At a time when base sales tax
receipts have eroded to a 10-year low, Chicago’s Metra commuter rail service has proposed a
$613 million 2010 operating budget that calls for no changes in
service and some revisions to its fare structure.
The proposed fare structure includes adjustments in one-way fares
and the first change in the cost of weekend passes since the program began in
One-way fares would increase about 6%, an average
of about 30 cents a ticket.
Weekend fares, for unlimited rides on Saturdays and Sundays, would increase to $7 from $5. To simplify onboard fare collection,
increases will be rounded to the nearest quarter, a practice common to other
U.S. commuter rail operations.
The impact of the new fare structure on regular Metra riders will be
limited, since most use 10-ride tickets and monthly passes, the cost of which won't change. The new fare structure, which would start Feb. 1, 2010,
“is intended to encourage customers to use 10-ride tickets and monthly passes,
which already offer a discount over the one-way fares,” Metra said. Those multiple-ride
options “are easier than ever to purchase,“ because Metra recently invested $3.9
million in a new website that allows riders to buy 10-ride tickets and monthly
passes on line with credit and debit cards. To encourage riders to buy tickets at stations and over the
Internet, Metra would increase the penalty for onboard purchases to $5 from
$2. That penalty is not assessed on passengers who board at unmanned stations.
Metra says it has adopted a variety of
cost-containment measures that saved about $4 million in administrative costs,
including leaving about 150 positions unfilled, freezing management salaries,
and asking non-union employees to contribute more toward their health insurance premiums. Metra also cited recent actions of the Illinois state legislature that
increased the regional transportation sales tax last year andapproving
a public works bond program earlier
this year. Those provisions, Metra said, “are greatly assisting in
balancing our budget
and investing in our infrastructure.”
Public hearings on the proposed budget and presentations to
the boards of the six counties in Metra’s service area will be held over the
next few weeks. The budget also must be approved by the Regional Transportation
and MERMEC Group will jointly present a technical paper on their "Smart
Management Platform for Railway Infrastructure" at The Permanent Way Summit
organized in Beijing by the Ministry of Railways and the China Railway
Association on October 26 the gathering will attract the attention of the local
railway industry on the latest technologies available for railway
infrastructure management. Several important M.O.R. executives, including Kang
Gaoliang, general director of the M.O.R. Permanent Way Department, as well as
the Leaders from the local Railway Bureaus and CARS will attend the Summit.
new Chinese Railway Networks will incorporate million of sensors that will
verify all aspects of rail operation from train speed to brakes needed to be
replaced. Building these intelligent Rail Networks will require a high-powered,
integrated system that can collect, manage and analyze an enormous amount of
data flowing in from the tracks, through the trains and stations, and across
the maintenance process.
"Smart Management Platform" presentation will introduce RAMSYS, a
decision-support system for maintenance and renewal planning, and MAXIMO, a
linear asset management system. The focus will be on the greatest priorities of
today and tomorrow for railway authorities: safety and preventive maintenance.
capabilities and greater insight can help prevent accidents before they happen.
Sensor-based early detection of potential equipment failures provides a more
optimal predictive maintenance scheme, and various monitoring capabilities for
rail infrastructure such as tracks and trains can reduce disruptions to
passenger and freight service.
Working on these projects demands a unique set of
products, skills and services. IBM and MERMEC Group can jointly offer these
skills and put the products and services into action, the two companies note.
The Maschen marshaling yard at the gates of Hamburg is the
main hub for freight traffic of the seaports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven as well
as toward Scandinavia. Here the cars of regional, national and international
freight trains are split and made up into new trains for the next leg of their
journey. In order to provide for the increasing importance of freight
transportation at the seaports, marshaling equipment from the seventies is to
be upgraded to the state of the art as part of comprehensive construction
The modification of the classification yard will be carried
out while normal operation continues. Siemens will be modernizing 48
classification tracks and the classification zone of the South-North (MSN) hump
yard and 40 classification tracks of the North-South (MNS) hump yard. The MSR
32 control system deployed by Siemens controls the radio-operated locomotives,
the routing of rolling stock and their speed at the master, intermediate and
group retarders and, by means of the haulage systems, makes up the cars ready
for coupling in the classification tracks. The routing control sets the
switches for all the cuts from the hump to the classification tracks fully
automatically. A continuous computation of the variable hump speed and cut
monitoring enables the risk of any bumping or catch-ups to be avoided.
During the modernization phase the control system from Siemens must be able to control both the old and new classification systems.
At a time when the economy
is tough and base sales tax receipts have eroded to a 10-year low, the Metra
Board of Directors unveiled a $613-million operating budget that calls for no
changes in commuter rail service in 2010 and some revisions to its fare
Metra is grateful for the
recent actions of our elected officials in Springfield, first for addressing
its operating needs by increasing the regional transportation sales tax last
year and then for addressing its capital needs by approving a public works bond
program earlier this year. Those efforts are greatly assisting Metra in
balancing its budget and investing in its infrastructure.
The new fare structure
includes adjustments in one-way fares and the first change in the cost of
weekend passes since the program began in 1991. But the impact of the new fare
structure on regular Metra riders will be limited, since most use 10-ride
tickets and monthly passes and those fares won't change."Any fare adjustment is
difficult, particularly in today's economy, but we believe we are taking a
responsible, targeted approach that is sensitive to the needs of our
passengers," said Metra Chairman Carole R. Doris.
Metra's new fare structure,
which would start Feb. 1, 2010, is intended to encourage customers to use
10-ride tickets and monthly passes, which already offer a discount over the
one-way fares. Those multiple-ride options are easier than ever to purchase,
because Metra recently spent $3.9 million on a new Website that allows riders
to buy 10-ride tickets and monthly passes online with credit and debit cards.
To encourage riders to buy
tickets at stations and over the Internet, Metra would increase the penalty for
on-board purchases to $5 from $2. That penalty is not assessed on passengers
who board at unmanned stations.
One-way fares would
increase about six percent, an average of about 30 cents a ticket. In order to
simplify on-board fare collection, the increases have been rounded to the
nearest quarter, a practice common to other commuter rail operations in the
Weekend fares would
increase to $7 from $5. This would be the first increase in the existence of
the weekend fare program, which started in May 1991. During that time, Metra
has raised its general fares four times (in 1996, 2002, 2006 and 2008). Weekend
passes are good for unlimited rides on both Saturday and Sunday.
The tough economy has
prompted Metra to adopt a variety of cost-containment measures that saved about
$4 million in administrative costs, including leaving about 150 positions
unfilled, freezing management salaries and asking non-union employees to pay
more for their health insurance.
Public hearings on the
proposed budget and presentations to the boards of the six counties in Metra's
service area will be held over the next few weeks. The budget also must be
approved by the Regional Transportation Authority.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Agency faces a $113 million cut in state funding in the new fiscal year if the legislature accepts Gov. David A. Paterson's plan for dealing with a looming state deficit.
The MTA cut is part of a $2 billion reduction in state funding that Paterson said Thursday he will propose for the fiscal year that begins next April. The reduction would help close a projected state deficit that has now ballooned to $3 billion.
MTA, a state agency that operates the New York City subways, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad, has been struggling with its own daunting defects. The agency has imposed sizeable fare increases and some service cuts. A financial plan released July 29 projected cash balances of $29 million in 2009, $39 million in 2010, and $1 million in 2011, and "manageable deficits for 2012 and 2013."
At that time, MTA said that "significant spending restraints, building on the substantial expense reduction taken in 2009, [will] save $64 million in 2010 and grow to $279 million by 2013."
That is the context in which MTA received news of a substantial loss of millions of dollars in state funding for the new fiscal year. The agency had no immediate comment.
Bids for upgrading a Metro-North rail yard in New Haven, Conn., have come in significantly lower than the $291 million anticipated cost, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which oversees Metro-North operations in the Nutmeg State. The agency said Torrington, Conn.-based O&G Industries submitted the lowest bid, $124.8 million.
The work involves upgrading maintenance shop capabilities adjacent to New Haven's Union Station, establishing a central repair hub for the state's fleet of Metro-North’s new M-8 rail cars.
In a statement, state Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she was pleased with the unexpectedly low estimate for the work, and touted the additional economic boost the related construction jobs will provide state businesses once the project is under way. "The immediate impact, of course, is the construction jobs created by the project, but the overall impact will greatly upgrade commuter rail service in Connecticut with state-of-the-art cars and a state-of-the art facility to service them," she said.
The bid is under review, a process that can take two months, with the DOT planning to start construction this winter, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said.
Washington state’s Port of Vancouver has identified localcontractor Rotschy Inc. as the low bidder for constructing a 7.3-mil rail loop at Terminal 5, designed to expand the inland port’s intermodal capacity. Rotschy outbid four other competitors with a low bid of $15.26 million, portofficials said.
The rail loop is part of the $137 million West Vancouver Freight Access project, which will encircle 1.8 miles of the port's new Terminal 5 on the former Alcoa-Evergreen aluminum site. The contract includes grading and excavation work as well as construction of the rail line and electrical work.
The port commission expects to formally award the contract to Rotschy at its Oct. 27 meeting. Work is to begin next month, with completion by June 18, 2010.
All five bids came in above the port's budgeted project cost of $14.6 million due to the addition of three optional items that weren't included in the original estimate, said Julianna Marler, senior contract manager for the port. The port will likely remove one or two of the options, which include additional lighting and an extra track, to fit within the budget, Marler said.
"It'll be a larger contract for our company," said Dan Korpela, senior estimator for Rotschy Inc., which employs about 100 workers. "Our schedule going into winter for our grading crews is empty and to get this project will keep a lot people working for the winter."
Italy Infrastructure Minister Altero Matteoli said Friday work on a controversial high speed rail line linking the city of Turin with Lyon, France, would resume late this year, most likely in December.
Construction on the Italian portion of the route was halted by protests before and after the Turin Winter Olympics in 2006. Some regional residents protested HSR’s potential impact, and also objected to planned tunnel construction along the route, claiming such work would release harmful materials such as asbestos and uranium.
The Turin-Lyon route is one of several in the European Union’soverall effort to unite the continent with high speed rail links stretching from Lisbon, Portugal, to Kiev, Ukraine.
The long-proposed and long-struggling proposal for a light rail transit line on Manhattan’s famed 42nd Street resurfaced into public view this week, courtesy of The New York Times. The proposal envisions LRT linking the United Nations Building, on Manhattan’s East Side, with Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal, before reaching the Jacob Javitts Convention Center on the West Side.
The Times duly notes the proposal has failed to gain support from current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration suggests the line would “compete” with MTA New York City Transit’s existing subway lines (both the No. 7 and the "Shuttle") and bus services, as well. Bloomberg has invested substantial political capital, as well as considerable city fiscal resources, to extend the No. 7 west from its current terminus at Times Square.
Left unaddressed under this logic is why MTA’s existing modal services aren’t considered in “competition” with each other already. But the Bloomberg administration at leasts offers a reason for its reluctance; predecessor Mayor Rudolph Giuliani studiously ignored the 42ndStreet proposal despite support from some business groups.
George Haikalis, co-chairman of citizens group Vision42, notes the group has tried to advance the idea for more than 10 years, but acknowledges that Mayor Bloomberg’s support could be a decisive factor. “The real gain here is you could handle three times as many people with roughly the same cost,” Mr. Haikalis said. “A lot of people have expressed interest in this, but have not signed on, because they’re awaiting interest from Mayor Bloomberg.”
Haikalis, assisted over the years by rail advocates in New York and New Jersey and by various lower-level city transportation staffers supportive of LRT (even if the city is not), has conducted field trips across the Hudson River on Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit, which runs on a north-south route paralleling Manhattan and the river, for interested city and state officials.
“City officials can literally see HBLRT from their windows in their Manhattan offices,” Haikalis observed recently to Railway Age, “but somehow can’t make the connection that a successful light rail line literally in full view could be duplicated in Manhattan itself.”
Others have grasped the concept, however. Among those supporting Vision42’s concept, in whole or in part, are Douglas Durst, the chairman of the Durst Organization, which owns five office buildings on 42nd Street, and Jeffrey Katz, chief executive of Sherwood Equities, which owns One Times Square as well as the building housing the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square.
Katz, among others, has reservations over closing 42nd Street completely to auto traffic, but supports the LRT concept. Others have questioned how truck deliveries would be made to businesses along the route, though Vision 42 notes almost every building on the street already have freight access on adjacent streets.
U.S. intermodal rail traffic volume reached its highest level in September since last November, the Association of American Railroads says, even though when compared to September 2008 levels, intermodal rail traffic declined 14.4%.
AAR’s monthly Rail Time Indicators summary with downloadable report and embedded video summary note that the relative improvement in intermodal traffic may be related to retailers restocking shelves for the upcoming holiday season.
September’s monthly carload data showed a decline of 14.2% compared with a year ago. AAR says weather may have been a factor, since flooding in the Southeast affected traffic across many commodity categories. Lower natural gas prices and the relatively mild summer may also have been a factor in carload declines, since there was a 13.3% drop in demand for coal, the single largest commodity shipped by railroads, compared with year-ago levels.
“The data in the October report gives us some indication that better things may be on the horizon,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. “While some of this activity is seasonal, railroads have taken more than 15,000 cars out of storage between September 1 and October 1. However, we must continue to wait and see.”