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Weekly News 2/14/19

Amtrak issues RFP for Amfleet I replacements
Progressive Rail Roading-Jan 21, 2019
Amtrak late last week released a request for proposals (RFP) for a new fleet of single-level passenger-rail vehicles to replace the Amfleet I cars.
Amfleet I cars are used primarily on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and adjacent state corridor routes.”
Inside Penn Station’s Fancy New Amtrak Lounge
Condé Nast Traveler-Jan 23, 2019
Even Traveler’s most avid Amtrak users didn’t know there was a premium waiting space in New York City’s Penn Station, and given the state of it, that’s probably not surprising. In the dark ClubAcela lounge, near tracks 7 and 8, you’ll find several dated blue chairs, a few bags of chips, a soda machine, and a coffee maker. That’s not exactly up to par with the airport lounges we love. (We see you, whiskey bar in the Senators’ Lounge at Zurich Airport.) It’s a good thing, then, that ClubAcela—rebranded as the Metropolitan Lounge—is getting a major makeover in the multi-million dollar renovation of Penn Station and the neighboring Moynihan Train Hall. And lucky for you, we’ve got a look inside the new space, which is set to open in early 2021.

MTA Reaches Deal With Amtrak on Metro-North Expansion Project …
NBC New York-Jan 22, 2019
MTA officials say there is now a deal with Amtrak to move forward on four Bronx stations for Metro-North, with the first ever Metro-North service to New York Penn Station.
The plan calls for new Metro-North stops in Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester/ Van Nest and Hunts Point and bring those commuters, plus those from New Rochelle, to New York Penn Station.
Amtrak confirmed the deal in a statement.

Virginia announces additional Amtrak service to Norfolk beginning March 4
Augusta Free Press-Jan 22, 2019
A second Amtrak train service serving Norfolk will debut on March 4, adding a 9 a.m. departure to the current 6:10 a.m. scheduled Norfolk train.
Passenger rail service to and from Norfolk is part of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train service connecting the Commonwealth to the northeast, offering customers a same-seat trip to and from 17 Virginia stations to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and other destinations. Additional details regarding schedules and ticket sales are forthcoming.

Amtrak trains could serve Long Island
Albany Times Union-Jan 22, 2019
Some Metro-North commuter trains serving the New Haven line could arrive at Penn Station instead of Grand Central, under an agreement between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak and the Empire State Development Corp. announced Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Amtrak is dismantling 30th Street Station’s iconic flipping board
Billy Penn-Jan 24, 2019
Time has run out for the iconic split-flap departures board at 30th Street Station.
Photos and videos posted to social media Thursday night showed workers in orange vests and hard-hats methodically dismantling the signboard — while it was still running.
Manufactured in Italy by Solari di Udine, the display was the last active one of its kind along Amtrak’s service lines. It does not comply with ADA standards, Amtrak said. The Metro-North transit system had replaced its network of Solari boards by 2014, and New York Penn Station got rid of its flippy board two years ago.

“REFLECTIONS” Snippets of Amtrak’s Foibles
By Rail Provocateur/M.E. Singer
Complementing detailed weekly op-ed stories, I want to offer for further digestion snippets reflecting identifiable foibles created by Amtrak.
Amtrak’s Board of Directors
To elaborate upon my recent publishing in Railway Age re “Fix Amtrak? Fix Its Board First” (17 Jan), we need to appreciate how Amtrak has continued to ignore the vital voice of labor as once exhibited by Charles Luna, the first president of the UTU. It is incumbent upon FRA and USDOT to realize they must find another viable labor leader to place on Amtrak’s Board to offer insight that currently is not available, which explains the lingering safety issues and lack of morale.

Amtrak points out one big strength trains have as the government shutdown wreaks havoc on airports
Business Insider-Jan 25, 2019
Amtrak is chartered as a private corporation— albeit one that gets federal funding.
That means America’s passenger train line, even as it’s typically ignored by lawmakers and the general public, has been functioning as usual amid the government shutdown.
Business as usual, meanwhile, has not been the case at America’s airports.
Hundreds of flights were delayed in New York, Atlanta, and elsewhere on the Eastern seaboard on Friday amid the longest-ever government shutdown. TSA scanners have been calling in sick at work as they go unpaid, leading to huge lines at the airport. And, perhaps most strangely, Kanye West songs have been reportedly blasting at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

What Amtrak’s National System Needs Now
By Noel T. Braymer
Simple changes that improve rail passenger services can have major impacts on ridership and revenues. Yet most of what we see and hear is a philosophy at Amtrak that they can starve themselves to success by cutting service. Even for the simplest things to improve rail passenger service, Amtrak instead waits for someone to give them money to do what should have been done years ago. But even when funding is approved by Congress Amtrak can still be slow to act. A classic case in point is extending the Heartland Flyer which now runs between Fort Worth to Oklahoma City out to Newton, Kansas with additional stops at Arkansas City and Wichita.

By M. E. Singer
In response to the op-ed of 21 January in Railway Age by the Chairman of the Rail Passenger Association, Peter LeCody, “RPA: Let’s Set the record Straight,” the position stated by RPA is simply incomprehensible, and unsubstantiated, given the facts. Indeed, as President Truman so wisely intoned to guide our logical thought, “If you can’t stand the the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
The issues identified by many of us who are former members of RPA (NARP) that were never discussed and resolved to our satisfaction, include, at a minimum:

Capitol Corridor To Expand Train Service To And From Roseville
Capital Public Radio News-Jan 22, 2019
Commuter train service to and from Placer County is expected to increase tenfold in the coming years.
Capitol Corridor’s 2019-20 business plan announced Tuesday calls for starting work on an 18-mile stretch of track between Sacramento and Roseville. Currently the Roseville station only has one round trip per day. Two additional trains are planned to serve the route by 2024, with a total of 10 round trips by 2027. Called the “Third Track” project, it’s expected to cost at least $275 million.
Jim Allison, the project’s planning manager, said it will take several years based on funding and other factors.

Microsoft leads charge for high speed rail corridor in Pacific Northwest
FreightWaves-Jan 21, 2019
As congestion clogs the I-5 corridor, business and public policy leaders here have long dreamed of a high speed train connecting the so-called Cascadia Innovation Corridor cities: Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The dream moved a tad closer to reality last week, when Democrats in Washington State introduced Governor Jay Inslee’s legislation for transportation funding to help create an interstate high-speed rail authority.
The budget proposal reflects growing momentum toward creating a one-hour train service linking cities in the Pacific Northwest.

‘India Set for Transport Revolution 2.0 with High-Speed Rail’
Elets-Jan 23, 2019
What is the mandate of National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited?
The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL)has been set up as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with the partnership of Government of India through Ministry of Railways, Government of Gujarat, and the Government of Maharashtra. The prime objective of setting up this SPV is to immediately take up the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project. In future, we will do similar kind of activities in other places as well. The hallmark of this particular project is that we are setting up standards at the same time as high speed rail has never existed in India before. We have to develop all kinds of high speed rail standards in collaboration with our Japanese partners.

Could High-Speed Rail Ease California’s Housing Crisis? See Japan.
CityLab-Jan 25, 2019
A UCLA study says that bullet trains between Tokyo and Osaka helped reduce housing prices. Would that work for San Francisco and Los Angeles?…
Nickelsburg developed the study with California in mind, and he expects to see the same socio-economic sorting if CHSR is completed. The study suggests that high-speed rail could be a boon specifically for workers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles metros that find themselves priced out of increasingly unaffordable central cities. Higher-income workers who can afford urban amenities and rents would be more likely to live in inner cities, Nickelsburg said. Speedier rail might liberate more lower-wage Bay Area workers, many of whom have already migrated to inland exurbs, from their epic commutes.

Devastating: 5 major train crashes this year. Could autonomy help?
ZDNet-Jan 22, 2019
Machine vision tests “thousand meter stare” for train systems as countries extend tracks, increase speeds.
A few high-speed trains in China are about to get an updated set of eyes. That’s thanks to a machine vision system for robots and autonomous vehicles. Perceptin, the company behind the vision system, is touting its device as a key upgrade that could bring semi-autonomy to high-speed trains by allowing them to see 1000 meters down the track.

Kenitra Man Tries to Derail High Speed Train to Avenge Brother
Morocco World News-Jan 25, 2019
His brother died when he struck his head on a high speed rail bridge while riding on top of a truck.
Rabat – A man tried to derail the Al Boraq high speed train linking Casablanca to Tangier on Monday by throwing a three-meter tree trunk onto the train tracks.
The gendarmerie arrested the 30-year-old man and recreated the crime scene, according to Moroccan news outlets.

Matthew Flinders: Australia explorer’s remains found in HS2 dig
BBC News-Jan 24, 2019
The remains of explorer Captain Matthew Flinders have been identified by archaeologists working on the HS2 project in a London burial ground.
Captain Flinders led the first circumnavigation of Australia and is credited with naming the country.
Some 61,000 skeletons will be removed from St James’s Gardens, where the station for the HS2 rail route will be built near London Euston station.

UP set income record, advanced Unified Plan in Q4
Progressive Rail Roading-Jan 24, 2019
Union Pacific Corp. today reported record fourth-quarter net income of $1.6 billion and diluted earnings per share of $2.12, up 29 percent and 39 percent, respectively, compared with adjusted results for fourth-quarter 2017.
Reported results include previously disclosed adjustments reflecting the impact of corporate tax reform.
Including those items, fourth-quarter net income totaled $7.3 billion, or $9.25 per diluted share.
UP also reported that, on a year-over-year basis, Q4 operating revenue rose 6 percent to $5.7 billion, freight revenue grew 6 percent to $5.4 billion, operating income climbed 9 percent to $2.2 billion, operating expenses increased 4 percent to $3.5 billion, carloads rose 4 percent to 2.2 million units and the operating ratio improved 1.1 points to 61.6.

Siemens Mobility’s Locomotive Success is Good News for Cummins’  QSK95 Engine System and the Environment
Associated Press Jan 25, 2019
COLUMBUS, Ind.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jan 25, 2019–2018 was a great year for Siemens Mobility’s popular Charger locomotives, which means Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) employees will be keeping busy over the next few years. That’s because the locomotives will continue to use Cummins’ QSK95 Tier 4 engine systems to help deliver clean, efficient power for passenger trains.

Why are they closing platform access to some platforms at Los Angeles Union Station? What is being done are repairs and improvements one at a time to all of the station’s platforms and canopies. Not only will the repaired canopies look brand new. But as part of the rebuild, asbestos installed in 1939 in the canopies is being removed as hazardous material. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

Editorial: The rail puzzle
Palo Alto Online- Jan 25, 2019
In a race against time, solving the grade-separation problem remains elusive
In Palo Alto, we’re forever in search of perfect solutions to our problems and challenges — ones that satisfy everyone, or at least don’t sharply divide and anger residents.

Palo Alto struggles to find an answer on rail redesign
Palo Alto Online-Jan 23, 2019
Despite widespread recognition that Palo Alto urgently needs to reconfigure its rail crossings to accommodate increasing train traffic, the city’s elected leaders remain paralyzed by indecision when it comes to identifying a preferred solution.

Free bus, train rides offered to furloughed workers
The Almanac Online-Jan 25, 2019
Furloughed federal workers can now take the bus and train for free, the San Mateo County Transit District announced Wednesday evening (Jan. 23).
The workers can ride for free by showing their federal government employee identification cards to bus operators on SamTrans and to conductors on Caltrain, the transit agency said.

VTA begins field work for BART expansion in Silicon Valley
KGO-TV-Jan 21, 2019
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) –You may notice construction cones on the streets in San Jose.
Crews are out working on the BART expansion on Santa Clara Street between Third and Market. That’s where there will eventually be a new station.
This minor construction is scheduled to last seven weeks. The VTA says it will help with the design phase of the project.
The expansion through Silicon Valley will cost more than $5 billion.

BART approval rating reportedly hits record low
KGO-TV-Jan 22, 2019
HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) –BART’s approval rating hit a record low amongst customers recently surveyed. The survey was of 5,292 customers and will be presented to the Board of Directors on Thursday.
Customer satisfaction is down to 56 percent this past year– it was at 69 percent in 2016.

Howard Terminal Experiment: Here are the best BART options if Oakland Athletics choose site near Jack London Square
KGO-TV-Jan 23, 2019
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) –When the Oakland Athletics announced their intentions to build a ballpark on the Howard Terminal site next to Jack London Square, people quickly voiced their concerns over transportation options.
The Oakland Coliseum may not be in the most desirable location, but it does have a massive parking lot and conveniently close proximity to BART.

California fines Muni $120K for cell phone use
Curbed SF-Jan 22, 2019
Prompted by a fatal 2011 train disaster, California has a zero-tolerance policy on personal phone use by SFMTA employees
In a decision handed down in December but public disclosed last week, the California Public Utilities Commission [CPUC] slapped SFMTA with a combined $120,000 in fines over Muni personnel using their mobiles phones on the job.

Open Thread: More SMART Trains for the Bay Area?
Streetsblog San Francisco Jan 22, 2019
With the new rail service breaking the one-millionth-rider mark, is it time to talk about more extensions and applying this strategy in other parts of the Bay Area?
SMART, which started running in August of 2017, is 43 miles long with 10 stations. It cost about $500 million to build, depending how one crunches the numbers. It will eventually be built out to 70 miles.
Even BART‘s “cheaper,” non-electrified, Antioch extension cost around four times as much as SMART per mile to build (and it leaves passengers in the middle of freeway medians, rather than town centers).

Voters approved incentives for density near transit stops—now some projects in jeopardy
Curbed LA-Jan 2019
At least 25 residential projects, with a combined 1,350 units, are now in limbo citywide. The projects were designed to take advantage of incentives that were approved by voters in 2016 to encourage more affordable housing and dense development near transit stops.
But city officials have discovered that the projects are planned for sites with competing land-use plans.
“Thousands of homes… will be held up until this issue is resolved,” said Shane Phillips, director of policy for Central City Association.

Governor Newsom Has an Opportunity to Bring Balance
Streetsblog Cal Jan 17, 2019
There could be three open seats on the California Transportation Commission (CTC) very soon, which gives new Governor Newsom an excellent opportunity to reshape the way transportation funding decisions are made. One commissioner, Jim Madaffer, resigned in January. Two other commissioners, James Earp and Carl Guardino, are also coming to the end of their four-year terms, in February.

Big Data: Want more people to use public transit?
The Boston Globe-Jan 24, 2019
Researchers surveyed households within a half-mile of a new rail line in west Los Angeles, and found increased use of public transit. But women upped their rail trips only half as much as men. And of the women who said they do not use the train, Wired magazine reports, 20 percent cited concerns about harassment or threats to their safety. The study, by researchers at Tamkang University in Taiwan, the University of Southern California, and the University of California at Irvine, underscores the importance of safety in boosting public transit use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Among the safeguards female riders would prefer, according to other surveys: more lighting in stations, more staff on hand, and more stops near busy commercial centers, where harassment and attacks are less likely to occur.

Apple Pay support coming to TAP system for LA Metro rail and bus networks
9to5Mac-Jan 25, 2019
A planned update to LA Metro’s TAP payment system will see it support Apple Pay on both rail and bus networks. The upgrade – part of a larger program – is currently scheduled for the fall …

First Portion of Blue Line Closures Begin This Week
DTLA News Jan 21, 2019
– The first of a pair of four-month shutdowns along the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s oldest rail line will begin this weekend. The southern portion of the Blue Line, running from the Willowbrook station to the Downtown Long Beach station, will be out of service starting at 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, as crews work on a $350 million project to increase safety, improve reliability and extend services on the line.

LA Metro to modernize Blue Line, poll public on Union Station project report
Progressive Rail Roading-Jan 21, 2019
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) tomorrow plans to officially launch of the “New Blue Modernization Project.”
The $350 million project is designed to improve reliability, upgrade safety and enhance the customer experience on the Blue Line, which opened in 1990 and is the authority’s oldest rail line, Metro officials said in an announcement. The 22-mile line runs between downtown LA and downtown Long Beach, California…
Meanwhile, the authority also announced the release of the draft environmental impact report for the Link Union Station project. Metro is accepting public comments on the report through March 4.
The project will change how the regional rail system with Metrolink and Amtrak operates in LA Union Station by converting stub-end tracks into run-through tracks to increase train capacity and provide one-seat rides from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, Metro officials said.

Metro Board Considering Financing Plan for ’28 by 28′ Olympics Transit Initiative
NBC Southern California-Jan 24, 2019
The “28 by ’28” initiative aims to complete 28 key road, transit and bicycle/pedestrian projects in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Metro’s Board of Directors will consider a funding and financing plan Thursday for the “28 by ’28” Olympics transit initiative, which includes a congestion pricing proposal under which auto drivers would be taxed or pay a fee to use certain roads or enter specific neighborhoods.
The “28 by ’28” initiative aims to complete 28 key road, transit and bicycle/pedestrian projects in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

L.A. Metro Committee Supports Next Foothill Gold Line Phase To Pomona
Streetsblog LA Jan 18, 2019
Yesterday, Metro’s Construction Committee voted to support extending the Foothill Gold Line to Pomona. Though final phasing and funding details still need to be nailed down, Foothill Gold Line construction is expected to get underway later this year.
The Foothill Gold Line phase 2B is a complex project. It will be 12.3-miles long, extending from the current Gold Line terminus in Azusa to the city of Montclair, just across the L.A. County border in San Bernardino County.

San Elijo Track Project Nears Completion; Chesterfield Re-Opens
Patch,com Jan 24, 2019
ENCINITAS, CA – Construction crews with the San Diego Association of Governments closed in on finishing the San Elijo Lagoon Double-Track Project Wednesday by re-opening the Chesterfield Drive rail crossing in Cardiff-by- the-Sea.
SANDAG also announced that a second railroad track went into service earlier this month. Both milestones are signs that the $76.8 million double- tracking project is reaching its end.
Once completed, according to SANDAG estimates, the project will have added 1.5 miles of a second railroad track between Cardiff-by-the-Sea and the San Elijo Lagoon, a new concrete rail bridge over the San Elijo Lagoon inlet and various infrastructure improvements along the new rail sections.

As part of the changing scenery along the railroad rights of ways in California is the growing construction of new housing. This is the view just north of the Laguna Niguel /Mission Viejo Metrolink Station. This is replacing the typical views of old warehouses, outdoor storage lots and old industrial buildings at least in the more populous areas of California. Photo by Noel T. Braymer

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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