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CANCELLED March 10: Informal Members Discussion at Philippes

Unfortunately due to a conflict, we must postpone this event. We hope to reschedule at a later date.

There will be an informal members discussion March 10th at 10 AM within walking distance of LA Union Station and the Chinatown Gold line station at Philippes the Original, 1001 N Alameda, Los Angeles.


RailPAC members welcome!  Meetings usually occupy the first room (to your left at the top of the stairs) on the second floor of Philippes.


Commentary, Editorials, eNewsletter, Issues, Tracking Rail News

RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for March 5, 2018


Newsletter Edited by Noel T. Braymer
Feel free to forward copies of this E-Newsletter to your friends or someone who can use this information.
If you would like to subscribe to the E-Newsletter just send your name and email address to

If you’d like to see expanded and improved Rail Passenger Service-
Join Us!
Membership increases our strength in presenting the case for rail to policymakers at all levels!

This is a notice online from San Diego County of the latest on going track improvement projects in the county. This will be going on for several more years.

Amtrak cancels all service in Northeast corridor between Boston and Washington due to weather conditions
CNBC-Mar 2, 2018
mtrak has temporarily canceled all services between Boston and Washington, the railroad corporation said Friday evening.
Of the 106 trains scheduled to run between Boston and Washington — and the Keystone line connecting Pennsylvania and New York — all have been canceled or delayed, an Amtrak spokeswoman told CNBC.

Monster Storm Cripples Rail Service, Cancels More Than 1500 Flights
NBC New York-Mar 2, 2018
A powerful nor’easter is punishing the tri-state area with heavy rains and damaging winds through early Saturday
The storm suspended Amtrak service along the busy Northeast Corridor and canceled more than 1,500 flights (and counting) at area airports
Commuter rail services are also impacted, with delays and cancellations on NJ Transit, Metro-North and LIRR reported

Last person hospitalized after fatal Amtrak wreck in Crozet is released 26, 2018
CHARLOTTESVILLE — After nearly a month, the last person hospitalized after the Jan. 31 crash between a garbage truck and an Amtrak train in Crozet has been discharged from the University of Virginia Medical Center.
Hospital officials announced Monday that Time Disposal employee Dennis Eddy, who spent nearly two weeks after the crash in critical condition, has been released.

Amtrak reviews risks of ‘dark territory’
Albany Times Union-Feb 27, 2018
In the wake of two recent fatal accidents, Amtrak’s CEO Richard Anderson told a Congressional panel earlier this month that the passenger railroad “will change how we operate through sections of track with no signals at all, so-called ‘dark territory,’ which is also exempted from the PTC mandate.”
Anderson said Amtrak trains currently travel over 222 miles of dark territory track nationwide, about one percent of its routes. At least some of that track is in New York, Vermont and Quebec, and is used by the Adirondack and Ethan Allen Express services, according to two industry sources. Freight railroads own most of the track over which Amtrak operates.

Caltrain considers new Wabtec contract for PTC
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 27, 2018
Caltrain is trading long-delayed CBOSS for conventional PTC on its commuter rail corridor between San Francisco and San Jose.
The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors plans to consider the approval of a contract with Wabtec Railway Electronics, Inc. at its March 1 meeting to complete a federally-mandated safety upgrade to implement positive train control (PTC) along the corridor’s signal system.

Caltrain ends Parsons PTC contract; reaches agreement with  contractors for PCEP deadline extension
Railway Track & Structures-Feb 28, 2017
Caltrain has terminated a contract with Parsons Transportation Group (PTG), the firm responsible for designing and implementing a Positive Control System or CBOSS, after the agency said lack of the contractor’s progress threatened to delay implementation of the technology.

GAO: 7 to 19 commuter railroads could miss Dec. 31 deadline for adopting automatic braking
USA TODAY-Mar 1, 2018
WASHINGTON — Up to two-thirds of 29 commuter railroads nationwide will miss a Dec. 31 deadline for adopting automatic braking technology for their trains, a government watchdog said Thursday.
Susan Fleming, director of physical infrastructure at the Government Accountability Office, told the Senate transportation committee that seven to 19 commuter railroads are on pace to miss the deadline for installing and training crews for technology that Congress required in 2008 in an effort to prevent crashes.The 29 commuter railroads carry 500 million passengers a year.

If NJ Transit misses safety deadline, could Amtrak save the day? 1, 2018
Amtrak could save the day for New Jersey commuters if NJ Transit is barred from operating on the tracks to New York Penn Station because a critical safety system hasn’t been installed.
Instead of hopping on an NJ Transit train, commuters would hop on trains pulled by Amtrak locomotives and crews, Amtrak’s CEO told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday.
That’s what Richard Anderson proposed to members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, in testimony about the progress railroads are making toward installing positive train control by the end of December.
Where will Amtrak find the locomotives and crews to operate NJT’s Trains? Amtrak runs roughly 4 trains an hour peak in both directions into Penn Station. NJT operates up to 20 trains per hour in each direction during peak hours. NB

Trump Said to Tell Republicans Not to Approve Hudson Rail Tunnel Funds
Bloomberg Mar 3, 2018
Trump doesn’t want to advance the project, known as Gateway, which would provide a crucial rail link between New York and New Jersey — in part because Schumer had held up the nomination of several of Trump’s nominees, according to people familiar with the president’s thinking on the issue.
“This project is vital to fifty million people in the northeast corridor and to our American economy, and politics shouldn’t get in the way,” Schumer of New York said in an emailed statement.
Committing funds to Gateway also runs head-on into the philosophy that’s driven Trump’s push for a trillion-dollar public works plan — that states and municipalities should bear more of the cost, and the federal government less, for much-needed upgrades to U.S. infrastructure.

A Short Treatise to Break the Mold on the West Coast
By M.E. Singer

In a very astute, detailed article in OREGON BUSINESS, “Post-derailment, Oregon passenger rail struggles to get back on track” (2 March), this media source clearly understood the financial issues for the Cascade route between Oregon-Washington, as magnified by the wreck of Cascade #501 last December. However, what was so apparently lacking in this otherwise fine depiction of what ails state-supported corridors was a concise understanding of the causes, and importantly, how to correct them.

Amtrak CEO clarifies position on Vermonter
WCAX-Mar 1, 2018
Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson was questioned Thursday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan wanted to know if there was a way for the company to address safety concerns without taking the critical Vermonter line out of service. Anderson admits keeping the line is economically advantageous to the company and it’s now looking at lower cost fixes.
“We have an R&D project underway at Amtrak to determine whether we can use technologies from Europe that don’t require as much trackside investment but would give us speed restriction and signal location,” Anderson said.

New details revealed from fatal SC Amtrak crash in NTSB report
The State-Feb 28, 2018
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on the head-on collision between an Amtrak passenger train and CSX freight train in Cayce on Feb. 4.
The accident damage was estimated at $25 million and the agency’s investigative team has looked into the dispatch system that allowed the accident to happen.
The report’s findings mirror a NTSB safety recommendation released earlier this month. That recommendation requested that the Federal Railroad Administration issue an emergency order providing instructions for railroads to follow when signal suspensions are in effect and a switch has been reported relined for a main track.

Next phase of Amtrak construction begins at Penn Station
WABC-TV-Mar 2, 2018
Now, workers will focus on replace tracks that direct Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains.
The work could cause some track outages, but Amtrak says most of the project will be done on weekends to minimize disruptions for commuters.

TSA is testing explosive-detection technology with Amtrak
CNBC-Feb 27, 2018
The Transportation Security Administration and Amtrak are testing new technology to detect concealed explosives, the TSA said Tuesday.
The equipment, known as “stand off explosive detection technology” can detect an explosive when an individual passes by the device, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a news release. An alarm would go off on the equipment operator’s laptop, triggered by an individual’s “naturally occurring emissions from the human body.”
The tests will be conducted at New York’s Pennsylvania Station in the Amtrak terminal.

BLET, Amtrak reach tentative agreement
Progressive Rail Roading-Mar 2, 2018
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Amtrak have reached a tentative contract agreement that governs rates of pay, benefits and work rules for about 1,400 locomotive engineers.
Ballots and a synopsis of the agreement were mailed to active members who work for the railroad. Voting will conclude April 1, according to a BLET press release.

Another positive Amtrak Trip Report?!! …and a few other things like Maricopa, BLTs and 737s
Commentary by Russ Jackson
Whenever one can write a positive report after a trip on an Amtrak long distance train it is a welcome breath of fresh air.  When a positive report can be written for two consecutive trips the celebration should begin.  Not that these are the only positive trips in our 40 year riding experience, but I think there is a positive culture “out there” on the rails. The first trip report was written about our September trip, and this one is our January trip from Ft. Worth to Los Angeles on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited; one way this trip; circumstances forced us to fly home.

It’s a go for the Rockland Amtrak passenger rail pilot program 27, 2018
PORTLAND — On Monday, Feb. 26 members of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Association (NNEPRA) voted in favor of a truncated pilot program that would test running Amtrak’s Downeast Coastal Connector passenger rail service to Rockland during three weekends in August. The meeting took place at the University of Southern Maine.

Ex-Amtrak exec who steered business to wife’s photo company dodges prison
Chicago Sun-Times-Feb 27, 2018
A former Amtrak official caught steering $30,000 in business to his wife’s photo company to take pictures of families in front of a Polar Express exhibit narrowly dodged a prison sentence Tuesday after a judge said he was inclined to impose one.
Instead, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras ordered Benjamin Sheets, 50, to serve three months in community confinement in a deal arranged to help Sheets keep a new job he found after he was fired last fall as the head of transportation at Union Station.

Amtrak train slams into car on tracks in Little Italy
CBS 8 San Diego-Feb 27, 2018
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – No injuries were reported Tuesday morning when an Amtrak train struck an SUV abandoned on the tracks by a suspected drunk driver in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, authorities said.
Officers had already helped evacuate the driver of the stalled Nissan Xterra when the southbound Amtrak train slammed into the vehicle about 1:35 a.m. near West Grape and California streets, San Diego County sheriff’s Deputy Giovani Pantoja said.

ROBERT PRICE: Let’s move the downtown Greyhound station
The Bakersfield Californian-Mar 3, 2018
More than once I’ve wondered if they might be better served at a new, more modern Greyhound station that’s part of an intermodal transportation center. Some place that’s better situated for travelers than the corner of 18th and F streets, on the fringe of the city’s compact but growing restaurant and entertainment district.
Like … a mile to the southeast, next door to the city’s Amtrak station.
I’m not the only one who has considered the possibility.

King City seeks gas tax funding to reestablish train service
KCBX-Feb 26, 2018
The California gas tax that took effect on November 1 is raising money for transportation projects across the state. Cities, towns and counties are applying for grants under SB1, the law that established the tax increase. A big focus of the state department of transportation, Caltrans, is to increase rail service in many places.
King City in southern Monterey County wants to be on that list. City and county officials are working to get Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train to stop in King City. And stop at a rebuilt train station, said Mayor Mike LeBarre.

Sacramento Valley Station by Page & Turnbull and ZGF
Architectural Record-Feb 26, 2018
Designed by San Francisco firm Bliss and Faville, the Sacramento Valley Station was built as a flagship depot for the Southern Pacific Railroad. By the 1970s, the 68,000-square-foot Renaissance Revival building—with its exterior of local brick and terra-cotta, and its ornate waiting room adorned with California marble, travertine, steel, bronze, and mahogany—fell into disrepair.

Major $183 Billion Boost to California’s Economy Expected Over 10 Years from Transportation Investments in Senate Bill 1
PR Newswire Feb 28, 2018
New Analysis Comes as Legislation Approaches 1st Anniversary; Report available:
A comprehensive new analysis finds that an April 2017 California law will generate nearly $183 billion in economic activity and user benefits throughout all sectors of the state’s economy over 10 years.  The additional demand, in turn, will also support or create an average of over 68,200 jobs per year, adding up to over 682,000 job-years over the next decade—with over half coming in sectors outside of the construction industry.
The 62-page analysis, conducted by American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, examines the numerous impacts of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1)—the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.  The measure included $5 billion annually in new investments for the state’s highways and local streets, bridges and transit systems.
This is a press release basically from the road construction lobby celebrating the spending coming from the recent increase in California’s gasoline taxes. This report does shows that spending is at the heart of economic growth. Economists call it the multiplier effect. When someone spends a dollar, the person receiving the money is able to spend it on something else. Spending on infrastructure not only improves productivity, but also stimulates the economy. This also includes investment in rail passenger service. NB

Kowloon High Speed Rail Terminus Site Could Spawn $18B Hong Kong land king
Mingtiandi-Mar 4, 2018
The Hong Kong government has unveiled its land sale programme for the new financial year from April 2018 to March 2019, including four commercial sites and 27 residential sites. Drawing the most attention is a 6-hectare commercial site above the Hong Kong terminus of the Express Rail Link connecting Kowloon to mainland China. Analysts estimate the site to be valued at as much as HK$142 billion ($18 billion) — more than five times the city’s largest-ever land sale to date.

Section of Downtown Fresno street closed due to High-Speed Rail Project
KFSN-TV-Feb 26, 2018
Construction crews will begin working on another section of road in Downtown Fresno as part of the High-Speed Rail Project.
The Rail Authority said the closure of H Street between the Stanislaus Street Bridge and Divisadero Street will begin Monday. Crews will be conducting utility relocation work, which is expected to last about two months.
Work will be conducted in two-block segments with each segment taking about two to three weeks to complete.

Texas Central answers questions at High Speed Rail luncheon
Cleburne Times-Review-Mar 2, 2018
Vice President of External Affairs for TCR Travis Kelly spoke on behalf of the High Speed Rail, attempting to clear up any misconceptions and answering questions the public has asked.
When concerning property taxes, Kelly assured that “because we are a private company, we will pay taxes for our property; the bill will be on our dime … We also want our neighbors to get rich, and we consider you as our neighbor. Whether we need your land or not, the check from the price we negotiate for land is yours to keep.”

High-speed rail linking 3 airports wins first nod
Bangkok Post-Feb 26, 2018
The Eastern Economic Corridor Board has approved in principle a 260km high-speed train project seamlessly linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports at a cost of 200 billion baht…
At up to 250km per hour, the train will take 45 minutes from Bangkok to U-Tapao airport, compared to 2-3 hours by car. It will initially have five stations: Chachoengsao, Chon Buri, Si Racha, Pattaya and…
The project will also build three extensions from existing Airport Rail Link (ARL): a 21km Don Muang-Phaya Thai extension, 29km Phaya Thai-Suvarnabhumi and Suvarnabhumi-U-Tapao.
This is all in Thailand. NB 

Transport Scotland to study potential high-speed rail link from Glasgow to Carstairs
Glasgow Live-Feb 27, 2018
Transport Scotland are to study the potential for a new high-speed rail link between Glasgow and Carstairs as part of a nationwide High Speed Rail route.
The feasibility report will also look at the possibility for a new interchange station at Eurocentral to enable high speed train connectivity between Glasgow and Edinburgh with London.

Is the Hyperloop Taking Cities for a Ride?
Streetsblog USA Feb 27, 2018
The Hyperloop has never carried human passengers. Yet Ohio officials signed off on a grant based on the promise of Cleveland-Chicago route in just three to five years.
The Hyperloop and Silicon Valley are going to save the rust belt.
That’s the message in a slick marketing video dropped by Hyperloop TT after a big announcement in Cleveland Monday. Civic leaders in Northeast Ohio, including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Congressional reps Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan, were on hand for the signing of a $1.2 million grant, funded in part with $200,000 from the Cleveland Foundation, that kicks off a six-month study of Chicago to Cleveland Hyperloop service.

Why Mag-Lev And Hyperloop Won’t Work And How Passenger Trains Can Run Full
By Noel T. Braymer
There is lots of talk by promoters about how High Speed Rail or any rail service is too expensive and won’t attract many riders. But according to the promoters the solution is technology with either Mag-Lev or Hyperloop. But there isn’t much in the way of examples of either Mag-Lev or Hyperloop services that are successfully in service . But you do have thousands of miles of successful rail passenger service around the world, including new High Speed Rail services continuing to be built. So what’s wrong with either Mag-Lev of Hyperloop? It boils down to they often don’t get you where you want to go.

This is a recent photo of my almost 4 year old grandson playing in the snow in Dublin, Ireland. What makes this photo unique is it doesn’t snow very often in Dublin and recent snowfalls have shut down travel including air service. Most of Europe got hit last week with cold weather and heavy snows including Rome. Photo by Marissa Braymer

Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Luas issue notices to customers as red weather warning in place for Storm Emma
The Irish Sun-Feb 27, 2018
PUBLIC transport companies are warning there may be some cancellations and delays to services because of the ‘Beast from the East’.
A red weather warning has been issued for Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Wicklow and Meath this morning.
Weather experts have predicted the polar vortex will blitz the country with its worst fall in 36 years with up to 65cm (25 inches) of snowfall expected to be dumped on parts of higher ground across the country between tonight and Friday.
And Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Luas and Bus Eireann are urging customers to check their sites for updates over the coming days.
A Luas spokesperson said: “Luas will operate normal passenger services this week however, this will be subject to weather conditions and advice over the coming days.
“We would advise you to plan your journey in advance and allow plenty of time to travel.

Freezing weather in Europe linked to soaring temperatures at North Pole, say scientists 26, 2018
While Britain shivers in the “Beast from the East”, scientists say temperatures have risen above freezing repeatedly at the North Pole, reaching as high as 30C above normal for the depths of winter.
The cause is a “warm air intrusion” bringing mild and moist air. It is a common feature of Arctic weather systems but this year has been deeper and longer than normal, according to meteorologists.
The disturbance is responsible for displacing a blast of chilly Arctic air, sending it streaming over Europe.

California Decries Federal Climate Change Reversal, Cap-And Trade Yields Big Return
Capital Public Radio News-Mar 1, 2018
The latest results from California’s signature climate change program are in, and they show a third straight sellout.
The state cap-and-trade program turns greenhouse gas emissions into a commodity — businesses must obtain a credit for each ton of carbon they will emit. The sellout at the latest quarterly auction of credits means the state will get about $700 million for clean energy programs and the high-speed rail project.This was also the first auction since the Canadian province of Ontario linked its cap-and-trade program with California and Quebec’s, with no apparent hiccups.
But, some environmental groups have a concern — businesses are buying more credits than they need, suggesting that they’re stocking up now when prices are low and credits are numerous, to continue a higher level of emissions in the future, when the state plans to cut.

To Meet Climate Goals, California Should Cut Oil Production, Report Says
Inside Climate News Feb 28, 2018
California built a reputation launching some of the most ambitious climate policies in the world, but it’s also a significant oil producer, with the third largest oil production of any state.
If it were to eliminate even half of that production, it could cut global carbon dioxide emissions by 8 million to 24 million tons per year, the Stockholm Environment Institute says in a new report. That’s equalivalent to as much as 5 percent of the state’s overall emissions.

Caltrain bike capacity
San Mateo Daily Journal-Feb 27, 2018
More bike capacity on Caltrain is needed because I’ve been denied boarding trains with my bike during peak commute hours, which is negatively impacting to my job.
I’m happy that the staff has applied for funding to launch electrified service with eight-car trains to increase capacity for both seats and bikes in 2022. I’m concerned that the Caltrain staff’s current proposal for six-car electrified trains has 25 percent fewer seats and 7 percent less bike capacity than today’s trains.

Caltrain ridership is on rise
San Mateo Daily Journal-Mar 3, 2018
Caltrain ridership is up this year, bringing a mixed bag of increased fare box revenue as well as overcrowded train cars.
As of January, average weekly ridership increased 3.2 percent to 57,018 from January 2017, which saw 55,271. Total fare box revenue is up 13.7 percent over that period, from $6.9 million to $7.9 million, according to a staff report.
Last year saw a small dip in ridership, which Caltrain spokesman Dan Lieberman attributed to extreme weather and rain, but otherwise ridership has been growing steadily since 2010.

Here’s why BART’s new cars don’t have outlets for charging electronics
SFGate-Feb 26, 2018
Commuters with long rides ahead of them each day will need to remember to charge their phones and iPads before heading to BART.
BART’s new and upgraded train cars, which they’ve dubbed the “Fleet of the Future,” don’t include a feature found near some seats on their older cars: outlets.
The new cars are modified to handle more passengers — they include seats that take up less space to allow for more standing room — but as a result, there don’t appear to be any convenient places to put outlets.

Andersen Drive section in San Rafael closing for SMART work
Marin Independent Journal Feb 24, 2018
Busy Andersen Drive near West Francisco Boulevard in San Rafael will be closed for up to four months beginning Monday as commuter rail tracks are installed across the thoroughfare.
The closure will be in place 24 hours a day until the work at the crossing is finished. Traffic will be rerouted off Andersen Drive to Francisco Boulevard as well as onto Woodland Avenue.
San Rafael has been working with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit and the Golden Gate Bridge district to bring trains through the Bettini Transit Center and to Larkspur near the ferry terminal.

Odor From Rail Tanker Car Triggers Pittsburg Shelter In Place
CBS San Francisco Bay Area-Feb 27, 2018
PITTSBURG (CBS SF) — A strong odor from an empty railroad tanker car parked on the BNSF tracks in Pittsburg Tuesday triggered a brief shelter-in-place order for a nearby neighborhood, authorities said.
The incident was reported around 12:30 p.m., according to Fire Marshal Robert Marshall. Contra Costa County firefighters and Pittsburg police officers condoned off the tanker cars on N. Park side Driveway and 17th Street.

Travel association blames homeless crisis for stalling San Francisco tourism
Curbed San Francisco Feb 23, 2018
San Francisco tourism slumped a bit in 2017, and the San Francisco Travel Association [SFTA] says that a one-two punch of the city’s ongoing homeless crisis and the United States in general’s declining public image in other countries is to blame.

NIMBYism no response to Weiner’s bold California housing plan
The San Diego Union-Tribune-Feb 26, 2018
The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board will let the legislative process play out more before taking a position on the bill. But so far the howls that have met it from politicians in Los Angeles and San Francisco have amounted to the same old parochial not-in-my-back-yard arguments that have driven California’s housing shortage for decades.

Studies Are Increasingly Clear: Uber, Lyft Congest Cities
NBC Southern California-Feb 26, 2018
One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was fewer cars clogging city streets. But studies suggest the opposite: that ride-hailing companies are pulling riders off buses, subways, bicycles and their own feet and putting them in cars instead.
And in what could be a new wrinkle, a service by Uber called Express Pool now is seen as directly competing with mass transit.
Uber and Lyft argue that in Boston, for instance, they complement public transit by connecting riders to hubs like Logan Airport and South Station. But they have not released their own specific data about rides, leaving studies up to outside researchers.

Amtrak, Coaster Shut Down This Weekend In San Diego County 2, 2018OCEANSIDE, CA – The North County Transit District will shut down Amtrak and Coaster service this weekend for infrastructure improvements, with the first disruptions going into effect late Friday evening.
Amtrak and Coaster service will also be cancelled next weekend for more improvements and an emergency exercise, NCTD officials said…
“During the closure weekends, neither Amtrak nor Metrolink will service the Oceanside Transit Center due to project work north of the station,” Sawyer said. “Connecting bus service will require Amtrak reservations.”

Leaders Break Ground on Metro Purple Line Subway to Century City
Streetsblog LA Feb 23, 2018
This morning, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse and other L.A. leaders celebrated the official groundbreaking for section two of the Westside Metro Purple Line subway extension. The $2.53 billion 2.6-mile heavy rail subway extension will include stops at Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive and on Constellation Boulevard in Century City.

The most exciting construction project in LA right now is the Regional Connector
Curbed LA Feb 27, 2018
It’s the most important construction project in LA right now, and it is not a building. It’s a gargantuan subterranean structure that stretches 1.9 miles from Little Tokyo to the Financial District. When complete, it will provide a one-seat ride from Santa Monica to East LA, another from Long Beach to Azuza. That’s a distance of almost 40 miles, north to south, east to west, on one fare.

Bill To Promote Housing Near Transit Amended To Address Local Concerns
Hoodline Feb 28, 2018
A state bill to allow mid-rise, denser development near transit corridors was amended by its sponsors yesterday to address concerns raised by local planning agencies.
State Senator and former District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) issued his first round of amendments to SB 827 to clarify that local inclusionary housing requirements would still stand and that tenant protection provisions, such as the right to return, should be upheld.

Mixed-Use Affordable Housing Planned Along Blue Line
Urbanize.LA Feb 28, 2018
Another mixed-use affordable housing complex is coming to the southern fringe of Downtown Los Angeles.
Earlier today, AMCAL Multi-Housing submitted an application to the Department of City Planning to construct a five-story mixed-use building at 220 E. Washington Boulevard, featuring 109 apartments – including 108 affordable units and one manager’s unit – above 10,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a semi-subterranean parking garage for 57 vehicles and 122 bicycles.

More Apartments Coming to Monrovia Station
A four-acre south located immediately south of the Gold Line’s Monrovia Station could yield a multifamily residential complex, according to an announcement from the Monrovia City Manager.
Richman Group, a Connecticut-based real estate developer, has announced plans for Station Square South, a 296-unit apartment complex at the northeast corner of Magnolia Avenue and Duarte Road.  A handful of small commercial buildings would give way for the collection of five-story structures.

It’s done! Monrovia finishes restoring its historic train depot
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Feb 25, 2018
Built in 1926, the iconic building had been decaying for 45 years at what is now the Monrovia Gold Line station at Duarte Road and Myrtle Avenue.
Contractor Samuelson & Fetter started the design process for the $2.2 million restoration at the end of 2015. The company broke ground on the project in March 2017, said Nic Fetter, director of marketing, and it finished the work Feb. 16.
The original William H. Mohr building is expected to house a vendor, most likely a restaurant, Fetter said, although one has not been named yet.

City Wants to Fund Flower Street, Arts District Rail Projects
Los Angeles looks at establishing a TIF to fund rail improvements
Red Line Reader Feb 24, 2018
The district defined by the City would cover the vast majority of downtown LA and is envisioned as the primary funding vehicle for a suite of transit spending including the extension of the heavy rail subway from Union Station as well as “capital improvements to the Blue / Expo Line throughout the Flower St and Washington Blvd corridors,” active transportation projects, increased bus service in southeast downtown neighborhoods, and the expansion of a 7th Street pedestrian corridor all the way to the L.A. river.
Part of the feasibility study would involve gauging the revenue that could be raised over the life of the EIFD, but the tentative project list is ambitious. Based on prior Metro documents, the projects listed will likely come in somewhere over $1 billion if they involve undergrounding the Blue and Expo Lines on Flower and Washington.

Los Angeles Looks to Advance Five Affordable Housing Projects
Urbanize. LA Feb 27, 2018
At its meeting today, the Los Angeles City Council will consider a request from the Housing + Community Investment Department to advance five proposed developments that would bring new affordable housing to Downtown, Hollywood and South Los Angeles.
The projects, which have already been admitted to HCID’s Affordable Housing Managed Pipeline, would create 401 rental housing units – including 245 units of permanent supportive housing – at a total cost of $170.5 million.  Approval of the request by the City Council would allow HCID to issue letters of support for the five proposed developments, which are pursuing low-income housing tax credits.

Boston’s Best Bet for Better Transit: Modernizing Commuter Rail
Streetsblog USA Feb 27, 2018
Boston commuter rail has the pieces for an expansive modern system. What it needs isn’t a big extension, but a fresh approach to service.
That’s according to a new report from local advocacy group Transit Matters.
The 398-mile MTBA Commuter Rail system carries an unremarkable 130,000 passengers a day. But that’s not surprising given its slow and limited service.
Transit Matters has proposed a $2-3 billion “Regional Rail” overhaul that would make it much more useful.
Here is what the group proposes:
1. Increase service
2. Electrify the system
3. Free Transfers
4. North-south rail link

This is a map of San Diego showing where construction is ongoing for both Coaster/Surfliner services and San Diego Trolley. Looking at the upper right hand side are the railroad tracks which are doubled tracked from Miramar Road down to the 52 freeway. South of the 52 the tracks are being double tracked all the way to Old Town and a few miles are also being straightened to allow faster speeds for Surfliner, Coaster and freight services. The dotted blue line shows the alignment of the $2 billion dollar extension of the San Diego Trolley Blue Line to University City. New Trolley tracks are being built north of Old Town along side of the Coaster/Surfliner/freight tracks which are also being double tracked. On the dotted blue line, the parts encased with double black lines shows where the Blue Line will be elevated. The black square at the base of Gilman Drive is for an undercrossing where the Blue Line moves to the west on its own right of way along the 5 freeway to the UCSD Campus area and University City. All that’s now missing is a joint station for  transfers between Blue Line and Coaster trains near University City. The Blue Line extension is expected to be running by 2021 and the new 10.3 miles of new double tracking between the 52 and Old Town will be finished by 2020.

We Get Emails

Re: Amtrak AAA discount
As of this writing Amtrak has eliminated the AAA discount to its rail fares without explanation.  Do you know why this has occurred?
– Bruce Fredian
In two words: new management. The new Amtrak President, Richard Anderson spent most of his career in the airline industry. He has shaken up Amtrak management bringing in many people from the airline industry to Amtrak management. The airline industry includes those wonderful people who want to charge you extra to eat airline food, check your luggage and even to pick your seat when you reserve your flight. NB 

Re: Amtrak incompetence!

First, thank you for your comprehensive passenger rail e-news.
Second, considering the gross incompetence of Amtrak, that e-news may be as close as I will get to ever riding Amtrak again.
Three weeks ago from the Amtrak web site I sent an inquiry about about whether or not bags could be checked on Northeast Regional trains departing Washington Union Station. That information either was simply not available at the web site, or so obscured that after a 30 minute search I could not find it. Yesterday, after three weeks I finally got a response from Amtrak. Did it answer my simple question? NO. It directed me to phone Amtrak Customer Service, or should that be Customer Abuse, and then presumably sit on hold for 30 to 90 minutes to get an agent that would still be unable to find that information. Forget it.
Now, at the Amtrak web site, I attempted to find the schedule and fare for a return trip day excursion from San Francisco to Sacramento. Impossible! There are Thruway buses that connect to Emeryville from various San Francisco locations. There are multiple trains from Emeryville to Sacramento. But the web site could present only one bus-train itinerary in late afternoon. OK, attempt two. Obviously, the bus connection is much too complicated  for the web site. So, I just searched for trains. I specified return trip, entered the other required data, and clicked Find Trains. The site provides the list of trains Emeryville > Sacramento. I choose one and click Add to Cart, and that is it. The site does not then offer a list of return trains. There is no link to the Cart. Nothing. End of track. Forget it.That is just the web site. Every trip I have taken on Amtrak in the past twenty years has been compromised to some degree by incompetent service in one category or another. I travel by air five to ten times a year. It certainly has its frustrations, but in regard to competent, professional service it is in an entirely different world than the extraordinary disservice Amtrak regularly offers the public. At which I am so annoyed, that I could almost join the trumpetboy in wanting to scrap the whole mess.
– Michael Howard
Palm Springs, CA
I have often joked that I have never had mediocre service on Amtrak: it is either very good or very bad. Amtrak has been a creature from the start more of politics than of dedication to rail passenger service. Much of the political fun and games are centered on Northeast politics. This comes at the expense of the National System, particularly the long distance trains. Many of the long distance trains earn roughly half of their revenues from sleeping car passengers. Adding more sleeping cars would easily increase Amtrak revenues. But Amtrak isn’t the only “business” with customer service that gives customers the run around. Years ago I was a customer of a major bank. The local branch lost my check for a credit card payment which I had dropped off at my bank’s local branch. I was told by the bank that I would have to call customer service. I called and several times when I reached the checking department I’d be transferred to the credit card department who would transfer me back to the checking department. I went back to my then bank branch and asked to see the branch manager. The manager told me I’d have to call customer service. I replied you (the manager) are customer service! The manager called for security and I soon closed out my accounts with that bank. NB 

Opinions expressed in this enewsletter are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Rail Passenger Association of California.

The RailPAC Mission: Passenger Rail advocacy, Publications…both print and electronic, Representation at regional meetings, and Rail education.
Join us! More memberships increase our strength in presenting the case for rail to policymakers at all levels!

Submit your comments to Noah Braymer at

For those who would like an additional copy of the eNewsletter with plain text (minus photos and graphics) just email me at with your name and email address. NBIf you are not a member, go to RailPAC Membership…Join Us! to get information about RailPAC and a FREE copy of our regular newsletter .

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Commentary, Issues

Electrolink Will be on the 2020 Ballot


Funding for Metrolink regional rail electrification (#Electrolink for short) is going to be on the ballot in 2020 in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange Counties.

And we only need 55% of the vote – so long as we do it in accordance with the recent state supreme court ruling reducing the threshold for citizen-sponsored referendums and the like.

Our meeting with former Mayor of Santa Monica Denny Zane and the wonderful staff over at Move LA – the team probably as responsible as any for Los Angeles County’s previous $120 Billion transit investment, Measure M – went very well.

It is late on Saturday evening so I’ll put off going into detail until a future post, but so as not to leave you good people in suspense, here is the main finding of RailPAC’s first official meeting with Move LA:

Move LA’s 2020 ballot measure is going to mean more Metrolink – so much more Metrolink. 

We’re going to use this opportunity to to turn all 500+ miles into Electrolink – a modern, punctual, frequent electric passenger rail service similar to Europe and Asia’s –  dramatically improving passenger experience and eliminating local air pollution.

Much more to come on this and the numerous other exciting passenger rail developments we’ve been covering, once RailPAC President Paul Dyson has returned from his brief trip to Canada and we’ve had an opportunity to go over everything that’s happened in the few days he’s been out of town.

Stay tuned!


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Commentary, Editorials, eNewsletter, Issues, Rail Photos, Tracking Rail News

RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for February 26, 2018

Edited by Noel T. Braymer
Feel free to forward copies of this E-Newsletter to your friends or someone who can use this information.
If you would like to subscribe to the E-Newsletter just send me your name and email address to

If you’d like to see expanded and improved Rail Passenger Service-
Join Us!
Membership increases our strength in presenting the case for rail to policymakers at all levels!

This is a recent photo early in the morning at Oceanside. The locomotive at the end of this Metrolink Train is one of 40 new EMD locomotives built for Metrolink, many of which had been delivered to Metrolink by last summer. The first of these new locomotives went into service on Metrolink back in October. So far there have been many problems needing troubleshooting with these new locomotives which makes them unreliable so far. As a result Metrolink pairs these new locomotives to a reliable older locomotive to insure their trains don’t get stranded. Slowly but surely Metrolink is getting this new fleet of locomotives up to spec. These new locomotive are central to plans to add more trains and cars into Metrolink’s service in the coming 5 years. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Wild California police chase ends after driver detours into train tunnel
Fox News-Feb 21, 2018
Driver leads cops on wild chase, vanishes into subway tunnel
Authorities in Southern California were led on a wild pursuit in East Los Angeles on Tuesday that ended when the driver took a surprise detour into a subway tunnel.
The police pursuit began in Huntington Park, located south of downtown Los Angeles, after authorities spotted a pickup truck that had been reported stolen, according to KTLA.
During the chase, captured by television news helicopters, the driver of the pickup truck slammed into a yellow taxi at one point and then kept driving.
Later news reports said this driver was wanted on 6 felony charges. NB

NTSB: Truck was on tracks, gates were down before Amtrak crash
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 22, 2018
A garbage truck involved in a fatal Amtrak accident late last month had entered a grade crossing after the warning gates were lowered, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced yesterday.
On Jan. 31, an Amtrak train struck a garbage truck that was stopped at the crossing in Crozet, Virginia. The train was carrying Republican members of Congress on their way to a legislative retreat in West Virginia.
As a result of the crash, one truck passenger died; another truck passenger sustained serious injuries and the truck’s driver sustained minor injuries.

Valley Amtrak Routes On Track To Meet Safety Standards
Valley Public Radio-Feb 20, 2018
The operator of Amtrak service in the Central Valley says they plan to put positive train control in place by the end of this year. This comes a day after the CEO of Amtrak said routes without the safety feature could suspended…
In the Central Valley, the San Joaquin corridor of Amtrak is operated by Caltrans and the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.
Matt Rocco, with Caltrans, says they will probably meet the deadline for getting positive train control functioning.
“For the San Joaquin lines, most of the equipment has been installed,” Rocco says. “We are very confident that this will be running at the beginning of next year.

Safety On The Tracks? The Bigger Death Toll Is At Grade Crossings
By Noel T. Braymer
There has been a great deal of media attention on Amtrak and its fatal accidents that have happen in the last few years. These accidents were preventable and should never have happened. But fatal accidents still happen all the time often for no other reason than human error. Passenger train crashes often look terrible and invoke strong emotions with the public. An article in USA Today published on May 13, 2015 gave perspective of the level of dangers to passengers riding on Amtrak. This article pointed out that 158 Amtrak passengers died between 1975 to 2015. That’s an average of roughly 4 passenger deaths a year during this time. Several of these deaths were from passengers falling or jumping off from moving trains. This USA Today article also pointed out that during this time period between 1975 to 2015, Amtrak was involved with a total of 3,744 deaths. Just 4% of these deaths were with passengers. This article published in 2015 pointed out that for 2014 of 119 Amtrak related deaths, 108 were from people trespassing on the tracks.

Take Responsibility For Your Property:’ Astoria Residents Want Amtrak To Repair Cracked Sidewalk
CBS New York-Feb 22, 2018
In New York City, property owners are responsible for repairing and repaving the adjacent sidewalks, and the city gives out violations to owners who don’t.
“This is Amtrak’s property. Take responsibility for it and make sure that you keep our residents safe as you’re passing through our neighborhoods,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides, of Queens, told Bauman.

Amtrak completes repair work on Track 15 at Penn Station
Newsday-Feb 23, 2018
The national railroad, which owns Penn Station and has come under fire over its deteriorated condition, began work at the beginning of January focusing on Track 15 — part of a series of infrastructure renovations at the aging rail hub.
The project included demolishing and replacing a section of concrete.
“We completed the track work within budget, safely, and with minimal amount of disruption to service, as committed,” Amtrak said in a statement, noting the the work was completed three days ahead of schedule.

Amtrak could suspend Vermont service
Vermont Biz-Feb 23, 2018
Anderson spoke at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the slow-paced implementation of positive train control (PTC), a crash-prevention technology which, under federal law, must be installed on some 60,000 miles of the nation’s rail routes by year’s end.
He was addressing safety concerns in the aftermath of several fatal accidents that the Amtrak system has witnessed since December.
The routes that Amtrak uses in Vermont, for the Ethan Allen Express and Vermonter trains, are in fact exempt from the federal requirement because they see so little traffic, but Anderson told the subcommittee that “for those instances, where we will not have PTC even after the 12/31 deadline because it’s not required by statute, we have a question about whether we’re going to operate at all, and I doubt we will.”
This could be an issue as well on the Southwest Chief over Raton Pass which doesn’t have PTC and has little traffic outside of trains 3&4. It wouldn’t be economical to install PTC on lines with  little traffic or chance to run into other trains . NB

Union Pacific, Amtrak nearly finished with Positive Train Control upgrades
Northern Nevada Business Weekly-Feb 23, 2018
According to reports from Union Pacific, 99.7 percent of PTC hardware had been installed as of Dec. 31, 2017, on the company’s routes — including through Reno — and on 98 percent of its locomotives.
Those lines are in the testing phase. Other lines are expected to have PTC systems installed before the deadline.

PTC: Ignore the circus. Here’s what’s really going on
Railway Age Feb 16, 2018
The railroad industry is making steady progress implementing Positive Train Control. You wouldn’t know it though, if you believed some of the choreographed histrionics the House Subcommittee on Railroads and its chairman displayed at a Feb. 15 hearing on PTC...
“Today, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, took to task representatives of the railroad industry, including Amtrak, on their failure to implement PTC safety technology that would have prevented crashes and saved lives: ‘If you have a timeline, we want to see that timeline. If you have questions or concerns or impediments, we want to know what those are. If you haven’t received funding, maybe you should request funding. But certainly, ignoring a congressional mandate again won’t be tolerated by either side of the aisle. I think the American public is tired of excuses. This is an amazing technology that will continue to improve the safety of our rails across the country.’”
You can stop laughing now.
None of the above has even the slightest shred of truth. Some of it is an outright, bald-faced lie. So what’s the purpose of Denham’s pontificating on PTC?

Off the rails: What’s going on with all these deadly train crashes?
Metro US-Feb 23, 2018
“I’m not sure we’re seeing so many accidents and derailments, we’re seeing a couple that are getting a lot of press,” said Allan Zarembski, the director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware.
Referring to statistics released by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that show a downtick in accidents and fatalities, Zarembski said, “Nothing I’ve seen in the statistics from 2017 show that it was a major aberration in safety.
And, despite the high-profile accidents, there has been no dip in train travel, with only a 4 percent dip in travelers over the last decade, according to the FRA.

Passenger rail service proposed from New Orleans to Mobile with stops on the Coast
WLOX-Feb 22, 2018
In a letter addressed to Governor Phil Bryant from Coast lawmakers, the plan calls for Amtrak service to be added from New Orleans to Mobile with stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. This proposal does not offer service to Jacksonville, FL.
Knox Ross with the Southern Rail Commission said the shorter route gives passenger rail service a better chance of becoming a reality sooner.
“Much of the track between Mobile and New Orleans already has positive train control, which has been in the news a lot lately and it’s signaled correctly,” said Ross. “It’s in great physical condition and they [CSX] have indicated to us that this would be a much more preferable option for them as well.”

New California Everyday Discounts Program Offers Savings on Train Travel
PR Newswire Feb 22, 2018
The Amtrak® Pacific Surfliner® recently launched the California Everyday Discounts program, offering year-round savings on train travel for seniors, students, and passengers with disabilities. The Pacific Surfliner route serves San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, connecting nearly 3 million passengers a year to many of Southern California’s top destinations.

New Amtrak commuter train servicing Ventura, Santa Barbara areas ready to roll in April
KEYT-Feb 22, 2018
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A long-awaited commuter service involving a precisely timed Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will begin April 2 between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
The demand has been high for traffic relief for years. The recent disasters, which left the area with a transit mess and broken bridges on Highway 192, has resulted in extreme congestion during peak hours.
An estimated 15,000 vehicles are using that route daily for work.
The planned train will have stops in Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta.

Nice price: Metra to buy Amtrak locomotives
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 23, 2018
Chicago’s commuter rail agency is bargain-hunting as it looks to buy used locomotives to help bolster its motive power fleet.
On Feb. 21 Metra directors authorized negotiations to purchase as many as 21 locomotives at a cost of $1.3 million each that were most recently used by Amtrak in California and other West Coast lines.
Metra is also seeking proposals from manufacturers for new locomotives, for delivery in late 2020.
Metra Chairman Norm Carlson was quoted as saying the price for the power “[I]s wonderful. With a relatively small investment we can reduce operating costs and emissions.”
The F59 locomotives deployed by Amtrak were built by General Motors in 1998 and rehabbed in the past five years. They are also 10-25% more fuel efficient than Metra’s older power

M.E. Singer
As the status quo will not hold much longer for Amtrak, let alone the Northeast Corridor (NEC), a new paradigm is desperately required. Having no transparency on data and finances provided by Amtrak plays into its “shell game” that prevents a logical paper trail to audit how the long distance routes funding is bled off to cover the widening fiscal hole of the NEC. Concomitantly, how much, if not every dollar paid by the non-NEC states is turned around to support the NEC? For how long has Amtrak manipulated such finances to dump the NEC’s overhead and infrastructure costs into the long distance and state-supported sectors?

How Trump Doomed His Own Infrastructure Plan
Bloomberg View Feb 22, 2018
His trillion dollar dream lacked support within the White House and among Republicans…
A president focused on infrastructure should probably stack his administration with policy experts capable of translating his grand vision into a governing program that gets approved and funded by Congress. Instead, he mostly brought in conservative Republicans who aren’t exactly known for putting together large infrastructure plans. So I’m not surprised they have produced something that my View colleague Barry Ritholtz called a “deeply inadequate” and “fanciful” plan that would “give private investors a gift at the expense of the taxpaying public.”
All politicians need to bring government spending to their districts to get reelected. Elected politicians won’t give up spending to their district without a fight. NB

Geotechnical studies underway in South Bay for high speed rail
KGO-TV-Feb 19, 2018
In Silicon Valley, work is now starting on geotechnical analysis of proposed track alignments in Santa Clara County and in the City of San Jose.
A crew on President’s Day was busy drilling for core samples along busy Monterey Road, just south of Senter Road. The samples will help planners to understand soil conditions before proceeding with advanced engineering and environmental work.

High speed rail construction Tuesday in Wasco
Kern Golden Empire-Feb 19, 2018
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Work on the California’s High Speed Rail is coming to Kern County Tuesday.
Construction work will cause some closures in Wasco.
The High Speed Rail Authority says eastbound shoulders on Pond Road will close between Magnolia and Palm avenues on Tuesday.

High Speed Rail project prompts road closures in Downtown Fresno
KFSN-TV-Feb 23, 2018
The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced the closure of H Street between the Stanislaus Street bridge and Divisadero Street for utility relocation.
Work is scheduled to start next Monday, February 26th and will last approximately two months.

Hanford meeting to detail latest high-speed rail work
The Business Journal-Feb 21, 2018
The meeting, which is set for March 6 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Hanford Fraternal Hall, will also include design, right of way information and discussion of small business and employment opportunities.
Construction Package 2-3 (CP 2-3) is the second design-build construction contract executed on the high-speed rail program. CP 2-3 is the 65-mile segment between East American Avenue in Fresno County to one mile north of the Tulare-Kern County line. It will include approximately 36 grade separations in the counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kings, including viaducts, underpasses and overpasses.

The ‘train deniers’ are wrong. We Californians love riding the rails.
The Desert Sun-Feb 23, 2018
If California’s train deniers are right — that no one ever rides trains here, that Californians prefer to drive or fly, and that high-speed rail is a boondoggle that won’t attract riders — then how do you explain my wife’s public humiliation?..
The Pacific Surfliner that day was mobbed, with every seat taken and passengers standing in the aisles and stairwells. So when I took those two hungry boys in the direction of the café car, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t squeeze through. The boys, now nine and seven, are very skinny and insisted on continuing on, despite my pleas, beginning a memorable adventure.

Thursday letters: High-speed rail
Houston Chronicle-Feb 21, 2018
Fear of unknown
Regarding “Progress vs. preservation” (Page A1, Sunday), it’s not surprising that farmers, townspeople and local leaders between Houston and Dallas are opposed to the Texas Central bullet train. This in spite of the fact that the high speed line will be elevated along most of its right-of-way and the trains will travel in virtual silence as opposed to the existing freight lines that cross many of their properties at grade and produce noise at any hour of the day. The claim that it will interfere with their way of life simply reflects the trait all of us have in common – fear of the unknown.
When I lived in Germany, the construction of high speed rail – which now offers the preferred means of transportation for many travelers throughout Europe – was in its infancy. Farmers and rural townspeople were suspicious of what effects it might have on them.
But now, years later, they have come to realize that high-speed rail has had no effect on their lives. They and their livestock are totally unaffected by the trains that glide through their pastures and near their towns.

China saves on oil with switch to high-speed rail
Nikkei Asian Review-Feb 19, 2018
The trains are not only transforming Chinese economy and travel but are also starting to chip away at oil use in the world’s second largest consumer and biggest source of fuel demand growth. The impact is being felt primarily on jet fuel and gasoline consumption. The trains, running at roughly 200-350 km/hour, provide an economical and often more reliable alternative to air travel.
State-owned oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation recently cited HSR among a host of changes including electric cars and the sharing economy as factors crimping Chinese gasoline demand growth.

Faster than flying: the high-speed rail routes taking on the air industry
Railway Technology-Feb 18, 2018
But while air transport dominates the long-haul travelling market, on shorter distances, more and more passengers seem to be inclined to opt for the train instead.
Bloomberg analysis has recently shown that, on key routes in Asia and Europe, high-speed railways (HSR) and air travel are neck and neck.
The reasons are quite easy to grasp. Firstly, when taking into consideration what flying entails – travelling from home to the airport, time spent in check-in and security, as well as additional transport and baggage pickup– taking the train offers big overall travel time savings.

Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed rail opening to be delayed six months
The Jerusalem Post-Feb 21, 2018
The rail line – which has been under construction for years – would halve the arduous, traffic-congested route to a speedy 28 minutes between the two cities.
“Not all the regulatory approvals required for the operation of the line for commercial use of passengers…have yet to be  received,” Israel Railways said in its filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning. “Such operation is expected to be postponed by six months, subject to the receipt of all such approvals.”

BNSF SoCal yard project headed to state Supreme Court
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 20, 2018
The SCIG will create a railhead for container traffic in Wilmington just four miles from the Port of Los Angeles, rather than boxes having to be drayed 24 miles on local roads and the 710 freeway to downtown rail facilities. BNSF has said SCIG will allow 1.5 million more containers to move by more efficient and environmentally preferred rail through the Alameda Corridor each year, reducing truck traffic congestion in Southern California, while also creating jobs.
But the city of Long Beach, air pollution regulators, environmentalists and neighbors objected, contending in 2013 lawsuits that the 185-acre yard would actually make air quality worse. They want further work done on the environmental reports needed for approval, which the city of Los Angeles granted in 2013.

This is a view of a recently completed set of ramps and stairs at the Laguna Niguel/ Mission Viejo Metrolink station. This allows safe travel under the east and west tracks. These ramps and stairs replaced an outdoor elevator which is no longer in use. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Dreams of a train tunnel slip away
Palo Alto Online-Feb 21, 2018
For nearly a decade, Palo Alto’s elected leaders and residents have advocated for construction of underground rail tracks to accommodate California’s high-speed rail system and Caltrain, which is planning to add more trains as part of its electrification project.
But with a new study highlighting the high costs and steep engineering challenges of the project, city officials are preparing to pull the plug on the idea and to consider less ambitious and less costly methods for separating the train tracks from the city’s roadways.

‘Did You Know?’ Fun Caltrain Facts For Every Rider 20, 2018
From samTrans: Did you know that more people ride Caltrain daily than live in Greenland? Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was President when the railroad began carrying riders 150 years ago?
Interesting facts like these are all part of Caltrain’s new “Did You Know?” public education campaign, which kicked off Sunday, Feb. 19.

Caltrain launches grade crossing improvement projects
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 20, 2018
Caltrain last week began construction to improve three grade crossings in Redwood City, California.
Crews are installing new pedestrian gate arms, as well as new guard rails and signage to channel pedestrians toward crosswalks. Workers also will install roadway markers and bumps along the crosswalk so vehicles don’t accidentally turn onto the tracks, Caltrain officials said in a press release.

Caltrain has a list of demands before it will change pole design for Atherton
The Almanac Online-Feb 23, 2018
In the latest volley in the battle between Atherton and Caltrain over the height of the poles it plans to install as part of its project to electrify its trains, Caltrain has given the town until Feb. 28 to meet a list of demands if it wants shorter poles installed.
A Feb. 6 letter from Caltrain demands that Atherton pay it $200,000, get written consent of property owners whose trees will be affected by changed plans, and agree the town won’t support or be a part of any lawsuit filed against the electrification project. In return, Caltrain would install 10 35-foot-tall poles with crossbeams spanning only one set of tracks, instead of the five 45-foot-tall poles that cantilever over two sets of tracks it had planned.

BART Says No to Station at Proposed Site for A’s New Ballpark
NBC Bay Area-Feb 19, 2018
It looks like another swing and a miss for the Oakland A’s in their quest for a new ballpark near downtown.
BART has said it cannot build a station at the Howard Terminal site the A’s have eyed for their new stadium. BART officials said a station at the site, just north of Jack London Square, would be too disruptive to its service and would take too long to design and build.

CA: BART Gets Serious About a 2nd East Bay-SF Transbay Tube 22, 2018
Feb. 21–A new BART tunnel beneath the bay might begin in Alameda and emerge in Mission Bay. It could parallel the existing tube but then head up Mission Street on the west side of the bay instead of up Market. Or maybe it would stretch between Alameda and AT&T Park.
No one knows, but after years of supposition and pie-in-the-sky conjecture from planners and passengers alike, BART officials are starting to study a second Transbay Tube.

Violent attacks on BART employees rising
SFGate-Feb 21, 2018
Over the last year BART employees have been kicked, punched, shoved, spat upon and pelted with rocks while on the job.
More than 40 incidents of battery targeted at the public transit agency’s staff were reported in 2017, according to crime data obtained by SFGATE. The number of assaults has increased steadily year-over-year since 2013, with the figure nearly doubling between 2015 and 2016, and that’s just the reported incidents.
According to a recent KTVU investigation, the “actual numbers of assaults are significantly higher.” Train operators said a “significant, yet unknown, number of cases go unreported.”

Screen Doors Coming to Oakland BART Station
Streetsblog San Francisco -Feb 20, 2018
As part of Measure RR and its $3.5 billion investments in expanding capacity, BART is planning to test out platform “screen doors” at the 12th Street BART Station. Screen doors, as seen in the photo above of the Paris Metro, are a set of safety doors, placed along the edge of the platform, intended to prevent transit riders from getting onto the tracks. BART is allotting $3 million of Measure RR money to this pilot.
“We’re in the early stages of our platform edge door project,” Chris Filippi, a spokesman for BART, explained in an email to Streetsblog. “This is an ambitious project for BART, as no transit system in North America has platform edge doors despite having similar crowding challenges as those faced by BART.”

Swarm of 16 earthquakes shakes Danville and Diablo, slows BART trains
SFGate-Feb 23, 2018
When BART receives reports of earthquakes, it stops trains until it can get information from the Geological Survey. If the magnitude is lower than 3.0, trains can start running under automatic controls. If it’s higher than 3.0, operators run trains at low speeds, under manual control, for about five minutes while conducting visual track inspections.
A 2.8 earthquake at 12:21 p.m. caused BART to halt trains briefly, transit officials said. A 5:53 a.m. quake also led to a 10-minute delay that affected the morning commute.

Palo Alto: City officials oppose bill that allows tall, dense housing
The Mercury News-Feb 23, 2018
Palo Alto officials say a pending state bill would strip their control of land uses in the city and possibly result in exceptionally tall housing developments along high-transit areas.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, last month introduced State Bill 827, which aims to boost housing density in and near transit corridors. If passed in its current form, the bill would allow buildings that include housing units to be as tall as 85 feet within a quarter-mile of busy transit corridors where buses stop at least every 15 minutes during peak commute hours, or within one block of a major transit stop, such as Palo Alto’s two Caltrain stations.

A sweeping new bill targets California’s housing crisis
Vox-Feb 23, 2018
California is in the midst of crippling housing crisis. The state’s population has steadily grown, but it hasn’t been building new places for people to live at anything close to the same rate. It now ranks 49th in housing units per capita.
The predictable consequence of demand growing faster than supply is that existing housing in the state, especially in its biggest cities, has become insanely expensive. Seven of the 10 most expensive US real estate markets are Californian. The median home price in the state is $524,000; in San Francisco it is approaching $1.3 million.
Rising prices push middle-class workers further and further from their jobs, leading to unhealthy commutes and traffic congestion. Low-income Californians are increasingly forced to choose between rent and food or health care, adding to the state’s hunger and health problems, or being pushed out of housing altogether, adding to its burgeoning homeless population. According to analysts at McKinsey, the housing crisis is costing California $140 billion a year in lost economic output…
A tangle of land-use restrictions makes it difficult to build homes in California
But those legislative reforms are fighting against an artificially constrained market. The basic problem remains: It is difficult to build housing in California, thanks in part to a thicket of local parking regulations, building requirements, zoning restrictions, and bureaucratic choke points. The state’s (generally whiter, wealthier) residents use these tools to prevent new construction that might house (generally more diverse, poorer) newcomers.

Germany considers to fight pollution with free public transportation
Washington Post Feb 14, 2018
Germany’s latest, and more radical, plans are similarly supposed to solve the lingering problem of air pollution in German cities, which recently prompted the threat of major E.U. fines.
More than 130 cities in Europe are affected by “life-threatening” air pollution, according to the European Commission, that is believed to be responsible for about 400,000 deaths each year in the European Union. And even though Germany is far from being Europe’s most polluted nation, the topic is taken more seriously here than in most other places that have repeatedly breached E.U. limits on nitrogen dioxide and fine particles.

New Rail Transit Being Built In The Next Ten Years In Los Angeles
By Noel T. Braymer
Los Angeles County under the management of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, also known as LA Metro, has an ambitious and multi billion dollar plan to expand rail transit service in the county. As each new link is finished and connects to the rest of the transit system more people will be able to get around the county without dealing with jammed freeways or hunting for parking. There are 8 major rail projects LA Metro is planning to open between now and 2028.

Renderings Galore for the LAX Automated People Mover
Urbanize. LA Feb 16, 2018
With construction expected to begin this year, Los Angeles World Airports has unveiled new renderings and an animated video that preview the LAX Automated People Mover.
The APM, a monorail-like system, will operate along a 2.25-mile elevated guideway with six stops between the LAX Consolidated Rental Car Facility and the Central Terminal Area.
Utility relocation and surveying for the APM are expected to begin in the second quarter of 2018, with construction of the guideway set to start as early as 2019.

Blue Line in Long Beach to close for a total of eight months next year to undergo $300 million renovation
Press-Telegram Feb 21, 2018
Metro is preparing to close the 22-mile Blue Line for a total of eight months next year to complete the modernization of the transit agency’s oldest train line.
Opened in 1990 and showing its age, the Blue Line will be receiving $300 million in improvements during the closure period.
The agency plans to add four new switches that allow trains to move quicker, new signals, new tracks in downtown Long Beach and improvements at street level intersections, especially at the Washington Boulevard and Flower Street junction near downtown Los Angeles where cars have crashed into trains, causing significant delays.
Metro planners are working with the city of Long Beach and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for better signal synchronization at sections where the trains stop for traffic at red lights, Ted Lindholm, executive officer of capital projects for Metro, said Tuesday.

Why the Expo Line is slow—and why it might not be that way forever
Curbed LA Feb 20, 2018
An upcoming change to state environmental rules might make it possible to speed up the frustratingly slow Expo Line.
The change could set the stage for the city to give trains the right of way at some intersections—instead of cars.
Giving cars the right of way has been one of the biggest challenges to making the light rail, which runsfrom Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, faster. Instead of flying over or tunneling under intersections, especially between Western Avenue and Downtown, the train stops and waits for traffic to pass in front of it.

San Dimas, Pomona sue the Gold Line Construction Authority over plans for the train’s expansion
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Feb 16, 2018
Two of the six cities in the 12.3-mile path of the $1.5 billion Gold Line foothill extension are pursuing lawsuits against the construction authority, saying last-minute changes to the alignment, bridges and plans to acquire properties will cause permanent damage to their cities and are a violation of state environmental laws.

Rolland Curtis Gardens Development Rises Near Expo/Vermont Station
Urbanize. LA Feb 20, 2018
The project, which is being built next to Metro’s Expo/Vermont Station by nonprofit developer Abode Communities, will feature interconnected one-to-five-story buildings featuring 140 apartments, 8,000 square feet of commercial space, and a landscaped courtyard area.  Plans also call for a 114-car garage within the new development.
Per the California State Treasurer’s office, the new apartments will come in one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, with rents ranging between $466 and $1,354 per month.  The units will be targeted to households making between 30 and 60 percent of the Los Angeles area median income.

Mixed-Use Project Near Pasadena Gold Line Station Moves Forward
Urbanize.LA Feb 22, 2018
Trammell Crow Company continues to move forward with plans for a mixed-use development near the Gold Line’s Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena.
The project, slated for an approximately 8.32-acre property at 3200 E. Foothill Boulevard, would replace a self-storage facility with eight mixed-use buildings featuring 550 apartment units, 9,800 square feet of retail space and parking for up to 782 vehicles. The mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings would include 481 market rate units, as well as 23 units priced for moderate-income families and 46 units for low-income families.

Southern California’s transit ridership will get rolling: Larry Wilson
The Pasadena Star-News-Feb 24, 2018
Everyone’s a little bit wrong here. And the argument is a bit of an academic one, filled with classic posturing. In Los Angeles County especially, what with the creation of the massive cash cow that is the Measure M 1 percent forever sales tax to fund Metro, rail and bus line building isn’t going away. It’s going to entirely change the transportation infrastructure of the populous core of our region over the next 30 years. If the sprawlers are right and no one really wants to get out of their cars — and these same folks are the ones who say Southern Californians don’t want to live in multi-family buildings near transit-friendly development, so that what we really need is more exurban sprawl, with three-bedroom housing tracts filling in the wild gap from here to Joshua Tree — well, there’ll be some swell views of empty light-rail cars on lines from Sherman Oaks to Santa Monica from those new toll roads.

This was shot from the new Platform by Track 3 at Oceanside. The 2 tracks in this picture are used by the Sprinter DMU service to Escondido with a center platform between the 2 tracks. In the background is a station parking lot. Notice the pedestrian crossing on the track leading to the parking lot. This got me to thinking that if there was also a pedestrian crossing between Platform 3 to the Sprinter Platform, this would be a great shortcut for passengers walking to and from the parking lot. This would also relieve the congestion on Platform 3 which is common after a Coaster Train arrives in Oceanside. For now most Sprinter trains usually use the track with the pedestrian crossing nearest the parking lot. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

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Commentary, Editorials, eNewsletter, Issues

RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for February 19, 2018


Edited by Noel T. Braymer
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This story and map of Amtrak in 1979 looks like the good old days today. Long portrayed as the problem, the Long Distance trains are central to the health of Rail Passenger service. The Long Distance trains are the best generators of revenue for Amtrak. Cutting Long Distance trains doesn’t save money, it causes Amtrak’s revenues to go down with little impact on reducing its costs.

Trump budget plan for 2019 defunds Amtrak’s long-distance routes
CBS News-Feb 13, 2018
The White House budget, released Monday, proposes that “States begin to share the operating subsidy costs of Long Distance routes with the Federal Government.” It suggests cutting the federal subsidy for Amtrak in half, from $1.4 billion to $738 million. That would save the feds about $6.3 billion this decade, according to calculations from the Wharton School of Business.
The only problem? Many states, already strapped for cash, are unlikely to come up with the needed funding. State and local governments already account for 77 percent of public infrastructure spending in the U.S., according to the Economic Policy Institute. And more than half of states have faced budget shortfalls during the last two years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Here We Go Again! Yet Another Attempt To Kill Amtrak’s Long Distance Trains
By Noel T. Braymer
It is hard to believe that the Trump Administration is following in the footsteps of the Carter Administration. In 1979, in an attempt to “save” money on Amtrak, the Carter Administration demanded that Amtrak eliminate the trains that were “losing” the most money. In the process of doing so, congressional offices got massive amounts of mail from their constituents opposing the elimination of trains in their districts. At times when there is talk of cutting Amtrak service, mail opposing this to congressional offices is often second only to letters about Social Security. After much noise, 5 trains were eliminated, 4 of which were Long Distance trains: the National Limited, Texas Eagle, Floridian and the tri-weekly North Coast Hiawatha. What was the end result of this? Amtrak losses went up, not down. Why was that? At the heart of this was the fact that the Long Distance trains didn’t cost as much to operate as Amtrak’s accounting claimed. The reason Amtrak’s losses increased was because by getting rid of these Long Distance trains, Amtrak lost the revenues these trains brought in while saving very little money by getting rid of them. This has been repeated every time Amtrak has cut back Long Distance service, no savings and higher not lower losses.

Amtrak CEO: How we are making Amtrak safer
The Hill-Feb 14, 2018
Recent high profile accidents have understandably shined a spotlight on Amtrak. Each reflect different situations and unique risks, and we should be careful not to rush to judgment or make broad assumptions about Amtrak’s safety culture.
As the company’s new CEO, I can assure our customers that Amtrak is safe and working every day to be even safer. However, Amtrak runs a complex rail system that relies heavily on support and cooperation from our partner railroads, particularly freight carriers. Additionally, Amtrak is in critical need of additional resources to address our aging infrastructure and fleet.

Amtrak: NJ TRANSIT Could Be Banned Between Trenton And NYC
CBS New York-Feb 16, 2018
Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson told a House subcommittee on Thursday Amtrak is worried passengers are being put at risk by delays in installing the technology that’s designed to prevent crashes.
“It is going to be very difficult for us to allow anybody to operate on the railroad we host without PTC,” Anderson said.
NJ TRANSIT is far behind on meeting the Dec. 31 federal government deadline to have PTC built and operational.

NCTD worried Amtrak could delay train safety system
The San Diego Union-Tribune-Feb 18, 2018
North County Transit District is on track to meet a federally mandated Dec. 31 deadline to install a high-tech safety system designed to control speeds and prevent deadly train crashes and derailments.
Amtrak, though, is not and that could throw a wrench into the NCTD system.
The new Positive Train Control system requires multiple rail systems to electronically mesh as one. Coaster, Amtrak, freight trains and other railway carriers must communicate seamlessly, a process that requires months of testing followed by federal certification.

Oklahoma Official Says Rail Used by Amtrak Is Compliant
U.S. News & World Report-Feb 17, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma transportation official says rail used by Amtrak for the Heartland Flyer that runs daily between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, complies with a new speed control system.
Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson has said it’s possible service will be suspended on tracks that don’t have what’s known as Positive Train Control — or PTC.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell told The Journal Record that ODOT has confirmed with Amtrak that the Heartland Flyer line is PTC-compliant.

Tunnel of no love? Amtrak officials sound alarm over NYC tunnel in desperate need of repairs
Fox News-Feb 12, 2018
It is, in fact, the nation’s busiest transit route connecting New York City to the southern half of the east coast, and Gordon says it’s falling apart because of age and the saltwater drenching it took during Hurricane Sandy five years ago.
Trump budget puts emphasis on defense, infrastructure
He says since, Amtrak has had seven major electrical outages inside the North River Tunnel because of corroding wiring.
“That means we have reduction in the capacity of the voltage,” he explains. “We gotta stop trains, and it reduces capacity to the trains that we can run.”

FTA lowers grant ratings for Amtrak tunnel, bridge projects
Progressive Rail Roading-Feb 15, 2018
The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) downgrading this week of two critical “Gateway” projects in the Northeast Corridor will further jeopardize the projects from receiving federal funding, supporters of the passenger-rail corridor said yesterday.
In its annual funding recommendations report to Congress on the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, the FTA this week rated both the Hudson Tunnel and the Portal North Bridge replacement projects as “medium-low” in priority for federal grants. Medium-low is second-lowest rating on a five-point scale that helps determine whether federal funding is warranted.

The Ghosts of the Past Have Returned to Haunt the Passenger Train
By M.E. Singer

As one fortunate to experience our great passenger trains throughout the 1950s and 1960s, it is with much regret I hesitantly approach this topic. To best explain what is happening once again to threaten the American passenger train, I rely on the famous malapropisms by the great Yogi Berra* to emphasize how Amtrak’s Board of Directors and Executive Management has caused its degeneration to the extent that it is well beyond controlling its own destiny.

Shooting outside Emeryville Amtrak station leaves man critically injured
SFGate-Feb 12, 2018
A 26-year-old man was critically injured Sunday night in a shooting outside the Amtrak station in Emeryville, authorities said.
The shooting occurred about 9:11 p.m. near the intersection of 59th and Horton streets, said Capt. Oliver Collins of the Emeryville Police Department.

No cause yet for freight train derailment in Hughson. Amtrak service changes
Modesto Bee Feb 11, 2018
Authorities on Sunday had not determined what derailed a freight train late Saturday in Hughson, leaving behind a pile of wrecked boxcars and creating problems for drivers and Amtrak passengers through the next few days….
That will cause problems for Amtrak passenger trains that use the same railway. On Sunday, Amtrak officials issued a service alert for its passengers traveling through the San Joaquin Valley.
Amtrak San Joaquin trains will not be able to operate between Merced and Stockton. Substitute transportation using chartered buses will move Amtrak passengers between Merced and Stockton.

Amtrak Train To Michigan Unexpectedly Stops Twice, Leaves Passengers Sick
Amtrak passengers making their way to Michigan from Chicago’s Union Station complained Monday night of feeling sick when the train unexpectedly stopped twice along the way.
Eastbound Wolverines #352 had weather-related problems near Michigan City and again near Niles, Michigan. Mimi Brun said she thought she might pass out, when the heat went out and the restrooms went out of order.

JetSuiteX Offers Pop-up Flights to Coachella Music Festival 17, 2018
Currently there are not that many convenient transportation options from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley other than Greyhound and Amtrak. Amtrak was intent on offering a day-time “Coachella Train” with a temporary station in Indio, CA for the popular festival last year, but it never materialized. Amtrak serves Palm Springs, 32 minutes away from the festival grounds, however the service arrives pastmidnight.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Partners with Disneyland® Resort to Offer Special, Limited-Time Savings
PR Newswire Feb 14, 2018
Southern California residents enjoy magical offers for train travel and theme park admission through May 21, 2018
ANAHEIM, Calif., Feb. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Amtrak® Pacific Surfliner® has partnered with the Disneyland® Resort to offer special, limited-time savings for Southern California Residents on train travel and Disneyland® Resort theme park admission through May 21, 2018. The Pacific Surfliner brings nearly 3 million travelers annually to Southern California destinations including Anaheim, the gateway to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Disneyland Resort teams up with Amtrak to offer discounts on train 
OCRegister-Feb 14, 2018
Amtrak and Disneyland Resort are partnering for a limited promotion that offers discounted rail travel and park admission for Southern California residents.
Through May 21, each child age 2-12 can board an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train traveling to the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center for free with the purchase of an adult ticket. The ART Route 15 connector bus will shuttle Amtrak passengers from the ARTIC to the theme park for free.

This is one of the buses connecting Disneyland to the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). These buses are operated by Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) which run a dense level of bus service centered around Disneyland connecting to the hotels and other places of interest for visitors to Orange County. Photo by Noel T. Braymer.

Opinion: Why California should continue building high-speed rail
The Mercury News- Feb 14, 2018
The high-speed rail vision is of Bay Area grandparents on family visits to Disneyland. The system would fail based only on those relatively infrequent end-to-end trips.
The reason for building high-speed rail is to protect our Bay Area economy. Per Caltrans, 133,000 daily vehicle trips were averaged during 2016 peak months on Interstate 580 at Highway 205 headed into Silicon Valley. Highway 152 averaged 47,000 daily vehicles during peak months. Many fearsome 18-wheel trucks joined the vastly overcapacity daily migration connecting the Central Valley’s affordable housing to Silicon Valley’s irresistible job market. That trip (2-4 hours each direction) is dangerous, time consuming and emotionally debilitating. Burning $3-4 per gallon gasoline (more in the future) also depletes a family’s fiscal well-being and adds dramatically to climate change.

Worth Noting: Wasco hosting high-speed rail meeting
The Bakersfield Californian-Feb 14, 2018
The California High Speed Rail Authority will hold a meeting in Wasco on March 1 to provide an update on the project.
The meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. at the Wasco Veterans Hall, 1202 Poplar Ave. Officials involved in the project will discuss high-speed rail developments in the Wasco area and other parts of Kern County, such as design completion, right-of-way acquisition and employment opportunities.

One Person’s Boondoggle Is Another’s Infrastructure Investment
By Noel T. Braymer
With large, expensive construction projects often comes critics calling these projects “boondoggles”. According to the book “Since Yesterday” by Fredrick Lewis Allen published in 1940 about the 1930’s; the term “boondoggle” came into common use by the critic’s of President Roosevelt’s construction projects during the Great Depression. Many of these “boondoggles” were for improved infrastructure. It is true that most large scale construction projects are very expensive and often go way over budget. The  non-military project which cost the most in history and had the highest cost overruns was the railroad tunnel often called the Chunnel built under the Straits of Dover connecting Britain to France and the rest of Europe.Many would think the cost overruns for the Chunnel was typical poor government management. The only problem with that is the Chunnel was privately built and financed. This came at the insistence of then Conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who came to power in 1979.

China is building a £1.2 billion high-speed railway across the ‘Bermuda Triangle of Asia’
Daily Mail-Feb 12, 2018
Chinese workers are constructing an impressive railroad bridge in an area that has been considered a ‘no-go zone’ for bridge builders.
The £1.2 billion Pingtan Strait Railroad Bridge spans across the extremely rough sea off the coast of south-east China, a region that has apparently seen the mysterious disappearances of many jets and boats and is dubbed the ‘Bermuda Triangle of Asia’.
Chinese engineers, who started on the project in 2013, are confident that they could complete the colossal traffic link next year. And not only that, they have planned to run high-speed trains above the notoriously choppy waters.

Indian Railways To Announce 10000 km Of High-Speed Rail Corridors
Swarajya-Feb 13, 2018
The Ministry of Railways is planning to announce 10,000 kilometres of new high-speed corridors in April 2018 for trains to run at speed of 200-250 kilometres per hour, the Times of India has reported.
According to the report, Minister Piyush Goyal has asked officials to identify the corridors and work on cutting the cost of construction by less than half. To bring the cost down, the ministry is considering options such as building single pillar, two track corridors on the top of highways or building them on existing railway land.

Can This European High-Speed Train Compete With Airlines?
CityLab-Feb 12, 2018
How long can a train journey be to still compete with air travel?
This is a question surfacing in Europe this month, as the first-ever direct London-to-Amsterdam train service gets ready to launch. With tickets going on sale next Monday, two daily trains run by the high-speed Eurostar will start serving the route on April 4. Currently, a Londoner bound for Amsterdam by train can expect the journey to take a little under five hours, with a change of trains in Brussels. The new service will reach speeds of up to 186 miles per hour and cancel the need to change in Brussels, shaving off over an hour.

European builders to jointly bid for KL-Singapore high-speed rail
Nikkei Asian Review- Feb 13, 2018
KUALA LUMPUR — Four European industrial heavyweights, including Siemens and Alstom, have formed a consortium with Malaysian engineering company George Kent to bid for the 350km high-speed rail line connecting Kuala Lumpur with Singapore. The group, which is the first to register its intention for Southeast Asia’s first cross-border HSR project, will likely face rival bidders from China and Japan.

Europe faces China, Japan in high-speed rail battle in Asia
Deutsche Welle-Feb 14, 2018
Europe’s rail giants have joined forces with a Malaysian firm to bid for a train project connecting Malaysia and Singapore. Together, they want to take on Asian rivals like China’s state-owned CRRC.

Government endorses construction of high-speed rail link with  Boryspil airport
Ukrinform. Ukraine and world news-Feb 16, 2018
he Cabinet of Ministers supports a decision to construct a high-speed railway connection with the Boryspil International Airport.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman informed this on Twitter.
“The Government has endorsed the construction of a high-speed railway connection with the Boryspil airport. There is a real engineering decision that can be realized by the end of the year,” Groysman said.

Collenette to chair Ontario high-speed rail board
International Railway Journal- Feb 14, 2018
THE Province of Ontario has appointed former Canadian federal transport minister Mr David Collenette as chair of the Ontario High Speed Rail Planning Advisory board, which will oversee the development of plans for a high-speed line linking Toronto with Windsor.

Arlington voices support for high-speed rail but won’t join a transportation authority – yet
Fort Worth Star Telegram-Feb 13, 2018
With mounting pressure to commit to a high-speed rail line between Dallas and Fort Worth, city officials said they are exploring forming a local government corporation with the other cities along the proposed route.
Mayor Jeff Williams said the city is committed to high-speed rail, but he stopped short of agreeing to join a local transportation authority such as Dallas Area Rapid Transit or the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
The local government corporation would include Fort Worth, Dallas, Grand Prairie and Arlington.

A New Advocacy Group is Pushing for a High-Speed Rail Line 
Willamette Week-Feb 12, 2018
A new advocacy group launched today to push for the creation of a high-speed railway connecting Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Spokane and Vancouver, B.C.
The Pacific Northwest could use relief from interstate gridlock: Traffic on I-5 is brutal at almost any hour. The 170-mile trek between Portland and Seattle can take upwards of five hours, on a good day.
Cascadia Rail hopes to change that.
“Because our entire region is popular and globally competitive,” Cascadia Rail wrote in a Seattle Transit Blog post, “more is needed to support the growing population across the Cascadia region.” That population increase could be close to 10 million over the next 20 years, the group says.

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Is Just Another Con
Streetsblog USA Feb 12, 2018
The Trump proposal doesn’t even include new funding. It calls for $200 billion in federal spending on infrastructure over ten years, but that would come from cuts to other programs, according to a White House official cited by Time.
The administration plans to siphon resources from federal transit programs, which Trump singled out for cuts in his 2019 budget proposal, also released today. The budget calls for axing $3.7 billion for New Starts, the major source of federal funding for transit expansion projects.
All told, the Trump budget proposal would “cut more than $168 billion of Federal highway, transit, Amtrak, and water infrastructure funding over the next 10 years,” according to Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and the ranking member of the House infrastructure committee.

The Bus Not Taken: How Easy Auto Loans Reinforced Car Dependence and Killed Transit Ridership
Streetsblog San Francisco Feb 15, 2018
Why has car ownership been increasing so quickly? There are many reasons, but the UCLA study mentions one that has often escaped attention: the torrent of cheap and easy credit that has washed over car showrooms and used car lots in the years since the end of the Great Recession. 
It can be hard to remember now, but in the immediate wake of the Great Recession, the nation took several steps to get people back into showrooms again – steps that in the clarity of hindsight wound up reinforcing our dependence on cars. The 2009 Cash for Clunkers program incentivized customers to trade in their old cars in the hope that they would buy new ones. The Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to bargain-basement levels and through the magic of quantitative easing flooded the economy with money.

Seattle Cut Car Commuting Downtown While Adding 60,000 Jobs
Streetsblog USA Feb 15, 2018
From 2010 to 2017, downtown Seattle added 60,000 jobs. Over the same time period, the number of solo car commuters into the city’s central business district dropped by 4,500, or 9 percent, according to a new report from Commute Seattle.
The city was able to absorb the employment boom without setting off a traffic explosion thanks mainly to a dramatic increase in transit ridership.

California’s Transportation Emissions Drop While Its Economy, Population Grow
NGT News Feb 14, 2018
Greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions continue to drop in California even as the state grows its economy and population. Further declines in GHG emissions are expected to come from the state’s transportation sector, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC).
In its latest tracking progress report on greenhouse gases, the CEC shows that the transportation sector directly accounts for 38% of GHG emissions in California.

San Diego County Needs to Get Serious About Climate Change
Voice of San Diego Feb 13, 2018
The Board of Supervisors will consider a climate action plan on Wednesday that ignores some of the most significant causes of greenhouse gas emissions in our region. More than a housing or a traffic crisis, San Diego County has a leadership crisis…
California law requires every city and county to develop a climate action plan, or CAP. These plans are supposed to map out specific steps that allow local governments to meet statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets. But in San Diego County, officials act like our region can escape the worst of climate change without doing our part.
In 2014, car travel accounted for 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions generated in San Diego County. It is therefore completely mystifying that the county’s CAP simply ignores the issues of land use planning and transportation.

L.A. Metro Board to Vote on $6 Billion 710 Freeway Widening
Streetsblog LA Feb 13, 2018
This week Metro board committees are considering approving a distinctly backward-looking $6 billion project to widen the 710 Freeway through southeast L.A. County. It is difficult to believe that, in the 21st Century, Caltrans and Metro are still seeking to spend billions widening a highway in order “to improve air quality, mobility, and quality of life” per the Metro project website. East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Executive Director mark! Lopez criticizes the 710 Freeway project because it “does little to advance zero emissions, does little to ensure local labor is hired to build this enormous project, and will displace hundreds of longstanding families from their homes.”
More roads create more congestion, they don’t make traffic smoother. Case in point the carpool lanes built in the Sepulveda Pass on the 405 freeway. Just as congested now as before the new lanes were built. NB 

German Greyhound rival prepares launch in California
Handelsblatt Feb 14, 2018
After sewing up its home German market within five years of its launch, Flixbus now aims to expand in the US, challenging Greyhound Lines, the national bus service launched in 1914 that services more than 18 million customers each year in North America.
Flixbus’ founders and executives told Handelsblatt the company would initially offer bus service between Los Angeles as its main hub and Las Vegas, San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Will their bus stations be connected to rail services? NB

Caltrain delays caused by systemwide electrical issues
SFGate-Feb 14, 2018
Caltrain commuters can expect delays Wednesday morning as systemwide electrical issues have halted at least six trains, officials said.
The delays started around 8:15 a.m., said Tasha Bartholomew, a spokeswoman for the transit agency. It was not clear what caused the glitch.
BART, SamTrans and VTA are helping transport passengers, she said.
At least six trains — four southbound and two northbound — are being held as officials address the issue.

moovel Partners with Caltrain to Launch Mobile Ticketing Platform
PR Newswire-Feb 13, 2018
PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — moovel North America, the leading provider of public transit mobile ticketing and fare validation solutions, today announced the launch of Caltrain Mobile, a mobile application designed to provide a more convenient and accessible ticketing solution for Caltrain, the commuter rail service along the San Francisco Peninsula and Santa Clara Valley. Powered by moovel, Caltrain Mobile gives Caltrain’s estimated 65,000 daily weekday riders an opportunity to easily purchase, store and access fares directly on their smartphones.

ACEC California Names Santa Clara Caltrain Pedestrian Underpass as 2018 Golden State Award Winner
Digital Journal Feb 9, 2018
SACRAMENTO, Calif.–(Business Wire)–ACEC California named the Pedestrian Underpass Extension at the Santa Clara Caltrain Station as its 2018 Golden State Award Winner for its innovative design features that significantly expanded pedestrian and cyclist access. Biggs Cardosa Associates, Inc. served as the prime consultant and structural engineer to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority project. The Golden State Award is the highest honor ACEC California bestows as part of its Engineering Excellence Awards program.

Safety improvements slated for three Redwood City rail crossings
San Mateo Daily Journal-Feb 17, 2018
Construction work to improve safety at three Caltrain grade crossings at Whipple Avenue, Main Street and Broadway in Redwood City began this week, according to the transit agency.
Crews are installing new pedestrian gate arms, new “KEEP CLEAR” markings to prevent vehicles from stopping on tracks, new guard rails and signs to channel pedestrians toward crosswalks. In addition, new road markers and bumps along the crosswalk will be installed so vehicles do not accidentally make a turn onto the tracks, according to Caltrain.

Hot-air balloon narrowly misses SMART depot
Marin Journal Feb 11, 2018
A hot-air balloon was forced to make a sudden landing Sunday morning near the Sonoma County Airport SMART train station in Santa Rosa, coming down safely in the parking lot of the county’s Animal Services shelter.
The balloon, carrying a basket of about a dozen people, flew low just to the north of the train station at about 10:10 a.m., said witness Sherrill Dunning-Riley, a SMART station representative.

BART Hiring Additional Janitors To Clean Most Crowded Stations
CBS San Francisco Bay Area-Feb 14, 2018
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in San Francisco and Oakland should be getting a lot cleaner.
Four months after Supervisor Hillary Ronen personally started cleaning the 16th Street Mission station, BART said it will hire more than 20 janitors.

New BART Riders Ask for Upgraded Parking Machines to Help Ease Commuter Confusion
NBC Bay Area-Feb 14, 2018
Several new BART riders tell NBC Bay Area they think the system’s old parking machine technology needs an upgrade. The riders say the machines let them pay for parking spots that turned out to not be valid, and they ended up with citations.
Each of the incidents took place at the Rockridge BART station in Oakland.

Metro Considers New Alignments for the West Santa Ana Branch
Urbanize LA Feb 12, 2018
In the project’s 2015 Technical Refinement Study, Metro unveiled an array of potential alignments for the northern branch of the approximately 20-mile light rail line along Alameda Street and Santa Fe Avenue, all of which would have terminated at Los Angeles Union Station.  Based on a staff report, Metro seems to have settled on a shared right-of-way with the existing Blue Line in WSAB’s approach to Downtown, but its end destination may not wind up being Union Station.
This project is now planned to be finished in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. NB

10-day street closure on Wilshire at Western for Purple Line Extension work
The Source Feb 13, 2018
Metro is working to connect the Purple Line Extension to the existing Purple Line at Wilshire/Western Station.
To expedite decking and to support construction activities in this very dense and heavily utilized area of Koreatown, there will be a 10-day street closure of Wilshire Boulevard between Manhattan Place and Western Avenue from Feb. 16 to 26.

Battling Governor Brown for Commuter Rail
Santa Barbara Independent-Feb 16, 2018
As the promise of commuter rail closes in on the anticipated start-up date of April 2 — if all goes well — Santa Barbara has hosted several meetings to finalize “last mile” destination and subsidy arrangements. Up in her Sacramento state senator’s office, Hannah-Beth Jackson is enjoying some long-awaited rays of cheer…
She credited Brian Kelly of Caltrans, who ironically has just moved over to run the high-speed rail project, with getting a commitment from Amtrak to change one of its Pacific Surfliner slots to an earlier commuter-friendly time. They found a set of train cars in Michigan that was clean and relatively new, carried wifi, and had a good café car; new cars are on a long waitlist. They located an overnight spot for that train — harder than it sounds. Union Pacific (UP), whose West Coast leadership had changed, was “surprisingly cooperative,” Jackson said, as they worked out a way the early timing would not interfere with UP’s freight traffic.

California regulators say debt-ridden North Coast rail agency needs clearer plans
North Bay Business Journal-Feb 14, 2018
For the second time in two months, a state transportation board has faulted the public agency that oversees North Coast freight rail service for failing to present a detailed account of its finances or plans for future operations.
Members and staff of the California Transportation Commission ripped a plan drafted by the North Coast Railroad Authority for failing to include enough material to make “informed decisions” on the debt-ridden 28-year-old local agency’s future.

Eyes on the Street: New Metro Blue/Expo Line Train Gate
Streetsblog LA Feb 16, 2018
Metro is working to make the Blue Line faster and more reliable. One improvement already on the ground is a new crossing gate, which prevents cars from crashing into trains when illegally turning left from Flower Street onto the eastbound 10 Freeway.

Here is a major problem on Flower Street in downtown Los Angeles where the Blue and Expo Lines run next to one way road traffic. This is next to the eastbound 10 Freeway onramp at 18th St. which many drivers make illegal left hand turns to at Flower St. This causes many delays for the Light Rail services as well as accidents between road and rail vehicles. As part of the program to reduce running times and make Light Rail service more reliable, a gate has been installed at this left hand turn lane to the freeway onramp. This will block vehicles from turning left when the signal is red . Photo by Noel T. Braymer

We Get Emails

Re: Richard Phelps on Facebook
We need a National Railroad Passenger Corporation that is fully funded and provides a National Network! Amtrak serves many communities who have lost both interstate air and bus service. The reality is that the senior citizen population and the ADA population usually prefer to take trains because they are comfortable and ADA compliant. The train also represents a great way for college students and the military to travel at reasonable price. Killing our National Network/Long-Distance trains will eventually kill Amtrak as these trains feed the State supported corridors and provide a national system that offers the flexibility that our citizens want. Give Amtrak the funding it needs to operate a route system that is relevant, purchase new equipment to replace its aging fleet of cars and locomotives, and to have stations and maintenance facilities that are modern and functional. If Amtrak fails after that then hold it accountable.

Amtrak has never received the funding from Congress it needs to be viable since its inception. It is a credit to the employees and managers that Amtrak has survived this long on starvation funding. When it comes to high speed passenger rail, conventional rail, and commuter and light rail, the US is worse than some third world countries! Wake up Congress, don’t give Amtrak a bare bones budget and then complain about the service! You can do better and so can Amtrak!
Richard Phelps
Richard Phelps is a retired Amtrak Vice President and considered by many as one of the most qualified managers to have worked at Amtrak.NB

Re:Van Nuys rebuilding of the Van Nuys Platforms underway
The long awaited rebuilding of the Van Nuys Platforms is now underway.
Track 1 and the UP yard lead will be relocated in order to provide a proper platform, in place of the narrow emergency platform now on track 1.
Next step will be to get double track on to Chatsworth,  once the home owners allow !
Ed Van Nordeck

Re: Metrolink Service to Dodger Stadium ad more
I think its great that Metrolink would consider dedicated trains for Dodger stadium but what else is needed is service to and from the South Bay. I ride the Metrolink Orange Line to Angel and Dodger games from south Orange County and the bliss of not driving makes this pastime all the better. However, traveling to games from the South Bay is not practical on public transportation. The best scenario is taking the Green Line from north Redondo Beach, transferring at Willowbrook to the Blue Line, transfer again to the Red Line and finally to the Dodger Stadium bus. Its time to rethink the Harbor Extension for use by Metrolink to provide much needed service from the South Bay which is really a public transportation Island, with limited connections to the mainland.
Richard Bent
If you are talking about the old ATSF Harbor Line in Los Angeles you are at least about 10 years too late. Construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Line has taken over the old ATSF right of way between Imperial Highway and downtown Inglewood. The people along Slauson refuse to allow trains to return along Slauson Ave and demanded and are getting a bike path on the old ATSF Harbor Line. By 2021 you should be able to catch the Crenshaw Line if plans to extend it on the Green Line south of Imperial Highway go though in the South Bay. At Exposition Blvd you can transfer to the Expo Line to Little Tokyo. At Little Tokyo in the new Regional Connector subway station you should be able to wait a few minutes on the platform you stepped off of from the Expo Line and catch the next Blue Line train from Long Beach to Union Station and Azusa. NB 

Re: S.C. Amtrak crash
Block signalling out of service in the crash area? Especially where switches are involved I would expect the restricted speed rule would apply.. basically proceed thru the area at [depending on the RR 10-20 MPH] restricted speed prepared to stop within half the range of vision for [various items but in this case..] switch improperly lined. IF this applied and I’d expect it would, why was the crash so severe?  Or didn’t they have such an order out?? Curious..maximum track speed and train speed permitted?
Ed Davis  Sr, Boise Idaho
From what I understand from what I’ve been told: according to the CSX rulebook once given the okay to proceed by the dispatcher the train can proceed at the normal speed (which was 59 miles per hour on this block). There is the question that has been brought up that the engineer should be able to stop in time if they see a misaligned switch. I can’t answer that question and I’ll leave that up to the National Transportation Safety Board. NB

Re: What does “suss out” mean?
Michael Snyder
I assume this is about the link to the article in last week’s enewsletter” BART Managers Suss Out Long Term Plans at Annual Workshop Streetsblog San Francisco Feb 9, 2018. 
Here is the definition of “suss out” from Wiktionary
(slang, transitive) To come to understand (a person). We’ve sussed him out — he only drinks on Fridays and only in that bar in town. (slang, transitive) To manage to work (something) out, to determine (something). quotations ? We’ve sussed out how to open the lock.
Opinions expressed in this enewsletter are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Rail Passenger Association of California.

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Commentary, Editorials, eNewsletter, Tracking Rail News

RailPAC Weekly E-Newsletter for February 12, 2018

Edited by Noel T. Braymer
If you would like to subscribe to the E-Newsletter just send your name and email address to
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This is the view from the train on the new bridge of the old single track bridge for crossing the San Diego River near San Diego’s Old Town. Soon the old bridge will be removed and replaced with a second single tracked bridge which will extend double tracking from downtown San Diego past Old Town to the Miramar wye. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Amtrak train separates on busy Acela line
CBS News-Feb 6, 2018
WASHINGTON — An Amtrak train separated early Tuesday morning as it was traveling from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The Acela 2150 train experienced a “mechanical issue when two of the train’s cars separated” just before 7 a.m., according to Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams.
“There were approximately 52 passengers aboard, who were transferred to Northeast Regional Train 180,” he said. “There were no reported injuries to customers or crew.”
CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports the train had eight cars in total, including five passenger cars. Two cars separated near Havre de Grace, Maryland.
The area where the train split apart happened in an area where passengers can move between cars, CBS Van Cleave reports.
“If someone would’ve been passing from one car to another potentially they could’ve have fallen through that separation,”
 said Mark Rosenker, the former chairman of the NTSB.

Acela pull-apart incident narrative
Railway Age Feb 8, 2018
“Rescue locomotives arrived from Odenton, MD and Wilmington, DE at 10:10am EST to couple to each end of the train to assist the mechanical department in manually connecting the cars. Acela cars are semi-permanently coupled (non-conventional couplers) and require trained mechanical persons to recouple the cars.
“The train departed Haver de Grace at 13:11 pm EST for the Bear, DE shops. It will be pulled to Newark, DE with an ACS-64 (electric locomotive) and then a diesel locomotive will be put on in Newark and the train will then be brought to Bear, DE. The restricted speed for this move will be 25 mph.

“Initial cause of separation is that the drawbar pin on coach 3554 had fallen downward and put pressure onto the retaining disk, and the bolt holding the retaining disk broke. The pin is approximately 3 inches in diameter and is pressed into the drawbar. A retaining disk is bolted under the pin. A bolt and washer are the secondary part this connection system. The bolt was found to be sheared off. The pin was found on top of a truck frame, along with the retaining disk. A new pin was pressed into the drawbar with a “porta power” and was welded in place.

NTSB Looks At Disabled Signals, Locked Switch In Latest Deadly Amtrak Crash
NPR-Feb 5, 2018
Bound for Miami from Penn Station in New York City, Amtrak train No. 91 was traveling through central South Carolina when it was diverted onto a side track, where it collided head-on with a parked freight train at about 2:45 a.m. ET. Two crew members were killed and more than 100 passengers injured.
Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board appear to be focusing on two possibly related problems that may have contributed to the head-on collision. One is the position of a track switch that steered the passenger train off the mainline track and onto the siding where the freight train was parked; the second is that wayside signals in the area were down for maintenance and upgrades, and inoperative at the time of the crash.

Railroad was installing ‘Positive Train Control’ before deadly Amtrak crash 5, 2018
Signals were down on a South Carolina railroad where a deadly crash occurred on Sunday morning because a computerized system designed to prevent such incidents was being installed there, federal authorities said Monday.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the upgrades to a “Positive Train Control” system left the red, green and yellow lights that govern train transportation inoperable.

Train fuel clean up at site of Amtrak crash in South Carolina will take months
Charleston Post Courier- Feb 7, 2018
Contractors have begun hosing 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel into a hurriedly dug drainage ditch to clean up the contaminant spilled during the deadly Amtrak train wreck Sunday outside Columbia.
The work could go on for months.
The contractors plan to skim off and sponge up the floating fuel. S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control staffers are monitoring the work and the federal Environmental Protection Agency has inspected it.

What’s going on with Amtrak? Few passengers killed on trains, but  high-profile crashes spark concerns
USA TODAY-Feb 6, 2018
A spate of fatal Amtrak accidents in recent months is focusing renewed attention on the passenger railroad and its safety record. The latest deadly incident occurred Sunday in South Carolina.
The crashes appear to stem from different causes, and federal investigators are sifting through each to find out what happened.
Here’s what is going on with Amtrak, its safety record and criticism in Congress about its subsidies:
Far more deaths are caused by people not paying attention around railroad tracks either walking or driving while ignoring warning signals at grade crossing or  by trespassing on railroad rights of way and walking on or around active track than people killed in train crashes. NB

147 passengers in 3 hours: How responders, hospitals handle deadly Amtrak derailment
The State-Feb 9, 2018
The calls last Sunday launched an emergency response that eventually included firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and paramedics in Lexington County as well as doctors and nurses at four area hospitals. For the next three hours, they cared for more than 100 people with injuries ranging from severe organ or brain damage to cuts and bruises…
Lexington County sheriff’s deputies arrived first at the crash, about six minutes after the first 911 call, according to Chief Brian Hood of Lexington County EMS. A minute later, the first ambulance arrived, and then the first fire engine a minute after that.

DIY project helped transport dozens of injured from Amtrak-CSX train crash
WIS-Feb 6, 2018
The county deployed an ambulance bus, called an “ambus” for short.
When Lexington County EMS got the call around 2:30 AM Sunday, Chief Brian Hood said his department knew pretty quickly it was dealing with hundreds of injuries.
An ordinary ambulance can only carry two patients at most, but the “ambus” is no ordinary ambulance. It can carry almost twenty people.
Hood said the county purchased an old Lexington Richland Five school bus years ago that he and others stripped out, repainted, and refitted into an ambulance.
It gives paramedics and EMTs the ability to transport 18 people in stretchers and a few more seated, if possible.
The county applied for a DHEC grant to make it happen. The idea costs only about $100,000. Hood said new “ambus” would have cost the county about $450,000.

2 Amtrak Patients Remain at Palmetto Health, say Officials 7, 2018
COLUMBIA,  SC ( WOLO) — Palmetto Health officials say they have 2 patients remaining in their care, from the 60 patients they received Sunday from the Amtrak crash.
Hospital officials say one patient is in serious, the other in good condition.
Hospital officials say they received an influx of patients from the Amtrak train accident in Cayce, South Carolina, yesterday, Sunday, Feb. 4.
The latest update on the patients received from the accident: Palmetto Health receives 62 patients: 59 adults and 3 children at multiple hospital locations. 60 patients have been discharged.

Amtrak CEO to Testify Before US House in Wake of Accidents
U.S. News & World Report-Feb 8, 2018
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson will testify next week before a U.S. House of Representatives panel on the adoption of anti-crash technologies in the wake of a number of fatal accidents involving the U.S. passenger railroad.
An Amtrak spokesman said Anderson will appear on Feb. 15 before a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee panel.

Who’s at fault in Amtrak crash? Amtrak will pay regardless
The Denver Post-Feb 10, 2018
Amtrak pays for accidents it didn’t cause because of secretive agreements negotiated between the passenger rail company, which receives more than $1 billion annually in federal subsidies, and the private railroads, which own 97 percent of the tracks on which Amtrak travels…
Both Amtrak and freight railroads that own the tracks fight to keep those contracts secret in legal proceedings. But whatever the precise legal language, plaintiffs’ lawyers and former Amtrak officials say Amtrak generally bears the full cost of damages to its trains, passengers, employees and other crash victims — even in instances where crashes occurred as the result of a freight rail company’s negligence or misconduct.

Visually impaired woman says Amtrak didn’t help her 9, 2018
WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A 72-year-old woman who has relied on Amtrak for years wants to warn other passengers after a nightmare 18-hour trip.
Linda Kaye is visually impaired. She maintains her independence as best as possible by wearing specialty glasses and using a walking cane to sense her surroundings.
Last Friday, Kaye got on the early morning train from Grand Rapids to St. Joseph to visit her dad, a trip she’s done numerous times with no issues.

Prospect of added Amtrak service to meet Foxconn needs will go before Milwaukee board
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-Feb 7, 2018
A city panel takes up the prospect of expanded Amtrak service to improve transit options for workers at the planned Foxconn Technology Group industrial park on Thursday.
The Public Transportation Review Board will discuss the status of adding three additional daily Milwaukee-to-Chicago trips, in part, to accommodate the Taiwan-based company’s expected big workforce in Mount Pleasant.

Amtrak trains detoured between Fort Worth and Temple
KWTX-Feb 7, 2018
WACO, Texas (KWTX) Amtrak’s Texas Eagle trains will pass through Hewitt and Waco for the next several days while repairs are performed between Fort Worth and Temple.
“It’s no new track being built, just maintenance of existing track in the area to efficiently move our trains across it,” said Joe Faust, Director of Public Affairs for the region.
The trains normally pass through McGregor to the west of Waco en route to Temple and Austin, but from Wednesday through Friday, will skip stops there and in Cleburne while BNSF crews work on the tracks they usually use.

Amtrak Downeaster may expand for the summer
The Bowdoin Orient-Feb 9, 2018
The Amtrak Downeaster, which currently runs from Boston to Brunswick, could go as far north as Rockland this summer if the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) approves a pilot program in March. NNERPA wants to ensure that Maine communities will be active Amtrak partners before it finalizes the service, the Maine Free Press reported last week.
The program would include additional stops in Bath, Wiscasset, Newcastle and Rockland. NNEPRA is currently holding forums in each of these towns. The Downeaster would use existing railroads that primarily carry freight trains.

Amtrak considering Marfa stop
Bigbendnow-Feb 8, 2018
MARFA – Thanks to a letter writing campaign from San Antonio resident and Marfa fan Bruce Flohr, Amtrak officials have begun to discuss the possibility of moving a Sunset Limited stop from Sanderson to Marfa.
According to Flohr, a former Southern Pacific administrator, his campaign to bring a stop to Marfa began after taking a train to Alpine from San Antonio.

HPRC OKs new ADA compliant Amtrak platform
Martinsburg Journal-Feb 5, 2018
MARTINSBURG — Members of the Martinsburg Historic Preservation Review Commission unanimously approved at their meeting Monday, Amtrak’s request to build a new platform on the east side of the tracks at the Caperton Train Station on Martin Street.
Amtrak operates a westbound train and an eastbound train daily between Washington, D.C., and Chicago with stops in Martinsburg. Amtrak uses the east tracks or the tracks on the Roundhouse side.
Martinsburg, West Virginia is a station for the Capitol Limited. NB

Amtrak passengers delayed overnight for ‘mechanical issue’
WCAX-Feb 8, 2018
ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) Amtrak passengers finally arrived in Vermont Thursday morning after a nearly eight-hour delay overnight.
Passengers on Train 56, the Vermonter, headed from Washington, D.C., to St. Albans arrived at the Essex Junction after 2 a.m. Thursday.
A representative from Amtrak says the train was delayed “due to a mechanical issue,” but didn’t clarify further.
Passengers say crews told them about snow flying up from the tracks and getting into the engine.

Galesburg authorities hold $15000 seized from Amtrak passenger
Galesburg Register-Mail-Feb 8, 2018
GALESBURG — For the second time in a week, Galesburg authorities will hold onto money seized from an Amtrak passenger.
Knox County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Kerr questioned Galesburg police officer Mike Ingles for a probable cause hearing Thursday morning before Circuit Judge Paul Mangieri.
The matter at hand was $14,920 taken off a passenger train by local authorities Jan. 27. Police went to the local train depot, 225 S. Seminary St., that day for a security check and sought to talk to Jace M. Dunlop, 41, Crestone, Colorado, according to a Galesburg police report.
Dunlop had an active Peoria County warrant for failure to appear, Ingles said in court Thursday. Similar to a hearing last week where authorities received probable cause to hold onto about $128,000, Dunlop does not have a corresponding criminal case to go with the seizure case.

Why Border Patrol agents can board a bus or train and ask if you’re a citizen 
Vox-Feb 9, 2018
The first thing to note is that this is not, in fact, a new Trump initiative to crack down on illegal immigration. Border Patrol agents have been doing this for a while — even under the Obama administration. I know this because I watched Border Patrol agents do the same thing back in 2010. I was a crime reporter in South Florida, and I accompanied agents as they questioned passengers at a Greyhound station in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Schumer, Trump friction intensifies after fatal Virginia train crash
NBC News Feb 1, 2018
In August, Schumer, along with several other Senate Democrats from the Northeast, put a procedural hold on the nomination of Ron Batory, a former chief operating officer of Conrail, to run the Federal Railroad Administration. Democrats were angry that federal officials rejected a proposed Obama-era deal to fund a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River connecting New York and New Jersey as part of what’s known as the Gateway project.

Heath Hall resigns as Federal Railroad Administration’s deputy administrator
Clarion Ledger Feb 10, 2018
It’s a stressful time for the Federal Railroad Administration. With a string of fatal train crashes and a rising trend of rail-related deaths, now is the worst time to be without a leader.
However, it is an issue the FRA is now facing after the Department of Transportation announced the resignation Saturday of acting Administrator Heath Hall following reports of moonlighting. Hall’s resignation came after POLITICO raised questions about whether he had still been working as a public relations consultant for the Madison County Sheriff’s Department. Hall has a public relations and political consulting firm in Madison.

How Politics Has Taken Priority Over Safety
By M.E. Singer
Apparently, the Amtrak wrecks in Washington last summer and in December, the incursion at the grade crossing in West Virginia in January; and the wreck in South Carolina this month, failed to arouse a normally curious and investigative east coast media to wonder where the FRA was in all of this. How is it that everybody today looks like a deer in the headlights to find out the FRA was unmanned during this crucial period? Unmanned, I say, because the acting administrator, Health Hall, had no industry experience whatsoever. We can only be grateful that we were saved by the old mantra, “greed is dependable,” as he was finally caught violating federal ethics by moonlighting in his prior PR job back in Mississippi.

Judge reinstates criminal charges in fatal Amtrak crash in Philadelphia
USA TODAY-Feb 6, 2018
A Pennsylvania judge reinstated criminal charges Tuesday against the Amtrak engineer involved in the fatal derailment in Philadelphia in 2015.
Brandon Bostian, 34, was the engineer of a train going twice the 50 mph speed limit, killing eight passengers and injuring hundreds…
A previous judge, Thomas Gehret, threw out the criminal charges against Bostian in September, ruling that the evidence pointed to an accident rather than negligence. Prosecutors appealed.

New rail bridge opens over San Diego River in California, US

Railway Technology-Feb 7, 2018

A new rail bridge has opened over the San Diego River in California, US, as a part of the San Diego River Double Track (SDRDT) project, which aims to increase service frequency and improve passenger and freight rail capacity in the region.
According to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the first track of the 900ft bridge was opened for rail traffic movement under the initiative.
The project will see the old rail bridge be demolished in order to accommodate a new parallel bridge, which will complete the double-tracking over the San Diego River.

This is the new double tracked bridge under construction over the San Elijo Lagoon between Encinitas and Solana Beach. This .75 mile double track project will connect to existing double tracking in both Encinitas and Solana Beach. Besides the new bridge, a new roadbed is being built for double tracking alongside the existing single track roadbed near the San Elijo Lagoon. This project is expected to be finished by late 2019. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

LOSSAN Has Some Great Plans For More Rail Service: So Where’s The Rub?

By Noel T, Braymer
At the LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority Board Meeting on January 29, 2018, plans were discussed to run a third round trip train between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, a distance of 350 miles between the whole LOSSAN Corridor route. Also discussed at this meeting was the need for the LOSSAN corridor to have more passenger cars to carry more passengers and run more trains. There are 49 new cars on order by the State which are not expected to be delivered for at least 2 years. This doesn’t include plans to lease Talgo equipment originally built for the State of Wisconsin. The lease contract for these cars is still being negotiated  which have been on going for well over a year. There are plans to start up a commuter service this spring between Ventura County and the city of Santa Barbara. This will likely also need  more equipment. At the same time the age of most of the Amtrak passengers cars used on the Surfliner service range roughly from between 20 to 40 years old. Contracts for new Amtrak cars in the last 8 years have lately produced cars that were either delivered late or with no cars being built.

There Is No Technological Solution to America’s Building Woes
Slate Magazine-Feb 7, 2018
Periodically, New Yorkers get upset about this, and one of those reckonings is currently upon us. The(New York) Times hired Rosenthal to spend half a year investigating the MTA, the agency that runs the subway; the new speaker of the City Council, Corey Johnson, is talking about it too; the city’s most esteemed planning organization has dedicated a new 80-page report to out-of-control costs. The problem is basically everything but the tunnel machines: Short-term thinking, interminable environmental reviews, labor unions, incompetent bidders, fragmented management authority, and bad decisions.
While speaking Tuesday night at the Transit Center, a Manhattan-based research and advocacy organization, Rosenthal said he didn’t mean to dig into construction costs. He was trying to figure out the source of delays. Reduced operating expenditures led him to inflated capital projects sucking up time, money, and attention. His had expected to have a “lightbulb moment,” uncovering the one thing that explained how New York built itself into a standstill. Like, for example, tunneling.

Opponents sound off at meeting against Texas High-Speed Rail Project
KHOU-Feb 5, 2018
CYPRESS, Texas – Inside a jam-packed school auditorium, the Texas High Speed Rail Project hit a wall of opposition on Monday.
“I’ve got 350 acres of land and it cuts right through the middle of it,” said Calvin House, a property owner in far west Harris County.
The lines stretched outside the meeting, hundreds of people who, like House, say this project will destroy property families have owned for generations.

Bullet train developers want to turn Houston’s Northwest Mall into major transit hub

The Texas Tribune Feb 5, 2018
The developers of a high-speed train connecting the state’s two largest urban areas announced Monday morning they want to build their Houston station at the site of Northwest Mall, about eight miles from the city’s downtown.
That spot is one of three sites Texas Central Partners was considering for the Houston station. All three were at or near the mall. The chosen location is about 1.5 miles from Northwest Transit Center, a major bus hub and the closest public transportation connection. Despite that distance, the company said in a prepared statement Monday that the station will provide “convenient, efficient and direct” connections to the Houston METRO transit system.

Are Airplanes Cheaper Than High Speed Rail?
By Noel T. Braymer
Recently there have been news stories that implied expanded air service could handle the traffic that High Speed Rail is planned to handle between Northern and Southern California. If that is so, what’s stopping the airlines from expanding service and flying more people in California now? In most travel corridors of under 600 miles give or take, High Speed Rail service beats air service in market share, door to door travel times and fare price. Generally the major airlines are interested making money.

Ryanair on rails? Spain’s high-speed AVE train tries a low-cost formula
EL PAÍS in English-Feb 9, 2018
The EVA, which will run between Madrid and Barcelona, will have 30% more seats and charge passengers additional fees for extra services
The most significant change for passengers accustomed to the AVE bullet trains will not be speed, but comfort. Renfe squeezes five seats to a row where once there were four, thereby increasing capacity by 30%.

California bullet train can overcome hurdles
The San Diego Union-Tribune-Feb 2, 2018
Make no mistake; while construction progresses in the Central Valley, here in Sacramento there is much work to be done. Delayed right-of-way acquisition, lawsuits resulting in work stoppage and unforeseen costs associated with relocating utilities along the project’s route have all contributed to budget increases that were announced recently. We’re working hard to bring those costs down and make sure we apply the lessons we’ve learned from these mistakes to future construction plans. In doing so, it is our intent to sustain the public’s trust.
As part of this effort, we have recently implemented a number of organizational changes that will move this project forward on the right track. First, we brought on a global high-speed rail expert in a key management position to conduct a thorough review of cost for the project’s completion — part of that work you saw last month with the revised cost projection for initial construction. We also announced last month the hiring of a new CEO with decades of experience as a leader in transportation policy in California, as well as a chief operating officer with a long and distinguished track record of delivering major infrastructure projects. Finally, we have partnered with a team of experts who have experience building and operating high-speed rail in Europe, to make sure our plans align with international best practices.

High Speed Rail makes massive impact in China
North Shore News-Feb 9, 2018
In China the pre-cultural revolution steam locomotives are now gone and diesel power is waning in favour of a new generation of highly efficient electric locomotives. Thanks to advancements in technology, the steel rails are challenging air travel in one of the world’s most populous countries.
The new trains are a more relaxed and efficient way to travel with much less hassle through security checks and come with a smaller carbon footprint. High Speed Rail or better known as HSR has taken off on a very large scale and now connects one third of the country. The first HSR passenger travel started in 2007 with a rapid build-up to the present day with more than 1.7 billion trips in 2017. The trains are 99.9 per cent on time and the staff are similar to what you expect to find on airlines.

Laos to join high-speed rail talks

Bangkok Post-Feb 10, 2018
Thailand and China will hold talks with Laos about connecting the high-speed train system from Nong Khai to Vientiane. The move was resolved in a meeting between representatives of the Transport Ministry…
Ministry sources said the meeting decided the Bangkok-Nong Khai high-speed train project should efficiently connect the high-speed network in Laos to the nation’s capital.

Catch Caltrain To Giant’s FanFest 7, 2018
From Caltrain: San Francisco Giants fans will have their first chance to celebrate the team’s 60th season in the City by the Bay by coming out to AT&T Park this Saturday, February 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for the annual KNBR Giants FanFest.
Caltrain is ready to get fans to the ballpark by running trains with extra capacity to accommodate the larger crowds. AT&T Park is just one block away from Caltrain’s San Francisco station, so riders can get to FanFest easily without worrying about parking or traffic. Last year, Caltrain carried 521,932 passengers to pre-season and regular season Giants games.

Caltrain to roll out mobile ticketing app
The Mercury News-Feb 5, 2018
Caltrain on Saturday is set to roll out a new app that will allow riders to purchase and activate tickets from their smartphones.
The app, dubbed Caltrain Mobile, offers one-way, day pass and zone upgrade digital tickets for adults and passengers who qualify for a discounted fare, according to the transit agency.

Caltrain Business Plan steams through with support
Scot Scoop News-Feb 5, 2018
On Feb. 1, the Joint Powers Board, which owns and operates the Caltrain rail system, approved the proposed Caltrain Business Plan. According to Caltrain, the approved plan will allow for them to enact “to identify a service model that supports long-term regional job and population growth, and surging ridership demand.”
To keep up with its vision for future projects and expansion, Caltrain had created the concept of the Caltrain Business Plan in spring 2017. This original plan was concerned with keeping the commuter rail service on schedule with its electrification project; modernization would have changed the rail system cars to run on electricity instead of diesel.

San Francisco Wants More Transportation Options
Streetsblog San Francisco (blog)-Feb 6, 2018
A majority of San Francisco voters want more subways, more bike lanes, more buses, and more investment in Caltrain, according to the 2018 Dignity Health CityBeat Poll, released by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Support for extending the T-line from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf and bringing Caltrain to the Transbay Transit Center was especially strong, with 78 percent and 77 percent in favor.

This is a fairly new, colorful and up to date subway train in Moscow, Russia. According to our intrepid reporter Alek Friedman, subway service is more frequent, more colorful and more extensive there than in Los Angeles. This also includes higher levels of service for regional commuter rail service as well as for Light Rail. The rail equipment for these services is well maintained according to Alek. Photo by Alek Friedman.

BART to change fabric for all its priority seats
Richmond Standard-Feb 7, 2018
BART announced it is changing out the fabric for all priority seats on its trains, a “new and overt way of reminding people these seats should be reserved for those who need it,” the transit agency said.

People are cheering when new BART trains zoom through stations 
SFGate-Feb 4, 2018
People are calling them sleek and smooth, quiet and futuristic. One person likened them to spaceships, another to small dogs. The adjectives used to describe the new BART cars are plentiful and strange, though overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
“Just heard a whole platform full of people cheer as a new BART train glided down the track,” tweeted @schnell_j shortly after the January launch of the freshened-up fleet.
BART rolled out ten train cars in January, and says another batch will be delivered in February.

BART continues to tweak Fleet of the Future, some train cars taken off tracks
KTVU San Francisco-Feb 5, 2018
Weeks after its debut of the Fleet of the Future, a handful of new BART cars are going in and out of service, which included four cars on Monday.
BART Spokeswoman Alicia Trost said of the four new cars off the tracks, two needed a configuration check and the other two had software issues that need to be diagnosed…
With 30 computers and 180 software packages on each car, Trost said the agency anticipated the new cars will need either scheduled maintenance or software updates going forward. She said the software fixes are not safety related.

BART Phase 1 extension opening pushed back
RailwayAge Magazine-Feb 5, 2018
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (SCVTA) has announced that it has pushed back the opening service date for Phase I of its Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Silicon Valley Project.
SCVTA said it will need to push back the original estimated opening date from June 2018 to the fall of 2018. The passenger line will stretch from Warm Springs in Fremont to Berryessa in San Jose.

‘I’m not a bathroom': BART posters promote etiquette on trains
SFGate-Feb 8, 2018
Partnering with California College of the Arts, BART officials asked students with the school’s TBD* Studio to design posters to help curb bad behavior on BART. Speaking with riders, consulting BART staff and observing behavior on trains, the team came up with a line of posters that address the daily commute issues facing those who ride the train daily.

BART Managers Suss Out Long Term Plans at Annual Workshop
Streetsblog San Francisco Feb 9, 2018
A second Transbay tube or tunnel crossing, the extension to Silicon Valley, and Communications-Based Train Control were some of the topics discussed today and yesterday at BART’s annual board workshop. The workshop, held at the Renaissance Club Sport Hotel in Walnut Creek, is a chance for board directors and staff to discuss a panoply of issues and formulate a general direction for the agency.

Market for electric, folding bicycles surges in Sonoma, Marin counties
North Bay Business Journal February 5, 2018,
…That late-January morning in Santa Rosa, one other bike rider boarded at the downtown stop. In the afternoon on the way back, Hostutler said, the train that leaves Novato at 4:41 p.m. bustles with bikes as commuters cram aboard to rush north.
Soon after SMART started operating in August 2017, Hostutler fused train with bike to get to work. “My company just gave me a commuter voucher,” he said. “I cash it in at Walgreens to get value on the Clipper card. It’s cool that they cover the benefit of the ride on the train,” he said.
Each two-car train has space for up to two dozen bikes. SMART added a third car to some of its peak commuter runs in November due to high demand by bicyclists. Then in January, SMART put even more three-car trains into use.
“We have carried more than 290,000 passengers,” said Jeanne Mariani-Belding, spokeswoman for SMART. “Since we started tracking bikes, we have had more than 24,000 cyclists using the SMART train.”

CTC awards $96 million to 11 California rail projects
Railway Track & Structures-Feb 9, 2018
Caltrans released details surrounding $173.4 million in grants awarded to 57 projects by the California Transportation Commission. Out of the pot of funds awarded, $96.4 million will go toward 11 state rail projects.

California says will block crude oil from Trump offshore drilling plan
Reuters Feb 7, 2018
California’s plan to deny pipeline permits for transporting oil from new leases off the Pacific Coast is the most forceful step yet by coastal states trying to halt the biggest proposed expansion in decades of federal oil and gas leasing.
Officials in Florida, North and South Carolina, Delaware and Washington, have also warned drilling could despoil beaches, harm wildlife and hurt lucrative tourism industries.

While Oakland Is Worried About Getting Coal, Richmond Is Covered in It 
East Bay Express Feb 7, 2018
Andres Soto, a longtime community activist who now is with Communities for a Better Environment, began seeing multi-car coal trains sitting on the tracks next to the BART station in Richmond four years ago. “And the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo is producing huge amounts of petcoke for export to Asia and Latin America,” he said.
Statistics sourced from the U.S. Census, International Trade and obtained by the Sierra Club document that, in 2013, the Port of Richmond exported 176,000 metric tons of coal and 322,000 metric tons of petcoke. In 2017, through August, coal exports totaled 698,000 metric tons and petcoke exports totaled 511,000 metric tons.

Supporters of California’s gas tax increase are ready to fight a ballot measure to repeal it
San Gabriel Valley Tribune Feb 3, 2018
Almost a year after Democratic leaders and a coalition of business, local government and labor interests lobbied furiously to get a massive road-repair bill through the state Legislature, the same alliance is ready to defend a 12-cent-per-gallon increase in California’s gas tax that’s key to the bill’s aim of raising more than $50 billion over 10 years...
“As far as right now is concerned, all of these new gas taxes are already working for you,” said Lucy Dunn, a state transportation commission member and president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council.
As for the idea that the state has enough money for road repairs without SB 1, Dunn said that’s not the case, since much of the state’s tax revenue is restricted to specific uses.

“Should this be repealed, literally traffic improvement projects, those bulldozers, that equipment will be stopped dead on the roads,” she said. “Every single district in California is benefiting from this.”

Evidence From Boston That Uber Is Making Traffic Worse
Streetsblog USA Feb 8, 2018
Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are exacerbating rush-hour traffic jams in Boston, according to new research by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The results should be a wake-up call about the need to improve bus and train service and prevent further shifts to car travel…
Combining those results with time-of-day data, MAPC estimates that 15 percent of ride-hailing trips are substituting for more spatially efficient modes of travel during the morning or evening peak (defined as 6-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.).
In addition, most of the trips either began or terminated in the center of the region — the area with the worst traffic congestion and the best transit access

Subprime Auto Debt Is Booming Even as Defaults Soar
Bloomberg-Feb 2, 2018
A boom in sales, a pickup in defaults, and risk premiums keep on dropping.
It’s all happening in the market for subprime auto bonds, where loans to American consumers with some of the patchiest credit histories are packaged into securities to be sold to big investors. Adecade after risky mortgage lending toppled the U.S. financial system, the securities have rarely been so popular. But the collateral behind the bonds is getting less safe: car-owners are increasingly falling behind on bigger loans with longer repayment terms made against depreciating assets.
“As used-car values drop a bit and delinquencies and roll rates begin to increase, the subprime sector will show significant underperformance and lack of decent liquidity,” said Don McConnell, senior portfolio manager at Bank of Montreal’s BMO Global Asset Management in Chicago, who helps manage $15 billion of taxable bonds. He’s reinvesting cash from maturing notes elsewhere.
This is the same game plan which caused the housing bubble which popped in 2008 and brought on the “Great Recession”. Selling cars at inflated prices to people who can’t afford them is a major reason more people are driving and not riding transit. Don’t be surprised if this bubble pops soon. NB

Santa Monica Finds Itself at Transit Crossroads
The Lookout News-Feb 6, 2018
The City of Santa Monica, more so than most other regional communities, has been re-designing its city to encourage residents, workers and visitors to ditch vehicles in favor of alternative transit, like buses, Expo trains, walking and riding bikes.
Expo has been exceptionally popular, but at least one outside study found people still choose to drive their own cars, despite the congestion — particularly downtown — that has sparked opposition from residents over new building the City is allowing…
Before the May 2016 arrival of the Downtown Los Angeles-to-Santa Monica extension of the Expo line, the BBB underwent an all-encompassing over-haul, so its bus service would be compatible with light rail (“Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Makes Major Route Changes in Final Light Rail Preparations,” February 17, 2016).
But the system’s most recent report showed Expo cannibalized some routes and is blamed in part for the drop in ridership, although BBB’s loss of passengers has continued for seven years.

Los Angeles has world’s worst traffic congestion for 6th straight year, report says
ABC7 LA Feb 6, 2018
A new report from analytics company INRIX states that Los Angeles has the worst gridlock — for the sixth year in a row — out of 1,361 cities in 38 countries.
INRIX’s Global Congestion Ranking report states that drivers in Los Angeles spent an average of 102 hours in congestion in 2017 during peak time periods, the equivalent of more than four days.
Los Angeles was followed by New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami in the U.S. list.

Law will force 97.6 percent of California cities to build more
Curbed SF Feb 2, 2018
In 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 35, a new law that demands California cities build more housing or risk temporarily losing control of some of their permitting and entitlements processes.
Few metros meet the state’s regular Regional Housing Needs Assessments—hence the need for a law to motivate more building—but it wasn’t until Friday, when the California Department of Housing and Community Development released the first assessment of cities that would be subject to the state’s new “streamlining process,” that the full extent of the law’s scope became clear.
It’s almost a clean sweep across the board: 97.6 percent of California cities and counties fall under some provision of SB 35 or another.
A key to increasing public transportation ridership including rail service and controlling housing costs is increased housing density near transit, stores, jobs and services. NB

Metrolink Marks American Heart Month Feb 7, 2018
Studies have shown that taking public transit is good for your heart, a point Metrolink is promoting in February during federally designated American Heart Month.
Researchers around the globe from Japan to America found that the use of public transit pushes people to walk more, which benefits heart health. They note that individuals who use public transit like Metrolink, Southern California’s regional rail system, get more than three times the amount of physical activity per day than those who drive to work – 19 minutes compared to six. Many walk, bicycle or skateboard to the train stations and bus stops and from there to work, school and other destinations.

Metrolink train service for Dodger games to be studied
The San Luis Obispo Tribune-Feb 9, 2018
Some Los Angeles Dodgers fans may have the option of leaving their cars at home and taking Metrolink trains to home games.
Directors of the regional service on Friday approved a motion to study special train service for Dodger games on the railroad’s San Bernardino and Antelope Valley lines.
That would allow fans from eastern and northern parts of the Los Angeles region to avoid traffic on the State Route 60 freeway and Interstates 10 and 210, as well as parking hassles.
The trains would deliver fans to Union Station downtown and from there those with game tickets would ride free on express buses to and from the stadium.
There are already crowds of people who ride the shuttle buses between Union Station and Dodger Stadium on game days. No doubt many of them also rode Metrolink. Many more could ride if more trains ran on times to get to and leave after the games. NB

Los Angeles Union Station considers $2B expansion
Construction Dive-Feb 9, 2018
Los Angeles Union Station officials are considering a $2 billion expansion of the facility, which they said would improve the quality of service for riders and increase the station’s efficiency, according to Engineering News-Record.
The Link Union Station (Link US) project would create a new entrance for Amtrak and Metrolink commuters, and also construction of a new passenger concourse, which would replace an existing tunnel that is often overcrowded and lacks modern features and amenities. The Link US project also would add a loop track, usually installed to allow trains to reverse direction or make turns without stopping, and run-through tracks to take passengers beyond Union Station to other Southern California destinations.

L.A. County Supervisors Look to Plan Around Future Rail Lines
Urbanize.L.A Feb 6, 2018
Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis have introduced a motion which calls upon the County to “align planning efforts across both regional plans and infrastructure plans to best position the County to implement transit-oriented development,” surrounding new rail stations.
This action is prompted by a component of Measure M which requires that any jurisdiction located within a half-mile of a new transit stop pay 3 percent of total project costs.  This requirement can be satisfied by investment in active transportation and other first miles-last mile projects that are included in project costs.
Metro’s current expansion plans could result in as many as 10 new stations in unincorporated communities whose land use policies are determined at the County level.

Half year after Metro policing changes, more serious crimes reported
KPCC Fed 8, 2018
Six months into heavier policing on L.A. County’s sprawling transit system, the overall number of crime reports declined slightly but reports of more serious or violent crimes have risen…
Total crime from July to December has declined slightly compared with the same period in the previous year. But several months saw an increase in the number of Part 1 crimes, a category that includes violent offenses like homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault…
Sotero said this is a function of things getting worse before they get better.
“It is counterintuitive,” he said. “When you have an increased law enforcement presence, you would expect some of these numbers to be going down but because of the increased presence, we are able to respond in real time to these incidents and get reports.”
Metro expects the number of reported crimes to drop over time as the increased police presence deters more criminals.

Police: Southern California man put dismembered wife in suitcase , set it ablaze
Santa Rosa Press Democrat-Feb 7, 2018
LOS ANGELES — Investigators believe a homeless man killed his wife in an abandoned restaurant, chopped up her body, stuffed it into a suitcase and then calmly rode with it aboard a train before he burned her remains in a parking lot, Los Angeles police said Tuesday.
After Valentino Gutierrez killed his wife last week in a shuttered restaurant in Pasadena, he dismembered her body, stuffed her remains into a large suitcase and boarded a light-rail train at a nearby station, Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg said.

The is the view of the end of double tracking between the San Diego River and Old Town San Diego. If you look closely you can see the break in the rail to the old rail bridge which will soon be replaced. You can also see the new alignment of the tracks to the new bridge on the left. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

We Get Emails

Re: Birmingham AL transit center
This week at least, Google street view provides an interesting before/after view of the improvements in Birmingham, AL; depending on which street you view the scene from.

The satellite view shows the new station on Morris between 18th and 19th Streets North, and the adjacent structure west of 18th St. Click the street view icon onto 18th Street North, which Google photographed reasonably recently; to the left is the enormous, block-long new facility  heralded by your news article, nearly complete. Turn right to look across 18th and there’s a long, thin-roofed modern structure that I guess is an update of the bus station. Quite a transformation.

If you drop Google’s street view icon onto Morris Ave, Google hasn’t driven that for a few years. So we see the big new transit center site as a vacant lot where the historical station once stood; no sign of the construction to come. The Amtrak depot is a hole in the wall – probably restricted to the old under-track concourse, marked by an awning and a door. No grace whatsoever. East of Morris is an older city bus station, maybe built in the 1990s;  passengers wait in the shade of the 1-story parking garage, facing the ragged backs of buildings on 1st Street North (against which enterprising citizens have set up tables, coolers, ice cream and fruit stands).
Ben Pease

Opinions expressed in this e-newsletter are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Rail Passenger Association of California.

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