Surface Transportation Board (STB) staff recently released a rate reform report with a series of recommendations. Readers should remember that before any of those recommendations become regulations, the Board must conduct rulemakings. This process could extend beyond 2020 and into the next Administration.
Around 1900, sharp operators in New York City would fleece tourists by offering to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge, which still impresses and inspires New Yorkers and visitors today, was a marvel of its age and towered over everything else on the Manhattan or Brooklyn sides of the East River when it opened for service in 1883. Today, there are still people who have a bridge to sell us; two bridges, in fact. They want transit riders and taxpayers in New York and New Jersey to spend more than $3 billion to replace one bridge with two. They also say that replacing a two-track bridge with another two-track bridge will expand capacity sufficiently to qualify for a grant program established specifically for that purpose.
WATCHING WASHINGTON, JUNE 2019 – Here we go again with Amtrak. While complaining that host freight railroads unreasonably impair its legal right to passenger-train priority handling, Amtrak is employing thug-like tactics to escape federal law and extract greater rents and other concessions from commuter-train operators utilizing Amtrak infrastructure including track and stations.
If one looks at recent developments, the Federal Railroad Administration’s withdrawal of the two-person-crew-minimum NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), it may seem “logical” to say the march toward one-person crews is accelerating. However, that may be an illusion.
In Part 2 of “Gateway – The Series,” authored by Contributing Editor David Peter Alan, the implication is made that all rail advocates support a two-track replacement of Portal Bridge as well as foregoing the Gateway Project by adopting the “L-Train Tunnel” solution advocated by Columbia University engineers to repair the existing 100-plus-year-old Hudson River tunnels.
Six out of the seven Class I freight railroads in operating in the U.S. (including CN’s and Canadian Pacific’s subsidiaries) have implemented or are in the process of transitioning to Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). While programs and processes will certainly vary from one railroad to another, all are likely designed around five foundation principles, as defined in 2016 by CP and the late Hunter Harrison during its aborted merger attempt with Norfolk Southern.
On June 6, the nation commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, a critical event along the path to victory in World War II. That day has been called “The Longest Day,” especially since the motion picture about the battle by that name was released in 1962. On June 7, hundreds of riders on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited experienced what, to them, may have felt like one of their own longest days, at least in recent memory. That experience was a trip on Amtrak between Chicago and the East Coast.
BOOK REVIEW: Diesel-Electric Locomotives – How They Work, Use Energy, and Can Become More Efficient and Environmentally Sustainable
While the documentation of diesel locomotives is extensive, Walter Simpson’s new book brings a fresh perspective to the literature. The book is an excellent primer on diesel locomotives that is well-illustrated with photographs and color-coded drawings of diesels and their parts. However, the underlying theme of the book is locomotive energy efficiency, fuel economy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions standards, leading to Tier 4 compliance. There is also a chapter on the environmental sustainability of railroads.
Optimizing the size of a railroad’s trainman and engineer workforce is vital. If there are too few crew members, the railroad risks failing to meet customer demand, resulting in customer service reliability problems and potentially translating into lost revenue. If there are too many crew members, the railroad risks incurring guaranteed payments, including the possibility of furloughs, as well as incurring avoidable training costs.
News item: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced May 23 that it is cancelling an April 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to mandate a minimum of two crewmembers on every freight train. Additionally, the agency is preempting, as it may under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution giving the federal government dominion over interstate commerce, all state laws mandating crew size within state borders.