Transit Briefs: ACE, NJT, STM

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
As part of its Climate Action Plan, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has moved to the sole use of renewable diesel (R100) for its ACE locomotive fleet.

As part of its Climate Action Plan, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has moved to the sole use of renewable diesel (R100) for its ACE locomotive fleet.

San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has made the switch to 100% renewable diesel for locomotives operating in ACE (Altamont Corridor Express) commuter rail service in California. Also, New Jersey Transit (NJT) and Berkeley College have signed a three-year marketing agreement; and Société de transport de Montréal (STM) has released its 2023 budget and 2023-32 Capital Expenditures Program.

As part of its Climate Action Plan, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has moved to the sole use of renewable diesel (R100) for its ACE locomotive fleet. The move is slated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 99%, the agency reported on Nov. 28.

Valley Pacific Petroleum Services, Inc. is supplying the 51,000 gallons of fuel per month needed for the ACE locomotives. The renewable diesel is made from “responsible and sustainable feedstock, such as used cooking oil and/or inedible corn oil,” according to San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, the designated owner, operator and policy-making body for ACE, which comprises an 86-mile corridor between Stockton and San Jose with 10 stations (see map below).

San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission said its first step toward a cleaner fleet came in 2017 with the introduction of the Tier IV Siemens Chargers that replaced Tier 0 locomotives in the active fleet. The Chargers “provide a minor increase in GHG emissions but a substantial improvement in air quality emissions,” according to the agency. “These locomotives also allow an increase in railcars per train (from seven to 10), which improves per-passenger fuel efficiency metrics. A key factor in the switch to renewable diesel was to ensure the Cummins engine would continue successful operation with the introduction of a new fuel type. Through a series of testing and discussions, the engine manufacturer Cummins has approved 100% renewable diesel for use in its engines used in the Siemens Charger locomotives and poses no harm to the engine or its components.”

San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission reported that it is now launching a research and development project on zero-emission locomotives. “A key factor in this research is to identify and study a zero-emission propulsion method that can handle the grades in the Altamont Pass,” it said. Other components of the agency’s Climate Action Plan include converting connecting shuttle/bus services to electric vehicles and on-site solar programs for stations. In its role as the managing agency of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission is also working toward switching the San Joaquins trains and Thruway Buses to renewable diesel.

NJT and Berkeley College on Nov. 28 announced a marketing partnership officially designating the North Jersey Coast Line’s Woodbridge Station as the “Home of Berkeley College.” College signage and advertising will be prominently displayed throughout the station for three years.

“The partnership with Berkeley College is a great way to promote New Jersey’s colleges while encouraging the use of public transit by students, faculty and staff,” New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “These opportunities are a great example of a win-win.”

“We remain committed to leveraging our existing assets for opportunities to maximize non-fare box revenue,” NJT President and CEO Kevin S. Corbett said. “Partnerships like this help us keep fares stable for our customers.”

“Berkeley College has been an integral part of the Woodbridge community for four decades,” said Kevin L. Luing, Board Chairman of Berkeley College, which offers campuses in New York City and in Newark, Woodbridge, and Woodland Park, N.J., with more than 3,500 students enrolled. “The establishment of New Jersey Transit’s Woodbridge Station as ‘Home of Berkeley College’ celebrates this legacy.”

STM on Nov. 28 introduced a C$1.7 billion budget for 2023 and a C$20.4 billion Capital Expenditures Program for 2023-32.

“The STM is facing major financial challenges in 2023 related to the economic climate and funding issues affecting public transit,” said STM CEO Marie-Claude Léonard, who took over the top job in July. “While the pandemic transformed travel needs and habits, our target is to maintain a level of service similar to 2022. However, to do so, we will have to find additional means that align with this goal. The planned budget measures are in keeping with our commitment to ensuring sound management, while continuing to preserve the appeal of public transit by improving its performance and contributing to its sustainability.”

Despite the streamlining efforts made in the past few years and a limited increase in current expenditures, STM said it estimates its losses for 2023 at C$77.7 million. Most of this increase, it explained, is due to the “global indexation of compensation and goods and services in an inflationary context”; “significant rise in cost per trip and the increase in basic fares for paratransit service”; and “additional unavoidable operating expenses to ensure reliable and safe service, some of which were postponed in 2022.”

Among the investments postponed as part of the last budget year and planned for 2023 is the start of major AZUR train maintenance programs needed to ensure reliability and maximize useful life, according to STM.

“STM aims to provide a level of service similar to 2022 in 2023, and constructive discussions are currently under way with the STM’s financial partners to identify solutions,” the agency reported. “In the interest of sound management, the STM will put forward an enhanced service offer for the first months of 2023 while awaiting funding confirmation. ​This includes targeted adjustments following a careful analysis of several parameters, such as service frequency, crowding and travel needs. It will be possible to re-adjust the service offer during the year should the financial parameters change.

“Aware of the critical importance of paratransit service in allowing registered customers to travel and play an active role in society, the STM continues to perform despite funding issues by planning 3.4 million trips in 2023, a 15.6% increase over 2022.”

Other 2023 budget highlights include:

  • Continuation of the electrification strategy, with the planned acquisition of 147 long-range electric buses.
  • Addition of a train on the Yellow line to promote mobility during work on the LHL Tunnel.
  • Implementation of bus priority measures across the entire network as part of “Mouvement bus.”
  • Continuation of accessibility work in the métro, with the goal of making 30 stations accessible by 2025.

For the C$20.4 billion Capital Expenditures Program for 2023-32, STM said it will invest C$10.0 billion in infrastructure maintenance and development, compared with C$8.1 billion over the past 10 years. The electrification of bus network infrastructure, the Blue line extension, the ongoing installation of elevators in métro stations, and an increased level of investment in asset maintenance programs are the major reasons behind this increase, according to the agency.

“The priority projects are essential to ensuring that the STM evolves to better respond to the challenges of the post-pandemic recovery and be able to position itself as a mobility option of choice over single-occupant car use,” said Éric Alan Caldwell, Chair of the STM Board of Directors. “We’re focused on value-added investments that will generate short-term benefits for current customers and dividends for future generations. We’re aware of the importance of public transit in the fight against climate change, and it’s necessary to act now.”

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