Category Archives: News (current)

Google’s Idea for a New Silicon Valley

NY Times via California Rail News

Google and other technology companies have been criticized for contributing to the sharp increases in housing costs in the San Francisco Bay Area — and not doing much to address the fallout for the hundreds of thousands of lower- and middle-income workers who can no longer afford to live there. The Diridon station plan does not immediately address this problem: It calls for office space for 15,000 to 20,000 workers and only 2,500 units of housing, according to the mayor.

But through a web of public transportation it could connect Silicon Valley to more affordable areas.

By 2025, Diridon station would host Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains and, if fierce opposition by the state’s Republican Congressional delegation is overcome, a high-speed rail line already under construction in the central valley, which would allow someone to live in Fresno and get to San Jose in less than an hour.

Amtrak Says It Won’t Pay For LIRR’s Emergency Penn Station Plan. It’s Unclear Who Will.

GOTHAMIST from California Rail News

Amtrak does not want to front the bill for at least eight weeks of Long Island Railroad schedule changes, fare reductions and ferry and bus alternatives during this summer’s emergency Penn Station repairs, president C.W. Moorman confirmed in a letter to the MTA on Wednesday. The news comes a week after the MTA outlined a contingency plan of unknown cost, insisting the burden will not fall on commuters.

“The LIRR has no basis to seek compensation for such costs from Amtrak,” Moorman wrote. He added that Amtrak estimates its contribution this summer to be between $30 and $40 million, and that the MTA’s call for reimbursement would violate the authority’s contract with Amtrak (the MTA rents terminal space from Amtrak at Penn Station).

Acting MTA Director Ronnie Hakim hinted at Wednesday’s MTA Board meeting at a price tag in the millions for planned LIRR contingencies. Hakim also vowed to consult MTA lawyers about “our rights” to force Amtrak’s hand. But some Board Members were skeptical, accusing Hakim and the MTA of poor planning in assuming Amtrak would pay. Some also demanded clarification on the cost of the plan, and argued that putting time and energy into avoiding the expense would be a waste.

“We should be doubling down on seeking federal funding, and focus our legal team on addressing funding [issues] in D.C.,” she added.
Other members of the board said that they doubted the federal government would come through. Amtrak’s federal funding was cut in 2015, and Trump’s vague infrastructure plan could also spell cuts. “We would always like to talk about the receipt of federal funds,” said acting board chairman Fernando Ferrer. “I don’t engage in fantasy, so let’s be realistic about this.”
Polly Trottenberg, a mayoral appointee to the board and commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation, was more blunt.
“I will boldly say, I don’t think we’re getting the money from Amtrak and sadly I don’t think Uncle Sam is riding to the rescue either,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to accept that we’re going to be paying for this. So I have a basic question: what’s the price tag?”

San Clemente approves plan to turn historic Miramar movie theater and bowling alley into events center

Orange County Register via California Rail News

A plan to renovate San Clemente’s historic Miramar Theater property – shuttered since 1992 – has won the approval of the city’s planning commission.

Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday, June 7 to approve permits so the owners can incorporate the former movie theater, built in 1938, with an adjacent former bowling alley built in 1946 as a single project – an events center with restaurants.

Both buildings occupy the 1700 block of North El Camino Real. The city designates them as historic landmarks in the city’s North Beach area.

The plan is to turn the former 7,836-square-foot cinema into a 435-seat performance and events center and convert the former 5,200-square-foot bowling alley into five specialty-cuisine restaurants with shared seating.

There would be 50 restaurant seats indoors and up to 150 seats in a landscaped outdoor dining area facing El Camino Real. The restaurants could cater for the events center.

Amtrak statewide ridership dips in NY State

ALBANY Times-Union

On the eve of massive track repair work at Penn Station in New York City, Amtrak’s upstate ridership is struggling to grow.

For passenger rail advocates such as Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, that’s troubling.

“It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

Becker cites a number of possible reasons for the decline.

“One is lower gas prices,” he said. They’re down about $1.25 per gallon in the Capital Region compared to the summer of 2014, according to figures from GasBuddy.com.

But Amtrak’s own difficulties may also have contributed.

It had to cancel one daily train for a number of days last summer west of the Capital Region while CSX worked on the tracks.

“Last summer was not a stellar period for on-time performance,” Becker added.

It has been nine years since Congress approved the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which shifted more of the cost of passenger rail operations to the states.

New York has continued to use the existing passenger cars, many of which are now 40 years old. Its specially built dual-mode locomotives that can operate on diesel or electric power have seen several breakdowns this spring, stranding hundreds of passengers.

For passenger rail advocates such as Bruce Becker, vice president of operations for the National Association of Railroad Passengers, that’s troubling.

“It is a cause for concern,” Becker said. “While ridership in the Hudson Valley has grown modestly, ridership across upstate New York and on the Adirondack has dropped.”

It had to cancel one daily train for a number of days last summer west of the Capital Region while CSX worked on the tracks.

A recommendation by some state Department of Transportation officials to replace the locomotives wasn’t included in the most recent state budget.
The state,meanwhile, has a vested interest in seeing higher passenger revenues, because they reduce the amount it must pay Amtrak to operate the trains.

Nationwide, Amtrak saw record ridership last year, carrying 31.3 million passengers. But statewide, ridership fell nearly 4.7 percent to 1.7 million, according to a recent presentation to the Empire State Passengers Association.

About half of those — 855,000 — began or ended their trips at the Albany-Rensselaer train station, one of Amtrak’s busiest.

Many factors can contribute to a decrease in ridership levels including gas prices, construction and service reliability and we continue to evaluate ways to mitigate these impacts and highlight Amtrak’s many passenger amenities and value proposition,” Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said. “Amtrak ridership overall remains strong, with a record 31.3 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2016, marking the sixth consecutive year Amtrak has carried more than 30 million customers.”

EDITORS NOTE: Is the upstate operation “pure” AMTRAK or dependant on the State too? How about borrowing rolling stock and dual diesel- electric locomotives from other NY State agencies (like Metro-North)?

CNE and Hopewell Junction Railfans

To all of Bernie Rudburg’s e-mail fans.

If you are not aware, and are wondering why you have not seen any e-mails from Bernie this year, we lost our Conductor and Historian emeritus last December. Bernie was the heart and soul of the Depot and he is sourly missed.

We have dedicated the station masters office to Bernie and plan to build a 20 foot by 40 foot picnic pavilion just south of the Interlocking Tower later this year and dedicate it to Bernie’s memory as well. If you are interested in supporting this project, please send your contributions to the Depot or donate at the “Give” page on our website (hopewelldepot.org).

We are now working on providing Depot update e-mails one or two times per month during the summer and fall seasons, so stay tuned.

Joe Sullivan
President, Hopewell Depot Restoration Corp.
PO Box 1044, Hopewell Junction, NY 12533
www.hopewelldepot.org

Man Saves the Day by Delivering Pizza to ‘Hangry’ Passengers on Stalled Train

From TIME via California Rail News

A pizza deliveryman saved the day by trekking out to a stranded Amtrak train and delivering pizza to the hungry passengers.

Jim Leary heard on Sunday during a routine shift at Dom’s NY Style Pizzeria in Newport, Del. that some passengers on a stalled train less than a mile away had ordered pizza. That didn’t faze Leary, who says he has delivered pizzas to passengers on airplanes and boats throughout his 17-year career.
“I was like, ‘hell yeah, I gotta hook them up,'” Leary, 46, told TIME. “I know they gotta be hungry.”

Caltrain gets $100M from budget deal: Support hinges on approval from Trump administration

From San Mateo Daily Journal-May 2, 2017 via California Rail News

The bipartisan congressional budget deal reached Sunday could provide some much-needed fuel for Caltrain’s plans to modernize the Peninsula’s heavily used commuter rail system.
The $1 trillion federal spending plan outlines $100 million for the electrification project and while there’s contingencies to those funds actually being allocated, Caltrain supporters say it’s a positive omen nonetheless.

The 2017 budget proposal includes nearly $232.8 million for new projects that are geared toward increasing capacity and which are expected to receive approval this year — a short list in the Federal Transit Administration’s pipeline that includes Caltrain. While hurdles remain before actual funding is offered, being explicitly recognized in the budget bodes well.

North Louisiana one step closer to having a passenger railway

From MyArkLaMiss via California Rail News

Not everybody is on board yet but northern Lousiana is one step closer to having a passenger railway for the first time in more than 40 years. Southern Rail Commissioner Knox Ross says that Governor John Bel Edwards supports extending Amtrak Service through Ruston and Monroe and negotiations are underway with Amtrak and other freight railways to put this plan in action.

Knox Ross says “all of our cities, especially Shreveport and Monroe, air service is an issue, bus service is an issue. It’s hard to get anywhere. They need another alternative.”

Ross says a test run could come as early as next fall with stops in Shreveport and Monroe. Amtrak would extend it’s services to help I-20 passengers travel from Atlanta all the way to Dallas.

BART fare cheaters drain up to $25 million a year

The transit agency’s Operations and Safety Committee, chaired by BART board Director Joel Keller, met Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent fare evaders from riding the system for free.
According to BART documents, the transit agency loses an estimated $15 to $25 million in revenue annually. BART estimates its fare evasion is rate is between 4 to 5 percent.
Funny how a few years ago, LA Metro installed gates at most rail transit stations and dumped the Self Service (selbstbedienung in German where it was invented) ticketing that works well all around the world. The plan behind installing the gates was to reduce the number of fare cheaters. In the process LA Metro “saved money” by reducing the number of ticket inspectors who also act as security on the trains. I guess people who want to avoid paying fares have no problems jumping over fare gates.

“Through a three-tiered strategy of enforcement, station hardening, and education, BART aims to raise the stakes for fare evaders, and assure our riders that we value their patronage and investment and foster the expectation that every rider pay their fair share.”

Some of ways fare evaders get into paid areas include following behind a paid BART passenger entering the fare gate, jumping over the glass barriers or fare gates, and entering through emergency exits.

SFBay via California Rail News

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.