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Transportation Nation

Amtrak to Get 70 New Energy-Efficient Locomotives Through "Underutilized" DOT Program

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Photo: Amtrak Locomotive (cc) by Flickr User Slideshow Bruce)

UPDATED WITH DOT RESPONSE (see below)

The U.S. Department of Transportation is loaning Amtrak more than half a billion dollars to buy new locomotives for the Northeast and Keystone Corridors. This will pay for first fleet upgrade in the Northeast since Acela service was introduced a decade ago.

This is big news, in part because federal money for Amtrak is rarely for new equipment. State of good repair projects— like signal upgrades, bridge repairs, switch maintenance—generally rise to the top of the federal funding list. Today's announced loan is also the largest, by leaps and bounds, so far issued under an obscure and, some say, underused federal loan program that has not been tapped to its full potential thus far.

"This type of loan will allow Amtrak to move ahead today to purchase equipment to improve service on the Northeast Corridor and create jobs when we need them the most," said Petra Todorovich, Director of America 2050.

Amtrak's President Joseph Boardman said in a statement that the loan means that "Amtrak’s purchase of 70 new, energy efficient and higher performing electric locomotives is fully funded."

The new Siemens locomotives will be built in the United States, creating 250 manufacturing jobs, and will replace units that have been in service for 20-30 years, with an average of 3.5 million miles traveled. The new locomotives will enter service in 2013.

This purchase is part of a larger fleet strategy plan (details pasted below) from Amtrak that also involves almost $300 million for 130 passenger cars for long distance trains.

The $562.9 million loan is the largest to date in the history of the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program. In fact, this loan nearly matches all previous loans under the $35 billion program since it began in 2000. Including Wednesday's announced loan. Just $1.66 billion has been allocated, less than five percent of available funds.

"This is a program that has been underutilized. So it's heartening to see the U.S. DOT putting the program to use," said Todorovich.

RRIF allows railroads, government agencies and rail shippers to receive 35 year loans at government interest rates, extremely favorable financing terms for businesses that can get them. Most of the money so far has gone to freight railroads.

The catch is, that not many have done so. Advocates for newer rail construction, particularly high-speed rail, have called for the program to ease the collateral requirements as one way to facilitate more RRIF lending.

From a DOT spokesperson:

‪‪The $35 billion is the cap amount available.  When a loan is paid in full (not as they are paid down over time), the principal amount lent is then added back to available funds for lending activities.

The RRIF program has not made a change in lending philosophy and continues to receive applications on a continuous basis.  FRA holds many pre-application meetings each month to potential borrowers to assist in ensuring they understand the program and how it might work for their project.  The most recent changes in the credit markets (making it more difficult to finance capital improvements and at higher rates) has made RRIF more attractive to various types of borrowers.

‪The RRIF program offers very favorable terms for borrowers especially when compared to terms offered in the private sector via commercial financing.  RRIF loans can be made for a term up to 35 years and the interest rates charged are basically the cost of financing to the government (i.e. treasury rates) which are far lower than normal financing costs.

‪Lastly, the current RRIF statistics are:  30 loans with a total financing of $1,659,949,761.

From Amtrak:

NEW AMTRAK ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVESFOR NORTHEAST AND KEYSTONE CORRIDORSUpdated Fleet Strategy PlanIn April 2011, Amtrak released its updated Fleet Strategy Plan that analyzes the company’s need to replace its existing conventional and high-speed fleet and manage capacity to meet the forecasted growth in ridership across its national network.The report lays out the basis for recapitalizing the entire fleet over a period of time in a manner that will not only provide new and modern equipment for passengers, but will also develop and sustain the domestic production capacity needed for the long term viability of intercity passenger rail in the United States.The $465.9 million contract for 70 electric locomotives is a key element of the Fleet Strategy Plan and follows another major equipment procurement of a $298 million contract to build 130 single-level passenger rail cars to support growing ridership on its long-distance trains.Electric Locomotives Contract and BenefitsAs part of this comprehensive plan to modernize and expand its fleet of equipment, Amtrak has purchased 70 new electric locomotives to provide improved performance and reliability for its Northeast intercity passenger rail services.The first Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 electric locomotive is to be delivered in 2013 and will operate at speeds up to 125 mph (201 kph) on the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston and up to 110 mph (177 kph) on the Keystone Corridor from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Pa. They will replace locomotives in service between 20 and 30 years with average mileage of 3.5 million miles traveled.The six-year, $465.9 million contract was awarded to Siemens Mobility and will create 250 jobs primarily at a facility in Sacramento, California, but also at plants in Norwood, Ohio and Alpharetta, Georgia.FundingThe Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan from the Federal Railroad Administration totals $562.9 million and includes $465.9 million for the 70 electric locomotives and $97 million for maintenance facility upgrades and spare parts.Amtrak projects that improved ticket revenue from more reliable locomotives can fund the debt service payments to repay this loan.Amtrak has worked strategically to improve its financial performance across a number of measurements, including successfully reducing its debt by half since 2002 to about $2 billion at the end of FY 2010.

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Transportation Nation

DOT Announces Largest Rail Rehab Loan Ever for Amtrak NE Corridor

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This just in from the DOT.

The federal government is loaning Amtrak more than half a billion dollars to buy 70 American-built, energy-efficient locomotives from Siemens. The loan is intended to help Amtrak improve frequency and reliability along the Northeast Corridor where service has been especially poor in recent weeks.

The move will create 250 jobs according to the DOT.

 

Full Press Release:

 

DOT Announces $562.9 Million AMTRAK Loan for 70 Locomotives to Run on Northeast Corridor

American Manufacturers Get a Boost From U.S. Department of Transportation Financing Plan

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a $562.9 million loan to Amtrak under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program that will create hundreds of manufacturing jobs across several states. This is the largest loan issued through the RRIF program to date, and the dollars will finance the purchase of 70 high-performance, electric locomotives from Siemens Industry USA. These locomotives are more energy-efficient and will enable Amtrak to improve frequency, performance and reliability for regional and intercity routes along the Northeast and Keystone Corridors.

“President Obama has a bold vision to provide Americans with a world-class, passenger rail network, while giving American manufacturers and suppliers nationwide an opportunity to get into the rail business,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Obama Administration is committed to making strategic, long-term investments that create jobs and boost the economy now, and this financing plan is already putting Americans back to work at assembly plants and supply companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and Georgia.”

Siemens Industry USA is adding 250 new manufacturing jobs in order to design and build 70 new energy-efficient locomotives for Amtrak. Three of Siemens’ U.S. manufacturing plants will deliver the equipment order, with traction motors and gear units being produced in Norwood, OH, traction converters and braking choppers being built in Alpharetta, GA, and final assembly of the locomotives in Sacramento, CA. The RRIF loan will also upgrade maintenance facilities and allow for the purchase of spare parts needed to support the new locomotives.

Suppliers from communities around the country will soon be tapped by Siemens Industry USA to provide components for the order, further boosting U.S. manufacturing. For example, PHW, Inc. a company based in East Pittsburgh, PA, has already been contracted to manufacture safety-related parts for the locomotives.

“The RRIF program is a model of how we can leverage federal dollars to spur private investment and build up the economy,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “It provides steady, affordable financing for major rail construction and expansion projects, and best of all, it comes at zero cost to the taxpayer.”

As part of a comprehensive plan to modernize and expand its fleet of equipment, the 70 Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 locomotives – still in the final design phase – will replace existing units that have been in service for 20-30 years with an average of 3.5 million miles traveled. The electric locomotives will begin operating along regional and intercity routes in 2013 on the Northeast and Keystone Corridors, which together serve more than one million Amtrak passengers every month.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s RRIF program provides direct loans and loan guarantees through $35 billion available for railroads to acquire, improve, or rehabilitate rail and intermodal equipment, infrastructure or facilities. RRIF offers a responsible approach to supplementing capital investment for all types of railroads. For more information about the RRIF program, please visit www.fra.dot.gov.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: False Alarms Plague NY MTA Elevators, NJ Transit Increases Security, and Mimes To Promote Quiet Cars On Boston T

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Florida Governor Rick Scott sent his top transportation adviser to Central Florida to warn local officials that they'll be on the hook if SunRail fails. (St. Petersburg Times)

The monitoring systems on New York MTA elevators are plagued by false alarms. (New York Daily News)

São Paolo, Brazil, is building an 11-mile long monorail to link its airport to its subway system -- but it may not be completed in time for the 2014 World Cup. (Smart Planet)

A rendering of São Paulo's future monorail line

The Miami Herald asks officials not to penalize riders because of the scandal at Miami-Dade Transit.

According to a recent poll, NJ governor Christie's support is dropping among voters because of decisions like canceling the ARC tunnel and flying in a state helicopter to attend his son's baseball game. (Bloomberg)

NJ Transit is increasing security and developing an intelligence unit with the FBI. (AP via the Star-Ledger)

A key House Democrat says privatizing Amtrak would drain railroad workers' pensions. (The Hill)

A former GM vice chair will be on the Brian Lehrer Show later on this morning to talk about his view of car manufacturing -- more quality, less focus on stock price. (WNYC)

More on Boston's "quiet car" program, including the revelation that the MBTA will be using mimes to promote it. (WBUR)

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Transportation Nation

Republicans: Privatizing Amtrak Will Bring High Speed Rail to the NE Faster

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

Republicans said today that privatizing the Northeast Corridor would bring high-speed rail to the country faster -- and more cheaply -- than Amtrak can.

Congressman John Mica, the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has never hidden his disdain for Amtrak -- or his enthusiasm for partnering with the private sector.  In a statement today, he said:  “After 40 years of highly-subsidized, poorly-managed Amtrak operations, it’s time for Congress to change the direction of America’s failed high-speed and intercity passenger rail service...After spending billions of dollars, Amtrak and its snail speed, last-century level of service have reached the end of the line.”

The plan, which Mica unveiled today along with Congressman Bill Shuster, is called the  “Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act.”  The pair introduced it in a video conference.

A draft of the legislation can be found here.

The goal is to separate the Northeast Corridor -- Amtrak's busiest route -- from the rest of the system, transfer title from Amtrak to the US Department of Transportation, and put development of high-speed rail along the corridor out for bid. Republicans said this plan would increase ridership, lower costs, and bring fast trains to the corridor in less than ten years.

Amtrak, which had been going on the offensive this week about its high-speed rail plans for the Northeast Corridor, reacted swiftly to Mica's proposal. Joseph Boardman, Amtrak's president and CEO, aired his dismay in a  phone conference call held earlier this afternoon.  "There seems to be a lack of recognition that Amtrak is the right organization to deliver better intercity passenger rail service in this country," he said. Boardman said that Amtrak had made headway in reducing debt and improving equipment, and was already looking at a public-private partnership for high-speed rail in the Northeast. "This asset, this transportation artery is critical, and that ... is lost in this, because the focus of this particular proposal is about financing and real estate, not transportation first."

Democrats did not greet the proposal warmly. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who sits on the Senate's transportation committee, said that "the Republican proposal to privatize rail on the Northeast Corridor would increase costs for passengers and make rail travel less reliable. I will fight in the Senate to stop any plan that threatens Amtrak and commuters on the Northeast Corridor."

Other responses were more measured, if lukewarm. Petra Todorovich, a high-speed rail expert at the Regional Plan Association, said "we don't think it's the worst idea in the world." She added that Mica's proposal was useful in that "he's starting a conversation about what it would take to implement world-class high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor. This is the first time we’ve had this conversation at the congressional level.” But she added that "I think it's unlikely that private companies would bid unless federal money is on the table. You can't have a public/private partnership without public money."

 

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak Service Restored On Two Western U.S. Routes

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(Billings, MT – YPR) – Amtrak is restoring passenger rail service on two of three disrupted routes in the Western U.S. beginning June 15, 2011.

Flooding in North Dakota caused the temporary suspension of service on the Empire Builder Route between St. Paul, MN and Spokane, WA.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says Amtrak service for the complete route will resume now that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company has restored the track between Devils Lake and Rugby, ND and between Sandpoint, ID and Libby, MT.

The Empire Builder line originates in Chicago and travels through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Magliari says Amtrak’s California Zephyr will also resume June 15, 2011. But he says alternate transportation will be provided to serve Omaha, NE. Temporary levees were built over BNSF tracks to help protect the cities of Omaha and Bellevue, NE.

In the meantime other natural disasters are delaying other Amtrak routes.

Service is temporarily suspended between Newton, KS and Albuquerque, NM because of a wildfire burning near BNSF racks in New Mexico. Also on the Southwest Chief route, daily service between Chicago and Los Angeles is using a detour route through Texas and Oklahoma. Passengers on the route who are headed to destinations in western Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and northeastern New Mexico will be transported by motorcoach or local commuter trains, as available.

Passengers who are seeking train status updates can call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com.

 

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak California Ridership Hits Record Numbers

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A billboard for Amtrak California.

(San Francisco – KALW) California's high-speed rail project may be struggling to find funding, but it's not because nobody wants to ride trains.

The state's transportation department, known as Caltrans, reports that ridership on Amtrak's California lines is up significantly. The Capitol Corridor route saw an increase of almost 10% over the past year, while ridership on the San Joaquin route went up nearly 13%.

Revenue on the San Joaquin route increased by 19%.

The numbers – which, according to Caltrans, are at an all-time high – are notable because the routes are similar to those eventually envisioned for the state's high-speed rail system, linking the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Bakersfield.

Caltrans rail marketing chief Debbie Mullins said a large part of the increased ridership could be attributed to high gas prices. But, she said, advertising matters. Beginning in March, Amtrak undertook a $1.3 million PR blitz, stringing billboards around major freeway corridors in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and the Central Valley. The billboards were black and white, with colorful icons showing all the benefits of riding a train: food, power outlets, etc. They also featured 26 different taglines emphasizing the benefits of train travel over both cars and planes ("Experience space travel," "There's no backseat driver when there's no backseat"). Mullins said Amtrak is planning a more comprehensive study to quantify the effects of billboard and online campaigns.

What does this say about the state's appetite for high-speed rail? Mullins declined to speculate, but she did note that Amtrak ridership has risen steadily despite fluctuating gas prices. "People recognize the amenities of the train: food, electricity, just the freedom to walk around," she said. "Once they're introduced to that, they look at the train with a whole new set  of eyes."

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Transportation Nation

Flooding Halts Amtrak's Northwest Service

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Amtrak's Empire Builder route

(Billings, MT-YPR) Amtrak has temporarily shut down its Empire Builder passenger rail service between St. Paul, MN and Spokane, WA because of flooding in Minot, North Dakota.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the basement of the Amtrak station was flooded and there was up to two feet of water around the building.

Magliari says no passengers were on the Empire Builder when service was halted yesterday. Passengers who are holding tickets on that route through Sunday can either ask for a full refund or hold on to their tickets and re-book for up to a year. “Later this week, we’ll be in a position to better understand how the water is receding so we can resume service next week,” he says.

Amtrak relies on Burlington Northern-Santa Fe rail lines for the Empire Builder route. Magliari says crews are inspecting rail beds and bridges in North Dakota.

BNSF is also continuing to inspect its lines in Montana. Flooding last week closed a rail line from Billings, MT to the coal-rich Powder River Basin area on the Montana-Wyoming border.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said that line was shut down for two days, but rail traffic is up and running on the company’s main lines.

Melonas said high water is still affecting BNSF traffic on a secondary line from south of Laurel, MT to Greybull, WY, and that maintenance and engineering crews are working on numerous lines.  He said in the Billings area alone, over 200 rail cars filled with rock was placed along the tracks to stabilize the rail bed.

According to Melonas, this has been one of the worst winter and spring seasons on record for the railway.  This past winter, crews had to deal with snow drifts as high as 20 feet in near Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. He also said that crews have also been dealing with slides from constant rain in Washington state; in Montana and North Dakota flooding.

 

 

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: DC Metro to Shorten Station Names, and House GOP Wants To Privatize the Northeast Corridor

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cars heading toward the Holland Tunnel yesterday (photo by Kate Hinds)

Listeners have been texting the price of gas at the pump to The Takeaway. Today, TN's Andrea Bernstein discusses those findings.  (The Takeaway)

While exiting cap and trade program, NJ Governor Chris Christie pivots on Climate Change (WNYC's Empire Blog)

High gas prices won't be affecting holiday travel. (Marketplace)

House Republicans want to takeaway the Northeast Corridor from Amtrak, giving private investors the task of building and operating high-speed rail service between Washington and Boston. (Washington Post)

There may be less car owners in Manhattan, but real estate developers are betting that the wealthy will pay extra for in-house parking. (New York Times)

DC's Metro will be shortening station names. Names like U Street/African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo or New York Avenue/Florida Avenue/Gallaudet University. (WAMU)

The Los Angeles Times debates the location of future subway stations -- and one participant protests his community's exclusion. "It is inconceivable to many of us who live, work and worship in South Los Angeles that the Crenshaw/LAX line would bypass the heart of the community."

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- DC's Metro unveils new LED signs...look familiar, NYkers? (link)

-- the new NY MTA website is easier to use -- unless you're mobile (link)

-- Christie pulls plug on NJ's greenhouse gas initiative (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: BRT On The Rise -- But Not Everyone's a Fan; Mica Wants Reauthorization Bill ASAP

Monday, May 23, 2011

Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side (photo by Kate Hinds)

Bus rapid transit systems are on the rise, but not everyone is a fan. (Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail)

Amtrak is seeking private investors for its Northeast Corridor high-speed rail line. (The Hill)

California's high-speed rail authority is disputing bills from Caltrain that are worth more than $108,000. (San Francisco Examiner)

Rep. John Mica's opinion piece in today's Politico: "Congress must act now" on transportation reauthorization legislation.

San Francisco's cabbies want their fares in cash instead of credit cards (Bay Citizen via New York Times). Meanwhile, NYC livery cab owners are fighting the city's outer-borough medallion plan (WNYC).

New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, a supporter of the city's bike lanes, gives a reporter a taste of his two-wheeled commute. (New York Times)

Maryland's governor signed a bill forbidding a French government-operated company from competing to run that state's commuter trains, because of the company's activities during the Holocaust. (Washington Post)

The NY Daily News blames Mayor Bloomberg for not doing enough for the city's transit.

Boston unveils three electric car charging stations today. (Boston Herald)

Riders at two Brooklyn F and G train stations have their stations back -- for now. (WNYC)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- the Yankees' parking garage is losing money, plus it displaced a public park (link)

-- cab sharing on tap for this year's US Open (link)

-- bike commuting in Houston? You betcha. (link)

-- carpooling in Houston? Yep, especially as gas prices fluctuate (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Montreal Bike Share In Debt; Amtrak to Senate: Gateway Tunnel "Critical" for Region

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Senate Democrats want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the oil industry is fixing gas prices. (Marketplace). Meanwhile, their proposal to strip oil companies of tax breaks failed in the Senate yesterday (New York Times).

Politico writes: "Republicans have a messaging problem on gas prices. More Americans actually believe in UFOs and ghosts than blame President Barack Obama for causing their pain at the pump."

Montreal's Bixi bike share program, losing money and in debt, needs financial backing from the city. (The Globe and Mail)

Auditions for NYC's "Music Under New York" program were held yesterday; WNYC stopped by to take pictures -- and audio -- of the would-be subway performers. Take a listen!

CNN Money profiles the president of Alta Bike Share, the company behind the bike share programs in Boston and DC.

Workers move closer to their jobs, take transit, buy less, as a result of gas prices:  (New York Times)

Loudoun County officials are exploring what would happen if they withdrew funding for the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport. (Washington Post)

The Congressional Budget Office floated a mileage tax at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Financing 21st Century Infrastructure.” (The Hill)

Meanwhile, at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing for the Federal Railroad Administration's budget request, Amtrak president Joseph Boardman said the Gateway Tunnel is "critical" to high-speed rail service. He added:  "I think we're out of capacity in the Northeast Corridor...we have no place to put the New Jersey Transit trains that come into Penn Station." (Video below via Senator Lautenberg, YouTube)

The Freedom Rides turn 50 this year, and two original freedom riders talk will about that activism on today's Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- high fuel prices squeeze Montana agencies (link)

-- DC wants to impose fees on intercity bus industry (link)

-- DC's mayor will announce new DDOT head today (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Amtrak Ridership Continues to Grow, SF Eyes Taxi Rate Hike, and LaHood Attends Emanuel Inauguration

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

City Limits takes a long look at Iris Weinshall, former NYC transportation commissioner, bike lane opponent, and wife of Senator Schumer.

Amtrak posted its biggest April ridership numbers in its history. (AltTransport)

San Francisco may raise taxi cab rates "to heights unseen in any other part of the nation." (AP via Sacramento Bee)

Some scientists are casting doubt on the radiation dose delivered by the TSA's body scanners. (ProPublica)

Ray LaHood attended Rahm Emanuel's inauguration; says Chicago's new mayor is sending a team to DC to talk transportation priorities. (AP via Chicago Tribune)

The Hill reports that the Senate is set to vote today on the Democrats' bill that would cut the tax breaks received by the big five oil companies.

A Manhattan community board gets behind the idea of a car-free Central Park. (DNA Info)

Two towns that protested the effects of the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike have begun spending the millions awarded them for the loss of forested land. (The Times of Trenton)

Ottawa's bike share program begins this week. (Ottawa Citizen)

Pedicabs in New York must now obey motor vehicle law. (Wall Street Journal)

A move is afoot to get London to adopt a cycle map based on the iconic Tube map. (Fast Company)

Simon Parker's London cycle map

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- Fernando Ferrer named to NY MTA board (link)

-- baby born on Verrazano Bridge (link)

-- a new report says essential urban infrastructure is disintegrating rapidly (link)


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Transportation Nation

Northeast Rail Reaps Nearly $800 Million Windfall From Fed Funds Returned by Florida -- But Will Trains Be High Speed?

Monday, May 09, 2011

(Photo by StevenM_61 / Flickr - creative commons)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Penn Station to announce he was giving $795 million to improve rail service in the Northeast. LaHood's largesse is part of a $2 billion award going to rail projects in 15 states-- money that became available after Florida governor Rick Scott canceled rail plans there in February.

But that doesn't mean riders can expect a bullet train to Boston any time soon.

LaHood said northeast corridor train speeds will increase from 135 to 160 miles per hour--but only along open stretches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where Amtrak already moves swiftly. Bottlenecks like hundred year-old bridges and tunnels will continue to slow trains in other parts of the corridor.

The $795 million will fix some, but not all, of those problems. Officials couldn't say how much time might be shaved from popular routes. One transportation expert thought saving 15 minutes between New York City and Washington, DC, was probably the best that could be hoped for from the upcoming round of upgrades. Supporters say Amtrak should greatly increase its reliability, which in itself will save thousands of rider hours.

Petra Todorovich, spokeswoman for the Regional Plan Association, said it would take a $100 billion investment to bring European-style high speed rail to the northeast. She said today's DOT grant will bring long-awaited improvements to the region's rail infrastructure, lifting it to something approaching a state of good repair.

Todorovich said it was about time the federal government spent money on the most heavily trafficked rail corridor in the country, with 250 million passengers per year.

"We were disappointed that the previous grants ignored the northeast corridor," she said. "The previous funding all went to areas that don’t have a market yet. We feel very gratified that that the federal government is directing funding where people rely on rail the most. Even if it doesn’t result in a bullet train overnight, it will result in increased speed and reliability where people use rail the most."

The Brookings Institution's Robert Puentes added: "Concentrating the relocated funding in the Northeast Corridor, California, and parts of the Midwest is a happy byproduct of a difficult process but it is probably where the high speed rail funding should have been concentrated in the first place."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also praised the grant. In a statement, he recalled it's not the first time the state has benefited from Republican governors turning down rail money. "In 2010, Wisconsin and Ohio returned their federal funding," Cuomo said. "Of that money, New York received $7.3 million."

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WNYC News

Northeast Rail Reaps Nearly $800M From Fed Funds Rejected by Florida

Monday, May 09, 2011

WNYC

The government has awarded $795 million to improve rail service in the Northeast — the biggest portion of the $2.2 billion doled out by the Obama administration to states after it was rejected by Florida's governor.

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WNYC News

LIRR Warns of Service Changes Through Mid-Week

Monday, May 09, 2011

Long Island Rail Road commuters should prepare for fewer and more crowded trains during morning and evening rush hours this week.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: High-Speed Rail Grants Announced, NY's MTA To Unveil its "Post-MetroCard" Future, and Will There Be A "No Ride" List on Amtrak?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Fifteen states and Amtrak will receive Florida's rejected high-speed rail money (AP).  The Northeast will get the biggest share; California and the Midwest also benefit (Bloomberg). Ray LaHood will be making announcements in both New York and Detroit today; stay tuned to TN for the latest.

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

Meanwhile, an Amtrak derailment under New York's East River caused LIRR delays. (NY Daily News)

PATH service is back on schedule after yesterday's crash in which a train overshot the Hoboken (NJ) platform. (Star-Ledger)

Senator Schumer wants to implement a "no ride" list on Amtrak to guard against terrorist attacks. (Reuters)

An allegedly drunk tour bus driver killed a pedestrian in Manhattan this weekend. (NY Times)

The next iteration of NY's MetroCard is being unveiled this week. In the future, you could use either a credit card or the MTA's version of the E-Z Pass to ride transit. (NY Daily News)

Big week ahead on the House and Senate floors over offshore drilling and oil-and-gas industry tax breaks. (The Hill)

A Marketplace staffer talks about commuting in LA on an electric bike.

More on San Francisco's dynamic parking pricing. “If it works in San Francisco, the whole world will take notice,” says one urban planner. (NY Times)

The New York Post editorializes about the recent council hearing about the city DOT pedestrian plaza program.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--we're crowdsouring bike tickets; let us know if you were pulled over while on two wheels (link)

--rising fuel prices spur farmers to become more creative (link)

--President Obama is connecting the dots between terrorism and fuel-efficient transportation (link)

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak: Our Discount Bus-Level Fares Have Nothing To Do With Discount Buses

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This pro-train ad is not meant to imply competition with other modes of long-distance travel.

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Amtrak is in the midst of a three-day sale for northeast corridor travel. No big deal, according to Amtrak spokesman Cliff Coles, who said the railroad has been holding such sales for a year now. But what caught our eye were the Chinatown Bus-like prices: $29 for Washington, D.C., or Baltimore to New York; $19 for Washington, D.C., to Richmond, Virginia . The fares are valid for travel from May 10 to May 26.

That raises the obvious question of whether Amtrak is responding to competitive pressure from inter-city buses, which a DePaul University study says grew by six percent nationwide in 2010. Perhaps now is the time for Amtrak to make a savvy push to snag customers rattled by a string of deadly crashes that raise safety concerns about curbside buses.

Officially, none of that has anything to do with the low fare offer. "I don’t know that there’s anyone we’re competing against," said Coles. He added that Amtrak ridership nationwide in the last six months was up by four percent--as in, one-third less than the growth of inter-city buses. Coles did not have numbers for the northeast corridor.

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Transportation Nation

$38.5 M to NJ Bridge Upgrade Needed for High-Speed Rail

Saturday, April 09, 2011

(New York -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez just sent out a press release announcing federal funds to replace a balky rail bridge that commonly causes delays for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains. The upgrade is considered crucial to bringing the next generation of high-speed rail to the northeast corridor. A new bridge at the site is also integral to plans for the Gateway Project, a proposed two-track rail tunnel under the Hudson. The release, which contains one of Senator Lautenberg's patented references to unnamed Republican operatives out to thwart him, is below.

Federal Recovery Act Funding Secured for Critical Infrastructure Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced that New Jersey Transit will be awarded $38.5 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to begin replacing the 100-year old Portal Bridge that crosses the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus. With the funding now being provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), work could begin shortly.

“The Portal Bridge is a major chokepoint for thousands of commuters every day and an obstacle in the way of our efforts to improve regional rail transportation,” stated said Lautenberg, who as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee helped write the Recovery Act.  “This federal funding will help replace the bridge so that train riders have a shorter, safer and more reliable commute every day.  Replacing the bridge will also prepare our regional infrastructure for new high-speed rail opportunities that will improve the economy and get cars off the road.  I am pleased to see the Recovery Act again deliver funding for a New Jersey project that will create jobs and benefit our state.  This funding is a good start on a great project and I will continue fighting against Republican attempts to shortchange infrastructure projects like the Portal Bridge.”

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: EV Sales Boost US Economy, NJ Highways "Deficient," and Amtrak Sets Ridership Record

Friday, April 08, 2011

Chevy Volt (Photo: GM)

Are sales of electric vehicles behind the growth in the US economy? (The Takeaway)

Toyota and Nissan restart production (Marketplace).

The nuclear disaster in Japan could undermine support for nuclear power here in the US -- and build support for natural gas. (NPR)

A new report says half of New Jersey's highways are deficient. (AP via the Star-Ledger)

More on New York's parking placards in the NY Daily News and NY Times.

Can smartphones -- with commuting apps -- get people out of cars and onto public transit? (Wired)

Amtrak says it's on track for record ridership. (The Hill)

Will a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons spur economic development -- or acres of empty parking lots? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Los Angeles Metro launched what it says is the nation's first major public transit agency's Spanish language blog (The Source). Called El Pasajero, the blog formally launches today.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: NY Gov. Cuomo tightens parking placard rules; Caltrain isn't slashing service...yet; traffic light timing is adjusted in Central Park's loop; Dulles's Metrorail link answers the question 'over or under?,' and: how much high-speed rail will $2.4 billion buy?

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Dynamic Pricing Comes To SF Parking and Amtrak Wants $ To Plan New Hudson River Tunnels

Monday, April 04, 2011

Cuts to the education budget led one Colorado school district to eliminate school buses; parents say more people are driving their kids to school -- and causing more traffic.  (NPR, Denver Post)

San Francisco is rolling out demand-based parking fees ranging from 25 cents to $6 an hour, depending on how many spaces are available. (Silicon Valley Mercury-News)

Is it time to reassess airplane maintenance? (The Takeaway)  Meanwhile, US airlines performed better last year -- but complaints were up 28%. (BusinessWeek)

A turkey visits the parking lot of Minnesota Public Radio. (Full-size picture here.)
Turkey! near the MPR building tonight in d'town St. Paul... on Twitpic

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill that reduces spending on Twin Cities bus and rail operations by $32 million over two years. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Electric car owners in Washington (state) may soon have to pay a $100 annual fee to make up for lost gas-tax revenue. (Seattle Times)

Amtrak applied for nearly $1.3 billion to start planning two new Hudson River tunnels, as well as an expanded in- New York City station -- and Governor Christie signed off on it. (NorthJersey.com)

Peer-to-peer car sharing -- or 'l'auto se partage' -- comes to France. (Sustainable Cities Collective)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: New York has applied for more high speed rail funding. So has Amtrak. Short haul flights are on the decline. And: the Texas DOT says road projects need to be bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak applies for High-Speed Rail Money

Monday, April 04, 2011

We're beginning to get word of applications for Florida's High Speed Rail money (the applications are due today.)

This in, from Amtrak..we'll post more as get 'em...and more analysis later.

AMTRAK SEEKS $1.3 BILLION FOR GATEWAY PROJECT AND NEXT-GENERATION HIGH-SPEED RAIL ON NEC

Portal Bridge, Hudson River Tunnels, NY Penn Station among projects

WASHINGTON – Amtrak is applying for nearly $1.3 billion in recently available high-speed and intercity passenger rail federal funding to move forward with a series of infrastructure improvements -- including the Gateway Project --as critical first steps to bring next-generation high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor (NEC).

“The Northeast Corridor is a premier region in the country to advance the nation’s high-speed rail program,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.  “The Gateway Project improvements to increase passenger rail capacity and access into the heart of Manhattan are absolutely essential to make next-generation high-speed rail a reality,” he added.

A recent decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation to name the NEC a federally designated high-speed rail corridor allows Amtrak to apply directly for this funding.

Amtrak worked closely with its state partners to coordinate projects election in order to maximize the expected regional improvements.  Each of the coordinated projects submitted by Amtrak and individual states are vital for the reliability and capacity of the current NEC network, and are critical building blocks for expanded and higher speed intercity passenger rail service.

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Specifically, Amtrak is requesting funding for three Gateway projects including for a $720 million project to replace the more than 100-year-old movable Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey with a new, high-level fixed bridge.  The Amtrak request is for $570 million with a contribution from the State of New Jersey of up to $150 million.

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