The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Sept. 6, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 35

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...

  Guest Opinion …
The Right Leader For Amtrak
  Expansion Lines …
Cincinnati Prepares For Streetcar Line To Open
   For Service This Friday
  Advocacy Lines …
Old Lyme To Host Discussion On Amtrak
   Bypass Proposal
  Transit Lines …
Feds Have Reservations About MBTA Green Line,
   But Encourage State To Move Forward
MTA Teams Up With City DOTs. Which Transit
   Agency Will Join Next?
Dallas Streetcar Phase 2 Opens
DART’s Cotton Belt Rail Corridor Project
   To Be ‘Accelerated’
  Amtrak Lines …
Amtrak-Alstom Deal Signed
 
  Selected Rail Stocks …
  Intercity Lines …
Hoosier State Line Turns A Profit After One Year,
   But Its Future Is Still Uncertain
  Fare Lines …
MBTA’s Expanded Student Program Launches
  Across The Pond …
Operational Testing Starts On New
   Erfurt –Nuremburg High-Speed Line
Ireland’s First Luxury Sleeper Train Launches
   In Dublin
  To The North …
Do E&N Rail Service Right, Or Call It A Day
VIA’s Latest Report: Another Smoke Screen
  Publication Notes …


GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

The Right Leader For Amtrak

By Rush Loving
Baltimore Sun

ImageFile Charles Wickliffe “Wick” Moorman IV
Photo via Norfolk-Southern Corp.

Amtrak has been a financial orphan since it was born out of the bankruptcy of Penn Central 45 years ago. Passenger rail does not — cannot on most routes — make money, so Congress created Amtrak to take over the passenger trains. The new company got no support from many political leaders, especially Republicans, who saw the railroad as a safe harbor for the unions.

Amtrak never received permanent funding as a line item in the federal budget. Every time it has needed money, the company has had to go hat-in-hand to Congress. Moreover, only four men with railroad experience have ever headed Amtrak. Most of the rest, including Amtrak’s retiring president, have had political backgrounds. Now the company’s board has appointed a railroader as its new president — Charles “Wick” Moorman, a soft-spoken Mississippian who used to head Norfolk Southern.

Running Amtrak is not an easy job. The company lacks the independence of a private corporation, and Mr. Moorman sometimes will have to draw on his ample reservoir of diplomacy. Two administrations have pushed out presidents. The Clinton White House did in one because he stood up to the unions. The George W. Bush administration forced out railroader David Gunn, one of the best presidents in Amtrak’s history, whose outspoken advocacy of common-sense policies annoyed the politicians.

Mr. Moorman faces some daunting challenges. He will be taking over a railroad that suffers from a serious case of mismanagement. It has a dismal safety record. Amtrak needs the operating discipline that Mr. Moorman lived by during his 45-year career at Norfolk and one of its predecessors, the Southern Railway.

Moreover, Amtrak’s service has declined to some extent, especially on some long-distance trains. Food quality often falls short, and dining cars have even been eliminated from the Silver Star, which connects Baltimore with Florida. The prices of bedrooms on its sister train, the Silver Meteor, have been jacked up so high even travelers on expense accounts cannot afford them. Mr. Moorman knows the importance of good service and is qualified to fix such problems.

Mr. Moorman understands finance and is the ideal choice for the task of raising the billions that will be needed to build two new tubes under the Hudson River to replace a storm-damaged tunnel that was built a century ago. He must oversee a multi-billion-dollar project to turn the Northeast Corridor into a 180-mile-per-hour high-speed line. Moreover Amtrak needs annual funding to cover its operating deficits and to provide capital for upgrading tracks and trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

Simultaneously he must deal with the freight railroads that carry Amtrak trains on their systems. The relationship between Amtrak and those carriers has deteriorated as passenger trains have been delayed by a surge of freight traffic. He also faces the challenge of expanding Amtrak’s partnerships with the states that have enabled the railroad to expand its services. At Norfolk Southern, Mr. Moorman worked with the state of Virginia and Amtrak to bring passenger trains down his railroad’s main line from Petersburg to Norfolk. So he knows how it’s all done.

Mr. Moorman’s least recognized challenge is the need to redefine Amtrak’s role in America’s transportation system. Our highways are jammed these days. The nation’s most flagrant case is Washington, including suburban Maryland, where motorists waste an average of 82 hours a year sitting in traffic jams.

Building more roads to accommodate the traffic will not work. Studies show every new lane on a highway only attracts more vehicles.

Over 25 years ago truckers realized that any cargo going more than 300 or 400 miles should be handed over to a railroad. Similarly motorists need to take the train. Where there is good passenger service, such as on the Northeast Corridor, motorists do use Amtrak rather than drive. But elsewhere few do, largely because there is no frequent rail service available. Amtrak can fill that need with more trains.

That will require more subsidies and more capital funding. To achieve this, Amtrak will need a permanent spot on each year’s federal budget and regular annual funding from states as well. The airlines are subsidized already with government money for air traffic control and airports. Billions of public funds are spent on highways every year. Amtrak requires the same.

To obtain that status Amtrak needs to launch a carefully orchestrated campaign to make the public and our political leaders aware of the critical role it can play unclogging our highways. In the long term this will be even more important to Amtrak than creating better service and establishing higher standards of operating discipline. But before Amtrak can make itself recognized as a key mover in the nation’s transport network, the quality of the company’s management must be elevated to first class. By creating a well-run railroad first, Mr. Moorman can deal with all Amtrak’s other challenges as well.

Rush Loving Jr., a former associate editor at Fortune magazine, has written about transportation for five decades. His most recent book on the railroad industry, The Well Dressed Hobo (Indiana University Press), was published this spring. His email is rushloving@earthlink.net.

Found at:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-amtrak-20160830-story.html


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Cincinnati Prepares For Streetcar Line To Open
For Service This Friday

By David Peter Alan

At this writing, Cleveland is the only city in Ohio that has any rail transit.  That situation will change this Friday, as the long-awaited streetcar line begins revenue service in Cincinnati.  Until now, the last streetcar in the Queen City of the Ohio ran in 1951.  

The new line will be 3.6 miles (5.8 km) long, and will connect downtown Cincinnati with the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood.   The route will begin at Second and Main Streets, near the Ohio River.  It will proceed on Main Street, turn left onto Central Parkway and right on Elm Street through OTR.  It will head back toward downtown on Race Street, turn left on Central Parkway (the equivalent of 11th Street) and right onto Walnut Street, going downtown.  There will be 18 stops along the line.

The line will feature modern-look streetcars made by CAF, similar to the ones that recently started running in Kansas City.  Although the cars will pass many old buildings in both neighborhoods, they will not feature a “heritage” look.  Derek Bauman is Southwest Coordinator for All Aboard Ohio, the state’s rail advocacy organization.  Bauman has been pushing for the streetcar project for several years.  He says that the modern look will demonstrate the City’s intention to expand the streetcar system in the future, rather than building a single, isolated line.

Image

Image:  From Wikipedia.  Originally posted at Flickr by 5chw4r7z

Car 1175 of the Cincinnati Streetcar system, the first CAF streetcar to be delivered, being towed along the line during initial testing. The location is on Main Street immediately north of E. 4th Street. Car 1175 arrived in Cincinnati and was unloaded on October 30, 2015.  This was a non-revenue “dead pull” under test

There will be several entities involved with managing and operating the line.  The City of Cincinnati built the line and owns it.  The Southwestern Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA, known locally as “Metro”) will manage the line, and has hired Transdev to operate it.  As September began, Paul Grether, Metro’s Director of Rail Service, told this writer: “We’re very busy trying to get everything ready” and added that he was confident that the grand opening will be “a big success.”  John Deatrick, Project Executive for the City of Cincinnati agrees.  “We have a lot of interest from everywhere” he said, and added: “We’re really proud of the whole team for their accomplishments.”

Deatrick credited this model of ownership and operations for the anticipated success of the streetcar.  “It’s lean and efficient” he said.  He praised his colleagues in city government and at SORTA for their expertise and experience.  The story behind Cincinnati’s new streetcar is known around transit circles nationally.  Deatrick recently attended a workshop in New York sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and reported that the participants at the national gathering were “all extremely happy” that streetcar will soon be running in his city.

The line will run seven days a week, with headways of twelve to fifteen minutes.  The streetcar will not be free, as some in other cities are, but there will be significant fare integration with Metro buses.  The base fare for the streetcar will be $1.00, and a day pass will cost $2.00.  Grether described he streetcar fare as “like a Zone Zero in the Metro Card system.”  As is customary with “modern” streetcar lines, riders must purchase tickets from a machine at a station; there will be no on-board fare collection.  

Image

Map via Wikipedia. Map not to scale.

The Cincinnati Streetcar route.

Cincinnati celebrates its German heritage more than most other American cities.  Part of that celebration includes an affection for beer, and local breweries celebrated with a special-edition beer as each of the new cars rolled off the assembly line and onto the tracks where they now run.  

Some Cincinnatians did more than merely lift a glass of beer to the new streetcars.  Many moved into the OTR neighborhood, in eager anticipation of service on the line.  The neighborhood was founded by German immigrants (hence the name) in the 1840s, and it still features community institutions from that era, including the Music Hall (opened in 1876) and the Findlay Market (operating since 1852). It boasts one of the largest collections of Greek Revival and Italianate buildings of any neighborhood in the country, and many of those buildings are still occupied.

It was not always that way.  About ten years ago, this writer visited OTR and wished to see the Findlay Market, while being shown the city by a supervisor from Metro.  His parked his automobile near the entrance to the market and advised this writer to walk in and out quickly, because the neighborhood was so rough.  It is not rough any more.  It now hosts a young and diversified crowd, who moved there because the streetcar is coming.  The old houses from roughly 150 years ago now mix with new apartment buildings, in the Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) style.  Needless to say, the neighborhood is no longer crime-ridden.  Meanwhile, skeptics have claimed that the coming of the streetcar did not cause the development in OTR, and that it would have happened anyway.

Bauman said that, over the past several months, Cincinnatians have become excited about the new line.  “They can see the vehicles now” he told this writer, and added that the line is getting “a mainstream seal of approval.”  He said that, until recently, about 20% of the population supported the proposal to build the streetcar line, another 20% opposed it, and the other 60% were “in the middle.”  Now, he said, the other 60% are coming around.

As we reported in D:F two years ago, it required a major struggle to get approval for the streetcar.  The city’s voters rejected measures that would have killed the project, in 2009 and again in 2011, only to see construction begin in 2012 and then have City Hall shoot the project down again after the 2013 election.  Mayor John Cranley and some City Council members strongly opposed the project, and Cranley was prepared to stop it, once and for all, even though construction had already started.  He was convinced to allow construction to proceed when a report from the accounting firm KPMG said it would be almost as costly to cancel the project as to allow it to be built.  

Older Cincinnatians remember another transit project that was never completed.  Today, there is a subway tunnel under the city, built for streetcars and interurban cars in the 1920s.  It was almost completed, but today it hosts only a water pipe and very occasional tours of curiosity-seekers.  Bauman may have referred to both incidents when he told this writer: “This is a little bit of an inflection point for transit in Cincinnati, which has had a challenged transit history.”

So the streetcar will soon be off and running.  Last week, Cincinnati Bell paid $3.4 million for ten years’ naming rights, which may inspire other large businesses in the city to support the streetcar.

It seems that the concept of rail transit in Cincinnati has lost every battle over the past 90 years.  This time, it is about to win one.  It appears that many Cincinnatians are excited about a new streetcar line coming to town, while others are resigned to it.  Over-the-Rhine has come back as a neighborhood, apparently in anticipation of the streetcar.  For the first time in nearly a century, rail transit is on the rise in Cincinnati.


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ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

Old Lyme To Host Discussion
On Amtrak Bypass Proposal


By Don Stacom
Hartford Courant

Community leaders from several southeastern Connecticut communities plan to make a pitch to federal regulators on Wednesday to scuttle the proposed high-speed Amtrak bypass line.

The public will be able to attend the discussion at the Lyme-Old Lyme High School, but only the invited participants on stage will take part in the conversation.

The Federal Railroad Administration will send representatives, and the session also will include first selectmen from several communities, area state legislators and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, according to organizers.

The bypass faces widespread local opposition, and it’s not practical for the discussion to include all of the residents and community organizations who want to block it, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said.

“The FRA already held its public hearings. The FRA is concerned that with the number of people we’ll have, we would never get through the public comments,” Reemsnyder said.

Individuals or groups may suggest questions by writing to  selectmansoffice@oldlyme-ct.gov.

The auditorium holds more than 500 people, but Reemsnyder is advising that people attending arrive early to ensure getting a seat

Blumenthal said he views the session as an opportunity to show the federal railroad agency why it should abandon the idea of a high-speed rail line between Old Saybrook and Rhode Island that would run a couple of miles inland from the current shoreline route. The agency is considering the idea as one of several options to create a faster, more modern rail connection between Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

Blumenthal and most of the bypass opponents support the goal of better train service, but say routing tracks through historic villages, woodlands and marshes in and around Old Lyme would be wrong.

“We want FRA to see why this makes no sense from an economic, environmental or historic preservation standpoint,” he said.

Reemsnyder said she’d like to see the agency drop the bypass concept altogether, but at least wants to ensure that all affected communities are guaranteed a role in planning if it moves forward.

“We want a strong voice at the table,” she said.

The agency has emphasized that the bypass is just one of several options it’s considering.

By running new tracks along a relatively straight route a couple of miles inland from the coast, Amtrak would eliminate many of the twists, turns and water crossings that slow the Acela along the shoreline route.

Not all southeastern Connecticut communities are fighting the proposal. In testimony to the federal agency this winter, Groton economic development manager Paige Bronk said his community supports the idea, especially if the existing shoreline route would stay in place. That would free up track capacity for better local service for commuters working at Electric Boat, Pfizer and the Navy’s submarine base, he said.

Found at:
http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-old-lyme-amtrak-controversy-0829-20160828-story.html


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

Feds Have Reservations About MBTA Green
Line, But Encourage State To Move Forward

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

The Federal Transit Administration remains “committed in principle” to funding the Green Line light rail extension into Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts, but made clear it still has reservations about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) embattled project, according to a letter obtained by the Globe.

In a letter sent last week to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, FTA regional administrator Mary Beth Mello said the federal agency still needs a “good deal of clarifying information” before signing off on the project and handing over nearly $1 billion in federal funding.

“Your project schedule is mechanically sound, but optimistic — any delays in your schedule would most likely result in additional costs to the project,” she wrote.

The Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford was imperiled last year by dramatically increased cost estimates that threatened the entire project after the MBTA rushed through the work, designed expensive and elaborate stations, and failed to catch the rapidly rising costs.

The project is still in a state of limbo, even after the transportation boards overseeing the project voted in May to move forward with the 4.7-mile extension. The Department of Transportation’s board and the MBTA’s fiscal control board made clear that they could yank approval if the T can’t find more funding for the project, the FTA refuses to provide federal funds, or the agency can’t hire and train dozens of employees in a new contracting method to work on the extension.

The T significantly slimmed down aspects of the project, which earned an initial approval from the FTA. Now, MBTA officials are waiting for the FTA to fully approve the new version so that they can secure nearly $1 billion in federal funding.

In her letter, Mello said that the proposed scope is consistent with what the FTA had agreed to fund, and the cost estimates were complete, well-documented, and conservative. But she said federal officials did not have all the information needed for a complete view of the risks associated with the project.

Despite the reservations, Mello said the MBTA should continue moving forward by hiring a permanent managerial team, among other steps — but the T would need to use its own money, since the FTA cannot yet commit to contributing its own funding.

Joe Pesaturo, a T spokesman, said the state appreciated the FTA’s recognition of the agency’s work.

“Meanwhile, we will continue to remain focused on improvements to the core system and spending money to address the state of good repair backlog, long-term infrastructure needs, and winter resiliency upgrades,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Originally appearing at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/08/29/feds-make-reservations-clear-about-green-line-extension-but-encourage-moving-forward/wSL6e0aIeqGGpNJSWmjszO/story.html


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MTA Teams Up With City DOTs.
Which Transit Agency Will Join Next?

By Ben Fried
Streetsblog NYC

Last week, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City joined the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the federation of local DOTs whose policy guidance and street design manuals are popularizing a more multi-modal approach to urban transportation policy.

Until now, NACTO members have all been city agencies in charge of streets. While some members also operate transit (most notably SFMTA), New York’s MTA is the first “transit-only” agency to join.

If more transit agencies follow the MTA’s lead, this could be an important precedent with big implications for city streets and transit across the country — here’s why.

Teamwork between streets agencies and transit agencies matters.

This is the angle NACTO emphasized in its announcement. Most city transit service in America runs on streets, and, as former NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan put it, “transit must be designed into the street from the centerline to the sidewalk, not tacked on as an afterthought.” To implement service improvements like transit lanes, better bus stops, or signal priority for transit vehicles, DOTs and transit agencies need to collaborate.

Transit agencies need to share expertise. NACTO excels at that.

NACTO’s bread and butter is sharing good ideas and helping them spread. Applied to streets, that’s come in the form of training, policy guidance, and design manuals about how to make transportation systems more multimodal. More cities are overhauling streets to create safe conditions for walking and biking thanks to NACTO. If other transit agencies follow the MTA and join, the same tactics could accelerate changes that significantly improve service, like redesigning bus networks or procuring modern fare payment systems.

A new type of political muscle for transit.

There’s already a transit industry trade group that could be an evangelist for best practices — the American Public Transit Association. But APTA, with its emphasis on federal lobbying, isn’t filling that role. Nor has it made much headway wringing additional funds out of Congress, which is, increasingly, like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

The MTA withdrew from APTA in May. In a post about that development, TransitCenter called for the transit industry to rethink its approach to advocacy and refocus on the debates “in city halls and state capitols,” where its influence could actually tip some scales.

In many ways, NACTO is better suited for that type of advocacy than APTA. Unlike APTA, which is structured to exert influence in Washington, NACTO is structured to distribute expertise between cities. And unlike APTA, NACTO has not spent the last few decades speaking with the same voice as road builders, trying to hang on to a share of the federal transportation funding pie.

Now that the MTA, the largest transit agency in the nation, has landed at NACTO, NACTO might become the new center of gravity for the transit industry’s political operations. This is still speculative, but the prospect is intriguing, to say the least. Instead of aligning their political efforts with highway departments that build sprawl infrastructure and sap places of the qualities that enable transit to thrive, transit agencies might align more tightly with cities, whose success is inextricable from their own.

From an item at:
http://www.streetsblog.org/2016/08/30/mta-teams-up-with-city-dots-which-transit-agency-will-join-next/


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Dallas Streetcar Phase 2 Opens

By Dan Templeton
International Railway Journal

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) opened a 1.5km (~1 mile) second phase of its Dallas Streetcar line on August 29, reaching Bishop Arts District via Zang Boulevard at 6th Street and a stop between Davis and 7th streets (Bishop Arts).

The free tram still runs between 09:30 AM and 12 midnight seven days a week, with frequency improving to every 20 minutes along the entire Dallas Streetcar line, which now runs for 3.9km (~2.4 mi) from Union Station to Bishop Arts and has six stops.

Image

Image via IRJ

Officials cut the ribbon to open the line

The extension was celebrated with a Dallas Streetcar Community Block Party on 7th Street between Madison and Bishop Avenues on August 27.

The first phase from Union Station to Dallas Methodist Medical Center opened in April 2015.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/light-rail/dallas-streetcar-phase-2-opens.html


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– And Also In Dallas –

 

DART’s Cotton Belt Rail Corridor Project
To Be ‘Accelerated’

By Mike Albanese
Carrollton Leader

With an estimated budget nearing $1 billion, Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) plan for the Cotton Belt Rail Corridor may slowly, but surely, becoming a reality.

Stephen Salin, vice president of capital projects for DART, presented the plans Tuesday in Carrollton for the long-awaited project.

The project, which has an estimated budget of $994 million, dates back to 1983-84.

Salin said DART’s 2016 financial plan anticipated completion in 2035. However, Salin said, DART is secure in its stance that 2022 is the new target date.

“The [chief financial officer] has sworn we can do this,” he said.

The rail would be the sole true east-to-west transit corridor across the Metroplex, connecting Plano to Carrollton and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

It is projected the rail will connect DART’s Green, Orange and Red lines.

Salin, who has been with DART since 1993, said DART owns land along the corridor all the way from Wylie into Fort Worth.

Salin said the Cotton Belt Corridor spans 26 miles from Shiloh Road in Plano to D/FW Airport’s Terminal B. Last year DART opened an extension of the Orange Line to Terminal A.

Other stops along the Cotton Belt Corridor would include downtown Carrollton, the Addison Transit Center and possibly the Cypress Waters development in Dallas.

There is also a potential stop – DFW North – that could connect DART with the Tex-Rail in Fort Worth, Salin said.

“Some stations may come, some stations may go,” he said.

A potential spot along Preston Road is included in a preliminary map but may not happen, Salin said. Other stations in north Dallas, such as Renner Village and Knoll Trail, were requested by the city of Dallas but may be “impossible” to build because of water flow and pump stations, Salin said.

Salin said DART is estimating the corridor could have 16,000 passengers daily.

“Service in this corridor is only going to grow over time,” he said.

Many in attendance, including Addison Mayor Todd Meier, voiced strong support for the project – one that many cities have paid money into for years.

Meier said Addison, along with Carrollton, joined 11 other cities in 1983 to form DART.

“It was really a dream,” he said.

Meier, however, said DART has been “missing a critical link,” and that link is the east-to-west transit.

“It makes the whole system more effective and efficient,” Meier said.

Meier said Addison had paid $260 million to DART since 1983 and $1 million annually, and “we’ve been very patient.”

Originally seen at:
http://starlocalmedia.com/carrolltonleader/dart-s-cotton-belt-rail-corridor-project-to-be-accelerated/article_03649a38-7081-11e6-84c1-dfa5b74a356c.html


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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Amtrak-Alstom Deal Signed

By Jason Jordan
The Evening Tribune, Hornell, NY

We’ll believe it when we see it,” is a common skeptical attitude of many observers who are waiting for news about the $2.5 billion contract between Amtrak and Hornell Alstom.

The contract would see Alstom build 28 Acela Express high-speed train sets to serve the Northeast corridor routes from Boston to Washington, D.C. The contract is expected to add some 400 jobs at the Alstom plant.

On Tuesday, sources with knowledge of negotiations revealed that signatures have been applied to contracts, making the deal official.

“The notice to proceed was issued and the funds have been transferred from escrow to Amtrak. The deal is signed,” said a source who wished to remain anonymous.

In effect, money borrowed from the federal government for the project has been released to Amtrak to execute the contract.

A few weeks ago, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who has taken a lead role in pushing the initiative forward, told The Evening Tribune one step remained in the process.

“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,” he said.

On Tuesday, Schumer celebrated word that the parties had reportedly signed on the dotted line and made their partnership official.

"We've reached the final destination on this long, successful journey and will soon unload billions of dollars of investment and hundreds of good-paying jobs in Upstate New York. Not only does this contract write a new chapter for the Southern Tier, it also means Amtrak? is investing in safer, faster and modern trains for its customers. Soon enough these New York-made Acela trains will be zipping along the North East Corridor and as a regular customer I can't wait for my first ride,” Schumer said.

The work at the Hornell plant is expected to begin bringing trains online in three years, replacing trains that are now reaching 20 years old.

Image

Photo:  John Levai

An Amtrak Acela Expresss with power unit 2022 at the lead passes through the stattion at Attleboro, MA on the Nrtheast Corridor.  In the background is the old New Haven Railroad Depot. In about five years, the current Acela sets are going to be replaced by a brand new design.

Alstom was named Amtrak’s preferred vendor back in September by its board of directors. Since then the contract has reportedly been tied up in the bureaucratic process as one proposed deadline to wrap up negotiations after another passed.

Business between the two companies was conducted in hushed tones, each side citing federal regulations regarding procurement. That condition did not change with Tuesday’s news. Amtrak remained largely mum on the details of progress.

“Amtrak continues its progress to acquire new equipment for our Acela Express service. We will have more details in the coming weeks," Amtrak said in a statement.

Alstom also declined to issue an on-the-record statement confirming or denying that the contract has been signed.

“We are still involved in an ongoing procurement,” said Pete Barkey, North American Communications director for Alstom.

Originally appearing at:
http://www.eveningtribune.com/news/20160817/amtrak-alstom-deal-signed


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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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INTERCITY LINES... Intercity Lines...  

Hoosier State Line Turns A Profit After One Year,
But Its Future Is Still Uncertain

By Chris Morisse Vizza
niprarail.org

Results are mixed one year into a two-year partnership involving the state, Amtrak, a private contractor and communities served by the Hoosier State passenger train.

The state’s goal has been to improve the route, attract more riders and generate more revenue to make the four-times-a-week round-trip service between Indianapolis and Chicago more self-sufficient.

WBAA’s Chris Morisse Vizza assess the progress thus far, and whether it’s enough to win continued funding from Indiana legislators.

It’s 7:45 on Friday morning at the Lafayette train station and Amtrak conductor Mark Slaughter is helping 36 passengers board the Chicago-bound train.

The train departs about 15 minutes later than scheduled, not enough of a delay to distract riders intent on their destinations.

Sara Johnston, of Warren County, says she’s eager to spend the train ride relaxing and visiting with four classmates from Pine Village High School.

“One of the other gals got us back together several years ago and we go somewhere every year,” Johnston says. “So this year is our fiftieth and we’re going to Chicago.”

As the Lafayette passengers settle into their seats, train staff announce the answer to the most-asked question – the password to the free WIFI.

The fast internet service is a pleasant surprise, says Purdue doctoral student Tasha Zephirin – fast enough to make up for the similarly surprising lack of an electrical outlet at her seat.

“My first reaction coming in was there’s no outlet around,” Zephirin says. “So I know from the other one (train) there’s definitely outlets. But this one has more reliable WIFI, so a reasonable trade-off.”

What most riders, even occasional customers like Zephirin, often don’t realize, is this train is NOT Amtrak, whose long-distance Cardinal covers the route three days a week.

This is the Hoosier State, run by a public-private partnership that’s been in place since August second of last year.

The Indiana Department of Transportation hired private contractor Iowa Pacific Holdings to provide engines and its signature harvest brown, orange and gold passenger cars, as well as on-board services such as food, beverages and the WIFI.

Amtrak engineers and conductors are contracted to operate the train, and the state and five communities along the route foot the roughly $2.7 million annual cost.

Payments from the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette, and Tippecanoe County will total $294,000 during the current fiscal year.

During a June community celebration of the partnership, Iowa Pacific Holdings CEO Ed Ellis touted an average on-time performance of 86 percent – well better than Amtrak’s average which ranged between 60 and 65 percent.

It’s the result, Ellis says, of establishing personal relationships with Amtrak and every freight rail company along the line.

“I think, if nothing else, just that level of daily attention has caused everybody else to pay daily attention to the train and has solved the problem,” Ellis says.

Though ridership has seen an 11 percent decline in the 12 months since Iowa Pacific joined the mix, ticket revenue is up 26 percent overall.

  July saw gains in both metrics, and numbers from June of this year show the line has erased a nearly $2 million dollar yearly loss and is now turning a small profit.

Ellis attributes the financial growth to the Hoosier State’s business class, for which riders pay a premium to receive food and beverage service and a ride in the train’s dome car, with its large windows.

Coach passengers get access to a la carte food. But when Kim Garrett of Lafayette wanted food, he couldn’t get it because business passengers were occupying all of the seats in the dining car.

“They need to do the food thing a little better,” Garrett says. “I’m starving right now and I can’t eat because it’s only like four tables and I can’t eat because you can’t bring it up here.”

Another trouble spot identified by Benton County passenger Diana Marion is the confusion of buying a ticket for the Hoosier Train on the Amtrak website.

“We did go to the Amtrak website,” Marion says. “But finding ticket prices and finding times they left, and return times once you found the city you go to, was very difficult on the website. And we’re pretty web-savvy, so they need some work there.”

And while Amtrak handles ticket sales for the Hoosier State, Iowa Pacific’s on-board steward Matthew Dockham says his train’s amenities aren’t advertised as prominently as the Cardinal’s on Amtrak’s site.

“You won’t see a picture of our dome car or our place settings or anything like that on the Amtrak website,” Dockham says.

With legislators slated to develop a new two-year state budget next year, the question is: has the new operating model improved enough to convince skeptical lawmakers to continue funding the line?

Republican Representative Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), who is chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee — and an initial rail skeptic — says he decided to answer the question for himself, and rode the train August 9.

“This experience showed me there is a desire, there is interest in continuing it and growing it, and so I’m more convinced now than two years ago that it’s more appropriate to continue funding,” Brown says.

He says it’s too early to say how much will be allotted for the Hoosier State, but he expects legislators will approve a line item for passenger rail in the Indiana Department of Transportation budget.

Brown, Ellis and Greater Lafayette business leaders say financial stability for the passenger line hinges on adding more daily trains to the route, thereby increasing ridership.

But before any trains can be added, Ellis says sidings and automated signals must be added to the track, infrastructure upgrades controlled by track owner CSX and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“I think it’s obvious we need more trains, and the only way to do that is for the state to go to the freight railroads and say, ‘What does it take,’ and for the railroads to give us all a number and for us to decide if we can afford to do that,” Ellis says.

Originally appearing at:
http://niprarail.org/2016/08/hoosier-state-line-turns-a-profit-after-one-year-but-its-future-is-still-uncertain/


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FARE LINES... Fare Lines...  

MBTA’s Expanded Student Program Launches

By Olivia Quintana
Boston Globe

Starting this week, middle and high school students will be able to ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) at less than half-price.

The program, effective Sept. 1, lets students buy discounted monthly bus and subway passes even if their schools do not purchase the Student Pass for them, the state transportation department said Tuesday.

The MBTA offers two ways for students to take advantage of the reduced fares — a Student CharlieCard, which allows students to pay half-price per trip, or a monthly Student Pass, which students can buy for $30. A monthly pass typically costs $84.50.

Previously, the passes had only been available to students when their schools purchased them, officials said. But after hearing that many students did not have sufficient access to the reduced fares, the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board voted in March to expand the program.

Students will also now receive the discounted fares year-round.

“This change will increase access to opportunities for thousands of middle and high school students in the Boston region,” Fiscal and Management Control Board member Brian Lang said in a statement. “An unlimited year-round affordable T pass decreases barriers for low-income students to reach school, jobs, and community activities.”

Found at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/08/30/mbta-expanded-student-program-launches-thursday/ivn7ACjADdQPyQ3zz0pLQJ/story.html

[Editor notes:  The MBTA has also had a long-standing program to offer half-price fares for seniors and disabled people with blind users riding for free.  An additional service for those less ambulatory called “The Ride” is also available through a 3rd party contractor which provides door-to-door services on a per-ride basis.]


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

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

 

Operational Testing Starts On New Erfurt –Nuremburg High-Speed Line

New Rail Line To Cut 2 Hours Off Berlin – Munich Trips

Via Süddeutsche Zeitung, Thürngern24 And Deutsche Press Agentur

It has been 25 years in the making, but on last Wednesday the new catenary above the new rail line that is set to mark a new era for travel between Germany’s capital and its economic powerhouse went live with 15 kV AC power in the southeastern country side between Nuremburg (Nürnberg) in the German state of Bavaria and Erfurt, in the German state of Thuringia.

Image

Photo: Thüingen24 News

View along the new Nuremburg – Erfurt high-speed rail line in the later stages of construction ca. summer 2015.

The current routes for ICE high-speed trains running between Berlin and Munich vary from a quite westerly route via Stuttgart and Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, to somewhat less westerly varying route via Ingolstadt, Nuremberg, Würzburg and Wolfsburg and a more direct route via Bamberg, Jena and Halle, however along a famously hilly and curvy right of way with plenty of sharp turns and steep gradients with speed limits of only 80 – 100 km/h (50 – 60 mph) on much of that route, sections of which lie directly on the banks of the Saale river.  Travel times on the Berlin – Munich route with ICE trains were nearly 6 ½ hours back in the late 1990s before any of the new rail line sections were opened.  

But that all will soon change.  The new rail line through the Thuringian Forest has just been completed and, when it opens to the public, it will reduce the train ride between Munich and Berlin down to a little less than four hours, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports.  On last Wednesday (31st of August) the electric lines above the tracks finally went live and testing is set to begin.

The line has been a long time in the making.  First planned in 1991 as part of the “Travel Project for German Unity” - a scheme of linking up east and west German travel infrastructure after reunification - it was supposed to be finished just before the year 2000 celebrations.  But ballooning costs lead German government put it on ice in 1999 and it was only rebooted in 2006

When the final touches are put in place over the next few months, the project will have costed € 10 billion (US $12 billion) – more than double the original budget, the SZ reports.  It is quite a feat of construction though - trains will cross over 29 bridges and go through 22 tunnels.  In fact, during the roughly half hour spent on travelling along the new track, trains will be inside tunnels for ten minutes.

The opening date for the public is scheduled for December 2017. But before then there is still a lot to do. First, special test trains will drive the 107 km (66 mi) route, at first slowly and then ever faster, to check the strength of the track.  The line that it will be connected with also needs to be beefed up to include four adjacent sets of track.  The new rail line is the last of several new or upgraded high-speed rail line connections built separately between Munich and Berlin over the past 15 years, including Munich – Ingolstadt, Ingolstadt – Nuremberg, Erfurt – Halle, and Halle – Potsdam.  


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All Aboard!

Ireland’s First Luxury Sleeper Train

By Pól Ó Conghaile
Independent Newspapers - Independent.ie

The Belmond Grand Hibernian, billed as Ireland’s first luxury sleeper train, launched in Dublin, Ireland this past week.

The extravagant train includes 10 carriages, 20 en-suite cabins, two dining cars and an observation car, all refurbished by specialist outfitters.

The Grand Hibernian’s inaugural journey is a six-day ‘Grand Tour of Ireland’, with 40 passengers departing Heuston Station at 2.20pm today.

The experience is akin to “travelling in an Irish country house,” Belmond says.

Costs for the project have not been released, but prices for Grand Hibernian itineraries range from € 3,160pp for two nights, to € 5,420pp for four and € 7,722pp for six.

Predominantly aimed at the US, UK and European markets, Belmond says hundreds of bookings have already been taken for its Irish journeys.

The company also operates the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and Belmond Royal Scotsman, among other trains and luxury properties.

Belmond is paying Irish Rail to provide operational support, including haulage and stabling, it has said, with no State aid sought or given by the Irish government.

The Grand Hibernian was refurbished and fitted by 40 skilled craftsmen at specialist outfitters Mivan Marine Ltd. in Belfast over the past year.

Each of the ten midnight blue carriages are named after Irish counties - Kildare, Wexford, Sligo, Kerry, Down, Waterford, Leitrim, Fermanagh, Donegal and Carlow.

Interior designs, by James Park Associates, reflect Dublin’s Georgian architecture with inspiration taken from Ireland’s landscape, flora and fauna.

At 252 meters (~827 ft), the train is the longest in Ireland.

The six-night, ‘Grand Tour of Ireland’ itinerary covers 2,217km, with guests travelling to Cork, Killarney, Galway, Belfast and Waterford before returning to Dublin.

Excursions include Titanic Belfast, Blarney Castle, Killarney National Park, Ashford Castle and the House of Waterford Crystal. Guests will be immersed in Irish culture throughout, Belmond says, and can also play golf at famous courses along the way.

A lavish, Irish-influenced menu includes dishes such as seafood chowder, Roast Killarney Venison, Donegal Turf Smoked Salmon and Crab Cannon, Skeaghanore Duck Leg Confit and Warm Kildare Wild Elderberry and Plum Compote.

All food is regionally sourced from local producers, it says.

“As a proud Irishman, I am delighted to be part of the launch of this exciting new train showcasing authentic Irish hospitality, scenery, produce and culture,” said General Manager, JP Kavanagh, attending the launch at Heuston Station.

In 2017, Belmond’s season will run from April 25 to October 17.

For the full article including photo gallery see:
http://www.independent.ie/life/travel/travel-news/all-aboard-irelands-first-luxury-sleeper-train-launches-in-dublin-35004159.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Commentary

Do E&N Rail Service Right,
Or Call It A Day

By Greg Gormick
Times Colonist News

The Times Colonist editorial of July 29 (“Temporary Rail Service Is Dubious”) raises some valid issues regarding the proposed Vic West-Langford commuter rail service on the mothballed E&N line. However, it fails to adequately consider the railway’s long-term potential and the proven methods to realize it.

After too many years of meetings, sunny political statements and excuses all around, no real progress has been made to restore the suspended service to Courtenay. This process has been akin to the work of the mythical committee that set out to design a horse and produced a camel.

There is a case to be made for both the commuter service and restoration of the full route, but it can’t be done in half-steps. The E&N is an exhausted railway. The answer is not a patch-up, but the complete replacement of the life-expired infrastructure on an irreplaceable right-of-way.

The rolling stock is also obsolete and not worth reviving. At a cost of about $2 million per car, federally owned Via Rail Canada rebuilt three Budd rail diesel cars as part of a fleet renewal program that ran late and over budget. The diesel cars were revolutionary when the first one hit the rails in 1949, but they are now expensive holdovers from a bygone era.

Gathering dust in Ottawa are three modern self-propelled trains that would be ideal. Built in Germany by Bombardier, these three-car Talent trains served reliably on Ottawa’s O-Train commuter line for 15 years until superseded by newer equipment last year.

Alas, there is one thing no amount of money, track rehabilitation or new equipment can alter. Of the seven federal Island ridings, six are held by the NDP and none by the Liberals. Provincially, the score is 11 NDP, one independent and two Liberals. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that this political lay of the land is the real reason for the inaction is dreaming in Technicolor.

Sadly, this is a factor in the approval or disapproval of rail projects all across Canada. Attempts to get the federal and provincial governments to tackle rail problems invariably hit a brick wall when the ridings are held by the opposition parties.

If there’s a bright note in this situation, it’s that a credible freight operator is already on the line in the form of the Southern Railway of British Columbia. But no amount of professional freight expertise is going to make this side of the business succeed unless it’s underpinned with modern infrastructure and an absence of political and amateur citizen interference, no matter how well meaning.

The answer to that problem can be found in California, where numerous publicly funded rail systems are entrusted to joint-powers authorities composed of representatives from the municipalities they serve. That’s the governance model required to end the gridlock on Vancouver Island and elsewhere in Canada.

With the California approach, the feds and the province would sign the checks for their share of the costs and then vamoose, leaving the implementation and day-to-day operation to the new, locally based agency, its qualified staff and its contracted service providers. The upper levels of government would hold this single authority accountable, using the caveat that no further funds would be provided if the new authority didn’t deliver on mutually agreeable business and operating plans.

Why should all this effort and public expenditure be considered? Websites are full of data proving the economic, social and environmental payback from investment in modern rail passenger and freight systems. The latter point should be especially appealing to those in the federal and provincial governments, provided their statements endorsing the urgent need to address climate change are sincere.

More than a quarter of Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions are due to automobiles and trucks, and one of the solutions is giving travelers an all-weather alternative to driving with safe, frequent and affordable rail service. Doing it right on Vancouver Island would require a one-time capital investment of about $150 million. That’s a bit more than the cost of one kilometer of Vancouver’s Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension.

The E&N is at a crossroads. Either do it right or call it a day. If the politically driven answer is the latter, then Vancouver Island will be out of step with the rest of the industrialized world. That decision should be considered carefully, but quickly.

Greg Gormick of St. Marys, Ont., is a rail consultant and government policy adviser whose clients have included Via, CP, CN and numerous public agencies and elected officials.

See more at:
http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-do-e-n-rail-service-right-or-call-it-a-day-1.2334002#sthash.eYXmUiN8.dpuf

[ Ed Note:  Our continued thanks to Greg Gormick who has been a major contributor to our “To The North” segment.]


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VIA’s Latest Report: Another Smoke Screen

Press Release From All Aboard St Marys

VIA Rail Canada’s second quarterly report of 2016, which was issued yesterday, is a disturbing attempt to convince Canadians that their publicly-owned passenger railway is on the upswing. The opposite is true.

“This is another report exemplifying what former Amtrak president and Cape Breton resident David Gunn has often pointed out,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “To quote Mr. Gunn, ‘VIA has this incredible ability to issue press releases with bands playing and flags flying – as they retreat. I always marvel at it.’

“We, too, marvel at it. This latest smoke screen by VIA is a perfect example of that public relations technique identified by Mr. Gunn.”

The VIA release covering its latest quarterly results is available at:
http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/media-room/latest-news/209805/31-august-2016-more-canadians-choosing-smarter-way-to-t

The VIA quarterly report is available in full at:
http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/governance-and-reports/quarterly-reports

Says West, “The emphasis is on allegedly spectacular increases in ridership and revenues, which are a paltry 2.9% and 7.0%, respectively. This indicates ridership is not rising significantly, but VIA’s excessive fares are squeezing travelers for more money without improving or expanding service. This is an issue covered in an open letter to VIA’s CEO from Senator Bob Runciman.”

Senator Runciman’s letter to VIA’s CEO is available at:
http://www.bobrunciman.com/images/sitepicts/Runciman%20letter%20to%20Via%20Rail.pdf

The response from VIA’s public affairs department to the Brockville Recorder is available at:
http://www.recorder.ca/2016/08/24/improve-via-rail-service-to-brockville-senator

What All Aboard St. Marys finds most disturbing is the downplaying of certain facts and figures in the latest VIA report. VIA says it has access to additional rolling stock on a leased basis, implying this would be required to handle skyrocketing ridership. In fact, VIA’s equipment is deteriorating to the point that it may not have enough cars to continue running some of its trains and it will have to lease cars to paper over the problem.

Most discouragingly, VIA’s costs are rising and the drop is not covered by the small revenue increase. Compared to 2015, VIA’s operating costs have risen from $138.4 million to $146.1 million. Capital funding provided by the Trudeau government has fallen from $20.3 million to $17.3 million. The desperately-needed renewal of this exhausted railway has been cut back. This will only accelerate VIA’s deterioration.

“Also disturbing is the money being devoted to long-range studies,” says West. “VIA is spending $3 million for a study of new rolling stock for its Quebec-Windsor Corridor. However, there is no mention of a completion date. It is also unknown if and when VIA could put any new trains into service or their cost. Moreover, Transport Minister Marc Garneau is spending $3.3 million for his own three-year internal study of VIA’s dedicated-track concept for the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto route.

“At the same time, VIA keeps lobbying publicly for a start to construction of this unproven and unapproved scheme by the end of 2016, two years before the study is completed by the railway’s federal overseers. This is backing Minister Garneau into a corner and, in well-run private firms or government agencies, it might be viewed as a managerial over-step. We have to ask who is really running this railway.”

All Aboard St. Marys will pursue this matter through a series of Freedom of Information requests to be filed officially with VIA and Minister Garneau’s department.

For more information, please contact:

Chris West,
All Aboard St. Marys
chriswest@kwic.com
www.savevia.ca
Tel: 519 284 3310
Fax: 519 284 3160
Toll Free : 1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238


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