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Something to consider for Ohio?  Post-election coverage of Texas Proposition 1 (to create a state fund for railroad route relocations) took a back seat to the gay-marriage ban in terms of news coverage, but I found this article from October which explains the issue pretty well (see below). By the way, Prop.1 passed....


95.6% of Texas pcts. counted

Proposition 1

Create the Texas rail relocation and improvement fund and authorize grants

of money and issuance of obligations for financing the relocation,

rehabilitation, and expansion of rail facilities



For - 1,066,415 - 53.9%

Against - 910,408 - 46.1%



Oct. 22, 2005, 9:16PM


Proposition 1 sets up fund for relocation of rail lines


Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau



"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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I'm glad that all news stories in every state seem to take a backseat to gay-marriage bans; it's one subject that can unite people across racial boundaries, prejudice against gays.  It's good to know that disdain for homosexuals is one of the few things that gets Americans talking :x

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What Texas has done (see below), in creating a funding mechanism that may ultimately lead to the South Central High Speed Rail Corridor, has lessons for us in Ohio as we seek the Ohio Hub System. The 110-mph passenger train and the 90-mph intermodal freight train are kissing cousins which are looking for the means to create the infrastructure for them. In its absence, that traffic will have no choice but to clog our highways and damage them with more expensive trucks that have proven vulnerable to fuel price spikes, unnecessarily costing shippers. Texas is taking the lead, to make their economy more competitive than Ohio's, yet we have much more intermodal rail freight traffic (see map at bottom). If we want to keep it, grow it and prosper from it, then we need to follow Texas' lead....



12 November 2005


Texas's new rail relocation fund opens possibilities for more rail passenger and rail transit services in state


While the Bush administration has been stepping up its efforts to bludgeon intercity rail passenger service and constrain urban rail transit development, efforts to actually improve and expand these kinds of public transport services have just been given at least a modest boost in the US state of Texas. As we have noted (below) in our article Texas rail relocation measure passes, the approval of Texas's new Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund by voters this past Tuesday (8 November) "opens the possibility for major improvements to rail transport safety and intercity passenger service, and the use of urban railway corridors for public transit projects." In a statement issued in Dallas on 11 November, Texas Rail Advocates (TRA) – one of several statewide organizations promoting rail passenger transportation in Texas – called the vote "an historic step toward future development of faster and more dependable passenger rail service in the state."


"By the passage of State Proposition 1 we now have the means to help the freight railroads relocate and improve their original lines throughout the state and that makes it possible to plan for faster freight and passenger trains” said Paul Mangelsdorf, Executive Director of TRA.


The group's formal statement continued:


Texas Rail Advocates urges TxDOT [Texas Department of Transportation] to lay out a priority list of the most important rail relocation and improvement projects in the state and to engage the three largest freight rail carriers, Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway and Kansas City Southern Railroad in serious talks on the issues.


As the advocate organization's Executive Director Mangelsdorf pointed out, "Texas is mostly a one-track rail system with some passing sidings. We must prepare for rail gridlock in the next decade if the lines are not upgraded."


The group spelled out some of its recommendations for speeding up intercity railroad operations:


TRA believes that one of the key plans should include an engineering and feasibility study of the South Central High Speed Rail Corridor that the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized five years ago. This tri-state rail corridor, using enhanced infrastructure improvements including grade crossings and signaling, would be capable of handling containerized and trailer freight trains up to 90 miles per hour and fast, frequent passenger service up to 110 miles per hour between major Texas cities. It would give travelers an attractive, dependable option to expensive automobile travel.


Mangelsdorf noted that passage of the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund means that many rail grade crossings can be eliminated or improved in the future, leading to fewer motor vehicle-train accidents. "Importantly, in addition to safety, taking some of the heavy truck traffic off our beaten-down overburdened highways will also help improve air quality" Mangelsdorf said. "Texas Rail Advocates believes that our economic engine in Texas will be riding on the rails as new industries find the state to be more inviting because of a dynamic transportation system" Mangelsdorf added.


Texas Rail Advocates and Paul Mangelsdorf, Executive Director, can be contacted as follows:


Email: paulm@texasrailadvocates.org

Phone: 214.749-3549

Website: http://www.TexasRailAdvocates.org



"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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I think a lot of Americans don't realize that those speeds are available without new technology breakthroughs. The biggest needs are minimizing the opportunities for trucks and cars to try to occupy the same space concurrently with trains, and maintaining right-of-way and equipment to the highest standards.


In the post-WWII era, sometimes even with steam locomotives, the major carriers were quite capable of exceeding 100 mph and doing it safely. My aunt tells of riding the Pennsy's Broadway Limited between Fort Wayne and Chicago and rarely missing the two-hour-and-ten-minute schedule. The Detroit Arrow between Detroit and Chicago via Fort Wayne was a joint venture of the Pennsylvania and Wabash. Including a stop in Fort Wayne to change crews and engines, board passengers, and switch between the railroads, the Arrow averaged  75 mph for the trip.


The Nickel Plate's legendary 2-8-4 Berkshires could hustle a freight train past the farm fields of Indiana and Ohio at 70 mph in the 1950's without breaking a sweat.


In 1960 I tried to pace an Erie passenger train heading west out of Decatur, Indiana where the track lay parallel with US 224. I got up to 90 mph and wasn't even close to keeping up. Local people who traveled on the Erie then said the ride was flawlessly smooth at speed.

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$100M rail plan focuses on service 


By CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writer

First published: Wednesday, December 7, 2005


ALBANY -- Short-line railroads will get renewed attention under the state's next five-year rail improvement program.


Many of the state's small rail lines have deteriorated tracks and equipment, and "the idea was to ensure that they can undertake the infrastructure improvements they need to remain competitive," said Peter Graves, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.


More at link above:

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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From railpace.com .....



Governor George E. Pataki today announced a five-year, $100 million rail funding program that will help New York railroads make infrastructure and capacity improvements, which will modernize the State’s rail network and keep it competitive. Known as the Rail Freight and Passenger Rail Assistance Program, the funding will provide approximately $20 million for improvements each year through 2010. In the first round of funding announced today, 19 railroads have been awarded $40 million for the 2005 – 2006 fiscal years.


“These critical investments to our rail infrastructure are an essential part of our commitment to making New York’s transportation and rail system the best in the nation,” Governor Pataki said. “Our improvements to freight and passenger rail service will ensure that businesses and commuters have a viable transportation alternative that will reduce heavy-truck traffic and vehicle congestion on our roadways, while improving our environment for future generations.”


Senator Thomas W. Libous, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee said, “Governor Pataki has again shown his commitment to improving New York’s infrastructure by creating the Rail Modernization Program. Making these needed enhancements to our Rail System is critical to enticing new businesses to come to New York and keeping existing ones here.”


Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt said, “The Assembly, under the leadership of Speaker Sheldon Silver, reaffirmed its ongoing commitment to meeting the needs of New York's diverse and interdependent transportation network by advocating for, and joining with the Senate and Governor in adopting, a five year capital plan and bond act during the state budget deliberations. We are delighted that the vital rail portion of that plan, which will upgrade and modernize facilities across the state, is now moving forward.”


The Rail Freight and Passenger Rail Assistance Program, administered by the State Department of Transportation (DOT), is financed by a five-year, $17.9 billion capital program. The funds will be used for track and bridge improvements, grade crossing eliminations or upgrades, construction of intermodal facilities, and the provision of passenger service subsidies. Eligible railroads, including shortline and mainline railroads, will be able to apply for the $60 million available in the final three years of the program.


Norman Schneider, executive director of Railroads of New York (RONY) said, “Railroads of New York, which represents freight railroads throughout New York State, is pleased at the efforts of Governor Pataki and Commissioner Madison to provide this important rail funding. These funds will enable 19 of our members to make needed infrastructure improvements that will help move freight in an economically and environmentally efficient manner.”


In addition to these funds, the Renew and Rebuild New York Transportation Bond Act, approved by New Yorkers on November 8th, provides $135 million for railroads and port facility improvements over the same five-year period, for a combined investment of $235 million. The Rail Freight and Passenger Rail Assistance program will immediately help finance five projects affecting mainline railroads. These include:


$8.6 million to subsidize Amtrak’s Adirondack passenger service between the City of Rensselaer, Rensselaer County, and Montreal, Quebec;

$5.2 million to upgrade the signal system on the Metro North Commuter Railroad line between the City of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, and New York City;

$4 million to expand freight capacity on the CSX Transportation River Line between the Hamlet of Selkirk, Albany County, and the Port of New York and New Jersey terminals in Staten Island and northern New Jersey;

$3.5 million for the Norfolk-Southern Railroad to fund preliminary engineering work for replacement of the Portage Bridge over Letchworth State Park on its Southern Tier mainline in Livingston County; and

$2.5 million to expand freight capacity on the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline between the City of Albany, Albany County, and Montreal, Quebec.


Shortline railroads receiving immediate assistance include:

$1.5 million for track and bridge rehabilitation on the Mohawk, Adirondack and Northern Railroad in Oneida and Lewis counties;

$1.5 million for track rehabilitation on the New York and Ogdensburg Railroad in St. Lawrence County;

$1.5 million for track rehabilitation on the Rochester Southern Railroad in Wyoming and Monroe counties;

$1.4 million for track rehabilitation on the Finger Lakes Railroad in Cayuga and Seneca counties;

$1.25 million for track and bridge rehabilitation on the Owego and Harford Railroad in Tioga County;

$1.2 million for track rehabilitation on the Arcade and Attica Railroad in Wyoming County;

$1.2 million for construction of a rail/truck transfer facility for the Depew, Lancaster and Western Railroad in Genesee County;

$1.2 million for track rehabilitation on the Falls Road Railroad in Niagara and Orleans counties;

$1 million for track rehabilitation on the Battenkill Railroad in Washington County;

$1 million for track rehabilitation on the B&H Railroad in Steuben County;

$1 million for track rehabilitation on the Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad in Monroe and Livingston counties;

$900,000 for track rehabilitation on the New York and Lake Erie Railroad in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties;

$750,000 for track rehabilitation on the Middletown and New Jersey Railroad in Orange County;

$500,000 for an additional track in the Harlem River Yard intermodal facility in the Bronx; and

$300,000 for grade crossing rehabilitation on the Buffalo Southern Railroad in Erie County.


New York has led the nation in railroad investment, providing approximately $248.7 million for rail capital projects since 1995. Investments have been focused on increasing rail access to New York City and Long Island, as well as expanding the capacity of New York’s upstate railroads to ensure that future freight increases can be absorbed by the rail industry, helping to reduce commercial vehicle traffic on state roadways.


Department of Transportation Commissioner Thomas J. Madison, Jr. said, “Thanks to the efforts of Governor Pataki, New York State has the resources necessary to improve and expand upon our existing rail infrastructure, ensuring that it remains a viable transportation alternative for both businesses and travelers.”


(State of New York - posted 12/07) 

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Major cities: Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh


Segment                          Mileage   Top Speed (goal)   Travel Time (goal)

Philadelphia to Pittsburgh   349         110 mph               5:25 hr



Accomplishments and Status:


The Keystone Corridor is electrified between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, is almost completely grade-separated from the highway grid, and enjoys direct track access to Center City Philadelphia and, via the Northeast Corridor Main Line, to Midtown Manhattan. Thus, the Harrisburg-Philadelphia portion of the Keystone Corridor has for many decades been one of the Nation's most highly developed and best-served intercity rail passenger routes, although formal recognition as a "designated high-speed corridor" came only with TEA-21. In recent years, Amtrak (the line's owner and manager) has invested over $26 million in remedying deferred maintenance on the 104-mile Harrisburg-Philadelphia portion.


The State is working to eliminate the remaining three public highway grade crossings on the Harrisburg to Philadelphia portion and has budgeted $9 million for the work.  FRA allocated $500,000 in 1999 in TEA-21, Section 1103© funding to begin preliminary design for the grade separation and bypass road needed to eliminate these 3 crossings and an additional $500,000 in 2001.  The design work for the crossing elimination is underway in 2004.


The Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Highway Administration jointly manage the Section 1103© grade crossing hazard elimination program in designated high-speed corridors. $1 million has been invested in reducing grade crossing hazards in the Keystone Corridor since the program's beginning in 1993. Details on the grade crossing inventory in this corridor can be found HEREhttp://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/RRDev/grade_crossing_inv_keystone.pdf.




The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, FRA and Amtrak have recently studied the infrastructure needs and the potential uses of the Harrisburg to Philadelphia portion of the Keystone Corridor. The preliminary study conclusions suggest that the Amtrak owned line could indeed support the Commonwealth's goal of a 90-minute travel time between Harrisburg and Center City Philadelphia, as well as direct, high-speed service between Harrisburg, Philadelphia's western suburbs, and New York City.


Accordingly, the Commonwealth and Amtrak recently updated an aggressive three-year capital investment program in the corridor worth $100 million; with costs shared equally.  Travel times would be reduced to 90 minutes along the 104-mile route.  This partnership could lead to the acquisition of all-electric equipment capable of linking Harrisburg with the urban centers of Philadelphia and New York.  Work commencing in 2004 focuses on improving track and tie conditions and includes the installation of 10 miles of continuous welded rail.  There will also be upgrades to electric traction cables, bridge improvements and the installation of communications and signal equipment. 


Station improvements and new construction are being pursued at Harrisburg Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PENNDOT), Norfolk Southern (NS) and the airport are finalizing agreements to address right of way issues and accommodations for NS associated with the need to relocate the existing freight track to permit construction of the new intermodal Harrisburg station. Funding of $10 million to complete the Harrisburg station is available.


Approximately $7 million in upgrades to the Lancaster station will be completed in late spring 2004.  Cost estimates and plans for the upgrade of the Mount Joy station are being developed and the master plan and conceptual design for renovations to the Elizabethtown station have been completed. PENNDOT recently awarded a grant for $250,000 to NS to complete an assessment of infrastructure improvements required between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh to add two additional passenger trains per day.  The study is expected to be complete by fall 2004.

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Route 7 Makeover Part of Dulles Rail Plan

By Leef Smith

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, December 8, 2005; Page B08


Leesburg Pike in Tysons Corner is a mishmash of fast-food restaurants, car dealerships and chain stores. Access roads bump up against the main highway, traffic lights are jammed together, and this time of year, cars slow to a crawl.


Now picture an eight-lane, pedestrian-friendly urban boulevard with a Metrorail line overhead.


Planners say they would use the arrival of Metrorail to turn Route 7 in Tysons Corner into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. The proposed Silver Line would occupy the median of Route 7 from Route 123 to the Dulles Toll Road.


Full story at:






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What we really need to be doing is putting copies of stories like these in front of every member of the Ohio General Assembly with the question: "What are you doing to make sure that Ohio isn't falling behind our neighboring states in improving and expanding rail infrastructure for both high speed passenger rail and expanded freight capacity.


It's like KJP said in another thread: Ohio spends more for salt to melt winter snow than it does for the entire budget of the Ohio Rail Development Commission. 


Another interesting factoid to consider:  ORDC now numbers a total staff of 15.  When the Commission was first formed back in the early 90's there were between 40 and 50 staff.


Like I said... we need to be talking to our state legislators.  And since the holidays are upon us, those legislators will be back in their home districts.  Let 'em know what you think.

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A clever way to fund rail when federal funds are tight and a ballot issue isn't desired. The article doesn't say how the District expects to pay for operating costs, however. Interestingly, the Ohio Rail Development Commission has such a TIF mechanisim in its authorizing legislation.




Austin Chronicle


Rail Revival?



Much has been made of Capital Metro's potential plans to add spurs to its modest Leander-to-downtown commuter rail line, but an even bigger rail project looms on the horizon for Central Texas as the Austin-San Antonio Intermunicipal Commuter Rail District considers its options for funding a far more ambitious rail corridor.


The local Leander line pales in comparison to the proposed Austin-San Antonio rail line, which could take commuters all the way from Georgetown to downtown San Antonio on a Union Pacific freight corridor with 15 stops. Such a rail line, unlike Capital Metro's venture, does not require a vote of the people and could be funded entirely as a public-private partnership between the rail district and developers around the rail stations. The estimated cost of the venture is 10 times that of Capital Metro's rail line: $615 million to both secure the line and provide initial operating expenditures.


The creation of the Austin-San Antonio line is a tricky task. This is the line that would require Union Pacific to vacate its freight rail line down MoPac and shift freight traffic over to the SH 130 corridor. Sid Covington, chair of the rail district board, told his members at a recent meeting that Union Pacific was open to negotiations and he was confident such a strategy could be achieved, possibly by 2010. Double-tracking within the freight rail's right of way also is an option on the table.


Once the train cars pass Austin on the Union Pacific line, they're on a track that goes through Buda, Kyle, and New Braunfels. At San Antonio, the rail line splits and the Austin-San Antonio rail corridor could pick up both a line past the airport into downtown San Antonio and an east-side route that board members support for its economic potential in an area of San Antonio that sorely needs redevelopment.


Two aspects of the project are currently on track. First is an updated feasibility study by Carter & Burgess, slated for completion next spring. An initial alternatives analysis, completed in 1999, is considered out-of-date. This alternatives analysis is a requirement of the federal New Starts program, an initiative of the Federal Transportation Administration that provides seed money for urban rail lines. Even the strongest backers of the Austin-San Antonio route, like rail district President Ross Milloy, agree the chances of federal funding are slim given the widespread competition for the limited dollars. A second federal funding program, targeted at creation of commuter rail lines in the Southwest, is another potential source of funding, Milloy said.


That leads to the second task at hand, an assessment of the potential economic impact around the 15 stations along the route. Consultant Charles Heimsath of Capitol Market Research is completing that study, looking at each station individually for its development potential. If local jurisdictions agree, tax-increment finance districts around each station could capture incremental increases in value to fund the creation and operation of the rail line. Or the rail district could, as board member Fred Harless pointed out, buy up undeveloped land around the various stations and hammer out agreements with developers to share the cost of the rail line in exchange for access to station land. That's a strategy that Capital Metro has used to defray the cost of its line.


Heimsath's early economic impact figures, based on a dozen stations, project a potential $353 million in tax dollars over 25 years, which bodes well for the rail district. Heimsath's full report should be available some time early next year.



"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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29 December 2005


Minneapolis: City eyes streetcar, funds $300,000 study



Is Minneapolis moving toward re-installing streetcars? John DeWitt of the Minneapolis-based Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) reports that on 19 Dec. the Minneapolis City Council approved a 2006 budget which includes $300,000 for a "streetcar study". Apparently the idea came from Mayor R. T. Rybak's office.


John adds that the streetcar study will be tacked onto Minneapolis's Ten-Year Transportation Action Plan currently being developed. "That plan basically calls for the implementation of a bus-based Primary Transit Network similar to Portland's Frequent Service Network" he reports.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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16 December 2005



Green Line line rail expansion project moves ahead


San Francisco streetcar motorman and rail transit enthusiast Peter Ehrlich reports (Internet postings, 15 Nov. 2005) that Portland, Oregon's TriMet transit agency has authorized the purchase of 33 parcels of property for the 6.5-mile Green Line light rail transit (LRT) extension along I-205 from Gateway Transit Center to Clackamas Town Center. Peter notes that the right-of-way is already in place, and final engineering is already under way. Revenue service could begin by 2009.



"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Albany New York Times Union

Rail plans at full speed

  Bruno lays out ambitious timetable to improve state's train service


  By CATHY WOODRUFF, Staff writer

Click byline for more stories by writer.

  First published: Friday, January 6, 2006


  RENSSELAER -- With a blueprint for overhauling train service

throughout the state now in hand, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno

said Thursday that it's time to start making it happen.


At the top of Bruno's to-do list with his Senate High Speed Rail Task

Force in the next six months: get the pieces in place for a $22 million

program of track and signal work, consolidated rail corridor management

and new express trains that will cut the trip to New York City to just

over two hours and ensure that trains arrive consistently on time.


  "You didn't get here by train," Bruno wise-cracked to a crowd gathered

at the Rensselaer Rail Station. "If you had taken the train, we would

be guessing what time you'd get here."


Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican, pledged during a conversation

with Times Union editors later Thursday to make funding of the first

two-year phase of his ambitious passenger rail plan a high priority in

state budget negotiations this year.


"It's all going to be part of negotiating a budget and what's in the

best interest of the Capital Region and the state," he said.


He noted that Republican Gov. George Pataki and Democratic Assembly

Speaker Sheldon Silver of Manhattan are certain to have their own pet

projects and programs in mind.


"They don't get done unless we make them our priorities in the Senate,"

he said.


Thursday's release of a Senate task force study piloted by former

Albany International Airport CEO John Egan set out a series of

short-range, mid-range and long-range goals that Bruno said will

require the sustained commitment of state and federal money and

interest to become reality.


Over the next 10 to 12 years, the task force recommends some $1.8

billion worth of improvements between New York City and Buffalo,

including tracks and sidings to eliminate bottlenecks and conflicts

with freight traffic and additional trains to provide more frequent



With more frequent and reliable trains traveling between New York City

and upstate New York, Bruno predicted "the economic impact, job

creation and the effect on the economy is just going to be tremendous."


Ultimately, the task force envisions a system of super-fast trains,

perhaps using electrically powered magnetic levitation -- or "maglev"

-- technology along the Thruway, traveling as fast as 200 to 300 mph

between New York City and Buffalo. Such a system would be two decades

away and would cost $10 billion to $20 billion to build, the task force

and its consultants estimate.


"We in New York state were literally left at the station when it comes

to moving people by rail," Bruno said. "We have got to come into the

21st century here."


Bruno repeatedly dismissed suggestions that this plan will go the way

of some 22 previous studies on New York passenger rail now gathering



The state's most recent attempt at faster train service, a $185 million

program that included refurbishing a fleet of 1970s Turboliner trains,

collapsed and is mired in litigation between the state Department of

Transportation and Amtrak.


"We're moving from planning to action," Bruno said. "This is different

from before, when balls were in the air and dropped. We're going to

stay with it."


With more than 160 pages of charts, analysis and recommendations, the

task force report caps three months of intensive work by the task force

and a team of consultants headed by Parsons Brinckerhoff under a $1.2

million contract.


While Bruno initially launched the high-speed rail initiative in March

with talk of European-style "bullet trains" zooming across New York,

the task force's approach evolved to include an early emphasis on

incremental changes Egan and Bruno said are necessary to improve rail

service far sooner.


While the initial phase should shave 20 minutes off the travel time

between Rensselaer and Manhattan, Bruno said an even more important

goal is reducing delays. An average of 70 percent of Amtrak trains now

are on time between Rensselaer and Penn Station. Only half of trains

traveling west of Albany arrive on time at their final stops.


"You have to know that when you get on this train at eight in the

morning, you are going to be in New York City at 10:05," Bruno said.

"You have a whole day planned."


A critical early step -- and perhaps one of the most difficult -- will

be to achieve agreement among Amtrak, Metro-North and CSX freight

railroad to unify control of operations between New York City and

Rensselaer, the task force's experts said.


All three railroads own portions of the tracks and ground equipment and

manage operations of their own trains running on the line.


"With all the players that interface, it's a wonder that trains run at

all and get there," Bruno said.


Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton,

said his committee would go to work soon on any legislation required to

launch the rail program. He said he'd look to Assembly members,

including high-speed rail advocate Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat, to

collaborate on the effort.


Cathy Woodruff can be reached at 454-5093 or by e-mail at


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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here's another news site i have been on for years. at the host's request any clevo stuff you see in the achives i submitted:




Here's another terrific site, with much detail, photos and maps of urban rail transit systems throughout the world. Very easy to navigate, but note that not all cities/systems are shown on the maps -- you have to scan down through lists below the continental map:



"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Let's add other parts of the world to this. A friend of mine sent to me this e-mailed message...


Need we any other argument for the Ohio Hub System and the Chicago-based Midwest Regional Rail Initiative?


"The U.S. government needs to take a hard look at the country's physical infrastructure.  People who travel abroad often have a slight feeling of returning to a developing country.  While most foreign cities have a fast rail connection from the airport to downtown, most U.S. cities do not.  The whole U.S. air traffic system, from the airlines to air traffic control is obviously under stress.  In Europe and Japan, rail is fast, comfortable, convenient, and efficient.  U.S. rail travel is torture.  Among international travelers, the U.S. telephone system has become a bit of a joke.  My mobile phone works better in Bombay than in Washington, D.C. ...  We cannot become competitive with second-rate infrastructure.  The U.S. government needs to make improvement a top priority."


-- from p. 270 of Clyde Prestowitz's book:  Three Billion New Capitalists:  The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East


Prestowitz was a high-level official in the Commerce Department during the Reagan administration.  The basic premise is that we are losing our economic competitivenes to China, India, Japan, and even Europe and we're reacting with blindness.  I believe he has credibility because of his background and because his arguments are completely non-partisan and he wrote his book in a completely non-partisan fashion.  We're not paying attention, we're being totally complacent, and as a result our economic position is weakening at an accelerating pace.  This isn't an if or a when, it's started happening slowly in the 60's and is now quickly accelerating.  There's a lot more to it than infrastructure, but it's a key part of the equation.  It's all fixable, but no one in Washington right now, whether Republican or Democrat, gets it.

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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not just fascinating stuff about nyc's transit, but fantastic photos and information of all world transit systems, from curtiba's brt to that wild rio trolley i took last summer can all be found here. i warn you make sure you have lots of time to kill before you clik on this one - ha!:





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'And the government is about to open bidding on a $12 billion, 180-mph "Tren Bala," or bullet train, the western hemisphere's first...'

How sad for America that Mexico is developing the hemisphere's first true high-speed rail service.





Mexico reviving travel by train

Billions poured into new Bullet, Suburban trains


Chris Hawley

Republic Mexico City Bureau

Jan. 6, 2006 12:00 AM


MEXICO CITY - High-speed bullet trains whooshing across the Mexican

countryside. Electric commuter trains slicing through Mexico City.

Gleaming new train stations and state-of-the-art switching systems.


  It's all part of an ambitious, multibillion-dollar plan to revive

train travel in Mexico, a business that was mostly abandoned in 2001

after decades of mismanagement and long, uncomfortable journeys in

aging rail cars.


  Now construction crews are tearing up streets along the weed-covered

rails leading into Mexico City's crumbling Buenavista station,

preparing the way for a new $5 billion commuter-rail system that

officials are calling the Suburban Train.


  And the government is about to open bidding on a $12 billion, 180-mph

"Tren Bala," or bullet train, the western hemisphere's first, that will

run 360 miles between Mexico City and Guadalajara, the country'

second-largest city. There are also plans for a new cargo rail line

that could cut 10 hours off the trip from the Pacific port of

Manzanillo and Aguascalientes in central Mexico.


  The government says it needs trains because Mexico's highways are

becoming overloaded with cars, especially around Mexico City, the

world's second-largest metropolis after Tokyo. Gridlock-weary

chilangos, as Mexico City residents are known, are praising the idea.


  But officials are also reaching out to Mexican patriotism, trumpeting

the projects as signs of the country's progress.


  "This signifies a great step toward modernity," President Vicente Fox

said at a ceremony marking construction of the new suburban line. "It's

part of a strategy for developing quality public transportation for the

inhabitants of our cities."



Laying down tracks

The government has pledged to finish the first 15-mile section of the

Suburban Train system by 2007 and the Bullet Train by 2011. Both

projects are being funded by a combination of private investment and

government bonds.


  CAF, the Spanish company building the suburban line, will also operate

it under a 30-year contract with the government. It's unclear who will

run the bullet train, although it's likely to be a contractor as well.

In Mexico, it's not unusual for foreign companies to manage airports

and other government-owned enterprises.


  Several countries have built high-speed rail lines. The most

well-known are Japan's Shinkansen and France's TGV, but Spain, Italy,

Germany, Belgium and South Korea also have them. Taiwan and China plan

to build high-speed lines as well.


  The United States has Amtrak's Acela train, which runs between

Washington, New York and Boston. But it shares its track with

conventional trains, which limits its speed.


  "If Mexico were to pull this off, it would be the first true

high-speed rail system in the Western Hemisphere," said William

Vantuono, editor of Railway Age, a trade publication based in New York.

"And as long as they can avoid a lot of political interference, their

chances of doing this are pretty good."


  The government has hired French company SYSTRA to plan the rail line

and plans to begin awarding construction contracts within months.


  The leading candidate in the 2006 presidential election, Andrés Manuel

López Obrador, has an even more ambitious plan. He is promising to

extend the bullet train, which he calls "the Eagle," north to Nuevo

Laredo, on the border with Texas, and west to Mexicali and Tijuana.

Travelers from Arizona could catch the train in Puerto Peñasco or

Hermosillo, Sonora.


  López Obrador is also promising a rail line to span the 150-mile

Isthmus of Tehuantepec separating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in

southern Mexico. The line would be an alternative to the Panama Canal

for companies shipping goods to Asia.



Old railroad lines

Railroads have played an important part in Mexico's history . The first

train line was built in 1857 in downtown Mexico City. In the late

1800s, dictator Porfirio Díaz made railway construction his first

priority, in part to populate northern Mexico and discourage U.S.



  During the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa seized rail lines

and used the trains to move his troops.


  Later, the railway workers' union became the prototype for the "charro

unions," the corrupt labor groups that helped the Revolutionary

Institutional Party rule Mexico for 71 years.


  By the 1980s, Mexico's railroads were falling into disrepair. In the

1990s, the government sold all the lines to private companies.


  Kansas City Southern now owns the lucrative trunk route from Mexico

City to Nuevo Laredo. Ferromex, a company that is 26 percent owned by

Union Pacific, controls the southeastern routes to the Yucatán

Peninsula and the northwestern lines to Arizona and California.


  The private companies discontinued the unprofitable passenger service,

except in a few places like the Copper Canyon of northwestern Mexico.

These days, most long-distance travel is done by bus or airplane.


  But as Mexico's economic footing has improved in the past decade, the

federal government has been spending millions of dollars on

transportation projects. And increasingly, it has been looking to the




Trains' next stop

Mexico's first project is the Suburban Train, which could eventually

include 140 miles of track around Mexico City. The first 15-mile

section runs from Buenavista to the northern suburb of Cuautitlán.

Fares will be about 90 cents, CAF has said.


  The train is expected to move about 320,000 people a day and keep

about 20,000 cars off the road, the government says. With a population

of 18 million people, Mexico City has serious problems with traffic

congestion and air pollution.


  The city already has a well-regarded subway system, and last summer it

launched the MetroBus, a fleet of articulated buses that serve a string

of elevated stations running along Insurgentes Avenue.


  Not everyone is happy with the suburban train project.


  "This train is being built according to the whims of the government,

and they're not taking into account people who live here," said Juan

Luis Mejía Rios of Mexico City's northern Atlampa neighborhood, as

workers tore up a nearby railroad crossing.


  Residents in Mejía's apartment building are angry about bridges that

the government plans to build over the tracks. They fear the retaining

walls will block the light in their courtyard.


  "No to the wall and the bridges of death!" say huge letters painted on

the building.


  The government says it's trying to minimize such intrusions by putting

the train at the bottom of an 18-foot-deep trench. That will eliminate

railroad crossings, paving the way for the bullet train.


  Commuters, meanwhile, said they're all for the project. With about 3

million vehicles in the capital, rush hour is a daily ordeal of honking

horns and crunching bumpers.By car, the trip from Buenavista to

Cuautitlán takes about three hours during rush hour, the government

says. The train should cut the trip to 25 minutes.


  "There are too many cars in this city, and it's only getting worse. I

think it's a great that they're bringing back the trains," said Elpidio

Herrera, as he waited for a bus near the old Buenavista station.




"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Some good news from NewYork....


Thursday, January 5, 2006

(Press release from New York Senate Majority Leader Bruno's Office)



Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno today released a detailed plan to improve New York’s rail system by dramatically reducing travel time, improving reliability and increasing the frequency of trains across the state. The report, officially presented today to the Senate Task Force on High Speed Rail after six months of research by the Task Force Working Group, proposes short, intermediate and long term changes that would help New York remain economically competitive, stimulate new employment and firmly reestablish New York’s place as a national transportation innovator and rail technology leader.


"The Task Force Working Group, comprised of the best transportation experts in the industry, has provided a comprehensive, market-based blueprint for upgrading our rail system, which has fallen behind the rest of the world in terms of speed, reliability and frequency," said Senator Bruno. "New York has always been a leader in transportation innovation, and we now have an opportunity, and an obligation, to improve our outdated rail system through this visionary plan and increase our economic competitiveness and our ability to utilize mass transit more efficiently and effectively."


"The Senate will use this report as a blueprint this session to provide the resources and support necessary to begin making world-class rail service in New York State a reality," concluded Senator Bruno.


"The development of this exciting and visionary action plan has been a very challenging but rewarding assignment for the entire working group," said John Egan, Executive Director of the Task Force Staff. "Each member brought energy, professionalism and commitment to the task of producing recommendations that are difficult to implement in many areas but are critically important to the future of New York State. We are all immensely proud of our collective accomplishment, ahead of schedule and under budget."


For the past thirty years, rail service in the Empire Corridor (New York City to Buffalo) has stagnated and deteriorated, while other countries and states have eclipsed New York and developed successful, reliable rail systems. Amtrak’s uncertain future necessitates State action to improve the system.


Within the Corridor, unity of track ownership and operation from the Capital District to New York City is paramount for the immediate future. That section is currently owned and maintained by four separate entities with different standards and regulations, leading to delays, confusion and unreliability.


In order to improve the current Corridor reliability rating of 60 percent (four out of every ten trains is late), the report proposes creating one accountable state entity, perhaps a revamped existing state authority or new one, to oversee improvements to reliability and frequency of rail service. The entity would oversee short and intermediate plans which would cost approximately $1.8 billion, or $180 million per year over ten years, and would yield increases in ridership of over 100 percent on the Albany to New York City portion of the Corridor.


The report proposes funding be provided by an 80 percent Federal and 20 percent State split to address deferred maintenance and repair, and a 50 percent Federal and 50 percent State split for continuing capacity and reliability improvements needed to increase service level. Under this funding strategy, the total cost to the state will be $800 million, or 44 percent of the total Action Plan cost of $1.8 million in the short term.


Long range planning (ten to twenty years) would ultimately lead to a dedicated statewide high speed rail fixed guideway route utilizing either steel wheel or magnetic levitation technology, and would connect New York City to Buffalo in two to three hours and cost between $6.2 and $8.2 billion dollars. The report estimates a cumulative cost of all phases for institution of high speed rail service across New York State at $8 to $10 billion.


The report proposes continual improvements to service reliability, trip time and frequencies in accordance with the best market analysis and, as quickly as the infrastructure and availability of equipment will permit. The plan has six phases, each with its own service pattern and operating plan:


A) Initial Express Service (in 2006- $22 million)


-Within six months, establish the "Empire Corridor Express" demonstration project that would take passengers from Albany to New York City and back at day’s end in about 2 hours;


-Begin track and infrastructure improvements that will be fully implemented in future phases;


-Work with CSXT to relieve key bottlenecks west of the Capital Region;


-Begin negotiations with CSXT and Canadian Pacific Railway to establish a public-private partnership for passenger and freight service from Schenectady to Buffalo and Schenectady to Saratoga Springs.


B) Added Express Service (by 2009- $516 million)


-Cut travel time between Albany and New York City to under 2 hours;


-Achieve substantial capacity improvements and service frequency;


-Establish single public ownership of the entire rail from Poughkeepsie to Amsterdam;


-Complete infrastructure improvements that make higher speeds of 110 mph or more possible;


-Improve reliability to 80 percent or better;


-Purchase new control cars enabling push-pull operation to eliminate looping trains and allow faster turns in Penn Station;


-Continue bottleneck elimination program;


-Construct second line from Albany Rensselaer to Schenectady (currently the only single track portion in the Corridor);


-Begin Livingston Avenue bridge rehabilitation;


-Continue other track and infrastructure improvements.


C) New Rolling Stock (by 2013- $407 million)


-Acquire 12 new train sets with dual mode locomotives, push-pull capability;


-Acquire high speed (125 mph) coaches with tilt capability;


-Improve on-time service to 85 percent;


-Achieve substantial increase in service associated with the procurement of new, more reliable rail equipment;


-Continue capacity and reliability improvements;


-Achieve significant corridor-wide on-time performace improvements;


-Continue other track and infrastructure improvements.


D) New Operations Plan (by 2013-2015- $412 million)


-Acquire 2 additional train sets;


-Establish 3 nonstop express trains from Albany to New York City roundtrip daily;


-Establish 18 total daily Albany to New York City trains;


-Improve service;


-Complete infrastructure improvements and capacity, and bring all tracks to a "state of good repair."


E) Enhanced Operating Plan (by 2015- $444 million)


-Final phase of improvements associated with the short-term action plan;


-Improve on-time service to 90-95 percent;


-Acquire 6 new train sets, bringing total number of tilting train sets in service to 20;


-Establish 23 Albany to New York City roundtrips, 5 non stop;


-Improve parking, station access, ticketing and information systems to accommodate expanded service;


-Ridership expected to grow to nearly 3 million per year in the South Corridor and nearly one million in the West Corridor.


F) New High Speed Rail/Maglev (by 2025- $6.2-$8.2 billion)


-High speed rail from New York City to Buffalo;


-Dedicated fixed guideway along New York State Thruway;


-Achieve top speeds of 200-300 mph;


-Ridership estimated at 10 million annual passenger trips;


-Additional intracity trips in upstate western corridor (Albany to Buffalo/Niagara Falls);


-Possible Empire Corridor extensions and links.

The bipartisan Task Force is chaired by Senator Bruno. The Task Force is comprised of members with extensive transportation experience, including Senate Minority Leader David A. Paterson (D, Manhattan), Senators Dean Skelos (R, Rockville Centre), Thomas Libous (R-C, Binghamton), Caesar Trunzo (R, Brentwood), Owen Johnson (R-C, Babylon), Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose), Michael Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), Charles Fuschillo (R-C, Merrick), John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport), George Maziarz (R-C, North Tonawanda), Joseph Robach (R-C-I-WF), James L. Seward (R-C-I, Oneonta), William Larkin (R-C, Cornwall on Hudson), Nicholas Spano (R-C, Westchester) and Senator John D. Sabini (D, Queens).


The Task Force members will be reviewing the report and using it as a basis for improving New York State’s intercity rail network during the current legislative session.


The report was prepared by John Egan (Executive Director), Carla Chiaro (Administrative Director), Louise Alessi (Executive Assistant) and Jim Cartin (Consultant to the Task Force).


The Consultant Team included: Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc., CRA International, Inc., Creighton Manning Engineering, LLP, Integrated Strategic Resources, Inc., Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, LLP, William (Al) Wallace, RPI, Donald Nelson, Consultant, Henry Peyrebrune, Consultant, Jack Reilly, Consultant.


Participating stakeholders involved in the discussions and research leading to this report include: Albany Post Railroad Corporation, Amtrak, Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), CDTA, CDTC, CSXT, GBNRTC, GTC, Hudson River Estuary Program, Metro North, Ministere des Transport du Quebec (MTQ), NYSDOT, SMTC.


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Well, RTA is quite pleased with themselves for spending 25 years and about $250 million on a landscaping of six miles of Euclid Avenue.  Elsewhere...


Streetcar plan moves forward

Anacostia service could start in 2007

By Mike Rupert

Examiner Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2006 10:09 PM EST


It's been nearly 45 years since streetcars were heard rumbling through streets of the District. Now D.C. transportation officials say they will get them rolling again by early next year - and the project is moving to Capitol Hill.


D.C. Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini says plans for a nearly 3-mile line through Anacostia are on track, and the streetcars are expected to be in service by early 2007.


And Karina Ricks, coordinator of the Great Streets Project for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the District is working to expand the project to Capitol Hill.


Ricks said the city is expected to request bids this summer to install tracks along H Street and Benning Road. The 3.5-mile stretch of road is already being completely rebuilt, and officials, with the support of neighborhood leaders, said they decided to go ahead and lay the tracks. The tracks would run from near Union Station to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station.


"It's a case of measuring twice and cutting once," Tangherlini said. "We didn't want to come back in two or three years and have to rebuild the road again."


Tangherlini said it could be another three to five years before streetcars are seen rolling through the area. He said the streetcars are "clean and quiet" and should fit nicely with the neighborhood's character.


Transportation officials said additional options for commuters were needed along the busy corridor. As many as 20,000 people use two Metrobus lines along the route each weekday, officials said. The H Street rail project is part of $50 million being spent on road improvements in the corridor as part of the city's Great Streets initiative, Ricks said. Construction is expected to begin this fall.


Streetcars Return


- The last streetcar ran in January 1962


- H Street plan calls for four lanes of traffic and two lanes for streetcars


- Neighborhood leaders hope project will ease traffic and parking problems





My notes: 

1.  The project is being funded by the District of Columbia, independent of the local transit authority (Metro).


2.  District Department of Transportation chief Dan Tangherlini is now Interim GM at Metro.  He lives on Capitol Hill and actually rides the subway to work.


3.  The X2 bus on H Street already runs articulated buses every 10 minutes.  The neighborhood in NE is relatively poor, as is the area of Anacostia where that line will run next year.  This is an attempt to draw more investment to the corridor by providing better (i.e. rail) transportation options.


4.  Rail projects can be built quickly--if the will is there!  I don't think they have quite broken ground on the Anacostia line yet, which is supposed to open in 2007.  It was originally supposed to run in CSX right-of-way, but I believe negotiations fell through.  Instead, the District has decided to put the line in the street, which they've found will attract more passengers anyway.


Questions?  Comments?


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Interesting plan and nice to see the city wasn't waiting for Metro to make a move, although I don't mean to imply that Metro is doing a bad job.  I ride the Metro every time I'm in DC on business and I love the system.


We are hearing similar rumblings from some quarters here in Columbus, where there is growing impatience with the local transit authority (COTA) dragging its feet on a light rail levy.  Rumors are fairly strong of an independent attempt to build a streetcar line to serve downtown and some of the nearby neighborhoods.  Haven't been able to confirm it, but it would be interesting to see if this could get going.  If it did, it would likely force COTA's hand on running a levy and actually implementing an LRT plan.


Keep us posted on this.

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Living in Maine, working in Boston

(Down East Magazine Article)



Passenger rail service has opened up new possibilities for professionals looking to relocate in the Pine Tree State.


Seven years ago Bob Rasche wanted to retire to Maine, but he didn't want to give up his job at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the meantime. He and his wife built their dream home in Wells, and Rasche tried driving the seventy-seven miles to Cambridge every day. Then he rode a bus from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a while. In 2002 he boarded the Downeaster, the passenger train that connects southern Maine and Boston. He's been traveling the train ever since.


"I find the Downeaster just about ideal for me," Rasche explains. "I board at Wells, go to the café car and buy my breakfast, take it back to my seat, and plug my laptop into the electrical outlet below the window." With Mozart on his headphones and work involving high-performance instruments and optics for satellites on his computer, Rasche says the two-hour ride into Boston's North Station passes almost too quickly.


Rasche, 71, is one of a small but growing number of southern Maine residents who find that they can enjoy life at or near retirement age in Maine while keeping in touch with their former lives and jobs in the Boston area. "The train offers a new form of empowerment," observes Cape Porpoise resident Bill Lord, who commutes to his teaching job at Boston University three days a week on the Downeaster. "I can live in Maine where I want to live and work in Boston. I would get very tired very quickly of driving back and forth or taking the bus."


If the numbers are any indication, more people than ever are discovering the train's convenience, particularly within the past year. "Ridership has been phenomenal," notes Patricia Douglas, who became executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in September after serving as marketing and public relations director. "July through October ridership in 2005 was 114,000 people, 30 percent higher than the same period in 2004. It has even been higher than it was in 2002, the first year of operation, and people told me when I took this job that we would never break those figures."


About a third of those riders get on and off in New Hampshire, a fact that persuaded Granite State officials, long skeptical of the train's usefulness, to allocate $1.6 million for a side track near Dover, New Hampshire, that will allow the Downeaster to add a fifth daily trip. Settlement of a longstanding dispute with a New Hampshire bus service owner also helped, and the two transportation systems now have an agreement that allows bus and train riders to buy dual-use tickets.


Rasche says he's typical of a growing number of highly skilled professionals who can enjoy life in Maine while staying in touch with their offices in the Boston or Route 128 area. "There's a woman who works in information technology at Northeastern University," he explains. "There's a gentleman who uses his laptop and headphones to compose music for a boys choir on his way to a job as a business analyst. Another man is a programmer. All sorts of people."



Like Rasche, Bill Lord has ridden the Downeaster since service began in 2002. Before that, he rented an apartment in Boston and came up to Maine on weekends. "I saved $20,000 a year by not living in Boston," he points out. "Sure, I spend up to six hours commuting door-to-door some days, but those hours on the Downeaster are very productive. I can correct papers, read, chat with other riders."


Ridership in September spiked 48 percent over the previous year. Lord credits soaring gasoline prices for the rise. "Many people didn't realize the Downeaster was here until they needed it," he observes. "They were stuck in a rut driving to Boston every day."


Train riders don't fall into any particular demographic, although Rasche notes that the regulars at the station in Wells tend to be professionals in their fifties and sixties. The New Hampshire stops attract a large following of students going to and from Exeter Academy or the University of New Hampshire, as well as young professionals who have moved to southern New Hampshire specifically because they can commute to work in Boston on the Downeaster.


Rasche was able to use his experience on the Downeaster to negotiate flexible work hours with the observatory. These days he goes to Cambridge two days a week and works at home another two days. "One of the effects of the train has been to whittle away at the resistance to flexible hours," he notes. "It's certainly been important to my life. I'd probably be a starving retiree now without the options the train provides. The Downeaster has made it possible for me to continue the work that I greatly enjoy."


Lord notes that riding the train is no longer a novelty. "It's gone from 'Wow, isn't this great' to 'Oh, I'm on the train again,'" he says. That's an important distinction to his mind, because it says that the train's current popularity lies more in its usefulness than its novelty. "People know it's dependable transportation," he remarks.


The Downeaster has routinely ranked second in Amtrak's annual national survey of customer satisfaction, but in 2005 the route came in first. "The Downeaster really seems to have come into its own in developing a loyal following of regular riders, as well as people who use it for occasional daytrips," the rail authority's Douglas adds. "What we've found is that people try the Downeaster and once they try it they keep using it."


Although no one has tried to measure the train's impact on southern Maine, "I think it has had a huge effect," Rasche says. "Bill Lord and I are only two good examples. We both earn reasonably good incomes, and we're plowing that back into the Maine economy. The train allows people to live in Maine and follow their interests in Maine and yet bring back the effects of good jobs from the Boston area. It's attracting the kind of people who make a real difference in the places they live.


"The Downeaster makes it possible to have a life in Maine and a job in Boston," Rasche concludes. "It's hard to get any better than that."



E-mail us at: editorial@downeast.com


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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This really illustrates how passenger rail can open up options.  It allows you to broaden the possibilities where you can live and where you can work.  From an employer stand-point it allows you to broaden your "talent pool" for new employees, because you can sell them on coming to work from a greater distance without having to drive.


What's interesting here is that the "Downeaster" was not created with the commuter in mind.  The service just evolved that way as they added more trains, faster schedules and better train arrival/departure times.


If you want to know more here is their website:  http://www.thedowneaster.com/

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Passengers abandon northern flights for Virgin's high-speed west coast tilting Pendolinos


· Branson firm sparks row with ticket giveaway

· Airlines attack advertising claims over punctuality


Andrew Clark, transport correspondent

Friday January 27, 2006

The Guardian


A new age of the train has dawned on one of Britain's key transport battlegrounds, according to figures showing that the recently modernised west coast mainline is causing huge damage to airlines flying between London and Manchester.


BMI, British Airways, Eastern Airways and VLM have all seen their passenger numbers slump on the lucrative artery since a £7bn upgrade cut 35 minutes from journey times on the intercity rail line, triggering questions about the future of commercial flights on the route.


Since September 2004, Virgin Trains' tilting Pendolinos have been able to cover the 184 miles in two hours six minutes, at an average speed of 88mph.


In the 13 months since the change, Virgin's market share has surged from 40% to 60%, a remarkable revival which will go some way towards vindicating the government's decision to pump public funds into the long-running and troublesome upgrade of the railway line.


To celebrate taking the lead over aviation, Virgin Trains said this week it intended to hand out 10,000 complimentary first-class tickets, typically worth £311 apiece, to any air passengers holding a used London-to-Manchester boarding pass.


Its aggressive tactics have provoked fury among the airlines. A British Airways spokesman asked: "Is it right that a rail operator which receives £90m of taxpayers' money should be giving away £3m?"


BA has also objected to advertisements claiming that Virgin's trains are 13% more punctual than flights. BA said the comparison was on a carefully chosen nine-month period between February and October last year. The period did not include autumn and winter, when rail services are frequently hampered by leaves on the line, high winds and snow.


A breakdown by the Civil Aviation Authority suggested that Britain's second-largest full-service airline, BMI, was suffering some of the worst damage at Virgin's hands, with a 26% collapse in passengers between Heathrow and Manchester between September 2004 and the most recent month for which data was available, October 2005.


BMI needs the route as a feeder for its transatlantic services from Manchester airport and its European network from Heathrow. The airline has responded by offering one-way fares from £25 and by frequently replacing its 195-passenger Airbus A321s on the route with smaller A320s and A319s, which carry 156 and 132 people respectively.


A BMI spokesman said: "We can't deny passenger numbers are down - we're matching that by reducing capacity." He added that the fall was from an unusual high point for the airline, during huge disruption to trains by work on the railway line. "There was a very inflated peak of passengers who came over to the airlines when the west coast line was suffering badly. Now that work's finished, a lot of people are naturally drifting back to the trains," he said.


British Airways, which carries far more transfer passengers than BMI, has experienced more modest falls of 2% on its Heathrow flights and 5% on Gatwick services. A BA spokesman said: "We're still very committed to the route and we'll be fighting tooth and nail to keep it."


Smaller operators such as Jet2, Eastern Airways and VLM experienced drops of varying degrees depending on their catchment areas: Eastern Airways, which flies from Stansted, maintained it had held up well because most of its customers were travelling to or from Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.


Transport experts said the picture was familiar, as flights only tended to be commercially viable on journeys taking at least three hours on the ground.


Eurostar's accelerated services between London, Paris and Brussels have prompted a similar migration from air to rail. Other continental routes, including Paris to Brussels, have been virtually abandoned by airlines unable to compete with high-speed trains.


Environmentalists applauded the shift. Richard Dyer, aviation campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "This will mean a major reduction in emissions per passenger. Rail passengers account for an eighth of the carbon dioxide emissions of airline passengers per kilometre."


Although Virgin's fastest timetabled service takes two hours six minutes, many trains still make frequent stops and take considerably longer.


All is not lost for the airlines, as passengers have given the train service only qualified approval. The railways' National Passenger Survey, published this week, showed that 80% of travellers were satisfied with Virgin's punctuality and 83% were happy with the speed of their journeys. However, only 53% were happy with the toilets and just 49% were content with the way Sir Richard Branson's rail firm dealt with delays.



"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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From Otis White's Urban Notebook



The Joy of a Short, Slow Ride

In Love with Trolleys


What is the deal with trolleys? Every city, it seems, is suddenly crazy

about streetcars. On the surface, this makes no sense. They're an

antiquated form of transportation (most cities ripped up their streetcar

lines by the 1950s), they're slow (top speed: 5 miles an hour), stop at

nearly every corner and run along lines that average only two and a half

miles in length. So who wants to go for a short, slow ride?



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The following is from LightRailNow!, and has links to more information about the new Music City Star commuter rail service that started operations this summer...




Nashville: Bargain-Priced Regional "Commuter" Rail Starter Line Project Under Way



Light Rail Now! Publication Team • January 2005

More and more US cities are finding various forms of regional passenger rail – so-called "commuter rail – a viable option, under the right circumstances, for introducing rail transit service on a relatively low budget ... and Nashville, Tennessee is a case in point. Beginning this past November, workers started re-laying about 80,000 feet of track as part of the rehabilitation and infrastructure improvements needed to implement a 32-mile, Nashville-to-Lebanon "commuter rail" line. More trackwork is expected to take place within the next two months.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Posted on Michigan Land Use Institute,



Looking for Modern Transit

Citizens, leaders lay tracks for Grand Valley’s new economy

By Andy Guy

Great Lakes Bulletin News Service


Expanding public transit is a top priority for students, seniors, and the workers wearing suits.


The people of the Grand Valley are going back to the future. Life science, information technology, and other innovative, high-tech industries represent 21st-century economic opportunity, just as manufacturing promised good-paying jobs 100 years ago. Entrepreneurs are following in the footsteps of Louis Campau, who purchased Grand Rapid’s present-day central business district from the federal government for $90 in 1831, by investing billions of dollars to build vibrant neighborhoods and business districts with modern offices, eateries, and living space. And just like the 1920’s, there is now serious talk of putting streetcars in service to move people around the growing region more efficiently.


More at link above:

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Interesting article from Virginia that suggests we need to drop the use of the term "bullet trains" and start talking about "higher-speed" rail in a more realistic sense.  And take a look at what the State of Virginia is spending on rail projects! 


Bullet trains still a dream

by Rob Walker

Virginia Business

from PotomacNews.com

Thursday, February 9, 2006


With Virginians facing longer delays on congested roads - 157 million hours stuck in traffic in 2003 according to one report - the political pressure is on to improve the state’s rail system.

But speedy bullet trains racing from one end of the commonwealth to another are not likely to be the fix for Virginia’s transportation troubles. "Given the potential ridership and the cost, I think high speed here would quickly be labeled a huge white elephant," says Michael S. Bronzini, professor of civil, environmental and infrastructure engineering at George Mason University. Another obstacle: gaining enough rights of way for new tracks to facilitate a first-rate passenger service.

What we need, says Bronzini and other proponents of passenger rail, is "higher speed" rail - reliable service that exceeds predictable driving time. "If you had intercity passenger rail service that was customer friendly and that ran reliably from Richmond to Washington in less than two hours, that would be the threshold," says Richard L. Beadles, longtime advocate of passenger rail and a member of the state Rail Advisory Board.

At that level, Amtrak passenger volume - which now approaches 250,000 passengers a year - would easily double, Beadles says. Connect Richmond with similar service to Williamsburg and Hampton Roads, and ridership in the "heartland corridor" from Richmond to Washington is likely to reach a million. "The numbers really explode," says Beadles.

This year may be the time when rail moves to center stage because of a confluence of circumstances including natural disasters, the Iraq war, fuel costs, and concerns over economic development and land-use planning. "We may have arrived at a kind of perfect storm in terms of the opportunity for high-speed or higher-speed rail," says Karen Rae, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Following decades of "disinvestment in rail," notes Rae, "Now we are realizing that it needs to be part of our national transportation system."

Much of the state's growing demand for passenger rail service in the heartland corridor and Hampton Roads could be met by the Virginia Railway Express. That’s the opinion of George Hoffer, economist and rail historian at Virginia Commonwealth University. The commuter service, originally designed to move passengers around traffic-choked Northern Virginia, now sends trains as far south as Fredericksburg. They’re filled with numbers of passengers originally predicted for the next decade. "The passengers are there," Hoffer says. The state, with some federal help, could expand VRE to Richmond and Hampton Roads. "That would be a busy line."

While it’s not clear which direction Virginia will go to beef up its rail, the state is spending more money. At the end last year, the Commonwealth Transportation Board ratcheted up funding for rail projects that will improve passenger and freight service and that could provide a foundation for true high-speed rail in the future. The board recently approved $53.4 million for studies and projects through fiscal year 2008, according to Rae’s agency.

This includes funding for a project that will have the greatest effect on freight and passenger travel through the heartland corridor: a third rail. It would run alongside the two lines that already carry freight and passengers along the route parallel to Interstate 95. Total cost of this project alone, Rae says, will top $400 million.

For now, her agency is pleased to predict that, when complete, the recently approved projects will save more than 17 million gallons of fuel a year while removing more than 2 million cars and almost a million trucks from state highways. The reduced traffic also means savings on highway maintenance and reduced pollution.

Near the top of the list is $2.8 million for new track switches at CSX Corp.'s Acca Yard in Richmond, an infamous bottleneck for passenger and freight traffic. Another project would improve rail access to Hampton Roads' thriving ports while enhancing opportunities for better rail service south to North Carolina, a state that’s aggressively pursuing rail connections through Virginia to the busy Northeast corridor.

Virginia recently earmarked $750,000 for an environmental impact study on connecting Richmond to Raleigh via a high-speed rail corridor. North Carolina has spent $2.4 million on environmental impact studies of the corridor from Charlotte to Washington and is spending another $3 million on studies of the Richmond-to-Raleigh line.

Conservative estimates from studies done in North Carolina show that ridership on a reliable, higher-speed line from Raleigh to the Northeast would operate in the black, says David Foster, environmental programs manager for the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Rail Division. North Carolina is so anxious to make the connection that it has helped fund environmental studies in Virginia from the state line to Petersburg. "If Virginia continues to make the necessary improvements from Richmond to Washington, this becomes a prudent investment," Foster says.

Rae credits business interests in Richmond, Hampton Roads and along the heartland corridor with helping drive rail development. "We see ourselves on the end of a large, tenuous cul de sac, with a huge port and tremendous military presence hanging out here," says Brad Face, vice chair of the development group The Future of Hampton Roads. "We need access to Richmond and Washington and on to the Northeast. We need relief from congestion, and we are very much aware of the cost of additional [river] crossings. Moving freight and passenger traffic onto rails will be a big help."

Virginia approved its first dedicated pool of money for rail - $23.2 million - last year, and progress is expected to continue under the transportation-focused administration of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. Still, rail proponents warn that major obstacles remain. The Bush administration tried unsuccessfully to eliminate funds for Amtrak and has been antagonistic to passenger rail in general, citing primarily what it sees as a losing investment in terms of costs versus benefits.

In the 25 years before 9/11, of $782 billion in federal money spent on transportation, 48 percent went to highways, 22 percent to aviation and just 4 percent to rail. "We have to hope the next administration is able to understand the need for a core [rail] system like the national highway system with real federal participation," says Rae. The States for Passenger Rail coalition, which represents 25 states "is getting audiences" with key leaders in Washington, she adds. If the federal government matched state funds in the same way it does for highways - at 60 to 80 percent - "We would be a long way toward the third rail," says Rae.

In Beadles’ opinion, the greatest obstacle in Virginia is CSX. "There has to be some reconciliation between legitimate freight interests and public passenger interests, which are also legitimate and largely ignored," he says. CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan says there will always be challenges in running freight and passenger trains on the same tracks. "They are by their nature different," he says. "It's difficult to co-exist."

Growth in freight and passenger demand has meant more congestion, and CSX's highest priority as a for-profit business that owns the tracks in the heartland corridor is delivering freight as quickly and reliably as possible. That is not detrimental to the traveling public, Sullivan says. "Every piece of public policy you see says we need to get freight off the highways. That's our strong suit."

Sullivan disagrees with those who contend that Virginia's rail fund is directed too heavily toward freight projects. In its first year of dispersing the $23.2 million in dedicated funds, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded more than $17 million, or about 73 percent, to freight rail and the remaining $6 million for improvements to passenger service. Projects that benefit freight also will benefit passenger trains, asserts Sullivan, by eliminating bottlenecks and permitting higher-speed travel. The third rail, he adds, would alleviate a lot of problems.

Until then, Rae characterizes Virginia’s Rail Advisory Board as a meeting place for all rail interests, including freight haulers. "We are together in the same room and we have made significant progress," she says. "I think we are realizing we have more in common than we have differences."

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February 8, 2006News

Getting Ready for Rails

Sound Transit is on time and under budget—if you don't count the first five years.

By Rick Anderson


The steamed-up Sound Transit coach lurched away from Union Station at 11 a.m. sharp. Destination: photo ops and story spins. "The 2006 Rolling Stop Tour," someone muttered as we headed into our first traffic jam of the day, at the Interstate 5 on-ramp. The blue-and-white bus brimmed with transit and construction honchos and a small volunteer army of embedded reporters, photographers, and editors. The media were along to witness the agency's progress in eliminating gridlock as we know it. In hard hats and boots, the keyboard tappers seemed a dastardly version of the Village People.





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From www.railpace.com




The Province of Ontario and GO Transit are investing more than $73 million in new railcars and buses, Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar has announced.. "These new railcars will increase GO's bi-level rail fleet to 415 cars and its bus fleet to 299. The additional railcars will allow GO to carry more than 6,400 more daily passengers - the equivalent of a fourteen-kilometre line of cars, bumper to bumper," Takhar said. "We're making room for new riders as well as reducing crowding on existing rush hour trains and buses." )


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New Chicago suburbs on lake?

High-speed rail commuter line envisioned for New Buffalo, St. Joseph.


Tribune Staff Writer


ST. JOSEPH -- Chicago is only 90 miles from St. Joseph and 60 miles from New Buffalo.


Combine those distances with a fast, efficient commuter rail connecting the two Berrien County lakefront cities to the Windy City and what do you have?





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Good catch on this story Detroit Rising !  Very interesting.  I hope these folks are looking beyond just talking with Amtrak.  Illinois is one of eight states involved in the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative to establish a regional system of high speed passenger trains in short-haul corridors.  Amtrak isn't even set up to do this sort of thing.

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As for the Downeaster, this article overlooks the big scandal with the Big Dig and the missed opportunity to connect North and South Stations.  Compared to the overall cost of the Big Dig, this connecting rail tunnel could have been added for a ridiculously small price, it will now never be built.  Completion of this tunnel could have allowed continuous commuter service south from Maine to Copley Square, for instance, subtracting 15-25 minutes from the commutes of those who otherwise have to deal with 1 or 2 subway tranfers from North Station to points in Boston proper.  As is some people on the Green Line have to transfer to other Green Line cars in Park St. Station just to get on the right branch. 


But the Nashville situation is shocking.  This state is addicted to road building like no other with one outrageous road after another being proposed and built and expanded at all times.  I am skeptical as to how successful these commuter lines can possibly be; downtown is simply not a major business center by any Yankee standard.  However its freight lines are positioned perfectly (unlike Cincinnati, to some extent, as a comparison) for commuter rail so the best of luck to them.   





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Yeah the Nashville thing is amazing. 145 miles of commuter rail????  I don't even hear cities 4 times the size of Nashville proposing such a huge system. Are they expecting to upgrade these rails to light rail in the distant future? Where the hell are they getting all this money?

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Would somebody please forward this WHOLE thread to Cleveland RTA leaders!!!  Maybe they would realize that todays rail is pretty useful in an urban area....and progress has been made since the days of the coal burning steam engines!  RTA's mantra...."bigger highways..more buses"

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From www.trains.com


Add trains, and the riders will come, Metra finds


CHICAGO — Thousands more commuters are taking Metra’s SouthWest and North Central Service lines since the commuter-rail agency added 52 trains, 20 route-miles, and seven stations to three of its 11 routes beginning in late January, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.



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February 27, 2006

U.S. Tells Northeast States to Pay More to Use Tracks



WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — After failing in a three-year effort to hand over Amtrak's Washington-to-Boston tracks, and their costs, to a new federal-state consortium, the Bush administration is seeking tens of millions of dollars in extra fees from states for use of the tracks by commuter railroads.


But the states are saying they already have contracts with Amtrak that specify what they should pay, and that Washington has not explained its demand for more money.



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From the Baltimore Sun


Light rail back on tracks

With reopening of northern stretch, entire line will be double-tracked, but a boost in ridership is not guaranteed


By Michael Dresser

Sun reporter


February 25, 2006


Baltimore's Central Light Rail Line is getting its second chance to win the hearts of commuters.


The light rail will assume its full role in the region's transportation network tomorrow as the 14-year-old transit system operates for the first time as a two-track line for virtually all its route from Hunt Valley to Anne Arundel County.


Full story at link above:

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That decision, made to hold down costs, was one of many widely acknowledged flaws in the system - including a route that bypassed the most populous corridors, stations without shops or other development, and a stop-and-go crawl though the Howard Street corridor.


For a moment there, I thought I was reading an article about Cleveland's Red Line!

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Indy to Chicago in 50 Minutes Is Possible, Say Researchers

Feb 28, 2006, 04:15 PM CST

By Tony Perkins

24-Hour News 8


Researchers at Purdue University are mapping a plan for the future of the nation's interstate highways. They provided details Tuesday of a vision of what a road trip might look like 40 years from now.


Researchers say the plan would take drivers off the roads and put them onto the rails. High-speed passenger trains would whisk people along the interstate quicker than the cars and trucks rolling alongside. A trip from Indianapolis to Chicago could take less than an hour.

"If you chose to travel by high-speed rail rather than by highway, that four-hour trip would take you approximately 50 minutes," said Dr. Bonnie Savage, Purdue University.

Savage spent three years researching congestion on interstate highways. She says within ten years, more than half of an average motorist's time will be spent sitting still in traffic jams. Dr. Savage says traffic congestion costs the country about $78 billion a year in lost productivity, wasted fuel and other expenses. 

The idea for a new national transportation network is based on an old one. Planners invented the current interstate highway system exactly 50 years ago. The new proposal upgrades the original and would serve the region's needs for the next 40 years.

The new plan calls for putting cars and trucks in separate lanes on rural highways like parts of I-65. Truckers would use their own, exclusive lanes, side-by-side in the country and on elevated highways in the city.

"Of major concern to us in the state of Indiana is increased freight movements.  We are in the center of the United States. We're 24 hours away by truck from 80 percent of the US population that consumes goods and services," said Tom Sharp, INDOT commissioner.

Planners say the system would pay for itself by getting rid of a pattern of transportation waste.

They suggest corporate travelers, as well as ordinary drivers, can save fuel, time and resources.

Drivers would utilize wider lanes, and find less congested traffic.


State officials expect the plan will be attractive enough to draw federal dollars to refurbish the interstate system.

"This isn't something where we say, 'This would be nice if it was a shorter trip.' This impacts us. This impacts our lifestyle. This impacts our economics. We are truly set on the verge of needing this. We are lucky to have the opportunity to develop something like this in the time frame where it's needed," Savage said.


If plan is going to succeed, drivers will have to use it. No one knows how enthusiastic people will be about giving up their wheels and letting someone else do the driving for them. But according to a WISHTV.COM epoll Tuesday, some 71 percent of respondents say they’d absolutely use it.

W. Dennis Hodges


Economic and tourism development through transportation

Voice: (219) 887-1351

Fax: (219) 887-5950

Email: dennis@indianahsr.com

Website: www.indianahighspeedrail.org

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