SEPTA Removes 120 Cars from Service; new Pueblo stop would mean $1.45 million in new revenue for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief; VA Receives FASTLANE Grant of $165 Million
July 8, 2016
Although commuters will experience delays, rail cars will be overcrowded, and money will be lost, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) made the correct decision in pulling unsafe rail cars from service by putting safety first. The transit organization took all 120 Silverliner V cars out of service after finding a fractured beam on one car and fatigue cracks on almost all other cars. Due to the reduction of cars, trains will only be able to carry 35,000 to 40,000 people per day, down from 65,000 riders each way a day. Following inspections of the Silverliner cars, only five of the 120 were found to have no problems. The Silverliner cars made their debut with SEPTA on Oct. 29, 2010, and SEPTA spent $274 million to buy the 120 cars from Hyundai-Rotem USA.
In order to provide some relief for passengers moving forward, SEPTA is looking into borrowing rail cars from other transit agencies, such as Amtrak and NJ Transit. Both agencies use cars that are most compatible and use the same overhead power system. SEPTA also reached out to New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates MetroNorth and the Long Island Rail Road. No decision has been made yet on if the agencies will provide cars to SEPTA, but in the meantime, Amtrak will make additional stops and extra cars to trains along routes between New York and Harrisburg.
Amtrak released a study this week that shows that adding a stop in Pueblo, Colorado on the Southwest Chief route could attract 14,000 new passengers every year, bringing in $1.45 million in additional operating revenue.
“This study shows that it can and will be a reality to have the Pueblo Union Depot become a passenger rail stop again,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace. “This will be an economic driver for our community.”
Currently, the Southwest Chief carries over 367,000 passengers annually, bringing in roughly $45 million in ticket revenue. Those hundreds of thousands of travelers could be a boon for the region; a 2014 study by Colorado State University-Pueblo discovered that the economic impact of a stop in Pueblo would exceed $3.4 million per year.
The next step in enacting the new stop will be to obtain infrastructure and engineering cost estimates to support the service from host railroad BNSF.
NARP Is Asking For Your #SummerbyRail Stories
Taking a train for vacation this summer? We want to hear about it and see any great photos or videos that you take while on your trip.
This invitation to NARP members, and the vacationing American public will continue NARP intern, Elena Studier’s “Summer by Rail” journey, while offering new and exciting adventures from people throughout the country. NARP welcomes stories, videos and images through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that use #SummerByRail. For the best submissions, NARP will share the new “Summer by Rail” journeys on the Summer by Rail blog.
And in case you missed it, for 38 days, Elena traveled 10,000 miles on the nation’s rail network, with stops in 20 cities in 15 states. Her Summer by Rail internship circumnavigated the entire United States to help highlight how young Americans are demanding mobility options, and choosing to live in communities that cater to people, not cars. Through blogs, videos, and pictures, Elena shared her travel across the networks that connect America’s cities and national landmarks through her blog, “Summer by Rail,” and on Instagram and Twitter.
“Our country has a strong rail infrastructure that people can utilize to easily jump on a train and see the nation—for a weekend trip or an extended vacation,” said Elena, who is a student at the George Washington University in D.C. “Through my trip, I wanted to show how it’s possible to visit major cities like New York, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles, as well as national landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park, all by train and bike. And I encourage others, young and old, to try it and see what our country has to offer.”
Elena relied heavily on Amtrak’s National Network to navigate the country, along with her bicycle (nicknamed “Stevie” after her parents’ two favorite singers: Stevie Wonder and Stevie Nicks). As Elena and Stevie traveled from city to city, they met with numerous elected and transportation officials, including Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, IL, and Mayor Knox Ross of Pelahatchie, MS, as well as transit and bike advocacy groups. Supporting groups included Transportation for America, Southern Rail Commission, Adventure Cycling Association, League of American Cyclists, Congressional Bike Caucus, Bike Texas—and many, many more. Each official and group highlighted how their respective city is working toward train, pedestrian, and bike-friendly transportation infrastructure. Elena used a variety of other forms of public transportation to highlight the rich assortment of modes available to travelers, including buses, ferries, trollies, ride-sharing, and more.
In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the commonwealth’s proposed Atlantic Gateway Project will receive a federal FASTLANE grant of $165 million. The grant will support efforts to enhance passenger rail, as well as freight, along the Interstate-95 corridor in the northern part of the commonwealth. Part of the project also includes improved reliability and capacity on the state’s passenger rail network, as well as increased bus service. McAuliffe touted an estimated $500 million in planned rail improvements — from CSX and the state six-year plan — as “the largest rail investment in the history of the commonwealth,” with benefits in all modes of transportation. The FASTLANE grant will combine with $565 million in private investment by Transurban and CSX Transportation, as well as $710 million in state transportation funds, to carry out some of the biggest projects on the state’s transportation wish list in a package worth $1.4 billion.
Business and residential development, new jobs, and other economic benefits have been a major benefit of investing in passenger rail for decades, and will continue to be so for years to come. Tysons Corner, the Washington, D.C. suburb, is an example of how economic development can prosper from rail service. Known locally as “Tysons - America’s next great city,” Metro’s Silver Line, with five stations, has played a significant factor in bringing in new businesses like Capital One, as well as new residents to the area. Six new office and apartment towers have opened in the two years since the Silver Line began service, and this is part of Fairfax County’s 40-year plan to transform the traffic-clogged suburb of sterile office parks into an urban hub where tens of thousands more people will work and live while getting around on foot, bike and public transit. However, not all residents appreciate the booming growth in the area.
On July 28th, Amtrak will host an open house for the introduction of the Concourse Modernization Project at Washington Union Station, and members of the public are encouraged to attend the event. From 4:00pm - 7:00pm in the Starlight Room of Union Station, representatives from Amtrak will provide details of the project, along with schedule information and displays. The Modernization Project is part of the of Washington Union Station’s 2nd Century plan, which is a comprehensive improvement initiative comprised of multiple projects that seeks to triple passenger capacity and double train capacity over the next 20 years in D.C.
There are still openings for state representatives on the NARP Council of Representatives in several states, including one each in Alabama; Arizona; California; Delaware; Hawaii; Idaho; Iowa; Louisiana; Massachusetts; Missouri; Nebraska; Nevada; New Jersey; North Carolina; Ohio (2 Seats); Texas (2 Seats); West Virginia and Wyoming. Check out the full, up-to-date, list of current vacancies here.
If you live in these states and want to become more active in NARP’s work, this is your opportunity to become involved. If you are interested in being considered for an appointment to an open state seat by the Board of Directors please complete this Candidate Information Statement.
After decades of planning and work, the Caltrain Modernization Program is another step closer to fulfilling its goals to provide more efficient and reliable service between San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. Overall, officials approved more than $1.2 billion in contracts to electrify the Peninsula rail corridor, with expectations that Caltrain will be able to secure the remainder of the required funding for the modernization project. However, the regional local transit agency doesn’t yet have $1.3 billion in necessary funding — the gap includes contributions from high-speed rail as well as a federal grant it applied for last year that staff hopes to hear about by the year’s end.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) also celebrated a new milestone in its efforts to link Pittsburg/Bay Point and Antioch in California, with the unveiling of its new diesel-powered trains. The new cars will run on a 10-mile line, and represent a change for the transit agency’s operations with the introduction of diesel locomotion. The new cars are also lower to the ground and operate on standard-gauge railroad track, as opposed to BART’s wider gauge. That means the two lines are incompatible. As a result, the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station, where the extension meets the main line and where passengers will transfer, is undergoing a facelift as well.
New Member Benefits For You, And New Support For Us And Our Work!
Travelers United, the only non-profit membership organization that acts as a watchdog for traveler rights, now offers free reciprocal membership to all NARP members! To check out benefits and get the low-down on your passenger rights, visit TravelersUnited/Membership .
Amtrak Vacations, a premier tour operator offering first-rate travel packages combining great destinations and train travel, is now offering all NARP members a 10% discount on the rail travel portion of any package booked, along with a 5% discount on parent company Yankee Leisure Group’s Unique Rail Journeys packages across Europe! Better yet, go watch a recorded webinar co-hosted by Amtrak Vacations and NARP to learn about a special offer worth up to an additional $400 off certain rail-travel packages! Click here to watch the recorded webinar, or copy and paste this URL into your web browser: https://youtu.be/uiETYMKziWA , and to learn more about Amtrak Vacations please visit http://www.amtrakvacations.com.
If you buy anything from online retailer Amazon.com, sign up for Amazon Smile so that a portion of your purchase price is donated to support NARP! The price you pay for your items does not change, but every purchase helps your Association as we do the work you want done for A Connected America! Visit http://www.narprail.org/get-involved/donate to learn more.
VSP Individual Vision Care now offers specially discounted individual and family insurance plans exclusively for NARP members that typically save hundreds of dollars on your exams, glasses and contacts. In addition, as a VSP member you -- or any family member you designate -- can also enjoy savings of up to $1,200 per hearing aid through VSP’s TruHearing plan. When you sign up for a VSP plan through our website, you not only help yourself and your family with significant savings and great benefits, but you help support NARP’s work as well! Click here to enroll today!
NARP and other rail transit organizations have known for years that demand for passenger rail is alive and well within the United States. And two months after the Kansas City streetcar opened, ridership is very strong. Overall, the streetcar averages a daily ridership of more than 6,300 passengers, and during the month of June, the Kansas City Streetcar Authority counted 182,248 trips.
Milwaukee’s City Council approved a plan to extend the city’s streetcar, part of the growing demand for rail transit in cities throughout the country. Overall, the City Council approved to spend $20 million to extend the downtown streetcar on a portion of Fourth Street between Juneau and St. Paul avenues. The Fourth Street extension will allow the streetcar system to extend into more neighborhoods, and provide growth, development and economic benefits to local communities. The other half of the project would be covered by a $20 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that the city applied for.
Make plans now to attend NARP’s Fall 2016 Advocacy Symposium and Membership Meeting, being held in Denver, CO, Friday, October 14 - Sunday, October 16. Preliminary information and agenda for this exciting event is now posted on the event webpage and will be updated regularly as the planning process continues.
Discounted group rate hotel rooms at the host hotel, Embassy Suites Denver Downtown, are now available. Click Here for a direct link to NARP’s group reservation page.
New options are being explored in order to bring commuter rail service to the South Coast in Massachusetts, sooner and at a lower cost than previously discussed. The SouthCoast Development Partnership, made up of some of the largest employers and institutions in the area, said that in light of revised state estimates that show increased costs and a lengthier timeframe, it is open to learning more about a route that would redirect the South Coast Rail corridor along a commuter rail line terminating at Middleborough, rather than routing it from Stoughton through Easton. The currently route, which would need to be electrically powered and run through the environmentally sensitive Hockomock Swamp, would cost $3.4 billion with service expected to start by around 2029. In 2012, the state predicted the project would cost $2.23 billion and start service in 2022.
Innovation is critical to advancing not only passenger rail, but also how passenger rail and other modes of transportation can work together in order to make travel more efficient, economical and environmentally friendly. A connected and intermodal country can reshape how we see travel, which is why the Sebrid is a unique and interesting concept. The Sebrid is an electric train that combines rail with detachable pods, or urban cars. The Sebrid link cities throughout a country and utilize highways and pick-up cars on the fly, without needing to stop. An average trip onboard the Sebrid would consist of entering your pod and driving to catch up to a Sebrid train on the highway. Once you catch the train, your pod gets picked up by the train and you are carried close to your final destination.
If it sounds futuristic, it is, but it also combines many of the ideals that are important to NARP’s goals of “A Connected America,” and demonstrates that time, investment and ingenuity are essential to the future of travel in the U.S.
NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to Bob Brady, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website, here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.