Dallas Area Rapid Transit bolstered its reputation for aggressive light rail transit growth by opening Monday for revenue service the first three miles of its Green Line through South Dallas to Fair Park. DART held opening-day ceremonies on Saturday along the new route, adding station stops at Deep Ellum, Baylor University Medical Center, Fair Park, and MLK, Jr. stations.
DART also added “full-time service” to the line at Victory Station at American Airlines Center, which had been limited to sporting and special events service only.
Spokesman Morgan Lyons says the new DART extension gives residents a choice. “They can replace their cars with the train," he said. “The train runs on electricity, it's cleaner, it's more reliable, it's more efficient, saves you money; what more do you need?"
DART continues to proceed with further extensions of the Green Line southeast to Buckner, and northwest to North Carrollton/Frankford; both extensions are scheduled to open in December 2010. Total estimated cost of the full 20-station, 28-mile Green Line is $1.8 billion, with federal funding providing $700 million.
Portland, Ore.'s TriMet MAX light rail system, considered by many the model of North American LRT operations, opened its new 8.3-mile GreenLine extension southeast to nearby Clackamas Saturday. The $575.7 million line also serves Portland State University. Regular revenue service began today.
Based on samples from electronic passenger counters, TriMet estimates about 25,000 riders sampled the free ride on the Green Line’s opening day during official festivities running between 11:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. As many as 40,000 trips were expected through the end of the service day, about 11:00 p.m.
Peter M. Rogoff, head of the Federal Transit Administration, attended the opening ceremonies, and said, “This project embodies the core elements of the president's agenda for the nation.” He added, “It's going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It's going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it will make an already livable city even more enjoyable."
Amtrak once again is willing to move to the current James A.Farley Post Office Building, across the street from its existing Penn Station facility in Manhattan, as part of a deal with the state of New York and regional transit authorities. Amtrak’s agreement revives efforts to convert much of the postal facility into a “new” Penn Station, to be named after the late Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.), an ardent Amtrak champion.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he and state Gov. David A. Paterson had been negotiating with Amtrak for six months and found Amtrak’s current President Joseph Boardman “far more helpful” than previous Amtrak executives.
Specifics still are yet to be divulged, but under the current agreement Amtrak would share cost of the relocation, not carry the cost by itself. One change is that the parties have agreed to Amtrak’s request to share revenue from retail outlets in the expanded station and to make some design changes, according to a spokesman for Sen. Schumer.
Estimates of the project’s cost range between $1.1 billion and $1.5 billion; federal earmarks of $200 million are already identified for the project, and Schumer’s spokesman said the pending agreement would make it more likely for Amtrak to access federal stimulus funds.
The proposal has its opponents, including those who believe Amtrak should not distance its existing station operations from much of thecity’s subway system. Any move by Amtrak west across Eighth Avenue would maintain direct links to New York City Transit’s A, C, and E subway service, but would make connections to trains on Seventh and Sixth avenues more difficult.
The current Penn Station, located beneath Madison Square Garden, also serves as the primary terminus for Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit train services.
Resuming a push for streetcar expansion interrupted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans’ Regional Transit Authority is advocating additions (or extensions) to its existing operations, at a projected cost of $212 million. Three streetcar lines being proposed all would link to the existing Canal Street line.
RTA says its hopes federal funding of $121 million, or 57% of the cost, will be available to advance the proposal. The agency is seeking much of that share though the federal TIGER program.
Of the roughly $91 million remaining to be funded, about $73.5 million would come from the sale of bonds backed by sales-tax collections allocated to the RTA. RTA also would use $13 million from a reserve account. RTA recently restored its borrowing power, damaged in part by the post-hurricane falloff in ridership, which some credit to Veolia Transportation, the company which assumed daily operations.
Under Veolia, the system has run at lower cost and has seenridership rebound, though slowly, according to Justin Augustine, the RTA'schief executive officer and a vice president at Veolia Transportation. "It shows that [financial markets] believe we've begun to put our fiscal house in order," Augustine said.
The St. Claude route, called the “French Quarter loop,” would run about four miles along North Rampart Street from Canal Street to Press Street and would feature a 1.2-mile spur on Elysian Fields Avenue that would connect with the Riverfront streetcar line at Esplanade Avenue.
The 1.8-mile Convention Center Boulevard line would run uptown from Canal Street via Tchoupitoulas and Poydras streets to Convention Center Boulevard, turning toward the Mississippi River at Henderson Street and connecting with the Riverfront streetcar line behind the Convention Center.
At 1.5 miles in length, the Union Passenger Terminal route would travel along Loyola Avenue between Canal Street and both the Greyhound and Amtrak terminals. Under the RTA's plan, the $45.6 million line is the only one that would be fully financed by the federal government.
Canadian National Friday officially opened its new C$14 million (US$13 million) Toronto Automotive Compound at MacMillan yard, north of the Ontario provincial capital. The new facility's track layout will accommodate the unloading of 60 auto-carrying rail cars at once, compared with CN’s 27 unloading spots at the former compound at Mac Yard, and will have room to park up to 4,500 vehicles.
A planned phase two expansion of the compound will provide parking for 6,000 cars and/or trucks.
In a statement, CN Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing James Foote said, "Our Toronto Automotive Compound is a key facility in our vehicle distribution network in Ontario, the largest auto market in Canada. Our new state-of-the-art facility will help CN increase the efficiency of vehicle transportation, accommodate more traffic, improve customer service, and better utilize our valuable real estate assets at MacMillan Yard, the largest rail classification terminal on CN's network." The Toronto auto compound is one of 17 vehicle distribution facilities operated by Autoport Ltd. in Canada and the U.S. A member of the CN WorldWide North America family of non-rail companies, Autoport extends CN's transportation reach beyond its rail network. CN says it has rail access to all vehicle assembly plants in Canada, as well as to numerous assembly plants in Michigan and one in Mississippi, and taps parts production facilities in Michigan and Ontario.
The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded $28 million for continued planning of a proposed maglev operating linking downtown Pittsburgh with the city’s international airport. The proposal has survived for nearly 30 years, with previous federal grants totaling $22 million helping to keep it alive.
Backers of the project envision a maglev link between Pittsburghand Philadelphia at speeds topping 250 mph, and say maglev is ideally suited to overcome the hilly terrain along much of that route. Area backers also seek to establish Pittsburgh as a maglev manufacturing hub.
FRA’s $28 million grant will be awarded formally to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which will direct the funds to the project's longtime backer, McKeesport, Pa.-based Maglev Inc.
"We're excited about it," said Maglev President and CEO Fred Gurney. "Maglev can climb grades of 10% easily. It can negotiate the terrain of Western Pennsylvania easily."
Jay Walder, confirmed by the New York State Senate Thursday as the new chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has vowed to initiate change within the organization, starting with its management structure.
"It's my intention to form a management team, and bring new people into the MTA with a broad range of experience and success in different parts of the world," Walder said, addressing a state Senate committee. "It's a fair expectation to say the MTA will be moving forward with a new team."
Walder previously was a management consultant based in London, as well as serving a previous stint with MTA and with Transport for London. He did not specify specific personnel changes to be made within MTA, however.
Walder replaces Dale Hemmerdinger as board chairman and also will be the MTA's top chief executive, as the two positions were merged earlier this year. He follows former MTA CEO Elliot Sander, who resigned last May under pressure from Gov. David Paterson in May. Many of Sander’s management staff still remain at MTA.
In terms of technology, Walder said he wants to make the transit system "more inviting" with improvements like electronic message boards at bus stops and on subway platforms telling riders when the next bus or train will arrive. MTA New York City Transit currently employs such technology on its L subway line, the first line also to be equipped with communications-based train control (CBTC).
Seven of the 19 carload freight commodity groups charted by the Association of American Railroads showed gains for the week ended September 5, compared with the corresponding week in 2008. The gains ranged from 2.3% formotor vehicles and equipment to 11.4% for chemicals. Among decliners, metallic ores fell most steeply, 46.2%.
All told, U.S. railroads reported originating 284,715 cars, down 6.7% compared with the same week in 2008. Carloadings were down 7.1% in the West and 6.0% in the East. U.S. intermodal traffic was down 0.2% from the same week last year.
Canadian railroads reported carload volume down 14.0% for the week compared with last year, and intermodal fell 4.9%. Mexican railroads reported carload volume was down 33.6% for the week, while intermodal slumped 30.4%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 11,786,932 carloads, down 19.2% from the comparable period last year. Combined North American intermodal traffic fell 16.6%.