Thursday, January 27, 2011

This Week in Amtrak

Amtrak GG1 904 at Harrison, New Jersey, June 1975Image via Wikipedia
From the Editors…
Something is turning 40, and oddly enough someone wants you to know about it. This and other more somber milestones are covered this week.

Of Time and (Wall) Space

If you are not already aware, Amtrak intends to make very sure you will be: On May 1, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (NRPC) -- yes, that is still Amtrak’s legal name -- will achieve 40 years of existence. According to its internal newsletter, Amtrak Ink, there are numerous outlets planned to observe this latest milestone. There will be a commemorative book for which Amtrak has already canvassed its employees for pictures. There will also be a video by “an Emmy award-winning producer.” Also, “Beech Grove is renovating surplus equipment and restoring one F-40, one P-40, three baggage cars, and an Amfleet food service car for a special 40th anniversary `museum train' that will travel across the country to many employee locations.” Since when has Amtrak had “surplus” equipment?

One thing is for certain, this year’s Amtrak wall calendar makes the pronouncement loud for all to hear: “AMTRAK CELEBRATES 40 YEARS OF SERVICE.” Superimposed over a map of the original route structure are over a dozen snapshots from those early years of “rainbow consists” and '70s fashion sense. The lovely Patty Saunders is captured in her go-go boots and early Amtrak uniform. The first Amtrak-painted locomotive is seen in a one-of-a-kind design of black with a wrap-a-round pointless-arrow logo. (Mercifully, that was not repeated.)

It is a wonder to contemplate the journey of the last four decades; yet, this wall hanging of 24 by 33 inches is quite the reminder of an uncertain era not that long ago. On the original system map, in the lower left corner of the montage, is the directive, “Service from Fort Worth to Houston will be shifted from Temple route to Dallas route as soon as possible after May 1, 1971.” Imagine, direct service between Houston and the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. In the lower right of the map is seen the line and station stop for Wildwood, Florida. Just above that, between snapshots of the original Metroliner and a bedraggled Coast Starlight, is the line depicting the service we once enjoyed between Chicago and Florida. Today both of those are distant memories, as service to the Sunshine State has been continuously marginalized over 40 years. Was it something Florida said?

Perhaps most telling is the stylized logo all the way in the lower corner of the montage. As a depiction of motive power progress, five caricatures are arrayed from left to right, displayed in five different paint schemes. On the left is an Amtrak-painted GG-1 electric, internationally recognized as the finest example of electric traction ever to see service under wire. Designed by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1934, the GG-1 fleet would serve her masters and successors until the 1980s. On the right of the lineup is depicted an Acela Express train, the antithesis of the GG-1.

On this calendar, Amtrak touts itself as “America’s Railroad,” but wait -- there is a picture used in the ad campaigns from its formative years, showing an employee (not a model) standing between the gauge of the rails, holding a large-scale replica of a passenger rail car. The tag line for the ad was the vow to “make the trains worth traveling again.” In 1971, the year the NRPC (now Amtrak) was created, the trains already were worth traveling. Crowds showed up to ride in the peak of summer, 1971; then again in winter, 1971-72. Amtrak did not have the wherewithal to keep up with such demand. When the railroads, in their original role as sole source contractors, did what they could to keep up, the pushback to stop doing that came from inside -- Amtrak! It was a downhill slide from there. After 40 years of false starts and unfulfilled promises, is it not time to hold Amtrak to its word?

In Memoriam

As we muddle our way through the winter season, we wish to pause for a moment to reflect on the lives of three men who, in their own separate ways, left their mark on American railroading:

Eugene K. Garfield worked for the Johnson Administration in the 1960s as Assistant to the Secretary of Transportation, Alan S. Boyd, in the then newly-minted U.S. Department of Transportation. It was during his tenure that a feasibility study for an auto-ferry service between the Northeast and Florida was conducted, and concluded that the service would be potentially profitable but best left for the private sector. After returning to the private sector in 1968, Garfield set about making that study a reality, and from 1971 to 1981 he ran the private Auto-Train Corporation. The original Auto-Train eventually succumbed to financial troubles and the infrastructure was purchased by Amtrak. Garfield died at the age of 74 on December 26, 2010, in Hollywood, Florida. Reflecting on his life reminds us that the entrepreneurial spirit in transportation in not dead, but merely dormant, in a generation that has been taught otherwise.

James A. (Jim) Boyd was a prolific railroad photographer and writer. Much more that just the average railfan, Boyd worked for the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors as a field service representative. In 1972, Boyd began his long association with Carstens Publications, eventually becoming editor of Railfan (later Railfan & Railroad) magazine from 1974 to 1998. Additionally, he authored many Trains magazine articles as well as dozens of books. Boyd brought a sense of discipline and decorum to the railfan ranks. His guiding influence will be sorely missed. Boyd died at the age of 69 on December 31, 2010, in Newton, New Jersey.

Robert G. (Bob) Lewis was that rare, perfect blend of knowledgeable railfan and professional railroader. Between 1934 and 1941 he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and briefly for the Bessemer & Lake Erie. Following the war and a brief return to railroading, he joined the Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation. He worked in various editor positions for Railway Age magazine until 1956, when he was named Magazine Publisher. He retired in 1995, but maintained the title of Director of Special Projects. All through his professional travels, he had his camera with him, and amassed an impressive collection of photographs of America’s railroads.

Bob died at the age of 94 on January 5, 2011, in Ormond-by-the-Sea, Florida, but not before this author had the opportunity to meet him at the High-Speed Ground Transportation Association convention in 1996. Lewis was as congenial and approachable as anyone could be.

Later, as a result of merciless prodding by his former co-workers, a number of his photos were published in book form in Off the Beaten Track -- A railroader’s life in pictures (Simmons-Boardman, 2004). Having obtained a copy, this author made an appointment to stop by and garner an autograph. The welcome was warm and sincere. The meeting was as touching as it was informative. Lewis said the real reason behind starting the publication of International Railway Journal in 1961 was just to have an excuse to travel the world. We discussed the issues of the day including, of course, what to do about Amtrak.

With the completion of these distinguished runs the sun shines less brightly over the railway; reminding us of our own finite existence and the need to make our remaining days count. All too soon, the weeds will overgrow and obscure our tracks.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Transit Day for all weather...

Took my first transit trip of the new year yesterday. I started off at the intersection of California Avenue and Pioneer. I had originally planned to take the route 232 to downtown but because of the rain I was running late and just missed the bus heading to downtown.

I decided to walk down to 1700 South since I could catch either a 232 or 248 and thought that a 248 would come around 8:48. As I was walking down to 1700 South the weather changed from rain to hail.

Just a couple of minutes after I arrived at the first stop for the 248 a 1999 Gillig Advantage pulled up with a couple of passenger and we headed to the Ballpark TRAX station.

UTA is finally putting in a permanent bus shelter in at Central Station which should do a pretty good job of keeping customers out of the elements while waiting for bus. While I was walking around the station I also saw the new Gillig Advantage BRT Hybrid buses were in service on routes 2 and 550.

While at the station I also walked over and check out the new bicycle center. While the center looks nice there was not a single bike in the bike parking area. While I don't know how it is doing overall, you have to wonder if it is not suffering from the poor location of the station.

From Central Station I rode some of the "getto" UTDC ex-San Jose VTA cars that are usually running on the University line. While the cars could have used a good interior revamp when they were refurbished, they are still in better shape than bus would be of comparable age.

As usual the train was packed by the time it left Gallivan Plaza but I got off at Library to spend some time doing paperwork at the Downtown Library. From there I did some walking around the south downtown area before taking TRAX and route 232 to my starting point.

Oh and the weather changed again. When I arrived at the Library it started to snow but by the time I left it was sunny but cold. It then clouded up during the rest of the trip. A little bit of weather for everyone...

Well it wasn't an exciting trip report but it there will some good ones coming up in a few months. In May I will be making a trip to Portland and all my travel in Portland will be on Tri-Met and after June 15th I will be riding transit almost every so I should have some interesting comments then.

However, on this trip I did get a few ideas for upcoming postings so look for them soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Week in Amtrak

ViewlinerImage by Madbuster75 via Flickr
From the Editors…
And now a (highly) condensed look at the year past through the eyes of This Week at Amtrak.

2010, A.D. [Amtrak Defined]
As we enter our eighth year of publication, we find the world of passenger railroading in a greater-than-usual state of flux. Obviously, the biggest curveball thrown may be summed up in three little words: High- Speed Rail. After the “Vision for High-Speed Rail” and High-Speed Rail guidelines of 2009, we waited in expectation for January 28, when $8 billion worth of specific American Recovery and Reinvestment Act rail projects would be announced. It took months for the euphoria to subside. Then came reality; mid-term election candidates began to run on platforms advocating stoppage of HSR projects in their respective states. Freight railroads found the punitive federal guidelines “surprising” and “frightening.”

Then things got interesting.

On January 5, after an initial one-year term as President, Joseph H. Boardman was granted (by the Amtrak Board) a permanent position. On January 11, an Amtrak press release announced, “AMTRAK READY WITH BIG PLANS FOR 2010 -- New Year brings major projects and new initiatives.” This was hardly the first announcement heralding “big plans.” As with so many other forward-looking statements of years past, this was generally received with a sigh. As events would later prove, however, some rather big things did actually happen.

March 6 saw the first Town Hall meeting co-sponsored by Amtrak and Trains Magazine. Well-attended and featuring the presence of Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper, as well as Joe Boardman, there were those inside the corporation who decried this “foamers’ forum.” Even so, there was positive dialogue about photography and updates on equipment rebuilding at the Beech Grove Repair Facility, using stimulus money. A train of three cars and a locomotive were on display for all in attendance to tour (and photograph).

March 31 was the end of an era at Amtrak. Cliff Black, long-time (and long-suffering) Chief of Communications and employee since 1981, retired. For years, it had been his quotes, his voice which represented Amtrak to the general public. Through each change of leadership at Amtrak, and there were several, the one constant had been Black's deft handling of the news media. Any of us seeking good honest information knew Cliff Black was the man to see. While keeping on-message for his employer, he never led the news media astray; an amazing feat in today's world of journalism. Suffice it to say, this is a retirement well earned and richly deserved.

July 23 brought what was perhaps the biggest, most jaw-dropping initiative undertaken by Amtrak all year, and possibly all decade: The order for 130 new Viewliner 2 single level cars with an option for 70 more to replace the remaining Heritage baggage cars and diners. Was this shocking turn due to a previously-unrealized corporate need? No. As far back as 15 years ago, Amtrak's then-president Thomas Downs described the remaining Heritage cars in service as “junk.” Was this, then, as a result of a sudden jump in demand for sleeping car space on eastern trains? No. Sleeper space has been at a premium, especially in the East, since the retirement of the last Heritage sleepers in 2006. Ever since the 50-unit fleet of Viewliner sleeping cars entered service in 1995-96, we have been waiting for the rest of the Viewliner fleet to supplant the last of the Heritage fleet. We have waited… and waited… and waited. When Amtrak announced, on January 11, “a comprehensive and detailed plan to replace and expand its fleet of locomotives and passenger railcars” they could have warned us that this time they really meant it.

The Washington Times of September 12 reported on a Congressional probe of the sudden ouster of Amtrak Inspector General Fred Weiderhold, the previous year. Quoting from draft copy, “Because of his expertise, the [Amtrak] Board viewed Weiderhold as a threat.” Also found were “excessive fees” paid to outside law firms by Amtrak’s Law Department and, due to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Weiderhold’s departure, “It was not a truly voluntary resignation as Amtrak management had suggested in public statements.” There was some attention given in the Halls of Congress which, thus far, has amounted to nothing beyond lip service. But as Chicago Cubs fans are used to saying, “maybe next year.”

On October 16, a Norfolk Southern freight train departing Enola Yard across the river from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, en route to Hagerstown, Maryland and points South, derailed in downtown Harrisburg. The rear of the train was still west of the Amtrak station, precluding the eastbound Pennsylvanian from entering. Many will use such an incident to demonize the freight railroads and to call for building separate tracks. Ironically, that is exactly what NS has been attempting to accomplish in the area for a number of years. Currently, when freight trains to or from the south enter or depart Enola Yard, they are required to cross the Susquehanna River twice (and pass the Amtrak station), a process which adds hours to transit times. NS has been working with the State to rebuild a former connection on the south side of Enola Yard at Lemoyne. The process has been held up for the usual political reasons (concerning which a boxcar could not care less). Until this has resolution, efficiency will suffer. Passenger rail will suffer. Egos will continue to be stroked. A similar incident occurred July 2, and for what? For less than 1,300 feet of track. Sometimes the answer really is that simple.

Also in October came an admission of the obvious. One year earlier, the contract to run the Virginia Railway Express commuter service, held by Amtrak for 18 years, was awarded to the French company Keolis. Amtrak did not like this intrusion into its turf. As documented by veteran reporter Don Phillips, “The battle then turned bitter, and Amtrak and its unions turned nasty. Union officials made it clear to employees that if they signed with Keolis, they would be fired immediately by Amtrak and permanently blacklisted. Crews who agreed to stay with Amtrak not only received a $5,000 bonus but were guaranteed a job. Amtrak, meanwhile, even tried to hire crews laid off from New Jersey Transit who had been approached by Keolis. The idea was to prevent Keolis from hiring enough crews to run the system by takeover day, June 28.” Yet, in spite of all the chicanery and dirty tricks Keolis did begin service (albeit delayed) and continues to operate. By October of 2010, Amtrak President Joe Boardman finally admitted, “We know we did not provide the right answers,” and “I see a lot more competition coming forward.” Amtrak considers itself to be the sole keeper of American passenger railroading. Considering its isolationist history, this is understandable; however, the word is getting around that there are others willing to ante up to the table. Amtrak has promised to behave. Will it?

Finally, on December 20, Norfolk Southern and the Commonwealth of Virginia entered an agreement to reintroduce passenger service to Norfolk. This is funded by “an $87 million Rail Enhancement Fund grant” which, when translated into English, means these are state monies, not Federal or ARRA grant. Yes Virginia, there really are states who take the initiative in their passenger rail programs.

2010 promised to be the year of “High-Speed Rail.” Ultimately, it came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. HSR was touted as the savior of our economy; an engine for creating jobs in much the same way as the Interstate Highway System of two generations ago. Rhetoric was thick. Substance was lacking. The proposed fast trains look sleek and sexy, but where is the business case to justify them? No one is against creating jobs, but with at least $8 billion in the offing, the question is begged: Is this a good, sustainable transportation policy?

Perhaps the biggest story in passenger rail is the one that did not happen.

Amtrak’s manifesto of January 11 predicted, in part, “the purchase of several hundred single-level and bi-level long distance passenger railcars and more than a hundred locomotives.” New Viewliners were ordered in July, followed by a contract for new electrics in October. Unlike many of the HSR initiatives, these orders have had no political opposition. Yet as 2010 wrapped up, there were no “bi-level long distance passenger railcars” on the horizon. As pointed out by Andrew Selden, URPA Vice President, “This is the one application of capital available to Amtrak that promises a quick and positive return on incremental invested capital. No other investment opportunity, honestly accounted for using GAAP measures, offers anything even close to this. Yet Amtrak refuses to pursue it.”

As the year has drawn to a close, the same basic route map remains in place. Apologists are grateful the map has not shrunk any further. Advocates wonder why, in an era of so much talk of rail, the map is not growing. The Sunset Limited still does not venture any further East than New Orleans, and is carried on Amtrak’s daily status as "Hurricane`Katrina' Aftermath & Service Adjustments - Sunset Limited: Normal service resumed 03Nov05, with the exception of Trains 1 and 2 between Orlando and New Orleans."

True, there was much more talk about passenger rail this past year than in recent memory. The small order for equipment was positive, yet after so many years of benign neglect, this can hardly be counted as a fresh start. “What is needed most in 2011, following what happened in 2010, is a better, more rigid plan for creating new trains which have a higher guarantee of success and financial reward, instead of becoming yet another burden on the overburdened taxpayers,” said Bruce Richardson, URPA President.

As the afterglow of the latest surge in HSR interest fades into memory, it is clear that sleek, fast trains do not exist in a vacuum. Around the real high-speed world, fast trains succeed as part of a vast integrated network; the trains, by themselves, would be nothing more than pricey tourist attractions. Amtrak would appear to have figured this out, as evidenced by its current equipment orders, and wish list from last January. Unless projects of this type are embraced, to build upon the few successes of this past year, then the whole enterprise is for naught; hopefully, it will not be too little, too late.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

What I have ridden over the years...

Inside a Metrolink commuter train in Los Angel...Image via Wikipedia
Matt over at the Track Twenty-Nine blog showed a listing of the rail systems he has ridden over the years in his posting

Making a List, Checking it Twice

and I thought it would be interesting to see how many I have ridden in comparison. While I have not traveled on as many systems as he has, I know have a challenge to try to ride more of the systems around the country.

First I will do something different from Matt and show the Amtrak trains I have ridden over the years:

Coast Starlight: Both directions twice plus multiple times on the California Section
San Joaquin's: Multiple times except Sacramento-Stockten which I have done only once in one direction
San Diegans (now Surfliners): Multiple Times
Southwest Chief: Los Angeles to Flagstaff Round Trip
San Francisco Zephyr: One way from Denver to Sacramento
California Zephyr: One Roundtrip from Salt Lake City to Denver and one way trips from Denver to Salt Lake City and Salt Lake City to Reno
Desert Wind: Two one way trips from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City and multiple trips on the segment from Los Angeles to San Bernardino.
Pioneer: One way trip from Salt Lake City to Portland
Empire Builder: Two one way trips from Portland to Spokane and both directions for Seattle to Spokane
Cascades: Multiple Trips
Sunset Limited: One way trip from Alhambra to Phoenix
Spirit of California: Several Times

As you can see all of my train riding has been on the west coast but I hope to be taking more trips in the future. I have not counted the several special trains I have been on over the years.

Now on to transit systems:

Heavy Rail:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area - BART (multiple times over the years)
  2. Washington DC - Metro(1980)
  3. New York- Subway (1980)
  4. Los Angeles - Metro Rail (several times)
  5. Miami - MetroRail (2007)
  6. Atlanta - Marta (not ridden yet)
  7. Boston - "T" (not ridden yet)
  8. Chicago - "L" (not ridden yet)
  9. Baltimore - Metro Subway (not ridden yet)
  10. Philadelphia - SEPTA (not ridden yet)
  11. Philadelphia - PATCO (not ridden yet)
  12. New York/New Jersey - PATH (not ridden yet)
Light Rail Lines

  1. San Francisco - Muni (multiple times)
  2. San Diego - Trolley (multiple times)
  3. Portland - MAX (multiple times)
  4. Los Angeles - Metro (multiple times)
  5. Sacramento - Light Rail (1999)
  6. Salt Lake City - TRAX (multiple times)
  7. Denver - The Ride (2006)
  8. Seattle - Central Line (October 2010)
  9. Pittsburgh - "T" (not ridden yet)
  10. Boston- "T" (not ridden yet)
  11. Dallas - DART (not ridden yet)
  12. Baltimore - Light Rail (not ridden yet)
  13. Philadelphia - Light Rail (not ridden yet)
  14. Camden - River Line (not ridden yet)
  15. Newark - NJ Transit (not ridden yet)
  16. San Jose - VTA (not ridden yet)
  17. Minneapolis - Light Rail (not ridden yet)
  18. Charlotte - Lynx (not ridden yet-did not exist when I lived in Charlotte)
  19. Jersey City - Hudson/Bergen Line (not ridden yet)
  20. Oceanside - Sprinter (not ridden yet)
  21. Buffalo - Metrorail (not ridden yet)
  22. Cleveland - Light Rail (not ridden yet)
  23. Houston - MetroRail (not ridden yet)
  24. Phoenix - Valley Metro (not ridden yet)
  25. St. Louis - Metrolink (not ridden yet)
  26. Norfolk - Tide (opening 2011)
Commuter Rail:

  1. San Francisco - Caltrain (multiple times)
  2. Los Angeles - Metrolink (multiple times)
  3. Miami - Tri-Rail (2007)
  4. Salt Lake City - Front Runner (multiple times)
  5. Portland - WES (2010)
  6. Washington DC - MARC (not ridden yet)
  7. Dallas - Trinity Railway Express (not ridden yet)
  8. Chicago - Metra (not ridden yet)
  9. Philadelphia - SEPTA (not ridden yet)
  10. Washington DC - VRE (not ridden yet)
  11. New Jersey - New Jersey Transit (not ridden yet)
  12. San Jose - ACE (not ridden yet)
  13. Nashville - Music City Star (not ridden yet)
  14. New York - Metro North (not ridden yet)
  15. New York - Long Island Railroad (not ridden yet)
  16. New Haven - Shore Line East (not ridden yet)
  17. Boston - MBTA (not ridden yet)
  18. San Diego - Coaster (not ridden yet)
  19. Seattle - Sounder (not ridden yet-although have traveled both routes on Amtrak)
  20. Chicago - South Shore (not ridden yet)
  21. Austin - Capital Metro (not ridden yet)
  22. Minneapolis - North Star (not ridden yet)
  23. Albuquerque - Railrunner (not ridden yet)
  24. Dallas - A Train (opening 2011)

  1. Seattle - Seattle Monorail (1999)
  2. Las Vegas - Monorail (2005)
  3. Miami - Metromover (2007)
  4. New York - JFK Airtrain (not ridden yet)
  5. Morgantown - WVU PRT (not ridden yet)
  6. Detroit - People mover (not ridden yet)
  7. Las Colinas (Dallas) - PRT (not ridden yet)
  8. Jacksonville - Skyway (not ridden yet)
  9. Newark - Airtrain (not ridden yet)

Streetcars are noted as being a heritage line, modern streetcar or original streetcar line. I have ridden all the modern lines that are currently open but have not ridden none of the heritage or original lines.
  1. San Francisco - Cable Cars (multiple times)
  2. Portland - Portland Streetcar (multiple times)
  3. Tacoma - Link (2004)
  4. Seattle - Seattle Streetcar (October 2010)
  5. Dallas - McKinney Ave Trolley heritage line (not yet ridden)
  6. San Francisco - F Line (not yet ridden formal F-line but have ridden most of the route)
  7. Charlotte - Charlotte Trolley heritage line (not yet ridden)
  8. Kenosha - Kenosha Streetcar heritage line (not yet ridden)
  9. Little Rock - River Rail Streetcar heritage line (not yet ridden)
  10. Memphis - MATA Trolley heritage line (not yet ridden)
  11. New Orleans - original streetcars (not yet ridden)
  12. Philadelphia - Girard Line original (not yet ridden)
  13. Savannah - River Street Streetcar original (not yet ridden)
  14. Tampa - TECO heritage line (not yet ridden)
Here is also a listing of the transit bus companies I have ridden over the years:
  1. Los Angeles - RTD/Metro
  2. San Francisco - San Francisco Muni
  3. Spokane - Spokane Transit Authority
  4. Salt Lake City - Utah Transit Authority
  5. Seattle - King County Metro and Sound Transit
  6. Portland - Tri-Met
As you can see I still have a long way to go to ride transit just around the United States much less around the rest of the world.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Oregon Bill Caused Uproar in Bicycling Community

Yakima Bicycle TrailerImage via Wikipedia
There has been a huge uproar in the Portland Area and around the net with the introduction of a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would ban anyone under 6 years old from being carried on a bike or a bike trailer.

Representative Greenlick who introduced the bill seems to have good intentions with the introduction of the bill. He is a professor of Public Health at Oregon Health Sciences University and is reacting to a report on the number of injuries on bicycles.

Here is some articles about it from Bike Portland:

Oregon House bills would prohibit wearing headphones, carrying kids under six while biking - Updated

Rep. Greenlick says safety concerns prompted child biking bill

Greenlick child biking bill reaction roundup

Mia Birk asks Greenlick to withdraw bill, says he "misinterpreted" bike injury study

Rep. Jules Bailey works to amend Greenlick bill - Updated

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Welcome to the New Year

The Portland Streetcar at the Portland State U...Image via Wikipedia
For my first posting of the year I was planning on going over some of the big transit projects that were planning to be opened or started this year but the Transport Politic has already posted a great listing that shows not only what is opening and starting but also ones that are under construction and will be opening in future years:

Opening and Construction Starts Planned for 2011

Streetcar News:

Start by looking at the projects expected to get started this year, 50% of them are streetcar projects. Cities looking to add new streetcar lines including Atlanta, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Tucson. Three of those cities will be new to modern streetcars including Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Salt Lake City while Tucson will add a modern streetcar to its already existing historic streetcar line.

In addition two projects are under way will put the first modern streetcars into Washington DC and add to Portland's existing network in 2012.

While it is great news so much progress has been made over the last couple of years thanks to Tiger grants and other stimulus money, you have to wonder how many more streetcar lines we will see under construction two years from now unless they are 100% locally funded.

Light Rail:

In 2011 we will see a city open its first light rail line and that is Norfolk, Virginia. The city that will see the biggest openings in 2011 will be Salt Lake City on August 7th when Utah Transit Authority opens two light rail lines at once. The West Valley and Mid-Jordan will add 15.7 miles to its existing network.

Meanwhile another huge opening this year will be the Expo Line in Los Angeles. While there has been some questionable opposition from some corners, the line will be the first phase of a vital link that will eventually link Los Angeles and Santa Monica via the University of Southern California.

Beyond that there will be a couple of minor extensions of existing light rail lines. However, several major projects will open in 2012 and 2013 in the cities of Calgary, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Salt Lake City.

However there is only two projects in the pipeline to start construction in 2011 when it comes to light rail. One is the controversial Milwaukie Light Rail line in Portland and the Woodward Avenue line in Detroit. I will be watching with interest the project in Detroit not only because it was once the home of automobile manufacturing in the United States, but it has been the home of my father's family since the mid 1850's.

Commuter Rail:

We will see one major commuter rail opening in 2011 and that is the A-train in Dallas which will connect with the Green Line light rail line which opened last year. In addition we will see a small extension in Rhode Island of Boston's commuter rail network.

Two projects will be getting started in 2011 in Florida and the San Francisco Bay Area. Both of these lines have had their share of controversies and will probably continue to do so.

The first one is SunRail in central Florida that will travel through the Orlando area. It will include moving most of the CSX freight trains to another route to the west. The other line will operate in the Bay Area in Marin County from Cloverdale to Lakespur.

Questions are arising on both of these networks on the cost for the number of passengers that will be carried the respective lines. It also needs to be answered how well these new networks will be integrated into the existing transit network and how well the respective agencies will work together to design a system that will provide the maximum benefit to the customer for the dollar.

New lines or extensions already under construction and opening in 2012 or beyond including Front Runner South in Utah, a new line in Montreal's network, a 8 mile extension of Sounder to Lakewood in Washington, eBart in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the East Line in Denver that will link Union Station and the Denver International Airport.

Metro/Heavy Rail

For many years Metro style rail has been missing in action from construction news except for minor extensions here and there, but there is several projects in the pipeline over the next few years that should be making some news.

While no openings will occur in 2011, we will see a major project get under way in Honolulu and possibly one in Vancouver BC if the funding all comes together. In addition there is already projects under way in Miami (only 2.4 miles, the rest of the project is dead at this time), BART to Warm Springs, Toronto, the Dulles extension to the Washington Metro system, and in New York City we have an extension of the 7 subway line and probably the longest waited transit project in history the Second Avenue Subway.

What about the future?

Of course the big question is what will the future bring especially with the new Republican majority in the House? Well, for the next two years I do not see a lot getting done beyond political infighting and lots of yells of "we have a mandate!".

We may see a fight for more bus projects like during the President Bush years, but we shall see. I will continue to advocate for improvements to existing bus infrastructure over Badly Repackaged Transit (BRT).

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year and some great projects come down the pike...
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