Category Archives: Travel

Elon Musk’s idea for fixing traffic suffers from one fundamental problem

Elon Musk — the restless billionaire behind Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity — was stuck in annoying traffic and mused that one solution would be to drill more tunnels. All he’d need, really, is a giant machine…

Everyone’s trying to figure out whether Musk is genuinely serious about starting a brand-new tunnel-boring company or not. Who knows! But tunnels are fun to think about, so why not pretend he is serious and think through how this might actually work….

One obvious hitch to Musk’s scheme is that some cities are already trying to dig new tunnels to accommodate traffic — and it’s far from easy! There’s a lot of existing infrastructure buried in the ground beneath cities, from water mains to electrical cables. And the tunnels themselves often need to be reinforced. That makes tunneling slow, difficult, and expensive work.

Seattle is a cautionary tale here: Since 2013, the city has employed a massive 57-foot-diameter boring machine named Big Bertha to drill a 2-mile highway tunnel beneath the downtown area. Yet six months after work began, Big Bertha broke down after overheating. Drilling finally resumed in late 2015 — but then had to stop again after a sinkhole opened up near construction. Perhaps Musk can improve on Big Bertha. But that brings us to an even deeper problem with his idea. Building more tunnels is just not a good way to alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, it would likely do the opposite.

The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more
In January 2016, during SpaceX’s Hyperloop pod design competition, Musk explained why he thought tunnels could help alleviate traffic:

It’s a really simple and obvious idea and I wish more people would do it: build more tunnels. Tunnels are great. It’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not that hard. But if you have tunnels in cities you would massively alleviate congestion and you could have tunnels at all different levels — you could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high-density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.

Except economists and traffic experts have been studying this issue for a long time and they’ve found the exact opposite. When cities add new roads to a congested area, it usually doesn’t alleviate congestion. Instead, it just induces more traffic, as people take advantage of the added road space to drive more.

Granted, there can still be good reasons for fast-growing cities to build new roads. They just shouldn’t necessarily expect traffic jams to disappear as a result. Los Angeles got a firsthand glimpse of this after widening its I-405 freeway, a project that cost $1 billion. “The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,”

So what does help alleviate congestion? If cities really want to erase traffic jams, many transportation economists would instead recommend that they charge people to use roads when they’re crowded — a policy known as congestion pricing that has popped up in places like London, Singapore, and Stockholm.

Early research suggests that pricing really does cut down on traffic, as people decide to move their commutes to non-peak hours, shift to mass transit, or cut down on trips overall. It’s arguably even more effective if cities use the funds to provide alternative transportation options.

The downside is that congestion charging tends to be rather unpopular, since people don’t like it when they suddenly have to pay for something that used to be free. (It’s the same reason why checked-baggage fees on airplanes have incurred such a backlash.) So urban planners tend to favor building new roads and widening existing roads — or, in Musk’s case, new tunnels — even if the research suggests again and again that it doesn’t cut down on congestion.

Now, that doesn’t mean a tunneling machine would be useless! Remember, Musk also has plans to start colonizing Mars within a decade. And humans living on Mars would probably want to spend most of their time underground to avoid the higher levels of solar radiation that hits the planet.

Big Changes Ahead For The Muhammad Ali Hyperlink

Yes, our vision remains the same : provide fast and reliable transportation between Chicago and Louisville. However there are two important changes to our environment: (1) Cincinnati, Ohio has a Hyperloop project now; and (2) Hyperloop now feels that cargo has more priority than passengers.
Hyperloop One raised $50 million and hired former Uber CFO Brent Callinicos. The new round, led by DP World Groups in Dubai, brings the company’s total funding to $160 million.
Hyperloop UC, the University of Cincinnati’s interdisciplinary team, will unveil their entry for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition on Monday, Oct. 17. The pod will be used during the next phase of the international Hyperloop competition to be held at a test track next to SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, in January 2017.
After months of preparation, a team of University of Cincinnati students will pull the curtain back on their Hyperloop pod, a prototype they think could reshape high-speed transportation as part of the competition dreamed up by Tesla founder Elon Musk. As CEO of the aerospace firm SpaceX, Musk has challenged the world to submit ideas — and now prototypes — for a tube-based passenger system that would allow for travel between cities at the speed of sound.
More than 60 students from Hyperloop UC — engineers, designers and marketers — have been busy finalizing designs, manufacturing parts and synthesizing segments into a seamless prototype for the January 27-29 competition when they will insert their pod for takeoff in a mile-long test track.
UC’s group is one of just 30 that has advanced to the test round of the Hyperloop competition out of more than 1,200 teams worldwide. If successful, the venture could completely shift the way commuters travel. Cincinnati to Chicago, for example, could be travelled in a half hour — all while passengers relax in a capsule that levitates through the tube at more than 700 mph.
“We are very proud of the design we have created,” says Dhaval Shiyani, Hyperloop UC President and aerospace engineering graduate student in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). “It hits all the marks with respect to performance, safety and scalability. Our education at UC has taught us well, and we are confident that we will be a force to reckon with come January.”
UC’s team was among 120 teams invited to Texas A&M University in January of 2016 to present their ideas, where they were then selected to be among just 30 who are moving on to the final round of competition. UC is also the only group representing Ohio universities.

Very recently Hyperloop One, (the Elon Musk organization), announced that « cargo will be implemented before passengers ».

We anticipated this with the selection of Gary, Indiana (at the international airport) as our Northern Terminal. Of course passengers will still transfer to the South Shore commuter line operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District. But operating on the same right-of-way is the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. It provides freight service between Chicago and South Bend.It has important connections to the Indiana Harbor Railroad, Norfolk Southern, CSX Corporation. It is also connected to the in-formation Great Lakes Basin Transportation. It proposes to construct a new railroad line around the metropolitan Chicago area. The purpose of the new railroad is to expedite freight movements across the nation and to provide additional capacity for growing railroad traffic.

All Aboard Florida receives FRA OK for engineering plans

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has approved All Aboard Florida‘s (AAF) final engineering plans for its “Brightline” intercity passenger-rail service in Brevard and Indian River counties, the railroad announced yesterday.

Artist’s rendering of the Brightline
All Aboard Florida

The FRA said the plans submitted by AAF comply with grade-crossing mitigation requirements. The news marks a “significant step” toward the $3 billion project, AAF officials said in a press release.

“Consistent with our initial commitment to the Treasure Coast, we provided final engineering plans that included safety improvements for FRA’s review,” they said. “The agency has now completed its review of our plans for Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Brevard counties and affirmed that we are in full compliance with applicable requirements.”

When completed, AAF’s Brightline service will connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Service is slated to begin in 2017.

What riding Amtrak was like in the 1970s

Hard to believe that stuff that happened all in many of our lives is now called HISTORIC.

Photo at top: Northbound Silver Star in 1977

Amtrak was incorporated in 1971, and spent much of that decade establishing its operations, route network, and design and branding. USA TODAY Travel asked Amtrak to search its archives for photos and materials that show what American rail travel was like in the 1970s. From the TurboTrain to the Metroclub, be prepared for a groovy trip down memory lane!

 

 

Amtrak, U.S. transit agencies step up security after Brussels terrorist attacks

ISIS 1 over Metro Car 0

Following yesterday’s terrorist attacks at a Brussels airport and subway station, Amtrak and several major U.S. transit agencies increased their security efforts.

In response to the attacks — which left more than 30 people dead and injured hundreds more — Amtrak deployed extra officers at its stations. Additionally, the national passenger railroad’s police force is working with state, local and federal law enforcement partners to gather and share intelligence, according to a statement posted on Amtrak’s blog.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City is working with the New York State Police and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) to elevate police presence at subway and rail stations, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release.

Additionally, PANYNJ increased its police presence at all of its airports, bridges, tunnels and the World Trade Center, as well as the PATH and Port Authority Bus Terminal.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority also beefed up police presence at three rail stations, including L.A.’s Union Station.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced it is deploying additional security to major U.S. airports and at various rail and transit stations, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) encouraged riders to remain vigilant and report any unattended bags or suspicious behavior.

“We all need to work together to make sure that our public transit systems are as safe and secure as possible,” said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy.

Yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Belgium left 31 people dead and more than 200 others wounded. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by two suicide bombers.

One of the bombers targeted Brussels’ Maalbeek subway station.

CNE Railway Tour 2016

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of the guide book for the CNE Rwy
historical tour starting at Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie on 3
April. Buses will roll about 9:00 AM.   The book contains 234 pages of
photos and stories about the Maybrook Line from Poughkeepsie to
Maybrook.  After lunch we will come back across the river to Hopewell Junction to explore the restored Depot and the new replica  of switch tower ss 196. Lunch is included and everybody gets a copy of the guide book.

There are still seats available for this all-day trip.  If you are
interested you can send a check for $55 to Joe Mato.

Joseph Mato CNE 2016

Joe Mato
62 Wood RD CNE 2016
Redding, CT 06896

(home): 203 938-9992     e-mail: joemato@sbcglobal.net

Be sure to include your E-Mail address so we can contact you if we need  to.

Cuomo has short-sighted take on transit

When it came to transportation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s annual State of the State speech had great sound bites but provided little substance. Cuomo failed to give any specifics of how he will come up with the $8.3 billion promised to meet the shortfall in his proposed 2015-2019 MTA Five Year Capital Plan. Cuomo is kicking the can down the road.

The original proposed 2010-2014 MTA $29 billion Five Year Capital Plan was cut to $24.2 billion before being approved. This doesn’t include $8.3 billion more pledged by Cuomo and $2.5 billion by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to help cover shortfalls in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposed $28 billion 2015 – 2019 Five Year Capital Plan (cut from $32 billion). When will these billions become reality?

How can the MTA justify cutting $9 billion in badly needed capital improvements over a ten year period and still provide the day to day services millions of New Yorkers count on? How many critical capital improvement projects will be postponed into the next 2020 – 2024 Capital Program?

The 2020-2024 MTA Five Year Capital Program will first have to deal with $9 billion in unfunded carryover capital projects and programs. By waiting all these years, the costs will have gone up by another billion or two. This includes $1 billion or more to construct Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway. Next is $1 billion or more to finish LIRR Eastside Access to Grand Central Terminal. What about finding $500 million to build the No. 7 subway station at 10th Avenue and 41st?

Also needed is $1.5 billion for the LIRR Main Line Third Track project. The LaGuardia Airport Train to the Plane baseline budget of $450 million in the years to come will require up to an additional $550 million.

The $3 billion new Penn Station will end up needing far more than $300 million in combined assistance from the MTA, Amtrak and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Does anyone believe that potential developers will spend $2.7 billion of their own funding to pay for this?

Some Queens residents will look for $100 million toward the $200 million Woodhaven Boulevard Select Bus Service. These dollars may be necessary if NYCDOT can’t secure $100 million in U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding. Others will continue to lobby for restoration of LIRR service on the old Rockaway LIRR branch at $1 billion, Triboro X Subway Express (new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn for $1 to $2 billion) and most recently the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector at a cost of $1.7 billion.

Combined, all of the above would make Cuomo’s tab for unfunded transportation improvements exceed $26 billion! Cuomo reminds me of the character Wimpy who famously said “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” When the bills become due, taxpayers will be stuck with Cuomo’s tab. Why would the next governor want to pay for any of Cuomo’s bills?

Larry Penner , Great Neck

Saratoga & North Creek Railway to offer new dining cars, more train trips

Saratoga & North Creek Railway plans to dramatically boost its dining car offerings this year after finding plenty of interest in meals on rails in recent years.

The railroad plans to bring new dining and lounge cars to its line to try to increase ridership on the tourist train.

The company will offer dinner, brunch and lunch train trips, with much of the food and beverages offered on the trips to be provided by local suppliers.

SNCRR will offer 94 dining trips between Saratoga Springs and Thurman Station starting June 4 and running through Oct. 28, an increase over the 15 offered last year.

The trips will be run on new equipment that includes a bigger, 48-passenger dining car with a full kitchen, and a “luxurious” lounge car with couches and a bar, said Justin Gonyo, SNCRR’s general manager. The trips have been dubbed The Pullman Table.

Gonyo said the company had seen that dining car trips were selling out in previous years, with all but one of 28 over the last three years being booked solid.

“This is a very exciting business franchise,” Gonyo said.

The kitchen can turn out up to 300 meals per trip, he said. Wine will be provided by Greenfield winemaker The Fossil Stone Vineyards, and local farmers and food suppliers will provide ingredients for meals.

Menus posted online listed standard breakfast offerings, with entrees like prime rib, grilled salmon and “Adirondack casserole” and the “D & H Deluxe Burger” for later meals.

SNCRR’s parent company, Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, offers the same service on its other affiliated railroads in Oregon, Texas, Illinois and Louisiana.

The company has been dogged by lower-than-anticipated ridership numbers, though the Polar Express holiday trips have done well. SNCRR canceled snow train trips for skiers this winter between Saratoga Springs and North Creek.

The railroad’s five-year contract with the county expires in June, but county Administrator Paul Dusek told county supervisors Monday that negotiations for a new deal are progressing.

“It looks like it’s going to be a go for another five years,” Dusek said.

All Aboard begins construction of train maintenance facility

All Aboard Florida on Monday began construction on a rail repair facility that will service its Brightline trains when they begin shuttling passengers between South Florida and Orlando next year.

The facility, just north of downtown West Palm Beach, will be used to repair, maintain, clean and store Brightline’s trains, All Aboard officials said. About 50 people will work out of the 12-are site at 601 15th Street, which is also expected to serve as an office for the company’s conductors, engineers, and on-board service staff.

Initially, five Brightline trains will be housed at the site, officials said.

“Every morning when the train services begin, the train will be leaving from this area,” said Adrian Share, Brightline’s executive vice president of rail infrastructure.

Crews for Archer Western, the firm selected to build the facility, started preliminary work at the site this fall. On Monday, the construction team poured the first batch of concrete in what will become a “maintenance pit.” The pit will allow Brightline crews to work underneath trains to perform required inspections and other daily service.

As part of the project, a warehouse on the site, which had previously been used by the Florida East Coast Railway, is being converted to offices, crew quarters and training rooms.

Brightline officials said they plan to have several full-time employees working at the site. Siemens, the company contracted to build and to perform maintenance work on the trains, will also have employees at the repair facility, officials said.

The repair facility is expected to be completed in July and ready for use in August, Share said.

Monday’s work marks another milestone for the company, which plans to run 32 trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. The company plans to launch service between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017. The West Palm Beach-to-Orlando span is expected to begin by the end of 2017.

“This is a transformative transportation project and it really does change the way people live,” said Adrian Share, Brightline’s executive vice president of rail infrastructure. “Everything we are doing here is state of the art in terms of design and construction.”

Construction has started on the company’s four stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, and crews in South Florida have begun work needed to add a second track to the Florida East Coast Railway line.

Brightline’s trains are under construction at Siemens’ solar-powered plant in Sacramento, Calif. The shell of the first passenger coach is expected to be completed next week, Brightline officials said.

 

New York City snow storm is BIG!!!!

Could be 30 inches of snow in NEW YORK CITY tonight!

Andrew Cuomo, NY Governor, has ordered the city shut down.

Bridges and tunnels are shutting.

Due to deteriorating road conditions and poor visibility, NYC Transit and MTA Bus have suspended all local, limited and express bus service. Access-A-Ride service has also begun an orderly shut down of service.

Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and above ground NYC Subway service will begin an orderly shutdown of service at 4:00pm due to deteriorating weather conditions and concerns for customer and employee safety. Crews and snow fighting equipment have been dispatched and are working to keep platforms and rails clear of ice and snow. We advise customers if at all possible to remain at home during the duration of this storm.

 

As you can see. NY City Garbage Trucks are now SNOW PLOWS