Commuter/Regional

Metro-North: Forgot Your Mask? Need Hand Sanitizer? No Problem, We’ll Sell It To You

MTA Metro-North Railroad has reconfigured vending machines at 12 stations throughout its commuter rail system to allow customers to purchase PPE (personal protective equipment) KN95 masks, bottled hand sanitizer and gloves at the machines starting July 10, though “free masks and hand sanitizer are still being distributed at stations and on trains for any rider that needs them,” the agency said.

NJT: Goodbye, Ticket Punch. Hello, Scanner

The manual ticket puncher has been a railroad conductor’s stock-in-trade tool for generations. On legacy systems like New Jersey Transit, which traces its roots to fallen flags like the Pennsylvania Railroad and Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, paper tickets are still in use, though they are fast being replaced with mobile phone apps. NJT has now begun a program to equip conductors with high-tech handheld mobile devices that scan and validate both paper and electronic tickets and passes.

CHSRA Releases Draft Environmental Document for N. California Project

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is releasing its second project-level Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) for the 49-mile project that would provide service between the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco and the San Jose Diridon Station. The document for the Northern California project section will be available for public comment starting Friday, July 10.

MTA, Transit Innovation Partnership Debut COVID-19 Response Challenge

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Transit Innovation Partnership launched a new “COVID-19 Response Challenge” in an effort to engage the private tech industry and rapidly evaluate and deploy innovative technologies that make public transit safer, healthier and more responsive to customer and workforce needs in light of the global pandemic.

Fitch Ratings for NYMTA: TRBs “A+”; BANs “F1”; Outlook “Negative”

Fitch Ratings has assigned a rating of “A+” to approximately $600 million of Transportation Revenue Bonds (TRB) Series 2020D (Mandatory Tender Bonds) and a rating of “F1” to $500 million of transportation revenue Series 2020B Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs) to be issued by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The bonds and BANs will be sold via negotiation; the sale date and principal amount are both subject to market conditions. Proceeds will finance existing approved transit and commuter projects. Fitch has affirmed at “A+” approximately $24.4 billion of outstanding TRBs. The Rating Outlook is Negative.

First in a Series: Has Amtrak Declared War?

This writer began working on this series on June 19. It was Juneteenth, the day an increasing number of Americans of all colors and heritages now view as an occasion to celebrate freedom. Part of the freedom that many Americans treasure is the freedom to travel, as stated in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The “right to travel” is one thing, in the sense that government cannot unduly restrict travel (as questionable as that assumption may appear these days), but there is also the issue that this sacred “right” can be limited if access to mobility is also limited. Millions of Americans who depend on Amtrak for part of their travel are about to lose a significant portion of the mobility they have today.

O’Malley Departing RSI

After just over two years at the helm, Railway Supply Institute (RSI) President Mike O’Malley is leaving the organization at the end of July. O’Malley, who has served as RSI’s leader since early 2018, is “pursuing an opportunity with a corporation outside the Washington, D.C. area,” RSI said in an announcement. O’Malley joined the organization after serving in a government relations capacity with CSX.