The National Corridors Initiative Logo

August 1, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 30

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...

  Funding Lines…
TIGER VIII: Rail Projects Receive $72.1 Million
USDOT Makes $199 Million Available For PTC
   On Commuter Railroads
  Commuter Lines…
SEPTA Suspends Pay-On-Board Option
   For Some Trains At Center City Stops
  Safety Lines…
Safety Regulators Get Up For Higher Train Speeds
   In Illinois
MBTA Board Approves $18.5 Million For Red Line
   Winter Resiliency And Infrastructure
We All Must Do More To Prevent Fatalities
   At Railroad Crossings
  Political Lines…
Feds Drop Proposal To Prioritize Freight Trains
   Over Amtrak
  Service Lines…
Washington Metro Plans Permanent
   Early Closing Times, Service Cuts
Complaint Says MBTA Violated Civil Rights
   By Ending Late-Night Service
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Builders Lines…
Alstom, Amtrak Come To Terms
   On $2.5 Billion Deal
  Maintenance Lines…
Busy New York Subway Tunnel To Close
   For 18 Months
  To The North…
Northerners Feel Shortchanged When It Comes
   To Public Transit
Plea To Restore Passenger Rail Funding Denied
Government Of Canada And VIA Rail Team Up
   To Improve Quality Of Service For Travelers
  Off The Main Line…
The “Voice Of The MBTA” Retires.
Catskill Mountain Railroad Gets A Reprieve
   And Will Operate This Year
  Obituary…
Remembering Bill Wright (1930-2016)
  Publication Notes …


FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

TIGER VIII: Rail Projects Receive $72.1 Million

By  Mischa Wanek-Libman
Railway Age Magazine

Elected officials have begun releasing information about projects awarded grants from the eighth round of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

So far, $72.1 million has been awarded to rail specific or rail related projects in Illinois, Rhode Island, Mississippi and Washington state.

The known projects to benefit from TIGER VIII are:

USDOT had $500 million available for this round of TIGER, but received 585 applications requesting $9.3 billion. Since 2009, TIGER has provided nearly $4.6 billion to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, including 134 projects to support rural and tribal communities. Overall, the U.S. Department of Transportation has received more than 6,700 applications requesting more than $134 billion for transportation projects across the country.

In 2016, USDOT said its focus for the TIGER program was on capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe and affordable transportation for communities, both urban and rural.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/m_and_w/tiger-viii-rail-projects-receive-dol721-million.html


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USDOT Makes $199 Million Available
For PTC On Commuter Railroads

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is accepting applications for $199 million in competitive grants to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) on commuter railroads.

The grants will be selected by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and awarded and administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

“With more passengers depending on rail for transportation, Positive Train Control is needed more than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I encourage all commuter railroads to take full advantage of this opportunity to invest in the most important rail safety technology in more than a century.”

Congress authorized the funding in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and the funding is available for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. PTC technology can prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.

FRA will accept applications until 5 p.m. EDT on Sept. 28, 2016. Projects eligible for grants must develop information that assists in implementing PTC systems, such as costs of installing PTC systems; back office systems; PTC interoperability; technologies that will lower costs, accelerate implementation, enhance interoperability between host and tenant operations, and improve reliability of PTC systems and support PTC system certification. Eligible applicants include any entity that is eligible to receive grants from the FTA, such as commuter railroads, operators and state and local governments.

“This funding will get us a bit closer to activating Positive Train Control on some of the most important railroads in the country that transport millions of passengers to their jobs each morning and to their families each night,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “We urge railroads to submit strong applications that make these dollars go as far as possible, and we remain hopeful that Congress will act on the president’s request for more funding to make PTC a reality as quickly as possible.”

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/cs/usdot-makes-199-million-available-for-ptc-on-commuter-railroads.html


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

SEPTA Suspends Pay-On-Board Option For
Some Trains At Center City Stops

Starting This Week, Passengers Boarding At Center City Stops
During The Evening Rush Must Pay Before Entering The Train.

By Claire Sasko
Philly Magazine

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Regional Rail commuters might want to leave five minutes earlier to catch the train next week.

Starting Monday, passengers boarding Regional Rail trains at Center City stops must purchase tickets or passes ahead of time if they plan to depart between 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Affected stops include 30th Street Station, Suburban Station, Jefferson Station, Temple Station and University City stations, where SEPTA employees will check to make sure all passengers carry either passes or tickets before allowing them to board.

Officials are hoping the change will prompt smoother commutes and less wait time in the wake of the commuting crisis that unfolded earlier this month after SEPTA pulled a third of its Regional Rail fleet out of service and heavily adjusted its schedule.

The fiasco has resulted in overcrowded trains on which conductors don’t necessarily have the time to ensure that all passengers have paid. Requiring passengers to pay beforehand would ensure that all fares are paid.

Read more at:
http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/07/28/septa-suspends-on-board-payment/#UutVkXqLKzqUMuDD.99


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Safety Regulators Get Up For
Higher Train Speeds In Illinois

Effingham Daily News

Safety regulators have started warning motorists of faster trains along a high-speed rail corridor in Illinois months before Amtrak service at up to 110 mph is set to begin, according to an article from the Associated Press.

New safety improvements include crossing gates, signals that communicate with train crews, vehicle sensors in pavement and signs warning of train speeds over 80 mph, The State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/2amuOJR) reported.

Illinois Commerce Commission rail safety program administrator Mike Stead said the improvements are a regulatory heads-up to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists who are used to years of trains operating at much slower speeds.

For more on this story see:
http://www.effinghamdailynews.com/news/safety-regulators-get-up-for-higher-train-speeds-in-illinois/article_0b7f8fe0-37df-5ac0-a627-50e7a1751767.html


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MBTA Board Approves $18.5 Million For Red Line
Winter Resiliency And Infrastructure

From The Sampan News

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) has unanimously approved the awarding of a $18.5 million construction contract for the next phase of Red Line Winter Resiliency improvements announced by the Baker-Polito Administration last year, amounting to $30.4 million total for infrastructure upgrades in preparation for the upcoming winter.

“These critical investments in the resiliency of the MBTA’s core infrastructure and preparation for severe winter weather allow for upgrades that ensure more reliable service for the over one million daily riders who depend on the system each day,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Fiscal and Management Control Board continues to make significant progress on reforming the system, delivering transparency, cost-effectiveness and accountability for both taxpayers and commuters.”

The $18.5 million contract awarded to Barletta Heavy Division, Inc., will deliver a series of significant upgrades along 9.9 miles of the Red Line Braintree and Ashmont Lines, including the replacement of all third rail and heating systems, track and tie renewals, signals, track structure and conduit installations. Total winter resiliency expenses for phase two of efforts announced last year include the contract work awarded to Barletta along with MBTA staff work and costs for materials, engineering, and procurement.

“We look forward to building on the success of phase one during which miles and miles of new third rail was installed along outer portions of the Red Line,” said Acting MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve. “Working in tandem with Barletta, MBTA forces will continue to make the upgrades necessary to keep the subway operating no matter what Mother Nature throws at us.”

[ Ed Note:  The winter of 2015 between January and March saw record-breaking snowfalls in the Greater Boston area which crippled and shut down all of the MBTA’s rail services.  At one point the only solution for them was to hand-shovel miles of rights-of-way.  The winter resiliency program, coupled with the purchase of new snow removal equipment, seeks to prevent this from happening again. ]

For the full article and additional construction details see:
http://sampan.org/2016/07/mbta-board-approves-18-5-million-for-red-line-winter-resiliency-and-infrastructure/


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Federal Railroad Administrator:

  

We All Must Do More To Prevent
Fatalities At Railroad Crossings

Calls On Congress, Railroads, States, Tech Companies, And Others To Take Greater Action

From the US Dept. of Transportation

In a statement to the railroad industry, states, tech companies and Congress, the Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg today called for greater action to prevent fatalities at the nation’s more than 200,000 railroad crossings. During the last six weeks, there have been three significant incidents, in addition to others, that have killed parents and their children when struck by a train at crossings.

“Over the last six weeks, there have been three significant, tragic railroad crossing incidents. Each took the lives of parents and young children. In San Leandro, California, a mother and her 3-year-old child were killed. In Colorado, a mother, a father and three of their four young children were killed on the way to church. And just this weekend in Arkansas, a mother, her son and two other children were killed.

These heartbreaking events are in addition to the other 87 people killed and 236 people injured this year at railroad crossings.

“While many of these incidents are still under investigation, we know that they are almost always preventable. And yet, they still happen. Simply put: We must all do more to protect drivers and their passengers, who are frequently children. The responsibility to improve safety at railroad crossings rests on all of us – safety regulators, state and local officials, railroads, law enforcement and even private companies that conduct business in the transportation sector.

“To our state partners: We know you continue to struggle for the necessary funding to close or improve the most dangerous crossings in your state. While the federal government contributes funding to these projects each year through Federal Highways’ Section 130 Program, and in fact has contributed more this year than in years past, states should continue to leverage their funds to prioritize improving safety at the worst railroad crossings, and should apply for federal funds wherever possible.

“To our tech partners: We are grateful for your partnership and for your enthusiasm and willingness to improve safety. But we urge you to integrate our railroad crossing data into your mapping applications and other pertinent technologies as soon as possible. While the full and ultimate safety impact of integrating crossing data into applications remains unknown, we must try everything we can to address this challenge.

“To the Congress: We applaud the additional funding added to Federal Highways’ Section 130 program this year, as well as new funding for a much-needed public media campaign so more people are aware of the dangers of railroad crossings. However, more needs to be done and we encourage you to continue to work with safety regulators, state and local officials, railroads, law enforcement, and private companies.

“To railroads: Along with your continued support for advocacy and awareness campaigns, I hope you will redouble your efforts to integrate new technologies to avoid railroad crossing incidents, and take more aggressive steps to report problematic or dangerous crossings to state and local officials.

“Improving safety and saving lives at railroad crossings has been and continues to be one of the FRA’s highest priorities. We have put more focus and attention on this problem than ever before – through funding, a brighter public spotlight, new attention from FRA safety specialists, new research, new partnerships with tech companies and law enforcement and more aggressive and frequent investigations. We will continue to do all that we can to have a greater impact on this solvable challenge – and we urge our partners and friends to join us.”

Found at:
https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/federal-railroad-administrator-we-all-must-do-more-prevent-fatalities-railroad


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Feds Drop Proposal To Prioritize
Freight Trains Over Amtrak

By Melanie Zanona
The Hill

In a big win for Amtrak, a panel of federal regulators has reversed course on two proposals that the passenger rail service says would have led to significant delays.

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) announced last Thursday it has reconsidered a proposal that would have allowed railroads to prioritize freight trains over passenger systems such as Amtrak.

The panel originally argued that the policy change could boost the efficiency of the nation’s overall rail system and said the mandate to prioritize passenger trains was not spelled out in federal law.

The statute was established in the 1970s when Amtrak was created to relieve freight railroads of money-losing passenger services.

But the surface transportation board ultimately concluded Thursday that current law does say that passenger trains are to be given preference over freight trains on shared tracks.

Amtrak argued that if the policy change had been implemented, long-distance and commuter trains would have seen a substantial increase in delays, since nearly 97 percent of the passenger railroad’s route miles operate on host railroad tracks that are not owned by Amtrak.

Freight rail companies, however, said the effort would have allowed railways to determine the priority of trains on a case-by-case basis.  

The board also decided to tweak a proposal that would have defined “on-time performance” by when a train reaches its end destination. Instead, performance will be measured by punctuality at intermediate Amtrak stations.

The definition is important because a 2008 law mandated that if on-time performance averages less than 80 percent for any two consecutive calendar quarters, Amtrak can petition the STB for an investigation and remedies for delays and congestion issues.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who is the ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urged the STB to reconsider the proposals and pointed out that measuring performance at route endpoints only takes into account 10 percent of all Amtrak stations.

“The draft policy statement ... would have seriously disrupted passenger train travel throughout the country,” DeFazio said. “This is great news, and I will continue to work to make passenger rail efficient and accessible throughout the U.S.”

Found at:
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/289648-feds-reverse-course-on-proposals-amtrak-said-would-increase-delays


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SERVICE LINES... Service Lines...  

Washington Metro Plans Permanent
Early Closing Times, Service Cuts

By Max Smith
WTOP.com

Under a plan being studied, the Washington DC Metro would close at 10 p.m. on Sundays, and would permanently close at midnight on weekends. The proposal was set to be presented this past Thursday by Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

The plan, which requires approval from the Metro Board after public feedback, would make permanent Wiedefeld’s decision to close the system at midnight rather than 3 a.m. on weekend nights for the yearlong SafeTrack repairs.

At the time, Wiedefeld cited the need for more track work time, but the move also saves the system money since fewer riders have been using the late-night service in the years since Metro track work began to regularly slow service significantly during off-peak times.

The board was already expected to approve an extension of the midnight closings on weekends beyond the one-year track work period that Wiedefeld was allowed to impose on his own as a temporary service change.

In a statement ahead of the official proposal Thursday, Wiedefeld said outside consultants and other transit agency leaders believed the extra work time with the system closed would help “prevent Metro from sliding backward.”

From an item at:
http://wtop.com/tracking-metro-24-7/2016/07/metro-plans-permanent-early-closing-times-service-cut/


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Complaint Says MBTA Violated Civil Rights
By Ending Late-Night Service

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

A coalition of three advocacy organizations alleges that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority violated civil rights guidelines when it axed late-night bus and subway service, incorrectly analyzed how the cancellation would affect minority and low-income riders, and failed to implement alternative services to mitigate the impact, according to a federal complaint filed Tuesday.

Rafael Mares, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, said he filed the complaint because the MBTA needs to make up for the loss of late-night service as soon as possible.

“Some of the T’s most vulnerable customers were affected by the termination of late-night service,” he said. The MBTA “chose not to do anything about it. The service that’s so important for late-night shift workers has been terminated since March, and nothing else has been put in place.”

The complaint doesn’t ask the MBTA to restore late-night service, but the coalition wants it to fully vet alternative routes that could help the minority and low-income riders affected by the cancellation. Until a permanent decision is made, the complaint asks the MBTA to temporarily put other services into place to help those riders.

For the full story see:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/07/26/advocacy-organizations-allege-mbta-violated-civil-rights-guidelines-axing-late-night-service/TvdnTSDZhCu6iZsndCQOyL/story.html


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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

Alstom, Amtrak Come To Terms On $2.5 Billion Deal

By Jason Jordan
The Evening Tribune

Last week, Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced that the Amtrak Board of Directors are expected to vote this week to support finalization of negotiations with Alstom provide new Next Generation High-Speed trains for Amtrak’s Acela Express service as part of a $2.5 billion program.

The contract is expected to create over 750 jobs, including 400 jobs directly at Alstom in Hornell, and an additional 350 or more across New York State at subcontracting companies.

Schumer announced that with his support, final federal financing approvals have been secured, clearing the way for execution of an agreement between Amtrak and Alstom.

“Amtrak and Alstom signing on the dotted line is the final stop in this long journey to bring hundreds of good paying jobs to the economically struggling Southern Tier,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “This contract is a win-win-win that will improve rail safety, bring jobs to Upstate New York, and improve the Amtrak experience for passengers along the entire Northeast Corridor.”

Because of the sensitive nature of the pending deal, Alstom officials were unable to shed light on the particulars of the deal.

“We are not at liberty to comment on any details around this procurement,” said North American Communications Director for Alstom Pete Barkey.

According to Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan, The Amtrak Board of Directors is expected to meet either Tuesday or Wednesday for a final review and vote on the terms.

Alstom currently employs approximately 600 people in Hornell, and over 1,000 people in Upstate NY.

Found at:
http://www.eveningtribune.com/news/20160725/alstom-amtrak-come-to-terms-on-25-billion-deal


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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

Busy New York Subway Tunnel
To Close For 18 Months

Karina Shedrofsky
USA Today

The New York subway system will close one of its busiest tunnels for 18 months to make repairs, a move that will cause one of the largest commuter disruptions in the transit system’s history.

The repairs will begin in 2019, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said Monday.

The L train, one of New York City’s most crowded subway lines, travels through the almost 100-year-old Canarsie Tunnel which transports 225,000 passengers a day under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The transit authority says it must close the tunnel to repair serious flood damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

New Yorkers have long awaited the decision as the agency considered two options: Close the tunnel entirely for 18 months, or partially close it for three years, leaving only one track open during construction.

The MTA said it chose the 18-month plan after a detailed operational review and talking to commuters.

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast and other officials led four large-scale meetings in communities affected by the closure. A survey by the Riders Alliance, a public transit advocacy group, found that 77% of New Yorkers living along the line preferred the 18-month option.

“ There is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed,” Prendergast said in a statement.

The MTA and other city agencies are working to develop alternative plans to accommodate the thousands of riders who commute into Manhattan each day to work. The authority is considering adding extra subway services on nearby lines, according to a statement.

John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance, thinks the shorter, more comprehensive shutdown was the right choice, but will still be troublesome for riders who depend on the L train.

“The L train is a lifeline for many communities in Brooklyn, and there are few other options,” he told USA TODAY. “This is why we need to think creatively to make sure L train riders can get to work.”

The Riders Alliance is pushing the MTA to come up with a comprehensive plan. He said adding services to nearby subway lines is vital, but other ideas should be considered. Options include running bus-only lanes to connect riders to other subway lines or Manhattan, increasing ferry services and expanding the city’s bike sharing services in the impacted neighborhoods.

Heather Phillips, a product manager at The New York Times, commutes to Manhattan from Brooklyn on the L train. She said the closure is far enough into the future to diminish her immediate worries, but she is already considering her options.

“I said to my boyfriend ‘maybe I should start looking for a job in Williamsburg in 2019’ because it’s going to be tough to commute, for sure,” she said jokingly. But she also wondered if her company might consider creating an outpost in Brooklyn or finding a way for employees who are affected to work remotely.

Superstorm Sandy flooded and damaged nine of the system’s 14 underground tunnels, the MTA said. Three tunnels are already repaired, and three others are under repair. Hurricane Sandy dumped 7 million gallons of saltwater in the Canarsie, which damaged the walls, tracks, lighting and cables.

The damage to the Canarsie Tunnel was one of the worst in the subway system’s history, surpassed only by the damage to the 1 Line sustained after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to a MTA YouTube video explaining the tunnel’s reconstruction.

From an item at:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/07/25/busy-new-york-subway-tunnel-close-18-months/87525942/


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Northerners Feel Shortchanged When
It Comes To Public Transit

By Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles
The Nugget

Northern Ontario is southern Ontario’s poor cousin when it comes public transportation, according to several frustrated bus riders.

About 15 people, including the public and representatives from the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission, Hammond Transportation and North Bay Airport Service, attended a public consultation Tuesday at Nipissing University hosted by the Ministry of Transportation.

The ministry is seeking input on inter-community transportation services.

But much of what it heard dealt with the difference in service levels between Northern and southern Ontario.

“I am absolutely shocked at the low level of service here,” said one woman who recently moved to North Bay from Toronto.

“They cancelled the train and now it’s difficult to get to places like Ottawa and Toronto at a half decent time. Who wants to be there at 2 a.m.?” she asked.

“It’s frustrating to see southern Ontario develop an effective transit system and Northern Ontario is left out.”

A second woman echoed her frustrations.

“I take 20 bus trips per year. I did take the train, but the province got rid of that, so now I’m now forced to take the bus,” she said.

“I had to drive from Toronto to attend this meeting in North Bay because there was no bus service that would get me here on time. Yes we have a nice highway, but what does that do for people who don’t drive?”

Another audience member complained that services here are being cut while the province spends millions on light rail development in southern Ontario.
“If we can fund train service in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) then why can’t the province put money into Northern Ontario?” he asked.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli had encouraged the public to speak up at the meeting.

But he also warned that the province has no plan to invest in the North.

“This is a consultation, but there’s no money behind it,” the MPP said.

Fedeli claimed the province’s focus is on vehicles, including Uber, that can transport 10 or fewer passengers between communities.

Fedeli said the province has promised $20 million annually for UP Express - a commuter train linking Pearson International Airport and downtown Toronto.

In the North, meanwhile, it took the Northlander off the tracks after a 110-year history of providing transportation service to northeastern Ontario and has scaled back bus service, leaving people in some communities stranded.

Found at:
http://www.nugget.ca/2016/07/27/northerners-feel-shortchanged-when-it-comes-to-public-transit


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Plea To Restore Passenger Rail
Funding Denied

By Alan S. Hale, Brian Kelly, QMI Agency
The Nugget

A plea to the federal government to restore $5.3 million in support for rail service running between Hearst to Sault Ste. Marie has been denied because the feds believe “most” communities along the rail line have access to the highway system, and do not really need passenger train service.

A coalition of communities and interest groups, including the Town of Heart, the Missanabie Cree First Nation, asked the government for two things: To pay CN Rail to immediately resume passenger rail service, and to help facilitate the rail service’s takeover by Missanabie Cree.

But this request, which was endorsed by the Timmins city council earlier this month, was shot down by federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau when asked about it after a different funding announcement in Sault Ste. Marie last week.

Ottawa would not be providing the millions required to resume the rail service, said the minister, because that kind of assistance is only available in cases where rail “is literally the only way to get in and out” of communities.”

“Most of them (communities between the Sault and Hearst) have other alternate ways of accessing highways,” Garneau said. “We have to reserve funding for where railways are the only way to move around.”

Transport Canada’s website states the remote rail passenger program offers funding for operating and capital projects when communities have “few or no other transportation options and where these services are the only means of surface transportation for the communities.”

Garneau said the file will be “more properly dealt with” by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

“Transport Canada will not be involved with funding, but we will help from the regulatory and safety point-of-view,” said Garneau.

None of that sits well with the members of the Northern & Eastern Ontario Rail Network, which called the decision to let the rail service die as not only misinformed, but “discriminatory.”

The organization’s spokeswoman, Dawne Cunningham, pointed out that government funding is provided to other passenger train services in Ontario, but it’s only those in Northern Ontario that have had funding cut.

“It’s shirking the mandate that Transport Canada has to ensure that there is access to remote communities,” said Cunningham. “I think it’s pretty clear that neither the provincial or federal government are very interested in us having safe, convenient transportation services.”

Cunningham said the federal government is basing its belief that communities along the rail line all have the ability to access the highway system on a report which used Google Maps to confirm that communities had roads that eventually connected to a highway.

The problem is, she said, no one from the government actually went to see the condition of these roads. The rail network did, and what they found was a system of logging roads which were next-to-impassible in certain places.

“If they had gone on those roads, they would have seen that they were abandoned logging roads, some of which don’t even have bridges on them anymore,” said Cunningham. “They’re not maintained, full of holes, beavers have flooded some of them, and culverts are blocked with debris.

“People may technically have the option of road access, but really, they rely on passenger train service to get to properties, lodges, and even eco-tourism outfitters.”

The annual federal subsidy of $2.2 million for passenger train service between Hearst and Sault Ste. Marie was originally cut in 2014 by the Conservatives. But the government at the time also offered $5.3 million over three years to allow time for a new private operator, Railmark, to take over the service from CN Rail.

Railmark took over operations in the spring of 2015 but only lasted a few months. Now the Missanabie Cree First Nation is looking to establish its own rail provider, Mask-wa Oo-ta-ban (the Bear Train), but Minister Garneau said the Liberals are not interested in making the same offer again.

“There is still a request for on-going sustaining funding (from the Missanabie Cree),” Cunningham said. “Those are not the same conditions that were agreed to by the previous government.”

Nonetheless, Missanabie Cree Chief Jason Gauthier is hopeful the federal minister will review the highways that can be accessed between the Sault and Hearst. He counters they’re private roads owned by logging companies that can be shut down at any time.

“I’m not saying he’s being untruthful,” said Gauthier. “I don’t think he’s being given the proper information. I think this is an opportunity for him to review that information to make sure that he’s getting the right information.”

He learned of Transport Canada’s funding decision in a letter he received from Garneau early last week.

While he vows to fight on to get passenger service rolling again, Gauthier acknowledged he is “not as optimistic” after he heard from Garneau.

He expects Indigenous and Northern Affairs is fielding many requests from First Nations for funding for issues such as housing and clean water.

“The priority for me was that Transport Canada took care of its own responsibilities,” said Gauthier. “We really feel, in a lot of ways, that this is their responsibility.”

He met with Garneau late Wednesday morning following the minister’s funding announcement. Gauthier now wants to meet with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

“I’m not going to give up,” he said of his efforts to bring back passenger rail service. “I’m here for the long haul.”

From an item at:
http://www.nugget.ca/2016/07/25/plea-to-restore-passenger-rail-funding-denied


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Government Of Canada And VIA Rail Team Up
To Improve Quality Of Service For Travelers

ETN Global Travel News

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance for Canadian travelers to access a national rail transportation service that is safe, secure, efficient, reliable, and environmentally sustainable, and that meets their needs.

The Honorable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, and Mr. Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, President and Chief Executive Officer of VIA Rail Canada Inc., today announced a $34.4 million investment for improvements at stations and maintenance facilities in the Windsor-Quebec City rail corridor.

This funding will contribute to creating healthy communities by ensuring a safe travel service for people to see their family and friends and promoting long-term prosperity for middle-class Canadians.

The $34.4 million investment is allocated to several improvement projects as part of the federal infrastructure initiative announced in Budget 2016. At VIA’s Montréal and Toronto maintenance facilities, repairs and upgrades will be made to various mechanical and electrical systems, heating and ventilation, roof replacement, and water treatment systems. At stations in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor, upgrades will be made to various mechanical and electrical systems, heating and ventilation, roof replacement, and platform improvements. An additional $400,000 will also go towards the remediation of a federal contaminated site at VIA’s Edmonton station.

For the full item see:
http://www.eturbonews.com/73116/government-canada-and-rail-team-improve-quality-service-traveler


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

The “Voice Of The MBTA” Retires.

He Hopes To Keep Recording The T’s Announcements And Pursue A Career In Voice Acting.

By Spencer Buell
Boston Magazine

The next MBTA train to retirement is now arriving.

Frank Oglesby, Jr., the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) employee whose crisp baritone voice commuters will recognize from the automated clips that herald the comings and goings of Boston’s public transit system, is moving on.

For more than 20 years, the man who the agency calls the “Voice of the T” has recorded announcements on everything from reminders not to smoke, please, to the imminence of the next Blue Line train to Bowdoin. He’s retiring at the end of July.

“It just seemed like a good time,” says Oglesby, 54, who over the phone truly does sound like the announcer guy everyone knows, only more human.

After starting out as an editorial assistant for the T’s general manager in the 1980s, the UMass Amherst alum got his start as the agency’s go-to voice actor when he was picked to narrate MBTA training videos. He would go on to record all of the system’s announcements—hundreds of them, as the city worked to comply with new Americans with Disabilities Act rules requiring that information about stops in public transportation be shared regularly and clearly.

Image

Photo: MBTA

Frank Oglesby, Jr. riding the Green Line

It was always a side gig. His day job at the T has included working in departments for diversity, customer service, and, most recently, serving as the agency’s deputy director of para-transit contract operations. But Oglesby says he loves putting his golden pipes to use and studying the craft of voice artistry. After retirement, he’s hoping to share his talents with the world.

“I’ve got the equipment. I’ve got a little studio,” he says, adding that the market for voiceover experts—for things like ad spots, narration or books on tape—has mostly moved online, so he can work from home. “If you tried to do this 35 years ago, it was just impossible. Today you can have your own studio in your house in a closet.”

He’s already been tapped for roles outside his usual T duties. He’s emceed for the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials and the Women Who Move the Nation, and has recorded PSAs for the state Department of Revenue (in one, he advises people to pay taxes and “escape the penalty box”). He plans to re-join the Screen Actors Guild (he’s been an extra in some movies and commercials), and may try his hand at theater.

And, if the MBTA will let him, he’ll keep contributing his voice to those ubiquitous automated messages (T spokesman Joe Pesaturo says “there have been no discussions yet” about whether Oglesby will still do the recordings).

“It’s fun for me,” Oglesby says. “I really don’t want to stop.”

There’s something about Oglesby’s voice that just works. It says something that the T’s ultra-finicky ridership has abided his messages pretty much without complaint for decades.

“To public transit users everywhere, there is almost nothing more important than clear and articulate station announcements,” the MBTA wrote in a statement to Boston. “And no one does it better than Frank Oglesby.”

This is no easy feat. Remember “Pay your fare, it’s only fair,” the relentless PSA that tormented Green Line riders earlier this year? It lasted, what, a week? Noticeably, perhaps tellingly, Oglesby wasn’t responsible for them.

“I guess they chose to do it with someone else. I just only heard about it today,” he says. (According to the T, a woman from the agency’s Operations Control Center lent her voice to the campaign).

Told of how poorly the PSA targeting fare-dodgers was received, Oglesby laughs. “Then I’m glad it’s not me.”

Technically, not everyone is satisfied with the man telling them on which side of the train the doors will open, though. The complaint Oglesby hears most often is that he doesn’t sound like a local.

“People wanted more of the Boston accent. ‘Ova heeah,’ (over here) that sort of thing. They thought that was more genuine than mine. People have accused me of being a Canadian disk jockey,” he says, “or a robot.”

“Well, when my delivery has been colorless, it was because I was directed to be that way.”

If commuters really didn’t like Oglesby, they would have made that fact known a long time ago. But they do like him. And he’s even attained a kind of celebrity status in some circles. If you ask him, he’ll sign your CharlieCard. He’ll even record a personalized message on your phone, like he did recently for a fan at a conference in Dallas.

“That’s the thing I like most about this, is I get to help people,” he says. “The utilitarian part of it is a big deal, the fact that I’m directing people—where they’re at, when the train is coming, when it’s arriving. But also, some people get a lot of enjoyment out of it.”

DF Editor Comments:  

Frank’s voice is heard in every subway station, most subway trains, and every bus in the MBTA system.  His baritone voice is clear and a much welcome departure from scratchy public address systems.  In recent times automated computer generated recordings have started to be phased-in for certain needs such as special announcements or advisories, but sometimes computer-generated voices will flub pronunciations.  Locals may understand these but those not familiar with the city or transit system can be confused.  It would be great if Mr. Oglesby could be kept in the wings for the future.  

Here is a great interview with Frank on YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk7z2kiHAKY

Found at:
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2016/07/26/frank-oglesby-voice-mbta/


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Catskill Mountain Railroad Gets A Reprieve
And Will Operate This Year

By David Peter Alan

In our June 20th issue, we reported the demise of the Catskill Mountain Railroad, a tourist railroad that ran two separate operations in Ulster County until this past May. We recently received word that the railroad is back, at least temporarily.

The railroad’s web site, http://cmrrevents.com/wordpress/, reports that the “Esopus Scenic Train” will operate from Mount Tremper on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, beginning next Saturday, August 6th. The railroad’s other operation leaves from Kingston Plaza, a shopping center near the city’s historic Stockade neighborhood. At this writing, the railroad has not announced a schedule for its “Kingston City Limited” operation.

The Esopus operation is temporary, scheduled to last only until the end of this year. According to the Kingston Daily Freeman, another company will offer the opportunity to ride a specially-designed bicycle on the track now used for the Esopus operation. The Freeman also reports that the railroad will continue to run the Kingston operation, including expanding its “special event train” service.

Kingston can be reached by bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. There is no public transportation to Mt. Tremper, so the Esopus Scenic train can only be reached by automobile.


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OBITUARY... Obituary...  

Remembering Bill Wright (1930-2016)

By David Peter Alan

On July 18th, the day this writer’s mother celebrated her 100th birthday, New Jersey lost one of its strongest advocates for better transit.  William R. Wright of Cranford, New Jersey spent more than 65 of his 85 years planning or promoting rail travel, first for his career, and then he became even more active as an advocate after he retired.

Although Bill lived in Cranford and commuted on the Central Railroad of New Jersey, he never worked for that railroad.  He started with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL) in 1949, selling tickets at the railroad’s city ticket office at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan.  Later, he promoted the railroad’s crack trains between New York and Florida, like the Champion and the winter-seasonal Florida Special; trains that included amenities such as a fashion show and on-board movies in the lounge car and freshly-cooked Southern food in the dining car.  Later in life, he still took Amtrak’s Silver Meteor to Florida on the same route, but it was not the same as the trains he promoted.  “At least it’s a train, and the worst train is better than the best bus” he said.

Bill belonged to more organizations than any other transit advocate in New Jersey.  He was a longtime member of the North Jersey Transportation Advisory Committee and the Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee (SCDRTAC) at New Jersey Transit (NJT).  He was also a member of the Union County Transportation Advisory Board, the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition, a group interested in transit history in New Jersey, and his local Railroad Retirement Board.  

Bill Wright was not an ordinary advocate.  He always had something to say about trains or transit, he was crusty and opinionated, he held grudges for life, and he was not afraid to tell an elected official what he thought of that official’s position on transportation issues.  Many of us in the New Jersey advocacy community have received copies of Bill’s “poison pen” letters, typed on his old manual typewriter and replete with typing errors.  The errors never detracted from the message, which was usually strong criticism for “selling the country out to the highway lobby, the oil lobby and the automobile lobby” or something to that effect.  

Bill was also a planner.  In the late 1970s, he proposed running trains on part of the Raritan Valley Line and into Staten Island, where they would terminate at the St. George terminal and connect with the Staten Island Ferry to lower Manhattan.  The idea still makes sense; only the single-line Staten Island Railway, which is part of the New York MTA system, uses it.  It is the only grossly underutilized rail terminal in the New York area.

NJT honored Bill by inducting him into the Transit Hall of Fame in the year 2000.  His fame as an advocate never spread beyond New Jersey, however.  Still, he coined a number of sayings which render him worthy of recognition far beyond his home state.  They include: “Not all tourists drive, but all tourists spend money!” and “A fare increase is a tax increase!”  He also recalled his career as a railroad manager when he said: “Just because you have an MBA in marketing doesn’t mean you know how to promote rail travel!  You can’t promote the train if you don’t ride it!”

Bill urged this writer to apply to join SCDRTAC in 2003.  He said: “Everybody else on this committee spends all their time reviewing grant applications for senior shuttles.  Sure we need them, but the way to give seniors more mobility is to give them more transit.  I want you to join this committee, so you can help me tell everyone that.”  With Bill’s passing, this writer is now the longest-serving member of that committee, and is still telling everybody who will listen that most seniors and persons with disabilities need more transit, especially as some of them become too old to keep driving an automobile.  Bill also recruited more transit-oriented members, who have helped to expand the committee’s areas of concern.

Bill Wright will be remembered for his sayings, but there is one that stands out.  It had become his mantra over the years, it could be his epitaph, and he deserves to be associated with it forever:

“IF YOU DON’T DRIVE, YOU DON’T COUNT!”

It is difficult to imagine any other statement that more succinctly summarizes mobility in America today.


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