Posts Tagged ‘Rail passenger service’

Posner Pushing Pop Up Rail Passenger Service

October 4, 2021

Rail entrepreneur Henry Posner is seeking to provide battery-powered multiple unit cars that could provide rail passenger service without the need for extensive capital investment.

Posner has called the concept Pop Up Metro and said its purpose is to lease passenger equipment to operators looking to provide service to smaller communities.

One likely user of the service would be a transit agency seeking to provide service to less-populated areas for less cost.

He said the Pop Up Metro business model includes “the train, the platform, the temporal separation operating rules, and various other elements of support that will make it easier to get people from maybe to yes in terms of there being a demonstration operation.”

says Posner.

Posner said the equipment would ideal to provide service on a lightly-used branch line or short line railroad where passenger trains could run during the day while freight service is provided at night.

The co-founder of Pittsburgh-based Railroad Development Corporation, which owns Iowa Interstate Railroad along with operations in England, France, Germany, Belgium, and Peru, Posner recently demonstrated the equipment at the Rockhill Trolley Museum in Pennsylvania using two remanufactured Vivarail 230 multiple unit power cars Great Britain.

One of RDC’s companies, RDC Deutschland, earlier this year signed contracts to operate five routes in north Germany that will use new Stadler battery-electric trainsets that are similar to those used in the Pennsylvania demonstration.

The equipment to be used in the Pop Up Metro plan can be transported by truck, making it easy to transfer from one route to another.

Posner said a Maine developer is interested in the concept as are the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit.

 “We think this fulfills an important role in the transit sector,” Posner said.

Pa. City Wants Rail Passenger To Return

July 15, 2020

A study conducted on behalf of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, has determined that returning rail passenger service there would generate more than $350 million in economic benefits over a 30-year period.

The city, located 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is seeking a $3.1 million federal grant to be used to purchase land for a railroad station and service facilities.

The study said one significant obstacle to restoring service would be the likely opposition of Norfolk Southern, the proposed host railroad, whose line through Phoenixville hosts heavy freight traffic and uses a single-track tunnel built in 1835.

The primary benefits of rail service, the study concluded, would stem from appreciation of property value, travel time savings, and productive time for passengers using the train rather than an automobile.

FRA Has Grants to Pay for Passenger Service

November 7, 2019

Grants to launch, restore or enhance intercity rail passenger service are available from the Federal Railroad Administration as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The agency said it is taking applications for $24 million in grant funding that can be applied to operating assistance including staffing, administrative costs, host-railroad access costs, station expenses, and lease payments on rolling stock, among other uses.

Amtrak and other intercity passengers are eligible to apply, as are states, groups of states, cities, and other governmental agencies.

“We’re encouraging applicants to leverage federal Restoration and Enhancement grants to support large-scale, intercity passenger rail improvements,” FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory said in a statement.

The official Notice of Funding Opportunity describes a list of projects that will receive funding priority in funding including “applications that …restore service over routes formerly operated by Amtrak, including routes in the Gulf Coast region between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Orlando, Florida.”

Midwest Rail Group Has New Website, Logo

July 27, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has a new website and new logo.

The organization said that the new look brings a modern feel to the association, and the new website’s layout is sharp and streamlined.

The group has long sought to promote the creation of fast, frequent, and reliable trains to the region. The site can be found at https://www.midwesthsr.org/

Moorman Upbeat on Passenger Rail Future

July 18, 2017

Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman gave an upbeat assessment of the future of passenger rail even as he acknowledged that the passenger carrier faces challenges fixing decaying infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, Moorman said Amtrak’s need for federal funding was no excuse for not operating “like a great company.”

Moorman

Nonetheless, Moorman said that getting pressure from government officials and tight budgetary resources have taken their toll.

He said that in the 1990s and 2000s Amtrak lost sight of its customers as a result. As an example he cited carpet cleaning.

Amtrak saved $1 million by not shampooing the carpets in its passenger cars as often, but passengers noticed the dirty carpets.

“That’s not the experience we want to create for our customers,” he said.
Providing a better customer experience has been one of four focuses that Moorman has brought to Amtrak after becoming its president last year.

“The customer experience is ticketing, the station, our employee interactions, and our equipment,” he said.

The equipment used by Amtrak is, in Moorman’s words, starting to look “stale,” but the carrier has taken steps to improve it. “It’s old, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good,” he said.

Moorman said rail passenger transportation in general is not a particularly good business model.

The creators of Amtrak chartered it as a for-profit corporation even though they knew it was not a good business model.

However, Moorman said, they sold it to President Richard Nixon and the Congress at the time as a concept of “create this and [it] will become profitable.”

In essence, Moorman said Amtrak is a government contractor that unlike other contractors can’t always present to government officials a bill that factors in the costs of doing business plus a profit to benefit shareholders.

“We rely on what are in effect user fees – passenger fares,” he said. “And because the marketplace doesn’t sustain the passenger fares we need to make that profit, we ask the government to make up the difference.”

Among Amtrak’s many challenges Moorman said the one that worries him the most is the aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure.

He said the NEC has eight major bridges and only one is younger than 100 years old. The B&P Tunnel in Baltimore is 127 years old and well past its “sell-by date.”

Moorman expressed confidence that the idea of having a national rail passenger network is taking hold and predicted the development of more corridors offering rail passenger service between urban areas.

He also circled back to the need to provide good customer service.

“For 46 years, a lot of people [at Amtrak] were there trying to keep the flame alive, understanding that someday the world would come to the point where people started to say, ‘We really need to have passenger rail as an option.’ I think that day has come,” Moorman said.

“The better we run Amtrak, the better we deliver on projects, the more people understand how good our company is, the easier every funding conversation is,” he said.

In a related note, Moorman said disruptions at New York’s Penn Station may extend into the fall.

He told the New York Post that Amtrak has the ability to finish the remaining work at Penn Station with subsequent weekend outages extending beyond the planned July to early September work curfew.

“We’ve done an exceptional and extraordinary amount of planning on the material side and we know it all fits, and we have a lot of skilled people,” he said.

After those repairs are concluded, Moorman said Amtrak will need to to schedule signal and power system repairs at a later date.

Chao Says Infrastructure Plan Will Cut Back Regulations, House Committee Approves Passenger Rail Legislation

March 31, 2017

It’s not the money it’s the red tape. Or so Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao wants everyone to believe is the reason why more isn’t being done to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

Speaking during an open house to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chao said the Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal that has yet to be delivered to Congress will include proposals to eliminate regulations.

“Investors say there is ample capital available, waiting to invest in infrastructure projects,” Chao said.” So the problem is not money. It’s the delays caused by government permitting processes that hold up projects for years, even decades, making them risky investments.”

Chao said the Trump infrastructure plan “will include common-sense regulatory, administrative, organizational and policy changes that will encourage investment and speed project delivery.”

Although she did not provide details, that infrastructure proposal will include a “a strategic, targeted program of investment valued at $1 trillion over 10 years,” Chao said.

She said the proposal will cover more than transportation infrastructure. It will also include energy, water and potentially broadband and veterans hospitals.

Public-private partnerships will be a focal point of the plan as a way to avoid “saddling future generations with massive debt.”

In an unrelated development, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week approved a bill involving passenger rail.

The committee reported out H.R. 1346, which repeals a rule titled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform.”

In a statement, the committee said the rule exceeds what is required in law, is contrary to congressional intent, and increases burdens on MPOs and states.

The committee said H.R. 1346 maintains MPO and state flexibility in planning and making transportation investments.

Also approved was H.R. 1093, which mandates the Federal Railroad Administration to notify Congress about any initiation and results of passenger and commuter rail comprehensive safety assessments.

High-Speed Michigan Line Could be Profitable

February 25, 2016

Michigan map

A study by the Michigan Environmental Council concluded that a high-speed rail line between Detroit and Holland, Michigan, could generate an annual $12 million profit.

The study, Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail Ridership and Cost Estimate Study, was based on the route having a top speed of 110 mph.

MichiganThree routes were examined, all of which are existing rail lines that would need extensive rebuilding to allow for higher-speed operations.

The study acknowledged that the cost of rebuilding the routes for high-speed rail would require a greater capital investment, but would result in higher ridership that would allow the service to recover its operating costs

The study favored a route that would pass through Ann Arbor and Howell.

If trains on that route had a top speed of 79 mph, the service would require annual funding of $3 million and a capital investment of $130 million, which MEC said is comparable to the cost of building 13 miles of interstate highway.

“Business leaders, economic developers, local governments and college students have all told us they support the idea of knitting together our cities, cultural centers and other institutions by rail,” said Liz Treutel Callin, transportation policy associate for the MEC. “Now we have an in-depth report showing that the coast-to-coast passenger rail project is one worth pursuing, with significant potential benefits for Michigan’s economy and quality of life.”

MEC said the next step in developing the rail route is to conduct a feasibility study that would include an environmental impact analyses, an implementation plan and a review of public-private partnership options.

Will Millennials Drive Passenger Rail Expansion?

February 24, 2016

Many intercity rail passenger service advocates have seized upon the apparent lack of love of the millennial generation for automobiles and vehicle ownership as a good sign for the future of passenger trains.

The theory is that millennials – also known as Generation Y and generally born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – would rather text and work their smart phones than watch the highway in front of them from the driver’s seat.

An October 2014 Washington Post story said millennials more than other generations are inclined to take public transportation, walk, ride a bike or use such ridesharing services as Uber and Lyft.

On TransportationThey are heavily vested in online and social media, which is why they like trains and buses. They can “connect” while riding.

Does this mean that millennials will push for more and better intercity rail passenger service? Potentially, the answer is yes.

The key is going to be the degree to which they become engaged in the political process, either as policy makers or advocates.

The oldest of the millennials have reached the age where they can be expected to start landing positions of power at the local, state and federal level.

If transportation policy in the United States is going to change, there needs to be people in decision-making positions who favor rail and promote it with the public.

Such people have always existed, but they have been offset if not stymied by an equal if not superior number of opponents who argue and vote against passenger rail for largely ideological reasons.

At some point millennials will begin to dominate the political and policy making process and when that happens we might get an answer to the question of whether Gen Y is going to bring about a sea change in transportation policy.

It is not a sure bet that millennials are going to demand more public transportation. Even if they do that doesn’t mean that passenger rail will reap tremendous benefits.

The so-called millennial indifference or hostility toward driving and vehicle ownership may be more mirage than reality.

There is an argument that millennials drive less than previous generations because of economics and not preferences. The Great Recession hit when many of them were coming of age. They couldn’t afford cars and driving.

But in an improving economy, auto sales are up and millennials are making their way to the dealer showrooms.

In April 2015, J.D. Power and Associates reported that millennials accounted for 27 percent of new car sales, second only to baby boomers.

If driverless car technology advances as some think that it will, that will give millennials even more reason to want to own their own vehicle rather than take the train or bus.

They would be able to go from Point A to Point B on their own schedule and still “connect” along the way.

If that happens, the “market” for expanded rail service might not be as strong as some passenger rail advocates are hoping that it will be.

Those who study culture say that millennials are less inclined to travel because they can meet up with friends and others online.

However, they still need to travel to work and they still want to partake of a social life after hours at trendy bars, restaurants and concert venues. So they still need transportation.

It may be that American culture has changed and that the car culture that held sway for so many years is relinquishing its grip.

That might be good news for public transportation, even urban rail. It is not a sure thing, though, that it will be good for intercity passenger rail even if the potential is there.

AAO Sees Good News in New Transportation Bill

December 5, 2015

All Aboard Ohio says that the recently approved federal transportation bill could potentially affect rail programs in Ohio in a number of ways, including opening the door for expanded Amtrak service.

The rail passenger advocacy group said that the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act gives states and new financing tools for passenger rail and transit services.

AAO said that Amtrak service could be expanded modestly without the Ohio Department of Transportation having to take the lead on funding.

One section of the bill authorizes $20 million per year in operating funds to expand existing or resurrect previous passenger rail services.

AAO said that since 2000 federal budget cuts have reduced daily train miles in Ohio by 1,008, the second highest total in the nation behind Florida.

Two potential Amtrak service expansions that could be funded from that money, AAO said, include increasing the operating frequency of the Chicago-New York Cardinal from tri-weekly to daily and linking the Keystone and Wolverine Service lines via Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit.

Amtrak cannot on its own accord by law expand service if it requires more funding support.

But it can expand its network at the request of a member of Congress, a state department of transportation, or a consortium of regional/local governments.

AAO said federal funding for Ohio’s public transit agencies is expected to grow from $175 million in 2015 to $195 million per year by 2020.

That figure does not include grants that Ohio transit agencies, cities and metropolitan areas could land to fund new transit services and intermodal transportation centers.

The FAST Act also seeks to streamline federal funding reviews and open up rail infrastructure financing for train station-area real estate developments.

AAO said it is uncertain how this provision might affect rail project development affecting passenger services.

But the group noted that the section was pushed by Illinois lawmakers so that major improvements to Chicago Union Station could be eligible for Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing loans.

At present, AAO said, the RRIF program has $35 billion in lending authority that is not being used.

Those funds could potentially be used for station development and to shorten the application review times.

Foxx Calls for Funding of Passenger Rail

February 22, 2015

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx is calling for federal funding of rail passenger service during his “GROW America” bus tour.

Foxx called passenger rail “an important piece of our transportation puzzle.”

He said that it makes sense for cities and states to invest in passenger rail at a time of record Amtrak ridership. More people are riding public transportation than at any time in the past 50 years.

“Sure, we can continue investing less in our passenger rail system than we should and watch our country’s competitiveness slip lower and lower. Or, we can choose to build projects like the that would bring our passenger train services into the 21st century,” Foxx said during an appearance in Charlotte, N.C.