The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Dec. 19, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 51

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...

  A Holiday Message…
To All Of Our Readers
  Editorial…
Recent APTA Poll Suggests Voters Support
   Investment in Transit. Is This New Info,
   Or Old Data Surfacing?
  Opinion…
The Struggle Continues
  Amtrak Lines…
Amtrak Downeaster Celebrates 15th Anniversary
  Expansion Lines…
VRE Expansion To Haymarket, Gainesville Dead;
   Railroad To Relocate Broad Run Station
MTA: Second Avenue Subway On Track To Possibly
   Meet End-Of-December Deadline
First All Aboard Florida Train Finished And
   Ready For Testing
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Funding Lines…
Sound Transit Sells $477 Million In Bonds
   To Fund Projects
  Legal Lines…
MBTA, Amtrak Say They Expect To End
   Northeast Corridor Fight
  Public, Private, Partnerships…
Metra Enters Marketing Partnership With Uber
  Safety Lines…
SEPTA Joins FRA’s Confidential Close Call
   Reporting System (C3RS)
  Builders Lines…
MBTA Board Approves Full Red Line
   Fleet Replacement
  Publication Notes …


A HOLIDAY MESSAGE... A Holiday Message...  

   
To All Of Our Readers...

ImageFile Photo: Roslindale Village Main Streets

Santa Claus and City of Boston (MA) Mayor Martin J. Walsh have just arrived on Boston Fire Dept Engine 53 to light the Christmas Tree at Adams Park in Roslindale Square Village. Some people have commented that the Managing Editor of Destination: Freedom and Santa Claus seem to have a strkining resemblance, but we will leave that to the readers to determine for themselves.
Destination: Freedom strives to offer news, opinions, articles, and original commentary and stories that serves to present the viewing public with words of specific interest.  The tasks associated with assembling these items, are performed by a dedicated few on our editorial staff.

At this time of the year we like to step back and take a little time for family and friends as the holiday season approaches.  This year is no different.  

This edition published for December 19, 2016 will be our last installation for calendar 2016.  For the next 2-weeks-plus period we will step back, take stock, and refresh ourselves.  Our next regular edition will be released on January 9, 2017.

We face an uncertain future in the upcoming years when it comes to rail and transit, possibly more so than in the past.  So a little time off will hopefully give us fresh eyes to move the agenda forward.

Our best wishes are extended to all of our readers, regular and occasional, at this festive time of the year.

Finally, on a somewhat difficult note we also say thanks and best wishes to Contributing Editor, David Peter Alan, who is submitting his final (for now) article. We hope David will return at a later date. Certainly the door is wide open.

Dennis K.
Managing Editor


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Recent APTA Poll Suggests Voters Support
Investment in Transit. Is This New Info,
Or Old Data Surfacing?

By Dennis Kirkpatrick
DF Managing Editor

According to a recent press release from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as many as 65 Percent of Trump Voters Favor Increased Funding to Repair and Improve Public Transit.   The 2016 First View Post-Election Research poll was conducted for APTA by the polling company Heart+Mind Strategies.  

“Today’s poll release mirrors what we’ve found in the past: Voters from both parties support public transportation,” said Hearts+Minds Strategy CEO and Managing Partner, Dee Allsop. “At a time when there are many public policy issues that highlight divisions, public transportation is an exception.”

According to APTA, the national voter survey showed that:

“While Americans may be divided on the overall direction of our country, we know this much:  Voters for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump support public transportation,” said APTA’s Acting President and CEO Richard A. White. “Americans understand that investment in public transportation creates jobs and that public transportation will produce greater economic growth for our local communities. That’s something we can all get behind.”

A copy of the poll (PDF) can be found here:  http://www.apta.com/gap/advocacy/Documents/APTA%20FirstView%202016%20Release_FINAL.pdf

As with any poll, charts and graphs may be interpretive when it comes to reporting percentages in a narrative summary.  We encourage the reader to review the poll and come to their own conclusions.

However, is this news or simply previously-ignored trends that are finally making their way to the surface?

About two years ago, our January 12, 2015 edition of Destination: Freedom, offered an item developed by the US Public Information Research Group (USPIRG) suggesting that the “highway boom” was over, and that info was reported by the Federal Highway Administration.  The article is available in our archives at:  http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df4/df01122015.shtml#Federal).  Links to the FHA’s findings are available in that article.

Further, a year earlier, we reported on college-aged and “millennial generation” trends as offered by information harvested by USPIRG.   In that item, it was suggested that as Baby Boomers grow older, Millennials have become America’s largest generation. Since government investments in transportation infrastructure often last decades, the question of whether current investment will match the needs of future travelers depends largely on how well Millennials’ preferences will be met.

Phineas Baxandall, PhD, then transportation lead for USPIRG’s Boston (MA) office was quoted as saying, “University and college campuses are at the forefront of encouraging new ways to get around that don’t depend on personal cars. Public officials who want to stay ahead of the curve should be taking notes.”  He also offered, a quote from Amelia Neptune, the Bicycle Friendly University Program Specialist at the League of American Bicyclists which stated, “The trend toward more bicycle-friendly campuses is clearly increasing, as students demand more active, sustainable, and equitable transportation choices, and as neighboring communities recognize the benefits of reducing driving.”

More on this item with links to research materials can be seen in our archives at:   http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df3/df02102014.shtml#University

So I have to ponder if APTA’s poll is new information or something that was already acknowledged up to almost 3 years ago, but greatly under-reported.  Indeed, under-embraced.

Our nation’s trend toward better public transportation is not news, it is fact, and a fact not addressed.  The growing transit-oriented real estate boom is a clear example of this.  My own community in southwest Boston, MA is rich with transit and commuter rail connections and developers are not only scooping up empty lots but are also buying old buildings, commercial and residential, demolishing them, and putting up more density.  Their selling points?  Access to good transit, and many with a 12-15 minute one-seat commuter rail ride into downtown Boston.  For the rest?  45 minutes with a bus-subway combination and lower fare.

In summation, it is great that APTA is presenting this poll information and it is promising, however after reviewing a decent three year’s worth of prior material, this is not any kind of major revelation.  At the least, the system is catching up, be it slowly.

The question to be asked, and yet to be answered is whether the proposed investment in infrastructure will address this need for better public transit, in all of its forms, and on a national basis, or whether we will simply see more roads built.  As urban sprawl takes root, will its branches be served or left to rot?

Herein is our challenge moving forward.

The APTA press release can be found at:
http://www.expertclick.com/NewsRelease/Transit-News-Voters-Support-Investment-in-Americas-Public-Transit-Infrastructure,201694104.aspx


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OPINION... Opinion...  

The Struggle Continues

By David Peter Alan
Destination: Freedom Contributing Editor

For more than twelve years, my columns and the stories I covered have been a part of D:F.  Those twelve years encompassed the second half of the Bush era and essentially the entire Obama era.  It was a time when Amtrak and our local transit seemed to have survived day by day.  There were some new starts and some service improvements in various cities, but people who depend on public transportation for their mobility have had a difficult time.

It appears that more hard times are coming for people who do not have access to an automobile.  Elaine Chao, who is slated to be the next Secretary of Transportation, comes from Kentucky; a state with no rail transit and little Amtrak service.  Even Louisville, the largest city in the state and replete with historic neighborhoods, has neither.  To make matters worse, she has experience with the Heritage Foundation, a political organization that has been staunchly opposed to any federal involvement in Amtrak or in funding local transit.  We know that President-select Trump has talked about “infrastructure” often, but many of us in the advocacy community also know that “infrastructure” is often a code word for “highways” and not infrastructure that helps improve mobility for people who do not have access to an automobile, which is a prerequisite for using those highways.

So the struggle must continue; not so much to improve mobility for everybody, but to minimize the losses with which many of us expect will inevitably be threatened.  How much transit and how many Amtrak trains outside the Northeast Corridor we lose depends on how hard we all fight to keep them.  If we are united and effective, we can cut our losses over the next four years or more.  

Effectiveness is the key, and I must now search for places where I can be more effective than I have been so far.  In the short run, all of our battles will be defensive ones.  If I and many of the other “elder statesmen” of the advocacy movement can persuade young people to join us, we will gather the momentum we need to defeat the formidable anti-rail and anti-transit forces that are arrayed against us.  That will not happen soon, and I doubt that I will live to see it happen.  I remain convinced that it will happen someday, though.

Over the past twelve years, I have written more than 600 contributions for D:F.  Some were features, some were columns, a few constituted news coverage; sometimes even breaking news.  Occasionally, my travel itineraries on Amtrak brought me to a place where there was a newsworthy event to cover.  I sincerely hope that you are better-informed due to my efforts than you would have been without them.  

Over the years, I have ridden every mile of Amtrak, visited nearly 400 Amtrak destinations and a few dozen places where Amtrak no longer goes, ridden most of VIA Rail in Canada, and gone somewhere on every rail transit system in both countries.  At last count, I have taken at least one ride on 255 transit systems in this country and Canada.  That includes about 200 bus-only systems.  These buses do not run on rails, but they are still transit, and residents of the areas they serve depend on them.  Some of those residents also depend on “senior shuttles” or para-transit for persons with severe disabilities.  In the future, I plan to keep riding, observing and advocating for trains, transit and community-sponsored transportation, as long as I can maintain a sufficient quality of life to keep going.

Image

NCI File Photo

David Peter Alan at the podium, speaks at the Rail Users Network (RUN) annual conference which was held in Boston, MA at the end of April 2016. The event was co-sponsored, and held at the offices of the Boston Foundation. At right, former Governor of Massachusetts, Democratic presidential candidate, and former Amtrak Board member Michael Dukakis, listens in as part of the segment panel. The writer had the pleasure of attending and facilitating the audio-visual functions.

As you may have guessed, this is my farewell column for D:F, at least for now.  I may be back someday, and I do not intend to burn this trestle behind me.  Still, it takes several hours each week to write these columns or stories, and I need to consider how I can do the most with the time I have left.  

I am not leaving the rider-advocacy movement.  I will still be active at the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) as a Board Member, which means helping plan RUN conferences (the next one is scheduled for early May in Seattle), writing for the RUN Newsletter, and helping recruit new members.  In New Jersey, I will continue to advocate for the seniors and persons with disabilities who need transportation more than most other people do.  My term as Vice-Chair of the Senior Citizens and Disabled Residents Transportation Advisory Committee at New Jersey Transit is ending, so I will go back to being an “ordinary” member; albeit the longest-serving one.  There is also the Lackawanna Coalition in New Jersey, where I have been Chair for the past 17 years.  If the members permit me to do so, I plan to help them prepare for better times in the Garden State.  Gov. Chris Christie, who has been very hard on NJT and its riders, has an approval rating of 19% and will leave office less than thirteen months from now.  

Most of all, I hope to find opportunities to bring new people into the rider-advocacy movement.  We have many “elder statesmen” who are older than I am; in their 70s or over 80.  They remember trains that once took people to places that are no longer accessible by rail, and they remember better transit.  I remember some of that, too, but not as much as our most-senior colleagues do.  I intend to join them in training a new generation of advocates, who will pass along the ideas of great cities; places bursting with innovation, energy, creativity, fun and transit everywhere.  And it is not only cities; it is also the trains and emerging interurban-style rail lines that will someday connect those cities and many towns in-between.  I hope to bring my experience as a professional advocate to this mission.  I intend to keep my advocacy skills in shape, since I will continue to practice law.

I have met a few of you and heard from a few more.  I hope that, over the years, I have helped to keep you informed, and I express my deep appreciation to you for reading what I have written here.  The struggle to keep our transit and our Amtrak trains continues, and I expect some tough battles ahead.  We may need to fight to keep the national Amtrak system going, one battle at a time over one route at a time.  We must also be prepared to fight to save our local transit, as future funding difficulties will push managers toward a vicious negative cycle of fare increases and service cuts; some of which may be drastic.

It will probably take a long time before transit riders win the mobility and the respect that we deserve.  Black people fought in the American Civil War in the 1860s to gain their rights as Americans, but it took until the 1960s before their descendants got those rights.  It took women 72 years from the time they first demanded the vote until they got it on a nationwide basis.  It took organized labor 133 years to be officially recognized by statute, but labor’s power is in decline.  Transit riders today stand where those other groups stood near the beginning of their struggles.  Ours is just beginning but, if we organize enough people, we will someday win, and the United States will become a transit-rich nation.

In the meantime, I will not give up the fight, and I hope you will not, either.  Whether you are a citizen-advocate, a manager, or are involved in some other capacity, we who care about our trains and our transit must stick together, because we will all be under siege soon.

With those thoughts, I say good-bye and good luck.  Veteran broadcaster Charles Osgood concluded his broadcasts with “See you on the radio!”  The last time I did a radio broadcast was back in 1982.

So, instead, I will say this: SEE YOU ON THE TRAIN!

We will greatly miss David’s contributions to this publication and wish him well in his continuing endeavors to help improve rail and transit for everyone, be it locally or on a national level – DMK


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AMTRAK LINES... Amtrak Lines...  

Happy Anniversary

Amtrak Downeaster Celebrates 15th Anniversary

From Fosters

This week marks the 15th Anniversary of Amtrak Downeaster service between Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts, which began on December 15, 2001. The Downeaster continues to provide transportation for commuters, students travelling to or from college, school kids on educational trips, senior citizens, sports fans, beach goers, tourists and more. Since December 15, 2001, more than 46,000 Downeaster trains have operated, transporting more than 6 million passengers the equivalent of nearly 500 million passenger miles. Amtrak operates the Downeaster under agreement with the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA). “Amtrak has enjoyed its partnership with NNEPRA and takes pride in the success of the Downeaster service,” said DJ Stadtler, Executive Vice President, Operations.

Image

NCI File Photo

Business as usual. Amtrak’s Downeaster, boards passengers at Boston’s North Station at Track 7  The consist has cab-baggage (“cabbage”) 90214 taking up the rear here. The train is led outbound by a P42 locomotive.   Recent track work and bridge work by the MBTA is improving service and is adding additional daily trains.

Despite a series of service disruptions and cancellations due to track work over the past 18 months, the Downeaster experienced record ridership and revenue during the first quarter of FY2017 and maintains one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the nation.

Many service changes have taken place in the past 15 years including reductions in travel time, the addition of a fifth frequency, station improvements, service expansion to Freeport and Brunswick and the construction of a new layover facility. “The Downeaster has really evolved from an amenity into a preferred means of transportation,” said Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA Executive Director. “It has also played a key role in the economic development strategies of the communities it serves by enhancing connectivity, promoting private development and investment, and enhancing quality of life.”

Special travel promotions to celebrate Downeaster anniversary

The Amtrak Downeaster is celebrating its 15th anniversary of service by offering a number of special offers and promotions. “If you already love the Downeaster, or if you’ve haven’t ridden yet, these Anniversary Promotions make this the perfect time to take the train!” said Natalie Bogart, NNEPRA Marketing Director. “You will see some of New England’s prettiest scenery and visit great destinations, but best of all, you make the most of every moment as you travel along able to work, rest, or spend time together with friends or family.”

For more information about Downeaster Anniversary promotions visit www.AmtrakDowneaster.com.

From an item at:
http://www.fosters.com/news/20161214/amtrak-downeaster-celebrates-15th-anniversary


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Not Expanding !

VRE Expansion To Haymarket, Gainesville Dead;
Railroad To Relocate Broad Run Station

By Potomac Local News

The proposal to extend Virginia Railway Express to Haymarket and Gainesville is dead.

The Virginia Railway Express Operations Board on Friday will vote to relocate the Broad Run station from Manassas Regional Airport about a mile east, near the intersection of Route 28 and Godwin Drive, according to multiple sources familiar with the project.

This is the recommendation put forth by the Operations Board by the Gainesville-Haymarket Extension study team that has spent the last 18 months examining the option of expanding VRE service 11 miles west of Manassas.

Relocating the station will allow VRE to expand a storage yard at the Manassas Airport, and that will allow Virginia’s only commuter railroad to expand the number of daily trains on its Manassas line from 16 to 22 per day. The additional trains are expected to generate 5,100 more passenger trips by 2040, whereas extending the rail line to Haymarket would have generated 1,110 in the same timeframe at the cost of as much as $660 million.

The extension to Haymarket would have required the railroad pay for the construction of at least one new set of tracks along Norfolk-Southern’s B-line, which branches off in Manassas at Wellington Road and Prince William Street. VRE trains would not have been allowed to use the existing freight line.

The findings of the first phase of the Gainesville-Haymarket Expansion study were presented last week, which showed the cost of the extension outweighing the benefits. Because of that fact, VRE officials were skeptical about winning federal dollars to build the extension, and that would have left VRE going hat-in-hand to state and local sources of funding to build and maintain the expanded rail line.

VRE plans to add three of 14 new coaches to the Manassas line in 2018 to expand one of the trains on the line. The railroad maintains the Broad Run yard, where locomotives and railcars can be stored, must be expanded for the service to grow.

There is the talk of adding a midday shuttle train between Manassas and Alexandria that would, for the first time, provide bi-directional service during the day, allowing passengers to use the service operating similar to a Metro train.

Found at:
http://potomaclocal.com/2016/12/11/virginia-railway-express-expansion-to-haymarket-gainesville-dead/


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MTA: Second Avenue Subway On Track To
Possibly Meet End-Of-December Deadline

By Jose Martinez
NY1 News

Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) officials said last Monday they were making progress toward meeting their January first deadline for launching service on the long-delayed Second Avenue subway line in New York City.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to meet the revenue service date,” said MTA CEO Tom Prendergast. “That’s it in a nutshell, that really does. We are focused on getting the testing commissioning done, and the observations done. We’ve more than doubled the level of effort, that’s as clear as I can state it.”

But the MTA chairman and other officials still did not announce a date for actually starting service.

Governor Cuomo — who oversees the MTA — has been pressuring the state agency to meet the target date.

He made unannounced visits to the new stations over the weekend, saying he’s “cautiously optimistic” the line will open on time.

At Monday’s meeting, MTA officials insisted that work on the new stations is down to finishing touches.

“Emergency alarm testing is completed at all stations, sound-power phones is completed at all three but 72nd Street, which will be completed this week,” said Anil Parikh, Program Executive for the Second Avenue Subway.

The line was proposed nearly a century ago — to run the length of Manhattan.

But only the first phase has been built , from 63rd Street to new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets, to be served by the Q train.

An independent engineer had raised doubts the line could open on time, with testing on some station elevators and escalators lagging.

But the MTA now says most of the problems have been resolved.

Many residents say they’ve noticed contractors working at an accelerated pace in recent months.

“Oh my goodness, they work hard, yes,” said one neighbor.

And after using the exact words, “cautiously optimistic,” as his boss the governor did, we’ll see what else the MTA Chairman has to say when the agency’s board meets on Wednesday.

Found at:
http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/transit/2016/12/12/mta--second-avenue-subway-on-track-to-finish-required-systems-testing-before-end-of-december.html


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First All Aboard Florida Train Finished
And Ready For Testing

By Ron Hurtibise
The Sun Sentinel

Most people expect to find train sets under their Christmas trees.

Manufacturer Siemens uses the term “trainset” to describe five passenger trains it is building for the new All Aboard Florida service, scheduled to kick off next year between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Last Wednesday, Siemens couldn’t resist spilling the beans before Christmas: All Aboard Florida’s first Siemens-built trainset is finished and has arrived in South Florida following a 3,052-mile trip from the company’s Sacramento, California plant. It showed up Wednesday morning at All Aboard Florida’s maintenance facility in West Palm Beach, said AnneMarie Mathews, All Aboard Florida spokeswoman.

Construction of the 489-foot-long train, comprised of two diesel-electric locomotives and four stainless-steel coaches, began in July 2015 and involved 1,000 employees at Siemens’ 60-acre rail manufacturing plant, the company said in a news release Wednesday.

The new trains are built as integrated sets, the release said, to make ride quality better and quieter. Locomotives on each end of the trains will meet “the highest emissions standard set by the federal government,” the release said.

Image

Photo: Courtesy Marguerite Courtney / Siemens

Siemens employees in Sacramento, Calif., celebrate completion of the first of five Brightline passenger “trainsets” scheduled to begin running high-speed service between Miami and West Palm Beach beginning in mid-2017. Siemens says 1,000 employees worked on the construction, and 70 full-time employees will maintain the trains when the All Aboard Florida service is underway.

Once in operation, the trains will be maintained by a full-time crew of about 70 Siemens employees and 40 Brightline employees, the release said. The high-speed All Aboard Florida service is scheduled to begin in mid-2017 and will initially offer 32 daily hour-long runs between Miami to West Palm Beach with an in-between stop in Fort Lauderdale.

All Aboard Florida is a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, the successor to Florida East Coast Railway, the railroad company founded by Henry Flagler in 1892. The train service was named Brightline in 2015.

“Having our first Brightline trainset completed ... is a major accomplishment and brings us one step closer to the introduction of our innovative new train service,” Michael Reininger, president of Brightline, said in the release. “Once in Florida, we will begin the required testing as we ready to launch Brightline between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach next summer.”

In South Florida, the trains will reach speeds of 60 mph to 70 mph along a 67-mile-long expanded track on the railway’s existing right of way.

The four additional trains that will be used in South Florida are expected to be delivered by the end of March. Stations being built in the three cities’ downtown areas are envisioned as gateways to other public transportation, housing, jobs and shopping.

At some point, another five trains will serve the northern leg of the service — from West Palm Beach north to Cocoa, then west to Orlando. Originally, All Aboard Florida said it would initiate the Orlando route by the end of 2017, but that was delayed as Martin and Indian River counties filed federal lawsuits challenging the company’s ability to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The company has since announced it will pursue the bond sale in two parts — a $600 million sale to finance the South Florida phase and a second $1.15 billion sale to complete the Orlando leg.

Total cost of the project was originally announced as $2.5 billion. To complete the route from Cocoa to Orlando, the company will have to build a new track. That part of the project is still in the permitting stage and construction has not yet begun, Mathews said.

The privately run company has not disclosed the cost of the trains.

[ Editor Note:  While Siemens may have “spilled the beans” the move of the new trainset was hardly a secret.  Rail spotters and rail fans tracked the train’s movement across the country.  If you are a savvy Internet user you can find plenty of YouTube videos as it made the move. ]

Found at:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/consumer/fl-siemens-completes-first-brightline-trainset-20161214-story.html


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

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Sound Transit Sells $477 Million In Bonds
To Fund Projects

By Renton Reporter Staff

Sound Transit has executed the sale of $477 million in green bonds that will help fund voter-approved regional transit projects, including work to continue building more than 90 miles of voter-approved light rail extensions.

“Every dollar we save in borrowing costs is one less dollar the taxpayers must pay to build our future transit system,” Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff said in a press release. “Borrowing at these historically low rates will also insulate us from potential market downturns in the future.”

The bond sale will generate proceeds to fund voter-approved transit expansions. The sale consisted of fixed-rate bonds at a total interest cost of 3.596 percent. The favorable rate is significantly lower than the 5.3 percent average over the last 30 years.

In issuing the new bonds following last month’s passage of the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, the agency received a rating upgrade from Moody’s for its most senior bonds (Prior Bonds) from Aa1 to its highest AAA rating. Moody’s also upgraded the agencies prior bonds, including the $477 million bond sold this week, from Aa1 to Aa2.

The sale represents the second sale of green bonds by Sound Transit, the largest issuer of municipal green bonds in the country.

Green bonds are a rising trend in the financial industry that offers investors the ability to invest in bonds that advance environmental sustainability. Sound Transit’s credibility as a green bond issuer derives in part from its construction and operation of transit services that are more sustainable than other transportation options. The agency observes formalized and independently monitored sustainability commitments across many areas of day-to-day business, from designing energy-efficient buildings to reducing fleet emissions to increasing recycling and composting.

The bond issuance is fully compliant with International Capital Market Association (ICMA) Green Bond Principles 2016 and validated through an independent opinion commissioned from Sustainalytics, a provider of environmental, social and governance (ESG) research and analysis that assesses the robustness and credibility of Green Bonds. The firm concluded that “Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority’s green bond framework is credible and robust and provides clarity regarding the outcomes of the green bond investments.”

In addition to annual reviews by the American Public Transportation Association, each year independent auditors evaluate Sound Transit’s compliance with International Organization for Standardization environmental management system criteria (ISO 14001).

Marketing green bonds is still a relatively new development in the financial sector. Environmental advocates have called for expanding it, with moves toward increasingly rigorous protocols. The ICMA Green Bond Principles are widely considered the prevailing standard. While the green bond designation does not necessarily have a direct impact on the pricing of the bonds, a growing number of issuers use the designation to promote awareness of their projects and expand their investor bases.

The underwriting team of this bond sale includes Citigroup; Goldman, Sachs and Co; BofA Merrill Lynch; J.P. Morgan; RBC Capital Markets; and Wells Fargo Securities.

Over the past 15 years, Sound Transit has developed a strong track record of delivering mass transit investments. The University Link light rail extension, with new stations on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and at Husky Stadium, open earlier this year, ahead of schedule and approximately $150 million under budget. The extension to Angle Lake opened this September one stop further south from the airport $40 million under budget.

In 2021, light rail service is scheduled to open to Northgate. By 2023 Sound Transit is on track to extend service further north to Lynnwood and east to Redmond’s Overlake area. The light rail extensions to the Federal Way Transit Center and downtown Redmond are scheduled to open a year later in 2024.Work will follow to extend light rail to Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard, Everett, South Kirkland and Issaquah.

From an item at:
http://www.rentonreporter.com/news/sound-transit-sells-477-million-in-bonds-to-fund-projects/


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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

MBTA, Amtrak Say They Expect To End
Northeast Corridor Fight

By Adam Vaccaro
Boston Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Amtrak say they’re on track to end a heated legal dispute that, at its peak, saw Amtrak threaten to cut Massachusetts out of its highly trafficked Northeast Corridor rail service.

The MBTA sued Amtrak in January, after the federally subsidized transit service demanded the T pay nearly $30 million per year to help maintain the railway between the Rhode Island border and South Station as part of a new multi-state policy. The MBTA said it did not need to pay Amtrak, because a 2003 contract that said Amtrak could use the MBTA-owned tracks for free if it handled certain service and maintenance costs.

The T and Amtrak said in a Wednesday court filing that they are close to a peace accord. They expect to reach terms on a new agreement governing the “going-forward relationship with respect to operation of trains and related work” on the tracks before the holidays and to finalize it by Feb. 1, settling the case, they said.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the agency would not comment on the details of a possible deal while settlement discussions are ongoing. Amtrak did not respond to a request for comment.

The parties also said in the filing they expect to soon settle counterclaims made by Amtrak in August, which said the MBTA owed Amtrak $175,000 for engineering, maintenance, and construction work the T had agreed to pay for.

Amtrak said at the time that the alleged missed payments “could potentially jeopardize Amtrak’s ability to provide rail service in Massachusetts,” a seeming threat to eliminate Northeast Corridor service to Boston.

Apart from the legal wrangling, the T earlier this year publicly criticized Amtrak when Amtrak equipment problems led to MBTA commuter rail delays and cancellations out of South Station. State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has suggested that the T could fine Amtrak for the problems as part of a new agreement over the use of the T’s tracks.

Pollack and Governor Charlie Baker met with Amtrak chief executive Wick Moorman during a trip to Washington, DC last month, where they discussed the lawsuit.

“The governor and secretary were pleased to meet with the new CEO of Amtrak to discuss the Commonwealth’s infrastructure and rail needs and ongoing relationship with federal transit officials,” Baker spokesman William Pitman said in a statement.

The Northeast Corridor connects Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and other major east coast cities. South Station is the sixth most trafficked station in the US for Amtrak, according to its website.

From an item found at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/12/15/the-mbta-and-amtrak-say-they-expect-end-northeast-corridor-fight/fPMbTQweWwSrUNCy6LKAiN/story.html


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PUBLICP RIVATE... Public, Private, Partnerships...  

Metra Enters Marketing Partnership With Uber

Matthew Hendrickson
Chicago Sun Times

Metra has entered into a three-year marketing partnership with Uber after naming the company its “Official Rideshare Partner.”

Uber will be identified as the rail agency’s preferred rideshare provider in a first-ever marketing partnership that will generate non-fare revenue and bring customers to stations, according to Metra. In return, Uber can communicate directly with the agency’s customer base of 150,000 daily riders.

The move was about finding creative ways to bring in new revenue, Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said in a statement.

“In addition to generating much-needed revenue for Metra, we believe this partnership with Uber will help address the ‘first mile/last mile’ challenge for customers who need a quick and easy way to get to and from a Metra station,” Orseno said.

Über will be featured in promotional materials, including posters at stations, on trains, timetables, mailing inserts and ticket office windows, Metra said. Uber will also be allowed to distribute promotional materials at stations and be featured at http://www.metrarail.com and on Metra’s social media channels.

The partnership is set to begin in February.

Metra issued an invitation for companies to bid for the designation in July, with Uber offering $900,000 over the life of the three-year agreement, according to Wendy Abrams, chief external affairs officer for Metra. Uber was the sole bidder.

[ Editor Note:  Partnerships of this nature appear to be on the increase as transit systems seek to find ways to supplement existing service shortfalls or to fill gaps that may need filling.  In Boston, the MBTA has been also looking at using Uber or Lyft for para-transit options for those who are more ambulatory than those needing specialized transportation vehicles.  They are also looking at private operators for a restoration of late-night, overnight service.  Could this lead to more privatization in transit?  This will be a subject worth monitoring in the upcoming year. ]

Found at:
http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/metra-enters-marketing-partnership-with-uber/


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

SEPTA Joins FRA’s Confidential
Close Call Reporting System (C3RS)

C3RS Allows Engineers, Conductors To Anonymously
Report Near Misses, Unsafe Conditions

From SEPTA

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit authority (SEPTA), the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), SMART United Transportation Union-Local 61 (SMART-UTU) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have signed an Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).

As a C3RS site, SEPTA’s railroad conductors and engineers will be able to anonymously report near misses and unsafe conditions without fear of repercussion. SEPTA joins Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metra (Chicago), MBTA/Keolis (Boston), Long Island Railroad, Metro North and Strasburg Railroad (Strasburg, Pa) as carriers with C3RS IMOUs.

“Building a strong safety culture is a key organizational goal for SEPTA. We are always exploring ways to expand and enhance our programs,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel. “As a C3RS site, we will be made aware of situations that we might not have been previously alerted to so that we can take action to prevent accidents and protect our employees and passengers.”

Under the C3RS system, SEPTA’s engineers and conductors will be able to submit a safety problem or close call online or through U.S. mail to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA, acting as an independent third party federal agency, gathers and analyzes all data for C3RS, removes employees’ names and contact information (these are required for the NASA portion of the investigation) and then returns the reports to a peer review team comprised of SEPTA managers, the unions and FRA for review and action.

“We are looking for conditions or close calls other than accidents or injuries that might not otherwise be reported to the FRA,” said SEPTA Assistant General Manager of System Safety Scott Sauer. “We are asking employees to report events that we might not otherwise know about, the warning signs and precursors that could lead to major safety risks and accidents.”

“C3RS, along with PTC [Positive Train Control] implementation, which is nearly complete on SEPTA territory, will greatly improve the safety of our system,” Knueppel said.

“Previously, employees may have been hesitant to report a close call, fearing disciplinary action for themselves or colleagues,” said Sauer. “When NASA returns the report to the peer review team, it is completely scrubbed of any employee information. We never know who submitted the information to NASA.”

From SEPTA at:
http://www.septa.org/media/releases/2016/12-12-16.html


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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

MBTA Board Approves Full
Red Line Fleet Replacement

By Andy Metzger
State House News Service
Via The Boston Business Journal

Scrapping plans to overhaul railcars that date back to the 1990s, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) agreed last Monday to replace its entire Red Line fleet by 2024 by purchasing an additional 120 to 134 cars at a cost of up to $280 million.

T officials presented the proposal to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday and said it would be less expensive per-car and more beneficial than their prior plan of making overhaul repairs to 84 Red Line cars.

The board approved the proposal unanimously on a voice vote.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told reporters the plan represents a new way of doing business at the T. “It represents what we’ve been trying to do with the MBTA. A different way of thinking, a different way of acting,” Pollack said. She said the decision was the result of “working backwards from strategic targets” of shorter times between train arrivals.

The move would increase the MBTA’s current order from Chinese railcar manufacturer CRRC, which is under a roughly $565 million contract to build 132 Red Line and 152 Orange Line cars at a facility in Springfield.

Image

Image via MBTA

A design concept drawing of the new Red Line cars to be built by CRRC.  The assembly plant in Springfield, MA is under construction with assembly of new Red Line and Orange Line cars to commence soon after completion.  New cars will not reach service until about 2019.

When all the new vehicles are on the system, the MBTA could run trains faster, significantly increasing capacity on the line running from Braintree to Cambridge during rush hour, MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville said.

Red Line commuters frequently face jam-packed trains and service delays on their way to and from work.

The possibilities of a new fleet by 2024 were discussed during an MBTA Board meeting and briefing in September. At the time, officials said the MBTA’s busiest subway line could transport an additional 10,000 passengers an hour and keep the time between trains to about three minutes if the agency upgraded the line’s entire fleet. The 50 percent boost in capacity would mean less congestion, especially in the system’s downtown Boston core, for the 150,000 riders who rely on the line each day, with demand on the rise as housing is built near Red Line stations in Quincy, Dorchester and Cambridge.

With an entirely new fleet by around 2024, the T would be able to consider futuristic upgrades along the Red Line, such as doors built into the station platforms or autonomous vehicles, Gonneville told reporters. He said parts on the new Red Line cars would be interchangeable with the new Orange Line fleet.

“It sets the foundation for future opportunities,” Gonneville said. The Orange Line fleet will be completely replaced and increase in number under the existing agreement with CRRC.

The proposed new agreement with CRRC is for 120 new Red Line cars, which the company would start building right after completing the original order.

In total the new purchase would cost about $280 million, according to the T. The MBTA would also have the option of purchasing an additional 14 cars, which would vary in price, according to the T. Gonneville said the option gives the T “flexibility.” Without taking the options, the Red Line would have a total of 252 new vehicles, including 42 spares, in 2024, he said.

“If someone looked at this they’d say it’s a no-brainer, but in fact there’s a lot of brainers,” Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, who is a member of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors, told the control board. He said, “This is a wise decision financially, operationally.”

Quincy Sen. John Keenan was among those offering his support for the plan at the meeting.

“You end up with an entire new fleet,” Keenan told the control board. He said, “That is an enormous and important opportunity.”

By taking action now, the MBTA will lock in CRRC to get to work on the newly purchased Red Line cars right after completing the original order, Pollack said. Pollack said without acting quickly there was a risk CRRC would take a contract from another railcar customer and the T would need to wait for that work to be completed. She said buying directly from CRRC would avoid the cost and time spent on going out to bid and said the board has been briefed in closed-door executive sessions on legal implications of the move.

The T would use $59 million from its pay-go capital fund for the purchase and then do a bond offering of about $220 million, MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve told reporters. Pollack said the capital plan had included about $220 million for overhauling 84 Red Line cars. The purchase plan will require an additional $36 million to keep the older Red Line cars in working order before the new cars are delivered, according to the T.

“We do have the debt capacity,” MBTA Chief Financial Officer Michael Abramo told the control board.

With more than 280,000 trips per weekday the Red Line is the busiest line on the MBTA. The 84 vehicles date to the mid-1990s and are the newest cars on the Red Line, according to MBTA data.

While advocates press the MBTA for expanded service, Gov. Charlie Baker and Pollack have made a priority of improving service on the existing system.

[ Editor note:  The plan to purchase all new Red Line cars will allow the MBTA to scrap the Pullman-Standard and UTDC/Canada fleet with manufacture and rebuild dates between 1969 and 1989.  These are among the oldest operating cars in the nation.  This also means a supplementary fleet of cars manufactured by Bombardier in the early 1990s will not be submitted for rebuild.  Those units are now in their 23rd year of service. ]

From an item found at:
http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2016/12/12/mbta-board-approves-full-red-line-fleet.html


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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