The U.S. Senate Monday voted 62-30 to end debate on the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, ending the threat of a filibuster and clearing the way for potential passage—which could ensure additional public transit, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
APTA said the Senate is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday. The HIRE Act extends the authorization of the federal surfacetransportation program through December 31, 2010. If enacted, the Federal Transit Administration will be able to allocate the remaining 58% of formula funds that have already been appropriated for fiscal year 2010.
The HIRE Act also provides a transfer of $19.5 billion ofgeneral funds to the Highway Trust Fund, including $4.8 billion to the Mass Transit Account. This transfer is expected to ensure the solvency of the Mass Transit Account through the end of FY 2011. The Senate Finance Committee based the transfer on restoring interest payments to the Highway Trust Fund. The HIRE Act would also expand the Build America Bonds program, allowing states and local governments to borrow at lower costs to finance more infrastructure projects.
Should the Senate pass the measure, the House of Representatives could pass its version of the bill later in the week before the current extension ofsurface transportation programs expires on February 28. But, APTA notes, the House passed a larger jobs bill late last year that included an extension of The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: ALegacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) through FY10, which ends Sept. 30. The House could decide whether to accept the Senate bill “as-is,” or attempt to amend it to address some of their differing priorities. APTA says it believes either action is preferable to no action at all.
APTA noted that Monday’s vote included support from five Republican Senators: Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins(R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson was the only Democrat to vote against the cloture motion.
New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Tuesday that it plans to cut at least 1,000 positions in order to cover its latest budget gap of $378 million. MTA said it would eliminate “more than 600 represented and non-represented administrative postions,” while also moving to lay off “up to 500 NYC Transit station agents.”
MTA’s public statement said the cuts “represent 15% of administrative payroll across the MTA, with deeper cuts at MTA headquarters.” An in-house MTA memorandum offered a darker picture, suggesting headquarters staff could be reduced “by as much as 20%. In implementing the staffing reductions, the MTA will comply with applicable statutory and collective bargaining obligations covering its employees. In addition, non-represented employees who resign will be offered a severance package.”
The agency said station agent positions affected originallyto be eliminated through attrition.But MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder said, “The State’s economic crisis demands that the MTA move quickly and decisively to cut costs, and that is exactly whatwe are doing.” Walder, painting the layoffs as “painful,” nonetheless also described them as “the beginning of a comprehensive overhaulof how the MTA does business.” The CEO said the revamp includes “reducing overtime, consolidating redundant functions, and working with suppliers to lower costs.”
The current $378 million budget gap follows an earlier shortfall of $383 million. MTA last December enacted an earlier found of service cuts and administrative reductions to close that gap.
Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc., has won a $15 million contract to design, deliver, and provide services for a new smart card ticketing and revenue management system for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA). It will be interoperable with Miami-Dade County's new EASY CARD system.
Tri-Rail, connecting Palm Beach and Broward Counties with Miami-Dade County, will be the first transit agency to join in the creation of a South Florida regional system, enabling riders to use one smart card on both systems. Palm Tran and Broward County Transit are expected to join later.
The SFRTA system will process smart cards and printed tickets and will encompass 76 ticket vending machines, 85 station validators, six ticket office machines, and 60 handheld units.
The SFRTA-Miami Dade Transit interoperability will create the first multi-agency regional system that is compliant with the American Public Transportation Association's Contactless Fare Media Standard that has been adopted in public transport as the national standard.
The New England Railroad Club has announced its 2010 plans for its annual Academic Scholarship Awards, eligible to children or grandchildren of club members in good standing. Applications are sought “from high school seniors who will attend an accredited institution of higher learning leading to a bachelor’s level or associate level degree, and from students already enrolled and attending such institutions.” Previous applicants are encouraged to apply once again, the club notes.
Funds will be disbursed, payable to the student, upon receipt of proof of registration for the Fall 2010 academic semester.
To apply, students must submit the following support materials with their application: academic transcripts; a letter of recommendation from teachers or academic advisers; and a one-to-two page essay describing the applicant’s career goals and personal history.
Should they wish, applicants may also submit a resume listing academic, work, and extracurricular activities.
Applications should be submitted no later than April 20, 2010 to the New England Railroad Club, P.O. Box 82, Lowell, MA 01853.
For the full year 2009, Wabtec Corp. Tuesday reported earnings per diluted share of $2.39, on sales of $1.4 billion. "The company generated strong cash flow from operations of $161 million, or 11.5%, marking the 12th consecutive year that Wabtec's cash flow from operations exceeded net income," said Wabtec. "At year-end, the company had cash of $189 million and debt of $392 million. With its strong balance sheet and cash flow, Wabtec believes it has ample capacity to invest in future growth opportunities."
In the fourth quarter, earnings per diluted share were 56 cents, excluding a previously announced charge of 6 cents for an arbitration ruling. Including the charge, earnings per diluted share were 50 cents, failing to meet Wall Street's 56 cents estimate. Sales decreased to $359 million, as increased sales in the Transit Group were offset by lower sales in the Freight Group. Compared to the third quarter of 2009, sales were 9% higher, with both groups showing an increase.
In the fourth quarter, Wabtec completed the acquisition of Unifin International, a manufacturer of cooling systems and related equipment for the power generation and transmission industry, for $93 million.
Wabtec affirmed its 2010 earnings per diluted share guidance of $2.35-$2.50, with revenue expected to be flat to slightly up.
Albert J. Neupaver, Wabtec's president and chief executive officer, said: "Faced with very challenging market conditions in 2009, the company performed well, generating strong cash flow from operations and improving margins, after adjusting for one-time items. These results were due to our diversified business model and the hard work of employees at all levels of the company. Market conditions will continue to be challenging in 2010, but we expect to benefit from our 2009 restructuring actions and other growth initiatives. We are optimistic about the company's future growth opportunities around the world, given our strong balance sheet, diversified business model, and continued application of the Wabtec Performance System principles."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.