Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

HSR conference coming to Raleigh, N. C.

This could be more than just talking something to death. According to the report in the News-Observer, the conference is all day Monday.

Speakers will include syndicated columnist Neal Peirce and senior state transportation officials from New York, Wisconsin, Virginia and North Carolina. U.S. Reps. David Price of Chapel Hill, James Oberstar of Minnesota and John Mica of Florida are scheduled to address the group by video from Washington.

“Our goal is to continue to build the support that is necessary for implementing high-speed rail as a relief measure for our over-capacity roads and air-quality challenges,” said Julie E. Hunt of the Women’s Transportation Seminar of North Carolina, organizer of the event.

North Carolina and Virginia are conducting an environmental impact study, to be completed in 2009, on a proposed high-speed rail corridor from Richmond, Va., to Raleigh. The corridor would be part of proposed train service, with speeds as fast as 110 mph, through Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia.

Details about the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor are online at www.sehsr.org.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

Pennsylvania activity

 CP is running the old D&H in northeastern Pennsylvania. Guido DiCicco is a Canadian Pacific Vice-President for operations. His speech was reported extensively in the Times-Leader.

DiCiccio was the guest speaker at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Logistics Club Inc.’s railroad transportation night dinner at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

“The D&H is a very, very important link to the Canadian Pacific Railway,” he said. “It’s making money. It’s here to stay.”

The railway revived the bankrupt D&H and has made it a viable part of the 127-year-old Canadian Pacific’s system that crosses Canada from the Port of Vancouver to the Port of Montreal and drops down into the United States to ports in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

“I think we’ve got a great franchise,” DiCiccio said.

Freight also sustains the lines that run from Lackawanna County into the Poconos, said Larry Malski, chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority.

But within a few years passenger trains could be in operation from Scranton to Hoboken, N.J. Malski, who has spent years working on restoring passenger service, estimated the trains could be running in 2011 or 2012 if everything from funding to impact studies stays on track.

“It’s our job to advocate and try to keep it on that timeline,” Malski said.

The project as it stands costs $500 million, “a drop in the bucket” compared to highway construction, he said. Each day nine trains would run each way, with a travel time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. Most of the riders would be going to work in northern New Jersey, he said, adding an estimated 20,000 people travel by bus and car from the region to jobs in northern New Jersey and New York City.

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

Paul Weyrich at bat

This one is off topic, but you have to like it when a pro-rail conservative takes down one of his more ignorant colleagues. In Little Rock, there is plenty of economic development along the River Rail.

Light Rail in Portland Is Successful, Notwithstanding CATO Criticism & FTA Lack of Support
By Paul Weyrich Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Randall O’Toole, of the CATO Institute, is a native Oregonian, resident in Brandon, who has lived most of his life in the Portland area. He is the author of “Debunking Portland [-] The City That Doesn’t Work,” published in the CATO Institute’s POLICY ANALYSIS series on July 9, 2007, and of a paper entitled “Debunking Portland: The Public Transit
Myth” (August 28, 2007). Let me state for the record that I am an admirer of Mr. O’Toole and often applaud his work. However, I believe
Mr. O’Toole examined the wrong premises and then came to a series of unsupported conclusions.

As a result of the Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) inter-urban system and the downtown Portland Streetcar, quality development is not only taking place in Portland, Oregon but also in communities such as Gresham and Hillsboro. Let us be clear. No one in Portland officialdom seeks to force people from their automobiles. Rather the idea in Portland is to offer commuters a choice. It is amusing to me that Mr. O’Toole is a strong proponent of school choice. Yet most libertarians would leave the resident with only his automobile.

The great thing about Portland is that residents are offered a choice. Many use their public transportation system. Whereas some large cities
are losing population, Portland actually has witnessed people moving into the city. Some walk to work or on good days bicycle. An increasing number take the Portland Streetcar. It has been extended a number of times to the point at which it has reached its full length. Portland is planning another streetcar line to service the opposite side of the downtown area.

Those Oregonians who prefer the suburbs and work downtown take MAX. The most common complaint about transit systems is that they are crowded during rush hours but empty the remainder of the day. Not so with MAX. You can witness full, sometimes even crowded, trains midday and depending upon the event some evenings.

Mr. O’Toole and other critics of Portland always suggest that the transit system can be run more cheaply with buses. Putting aside the fact that Americans greatly prefer trains to buses, the streetcar has done something which I guarantee no bus system would do. The streetcar, with its permanence of routing, has attracted almost $3 billion in new and rehabbed development. It has turned what was acknowledged as a shabby, rundown and declining area into a vibrant remarkable area where people are returning to live. Such development is able to be taxed, thus paying for the operation of the streetcar.

Personnel from 80 cities across the nation and around the world have come to inspect the Portland Streetcar. But for the inherent bias against streetcars at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), many cities would be building lines similar to Portland by now. Regardless of who wins the Presidency in November 2008 the next FTA Administration is bound to be more favorable to streetcars.

Mr. O’Toole, among his many criticisms of Portland, believes that light rail and streetcars are too slow. The speed Mr. O’Toole cites for MAX includes station stops. A typical MAX train will carry almost five times the number of passengers as a bus. Were those bus seats filled to capacity it would require time to load and unload the vehicle.

The purpose of the streetcar is to act as a circulator. The speed is irrelevant. Both streetcar and light-rail development have stimulated some $6 billion in adjacent development. As Portland’s reply to Mr.
O’Toole suggests, this new development long-term is of great benefit to the City, such as wages, taxes and the contributions of these residents. The Texas Transportation Institute notes that Portland ranks 13th in transit ridership in a city which ranks 25th in population. Another source identifies 100 million hours of time saved annually. That amounts to $1.5 billion annually for the Portland region, assuming a $15 per hour value.

Regardless of one’s views about global warming, an interesting article in the quarterly report of CEOs for Cities, entitled “Portland’s Green Dividend,” suggests Portland saves $2.6 billion in savings annually in transportation costs alone. The calculation is as follows: The median commute in the 33 most populous cities is 24.3 miles per day. In
Portland, thanks to its excellent transit system, is 20.3 average commute miles per day. There is 2.9 billion in miles saved compared to the median. The $15 per hour value is the time commuting; hence the $2.6 billion figure. Joseph Cortright, Vice President of Impresa, Inc., who authored the paper states, “Four miles per day may not seem like much but do the math.”

According to Portland Oregonian reporter Dylan Riverta, a clash in Washington, D.C. is occurring between cities such as Portland with their transit programs and the FTA position articulated by Mr. O’Toole. Which will prevail? In the long run, I believe it will be cities such as Portland. The facts are clear and compelling as long as the premises to an evaluation factually are accurate and proportional.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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