The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Dec. 5, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 49

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...

  Commentary…
Seniors And Persons With Disabilities:
   When You Travel, The Local Transit May
   Be Ripping You Off!
  Political Lines…
Chao Is Trump’s DOT Secretary Choice
STB Issues Final Regulations For “FAST Act”
   Provisions
Exclusive: Board Members Selected To Oversee
   Amtrak’s $24 Billion Gateway Project
  Funding Lines…
Sound Transit Moves Fast To Get Deals On Loans,
   Bonds For Big Expansion
  Expansion Lines…
New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line Remains
   On Schedule To Launch In 2018
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Restoration Lines…
Is The Gulf Coast Closer To Getting Amtrak Back?
  Safety Lines…
FRA: Railroads’ PTC Progress Is ‘Uneven’
  Across The Pond…
Deutsche Bahn To Bring Wi-Fi To Regional
   And Commuter Trains
London Underground Receives Final S-Stock Train
CRRC In Talks To Acquire Skoda Transportation
  To The North…
Search For New VIA Rail Chairperson Holds
   Promise Of Real And Long-Overdue Change
Collenette, Gunn Urged To Apply For
   VIA Board Posts
  Off The Main Line…
A Connected America
  Publication Notes …


COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Seniors And Persons With Disabilities:
When You Travel, The Local Transit
May Be Ripping You Off!

By David Peter Alan

The right to travel is fundamental in the United States, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  So is the right to be treated like everybody else in a similar situation, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  However, if you are a senior or a person with a disability and you travel, the local transit at your destination may be charging you a higher fare than is allowed by law.

That does not happen to individuals whose disabilities are sufficiently severe that they cannot use fixed-route “regular” transit.  These are the persons who use specially-designed vans that accommodate wheelchairs and that have specially-trained drivers who are familiar with the mobility needs of disabled persons.  Riders who have the benefit of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) are eligible to use paratransit, whether they do so at home or traveling.  Section 37.127(c) of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) states: “Each public entity shall treat as eligible for its complementary paratransit service all visitors who present documentation that they are ADA paratransit eligible under the criteria of §37.125 of [Part 37], in the jurisdiction in which they reside.”  The term “complimentary paratransit” refers to paratransit service that operates along the routes of scheduled fixed-route services. It does not mean that riders are not required to pay a fare.

Persons with disabilities who are not registered for paratransit service with their home transit provider can still be accommodated as visitors if they can document their disability, or if their disability is apparent.  This accommodation for visitors is good for 21 days in any 365-day period (§37.127(a)).

Similarly, the federal transportation statutes allow seniors and persons with disabilities who can use conventional fixed-route transit to travel for half-fare outside of peak-commuting hours. Section 5307 of Title 49 of the United States Code (USC) covers Urbanized Area Formula Grants for transit facilities.  A provision of that title, §5307(c)(1)(D) requires that grant recipients allow reduced fares at non-peak hours on facilities funded by these grants, which typically come from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) or elsewhere within the Department of Transportation (DOT).  The reduced fare may not be more than half of the peak-hour fare.  It is available for any senior, person with a disability as defined in the statute, or an “individual presenting a Medicare card issued to that individual”: §5307(c)(1)(D)(iii).  Section 5310 specifically refers to grants which improve mobility for seniors and persons with disabilities, and it contains similar language mandating reduced fares: §5310(e)(1).  

Section 5311, which covers grants for transportation in rural areas and for small starts, does not have a comparable provision.  Accordingly “community transportation” providers do not customarily offer half-fare for seniors and persons with disabilities.  Fixed-route, urban-style transit providers are required to do so, however.

So it would stand to reason that, like severely disabled riders, seniors or persons with less-severe disabilities would also be permitted the privilege of riding local transit at half-fare, at least for 21 days during a continuous year.  In actuality, they cannot in many cities.  The language in the statute does not permit a transit provider to deny “senior fares” to visiting seniors, any more than they are allowed to deny paratransit service to persons who have qualified for it elsewhere and are visiting that provider’s territory.  Yet, that is precisely what many transit providers do.

The statute says that a Medicare card is sufficient as “senior ID” for proof that a person is 65 years of age or older.  Since Medicare cards do not have a picture on them, transit providers (through bus drivers and fare inspectors on light-rail lines) often ask for a “picture ID”; a reasonable requirement, as long as they accept one from outside their local territory.  In some places, including New York City, New Jersey, New Orleans, the Dallas area and Portland, Oregon, they do.  Visiting seniors or persons with disabilities are welcome, and they receive the reduced fare that is supposed to be a privilege or age of disabled status.

Other transit providers are far less-welcoming to such visitors.  Many require any rider who wants to ride for reduced fare to appear at a central office and register for that provider’s own “reduced fare card”; typically a stored-value card, which deducts a fare from a cash reserve at each boarding.  Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and St. Louis are among the cities where that requirement is imposed, despite the legal requirement that they accept a Medicare card as proof of eligibility for “senior” fare.  This practice is also implemented on some bus-only systems, too.  Wichita, Kansas and Omaha, Nebraska are among them.  “Local seniors” in Jacksonville, Florida are purportedly allowed to ride free on Jacksonville Transit Authority (JTA) buses.  Until recently, a Medicare card was sufficient proof-of-age for the free ride.  Now, JTA has a proprietary “smart card” and does not allow seniors who do not possess one to ride even for half-fare.  They are required to pay the full fare for “adults” under age 65.

Some transit providers use tricks to make it more difficult, or even impossible, for a non-resident to ride for a reduced fare.  It always takes a trip to a central registration office and an amount of time there to have a picture taken and a “reduced fare card” made for the applicant.  Typically, the process requires slightly less than an hour; not much time for a local resident who will use the card frequently, but a long time for a visitor who wants to exercise his or her legal right to ride for a reduced fare.  Of course, the “visiting senior” must pay the “under 65” fare to get to that central registration office.  Visitors who arrive in town on a week-end are also out of luck until the registration office (typically at transit headquarters or a downtown transit center) opens on Monday morning.

Some transit providers make it especially difficult for visitors.  On Miami-Dade Transit and Tri-Rail trains in South Florida, fare machines will not even sell a ticket to a senior who does not possess a local “smart card”; the card is required to allow a reduced-fare sale.  In Chicago, their proprietary reduced-fare card is only available through an application made in advance.  The transit authority takes applications at central registration offices and then mails the card to the applicant’s home address.  In short, a visitor to the Windy City can never take a reduced-fare ride on the CTA or other transit in the area during that visit.  The most novel is the method that the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) uses to ensure that only local residents enjoy the benefit of a “senior fare” on their trains between Philadelphia and South Jersey.  Their fare is very low; only 70ĸ per ride.  It can only be purchased from their fare machines in $20.00 increments, so that fare is only available in essentially a block of 28 rides.  Some seniors who are local residents do not even ride frequently enough to take advantage of the “senior fare” on PATCO.

So what is the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) doing about transit providers who refuse to allow visiting seniors and persons with disabilities to enjoy the fare that the law purports to allow for them?  The answer is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  The FTA does not consider this practice to constitute a civil rights violation, even though many senior and disabled transit riders have low incomes and should be protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  An FTA official told this writer last year that transit providers could enforce their own rules about who can ride for reduced fares, and the FTA does not object, as long as at least one central registration office is accessible on transit.

To this writer, it appears that the FTA is derelict in its duty to defend transit riders who attempt to use the benefit conferred on them by the appropriate provisions of Sections 5307 and 5310 of the federal transportation code.  It is time for our elected leaders and the courts, who presumably care that statutes are enforced and people get their rights, to enforce that rule and stop transit providers from interfering with seniors and persons with disabilities who wish for the reduced fares they deserve.

The statute does not expressly give transit providers the authority to deny visiting seniors or persons with disabilities the benefit of the reduced fare.  There is no reasonable interpretation of it that would allow these transit providers to force seniors to pay “full fare” if they do not live in town, but many of them do it all the time.  The statute was written to confer a benefit on seniors and persons with disabilities; two classes of people whose incomes are often lower than average.  The reduced-fare provisions are remedial, designed to make those people’s lives easier.  It is a basic principle of statutory construction that remedial statutes are interpreted as broadly as possible, so people’s benefits are not restricted.  The FTA is missing the mark by allowing transit providers to narrow the reduced-fare benefit for the people who are supposed to have it.

It is also a basic principle of administrative law that there must be a rational basis for administrative agencies to treat similar classes of people differently.  Persons whose disabilities force them to use paratransit are allowed to use it outside their home areas as “visitors” under the statute.  People who have attained the age of 65, or whose disabilities are not that severe, are not.  Frankly, it is difficult to believe that such a disparity makes any rational sense.  

Some transit properties are more generous to seniors than the statute requires.  New Jersey Transit starts senior fares at age 62, and some start at age 60.  In some cities, reduced fares are available at all times, not only at off-peak hours.  In New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas and some other places, reduced fares are less than half the “under 65” fare.  In Pennsylvania and certain cities in Florida, seniors ride free.   

Maybe transit providers who are more generous than the statute requires can place additional restrictions on seniors or persons with disabilities who wish to take advantage of the full measure of that generosity.  Still, the statutes call for seniors (implied age 65 or over) and persons with disabilities to ride for half fare during non-peak hours.  That includes anybody who has a Medicare card, not only residents who have a “local” pre-paid fare card or transit ID.

Fixing this problem will take effort; perhaps a court challenge, or elected leaders with the political will to push the FTA toward requiring that transit providers follow the law, rather than subject visiting riders to unlawful regulations and restrictions.  

If riding transit for half-fare is a privilege for seniors and persons with disabilities, they should have it wherever they go and not only at home. In addition, they should not be confronted with burdensome rules, regulations and procedures to get it.

The author practices law in New Jersey.  The opinions expressed are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or organization.  This article is written for educational purposes only, and is not intended to constitute a “legal opinion” of the type an attorney customarily renders to a client.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Chao Is Trump’s DOT Secretary Choice

By William C. Vantuono
Railway Age

President-elect Donald Trump has named Elaine Chao as his choice for U.S. Transportation Secretary. Chao is a former Deputy Transportation Secretary and a former Labor Secretary, and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) since 1993.

Chao served as Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush from 2001 through 2009, the longest tenure in the position since World War II and the only Bush Cabinet member to serve all eight years of his Presidency. She was also the first Asian-American woman to serve in a Cabinet position. According to The New York Times, “While enjoying the praise and admiration of her colleagues, she also invited scorn from organized labor, whose leaders accused her of being too cozy with business interests.”

ImageFile Image Via Railway Age

Elaine Chao
Chao also served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1991. In 1986, she became Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration. From 1988 to 1989, she served as chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

After she left the Bush Administration in 2009, Chao “remained quietly active in politics,” said The Times. “She has always been a close and, by many accounts, savvy adviser to her husband, immersing herself in even the most minute details of his campaigns, like who had donated and who had not.” Chao is a Distinguished Fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, whose retired economist Ron Utt is a member of Trump’s transition team, advising him on transportation. Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner describes Utt as a person “among whose favorite piņatas was Amtrak public subsidies.”

At DOT, Chao would have a principal role in helping Trump get an infrastructure spending bill passed through Congress and start government-backed projects, “a role likely to be complicated by her relationship with McConnell, who will also be a critical player in any infrastructure bill negotiations,” according to a CNN report. She wouldn’t be the first Transportation Secretary with such a conflict. Elizabeth Dole served as DOT Secretary in the Reagan Administration from 1983 to 1987 while married to Sen. Bob Dole, Majority Leader from 1985-1987.

“The nation’s rail industry welcomes the President-elect’s selection and looks forward to working with Ms. Chao on the many critical surface transportation issues key to U.S. economic growth and prosperity,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ed Hamberger. “We know based on her prior tenure at the Department of Transportation that she has a full appreciation of the vital role freight and passenger rail play in America. On behalf of the AAR and member railroads, we congratulate Ms. Chao.”

Chao was born in Taiwan, and moved to the U.S. as a child. She is the eldest of six daughters. Her parents are Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, a historian, and Dr. James S.C. Chao, who began his career as a merchant mariner and later founded Foremost Shipping, a successful shipping company in New York.

In January 2015, Chao resigned from the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which she had joined in 2015, reportedly because of its plans to significantly increase support for the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” initiative, a campaign to promote renewable energy. Beyond Coal has received at least $80 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies. According to the Capitol Hill newsletter Politico, early in the George W. Bush Administration, an energy task force convened by Vice President Dick Cheney advocated the construction of 200 new U.S. coal plants. The Beyond Coal campaign prevented 170 of the 200 plants from being built.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/regulatory/chao-trumps-dot-secretary-choice.html


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STB Issues Final Regulations For
“FAST Act” Provisions

From Railway Age

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) on November 29 issued a final rule implementing passenger rail-related dispute resolution provisions of Title XI of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (“FAST Act”), Pub. L. No. 114-94.

The STB says “the FAST Act clarified and augmented the Board’s existing adjudicatory responsibilities related to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (“Amtrak”). Specific FAST Act provisions address STB adjudication of disputes regarding Amtrak cost recovery for its operation of state-supported routes, and costs allocated to states in their use of rail facilities for commuter rail operations within the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston Northeast Corridor. The FAST Act requires the Board to establish procedures for resolving such disputes, which may include the provision of professional mediation services. The Board’s final rule implements these provisions.”

The final rule can be read in full on the STB’s website at:   https://www.stb.gov/decisions/readingroom.nsf/WebDecisionID/45545?OpenDocument

From an article appearing at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/regulatory/stb-issues-final-regulations-for-fast-act%E2%80%9D-provisions.html


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Exclusive: Board Members Selected To Oversee
Amtrak’s $24 Billion Gateway Project

By Hilary Russ
Editing By Daniel Bases And Steve Orlofsky
Reuters

The government corporation charged with overseeing Amtrak’s $24 billion Gateway rail project between New York and New Jersey has filled out its governing board, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The Gateway project, one of the most important and urgent rail projects in the United States, calls for the construction of a new train tunnel and the repair of the existing, century-old between the two states, which officials have said could become unusable within the next decade.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Amtrak board Chairman Anthony Coscia will serve on the newly established oversight body, called the Gateway Program Development Corporation, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

The corporation will also include two Port Authority of New York and New Jersey board members: Vice Chairman Steven Cohen, nominated to the Port Authority by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Richard Bagger, selected for the authority by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the source said.

The Port Authority officially approved the formation of the corporation earlier this month. It is being led by director John Porcari, an executive at consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.

For the full developing story see:
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-transportation-amtrak-gateway-project-idUSKBN13P2TL?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Sound Transit Moves Fast To Get Deals On Loans,
Bonds For Big Expansion

Sound Transit Is Making Deals For $2.9 Billion In Federal Loans,
Bond Sales And Grants While Money Is Cheap.

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times

Sound Transit is rapidly moving to nail down a total $2.9 billion worth of bond sales, federal grants and easy credit this winter, to launch the huge rail-expansion plan that voters just approved.

The deals would go a long way toward making the 25-year program known as “ST3” recession-proof, in terms of lowering the risk of a project being delayed, Chief Financial Officer Brian McCartan noted in a loan application.

McCartan is intent on avoiding what happened during the last economic slowdown that began in 2008, when the agency indefinitely postponed a track extension to Star Lake in north Federal Way.

Interest rates have been historically low at just under 4 percent, but have creeping up since Nov. 1, raising “a significant risk to the agency’s cost of capital,” he told the transit board.

Board members will vote Tuesday on two credit deals, along with local tax increases to begin Jan. 1 at a cost of around $326 yearly per median household.

They are wasting not even a single day, since Tuesday is when the Nov. 8 vote counts are to be certified by the state.

“Whenever Sound Transit can avail itself of cheaper credit, it means more taxpayer money is going into delivering projects and service, and less is going toward interest cost,” CEO Peter Rogoff said.

In fact, just one of the maneuvers — a $1.99 billion line of federal credit for rail construction at 3.1 percent — would save the agency and local taxpayers the equivalent of $200 million to $300 million in future construction projects, the agency has estimated.

However, Rogoff doesn’t expect the deal to significantly speed the opening of new stations, to arrive in waves from 2024 to 2041. Debates over exact route alignments as well as work on engineering, permits and construction work all play equal or greater roles in the timing.

Besides cash flow, Tuesday’s votes would boost Sound Transit’s immunity against any future tampering by legislators or a Tim Eyman anti-tax initiative.

That’s because the bond and loan contracts contain a legally binding promise to collect the full tax amounts, until investors get fully repaid.

Rogoff wants the forms completed this year, despite his belief that President-elect Donald Trump, who has included transit in his remarks about U.S. infrastructure, will sustain what have been bipartisan Federal Transit Administration (FTA) aid programs.

“We would like to have all this done before the change of administrations, but I wouldn’t call it a race,” said Rogoff, a former FTA chief. “I call it completing what we started.”

Issues to be discussed Tuesday:

Four Loans

The day after the election, FTA invited Sound Transit to borrow $1.99 billion at 3.1 percent for four projects — including the late addition of the ST3 line from Angle Lake to Federal Way, which was on the ballot this month.

The four projects are: the University-to-Northgate light-rail line now under construction to open in 2021, the Northgate-to-Lynnwood line scheduled for 2023, the Federal Way line in 2024 and a Bellevue train-maintenance base.

Bond Sales

McCartan is asking the board to approve a $400 million bond sale. The Federal Reserve Board is likely to increase interest rates “relatively soon,” Chairwoman Janet Yellen testified this month, and private financiers anticipate a quarter-point boost in mid-December.

Federal Way Grant

The agency will complete a federal grant application this winter seeking $499 million toward the $1.9 billion Federal Way extension, estimated to serve 36,500 passengers a day.

Tax Hike

The just-passed $54 billion ST3 plan, to build eight light-rail extensions, two more commuter-train stations, and suburban bus-rapid transit lines, includes higher property, sales and car-tab taxes to supply half the total. These apply to 2.8 million people in urban parts of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

From an article at:
http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/transportation/sound-transit-moves-fast-to-get-deals-on-loans-bonds-for-big-expansion/


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line Remains
On Schedule To Launch In 2018

By Cindy Riley
Construction Equipment Guide

In a move to dramatically increase passenger rail service, work continues in Connecticut on the CTrail Hartford Line. Scheduled to launch in January 2018, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail program is taking advantage of a state-of-the-art track construction machine (TCM), which is currently being used to double-track portions of the line.

Image

Photo:   Connecticut Department of Transportation

The rail program is taking advantage of a state-of-the-art track construction machine (TCM), which is currently being used to double-track portions of the line.

“The TCM is the main component of a moving assembly line designed to install rails and ties in one efficient operation,” said assistant CTDOT rail administrator John Bernick. “Prior to start of the operation, train cars carrying fifty, 1,600-foot long rails were off-loaded and laid end-to-end on either side of the rail bed. Fifteen tie cars, each carrying 176 concrete railroad ties weighing over 800 pounds each, are towed behind the TCM.”

“A mobile gantry runs back and forth along the tie cars picking up ties in bundles of eight and feeding them into the TCM via a conveyor system. While pulled along the rail bed by a bulldozer, the TCM uniformly lays the ties onto the ballast at predetermined spacing and simultaneously threads the rails onto the ties. A clipping machine attaches the rail clips to hold the completed track assembly together. The machine can assemble up to 1,000 ft. (304.8 m) of track per hour in ideal conditions, at roughly one mile of track per day.”

Prior to the use of the TCM, it would have taken months to complete the work, using either track panels, which require offsite assembly and transportation to the site, or manual installation through the use of other, more traditional track construction equipment. Amtrak contracted with Harsco Corporation to secure the equipment and staff to perform this operation. The massive TCM was moved from its previous job on the Hudson Line in New York via freight service to the job site in Connecticut.

For the full article and additional images see:
http://www.constructionequipmentguide.com/new-haven-hartford-springfield-line-remains-on-schedule-to-launch-in-2018/31570


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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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RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Is The Gulf Coast Closer To Getting Amtrak Back?

By Dave Dunwoody
WUWF - National Public Radio

Almost a year after a rally in Pensacola, a resumption of passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast remains on the table, with some progress reported.

Amtrak’s “Inspection Train” pulled into the Pensacola depot last February, originating from New Orleans with stops along the Panhandle before ending in Jacksonville. Along with a host of VIPs, officials with Amtrak and CSX were aboard, checking both the infrastructure and the public’s desire to resume service which was ended by Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago.

“If nothing else, it showed there’s a lot of grassroots interest and support in passenger rail on the Gulf Coast,” said Greg White, Chairman of the Southern Rail Commission. The same week as the inspection train, they kicked off the Gulf Coast Working Group as mandated by Congress.

The group, representing Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, has been meeting each month since, and has received studies from Amtrak and CSX on infrastructure needs. But in all candor, White says the CSX study appears to be “excessive.”

“Some of the things that they included in their modeling were a growth factor for the next 25 years and what traffic on the route would look like then,” White said. “With the suggestion that we build today for what that may be. And I’m not sure that any of us can see our way clearly to do that.”

Besides Amtrak and CSX, other stakeholders along the Gulf Coast include the Federal Railroad Administration and West Florida Regional Planning Council, where Vikki Garrett is a transportation planner. A cost estimate for the upgrades is not yet available, but she says the estimate will cover a large portion of the Florida Panhandle.

“We do not have signalization through much of the Panhandle, as well as the train control measures,” Garrett said. “With the expressed support of the return of passenger rail service, we would hope to be able to find some funding for those necessary improvements.”

Pensacola’s depot, tracks and other infrastructure were not touched by Katrina. Garrett says that, along with the city’s 457-year history, are the city’s two major advantages.

“All across the Gulf Coast a lot of the existing depots and infrastructure, at a minimum, will help us get the service back up and running,” said Garrett. “And I think once that happens, you’re going to find the cities investing more with upgrades to their train depots, and of course the economic development.”

The project does have a friend in court, so to speak. Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior U.S. Senator, is a ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It will review the final report from the Gulf Coast Rail Service Working Group.

This article and an audio clip is available at:
http://wuwf.org/post/gulf-coast-closer-getting-back-amtrak


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

FRA: Railroads’ PTC Progress Is ‘Uneven’

From Progressive Railroading

The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) latest report on the status of positive train control (PTC) implementation shows “uneven progress” across the country and railroads toward activating the safety technology, the agency announced yesterday.

PTC is now active on 17 percent of freight railroad tracks as of third-quarter 2016, up from 9 percent in the second quarter. Passenger railroads increased their percentage to 23 percent in the third quarter, up from 22 percent in the second quarter, according to an FRA press release.

The most measurable progress made by passenger railroads has been predominantly on the West Coast, while East Coast railroads — other than Amtrak and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) — have been relatively stagnant, FRA officials said.

The third-quarter status update includes railroad-by-railroad quarterly data as of Sept. 30. The data include track segments completed, locomotives equipped, employees trained, radio towers installed and route miles in PTC operation.

Railroads have until Dec. 31, 2018 to implement PTC. Extensions are available under some circumstances until 2020’s end.

“In order to achieve full PTC implementation, everyone has to do their part — railroads must make implementation a priority, and Congress must make funding for commuter railroads a priority,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

The FRA provided this link to view each railroad’s PTC status.

In response to the FRA’s latest status update, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued a statement noting that the report underscores the complexities of developing, installing and testing PTC technology. Implementing PTC on 60,000 miles of freight-rail track remains a priority, with Class Is “remaining on track at having PTC fully installed by the deadline,” said AAR’s statement.

“To this point, the freight-rail industry has invested more than $7.1 billion on this complex technology, spending $100 million a month on continuous development, testing and installation, with final costs expected to reach about $10.6 billion by the time it is fully operational,” AAR said.

From an item found at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/ptc/news/FRA-Railroads-PTC-progress-is-uneven--50152


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

Deutsche Bahn To Bring Wi-Fi
To Regional And Commuter Trains

Passengers Can Soon Surf The Internet With Wireless Broadband
While They Also Surf The Rails.

Via Telecompaper Online Magazine

Deutsche Bahn has announced plans to add free Wi-Fi service in regional passenger trains from 2017 onwards. To provide consistent reception while travelling, the cell phone networks of Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica (branded as O2 in Germany) will be bundled into a “multi-provider system”, according to a report in the magazine Der Spiegel.  A measurement survey of 3G and LTE reception on Deutsche Bahn rail corridors conducted during summer of 2016 showed that the three cell phone network competitors combined covered 87 percent of the current rail network in Germany.  

Image

Image of a regional express train by Deutsche Bahn

WiFi on the rails – soon coming to many coming to many commute and regional trains in Germany and already available on most high speed InterCity Express trains.

Usage is likely to be limited to 200 MB of data per day per WLAN device, with an option for heavy users to pay for additional data. Certain routes are currently running a test of the service, including the Fugger-Express between Augsburg and Munich in southern Germany as well the Kiel – Lubeck – Luneburg route in northern Germany.

Deutsche Bahn previously announced plans to make free Wi-Fi available in all its ICE high speed second class (coach class) wagons in ICE trains by mid-December this year.  WLAN WiFi has been offered in the first class sections of ICE trains for several years already, mostly via T-Mobile “Hot Spots” installed in the first class cars of Deutsche Bahn ICE trains.  T-Mobile / Telekom “Hot Spots” are generally not free, one has to be a subscriber to Deutsche Telekom services or pay for a “Hot Spot” pass valid for a certain number of hours or days.  However starting in January 2017 WiFi service in DB ICE trains will become free with some restrictions.  In a related story, German streaming video provider Maxdome (similar to Net Flicks in the USA) will offer up to 50 movies via WiFi in Deutsche Bahn WiFi equipped trains beginning in 2017.  

Currently wireless internet on DB regional and commuter trains is not officially available, but some German rail lines are (mostly by chance) covered for extended distances by one or more cell phone service providers which have installed 3G and / or LTE transceivers on their cell phone towers near to these rail lines.  Reception of these broad band services is limited to passengers carrying smart phones with 3G and/or LTE capability (and not via WiFi) coming via cell phone networks independent from the rail line and train and can vary in reception quality.  Soon that will change as DB spreads on board WiFi across its regional train fleet, thus allowing owners of tablets, laptop PCs and other devises to connect to the internet inside the train.  


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London Underground Receives Final S-Stock Train

By  Dan Templeton
International Railway Journal

Transport for London (TfL) announced on November 24 it has received the last of 192 new Bombardier S-Stock trains, which were procured as part of the modernization of the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines on the London Underground (LU).

The final trains are replacing the older D-Stock District Line trains which will be fully phased out by Spring 2017. The new trains are longer and more spacious, with air-conditioned interiors and dedicated space for wheelchair users.

Image

Image via IRJ

One of the S-Stock trains on approach

The signaling and control systems across the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines will also be upgraded so that LU can run more trains. The new signaling is being provided by Thales.

The fleet is gradually being equipped with CBTC at Bombardier’s Derby plant, where the trains were built, and the upgrades are scheduled for completion in 2023, when up to 32 trains per direction per hour will operate on the sub-surface lines during peak periods.

From an item at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/metros/final-s-stock-train-delivered-to-london-underground.html


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CRRC In Talks To Acquire Skoda Transportation

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

CRRC Corporation confirmed in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on November 28 that its CRRC Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive subsidiary has entered negotiations regarding the potential acquisition of a 100% stake in Skoda Transportation.

The filing does not disclose the proposed price of the acquisition and no legally-binding transaction documents have been signed.

The two companies are already working together in the Chinese market for light rail vehicles, but the acquisition would give CRRC a significant presence in the European locomotive, rolling stock, and trolleybus markets.

Skoda Transportation generated revenues of Koruna 18.3bn ($US 718m) and a Koruna 588m net profit in 2015. The Czech company exports 54% of its production.

Found at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/financial/crrc-in-talks-to-acquire-skoda-transportation.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Search For New VIA Rail Chairperson Holds
Promise Of Real And Long-Overdue Change

Press Release From
All Aboard St Marys

Image

ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – The federal government has begun a search for a new chairperson for VIA Rail and that’s cause for guarded optimism by the members of All Aboard St. Marys and Transport Action Ontario.

“We’re reading this as an indication that Ottawa wants to bring about some of the high-level change VIA has long required,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “It’s our opinion that VIA has been rudderless for far too many years thanks to a board of directors appointed strictly on the basis of political patronage and not because they possessed any relevant knowledge of or enthusiasm for modern rail passenger service.”

The call for applications for the position may be viewed on the government’s website at:

http://www.appointments-nominations.gc.ca/slctnPrcs.asp?menu=1&lang=eng&SelectionProcessId=E05CD4A8-81AA-4081-AC7D-B2FC5FB2E831

Tony Turrittin, president of Transport Action Ontario, adds, “We’re not naīve about how this process operates. The current directors of VIA were all appointed by a previous government on a political basis and the current government will obviously want representatives on the boards of Crown corporations and public agencies who are aligned with them politically. However, in this case that creates a golden opportunity because the man who could easily fill this role, regardless of politics, is former Liberal Minister of Transport David Collenette.”

Mr. Collenette was a Liberal MP for nearly 30 years and he served as Minister of Transport from 1997 to 2004. As both Turrittin and West point out, Mr. Collenette is a firm believer in the need for a modern Canadian national rail passenger system. He is regarded in transportation circles as the only minister since VIA’s creation in 1977 who brought about meaningful and well-considered improvements to the service.

Currently, Mr. Collenette is completing his work as the senior advisor to the Government of Ontario on a proposed Southwestern Ontario high-speed rail passenger service. Throughout this assignment, he has been open and helpful to All Aboard St. Marys, Transport Action Ontario and other groups concerned about the future of region’s rail passenger service.

As part of his work and on his own time, Mr. Collenette has travelled widely by train and seen how successful rail passenger systems are operated in other countries around the world. Furthermore, his extensive government experience would be a huge plus in enabling VIA to fully and effectively engage with those in Ottawa who ultimately control its destiny through their oversight and funding.

“An appointment such as this could truly be a turning point for rail passengers nationwide,” says West. “But this board renewal process needs to go further. As the terms of the current directors expire, they must be replaced by professionals who possess the skills and enthusiasm required to finally turn VIA around. The first person we recommend the government appoint to serve alongside Mr. Collenette is former Amtrak president and TTC chief general manager David Gunn, who is now a resident of Cape Breton. His 40 years of service in the rail and transit industries would make him a unique asset to VIA at a time when its future is far from assured.”

In this, Transport Action Ontario’s Turrittin concurs: “The combination of Messrs. Collenette and Gunn would give VIA something it has never possessed, namely directors who know how to make a rail passenger service operate at both the political and practical levels. They could also foster some radically different approaches to our intercity transportation problems, including the need to bring the provincial governments into the discussion to produce cooperative, multi-modal solutions. As well, their appointment would send a strong signal that our government is serious when it says it wants to use transportation reform and investment to help address climate change and strengthen Canada economically and socially.”

All Aboard St. Marys and Transport Action Ontario are calling on the government to weigh carefully the selection of VIA’s next chairperson, as well as future board appointments. If candidates of the caliber of Messrs. Collenette and Gunn are selected, then VIA can be put on a sound and practical footing. But if political patronage once again triumphs, then VIA’s chances of survival are meager, as past experience has sadly demonstrated.

For more info please contact:

Chris West                             Tony Turrittin
All Aboard St. Marys                   President
Phone: (519) 284-3310                  Transport Action Ontario
Toll Free: 1-866-862-5632 Ext. 238     Phone: (416) 653-4002
chriswest@kwic.com                                                  turritti@yorku.ca
www.allaboardstmarys.ca                                      http://ontario.transportaction.ca/
   


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Collenette, Gunn Urged To Apply
For VIA Board Posts

By William C. Vantuono
Railway Age

Canada’s federal government has begun a search for a new chairperson for VIA Rail Canada. Two Ontario-based passenger rail advocacy groups—All Aboard St. Marys and Transport Action Ontario—regard this as “cause for guarded optimism” and are endorsing a prospective candidate, as well as another candidate to fill a soon-expiring board post.

Following is a joint statement from the organizations:

“We’re reading this as an indication that Ottawa wants to bring about some of the high-level change VIA has long required,” says Chris West of the All Aboard St. Marys citizens’ committee. “It’s our opinion that VIA has been rudderless for far too many years thanks to a board of directors appointed strictly on the basis of political patronage and not because they possessed any relevant knowledge of or enthusiasm for modern rail passenger service.”

Tony Turrittin, president of Transport Action Ontario, adds, “We’re not naīve about how this process operates. The current directors of VIA were all appointed by a previous government on a political basis, and the current government will obviously want representatives on the boards of Crown corporations and public agencies who are aligned with them politically. However, in this case that creates a golden opportunity because the man who could easily fill this role, regardless of politics, is former Liberal Minister of Transport David Collenette.”

Collenette was a Liberal Member of Parliament for nearly 30 years and served as Minister of Transport from 1997 to 2004. As both Turrittin and West point out, Collenette is a firm believer in the need for a modern Canadian national rail passenger system. He is regarded in transportation circles as the only minister since VIA’s creation in 1977 who brought about meaningful and well-considered improvements to the service.

Currently, Collenette is completing his work as the senior advisor to the Government of Ontario on a proposed Southwestern Ontario high-speed rail passenger service. Throughout this assignment, he has been open and helpful to All Aboard St. Marys, Transport Action Ontario and other groups concerned about the future of region’s rail passenger service.

As part of his work and on his own time, Collenette has traveled widely by train and seen how successful rail passenger systems are operated in other countries around the world. Furthermore, his extensive government experience would be a huge plus in enabling VIA to fully and effectively engage with those in Ottawa who ultimately control its destiny through their oversight and funding.

“An appointment such as this could truly be a turning point for rail passengers nationwide,” says West. “But this board renewal process needs to go further. As the terms of the current directors expire, they must be replaced by professionals who possess the skills and enthusiasm required to finally turn VIA around. The first person we recommend the government appoint to serve alongside Collenette is former Amtrak president and Toronto Transit Commission Chief General Manager David Gunn, who is now a resident of Cape Breton [Nova Scotia]. His 40 years of service in the rail and transit industries would make him a unique asset to VIA at a time when its future is far from assured.”

In this, Transport Action Ontario’s Turrittin concurs: “The combination of Collenette and Gunn would give VIA something it has never possessed, namely directors who know how to make a rail passenger service operate at both the political and practical levels. They could also foster some radically different approaches to our intercity transportation problems, including the need to bring the provincial governments into the discussion to produce cooperative, multi-modal solutions. As well, their appointment would send a strong signal that our government is serious when it says it wants to use transportation reform and investment to help address climate change and strengthen Canada economically and socially.”

All Aboard St. Marys and Transport Action Ontario are calling on the government to weigh carefully the selection of VIA’s next chairperson, as well as future board appointments. If candidates of the caliber of Collenette and Gunn are selected, then VIA can be put on a sound and practical footing. But if political patronage once again triumphs, then VIA’s chances of survival are meager, as past experience has sadly demonstrated.

From an article appearing at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/intercity/collenette-gunn-urged-to-apply-for-via-board-posts.html


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

A Connected America

Promotional Video
By Amtrak And The
National Association Of Railroad Passengers (NARP)

A recently-released promotional video with narrations by actor, and rail rider, Dan Acroyd.

Image

Found at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDiHvidz3H8


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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