In 1995, one of the alternatives of the original Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project would have developed a track connection for New Jersey Transit (NJT) trains to go to Grand Central Terminal (GCT) on the East Side of Midtown Manhattan. New Jersey riders, especially commuters whose offices are nearby, would have enjoyed convenient access to them for the first time. That alternative was eliminated in 2003, and the means for delivering new Manhattan capacity was downgraded to a stub-end deep-cavern station 20 stories below ground.
While the COVID-19 virus was occupying most of our attention, an event so unforeseeable and strange occurred that anything remotely resembling it had previously been considered unthinkable. For a brief time in April, oil literally became equivalent to trash. It brought a negative price on the market, which meant that its owners had to pay to get rid of it, as the cost to store it kept rising. That phenomenon was a momentary hiccup of our virus-based economy, but it says something about supply, demand and the cost of infrastructure. This does have something to do with the Gateway Program, and it is time for the members of the Board of the Gateway Development Corp. (GDC) to start noticing some recent changes. As of the May 28 meeting, they had not.
Proponents of the Gateway Program split a double-header on Feb. 10, 2020, when the Federal Transit Administration released its ratings for projects for which grant applications were filed through the New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity Improvement Programs.
When we published the sixth article in this series last month, we promised continuing coverage of the Gateway saga. What we did not know at that time was that so much news would come to us so quickly. At a Board meeting of the Gateway Program Development Corp. on July 22, a Gateway spokesperson presented an analysis of delays that he attributed to the existing Portal Bridge and the existing Hudson Tunnels (also known as the North River Tunnels) on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and criticized the plan currently under way to rehabilitate the Canarsie Tunnels in New York City. Both analyses omitted facts that indicate that Gateway’s Hudson Tunnel and Portal North Bridge projects are not as cost-effective or necessary as he made them appear. Later that day, the Gateway Corporation became a “Commission” with questionable fundraising authority. Despite that change, a former offer by New Jersey Transit (NJT) to impose a surcharge on future rail trips to and from New York has been scuttled, raising the question of how New Jersey can replace the money that would have come from the surcharge.
In October, I reported on three events that took place within three days, all of which concerned the possibility of more Amtrak-operated state-supported trains in the Midwest. The events are now over,
RAILWAY AGE, NOVEMBER 2021 ISSUE: Railway Age’s Women in Rail awards recognize leaders for driving their businesses forward while making a difference in the industry and in their communities.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is proposing a new name for its rapid transit and trolley lines, as well as new letters and colors to represent them. In addition, late night subway service will return in October for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA); and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on Sept. 7 reopened four Green and Yellow line stations following summer reconstruction work.
First, let me make one thing very clear: The United States is way behind the rest of the world in high-speed rail. That needs to change. There have been some efforts in the right direction, but despite these efforts, domestic HSR for the most part has gone nowhere.
RAILWAY AGE, MAY 2021 ISSUE: Nearly wiped out decades ago, the lightest form of light rail has made a remarkable comeback.
Friday the Thirteenth of March 2020 left its mark on millions of Americans as the last “normal” day that they might ever have. On that day and over the following weekend, states and localities ordered shut-downs of “non-essential” businesses and jobs. Many of the workers who still had a job started to work remotely from home, and a lot of them continue doing that. Transit ridership and revenue plummeted, as managers scrambled to save money by cutting service. It has begun to recover in some places, but will some of the changes become permanent?
Let’s take a closer look at the increases in relief for transit and Amtrak; consider how they will affect service; and examine what transit, Amtrak and their riders can expect in the near future.
RAILWAY AGE, FEBRUARY 2021 ISSUE: Railway Age is honoring 20 “Fast Trackers” from a pool of more than 100 strong nominations for this year’s 20 Under 40 awards program.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) held a virtual rally Dec. 9 with eight other transit agencies calling on Congress to “urgently deliver significant and immediate federal aid to public transportation systems nationwide” to stave off severe pandemic-related cutbacks.
“Examining the Surface Transportation Board’s Role in Ensuring a Robust Passenger Rail System” was the topic of a virtual Nov. 18 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Oct. 21 convened a hearing on the state of the U.S. passenger and freight rail network. Railroad, shipping and union representatives provided testimony, which included the impacts of COVID-19, legislative considerations for surface transportation reauthorization, and Amtrak’s ongoing struggles. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is Chair of the Committee. Following are highlights from the presenters, with downloadable PDFs of their full written testimony.
For almost half a century, passenger rail service in the United States has resided in the public sector. Despite its unusual statutory charter, Amtrak’s voting shares belong to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Every transit agency that runs trains in its metropolitan area is owned by some sort of public entity, whether based in state or local government, or a separate public-sector authority. Times are changing, though, and certain private-sector entities have expressed interest in running passenger railroads.
As the COVID-19 virus began to sweep across the nation in March, everybody seemed to cling to the hope that it would do its damage and move on quickly, so life could return to “normal.” Rail transit in most cities switched to weekend schedules on weekdays. Most of the country’s commuter rail providers did that, too.
For the second time in less than four weeks, a streetcar line in the United States has bitten the dust. This one is Philadelphia’s Route 15, operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and which ran for 8.4 miles along Girard Avenue, an east-west street about one mile north of Market Street.
When we last reported to you about the Gateway Program on Aug. 13, 2019, its proponents were making a best effort to alarm the public about the condition of the existing tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station New York (officially known as the North River Tunnels), in the hope of stirring up public and political support for spending billions of dollars to build a new set of tunnels before starting repairs on the existing ones. At they same time, they were disparaging an alternative repair method now being implemented on the Canarsie Tunnels under 14th Street in Manhattan and under the East River to Brooklyn on the L-Train line of the New York City subway system, a method that averted a 15-month shutdown of the busiest part of the line.
“GREEN SIGNALS AHEAD: THE FUTURE OF RAIL EXPANSION IN MASSACHUSETTS.” That was the theme of the fall meeting and mini-conference held in Boston on Friday, Oct. 11 and sponsored by the Rail Users Network (RUN). At the event, several rail managers and planners, as well as representatives of elected officials, provided an ambitious plan for expanding rail in the Bay State, from Pittsfield and Greenfield in the west to New Bedford and Fall River in the southeast.