The National Corridors Initiative Logo

August 8, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 31

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...

  Legal Lines…
STB Changes Its Mind And Revises On-Time-
   Performance Standard For Amtrak Trains
  Funding Lines…
Billions In Federal Rail Loans Left On Table,
   GAO Says
  Advocacy Lines…
Sound Transit Wants You On Board Its Citizen
   Oversight Panel
  Environmental Lines…
MBTA Solar Infrastructure Initiative To Generate
   Tens Of Millions Of Dollars
  Commuter Lines…
SEPTA: Silverliner Vs To Begin Returning To
   Service Late August
  Political Lines…
How The Democratic And GOP Platforms Differ
   On Infrastructure
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Ridership Lines…
PATH Reaches Ridership Records
  Corridor Lines…
Connecticut Split On Rail Overhaul; Malloy Says
   Repairs Should Come First
  Safety Lines…
FRA Finalizes New Safety Rule For Passenger Rail
  Study Lines…
Chugging Forward: FRA Releases NEC
   Comment Summary Report
  Across The Pond…
Testing Begins On TGV Sud Europ Atlantique
  Publication Notes …


LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

STB Changes Its Mind And Revises On-Time-Performance
Standard For Amtrak Trains

By David Peter Alan

The issue of whether or not Amtrak should participate in making the rules concerning the priority of Amtrak trains over freight trains on freight-carrying railroads continues to make its way through the courts.  The Supreme Court held last year that Amtrak was a governmental entity for the purpose of participating in rulemaking (575 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 1225 (2015), and remanded the matter to the D.C. Circuit Court.  The D.C. Circuit held again that Amtrak is a private corporation which has no authority to participate in making the rules that govern its trains (821 F.3d 19 (D.C. Cir. 2016)); a holding very similar to the one that was reversed by the Court last year.

This controversy did not stop the Surface Transportation Board (STB or “Board”) from setting a new standard for determining on-time-performance (OTP) for Amtrak trains when they operate over a freight-carrying railroad.  On July 28th, the STB released its Final Rule on the subject.  The rule sets a new standard for determining OTP for the purpose of triggering an STB investigation, which could result in an award of damages from a freight-carrying railroad to Amtrak.  Congress enacted a provision in Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) that calls for such an investigation if OTP for a specific train falls below 80% for any two consecutive calendar quarters.  We carried a brief report on this topic from The Hill in last week’s edition of D:F.    

The new rule re-defines OTP for that purpose.  Now, a train is considered “on time” if it arrives at or leaves from a station within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival or departure time.  In addition, OTP will be calculated for all stations, and not only at the endpoint where a train finishes its route.  The new rule takes effect on August 27th.

The Board noted that Congress has generally required railroads to give Amtrak trains priority over freight movements since it passed the Amtrak Improvement Act of 1973.  At that time, however, only the Attorney General could enforce this provision by bringing a civil action for equitable relief, while the Secretary of Transportation could relieve a host railroad from this obligation “if the Secretary found that Amtrak’s preference materially lessened the quality of freight transportation offered to shippers” (STB Decision at 2).  Congress transferred the authority in both situations to the STB under PRIIA in 2008.  Ironically, this marked the first grant to the STB of jurisdiction over issues concerning passenger trains since the authority to regulate and discontinue them was taken away from its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), when the Rail Passenger Act of 1970 formed Amtrak.

The STB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on December 28, 2015.  The proposed rule would have considered a train “on time” if it arrived at its final destination within five minutes of its scheduled arrival time for each 100 miles of route length, or more than 30 minutes later than scheduled arrival time at its final destination, whichever is less.  The ICC had previously enforced that standard.

Despite the legal difficulties with Amtrak’s participation in rulemaking under §207 of PRIIA, the STB specifically asserted its authority to investigate substandard performance under §213 of the same statute.  In a case involving substandard performance by the Illini and Saluki trains between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and host railroad Canadian National (CN) argued that the only Congressional delegation of authority was to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak under §207, and there was no proper delegation of authority to the STB.  The STB rejected this argument, saying: “the invalidation of Section 207 of PRIIA leaves a gap that the Board has the delegated authority to fill by virtue of its authority to adjudicate complaints brought by Amtrak against host freight railroads for a violation of Amtrak’s statutory preference and to award damages where a preference violation is found.  Any other result would gut the remedial scheme, a result that Congress clearly did not intend” (at 5).

Under that authority, the STB decided to change the OTP standard from an “Endpoint OTP” standard as proposed in the original December, 2015 notice, to an “All-Stations OTP” standard (at 5-6).  In doing so, the Board noted that “Except for the freight railroads, virtually all commenters” urged them to adopt the  “All Stations” standard (at 6) and that Amtrak passengers “should have the same expectation of punctuality” regardless of where they board or exit the train (Id).  

Some rider advocates have criticized Amtrak for padding scheduled running time from the last intermediate stop to the endpoint of a route, to improve the appearance of a train’s OTP.  The STB’s decision implicitly disapproved of that practice.  As the Board noted (at 6), the new rule “could require a reevaluation and potential reallocation of recovery time across the entire route.”   

So Amtrak schedules, especially for long-distance trains, may look different next year.  We can hope that they indicate realistically when a train is expected to stop at any given station.  We can also hope that the STB would not tolerate efforts by the host railroads to lengthen Amtrak running times, so they can add slack to their own operations.  Above all, we can hope that Amtrak’s passengers can begin to count on the accuracy of Amtrak schedules in the future.  They want to arrive at their destinations at or shortly after the time advertised in the published schedule; not some indeterminate time that could come several hours later.

The author lives and practices law in South Orange, New Jersey.  The opinions expressed are his own, and not necessarily those of NCI or any other individual or organization.  This article is presented for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be a “legal opinion” as given by an attorney to a client.


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...

Billions In Federal Rail Loans
Left On Table, GAO Says

By Jim Watts
The Bond Buyer

Sponsors of passenger and high-speed rail projects are leaving billions of funding dollars on the table by not taking advantage of a federal rail program that has made only $2.7 billion of low-interest loans from a $35 billion authorization, the Government Accountability Office said in a report to Congress.

The low-interest loans and loan guarantees of the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program have been under-utilized since they were adopted as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (PL 105-178) federal funding law in 1998, said Susan Fleming, director of physical infrastructure at GAO. The report was sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

“America’s rail transportation infrastructure, including its passenger rail system, requires substantial repair as well as new capacity to accommodate growth,” Fleming said. “Financing the various rail infrastructure projects will be challenging.”

Congress has not funded the Federal Rail Administration’s program for high-speed intercity passenger rail passenger rail projects since fiscal year 2010 while appropriations to Amtrak have remained relatively steady at about $1.4 billion per year over the last five years, she said.

An advisory panel studying Amtrak and other rail infrastructure in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston said in April that there a repair backlog of at least $28 billion. Amtrak has estimated that an additional $151 billion of capital infrastructure investments would be needed to increase capacity along the corridor, Fleming said.

The FRA can extend loan guarantees and make direct RRIF loans to finance up to 100% of eligible project costs. Projects eligible for the loans and guarantees include passenger rail as well as freight rail improvement projects, refinancing of project debt, and the construction of new intermodal or railroad facilities.

Railroad operators, state and local governments, and public-private partnerships are eligible for the RRIF loans.

So far, FRA has executed 35 loans with an approximate value of $2.7 billion, or about 8% of the total funds available, since the program began in 1998, with another $2.5 billion of projects under review, Fleming said.

The loans went to 29 freight projects and six passenger rail projects, but passenger rail accounted for $1.9 billion of the total, she said. No loan guarantees have been provided.

“While as of May 2016 only six loans had been made to passenger rail projects in the history of the program, future demand for RRIF loans may come largely from passenger rail projects,” she said.

Almost $2 billion of the $2.7 billion of RRIF loans have been awarded since 2009.

Changes to the program in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (PL 114-95) enacted in early December 2015 should make RRIF loans and loan guarantees more accessible but the FRA has been slow in implementing those changes, the GAO report said.

The new provisions provide more flexibility in loan repayments and allow the inclusion of RRIF loans in master credit agreements, the report said. The FAST Act also extended loan eligibility to transit-oriented development proposals.

GAO said FRA has completed only 29 of 59 standard-operating-procedure agreements and has not provided guidance to sponsors of transit-oriented developments that are considering RRIF loans.

Repayment terms for RRIF loans are similar to those of the Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act, GAO said. Like TIFIA loans, RRIF loans are based on Treasury notes with the same maturity.

“However, unlike TIFIA, which uses federal appropriations to pay the federal government’s expenses for providing financial assistance, RRIF applicants must pay a credit risk premium to use the program,” the report said.

The credit risk premium for the 35 RRIF loans since the first ones in 2002 range from zero, including three of the six passenger rail loans, to almost 19%, GAO said. The premiums are to be returned, plus interest, when the loan obligations are met but so far none have been, FRA said.

From an item at:
http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/washington-infrastructure/billions-in-federal-rail-loans-left-on-table-gao-says-1109909-1.html


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ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

Sound Transit Wants You On Board
Its Citizen Oversight Panel

Sky Valley Chronicle

Sound Transit in Washington State is seeking volunteers from East King, North King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to help the agency succeed in meeting its commitments to the public.

The agency has two openings on the Citizen Oversight Panel (COP) for East King County, one opening for North King County, one opening for Pierce County, and one opening for Snohomish County.

Sound Transit relies on the oversight and expertise of this independent group of volunteers and encourages citizens to apply.

The COP was created in 1997 to independently monitor Sound Transit and ensure it meets its commitments to build and operate a regional bus, light rail and commuter rail transit system.

The fifteen COP members represent a variety of interests, professional expertise and experience. The COP meets twice monthly during normal business hours and acts as an independent oversight entity by digging into agency details, asking hard questions and reporting its findings to the Sound Transit Board of Directors.

To Apply:

Submit a completed application and a resume (http://www.soundtransit.org/About-Sound-Transit/Accountability/Citizen-Oversight-Panel-COP/How-to-apply)  to Dow Constantine, Sound Transit Board Chair, 401 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98104-2826.

To qualify an applicant must:

Appointment Process

Copies of all applications and resumes will be provided to the Sound Transit Board for its review. The Board’s Executive Committee will review and recommend candidates. The Board of Directors will confirm the appointments.

Sound Transit actively seeks to include persons from diverse backgrounds and professional areas of expertise to support agency oversight, planning and operations. Persons of color and women are encouraged to apply.

Found at:
http://skyvalleychronicle.com/BREAKING-NEWS/Sound-Transit-Wants-You-On-Board-2569851


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

MBTA Solar Infrastructure Initiative
To Generate Tens Of Millions Of Dollars

Agency Anticipates $55 Million In Income And Savings

From A MassDOT/MBTA Press Release

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board has approved a plan allowing for the installation of solar energy generating equipment at 37 MBTA-owned parking facilities. The 20-year lease agreement with Omni-Navitas Holdings LLC will generate $1.9 million in base rent in the first year, with a 3 percent annual increase.

Once all the locations are fully operational, the MBTA will also realize approximately $5 million in savings through a reduction in snow removal, electricity and lighting maintenance costs. Over the 20-year length of the lease, the MBTA will realize $55 million in income and savings.

“The MBTA has undertaken an important opportunity to leverage its parking facilities to reduce costs, increase own-source revenue and support the Commonwealth’s greater greenhouse gas reduction targets and clean energy goals,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  “Private sector partnerships like these are essential to the T’s ability to focus on controlling costs and improving its core system to deliver the reliable public transit system its riders deserve.”

The solar infrastructure initiative aligns with the Baker-Polito Administration’s Real Estate Asset Leveraging (REAL) “Open for Business” Strategy for developing unused or underutilized state properties into new opportunities for transit-oriented housing, economic growth and job creation, increased revenue and reduced costs.

“This important partnership helps make the MBTA more fiscally sound by increasing own-source revenues as well as lowering our maintenance costs,” said MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve. “It also helps expand the state’s renewable energy infrastructure.

There will be a two-year installation period for putting the solar panels in place. The facilities are comprised of 28 MBTA surface parking lots and nine MBTA structured parking garages.

Garage locations include:

The MBTA surface parking lot locations include (all commuter rail):

The MBTA also seeks to promote the development of renewable energy including solar photovoltaic facilities on its property for its own use.

As the largest electricity consumer in Massachusetts, the MBTA has focused on the development of a system-wide approach to implement energy efficiency programs with a goal of clean renewable energy development on its large real estate holdings. In May, the MBTA projected a 12.8 percent reduction in energy costs for the 2017 Fiscal Year, and expects to see additional savings during the next three years.

[ Editor Note:  The MBTA already has some solar and wind turbine generating systems in place.  This new authorization will add to their renewable energy holdings. ]


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

SEPTA: Silverliner Vs To Begin
Returning To Service Late August

Manufacture Of Replacement Equalizer Beams Will Start Next Week.
Express Bus Routes Will Also Be Added Soon.

By Sandy Smith
PhillyMag.Com

The first of the sidelined Silverliner V Regional Rail cars should return to service starting the week of August 21st, according to a statement by Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) general manager Jeffrey Knueppel.

The replacement beams under re-design will be plate steel like the originals were, but the design of the feet will be different based on the results of analysis SEPTA, Hyundai Rotem, and contractor LTK performed on the defective beams. Hyundai Rotem has already ordered the plate steel for the new beams so that manufacturing can begin quickly.

Once the manufacturing has begun, SEPTA anticipates that 10 cars a week will be returned to service beginning August 21st. If repairs continue on that schedule, the entire 120-car fleet will be back in service by November 12th. In the meantime, SEPTA is leasing additional passenger cars from MARC (Maryland) and Amtrak that will bring the total number of leased railcars in SEPTA service from 28 to 40. Knueppel said that with the additional leased cars in service, the agency could resume a normal weekday Regional Rail schedule by mid-October. He went on to add that as “production picks up steam as the schedule advances,” all the cars might be back in service earlier than projected as of now.

Image

Photo: John Corbett - Flickr

A SEPTA Silverliner V on the Chestnut Hill West Line at St. Martins station

Knueppel said that the loss of the Silverliner Vs last month has cost the agency about $200,000 in lost fare revenue due to refunds and reduced Regional Rail ridership as well as $600,000 in leasing costs, a figure he said would rise to about $1 million per month by Labor Day. While Knueppel said that the agency would have to implement some cost-cutting moves in order to keep its budget for the fiscal year in balance, its contract with Hyundai Rotem contains provisions that will allow the agency to recover costs arising from railcar defects. “Our lawyers will be very busy,” he said. “There’s a lot in the contract that protects us.”

Fare increases that would otherwise have occurred this year were canceled because of the rollout of the SEPTA Key payment system, but because of the contract protections, there should be no effect on fares before the next fiscal year begins on July 1, 2017. Knueppel did say that SEPTA was fortunate to have this problem arise at the very start of its fiscal year, though.

SEPTA will conduct fatigue tests on the two replacement designs before choosing which one it will use. Knueppel said that fatigue tests, metallurgical tests, computer models and analysis of the design and manufacture of the defective beams revealed that a combination of design flaws and deviations from the manufacturing specifications led to the beams’ early failure. From the test data, he said, “we’ve learned how to produce a great equalizer beam with a longer service life.”

The plate steel equalizer beams used on the Silverliner V cars have been in widespread use on railroad locomotives for decades, but Knueppel said that this was the first time they had been used on any passenger railcars SEPTA ordered. Forged steel beams like those found on the Silverliner IV and earlier cars, he said, were heavier and took longer to make, which is why SEPTA and other agencies were moving toward plate steel beams.

Jeff Hyer, marketing and business development manager at Hyundai Rotem, said that data from SEPTA’s tests were being passed on to Denver’s Regional Transportation District, the only other agency to order cars of this design, so that it could monitor the performance of the beams on its cars.

Knueppel also praised the work SEPTA maintenance personnel have been doing since the cars were removed from service. “Our people are doing an enormous job keeping the 205 cars we now have in service,” he said.

In addition to further adjustments in Regional Rail schedules as leased cars are added and the Silverliner V cars return to service, SEPTA is also planning on launching five express bus routes that will ferry Regional Rail passengers to Fern Rock and AT&T stations on the Broad Street Line. No details about the routes or when they would begin service were released at the news conference, but SEPTA said that it would announce those plans soon.

Knueppel advised riders to keep tabs on service changes at SEPTA’s contingency service website at:  http://www.septa.org/service/contingency.html

Read more at:
http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/08/03/septa-silverliner-vs-return-late-august/#BeDplSuQyYJxVcoP.99


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

How The Democratic And GOP Platforms
Differ On Infrastructure

By Melanie Zanona
The Hill

Transportation advocates have been encouraged by both presidential candidates’ apparent enthusiasm for fixing the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems.

But the 2016 Democratic and Republican platforms offer two very different visions for the future of infrastructure in the United States.

While this year’s Democratic plank promises huge spending increases for the country’s transportation system, the GOP document calls for eliminating federal funding for mass transit, bike-share programs, sidewalks and rail-to-rail projects.

“When it comes to investing in transportation infrastructure, the contrast between these two platforms becomes even starker,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “has called for a massive infusion of new investments in our transportation system and infrastructure. [GOP nominee Donald Trump] likes to talk about our aging airports and roads, but his own platform kills federal funding for mass transit.”

The Democratic platform approved this week is loaded with dozens of references to transportation, calling for dramatic increases in federal spending on roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines.

The platform also vows to ensure that resources are targeted toward the areas of greatest need, including tribal lands.

“The climate emergency and the need to expand the middle class demand that we make the most ambitious investment in American infrastructure since President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system,” the document says.

The plan — which is in lockstep with the proposal laid out by Clinton on her campaign website — would create a national infrastructure bank that provides loans and other financial assistance in order to support investments in infrastructure projects.

It also supports the interest tax exemption on municipal bonds, which Democrats say can stimulate billions of additional dollars in infrastructure investments.

“We will dramatically increase federal infrastructure funding for our cities — making significant new investments in roads and bridges, public transit, drinking and wastewater systems, broadband, schools, and more,” the document says. “We will make new investments in public transportation and build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas.”

By contrast, the 2016 Republican platform approved last week calls for stripping programs from the Highway Trust Fund — money designated for road construction and other surface transportation projects across the country — that aren’t related to cars and highways.

The document singles out mass transit, calling it “an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities.”

“We propose to remove from the Highway Trust Fund programs that should not be in the business of the federal government,” the document states. “More than a quarter of the Fund’s spending is diverted from its original purpose.”

The GOP identifies a slew of other areas that are benefiting from highway funding, including bike-share programs, sidewalk improvements, recreational trails, landscaping, historical renovations, ferry boats, the federal lands access program, scenic byways and education initiatives.

“These worthwhile enterprises should be funded through other sources,” the document says.

The GOP platform also calls for privatizing passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor and ending federal support for high-speed and intercity rail projects across the country.

The platform seems to be somewhat of a contrast to Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to repair the nation’s deteriorating transportation system, even if it requires taxpayer dollars.

Trump has lamented that it’s sad the trains in China run up to 300 miles per hour while “we have trains that go chug, chug, chug.”

When it comes to policies related to gasoline use, the parties once again paint two different pictures.

The Democratic platform pledges to reduce oil consumption through cleaner fuels and electric vehicles, as well as cut methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40 to 45 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The Republican document, meanwhile, remains staunchly opposed to hiking the federal gasoline tax, which finances the Highway Trust Fund. The gas tax hasn’t been increased in over two decades, although a number of states — including red ones — have raised their own fuel taxes.

“With most of the states increasing their own funding for transportation, we oppose a further increase in the federal gas tax,” the plank says.

However, there appears to be at least one area where both parties agree: encouraging more public-private partnerships.

Still, they differ in how to bring private capital off the sidelines.

Democrats are relying on a national infrastructure bank to leverage more private investments, but their platform offers vague details about how it would actually pay for such initiatives. Clinton’s proposal, which would allocate $25 billion for the bank, merely says it would be paid for through business tax reforms.

The GOP platform said it would help encourage more private sector investment in infrastructure by eliminating regulatory hurdles.

The document calls for reforming provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and repealing the Davis-Bacon law, which Republicans argue limits employment and drives up construction and maintenance costs for the benefit of unions.

“Recognizing that, over time, additional revenue will be needed to expand the carrying capacity of roads and bridges, we will remove legal roadblocks to public-private partnership agreements that can save the taxpayers’ money and bring outside investment to meet a community’s needs,” the plank says.

Found at:
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/289305-how-the-democratic-and-gop-platforms-differ-on-infrastructure


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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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RIDERSHIP LINES... Ridership Lines...  

PATH Reaches Ridership Records

From Railway Age

Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH)  ridership in June of 2016 reached its highest monthly total ever, with nearly 7 million people entering the turnstiles system-wide – a 3.6% increase over June 2015, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced on July 28th.

Additionally, PATH reported its average weekday ridership of 277,946 in June also was the highest for any month on record, reflecting a 4.1% increase from June 2015. The stations that experienced the highest percentage increases in average weekday ridership in June compared to June 2015 were Christopher Street, Grove Street, Harrison and Exchange Place. On weekends, the Harrison, World Trade Center, Grove Street and Exchange Place stations experienced the biggest increases in average ridership.

Year-to-date, total system-wide ridership is 5.5% higher than the same period in 2015, with average weekday ridership increasing by 5.4%, and average Saturday ridership increasing by 2.2%.

PATH officials attributed the record-setting increases primarily to continued economic growth, an improving regional employment picture and a larger-than-normal number of tourists and sightseers, due to the improved economy and relatively good weather so far this year.

“As the traveling public increases its reliance on PATH, we renew our commitment to providing service that maintains the highest levels of safety and efficiency,” said PATH Director/General Manager Michael Marino.

The record-setting numbers come at a time PATH is working to improve safety and increase capacity throughout the system. As part of a comprehensive, federally-mandated safety initiative to install a new computerized signal system for better passenger service and safety, weekend PATH service on the 33rd Street line in Manhattan will be suspended starting Aug 6.

The project’s centerpiece is the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC), an updated safety-enhanced system that the federal government has mandated be completed by the end of 2018.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/commuter-regional/path-reaches-ridership-records.html


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CORRIDOR LINES... Corridor Lines...  

Connecticut Split On Rail Overhaul; Malloy Says
Repairs Should Come First

By Ana Radelat
The CT Mirror

There is split opinion in Connecticut on ambitious proposals to overhaul rail service in the Northeast Corridor, with some preferring to put resources into a coastal route to Boston and others backing an inland route that runs through Hartford with a new stop near Storrs.

Differences over the Federal Railroad Administration’s proposals have divided  coastal towns like New Haven and Old Lyme, and pit environmental groups against Amtrak and others who want high speed rail service between Connecticut cities, Boston and New York.

Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel Malloy said he wants the Federal Railroad Administration to fix and modernize the existing Northeast Corridor before spending billions of dollars on expansion plans that would introduce high-speed rail into the region.

“Connecticut does not endorse any particular Action Alternative at this time,” Malloy wrote FRA Administrator Sarah Feingberg.

Instead, the governor said Connecticut “strongly recommends” the FRA move on the “No Action Alternative,” a proposal that would limit the federal government to working on existing lines, at a cost of $20 billion, and “addressing connections to Bradley International Airport.”

For a much-more detailed review including maps see:
http://ctmirror.org/2016/08/01/ct-split-on-rail-overhaul-malloy-says-repairs-should-come-first/


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

FRA Finalizes New Safety Rule
For Passenger Rail

From Railway Age

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a new, final rule on July 29 that requires passenger railroads to proactively identify potential safety hazards across their operations and work to reduce and mitigate them. FRA believes this rule will help prevent safety problems from escalating and resulting in incidents, injuries or deaths.

The new rule, the System Safety Program (SSP), requires passenger railroads to implement, among other items, a defined and measurable safety culture; identify potential safety hazards in their operations and work to reduce or eliminate those hazards; and to document and demonstrate how they will achieve compliance with FRA regulations.

“Safety has to be a consistent priority, and that means identifying problems before they escalate and turn into an incident,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “This new rule will help passenger railroads achieve the next generation of rail safety.”

“The System Safety Program rule includes proactive hazard analysis as a standard approach to identifying and addressing significant safety issues,” said FRA’s Chief Safety Officer Robert C. Lauby. “I believe that this approach will be key for the next level of safety.”

The next-generation, goal-oriented safety regulation aims to build on the current regulations, which serve as a safety foundation, to help the industry pivot from a reactive to a more proactive approach at achieving safety. Because of the comprehensive requirements the SSP entails, FRA will provide technical assistance on ways to set, achieve and measure safety culture and other important elements of the regulation.

“The System Safety Program rule has been a long time in the making, but it’s been worth the wait,” said FRA Passenger Rail Safety Director Dan Knote. “The Passenger Rail Division at FRA will provide guidance to all passenger railroads as they embark in this exciting and life-saving initiative.”

The rule will go into effect 60 days from the date of its publication. Within eight months of publishing the rule, all passenger railroads are required to have a meeting with employees who are directly affected by the rule to discuss their plan on the consultation process when developing a SSP.

Read the full text of the rule at:   http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L18294

From an article found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/safety/fra-finalizes-new-safety-rule-for-passenger-rail.html


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STUDY LINES... Study Lines...  

Chugging Forward:  FRA Releases
NEC Comment Summary Report

By Ben Vient, Managing Editor
Railway Age

In 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) launched NEC Future, to focus on upgrade possibilities of the critical Northeast Corridor (NEC). On July 28, as the process chugs along, FRA released its Comment Summary Report on the project.

During the comment period, November 2015 to January 2016, the FRA received over 3,200 submissions on the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement from individuals, agencies, and organizations. The submissions were also categorized by stakeholder type. Most (92%) were submitted by individuals. Special interest groups submitted 3% of the submissions, followed by local agencies (2%) and elected officials (1%). All other categories (federal agencies, state agencies, passenger railroads, freight railroads, tribes, and other) accounted for less than 1% of the submissions received. Individuals or organizations in the state of Connecticut submitted more than half (58%) of the submissions.

Many commenters support the visions articulated in either Alternative 1 or 2 (“Maintain” or “Grow”) as the most appropriate level of service, or level of investment, for the NEC. While there was less support for the vision articulated in Alternative 3 (“Transform”), some commenters believe that a world-class rail system capable of high-performance service at 220 mph is essential for the Northeast to remain competitive in the global economy.

Although there was not agreement on any one vision, commenters overwhelmingly agreed that the No Action Alternative is inadequate for the region and should be rejected.

The FRA says it is considering these views as it deliberates on a Preferred Alternative; finding ways to balance the desire for more-frequent, better connections to more markets with concerns about the condition of the existing NEC and the environmental effects of any change. The diversity of opinions leads the FRA to conclude a need for a “balanced approach that is forward-looking but also responsive to local or geographic differences within the Study Area, building from elements of each Action Alternative while focusing on a singular corridor-wide vision.”

The full 32-page PDF file can be read and downloaded here:   http://necfuture.com/pdfs/comment_summary_report/CommentSummaryReport.pdf

[ Editor notes:  An overwhelming number of comments came from the State of Connecticut as part of the public input process.  See the PDF for specifics. ]

From an item at:   http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/high-performance/chugging-forward-fra-releases-nec-comment-summary-report.html


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

Testing Begins On TGV Sud Europ Atlantique

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

After four years of construction, the Lisea consortium celebrated a milestone for the Sud Europ Atlantique high-speed line on July 25, when high-speed testing began on the central section of the 302km route from Tours to Bordeaux.

Slow-speed dynamic testing began in early July and high-speed testing commenced with 160km/h runs in both directions using a TGV Duplex set provided by French National Railways (SNCF). Speeds will be increased incrementally in the coming weeks and testing will be extended to the northern and southern sections of the line when the catenary is energized in September.

Image

Photo:  Lisea

TGV Duplex on test on the new line.

The Lisea consortium of Vinci (33.4%) Caisee des Dépôts/CDC Infrastructure (25.4%), Sojas (22%), and AXA Private Equity (19.2%) was awarded a 50-year ?7.8bn concession in 2011 to fund, design, build, operate and maintain the line in a deal which was described at the time as Europe’s largest-ever PPP contract.

When it opens on July 2 2017, the line will cut Paris - Bordeaux journey times from 3h 14min to 2h 4min. The Paris - Toulouse trip will also be reduced by more than an hour from 5h 25min to 4h 9min.

SNCF expects ridership between Paris and Bordeaux to reach 2.3 million by 2019. The first of a new fleet of 40 Alstom Euroduplex Atlantique double-deck trains is due to be delivered soon and these trains will replace single-deck TGV Atlantique sets on services from Paris to destinations in Western and southwestern France.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/high-speed/high-speed-testing-begins-on-tgv-sud-europ-atlantique.html


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