overhead 25 kVAC power for the trains has not yet been installed along the tunnel roof in this photograph.

The Queen, who will turn 90 years-old this year, toured the site with the Mayor of London, plus UK transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, and London transport commissioner Mike Brown and Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme. She was presented with a commemorative Elizabeth roundel, and met a number of people involved in the construction of Crossrail, including apprentices, engineers and future train drivers.

The Queen has made a number of visits to the Underground (US: subway or metro) during her life, starting in the 1930s when she was taken for a ride as a young Princess on an Inner Circle train. After becoming the Sovereign in 1952, she travelled in the cab of a Victoria Line train to celebrate its opening in 1969 -- an event which was also notable because when she was invited to ‘buy’ a ticket, the machine rejected the Royal sixpence coin.

She opened the first Underground station at Heathrow -- originally Heathrow Central -- in 1977, and on a less happy occasion she unveiled a plaque to commemorate the victims of the 2005 London bombings at Aldgate station in 2010. Most recently, the Queen visited Baker Street station in 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Underground.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “Crossrail is already proving a huge success for the UK economy, and as we move closer to bringing this transformative new railway into service, I think it’s truly wonderful that such a significant line for our capital, will carry such a significant name from our country. As well as radically improving travel right across our city, the Elizabeth line will provide a lasting tribute to our longest serving monarch.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “Given Her Majesty the Queen’s long association with UK transport, it is very fitting that this vital link across our capital will be named the Elizabeth Line in her honor. This is an example of British engineering at its best and will transform the way people travel across London and beyond from 2018, bringing better and faster journeys, while boosting jobs and driving economic growth.

Although the newly named “Elizabeth Line” now has a name and will have signage that suggests that it is part of the existing “London Underground”, the official name of the vast subway / urban mass transit network in the capitol city of Great Britain, the rail line, which runs on an east-west alignment below the city center in tunnels, is actually part of the UK’s national rail network and is connected at both ends with rail junctions to the existing conventional rail network in southern England. It is also equipped with overhead catenary energized with 25 kVAC 50 Hz electric power, which is the standard railway electrification system in most of Great Britain and much of continental Europe. The “London Underground” mass transit network uses DC third rail electrification, some lines are equipped with 3rd and 4th rail for electric power, rather than using the rail tracks as the return electrical conductor, as is normally practiced in most other urban mass transit subway lines.

Some of the rail lines on the “London Underground” were built with very narrow side-to-side and vertical clearances more than a century ago, thus a rather small “loading gauge” or cross section for the tunnels and stations. The new rail line, formerly Crossrail and now the Elizabeth Line is built with UK standard loading gauge horizontal and vertical clearances and dimensions.


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ÖBB Plans 300 EMU Order

By Erwin Reidinger
International Railway Journal

Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) Is Planning To Order Up To 300 More EMUs
In Addition To Its Existing Framework Contract For 200 Siemens Desiro Ml Sets.

Artist Rendering

Image: Seimens

Concept drawing for the new trainsets on order

IRJ understands that ÖBB is seeking up to 150 three-car and 150 four-car sets over a five-year framework deal. However, provision will be made for the transfer of any order to the Ministry of Transport or its subsidiary Schig in case other operators win contracts.

Should all options in the framework deal be taken up insiders suggest that ÖBB could use the new trains to replace Bombardier Talent EMUs or for operation abroad. The tender says the technical specifications for the new trains can be altered “significantly” for any order made.

From an item at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/rolling-stock/obb-plans-300-emu-order.html


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France To Put Night Train Services
Out To Tender

By Keith Fender
International Railway Journal

France’s secretary of state for transport, Mr. Alain Vidalies, has announced plans to stop funding all but two of the Lunéa overnight train services operated by French National Railways (SNCF) and to put their operation out to tender.

The government will issue a call for expressions of interest in the next few weeks in conjunction with the regional governments in areas served by the trains which will otherwise be withdrawn. However, the government will not provide any subsidy to new operators. The result of the tender will be announced on July 1.

The services to be tendered are:

These trains form part of the TET contract for conventional long-distance services agreed with the government in 2010. The government has given SNCF notice that it will cease funding overnight services on all routes except Paris - Briançon and Paris - Rodez/Latour de Carol from July 1.

Figures released by the government show that usage of overnight trains has fallen by 25% since 2011 and that these trains represent 25% of the losses from the TET operation whilst carrying 3% of the passengers, each of whom the government says benefits from € 100 of subsidy per ticket.

SNCF decided in 2007 to remove all sleeping cars from overnight trains and to provide only low-quality couchette cars. As a result, passengers who were paying higher fares to travel in sleeping cars have switched to hotels and daytime air or TGV journeys rather than downgrading to travel in high-capacity couchette cars.

[ Editor’s Note - This is another reduction in overnight trains that has been ongoing throughout much of Europe.] Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/main-line/france-to-put-night-train-services-out-to-tender.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Opinion

 

Cape Breton Railroad In Grave Danger

By Donald MacLeod
Special to the Cape Breton Post

Demise would be a major loss and missed opportunity for Cape Breton

A line (unless it is a circle) has a center and at least two end points. If that line is a railroad, traffic normally flows from end to end in both directions.

Basically that is the rail system we have in Canada today – east/west from coast to coast across the country.

The unfairness of this is that communities at or near the ends of the rail line are at a great disadvantage compared to their cousins located closer to the center. The latter, even if they offer little or no business, will keep their trains simply because a train started small somewhere and added cars as it crossed toward the center.

This is the distressing situation facing Sydney now – at the end of the rail line, low traffic volumes offered and the need to survive in our “for profit only” railroad world today.

After steel and coal shut down, the province understood the uniqueness of this situation and also recognized the importance of the railroad for Sydney and provided an annual operating subsidy which kept the trains running. This worked well up until a little over a year ago as the owners made a small profit, the trains ran as required and users depending on the trains were generally satisfied but growth was limited.

The problem facing the railroad now is that since CN left maintenance and upkeep has been neglected and now a substantial investment is needed to bring the tracks back to a class three operating standard. At the UARB (Utility and Review Board) abandonment hearings the lines’ owners – Genesee and Wyoming – confirmed that the investment needed would be in the vicinity of about $30 million dollars.

To make the rail line across the island profitable the owners also claim that at least 5,000 car loads per year would have to be sourced locally in Sydney. That number may be possible at some future date but only a fraction of that number is possible now and for the railroad crunch time is now not at some future date.

When Genesee and Wyoming realized the high risk and the uncertain returns on such a major investment they decided not to invest any money in the railroad or accept a subsidy to continue operating the trains. Instead Genesee and Wyoming sought permission to abandon the section in the manner prescribed under provincial regulations. Since we do live in a profit driven world we must understand and respect the owner’s decision even if it is not the one hoped for. As it stands now the railroad across the island will be officially abandoned, the tracks removed and the Orangedale whistle silenced forever by this summer.

The only hope that remains now for the trains is government assistance either federal or provincial or a combination of both. This may be a good time to seek government aid as the new administration in Ottawa has promised large amounts of infrastructure money to be available soon. We can assume that some money will be allocated to Cape Breton, however, when this money does arrive there is no assurance that it will be used in part or in full to save the railroad.

There are other very worthy projects in Sydney including a library, a provincial office complex and a second cruise ship berth that could be classified as “shovel ready” and all having strong community support. However, unless Ottawa and Halifax really open the vault doors wide there will be some winners and some losers. The decision on the future of the railroad will ultimately be made by the people as they tell their civic, provincial and federal representatives what they think is best for Sydney, the island and the province overall.

The end of the railroad would be a major loss and missed opportunity for Cape Breton as the trains still can play a leading role in the island’s economic development, industrial growth and future prosperity. There are now several local businesses that employ many people whose viability, profitability and future depends directly on rail services being available. If the trains leave these firms may relocate or shut down and the jobs they provide will be lost.

The prospects of port development at Sydney have been well documented of late. For the port to grow and expand rail is a vital catalyst needed to make this happen. Without the trains not only will the prospects of a container terminal be lost but also the shipment of bulk cargoes, and scores of ancillary jobs on tug boats, in stevedoring and in ship chandlery will die also.

Highway improvements for Cape Breton are years away and highway twinning maybe decades. The only hope to relieve congestion on the Trans Canada Highway 105 is the railroad which parallels that highway from the causeway through to Sydney. If the railway goes the only overland link to the rest of Canada will be a 1950’s designed and built congested, cluttered and obsolete roadway – the worse possible situation for the island, its people, its hopes and its future.

My hope is that the people of Cape Breton will support the railroad and keep the trains around and the Orangedale whistle blowing for many years to come. I just love the sound of that whistle.

Donald R. MacLeod is a retired military officer, a native of Florence and a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles fan who now resides in Lakeside, just outside Halifax, with his wife Linda. He still keeps a close eye on all island activities with great interest.

Found At:
http://www.capebretonpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/2016-02-21/article-4443056/Railroad-in-grave-danger/1


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EVENTS... Events...  

RUN Conference In Boston - MA

 

It’s Time to Register !!!

By Richard Rudolph, Ph.D., Chairman
Rail Users’ Network

RUN Logo “Who’s Looking Out for You? The State of Rail Advocacy in New England” conference is taking place Friday, April 29, 2016 from 9:00 am. to 4:30 pm. at the Boston Foundation, 75 Arlington Street, 10th floor in Boston, MA. This regional conference sponsored by the Rail Users’ Network will examine current actions in New England regarding passenger rail/transit issues. The focus will also be on how transit/commuter rail riders can have a greater voice in planning new services as well as improving the quality and level of services currently provided.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsor, the event is free and open to the public. People planning to attend, however, need to register in advance on the Rail Users’ Network website (railusers.net) for the conference room can only accommodate 75 people.

The day will begin with brief remarks from Richard Rudolph, Chairman of the Rail Users’ Network and Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation (invited). Featured speakers include Frank DePaola, the General Manager of the MBTA, Gerald Francis, General Manager, Keolis Commuter Rail Services, Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation and Rina Cutler, Amtrak’s Senior Director for Major Station Planning and Development

Mr. DePaola will provide an update on MBTA services including the purchase of new cars for both the Red and Orange Lines, the latest plans for extending service on the Green Line to Somerville and Medford and proposed fare increases. Mr. Francis will talk about Keolis’ role in providing commuter rail service in the greater Boston area, the efforts underway to improve it and how the company is reaching out to customers to listen to their comments, complaints and advice.

Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation (invited) will talk about the work that needs to be done to create a mobility system that responds to the imperatives of our times - a mobility system that is less carbon-based, transit-oriented, and focused on social equity. Rina Cutler, Amtrak Senior Director, Major Station Planning and Development - NEC Infrastructure and Investment Development will focus her remarks on plans for upgrading South Station as well as the work that is currently being done to upgrade passenger rail stations along the New Haven – Springfield line as well as other initiatives to improve the passengers’ experience on the NEC.

During lunch participants will be afforded a prime opportunity to share information and experiences regarding their efforts and those of their organizations to promote and improve passenger rail and rail transit in their local areas. Our luncheon speaker is Maggie Super Church, who expertise spans multiple fields, including urban planning and design, community development, real estate finance and non-profit management. She is currently working with the Conservation Law Foundation and Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation to promote TOD, equity and good health in the greater Boston area.

The afternoon session will feature three different panels. The first will focus on the status of passenger rail / transit rail advocacy and plans for expanding passenger rail in New England. Rail Users’ Network Chair Richard Rudolph, Ph.D. will moderate. Panelists include Timothy Brennan, Executive Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Stephen Smith, former Executive Director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission, Michael Izbicki, Executive Director, New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, and Jack Sutton, former President and Board Member, Maine Rail Group.

The second panel will explore the current state of advocacy in the Greater Boston area, who the major players are, the impact they are having on the MBTA and transit service and what can be done to insure greater rider representation to improve and expand service. Andrew Albert, RUN’s Vice Chair who also Chairman, New York Transit Riders Council will moderate. Panelist include Mela Bush-Miles, Lead Community Organizer, Greater 4 Corners Action Coalition, Kristina Egan, Director, Transportation for Massachusetts, Lee Matsueda, Political Director, Alternatives for Community & Environment and Ellin Reisner, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership.

The final panel, “The Great Missed Opportunity – The North/South Rail Link” will examine why the “Big Dig” was a highway-only project, which did not include a rail link between North and South Stations. David Peter Alan, Esq., RUN Board member and Chairman, Lackawanna Coalition will moderate. Panelists will present a case study on efforts underway today to correct it. Panelists include former Governor, Michael Dukakis, Brad Bellows, a Cambridge architect, and Robert O’Brien, a former chair of the North-South Rail Link Citizen Advisory Committee.

Conference attendees are also invited to join us on Saturday, April 30th for an optional inspection tour of Boston’s major transit facilities, and the variety of transportation modes that Bostonians and people from the surrounding area use to get around the city. The tour will start at 9:00 at South Station, where architect Brad Bellows will explain the ongoing efforts to improve station capacity and development in the station area. Then we will take the train to Fairmont, on the line that RUN Board member Pamela “Mela” Bush-Miles is pushing to have changed from “commuter rail” into the Indigo Line. We will also ride historic and modern trolley cars, subways and buses. We will visit North Station, see the transit-oriented development at the new Assembly Square Station, and see some historic sites that are accessible by transit. We plan to end out tour with dinner at the historic Durgin Park restaurant in the Quincy Market, which has been serving traditional Yankee food since 1827. If you plan to leave town before the tour ends, let us know, and we will advise you when it is time for you to head back to the station.

If you plan to attend the conference and take the tour, we suggest that you purchase a 7-day “T” pass for $19.00. A single-day pass costs $12.00, so the extra $7.00 allows you to ride the “T” for your entire time in the Boston area. These passes are not available everywhere on the system, so we recommend that you buy one as soon as you arrive if you are coming by rail at South Station.

Who should attend: rail advocates, transit/commuter and long distance rail users, planners, environmentalists, civic, business, and non-profit leaders, real estate developers and other folks who are interested in transit oriented development and passenger rail issues. The event is free and open to all, and it includes a continental breakfast, lunch and afternoon refreshments so be sure to register early as space is limited and we need to know how many are attending. The deadline for registering is April 22. Please be sure to register on RUN’s website (http://www.railusers.net) or send your name, address, affiliation, phone number and email address to RUN, Box 8015, Portland, ME 04104.

For more on the Conference and to register on-line see:
http://www.railusers.net/index.php?link=conference


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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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