Posts Tagged ‘Rail passenger service’

Berkshire Passenger Study Set

September 30, 2017

A working group seeking to bring intercity rail passenger service to the Berkshire Mountains recently held its first meeting.

The group is studying establishment of seasonal train service between the Berkshires in Massachusetts and New York City.

The NYC/Berkshire Passenger Rail Working Group is overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and was included the state’s fiscal 2018 budget bill.

The group will conduct a study to identify and evaluate the economic and cultural benefits, while also identifying any legal, logistical, or political challenges that may knock the project off track.

Members of the group include federal and state transportation officials, local representatives, industry leaders, and transportation advocates. Their report is due by March 1.

Moorman Upbeat About Future of Rail Passenger Service

July 17, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman gave an upbeat assessment of passenger rail even as he acknowledged that the passenger carrier faces challenges fixing decaying infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Moorman said Amtrak’s need for federal funding was no excuse for not operating “like a great company.”

Moorman

Nonetheless, Moorman said that getting pressure from government officials and tight budgetary resources have taken their toll.

He said that in the 1990s and 2000s Amtrak lost sight of its customers as a result. As an example he cited carpet cleaning.

Amtrak saved $1 million by not shampooing the carpets in its passenger cars as often, but passengers noticed the dirty carpets.

“That’s not the experience we want to create for our customers,” he said.
Providing a better customer experience has been one of four focuses that Moorman has brought to Amtrak after becoming its president last year.

“The customer experience is ticketing, the station, our employee interactions, and our equipment,” he said.

The equipment used by Amtrak is, in Moorman’s words, starting to look “stale,” but the carrier has taken steps to improve it.

“It’s old, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good,” he said.
Moorman said rail passenger transportation in general is a particularly good business model.

The creators of Amtrak chartered it as a for-profit corporation even though they knew it was not a good business model.

However, Moorman said, they sold at the time to President Richard Nixon and the Congress at the time as a concept of “Create this and [it] will become profitable.”

In essence, Moorman said Amtrak is a government contractor that unlike other contractors can’t always present to government officials a bill that factors in the costs of doing business plus a profit to benefit shareholders.

“We rely on what are in effect user fees – passenger fares,” he said. “And because the marketplace doesn’t sustain the passenger fares we need to make that profit, we ask the government to make up the difference.”

Among Amtrak’s many challenges Moorman said the one that worries him the most is the aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

He said the NEC has eight major bridges and only is younger than 100 years old. The B&P Tunnel in Baltimore is 127 years old and well past its “sell-by date.”

Moorman express confidence that the idea of having a national rail passenger network is taking hold and predicted the development of more corridors offering rail passenger service between urban areas.

He also circled back to the need to provide good customer service.

“For 46 years, a lot of people [at Amtrak] were there trying to keep the flame alive, understanding that someday the world would come to the point where people started to say, ‘We really need to have passenger rail as an option.’ I think that day has come,” Moorman said.

“The better we run Amtrak, the better we deliver on projects, the more people understand how good our company is, the easier every funding conversation is,” he said.

In a related note, Moorman said disruptions at New York’s Penn Station may extend in the fall.

He told the New York Post that Amtrak has the ability to finish the remaining work at Penn Station with subsequent weekend outages extending beyond the planned July to early September work curfew.

“We’ve done an exceptional and extraordinary amount of planning on the material side and we know it all fits, and we have a lot of skilled people,” he says.

After those repairs are concluded, Moorman said Amtrak will need to to schedule signal and power system repairs at a later date.

Chao Says Infrastructure Plan Will Reduce Regulations, House Committee Approves Passenger Rail Legislation

March 31, 2017

It’s not the money it’s the red tape. Or so Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao wants everyone to believe is the reason why more isn’t being done to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

Speaking during an open house to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chao said the Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal that has yet to be delivered to Congress will include proposals to eliminate regulations.

“Investors say there is ample capital available, waiting to invest in infrastructure projects,” Chao said.” So the problem is not money. It’s the delays caused by government permitting processes that hold up projects for years, even decades, making them risky investments.”

Chao said the Trump infrastructure plan “will include common-sense regulatory, administrative, organizational and policy changes that will encourage investment and speed project delivery.”

Although she did not provide details, that infrastructure proposal will include a “a strategic, targeted program of investment valued at $1 trillion over 10 years,” Chao said.

She said the proposal will cover more than transportation infrastructure. It will also include energy, water and potentially broadband and veterans hospitals.

Public-private partnerships will be a focal point of the plan as a way to avoid “saddling future generations with massive debt.”

In an unrelated development, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week approved a bill involving passenger rail.

The committee reported out H.R. 1346, which repeals a rule titled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform.”

In a statement, the committee said the rule exceeds what is required in law, is contrary to congressional intent, and increases burdens on MPOs and states.

The committee said H.R. 1346 maintains MPO and state flexibility in planning and making transportation investments.

Also approved was H.R. 1093, which mandates the Federal Railroad Administration to notify Congress about any initiation and results of passenger and commuter rail comprehensive safety assessments.

Ohio Communities OK Rail Route Study Funding

November 9, 2016

All Aboard Ohio repots that communities and counties in Ohio have been approving funding for a tier I environmental assessment for a proposed Chicago-Columbus high-performance passenger rail corridor.

OhioFunding pledges have already been approved in Indiana.

The assessment is the first step toward developing a major transportation project.

Backing the project has been the Northern Indiana/Ohio Passenger Rail Initiative, comprised of the nine largest cities on the preferred corridor.

Also taking part are the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and Indiana Department of Transportation.

The project promoters are expected to seek a $2.56 million federal grant for the Tier I assessment.

A high-performance rail corridor can involve building a new right of way or rehabilitating an existing rail line by adding safety features that would allow higher train speeds.

A tier I assessments identifies the most cost-effective, environmentally benign route(s), potential station sites and may include a service development plan.

High-Speed Michigan Line Could be Profitable

February 25, 2016

Michigan map

A study by the Michigan Environmental Council concluded that a high-speed rail line between Detroit and Holland, Michigan, could generate an annual $12 million profit.

The study, Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail Ridership and Cost Estimate Study, was based on the route having a top speed of 110 mph.

MichiganThree routes were examined, all of which are existing rail lines that would need extensive rebuilding to allow for higher-speed operations.

The study acknowledged that the cost of rebuilding the routes for high-speed rail would require a greater capital investment, but would result in higher ridership that would allow the service to recover its operating costs

The study favored a route that would pass through Ann Arbor and Howell.

If trains on that route had a top speed of 79 mph, the service would require annual funding of $3 million and a capital investment of $130 million, which MEC said is comparable to the cost of building 13 miles of interstate highway.

“Business leaders, economic developers, local governments and college students have all told us they support the idea of knitting together our cities, cultural centers and other institutions by rail,” said Liz Treutel Callin, transportation policy associate for the MEC. “Now we have an in-depth report showing that the coast-to-coast passenger rail project is one worth pursuing, with significant potential benefits for Michigan’s economy and quality of life.”

MEC said the next step in developing the rail route is to conduct a feasibility study that would include an environmental impact analyses, an implementation plan and a review of public-private partnership options.