A S S T R A
N S I T P I C T U R E S T O R Y
THE GUY WHO KNOWS
No longer the voice of the Commuter Council, Jim Cameron is making
things happen, even more directly, for rail users!.
Bullet trains for the east coast? Japan above. "Stimulus" package
for high speed corridors...will this work?
Safety on mass
transit...more safety (train crossings, school bus). 2013 METRONORTH; AIRBUS in the French Alps, construction site in Stamford raise different types of ethical questions to us.
This page, "MASS
is part of a suite of pages related to transportation; please
visit these others as well: VISUAL
ISSUES explores land use/transportation relationship; TRAIN SERVICE follows CT DOT
matters and New
CT DOT page); better
"journey to work" just one thing that might help residents of one
small city? Check out the new design of the exterior of rail
cars! Lastly, is anyone thinking about TRUCK
2015 in CT: OPM Public Hearing testimony on HB6851; Mussolini made the trains run on time. To the floor!
T A B L E O
F C O N T E N T S
- STIMULUS PACKAGE - some for
trains, high speed variety! Three part
discussion in the NYTIMES here;
- How about "congestion pricing?" And TOD in Bridgeport?
LINE trip end; how about reintroducing trolley cars?
gain ridership; how about N.Y.C. subway system
(the connection from Grand Central to lower Manhattan)?
transportation picture; linking
Penn Station and Grand
- WIRE TO WIRE;
Meeting paved the way, no pun intended, for progress? Commuters
vented before CT DOT and Metro North officials: CT
Legislatorsresponed to challenges to improve service
and long-range planning for
stock, etc. "Venting" held in Norwalk City Hall on Saturday,
This was a follow-on to the SWRPA/MPO Legislative Breakfast of Jan. 30,
views (above) from a trip to New
across the Tappan Zee Bridge (AM and PM).
about problem with camera-ticketing
- Sub-page on
CT DOT here;
- Washington Corridor 2009 (at
Stamford); news of high-speed rail here;
Southwestern CT in 2007; New
- The Tappan Zee - link to
official study - photo essay above - approach from Westchester
side, view north and later, returning home to Connecticut...and recent
report on...NEW PLAN for
- Trains: New improved
story; more temporary repair facility
in New Haven opened. Newly
added to CT fleet - from Virginia. Kawasaki Rail Car,
Inc. proposed to do new trains for Metro North commuters...hope they
can do the job! Check out this latest report HERE!
rail. How about "light rail?"
- ACROSS THE POND: "Value
Pricing" and car tax options
as employed in UK, what
can government do (c. 2003); more recent articles (protest against
extending the central
- London car ban, removed (?) so
here is an older
THEY LEFT THEIR HEART IN SAN
FRANCISCO...(l) powered by...???
Is this the same thing as previous "light-rail" from South End to
Bull's Head? At right, the
model for visionary, rear-view mirror variety, transit, in and
around city center.
BLT, city officials fall in
love over new trolley service (not the
previous, real thing)
Kate King, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 1:00 am, Saturday, February 15, 2014
STAMFORD -- City leaders and Building and Land Technology officials
were feeling the love this Valentine's Day as they cut the ribbon on a
free trolley service connecting the South End and downtown
The relationship between city officials and Norwalk developer BLT,
which is in the middle of a $3.5 billion redevelopment of Stamford's
South End, has been a bumpy road over the past few years. BLT is
credited with sending millions in building permit fees and property
taxes to city coffers, but has also been criticized for sidestepping
building permit and zoning regulations.
On Friday morning there were only warm, fuzzy feelings of affection on
display, however, as city officials and the developer celebrated the
launch of the new public trolley service at BLT headquarters on
"This marriage between the South End and the downtown has been a long
time coming," said Mayor David Martin. "This whole thing is another
symbol of our vibrancy as a city."
Downtown Special Services District President Sandy Goldstein, who
battled BLT in 2012 over the developer's inclusion of a large ballroom
in its proposal for a waterfront hotel on Washington Boulevard,
delightedly accepted a bouquet of flowers and oversized stuffed dog
from CEO Carl Kuehner.
"We are very, very grateful to Carl, my Valentine, and (Zoning Board
Chairman) Tom Mills and his zoning board cohorts for making this happen
today," Goldstein said. "This is one of the first steps, and there will
be many, of connecting the South End, which is extraordinary, to the
downtown, which is just magnificent."
Goldstein said her office believes there will be strong demand for the
trolley service, which is free to all riders and will run hourly seven
days a week.
"I hope people ride it because BLT is putting a lot of money into
this," Goldstein said.
BLT Spokesman John Freeman declined to disclose how much money BLT is
spending on the trolley service, which is funded in part by a $487,000
grant from the Federal Transit Authority. The trolley fleet includes
four buses, which were built in the United States and seat 30 people.
Raising his champagne flute for a toast before the trolley's inaugural
ride, Freeman said the new transportation service is a result of
successful collaboration between BLT and city officials.
"Together, we can move mountains," he said.
The trolley's 3.3-mile route, which includes 14 stops, starts at Harbor
Point Square on Washington Boulevard. The trolley then stops at the
downtown train station and Government Center before turning right onto
Broad Street, looping down Tresser Boulevard and traversing the South
Mills, who along with other zoning and land use officials clashed with
BLT over its decision to raze the city's last working boatyard in
violation of local zoning laws in 2011, said he was impressed with the
trolley's wood-paneled interior.
"This is gorgeous," Mill said Friday. "These are the things we know BLT
can do on a regular basis."
MEANING OF TRIPTYCH (in Grand Central Station it is called a "trip
Reminds us of a winter version of famous triptych "The Garden of
Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus
Malloy, Rail Officials
Find Agreement Over Commuter Complaints
by Christine Stuart | Feb 17, 2014 6:53pm
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy let Metro-North Railroad President Joseph
Giulietti and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO
Thomas Prendergast know that they had lost the trust of the rail
commuting public in Connecticut.
After emerging Monday from a closed-door meeting, Malloy said the
railroad was going to put in place a 100-day plan to begin to earn back
the trust of the commuting public by providing reliable, on-time, and
safe travel from Connecticut to New York. The plan is expected to be
created over the next two weeks. The two sides also agreed to an
independent review of any major projects like the recent replacement of
an electrical cable in Cos Cob.
“We have stressed with them that the lack of communication, in so many
ways, has led to this level of mistrust and distrust between their
ridership in Connecticut,” Malloy said at a press conference outside
his Capitol office.
He said part of the problem with the MTA is that for too long everybody
has been willing to take credit for the wins without “sufficient owning
up to the losses.”
Both Giuletti, who started the job last week, and Prendergast
acknowledged that there’s work that needs to be done in repairing its
relationship with commuters.
But pinpointing exactly how it got to this point was difficult.
There was the derailment in Bridgeport last year, followed by the death
of the worker on the track in West Haven, followed by the power outage
in September which halted traffic on the New Haven line, and then the
fatal derailment in the Bronx in December. That all happened in 2013.
When those investigations are completed, Prendergast said he believes
they’re going to find that there was an exodus of key people who
retired after being with the railroad for 30 years.
“There were also some issues with respect to track,” Prendergast said.
He said that’s why they brought in a company to look at their
maintenance practices. He said there are also inspector general reports
regarding employees who were off-the-job doing other things while they
were supposed to be working.
“When you put that all together there’s a breakdown in management
especially in that one area,” Prendergast said. “That kind of
degradation occurs over time, but they manifest themselves generally
down the road.”
He went on to say, “We have had a tremendous number of those instances.
It’s not by coincidence. There’s something going on in the
organization. There’s some management and cultural issues. We’ll find
those and root them out.”
He said rooting out those problems starts by bringing in new
management, like Giuletti. Prendergast has only been in the position
since last June. Both promised to make the changes the governor was
asking them to make.
He said there’s nothing they want more than to restore that performance
to where it was when it was considered the best in the industry.
As part of that commitment, Prendergast said they’re going to be
listening to commuters’ concerns.
“There’s a lot to be said for ‘listen to the customers concerns and
respond to them’,” Prendergast said. “And we will commit to that. We
have committed to that.”
But while acknowledging that there’s room for improvement, Metro-North
and the MTA have little to worry about when it comes to its contract to
manage Connecticut’s rails.
The 60-year contract is renewed every five years. If the two sides
can’t agree to the terms, then it goes to arbitration. That leaves
Connecticut with very little leverage to get Metro-North to voluntarily
“We have gone to arbitration in the past,” Malloy said. “As a result,
we pay some additional dollars, but I think we paid that without
commensurate reliability. I have to say I think they were doing a
pretty good job for a period of time, but have fallen off a cliff.”
The question is how quickly can the new leadership team restore that
level of performance.
Malloy said the state will be asking for bids in the near future for
the New Haven-to-Springfield rail line.
“I think that demonstrates our willingness to look at other options,”
Commuters Take To
Social Media To Keep In Touch with Metro-North
by New Haven Register | Jan 28, 2014
A new rail commuter advocacy group
is using social media and the Internet to pressure lawmakers and
Metro-North to fix problems as they arise.
James Cameron, who resigned from the
Connecticut Commuter Rail Council because its focus was shifting to
larger-focus issues rather than nitty-gritty issues, said the new
group, Commuter Action Group, would give commuters a new voice.
“This is in no way a competitor to
the council,” Cameron said Monday, when he also released a “Commuter
Manifesto” empowering commuters. “I think we’re certainly meeting
toward the same ends. I see this as a grass-roots, technology-based
empowerment tool for commuter ... using the power of politics ... to
allow commuters to hold them accountable for helping fix these
Central during breakdown...of Metro North personnel.
Cold weather, cold shoulders plague
Daniel Tepfer, Greenwich TIME
Updated 6:57 am, Monday, January 27, 2014
the heels of a frigid weekend and disastrous rail breakdowns that left
riders stranded for hours last week, berated Metro-North officials are
starting to feel like local commuters. Frustrated and cranky.
"We can't do a damn thing about the cold weather," an exasperated
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said Sunday. "We are still
going to have cold weather, and we are still going to have cold-weather
After freezing temperatures overnight Monday, winter's chill continues
to be a threat, although not like it was when the mercury plunged into
the single digits recently.
"Who knows what is going to happen as the cold weather continues?"
commuter advocate Jim Cameron said Sunday. "Anyone who commutes
regularly on Metro-North knows they should assume the worst and hope
for the best, and keep checking for updates."
Although Monday morning's rush hour is expected to be normal, officials
said, the aftershocks of two service disruptions last week -- including
one that affected the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines for hours --
have left Metro-North riders bitter and skeptical. Last
Wednesday, more than 200 passengers were stuck in the cold for two
hours near Westport. A day later, the system-wide shutdown isolated
thousands of riders in Connecticut and New York for another two hours.
Rail officials blamed that service disruption on poor decision-making.
When Anders was asked about Metro-North testing its computer-based
electrical system during the evening rush Thursday, she responded: "Are we going to
fire the (expletive) electrician? I'm sure the appropriate disciplinary
action has been taken."
Maybe so, but there are still plenty of unanswered questions for this
beleaguered commuter railroad. For example, what quality-control
improvements can Metro-North make right away? What cultural and policy
changes can be enacted quickly? Cameron, who has often criticized
the railroad and those who manage it, is somewhat sympathetic to
"It appears Margie's a little on edge," he said Sunday. "Things seemed
to go from bad to worse."
On the plus side, Cameron said, he thinks Metro-North has tried hard to
provide as much service as they can considering the recent weather
"They are doing better this year than previous years because of the new
(M8) cars," he said. "In previous years, (Metro-North) just about shut
down in bad weather."
Last Thursday's electrical test, meanwhile, stranded riders from about
7:45 to 9:45 p.m. Trains were stopped on the Danbury branch line at the
Branchville, Redding and Bethel stations until 12:25 Friday morning.
"Metro-North customers deserve better, and I extend my sincere apology
to all of them," MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said later. "I
have directed Metro-North to bring in an independent consultant to
examine how and why these mistakes were made, and to recommend any
necessary changes to operating procedures to ensure nothing like this
ever happens again."
Last Wednesday, a Metro-North train broke down near the Greens Farms
section of Westport when 100-year-old overhead wires became brittle in
the extreme cold and snapped. The breakdown was in the same area
where a Metro-North train was stranded in July 2011 because of extreme
heat, said John Hartwell, vice chairman of an advocacy group, the
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. Passengers, sweltering in cars with
no air conditioning, removed emergency windows and fled the train to
walk along the tracks.
Town" guest in 2007 quoted
on commuter trains were the subject.
Metro-North barrels into political headwind
Neil Vigdor, CT POST
Updated 10:46 pm, Saturday, January 25, 2014
a new third rail in politics: Metro-North Railroad.
The voltage coursing through it can be felt by lawmakers in both
Connecticut and New York.
Plagued by a series of mishaps in the past year -- two of them
resulting in fatalities and the rest incurring the wrath of commuters
-- one of the nation's busiest commuter networks finds itself in a
defensive posture over its governance, safety record, funding stream
and what critics say is an unchecked monopoly on rail service.
Two weeks after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced
Metro-North's president was stepping down, the embattled railroad
suffered its latest self-inflicted incident...read long, excellent story here.
million for high-speed
Oct 1, 3:45 PM EDT
MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) -- State and federal officials on Monday announced
$121 million in federal funding for a high-speed rail project between
New Haven and Springfield, Mass.
The 62-mile project calls for service every 30 minutes during peak
periods and every 60 minutes at other times. Speeds would reach up to
110 miles an hour.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office projects 1.26 million riders
annually by 2030.
"Achieving this milestone means we can complete the design and
construction of new track, signal and communication systems, bridge and
station infrastructure improvements between New Haven and Hartford and
provide an economic boon for the region," Malloy said.
The $121 million will be combined with $174 million in state bond
financing. The funding announced on Monday brings to $191 million the
federal commitment to the project. In total, $365 million in state and
federal funding has been committed to the Connecticut portion of the
New England rail system.
Service is expected to begin in 2016, when service aboard 12 trains a
day will be increased to 34, or 17 round trips.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said that although Congress must
figure out how to reduce the federal debt that totals more than $16
trillion, funding for New England high-speed rail should be exempt from
spending cuts because the regional rail system promotes economic
question that federal spending has to be restrained but this project is
multi-year and multi-use and is a wise use of federal funding to
support a critical transportation system that benefits the entire New
England region," he said. "It deserves priority."
Malloy, members of Connecticut's congressional delegation and federal
and state transportation officials announced the funding in Meriden on
© 2012 The Associated Press. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
"BRT" (bus rapid transit)
In the past, and this has changed, we think, it was also a matter of
whether or not you lived at the end of the route or not.
opinion regarding another form of mass transit that recently got
wheels on the busway go round and round
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
May 22, 2012
Hartford -- Critics of the Hartford-to-New Britain busway have called
the project a lot of bad things recently: "boondoggle" and "folly," to
name a few. On Tuesday, when breaking ground on the project, supporters
of the $567 million busway got their turn to brand the project.
The 9.4-mile road for buses will be called Connecticut Fast Track, or
CTfastrak, as the logo appears. The project includes a five-mile trail
for bicycles and pedestrians.
"This opens a whole new corridor. I can't think of a better project,"
said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The busway is the Democratic governor's
first mass transit project, and he is responsible for securing the $112
million in state support for it to become a reality. The remainder of
the funding comes from Washington.
Supporters at the groundbreaking -- which took place in the Parkville
section -- said the project will not only ease congestion on I-84 for
commuters between Hartford and New Britain, but it will also create a
quick boost of 4,000 construction jobs.
"We have been in an economic depression in the construction industry --
not a recession, a depression with 40 percent unemployment," said Ed
Reilly, president of the Greater Hartford and New Britain Building
Trades Council, which represents construction union members. "Today we
know we are going to put thousands of Connecticut construction workers
Jack Frigon is one of those unemployed workers.
"I want to go back to work," he said, and then pointed to the bus with
the new CTfastrak logo displayed on it. "This hopefully will get me
back to work."
But not everyone is enthusiastic about the project, including Sen. Joe
Markley, R-Southington. His attempts to get the legislature to shut the
project down failed this past legislative session.
"Gov. Malloy has dug his political grave with that shovel up there. He
has taken ownership for this mistake," Markley said, standing at the
back of the crowd gathered for the ceremony. He predicted the busway
will never get the ridership expected.
Others have also been skeptical, including then-Sen. Donald J.
DeFronzo, former co-chairman of the legislature's Transportation
Committee, who wrote committee members saying the project should be
reconsidered in light of the cost almost doubling.
"Today's $600 million busway is not what was proposed and sold to the
legislature in 2006," wrote DeFronzo, who has since joined Malloy's
administration as commissioner of administrative services.
Oz Griebel, the leader of the MetroHartford Alliance, a regional
business collaborative, blamed the rising costs on the delay in
breaking ground. The initial planning occurred during the
administration of Gov. John G. Rowland, now a radio host critical of
"Time is money," said Griebel, who is cautiously supportive of the
busway. State transportation officials have said the busway will draw
16,000 daily weekday riders.
"Just because they build, it doesn't mean they will come," Griebel
said, noting the state has a lot of promoting to do.
The 11-stop busway trail will resemble a trolley or light-rail system,
using custom buses instead of trains. Buses also would run over city
streets to the busway from Westfarms mall and the University of
Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. Express buses to Hartford from
Waterbury and Cheshire would enter the busway in New Britain. Buses
will operate from 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Malloy said.
Twelve years after planning and studies for this project began, Malloy
said Tuesday he's glad he decided to move forward with this project.
Early in his tenure as governor, Malloy faced a critical decision on
the project's future. Some hoped he would chose a train connecting
Bristol and Waterbury instead, which he has said he is considering.
"Let's get moving," he said Tuesday at the groundbreaking. "This is a
The busway is slated to open in 2014.
So struck by
this photo (l), which evokes memories...of looking for the next train!
Pictures above reminds me standing in the front car, nose
pressed against the window - a token was 15 cents then!
We saw this
originally, but only read it carefully now!
Tunneling to Long Island
Martin B. Cassidy, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 09:24 p.m., Saturday, May 19, 2012
NEW YORK -- At least five days a week, workers filter past Track 117 on
the lower concourse of Grand Central Terminal toward a busy work site
sealed off and buffered from thousands of daily commuters.
Just north of the terminal, members of the Connecticut Rail Commuter
Council walk carefully down one of four massive wells that will one day
hold 17 escalators to carry the bulk of 80,000 Long Island Rail Road
passengers to the surface from a mammoth two-level terminal to be
completed later this decade, according to the Metropolitan
"It's quite amazing to see," said Rodney Chabot, a New Canaan member of
the council, which represents the interests of state commuters, during
a tour of the site Wednesday.
Work on the escalator wells and other parts of the $7.3 billion East
Side Access Project to bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand
Central Terminal is continuing around the clock, according to officials.
While work on the part of the project under Grand Central is on
schedule, complications drilling tunnels under the Sunnyside, N.Y.,
railyard may push the project's estimated completion date back a year
The completion of the terminal could benefit Connecticut commuters, and
is a prerequisite to long-discussed hopes of allowing Hudson, Harlem,
and New Haven Line trains to travel through the Hell Gate line in the
Bronx, N.Y., to Penn Station.
"Until the Long Island Rail Road is bringing some of its traffic into
east Manhattan, Metro-North cannot bring trains into Penn Station,"
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. "When this is finished,
we think we can make the argument they have the capacity."
After major excavation of the two-level tunnels was finished, crews
more than 100 feet underground are continuing to pare away rock to
establish upper- and lower-level terminals for the trains, each with
Work to excavate tunnels began in autumn 2007, and burrowed two
22-foot-diameter tunnels capable of accommodating four tracks
each. On Wednesday afternoon, heavy machinery carried excavated
rock and other materials from the tunnels out of the work site to be
disposed of or sold as building material.
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron, a first-time
visitor to the site, said he was impressed by the amount of work being
conducted without disrupting service at Grand Central Terminal.
"It's incredible to see and especially to think it is going on just
feet from where hundreds of thousands of people travel each day,"
Metro-North is conducting an environmental assessment study on the
impact of running service through Hell Gate Bridge into Penn
Station. The plan also includes building new stations in Co-Op
City, Parkchester and Hunts Point, along with revamping other stations,
allowing Bronx residents to reverse-commute to Connecticut, according
Terri Cronin, vice chairman of the rail commuter council, said
restoring Metro-North service through that corridor would not only
revitalize some areas of the Bronx, but help Connecticut and New York
City economically by reducing travel time to and from the Bronx and
reduce traffic on Interstate 95.
"There are old stations there, but we just need to revamp them," Cronin
said. "We need to continue to work with politicians to make sure that
work happens when East Side Access is finished because it is something
that would benefit everyone."
With major excavation of tunnels and the terminal space done, rock is
being cleared mostly by drilling and some blasting, which is typically
conducted when trains are out of service, Anders said. Just next
to the work elevator leading to the lower levels of the project, the
names of scores of employees are arranged by which of three
around-the-clock shifts they work.
"These guys work around the clock five days a week and sometimes seven
days a week," said Dennis Ferrier, a safety inspector on the project.
Second train crash at same site
John Burgeson, CT POST
Updated 8:23 am, Sunday, May 19, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- That Fairfield Avenue overpass where two Metro-North
Railroad trains crashed Friday was the site of another train wreck that
occurred on July 12, 1911, at 3:30 a.m.
Twelve people died in the 1911 crash when the eastbound Federal
Express, one of the fastest trains on the New Haven line, jumped the
rails when it hit a switch while traveling at an estimated speed of 60
That was the era of mixed freight and passenger trains. The first
car on the train was filled with fish, and was supposed to be uncoupled
at the Bridgeport station only a mile away. Investigators surmised that
the engineer was either unaware of the fish or had forgotten about
them. Owned by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, the car was filled
with trout that were on their way to stock lakes and ponds in New
England. The fish car, a baggage car and four of the six Pullman
cars, along with the steam locomotive and its tender, hurtled off the
tracks, and the engineer, Arthur M. Curtis, was killed instantly.
"The four derailed Pullmans were torn and crushed into a jumbled mass,"
said a newspaper account of the wreck.
The survivors included members of the St. Louis Cardinals, who were in
the last two Pullmans; they were on their way to play the Boston
Rustlers. While the coincidence of two train crashes at the same
location is noteworthy, derailments on commuter lines are by no means
There were more than 1,700 derailed trains in the U.S. in 2008, for
example, which wasn't a particularly exceptional year, according to the
Federal Railroad Administration. The vast majority of these involved
freight trains. According to the FRA, the most common cause of
derailment is track problems (48 percent), followed by human factors
(25 percent), followed by damaged, poorly maintained or improperly
loaded cars (14 percent).
"Broken rails or welds were the leading derailment cause on main, yard,
and siding tracks, according to a 2012 report by FRA.
Derailments are usually caused by problems with tracks and by excess
speed, according to data from the FRA. The Friday derailment
occurred on one of the newest stretches of track on the New Haven line.
That section of track was replaced, along with the bridge that spans
Fairfield Avenue on the city's West End, in a multi-year project that
is just nearing completion.
The track in that stretch is relatively straight. There's only a gentle
curve a few hundred yards to the west, in the vicinity of Orland Street.
The Fairfield Avenue overpass, like most of the New Haven Line, has
four tracks, but only two are in operation, owing to a long term
replacement of the overhead catenary system along the line, officials
said. Without extra tracks as a backup, it will take longer to restore
service. As for excess speed, National Transportation Safety
Board officials said that they would be analyzing the data recorders
from both trains.
These include speed, throttle and/or brake settings, and other
parameters. That data has already been transmitted to the NTSB
investigators in Washington, D.C. But one train had just left the
Fairfield Metro station, the other was pulling into it, so they
probably weren't going very fast.
"We'll be looking at the breaking performance, the condition of the
wheels, the condition of the car, the condition of the track and the
rail bed," said Earl F. Weener, a board member of the NTSB. He said the
NTSB will also looking onto signaling information as well as the
behavior of the crew.
Weener said that the on-scene investigation will take seven to 10 days.
After that, the data and information will be analyses over the next few
weeks and months before a final report can be issued.
"We will thoroughly document the accident site," he said. "We will not
be determining the probable cause while we're on scene."
Service in Connecticut to
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER, ROBERT DAVEY and RAVI SOMAIYA
May 18, 2013
Metro-North and Amtrak service through Connecticut will
be suspended into the beginning of the week, the authorities said
Saturday, as investigators continue to seek the cause of a train
derailment and collision on Friday evening that injured at least 70
people, 5 of them critically.
Both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Amtrak said they
could not say when service would resume. The investigation at the scene
of the crash, near Fairfield, Conn., would take a day and a half,
according to Earl F. Weener, a member of the National Transportation
Safety Board, which is leading the investigation. Officials at a
press conference offered few clues as to what caused the derailment of
an eastbound train just east of the Fairfield Metro Station and the
collision with a westbound train on an adjacent track.
After the investigators collect evidence, the tracks will be handed
back to rail authorities to make repairs, Mr. Weener said. The M.T.A.
said Saturday that it could not yet estimate how long those repairs
might take. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut said that the state’s
Department of Transportation would also need time to remove
debris. And Neither Amtrak nor the M.T.A. offered any immediate
transportation alternatives for travelers.
The two trains collided after a derailment at the height of the evening
rush on Friday, snarling transit corridors in the Northeast. An
eastbound train heading toward New Haven derailed at the
Bridgeport-Fairfield border, just east of Fairfield Metro Station at
about 6:10 p.m., careening into a westbound train on an adjacent track,
according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“I thought there was a bombing,” said Natalie Sepulveda, 23, who had
been aboard the westbound train with her 2-year-old son.
“I smelled smoke and looked outside the window and saw a whole bunch of
dust, and I grabbed my son.”
It was not immediately clear what caused the derailment, but the
authority said that the police were investigating “as though it were a
crime scene.” The National Transportation Safety Board said that it was
dispatching a team to investigate the derailment.
The crash also obstructed operations for Amtrak, which suspended
service between New York and Boston. The transportation authority said
Metro-North service was suspended between South Norwalk and
Bridgeport. After arriving at the scene on Friday night, Gov.
Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut said that of the five serious injuries,
one person was in “very critical” condition. He added that he had
inspected the trains, and saw that the siding of one car had been
ripped off. Mr. Malloy estimated that train service would return on
Monday at the earliest.
The authority said
the collision occurred in an area where two of the four tracks were
already out of service for work on overhead wires, suggesting that
service disruptions could persist.
Passengers recalled a chaotic scene after the collision, as riders
tried to help one another out of the train. With no platform for
riders to step onto, fire personnel placed stepladders beneath the
train doors to allow passengers to exit. Andrea Turner, 26, said
she was on the eastbound train, which appeared to be moving without
incident until the derailment.
“We were just riding along fine,” she said. “We felt like the brakes
were pumping, and we felt a crash.”
St. Vincent’s Medical Center’s emergency department admitted 27 people
from the derailment, said Dianne Auger, a senior vice president.
“Most had minor injuries but there was one with a more serious head and
neck injury,” she said. None of the injuries were considered
life-threatening. Bridgeport Hospital was also admitting patients from
the accident, she said.
Lt. Ron Rolfe of the Bridgeport Fire Department said that one woman had
a fracture in her leg, and one man had “significant lacerations” in his
The eastbound car left Grand Central Terminal around 4:40 p.m., the
authority said, bound for New Haven with roughly 300 passengers.
Traveling on the southernmost track when it derailed, the train swung
to the left, striking a westbound train with about 400 passengers on a
neighboring track. That train left New Haven around 5:30 p.m. and was
scheduled to arrive at Grand Central at 7:18.
“The train leaned to the left and in so doing, clipped the train coming
in the opposite direction,” said Marjorie Anders, an authority
The crash, about 50 miles from Midtown Manhattan, caused seven out of
eight cars on the eastbound train to derail, as well as the first car
on the westbound train, Ms. Anders said, but both trains remained
She added that there was significant track and equipment damage,
including to the track bed, running rails and overhead wire. She said
the train itself would need to be removed “car by car,” with the use of
Ms. Anders said the crash was the most serious on the Metro-North
Railroad since at least 1988, when an engineer was killed after his
train, which did not have passengers, plowed into another in Mount
Fairfield Metro Station
- previous report on construction shortfall.
We were correct that the reason 2 of the 4 tracks were under repair is
the catenary wires were under repair.
What they said, In
Published 11:40 p.m., Sunday, January 8, 2012
A supplemental report on the Fairfield Metro railroad station by the
law firm McCarter & English focuses on a binding letter of
agreement on the project between the town and the state Department of
Transportation dated July 15, 2010.
The state had asked town officials to review the letter in respect to
then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto's ability to execute the agreement.
The letter in question basically agreed the state would be able to
deduct its debt-service payments of $19.4 million from revenue
generated by commuter parking fees at the station, which the town
initially expected to collect.
In the documents, Town Attorney Richard Saxl states the Board of
Selectmen authorized Flatto to enter into and execute all documents on
behalf of the town, and that the Representative Town Meeting had a
discussion of the interpretation of a section of the agreement on
Here's what Saxl and Flatto had to say in correspondence regarding the
A letter from Saxl to the Board of Selectmen, Dec. 7, 2011:
"As to the comment about the RTM, I believe I told (DOT lawyer) Denise
Rodosevich that Ken had discussed the project update with the RTM on
5-24-10. I signed what Denise asked me to which included the words
"including the specific interpretation of the section 4.3 as set forth
in the Binding Lettering (sic) during the question and answer
period..." I do not believe that was an accurate statement. My
recollection was that Ken alluded to it in general terms only.
"In reviewing this a year and a half later, I acknowledge that I erred
in my statement in the 7-15-10 letter regarding the RTM. As I said, I
was under considerable time pressure to get things finalized before the
awarding of the Guerrera (construction) contract on 7-16-10. I hastily
signed off on the final version."
Email from Flatto to Saxl and Rodosevich, July 14, 2010:
"Dick, Denise, my goodness:
"This month old question about the validity of the letter re the
reimbursement of the annual bond from parking revenues has been
resolved and is beyond reproach. This really has been put to bed I will
not/can not take further unneeded actions which will hold this project
up. First of all, when the Attorney for a Municipality has certified to
the state DOT in writing that the 'letter' is legally binding upon the
town, that should be sufficient for you. Second, when a town legally
adopted resolution passed by both the BOS in 2010 and by the RTM and
BOF in a prior year specifically stated `the First Selectman is
authorized to apply for and and accept any available state or federal
grant in aid for the financing of the Project' and further `to take all
necessary action on behalf of the town to receive such grants including
executing any necessary documents' ... this gives me as First Selectman
complete authority to execute the letter regarding defining debt
payments against parking revenues signed with the DOT. This was part of
the resolution the BOS reauthorized on May 5, 2010."
Letter from Flatto to the Board of Selectmen, Dec. 7, 2011:
"Based on their (DOT) requested letter's content as a clarification to
the existing 2003 Agreement, I signed it as requested. This letter was
never intended as some secret deal but as a security statement to the
DOT as to our mutual understanding of their existing rights. I did not
think it made sense to give it out to the Boards just as I did not tell
the Boards we gained $5 million in future revenue due to no longer
repaying road costs. I just did not believe these things affected what
we were announcing. In retrospect, I wish I had cleared up this
confusion earler to show we gained from 2003. This letter was not
related to the Project construction before use in 2010.
"My administration presented all the negotiated accords in 2010 to town
Boards and as you know, the BOS approved resolutions in 2010 regarding
those accords. When presenting costs of construction, I did tell the
Boards there could be some possible financial risk, as meeting minutes
show, and I said we would manage any such issue if it came up. I can
understand the surprise and frustration that the project ran over
budget due to additional polluted materials having to be removed form
the shoreline after I left office."
Report on Fairfield Metro project by Richard Vitarelli, independent
counsel hired by town, Jan. 4, 2012:
"I asked Mr. Flatto whether he and Attorney Saxl discussed notifying
(DOT) Attorney Rodosevich of the errors in the letter. Although he
qualified his response by stating he could not swear to it, Mr. Flatto
initially recalled asking Attorney Saxl to contact Attorney Rodosevich
about the error and offered to contact the acting CONNDOT Commissioner
to explain the error. Mr. Flatto confirmed that he never contacted the
Acting Commission or anyone at CONNDOT concerning the error. Mr. Flatto
called me after my telephone conversation with him and left me a voice
message clarifying his recollection that he did not instruct Attorney
Rodosevich, but expected that Attorney Saxl would have done so."
On track: Train service rolls at Fairfield Metro depot
Updated 09:36 a.m., Monday, December 5, 2011
More than a decade after it was
first proposed, the Fairfield Metro railroad station -- the town's
third -- is operational this morning.
The first New York-bound train
pulled into the $45 million-plus complex at 4:37 a.m. today, and the
1,400-slot commuter parking lot at the town's third railroad station is
Because applications for parking
permits at the station were issued only a few weeks ago, however,
parking today is free for those who do not have a permit. Starting
tomorrow, however, those without permits will be assessed the $6 daily
A reminder: There are no public
restrooms at the new station, and the state Department of
Transportation at this point has not provided an portable facilities.
But as of 6 a.m., the Fairfield
Citizen staff on the scene is reporting no other apparent problems.
Reader with familiar name stated...a person of note...commented
"A Yellow Cab was called to assist with the on board passenger and driver."
Car Crashes Into CTfastrak Bus In New Britain
April 18, 2o015
NEW BRITIAN — Two people were taken to the hospital after crashing into a CTfastrak bus Friday night.
At about 10:45 p.m., a car traveling westbound on Stanley Street ran a
red light and struck the CTfastrak bus, which was traveling east on the
CTfastrak northbound Stanley Street intersection, police said. The
driver of the car, Alexander Hernandez, 24, of New Britain, evaded the
scene, but was later located by state police and New Britain police,
Hernandez and the car's passenger were transported to St. Francis and
Hartford Hospitals, respectively, for visible lacerations to both arms,
foreheads and complaints of right index finger pain, police said.
Police said the driver and passenger of the CTfastrak bus reported no
apparent injuries...story and comments in full: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-new-britain-ct-fastrak-accident-20150418-story.html
in public transportation tug-of-war
Jacqueline Rabe, CT MIRROR
April 4, 2011
In his first major transportation
decision, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today gave the go-ahead to the
Hartford-New Britain busway project, putting an end to a years-long
tug-of-war between advocates for bus and rail projects.
“The busway project is ready to go,”
he announced Monday. He is promising to have the state’s bond
commission vote to dedicate $89 million for the busway project between
New Britain and Hartford.
But Malloy also offered a
consolation prize to critics who had favored a local rail link between
Bristol and Waterbury: A $1 million study of that plan.
Malloy, who has repeatedly endorsed
increasing the state's investment in mass transit as a way to
immediately produce construction jobs and eventually encourage economic
development, said his decision does not mean funding for the rail
project is off the table.
"Although I think many people have
thought of the two options as mutually exclusive, I do not and I reject
that belief," he said. "I believe we can continue down these two
avenues or tracks."
Lyle D. Wray, executive director of
the Capitol Region Council of Governments, said the busway decision
means 5,000 fewer cars will be on the road during rush hours, which is
almost 5 percent of total traffic.
"And that's just the first year," he
said. "That number will grow a lot."
And with service every five to 10
minutes starting in 2014, Wray said, the project would be Connecticut's
first true rapid-transit system and build ridership in a way that
limited rail service to Waterbury would not. The 9.4-mile busway would
run mostly along a rail right-of-way from Hartford to New Britain,
bypassing a congested stretch of I-84 that slows to a crawl every
morning and evening.
“That’s huge,” he said. “We are
getting the beginnings of a functional system.”
Malloy said his decision was made to
“maximize” bringing in federal dollars, and the bus project would do
“I am unwilling to run the risk of
losing additional federal funds,” he said. "If we had chosen to abandon
the busway in favor of the rail project... that decision would make it
more difficult for us to access additional rail dollars."
The Federal Transit Administration
wrote Malloy last month informing him the state is set to be reimbursed
for 80 percent of the $572 million costs of the busway project. The
state is responsible for paying $113 million.
"The Busway project is considered
ready-to-go," said the letter. "A decision to withdraw this project and
seek FTA funding for an alternative rail project in the region would
require Connecticut to reenter the competitive" grant process.
Michael D. Nicastro, president of
the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce and an advocate of the
Bristol-Waterbury rail line, was disappointed but philosophical.
“There is a huge challenge to
getting funding for both [the busway and the rail line]. That is why we
have been against it from day one,” said Nicastro. “You have to give
[Malloy] credit, he stopped kicking the can down the road and finally
made a decision. It’s just not the decision we were hoping for.”
His chamber was so opposed, they
launched an advertising campaign last fall, calling it too expensive at
an estimated $60 million a mile for the 9.4-mile busway.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said
the startup costs may high, but the economic impact will make up for
"This is what companies look for
when moving into the city," he said. "This will help facilitate
bringing people into the city."
RAIL USERS AND COMMUTERS! USER'S PHOTO
was a success - cars showing up:
See more stories beIow, but take it from us, it got results!
Out Metro-North's New M-8 Train:
Luxurious Ride, Especially
Compared With The Mechanical Has-Beens It Will Eventually Replace
The Hartford Courant
By JESSE LEAVENWORTH, firstname.lastname@example.org
March 6, 2011
— A gremlin haunted the new M-8 train out of Union Station Thursday
morning, and its name was "Dave."
But beyond that glitch and a few other minor complaints, the
air-suspended ride from New Haven to Stamford in the clean, bright car
was a pleasure, especially compared with the trip back in one of
Metro-North's jostling old battle wagons.
The Japanese-made M-8s debuted in an eight-car train on the New Haven
to New York City line last week. The Metro-North Commuter Railroad has
26 of the cars, enough to roll out two more trains, one this week and
another in April, agency spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. More new
cars are to be added steadily.
The track stars appear at the end of a severe winter of discontent
among Connecticut commuters, who have endured breakdowns, delays,
unheated trains and generally lousy service. Although more people will
have the chance to ride in an M-8, there has been no announced schedule
for the new trains. So commuters have been pleasantly surprised, or
resigned to their fate, depending on which train pulled up to the
I knew the 6:24 a.m. departure Thursday on the through trip to New York
City was an M-8, and another guy — who had asked a conductor when and
where he could catch the new train — knew, too. But most of the
passengers huddled with their coffee cups in the biting cold were
oblivious until the gleaming red roller slid up to the New Haven
"How do you like the new train?" I asked the ticket man as he worked
his puncher. He grinned and said passengers on the upgraded trains have
turned out to be a higher grade of human.
"You people are all better people," he said. "You people are all nice."
As we passed a salt marsh, the young man seated across from me, tapping
on his iPad, looked up and said, "You can actually see out the windows.
Before, it was all blurry."
The windows are a third larger than those in the older cars, Anders
said, and there are no center mullions, so they're like picture
windows. A blond, middle-aged lady sitting next to me commented on the
overall brightness of the car, compared with the grungy,
faux-wood-panel interior and blotchy windows in the old cars.
Faults, however, were found in the new cars.
A lady sitting next to the young man, a huge handbag on her lap, agreed
about the brightness and visibility, but said the leg room seemed
tighter. She and a man wearing light blue pants with black stripes down
the sides talked about the new seating arrangement and grieved for the
loss of the aisle seat on the old cars that had no seat opposite, a
boon to any weary traveler in need of a good leg stretching.
Actually, Anders said, "knee space" on facing seats is the same as on
older models and there's an additional inch of knee room on all other
seats because of an indent in the seat backs.
The M-8's body is 2 inches wider than the older cars, but the M-8s have
fewer total seats for several reasons, Anders said. New
handicapped-accessible toilets take up nine seats' worth of space,
compared with the tiny [about two seats' worth] johns in the old cars.
Also, electrical components that hang under the older-model cars are
housed inside the M-8's body for protection from weather, which
That also takes up space, so to compensate, one more seat was added to
one side of the aisle, making six [three-facing-three] instead of five
seats on that side and the four [two-facing-two] on the other. The M-8s
run in "married pairs," according to a Metro-North press release — one
car with 110 seats; the other, the one equipped with a toilet, has 101
The chatty lady with the big handbag was smiling and talking with other
passengers, in no obvious distress, but complaining anyway. She was
pointing out the car's malfunctioning LED station-announcement sign —
"Broken already," she sighed — when a soothing voice came over the
public address system.
"My name is Dave," the voice said, "and my mother tongue is American."
Passengers' responses ranged from confusion to laughter, but my
thoughts went immediately to the corrupt computer, Hal, in the film,
"2001: A Space Odyssey."
What, I wondered, will it demand? Perhaps, "I'm afraid I can't let you
leave the train, Jesse."
But Anders said this was likely a test of the announcement system,
although she couldn't explain Dave's specific comments.
"Dave's not working so well," the handbag lady said, and another lady
across from her wearing a charcoal fur coat and reading a James
Patterson novel laughed.
The blond, middle-aged woman next to me said she dreaded going into
work because she knew her in-box was full and she intensely disliked
her boss. She likened the new train to "something you'd see in Paris,
not in the Connecticut-New York area," and said she wished she could
just ride back and forth all day instead of having to face her 10-hour
Getting off in Stamford, I said to the fur coat lady, "It's kind of
depressing that I have to ride the crappy train back to New Haven."
But she had heard the news that more M-8s would be rolling out soon,
increasing everyone's chances for an improved commute.
"Baby steps," she said. "Baby steps."
Commuters On Track To Air Grievances
"LTK is getting
$27 million of
taxpayer money – who better to explain what's going on?"
The Hartford Courant
By DON STACOM, email@example.com
2:12 PM EST, February 14, 2011
STAMFORD —Why has service on Metro-North's New Haven line suffered so
badly this winter, and what's the plan to prevent a repeat next year?
Those are the questions regular Metro-North commuters plan to demand
answers to Wednesday.
Severe winter weather recently has sidelined about half the fleet on
the New Haven to New York City route, forcing a spike in delays and
canceled trains and a cutback in the daily schedule.
Riders want to know how that could happen on one of the busiest
commuter railroad lines in the country, one that carries more than 36
million riders a year.
The Connecticut Commuters Council is asking top officials from
Metro-North and the state transportation department to answer questions
at what it's billing as the "Winter Crisis Commuter Summit" Wednesday
at 7 p.m. at the Stamford Government Center.
"We especially want commuters who have suffered through recent weeks of
delays, cancellations and unheated cars to attend, share their
experiences and get their questions answered," council Vice Chairwoman
Terri Cronin said.
But it's not going to be a simple "blow-off-steam" sort of gathering,
said Jim Cameron, chairman of the watchdog group.
"The council isn't looking to beat up Metro-North. Quite the opposite,
commuters need to hear the heroic efforts Metro-North has made," he
said. "But we're still dealing with a 10 percent service reduction,
buses only on the Waterbury branch and no sign of the long-promised,
much-delayed new M-8 cars."
Cameron wants answers about everything going wrong with the M-8s, the
high-tech passenger cars that are supposed to gradually replace
Metro-North's battered, worn-out fleet over the next three years. Snow,
ice and severe cold have caused the old rail cars to break down faster
than mechanics can fix them. Metro-North said the M-8s will stand up
better to severe weather.
But even if the new M-8s begin going into service this month and
perform flawlessly, the entire fleet changeover wouldn't be completed
until sometime in 2014. Cameron wants to know Metro-North's "Plan B' in
case another severe winter hits before then.
Also, he wants to hear from the manufacturer, Kawasaki Rail Car, and
from Louis T. Klauder and Associates, the consultant that has a $27
million contract to inspect the M-8s as they're built. Recently,
glitches and malfunctions with the prototypes have set back the fleet
replacement schedule by months.
"The DOT has been curt and dismissive at the questions we've asked
before about the M-8s," Cameron said. "All last year we were getting
shined along about how they'd be running in December. When Metro-North
and the DOT learned about serious electromagnetic interference, they
tried to manipulate the bad news. Now we want to hear from Kawasaki and
"LTK is getting $27 million of taxpayer money — who better to explain
what's going on?," Cameron said. "We're just asking for openness and
transparency. I think with the delays in [M-8] testing, there's more
going on than we're being told."
State Sen. Bob Duff, co-chairman of the General Assembly's
transportation committee, said he talks almost daily with
Transportation Commissioner Jeffrey Parker about the M-8s.
"It looks like they're on track to start delivering by the end of
February as promised, but everything has to fall into place as it's
supposed to," Duff said. "
keep outdated rail cars running; Ice and snow damaged a lot of motors
New Haven REGISTER
By Ed Stannard, Register Metro Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011
NEW HAVEN — Who would design a train car that cools down its motors by
sucking in air, along with snow and rain?
It doesn’t seem like such a good idea now that 130 of Metro-North’s
1970s-vintage M2 cars are in the shop, most with their traction motors
shorted out. With one motor needed to turn each set of wheels, much of
the New Haven Line has been hobbled.
The new M8 cars — the first eight are in their final 4,000-mile test
runs — won’t have that problem. They’re cooled internally, and their
motors don’t run on direct current, which is harder to maintain.
The M2 cars were among the first trains to usher in electric power on
the New Haven-to-New York run. The M8s, with state-of-the-art
computerized controls, will bring commuters into the high-tech era.
Once they’re tested and in full production, the M8s will be delivered
at the rate of 10 a month. With a fleet of 320 cars, Metro-North will
be running M2s for some time to come.
Metro-North has managed to keep the M2s running, even though their life
expectancy is past. But the continuous snow this winter has given the
railroad a body blow.
“Normally, in previous years, we would get a storm and then we would
get an opportunity to recover and then maintain our car availability
and cars for the trains so we could … have enough seats out there for
the passengers,” says John Hogan, assistant chief mechanical officer
“These back-to-back storms have just crippled us to a point where too
many cars had a need to come out and a need to get fixed. I believe
we’re past the worst of it. The weather is starting to improve and the
change-out of the traction motors is progressing at a steady rate.”
Last week, most of the 130 broken trains had burned-out traction
motors. That’s down from 161 at one point.
The design flaw is in how the motors are cooled. Air is sucked in
through intakes along the roofline.
“When you get the light, fluffy snow that we’ve seen earlier this year,
there’s a tendency of the blowers to ingest the snow,” Hogan says. “I
associate it almost like a stagecoach going down the road, where you
see the plume of dust and dirt behind it. Well, the snow does the same
thing when it’s light and fluffy.
“So, as you see a train go by, the front of the train may be clear and
free of any snow, but the turbulence created by the train movement
causes the snow to just kick up and then get ingested through the
blower system, and then it’s distributed and gets into some of the
motors and some of the compartments,” Hogan said.
There have also been problems with frozen brakes and stuck doors, but
the majority of problems have been with the motors.
To get a train car back on the rails, workers in the huge building off
Brewery Street known as the M2 shop, working from underneath the car,
remove the motor and attached wheels and replace it in a six- or
The burned-out motor is then sent out to be rebuilt, with each one
costing $1,500 to $3,000 to repair.
In their day, the 1970s, the M2s were a major advance, able to run on
the different track configurations between New Haven and New York.
“There are other commuter railroads throughout the country,” Hogan
says. “There are none as complex as Metro-North New Haven Line because
we have to run on both catenary and third rail.”
The overhead wiring, some of it as much as 100 years old, powers the
trains between New Haven and Pelham, N.Y., where the power source
switches to the direct current of the third rail system.
The fleet now is made up of M2s and two later models, the M4 and M6.
The first order for 244 M2s in the early 1970s was beefed up with 54
M4s in 1985 and 48 M6s in 1995, Hogan says. All have the same
The M8s, whose debut date has been pushed back several times, have had
problems with software and electromagnetic interference with signals
along the tracks. Last week, Metro-North President Howard Permut said
the first pilot cars had begun their 4,000-mile test run, which they
must complete without an error. If another problem is discovered, the
test starts again.
Hogan said there are 24 M8s in Connecticut — the first two arrived Dec.
24, 2009 — with two more on the way up from the port in Baltimore,
where they were shipped from Kawasaki Motor Co. in Kobe, Japan. Twelve
more will come from Japan. The rest of the 342 cars already ordered
will be built at Kawasaki’s Lincoln, Neb., plant.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy plans to ask the State Bond Commission later this
month for authorization to buy 38 more, to bring the new fleet up to
380. Before she left office, Gov. M. Jodi Rell had proposed borrowing
for those cars but was turned down.
Malloy met last week with Permut and Metropolitan Transportation
Authority Chairman Jay H. Walder to discuss the problems, which forced
Metro-North to borrow diesel trains from other lines, reduce its winter
schedule and run short trains with passengers forced to stand.
“This new schedule is critical to allow us to get the cars back as
quickly as possible,” Permut said, in order to give mechanics “the time
and stability we need” and to give commuters a predictable schedule.
Commuters have been complaining on the Clever Commute notification
service and elsewhere about late and short trains. “They’re slow and
one day I had to wait 26 minutes and got yelled at by my boss,” said a
woman who works in New Haven but wouldn’t give her name. She called the
trains “crowded, unreliable and undependable.”
“The train has been supercrowded for a while,” said Brad Rosen of New
York, who teaches at Yale University. “I wouldn’t mind paying a couple
dollars more for the ticket if the trains were nicer.”
The Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, which has been critical of state
officials for the multiple delays in putting the M8s in service, will
hold a special meeting on the New Haven Line problems at 7 p.m.
Wednesday at the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd.
Metro-North, state Department of Transportation and Kawasaki officials
have been invited.
“We especially want commuters who have suffered through recent weeks of
delays, cancellations and unheated cars to attend, share their
experiences and get their questions answered,” said council Vice
Chairwoman Terri Cronin from Norwalk in a press release.
“The folks from Metro-North need to hear from their customers. But
commuters also need to hear Metro-North explain their challenges in
running a first-class railroad with third-world equipment.”
Despite the invitation, Marjorie Anders, spokeswoman for Metro-North,
said Kawasaki officials will not attend. “They have enough work to do,”
Metro-North launches next
of rail cars
Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Updated 11:54 a.m., Tuesday, March 1, 2011
STAMFORD -- The long-awaited debut of Metro-North's M-8 rail cars took
place this morning at 10:30 a.m.
The first of the six-car trains left Stamford at 10:30 and made all
local stops on its way to Grand Central Terminal, said Metro-North
spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
The train is the only M-8 that will immediately be in service on the
New Haven Line, though a second six-car train is expected to arrive
Earlier this week, officials had expressed confidence that the trains
would arrive soon.
Tim McCarthy, Metro-North Railroad's senior vice president of capital
programs, along with Department of Transportation commissioner Jeffrey
Parker and other officials, said Monday that the first train of six M-8
cars would make its inaugural run carrying paying customers within
weeks and expect the final testing hurdle -- a series of simulated
passenger runs in which the cars must run without substantial error for
4,000 miles -- would be smooth.
McCarthy said the 15-month testing process for the M-8s is about half a
year shorter than testing to get the similarly designed M-7 cars in
service in 2002.
The M-7, considered a forerunner of the M-8, is used on Metro-North's
Harlem and Hudson lines and the Long Island Railroad.
"We're oh-so-close to getting the M-8 cars in service," McCarthy said.
"If we get them in service soon, it will actually be a quicker testing
process than the M-7."
Parker and McCarthy this week declined requests to discuss the testing
status of the first set of M-8 cars.
"We are hopeful the first M-8 cars can go into service very shortly --
perhaps within the next few weeks to a month," DOT spokesman Kevin
Nursick said Thursday.
Kawasaki's M-8 and the M-7, built by Canada's Bombardier Inc., include
several similar features, including centralized computer control and
on-board diagnostic systems, alternating current propulsion, automated
on-board announcements and single-leaf rather than double-leaf side
Other shared features serve to make the cars less vulnerable to
snow-related malfunctions with gaskets, circuit boards and other vital
electronic components placed inside the compartment of the train,
The New Haven Line's fleet of 320 M-2, M-4 and M-6 cars has been
crippled by age and outmoded design features this winter as wind-driven
snow has fouled components located in plastic coffin boxes fastened
beneath the train, Anders said.
On Feb. 4, the railroad introduced a reduced schedule that cut service
by 10 percent on the line.
Last month, the MTA approved $12 million to extend the contract of the
Louis T. Klauder & Associates engineering firm to oversee another
seven months of testing for the M-8s to resolve software glitches and
other problems delaying their debut.
In late December, Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut and
Parker announced engineers were working to fix software problems
causing electromagnetic interference from the M-8 propulsion systems
that was throwing off trackside signal equipment .
Other problems -- which Parker and McCarthy said are now resolved --
affected auxiliary power systems, which ensure the proper electrical
current to run the cars is available, and automatic train control,
which lets engineers know when it is safe to leave a station and how
fast they can travel.
Other production delays have contributed to the first M-8s being
delivered in December 2009, nearly a year behind schedule, including a
problem in 2008, when Kawasaki could not buy steel needed to build the
In spring 2010, former DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie acknowledged a
delay in installing diagnostic software aboard the first M-8 cars held
up testing of mechanical and computer components controlling speed,
braking, restrooms, and doors on the cars.
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron and some New
Haven Line commuters said dissatisfaction with the three-month delay in
the cars' debut has been compounded by the breakdown of the New Haven
fleet this winter and a lack of concrete detail from Metro-North and
DOT officials about hurdles to introducing the new cars.
At the same time, the council has given Metro-North credit for
maintaining on-time service during a harsh winter of record snowfalls
which has at times sidelined between one-third and one-half of the New
Haven Line's electric fleet.
Once the first M-8 cars go into service, Kawasaki has told Metro-North
it could finish up to 12 new cars a month on a Lincoln, Neb. assembly
Last week, the State Bond Commission approved a $81 million request
from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to act on the final 38-car option under an
$866 million contract with Kawasaki to purchase 380 cars.
Colleen Flanagan, a Malloy spokeswoman, said the governor is anxious to
see the new cars enter service, and is relying on Metro-North and DOT
reports that the debut is imminent.
"The governor is confident in the reports he receives from the
Department of Transportation," Flanagan said. "Beyond that, he is not
an engineer. The DOT has told the governor that the new cars will be
online before the end of March and he is looking forward to riding them
when they are."
rail cars in world get test run; to go in service on Metro-North's New
Haven Line in December
By Ed Stannard, Register Metro Editor
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
NEW HAVEN — The most advanced
rail cars in the world took their first run with passengers aboard
Monday, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell riding next to the engineer. Rell reacted with surprise when she
walked up to the Track 3 platform at Union Station and saw her name on
the side of the lead car. “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she
But the governor, who is retiring in
January, was clearly thrilled that a project in the works since 2005
was about to get moving. She said the new train cars will go into
“revenue service” — filled with paying passengers — in December.
“I have been bugging the DOT
literally almost every day, saying ‘When, when are we going to get them
in service? When are we ready to go?’ And they keep assuring me, ‘It’s
coming, it’s coming, it’s coming; don’t worry about it,’” Rell said.
The new cars have been a priority of
Rell’s Republican administration and the Democratic General Assembly.
“Make no mistake about it, ... we know that the New Haven Line is
central to the economic development and to the future of our state,”
she said. Rell said
that Metro-North’s ridership is increasing, surpassing that of the Long
Island Railroad in September.
“I couldn’t be more proud if I was
the mother of this train,” Rell said before boarding the M-8. She also
announced the state is about to buy 42 more cars in addition to the 300
Rell had announced in August that
she would ask the state Bond Commission for money to buy 80 more cars,
the state’s full option, but the commission approved $140 million,
enough for 42. The
state is spending about $900 million for the 342 cars, 65 percent of
the total, with Metro-North putting up the rest. Rell, state Transportation Commissioner
Jeffrey A. Parker and Hiroji Iwasaki, CEO of Kawasaki Rail Car U.S.,
were among those riding the four-car train, with Rell sitting for a
while on a seat across from the engineer. The two cars in the rear were
filled with testing equipment, electrical wires and bags of cement on
the seats to mimic weight of passengers.
The testing includes cameras on top
and underneath the cars and microphones to pick up sound. Charles
Clarke, a project engineer with DOT’s rail operations, said each car
would have to run 4,000 miles without a significant problem before they
are put into service.
“This is the most advanced,
state-of-the-art-technology car, and it has been a big challenge for
Kawasaki,” said Iwasaki, who added that the M-8s are more complex than
Japan’s high-speed trains. While the first cars were shipped from Kobe,
most will be built in Lincoln, Neb.
The new M-8s, which will replace
30-year-old M-2 cars, are brighter, with a cream-and-red color scheme,
more leg room and roomier overhead racks. The lavatories are
handicapped-accessible, compared with the cramped restrooms in the old
cars The cars can run
both on direct and alternating current to accommodate New York state’s
third-rail system and the overhead catenary on the rest of the line.
Bob Jelley of Guilford, a member of
the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, pointed out a few curious
features, such as room for wheelchairs on every car, even though there
are only lavatories on every other car. The placement of the restrooms in the
middle of the cars also seemed to lessen the open feel of the car, he
said, but on the whole, “these seem perfectly fine.”
“I’m not as hard to please as other
people. I feel perfectly comfortable riding from New York to New Haven
... in the old cars,” Jelley said.
The cars also have electronic signs,
bigger windows, headrests on every seat and armrests without edges to
catch onto passing clothing and purse straps. They also include a
number of environmental features. Conductor Thomas Way said he hoped
passengers would “appreciate the train and the hard work that people
did to get this up and running — and maintain it.”
Parker said the practicality of bike
racks in the cars was still being studied by Metro-North. Parking at
Union Station is a longstanding issue, and Parker said a second garage
is in the design phase. He
pointed out state officials broke ground last week on a new station in
West Haven, which will add 660 parking spaces to the line.
TOOK THE ACELA GOING
NICE CARS - ACTUALLY
THE BUSINESS CLASS OF THE REGULAR AMTRAK WAS NICE, TOO. WHAT TO
DO IF IT IS REALLY, REALLY HOT IN CT? SPEND THE WEEKEND IN
WASHINGTON D.C. THEY KNOW ABOUT AIRCONDITIONING IF NOTHING
ELSE! (ACTUALLY, THE ACELA WAS CANCELLED GOING, SO WE STOPPED AT
EVERY LOCAL STATION OR SO IT SEEMED THE TRIP DOWN)
HOT HOT HOT: NO WORSE REALLY
THAN WESTON! UNION STATION, DESIGNED BY DANIEL BURNHAM
D.C. IS LIKE PARIS, WITH SPOKES OF THE WHEEL CIRCULATION; STILL
LOOKS LIKE THE SCENE FROM THE OLD MOVIE (r) !!!
IT'S AN UPSIDE DOWN WORLD. D.C.'s UNION STATION 2010, REPLETE
WITH "FLIP-FLOP" POLICIES AND POLARIZED POSITIONS...AT THE CAPITOL.
CLEANING UP IN
D.C.: STIMULUS JOB FOR PIGEON?
UNION STATION - AMTRAK EMPLOYEE W/
WINGS IN ACTION.
State shifting focus to mass transit
Christine Woodside, CT MIRROR
In recent years, commuters crossing
the Quinnipiac River on I-95 in New Haven have had more to distract
them than veering out of exit-only lanes, avoiding potholes and dodging
swarms of fellow drivers.
Cranes and work crews visible from
the infamous "Q Bridge" are evidence of a massive, $2.2 billion project
to replace the old and overcrowded span-a long-overdue improvement,
most area motorists would agree.
But the project stands for more than
a smoother ride to work: It is the last highway expansion of its size
in Connecticut, at least for the near future, as the state Department
of Transportation increasingly turns its attention from roads and
bridges to mass transit.
Q-Bridge replacement 6-16-10
Motorists on I-95 pass work on the
massive Q Bridge replacement project (Christine Woodside)
"We're comfortable saying at this
point that we can't just go around expanding our highway and bridge
infrastructure because we simply don't have the financial resources to
maintain that," said Tom Harley, DOT's chief engineer. "Expanding is
not our priority. Preserving it is."
Public transportation, meanwhile, is
in expansion mode.
Recently the DOT held information
meetings on its plans to join with Massachusetts and New York to add
train tracks into and out of New Haven and to go "back to the future,"
as DOT public transportation bureau chief James P. Redeker put it. The
plan is for high-speed, affordable passenger rail lines between New
Haven, Springfield, and Boston. The trains would be able to go as fast
as 110 mph but cost much less than Amtrak, officials said.
Getting to the last of the meetings,
during rush hour on June 3, highlighted the problem the state now says
it wants to remedy. I-84, which most of the 40 or so attendees had to
take to get to the meeting at Hartford's Union Station, was jammed. But
the parking lot for the Amtrak line at Union Station had many empty
Redeker showed charts and maps in a
meeting room at the station. He outlined "broad goals" in New
England-economic growth, livable communities, less congestion and air
pollution, and energy efficiency. "Rail service can certainly help," he
The entire plan aims to make rail
service regular and quick from Washington DC to Bradley International
Airport to Boston and Montreal. Connecticut also wants to improve bus
travel in and out of Hartford.
The background of the project to
replace the current four-lane Q Bridge-officially the Pearl Harbor
Memorial Bridge-with a 10-lane span helps illustrate the change in the
In 1999, as the project was being
planned, the state Department of Environmental Protection suggested
that fewer lanes would remove strain from the merges and place less
stress on the river below.
DOT officials replied that the five
lanes in either direction were necessary in part to prepare for
expansion of I-95 east of New Haven.
Now the I-95 expansion is listed as
"unfundable" on DOT's latest five-year capital plan, and the DEP
analyst who recommended reducing the size of the Q Bridge replacement
11 years ago says today he notices a shift in transportation priorities
not only among officials, but also by the public.
"A few years ago [the DOT] had an
environmental study where they looked at a train station in either West
Haven or Orange," said David J. Fox. "That was in 2006 and they picked
West Haven at that point. Now they're coming back out with an
environmental study to do the Orange station as well. I recall the
public hearing four years ago. Usually when you go to these public
hearings, people are saying, 'Don't build it, don't build it.' At this
one, there was unanimity, saying, 'Build it.'"
David Kooris, who directs the
Connecticut office of the Regional Plan Association, said that his
tri-state planning organization was surprised at how quickly the shift
in the state's approach has occurred, but very happy with it.
Kooris said it's significant that
for the first time the DOT has produced "a list of projects that are
unfundable in the near future." In addition to the I-95 expansion,
those include completion of Route 11 in southeastern Connecticut and
reconstruction of the interchange of Route 8 and I-84 in Waterbury, all
with billion-dollar-plus price tags. "No longer do we have this laundry
list of big projects that we assume will be funded," Kooris said.
Harley, the DOT engineer, said the
agency hasn't abandoned the big projects. "They're out there," he said.
"They're unfunded, but they're on our radar screen." But when they do
get funded, many of them may be built on a reduced scale, he said.
In part the shift in emphasis
has to do with the availability of federal funds for regional
transportation projects, augmented by available stimulus money. DOT
officials say the Rell administration also has emphasized the need for
better mass transit.
Still, a key question remains: Will
Connecticut commuters be able to give up their private cars?
"There are certainly influences that
we can't control," Harley said. "On a personal level I can't imagine
that unless it is really easy and convenient, that people will step out
of their cars, until the price of gas goes up substantially."
But he said that if the price of gas
does go up dramatically, and the state DOT isn't ready with public
transportation options that serve the majority, people would criticize
However to weigh the various
influences on transportation policy, it has changed, and fast.
Environmentalists who have long yelled for something besides car routes
might even be caught unawares. DOT investments used to come down 80
percent for highway projects and 20 percent for public transportation,
Redeker, who is new to the DOT, said after the rail plan meeting. Now
it's close to 50-50.
"It's reflective of the times," he
Woodside of Deep River is
a freelance writer "interested in how Americans interact with nature
and use natural resources." She has written articles for The New York
Times and other publications, and previously worked at The Day in New
along - all aboard!
Connecticut's new railroad cars
to be running by December
Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Published: 10:09 p.m., Thursday, May 20, 2010
WILTON -- New rail cars will soon begin to roll off the lines at
factories in Lincoln, Neb., and Japan in greater numbers, state
Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie said, as the
state meanwhile makes steady progress to get roughly two dozen of the
M-8 cars in passenger service by December.
Pressed at a Wednesday night Connecticut Rail Commuter Council meeting
at the Wilton Trackside Teen Center, Marie dismissed concerns the
effort to fine-tune on-board diagnostic software controlling
propulsion, braking, lights, restrooms, and door systems on test cars
is moving along and shouldn't delay their debut.
"We are very much in a position to enter these cars into service
beginning this year," Marie said. "My expectation on the testing has
been met and so far so good."
Council Chairman Jim Cameron asked Marie about a report delivered to
Metro-North Railroad in April by an independent engineer, McKissack
& Delcan, indicating the diagnostic software had been installed
"How can you be testing without that software installed?" Cameron said.
Marie said the DOT and Metro-North were in the midst of software
testing, part of a battery of mechanical and computer tests to be
documented in a collection of mandated safety and performance test
paperwork that will run thousands of pages for each new rail car.
"There will be a few head-scratchers and probably a few `Oh my
goodnesses,' in the next few months but no real show stoppers," Marie
said. "We knew this would be a difficult process but it is going well."
On Monday night, the state's eight M-8 test cars underwent their first
dynamic test between New Haven and Milford, reaching speeds up to 60
mph to test propulsion and braking systems, Marie said.
Before the cars are approved for passenger service, they must be able
to verify for the Federal Railroad Administration that all software
functions will not consume more than 50 percent of the cars' processing
The software is now using roughly 72 percent of processing power, and
reductions should be easily attained over several months, Marie said.
"Once we get the software adjusted, after we learn what we need to know
from these trains, we'll be able to load it onto the production cars
from Japan," he said.
The DOT plans to have the full order of 300 M-8 cars in service by
Marie and other DOT officials also discussed plans to shut down
off-peak rail service on the Danbury branch line from August to the
winter holidays in order to enable work on the $63 million installation
of a modern signalization and automatic switching system on the
During the project, line patrons traveling between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30
p.m. will be offered bus service, DOT Rail Construction Engineer Robert
P. Pettinicchi said.
State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a long-time proponent of the project
and expanded service on the Danbury line, said the modernized line
would divert commuters from the Route 7 corridor.
"There are a lot of people who would like to use this line who are now
going to Westport, New Canaan, and elsewhere," Boucher said. "This is
going to be huge for our commuters and huge in their minds."
Marie said after the M-8 cars are in service, engineers will continue
to review and update software dozens of times to tweak the performance
of the cars.
"We'll probably be on our 100th iteration of it by this time next
year," Marie said. "Every car delivery project, especially one of this
magnitude, has its challenges, but the initial runs have been very
Chaos Sends Businesses Scrambling
By MATTHEW SALTMARSH
April 16, 2010
PARIS — Businesses around Europe were scrambling to make contingency
plans Friday as a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland kept airports
closed, while insurance companies were hoping to avoid having to cover
The continued grounding of most flights in northern Europe forced
suppliers to seek alternative delivery routes for high-value components
and perishables like flowers and food that are usually move by air.
“Our courier and express services have been dramatically affected,” Dan
Moriarty, operations director at Aerly Bird Trans Global, a freight
forwarder located at Dublin Airport Cargo village, said. “It’s an
unusual situation. Most of our clients accept this as a force majeur.”
The company, which focuses on just-in-time deliveries from Britain and
the Continent to Irish clients, especially in services like software
and computer call centers, has shifted to road and ferry delivery as
much as possible. Ferry transport has experienced a surge in demand.
“The main problem — if this drags on — will be for the clients,” Mr.
Insurance companies are hoping that they will not have to make major
payouts, unless there is direct, physical damage as a result of the
Bart Nash, a spokesman for Lloyd’s of London, said the giant insurer
was examining its exposure “over a number of lines of business” but
that it was “too early to tell” what type of insurance claims might
Swiss Re, another large reinsurer, said it did not expect to face major
claims. “At this point we don’t believe the impact on re-insurers will
be very significant,” said Josephine Chennell, a spokeswoman for the
group in Zurich.
“Business interruption because of the volcano eruption is not covered
by insurers,” an Allianz spokesman, Richard Manson, was quoted as
Assessing the real cost to businesses will be impossible until it is
clearer how quickly the ash clouds disperse.
Thijs Berkelder, a transport analyst at Petercam Bank in Amsterdam,
said the flight cancellations could cost large European flag-carriers
like Air-France KLM tens of millions of euros per day in lost revenue.
“The main worry is you really get a big eruption and its lasts weeks or
even months,” he said, an event that would multiply carriers’ losses.
The impact could be most damaging for low-cost carriers, which do not
have as much scope to divert flights and operate out of different hubs,
Experts warned that Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano could
continue to erupt in the weeks ahead.
Professor Bill McGuire from the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre
noted that the last eruption from the glacier lasted more than 12
months. If this eruption has a similar duration then ash could
periodically present a problem in British air space.
The Sydney-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation estimated Friday that
some six million passengers would be affected if the airport closures
continue for up to three days. Share prices of European airlines were
Ryanair, the largest low-cost carrier, shed 2.6 percent after falling
by 2 percent Thursday. Air France–KLM was down 1.8 percent in Paris and
British Airways lost 2.1 percent.
By contrast, the share price of most large insurers and re-insurers was
At TNT, the large Dutch logistics company, contingency plans are
already in place to transfer air freight to the road network.
The company, the largest intra-European delivery group, was hiring
extra trucks to work out of its road hub in the southern Netherlands.
Its air hub at Liège, Belgium, has started processing goods by
instead, said Cyrille Gibot, a spokesman.
The company managed to land one of its crucial flights from China to
Europe late Thursday, he added. Those flights, which normally operate
three times a week, typically carry high-value electronics and auto
components to European manufacturers from China.
Korean Air, the largest cargo carrier among the world’s commercial
airlines, said that it cut three cargo flights, as well as four
passenger flights to Europe from Asia Friday. It usually operates
between four and six cargo-only flights a day to Europe.
At Rungis, the largest wholesale food market in the world, located near
Paris, it was almost business as usual.
There, only about 10 percent of the products traded arrive by air,
according to Philippe Stisi, a spokesman. And with the arrival of
spring in Europe, more fruit and vegetables are being sourced from
southern Europe, and arriving by road, rather than coming from Africa
A manager at Solanes, a distributor at the market, said that he had not
taken delivery of Friday of the aromatic herbs and exotic fruits that
usually arrive from Israel and Africa.
Air freight, while more expensive than shipping by sea, has seen
something of a resurgence in the last year, according to Victor Fung,
chairman of the Hong Kong based Li & Fung group of companies, a
giant distribution and retrading group.
Given the financial crisis, more companies and trading firms have
switched to air freight from sea, amid slower steaming at sea by
container companies and the need for more smaller orders and quick
re-supply. Still, other executives said that the higher cost of air
freight and environmental considerations continue to limit the
expansion of that sector.
Pedestrian hit, killed by train in Norwalk
Feb. 17, 2010
A pedestrian was hit and killed by a Metro-North train this morning at
the Commerce Street crossing.
According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a train hit the
pedestrian -- who is yet to be identified -- at approximately 7:20 a.m.
The accident is causing delays on the New Haven and Danbury line.
At this point Metro North is using buses to get people back and forth
on the Danbury Line.
The Hour's News Hound
MTA Police, Norwalk police and fire are all at the scene.
Further details will be posted as more information becomes available.
Legislative Hearing Today On School Bus
The Hartford Courant
February 17, 2010
The parents of the Rocky Hill teenager who died as a result of a bus
crash on I-84 last month are expected to testify at a legislative
public hearing today.
The legislature's transportation committee is gathering information
about school bus safety and looking for feedback on two proposed bills.
One would require lap-and-shoulder, or three-point, seat belts on
public school buses. The other would increase fines for bus companies
that are repeat offenders of specific safety laws and would require
buses to display phone numbers so that motorists could report unsafe
Both bills were proposed after the January crash that killed Vikas
Parikh. Parikh was on his way to a kickoff event for a national
robotics competition when the bus he was riding in collided with a car,
sending the bus down a 20-foot embankment.
Parikh was the only one who died in the crash, but several of his
classmates and a teacher at the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and
Science were injured.
Today's hearing will begin at 11 a.m. in Room 2D of the Legislative
Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave.
train derails in D.C.: Minor
The Washington Times
Originally published 12:47 p.m.,
February 12, 2010, updated 07:29 a.m., February 13, 2010
A six-car subway train derailed
Friday in downtown Washington, D.C., and injured three passengers, as
many commuters returned to work for the first time since back-to-back
snowstorms that began last weekend buried the region.
The accident occurred at about 10:15
a.m., at the Farragut North station, in the downtown area.
A preliminary report shows the front
wheels of the train's first car slipped off the tracks as it left the
below-ground station, according to the Washington Area Metropolitan
Passengers said the red line train
stopped abruptly after departing the station and that they waited for
about 90 minutes, at times in the dark, before being allowed to exit.
Emergency crews sent passengers in
the first two cars into the four trailing cars. They then unhooked the
front cars and returned the passengers to the station in the trailing
Agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein
said the train was in a "pocket track," off the main tracks.
More than 340 passengers were on the
train. D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin described the injuries are "very
The station closed briefly, then
reopened at about noon.
The federal government, which
employs roughly 230 workers in the region, reopened two hours late
Friday after being closed for four straight days. The late opening
resulted in especially crowded trains after the morning rush hour.
The accident is the most recent
incident in a long string of problems for Metro that began in June when
nine people were killed after a red line train struck the rear of
Since then, at least two Metro
employees have been killed while working on train tracks.
The transit system, which has the
second largest subway system in the country, also faces a
million-dollar shortfall and has just approved a fare increase.
The agency receives money from the
federal government and from the District and the Maryland and Virginia
municipalities it serves. But the income is not guaranteed.
In January, Metro General Manager
John B. Catoe Jr. announced his retirement after three years as the
agency's top manager. He will leave in April.
Haven line ridership falls 4 percent
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Published: 11:05 p.m., Thursday, December 31, 2009
Continued job losses in the white-collar finance, insurance and real
estate industries contributed to a 4 percent drop in ridership on
Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line from January to November.
Rail officials said ridership now has declined for 14 months.
"It was just a lousy economy all around," said Marjorie Anders,
spokeswoman for the railroad. "The recession had a huge impact on our
By contrast, single-ticket sales on nights and weekends, which are less
likely to be used by workforce commuters, fell only 2 percent for the
period, Anders said.
New Haven Line ridership from January to November fell to 33.1 million
trips, down from 34.5 million trips last year, Anders said.
Ridership on CTTransit buses in Stamford running local service and
interstate service to White Plains, N.Y., also dipped about 4 percent
from last year, said David Lee, the general manager.
Ridership fell to 3.1 million from 3.2 million between December 2008
and last month, Lee said.
In 2008, ridership rose 5.4 percent, Lee said.
The drop appears to reflect the loss of retail and service jobs in the
area, Lee said, and returns ridership to 2007 levels, after a 4 percent
growth that he attributed to high gas prices in summer 2008.
The drop in New Haven Line ridership follows a record 2008, when 38.2
million riders used the service, a 3.9 percent increase from 2007 that
was spurred by high gas prices, railroad officials said. From January
2008 to June 2008, ridership rose 5 percent each month, and 6.2 percent
in July, when gas prices reached more than $4.50 a gallon.
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said trains are
still crowded, although riders often can find seats. He expects
ridership growth to resume soon, making it critical for the state to
launch the new fleet of M-8 rail cars and expand parking lots at train
stations, Cameron said.
The first two of 300 M-8 cars arrived in the state last week.
"We would hope that when the economy comes back, the ridership will
come back," Cameron said. "Now is the time to be adding more seats and
hopefully find a way to add more parking."
finally on track: First M-8 cars make debut in New Haven
By Rob Varnon, CT POST STAFF WRITER
Updated: 12/24/2009 07:00:53 PM EST
At long last, Connecticut got trains for Christmas.
On Thursday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell unveiled the first two M-8 railcars for
the New Haven Line at Union Station in New Haven to a gaggle of
reporters, railroad workers and Kawasaki Rail Car executives.
"Kawasaki, I have nothing but praise for them," Rell said while seated
in the front of the first pair of railcars, fielding questions from
reporters. She said the firm has been very good with communicating the
progress of the cars. The new cars have a more box-like design than the
older cars that rolled in and out of Union Station during the
The governor appeared to enjoy the new cars and said that they
represent the fruition of one of her earliest proposals as governor.
In 2005, when Rell introduced her first budget as governor, she
challenged the state "to confront, once and for all, our transportation
problem." She backed a plan to replace the 342-car fleet as part of a
$1 billion transportation initiative.
Kawasaki Rail Car, of Japan, originally won a contract in 2006 to build
210 railcars for $522 million with an option to build another 132
additional cars with a price tag of about $2.5 million a car. But
efficiencies in the process and a reduction in commodity costs, helped
lower the per-car price to about $2 million, so the state is taking 300
cars for almost $700 million.
Fare hikes to help cover the cost of the new cars are scheduled for the
next seven years, with the
first one of 1.25 percent occurring next year in the summer followed by
1 percent hikes during the following six years each January.
James Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said
this was an important day for commuters, but also for Rell.
"I wanted to say thank you to the governor," Cameron said, while
standing on Platform 8, where the new railcars were open for viewing.
DOT and Metro-North will begin testing the new cars next week, so they
will not be available for public viewing.
Cameron and the rail commuter council pressed for years to improve the
train service on the New Haven Line. While the trains generally come in
on time, the conditions on them had been deteriorating as the railcars
aged. The majority of the fleet entered service in the 1970s and only a
handful of railcars were added in later decades. The situation came to
a head in the winter of 2004 when bitterly cold wind and snow fouled
the mechanics and electronics of the older trains, putting more than
100 out of commission in a single week. That forced shortened trains
and schedule changes.
Metro-North mechanics worked around the clock in below-zero conditions
in the New Haven Rail Yard to get the trains back in service, repairing
49 trains in one weekend.
The state is also expanding the rail yard at a cost of more than $700
million, to accommodate the fleet of new trains. Connecticut will not
immediately retire the older models, but instead intends to use them to
expand service on its Shore Line East Railroad and branch lines.
Cameron credited Rell with the political courage to move the issue
forward. "This is her swan song," he said, as Rell walked the platform
talking to police and reporters about the new trains. Rell declared she
would not seek another term during the next election cycle, which
begins in 2010. Her term ends in 2011.
The new trains are expected to begin entering full service in the fall
of 2010, meaning Connecticut will have the most advanced fleet of
railcars in North America at a time when the nation's economy is
expected to start rising out of the recession.
"Having the newest trains in North America says a lot about the state's
transportation," Cameron said, who added it's a far cry from where
Connecticut has been. He said there have been reports of companies who
crossed Connecticut off the map of potential locations for offices
simply because of its clogged freeways and overcrowded railcars.
While there was excitement about the new railcars, they will not go
into service until the fall of 2010, according to Eugene Colonese, a
state Department of Transportation rail administrator.
Colonese said the trains must go through testing and they can only be
run with other M-8 cars because of the electronics are more advanced on
the new cars.
Colonese is a veteran railroad worker who served as a Metro-North
conductor before taking the job at the DOT.
"They're great," he said of the new cars. "All the other cars are based
on a 1960 design," he said. "This is such an improvement."
Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. President Akira Hattori agreed with Cameron and
Colonese that these were among the most advanced cars in North America
and probably the world.
Hattori said the M-8s are complicated cars and require a complex
electrical system because the cars run on both overhead alternating
current and third-rail direct current systems.
The New Haven Line is the only railroad in the world that operates on
Besides being the latest design, Hattori noted these trains will be
faster and will be capable of hitting 100 miles per hour.
The first 38 cars are being made in Japan and then the remaining 262
cars will be manufactured in Kawasaki's Lincoln, Neb., factory, he said.
"It's the best design," he said.
About the M-8 cars:
- WiFi capable
- Top speed of 100 mph
- Seats 105 per car
- Costs $2 million per car
- Expected to last 30 to 35 years
- Built by Kawasaki Rail Car Inc.
- To run on New Haven Line, which carries 35 million
The Tappan Zee Bridge:
parallel to Whidbey Island
New York Post
By ERIN CALABRESE and LIZ SADLER in
Rye Brook and JEANE MacINTOSH in NY
Last Updated: 6:16 AM, September 26,
Posted: 3:02 AM, September 26, 2009
A tormented woman who struggled with
the horrific bludgeoning death of her newspaper heiress mother climbed
a railing of the Tappan Zee Bridge and then flung herself over the side
-- 15 years after her murderous stepfather jumped from the same span.
Police last night were searching the
murky Hudson River for tragic Annie Devoy Morell, 38, daughter of Anne
Scripps Douglas, whose 1994 death came at the hands of her second
husband, Scott Douglas.
Morell plunged from the bridge
Thursday, minutes after stopping her car on the Rockland County-bound
right lane at around 8 p.m., family members yesterday told The
Post. A note was found
in her car, and State Police Investigator Joseph Becerra said the case
is being treated as a suicide.
Morell was a carefree 22-year-old
when her mom -- great-great-granddaughter of James E. Scripps, who
founded the Detroit News and owned several Midwest papers -- died after
a vicious 1993 New Year's Eve beating by Douglas.
Anne Scripps had married Douglas, a
housepainter with a violent temper, after her divorce from Annie's
father, Wall Streeter Anthony Morell. Annie had returned home from a party to
find herself locked out of the family's swank Bronxville home. When
nobody responded to her repeated knocks, Annie, fearing the worst of
her hot-headed stepdad, called police.
Cops found her mother unconscious,
sprawled across the bed in Annie's room. She'd been brutally bludgeoned
in the head, and died six days later. Annie's stepsister, Tory, then 3, was in
the home at the time of the attack. Douglas fled and abandoned his car on the
Tappan Zee. Unable to find a body after several days, police believed
Douglas had faked his death and launched a worldwide manhunt.
Three months later, Douglas's
decomposed body washed ashore in The Bronx. After his body was found, Annie told the
Westchester Journal News, "The nightmare is over."
But her uncle, Kevin Haggerty, said
Annie never fully recovered.
"She's just always distraught, she's
been having issues back and forth, as anybody would expect," he told
The Post yesterday. "Through her whole life, that's a bad memory."
One friend said Morell's
grade-school son had recently gone to live with his dad, Paul Petrillo,
in Eastchester so the child could attend a school near there. Petrillo last night declined to comment.
Thoughtful analysis of the Transit-Economics
busG. Paul Burnett/The New York Times
Crosstown bus routes, like the
M23, have traditionally been among the slowest in the city.
Bloomberg Calls for
Free Crosstown Buses
By Sewell Chan AND Michael Barbaro
3, 2009, 1:02 pm
Updated, 1:34 p.m. | Manhattan’s
notoriously slow crosstown buses — like the M34, M42 and M50 — move at
such a snail’s pace that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
should stop collecting fares on them so that the buses can load riders
and take off more quickly, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg proposed on
Monday afternoon as part of what his re-election campaign called a bold
plan for reforming mass transit.
“Plain and simple: the M.T.A. needs
to do more. Much more,” the mayor said at a campaign event at West 34th
Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. “Our mass transit system is far
The mayor’s announcement comes
months after the authority, which has faced steep fiscal pressures,
raised fares and tolls, pushing the base subway and bus fare to $2.25.
There are some signs of weakening support for the mayor — an
independent who has promised to yet again pour tens of millions of
dollars from his personal fortune into his campaign — although his
major Democratic opponent, City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., is
still unknown to many voters.
In a 33-point proposal spanning
subways, buses, roads, ferries and the operations of the authority, the
mayor appeared to be trying to assert a greater role for the city in
mass transit as he seeks a third term in the November election. He will
face hurdles: Unlike the Police Department and the school system, the
M.T.A. is subject to very little control by the mayor, who controls
only 4 of 17 votes on the authority’s board.
The mayor called for a number of
measures that will probably be popular with riders, even though Mr.
Bloomberg has no direct power to put them in place: extending the V
line from the Lower East Side into Brooklyn, and providing express
service on the popular F line; providing “countdown clocks” that
indicate when the next subway is arriving, a feature now only available
on the L line; and reopening Long Island Rail Road stations in the
Queens neighborhoods of Glendale, Richmond Hill and Elmhurst, to give
residents more options in reaching Manhattan.
(The idea of expanding the use of
CityTicket — an M.T.A. program started in 2004 that offers riders
discounted fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad
when traveling within the city limits — had already been put forth by
Mr. Thompson, among others.)
Other elements of the Bloomberg
transit plan build on existing efforts. For example, the mayor wants to
improve the renovation of subway stations, reopen a 5.1-mile abandoned
rail line linking the St. George ferry terminal with several
neighborhoods in the northern part of Staten Island, and expand the bus
rapid transit experiment that the authority has begun along Fordham
Road in the Bronx. All are projects that have already been discussed or
implemented over a period of several years.
Some points in the plan are more
innovative. Crosstown buses have been infuriatingly slow for decades,
and the plan argues that most crosstown riders are already using the
subway, so that the authority gains little in additional revenue by
collecting fares on crosstown routes.
“Any loss in revenue will likely be
offset by the gain in travel times, which may reduce operating costs by
allowing the authority to run fewer buses,” the Bloomberg campaign
states. If letting riders board without paying proved successful, the
paper added, “the authority should expand it to other appropriate
crosstown routes, along with routes in Jamaica,” where buses also run
Other elements of the Bloomberg
campaign’s plan include:
* Using smaller,
more fuel-efficient buses to provide service on existing bus routes
during less popular periods, like nights.
technology deployed for military vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan to
track bus movements, with help from the city’s Department of
* Creating a
high-occupancy-vehicle express lane on the westbound Gowanus
Expressway, whch would reduce commute times for motorists coming from
Staten Island or southern Brooklyn.
Expanding ferry service and ferry linkages, a proposal long championed
by Representative Anthony D. Weiner, who ran for mayor in 2005.
* Giving the
Police Department, which already controls policing in the subways,
supervision over M.T.A. communications and surveillance — a proposal
likely to raise hackles within the authority.
* Creating a
TransitStAT program — similar to the CompStat program deployed since
the early 1990s to monitor police responses to crime patterns — to
regularly provide online updates to the public about transit
* Creating an
integrated, contactless “smart card” for transit riders — similar to
London’s Oyster Card or Hong Kong’s Octopus Card — that could
eventually supplant the MetroCard.
* Turning over
the M.T.A.’s customer-service information responsibilities to the
city’s 311 call center, one of the Bloomberg administration’s signature
TO WASHINGTON, D.C. OR
BOSTON? FIRST STEP: GO TO STAMFORD TRANSPORTATION CENTER
To the south (l.)
and north (c.) from the Stamford Railroad station, which has parking
garage, Amtrak/Acela stop. Great coffee shop at the top of the
Cooperation key to transit issues
CT POST Editorial
Updated: 07/14/2009 03:13:44 PM EDT
Mass transit solutions are impossible unless we work together. Gov. M.
Jodi Rell appears to understand this.
Rell and the five other New England governors on Monday declared that
the central Connecticut route paralleling Interstate 91 is a key link
in wider plans to revitalize the region's passenger rail network. This
is part of a nationwide push by the Obama administration to once again
make passenger rail a viable alternative to automobiles in our most
highly trafficked areas.
The specific focus for now is on the link from New Haven to
Springfield, Mass., by way of Hartford. The governor last week
submitted a proposal to upgrade the 62-mile route and enable the state
to begin faster-speed commuter service. More importantly, it would open
the way for Amtrak to launch high-speed rail service in the region as
part of its larger Boston-to-Washington Acela service.
The cost is enormous -- multiple billions of dollars just to begin. The
benefits, though, should such projects be brought to fruition and
linked into a single, comprehensive framework, are incalculable -- less
time wasted in traffic; less gasoline consumed; a dent in pollution,
and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions; and a chance to once again
make travel a pleasant experience.
The goal is far in the future. But the work must begin, and the
situation will not improve on its own. There is no possibility of
achieving the massive infrastructure investment necessary for
alternative means of transportation without significant
We have an administration in Washington that shares these goals. The
time to act is now.
Given the option, the New Haven-to-Springfield route might not be our
first choice for a cash infusion. Metro-North's New Haven Line carries
thousands of people daily, and is constantly in need of help. The
Waterbury Line, as well, could benefit from increased attention and
But this is about more than local concerns. This is about weaving
Connecticut into a nationwide solution, and changing our transportation
We can't do it alone. Working together, we can make it happen.
Look for Clues and Victims in
By IAN URBINA and SHARON OTTERMAN
WASHINGTON — A day after the worst Metro subway train accident in the
history of the city’s system, emergency officials continued to comb
through the wreckage, searching for additional victims and indications
as to what could have caused the crash, officials said.
On Tuesday morning, Metro officials confirmed that nine people were
killed and around 75 wounded. There may still be other bodies entombed
in the wreckage, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said at a news conference.
“Our first thoughts and efforts are with the families and friends of
the victims,” he said.
Investigators were still treating the accident scene as a rescue
operation, bringing in a crane and other heavy equipment, emergency
officials said. Cadaver dogs and search and rescue dogs were being used
in the hunt for any additional survivors or fatalities, both on the
track and in the surrounding wooded area. Two minor firefighter
injuries were reported.
In the accident, one train on the system’s heavily used Red Line
rear-ended a stopped train at considerable speed about 5 p.m. between
the Takoma and Fort Totten stations, leaving the rear train atop the
forward train in a mangled cluster of metal and glass. The driver of
the rear train, Jeanice McMillan, 42, was among those killed, officials
Initial signs pointed to a mixture of technical failures and possible
On Tuesday, a National Transportation Safety Board member, Debbie
Hersman, said that the agency had raised concerns about the
crash-readiness of the older trains used by the city. The striking
train was one of these older trains — Metro’s 1000 series.
The agency had in the past several years recommended that the city’s
older trains be retrofitted with greater safety devices or that they be
phased out. The officials also recommended that all of the older trains
be fitted with “event recorders.” Those recommendations were not
addressed, she said.
To prevent trains from colliding, Metro designed a computerized system
that controls speed and braking. If trains get too close to each other,
the computers are supposed to automatically apply the brakes.
“We need to see if that system actually what was being used at the time
and if there were any faults,” Ms. Hersman said. “We’re going to be
looking at the tracks, at the signal system and at the train operation
to understand what happened.”
The investigation will include a “sight distance test” to judge whether
the operator could see the train in front of her, as well an effort to
determine how fast the moving train was going. Ms. McMillan had been a
train operator since 2007, officials said.
Nine data recorders were being carried by the train that was struck,
which was made of newer 3000 and 5000-series train cars. All are
expected to be recovered and analyzed. The Safety Board had recommended
that all older cars also be fitted with data recorders, and that
recommendation was also not addressed, Ms. Hersman said.
The city’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, said that officials were in the
process of identifying the dead and that family notifications would
begin later Tuesday. Metro officials warned that they were running
limited service on the Red Line and advised commuters to find another
way to work.
In a statement, President Obama said: “Michelle and I were saddened by
the terrible accident in Northeast Washington, D.C., today. Our
thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends affected by
this tragedy. I want to thank the brave first responders who arrived
immediately to save lives.”
The general manager of the Metro system, John B. Catoe Jr., said Monday
that the crash occurred when one train headed into the center of the
city stopped near a platform and was waiting for permission to proceed.
The second train came from behind and hit it, he said.
Between the Takoma and Fort Totten stations where the crash occurred,
there is a long stretch of track, meaning trains often reach high
“It was a huge impact,” said Maya Maroto, 31, of Burtonsville, Md., who
was in the third car of the moving train as she headed into the city to
see a movie. “Our first inclination was that we hit another train or
An elderly woman sitting near them flew out of her seat and landed
sprawled on the floor.
Ms. Maroto said she did not realize the seriousness of the accident
until she looked out the door and saw the front of her train wedged on
top of the other one. Minutes later she looked again and saw a body on
Passengers said about 15 minutes passed before officials showed up or
any announcements were made.
“It was kind of scary that no one was there,” said Allison Miner, 49, a
nutritionist from Silver Spring, Md., who was in the same car as Ms.
Suzanne Motta, who was riding in the fourth car of the moving train,
said, “Anybody standing up got knocked down.”
“A gentleman came in carrying a girl with a laceration on her foot,”
Ms. Motta added. “He had a laceration on his head. Everybody was pretty
Jervis Bryant, 39, who lives about two blocks from the crash site,
arrived at the scene soon after he heard a loud boom. He said he saw
people inside the bottom train car. “It was a scene I never thought I’d
see,” he said.
After the accident, one subway car sat fully on top of a car from the
other train. The car on top had part of its floor sheared off, and the
wreckage was a jumble of twisted metal. Seats from the smashed cars had
spilled onto the tracks.
Several passengers were carried off on stretchers, and rescue crews
used ladders and heavy equipment to cut into the wreckage and reach
passengers stuck inside. Helicopters buzzed overhead. The police
scrambled to coordinate traffic, onlookers and the rescue workers.
Emergency medical personnel set up a triage site at the nearby Jarboe
Printing Company. Rescue officials said about 75 passengers were
treated for injuries. At least three people were seriously injured and
the rest had only minor injuries. Numerous people walked away from the
crash site wearing bandages, slings and in at least one case, a neck
Much of the Metrorail system, which opened in 1976, runs below ground.
Both trains involved in the accident were above ground.
“This is an aging system and one that needs to be looked at very
closely,” said Peter Goelz, former managing director of the National
Transportation Safety Board.
The accident was the second involving passenger fatalities in the
system. In 1982, three people died after a train derailed between the
Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations.
Stimulus Package Will Go to Faster
By MICHAEL COOPER
February 20, 2009
It may be the longest train
delay in history: more than 40 years after the first bullet trains
zipped through Japan, the United States still lacks true high-speed
rail. And despite the record $8 billion investment in high-speed rail
added at the last minute to the new economic stimulus package, that may
not change any time soon.
That money will not be enough to pay for a single bullet train,
transportation experts say. And by the time the $8 billion gets divided
among the 11 regions across the country that the government has
designated as high-speed rail corridors, they say, it is unlikely to do
much beyond paying for long-delayed improvements to passenger lines,
and making a modest investment in California’s plan for a true bullet
In the short term, the money — inserted at the 11th hour by the White
House — could put people to work improving tracks, crossings and signal
That could help more trains reach speeds of 90 to 110 miles per hour,
which is much faster than they currently go. It is much slower,
however, than high-speed trains elsewhere, like the 180 m.p.h. of the
newest Japanese bullet train. (The Acela trains on the East Coast are
capable of 150 m.p.h., but average around half that.)
To some longtime proponents of high-speed rail who have watched with
envy as other countries built ever-faster trains, failing to build a
world-class high-speed train now would represent a tremendous missed
opportunity to lure drivers off choked roads and fliers away from long
delays at airports.
“What are we trying to achieve?” asked Joseph Vranich, a rail expert
who wrote “Supertrains” (St. Martin’s Press, 1991). “If we really
wanted to have high-speed rail in this country, and have it be a great
success, then what we would do is concentrate the funds on the New
York-Washington corridor, which is the top corridor in the country.”
Mr. Vranich warned that spreading the money around the country could
dilute its power to build a true high-speed system, and he predicted
that making incremental improvements to the speeds of trains around the
country would not be enough to get large numbers of people to stop
flying. Even with full financing, it could take a decade or more
to build a
bullet train line. The state now closest to building a true high-speed
system is California, where voters approved borrowing $9 billion last
fall to begin building a train that can go faster than 220 m.p.h.
“The California high-speed rail project is the only genuine pending
project,” said Judge Quentin L. Kopp, the chairman of the California
High-Speed Rail Authority.
Mr. Kopp has outlined plans to spend up to $2 billion of the stimulus
money by the deadline of 2012 — one-quarter of the available federal
money, but only a small part of the $45 billion the project is expected
Many other states also have big plans. North Carolina, which is part of
the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor, will seek some of the stimulus
money to speed rail service between Charlotte and Washington. Wisconsin
wants to use some of it on a line linking Madison and Chicago, hoping
to have trains running up to 110 m.p.h. Officials in Alabama want to be
on a faster line connecting Atlanta and New Orleans.
Many rail advocates said that it would make sense to move to
higher-speed rail before building true high-speed rail, and that
getting the nation’s long-neglected rail system into working order
could lay the foundation for future high-speed projects.
“You’ve got to walk before you can run, and we’ve just been crawling up
to now,” said Ross B. Capon, the president of the National Association
of Railroad Passengers, an advocacy group for riders.
Many passenger trains run on tracks owned by freight companies, and
they are slowed on long stretches of single track, where trains must
pull onto sidings so others can pass.
Federal transportation officials said that they were still drawing up
guidelines for how the money would be spent, and cautioned that it was
too early to predict what they would do. Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood told reporters in Washington this week that he believed
high-speed rail would be President Obama’s transportation priority. Mr.
LaHood said the department had recently given the White House a
memorandum describing plans for high-speed rail in “at least six
corridors” across the country.
But people who were excited by that prospect may be surprised to hear
that the federal government defines “high speed” as much slower than
other countries do. A diesel train in the United States that can go 90
m.p.h. is still considered high-speed under the government’s definition.
So some projects financed by the bill may simply get intercity
passenger rail back to where it was earlier in the 20th century, rather
than closer to the futuristic vision of the trains of Europe and Asia,
like the magnetic levitation, or maglev, train that whisks passengers
from Shanghai to its airport 19 miles away in seven minutes, attaining
a speed of 259 m.p.h.
The Acela is the United States’ fastest train. But because the tracks
it runs on are curvy, and are shared with many other trains, it is only
able to reach its top speed of 150 m.p.h. on about 35 miles of track in
Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Its average speed is 84 m.p.h. between
New York and Washington. Still, Amtrak has captured 62 percent of the
combined air and rail market between New York and Washington, company
High-speed rail has a long, tortured history in the United States,
going back to 1965, when Congress passed the High-Speed Ground
Transportation Act. Since then, it has been proposed by many governors
and studied in countless plans, always holding out the promise of
catching up with other countries.
Voters in Florida passed a constitutional amendment requiring the state
to build a high-speed rail system, only to repeal it a few years later
after several prominent businesses, along with Jeb Bush, who was then
the governor, complained of its expense.
C. C. Dockery, who sponsored the campaign for the amendment, said in an
interview that he and the other members of the Florida High-Speed Rail
Authority were planning to meet late this month to discuss how to go
about seeking some of the federal money.
“It would be a huge benefit to Florida,” Mr. Dockery said.
Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting
HOUSE: Merritt 7 faring well in down
By CHRIS BOSAK, Hour Staff Writer
January 21, 2009
The weakening of the economy may be trickling into the commercial real
estate market, but for Merritt 7 Corporate Park, things are as strong
Merritt 7 continues to fare well even as Fairfield County as a whole
experiences increased vacancy rates and slowing activity. The
six-building complex with 1.4 million square feet of office space is
currently 97 percent leased and the leases expiring in 2009 were
renewed in early 2008.
Merritt 7's ownership and management are further buoyed by a new
signing and a new expansion.
"(Merritt 7) is not new, but it's maintained well. It's a home run,"
said JoAnn McGrath, director of leasing at Merritt 7 Corporate Park.
"It's always done well and it's been through several (economic) cycles.
We're in good position for these times."
The only time the building has been under 90 percent leased was in the
down market in early 2002, McGrath said.
The first building (101 Merritt 7) was completed in 1980 and the final
phase (601 Merritt 7) was completed in 2002. A $30 million improvement
project was also recently completed. The Park has also embraced the
movement toward sustainable energy and operates under 100 percent green
power. It has been honored for several of its environmental
initiatives, including an Energy Star award from the EPA.
The buildings hold 75 companies, including corporate tenants such as
General Electric, EMCOR, Marsh, Arch Chemicals, Siemens, FactSet and
Siemens, in fact, recently expanded its space in Building 101. The
global technology company took an extra 5,877 square feet and now
occupies 23,155 square feet. The company actually took back space it
gave up two years ago when it "contracted and extended," meaning it
signed a lease extension and gave up space.
"That was an interesting transaction because they realized there was
minimal risk with the landlord," McGrath said.
In fact, according to McGrath, tenant retention is strong at Merritt 7
because of longtime ownership and management. The complex is owned by a
joint venture between New York State Teachers' Retirement Systems and
Fairfield Investors. Albert D. Phelps, Inc., is the managing and
leasing agent. Albert D. Phelps is located on site in Building 401.
"Tenants need to know who the landlord is. There had been a lot of
turnaround in this market," McGrath said. "We have on-site management
and long-time management. Tenant relation is tenant retention."
While several commercial real estate landlords have had to negotiate
with tenants and make concessions in this market, Merritt 7 has
"continued to hit our numbers," McGrath said. "We put out our proforma
and haven't gone below it."
The average asking rate at Merritt 7 is $35.50 per square foot and that
price has not dropped as the economy dips, largely because the asking
rates never spiked over the past few years. In Greenwich, for example,
rates escalated to as high as $140 per square foot. Rental rates in
Greenwich and Stamford are expected to drop.
"This market (in Norwalk) never peaked and skyrocketed as much as
Greenwich," McGrath said. "Our rental rates were somewhat steady. We
didn't have the 50 percent spikes.
"Merritt 7 is a great story for Norwalk," she added. "It's in the
center of Fairfield County. It's a well-located, well-planned corporate
Location played a major role in the decision of Cartbridge Capital to
sign a 2,422 square foot lease at Merritt 7. The financial firm
recently relocated from Stamford to Building 301 in Merritt 7.
"Not a bad start to the year," McGrath said. "Everybody needs to hang
in there and stay positive. There are few tenants in the market now,
but there's still a pulse. Some companies need to grow their business.
But we're not seeing the velocity you see in a better market."
THE NEW LONDON DAY ASKS...Stamford ADVOCATE reporter muses...
Can viable passenger rail
be revived in this country?
date: 7/20/2008 End date: 7/22/2008
In 1920 passenger trains linked cities throughout the United States and
carried 1.2 billion people that year, more than 10 times the population
of the country at the time. From that point train service began a
steady decline that accelerated dramatically after World War II when
the federal government puts its support behind highway and airport
Relatively cheap fuel made it affordable for Americans to travel by
cars on their own schedules and to fly between cities. Rail service
largely withered and died.
Many argue that the United States, unlike Europe, made a major
strategic mistake to largely abandoned passenger train service. Europe
has been dealing with high gas prices of decades, but has continued to
prosper in large part because of viable rail passenger service
throughout the continent.
On the other hand, Americans are not Europeans, they have a love affair
with the automobile and the freedom and independence that form of
travel provides. Even at $4 per gallon, it is difficult to get
Americans out of their cars.
With the cost of jet fuel putting airlines on the brink of bankruptcy,
traveling on trains between cities could prove a better alternative.
And as highways grow more congested, how much freedom do autos really
provide? Yet the cost of rebuilding passenger rail would be enormous,
and getting need approvals very difficult.
A future that could mirror the past
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/28/2008 02:34:46 AM EDT
A light rail system is something of a step back into the future for
Stamford, where trolley cars rolled along the streets a century ago.
The first lines, drawn by horses, started running in 1887. An
electrified version was installed during the 1890s, extending the reach
of restless inhabitants, many eager to venture beyond their suburban
At their height, the trolleys branched out from downtown to neighboring
towns and overlapped railroad territory as far as New York.
Depending on the line, fares were 25 cents during peak times and 10
cents the rest of the day.
With their colorful style and clanging bells, riding the cars was a hit
with residents. When the line to Old Greenwich, then known as Sound
Beach, was introduced, spectators lined the streets and cheered as the
trolley rolled by. During the early years, trolley riding became a
popular pastime, used to commemorate birthdays and other special
Despite being credited with fostering the growth of the city, the
expansion of the lines was met with opposition, referenced in a
Stamford Advocate article in 1895:
"On every account it is an institution to be fostered and encouraged by
all reasonable and proper treatment - not one to be regarded as a sort
of bugaboo by local statesmen and others who fondly imagine they can
gain popularity by hampering and opposing the people's means of transit
on their business or pleasure."
The trolleys would run for almost four more decades. Beginning in
the 1920s, they gradually were replaced by buses over 12 years.
When the city's last yellow trolley rumbled into the night in 1933,
headed for a barn in Norwalk, few would have predicted the city would
one day try to resurrect them.
In 1988, Mayor Thom Serrani introduced gas-powered replicas - buses
with trolley car frames - to the downtown. The idea was to entice
people to take public transportation by harkening to a sweeter era in
Former trolley conductor Steven "Tippy" Belasco recalled those days in
an Advocate article that ran in the late 1950s:
"People somehow seemed more friendly in those days,' he said. 'They
didn't seem in a hurry like people do today. The pace was slower. I
think everyone was happier.'
to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: June 21, 2008
WASHINGTON — Record prices for gasoline and jet fuel should be good
news for Amtrak, as travelers look for alternatives to cut the cost of
driving and flying. And they are good news, up to a point.
Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried
and for ticket revenues — all the more remarkable because May is not
usually a strong travel month. But the railroad, and its
suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial
constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet
Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days
this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York
to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to
Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but
Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket.
“We’re starting to bump up against our own capacity constraints,” said
R. Clifford Black, a spokesman for Amtrak.
The problem is that rail has shriveled. The number of “passenger miles”
traveled on intercity rail has dropped by about two-thirds since 1960,
and the companies that build rail cars and locomotives have also
shrunk, making it hard to expand.
In 1970, the year that Congress voted to create Amtrak by consolidating
the passenger operations of freight railroads, the airlines were about
17 times larger than the railroads, measured by passenger miles
traveled; now they are more than 100 times larger. Highway travel was
then about 330 times larger; now it is more than 900 times larger.
Today Amtrak has 632 usable rail cars, and dozens more are worn out or
damaged but could be reconditioned and put into service at a cost of
several hundred thousand dollars each.
And it needs to buy new rail cars soon. Its Amfleet cars, the ones
recognizable to riders as the old Metroliners, are more than 30 years
old. And the Acela trains, which have been operating about eight years,
have about a million miles on them.
Writing specifications for bids, picking a vendor and waiting for
delivery takes years, even if the money is in hand.
Amtrak is an alternative to airlines along the Boston-New
York-Washington corridor, and on some routes out of Chicago and a few
in California. But most of its other routes are so slow that people
take those trains because they have no alternative to reach places like
Burlington, N.C., or Burlington, Iowa. Or they go for the train ride
The railroad carried about 25 million passengers last year and may hit
27 million this year. (That is all intercity traffic; commuter rail,
connecting suburbs and cities, is also growing, but that is not
Amtrak’s market.) By contrast, the airlines carry about 680 million
domestic passengers a year. If Amtrak were an airline, in terms of
passenger boardings it would rank approximately eighth, behind
Continental and US Airways and ahead of AirTran and JetBlue.
H. Glenn Scammel, a former head of staff of the rail subcommittee of
the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the
railroad should give up on some of its cross-country trains and
redeploy the equipment on relatively short intercity trips, where it
could provide enough frequency to attract new business. (Providing one
train a day in each direction will not draw many new business
But the railroad’s labor contracts provide stiff penalties for dropping
routes, and dropping states from its itinerary would hurt its political
support, especially in the Senate, where thinly populated states are
overrepresented relative to their population.
Scarcity is not all bad for the railroad, though. It has raised ticket
prices, so that it recorded ticket revenues of $153.4 million in May,
up 15.6 percent from $132.7 million in May 2006. That jump is higher
than the ridership increase of 12.3 percent, to 2.58 million, from 2.30
Most of the money came from airline-style “yield management,” using a
computer to look ahead, see how many seats are filled, and raising or
lowering the price on the remainder. Mr. Black said that while the
railroad is not set up to make money, “we’re intended to maximize
Profits are unlikely. The Government Accountability Office found last
November that Amtrak had received more than $30 billion in federal aid
since its creation in 1971, but was still in “poor financial
condition,” with extensive deferred maintenance.
When Amtrak began operating 37 years ago, the plan was for it to
eventually break even. In 1997, Congress passed a law threatening dire
consequences if it did not reach self-sufficiency by 2002.
But by 2002 the mood had changed, and the appropriations have
continued, financing losses of over $1 billion a year.
The G.A.O. analysis noted the continued operation of cross-country
trains with low ridership and high costs. “The current structure does
not appear to effectively target federal funds where they may provide
the greatest level of public benefits, such as reduced traffic
congestion and pollution,” it said.
Oil costs hurt Amtrak, too. Fuel is projected to reach 11 percent of
Amtrak’s budget this year, up from 6 percent in 2004. The railroad is
not radically more energy-efficient than other means of travel. Amtrak
can move a passenger a mile with 17.4 percent less fuel than a
passenger car can, and about 32.9 percent less than an airline can,
according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
It does save oil, however, since much of the fuel Amtrak uses is in the
form of electricity, made from coal, natural gas and nuclear power.
Despite its popularity with passengers, the biggest determinant of the
railroad’s health is still the federal government, and in Washington,
views diverge sharply.
Last year Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and others
won overwhelming Senate approval for a bill that would offer the states
80 cents for every 20 cents they spend on new intercity passenger rail
service, the same as the match offered for highway projects.
The House passed a bill with the same provision by a veto-proof margin
earlier this month. The bill will soon go to a conference committee,
but the White House is threatening to veto it because it wants the
passenger rail system to be turned over to private operators.
Some members of Congress think the private sector should play a bigger
role, and that that congestion and fuel prices should push the country
to trains, but not necessarily to Amtrak.
The House version of the Amtrak reauthorization bill has a provision
that invites private companies to build a rail link between New York
and Washington that would make the trip in less than two hours.
The Florida Representative John Mica, a senior Republican member of the
House Transportation and Infrastructure committee who wrote the
provision, said, “We have no passenger high speed rail service in this
country. To really change that, you’re going to have to bring in the
private sector to develop, finance and operate the system.” Both
versions of the bill authorize bigger subsidies, but Congress is often
more generous in authorization bills than in actual appropriations.
Amtrak’s fortunes also hinge on who wins the White House; Senator John
McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, was a staunch
opponent of subsidies to Amtrak when he was chairman of the Senate
Commerce Committee. Barack Obama, the probable Democratic nominee, was
a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill to provide an 80/20
bringing pain to drivers here, there and everywhere; Cost is high
the U.S., but much higher in France, Turkey, Spain ...
By Angela Charlton, Associated Press
Published on 5/31/2008
Paris - Americans are shell-shocked at $4-a-gallon gas. But consider
France, where a gallon of petrol runs nearly $10. Or Turkey, where it's
more than $11.
Drivers around the world are being pummeled by the effects of record
gas prices. And now some are hitting back, staging strikes and protests
from Europe to Indonesia to demand that governments do more to ease the
pain. It's a growing problem in a world that's increasingly
more vulnerable than ever to the cost of crude oil, which is racing
higher by the day and showing no signs of stopping.
”I don't know why it is, but ... it hurts,” said Marie Penucci, a
violinist who was filling up her Volkswagen to the tune of $9.66 a
gallon at an Esso station on the bypass that rings Paris.
As she pumped, she looked wistfully at a commuter climbing onto one of
the city's cheap rental bicycles, an option not open to her since she
travels long distances to perform. As oil soars, the effect on
can vary widely. Taxes and subsidies that differ from nation to nation
are the main reasons, along with limits in oil-refining capacity and
hard-to-reach places that drive up shipping costs.
In Europe and Japan, for example, high taxes have made drivers
accustomed to staggering gas prices. As a result, plenty of European
adults never even bother to learn to drive, preferring cheap mass
transit to getting behind the wheel. Those who do drive are still
testing new pain thresholds. And it would be worse in Europe if the
strong euro weren't cushioning the blow.
On the other hand, in emerging economies such as China and India,
government subsidies shield consumers. But that still means governments
themselves have to find a way to afford the soaring market prices for
oil. Increasingly, people around the world are reaching the
point - and it's not just drivers.
Fishermen in Spain and Portugal began nationwide strikes Friday,
keeping their trawlers and commercial boats docked at ports. In Madrid,
demonstrators handed out 20 tons of fish in a bid to win support from
the public. In Spain, the European Union's most important
fish, the fishing confederation estimates fuel prices have gone up 320
percent in the past five years - so high many fishermen can no longer
afford to take their boats out.
French fishermen and farmers, who need fuel for trawlers and tractors,
say their livelihoods are threatened by soaring prices and have blocked
oil terminals around France and shipping traffic on the English Channel
to demand government help. British and Bulgarian truckers are
fuel protests, too.
Indonesians are staging their own protests against shrinking gasoline
subsidies in a nation where nearly half the population of 235 million
lives on less than $2 a day.
The world is driving more than ever: There are 887 million vehicles in
the world, up from 553 million just 15 years ago, according to London
consultancy Global Insight. It estimates the figure will be 1 billion
four years from now. In Europe, the high tax burden means crude
make up a smaller part of the retail cost of gas.
”The pain of a rise in prices is much less in Europe, because we may be
paying a lot more here, but the rise in a percentage sense is a lot
smaller,” said Julius Walker, oil analyst at the Paris-based
International Energy Agency.
The United States, with its relatively low taxes, is considered to have
retail prices closer to what energy data charts call the “real cost” of
gasoline - closely linked to the price of oil. So as oil prices
soared, U.S. gas prices have soared along with them. Prices for
regular unleaded gas have risen from $1.47 a gallon in May 2003 to more
than $3.96 now, a jump of nearly 170 percent. In the same period, the
most popular grade of gas in France rose by just over 90 percent - a
relatively gentle climb.
Americans are driving less - about 11 billion fewer miles in March 2008
than March 2007, a drop of about 4 percent, according to the Schork
Report newsletter. It was the first drop in March driving in almost
In the U.S., presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Rodham
Clinton have proposed suspending the federal gas tax for the summer to
give drivers some help, although it is not clear whether drivers would
actually see much relief. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has
the EU to cut its value-added tax on fuel.
Nations that produce huge amounts of oil aren't necessarily in better
shape. Russia is the world's second leading producer of oil, but
there comes to about $3.68 a gallon - about the same as in the United
States, where workers earn about six times as much money. Much of
Russian cost comes from taxes, which run between 60 and 70 percent.
Limited refining capacity and the costs of transporting gasoline across
the country's vast expanse also push up prices.
Turkey faces similar problems. It costs $11.29 a gallon there, meaning
filling up the tank of a midsize car can reach nearly $200 - enough to
give up on driving and buy a domestic plane ticket.
But it's not that bad everywhere. In China, government-mandated
retail gas prices have helped farmers and China's urban poor but, in a
country struggling with pollution, also have hurt conservation. The
Chinese used about 5 percent more gas in the first four months of this
year than last.
And in Venezuela, long-held government subsidies and bountiful supplies
have made the people think of cheap fuel as a birthright. It's a
veritable wonderland for gas guzzlers - 12 cents a gallon. Consumers
there are snapping up SUVs. For solutions to the oil crisis,
policymakers in less oil-rich nations are looking to Brazil, where
ethanol made from sugar cane is widely available to the nation's 190
Eight out of every 10 new cars sold there are flex-fuel models that run
on pure ethanol, gas or any combination of the two.
costs exceed DOT estimates by $300M
Norwalk HOUR latest news on
February 22, 2008
As Gov. M. Jodi Rell unveiled details on brand new rail cars for
Metro-North's New Haven line, the state Department of Transportation
revealed that a facility to maintain and store them will cost at least
$300 million more than expected. The department broke the news
Wednesday night at a meeting of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council,
an advocacy group for Metro-North riders in the state.
Judd Everhart, a DOT spokesman, said Thursday the department didn't
include certain aspects of the facility in the project proposal from
2005, when Rell awarded $300 million to construct the facility.
Engineering and construction costs have also increased since then,
making the project even more expensive.
"That project has been increased dramatically in scope," Everhart said,
"and if we were to build everything today it would be somewhere between
$600 and $700 million, but no decisions have been made."
Original plans for the rail yard did not include a warehouse, employee
parking, a facility to wash train cars, security fencing, places to fix
wheels and swap out parts and the cost of demolishing the old site,
Everhart said. He stressed that the facility, when completed,
might not include all of those aspects.
"That's part of the discussion right now — what do we have to have and
what would be something that would be good to have?" Everhart said.
"But the governor and the general assembly will be making decisions on
how much funding will be made available."
The cars themselves, M-8 Kawasaki rail cars from Japan, were budgeted
separately at $2.5 million for each of the 300 cars. Improvements from
the older models include brighter lights, a more open appearance,
better floor lighting, larger windows, higher seat backs with head
rests and outlets in each row.
The first prototype rail car is scheduled to arrive in late 2009, with
10 delivered monthly after that.
Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, majority whip, and Rep. Toni Boucher, R-143, who
both serve the legislature's transportation committee, said they had no
idea the rail facility would cost more than the $300 million
appropriation from 2005. Jeff Beckham, a spokesman for the state
Office of Policy Management, said the office was made aware of higher
costs, but he wasn't able to determine as of press time who found out
"We understand that we're going to have to fund that in the future, and
we've been working with DOT to identify those funding needs," he said.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the commuter council, said in an interview
that failure to calculate the entire cost of the project in 2005 is a
credibility problem for DOT.
"It sounds like creative fiction when they come with proposals when
they are so undercut in terms of numbers," Cameron said.
transit finds it not easy to be green
By Mark Ginocchio
Published December 3 2007
Emil Frankel and Julie Belaga are two Connecticut
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's newest green team.
The Westport natives will help the MTA investigate ways to reduce
energy waste while developing property near mass transit. Frankel
former Connecticut Department of Transportation commissioner and
assistant secretary for the federal DOT. Belaga is a former Republican
state representative from Westport and current co-chairwoman of the
state chapter of the League of Conservation Voters.
Recently, they were selected to join the MTA's Sustainability
Commission. Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line serves more
120,000 commuters a day and consumes more power than any other state
operation besides Foxwoods Resort Casino, Frankel and Belaga said. It
is important for the state to have a voice on the panel, which looks to
represent the tri-state area, they said.
"We function as part of the metropolitan region in which Connecticut is
a tremendous part," Frankel said. "We have a huge problem of getting
people on the train in southwest Connecticut instead of on (Interstate
95), not only going to New York, but intrastate as well."
Belaga, a former Republican candidate for governor and a regional
administrator for the New England office of the federal Environmental
Protection Agency, said it will be a challenge to finish the master
plan by the MTA's Earth Day deadline in April.
"It's absolutely critical the people of Connecticut know there are
voices (representing them) on this commission," Belaga said. "There's
been an impression that Metro-North was always the step-child of the
Including the Hudson and Harlem lines in New York, Metro-North Railroad
encompasses 2,700 square miles of MTA's 5,000-square-mile system, so it
is a vital part of the agency, Belaga said. The 18-member
was formed in September and met last month, when members created a
number of advisory groups that will examine MTA facilities, energy
waste, carbon and water use, environmentally friendly contract
procurements and transit-oriented development.
The commission has been charged with identifying cost-saving
initiatives from greener technologies, MTA officials said. Joseph
McGee, vice president of public policy for the Business Council of
Fairfield County, said the MTA has been slow to step up as a green
leader but said the commission is a good start.
"This whole issue is very fertile ground for railroads," McGee said.
"It's long overdue. They need to be national leaders in climate change."
State agencies and transportation operators have talked recently about
going greener, but a lack of money stands in the way, said Karen
Burnaska, coastal Fairfield County's representative on the state
Transportation Strategy Board and a member of the Connecticut Fund for
"There's been a lack of funding and a need to fight every year to
maintain existing programs," Burnaska said. "The focus has been on
funding existing services and existing needs," not new ones.
The MTA and Connecticut have initiated some green measures. The MTA
invested in buses that use cleaner fuel, wind power and green
facilities such as the Gun Hill Bus Depot in the Bronx, N.Y., and
Corona Yard in Queens, N.Y. Connecticut invested in hybrid and
fuel-cell powered buses and cleaner-burning fuel. The legislature
recently put aside $10 million for development projects that are near
They are good projects, but, as evidence of global warming grows, more
must be done, Belaga said.
"The MTA is saying let's go the extra mile," she said. "Now that we got
a real crisis worldwide, the time is really now."
with urban density
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published October 6 2007
FAIRFIELD - A photograph of post-World War II Berlin flashed, followed
by modern photos of Detroit after urban sprawl. The damage and
destruction to both cities is similar, according to New Haven architect
"More than 60 percent of the buildings are gone, but the pavement has
increased," Orr said, flashing more photos from around the country of
once-densely populated communities that have been struck down by poor
development plans, leading to urban sprawl. "We're trying to put people
back in the picture."
Cutting back on pavement and placing focus on developing more densely
populated communities centered around mass transit was the theme of
yesterday's "Next Stop" symposium on Transit Oriented Development.
The event, organized by the state chapter of the American Institute of
Architects, brought more than 100 engineers, architects and business
leaders to the Pequot Library in the Southport section of Fairfield.
It was the second Transit Oriented Development-themed conference to be
held in lower Fairfield County in the past month. Last month, the South
Western Regional Planning Agency organized a similar event in Stamford.
Orr, one of five architects who helped design the Southport Green
business and housing development, within walking distance of the train
station, was impressed how more developers and towns are embracing
Transit Oriented Development. But huge challenges remain in
states like Connecticut that prevent that style of building from
becoming the norm, he said.
While comparing the fuel efficiency of a hybrid automobile to a large
sport utility vehicle, Orr flashed two additional photos, challenging
participants to determine which car was ultimately better for the
nation's oil crisis - an SUV in a densely populated village, where
everything is in walking distance and driving is not a daily
requirement, or a hybrid car that travels from Trumbull to lower
Fairfield County every day.
"This picture," Orr said of the Fairfield County map showing the
hybrid's route, "is enabling this craziness."
People living within walking distance of transit are usually five times
as likely to use it, said keynote speaker Shelley Poticha, president
and chief executive officer of Reconnecting America and the Center for
Transit-Oriented Development in Oakland, Calif. But there is not
enough transit available and the service is not always convenient for
busy schedules, she added.
"Commuting is only abut 20 percent of the trips we take," Poticha said.
"To deal with congestion, you have to look at all those other trips."
Some solutions are not always expensive ones that require a lot of
land, she said. Many cities are starting to use streetcars with
tracks in the streets, Poticha said.
Transit agencies must create more incentives to make existing services
more enjoyable. Amenities such as wireless Internet access and
hangers for dry cleaning would greatly improve mass transit and make
commuters miss their cars less, Poticha said.
Municipalities also have to stop thinking of "density" as a dirty word.
"The way we've been talking about density for the last 20 years has
done a real disservice to the cities," Poticha said. "The minute you
start talking about 'dwelling units per acre' you're doomed."
Wire to wire: Train line
to Stamford was transformed from steam to electricity a century ago
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published September 2 2007
note: This is the first of two parts
A new kind of train arrived in Stamford on Dec. 5, 1907. The slower,
less reliable steam-powered train sets had been replaced with
groundbreaking electric trains, capable of getting commuters and
travelers on the New York, New Haven and Hartford rail line between New
York City and Stamford in 50 minutes.
The train left Grand Central Terminal at 9:09 a.m. and arrived at
Stamford at 10:29 a.m. That it arrived one minute late appeared to be
the only reported problem.
"Everything worked lovely," Hoge Gilliam, a railroad superintendent,
told The Advocate at the time.
Interviews with passengers revealed the ride was smoother than a steam
locomotive and spared the distractions of soft coal smoke and cinders.
They also marveled at how the electric train seemed to accelerate and
decelerate so quickly.
By 12:18 p.m., the first train back to New York left the Stamford
station with about 100 passengers. The train carried mainly summer
vacationers, with a few commuters from Stamford and Greenwich, The
The electric service, which began along the New Haven Line a few months
before the first Stamford train - in New Rochelle, N.Y., that July and
at Port Chester, N.Y., in August - marked a landmark development for
the region's railroad that helped bring ridership to peak levels. Only
a few years later, the rise of the automobile and increasing
mismanagement issues caused commuting numbers to plummet.
The New Haven's electrification also introduced a new kind of
technology, alternating current, or AC, that made the railroad a
pioneer in its era. It enabled the railroad to run long-distance trains
at higher speeds. The system, with some modifications, still exists
Battle of the currents
The desire for an electrified railroad actually arose from necessity
and tragedy. In January 1902, a steam-powered New York Central train
from White Plains, N.Y., crashed into the rear of a New Haven train out
of Danbury while it was sitting in New York's Park Avenue Tunnel. The
collision, which was caused by visibility issues from coal smoke in the
tunnel, killed 15, and led to a New York state law that prohibited
steam locomotives in the tunnel by 1908.
The New York Central and the New Haven Lines used the tunnel to get to
Grand Central, so both were charged with electrifying their fleet if
they wanted to reach Grand Central after 1908.
"If they didn't electrify, they would have lost their business," said
Michael Vitiello, an employee of Metro-North Railroad, which now
operates the New Haven Line.
The new law was a catalyst for electrification, but there was also a
need for faster, more efficient trains to take an increasing passenger
load into New York. By 1905, the New Haven Line was carrying more than
63 million passengers, up 20 million riders from a decade earlier.
"They had to more efficiently manage the traffic," said Branford
resident Jack Swanberg, a railroad historian and author of the
out-of-print book "New Haven Power." "There was no alternative (but to
electrify). The only alternative was horse and buggy."
New York Central, which ran trains on Metro-North's current Hudson and
Harlem lines, adopted a third-rail, direct current, or DC, system
pushed by the General Electric Co.
The system was used by other railroads in London and Paris and was
recommended by New York Central's Electric Traction Committee.
It was assumed New Haven, which needed to power a 21.5-mile stretch
between Stamford and Woodlawn before joining New York Central's route
into Grand Central, would do the same. New Haven also had experience
handling third-rail DC power since 1895, on its small Nantasket Beach
branch in Massachusetts.
But New Haven went in a different direction. Studies of an 11,000-volt,
25 cycles per second AC system, powered by overhead catenary wires,
showed it could be more suitable for long-distance, higher-speed travel.
Pushed by George Westinghouse of Westinghouse Electric Co., New York
Central shied away from AC because there was not a record of success.
"It has not demonstrated its ability to start under load as efficiently
or to accelerate a train as rapidly as the direct current motor," said
Bion Arnold, an expert on the traction commission, according to
Fairfield University professor Kurt Schlichting's book "Grand Central
In a series of public letters, Westinghouse escalated the "battle of
the currents," belittling Frank Sprague, an outside electrical
consultant for New York Central who preferred DC. Westinghouse also
argued that overhead wires, which were 18 to 22 feet above ground, were
safer for railway workers in yards compared with the third rail.
"It was a corporate rivalry between Westinghouse and GE," Schlichting
said in an interview with The Advocate. "And from what I've read,
(Westinghouse) was a very forceful personality."
He was forceful enough to persuade the New Haven Line.
Construction of the catenary wire system began in September 1905,
though overhead wires at lower voltages had been used for trolley
systems around the state.
For electricity, unlike third rail, which requires a number of
substations along the railroad's right of way in order to provide
power, the New Haven Line needed just one station to energize its AC
catenary. Earlier in 1907, the New Haven opened a coal-fired, steam
turbine power plant in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich.
The plant was built on a 13-acre tract at the junction of the Mianus
River and the Long Island Sound, where it stood until its demolition in
2001, after closing in 1986.
In its later years, the plant was plagued by an inability to generate
enough power for rush-hour trains and the pollution it produced, but at
the time of its construction, the Cos Cob plant was a technological
marvel. It was the first time a railroad had its own
Some ingenuity also was needed to construct the overhead wires. The
single, low-voltage trolley wire was deemed unsuitable for trains
running at significantly higher speed. To counter the inevitable wire
sag associated with catenary, the railroad designed triangular
catenary, enjoining the messenger wires with three pieces of 3/8-inch
steel gas pipe. The triangles made the wire too rigid, a problem the
railroad needed to address within the next year.
By the time the Cos Cob plant was operational in 1907, the railroad was
already looking to expand its newly electrified system. But within a
year, there were so many issues with the overhead wires, the railroad
was nearly shut down so repairs could be made.
The copper wire used for the catenary was too flimsy and started to
wear out. The New Haven Line had to either completely remove the wire
or find another way to rebuild it without interrupting service.
The railroad succeeded again, designing new wire using a combination of
cambium and steel. Instead of removing the copper wire, they added the
new wire below the old one. Service was uninterrupted.
The steel-pipe triangles also were problematic. In extremely cold
temperatures, catenary tends to stiffen, and in extreme heat, wires
The rigid triangle prevented the wires from bending or stiffening
naturally, creating an unsightly "wave effect," that led to wire
breaks, said Robert Walker, director of operating capital projects and
a former power department chief for Metro-North Railroad.
The triangles would be improved when the railroad expanded its
electrification to New Haven and the Harlem River branch - now the Hell
Gate route Amtrak uses between New Rochelle and the Bronx.
The railroad used a floating "I-beam" style catenary, featuring wires
running parallel atop each other. The triangles remained in the areas
where they were installed until Metro-North Railroad began replacing
them about 20 years ago.
Despite some of the engineering problems, Westinghouse's AC vision was
hailed as a success.
A September 1913 edition of the New Haven Railroad News called the
technology "another example of the daring and ingenuity of American
business enterprise and a further proof of New England shrewdness."
Within 20 years, nearly the entire region between Stamford and New
Haven was electrified.
The New Canaan branch between New Canaan and Stamford was electrified
by 1908; the Harlem River Branch by 1912; east to New Haven by 1917;
and the Danbury branch between Danbury and Norwalk by 1925.
Growth, then decline
Traffic was increasing on the New Haven Line regardless of
electrification. But electric trains enabled the railroad to offer more
service at a higher frequency.
By 1924, one out of 10 passengers using standard railroads were using
the New Haven Line, according to a Westinghouse Electric publication
from the same year. About 150 New Haven trains left Grand Central daily.
Between 1916 and 1923, ridership on the New Haven jumped nearly 50
percent - from 11.4 million passengers in 1916 to 17.6 million in 1923.
To handle the power load, a second power plant was built along the
Harlem River branch in the West Farms section of the Bronx in 1915.
In a 1957 edition of Along the Line, a newsletter distributed to New
Haven Line employees, the railroad credited the 50th anniversary of its
electrification for helping the area around Grand Central in Manhattan
In the suburbs, "the exact dollars-and-cents total of the increase
value to property which has been created by the electrification . . .
probably never could be accurately stated, but it certainly is well up
in the hundreds and millions of dollars, and probably even tops a
billion dollars," the article said.
The railroad praised the "quietness and cleanliness" of the electric
railroad with promoting housing development close to the rail line.
But by the time the railroad was celebrating the 50th anniversary of
its high-powered achievement, the New Haven Line was starting to sink.
The construction of Interstate 95 in the 1950s took passengers away
from the railroad.
"The thruway runs so close to the railroad line . . . industrial
development capable of generating a substantial amount of rail traffic
is hampered," a November 1960 Interstate Commerce Commission report
Meanwhile, the Cos Cob plant continued to fail, and railroad officials
were concerned "Cos Cob might pop," according to the commission's
report. In 1961, because of mismanagement, the first part of the New
Haven railroad, the Danbury branch, was de-electrified.
And the overhead wires were only getting older and needed to be
replaced. It left behind a mess that the New Haven Line's current
operator, Metro-North Railroad, needed to deal with.
"We were stuck with what our predecessors left us," Walker said.
Wire to wire:
Metro-North stands by century-old system as it replaces its electrical
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published September 3 2007
note: This is the second of two parts
It takes a lot of juice to power the trains. During the morning commute
alone, the Connecticut side of Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line
draws about 30 megawatts of power, making the railroad the state's
second biggest electricity user behind Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Some of that power is still being drawn from wiring and equipment
erected 100 years ago.
Metro-North is working to change that. Since 1993, the railroad and the
state Department of Transportation have been incrementally replacing
the overhead catenary wires used by New Haven Line trains. These wires
were installed as part of its state-of-the-art high-voltage
alternating-current power system that went online between Woodlawn,
N.Y., and Stamford in the summer and fall of 1907.
The New Haven Line was considered a pioneer for using this kind of
electrical power, which promised and delivered higher speeds and more
efficiency than its steam-powered predecessors, and the lower-voltage,
direct current, third-rail power adopted by New York Central's Hudson
and Harlem lines.
But the strain on the New Haven Line's landmark system has never been
greater. Ridership is at its highest point since company mismanagement
and the rise of the state's highway system nearly sunk the railroad 50
years ago. The New Haven Line's wires and tracks are also shared by the
regional rail service Amtrak and its high-speed Acela train, which
travels as fast as 120 mph on sections between Greenwich and New York
"These decisions made over 100 years ago are still with us today," said
Kurt Schlichting, a Fairfield University professor and author of "Grand
Parts of the New Haven Line's electrification system have changed
dramatically since 1907. The coal-powered plant in the Cos Cob section
of Greenwich, designated a National Historic Engineering Landmark
because of its breakthrough in engineering achievements, closed in 1986
because it could no longer produce enough electricity to power the
line. It was demolished 15 years later.
The overhead wires on the Danbury branch between Danbury and South
Norwalk were removed in the 1960s for political and financial reasons,
creating an antiquated commuting experience still experienced today for
passengers on the vital branch line.
As the old overhead wires on New Haven Line's main line start
disappearing and new ones appear, Metro-North is still looking for ways
to refine and improve the vision of Westinghouse Electric Company's
George Westinghouse, who 100 years ago fought vociferously for the
current electrical system despite loud objections from rival railroads.
About 20 years ago, Robert Walker, director of operating capital
projects and a former power department chief for Metro-North Railroad,
was investigating ways to improve the overhead catenary wire on the New
The wires, primarily installed from 1907 to 1914, were prone to
snapping in extreme temperatures. When the weather was too cold, the
wires would become rigid. When the weather was hot, they would sag and
could get caught on the rail car's pantograph, the arm that draws power
from the catenary.
The answer was a new kind of catenary called "constant tension" being
used on British railroads. Constant tension used weights and pulleys
attached to the wires and poles to help compensate for sagging and
"It was state-of-the-art," Walker said. "The tension would remain the
same despite the weather with weights and pulleys. That way, the system
In the early 1990s, Metro-North Railroad started removing the
triangular catenary - the original 1907 wires that were enjoined by
three-eighths of an inch steel gas pipes, forming a triangle. By
December 1993, the new constant tension wiring had been installed
between Pelham, N.Y., and the Connecticut state line.
By 2002, Connecticut's DOT started removing its own catenary. The $300
million project started with the removal of triangular catenary between
Greenwich and Stamford, which was finished in May 2005. DOT then moved
to a section between Stratford and New Haven, which housed catenary
from about 1914. That project was completed in February.
The remaining catenary between Stamford and Stratford is under
construction and should be completed by 2014.
Besides the replacement of the New Haven Line's 30-year-old rail car
fleet, the catenary program is considered to be a key project that
could lead to improved and more frequent service.
When asked about improving train service during a meeting of the
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, George Walker, Metro-North's vice
president of operations, said, "I've got the rail, I just need the
The results of the catenary replacement project are small but
noticeable. On-time performance on the New Haven Line's inner portion,
between Stamford and Grand Central Terminal, has sat at 97.7 percent to
97.9 percent since the new wires went up, compared with 96.9 percent to
97.4 percent in the years preceding the new catenary.
On the line's outer portion, between Stamford and New Haven, where
there is less new catenary, the on-time performance has remained at 95
percent to 96 percent the past seven years, according to Metro-North.
The results are not reflected by on-time performance alone, Walker said.
In areas where there is new catenary, the railroad uses a three-year
inspection cycle, compared with an annual inspection in areas with the
old wires, he said.
The new wire also enables the railroad to cut back on its
weather-related speed restrictions. With the old wires, whenever the
weather was hotter than 90 degrees or below 25 degrees, the trains
would run as much as 30 mph slower.
Catastrophic incidents can still result after wires are torn down.
Earlier this year, about 80 trains and 59,000 commuters were delayed
when a pair of rail cars tore down wires outside the Cos Cob station.
The incident took nearly two hours to rectify.
Even that is an improvement, Walker said.
"When we do get an incident that tears the new wire down, we can put it
back up at least 50 percent quicker because the new system has less
components that are easily fixed or replaced in less time by our
crews," he said.
As the DOT and Metro-North continue to upgrade areas that have
electrical power, they also have to address parts of the railroad that
have been de-electrified.
During the New Haven Line's electrical age, no rail line has regressed
as much as the Danbury branch. It was first electrified in 1925, but by
the 1950s, railroad President Patrick McGinnis decided to sell the
wires for revenue. For service, the railroad used newly purchased FL9
locomotives, which were diesel-powered and equipped to run on the
third-rail portion of the railroad between Pelham and Grand Central.
The Danbury branch has never been the same. The diesel engines take
longer to accelerate and affect the line's on-time performance. This
past year, the 6:52 a.m. train out of Danbury was cited as the most
frequently late train on the New Haven Line, arriving on time 88
percent of the time.
The line also has suffered because the electric cab cars used on New
Haven mainline and the New Canaan branch are not compatible with the
unelectrified area. So if there are equipment problems on the Danbury
branch, it can't receive help from the other lines.
Rodney Chabot, a New Canaan resident who grew up riding the Danbury
branch when it was electrified, is still outraged by the decision to
remove the catenary.
"It was working beautiful," said Chabot, a former chairman of the
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. "The diesels have been a failure."
Chabot and other rail historians are convinced that in addition to the
funds received for selling the wires, the catenary was removed to
justify the purchase of the FL9s.
DOT has had plans to improve the Danbury branch for years, but little,
outside of studies, has occurred. The first phase of the most recent
study, which was completed last year, determined the line could be
improved if it was signalized and electrified again. Many of the
improvements would cost about $200 million, though ridership would
nearly double from its current 1,000 riders a day.
Rail historians and engineers have long praised Westinghouse's vision.
But even 100 years later, New Haven Line operators have combated
complications because of the decisions of their predecessors.
During the winter of 2004, so many of the New Haven Line's antiquated
rail cars were out of commission for repairs that the period was dubbed
the "winter of woe." While Metro-North's other lines, Hudson and
Harlem, which are owned by New York, were enjoying new rail cars that
were running without as many problems, that equipment could never be
transferred to the New Haven Line because it doesn't run on an
alternating current system using overhead wires.
Service delays involving the third rail are often less severe, Walker
"When we have incidents (with the catenary), it often affects adjacent
tracks," shutting down more available tracks for service, he said.
"With third rail, it's usually on track and it's an independent
problem, so it doesn't affect service as much."
These issues have resulted in cries to extend the third rail that
exists south of Pelham all the way to New Haven. These requests have
generally been rejected because of expense, and because Amtrak, which
runs along the entire Northeast corridor, would still need the catenary.
Ordering new rail cars also has been a complicated process because they
require compatibility with overhead wires and the third rail into Grand
"The New Haven Lines cars were the first ones to require that (dual
power) and have maintained their reputation as being the most
complicated commuter cars in the world," Walker said.
But the railroad still stands by Westinghouse's vision.
"The decisions that were made were the right decisions," Walker said.
By KEN BELSON
Published: January 6, 2008
YOU don’t need Nostradamus to know that traveling to work, visiting
Manhattan to catch a play or heading to the shopping mall is going to
get more expensive in 2008.
Weekly and monthly passes on the Long Island Rail Road will rise as
much as 4.3 percent in 2008.
Not only are gasoline prices heading toward new highs, but bridge,
tunnel and highway tolls, as well as fares on New York’s subways and
commuter train and bus lines, are going to climb this year.
This confluence of increases comes as record numbers of passengers in
the metropolitan area are taking mass transit. Yet the agencies that
operate the transportation systems are having difficulty finding the
money to expand service and upgrade facilities, so they are asking
drivers and riders to pay more.
The toll and fare increases, though, will close only part of the
financing gap, so lawmakers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are
expected to wrestle with the thornier problem of how to pay for
long-term transportation needs.
“This is going to be a pivotal year,” said Martin E. Robins, the
director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers
University’s school of planning. “The questions of cost and finance are
The most critical decisions may be made in New Jersey, where the
Transportation Trust Fund, which maintains and upgrades the state’s
highways, is on financial life support. To replenish the fund and
tackle the state’s ambitious list of transportation projects, Gov. Jon
S. Corzine, in his State of the State address on Tuesday, will unveil
the details of a plan to refinance New Jersey’s toll roads.
The governor is expected to propose starting a public corporation that
would issue bonds backed by future toll increases. The proceeds from
the bonds could help reduce debts and finance the widening of the New
Jersey Turnpike and other multibillion-dollar initiatives.
What is not known is how high the tolls on the turnpike and the Garden
State Parkway — and possibly the state’s gasoline tax — would rise to
pay for all of this.
Toll increases also await drivers who use the tunnels and bridges that
span the Hudson River and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s
crossings in New York City. Riders on Metro-North and the Long Island
Rail Road, and private bus lines in New Jersey and Westchester, will
feel the pinch, too, because of their own fare increases.
All this comes as a state commission in New York considers ways to
reduce traffic in Manhattan, including a proposal by Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg to charge $8 to drive south of 86th Street. Even if the
commission balks at that element of the plan later this month, it could
still endorse introducing tolls on the four East River crossings — the
Brooklyn, the Manhattan, the Williamsburg and the Queensboro Bridges.
An equally large question mark faces passengers at the region’s three
largest airports. Fares have risen during the past few months as
airlines passed along their higher fuel costs. But a federal plan aimed
at relieving congestion at Kennedy International and Newark Liberty
International Airports could drive prices higher, too.
Wherever prices are headed, though, transportation analysts say
passengers and drivers will see only marginal improvements in service
“In a nutshell, you have more people needing to use more facilities,”
said Jeffrey M. Zupan, a senior transportation fellow at the Regional
Plan Association, a nonprofit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut
policy group. “You have to provide more service, yet you don’t have
enough funds, so you have to raise prices with no guarantee you’ll get
Tunnels and Bridges
Spring is a time of renewal or, in the case of drivers traveling in and
out of New York City, a time of recalibration. On Friday, the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey was expected to vote on its
proposed toll increases on its Hudson River crossings. The changes, if
approved by the Port Authority’s board, will be put in place in March
Under the proposal, drivers paying cash would be charged $8, instead of
the current $6, to use the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the George
Washington Bridge and the bridges to Staten Island.
But the 80 percent of drivers who use E-ZPass during peak hours would
lose their current $1 discount compared to cash and pay the same $8 as
cash customers. To relieve congestion, E-ZPass users who drive the
crossings outside the peak hours of 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. on
weekdays, and 12 to 8 p.m. on weekends, would pay $6, a $2 discount.
The Port Authority, which has not raised tolls since 2001, said the
increases would help finance its 10-year, $30 billion capital plan,
which includes billions of dollars to rebuild the World Trade Center,
overhaul the PATH train system and help pay for an additional rail
tunnel into Pennsylvania Station from New Jersey.
“With road and rail networks already stressed, we must invest now to
provide security, maintain our bridges and tunnels, improve mass
transit and reduce congestion,” said Anthony R. Coscia, the Port
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is not standing pat either.
This spring, drivers with an E-ZPass who use the Brooklyn Battery and
Midtown Tunnels and the Throgs Neck, Triborough, Verrazano-Narrows and
Whitestone Bridges will pay $4.15, up from $4. Those paying cash will
soon pay $5, instead of $4.50.
The increases, which will be accompanied by higher fares on the
authority’s subways and commuter lines, are about half of what was
The big question for drivers in New Jersey is how much money
Governor Corzine hopes to raise in his highway rebonding program. The
more money he seeks, the higher and faster tolls are expected to
Corzine has warned that drivers could be hit with substantial
increases. His commissioner of transportation, Kris Kolluri, said tolls
would need to rise by at least 45 percent just to cover the cost of
repairing bridges (estimated at $13.58 billion) and widening the
turnpike between Exits 6 and 9 (estimated at $2 billion). Because
construction costs are growing, tolls could rise even faster to cover
Fearing a backlash from voters, some New Jersey state legislators,
including Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, a Democrat of Middlesex
County who is chairman of the powerful Transportation and Public Works
Committee, have argued that raising the gasoline tax may distribute the
burden more fairly.
Riders in eastern New Jersey, he said, rely on toll roads more than
residents in the western part of the state, but everyone pays for
gasoline. Besides, New Jersey’s gas tax is the third lowest in the
country and has not been increased in two decades. Adjusted for
inflation, the tax has declined more than 40 percent since 1988,
according to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a commuter advocacy
Tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike, by contrast, were last raised in
2003, when drivers using cash were forced to pay 20 percent more.
Mr. Wisniewski and other lawmakers have proposed that an increase in
the gas tax — now 14.5 cents a gallon — replace a large toll increase
or be coupled with a smaller one.
As New Jersey waits, New Yorkers are girding for a toll increase on the
Gov. Thomas E. Dewey Thruway. Drivers using E-ZPass would receive a
smaller discount compared to cash. The New York State Thruway Authority
has also proposed 5 percent toll increases in 2009 and 2010, saying the
extra cash is needed to pay for its $2.1 billion highway and bridge
Crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge would also cost a dollar more, or $5.
Commuter Rail and Bus Lines
Transportation analysts often note that prices for riding mass transit
have gone up faster than highway and bridge tolls over the past few
decades. But train and bus operators are also paying more for fuel,
labor and land.
With some fanfare, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in
November that it had found $220 million more than projected in its
budget, obviating the need to raise fares as high as initially
“The revised proposal responds to what we heard from the public while
returning the $220 million to customers using each of our operating
agencies,” said Elliot G. Sander, the authority’s executive director
and chief executive.
Under the new plan, $2 single-ride tickets — which just 15 percent of
riders buy — would not change. But bonuses for multiple-ride MetroCards
would fall to 15 percent from 20 percent, while the price of 7- and
30-day passes would rise as much as $5.
Weekly and monthly passes on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North,
which the authority operates, will rise as much as 4.3 percent.
One-way, round-trip and 10-trip tickets will increase as much as 7.7
New Jersey Transit might seem beneficent because it is holding fares
steady in 2008, but it raised fares last year by an average of about 10
percent. The DeCamp bus line in northern New Jersey and the Bee-Line
buses in Westchester County also raised fares in 2007.
Perhaps the toughest place to gauge where prices are headed is at the
region’s three largest airports — La Guardia, Kennedy and Newark.
Some analysts argue that prices will remain steady, or even decline,
because competition among airlines remains fierce on the most popular
routes. But others note that rising fuel prices have forced airlines to
raise their prices at least eight times since summer.
Complicating matters, the United States Department of Transportation
decided in December to reinstitute caps on the number of flights per
hour during peak times at Kennedy and to introduce limits at Newark.
Only 82 flights will be able to leave or land each hour at Kennedy, as
opposed to an unlimited number now — often as many as 110 in peak hours.
At the same time, the airlines, while not losing any current slots,
agreed to spread their flights out during the day to reduce aerial
gridlock. This could lead airlines to lower some ticket prices to
entice passengers to fly during less popular hours.
“This is a net positive for passengers,” said Kate Hanni, who runs the
Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights.
Ms. Hanni said the new rules would create an additional 40 to 60
flights a day. “The airlines will absorb the underutilized time slots,”
Passengers, she said, are already seeing a difference because JetBlue
and Delta have voluntarily redistributed some flights to different
But because fewer flights will be leaving during peak hours, prices for
those tickets could rise, particularly for business travelers who have
little choice when to fly and who often buy tickets at the last minute.
If the record delays at the New York region’s airports do not subside,
passengers can take comfort in a new state law that would penalize
airlines that fail to provide adequate services to passengers trapped
on the tarmac for more than three hours. Airlines operating in New York
can be fined up to $1,000 a passenger if they do not supply water,
fresh air, power and working restrooms during such delays.
The New York law, the first of its kind in the country, does not
obligate the airlines to take passengers stuck on the tarmac for more
than three hours off the planes, because the state does not have
jurisdiction over the matter.
Done and gone...for now.
Boarder tolls was all the CGA wanted to hear about in 2009.
Published on 7/18/2008
On a day when the speaker of the House held a press conference to state
his opposition to tolls on the highway, the state Transportation
Strategy Board announced that the state has contracted with a
consultant to study the issue.
Speaker Jim Amann, D-Milford, said in a statement issued Thursday that
the Republicans' idea to cap the state's gross receipts tax on
petroleum products is a “budget shell game.” Amann said commuters in
surrounding states pay an average of $1,300 in tolls on top of gas
The state Office of Policy and Management has contracted with Cambridge
Systematics Inc., a Massachusetts-based company, to study tolls and
“congestion pricing,” a toll program that charges different amounts at
different times of day.
The report is due by February 2009, according to OPM, in time for the
next legislative session.
tracks Penn Station plan
ROB VARNON email@example.com
Article Last Updated: 06/15/2007 01:20:47 AM EDT
It's going to take a new tunnel under New York City's borough of Queens
and new rail cars to get Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line commuters
direct access to Penn Station.
That's according to a 2002 study, recent Metropolitan Transportation
Authority press releases and a Metro-North spokeswoman. But the tunnel
and the trains are already being built.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Wednesday ordered the Connecticut Department of
Transportation to study what is standing in the way of bringing state
train commuters to New York's Penn Station. She gave the department an
Aug. 1 deadline to deliver its findings.
Rell spokesman Chris Cooper said Thursday the governor wants to get
access to the station as quickly as possible and make sure Connecticut
is doing what it can to speed that process. He said Rell has
specifically been told the two major problems involve the station's
capacity and equipment issues with trains.
A 2002 study for the MTA said providing Metro-North New Haven Line
access to Penn Station has the potential of reducing more than 500,000
automobile trips a year into New York City. Rell also asked the
DOT to study the feasibility of purchasing bilevel rail cars to be run
into Penn Station.
Connecticut and Metro-North's parent agency, the MTA, selected Kawasaki
Rail Car to build the new fleet for the New Haven Line. But Canadian
train maker Bombardier, which lost out to Kawasaki, has been pitching
the idea of building double-decker cars specifically for travel to Penn
Station. Kawasaki is expected to begin delivering new cars in
New Haven Line trains would have to travel the Hell's Gate line to get
into Penn Station; the line uses a slightly different propulsion system
from the line into Grand Central Terminal. Marjorie Anders, a
Metro-North spokeswoman, said the Kawasaki-built cars will be able to
run on the Hell's Gate and the New Haven lines. She said
Metro-North engineers are in Japan testing motors that will be used in
the new cars. Kawasaki is about six months away from having a prototype
ready for an engineering inspection, she said. The conceptual design is
complete, according to Anders, and now the components of the railcars
are being studied.
In 2009 — at about the same time the Kawasaki cars are to begin
traveling New Haven tracks — Metro-North expects to begin providing
service to Yankee Stadium and the Meadowlands in New Jersey. But
access to Penn Station won't be available until 2013, because that's
when the MTA expects to finish a new tunnel into Grand Central from
Queens to allow trains from the Long Island Rail Road access to the
The MTA said in a news release Monday that it lowered its new
tunnel-boring machine into the 63rd Street tunnel. This is part of the
$6.3 billion East Side Access project that will allow LIRR trains into
Grand Central. Having those trains go to Grand Central will free
up space at Penn Station, Anders said.
But whether the New Haven Line will go to Penn is not clear.
The 2002 MTA study found either the Hudson or New Haven Line would
provide benefits to the rail system if they were routed to Penn
Station. The idea would be to have one of the lines run trains to both
stations. For New Haven, some trains would be routed down the Hell's
Gate line instead of down the New Haven Line. The study remains
open, according to Anders.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said
his group supports the expansion of service and has discussed the idea
of getting access to Penn Station for years. The council is an
advocacy group made up of appointees of the governor and the
legislative leadership. Rell appointed Fairfield University
professor Chris DeSanctis to the council Wednesday.
Cameron said the council still has two unfilled positions he hopes
lawmakers will address soon.
pioneer: DOT official hopes to link transportation with development
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published April 9 2007
NEWINGTON - Albert Martin is the state's latest pioneer.
Not only is he the newest member of the state Department of
Transportation, but after a national search started last year, Martin
also was named Connecticut's first deputy commissioner of mass
transportation and transit-oriented development.
As buzz builds around linking the state's expanding mass transportation
system with commercial and residential development, Martin will be
responsible for a job with no history in Connecticut.
"There are some negative sides to it, but for me it's far more
positive," Martin, 64, said during a recent interview at his Newington
Though he has 37 years of government and administrative experience,
including six years as director of Detroit's transportation department,
Martin knows previous jobs will not always help him make decisions in
"Economic development associated with transportation . . . does not
have a proven track record," he said. "You have no preconceived models
you can follow.
"So there's not going to be a model from Detroit that's going to fit
Hartford or Bridgeport. As a matter of fact, there's probably not going
to be a model in Hartford that's necessarily going to fit New Haven or
Bridgeport or Danbury or Waterbury."
After just a few weeks in the new job, Martin has become a visible face
for the agency. He has made it a point to hear what the passengers have
to say about the state's railroad and bus systems. He has attended two
New York City meetings held to gather rail commuters' input and
appeared in Stamford last week to listen in on a public hearing on how
to fund new rail cars for Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line.
"I have been very much impressed with what I've heard," Martin said.
"The level of knowledge of our customers . . . I'm going to continue to
spend time at those meetings and hear what they have to say."
It's also important for him to work with municipalities and the
business community to get them involved with the state's
transit-oriented development efforts, he said. The idea of "smart
growth" has become a daily topic at the Capitol as lawmakers debate how
to bring more development to the state without creating sprawl.
Transit-oriented development is not new, Martin said. As the country
was developing, major cities were built along waterways, where goods
could be transported.
"So while it may be new jargon, it's just going back to the basics," he
Compared with his time in Detroit, the automobile capital of the world,
Martin said Connecticut has more potential for transit-oriented
development because of the New Haven Line and the Shore Line East
commuter rail line.
"This state has far more acceptance of, and dependence on, rail," he
said. "Rail inspires far more economic development. If you were a
businessperson who wanted to relocate your business to an area, you
want to look at the availability of the work force to get to your
business. . . . Rail gives you permanence."
As the state continues to develop, it must create a balance between
moving new businesses around rail centers while encouraging employees
to move closer to their work places, Martin said, explaining part of
the philosophy of transit-oriented development.
"Where you can relocate to better utilize existing infrastructure and,
if that is seen by the business community as a positive, then we'll
work to make that happen," he said.
Martin may represent a change of philosophy from the DOT's long-held
reputation as a "highways first" agency. This, transit advocates said,
gives him a unique opportunity to make a statement for Connecticut.
"There's no question that it's a big step, but it's a first step," said
Jon Orcuff, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation
Campaign. To help make transit-oriented development work, Martin may
have to help "repair (the DOT's) relationship with the towns and
cities. You can't do what you want to do if the municipalities don't
trust you," Orcuff said.
Martin is "an agent of change," but he can't do it alone, said Joseph
McGee, vice president of public policy for the Business Council of
"There is a recognition that we can't just continue to pour concrete
and build highways," McGee said.
DOT Commissioner Ralph Carpenter said his new deputy is right for the
"He has an even temper and he asks great questions," Carpenter said.
"He is going to be a great asset to the department."
Martin said he hopes he and Carpenter, who was hired last summer, can
help change the public's perception of the DOT.
"We're coming at this new," he said. "So for us, it's the Department of
Transportation and that's all orientations. Transportation is all the
roads, as well as mass transit, rail and bus and the many different
modes of those two. So it doesn't faze me at all."
Contract awarded in July 2008 for study
by immediately next Session.
seeks funds to study effects of
By PATRICK R. LINSEY, Hour Staff Writer
March 31, 2007
NORWALK — Woody Bliss is the first to say it — congestion pricing is a
difficult idea to get your head around. The premise? A
variable-rate tolling system that takes some cars off the road during
busiest driving hours can increase traffic flow and actually allow more
cars to use the highway.
"It's counter-intuitive and most people don't think outside the box,"
said Bliss, who is first selectman of Weston and chairman of the
region's Metropolitan Planning Organization. "It actually increases the
flow of vehicles through a given area in a peak period, which is a
Last week, the MPO endorsed a proposed state study to examine whether
and how congestion pricing should be used in Connecticut. The state is
seeking federal money to fund the $4.5 million study.
"We don't have an opinion either way advocating for or against
(congestion pricing)," said Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the
Connecticut Department of Transportation. "We just think it needs to be
studied. The decision to implement tolls, congestion pricing, value
pricing, whatever you want to call it, would be made by lawmakers."
Connecticut was not included in the federal government's latest round
of grant money, which exhausted the Federal Highway Administration's
2006 budget for encouraging congestion pricing. But federal officials
said more money is on the way for 2007.
"There are other opportunities for Connecticut to apply under the
(federal) program," said Nancy Singer, a FHWA spokeswoman. "The program
is funding at approximately $11 million to $12 million per year through
fiscal (year) 2009. In addition, the president's proposal budget for
fiscal (year) 2008 calls for an additional $100 million for the
Congestion pricing, also known as value pricing, has been implemented
in other parts of the country and the world with some success,
including California, Sweden and London. Modern systems use electronic
transponders or snap a picture of vehicles' license plates to bill
drivers, rather than stopping traffic for a toll. By charging
higher prices at peak commuting hours, traffic is lessened and traffic
flow is improved. Improved flow means more cars can move a given
distance over a certain amount of time.
Congestion pricing equates to "charging for the privilege of using a
highway when it's crowded and there's a high demand," Bliss said. "We
have the concept on the rails. You pay peak and off-peak. We have it on
airlines. You want to travel the day before Thanksgiving, you pay a
heck of a lot more than if you want to fly Thanksgiving Day."
In case federal money cannot be found for the study, lawmakers have
included funding in a bill in the state legislature. State Rep. Toni
Boucher, R-143, a member of the Transportation Committee, said she is
"leaning against" the imposition of tolls but would like to see
congestion pricing studied.
"I think we should know what it would entail, what it would cost, what
are the benefits and how long it would take the recoup what sort of
investment would be made," Boucher said. "It's a very substantial cost
to put those new systems in."
Boucher said she is also concerned about privacy issues and whether
congestion pricing could become another tax for Connecticut
residents. From Maine to Maryland, Connecticut is the only state
on the Eastern seaboard without tolls on its highways.
Said Boucher: "I often see cars from other states going on our roads,
so it raises the question should people get off scot-free going through
Feds won't fund
study of electronic toll system
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published March 28 2007
State taxpayers may have to pick up the tab on a study of an electronic
toll system that charges drivers varying rates depending on the time of
day they're on the road.
The Federal Highway Administration yesterday rejected Connecticut's
request for $4.5 million to fund the study of a toll system used
elsewhere in the country to reduce congestion and increase state
revenue. The state could reapply by the end of next month.
The study was recommended by the state Transportation Strategy Board
and backed by the state Department of Transporation and the General
Assembly's Transportation Committee. Now, it appears traffic
advocates will turn to the state to pay to see if such a system would
be effective in Connecticut.
"We would be more optimistic if the state would fund and we can work
directly, sooner, with a few less hoops," said Floyd Lapp, executive
director of the South Western Regional Planning Agency, an organization
that supports a study of congestion pricing tolls. "We could then be
the masters of our own fate."
Lapp and others said the state should turn its focus to a bill recently
passed out of the legislature's Transportation Committee for review by
the House and Senate to fund the study.
"I do think we should be prepared to use state money . . . and to not
continually put this off," said state Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New
Britain, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee.
DeFronzo said he was confident the study money would be approved
because "even folks who have had great skepticism have at least
conceded that there should be some kind of objective analysis."
As the session wraps up in two months, the debate could center on how
much money the state allocates for the study, added said. Federal
highway officials are encouraging states to implement
congestion-pricing tolls, which collect fares electronically with
transponder tags like EZ-Pass or by taking photographs of license
plates and then billing the motorist. The agency yesterday
awarded 12 congestion-pricing projects - $8 million in grants in cities
such as San Diego, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle.
During a recent presentation in lower Fairfield County, federal highway
officials said they were more interested in funding states ready to
implement congestion pricing rather than study it. A highway
administration spokeswoman said yesterday that a new application from
the state for the study would be considered.
"We will evaluate them all on their own merits," said Nancy Singer, a
highway administration spokeswoman.
DOT officials have not been formally notified by the highway
administration about the decision, department spokesman Judd Everhart
"If we are not selected, we will reapply for funding from 2007 funds,"
Red Tape And Reels In The Wrong Driver
George Gombossy: Consumer Watchdog | WATCH DOG
July 20, 2007
Dr. Ahmed M. Khan, a New Britain neurosurgeon, has seen many things in
his life, but the letter he received from New York City's finance
department threw him for a loop.
The three-page letter notified him that he drove through a red light on
West Street at 1:52 p.m. on May 16 and directed him to pay a $50
fine. The front page of the letter had a photo of a Connecticut
license plate with Dr. Khan's license number: 2436.
There were a couple of problems with this. Dr. Khan, who happens to be
an old friend of mine, was not in New York City on May 16, nor was his
car; in fact his car has never been to New York City in the six years
he has owned it.
There were also two photos enclosed of the vehicle going through the
red light: a large 45-passenger bus with a huge logo of Double A
Charters. Dr. Khan's vehicle is sort of a bus, but it's a lot smaller -
a Honda Odyssey.
Dr. Khan was perplexed when I talked to him Sunday. He figured the
letter was either a fraud to get him to send $50 or the bus was
sporting a fake license plate.
Of course, trying to talk to a human being at the New York City
Department of Finance Red Light Camera Monitoring Program is as
difficult as talking to someone at a large company.
So after trying that for 10 minutes I took a more direct route and
called one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's press secretaries, the
president of the bus company and the spokesman for the Connecticut
Department of Motor Vehicles.
I wasn't stunned when the Big Apple's press man, Owen Stone, proved
less than helpful. After giving him four days to figure out what went
wrong, I called him back Thursday. He said he had no clue, but did say
that Dr. Khan was going to have to take time out of his life to contest
"If he can prove it wasn't his vehicle [the citation] will be
dismissed," Stone said.
I asked him if he thought it was fair to put someone through all this
when it was the city's fault. Stone said it was no big deal for someone
to gather all the documents and mail them to the city and await the
Great public relations job, Stone.
The president of Double A Charters, Tom Bascetta, was a stand-up guy.
Yes, he said, his Rocky Hill company does have a bus with the license
plate 2436 and it was probably in New York City on May 16.
"The picture is pretty incriminating," he joked when I described the
photos. He asked me what he could do to make things right. I suggested
he talk with his attorney.
Bascetta said he was unaware that New York City had a photo system
capable of catching drivers running red lights. I am sure he will be
passing that information along to his drivers who make frequent trips
to the city.
William Seymour, a spokesman for Connecticut's Department of Motor
Vehicles, spent a lot of time this week trying to figure out what
happened. There is no question, he said, that in Connecticut it is
possible for a bus and a car to have the same license plate number.
He also discovered that there have been about 10 other cases in the
past year in which the wrong person was ticketed as the result of the
New York camera system, perhaps because of similar situations.
By the end of the day Thursday, Seymour was sounding frustrated. He
said New York officials, including Stone, had given him conflicting
stories about how the tickets are processed, how city officials obtain
Connecticut vehicle records and whether those officials simply rely on
license plate numbers when they mail out citations, or whether the type
of vehicle assigned the plate is verified.
Seymour promised that he would get to the bottom of the problem, that
his department would make sure the citation against Dr. Khan is
dismissed and that pressure would be applied by DMV Commissioner Robert
Ward to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Latest (from across the
Is congestion pricing realy the culprit?
Call for car number plate revamp
of vehicle number plates were stolen last year
The number plate system needs to be completely overhauled to beat a
rise in "car cloning", police have said.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) says a record number of
vehicles are being cloned to escape motoring fines and commit crimes.
More than 40,000 sets of number plates were stolen in 2006, a rise of
almost 25%, according to police estimates.
Police blame rules on registering plate buyers and suppliers, making
fake plates more difficult to get hold of.
Acpo's Coventry-based Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service says it now
has no confidence in the ability of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing
Agency (DVLA) licensing system to prevent cloning.
The service's Supt John Wake told BBC News: "The registration plate is
the first form of identification of the vehicle to the general public.
"I don't have confidence that beyond that you can identify that that
vehicle is the legitimate vehicle for that plate."
Acpo wants a central issuing body for the registration numbers, and all
cars to have tamper-proof plates fitted.
The DVLA is considering forcing all the UK's 1.3 million motorcycles to
be fitted with plates featuring electronic tags, which are currently
The AA's Paul Watters said the amount of cloned number plates was
"It seems to be on a roll and we need to start taking some action to
look at the innocent motorist who may fall victim to some of the issues
which follow up the theft of a number plate," he said.
Drivers' tales of plate
"There are different levels of cloning. There is the simple cloning,
just stealing a plate to drive into say the Congestion Charge
zone or evade a speed camera.
"It ranges up to a higher level which is the car criminal who wants to
sell on a stolen car."
Tony Bullock's car was cloned even though his plates were not
physically stolen, and he was threatened with prosecution after "his"
car was repeatedly caught speeding in Leicester.
He said: "It was horrendous. You are guilty until you can prove you're
not. It's the first time that I've thought that English law is on its
Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said the problem has
grown because of the amount of camera-based enforcement of traffic
offences, which relies on computer records on who owns which car.
leaders push for study of highway tolls
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published March 27 2007
The leaders of eight towns in lower Fairfield County yesterday endorsed
the state's plan to seek federal money to study a toll system that
would charge based on peak traffic times. The South Western
Region's Metropolitan Planning Organization - made up of elected
officials from Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, Westport, Darien, New
Canaan, Weston and Wilton - hopes its approval will improve the state's
chances of getting a $4.5 million federal grant.
"We have been driving this thing," said Weston First Selectman Woody
Bliss, chairman of the MPO. "This is a very big step . . . but I think
it's what we need to do as a state."
The state Department of Transportation recently asked all of
Connecticut's regional planning organizations to endorse its
application, which must be submitted to the Federal Highway
Administration by the end of next month. Lower Fairfield County's
MPO was the first to respond.
"I think this group of elected leaders is willing to look at the facts
and support the study, and then based on what the study concludes,
carry the burden of explaining it to the people of this area," said
Greenwich First Selectman Jim Lash, vice chairman of the MPO. "We're
leading a little bit here because we probably have the worst traffic
problems. We're stuck in a corner."
For more than a year, the DOT has been seeking money to study
congestion pricing - a toll system that charges motorists different
rates based on peak and off-peak hours. Congestion pricing is
used in parts of California, New Jersey, Minnesota and other U.S.
cities, as well as London, Singapore and Stockholm, Sweden.
Federal highway officials are urging states to install congestion
pricing as a way to mitigate traffic while generating revenue.
All congestion pricing systems use electronic tolls and don't require
drivers to slow down at collection points. Fares are collected using
transponder tags such as EZ-Pass or cameras that photograph license
plates and then motorists are billed. Connecticut's DOT applied
for funds last year, but the Federal Highway Administration has not
made a decision. As a precaution, the DOT is applying again, though a
federal highway official last week said the administration is more
interested in funding cities ready to install congestion pricing rather
than study it.
In case Connecticut doesn't get the federal money, the legislature's
Transportation Committee also approved funds for a study. The money is
in a bill that the House and Senate must pass. DOT officials were
pleased with the MPO's endorsement yesterday, saying it will strengthen
"We want to try and show the Federal Highway Administration that this
is a statewide issue and we're not just going about this study on our
own," said Carmine Trotta, assistant director of intermodal planning
for DOT. "Hopefully we'll get more regions on board."
Trotta confirmed that the southwestern MPO was the first of the 15
planning organizations in Connecticut to endorse the plan. He expects
to hear from more MPOs before the end of next month. Ridgefield
First Selectman Rudy Marconi, chairman of Greater Danbury's Housatonic
Valley Council of Elected Officials, said his group plans to address
the study at its April meeting.
A year ago, the group said it would support the study but only if the
state analyzed how congestion pricing would affect local roads, Marconi
said. Other advocates of a study said the MPO's endorsement is
"It has to be a statewide study for it to get done," said Karen
Burnaska, who represents coastal Fairfield County for the state
Transportation Strategy Board. "By getting the support of the MPOs, it
shows that this will be a statewide study."
Road Offers New Jersey a Fiscal Test Drive
By KEN BELSON
Published: April 13, 2008
HAMMOND, Ind. — The 157-mile-long toll road that slices through
northern Indiana and connects Ohio to Illinois is as unremarkable as
they come. On the western end, commuters speed past idled steel mills
to get to and from Chicago, while in the east a stream of
tractor-trailers plows past an equally undistinguished rural landscape.
But when a private Australian-Spanish consortium took control of the
Indiana East-West Toll Road in 2006 after leasing the adjoining Chicago
Skyway the previous year, the move touched off a fierce debate in
Indianapolis that is reverberating in Trenton, Harrisburg and other
statehouses across the country, where the struggle to finance soaring
transportation costs goes on.
“I go to these governors’ meetings and 49 of them are wringing their
hands,” Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said in an interview. “It’s not
very complicated. Most of them can see it and are astonished at how
great a deal Indiana got.”
Gov. Jon S. Corzine has been pushing to privatize New Jersey’s toll
roads, much as Governor Daniels did in Indiana when he leased the road
for 75 years and received a $3.8 billion lump sum, which he earmarked
for transportation projects. But events and public opinion have
conspired against Mr. Corzine.
Not long after the Indiana deal, he began raising the possibility of
selling or leasing the state’s toll roads, but opposition had already
started building, not only among voters, who were surprisingly
sentimental about dealing away the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden
State Parkway, but among state legislators as well.
Not long afterward, Mr. Corzine was involved in an automobile crash
that almost cost him his life and took much of the steam out of many
initiatives he had been pursuing.
By the time Mr. Corzine unveiled his plan in January, which also
included cutting spending and limiting the amount of new bonds,
opponents in New Jersey eagerly pointed to Chicago and Indiana to show
what could go wrong with privatizing public assets. Wary of private
operators, they contended that Indiana sold too low, and that tolls
there would eventually rise too high. They also questioned whether Mr.
Corzine would use the windfall wisely.
Mr. Corzine tried to allay those fears by proposing that the turnpike
and the parkway be leased to a public corporation under state
oversight. But his opponents focused less on who would operate the road
and more on the toll increases — of as much as 800 percent by 2022 —
that were critical to his plan. The plan has gathered little support
from state lawmakers despite Mr. Corzine’s original goal of winning
passage by the end of March.
Others critics were alarmed that some of the $38 billion in bonds Mr.
Corzine hoped to issue would be used for projects unrelated to
“Early on, there was excitement about the big checks that came in,”
Jonathan R. Peters, a finance professor at the City University of New
York and an expert on toll roads, said of the arrangements in Indiana
and Chicago. “But now academics and departments of transportation are
starting to see that you can give away too much.”
In the aftermath of the agreements in Chicago and Indiana, lawmakers in
California, Texas and other states have struggled to muster support for
their own lease deals. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Edward G. Rendell’s plan
to lease the state’s turnpike has been delayed by a counterproposal to
collect tolls on Interstate 80. As these other states try to devise a
plan acceptable to their residents, drivers who use the Chicago Skyway
and Indiana East-West Toll Road seem to be adjusting to the new
operators from Macquarie-Cintra, the Australian-Spanish consortium.
But Mr. Peters and other specialists who study toll road deals
cautioned that the lease in Indiana was structured so that tolls would
remain relatively stable for the first decade, then could rise quickly
for the remainder of the lease — after many of the politicians who
signed the original lease have left office. That may explain why
drivers on the Skyway and Toll Road, while still suspicious of
privatization, are largely pleased with conditions on the roads.
They say they like the additional tollbooths and the introduction of
electronic tolls. And while truckers and those using cash saw tolls
rise this month in Indiana, drivers of passenger cars with E-ZPass or
the local alternatives, known as iPass and iZoom, are still paying
tolls that have not been raised in more than two decades.
“The positive thing is they put in iZoom and the roads are well
maintained,” said Roy Platz, 60, of Naperville, Ill., who for years has
used the Skyway and Toll Road to get to his job at a steel company in
East Chicago, Ind.
“I don’t care who they sell it to,” Mr. Platz said between bites of a
double cheeseburger at a McDonald’s near the Skyway. “If the Spanish
want to give us $4 billion, fine. But government being government, the
money could be frittered away.”
On the contrary, Governor Daniels, a former budget director under
President Bush, said Indiana had been prudent with its money — which
has all been dedicated to infrastructure improvements.
In addition, Indiana earned $287 million in interest from the $3.8
billion the state received last year. Mr. Daniels has also distributed
$150 million in highway funds to his state’s 92 counties since the
On top of that, he said that, to the best of his knowledge, Indiana is
the only state with a fully financed 10-year transportation plan.
“This isn’t dogma,” he said, “this is solving a problem.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Daniels, who is running for a second term this year,
has taken a lot of heat from opponents in Indiana, who have insisted
that he back away from proposals to privatize other highways. Critics
like Roger Skurski, a retired professor of economics at the University
of Notre Dame, in South Bend, contend that if “reasonable changes” had
been made in the way tolls were collected, the state could have made
more money by not leasing the toll road.
“It didn’t appear they were making the case that an outside company
could do a better job,” Mr. Skurski said. “They were assuming it.”
“The selling point for the governor,” he added, “was that he could get
the money up front.”
But Mr. Daniels said the changes Mr. Skurski was referring to would
never have been made because local politicians always balked at raising
The new operators have been quick to make changes to boost efficiency.
They bought coin and bill counting machines so that toll collectors no
longer had to spend 45 minutes a day stuffing hundreds of dollars in
nickels, dimes and quarters into rolls. Freed from rigid government
contracts, the consortium has negotiated lower prices for new snowplows
and roadway de-icing liquid. In addition, there is a new incentive
program in place that rewards employees with an extra month’s pay for
good customer relations, attendance and initiative. And televisions
have been removed from the tollbooths to force collectors to focus on
“People were upset about the TVs, but patrons need your full
attention,” said Linda Wilson, the supervisor of the WestPoint toll
For those who regularly use the Skyway and Toll Road, the improvements
have helped soften their stance on privatization — as long as tolls do
not rise too fast.
“I thought it was crazy to sell the road to someone outside the U.S.,”
said Chad Deanecelli, 28, a cook at a rest stop in Portage, Ind., who
drives 40 miles to Chicago twice a week to visit his grandmother. “It’s
pretty expensive, about $12 a round trip. But if the money is used for
transportation, it’s good.”
highway toll system
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published March 21 2007
WESTPORT - Federal Highway Administration officials yesterday urged
state lawmakers to install highway tolls that charge motorists
different rates based on peak and off-peak hours.
The tolling method, called congestion or value pricing, helps reduce
traffic during rush hour while providing the state with cash for
transportation improvements, said Patrick DeCorla-Souza, program
manager for the administration's congestion pricing initiative.
Other cities worldwide use the method successfully, and other
transportation systems, such as airlines and railroads, already charge
varying rates based on peak hours, DeCorla-Souza said at a meeting at
Westport Police Department headquarters organized by the South Western
Regional Planning Agency.
"People understand that at certain times during the year, certain goods
and services are more valuable," DeCorla-Souza said at the event,
attended by about 30 municipal leaders and legislators from Fairfield
County. "The idea now is to help them understand it in the
Congestion pricing is different from tolls because it doesn't charge a
flat fare to motorists regardless of the time, DeCorla-Souza
said. With advances in technology, cash lanes are not needed with
congestion pricing, he said. Tolls can be collected at high speeds
using transponder tags such as EZ-Pass, or by taking photos of license
The Federal Highway Administration would not support a method to reduce
traffic if it led to toll plazas that slow cars down, DeCorla-Souza
"That would defeat the whole purpose," he said.
Fares would be highest during rush hour, DeCorla-Souza said. There may
be no tolls late at night and early in the evening, he said. The
state Department of Transportation is seeking federal money to study
congestion pricing. But DeCorla-Souza said the federal government is
more interested in awarding money for congestion pricing rather than a
study of it.
The DOT first wants to look into how tolls would affect highway traffic
and how they could affect local roads and mass transit ridership before
it launches a demonstration, said Carmine Trotta, assistant director of
intermodal planning for the agency.
If the state fails to get federal money for a study, the legislature's
Transportation Committee approved $4.5 million for that purpose. That
bill must be approved by the House and Senate.
Congestion pricing is used in San Diego County and Orange County,
Calif., DeCorla-Souza said. On Interstate 15 in San Diego, the
high-occupancy vehicle lane has been converted to a toll lane.
The congestion in that lane is monitored every six minutes, and the
fare often is raised throughout the day to manage traffic, he said.
On state Route 91 in Orange County, tolls for a designated express lane
range from $1.15 to $9.25, depending on the time of day.
Congestion pricing has been most successful abroad, DeCorla-Souza
said. Highways in London, Stockholm and Singapore use it in all
lanes. When Stockholm installed congestion pricing as a trial
last year, people were against it, DeCorla-Souza said. But after the
trial ended in July, a referendum to keep the tolls passed 2-1 because
traffic improved, he said.
"Public opinion can change," DeCorla-Souza said. "This is going to
require a little pain before it works."
Some lawmakers are skeptical. They questioned whether congestion
pricing would hurt low-income people the most, because their schedules
might not be flexible enough to choose when to go to work. The
state could assist low-income commuters, DeCorla-Souza said. It must
work with employers to persuade them to offer flexible work schedules
that include more telecommuting, and it should work with bus and rail
operators and van pool organizers, DeCorla-Souza said.
Westport Police Chief Alfred Fiore said there is little data on how
congestion pricing affects local roads. If the result is anything
like the Post Road after an accident on I-95, it could create headaches
for municipalities, he said.
The federal government could help Connecticut improve traffic before
implementing congestion pricing, said state Rep. Thomas Drew,
"I don't see any federal focus on any mass transit initiatives in terms
of funding, or any focus in getting trucks off the highway by using
rail freight," Drew said.
Plan to ease I-95 congestion looks
March 20, 2007
DARIEN - A representative
from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) was in Westport
Tuesday explaining to local officials how "congestion pricing" could
ease traffic on I-95.
The U.S. DOT is offering a grant for any metropolitan area interested
in trying the experimental method of managing congestion. The plan
calls for state officials to charge people to use I-95 during the most
congested times in certain areas.
A DOT representative says between 5 to 10 percent of the cars need to
be removed from the road during congested times to keep the highway
free-flowing. Revenue would then be used to invest in transit and other
methods to reduce the number of cars.
Concerns include the impact the plan would have on local roads, like
Route 1, and the impact to people with lower incomes.
Local Officials Briefed on Highway Toll Plan
By Jennifer Connic
State and federal officials are considering a plan that would charge
highway drivers a toll during peak traffic hours, but some local
officials are not sold on the proposal.
The Southwest Regional Planning Agency sponsored a session on
congestion pricing at Westport Police Headquarters today, and the
session was attended by a large number of state legislators, mayors,
first selectmen and other elected officials from throughout lower
Patrick DeCorla-Souza, U.S. Department of Transportation program
manager for congestion pricing, said the proposal is not a flat toll
like what exists on many roads in the United States, but rather a
charge to shift when people would use the highways.
Federal officials are also offering $130 million in grants to states
who are willing to implement a congestion pricing plan as a
demonstration because federal officials believe people will only accept
the model once they have used it.
"It’s a simple concept that people understand,” he said. “They’ll have
to look for alternative modes of of transportation and alternative
times of day to travel.”
With congestion pricing, a toll price is only charged during peak
travel times when there is significant traffic, he said.
The method has been used in other areas of the country, including on
several New York bridge crossings, DeCorla-Souza said, where there is a
discount on the toll if a motorist crosses at a less congested time.
Additionally, some areas of the country, including San Diego, have a
system where there is a charge to use a special lane, he said, but he
recommends there be a charge on all lanes of traffic. Other
places in the world have implemented the system, he said, including
Stockholm, Sweden, which was initially done as a trial.
Once the trial ended, he said, the system was removed from the road,
and voters were given the choice to bring it back or not. The
referendum was in favor of the congestion pricing, he said. He
supports a similar model in the United States where the system is used
as a trial and then put to a referendum vote, he said.
State Department of Transportation officials present at the session
said state officials are planning a study on what system would work
best in Connecticut, but did not believe they would receive federal
funding now for it because there are no plans yet to implement such a
Local officials also expressed concerns with the system and how it
would affect local traffic, including Westport Police Chief Al
Fiore. Fiore asked if there were any indications that traffic
would not be pushed on to local roads and impact the police and local
He asked if there was any studies done in places that have implemented
congestion pricing on the impact on the local roads.
“I fear that the guy you are taking of the highway is going to be on my
local roads,” he said. “I want to see evidence that there is no impact
so I don’t have to worry about residents calling me complaining they
can’t get out of their driveways on Green’s Farms Road.”
DeCorla-Souza said he understands most people do not have the
flexibility to shift when they travel during the high-traffic
times. But if 5-10 percent of the motorists chose to travel at a
different time, he said, it would help with the congestion on the
Additionally, he said, there needs to be other modes of mass
transportation and information easily accessible about it available to
Posted 03/20 at 10:11 AM
Congestion Pricing 101" Tuesday, March 20, 2007
7:30 a.m. at the Westport Police
Department Classroom. Public invited.
Metro-North Riders Using Trains Within The State
Published on 12/8/2006
Stamford (AP)— Metro-North's statistics for its New Haven line show
many more riders have been using the trains to travel to points within
the state in recent months.
Figures show a significant growth in daily trips at points between New
Haven and Greenwich.
The figures also show more riders are getting off the train in
Stamford, compared with those boarding in Stamford and riding the train
into Grand Central Terminal.
More than three million intrastate trips have been made from January to
October this year — an increase of 6.5 percent from the year before.
Metro-North says overall ridership on the New Haven Line, which
includes trips into Grand Central Terminal and reverse commuting out of
New York City into Connecticut, has increased by 3 percent during the
At Stamford, the New Haven Line's busiest station after Grand Central,
4,300 people this year got off the train every day — 2,500 coming from
other points in Connecticut and 1,800 from New York — during the
The rise in intrastate ridership is due to rising gas prices, increases
in the frequency of service and the increase of development in cities
such as Stamford, Eugene Colonese, rail administrator for the state
Department of Transportation's rail bureau said Wednesday.
Colonese said that in recent years, the state has held down the monthly
fares for intrastate tickets, which has made train travel more
competitive with driving.
Union Station Owners Consider Seeking
Tax Break; Amtrak portion
might have exemption under state law
By Elaine Stoll
Published on 12/20/2006
New London — The owners of
Union Station may seek tax-exempt status for the portion of the
privately held Water Street property used by Amtrak.
Todd O'Donnell, who owns Union
Station with Barbara Timken, said Tuesday state and federal statutes
exempt Amtrak and its renters and landlords from property taxes. Amtrak
leases an undisclosed amount of space at Union Station.
O'Donnell pointed to a section of
the Connecticut General Statutes, stating that the gross earnings tax
that corporations operating railroads for profit in the state are
required to pay annually “shall be in lieu of all other taxes in this
state for the year.” The same section states that property owned or
operated by such a corporation “when not used exclusively for railroad
purposes, shall be assessed and taxed where it is located.”
Amtrak, which was created as a
for-profit corporation, pays gross earnings tax to the state, O'Donnell
said Tuesday. O'Donnell said that only the portion of the station
property not used by Amtrak — and therefore “not used exclusively for
railroad purposes” — is taxable.
He also cited federal law in support
of the claim that the portion of Union Station leased by Amtrak is
tax-exempt. A Dec. 23, 2005, opinion written by a principal analyst at
the Connecticut General Assembly's Office of Legislative Research and
cited by O'Donnell interprets the federal law to mean that the only way
a town could tax property owned by Amtrak, a renter, landlord or
subsidiary is “if it did not benefit rail passenger transportation,
City Law Director Thomas J.
Londregan and Assessor Barbara Perry said they will continue to review
the matter but maintain that the Union Station property used by Amtrak
“My gut reaction is that they are a
private entity renting space and collecting money. I have not told the
tax assessor to treat the property as nontaxable,” Londregan told the
City Council on Monday night.
To date the Union Station owners
have not submitted a formal request to the city seeking tax-exempt
status, Londregan said. “We're not doing anything at this point in time
other than reviewing information.”
Assessor Barbara Perry said Tuesday
that she has spoken with O'Donnell about the tax status of Union
Station. “If he's entitled to something, I want to grant that,” she
“So far, I haven't seen anything
that would make me believe it would pertain to him, that he would be
eligible,” Perry said.
If O'Donnell wants to appeal the
city's assessment of the Union Station property, he would have to wait
until the grand list is finalized, when he could appeal to the Board of
Assessment Appeals, Perry said. If O'Donnell successfully sought a tax
exemption on the portion of the Union Station property used by Amtrak,
the change would only affect future tax bills, Perry said. There
apparently is no avenue for him to recover taxes paid in previous years.
Perry said she did not know how many
square feet of the Union Station property Amtrak uses, the only portion
of the property O'Donnell claims is tax-exempt. “It's a good portion of
the first floor,” she said.
O'Donnell declined to disclose the
terms of his lease with Amtrak, including the specific amount of space
he says is tax-exempt. “They are a substantial user of the land and the
building,” he said.
Getting There From Here:
a single agenda, it will be as hard to make a better working New London
transportation center as it is to get to the ferries and trains from
the Water Street Parking Garage.
Published on 12/17/2006
Any future planning for a regional transportation center in New London
begins with the advantage that there's already one there. Nearly 2
million travelers every year use transportation services clustered
about Union Station. Most of these people are patrons of the three
ferry services, which comprise the region's most robust transportation
business. But a good 250,000 of them travel on trains and buses that
stop at the station.
The master plan isn't going to have to make pie from scratch. The
ingredients are already there, a unique neighborhood of water, bus and
rail transportation services, a place that is bustling despite multiple
Nor has there been no planning to make what's there work better. The
trouble is much of the planning has been in pursuit of rival agendas.
The trick to success will be not only to connect the pieces of the
transportation center, but bring the players into harmony.
A master plan for a transportation center must connect the existing
businesses, but to do so, it will have to unite the conflicting
interests around a single agenda.
An advisory group needs to be established that represents parties with
a significant interest in the outcome: The owners of the train station,
the ferry operators, the city, New London's downtown organizations, the
Council of Governments and state Department of Transportation, tourism
industry and casinos and rail representatives. And that group must
initiate a public discussion. A group like the one that met at The Day
Dec. 5 and decided to develop a master plan for a regional
The group needs to work with planners in reconciling the differences
that have stood in the way of progress and created in its place a
growing stock of hard feelings.
Foremost among these are the issues of whether to build a pedestrian
bridge across the railroad tracks and where to put the “center” of the
transportation center; should it be in Union Station or a new building?
The Council of Governments is the logical agency to assume this task.
It is representative of the region and has the planning credentials and
legal authority to receive state funds for a study. This is a regional
as well as a local issue. But it must engage the public and
stakeholders in the process, or maybe vice versa.
Just as important as the $500,000 to $750,000 it is estimated the study
will cost is the planning process and how open and inclusive it is.
Planners must be informed by public opinion and by the people with a
stake in the results. The product must be something the public and all
the interests can accept, or it won't work. Experience to date is
evidence of the futility of operating without consensus or public
Public involvement essential
The plan must engage the public because the issues are public, although
the major players are private businesses.
New London has an immediate stake in the matter. The center could be a
catalyst for growth in its downtown business district by making the
city even more vital as a transportation hub.
Southeastern Connecticut would benefit because more creative uses of
public transportation centered on the New London waterfront would help
solve the highway gridlock problem. The state also would benefit from
New London owns the two major parking facilities, a lot that's leased
by one of the ferry companies and the Water Street Parking Garage. It
also has jurisdiction over Water Street, the troublesome artery
travelers must cross to get from the garage to the ferries and trains,
and the Parade, the bunker-like plaza the city is considering revamping.
And substantial public investments will be required and must be made in
the public interest.
The public, with this clear stake, must be kept in the loop of planning
for this transportation center. Its capacity for creativity and good
sense must be respected.
But so, too, do the several significant businesses have a stake in the
plan. Cross Sound Ferry, while it enjoys a robust business, is hemmed
in and handicapped by the cockeyed arrangements for parking and getting
to the boats.
Barbara Timken, principal owner of Union Station, has invested heavily
in the landmark building and with her business partner, Todd O'Donnell,
has shouldered the costs of maintaining a building that is also a
public facility. They get little compensation for the public use of the
building. That isn't fair, or practical.
A master plan must accommodate both these interests. Union Station
needs to be an integral and sustainable part of the transportation
center, but the plan must also respond to the pressing needs of the
ferry operations for more convenient accommodations for its passengers.
Better public accommodations will be a key to making the transportation
'Gateway' to southeastern Connecticut
Current efforts are focused on maintaining Amtrak service at the
station. That's important. Planning should also revisit the idea of
maintaining a visitor center for the Thames River Heritage Park in the
station, as Adam Wronowski, vice president of Cross Sound Ferry,
suggests in an article in this section. The center could become a
“gateway” to New London and the region that surrounds it and tht may
one day revolve around the city as it did in earlier times as a
transportation hub for boats and trains and center of commerce.
A planning group doesn't have to wait for the legislature to act. It
should get started right away. It also doesn't have to wait until it
has a blueprint before it engages the public. A public that is left out
of the loop isn't likely to get excited over a plan it had no role in
designing. Those kinds of plans are the ones that gather dust and slip
Even before professional planners get their hands on the task, people
must decide what kind of transportation center they're talking about?
How will it differ from what's there? How will it work? What purposes
will it serve that aren't served now?
The planners need a visionary sketch to work from, such as the one
architect Barun Basu, president of Main Street, has drawn in an article
in this special section. Mr. Basu envisions what the future might be
like in several decades with a vigorous transportation center in its
The planning process needs guidance and support that only can come from
the bottom up, from a representative group that is willing to listen
respectfully to one another and consult with the public. The failure to
appreciate that fact before this helps explain why it's been almost as
hard to come up with a plan as it is to get to the ferries from the
Water Street Parking Garage.
The Benefits Of Talking
Published on 12/8/2006
On Tuesday, many of the parties with a stake in the possibilities of a
regional transportation center in New London met and agreed on the need
for a master plan to guide decisions and move the idea forward.
That was not the first meeting of this sort, but it was the first
occasion that the various interests, public and private, reached a
consensus on anything. This development occurred at a roundtable
discussion sponsored by The Day, the results of which will be published
in a special Perspective section Dec. 17. Meantime, the matter is
inching forward with a request to the state to sponsor the preparation
of a master plan for the area along the downtown New London waterfront
being eyed for the center. This includes several busy ferry operations,
Union Station, the Parade, Water Street parking garage, Greyhound bus
terminal and adjoining lands. Some of the real estate is private, some
of it is public.
As a result of the meeting, the Governor's Commission on Economic
Diversification revised the plan it is submitting to Gov. M. Jodi Rell
to include the regional transportation center as another priority. This
is a sensible and promising turn of events in an issue that has been
marked in the past by dissension, but more than that, by a lack of
communication. There was none of that at this meeting. Most of the
players were there: The state of Connecticut, New London, Cross Sound
Ferry, New London Main Street, the owners of Union Station, the Chamber
of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, the National Rail Corridors
Initiative (also representing Amtrak), Southeast Area Transit, New
London Landmarks, the committee that is designing a plan to revamp the
Parade area in front of Union Station and the Southeastern Connecticut
The group still disagrees, or at least has different perspectives, on
fundamental issues connected with the transportation center, including
the role Union Station will play and the solutions to the problem of
getting ferry passengers across the street and railroad tracks.
But reaching a consensus on those issues requires professional guidance
and collegiality, not isolated agendas. The guidance in this case will
come from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments,
conferring with the various stakeholders and eventually the public at
That is a good start to a development that can be a key to future
growth and prosperity not only in New London, but in southeastern
Estimate for train
car shop comes up $328M short
By Mark Ginocchio
Published September 10 2007
A shortfall of more than $300 million for a new rail car maintenance
shop has prompted high-level meetings between Metro-North Railroad and
the state Department of Transportation.
Metro-North President Peter Cannito and DOT Commissioner Ralph
Carpenter met Friday to discuss the $628 million rail shop in New
Haven, which is being built to help maintain 380 New Haven Line rail
cars that will begin to be delivered in 2009.
The DOT's original estimate for the project - which was approved two
years ago by the legislature as part of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's $1.2
billion transportation initiative - was $300 million. But further
analysis by the DOT and Metro-North found the cost will be more than
The original estimate was "based on 2002 dollars," DOT spokesman Judd
Everhart said Friday. "The new number is based on today's dollars and
additional components of the facility that were not contemplated in the
Inflationary costs "are by far the most significant portion of the
added expense," Everhart said. "Construction costs and materials can
easily increase by 10 percent or more per year."
The project would be built in six parts and would create a
state-of-the-art shop for the next generation of rail cars. The first
part - a yard that will be used to test the new rail cars before they
are put in service - will be open to bidders this fall. Construction
should begin early next year, Everhart said. The facility will
include storage for an additional 100 rail cars at
the West End Yard in New Haven; a heavy-duty repair shop to fix 13 rail
cars and office space for DOT and Metro-North employees; a wheel truing
shop to fix flattened rail car wheels; two inspection bays that will
hold 10 rail cars each; and a car washing shop.
Once it is funded, the entire project should be complete in 2013,
Metro-North officials said. In a letter to Carpenter last month,
Cannito urged the DOT to get the funding.
"I believe this is a matter of highest priority for the New Haven Line
service," Cannito said.
Transportation advocates who have supported the project were shocked to
hear the cost has doubled.
"They didn't just miss the mark, they missed the entire firing range,"
said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, who is on the
legislature's Transportation, Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee,
and Transportation Bonding Committee.
McDonald said he didn't know there was a funding shortfall. DOT
officials did not tell him about it while the legislature was
negotiating a transportation bonding package, McDonald said. The
legislature is expected to approve the bonding package, without
additional money for the shop, in special session this month, officials
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said
the new price tag was a huge surprise.
"I hope the legislature examines this very closely and gets to the
bottom of how this was so grossly underestimated," Cameron said. "This
maintenance facility is a crucial part" of the state's plan to buy more
The Commuter Council planned to discuss the new rail cars with DOT and
Metro-North at its monthly meeting next week, so the maintenance shop
will be added to the agenda, Cameron said.
DOT and Metro-North will meet a second time to discuss the project,
The meeting "will be scheduled for a detailed review of the project and
its cost, with an eye toward any economies that can be achieved," he
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published March 22 2007
NEW YORK -- Metro-North Railroad President Peter Cannito yesterday told
New Haven Line rail advocates that his agency is looking at all
possible ways to prolong the life of the current fleet until new cars
are delivered in two years.
Ridership is increasing at a record rate, which is good news for
Metro-North, but bad news for New Haven Line commuters who are already
struggling to find available seats, Cannito said during the monthly
meeting of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council at Metro-North's
headquarters in Grand Central Terminal. Once the next generation
of rail cars arrives, things should get significantly better for the
New Haven Line, Cannito added.
"I can't wait for the M8s," he said. "Our trains have to be on time and
people need to have a seat. We recognize that we can control the on
time, but what we can't control is having sufficient seats" with the
current fleet level. The state has ordered 342 new rail cars and
the first batch should be delivered by the end of 2009. From there, as
many as 10 cars a month could start arriving on the rails.
Once the new cars arrive, the state will phase out 240 of its oldest
cars, the M2s, which are about 35 years old, five years past their life
expectancy, Cannito said. That still leaves about another 100
cars that are between 10 and 20 years old that will still be a part of
the New Haven Line fleet, Cannito said. In the meantime, the
railroad is deciding whether it should keep rehabilitating the M2s
under the railroad's "Critical Systems Replacement" program. It
may be cost-efficient for Metro-North to turn its resources toward
repairing the newer M4s and M6s since they won't be phased out when the
M8s arrive, he added.
"We feel we need to continue the (Critical Systems Replacement)
program," Cannito said. "But we need to focus on cars that give us the
biggest bang for our buck."
The opening of a new repair facility at the New Haven yard will help
Metro-North get broken cars back on the tracks faster, Cannito
said. Because of heavy snow and cold weather, February was a
brutal month for commuters and with limited repair shop capacity,
Metro-North was often operating with a short fleet, he said.
When asked how Metro-North wants to pay for the new cars, Cannito would
not comment on Connecticut's proposed $1-per-ride surcharge, which is
under review by the state legislature. The surcharge, which would
raise about $20 million annually and charge an extra $1 on all daily
tickets and an extra $40 on monthly tickets, is a Connecticut policy,
though Metro-North would have to approve it since the New Haven Line
runs though Westchester County.
"We'll see what Connecticut proposes before we make a decision,"
Cannito said. "New York should not interfere in how Connecticut runs
In the same vein, Cannito said a Metropolitan Transportation Authority
proposal to ban liquor sales on all MTA properties including Grand
Central Terminal, would have to be approved by Connecticut.
"Whatever New York decides to do, Connecticut has a vote," Cannito
said. The New Haven Line is one of the last commuter lines in the
country to have bar cars, providing beer, wine, mixed drinks and soft
drinks for passengers. State Department of Transportation
officials said they have no plans to scrap the bar cars, regardless of
what the MTA decides to do about its liquor policy.
DOT Proposes Shore
Line East Rail Upgrade
By GARY LIBOW, Courant Staff Writer
January 31, 2007
The state Department of Transportation has proposed spending millions
of dollars to expand the Shore Line East rail service to combat growing
congestion on I-95.
In a three-phase expansion plan, DOT would add Shore Line East trips
between New Haven and New London, at an estimated cost of $6.4 million
in capital funds and $2.5 million in operating expenses. The initial
phase of the plan would add eight round trips Saturdays and Sundays
between New Haven and Old Saybrook, plus one midday round trip and one
late evening outbound train from New Haven to Old Saybrook.
But the DOT report outlines a possible obstacle to the first phase -
winning Amtrak's approval.
Amtrak owns that Northeast rail corridor, according to the DOT, and a
2003 agreement with Amtrak requires the state to fund and build
platforms in Branford, Madison, Clinton and Westbrook should Shore Line
East service be expanded outside the current rush hour schedule.
"It is now in the hands of the governor and General Assembly for their
evaluation and any possible action," DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said
Tuesday...full story here.
happy rail future
By ROB VARNON
Article Launched: 12/22/2006 07:37:14 AM EST
NEW HAVEN — Gov. M. Jodi Rell cut the ribbon Thursday on a $33 million
building that marks the beginning of a five-year, $800 million
expansion of the New Haven Rail Yard.
"We did it," Rell said, standing in front of the new running repair
shop, which she said was born out of the misery of the winter of
That winter, snow and cold damaged rail cars, forcing Metro-North
Railroad to operate shorter trains and reduce frequency of service as
maintenance workers tried to keep up with the damage. In February 2004,
workers in New Haven repaired 100 trains in less than two weeks, but
much of that work had to be done outdoors.
Because there was only room to work on 12 rail cars at a time under a
roof in the New Haven Yard, workers have had to push heaters outside,
thaw out the cars and begin working on them there. Rell, joined by
Metro-North President Peter Cannito, said that winter marked a turning
point for the railroad and state, as it became clear action was needed.
"Help is on the way and it has started to arrive," Rell said.
After that winter, she said, the state pledged to build the repair
facility and then went on to approve the purchase of 300 new rail cars
and the creation of a new maintenance complex to take care of the
Rell said the concrete and steel building is proof things are changing
for the better in Connecticut.
"We are blessed with a modern, 21st-century economy; now we need a
21st-century train system."
The repair shop took less than two years to design and build.
According to Cannito, the DOT will transfer some employees from the
older maintenance building and will hire 23 new workers for the shop.
Equipment will be transferred from other Metro-North locations to the
facility, which Cannito said would be in full use by February.
The new facility will reduce the time rail cars are out of service for
maintenance, he said, which will lead to fewer delays in service. What
it won't address is the crowding on rush-hour trains, according to
Cannito: only when the new ones Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. is building
begin to arrive will commuters see some relief.
James Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council,
called Thursday's dedication an early Christmas present for
commuters. Rodney Chabot, a former rail council chairman, also
attended the ceremony. Chabot and Cameron have long been advocates for
the expansion of the railroad.
During the dedication and tour of the facility, several construction
workers took the opportunity to see their handiwork and get their
pictures taken with the governor. Jim Manafort, president of
Manafort Brothers Construction Inc., said about 100 workers built the
Two tracks, with work trenches deep enough for repairmen to stand
underneath the trains, run through the shop, making the facility look
somewhat like a railroad version of a Jiffy Lube. Manafort said it was
an exciting and sophisticated job because of the complexity of the rail
cars that will be repaired here.
Metro-North rail cars use both alternating and direct current motors to
move the trains; most cars operate on only one system.
During his brief remarks at the event, Deputy DOT Commissioner James
Boice said within five years Connecticut would complete $800 million in
building projects at the New Haven Rail Yard. He said it would include
new inspection facilities, heavy damage and paint shops, a car wash and
Rail car repairs
should continue until M8s arrive
Norwalk HOUR editorial
November 30, 2006
Department of Transportation and the Metro-North Railroad are
rethinking the program under way to rehabilitate the line's fleet of M2
originally came into service in the early '70s and had an expected life
span of 30 years. Obviously, they have reached that point and then some.
The railroad has
been rehabilitating the old M2s, and they have performed well, even in
the eyes of some of the commuters who daily ride them in and out of
Manhattan and to other destinations. But now DOT and Metro-North are
considering ending that program and turning the money toward the
acquisition of more new cars. The M8s, the newest version, are to be
built by Kawasaki Rail Car Co. and won't be rolling onto the New Haven
branch tracks before 2009.
performance of the rehabilitated cars generally has been good — even
when faced with winter ice and snow — it would seem only prudent to
keep the program going until the new cars start rolling off the line.
The important thing is not to necessarily rehab all of the old M2s —
just keep them going until the new cars arrive.
commuters may recall the troubles the M2s had when they first went into
service. They were plagued with brake problems, cracked wheels and even
electrical fires. The railroad even leased the old South Norwalk
freight yard in order to perform corrective repairs.
new is bound to have "bugs" not foreseen back on the drawing table.
The newest cars
on Metro-North's Harlem-Hudson Division have encountered some
unanticipated problems. It's most bizarre. Apparently a sudden large
and fast dropping of wet leaves on the tracks caused the brakes to
activate, causing the wheels to lock up, sliding along the tracks. Now
Metro-North is busy replacing a large number of wheels with flat spots.
To end the
Critical Systems Replacement program at this juncture is to ignore the
possibility of delays in construction of the new cars. Over the years
we've seen that predictions of delivery times such as this are on the
upgraded about 100 of the old M2s, turning out about three a month.
Let's keep that pace going until we can see the successful delivery of
the new units.
Study says feds
should own Northeast Corridor line
By JANET FRANKSTON LORIN
Associated Press Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- In an effort to improve Amtrak service between
major cities along the East Coast, a group of business leaders Tuesday
proposed transferring ownership of the Northeast Corridor rail line to
the federal government.
A study released Tuesday by the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center
at Rutgers University also calls for the creation of a partnership
between the state and federal government, which would have policy
control over the line.
Martin Robins, the center's director, said the public corporation could
be created by Congress and have the power to introduce new services. It
would contract with Amtrak to manage the line and would provide
accountability to the much-criticized rail service.
The study, sponsored by the Newark Regional Business Partnership, also
suggests that the states and federal government join together to fund
future capital improvements on the line, which goes through
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Amtrak operates a nationwide passenger rail network, with 21,000 miles
of routes in 46 states. Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is the busiest
railroad in North America, with more than 1,700 trains operating over
some portion of the Washington-Boston route each day.
Amtrak has never made money in its 34-year history and an operating
loss of more than $550 million was expected for the fiscal year that
ended Sept. 30. The railroad has relied on government subsidies to
cover its operating losses and has a debt of more than $3.5 billion.
Cliff Black, a spokesman for Amtrak, said a change in ownership won't
change the underlying funding needs or the process to obtain that
"In the long-term, Amtrak recognizes that we need to work together with
the states and federal government to build capacity and ensure a state
of good repair," he said.
Black said Amtrak has been working with the states individually and
collectively to make sure that funding needs are met.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., said new options should be explored to
enhance viability for the train line.
"With our aviation system facing congestion and delays, and our
roadways becoming more and more clogged every day, it is more important
than ever that the federal government closely engage itself in
expanding safe, secure, efficient passenger rail lines," he said.
pondered: Metro-North overhaul may not be necessary, officials say
ROB VARNON firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Launched:11/28/2006 04:46:47 AM EST
Metro-North Railroad and the state Department of Transportation said
Monday they are discussing whether, because 300 new cars will be on the
rails by 2012, all 242 of the New Haven Line's oldest railcars need to
For more than four years, the DOT and Metro-North have been
refurbishing the oldest railcars — the M2s — which were built in the
1970s. After more than two decades of heavy use, the M2s were
frequently breaking down, especially in the winter. Major problems
included failing heating and air-conditioning systems and frozen
motors; the undercarriages were prone to catching fire.
DOT spokesman Chris Cooper said the department reviewed the program and
found it would take until 2012 to finish overhauling all the M2s, and
by then the New Haven Line's fleet of new cars would be operating. But
Cooper said this doesn't mean the DOT is looking to kill the $150
million overhaul program immediately. Instead, the DOT and Metro-North
are discussing how many trains should be overhauled.
The overhaul program should add more than 10 years of useful life to
the M2s, Cooper said, which means the old cars could be used to expand
service on the branch lines, such as Waterbury.
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said her organization began
discussing the overhaul program with the DOT after Connecticut and New
York awarded the $522 million contract to buy new railcars for the New
Haven Line a few months ago.
Connecticut and New York, which jointly own the New Haven Line, are
buying 210 new railcars — called M8s — but the first cars will not be
delivered until 2009 at the earliest. The state has an option on 170
more cars and officials say they intend to buy at least 300. Until
then, the New Haven Line will depend on the M2 railcars, which have
become more reliable after going through the overhaul program,
according to Anders.
"We would not retire any cars before we had the first 100 M8s," Anders
So far, 28 M2s have been completely overhauled, she said, and more than
100 have been partially overhauled. The overhaul involved replacing
vital engine parts, upgrading air-conditioning and heating systems and
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuters Council, said
reports about plans to scrap the program arose three weeks ago when it
was apparently discussed informally during a Metro-North Railroad
Like Anders, he said stopping the overhaul program would be a bad idea.
"It doesn't make sense," because the M2s will be needed at least until
the M8s come online, he said. Overhauled M2s, Cameron said, will give
the state and railroad a fallback plan in case there are delays in
getting the new cars from Kawasaki Rail Car Co.
New Haven Line trains have to operate on alternating and direct current
systems, which makes their design unique, and could cause delays as
bugs get worked out of prototypes, Cameron said. Albert Song, a retired
DOT Office of Rail engineer and the architect of the M2 overhaul
program, said if it makes fiscal sense to scrap the program, he would
favor it. But, he said, he does not think any of the money could be put
toward the purchase of new cars, because the U.S. Federal Transit
Authority covers 80 percent of the overhaul program's costs.
When the DOT created the overhaul program, Song said, "We were only
trying to keep the cars running each winter."
At the time, he said, the office of rail was facing a hostile Gov. John
G. Rowland, who did not support public transit funding even though the
railcars were breaking down more often. The DOT came up with this plan
as a stop-gap measure to get some extra years out of the cars in the
hopes the attitude in Hartford would change. Gov. M. Jodi Rell reversed
the Rowland administration's stance on transit, he said, so it makes
sense to review the program.
Not a peak round trip to Grand
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published October 18 2006
Monthly commuters from the suburbs into Grand Central Terminal no
longer rule the rails.
For the first time, Metro-North Railroad officials are reporting
traditional commuters -- those who travel from the suburbs in the peak
morning hours and arrive at Grand Central -- are outnumbered by reverse
and intermediate riders and day-trippers.
Systemwide, 49.4 percent of Metro-North's riders commuted into
Manhattan in 2005, compared with 65.3 percent in 1984, the year
Metro-North was created.
Traditional commuting has grown by about 17 percent since 1984, while
ridership has grown by 126 percent during all other times, Metro-North
State rail advocates called the report a positive sign for the region
because it means more people are commuting from New York City into
cities such as Stamford, Greenwich and Norwalk or commuting from one
New Haven Line station to another.
"I think this is some very exciting stuff," said Joseph McGee, vice
president of public policy for the Business Council of Fairfield
County. "I'm not surprised by this. That's why we have to expand the
rail system and link to different stations."
The state must improve service at intermediate stations like Fordham in
the Bronx, where ridership is up more than 700 percent since 1985,
About 2,100 people a day board at Fordham, according to the railroad's
report. State Department of Transportation and Metro-North
officials said they have been monitoring service to address these
"We're ecstatic about this news because the intermediate and reverse
commuters is keeping folks employed in Connecticut," said Eugene
Colonese, administrator for DOT's rail bureau.
"We helped create this trend by actively finding ways of putting paying
customers in empty seats to boost ridership and revenue and make the
train the region's transportation mode of choice," Metro-North
President Peter Cannito said in a statement.
Since it started in 1984, Metro-North added 14 peak trains that head
back to Grand Central in the evening for a total of 44, officials
said. Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron
called the railroad's report "slightly misleading," because the
traditional commuters still make up the single largest segment of
Despite the increases, reverse commuters make up about 4 percent of
total annual revenue and intermediate commuters make up about 6
percent. Weekend riders make up 15.2 percent of total revenue and
weekday day-trippers represent 29.9 percent.
However, because of the trends, Cameron said he supports having a
reverse-commuter representative on the commuter council, although the
group's general statutes permit only state residents on the board.
With new rail cars and new stations planned for the New Haven Line,
those reverse and intermediate numbers should grow more, said Karen
Burnaska, co-chairwoman of the Coastal Corridor Transportation
Investment Area, an advisory group to the Transportation Strategy Board.
"If these increases happened without any real improvement to the trains
and schedules, think what will happen once we do," she said.
riders now a majority on
By PATRICK R.
LINSEY, Hour Staff Writer
October 21, 2006
REGION — For
the first time, 9-to-5 business commuters make up less than half of
Metro-North's passengers, the railroad announced last week, as
ridership has soared — especially among non-traditional travelers.
Manhattan made up 49.4 percent of Metro-North customers in 2005,
according to the railroad's figures, down from 65.3 percent in 1984.
Since that year, the number of New York City-bound commuters has grown
17 percent, and all other ridership has more than doubled.
The growth has
occurred despite aging railcars on Metro-North's New Haven Line.
create this trend by actively finding ways of putting paying customers
in empty seats to boost ridership and revenue and make the train this
region's transportation mode of choice," said Peter Cannito, president
of Metro-North Railroad. "We dropped the word 'commuter' from our name
in 1994 to reflect that vision."
Peak trains are
those that arrive at Grand Central Terminal between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.
or depart Grand Central between 5:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. and 8
p.m., carrying suburban commuters to jobs in New York City. But
Metro-North is also going after reverse commuters who travel from the
city to employment centers in Westchester and Connecticut.
"In the past,
these outbound trains would make the trip empty as they went back out
to pick up more city-bound passengers," Cannito said. "So we already
had a crew and we were already paying the propulsion costs. It didn't
cost very much to make stops and accept customers."
commutation more than tripled between 1984 and 2005, going from 1.1
million to 4.6 million rides.
also targeted leisure riders on nights and weekends.
seats on reverse commutes and weekend trains benefits rush-hour riders,
said Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council.
"One of the
ways we keep the rush hour fares down is by all of the discretionary
riders, the people who go in on the weekend," Cameron said. "The
ridership on the weekend subsidizes the rush-hour fares."
has also benefited from new equipment. Trains on Metro-North's Hudson
and Harlem lines have been replaced in recent years, and new equipment
is due on the New Haven Line come 2009.
happens, Cameron said he would like to see service expand — potentially
easing gridlock on I-95.
trains should run almost like a subway, so you don't need to worry
about a timetable. A lot of people who are on the highway use the lack
of service as an excuse," he said Friday afternoon. "I'm in a car right
now coming back from Greenwich.
I'm crawling. I might have been able to take a train where I was going,
but I didn't, because I couldn't rely on the train schedule coming
OKs $459M for new train cars
Ginocchio, Staff Writer
August 19 2006
The State Bond
$459 million for a contract to buy up to 300 rail cars for Metro-North
Railroad's New Haven Line yesterday, marking the last step needed to
make the deal official.
Gov. M. Jodi
Rell called it an
"unprecedented" day for Connecticut -- and it's the largest contract
awarded in Metro-North's history.
"I want this
major step forward to
send a message to every single Connecticut commuter: Your voices are
being heard in Hartford," Rell said in a statement yesterday.
President Peter Cannito
said the day was a long time coming, but a positive step forward for
New Haven Line commuters.
"I wish these
cars could have been
ordered five years ago and we'd be receiving them now," Cannito said in
a telephone interview yesterday. "But, this is a very exciting day for
contract was awarded last
month to Kawasaki Rail Cars Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y., the railroad has
been working on the deal's details to ensure the state gets its rail
cars as soon as possible. The contract will be signed Monday,
state officials said.
Most of the
manufacturing will be
completed at Kawasaki's Lincoln, Neb., plant, and the first cars should
arrive by the end of 2009, Cannito said.
The new rail
cars will expand the
New Haven Line fleet, and they also will replace some of the most
antiquated cars, which are more than 30 years old -- 10 years past
their life expectancy. State Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich,
a member of the bond commission, said the deal marks "new priorities"
that have been established by Rell and the legislature.
"This is a huge
win for Fairfield
County and the entire state," he said.
Commuter Rail Council
Chairman Jim Cameron was pleased with the commission's approval, but
said the state still needs to focus on helping commuters in the short
"We all know
the new cars are
coming, but there are problems with overcrowding today," Cameron said.
The state "needs to figure out what to do for the next three years,
because I see no signs of ridership decreasing."
In addition to
the rail car
purchase, the bond commission also approved $9 million for open space
land purchases under the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program.
will help achieve
Rell's goal of preserving 21 percent of the state's land for open
approves $552M contract for new cars
Mark Ginocchio, Stamford
July 25 2006
YORK -- Metro-North Railroad gave the green light to the largest
contract in its history yesterday when the executive board approved the
builder of the next generation of cars for the New Haven Line.
$552 million contract with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y., is
competitive and within the budget, railroad President Peter Cannito
new cars, dubbed M-8s, will provide relief for New Haven Line customers
who have been riding on antiquated equipment, Cannito said.
Metro-North's New York state rail lines received new equipment years
seen how the new rail cars have performed on the Hudson and Harlem
lines" in Westchester County, Cannito said yesterday during the board's
monthly meeting at Metropolitan Transportation Authority headquarters
in midtown Manhattan. "These cars will be the answer to resolving many
of the issues on the New Haven Line."
base order for 210 cars includes an option for 180 more cars,
increasing the value of the contract to $881 million, railroad
officials said. The
deal is Kawasaki's first with Metro-North, officials said. Kawasaki's
bid was more than $180 million lower than Bombardier of Quebec, which
was awarded the Hudson and Harlem line contract in 1999.
was awarded its first rail contract with Connecticut earlier this year
-- a $3.2 million deal to refurbish 33 used cars the state bought from
Virginia Railway Express. The
company has built cars for the New York City subway, New Jersey's Port
Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation
officials said they will hold off commenting on the deal until the MTA
board approves it tomorrow. Connecticut's
bond commission must approve the funding at its Aug. 11 meeting before
manufacturing can begin. After
the commission meets, it should take about three years for the first
cars to be delivered to the New Haven Line, officials said.
new amenities, the cars will be able to travel on Shore Line East
Commuter Railroad tracks between New Haven and New London. They
will be compatible with Amtrak's Hell Gate route into Pennsylvania
Station in Manhattan and are expected to be used on the state's
proposed New Haven to Hartford rail line.
the full order is complete, the M-8s will increase the New Haven Line's
340-car fleet by more than 100 cars, railroad officials said.
selects contractor to build new
Jul 22, 10:24 PM EDT
Conn. (AP) -- The state has selected Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc., for a
$522 million contract to build 210 new rail cars, Gov. M. Jodi Rell
design, build, test and deliver the new fleet with an option to build
170 more for the state. The contract also includes options to buy spare
parts, special tools and test equipment to run and maintain the cars.
Rell called the
selection of a contractor important progress for commuters.
"We will work
to ensure that the manufacturing of these rail cars is completed in a
timely manner and in the shortest time frame possible," Rell said in a
selection was made by a special procurement committee that includes
members from the state Department of Transportation and Metro-North
Railroad. The selection needs final approval from both Connecticut and
New York. The governor said she will put the matter on the agenda for
the Aug. 11 Bond Commission meeting.
will be funded by the state of Connecticut and MTA/Metro-North Railroad
with 65 percent of the funds provided by Connecticut and 35 percent
provided by New York, based on ridership and track miles.
done business with the New York-based Kawasaki in the past. In March,
the state awarded a $12 million contract to the company to refurbish 33
passenger rail cars purchased from Virginia in 2004.
union will honor strike
LINSEY, Hour Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
REGION — If New York City transit
workers strike today, some
Metro-North Railroad employees will honor their picket lines, said
Chris Silvera, secretary-treasurer of the Teamster's Local 808.
The Teamsters represent Metro-North workers who lay and repair track.
Calls to leadership from other Metro-North
workers' unions were not
"If there are no picket lines, then
they will go to work," Silvera
said. "If there are picket lines, they will not cross those picket
All Metro-North employees are
expected to report for work today,
according to a Marjorie Anders, a railroad spokesman.
"Any strike by Metro-North workers
would be illegal at this time,"
Anders said. "And we don't expect Metro-North employees to do anything
illegal." Anders declined to discuss contingency plans if some
workers fail to show up today, and said Metro-North will address any
problems as they arise.
"We have a lot of track workers,"
Anders said. "If one doesn't show up,
maybe it doesn't make any other difference."
Metro-North is one of the country's
largest commuter railroads, with
more than 240,000 weekday riders; many traveling to New York City from
Connecticut and New York state suburbs. The Railway Labor Act
bans railroad employees from striking without first entering
arbitration or mediation. Anders said the act applies to sympathy
"They are legally bound to cross the
picket line," she said.
But Silvera said his workers would
not cross a picket line under any
circumstances. "If there is a picket line, we will honor the picket
lines as good union people," Silvera promised. "A scab is a scab and my
members ain't going to be scabs."
Negotiations for a new contract
continued between the Metropolitan
Transit Authority and the Transportation Workers Union Monday.
Leadership of TWU Local 100 threatened to strike if the two sides did
not reach a compromise by midnight.
Rail advocate Jim Cameron predicted
Metro-North workers in Connecticut
will show up for work today whether MTA employees strike. Metro-North
is diverting trains from New York state's Hudson and Harlem lines to
provide additional service in the Bronx.
"If there is any kind of sympathy
picket lines, I think they may be in
Westchester," Cameron said. "I think they may be targeting the shuttles
that are planned in the inner-city stops that would be used by people
affected by the loss of subway service."
a strike would not affect most
Metro-North employees, he said.
"Most of the Metro-North workers
don't report to work in Grand Central;
they report to New Haven, Stamford, where the yards are and the cars
are kept," Cameron explained. "Even if there are picket lines (in New
York City), that's not going to stop a Metro-North worker from driving
their train into Grand Central and pulling it back out again to New
growth key for MTA
By Mark Ginocchio
NEW YORK --
operators and experts met yesterday to discuss two of the most daunting
challenges facing mass transit in the metropolitan region -- service
expansion and security.
Published October 19 2005
With ridership at the highest it has been in more than 50 years, the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority urgently needs funds to protect
and expand services on all its subway and commuter rail systems, said
MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, who was the keynote speaker at yesterday's
Tri-State Transit Symposium at New York University.
"At 8 million customers a day, our trains are as crowded as they've
ever been," Kalikow said, referring to New York City subways,
Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad. "We need to solve this
problem because we carry the population of the world in 24 months. We
have become a victim of our own success."
The biggest financial victory for the MTA could come in the form of a
$2.9 billion bond act New York state residents will vote on next month,
Kalikow said to more than 100 transit operators, planners and advocates
at the symposium. It was organized by Rudin Center for Transportation
Policy & Management at NYU's Wagner Graduate School.
If passed, the MTA would receive $450 million for a new subway line
along Second Avenue and $450 million to provide Long Island Railroad
access to Grand Central Terminal and Metro-North access to Penn Station.
Freeing up track space at Penn Station would also enable the MTA to
operate a $100 million rail link to JFK International Airport.
Kalikow said the projects included are among the most important ones
the MTA will ever pursue.
The LIRR East Side Access project has been on the table since 1968 but
has never received the backing it needs to go forward, Kalikow said.
Because the LIRR has to share Penn Station with Amtrak and New Jersey
Transit, it can't run enough trains to meet its demand. Grand Central,
which is solely operated by Metro-North, is an "underutilized resource"
that could help connect the two commuter rails, he added.
"If you could take the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central, it
balances where people want to go," Kalikow said. "And by allowing
Metro-North to go to Penn Station, this is a case where one plus one
equals five. It's not just a deal for Long Island."
Because the tunnels are already constructed, "the most expensive part
of the project is finished," Kalikow said.
Even if the bond passes, concerns linger about adequately securing the
railroad and its customers from terrorist attacks.
"I think privacy is one of the greatest gifts we have," Kalikow said of
rail security. "We need to have a balance and not go too far. The
people who want us to go far, I call the 'Ready, fire, aim' people."
In a panel discussing transit security, speakers agreed the federal
government hasn't done enough to protect mass transit.
David Gaier, a security consultant and former special agent with the
U.S. Department of State, said security screeners should not target
obvious non-terrorists such as children.
"There needs to be more of a risk-based approach, because one size does
not fit all," Gaier said.
Eva Lam, president of Palisades Consulting Group, a transportation
research firm in New Jersey, said more needs to be done in schools,
offices and transit centers to educate passengers on evacuation
"We should have bystanders, ordinary citizens, participate in these
exercises and provide input," Lam said. "There should be a plethora of
exercise and drills so our children know what to do."
When an MTA official challenged Lam's comments, noting that the MTA
posts evacuation instructions in its rail cars and on its Web site,
Gaier said more could be done to educate people.
"Putting messages in a subway car or on a Web site won't work alone,
because people aren't going to be checking the Web site unless they
want schedules," Gaier said. "This is something that has to be taken to
the level of society."
Metro-North posts stronger
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
April 10, 2005
combination of better preparation
and a little luck helped the New Haven Line rebound from last year's
more snow this year, the
New Haven Line's on-time performance improved and its rail cars
farther before breaking down compared with last winter, Metro-North
and state Department of Transportation officials said.
December and February of
this year, 11.3 inches of snow accumulated in New York City compared
10.3 inches last year, according to Metro-North. During those months,
New Haven Line's on-time performance was 95.7 percent, 92.3 percent and
97.8 percent, respectively, compared with 95.8 percent, 88.1 percent
95.6 percent in the year-ago period.
on-time train must arrive at Grand
Central Terminal within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of its scheduled time.
New Haven Line's mean distance
between failure -- the amount of miles a rail car travels before it's
out of service for repairs -- also improved this year.
December and February this
year, trains traveled 53,742 miles, 28,012 miles and 47,357 miles,
compared with 36,540, 21,931 and 38,991 in the year-ago period.
one said the improvements mean
the end of the New Haven Line's problems. But officials said the
measures taken this year -- which included replacing antiquated rail
components and reducing service during harsh winter storms -- may help
keep the fleet running until new rail cars potentially arrive in three
was the first time we tried these
plans and the equipment was far more responsive because of it,"
spokesman Daniel Brucker said. "We learned that this is the right way
go and we have a plan that we can draw upon in the future."
year was one of the worst winters
in recent memory for New Haven Line commuters. Powdery snow and
temperatures wreaked havoc on rail cars, many of which are 30 years
10 years past their life expectancy.
railroad was unable to run a
regular schedule during that period because nearly one-third of the
was being repaired for frazzled electrical components caused by the
year's improvements begin with
the 66 rail cars that have been rehabilitated by the state's $150
Critical Systems Replacement plan. The program started 18 months ago
aims to upgrade all 241 M2 rail cars, DOT officials said.
rail cars that have gone through
an overhaul gave a much better performance," said James Boice, interim
bureau chief for DOT's Bureau of Public Transportation. "The program
than doubled their miles."
the New Haven Line fleet also
benefited from Metro-North's caution, Brucker said. During a weekend
storm in January, the railroad took advantage of the blizzard's timing.
Metro-North operated on a reduced schedule, running trains every two
and only exposed the newest cars in the fleet, and the rehabbed M2s, to
the weather. The other rail cars were kept inside the Park Avenue
in New York City.
were very selective about what
equipment went out," Brucker said.
the past we have been more generous
with service to a fault. I think by taking rail cars out of service
year, we saved them and were able to run more reliable service when the
work week started."
Cameron, vice chairman of the
Connecticut Commuter Rail Council applauded the state and Metro-North
their performance this winter, but also suggested their success was due
to "a lot of luck and also some planning."
the worst snow came on the
weekends, the older fleet went untested, Cameron said. Last year's snow
was more persistent during the week and was powdery and granular, which
is more likely to damaged the rail car's components, he added.
had a lucky winter," Cameron
said. "But (DOT and Metro-North) were able to keep service running.
did learn lessons last winter about the vulnerability of the
I can only wonder why they didn't do it in years past."
and Brucker acknowledged they
were fortunate most of the snow fell on weekends, but they still
the improvements they made were significant.
had high expectations going into
this year," Boice said. "And hopefully next year will be as good."
Article Last Updated: Sunday, November
28, 2004 - 6:31:44 AM EST
OVERWORKING ON THE RAILROAD
delays throwing N.H. rail line projects off track as fares rise
By ROB VARNON email@example.com
overruns and change orders plague
state Department of Transportation railroad projects, even as
commuters complain of deteriorating cars and fast-rising fares.
case in point is a 2001 project
to remodel the Milford train station, upgrade the catenary system that
powers trains and repair two bridges. Initially, DOT said the
would cost $38.5 million. But by the time the work is finished in 2006,
the price tag will be much closer to $70 million.
total cost includes 34 change
orders accounting for almost $10 million, $5.2 million worth of
remediation work of an unspecified nature, $5 million for a
manager, and $16 million to be paid to Metro-North Railroad staff for
oversight and other work on the project. The payments to Metro-North
a part of a larger contract to provide railroad services to the state,
according to DOT and U.S. Federal Transit Authority officials.
Griffo, a FTA spokesman, seemed
unfazed by the cost increase for the Milford project.
not too unusual," he said.
"It seems to be well within what's reasonable."
agency is footing about 80 percent
of the bill. Connecticut pays the remaining balance through a
of bonds and cash. Eventually, it comes from the taxpayers.
a little perspective, the state
cut a deal in the 1970s to purchase the 106 track miles of the New
Line, its three branches and all of the stations in Connecticut for
million. In today's money, adjusting for inflation, $16.5 million would
equal about $70 million, or the price of just the Milford project.
The project is typical of more than
78 projects the DOT has undertaken since 1999 in which original
costs ballooned, in large part because of change orders and Metro-North
payments for its union members to act as flaggers. These projects have
already cost the state more than $739 million.
there is a construction manager
for the project, DMJM + Harris, that company does not authorize change
orders. DOT staff authorizes all change orders. Harris' job on the
is to make sure work is done properly and track expenditures. Harris
not design the project.
of the change orders on the Milford
project includes adding the $1.7 million Devon Bridge repair to it
the construction project already had been awarded to O&G Industries
of Torrington, a long-time contributor to former Gov. John G. Rowland's
campaign. O&G also provided stone for a patio for Rowland's
Bantam Lake vacation home.
of DOT and Metro-North,
which runs the railroad for the state, said that it made sense to do
bridge work during the upgrade of the catenary wires.
than $100,000 was added to the
project to remove lead paint from the structures holding up the
wires. The DOT apparently did not know that the 100-year-old structures
were covered with lead-based paint until construction workers tested
records show the department
previously paid for a study to detect asbestos and lead before the
started in 2001.
$100,000 was added when DOT
officials rented office space in downtown Milford after they discovered
that the trailer previously authorized as a field office for workers
engineers couldn't be used because there was nowhere to put it downtown.
change order in Milford increased
costs by more than $500,000. It was to adjust the distance wires were
and the specifications for a retaining wall. The order also included
because the original plans did not account for obstructions on the
towers that prevented the installation of a vital part.
before bidding for the contract,
an anonymous bidder apparently noted the problem. At the time, the DOT
officials said they did not anticipate additional costs for the
Bard, the deputy commissioner
of operations for the DOT and a 30-year veteran of the engineering
said many of the changes on the Milford project were necessary. He
however, that the original designs should have included much of the
department is revamping its engineering
division to try to draw up more accurate plans before sending projects
out to bid, Bard said.
Bard and the department work
to reduce the number of change orders, there may not be much the
can do about another large cost driver its agreement with Metro-North.
the Milford project, the DOT originally
planned to pay $12.5 million to Metro-North as part of a "force
agreement. The price for this has gone up by almost $4 million in three
put, a force account covers
wages for Metro-North workers who are involved with the project. The
of the work is flagging, which is done by conductors of the railroad.
have to baby-sit us and that's
quite expensive," Bard said.
he said, Metro-North workers
also are needed to turn on and off the power running through the
wires and do some maintenance work.
Anders, a spokeswoman for
Metro-North, said it's more than just baby sitting because construction
crews are working around live tracks and must be kept out of the way of
said that her agency has a
of standing force account agreements with the DOT for not just
but also for maintenance work including the repair of railcars.
expects to collect about
$40 million from force accounts in 2004, according to Anders. The fees
are paid to the railroad, which then pays Metro-North workers.
said the DOT is reviewing its
contract with Metro-North but he does not know if any of these costs
be reduced in the future.
expenses leave the state in
a financial quandary as it tries to buy new rail cars, according to
Ryan, the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.
said the state is looking at
several funding options for the car purchase, but he admitted that the
DOT has racked up a lot of debt over the years that will make it
to buy them. The majority of the state-owned fleet of railcars is 30
old and falling apart.
the winter, the 40,000 commuters
who ride the New Haven line deal with unheated cars and breakdowns and
in the summer there's no air conditioning in many of the cars. But the
DOT and Metro-North's parent organization, the Metropolitan
Authority, keep asking for more money from passengers.
two recent hearings on fare
increases, commuters bitterly complained that the MTA and DOT could not
prove that they actually need the money. One Monroe resident, Gabriella
DiBlasi, asked point blank where the two agencies were spending the
The agencies failed to present financial statements at the hearing.
Connecticut commuters are upset
that fares went up 15 percent in 2003 and are going up another 5.5
DOT is considering a $1 billion,
350-car purchase to rectify the situation.
said the state could easily
bond for the purchase, but the state would have trouble paying the debt
service on those bonds. The state essentially sells bonds to pay for
with the promise of paying investors back with interest over a period
years. But the state must have a source of revenue to make the yearly
and that's where the problem lies, according to Ryan.
1988, the state has issued
more than $5.8 billion in transportation bonds. Ryan said the state
about $200 million worth of work for both highway and rail projects per
it's not all bad news. Griffo
said that the FTA would cover roughly 80 percent of the cost for new
FTA funds are apportioned
by population, not project, he said, so Connecticut's share each year
a fixed amount.
Godcher, a financial officer
with the DOT, said the department delays certain FTA-eligible projects
when it needs to pay for cost overruns on other projects.
Gott, a planner and executive
director of the South Central Regional Council of Governments, put it
said FTA money has been programmed
as far out as 20 years for projects all over the state, including
the state must rectify
the way it has spent money over the last 20 years for commuters to see
new rail cars anytime in the future.
Anxiety At New Heights On
September 22, 2003
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated
-- Most of the trains were
bought when President Nixon was engulfed in the Watergate scandal. They
run hundreds of miles per day at speeds of up to nearly 100 mph.
trains break down a lot. Occasionally
they catch fire. The bathrooms are notoriously smelly, and sometimes
air conditioning fails.
New Haven line of Metro-North
Railroad is the nation's busiest, bringing 110,000 commuters to their
in New York and Connecticut every day. The rail service, which is
steady increases in ridership, is considered a vital alternative to
the 380-car New Haven line fleet
includes 241 cars purchased between 1972 and 1975. Officials are trying
to squeeze another decade of life from the trains by replacing critical
parts. The $149 million program began earlier this year and is expected
to take several years.
have a fleet that is old, breaking
down, and it is under substantial pressure from increased demands,"
Harry Harris, chief of public transportation for the Connecticut
state is conducting a study -
to be completed in the spring - with the aim of eventually buying a new
fleet and maintenance facility with a combined cost of more than $1
are trying to figure out
what type of cars to buy; one option under study involves double-decker
trains. They don't know yet how the new fleet will be funded.
advocates and train officials
are increasingly anxious about the existing cars.
time to put them out to pasture,"
said Jim Cameron, vice chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North Rail
Council, a watchdog group. "The cars are so old and in such a state of
disrepair that on any given day 15 percent of the fleet is in the shop
means trains often show up short
of cars, causing more crowding as a growing number of commuters must
Cameron said. The repair program is moving too slowly to keep up with
problems, he said.
sending contradictory messages,"
Cameron said, noting that officials have been encouraging mass transit
but not investing enough money.
Houser said she frequently
stands during her commute from Fairfield to her job in Stamford. She
she doesn't mind the age of the trains as long as they are on time -
no one opens the bathroom door."
then a fellow passenger opened
the dreaded door.
it," she said.
Sayles, who takes the train
from Milford to his job in Westport, also brought up the bathrooms. He
said it's time for new trains. "You can fix it so many times. Then
it becomes obsolete," Sayles said.
state Transportation Strategy
Board, which was formed in response to the congestion crisis, has
to lawmakers that new rail cars be purchased as quickly as possible.
cars are among several projects the board must prioritize to determine
how to spend transportation funds set aside by the legislature.
spokesman Dan Brucker
agreed the New Haven fleet needs to be replaced. "We are running out of
time," Brucker said. "The average age of the New Haven fleet is the
on our system. More and more customers are using older equipment, which
is requiring more and more time out for major repairs."
said Connecticut officials
won't pay attention until someone gets injured in one of the electrical
fires. He predicted some commuters will eventually get fed up and move
out of state if the fleet is not replaced.
one in Hartford has taken this
issue seriously," Cameron said. "I know we had budget problems. But
also losing the people as taxpayers if they're forced to stand and pay
$300 per month for the privilege."
pointed to the program to
replace critical parts and said officials are spending about $300
to replace overhead wires on the tracks.
proved need for train service
Published on 10/25/2001
following editorial appeared in the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle on Oct.
complete shutdown of air travel after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
underscored the importance of passenger rail service as part of a
diversified U.S. transportation
system. But in its 30 years of heavily subsidized existence, Amtrak
never has quite
picked up steam. It's still losing money, especially on the
long-distance overnight lines so beloved
by train romantics.
both Amtrak and Congress realize, it's time for some new ideas.
new business plan focuses on developing relatively short, high-speed
intercity routes that provide a real alternative to airlines and
crowded highways. An example
is Amtrak's high-speed Acela line between Boston and Washington, which
is capable of speeds of
150 mph but doesn't come close to that because of outmoded tunnels and
provide the funds to make such improvements? The Senate is considering
High-Speed Rail Investment Act of 2001, which would provide $12 billion
over the next
10 years in capital funding for new rail lines such as the Acela in
every region of the country.
This would be a good investment in the next generation of rail network.
For the long
term, Congress should consider creation of a national Rail
Trust Fund, much like those for airports and highways, that would
provide capital for improvements
and upkeep in rail service and infrastructure. Such a trust, generated
in part by user fees, would provide
grants, loans and bonding authority to competitively selected regional
rail projects, injecting a
dose of free-market competitiveness into the system
is for more short-distance metropolitan commuter lines linking
suburban and business areas. Putting more emphasis on developing these
new regional and commuter lines
would provide economic stimulus and be a practical, cost-effective
response to real transportation
government still has an interest in long-distance passenger
rail lines, even if they are not commercially viable. But Amtrak must
become more creative in generating
revenues to subsidize these money losers. Amtrak has been doing better
lately: Last year, revenue from passenger
trains grew by 10 percent, and revenue from other ventures such as
merchandise and real estate grew
by 15 percent.
balance sheet is still in the red.
The federal government will need to continue funding Amtrak, even if it
fails to make the congressionally mandated 2003 date for becoming
self-sufficient. It's simply
in our national interest to preserve and enhance rail service.
MAIN STREET AT 90 DEGREES TO
No mention of Hudson, N.Y., whose architectural and historic features
are awesome; classic river town!
Hitchhiking the Hudson
By COREY KILGANNON
August 30, 2009
I NEVER thought much about the Hudson River. It was merely that watery
western terminus of Manhattan streets; a place where bodies sometimes
floated up and jetliners crashed safely; that thing you had to cross to
get to New Jersey.
But one recent Saturday, something happened to make me rethink the
river: I tasted it.
A rogue ferry wake slapped off the side of my kayak, sending salty
splash in my face. There was no gagging nor immediate sign of
hepatitis, so I kept paddling, marveling at the swimmers and Jet Skiers
frolicking on the clean, choppy water.
The incoming tide rushed me north. That and my briny mouthful reminded
me that I was not on some afterthought of a river, but a majestic arm
of the Atlantic Ocean, an epic salt-water estuary whose discovery by
Henry Hudson in 1609 opened up the entire region — what we now call the
metropolitan area — to settlement and commerce.
To mark this year’s 400th anniversary of Hudson’s historic exploration,
the fall calendar is filled with a flotilla of festivals and food
fairs, exhibitions and expositions, panel discussions and plays, tours,
readings and concerts. I probably won’t make it to any of them.
Instead, I decided to retrace his route, starting in a borrowed kayak
and then hitching rides along the way, endeavoring a modern-day
exploration of the characters who live, work and play along the river
where Hudson encountered only wind, fog, rain and the occasional Indian
trader bearing tobacco. He sailed 340 miles round trip aboard the
100-foot Half Moon over 24 days in September and October; mine was a
serendipitous 60-hour journey — from Times Square to the Federal Dam in
Troy — in a taxi, the kayak, a 50-foot yacht named the Jackpot, a
fishing boat, a jet boat, a rescue craft, a Half Moon replica and a
19-year-old Lincoln Town Car.
After a quick cab ride from the office, 15-foot plastic kayak lashed to
the roof, I launched near West 26th Street, with notebook, camera,
cellphone and wallet in a waterproof bag. I had no set plans, just few
phone numbers of friendly and knowledgeable boaters along the route.
With current whisking me uptown, I barely had to paddle. I stopped to
chat with novice kayakers in classes nestled between the piers, then
breezed past the Javits Center and the Police Department’s auto pound.
I had to negotiate the rolling wakes from the tour boats and ferries
near 42nd Street — including the one that splashed some sense into me.
As I approached the aircraft carrier Intrepid near 46th Street, my
perspective began to shift. The city receded into a supporting role, a
backdrop, even the seagulls perched on the pilings seeming to take
precedence over the human hubbub.
Instead of the varied plant and animal species that Hudson saw in the
wilds the Indians called Mannahatta, the river banks were dotted with
that peculiar species called the New Yorker.
Near the 79th Street Boat Basin, I encountered some natives: the Heath
family of the Upper West Side spends summer weekends frolicking in
their neighborhood swimming hole, jumping off a boat into the wakes
from larger passing vessels.
Paddling along beside the rocky sea wall, I kept pace with the joggers
on the bike path until I spied a hot dog vendor. “One, with
everything,” I yelled, then fumbled for money stowed deep in the kayak
hatch. The vendor, Alex Calota, tossed the familiar foil package and
It reminded me of the journal kept by one of Hudson’s officers, Robert
Jouet, which amid the detailed reports of each day’s weather and
navigation chronicles various “savages” bringing food and gifts aboard.
(on Oct. 1, two were killed after a pillow and other goods were
stolen). I told Mr. Calota of my unlikely voyage to Albany.
“Go straight,” he advised. “Keep going.”
It was nearing 4 p.m., my aching arm pulled my ringing cellphone from
the waterproof bag. It was William Reynolds, captain of a 1989 replica
of Hudson’s Half Moon, which functions as a floating museum. He had
told me we could meet up as he returned the boat to its home in Athens,
N.Y., from a monthlong journey up the Connecticut River. “Look
downriver,” he said. “Do you see me?”
It was a spooky sight seemingly ripped from my childhood history books
and PhotoShopped into today’s newspaper: an 85-foot-tall three-masted
ship, surreally set in the hazy distance among the barges and other
modern-day river traffic. I tried to imagine what 17th-century Native
Americans must have felt seeing this huge canoe suddenly appear in
I paddled alongside the ship, roughly 100 feet long, and scrambled up
her steep wooden sides. The crew lashed my puny kayak to the main deck,
then scurried back to adjusting the intricate rigging and trimming
sails. Captain Reynolds, who is known as Chip, barked orders about
setting the rudder and trimming the topsails and mizzen.
High overhead, topmen scrambled to furl and unfurl sails and tend to
yards and booms and spars and various clews. Below, the crew was busily
hoisting, loosening, cleating and coiling lines. It was a little more
complex than the stints I had done as a child on a neighbor’s catamaran.
The Half Moon has sleeping quarters and strutting space for the captain
on the lofty quarterdeck, near the stern. Then there is the expansive
main deck, or weather deck, where the ship is operated by its
six-member crew — including Mr. Reynolds’s two teenage children. Below
that is the orlop deck, where the crew sleeps on bedrolls. The hold, or
bottom deck, houses the galley and engine rooms.
The ship is fitted with a diesel engine, generator, toilet, modern
galley and modern navigational equipment but generally travels Henry
Hudson’s way, under sail alone and guided by the heavens.
It is a three-masted time machine: Even as we sailed under the George
Washington Bridge, its long spans humming with traffic high above the
top of the rigging, it was easy to imagine the pristine habitat that
The ship slipped smoothly and silently past the northern tip of
Manhattan, where Hudson anchored on Sept. 12, 1609 (and, Jouet wrote in
the journal, where they encountered a flotilla of 28 canoes filled with
men, women and children, but “saw the intent of their treachery and
would not allow any of them to come aboard”).
Captain Reynolds invited me up to the quarterdeck, reserved for him and
the officers; traditionally, officers have delivered orders from the
elevated position of a ship’s quarterdeck. That let them maintain a
level of authority, he explained, adding with a chuckle that it still
The captain, who is 57 and has spent years piloting historic sailing
ships and tugboats, gave me a quickie primer: Hudson was an Englishman
sailing for the Dutch East India Company with a crew of 20, seeking a
shortcut to spice ports of Asia. After first trying the Chesapeake and
Delaware Bays, they turned north, to the huge river whose mouth
Giovanni da Verrazano described in 1524. The Indians called the river
Muhheakunnuk, or “great waters constantly in motion,” and Hudson would
later call it the River of the Mountains.
Moving upriver, Hudson and his crew grew excited because the tide
remained strong and the river deep, and there were high bluffs and
“The sheer volume of water, this is what was telling them it connected
to a major waterway,” Captain Reynolds explained. “Imagine the
excitement as they saw these mountains and experienced this current.”
As he spoke, the captain kept a weather eye on the helm and looked out
over the undulating hills of Yonkers, where Hudson’s crew traded for
oysters with Indians. Next came Hastings-on-Hudson and Dobbs Ferry, and
when the sinking sun was setting the sails aglow, he suddenly stopped
the vessel, ordered the crew below decks and out of sight, and sent a
motorized raft out with cameras.
“He’s been searching and searching for the perfect publicity shot,”
snapped a crew member, characterizing it as an Ahab-like obsession.
There were lighthearted mentions of the fact that Hudson’s crew
eventually mutinied on a later voyage and left him to die.
Photo session over, we sailed under the Tappan Zee Bridge, where the
river widens abruptly, which thrilled Hudson as he arrived there on
Sept. 14, 1609. Near Hook Mountain, a tall stone outcropping on the
west bank a mile north of Nyack, the bosun dropped a line with a lead
sinker to the bottom, to determine the depth just as Hudson’s crew did
(two fathoms, or about 12 feet, akin to what Jouet recorded). Captain
Reynolds announced that we would stop there for the night, and that the
crew would not have to wake at 5 a.m. but could “sleep in” till 7:30.
From a light sleeping bag on the foredeck, I stared up at the stars
through the rigging. To the south, the Tappan Zee Bridge was a black
shadow in the distance; upriver to the east were the bright lights of
Sing Sing prison.
I awoke with the sun on Sunday morning, and the weather was, as a
typical Jouet journal entry would put it, “faire and very hot.” The
cook brought up scrambled eggs, fruit salad and cereal, and the captain
ordered the decks swabbed. With the wind light and the current headed
south, the Half Moon would remain anchored for a while. But I had to
I called John Vargo, who edits and publishes a monthly magazine called
Boating on the Hudson & Beyond . He sent his 43-year-old son,
Chris, to fetch me — and my kayak — in his 20-foot fishing boat.
Chris Vargo, a carpenter and construction worker, grew up swimming,
hunting and fishing in and around the Hudson. “The blue crabs come in
August — they’re big,” he said as we passed two men in a weathered dory
pulling up traps. “Supposedly they get shipped down to Maryland —
Hudson River crabs!”
Jouet’s journal notes that in this area, “the river is full of fish.”
Chris Vargo said that it still is, but that many species have been
depleted, including the huge sturgeon that old-timers used to catch to
sell their eggs as caviar.
We met his father in Verplanck, about 10 miles — a half-hour in the
boat — from where I had left the Half Moon. John H. Vargo, 73, took one
look at the kayak and ordered me to leave it in his yard (where it
stayed until days after my trip, until I drove up from New York to
retrieve it). Then we headed north along Route 218 in his powder-blue
1990 Lincoln Town Car — “It used to belong to Senator Rockefeller,” he
announced — and stopped at an overlook near Storm King Mountain, where
we shared the panoramic view with a motorcycle group decked out in
The elder Mr. Vargo, a former salesman, also grew up hunting and
fishing on the Hudson, or waterskiing behind seaplanes. Since he bought
the magazine in 2000, he spends most of his days hopping around Hudson
marinas, courting businesses and catching up on river stories.
“It’s the name of the game, whether you’re selling ads or writing
news,” he said. “You have to schmooze them.”
Mr. Vargo consulted the spiral notebook filled with his scrawl of names
and numbers, and finally reached his friend Lex Filipowski, a
motivational speaker who spends summers knocking around in a sporty
white jet-boat. We met him in Newburgh , and soon we were, improbably,
headed south, the electronically fuel-injected, supercharged,
intercooled 500-horsepower engine roaring away.
Mr. Filipowski wore a bright yellow dress shirt and wraparound
sunglasses, his head shaved clean. He advises clients to “fulfill your
dreams,” and his nameless boat is a testimony to this philosophy.
“When I was a kid I had a dinghy and I always wanted a real boat,” he
said, bounding over the waves with a broad smile. “You have to believe
it can happen.”
The river in this section is broad, rough and deep like a big lake,
sheltered by green mountains and filled by tugboats, tankers, Jet
Skiers and recreational boaters towing large inner tubes. It bears no
resemblance to the Hudson I knew down around New York City.
Up ahead, on an island off Beacon, stood a crumbling castle bearing the
words “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal,” a five-story brick shell that
served as a munitions warehouse from 1908 until a fire gutted it in the
1960s. The island steward, Dave Lawrence, explained that Francis
Bannerman, an eccentric arms dealer, designed it with his own quirky
drawings. The warehouse has real cannons positioned up high, for
“If you have a bunch of Civil War cannons, would you leave them in your
basement?” Mr. Lawrence said.
The next stop was Little Stony Point Beach, on the east bank, where
dozens lounged on the sandy shoreline, shading themselves under
low-hanging trees. Three men were parked on a log, a bunch of empty
beer cans next to them. It was about 2 p.m.
“You couldn’t go in the water 20 years ago; there was raw sewage all
over the place,” said one of the men.
“That’s probably 40 years ago,” corrected the second.
“Eh, give or take,” agreed the first.
The third man laughed: “Time marches on.”
We marched on, too, for a Coors Light with the commodore of the Cold
Spring Boat Club, and then, back in Newburgh, to a wine-tasting at a
waterside restaurant, where my scruffiness from more than 24 hours on
the river did not keep me from sampling the cabernet and shiraz.
Next, a spin on the local Sea Tow boat, which monitors radio rescue
channels and helps disabled boaters for a fee. These can be
life-threatening emergencies or cases of poor planning. Soon, we were
toting a tank of gas to a craft stranded off the United States Military
Academy at West Point.
Near Lover’s Rock, where West Point cadets take their dates, we found
the stranded boat, operated by two retired New York City correction
officers who had miscalculated their fuel. The Sea Tow captain poured
in the gas, negotiated the price and soon the men were on their way.
Back at the dock, it was nightfall. Mr. Vargo saw me clutching my bag
and staring north. He grabbed my shoulder and insisted I backtrack, in
his car, and sleep on his couch.
“Believe me,” he said, “you need a shower.”
Monday started at 7 a.m. with a 35-mile drive beside the river north to
Poughkeepsie, where we met Dave Rocco, a retired carpenter for the New
York City Housing Authority who has devoted the past few years to the
renovation of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, a rusted 6,700-foot
span that opened in 1889 and closed in 1974 and connected his hometown
to Highland. Mr. Rocco’s aging van bears large signs saying “Walkway
Over the Hudson,” and a vanity license plate reading “Walkway.”
After years of fund-raising and letter-writing by the likes of Mr.
Rocco, the bridge is expected to reopen in early October as a
pedestrian walkway, and eventually to be designated state parkland.
I was eager to get back on the water, but there were things to see on
shore. The tugboat museum in Kingston was locked up, so we trudged on,
still in the Town Car, to Riverview Marine Services in Catskill, a
repair shop that does a brisk business lowering or dismantling masts of
sailboats so they can clear the low bridges.
Riverview’s owner, Mike Aguiar, offered us a personal watercraft to go
upriver, but Mr. Vargo eyed it warily. I knew he was visualizing me
jumping ferry waves and other inadvisable things. As an alternative, he
called up Dolores Bouse, who runs Catskill Marina nearby and said she
had a boat with a willing captain.
Mrs. Bouse did not elaborate. Neither did she disappoint. We arrived to
find we had hit the jackpot — a 50-foot yacht named the Jackpot, owned
and operated by Steve Martin, a retired corporate executive who was
happy to blow the cobwebs out of his two 550-horsepower diesels that
together burn 48 gallons of fuel an hour at full speed.
Mr. Martin, 59, stood at a control panel with dozens of switches and
dials, and a navigational screen next to an open laptop giving maps and
coordinates. Growing up in Dobbs Ferry, he worked on his family’s
fishing boats off City Island; after 20 years in information
technologies at JPMorgan Chase, he got his captain’s license.
Now he manages his own investments, spending winters at his home on
Worth Island, Fla., and summers on the Jackpot. The boat has a lavish
living room with plush carpeting and sofas around a glass-topped coffee
table. It also has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a dining room, a
carpeted circular staircase and a galley with full refrigerator, range
and microwave. Standing on the top deck felt like being on the roof of
a moving building.
The expansive view revealed a narrowing, less-developed Hudson, with
lots of pristine shoreline and grassy wetlands. We passed the
occasional short, sandy beach with canoes or kayaks pulled up and
At the Shady Harbor Marina in New Baltimore, we met Paul Bleckman and
Lisa McKern, who run Rascal’s Riverdogs, a floating hot dog stand named
for their dog. On weekends, they feed hungry boaters at the mouth of
Catskill Creek, and on Thursday evenings, they set up at concerts on
the banks of the river in Albany.
“There’s not too much competition out in the middle of the river,” Mr.
Bleckman said. “Boaters can pull right up and finish lunch in 5 or 10
I asked the hot dog guy about a young man I had seen as we approached
the marina, who I knew was building a bizarre-looking raft that he
planned to take down to New York City. “That guy’s certifiable,” Mr.
Bleckman insisted. “That thing’s going to go in the drink.”
But I was intrigued. Turns out the young man, Dallas Trombley, works as
a legislative analyst for the State Assembly. He described his raft —
named Assiduity — as “a 24-foot, biodiesel, solar-, wind- and
electric-powered watercraft.” Assisted by a navigator and a cook (his
friends), Mr. Trombley, 25, plans to go from Albany to Brooklyn next
month, “have a beer and turn around and sail back.”
Mr. Trombley, who grew up in New Baltimore but never had much
experience on the river, said the idea to build a “green” motor craft
to sail to New York began as a lark while drinking with friends in
college. Each of the past four summers, he has tried and failed — once
by sinking, twice by weather and once by vandals who stole and burned
The quest, he said, has cost him friends, girlfriends, some sanity,
thousands of dollars, and all his free time. It had become an
obsession, what he described as an intellectual and philosophical
“crusade against quitting.”
The vessel looked crafted on the fly by an amateur carpenter with an
assortment of light hardware, but Mr. Trombley said building it
provides relief from weekdays spent poring over tedious legislation
that reads like “a mixture of Milton and V.C.R. instructions.”
As for the similarities between state law and boat building, he
laughed: “They both never turn out the way you think.”
Indeed, we could not get the Assiduity started, so Mr. Trombley offered
a ride in his ratty 1999 Plymouth Neon, which did not look much more
As we sped up Route 144, I stared at the scenery whizzing by and
thought of all the places I’ve never been and never will explore. I
liked Mr. Trombley and told him I could identify with the
disappointment he felt from being headstrong and stubborn and
occasionally optimistic — in short, his inner Henry Hudson.
We drove into Port of Albany, through a neighborhood with shuttered
storefronts and boarded-up apartment buildings, to Scarano Boat
Building, where Rick Scarano showed us around. His 90,000-square-foot
hangar-like shop was filled with grand, custom, classic sailboats and
ferries manufactured with sophisticated bonding and bending procedures.
Mr. Trombley remained proud of his nails-and-plywood contraption.
I could not quit until I saw the Federal Dam at Troy, the end of the
Hudson River estuary some 150 miles from where I had started. Mr.
Trombley insisted on joining me. At a dead end littered with scrap and
debris from a nearby junkyard, I dashed out of the car and scrambled
down a woodsy embankment to the river’s edge to stare at the broad dam
in the near darkness.
This was where Henry Hudson stopped, after crew members he sent to test
the depth “found it to bee at an end for shipping to goe in,” according
to Jouet’s journal.
On the embankment facing the dam, there was a crude shack. My heart
swelled — a great interview possibility — but alas, it was empty. It
was silly, but I felt Hudson’s disappointment keenly.
I got back in the car with Mr. Trombley and recalled that Hudson was
then brought a platter of venison by local Indians, and ate with them:
a failure feast.
Mr. Trombley and I retired to a bar on a river barge several miles back
for a couple of beers. Then he drove me to a Greyhound station nearby
and I caught the 10:30 p.m. bus back home to that town at the mouth of
the Hudson River.
Greenwich man saved before NY bridge
Updated 10:13 p.m., Thursday, October 27, 2011
A distraught 22-year-old Greenwich man was pulled from the edge of the
Tappan Zee Bridge in a dramatic rescue Wednesday evening that involved
police stunning him with a Taser, authorities said.
The man, who stabbed himself before he was subdued, was taken to the
Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., for treatment of what
police called superficial knife wounds. Police did not name the
Sgt. Michael Schell, of New York State Police Troop T, based in
Tarrytown, N.Y., said no charges will be filed in the incident.
The situation began unfolding about 5:45 p.m., when an off-duty Yonkers
police officer noticed a 2010 BMW pulled over to the side of the bridge
and a man climbing over the bridge's railing, according to the Gannett
news website lohud.com.
The officer talked to the 22-year-old man, trying to convince him not
to jump, before returning to his vehicle to radio Yonkers police
headquarters, requesting notification of state police. He then went
back to the railing, where the man was sitting with his feet dangling
over the edge, according to the online report. The officer and another
motorist continued to talk with the man as state troopers approached.
A little after 6 p.m., the man began to cut his wrists and neck with a
pocket knife, according to lohud.com. It was at that moment that the
state troopers stunned him with a Taser, reports said.
Two New York State Thruway employees, Joe Curley and Chris Meketa, who
were on the bridge to conduct regular maintenance, used the moment
after police hit the man with a Taser to grab him and pull him to
safety, Thruway spokesman R.W. Groneman said.
Schell said the BMW was not registered to the man, and did not know who
owns the car.
The Tappan Zee Bridge spans the Hudson River, connecting Nyack in
Rockland County with Tarrytown in Westchester County.
to Replace, Not Rebuild, Tappan
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published: September 26, 2008
State officials announced an ambitious plan on Friday to replace the
Tappan Zee Bridge with a new bridge with room for commuter trains and
high-speed bus lanes. The price tag for a new bridge and expanded rail
and bus lines: $16 billion.
Officials did not say how they would pay for the project; they said
they would work with a financial adviser to come up with financing
options. The state transportation commissioner, Astrid C. Glynn, said
that the state would seek federal financing for part of the project and
that a partnership involving some form of private financing would also
“This is obviously a very significant investment for the state,” Ms.
Glynn said in a telephone interview after a formal announcement in
Tarrytown. “At this point, all options have to be on the table.”
Officials said the bridge itself would cost $6.4 billion. A high-speed
bus corridor running from Suffern to Port Chester would cost $2.9
billion. And it would cost an additional $6.7 billion to build a new
rail line that would go from the Metro-North station in Suffern and
across the bridge, connecting with Metro-North’s Hudson Line south of
Gov. David A. Paterson did not attend the Tarrytown announcement, but a
news release from the State Department of Transportation quoted him as
saying that he was pleased that a decision had been made on how to
proceed with the project.
The plan will now go through a two-year environmental review process as
officials consider alternative designs for the bridge and the bus and
Ms. Glynn said that if the state could stick to what she described as
an aggressive schedule, construction could begin as early as 2012 and
the bridge could open four or five years after that. She said plans
call for the bus corridor to be opened at the same time. The rail
component could take much longer, but the bridge would be built with
room for trains to cross.
The new bridge would be built adjacent to the old one, which would
remain open until the new one was completed.
Officials also looked at the possibility of rehabilitating the current
bridge, which was built 52 years ago, but Ms. Glynn said that was a
costly and complex project.
“The old bridge, although it is safe, is substandard,” Ms. Glynn said.
She said that it did not meet today’s engineering standards, was in
need of repairs and was costly to maintain. She also said that the
population in the surrounding counties had grown substantially since it
was built and that the transit component was necessary to accommodate
Discussion of the costly project came against the background of
economic turmoil on Wall Street and looming state budget deficits.
“While it is difficult in today’s climate to look at that project, it’s
an important part of how we are going to make sure we are well equipped
to deal with the next century,” Ms. Glynn said.
The project has gone through a lengthy planning process involving state
transportation officials, the State Thruway Authority and the
Towns: A Bridge’s Grim Allure for Damaged Souls
By PETER APPLEBOME
Published: April 6, 2008
SOUTH NYACK, N.Y.
The first one, Alan J. Mergel, was a 55-year-old personal injury
lawyer with a home in Montvale, N.J., and an office in the Empire State
He pulled his 2007 BMW into the right lane, which was closed for
maintenance, on the southbound Tappan Zee Bridge on Thursday afternoon,
stopped briefly and then drove away after workers came by to offer
help. He drove across the bridge into Westchester, paid his toll,
turned back to Rockland and then circled back toward Westchester. Then
he stopped the car again and on a chilly April afternoon did what about
30 other people have done over the past decade. He got out of the car,
left his keys in the ignition and jumped to his death in the Hudson
The second one has not been identified pending notification of his
family. The police say he was an Indian immigrant from Ossining who was
driving a rented 2008 Hyundai with Virginia plates. He stopped, too,
heading north. About 2:30 p.m., or a little more than 10 minutes after
Mr. Mergel’s body was pulled from the river, he jumped, too. The police
have not yet located any relatives and believe that he might have been
homeless. His body was recovered by the same firefighters from Piermont
whose boat had recovered Mr. Mergel.
No one can remember two suicides in such proximity on the Tappan Zee,
and the police believe they were unrelated — two discordant planets
aligned for no known reason. But then, who can quite explain the grim
appeal of the Tappan Zee for those looking for a swift, irrevocable way
to end it all?
The span, now officially known as the Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge,
opened in December 1955. Its first suicide took place a year and a half
later — a 31-year-old mother from Ardsley who had told her husband she
was going shopping. The most recent before Thursday’s is thought to be
Jonathan Draughn, 23, of Newburgh, who apparently abandoned his 1997
Honda Civic on the Rockland-bound side at 5 a.m. on Saturday, March 22.
His body has not been found.
They all have a story. Mr. Mergel, who had a particular fondness for
the pro-plaintiff juries of the Bronx, might have a more complicated
one than most. He found his way into the tabloids in 2003 when he was
said to be having an affair with a Russian émigré,
Svetlana Aronov, who vanished while taking her father’s cocker spaniel
for a walk. Her body was later found in the East River, but how she
died remains unclear. Mr. Mergel was not viewed as a suspect by the
Some leave messages, like the woman from White Plains in 1959 who left
instructions on the disposal of her body, her wedding ring and her
crucifix. Most, like Fidel Zapata, 50, of White Plains, just leave
behind riddles to be agonized over privately or in the courts. Mr.
Zapata’s widow, Frances Cabanillas, sued his doctors and several
pharmaceutical companies, saying the antidepressants he was taking
caused him to jump in February 2005.
Suicide has become so much a part of the Tappan Zee that one
supervisor, Ernie Feeney, has encountered three would-be suicides. Two
he was able to keep from jumping. One he couldn’t.
The Tappan Zee’s grim allure is not hard to understand. Built on the
cheap, its three-mile span is the least imposing of the region’s major
bridges, its low guardrails notoriously accessible to anyone with an
inclination to climb over them.
And maybe there’s a bond between the decaying bridge and the damaged
souls who leap from it. The Tappan Zee remains in a state of endless
patching and filling while politicians dither over how and when to
replace it. Just a week ago, morning traffic was backed up for miles as
workers repaired one of its infamous “punch-throughs,” holes in the
bridge so egregious you can see the water below.
Chances are, like the bridge, those who jump have their own gaping
tears — punch-throughs involving love, money, careers — psychic holes
too big to fix.
So far nothing has helped make it less alluring to would-be suicides.
Four suicide hot line telephones were installed last year, on both ends
of the bridge. None have been used. Still, a $147 million redecking
project to be completed by 2009 will increase the height of the side
barriers and make it much harder to jump from the bridge.
Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe, who retired two years ago after 35 years as
Rockland County medical examiner, said he did examinations of at least
30 suicides from the bridge. There is nothing remotely romantic about
that final leap, he said. “When you hit the surface of the water from
that height, it’s like hitting rock,” he said.
But whether higher barriers will deter suicides or just send troubled
people elsewhere, whether there’s a patch for souls as reliable as the
one for roadbeds, that’s another question entirely.
East side, west side, all
around the town...
The M.T.A. and Its Debt, and
Got That Way
By RAY RIVERA
Published: July 26, 2008
When Richard Ravitch was named chairman of the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority in 1979, he inherited a subway system in
decay. Trains derailed or collided on average every 15 days. Stations
were filthy and crime was rampant. Ridership sank to lows not seen
since World War I.
To revive the system, Mr. Ravitch, a former construction executive,
persuaded lawmakers to allow the authority to do what countless cities
and states had long done to build and maintain their infrastructure:
“The system was falling apart, and the only way I could get the money
to rebuild it was to borrow it,” Mr. Ravitch said in a recent
Nearly 30 years later, the system is by all accounts better. But the
authority’s debt has ballooned, and like stressed homeowners across the
country, the system is groaning under the pressure to repay it. Indeed,
debt payments are the system’s largest single cost after payroll, and
by 2012 they will account for one of every five dollars the authority
Until recently, the authority was flush with tax revenue from the
booming real estate market and had no trouble paying for its borrowing.
But the market is down now, fuel costs are way up, and the debt is
crushing. More than any other reason, that is why the authority, after
raising fares in March, wants to do it again twice more in the coming
The problems facing the agency now are no surprise. Independent
analysts and the agency’s own financial planners have warned of rising
debt costs for years — most loudly and urgently after a huge debt
restructuring in 2000.
Called at the time the largest deal in the history of American
municipal finance, the refinancing — taking advantage of lower interest
rates — led to lower debt payments. The agency, facing political
resistance to fare increases and new taxes, decided to sell new bonds
to finance the system’s first major expansion since the 1930s. In a few
short years, the debt burden it had amassed over nearly 20 years had
“The principal goal was to reduce the short-run debt service and push
it off until later,” said Charles M. Brecher, research director of the
Citizens Budget Commission and a professor of public policy at the
Wagner School at New York University. “That’s what’s coming home to
As the state once again looks for solutions for the struggling
authority, it has come full circle, once again turning to Mr. Ravitch.
In April, Gov. David A. Paterson appointed Mr. Ravitch to lead a
commission of finance and transportation experts to find answers to the
authority’s monetary straits. Its report is due by December.
In 1979, it was Gov. Hugh L. Carey who came calling. At the time, the
subway was suffering under decades of neglect. The city was just
beginning to emerge from a fiscal crisis that had brought it to the
brink of bankruptcy.
Money for capital improvements hovered around $50 million — not the
billions Mr. Ravitch and his analysts knew it would take. So he went to
“The Legislature squawked,” recalled Mr. Ravitch, 75. “They said that
will result in a fare increase, and I said ‘That’s absolutely correct.’
But I said it will also result in an improvement in the system and
attract more riders and avoid the dysfunctionality in the system, and
they were persuaded.”
The law passed in 1981, and the next year the authority issued its
first bonds, totaling $350 million.
The authority issued hundreds of millions of dollars in new debt over
the next 20 years, nearly all of it going toward new stainless steel
cars and buses, and track repairs, signal replacements and other system
improvements. By 2000, the agency’s outstanding debt had reached $12
At the same time, though, the city and state were contributing less
toward the authority’s capital budget. According to data provided by
the authority, 26 percent of capital plans from 1989 to 1991, totaling
$15.4 billion, came from the city and the state. In addition, 32
percent came from the federal government, and the rest from bonds and
other transportation authority sources.
From 1992 to 1999, as its capital budgets grew, the agency’s reliance
on debt increased. The federal share of those capital budgets remained
at about a third, but the city and state shares fell to 9 percent.
late 1999, the agency began laying the groundwork for a major
restructuring of its outstanding debt. The plan, which called for
refinancing all $12 billion of the debt, was recommended and structured
by the former Wall Street investment giant Bear Stearns, which
eventually got a large share of the underwriting duties worth tens of
millions of dollars.
Critics said the plan was unsound, and unduly influenced by Bear
Current and former authority officials who were involved in the deal,
including Marc V. Shaw, the agency’s executive director at the time,
say they had little choice. Voters rejected the Transportation Bond Act
of 2000, which would have sent $1.6 billion to the authority. And fares
had not risen since George E. Pataki became governor in 1995.
“Politicians make choices, and at the time they made a determination
that it would be wrong to raise taxes and raise the fares,” Mr. Shaw
David M. Catalfamo, a spokesman for Mr. Pataki, acknowledged that the
governor favored keeping fares low. “But the M.T.A.,” he said, “is an
independent authority responsible for its financial soundness, and they
were always encouraged to take actions that were consistent with their
The deal, finally completed in 2002 (though it’s commonly known as the
2000 restructuring), was hailed as the municipal deal of the year by
several financial publications. In the short term, it led to savings
and allowed the authority to take on more debt. The long-term effect,
though, was to extend its existing debt, some of which would have been
retired by 2015, until 2032 at a cost of a $1 billion a year.
“I do remember lots of people, including me and including Marc, were
anxious about what effect it would have, because it does delay the day
of reckoning,” said Gary J. Dellaverson, the authority’s chief
financial officer who was deputy executive director at the time.
Gene Russianoff, the staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a
riders’ advocacy group, said the authority did have alternatives.
“It could have borrowed smaller and more responsible amounts,” he said.
“It could have told the governor, the mayor and the Legislature that it
needed more money to keep its rebuilding program going.”
Doug Turetsky, chief of staff of the Independent Budget Office, said
the restructuring bought them a little time. The booming economy helped
extend that time, even as the authority acquired more debt; its current
outstanding debt is about $24 billion, double what it was before the
restructuring, including money for the 2005-9 capital plan.
“Without that extraordinary revenue, they could no longer cover the
strain from the rising toll of debt,” Mr. Turetsky said.
In the end, the percent of state and local subsidies for the 2000-4
capital plan totaled a staggeringly low 2 percent. By comparison, state
and local subsidies pay for 19 percent of the current plan, including
money from a voter-approved bond act in 2005.
Mr. Shaw, who defends the restructuring, said that with the decline of
the 1970s and before still seared in the memory of New Yorkers, the
choice was clear: “We needed to protect the infrastructure and not have
that happen again.”
Greenway Gains Momentum;
House committee also backs millions in funds for tourist transit
By Jenna Cho
Published on 3/18/2007
Two more items of regional interest gained the state House
Transportation Committee's approval this week — funding for the
acquisition of land for the Route 11 greenway and grant money for a
pilot Southeastern Connecticut Tourist Transit System. State Rep.
Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, said Friday that the committee approved a bill
to allocate $1 million in state funding to match available federal
funds for the Route 11 greenway project.
The state and federal funds would be used to acquire open space land
that would create a natural buffer zone on either side of the planned
Route 11 extension, Jutila said.
The route currently ends in Salem. The extension would run through
Salem, Montville, Waterford and East Lyme to an interchange with
interstates 95 and 395.
Former 2nd District U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons helped the Greenway Authority
Commission secure $1 million in federal funds to begin purchasing open
space for the greenway. Additional federal money to cover up to 80
percent of the greenway costs can be allocated only after the state
makes its financial commitment.
The Transportation Committee has also approved a bill that would
allocate, over the next two years, up to $6 million in state grant
money for a pilot program testing the viability of a shuttle-bus
service for tourists.
The grant money for the Southeastern Connecticut Tourist Transit System
would be contingent upon Southeastern Connecticut Council of
Governments' ability to match the amount with other contributions,
Jutila said. He said COG has been exploring a tourist transit system
for several years .
“The rationale, at least in my way of looking at it, is two-fold,”
Jutila said. “One is to make southeastern Connecticut more attractive
as a tourist destination. So if people know that they can take a train,
or a bus, or a ferry into New London, they know that they can get on a
safe, comfortable, reliable means of transportation to get around the
Jutila said the shuttle buses would also “try to get people out of
their cars and off our clogged highways.”
After Boston Crash, Cellphone
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 1:53 p.m. ET
May 9, 2009
BOSTON (AP) -- The head of the
Boston-area transit authority said Saturday he'll ban all train and bus
operators from even carrying cell phones on board after a conductor
told police he was texting his girlfriend before a trolley collision
About 50 people were hurt in the
underground crash in downtown Boston, though none of the injuries was
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation
Authority already bans operators from using cell phones and recently
ran an internal ad campaign featuring a poster of an open cell phone
that warned employees not to drive ''under the influence.''
But general manager Daniel
Grabauskas said Saturday the temptation obviously was too great for
''I want to remove any temptation by
one or two people stupid enough to think a moment of convenience is
worth the lives of the people they're transporting,'' he said. ''I'm
not going to wait for someone to die to institute a policy whose time I
think has come.''
Grabauskas said the new ban would
apply to anyone working on board a train or bus. He said he hopes to
have the policy in place within a week. The proposal won quick support from Steve
MacDougall, president and business agent of the Boston Carmen's Union,
Local 589, which represents most of the MBTA's roughly 6,000 employees
MacDougall said it was clear that
Friday's accident could have been ''far, far worse than it was.''
He said he expects some resistance
to the policy from union members who believe they're being punished for
the irresponsibility of a single employee. But he said he believes most
workers eventually will embrace the change.
''When it comes to public safety and
operating public transportation vehicles, a line has to be drawn,'' he
State Transportation Secretary James
Aloisi Jr., chairman of the MBTA Board of Directors, said accidents
like Friday's have become too common, citing a train accident last year
in California in which 25 people were killed. A conductor involved in
that crash was found to have sent and received 43 text messages and
made four cell phone calls. Aloisi said he doesn't know of any policy
nationwide as tough as what the MBTA is planning.
Friday's accident happened about
7:20 p.m. in a tunnel between the Green Line's Park Street and
Government Center stations. A two-car trolley was stopped at a red
signal, waiting to enter Park Station, when it was hit by another
About 100 people were evacuated,
including some who had to be extracted from the trains, and 49 were
taken to area hospitals. The worst injury was a broken wrist suffered
by the 24-year-old operator whom officials say admitted to police that
he was sending a text message at the time of the crash. The MBTA did
not release the man's name, but Grabauskas said he would be fired,
assuming the preliminary findings of the investigation are borne out.
Criminal charges against the
conductor are being considered by the transit police and the local
district attorney's office, Grabauskas said. The Green Line remained closed Saturday
as a National Transportation Safety Board team investigated the scene.
Grabauskas said he hoped the line would be running by day's end. MBTA policy includes penalties for
workers caught using cell phones on board, from a three-day suspension
to termination. Workers have been allowed to use cell phones off the
trains and buses while between trips.
Buses are equipped with global
positioning systems in case the radios fail, and most trolley riders
have cell phones, which could be a backup if a radio malfunctions on a
train, Grabauskas said. The MBTA also has a system that allows family
members to inform employees of problems at home and send new drivers,
without using cell phones.
Grabauskas said Friday's accident
leaves no doubt the change is needed.
''There's no rationale, no excuse
for this,'' he said.
of us remember this Kingston
Trio version of an old Boston song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VMSGrY-IlU
Trolleys Collide in Boston; 49 People Hurt
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 10:58 a.m. ET
May 9, 2009
BOSTON (AP) -- A trolley rear-ended another trolley that was stopped
between two underground stations in downtown Boston on Friday night,
injuring about 50 people, and one of the conductors told police he was
texting at the time of the crash, officials said.
About 100 people were evacuated, and 49 were taken to area hospitals,
but officials said their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.
The 24-year-old operator of the moving trolley, who was the most
seriously injured, admitted to police that he was sending text messages
from his cell phone when the accident occurred, Massachusetts Bay
Transportation Authority general manager Dan Grabauskas said. The
has stepped up enforcement of the rule against cell phone use by
operators following a trolley crash in Newton last May that killed the
driver of a trolley that collided with another. Although there were
reports the driver was using a cell phone just before the crash, an
investigation ultimately determined there was no evidence she was using
Grabauskas said the operator of the trolley that struck the parked
trolley admitted to investigators who interviewed him in a hospital he
saw the red light ahead of him as he was texting, but it was too late
''I can tell you it's difficult to contain my outrage at hearing
this,'' Grabauskas said.
Officials would not release the conductor's name, but MBTA spokesman
Joe Pesaturo said he had been on the job for less than two years.
of the victims suffered cuts or skeletal injuries, said John Gill,
deputy superintendent of Boston EMS. Two people had chest pains.
passengers had to be extracted from the trains, deputy fire chief
Richard DiBenedetto said. Others were taken from the station on
stretchers or backboards.
The collision occurred at 7:18 p.m. between Park and Government Center
stations. A westbound two-car trolley was stopped at a red signal,
waiting to enter Park Station, when it was hit by another two-car
The damage was limited to the front of the moving train and the rear of
the train that was struck, Grabauskas said. An investigation will
to determine why the moving trolley did not stop. Grabauskas had no
estimates on how fast it was traveling.
Green Line service between the stations was shut down after the crash.
We have been following this story...
Trolley system would help Stamford thrive, study says.
route would draw businesses
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/13/2009 09:52:32 PM EDT
Updated: 10/14/2009 07:32:52 AM EDT
STAMFORD -- Building a trolley line that would run alongside traffic
from the South End to Bulls Head would cost $121 million but would
enable the city to grow by boosting business, according to a
Stamford officials received a summary of the results of the yearlong
Stamford Street Car Study by URS Corp., which estimates a trolley route
from Washington Boulevard in the South End would draw business to the
city and create a $13 million bump in property tax revenue. The
system would cost $12 million to design, while constructing tracks, an
overhead powering system and station would cost $70 million, according
to the study. Acquiring three trolleys would cost $9 million.
City Rep. Robert "Gabe" DeLuca, R-14, chairman of the Board of
Representatives' transportation committee, said while he tends to view
the novelty and convenience of a street car system as a possible spur
to attract new companies, the $121 million price is daunting without
federal funding. A preliminary estimate for launching a trolley
system provided by URS last spring said the city could start a trolley
line for as little as $5 million to 10 million.
"We'll have to see what the final study says, but it seems like a lot
of money," DeLuca said.
After running for a decade, the trolley line could boost development
along the route 10 percent to 15 percent over current project growth,
the study said. The full study should be received by late
October, Stamford Transportation Planner Joshua LeCar said.
URS will present the study to Deluca and transportation committee
members at a 7 p.m. Thursday meeting in the Republican Caucus Room of
the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd. The study
considers a trolley route that would head north on Atlantic Street from
Washington Boulevard to Bank Street downtown, then continue north on
Atlantic Street onto Broad Street, ending near Lord & Taylor
and the Ridgeway Shopping Center. The trolley would then turn
left onto 6th Street before turning left onto Summer Street.
From there the study offers two options for the service to return to
the South End -- via Atlantic Street or Washington Boulevard. A
trolley system would not be a first for the city, which ran an
electrified light rail system between 1890 and 1938.
City officials and supporters of the trolley concept point to other
cities including Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wash., where trolley
systems have been credited for raising property values and spurred
prosperity. Establishing the route would show companies that
Stamford has a long-term commitment to expansion and bringing
additional business development to extend the city's commercial core,
which now runs from the railroad station north to Elm Street, said
Michael Freimuth, Stamford's economic development director.
The line's viability, however, depends on whether URS' estimate of the
project cost and additional tax revenues are accurate, and if the
trolley line is consistent with the city's other transit goals.
"The center of commercial gravity in the city has shifted to the train
station, yet that has a limited or finite capacity," Freimuth said. "
It would have an almost immediate positive impact on real estate just
outside walking distance of the train station. If we are going to be
able to accommodate the growth, which is critical to our overall tax
base, we'll need to find a way to stretch the tax base."
City Rep. Terry Adams, D-3, vice chairman of the transportation
committee, said bus lines are less costly and more mobile than the
trolley, and she wonders whether the trolley would bring the expected
"The infrastructure is going to be very expensive based on the fact
that Stamford is pretty much established," Adams said. "If this can be
totally paid for using government grants it is one thing, but if it is
going to be paid for in taxes, it needs to be something that every
resident should have a say on."
Lecar said the city is hoping to garner Federal Transit Administration
funds for the project and that the length of the planned route is
partially related to federal requirements that the service provide
transport for a wider area.
"If we just built a system from Washington Boulevard in the South End
to the train station, it would have a substantially more limited
benefit and make it harder to get funding," Lecar said.
required high density, I thought?
Trolleys could hold promise for Stamford; Stamford studies route
South End to Bulls Head
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 01/24/2009 10:46:38 PM EST
STAMFORD -- A future trolley line linking the South End to the Stamford
train station and looping north through Bulls Head could remedy
congestion and repay its construction costs by drawing new companies
and stores to the city, a consultant told city legislators Thursday
Stuart Popper, a community planning consultant for URS Corp., told the
Board of Representatives' Transportation Committee that although buses
can provide much the same service, other cities have found that light
rail draws more riders and attracts corporations and economic
development to the corridors they travel.
URS, an international engineering firm responsible for the
Hudson-Bergen light rail system in New Jersey, began a $141,000 study
in August to evaluate the potential impact of light rail in reducing
automobile traffic and pollution and spur economic activity in the city.
Stamford could start out with as few as three trolley cars and two
miles of track for a cost of $5 million to $10 million, Popper said.
"The rails that are installed are permanent in the road, while bus
routes can change," Popper said during the presentation. "It seems that
installation of streetcars attracts development to the areas where they
Popper gave the progress report to the board after a request from the
The final study will provide a more in-depth analysis of the economic
benefit of the system and determine more precise cost estimates based
on possible routes and what size fleet the city would start with,
Stamford's proposed system would reach from the South End, past the
train station, and north on either Washington Boulevard or Atlantic
Street to make a circuit to the Bulls Head and High Ridge Road retail
area, city transportation planner Joshua Lecar said.
Popper said light rail could operate alongside car traffic, providing
an efficient way to move workers and shoppers. He also said it may
provide an incentive for executives working locally to reside in new
developments in the South End.
Congestion caused by automobile traffic could become an increasing
economic liability, Popper said.
"We're talking about the ride not taken," Popper said. "In the downtown
area, the primary mode of transportation for the majority of trips to
work or shop are made by private car."
Members of the committee asked the consultant to ensure the final study
deals with the benefits from several options, including plans to use
the light rail system in tandem with buses.
City Rep. John Zelinsky, D-11, whose district includes the downtown
area between Bedford and the Summer Street area, asked whether any
cities of similar size that had built streetcar systems had experienced
increased economic activity that justified the investment.
"Do you have any idea what this project might cost from start to
finish?" Zelinsky asked.
The length of the loop system, the route chosen and whether the city
buys new street cars or refurbished old ones are all variables that
could place the cost of the project between $5 million and $100
million, according to Popper.
"Construction costs depend on the route and where it is," Popper said.
"There's a range of costs."
Most of the cities that have built systems, including Portland, Ore.,
and the Hudson-Bergen region of New Jersey, are larger than Stamford,
according to a report provided by URS.
Kenosha, Wis., a city of about 95,000 that is an hour from Chicago,
built a light rail system and limited startup costs to about $6 million
by acquiring cars from another city for about $75,000 each and
refurbishing them, Popper said.
The city might obtain and refurbish older cars to use, a process that
typically costs $400,000 to $1 million per car, Popper said. New
streetcars each can cost $3 million or more, according to URS.
With other advances in mass transit technology likely to become more
widespread and affordable, including hybrid and electric-powered buses,
City Rep. Terry Adams, D-3, the vice chairman of the committee, said he
wondered if bus lines couldn't deliver the same environmental and mass
transit dividends as the rail system for dramatically less money.
"You have to look at the money you'd save on infrastructure with those
other options that would make it more profitable than digging up the
streets and putting up the overhead wires," Adams said.
Jack Condlin, president and chief executive officer of the Stamford
Chamber of Commerce, said he believed installing the system is the sort
of bold initiative that could set Stamford apart for businesses looking
to set up shop. He likened it to the city's urban redevelopment efforts
a generation ago that Condlin said contributed to the city's population
and economic growth in the past 30 years.
"We need to look at this as the big project ," Condlin said. "I think
we need to think outside the box. Let's show Stamford as a city that is
on the move."
In the past, Stamford had an extensive streetcar trolley system that
functioned between 1886 and 1933.
City Rep. Robert "Gabe" DeLuca, R-14, the chairman of the committee,
said he believed the novelty and convenience of a light rail system
could help Stamford maintain and draw new companies and would outweigh
any investment if costs could be limited.
"I think the increased ridership and economic boost it provides are
good selling points," DeLuca said. "We need to wait until the final
report is in to see what any drawbacks might be."
Once the city establishes a final plan for the system, construction
could take six years or longer to begin and might be paid for with a
combination of local, state and federal funding, Lecar said.
One potential advantage light rail has over bus service is that it
typically runs more frequently than bus lines, providing greater
mobility in Stamford's business district, Lecar said.
Picking a route for the light rail system will carry engineering
challenges, Lecar said, because the lines will have to fit onto already
densely developed thoroughfares.
"Our engineering consultant is looking at different configurations of
the line for Washington (Boulevard) and Atlantic and Bedford
(streets)," Lecar said. "It's all pending a more detailed analysis by
Zelinsky, who is also a member of the legislatively appointed State
Public Transportation Commission, said he is concerned that the
trolleys might siphon ridership from buses but fail to generate much
new interest in mass transit.
More work needs to be done to assess whether the public would ride
trolleys on a regular basis or keep driving, or if Stamford's projected
population is large enough to sustain the system, Zelinsky said.
"We have an excellent bus service, which runs through the areas we're
talking about," Zelinsky said. "We should see if it is something the
public wants, because if they are not enthusiastic and eager for it,
we're wasting a lot of time and money on this."
Across the U.S. See
Streetcars in Their Future
By BOB DRIEHAUS
Published: August 13, 2008
CINCINNATI — From his months-old French bistro, Jean-Robert de Cavel
sees restored Italianate row houses against a backdrop of rundown
tenements in this city’s long-struggling Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
He also sees a turnaround for the district, thanks to plans to revive a
transit system that was dismantled in the 1950s: the humble streetcar
“Human beings can be silly because we move away from things too quickly
in this country,” Mr. de Cavel said. “Streetcar is definitely going to
create a reason for young people to come downtown.”
Cincinnati officials are assembling financing for a $132 million system
that would connect the city’s riverfront stadiums, downtown business
district and Uptown neighborhoods, which include six hospitals and the
University of Cincinnati, in a six- to eight-mile loop. Depending on
the final financing package, fares may be free, 50 cents or $1.
The city plans to pay for the system with existing tax revenue and $30
million in private investment. The plan requires the approval of Mayor
Mark Mallory, a proponent, and the City Council.
At least 40 other cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic
development, ease traffic congestion and draw young professionals and
empty-nest baby boomers back from the suburbs, according to the
Community Streetcar Coalition, which includes city officials, transit
authorities and engineers who advocate streetcar construction.
More than a dozen have existing lines, including New Orleans, which is
restoring a system devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And Denver,
Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C., have introduced or are
planning to introduce streetcars.
“They serve to coalesce a neighborhood,” said Jim Graebner, chairman of
the American Public Transportation Association’s streetcar and vintage
trolley committee. “That’s very evident in places like San Francisco,
which never got rid of its streetcar system.”
Modern streetcars, like those Cincinnati plans to use, cost about $3
million each, run on an overhead electrical wire and carry up to 130
passengers per car on rails that are flush with the pavement. And since
streetcars can pick up passengers on either side, they can make shorter
stops than buses.
Streetcar advocates point to Portland, Ore., which built the first
major modern streetcar system in the United States, in 2001, and has
since added new lines interlaced with a growing light rail system.
Since Portland announced plans for the system, more than 10,000
residential units have been built and $3.5 billion has been invested in
property within two blocks of the line, according to Portland Streetcar
Inc., which operates the system.
Critics, including Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato
Institute, a libertarian research organization in Washington, and an
expert on urban growth and transportation issues, counter that growth
along streetcar lines is dependent on public subsidy and of little use.
“It looks like it’s going to take you somewhere, but it’s only designed
to support downtown residents,” he said. “If officials fall for the
hype and don’t ask the hard questions, voters should vote them out.”
Cincinnati’s streetcar enthusiasts counter that they serve to shrink
residents’ everyday world of work, shopping and entertainment by
bringing services and businesses to one area.
“One happy consequence will be that streetcar customers who live in the
area will be less mobile by choice,” said John Schneider, a Cincinnati
real estate developer and downtown resident who championed an
unsuccessful 2002 county sales tax proposal that would have financed a
regional light rail system.
Since then, gas prices have risen sharply and advocates have started
emphasizing streetcars’ ability to revitalize urban neighborhoods.
“In years gone by, people would move to cities to get a job,”
Cincinnati’s city manager, Milton Dohoney, said. “Today, young,
educated workers move to cities with a sense of place. And if
businesses see us laying rail down on a street, they’ll know that’s a
permanent route that will have people passing by seven days a week.”
After looking into streetcar systems in Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., and
Charlotte, Mr. Dohoney became convinced that they spur growth.
“Cincinnati has to compete with other cities for investment,” he said.
“We have to compete for talent and for place of national prominence.”
A hundred miles north, Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus, Ohio, has
come to the same conclusion and is pushing to build a $103 million
streetcar network along the city’s High Street connecting Ohio State
University with the downtown business district. The loop would be paid
for through a 4 percent surcharge on concert tickets, sporting events
and downtown parking and a $12.5 million contribution from Ohio State.
“It is directly tied to economic development, and when times are tough
in Ohio, we need an additional tool to create jobs,” Mr. Coleman said.
While critics question whether scarce city money would be better spent
elsewhere, Mr. Coleman argues that streetcars are important to the
“We have to plan for the future,” he said. “I believe in 10 years, we
would ask, ‘Why didn’t we do this?’ It will be 10 times more expensive,
and the cost of gas will be unaffordable.”