Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Montreal to Quebec City HSR gets business backing

Technically the headline is wrong. In fact, it’s just wrong, period. The proposed trains would operate at around 115 t0 120 mph. That is somewhat behind Acela and it is only a bit quicker that service that existed in the 1960’s when I once rode the line. Still, modern fast trains are an asset. The story is in the Montreal Gazette.

The long-discussed idea of building a high-speed train between Quebec City and Montreal will become a reality in the coming months, predicts the new president of the chamber of commerce here.

“The timing for a project like this is perfect,” said Daniel Denis, a Quebec City native and architect who took over as head of the 198-year-old association in June.

“There is growing concern for the environment (and) a need to improve our transportation links with the outside world.”

Denis told 450 members of the local business community at Château Frontenac this week that he would devote his year-long tenure to the promotion of the high-speed train project .

A proposal put forward at a business forum this spring called for the construction of a high-speed rail line along the north shore of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers between Quebec City and the national capital via Montreal.

Unlike the $11-billion project for a 320-km/h train in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor that was proposed by a Canadian consortium that included SNC-Lavalin that failed to win federal approval, Denis said the Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa line would feature a more practical, albeit slower, model of train that would move passengers and freight at speeds of between 180 and 200 km/h.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

California cities square off on HSR route

California is full of smart people, so it should not be necessary to say that the routing of the HSR trains is a transportation decision. Here is the story from the Bay Area Review.

 The Fremont City Council Tuesday unanimously supported running the 200 mph trains across the Pacheco Pass, linking the Bay Area and Central Valley along route 152, through Gilroy.

The other option, backed by Union City Mayor Mark Green, is to zip them along the Altamont Pass, through Niles Canyon and into the Tri-City area.

The California High Speed Rail Authority is accepting comments on its recently released environmental impact report studying both options. It expects to pick a preferred route by the end of the year, Deputy Director Dan Leavitt said.

Fremont’s concern with the Altamont route is that the trains might disrupt neighborhoods as they speed through the city on their way to San Jose or over a bridge to the Peninsula.

Sending the trains west to the Peninsula, Transportation and Operations Director Jim Pierson said, could require building elevated tracks across Fremont Boulevard and “straight through Centerville.”

Elevated structures at least 25 feet high, he added, also might be needed in some parts of the city if the trains headed directly south to San Jose.

If the Pacheco Pass route is selected, bullet trains may bypass the Tri-City area, heading from San Jose up the Peninsula to San Francisco. Losing out on a station, city officials reasoned, is preferable to disrupting neighborhoods.

Fremont’s vote came a few weeks after Green spoke out for the Altamont Pass. Studies show the route would cost less, serve more passengers and present fewer environmental impacts than Pacheco, he said.

Filed under: United States High Speed Rail

Off Topic (I’m the boss, so there’s nothing anybody can do about it anyway.) Some commuter news

TFA generally keeps away from the light rail and commuter news, but this one is quite fascinating. Guess what? That drive to work is darned expensive. The Phoenix metro East Valley Tribune takes a close look at some developments.

A Forbes Magazine study released last month analyzed major cities across the United States for what the average citizen spends on both housing and transportation, weighing the costs of a longer drive versus more inexpensive housing. Topping the list was Houston, where the cost of transportation in that sprawling metropolis has become so high on average that it has outpaced what the normal citizen spends on housing.

Not far behind, however, was Phoenix, checking in at No. 8 on the list of cities with the most expensive commute. According to Forbes, residents of Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs spend 19.6 percent of their total budget on transportation-related expenses, with an annual delay (time grid-locked in traffic) at 49 hours.

Those numbers, applied Maricopa, would obviously be near the peak in terms of delay and money spent due to the sheer amount of mileage driven by its citizens to work each day.

A resident survey released by the city in December 2006 showed 49 percent of Maricopans travel between 21 and 30 miles each way to work while nearly another 20 percent traveled more than 40 miles each way. Those numbers were backed by a resident survey conducted by the Pat Davis Design Group for their branding research. In those results, released last month, just more than 60 percent of residents drive between 16 and 49 miles each way to their jobs.

The Forbes study found that the cities high on the list of most expensive commutes had little to no commuter train systems in place – a fact then doubly verified as four of the five cities found to have the cheapest commutes have extensive rail systems.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

Pardon me boy, is that the Chatanooga maglev?

Georgia officials will be talking this idea to death next week. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“What we have in mind is a high speed rail that can provide competitive travel times between Atlanta and Chattanooga,” said Mohamed Arafa, communications director for the state Department of Transportation in northwest Georgia. “We are very early in the process so we are just thinking about it.”

He said the proposed 110-mile magnetic levitation system would run from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Chattanooga.

The meetings will be in Atlanta Tuesday, Rome Wednesday and Chattanooga Thursday.

Arafa said officials hope to determine the range of issues to be addressed — identifying the need for such a line, developing solutions and evaluating the potential impact of different solutions. “It is very preliminary,” he said.

Several questions spring to mind.

  • Why maglev technology? Isn’t this exceedingly expensive?
  •  The Atlanta terminal is the airport. Will that also be the situation in Chatanooga? (Not a disqualifier, just an honest question.)
  • Is the sole purpose of this project to provide airline connections?
  • If the answer is “yes,” why would the people of Georgia pay for a project which exclusively benefits airlines operating in interstate commerce? (Again, not a deal killer, just wondering.)
  • Would the airlines operate the trains as is the European model?
  • Has Geergia DOT considered fast conventional rail service?

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Rail congestion in Fort Worth? Say it ain’t so.

Anybody who has ever ridden the Eagle must marvel that anything gets past the gauntlet. The Fort Worth Star Telegram has the story on proposed improvements, including the eventual relocation of the downtown rail yards.

The train trench or overpass in downtown Fort Worth would be the biggest part of an estimated $300 million in public improvements — all related to rail — funded over the next decade, Sims said. A variety of financing sources will likely be available in the next decade, including state emissions reduction funding, railroad rehabilitation money and possibly proceeds from development contracts with private companies, he said.

Goal: passenger traffic

Rail companies have committed in principle to help regional planners solve train-related problems, and to open up freight lines to passenger rail traffic, but have not yet specified where and when any changes would take place.

But some projects will be easier than others, rail officials say. For example, Union Pacific officials still say it would be difficult to allow passenger service on the company’s busy tracks through Arlington. But the company is more optimistic about helping the Fort Worth Transportation Authority runs its Cotton Belt line from southwest Fort Worth to Grapevine and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, the UP chairman’s special representative Joseph Adams said after the meeting. That proposed commuter rail route, which is under environmental review, would include a couple of miles of Union Pacific tracks in north Fort Worth.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Inside the minds of Amtrak’s “host” railroads

Today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette business writers have put together a dandy of a story on the shady business practices of a few operating lines. No link, because the newspaper is a subscription site. Here is a highlight. This will be widely reported elsewhere, I am sure.

— Five major freight-rail companies overcharged customers by more than $6.5 billion under the guise of fuel surcharges, according to a study commissioned by businesses that accuse U.S. railroads of anti-competitive behavior.

“This is the greatest train robbery of the 21st century,” said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive of the American Chemistry Council, which represents about 90 percent of the nation’s chemical makers. The amount was more than double what some railroad customer groups had expected.

The council commissioned an economic analysis that found the railroads’ fuel surcharges were excessive by more than$6.5 billion between 2005 and the first quarter of 2007. The study was based on regulatory filings and other estimates for Union Pacific Corp., Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp., Kansas City Southern and CSX Corp.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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September 2007