While U.S. Class I railroad employment continues its slow recovery from the depths of the economic downturn last year, the numbers remain significantly below pre-recession levels, a study of Surface Transportation Board reports for the last three years reveals.
The latest report, released by the STB Thursday, shows that total Class I employment in May 2010, 149,067, was down by 1.04% from May 2009 but off 10.13% from May 2008’s total of 165,269.
Operating crew employment has been hardest hit. May 2010’s figure of 58,764 was up 14.9% from last May but down 14.5% from May 2008’s 68,739.
Maintenance of way and structures, an activity that a well-kept and safe railroad finds hard to cut, fared far better. The May 2010 number, 34,443, was up 0.22% from April 2010 and down only 1.5% from May 2008’s 35,689.
Maintenance of equipment and stores employment, 28,139 in May this year, was down 4.80% from April and off 7.4% from May 2008.
Employment in the transportation (other than train and engine) group, 6,494 in May 2010, was down 0.86% from April and off 1.6% from May 2008.
The Association of American Railroads Friday announced its release of the 2010 edition of the Freight Commodity Statistics publication, which presents comprehensive 2009 data for Class I railroad traffic by commodity.
More than 450 commodities ranging from motor vehicles to watermelons are outlined in the report, broken down into U.S., East, and Western regional carloads and tonnage originated, terminated, and carried. AAR’s Freight Commodity Statistics report is available for purchase in bothprint and online versions. To order copies of the book, visit the AAR Website at pubs.aar.org/pubstores/ and click on the online catalog link under AAR.
Phoenix-area regional transit planners expect to recommend a 2.5-mile streetcar line, and not a light rail extension, to serve Tempe, Ariz.Along Mill and Southern avenues.
If accepted by the Tempe City Council, Tempe would become the second Arizona city, after Tucson, to pursue a modern streetcar operation.
The city has considered both an extension of Valley Metro’s light rail line, and also Bus Rapid Transit, but funding for both options is not in place due in part to lower sales tax revenue caused by recession, according to Valley Metro Rail Project Development Director Wulf Grote. Financial constraints are affecting the streetcar option as well, but so far has delayed plans for completion by only one year (from 2015 to 2016).
Supporters hope to tap regional tax revenue and federal funds from the Small Starts program overseen by the Federal Transit Administration, Grote said. Small Starts could provide $75 million, or about 46%, of the $162 million estimated initial cost of the project.
Operating costs for the line are estimated at $3.1 million per year. But planners believe the benefit to the city’s economy would be about 1.3 times the cost, Grote said.
Union Pacific has made Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 2010 list of the of the 50 top-performing stocks, with a five-year return of 127.9%. UP is ranked No. 44. During the same period— March 31, 2005 to March 31, 2010—the S&P 500 Index returned 10%.
“While we are proud of our performance over the past five years, which includes one of the biggest downturns the U.S. economy has ever seen, we know the importance of remaining focused on safety, service, and efficiency,” said UP Chairman and CEO Jim Young (pictured at left). “We continue to introduce valuable products and services for our customers. These and other long-term capital investments support our growth strategy and help Union Pacific reward shareholders.”
The Association of American Railroads reports that for the week ended June 12, intermodal traffic on U.S. railroads totaled 223,075 trailers and containers, up 17.7% from last year and down only 2.3% from pre-recession 2008.
U.S. carriers originated 288,973 carloads in the latest week, up 10.5% from the comparable week in 2009 but still down still down 10.3% from the same week in 2008.
Sixteen of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year, led by an 88.9% jump in metals. Strong increases were also seen inmetallic ores, 57%; coke, 49.2%; motor vehicles and equipment, 36.5%; and waste and scrap materials, 32.4%. Groups posting decreases included pulp, paper and allied products, down 7.5%; farm products, down 5.1%; and grain mill products, down 0.7%.
Canadian railroads reported 73,703 carloads for the week, up 28%, and intermodal volume of 51,334 trailers or containers, up 31.5%. Mexican railroads reported volume of 15,108 cars, up 22.9% from the same week last year, and 6,655 trailers or containers, up 39.5%.
Total North American rail volume for the first 23 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads came to 8,463,154 carloads, up 10.2% from last year, and 5,940,938 trailers and containers, up 12%.
Austin, Tex.’s Capitol Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors Thursday unanimously named Linda S. Watson as its new CEO. Watson was one of two finalists, given the nod over Deborah Wathen Finn, president of The Wathen Group, a New York-based consultancy.
Watson currently heads the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Orlando, Fla. She and the Cap Metro board still must agree on contract specifics.
Cap Metro hired the firm Gilbert Tweed last January to conduct a national search for CEO; Gilbert Tweed received 110 applications.
After repeated delays, Cap Metro last March launched its initial 32-mile commuter rail line, using six Stadler-Bussnag diesel-multiple unit (DMU) trains.
Vancouver, Wash., across the Columbia River from larger neighbor Portland, Ore., has resisted being included in any light rail transit plans for decades. But the Washington municipality’s opposition appears to be slowly waning as it seeks a road/rail compromise plan.
The latest such measure: a new downtown park-and-ride structure across the street from the Vancouver Convention Center, which coulddouble as a light rail station and receiver for traffic near a proposed new Interstate 5 road and rail bridge.
“We believe you might even be able to make the station apart of the parking structure, so that you could literally park on the secondfloor and walk straight into the train station," said Thayer Rorabaugh, Vancouver transportation manager.
Some light rail advocates are wary of the proposal, calling it a political compromise at best that doesn’t best address growing traffic congestion in Vancouver or the region.
The project is part of an equipment refurbishing program Talgo is overseeing for equipment used on Amtrak’s Cascades service linking Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
Nomad says it will make use of the simultaneous bandwidth available on all 3G networks (including a Canadian 3G network for trains en route to Vancouver), to give passengers the best possible quality of Wi-Fi service.
The passenger information system allows passengers to view real-time information about their journey on screens in each car. Passengers will be shown the current train position on a map with updated schedule information such as the time to the next station. The system also provides text feeds, video, and GPS location-triggered content, with audio via the train’s PA system.
Nigel Wallbridge, Nomad’s executive chairman, said: “This is another significant milestone for us in the North American market. In a few short years on-train Wi-Fi has become the norm for rail operators and Nomad’s systems are proving to be the preferred solution to deliver a first class service on all types of route. We are particularly excited to be introducing our next-generation passenger information system for the first time in the North American market.’’
Ferran Canals, capital projects division manager at Talgo Inc., said: “We look at this Wi-Fi system as the way to ensure that Talgo trains running in the Northwest Cascades Corridor will set the standard for providing an exceptional passenger experience.”
Seattle-based Talgo, Inc. is the North American subsidiary of Madrid, Spain-based Patentes Talgo, S.A.
Canadian Pacific has joined the Windsor Port Authority and Borealis Infrastructure, a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, in forming the Continental Rail Gateway coalition (CRG) to promote the development, funding, and construction of a replacement rail tunnel under the Detroit River.
“The current freight tunnel, which carries approximately 350,000 rail cars each year, opened in 1909 and remains in excellent condition,” the coalition said in a statement Thursday. “However, it cannot handle double-stacked, nine-foot, six-inch containers and some new generations of multilevel rail cars used by shippers and auto manufacturers. The tunnel clearance was enlarged once in 1994 and can't be further expanded.”
The coalition said that replacing the 100-year-old tunnel “is a key step toward making the strategically located region ofWindsor/Essex County/Detroit/Wayne County more competitive as a logistics hub for manufacturers, agricultural shippers, and other importers and exporters. The high-clearance replacement rail tunnel will allow double-stacked container trains out of the Port of Montreal to use the Montreal/Windsor/Detroit/Chicago corridor. This is important to the region because the Port of Montreal plans to double its container-handling capacity over the next ten years.”
Earlier this month, a project description was submitted to Transport Canada in compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The coalition said work with U.S. regulators will continue on environmental reviews that began in 2009 with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.