Posts Tagged ‘Indianapolis’

Motorists Vent About Blocked Crossings

April 19, 2018

What began as a lighthearted action to deal with delays at railroad grade crossings in Indianapolis has evolved into full-fledged venting.

A Facebook page titled “Damn Train” is being used by residents of the east side of the city to log instances in which they are stopped by a train.

Most of the complaints have focused on a CSX crossing on East New York Street east of Interstate 65 and 70 on the east side of downtown. The page has 393 likes.

Among the comments: “Caught by damn train. 3rd time this week!” “The middle of rush hour and the train is stopped across the tracks? Is this a joke??” “It’s so slow it’s going backward.”

The Indianapolis Star reported that a CSX spokesman said the company is aware of the issue of trains stopping on the New York Street crossing and was seeking to address it.

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Surprised, Not Surprised at Indy Light Rail Ban Repeal Failure

March 14, 2018

I was surprised that a bill to repeal an Indiana law banning the spending of public money on a light rail system in Indianapolis sailed through the House of Representatives of the Hoosier State and not surprised that it died in the Senate.

Like all large urban areas, Indianapolis is surrounded by affluent suburbs that like being associated with the core city’s cultural and entertainment offerings but want to distance themselves from its crime and social pathologies.

Representing those suburbs are conservative and mostly Republican lawmakers who tend not to favor very much public transportation.

They are amendable to certain boutique public transportation such as transporting the elderly to medical appointments, but oppose large-scale regional public transportation initiatives.

In 2014 they flexed their muscles by adopting the light rail ban as part of a mass transit funding agreement that gave Indianapolis and surrounding counties the ability to raise income taxes for public transit by means of a ballot initiative.

Then Amazon put Indianapolis on its list of 20 finalists for its second headquarters.

The finalists were chosen from 238 applicants chasing the $5 billion project that Amazon has said will result in 50,000 well-paying jobs.

That gave Rep. Justin Moed, an Indianapolis Democrat, an opening.

One criterion that Amazon wants is access to good public transportation. That is not a strong suit of Indianapolis or, for that matter, Columbus, which also made the list of Amazon finalists.

Neither city has a rail public transportation system or even a shovel-ready plan. Moed apparently thought Amazon might notice the light rail ban in Indiana law.

The House overwhelmingly approved his bill repealing the ban but then Senate Republicans decided not to vote on the bill.

News accounts cited a proposed amendment by Senator Mike Delph, a Carmel Republican, which would have required Indianapolis to prove that public transit money isn’t needed to fill potholes.

That was a ruse to kill the bill. Delph doesn’t care about potholes on Indianapolis streets except those he drives over to get to and from the Statehouse.

Carmel is located in a cluster of affluent suburbs in Hamilton County northeast of Indianapolis. It’s the same region that made news last year when the mayor of Fishers proposed abandoning a former Nickel Plate Road branch line that in recent years had hosted the Indiana Fairtrain run by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The mayor wants to convert the railroad right of way into a hiking and biking trail.

Many who live in such affluent places are not opposed to railroads per se. They just want them to run somewhere else.

They also have the education, the money and the political clout to do something about their NIMBY views.

The effort to repeal the light rail ban in Indianapolis reminded me of a comment I once heard about why efforts to transform the former Erie railroad line from Cleveland to Aurora into commuter rail have languished.

“Trains run both ways,” he said. Some who live in suburbs far from urban centers fear that criminals and other socially undesirable types will ride the trains to their pristine suburbs and cause all sorts of mischief and criminal activity.

However, the reasons why lawmakers from suburban and rural areas look askance at public transportation, particularly rail transit, are multifaceted.

Transportation is not something that legislators talk about much other than, maybe, highway development.

Yes, there is an anti-rail bias at work with some saying rail transportation is the technology and transportation mode of your grandparents.

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, told The Indianapolis Star that light rail “feels like it’s just going to be a dinosaur technology in the very near future.”

Long, who denied that the proposed Delph amendment killed the light rail repeal bill, also said any light rail project was likely to be a boondoggle. By that he meant that it would require continuous public funding of its operating costs.

That goes to the heart of much of the conservative opposition to public transportation, including funding of intercity rail service. They don’t like spending public money in an open-ended manner on things they believe are not the responsibility of government at any level.

Being proponents of small government, they do not believe, generally, that public funding should not be used to pay operating expenses for any transportation endeavor.

In their view those who use transportation should shoulder all of its operating expenses whether it is a train, plane, bus or livery car.

Yet many conservatives in Florida fiercely fought against Brightline, a privately funded intercity rail service that uses tracks owned by a private freight carrier.

So the opposition is rooted in something other than ideology about the role of government in public affairs. There are some underlying prejudices at work that rail opponents don’t want to discuss.

Many conservative lawmakers are highly sympathetic to the highway lobby. They recognize there is only so much money to be had for transportation spending and don’t want any of that money diverted toward other modes of transportation.

Indiana Senate President Long insisted to reporters that the opposition in the Senate GOP caucus to the light rail ban repeal was not partisan.

There is some truth to that. The Senate sponsor of the light rail repeal ban was a Republican who is the chairman of the Marion County Republican party. Indianapolis is located in Marion County.

The interests of Marion County and its surrounding counties don’t always coincide. Merritt also has clashed with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, over the condition of Indy’s streets.

The GOP caucus was split on the light rail ban repeal didn’t want to bare that in a public fight. Majority parties these days don’t like to have to depend on votes from the minority party in their chamber to win approval of legislation.

Yet another complication was that Marion County voters had approved a 2016 public transit ballot initiative to create three bus rapid transit routes, not unlike the BRT route in Cleveland connecting downtown with University Circle via Euclid Avenue.

There is some thought that many voters favored the initiative because its backers said the money would not be used for light rail.

Lifting the light rail ban had some support in the business community. The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce said the city needs all mass transit options on the table if it is to attract major new employers such as Amazon.

Even if the light rail ban had been lifted, there was no assurance that a light rail line would have been developed.

Fights such as the one that recently played out in Indianapolis have occurred in every city in the country where rail transit has been proposed.

Rail transit proponents have won a few skirmishes and seen streetcar and light rail lines develop in some seemingly unlikely places.

Yet the United States remains a highway oriented transportation culture and there are few signs that that is about to change. The opposition to rail transit and expansive regional public transportation is too entrenched.

Indy Light Rail Ban Repeal Appears to be Dead

March 7, 2018

The effort in the Indiana General Assembly to repeal a law that prohibits development of a light rail system in Greater Indianapolis has a hit a chuckhole.

A suburban senator who opposes light rail in the region has introduced an amendment to the legislation that would repeal the 2014 light rail ban to water it down.

Mike Delph of Carmel wants to require Indianapolis officials to prove that public transit money isn’t needed to fill potholes.

Specifically, his amendment would prohibit spending money on a light rail project until officials have “substantially remedied the pothole problem” and developed and implemented an “acceptable written plan” to remedy potholes during future winter seasons.

Some news media reports have said the amendment has been the bill’s death knell.

The Senate sponsor of the light rail repeal bill declined to bring the legislation to the Senate floor on Monday, the deadline for the chamber to consider legislation.

The bill’s House sponsor said he might seek to revive the bill later in the session, but the prospects for that are uncertain.

The bill had passed the House 95-0. Backers have said repealing the light rail ban is necessarily to try to entice Amazon to locate its second headquarters in Indianapolis.

The city is on a list of 20 finalists for the second headquarters. Amazon has said that public transit will be a factor in its decision as to where to locate the headquarters.

Indiana Senate Committee OKs Bill to Remove Light Rail Ban in Indianapolis Region

March 1, 2018

An Indiana Senate committee approved by a 7-2 vote a bill that would lift the ban on development of light rail systems in the counties surrounding Indianapolis.

The legislation is being sponsored by State Rep. Justin Moed, who said it is needed to help the city compete for the second headquarters of Amazon.

Indianapolis is one of 20 urban areas that Amazon is considering and public transportation is one of the criteria that it is evaluating.

Current law prohibits certain counties from purchasing, leasing, acquiring, constructing or operating a light-rail project.

Moed has said the legislation is needed if Indianapolis is to compete for major employers looking to locate their businesses in the area.

“This is no longer Naptown,” Moed said in a news release. “This is a growing city people are looking to move to. We just need to make sure the city of Indianapolis and central Indiana have all the tools they need to grow.”

A House committee approved the bill last month. No proposals or plans are in the works to create a light rail line in the Indy metro area.

Santa Fe Mini-Meet Set in Indianapolis

January 31, 2018

A Santa Fe mini-meet has been set in Indianapolis on March 10 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Allisonville Christian Church, 7701 Allisonville Road.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Advance ticket sales are being handled by Tom Cain atsf93@comcast.net, 6383 Dover Road, Indianapolis, IN 46220

The presentation schedule is as follows:

James Brown, Author of the new Santa Fe Illinois Division book: Railroad (and Industrial) Archeology: What’s Left of the Santa Fe Along the old First
District of the Illinois Division (Dearborn to Chillicothe)

Micheal Tomei, a modeler of modern Santa Fe locomotives: What’s
all that stuff on the roof?

Paul Nash, a Santa Fe Trainmaster: Santa Fe Operations/My Life as a Train Master

Tom Cain, an Indiana resident who models the Santa Fe: Adding Signals to the Eastern
Illinois Santa Fe layout with JMRI

There will be opportunities to tour area Santa Fe Layouts on Saturday evening.

Indiana May Repeal Light Rail Ban for Indianapolis

January 26, 2018

In an effort to woo a $5 billion Amazon headquarters, the Indiana General Assembly is moving to repeal a law banning light rail from the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

A House committee voted 11-1 this week in favor of legislation to repeal a 2014 law that bars state or local governments from spending money on light rail projects in the seven-county region surrounding Indianapolis.

The effort to repeal the law gained impetus when Amazon recently named Indianapolis one of 20 finalists for its second headquarters.

Also on the list are Chicago, Pittsburgh and Columbus. Cleveland applied for the headquarters but did not make the latest cut.

One of the criteria being used by Amazon to choose what is being termed HQ2 is good public transportation, including rail transportation.

Indianapolis has a bus system but not a rail transit system and there are no current plans to create one.

Amazon is headquartered in Seattle. Dozens of cities in the United States and Canada are eagerly seeking the Amazon headquarters because it promises to provide more than 50,000 jobs with average salaries of more than $100,000 annually.

“Transit is a very major factor for a lot of these major companies that are looking to move here,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Justin Moed (D-Indianapolis).

The 2014 law banning light rail was rooted in a belief by fiscal conservatives that a light rail system would require a taxpayer bailout due to its high costs.

The conservative lawmakers demanded the light rail ban as the price for their support of a measure to allow Indiana counties to increase incomes taxes through referendum for public transit projects.

New Indiana Tourist Railroad Being Planned

October 27, 2017

A new Indiana tourist train operation is making plans to commence operations in spring 2018.

Known as the Nickel Plate Express, the trains will be operated by the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad and use a former NKP branch line between Atlanta and Noblesville, Indiana.

The line once ran between Indianapolis and Michigan City, Indiana, but several portions of it have been abandoned.

The line in Hamilton and Marion counties has been inactive in the past year but had previously been used by the Indiana Transportation Museum.

The cities of Fishers and Noblesville want to abandon the tracks between the latter city and Indianapolis in order to create a hike and bike trail. That matter is now pending before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

Nickel Plate Express will be headquartered at the Arcadia Heritage Depot.

Although the tourist train operator has created a website, it has not listed any schedules, fare information or a service inauguration date.

However, the site said the trains will operate regular excursions Fridays through Sundays along the 12-mile track between Noblesville and Atlanta.

Departures will take place from Noblesville arriving in Cicero, Arcadia and Atlanta; to Noblesville from Atlanta; from Atlanta to Arcadia and the old spur or “Davon Y” between 216th & 221st Streets.

The website can be found at https://www.nickelplateexpress.net/

CSX Likely to Close Willard Hump, Will Reduce Scope of Intermodal Operations in Columbus

October 18, 2017

CSX is curtailing intermodal service to Columbus and is considering ending humping of freight cars at its yard in Willard.

In a notice to customers, CSX said it would end outbound intermodal service from Columbus to nearly two dozen destinations. However, only a handful of inbound intermodal lanes are being ended.

The curtailments are seen as further evidence of plans to reduce operations at the CSX Northwest Ohio intermodal terminal near North Baltimore.

CSX is also scaling back intermodal service in Detroit and Louisville, Kentucky.

The railroad has not yet made a public announcement on the future of its North Baltimore facility.

However, Trains magazine has cited unnamed sources as saying that its role in sorting containers is facing sharp cutbacks as CSX shifts to an operating model of precision scheduled railroading.

During a conference call to discuss the carrier’s third quarter earnings, CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison sidestepped a question about the future of the North Baltimore terminal, saying more details would be provided at a meeting of investors and stock analysts on Oct. 29-30 in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Everything we’re doing is under review,” Harrison said. “I can’t tell you what the outcome of that will be. We don’t go in there and look at an issue and have an answer. We go in there to look and develop an answer, and so we’ll see what it brings.”

As for the future of humping operations at Willard, CSX has been shifting to flat switching at most of its dozen hump yards.

It has apparently decided to retain humping operations in Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Selkirk, New York; and Waycross, Georgia.

Earlier this year, CSX said it would close the hump in Selkirk and ceased humping at Avon Yard near Indianapolis. It later reopened the Avon hump after the western end of its network became severely congested.

Harrison said during the conference call that Willard will “probably” be converted to a flat-switching in the near future.

He indicated that the railroad is developing trip plans for every carload that it moves. Those plans are expected to be revealed by the middle of 2018 in order to allow CSX to further refine its operating plan and improve service.

Harrison also said during the conference call that he has resumed his “Hunter Camps,” which are  intensive sessions involving training field operating personnel to teach them the finer points of precision scheduled railroading.

Although Harrison had told the CSX board of directors that he didn’t think he’d have time to continue the camps their response was that he didn’t have time not to run the camps.

Harrison said he has had to rely more on his operating team to develop disciples of precision scheduled railroading, but “we’ll get the same type results.”

INRD Expanding Container Capacity

September 12, 2017

Representatives of the Indiana Rail Road participated in a ceremony last month to mark the completion of the expansion of an increase in capacity of a West Coast port.

INRD interchanges container with Canadian National that are transported to and from the port at Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

Eric Powell, INRD manager, business development said in statement that “the Port of Prince Rupert can now handle almost 1.4M TEUs per year, double the capacity of just a year ago, thanks to the addition of a second ship berth, four Super Post-Panamax cranes and on-dock rail. For [our customers], this means the same fast, reliable Asian service with room to grow and, soon, more ocean service options.”

Powell said the port is the closest North American port to Asia and has an ice-free, deep-water harbor that can handle ships of any size.

In the meantime, INRD is adding a second crane to its Indianapolis ramp along with new stadium light.

“Our Indiana intermodal business to/from Asia and Europe has grown an average of 37 percent year-over-year since we opened in 2013,” Powell said.

He said the new lights and crane are expected to go into service no later than Nov. 15.

CSX Train Derails in Indianapolis

August 28, 2017

No injuries were reported in a CSX derailment in Indianapolis last week that resulted in a major street being closed.

The accident occurred near the intersection of White River Parkway Drive and West Washington Street.

News reports indicated that a covered hopper car was crumpled between a string of tank cars and locomotives belonging to CSX and Kansas City Southern.

The hopper car spilled grain and one of the tank cars leaked non-hazardous lubricating oil. CSX said the accident was under investigation.