04 August, 2008

AN ELECTRIC LESSON FOR JACKSONVILLE


DENVER AND THE WEST
DENVER RTD

By Jeffrey Leib Denver Post Staff Writer
BLOGGER NOTE: Please be aware that this article is intended for Jacksonville Residents that "know where Denver is..." (*see note at bottom of article)

Blitzed by an overwhelming demand for electric-powered FasTracks commuter rail, RTD directors unanimously voted Tuesday night to reject diesel power in favor of electric for trains to Denver International Airport and Arvada/Wheat Ridge.

A parade of government officials, civic association heads and neighborhood residents approached the Regional Transportation District microphone to promote electric trains as cleaner environmentally and more likely to support development near rail stations.

Electric rail between Union Station and DIA will save travelers at least five minutes on the trip when compared with diesel, cause "less pollution and less noise" and connect more efficiently at the airport terminal, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper told RTD directors before the vote.

On the roughly 24-mile-long DIA line, with its number of stations, an electric train gets the travel-time savings because it accelerates more quickly than a diesel counterpart, according to RTD's analysis.

Arvada Mayor Ken Fellman warned transit agency directors that "I will face a backlash" from constituents if RTD switched to diesel power for Gold Line trains after electrified rail was promised to Arvada residents in the 2004 FasTracks vote.

Voters approved the $4.7 billion transit expansion that year, but since then, the cost of FasTracks has escalated to $6.2 billion, in part because of an unusually steep rise in the cost of construction materials.

The increase led RTD officials to examine cost-savings measures and an early study showed the agency could save up to $100 million in constructing the Gold Line and DIA train with the switch to diesel by eliminating the expense of overhead electrification.

More recently, RTD updated that analysis, showing that electric rail will actually be cheaper to construct and operate on a long-term basis, since diesel- fuel costs are expected to outpace the expense of electric power. This is especially true if private companies and investors get involved in building and operating the rail lines.

Keith Howard, president of Sunnyside United Neighbors Inc., spoke in favor of electric rail for all four FasTracks commuter rail lines and he welcomed the vote to support electric for two of them, the Gold Line and the airport train.

"It's prudent to take the long view," Howard said. "The board was wise to make a decision in the framework of decades."

RTD still must decide which technology to use on FasTracks commuter rail lines to Boulder/Longmont and north Adams County.

The 2004 FasTracks plan that voters considered assumed both lines would be diesel-powered, but RTD directors said they will wait for results of ongoing environmental studies of both lines before voting on the train technology.
(*NOTE: No insult intended. Just for fun you might recall the NFL coach of the Denver Broncos before their first big meeting in Jacksonville with our Jaguars. The Denver coach made the infamous quote, "Hell, I don't even know where Jacksonville is..." After the Jaguars not only beat Denver but slaughtered their team, one of the Jaguar players grabbed a microphone and asked the Denver Coach on national TV, "Do you know where we are now coach?")

NC TRIANGLE PULLING AHEAD OF JACKSONVILLE?

TRIANGLE TRANSIT AUTHORITY IMAGE OF DMU UNIT AND STARTER LINE



Commuter Rail System Coming to the Triangle?
NORTH CAROLINA PULLING AHEAD

Raleigh, N.C. — Could existing rail lines ease Triangle traffic problems? That’s the focus of a new study by the company that owns a lot of right-of-way in the state.Plans for a light rail system stopped when federal funding fell through. Many said it was too expensive. Now, one group wants to know if a commuter rail system could run on current tracks.When it seemed like any chance of a local rail system was off track, the North Carolina Railroad Co. decided to take a another look.“I think there is a strong consensus that commuter rail will come. It’s just a matter of when and how,” said Scott Saylor, NCRR president.The company is paying for the study to see if existing lines could be used in a commuter rail system. The study will examine the cost of converting tracks to be shared by commuter and freight trains.“It will tell us how much infrastructure would need to be added and how frequently the trains could run along with the freight trains,” Saylor said.The company is looking into the possibility of running four commuter trains in the morning and another four in the afternoon. The study will look at 174 miles of commuter lines – one section from Goldsboro to Burlington and another section in the Piedmont. It will examine stops 5 to 7 miles apart and possibly one at the airport.“I think it would be great,” said Raleigh City Councilman Philip Isley. “We clearly need something like that, the problems we've had with the TTA and its limited destinations.”The original Triangle Transit Authority light rail proposal included building two new tracks. The TTA plans to follow this new process closely.“In talking with the North Carolina Railroad, we've made it clear that we want to participate at a level that will allow us to understand the results when they are produced,” said TTA General Manager David King.The North Carolina Railroad Company is looking for consulting engineers to conduct the study. The company hopes to have results by the middle of next year and plans to present the final numbers to local government, businesses and transportation groups.

TAKE A FREE TOUR OF THE JACKSONVILLE SKYWAY

The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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