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?

Brightline rail will start with deeply discounted fares

The new Brightline rail service linking Miami to West Palm Beach with a stop in Fort Lauderdale will start with deeply discounted fares when it takes its first runs in late summer and offers full service in the early fall, CEO Dave Howard says.

While he wouldn’t reveal the fare structure, Mr. Howard told a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation meeting last week that the discounted cost is “going to be less than the cost of driving your car.”
Fares, he said, won’t be revealed until just before operations begin. He did not provide specific dates.

The full service in the fall, he said, will amount to 32 round trips daily between Miami and West Palm Beach.

The West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations, built expressly for the Brightline service, are getting their final touches, Mr. Howard said, while the massive station complex in downtown Miami handled by parent All Aboard Florida continues to rise.

Asked to predict the status of the railroad next June, he said that Brightline will then be on the way to carrying 3 million passengers a year.
“The railroad is the answer of the future,” traveling on a line that was built by railroad magnate Henry Flagler just before 1900. “What an awesome opportunity to reinvent that system.”

The railroad as conceived by its owner, Coral Gables-based Florida East Coast Industries, was to be a link between Miami and Orlando, linking to Orlando’s cluster of globally known theme attractions. But communities along the route have tried to sidetrack the planned operations, delaying that longer part of the run.

Mr. Howard said only that the Brightline will be “ultimately connecting to Orlando in phase 2 of our project.” He did not provide an estimate of how long that might take.

He did note, as he has in the past, that no privately funded passenger rail service has been completed in the US in the past 100 years. “This is a privately funded project that has enormous public benefits,” he said.
He said the level of service planned on the line now exists nowhere in the nation.
That might help to cut into the car-centric culture in the region.
“Yes, we need to change behavior, Mr. Howard conceded, “but the behavior that we have to change is painful. So it should be relatively easy” to motivate South Floridians to ride the rails rather than suffer in heavy traffic.
As for the impact on the community, Mr. Howard, who arrived here in March from New York, where he ran sports-oriented organizations, said that he hears a lot from employers about dependency on cars impeding business growth. “They can’t afford to lose people for hours in the day in their cars just to attend meetings,” he said.

As for getting Millennials to ride the Brightline, he said that the generation is much more favorably inclined to alternative travel modes than their elders and they already feel connected to city centers. Brightline, he said, is one of the solutions to connect the cities together.

Mr. Howard said that the owners of the Brightline feel good about their investment. The cost was low, because they already owned the right-of-way. At a cost of a little more than $1 billion for the five train sets and stations combined, he said, “this is actually an extraordinarily efficient investment.”

Check out our new “MAYBROOK YARD” WebPage

We have worked today on trying to clear up the “mystery’s” of the Central New England/New Haven Railroad MAYBROOK YARD.

Take a look at it:

We are trying to show how the Maybrook Yard tied into the Great Bridge at Pougheepsie and the “Maybrook Line” from Hopewell Junction across the mountains to Danbury and on to Cedar Hill. We also found a great article from EXPERT Jack Swanberg on the same subject.

We are still finding out more about the current “players”. We know that few railroads no longer serve the Maybrook Yard. We know the railroad leaving Maybrook towards the North is owned by CONRAIL Shared Assets/NorfolkSouthern but is operated by the Middletown & New Jersey Railroad.

Still trying to find out about the old NY Central Wallkill Valley branch and railroads in New Paltz, NY

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

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)?

The BIG “Last Mile” of Home Delivery

Since last week all the news has been about Amazon and Whole Foods merger. Jim Cramer on CNBC-News has pushed “buy at home” like crazy. Just recently Wal*Mart announced that employees will be making deliveries.

Sounds great if you are “in” to home delivery. Basically, I am not. These hoards of delivery people choke our narrow streets. Besides, I live in a house that is not “deliveryman-friendly”. We are “set-back” from the street in a “cottage” surrounded by 6-story buildings. It is a great place to live but not great to tell someone how to find it.

I like the idea used by a small appliance company: it is called a “relais”(like in “relay). It set up a relais in a neighborhood. You get an electronic message your purchase is in the relais…..not a harried delivery person with a truck triple-parked calling your phone. You give up what you are doing and just walk out to the street. The Relais is great: you go out on YOUR time.

As you can tell, I am not a great fan of home delivery. Certainly not a fancy meal. I would rather go to a place like Stew Leonard’s “The Disneyland of Dairy Stores”.

6 Amtrak trains to use Grand Central Terminal this summer

From The Journal News | 12, 2017

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim confirmed Monday that Amtrak and the MTA have “an agreement” to begin running trains to and from upstate into the east side station, as the national railroad begins much-needed repairs in Penn Station.

“They will be bringing a small part of their Empire Service into Grand Central. We think they’re looking at six trains, three in or three out,” Hakim said. “That could provide some relief at Penn (Station) as well.”

Empire Service trains make stops between the Albany area and New York City, including Yonkers and Schenectady, among others. Some trains originate or terminate in Buffalo, making stops in Rochester and Syracuse.

Empire Service trains have not run into Grand Central since 1991 when Amtrak consolidated all its operations in Penn Station, which it owns, a move that allowed upstate travelers to change trains across a platform rather than across town.

But a litany of issues in recent months, including two derailments in the spring, has brought to light significant issues at the station, including years’ worth of neglect by Amtrak at the station.

In order to get things back into good condition, Amtrak will have to perform eight weeks of improvements starting next month, which will take tracks out of service and wreak havoc on Long Island Railroad and NJ Transit schedules.

Hakim said the MTA would be monitoring the improvement process closely to make sure Amtrak is finished on time.

“We want to keep Amtrak’s feet to the fire when it comes to meeting their schedule,” she said.

Hakim announced changes to the Long Island Railroad, including lengthening trains, canceling others, running buses and ferries free for weekly and monthly ticket holders and slashing overnight tolls for trucks.

“We know that our customers have had enough. We heard them loud and clear,” Hakim said. “Dozens of weekly delays … have rippling consequences, not just here but throughout our entire region.”

NJ Transit, which operates trains to and from Rockland County, had announced its plans earlier. They include routing some lines into Hoboken and adjusting schedules for others.

Rockland County trains will work on their regular schedules, according to the NJ Transit plan, though commuters who change at Secaucus Junction for Penn Station may need to adjust their schedules, the agency said.

Hell Is New York City’s Transit Situation

From Slate Magazine
The subways are a mess. Penn Station is a disgrace. Who is to blame?
By Isaac Chotine

As a Californian who is forced to drive more than I would like, I always look forward to my trips to New York City. I can jump on the subway to Brooklyn—which I have been told is actually part of the city—and visit my Slate colleagues whose faces I view too infrequently. Last month, however, I got a brief taste of what New Yorkers’ have spent their spring complaining about—and with good reason. The state of the New York City subways is a disgrace: Trains are old, delays are frequent, power outages are common. And even though Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversees the Metropolitan Transit Authority and needs the votes of NYC’s large population of Democrats, he has seemed reluctant to tackle the problem. Plus there is the mess that is Penn Station, which has left suburban commuters bracing for a “summer of agony” as repairs get underway to restore service to its old status quo, which wasn’t good to begin with.

To discuss all this, I spoke by phone with Benjamin Kabak, who edits the Second Ave. Sagas Twitter feed (@2AvSagas) and is an expert on NYC transportation. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed whether Cuomo is really to blame, the hell of Penn Station, and what Trump could (but won’t) do to fix some of New York City’s problems.

Isaac Chotiner: How precisely would you describe what the hell is going on?

Benjamin Kabak: That’s sort of the multibillion-dollar question. From a day-to-day perspective, what’s going on is that the once-reliable New York City subway system is showing its age and a lack of investment in such a way that service isn’t dependable anymore. You have constant delays, constant service reroutes. So the millions of people who rely on the subway to get around are suddenly faced with much longer commutes and much more uncertainty and an element of surprise that people do not want to schedule into their daily trips to work or home or school.

But at a certain level it’s a little unfair to target him specifically because it has really been a history of disinvestment. You can trace it back to Robert Moses and this lack of investment in transit that goes back to the ’50s and was exacerbated in the ’60s and ’70s when the MTA should have been thinking about replacing and modernizing the signal systems and didn’t have the money to do so. Cuomo’s lack of empathy and support for what New Yorkers are going through is an accumulation of 50 or 60 years of governors not investing in transit or paying the right attention to it.

You mentioned investment, but I read on your Twitter feed that you don’t think investment is the problem per se or rather that more funding would not necessarily solve the problems.

One of the challenges that I think advocates of the system have is that there is an idea that if you throw more money at the MTA then things will magically be fixed. But the MTA has access to a lot of money. They have a five-year, $30 billion capital plan, and while some people say the proper amount would be closer to $50 billion, the underlying concern is that the MTA can’t spend money very well. Everything it does is far more expensive than its peer cities. Everything they try to do in terms of construction takes far too long.

So why can’t they spend it well?

That’s a tough question and one nobody has been able to pinpoint. You have a lot of different factors. Projects in New York take a lot of planning. You have environmental regulations. You have old city streets and nobody knows what’s under them. You have old buildings that are nearby. You have this [not-in-my-backyard] reaction to everything when it’s a heavy construction project. You have lawsuits. You have what I call institutionalized corruption. There are only so many companies that are qualified to take on things, which leads to a bidding process where the bidding process is very inflated.

What about the projects Cuomo cared about? Have they been pulled off with less trouble, or did they have the same problems?

It’s the same problems. The Second Avenue subway, which sort of opened on time, was actually four years late. It opened on a new schedule that they had put forward when it became apparent they were going to blow past the original schedule. It was well over budget and the most expensive subway line built in the world. You have the same problems with the bigger projects, but they are out of sight. You don’t miss something you don’t have.

In terms of who pays: Are suburban riders paying enough, and should fares be subsidized for poorer riders?

The riders themselves have borne a fair share of costs. And it’s all part of the same regional economy. You need to make sure people can get into their jobs in New York City, or we will all suffer. I am in favor of subsidizing fares for lower-income riders, but that is something that hasn’t gained much political traction from either the mayor or the governor.

Has the terrible relationship between those two guys exacerbated the crisis?

Oh, absolutely. Cuomo is trying to get more money out of the city; the city is pointing fingers at Cuomo. The MTA is sort of set up where no single politician has to take responsibility for it, so everybody is finger-pointing.

How would you describe the state of Penn Station, and is it uniquely awful or is it a good stand-in for many of the infrastructure shortcomings in America?

I think it is somewhat emblematic of the general state of transportation infrastructure, but at the same time it has really become a huge chokepoint. It’s a station that is run by three different agencies. The tracks are owned by Amtrak, but the MTA and New Jersey Transit both operate out of Penn Station. And you have had so many problems with aging infrastructure that it has become unsustainable. Amtrak has to perform two months of repairs this summer and shut down a bunch of the train service that comes through it, but it is also the busiest train station in the country. It is a huge chokepoint of the American economy and New York economy and needs to be resolved.

If Trump were a rational actor, is there anything he could do help New York City with its transportation problems?

What you would need—and unfortunately the reality right now is that Republicans are not particularly focused on urban issues, because that’s not where their base is—is an infrastructure bill with robust federal investment in transit, with a focus on the Northeast corridor, where they would say they would fund Penn Station and fund this new gateway tunnel, which is Amtrak’s plan to build new tunnels. You are looking at around 110-year-old tunnels that are at risk of failing. I don’t mean the ceilings will collapse and trap people, but I mean the infrastructure inside will not be able to support the number of trains that pass through it. That’s what you see at Penn Station. The problem is that you don’t have a party or an administration that is particularly sympathetic to urban investment issues right now.

Nicely put, “urban investment issues.”

Better than saying, “and is completely crazy.”

If you were governor, what could you do right now to make the situation better?

Say to people, “We know your subway system is bad, we know your train system is bad. To really fix it we have to take lines out of service for extended periods of time.” We don’t know what those periods of time are because no one at the MTA has really explored the issue yet. But if you can accomplish a signal replacement in a year without a train service, it might be better to do that than to knock out service over seven or eight years and have this uncertainty.

WOW: A Busy Day. But A Good Day!

Hottest Day of the Year today. And BUSY too.

We are in the middle of “updating” our WebSites so that “nasty” GOOGLE/ALPHABET cannot keep telling us that we are a “piece of S..T”

But we have other projects too.

Spent first part of day researching stuff on the Ontario & Western (Yes, you will see blogs and WebSites soon)

But we realized one of our best WebSites is NOT on KINGLYHEIRS or OMINOUSWEATHER but instead on BARRYSBEST.

Our aim for today was to get back to converting WebSites.

Decided we needed to do firstBut instead we will finish up soon. Even if we work on a WINTER project in the middle of SUMMER.

Zim ship first to pass under raised bridge at NY-NJ port

The arrival of the Zim Antwerp, heading under the bridge for Maher Terminals, will open a new era at the East Coast’s largest port.

Larger ships than expected traversing new Panama Canal
The long-anticipated sea change in trans-Pacific shipping networks is well underway a year after the Panama Canal opened its expanded lock system.

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