Author: William C. Vantuono

With Railway Age since 1992, William C. Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age’s leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts, among them Next-Generation Train Control, Light Rail, and Rail Insights. He is the author or co-author or editor of several books, among them All About Railroading; John Armstrong’s The Railroad: What It Is, What It Does; Railway Age’s Comprehensive Railroad Dictionary; and Planning, Engineering, and Operating Light Rail, With Applications in New Jersey.

Special Podcast Series—The Coronavirus and the Rail Industry: Freight Railroads and Rail Equipment Market Analysis with FTR Transportation Intelligence and Railroad Financial Corporation

What is the depth of decrease in freight volumes as a result of COVID-19? Is there an increased percentage of freight rail moving over to trucking right now? What individual markets/commodities are under more stress as a result of the crisis? How will the railroads respond to the freight loss in the overall landscape of the PSR movement? Will Wall Street change its perspective on the railroads? Are there projected revisions to new-car builds for 2020? What is the state of the equipment leasing market, for both lessors and lessees? Is there timing for a return to normalcy?

Fitch Downgrades NYMTA Bonds, Removes “Rating Watch Negative”

Fitch Ratings downgraded approximately $800 million of outstanding TRB Series 2020C (transportation revenue bonds, climate bond certified) to be issued by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from AA- to A+ and outstanding TRB anticipation notes to F1 from F1+, but removed the agency’s long-term rating from Rating Watch Negative status. The Rating Outlook is Negative.

APTA: CARES Act Provides $25 Billion, With Conditions

President Trump on March 27 signed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (or Title XII of Division B), into law, following swift passage in the House of Representatives by voice vote, and one day after the U.S. Senate passed the bill in a unanimous 96-0 vote. The CARES Act is a $2 trillion stimulus package that addresses the devastating economic and societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes many funding measures that directly benefit the railway industry—all modes, freight and passenger. In the bill is approximately $25 billion for public transportation. Distribution of the funds is rather complex, and APTA (American Public Transportation Association), which took the lead in working with Congress on the bill’s transit provisions, provided an explanation to its members.

UPDATED MARCH 27: Stimulus Bill—Signed Into Law—CARES For Rail

President Trump on March 27 signed H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, into law, following swift passage in the House of Representatives by voice vote, and one day after the U.S. Senate passed the bill in a unanimous 96-0 vote. The CARES Act is a $2 trillion stimulus package that addresses the devastating economic and societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes many funding measures that directly benefit the railway industry—all modes, freight and passenger.

FRA, Responding to Industry Joint Petition, Issues Emergency Waiver

In response to a Petition from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a 60-day emergency waiver for certain requirements of FRA’s rail safety regulations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The petitioners, on behalf of their member railroads, requested relief from certain requirements of 49 CFR Parts 213, 214, 217, 218, 219, 220, 228, 229, 232, 234, 236, 239, 240, and 242.

Fitch: Five Transit Agencies on “Rating Watch Negative”

Fitch Ratings has placed the ratings of five large U.S. public transit agencies on “Rating Watch Negative.” Fitch said it “expects widespread and sharp declines in transit ridership and fare revenues to create significant near-term stress in the U.S. public transit sector with the [agencies] identified here at the greatest risk. Some transit agencies in major urban areas that have already been impacted by the pandemic are reporting ridership declines of as much as 70% to 90% amid efforts at social distancing, a widespread shift to telecommuting and shelter-in-place orders.”

“Saving America”

A Union Pacific locomotive engineer based in the Pacific Northwest who had just received his notice of exemption from travel restrictions proudly told Railway Age Contributing Editor Bruce Kelly, “We’ve gone from building America to saving it.” This UP field employee in Train & Engine Service has embraced his railroad’s slogan, “Building America,” and his heartfelt statement takes it to a higher level—from motto to mantra.