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%.
Wabtec Corp. has agreed to pay Faiveley Transport Malmo AB $3.9 million, the result of an arbitration ruling, received Dec. 24, involving claims filed against Wabtec by a Swedish subsidiary of Faiveley Transport. "We are pleased that the arbitration process is concluded and that the ruling will have no impact on our ability to provide products and services to our customers now and in the future," said Wabtec in a statement.
"In 1993, we entered into a license agreement with SAB WABCO, then an affiliated company, in which SAB WABCO granted us a license to the intellectual property and know-how related to the manufacturing and marketing of certain transit braking components," said Wabtec.
"In 2005, Faiveley Transport purchased SAB WABCO. The license agreement was terminated at the end of 2006 and Wabtec reverse-engineered the products at issue. In 2007, Faiveley Transport Malmo filed a request for arbitration with the International Chamber of Commerce alleging breach of contract and trade secret violations relating to Wabtec's manufacture and sale of the limited number of transit braking components covered in the license agreement.
"The Arbitral Tribunal's ruling entitles Wabtec to continue to manufacture and sell these components for current and future contracts using its reverse-engineered manufacturing drawings, and it says that Wabtec should pay Malmo a reasonable royalty based on past and predicted future sales of these components through 2011. In the fourth quarter, we will record a one-time charge for the royalty payment, which, due to the uncertain outcome and timing, was not included in our 2009 guidance for earnings per diluted share of between $2.40-$2.50," Wabtec said.
For his role in completing the transformation of Canadian National from troubled Crown corporation to an internationally acclaimed private railway, departing CN President and CEO E. Hunter Harrison Tuesday received the warm applause of the company’s board of directors.David G. A. McLean, chairman of the board of directors of CN noted that Harrison (pictured at left) has received numerous accolades, including Railway Age magazine’s 2002 Railroader of the Year, the 2009 International Business Leader of the Year from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Canada's CEO of the Year by Report on Business magazine. His predecessor as CN’s CEO, Paul Tellier, was Railway Age’s 1997 Railroader of the Year."On behalf of CN's board of directors, I would like to thank Hunter for the outstanding leadership and service that he has provided to this company. His innovative Precision Railroading model and tireless dedication has led to the creation of a great North American railroad and will leave this company well positioned for future success," said McLean. "As Hunter prepares to step down from the company and from its board of directors, we extend our profound gratitude for what he has accomplished, and our best wishes for the future."
Harrison, 65, became CN's president and chief executive on Jan. 1, 2003, after serving as CN's executive vice-president and chief operating officer.
On April 21, 2009, CN's board of directors selected Claude Mongeau to succeed Harrison as president and chief executive officer effective Jan. 1, 2010.
Bombardier Transportation and AB Transitio have agreed on the delivery of 11 three-car Bombardier CONTESSA trains valued $137 million, with an option for an additional five trains. The trains will be leased by Swedish operators Lanstrafiken Kronoberg, Kalmar Lans Trafik, and Hallandstrafiken.
The new trains will operate at speeds up to 112 mph in the Oresund region and will be managed by cooperating traffic authorities in Oresundand Trafikstyrelsen in Denmark. With this agreement, he total number of these trains ordered by customers in Sweden and Denmark is 111, of which 90 have been delivered.
The trains can cross the bridge between Denmark and Sweden despite different rail infrastructures. They automatically shift signaling and power systems when crossing the border thanks to a dual system integrated in the vehicles.
AnsaldoBreda said Tuesday it has been awarded a five-year contract worth $54 million to upgrade 143 light rail vehicles for San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI), part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
The light rail vehicles will be revamped at AnsaldoBreda’s plant in Pittsburg, Calif., where the doors, steps, couplers, air supply units, wiring, and bearings will be overhauled.
“We are delighted to collaborate with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and with San Francisco, a city that has been operating AnsaldoBreda vehicles since 1996,” said Salvatore Bianconi, CEO of AnsaldoBreda. “Thanks to the overhaul and modernization program, the cars can be maintained in service on the streets of San Francisco for many years to come.”
For railroad suppliers who are wondering how BNSF Railway's large capital improvement programs will fare under new ownership, there's reassuring news in the transcript of an in-house interview between Warren Buffett and BNSF CEO Matt Rose that was taped for the benefit of employees.
While Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. is borrowing $8 billion to finance the $26 billion purchase of BNSF, he assured the railroad's employees that he won’t use railroad assets to pay off Berkshire debt, and will continue to invest in the railroad's infrastructure. “It’d be crazy if we didn’t,” said Buffett. “We’re not going to buy a business and starve it.”
The interview was included in a regulatory filing Dec. 21.