Amtrak President Joseph Boardman will continue to serve in his current position, as Amtrak’s Board of Directors extended his interim contract for an indefinite period while postponing any decision to install a permanent president.
Boardman (pictured at left) was appointed interim President in November 2008, following the resignation of Alex Kummant. Boardman, a voting member of the Amtrak board, did not vote on his own contract extension.
As Amtrak president, Boardman has advocated bolstering service frequencies on existing Amtrak routes and pursuing incremental improvements to trains speeds and schedules. Though Boardman supports the Obama Administration’s efforts to kick-start U.S. high speed rail (HSR), he has noted that any widespread U.S. effort would likely be more along the lines of Higher Speed Rail (HrSR).
U.S. railroads reported 8,861 accidents and incidents to the Federal Railroad Administration in the first 10 months of 2009, down 18.2% from the prior-year period, according to a preliminary report released Dec. 31 by the FRA's Office of Safety Analysis.
Rail fatalities for the period, mainly caused by grade crossing collisions and trespassing incidents, declined 12.8% to 598. Crossing fatalities dropped 13,6% to 294. Trespassing deaths were down 6.6% to 350.
There were 13 employee fatalities during the 2009 period, down 40.9% from last year's 23 and the lowest since the 10 deaths recorded in the first 10 months of 2006.
Train accidents were down 29.9% to 1,514 in January-October 2009, collisions were down 29.2% to 114, derailments were down 28.7% to 114, and yard accidents were down 29.8% to 814.
The Association of American Railroads reported an increase in rail intermodal traffic for the week ended Dec. 26 but said total ton-mile volume continued to trail year-ago levels.
Intermodal traffic added up to 141,699 trailers and containers, up 14.2% from the comparable week of 2008. Container volume rose 21.6% and trailer volume declined 14.5%. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 4.5% and trailer volume dropped 34.4%.
Rail carload freight was down 1.1% to 197,754 cars. In the eastern U.S., carloads were up 1.3% compared with the same week last year. In the West, carloads were down 2.3%. Comparison weeks for both years included the Christmas holiday.
The AAR said U.S. carload volume was down largely because of a more than 21,000 carload (19.1%) drop in coal loadings. Seventeen of the other 18 carload commodity groups were up compared with the same week last year, with 14 reporting double-digit increases, including motor vehicles (52.1%), lumber and wood products (44.8%), grain (31.1%), metals (31.7%), and chemicals (18.7%).
Total volume was estimated at 22.1 billion ton-miles, down 0.9% from the comparable 2008 week.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 55,572 cars for the week, up 33.5% from last year, and 30,653 trailers or containers, up 49% from 2008. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 10,718 cars, up 37.7% from the same week last year, and 5,462 trailers or containers, up 53.3%.
New Jersey Transit will open its new South Amboy Station,located on its North Jersey Coast Line, Tuesday, Jan. 5. The new stationfeatures high-level platforms, while also including climate-controlled waitingareas, a new ticket office, and a modern passenger information systems.
With the opening, all North Jersey Coast Line trains willstop at the high-level center island platform, and cease using the existinglow-level platform near Henry Street. NJT said all customers must use theoverhead pedestrian walkway to access the new station. The walkway is accessible by stairs orelevators.
Campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor of Texas, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is advancing the concept of high speed rail to connect Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
Hutchison cited her support for such a plan Tuesday during a campaign stop in Tyler, Tex. She also asserted positions on other transport matters, calling for increased transparency at the Texas Department of Transportation, a restructuring of the Texas Transportation Commission, and more restrictions on toll roads.
Hutchison has been a staunch supporter of Amtrak throughout her Senate career, though she habitually has lamented and criticized the lack of adequate rail service from the national rail passenger carrier outside the Northeast Corridor.
Public transit ridership in the United States was down 3.8% for the first nine months of 2009, according to the American Public Transportation Association, but light rail systems in seven cities posted an increase.
On the plus side were LRT systems in Philadelphia (17.5%), Oceanside, Calif. (17.3%), Baltimore (13.9%), Memphis (11.6%), Tampa (7.0% ), and San Francisco (1.1%). A new line on the light rail system in Seattle led to more than 100% growth in the first nine months of 2009.
Total light rail ridership was down only a fraction of l%.
Metro rail ridership declined by 3.0%. Exceptions were Los Angeles Metro, which continued its trend of rising ridership with an increase of 6.0% for the first nine months; and Washington Metro, where ridership was up 0.6%.
Commuter rail ridership was down 5.1% nationwide, but increases were recorded in Boston (2.4%), New Haven (1.4%), and Alexandria, Va. (1.3%). A major extension of commuter rail in New Mexico from Albuquerque to Santa Fe led to a more than 100% increase from January through September 2009.
APTA said bus ridership declined 5.0 % in the first nine months of 2009.
"This downturn in public transportation ridership is a reflection of our economic times,” said American Public Transportation Association President William Millar. “Nearly 60% of riders take public transportation to commute to and from work, so it is to be expected that public transit ridership would be lower when unemployment is high.”
Drops in local and state funding have led to reduced service and/or higher fares. Among transit systems facing decreased funding, nine out of 10 (89%) raised fares or cut service.
Connecticut’s Bond Commission will vote at its next meeting January 8 whether to supply $26 million in funding as the state share to expand double-tracking of Amtrak’s New Haven-to-Springfield line, an offshoot of the Northeast Corridor. The state funds would serve as the requisite commitment for any federal funding assistance.
Nutmeg State officials, led by Gov. Jodi Rell, say the funds are needed for design, environmental, and engineering studies of the 62-mile route.
Double-tracking of one particular 10-mile stretch of route outside of Hartford, the state capital, reportedly would improve Amtrak operations and presumably allow additional service. Amtrak currently runs six weekday trains along the route in each direction. Freight rail moves also take place along the route.
“This is a crucial step forward for one of the most important transportation improvements we have made in decades,” said Rell, who also said the improvements would spur economic development along the route.
Connecticut planners seek to add several new stations, and also institute a bus connection to Bradley International Airport from Amtrak's Windsor Locks station.
AECOM Technology Corp. has been awarded a US$20 million contract by Edmonton, Alberta, to provide program management services for the city’s light rail transit extension from downtown Edmonton to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The project’s total construction value is approximately US$708 million.
AECOM will provide program management and design services for Phase 1 of the two-mile extension that will branch off the existing underground LRT segment, with approximately 2,300 feet of tunnel section and the remaining 1.5 miles on the surface. Three new LRT stations will be built at major health care and educational institution destination points.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to work on this important infrastructure project,” said John M. Dionisio, AECOM president and chief executive officer. “We are proud to support the city’s efforts to improve accessibility for its citizens and visitors.”
Edmonton was the first North American city to launch a “new” light rail transit line in 1978, roughly three years before new LRT launches by provincial sister Calgary and by San Diego.
MTA New York City Transit is installing a real-time customer information system that it says will "take the guesswork out of waiting for a train."
Now under final testing in five stations along the Pelham 6 Line in the Bronx, the customer information screens provide train arrival messages in audio and video. They indicate when the next two trains are due to arrive at the station and their destinations.
NYCT said the system will be rolled out incrementally throughout the next year, with 152 stations on the numbered lines scheduled to be operational by the first quarter of 2011.
The system was first tested along the Canarsie L line in January 2007.
"Based on information provided by the subway's electronic monitoring system, these signs are extremely flexible and customer friendly," said NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast. "Our customers have long been accustomed to having to guess when the next train will arrive and, of course, we are well aware of the complaints about poor quality public address systems in the subway. With this system we are taking a quantum leap forward in customer communications and the information we are offering."
In addition to train arrivals, the system allows NYC Transit to keep customers informed about service delays or emergency situations.
The Association of American Railroads reports that in the week ended Dec. 19, freight volume on U.S. railroads was slightly ahead of 2008 but remained sharply down from 2007. The AAR estimated total volume at 30.4 billion ton-miles, up 0.3% from the comparable 2008 week, but down 11.6% from 2007.
Intermodal traffic totaled 209,759 trailers and containers, up 9.4% from last year but down 8.7% from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume rose 18.6% and trailer volume dropped 20.1%. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume slipped 1.4% and trailer volume was off 32.4%.
Carload freight totaled 271,819 cars, down 0.1% from 2008 and 16.7% from 2007.
Eleven of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were up compared with the same week last year, with double-digit increases in metallic ores (50.9%), motor vehicles and equipment (28.1%), grain (22.8%), grain mill products (21.4%), chemicals (13.9 %), metals (13.1%), and nonmetallic minerals (12.7%). Declines ranged from 0.1% for petroleum products to 31.6% for the category of all other carloads.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 65,815 cars for the week, up 6.5% from last year, and 41,952 trailers or containers, up 2.3%. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 15,061 cars, up 24.8% from last year, and 6,785 trailers or containers, up 34.9%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 50 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 17,109,500 carloads, down 16.7% from last year, and 11,921,922 trailers and containers, down 14.6%.