04 October, 2008

PASSENGER TRAINS A COMING!

Amtrak is ready to roll from Jacksonville, and just awaiting the Presidents pen.


Key Provisions of Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008
* Increases Capital and Operating Grants to Amtrak. The bill authorizes $4.2 billion (an average of $840 million per year) to Amtrak for capital grants and $3.0 billion (an average of $606 million per year) for operating grants. Past inconsistent Federal support has hampered Amtrak's ability to replace catenaries, passenger cars, bridges, ties, and other equipment necessary for Amtrak to provide service. These capital grants will help Amtrak bring the Northeast Corridor to a state-of-good-repair, procure new rolling stock, rehabilitate existing bridges, as well as make additional capital improvements and maintenance over its entire network. In addition, the operating grants authorized under the bill will help Amtrak pay salaries, health costs, overtime pay, fuel costs, facilities, and train maintenance and operations. These operating grants will also ensure that Amtrak can meet its obligations under its recently negotiated labor contract.

* Develops State Passenger Corridors. In an effort to encourage the development of new and improved intercity passenger rail services, the bill creates a new State Capital Grant program for intercity passenger rail capital projects, and based on the New Starts transit capital program administered by the Federal Transit Administration. The bill provides $2.5 billion ($500 million per year) for grants to States to pay for the capital costs of facilities and equipment necessary to provide new or improved intercity passenger rail. The Federal share of the grants is up to 80 percent. The Secretary of Transportation would award these grants on a competitive basis for projects based on economic performance, expected ridership, and other factors.

* Provides Funding for High-Speed Rail Corridors. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, established to develop a national transportation vision to address surface transportation needs for the next 50 years, recommends that the United States establish a high-speed rail network that spans the entire country. The bill authorizes $1.75 billion ($350 million per year) for grants to States and/or Amtrak to finance the construction and equipment for 11 authorized high-speed rail corridors. The Federal share of the grants is up to 80 percent. The Secretary of Transportation would award these grants on a competitive basis for projects based on economic performance, expected ridership, and other factors.


COMMENT FROM THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS?



Four Ways to Consider Intercity Passenger Train Expansion
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
(1) Provide service to the largest metro areas currently without it. The eight largest, in descending order of population are:
*Las Vegas, NV
*Columbus, OH
*Nashville, TN
*Louisville, KY
Tulsa, OK
Allentown-Bethlehem, PA
Baton Rouge, LA
McAllen-Edinberg, TX
* Indicates Amtrak formerly provided service. Las Vegas service lasted through May 10, 1997; Columbus, Nashville and Louisville lost service at the end of October, 1979, although Louisville briefly regained service with a painfully slow train to Chicago. That train ran Chicago-Jeffersonville, IN starting December 17, 1999, was extended across the river to Louisville December 4, 2001, and discontinued July 8, 2003.
(2) Route study requests in S. 294 (which passed the Senate in October):
restore Amtrak’s Pioneer that linked Seattle-Portland with eastern Oregon, Boise and Salt Lake City. (Towards the end, its financial viability was compromised by running as a separate train all the way across Wyoming to Denver, rather than serving SLC and connecting there with the California Zephyr.)
restore Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha in southern Montana and southern North Dakota – well used train until its demise in 1979.
(3) Maps in the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission report,
at chapter four:
The 2015 vision is at page 4-22 and notably includes
Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati
a long-discussed Meridian-Jackson-Dallas link among existing Amtrak routes, and
closing the Bakersfield-Los Angeles gap.
The 2030 vision is on the next page and adds several routes including
Atlanta-Jacksonville Florida,
Dallas-Houston,
Oklahoma City to both Newton/Kansas City and Tulsa/St. Louis,
Cheyenne-Denver-Trinidad-Albuquerque-El Paso
the above-referenced Pioneer, and
service to Las Vegas from both east and west.
The 2050 vision is on page 4-24 and adds many more routes including Chicago-Atlanta.
The Commission recommends annual capital expenditure of $9 billion, much of which would support “genuine” high speed rail projects such that planned in California.
(4) NARP’s 40-year vision, which is more aggressive than the Commission’s although North Carolina DOT’s vision is more aggressive than ours!
Read more about our Grow Trains Campaign and Vision Plan including regional “zoom-in” maps.

JACKSONVILLE STREETCAR IS POSSIBLE!


Two fantastic "HOW TO" articles appear today in the Jacksonville Transit Blog. The first is from Michigan, and the "Overhead Wire" news. This gives us a step by step way to build or rebuild our streetcar system using public private partnerships. The only missing element is the old rule that utility companies can't also own the streetcar network. In todays world, this law is long outdated and even though it is/or once was federal, it needs to be dumped. We need all the electric transit we can get. So think JACKSONVILLE TRACTION and think, we CAN!


Friday, October 3, 2008

Street Railway Resurrection
Michigan lawmakers are
looking at a bill that would allow street railway companies to form in the state and use recently passed tax increment financing laws and other mechanisms to fund new lines. I don't imagine the line is completely private, but its an interesting step away from the public transit agency model. It seems similar to Portland Streetcar Inc, but I haven't looked deep enough yet to see the similarities. There are some interesting provisions though:
As envisioned in one set of bill drafts, for which state Rep. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, is the lead sponsor, the street railway company could build, own and operate the system. The company could acquire property, including through gift, purchase or condemnation, and could borrow money and issue bonds.It's a fascinating idea and the point is to have it replicated all over the state, from Grand Rapids, to Ann Arbor, to Detroit.


Allen also said a goal is “to come up with a replicable plan, which means that we can work it in Detroit, or Grand Rapids. We’re open to input from anyone. If this tool can work in a variety of communities in the state, that is one of our objectives.”

THE OVERHEAD WIRE

CSXT AGREES - A BLUEPRINT FOR JACKSONVILLE

THE DAY THE CITY COMES OF AGE

From Progressive Railroading E:News comes this wonderful bit of reporting, is anyone in Tallahassee awake and reading the handwriting on the wall?

Partnership 10/3/2008Massachusetts, CSXT agree on commuter- and freight-rail pactYesterday, Massachusetts officials and CSX Transportation execs announced they reached an agreement to improve and expand commuter- and freight-rail service in the commonwealth. Under the agreement — which took about four years to hammer out — service on five trains the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) operates between Framingham and Boston will be extended to Worcester by Oct. 27. The commonwealth plans to eventually purchase CSXT's rights on the Boston-to-Worcester line, increasing the potential to add even more commuter-rail service and gain control of the line's dispatching and maintenance. By 2009, the commonwealth plans to purchase from CSXT the New Bedford-Fall River Line, helping facilitate a plan to extend commuter-rail service to the two cities. Massachusetts also plans to purchase CSXT's rights in the Boston Terminal Running Track and West First Street Yard in South Boston, and the Grand Junction secondary line that extends from Beacon Park Yard through Cambridge. In addition, Massachusetts and CSXT soon will begin increasing vertical clearance of bridges along the railroad's mainline between Interstate 495 and the New York state line to accommodate double-stack freight trains. The commonwealth will assume responsibility for raising highway bridges while CSXT will lower tracks. Massachusetts also is determining whether to help CSXT relocate its locomotive service facility outside of Boston. The Class I plans to eventually move its operations out of Beacon Park.


Now that you've read the article, lets translate that into JACKSONVILLE speak, sure this is a fantasy at this point, but it's not like it can't happen.

Partnership (just imagine)Florida, JTA and CSXT agree on commuter- and freight-rail pactYesterday, JTA officials and CSX Transportation execs announced they reached an agreement to improve and expand commuter- and freight-rail service in North Florida. Under the agreement — which took about four one year to hammer out — service on five lines the CSX operates between Jacksonville and surrounding communities will be extended. Service to Yulee by the end of the year all along North Main Street. The state plans to eventually purchase CSXT's rights on the former Seaboard Main Line from Springfield to Yulee and Blount Island, increasing the potential to add even more commuter-rail service and gain control of the line's dispatching and maintenance. By 2011, the state plans to purchase from CSXT the former Seaboard Main Line from Downtown to Baldwin, helping facilitate a plan to extend commuter-rail service between Jacksonville and the west side as well as set the stage for regional rail to Tallahassee and Gainesville-Ocala. Florida also plans to purchase CSXT's rights in the Jacksonville Terminal Running Tracks and the former Jacksonville Terminal Coach Yard in downtown just west of the Union Terminal, and the Grand Crossing secondary line that extends from Panama Park through Marietta. In addition, JTA and CSXT soon will begin increasing vertical clearance of Trout River bridge along the railroad's mainline along North Main Street and the Blount Island ship Terminals to accommodate trains without delay at the drawbridge. The state will assume responsibility for raising highway overpasses while CSXT will perform the trackwork. Florida and JTA also is determining whether to help CSXT relocate its new export yard and intermodal facilities within Jacksonville. The Class I and JTA look forward to a long relationship that also includes the North Florida Portion of the so called "A" line, along Roosevelt Blvd. south to Green Cove Springs and Palatka.

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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