Category Archives: high speed rail

The difference between the NEC and other regional corridor services.

M.E. Singer opinion from California Rail News

The premise of regionalization of passenger rail should be incorporated to ensure the viability of any national infrastructure program in the US. Although the California JPAs have created from scratch a spectacular inter-connecting regional program; the Northeast Corridor merely picked-up from where the Pennsylvania, New Haven, and New York Central left off, their remains a void of far too many unserved potential regional corridors.

However, unlike California and the NEC, their is little linkage between other regional states, despite their past history of being well served by a network of passenger rail operated by the private railroads. The issue today is how to incentivize the Class 1s, Amtrak, commuter, and the individual states to work together, as the markets are there, unserved by rail; forced to accept clogged interstates and expensive, infrequent air service–all inhibiting economic growth and tourism, due to a lack of mobility. The answer is not by operating but a daily long distance train, but frequently scheduled, convenient regional trains, capable of quick turnarounds, rather than languishing in yards all day.

Such markets just in the Midwest include: Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison; Chicago-Milwaukee-Green Bay; Summer seasonal services Chicago Wisconsin and Michigan; Chicago-Milwaukee via UP North Line thru Evanston-Waukegan-Racine; Chicago-Champaign-Springfield-Peoria; Chicago-Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh; Cincinatti-Columbus-Cleveland; Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City-Des Moines. Even The Milwaukee Road utilized its new bi-level commuter cars in the 1960s to operate weekends Chicago-Wisconsin Dells. Also, in conjunction with commuter lines, what about Special Trains for the vast number of football events throughout the Midwest? With two run-thru tracks at Chicago Union Station, the stub-end terminal concept should not prevent enhancing schedule convenience and true regional inter-connectivity by run thru services. (In 1972, even Amtrak operated two run thru schedules between Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis.)

The successful California JPA model appears to be the best formula to follow, given how the JPAs control marketing (routes, services, frequencies, fares, advertising), with Amtrak providing T&E crews, staffed depots, and maintenance. LOSSAN JPA has wisely extended schedules from San Diego to run thru LAUPT to serve San Luis Obispo; it is a matter of time before reaching San Jose. San Joaquin JPA acknowledges market potential to schedule day trips between Fresno-Sacramento. Capitol Corridor JPA provides true regional connecting service running from Sacramento thru Emeryville (Oakland) to San Jose, with plans for further route expansion.
What stops the continued growth of these JPAs is the acute shortage of equipment and the Amtrak cost methodology for state services. Given the near breakeven of LOSSAN, even under the current higher cost formulas, perhaps it is appropriate to consider full takeover of all passenger services; to serve as a Beta site for the other JPAs; eventually other regional/state consortiums?

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth via California Rail News

Texas Central, the Dallas company planning to build a high-speed train between Dallas and Houston, has reached a deal with a major global consortium to design and build the project.

An official announcement is expected within a matter of days

“We have a world-class design builder that has just signed on to come and build this for us,” said Carlos Aguilar, CEO of Texas Central.
The 59 year-old Aguilar has been on the job at Texas Central since December. He brings decades of experience with huge infrastructure projects, including the Cantarell offshore natural gas field in Mexico, the London Underground and the world’s largest solar thermal energy plant in Ivanpah, Calif.

High-speed rail in Ontario, finally? Not so fast

This is in response to a blog from May 25
https://penneyvanderbilt.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/premier-wynne-announces-plans-for-high-speed-rail-in-ontario/

From CBC-CA via California Rail News

The proposed plan is a massive and expensive infrastructure program and politicians have preferred in the past to get elected by promising to expand highways in their ridings, rather than rail routes.

Paul Langan, from an advocacy group called High Speed Rail Canada, told CBC News that a lack of political will is a major reason why high-speed rail has never been built in Ontario.

In his report, Collenette also cites “political willingness to support the huge investment over more than one election cycle” as a factor in limiting high-speed rail development

Calls for high-speed rail in one of Canada’s busiest corridors have been made before and went unanswered. Will it be any different this time?

Ft Worth Takes Steps On Rail Link To Dallas

Fort Worth Star-Telegram via California Rail News

As state lawmakers in Austin debate measures that could kill plans for high-speed trains between downtown Dallas and Houston, the Fort Worth City Council is moving forward with plans to create a rail link to Dallas.

Fort Worth and Dallas are in the process of preparing for a 30- to 40-mile high-speed rail line between the two cities called the DFW Core Express. A $15 million environmental impact study of the possible route is expected to be completed in 2018.

As state lawmakers in Austin debate measures that could kill plans for high-speed trains between downtown Dallas and Houston, the Fort Worth City Council is moving forward with plans to create a rail link to Dallas.

Fort Worth and Dallas are in the process of preparing for a 30- to 40-mile high-speed rail line between the two cities called the DFW Core Express. A $15 million environmental impact study of the possible route is expected to be completed in 2018.

On Tuesday, the Fort Worth city council considered creating a local government corporation with Dallas, an entity that would govern inter-city passenger rail service. Discussions are also focusing on including a stop in Arlington and adding that city to the corporation.

Premier Wynne announces plans for high-speed rail in Ontario

From CBC.ca via Californa Rail News

A high-speed rail corridor in southern Ontario is “exactly what our economy needs,” Premier Kathleen Wynne says.

Wynne officially announced plans for a high-speed rail line from Toronto to Windsor Friday morning, with stops in Kitchener-Waterloo and London, by 2025.

“This is an idea that has been around for a very long time,” Wynne said during the announcement in London. “We decided it was time to take a serious look at an idea that’s been around for decades.”

Wynne said seven million people live along the corridor between Toronto and Windsor and the current transportation options just aren’t good enough.

“This is where our economy thrives, is along that corridor,” she said. “It’s exactly what our economy needs.”

The project would use a combination of existing track and new rail lines dedicated to the high-speed train, officials told CBC News. It would include stops in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Chatham, and connect to Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Wish we still had Railway Express

Nobody’s Christmas gifts would have been late!

We know that the passenger network of trains was becoming less complete, especially after WWII, while the airlines and road systems were being built up.

But in the Transportation Act of 1940, the railroads and Federal Government terminated the old land grants which relieved the railroads of transporting mail at a discount price. Did the Post Office Department began looking for alternatives to rail transport of mail, even though it was a very efficient operation? This act may have provided one of the specific reasons for the mails to be diverted, little by little to highway trucks and to the airlines.

Arguably, the Transportation Act of 1958 had as significant an impact upon RPO network pruning. It liberalized the procedures for discontinuing passenger services. With the loss of branch line RPOs –mostly 15-feet and 30-feet space authorization- – the feeder services to trunkline RPOs were severed. Also, local separations once performed on the branch-line RPO routes had to be replaced with additional separations on the main-line 60-feet RPOs. Distribution space on the trunk routes was already constrained by increasing mail volume at the same time that train freqency was declining. This condition was partially mitigated by substantial expansion of the Highway Post Office network. However, long-distance highway contract routes (Star Routes) were established or reconfigured more often. Since they were closed pouch runs, making those dispatches fell as a burden upon main-line RPO routes as well as newly-established or expanded stationary office distribution.

Do you think the decline of the USA RPO network was a major factor leading to the decline of the U.S. Postal System in general, which is what we are faced with today? Could it also be the increase in the number of pieces of mail due to increasing population? Could it have been done by the Federal Government to put the passenger train business out of operation so that truckers would carry mail and the auto and oil companies would profit by building and fueling cars?

Perhaps the reason that railroads were treated as a “growth” industry during the 1940s is partly because there was a wartime traffic surge. There is also a latency effect in society that was slow to realize the shift from rail to other modes. People were ingrained to use scheduled transportation –notably rail, bus, and public transit– but when given the opportunity to utilize on-demand personal private transportation, made the shift that is easy to view in retrospect.

The Post Office Department was slow to adapt from a scheduled transportation network upon which it relied for a century. It also benefitted from a cost structure in which it paid an allocation of a service instead of the entire cost of that service.

A economic distortion exists that railroads appear to be very expensive because they own the right-of-way franchise and pay taxes upon it, while competing highway and air modes do not pay for their rights-of-way and no taxes are paid for the highway real estate that is diverted from alternate uses. So, highway transportation appear less expensive even when the Post Office Department paid the entire cost of trucking. Air transportation was always more expensive per pound, but Congress and the Executive Branch utilized air mail rates as subsidies to cultivate national air passenger services.

The flaw in Post Office Department transportation planning is that it presumes that all services will always exist; that the status quo is the norm. In eras of slow technological change –such as the pre-1950s– it’s easy to see how this view was based. However, continuation of rail passenger services was not a sure thing. On occasion, the Post Office Department did protest passenger train discontinuances, but these concerns were mitigated if the railroad company agreed to provide substitute highway service. The Gulf Transport Company set up by the GM&O is an example. Although it operated the equivalent of a Highway Post Office service, these mobile units continued to the called “Railway Post Offices.”

Because the Post Office Department lived on year-to-year congressional appropriations, it was not fully capable of providing multi-year strategic planning. When the Jersey Central approached the Post Office Department around 1964 asking for a long-term mail contract as a basis for purchasing new RPO cars, the Post Office Department declined. Result: Jersey Central suspended all RPO services. I believe the Boston and Maine encountered the same reluctance for a long-term commitment and therefore acted in a similar manner.

One must recognize that the Post Office Department in the 1960s was confronted with an untenable situation: mail volume was increasing dramatically at the same time that the capacity to handle this increase in mobile units had reached its maximum capability in a declining network. Capacity was measured in two ways: the amount of distribution space, and the number of skilled distributors (a.k.a. Postal Transportation Clerks). The number of RPO car-miles was dropping precipitously while the ability to recruit, train, and utilize clerks was not keeping up with needs. Of course, high labor cost was a consideration; the fully-allocated unit cost of handling a letter was asserted to be increasing in a variety of consulting studies.

The solution for labor cost was two-fold: first, to simplify the job so that labor with lower skills and less training could perform distribution. The ZIP Code facilitated this; a clerk could manually sort zoned mail without any scheme knowledge. Second, mechanization and later automation of mail processing steps allowed substitution of capital for labor.

Although well past the RPO era, consider the present-day bar code sorter used by the Postal Service. A single machine processes about 10,000 letter-mail pieces an hour. The entire production of a ten-person RPO crew during a run lasting from 8 to 14 hours was about 10,000 pieces. Further, closed-pouch transportation in sealed trailers, railcars, or air cargo is less expensive than customized rail or highway vehicles. In the extreme case, attempts to outfit planes with mail distribution fixtures was cost ineffective.

Although the Railway Mail Service was very successful –after all, how many activities performed today are likely to last 113 years– it was on a collision course with changing postal techology, the declining reliance upon hard-copy communications, and rise of alternate transportation modes. There has been much discussion of whether the Post Office Department or the railroads “killed” passenger services. The answer is neither; both reacted to the changing business, economic, and societial environments. Considering that 90 percent of USA intercity transportation is via private automobile, it holds the smoking gun.

A similar scenario is true for Seaposts. There are no scheduled ocean liners plying the Atlantic and Pacific routes; just chartered cruise ships. Airline travel and not the private automobile replaced those services, but the point is that mail was withdrawn from those routes as well.

The Post Office Department and the Postal Service generally sought to utilize the fastest means of transportation available in an era. While many can point out that mail service within 500 miles is slower now than when mobile units operated, the fact is –even allowing for congestion– that point–to-point over-the-road trucking is faster for distances under 600 miles, while air transportation is quickest for distances above that amount. Rail is largely relegated to facilitating one-way transportation, such as highly directional traffic flows or repositioning empty trailers and containers. Using highway and air services instead of intercity rail is therefore not illogical. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision, Mr. Gunn while president of Amtrak concluded the revenue gain of furnishing mail transportation on trains were insufficent to offset infrastructure costs and operational impacts. If this was true in 2003, the underlying principles guiding that decision have laid in the passenger rail network prior to 1971.

Now Railway Express: It is notable that this organization formed in 1929 recognized that handling small parcels via passenger trains did not allow it to keep up with competition from companies such as United Parcel Service. One might take the view that since it was railroad-owned, it had a greater interest in preserving rail operations but chose not to. There are other reasons for its business model not surviving and the company’s disappearance, but regarding rail operations a case can be made that REA and USPOD read the cards the same way during the 1960s and placed declining reliance upon over-the-rail services.

Find more on head-end equipment on railroads

https://penneyandkc.wordpress.com/head-end-equipment/

Los Vegas Raiders May Be Perfect Answer For High Seed Rail

A Chinese-American joint venture plans to build a long-awaited high-speed train connecting Las Vegas and Southern California. Construction on the XpressWest line could begin in September.

The high-speed rail project long left for dead by critics might have new life, thanks to a key study, the arrival of the Trump administration and an unexpected wild card — the Las Vegas Raiders.

Siemens Charger Goes “Live” On AMTRAK

The California-built, environmentally-friendly Charger locomotives will begin operation of revenue testing on the Capitol Corridor service before the end of this month. Officials on hand for the 2017 California Passenger Rail Summit, taking place in Sacramento April 18-19, celebrated the arrival of the clean locomotives.

“These Chargers will help provide California’s passenger rail services with a fleet of locomotives that meet very stringent emission standards,” said Caltrans Director, Malcolm Dougherty. “Not only will they make for a more sustainable transportation system, but are also expected to improve reliability and help efforts to double current statewide ridership of 5.4 million passengers by 2040.”

California Rail News did not talk about AMTRAK

Critics of high-speed rail step up pressure as federal decision

Took afew minutes for me to get the mail on this.Started out in THE HOUR in Norwalk, Connecticut. Went to California who reblogged it their E-NEWS. Then friend sent to me.

In simplicity: With a major decision looming, preservationists are stepping up their efforts to get the Federal Railroad Administration to rethink its proposed high-speed rail route through Connecticut.

The FRA’s NEC Future would cut 29 miles of new rail lines, between New Rochelle, N.Y., and Greens Farms, under preliminary plans released late last year.

“There is significant concern that the Federal Railroad Administration intends to push through public opposition to the New Rochelle, N.Y. to Greens Farms bypass through Fairfield County,” said Gregory Stroud, director of special projects for The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. “Until we hear otherwise, the Connecticut Trust intends to exert maximum pressure possible so that this poorly-considered project will be dropped from the plan.”

Stroud said The Connecticut Trust expects the FRA to release its Record of Decision regarding NEC Future around June 1. The decision will identify a Selected Alternative and outline short- and long-term improvements to the Northeast Corridor, the rail line between Washington, D.C., and Boston.

The Washington bureaucrats who are “planning” the “new” Northeast Corridor should understand that Fairfield County is unlike most US counties. The people who run the United States live there or formerly lived there. They throw FRA bureaucrats out on their tails!

California: Connecting With High Speed Rail

This map from ACE shows the future connections with ACE to future High Speed Rail, San Joaquin, Capitol Corridor, Caltrain and BART. The future ACE route will be on the UP right of way with a separate track for ACE passenger trains. The UP will be able to use this track when there are no passenger trains using it to relieve UP freight congestion in the San Joaquin Valley.