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The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new chairman, Jay Walder, warned at an MTA board meeting Wednesday that the agency's worsening fiscal crisis "demands that we permanently overhaul the way the MTA does business."

"The bottom line is that there is no more money for us in Albany, and we will learn to do more with the funding we have," he said.

New fare increases and work force reductions are coming, he said—it's only a question of size and timing.

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MTA operates one of the world's biggest urban/suburban passenger rail systems; each day its trains move more than four million riders on New York City subways and hundreds of thousand more on the Long Island and Metro-North railroads.

Although MTA is a state agency and its chairman is appointed by the governor, the state legislature earlier this year balked at committing substantial long-term help.

At Wednesday's board meeting, which was Webcast, it was indicated that fares will rise by 7.5% in 2011 and 2013 and possibly earlier to help narrow rising budget gaps. Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson said MTA would nave have to tap $150 million of reserves because the recession has caused revenue from an urban real-estate tax to fall far more steeply than anticipated.

Despite a sizeable fare increase and service cuts imposed earlier this year, MTA's farebox recovery ratios remain too low for comfort, especially in view of the vast new debt MTA is assuming as it presses ahead with such multibillion-dollar projects as the Second Avenue Subway on Manhattan's East Side, and also LIRR East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal.

MTA last week released figures showing that in this year's first eight months, subway riders paid only 34.4% of the total cost of their rides (including debt as well as operating expenses); Metro-Morth riders paid 39.2%; and LIRR riders, 28.9%.

 

--> The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's new chairman, Jay Walder, warned at an MTA board meeting Wednesday that the agency's worsening fiscal crisis "demands that we permanently overhaul the way the MTA does ...

The Association of American Railroads Thursday reported a "slight improvement" in both carload and intermodal traffic on U.S. Class I railroads for the week ended Nov. 14. Rail carloads were up 2.3% from the previous week, and intermodal wasup 0.6%.

Compared with a year ago, however, traffic was still down. U.S. railroads reported originating 281,218 carloads for the week, down 8.9% from the corresponding week in 2008 and down 17% from the same week in 2007. Intermodal traffic totaled 208,056 trailers and containers, down 7.7% from a year ago and down  15% from 2007.

While 13 of the 19 carload commodity groups were down from last year, there were increases in nonmetallic minerals (19%), grain (16.1%), chemicals (8.5%), waste and scrapmetal (6.6%), food and kindred products (3.6%), and grain mill products (1.7 %). Declines ranged from 0.1% for motor vehicles and equipment to 51.7% for metallic ores.

Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Nov. 14 was estimated at 31.6 billion ton-miles, down 7.9% from last year and down 11.2% from 2007.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 71,802 cars for the week, up 0.9% from last year, and 41,443 intermodal units, down 10.9%. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 12,721 cars, up 1.3% from last year, and 6,775 trailers or containers, down 2.8%.

Combined North American rail volume for the first 45 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 15,357,248 carloads, down 17.9% from last year, and 10,681,718 trailers and containers, down 15.9%. 

--> The Association of American Railroads Thursday reported a "slight improvement" in both carload and intermodal traffic on ...

French National Railways (SNCF) said Wednesday it is in exclusive negotiations with Bombardier Transportation to acquire a significant order of up to 860 BiLevel high speed rail cars, worth up to $11.98 billion.

SNCF hopes to reach agreement by next February, and would expect the first cars to enter service in 2013. An initial order of 135 cars would be worth roughly $2 billion.

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Bombardier Transportation spokesman Talal Zouaui said, “We put together and proposed an offer that is very competitive.”

Bombardier’s chief competition is Levallois-Perret, France-based Alstom SA, which landed a separate $2.4 billion contract from SNCF last month.

The new cars would replace aging rolling stock in several regions, including Aquitaine, Brittany, and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur. 

--> French National Railways (SNCF) said Wednesday it is in exclusive negotiations with Bombardier Transportation to acquire a significant order of up to 860 BiLevel high speed rail cars, worth up to $11.98 billion.SNCF hopes to reach agr ...

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and 12 local labor unions have signed an agreement that will pay union workers prevailing wages to build Honolulu's $5.4 billion Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor project (HHCTC), while guaranteeing that those workers would not delay construction through a strike.

Among those signing the HHCTC agreement were unions representing carpenters, heavy equipment operators, iron workers, and roofers.

Hannemann said the deal also ensures that local workers would be employed on the planned 20-mile line. Construction is set to begin in 2010, with completion targeted by 2019.

But opposition to the project remains, and not just from more predictable sources such as anti-rail activists and/or NIMBYs. One faction of opponents to the current plan object to the decision to construct the line as (largely) an elevated rapid rail line, using automated technology.

That faction is preparing to file a lawsuit in federal court alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The lawsuit would be served as soon as the Federal Transit Administration releases its Final EIS (FEIS) and issues a Record of Decision approving the project. The FEIS is not expected until early 2010.

Honolulu City Council members Duke Bainum and Charles Djou are among those questioning the specific choice of rail mode, noting other options, such as light rail, were dismissed prematurely. “When we voted on the Locally Preferred Alternative, at-grade or elevated wasn’t the question,” Djou said. “It was, Should we do a fixed-guideway system, and the answer there, of course, was, ‘Yes, we should.’” 

--> Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and 12 local labor unions have signed an agreement that will pay union workers prevailing wages to build Honolulu's $5.4 billion Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor project (HHCTC), while guaranteeing that those workers would ...

Virginia’s Arlington and Fairfax counties, outside Washington, D.C., have pursued the Columbia Pike Streetcar plan, a five-mile route expand rail passenger service from Washington Metro’s Pentagon City Station to Bailey’s Crossroads.

--> Virginia’s Arlington and Fairfax counties, outside Washington, D.C., have pursued the Columbia Pike Streetcar plan, a five-mile route expand rail passenger service from Washington Metro’s Pentagon City Station to Bailey’s Crossroads. ...

Washington, D.C. may finally see its three Czech-built Inekon streetcars within the district’s borders, four years after it ordered the cars for intended use on its Anacostia streetcar line, now finally entering initial stages of construction in the district’s southeastern quadrant.

The District Department of Transportation had kept the equipment stored in the Czech Republic because, it said, it had no maintenance depot for them. DDOT said the cars will bemoved via truck from the Czech Republic to a cargo ship in Hamburg, Germany. Arrival in the United States is expected by mid-December.

DDOT spokesman John Lisle says the city will store the vehicles at a yard at the Greenbelt Metro station, to be maintainedby Washington Metro, which will be reimbursed by DDOT. "Having them local will also allow us to familiarize ourselves with the cars," Lisle said.

--> Washington, D.C. may finally see its three Czech-built Inekon streetcars within the district’s borders, four years after it ordered the cars for intended use on its Anacostia streetcar line, now finally entering initial stages of construction in the dis ...

U.S. Class I railroads employed 57,198 transportation (train and engine) workers in mid-October, an increase of 1.07% from September, though still 15.27% below October 2008 numbers. The month-to-month increase in train crew workers was one of the few bright spot in new employment figures released Wednesday by the Surface Transportation Board.

Only one other employment group showed a month-to-month increase: professional and administrative numbers, totaling 13,614, were up 0.63% from September and 1.37% from October 2008.

Total Class I employment in October--149,020--was down 0.27% from September and 9.15% from October 2008.

Other employment categories posted the following declines compared with September 2009 and October 2009, respectively: executives, officials, and staff assistants (9,101), down 1.01% and 9.84%; maintenance of way and structures (34,622), down 1.36% and 3.96%; maintenance of equipment and stores (28,121), down 0.72% and 7.22%; transportation other than train and engine (6,364), down 2.32% and 4.06%.

 

--> U.S. Class I railroads employed 57,198 transportation (train and engine) workers in mid-October, an increase of 1.07% from September, though still 15.27% below October 2008 numbers. The month-to-month ...
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and arguably the world’s most respected investor, recently appeared on The Charlie Rose Show on PBS. In a lengthy interview, Buffett talked mostly about his $26 billion acquisition of Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Corp. He exhibi ...
Metrolinx and the Toronto Transit Commission are reaching out to the private sector for possible design-build-finance approaches to advance three rail projects. TTC would operate and maintain the new lines, eschewing half of the “DBOM” (design-build-operate ...

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday he's "hopefully optimistic" state legislators will support the latest effort to establish SunRail passenger rail service. Crist has maintained support for the proposal despite its repeated defeats in the state legislature, the latest occurring in late spring.

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Crist is seeking a special legislative session to reconside rthe rail proposal, which would connect Orlando to Osceola County and West Volusia. Under the plan, the state would recommit to buying CSX right-of-way, a major sticking point for SunRail opponents in the past. The legislature has questioned CSX's negotiating stance requiring Florida to assume liability for all commuter-train-related mishaps, a stance CSX routinely has advanced as at least a starting point in negotiations with other states.

Crist acknowledged the still-extant obstacles to getting SunRail approved. “We need 21 votes, obviously, in the [state] senate to make that happen," he said.

--> Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday he's "hopefully optimistic" state legislators will support the latest effort to establish SunRail passenger rail service. Crist has maintained support for the proposal despite its repeated defeats in the state ...
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