The Virginia Railway Express Operations Board has authorized a $2.7 millioncontract with STV/Ralph Whitehead Associates to make an environmental study andprovide preliminary engineering services on the proposed extension of VRE 11miles on Norfolk Southern's B line into the Gainesville-Haymarket area in westernPrince William County. The action came at a vote taken last Friday.
"I think this will be one of the most significant stations in VRE's historyone of these days, and we'll put more people on at this location than at anyother station," VRE board member and Prince William Supervisor W.S.Covington III told a Washington Post reporter.
The environmental and engineering study is funded by the Virginia Department ofRail and Public Transportation with the help of an $875,000 in-kind match fromNorfolk Southern.
The Gainesville-Haymarket project, now estimated to cost up to $244 million,would add a track to the B line within existing right of way and up to threestations.
VRE officials said they are using a phased approach so the board and the countycan reevaluate the proposed extension once a more concrete cost estimate isavailable. Prince William's subsidy to VRE could increase with the proposedextension, assuming there would be an influx in riders.
Ridership on NYC Transit trains and buses in 2009 was down 2.7% or 63.5 million trips from 2008, another recession year, but last year's 2.31 billion riders was still the second-highest number since 1969.
"2009 was a very tough year for the city and regional economy, and that is reflected in the preliminary ridership numbers," said Tom F. Prendergast, president, NYC Transit. "But despite the job losses, our ridership remained near record levels, which is a reflection of the importance the bus and subway network has to the region and the value that MetroCard discounts continue to provide our customers, especially in these tough times."
He said farebox revenue came in $2.1 million short of estimates, at $3.14 billion, "further eroding the MTA's overall precarious financial position."
Subway ridership in 2009 was the highest since 1951 except for 2008, falling short of that year by 2.7% (44.2 million trips). Bus ridership in 2009 was down 2.8% (20.5 million trips) from 2008.
On the subways, average weekday ridership was 5.1 million in 2009, the second-highest since 1952. However, average weekday subway ridership decreased by 2.7% (139,000 trips) from 2008 totals. Average weekday local bus ridership declined by 2.5% (58,000 trips) to 2.3 million in 2009.
On the subways, the largest decrease was in Manhattan, where average weekday ridership was down 3.6%, mostly due to ridership declines in Midtown associated with job losses.
In a pilot project designed to improve customer and employee security, MTA-NYTC has installed video surveillance equipment onboard four cars of a 10-car subway train which, starting today, will operate along the system's lettered lines through early 2011. It could lead to implementing the Closed Circuit Television System throughout the subway fleet, said Steven Feil, senior vice president, Department of Subways.
The test train has also been retrofitted with new handholds and with rush-hour, flip-up seating that would increase capacity by 19% per car. However, deployment of the latter feature is not now being considered.
"Video camera systems have clearly been shown to help deter criminal activity on transit vehicles and we believe strongly that they can also be extremely valuable in investigating accident injury claims," said NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast. "But we must also acknowledge the potential threat of terrorist activity on public transportation vehicles and CCTV has been instrumental in helping with investigations in this area."
NYCT said the system was manufactured and installed by TOA Corp. and consists of 16 cameras, four in each car. There is one DVR (Digital Video Recorder) for each set of cameras and four NCUs (Network Controller Units) for transmitting the video signals between cars.
"The CCTV System will be evaluated for its recording quality and car-to-car transmission of video signals within the subway environment," "said Feil.
A video surveillance decal will be visible on each car to alert passengers that they may be videotaped.
Railway Age currently is accepting nominations forits annual Short Line/Regional Railroad of the Year competition (our thanks to those of you who already have responded and/or submitted candidates). Shortlines and regionals throughout North America are invited to submit entries describing outstanding achievement in one particular instance or a combination of areas.
The 2010 winners will be awarded specially designed plaque sat the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., at ASLRRA’s gala dinner Tuesday, May 4. Articles describing their achievements will appear in Railway Age’s April 2010 issue, which will be distributed at the show. Railway Age will work with the winnersto publicize the awards in online and national media, as well as any in-house websites available.
Submit your entries to: Douglas John Bowen, Managing Editor, Railway Age, 345 Hudson Street, 12th Floor, New York, N.Y., 10014. E-mail: email@example.com. Fax: (212)633-1863. Entries should contain the name, position, and contact information of the nominator and an approximately 500-word description of the achievement(s)of the nominated railroad. (Longer and short descriptions are admissible; 500 words is only a guideline.) Entry forms are not essential, but may be obtained from Bowen by fax or e-mail. The entry deadline is Friday, March 5, 2010, so please don’t delay.
Fighting major back-to-back snowstorms in the East, U.S. railroads originated 257,823 carloads of traffic in the week ended February 13, down 8.1% from the same week last year, and off 12% compared with 2008, the Association of American Railroads reported Friday.
In the western U.S., carloads were down 3.0% in the latest week. In the East, they were down 16.1%.
"Intermodal traffic barely resisted the downward trend, at least in comparison with last year, totaling 192,354 trailers and containers, up 0.5% from a year ago, but down 12.5% compared with 2008," said the AAR.
Ten of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were up compared with last year, led by a 24.9% increase in loadings of metals and products. Others posting double-digit gains were motor vehicles and equipment, up 15.0%, and primary forest products, up 13.8%. Commodities showing share declines included coal, down 16.3%; crushed stone, sand, and gravel, down 18.9%; and pulp, paper, and allied products, down 13.2%.
Canadian railroads handled 69,954 carloads for the week, up 4.8% from last year, and 42,560 trailers or containers, down 1.6% from last year. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 14,370 cars, up 28.1% from the same week last year, and 6,602 trailers or containers, up 17.3%.
Combined volume for the first six weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 2,084,180 carloads ,up 1.8% from last year, and 1,495,480 trailers and containers, up 3.2%.
There's a new entry on the National Transportation Safety Board's "Most Wanted List" of transportation safety improvements. It's "Improve Transit Railcar Design," and it gets a "yellow" designation, which means "Acceptable Response, Progressing Slowly."
In releasing the 2010 list Thursday, NTSB noted that the new rail entry comes "on the heels of several serious transit rail accidents around the country--notably the June 22, 2009, collision on Washington, D.C.'s system that killed 9 persons."
"A railcar's ability to withstand the dynamic forces of an accident is essential to protecting the vehicle's occupants," said the safety board. "In accident investigations in recent years, the board has noted telescoping of transit cars that have destroyed or greatly compromised survivable space. Two recommendations are added to the list aimed at improving transit railcar design."
The decision of US Railcar LLC and American Railcar Industries to join forces to compete for business in a growing U.S. passenger railcar market has several historic elements, not the least of which is a return to passenger railcar manufacturing for one of America's oldest railway supply companies.
Back in the heyday of American passenger railways, American Car & Foundry was one of the largest manufacturers of freight and passenger rail equipment. ACF Industries, as the company was later known, and its predecessor companies have roots in the U.S. railcar manufacturing industry that date back to 1873. ACF left the passenger railcar business around the same time as many of its domestic contemporaries—Budd, St. Louis Car, Pullman Standard—but remained in business because it was also a successful manufacturer of freight cars. American Railcar Industries (ARI) acquired ACF’s assets in 1994, and today is a major North American manufacturer of covered hopper and tank cars and certain freight car components, as well as a provider of repair/rebuilding and fleet management services. ARI’s principal investor is Carl Icahn, who through Icahn Enterprises LP has a 54% stake in the company (which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ as ARII).
America’s passenger rail renaissance, aided in no small measure by the Obama Administration’s commitment to developing passenger rail corridors including high speed and creating domestic manufacturing jobs, has brought ARI back to the passenger railcar business. St. Charles, Mo.-based ARI has entered into a joint venture with Columbus, Ohio-based US Railcar, LLC to design, manufacture, and sell North American-compliant DMUs (diesel multiple units.). The joint venture is named US Railcar Company, LLC. It is led by President and CEO Michael P. Pracht, a rail industry veteran with extensive experience with several major global railway supply companies. Production will be based in Arkansas, where ARI manufactures freight cars. The joint venture plans to produce railcars for commuter and regional passenger rail service.
According to US Railcar, LLC Managing Member Barry H. Fromm, who will serve as a Director of the joint venture, “One of US Railcar Company’s goals is to reestablish FRA-compliant DMU production in the U.S.” As Chairman and CEO of Value Recovery Group, Inc. (VRG), Fromm led a group of initial investors in the purchase of assets from the former Colorado Railcar Manufacturing LLC, which ceased operations in late 2008.
There’s also a mildly ironic twist to the joint venture: In the late 1940s, ACF, in an attempt to export North American passenger rail technology overseas, designed and built the first Talgo train for Spain (see text of a July 12, 1954, Time magazine article, below).
“These are extraordinary times with growth opportunities for passenger rail in the U.S.," said Pracht. “The US Railcar Company DMU is designed to enable new, cost-effective and environmentally friendly passenger rail service across a range of corridors and routes, all with a proven, existing equipment platform already in service.” The DMU was prototyped through a demonstration project in 2002 and, according to Pracht, “is currently the only DMU that is fully compliant with Federal Railroad Administration passenge requipment safety regulations as stated in 49 CFR Part 238. This means the US Railcar Company DMU can be quickly pressed into service using existing freight railroad rights-of-way.”
Ten DMUs are currently in service in Florida, Alaska, and Oregon. Available in both regional and intercity configurations, the DMU “is well suited for incremental corridor development at speeds from 79 to 90 mph,” says Pracht. “Platform enhancements currently anticipated include a diesel-electric upgrade and increasing speeds to 125 mph, making this American-made DMU an attractive solution for both mature and emerging passenger rail agencies aroundt he country.” As well, the company has been working with industrial designer Cesar Vergara, principal of Vergarastudio, on improving and modernizing the DMU’s existing design.
For ARI, re-entering the passenger railcar market is way to strengthen its operations in a severely depressed freight car market. “ARI is excited to participate in this opportunity to join US Railcar and bring ARI’s long and proud freight rolling stock manufacturing heritage to the passenger equipment sector,” said ARI President and CEO James Cowan. “Our commitment toexpand and diversify our manufacturing program results from our desire to grow,and build on the expected federal commitment to passenger rail as part of a balanced national transportation system. Through this partnership, we look forward to being an integral part of that new growth with modern passenger rail equipment built in the U.S.”
The joint venture is structured to enable ARI to provide USRailcar Company, LLC with its railcar production experience, and for VRG to provide government contracting experience. ARI and VRG representatives will have equal representation on the joint venture’s board. VRG is an economic development consulting, government advisory services, and asset recovery and management firm that represents state and local governments, commercial banks, private investors, and several federal agencies.
—William C. Vantuono, Editor, Railway Age
RAILROADS: Will All Go to Talgo?
(From the July 12, 1954 edition of Time)
For several hours in Manhattan last week, the presidents of the four biggest eastern railroads met with the train builders of ACF Industries to discuss a radical train. The roads: New York Central; New York, New Haven & Hartford; Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania. The train the railroaders had in mind was similar to ACF’s swift “Talgo” express, whichhas been running for four years on Spanish railroads.
Built of aluminum and other lightweight metals, Talgo’s cars are only 7 ft. 6 in. from floor to ceiling, 4 ft. lower than current coaches.I nside, travelers sit in reclining airplane-type seats, look out big picture windows, and put their luggage in forward compartments. The low train can whip into curves smoothly at 90 m.p.h., v. the 50-60 m.p.h. of today's flyers. It weighs only one-third as much as current trains, requires only 40% as much fuel for the same speed, can be built at an estimated $1,300 a seat, v. $2,300 for present cars. The Midwest's Rock Island Railroad has already ordered one of thenew trains from ACF for Christmas 1955 delivery.
On the 157-mile run between New Haven and Boston last week, the New Haven’s new president, Patrick B. McGinnis, who wooed stockholders with the promise of better passenger service, put on a demonstration of ACF’s speedy train. With special ICC permission, the engineer disregarded the 60-m.p.h. speed limit on curves, and went into the turns at 87 m.p.h. On the long straightaways, he pushed ACF’s Talgo up to 102.8 m.p.h. and pulled into Boston in 150 minutes. Though it was a stop-and-start experimental run, the time was still ten minutes better than the best previous record.
After his ride, fast-flying President McGinnis said: “If enough Eastern roads get together, we can jointly order on a wholesale basis.In that case, I’d place an order within months.”
The Federal Railroad Administration’s latest safety report, released Jan. 29, shows that trespassing caused 399 of the 649 rail fatalities reported in the first 11 months of 2009. This figure was down 7.2% from the prior year and 15% better than the 475 trespasser deaths reported in 2006. Now, the FRA is moving to further improve the record.
The agency has announced that the City of West Palm Beach, Fla. and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), among other partners, will participate in the Trespass Prevention Research Study. FRA said the SFRTA area experienced 10 fatalities due to illegal trespassing in the first eight months of 2008, half of which occurred in the West Palm Beach area. “Research done by FRA in the region will help the agency better understand trespassing issues and assist in the development of national guidanceon trespass prevention,” the agency said.
“Efforts like this research study have the potential to reduce the number of trespassing injuries and fatalities in a big way,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo.