MTA Long Island Rail Road will discontinue staffed ticket agent service at 20 stations Wednesday, continuing a steady decrease in such agents systemwide. Only 30 stations will remain staffed with agents following the latest cut. Riders at 94 stations can buy tickets from electonic vending machines in lieu of personal service.
LIRR says the move will save $2.2 million during the next year, and said the 20 stations to be affected sell the fewest tickets in the system. "The LIRR remains committed to providing a high level of customer service and is confident that riders will make ample use of its easy-to-use ticket machines, which are available 24 hours a day at these stations," the railroad said in a statement.
But a spokesman for the Transportation Communications International Union, which represents the LIRR's ticket agents and clerks, said the move is unwise. “We're the eyes and ears, the front line," the representative said, noting the presence of ticket agents aids in providing security, as well as the ability to offer directions, and assist elderly, disabled, and disoriented riders.
Detroit has adjusted its effort to join the ranks of U.S. cities with light rail, as construction of the privately funded $120 million LRT line along Woodward Avenue has been pushed back until sometime next year. Construction was to begin by year’s end.
The delay is attributed to the Detroit Department of Transportation’s desire to use the private money as the local match for its own project to extend light rail from New Center to the state fairgrounds at Eight Mile Road, according to Kim Zitny, vice president of Troy, Mich.-based Eisbrenner Public Relations, M1 Rail’s public relations agency.
DDOT’s project, the Detroit Transit Options for Growth study, needs the local match to qualify for federal transit project funding to cover that project’s $371 million cost. Both projects are considered “separate but joint cooperative efforts,” theoretically allowing the $120 million in private funding to be used as a match for either component. Zitny clarified that the projects are not merging and will remain separate efforts.
M1 light rail would stretch 3.4 miles, with 12 stops, connecting the city’s Hart Plaza and New Center area. Private backers of M1 include: Penske Corp. founder Roger Penske, chairman of the M1 project; Peter Karmanos Jr., founder of Detroit-based software maker Compuware Corp.; Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings and co-founder of Little Caesar Enterprises Inc.; and Quicken Loans/Rock Financial founder Dan Gilbert, the project's co-chairman.
Approximately $180 million, including the $125 million being raised by M1 Rail and $55 million contributed by DDOT, has been earmarked toward the estimated $220 million needed to match a federal grant, city officials say.
British Columbia’s C$2 billion (US$1.8 billion) Canada Line, the third Skytrain route serving metropolitan Vancouver, began revenue operations Monday. The new route, operating along 11.8 miles linking Vancouver with Richmond, includes a 2.5-mile spur linking downtown Vancouver with its international airport in approximately 26 minutes, reportedly making Vancouver the first Canadian city with a rail rapid transit link to an airport.
The new line “is going to have the capacity to move a very large number of people in a reliable travel time," TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said. "When it has its own right of way, it's not subject to traffic congestion."
Some 6,000 people an hour are expected to ride the Canada Line on its opening day Monday. TransLink forecasts ridership will grow to 100,000 riders per day by 2013, served by 16 stations (three more remain in the planning stages). Originally scheduled to open this November, the line has opened early in part to prepare for anticipated heavy use by visitors to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Inc. oversaw the Canada Line’s implementation under a design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) contract; the company will operate the line for 35 years. Funding for the C$1.35 billion project was provided by the federal government (C$450 million), as well as the British Columbian provincial government, Vancouver International Airport Authority, and TransLink, which each contributed C$300 million.
The Surface Transportation Board posted statistics on its website Monday showing that Class I railroads earned a return on net investment of 8.94% in the 12-month period that ended June 30, compared with 9.20% in the corresponding period a year ago.
Total operating revenues in the latest 12-month period were $53.6 billion vs. $55.7 billion in the prior year.
Individual carriers posted these ROIs in the 12 months ended June 30, 2009 (compared with their ROIs a year earlier):
Burlington Northern Santa Fe: -- 9.69% (9.90%)
CSX Corp. -- 7.61% (7.87%)
CN/Grand Trunk -- 8.59% (9.68%)
Kansas City Southern -- 8.59% (9.68%)
Norfolk Southern -- 10.23% (13.57%)
Soo Line -- 12.09% (15.20%)
Union Pacific -- 8.43% (9.16%)
Return on investment is based on net railway operating income, which is the difference between net railway operating revenues and the total of railway operating expenses, railway tax accruals, and net equipment and joint facility rents.
Tim Heilig, vice president-mechanical for Norfolk Southern, and Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo will highlight the agenda of the Railway Supply Institute’s Global Railway Tech 2009, occurring Sept. 16-18 in the Northwest Hall of the Chicago Hilton and Towers Hotel.
Heilig will discuss “Managing the Future during Challenging Times,” while Szabo will update attendees on FRA’s oversight of safety and high speed rail matters.
Following the opening session Wednesday, Sept. 16, RSI is hosting an opening reception in the exhibit hall beginning at 4:30 p.m. Registration is required through RSI or one of the mechanical associations to attend these events. Registration and hotel information are available on the RSI website www.rsiweb.org/.
RSI Executive Director Tom Simpson notes the Coordinated Mechanical Associations (the Air Brake Association, International Association of Railway Operating Officers, Locomotive Maintenance Officers Association, and Mechanical Association of Railcar Technical Services) technical sessions have been finalized. In addition, the RSI trade show in the Hilton’s Southeast Hall is virtually sold out (with 75-to-80 booths anticipated). All social events will be held in a food court located in the exhibition hall, Simpson says.
BART has reached a tentative contract agreement with its operating employees in time to avoid a strike scheduled for Monday morning. Terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.
Jesse Hunt, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, said the agreement must still be ratified by the 900 rank-and-file members of his union; those members had rejected an earlier contract proposal, making a strike seem more likely.
Hunt expressed cautious optimism, however, for this proposal. "There are no guarantees in life, but we think this is a solid, fair agreement given the economic times," he said. "And I'm confident our members will do what's right for everyone involved."
"It's the greatest thing for the Bay Area. It's what everybody wanted," said James Fang, vice president of BART's Board of Directors.
Pressing its efforts (and possible political advantage) to secure high speed rail for the Chicago Hub, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association says it has redesigned and upgraded its website at www.midwesthsr.org.
Executive Director Rick Harnish notes, “We have added a new ‘Roll Call’ page where you can see if your Congressman voted for high-speed rail. We have also added a ‘Fact vs. Fiction’ page to help you counter high-speed rail opponents.”
The website also includes sections addressing the economic and environmental benefits of high speed rail, and details on the association’s vision for a future Midwest rail network, something the group has pushed for since its founding in 1993. The group is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.
The Midwest Hub is one of 10 potential candidates designated by the Obama Administration for development of U.S. high speed rail, and is considered by many rail observers as one of the more likely candidates to receive such funding.
Arizona Railroad Group has changed its name to ARG Trans, the company said in a statement, in order to better reflect the company’s long-term goals.
Benson, Ariz.-based ARG Trans is the parent company of short line San Pedro& Southwestern Railroad, which it has owned since 2003. SPSR connects with Union Pacific’s Chicago-Los Angeles main line at Benson and extends seven miles to Curtiss, Ariz. SPSR also provides switching service for UP customers at Willcox, Ariz.
“Our goal is to broaden our services beyondArizona and expand logistical options for customers, such as transloading freight between rail cars and trucks,” said ARG Trans President Scott Parkinson. “Bottom line, we want to increase our rail and related transportation activities with other communities and businesses--particularly in the West.”
Under a $7.6 million contract, L.B. Foster Co. has supplied 115-pound rail for the 21-mile A-Train line linking Denton and Carrollton, Tex. The Pittsburgh-based company shipped 4,599 tons of 1,600-foot welded rail and 573 tons of 80-foot stick rail to the North Texas Rail Group, a joint venture between Herzog Contracting Corp. and Archer Western Contractors.
"Our L.B. Foster Rail Products estimating and project management teams fast-tracked the contract, manufacturing and delivery to meet a critical construction schedule," said Greg Lippard, L.B. Foster Rail Products vice president.
"Coordinating this shipment on our weld trains helped to expedite the delivery and meet the contractors' tight project schedule," said Dennis Bachtel, L.B. Foster Rail Products western sales manager. The final shipment was delivered Aug.1.
L.B. Foster has a fleet of company-owned weld trains to best manage the shipment and unloading of continuously welded rail.
Amtrak says it will suspend service at its Pittsburgh station during the Group of 20 eocnomic summit Sept. 24-26. Trains will pass through the station, but will not stop.
Spokeswoman Tracy Connell says passengers will not be able to book trips that begin or end in Pittsburgh from Sept. 24-26. The G-20 summit will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, a few blocks away fromthe train station.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, linking Chicago with Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvanian, traveling between Pittsburgh and New York, serve Pittsburgh.