Posts Tagged ‘passenger rail’

STB issues two decisions in passenger rail proceedings

STB_logoThe Surface Transportation Board released two decisions related to its oversight of Amtrak’s operations under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA).

First, the Board decided that it would consider on-time arrival and departure at all stations along a passenger train’s route for purposes of assessing on-time performance. The Board will deem a train “on time” if it arrives at, or departs from, a station no more than 15 minutes after its scheduled arrival or departure.

The Board also announced that it is withdrawing its proposed policy statement on issues that may arise, and evidence to be presented in proceedings under PRIIA, in favor of a case-by-case approach to these complex matters.

“Reflecting careful consideration of an extensive public and stakeholder response to our most recent passenger rail proposals, these decisions will better position the Board to implement its responsibilities under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008,” stated Board Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III. “Improved passenger train on-time performance is an important goal, and the Board’s decisions will support that goal by clarifying the trigger for starting a proceeding, while allowing more complex and detailed issues to be resolved in the context of individual cases.”

Click the link to view the Board’s decision on On-Time Performance Under Section 213 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, Docket No. EP 726.

Click the following link to view the Board’s decision on Policy Statement on Implementing Intercity Passenger Train On-Time Performance and Preference Provisions of 49 U.S.C. § 24308(c) and (f), Docket No. EP 728.

2-person crew rule: Risch testifies before FRA

On Friday, July 15, John Risch, National Legislative Director with SMART TD, testified before the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in Washington, DC, in strong support of a minimum two-person crew mandate for freight and passenger trains. It may take months for the FRA board to make a final decision. Read his complete testimony here.  Front page photo: Risch at FRA hearing.

 

 

Risch testimony_FRA_7_18_16

 

 

We need your comments on 2-person crews -Deadline extended to June 15

On March 15th, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a long overdue proposed regulation requiring that most trains in America have a minimum of two crewmembers. While SMART TD supports the core requirements of the rule, we believe that it can be strengthened and improved before this proposed regulation becomes final. We also expect the railroads to do everything in their power to weaken the rule. That is why we need your help. As a railroad worker, you have firsthand knowledge of the importance of two-person crews and the dangers of single-person operations. That is why the FRA needs to hear your voice on this critical safety issue. Please follow this link to submit your own comments on the rule, citing your personal experiences and expertise in operating trains. The most effective thing you can include in your comments is a personal story of how having two people on your crew prevented an accident from happening. It is not necessary to include all the details like train numbers or dates; just an overview of the incident and how having the second crew member made a difference. Examples of how the second crew member cleared a blocked crossing for an emergency vehicle or dealt with emergency responders during a derailment would also be very beneficial. No one can make a stronger case for two-person crews than those who work — or have worked — on the front lines operating trains every day. The deadline for comments has been extended to June 15, 2016 – more time to get your co-workers, friends, family members and community leaders to comment! Thank you for your help with this critically important issue. Below is an excellent example of a comment submitted by retired member Daniel Potaracke from Wisconsin: Agency: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Document Type: Rulemaking Title: Train Crew Staffing Document ID: FRA-2014-0033-0001 Thank You for this opportunity to comment on this important issue. I started on the BNSF RR in 1972 and retired in 2013 after 42 years of service. In 1972, I was one of 5 crew members on a train. When I retired, there were just 2 people on a train, the engineer and I the conductor. I’ve seen lots of changes on the railroad and that is putting it very mildly. With all the technology, you would think it would be safer but, I believe it has actually gotten less safe for a number of reasons. The railroads went from handling and hauling basic cargo and smaller trains to now handling much bigger trains with lots more dangerous cargo in increasing amounts. I remember having “a few” dangerous shipments but, when I retired, I was responsible for having LOTS of dangerous and hazardous cargoes. Just before I retired, I had to sift through lots and lots of paperwork to make sure I had ALL the information and redundancy so if there was a problem, I had some solutions for emergency workers and whomever needed it. I’m not saying it is bad but, making sure I had the paperwork and having someone else to count on made it somewhat better; and, how else are shippers going to transport these dangerous cargoes other than the nations highways? From what I’ve read about the trucking industry, with one person driving a huge truck with dangerous materials and the fatigue the truck drivers put up with, I’m amazed there aren’t more crashes. Having 2 people on a train is definitely much more safe! Having two sets of eyes and ears on the front end of ALL trains is essential for safety for everyone including the public, the employees and the railroads themselves. As a retired BNSF RR conductor, I’ve personally witnessed many “emergency” type incidents that warranted immediate attention and I’m not at all sure that they would have been caught by just one person. Splitting duties in such a way that there are two people onboard makes it easier for one of them to catch a problem vs having one person having so many things to be aware of and all at the same time. I know from personal experience that I’ve averted a few derailments or possible derailments because I’ve caught a problem on either my train or another passing train be it sticking brakes, cracked wheels or hot bearings and shifted loads or other problems. As you know, the railroads carry so many commodities that are very hazardous including oil trains that will burn out of control for days at a time, nuclear waste, chemicals that are certain death with contact or inhalation and munitions and explosives. Having two people on a train can catch a problem before a derailment with any of the above cargoes in a city or even out in the country where winds can blow dangerous inhalations to a city or town. Imagine a burning and exploding oil train in a congested city as big as Chicago or Minneapolis or even a small town where the entire population could be wiped out! We have all seen the images of burning oil trains; now imagine that in the middle of a city with populations living within a few hundred feet! I sometimes wonder if the railroad companies are like the automobile companies that work out the risks or odds of a derailment or toxic release or something similar where they cross their fingers and hope nothing happens but, if something did happen, the chances are 1 in X amount of percent, they could live with that and the resulting monetary damages…or deaths…or whatever. Please keep America safe with the railroads running safe with two people!

Rail officials lobby Feds to restore Gulf Coast passenger service

Al.com reported that last week, Southern Rail Commissioner, Knox Ross, who is also mayor of Pelahatchie, Miss., accompanied FRA administrator Sarah Feinberg and other federal officials on an Amtrak passenger train ride from New Orleans to Jacksonville, FL, to underscore the widespread support for passenger rail restoration along the Gulf Coast. Read the complete article here.

Do you want more passenger rail service in Alabama?

By John Previsich, president of SMART Transportation Division and Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (www.ttd.org).

Amtrak Passengers Cars-Jim Allen

Photo courtesy of Jim Allen (Local 1400)

Alabamians sure love their college football, but what we’ve just recently learned is that they also like their passenger trains — and they’re willing to pay for them. A recent state-wide poll by DFM Research shows that passenger trains don’t only thrive in the big cities on the corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston – they are quite popular in the Heart of Dixie, too.

Previsich

Previsich

More than half of those polled in Alabama say they want to see an increase in the service provided by Amtrak, our national passenger railroad. When asked about expanding Amtrak’s once-daily passenger service through Alabama, nearly 85 percent support the idea of adding an additional route from Birmingham or Mobile to New Orleans or Atlanta. This poll shouldn’t surprise anyone given that others in Gulf Coast states are pushing aggressively to restart Amtrak service lost after the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The people of Alabama aren’t alone in their views. All across the country, in red states and blue, in rural counties and major metropolitan cities, Americans are calling for more passenger rail service — and it’s easy to see why. With 31 million passengers last year alone, Amtrak’s popularity has soared, and over the last decade, Amtrak has broken its ridership record almost annually. Here’s the best part: during a time when pollsters are churning out the views of voters on a daily basis, our national passenger railroad actually polls better than anyone auditioning for president.

Wytkind

Wytkind

All jokes aside, this begs one very important question — if Amtrak is so highly valued by the American people, why do we still have politicians in Washington trying to kill it? Yes, there was actually an amendment on floor of the House late last year to eliminate Amtrak’s funding and quite a few who serve in Alabama’s congressional delegation voted for it. To be clear, such a plan would bankrupt the railroad, strand riders in Alabama and across the country, and put thousands of middle class employees out of work. And think about this: while other nations such as China are racing toward launching 400 mile-per-hour train service, America is still electing politicians who want to abandon passenger rail entirely.

If people in Alabama knew this, we’re sure they would be asking why their politicians are not listening. Most voters in the state think any attempt to eliminate federal funding for Amtrak is a terrible idea. When told that Amtrak receives over $1 billion per year in federal support, 75 percent say they reject attempts to eliminate it and want funding to continue at current levels.

It seems people in Alabama understand what some in Congress do not: that rail transportation is vitally important to our nation’s economy. Long-term economic growth cannot happen without a greatly enhanced transportation infrastructure, and that includes expanding passenger rail services.

Supporting a healthy economy also involves making sure rail transportation is safe, so it’s no surprise that people in this state emphatically favor policies that do just that.

Like a super-majority of Americans polled across a wide swatch of our country,  the people of Alabama believe that running 19,000-ton freight trains — many containing hazardous materials — with only one crew member is a bad idea.  That’s why nearly 90 percent of residents support legislation mandating a minimum of two crew members on all freight trains. Since Amtrak shares tracks with freight trains in most parts of the country, the crew sizes used in freight operations will also affect the safety of passenger trains.

America can’t compete in a global economy without fully-funded national passenger rail service and modernized infrastructure to boot. That takes long-term investment by the federal government, in partnership with states and the private sector. We also need to make sure that our freight rail system, which provides the track for much of Amtrak’s service, is safe and adequately staffed.

Alabamians agree with people from California to Florida and most stops in between: our country needs modern and reliable rail transportation with the resources to pay for it and the federal rules to ensure its safety.

This article originally appeared on AL.com.

Feds to study daily passenger rail service in Midwest

FRA_logo_wordsCINCINNATI — The Federal Railroad Administration will soon take a good, hard look at how Amtrak could better serve the Midwest with interstate passenger rail transit, and local leaders are saying it will take Cincinnati one step closer toward daily rail service to Chicago.

In an announcement sent to Congressional leaders last week, the FRA announced it will spend nearly $3 million dollars on a planning initiative to bolster passenger rail service in the Midwest and Southeast regions.

Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana will all have a stake in that plan, along with 10 other states.

Read more from WCPO.com.

House Committee Approves Amtrak Funding Legislation

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Feb. 12 unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that improves the infrastructure, reduces costs, creates greater accountability and transparency, leverages private sector resources, and accelerates project delivery for Amtrak and the nation’s passenger rail transportation system.

The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, or PRRIA (H.R. 749), was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.); T&I Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.); Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.); and Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).

“We thank the Chairman Shuster for his leadership on moving this legislation forward and support passage of the bill in the full House. We still have concerns that the bill does not provide Amtrak with the funding levels it needs to make needed repairs and upgrades to an aging system. That being said, the introduction and markup of this legislation is an important first step in bringing long-term stability and investment to Amtrak,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch.

“This is a good reform bill that firmly moves passenger rail towards greater transparency and accountability, and forces Amtrak to operate like a true business,” Shuster said.

“In every region of the country, passenger rail investments boost local economies and create thousands of family-wage construction, engineering, and manufacturing jobs. This bill isn’t perfect – but it was a bipartisan effort that ultimately provides critical investments and system wide improvements to increase capacity and make our railways safer,” said DeFazio.

“Passage of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act is an investment in our infrastructure that will make Amtrak operate more like a business – better responding to the needs of its customers and focusing on efficiency, transparency, and cost-saving,” Denham said. “I’m proud of the bipartisan unanimous support we’ve garnered for this bill and look forward to seeing PRRIA move to the House floor.”

“Making investments in passenger rail service not only creates economic benefits and employment opportunities, it also enhances the overall experience for passengers and improves safety,” said Capuano. “This legislation may not represent the level of funding I think is necessary, but most rail supporters agree that in today’s political climate it is the most that advocates can expect.”

Passenger rail presents one of the best transportation alternatives for relieving congestion on some of the nation’s most crowded highways and in our busy airspace. However, the rail system and Amtrak – the country’s intercity passenger rail provider – must be reformed and improved. For years, Amtrak has operated under unrealistic fiscal expectations and without a sufficient level of transparency. Profits from Amtrak’s most profitable route – the Northeast Corridor (NEC) – currently are not invested back into the corridor. And although significant ridership increases are occurring on Amtrak’s state-supported routes, its inconsistent financial structure and “black box” accounting system hamper states’ ability to help manage the routes and understand what exactly it is they’re paying Amtrak for.

In addition, rail infrastructure projects are unnecessarily delayed by unwieldy review processes that cost time and money, and current law that limits the ability to partner with the private sector holds back the development of the system.

During today’s legislation markup, the Committee also approved 12 General Services Administration Capital Investment and Leasing Program resolutions that will result in $111 million in taxpayer savings, and the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Views and Estimates of the Committee.

 

House committee approves Amtrak funding legislation

Amtrak LogoThe Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Feb. 12 unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that improves the infrastructure, reduces costs, creates greater accountability and transparency, leverages private sector resources, and accelerates project delivery for Amtrak and the nation’s passenger rail transportation system.

The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, or PRRIA (H.R. 749), was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.); T&I Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.); Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.); and Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).

“We thank the Chairman Shuster for his leadership on moving this legislation forward and support passage of the bill in the full House. We still have concerns that the bill does not provide Amtrak with the funding levels it needs to make needed repairs and upgrades to an aging system. That being said, the introduction and markup of this legislation is an important first step in bringing long-term stability and investment to Amtrak,” said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch.

“This is a good reform bill that firmly moves passenger rail towards greater transparency and accountability, and forces Amtrak to operate like a true business,” Shuster said.

“In every region of the country, passenger rail investments boost local economies and create thousands of family-wage construction, engineering, and manufacturing jobs. This bill isn’t perfect – but it was a bipartisan effort that ultimately provides critical investments and system wide improvements to increase capacity and make our railways safer,” said DeFazio.

“Passage of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act is an investment in our infrastructure that will make Amtrak operate more like a business – better responding to the needs of its customers and focusing on efficiency, transparency, and cost-saving,” Denham said. “I’m proud of the bipartisan unanimous support we’ve garnered for this bill and look forward to seeing PRRIA move to the House floor.”

“Making investments in passenger rail service not only creates economic benefits and employment opportunities, it also enhances the overall experience for passengers and improves safety,” said Capuano. “This legislation may not represent the level of funding I think is necessary, but most rail supporters agree that in today’s political climate it is the most that advocates can expect.”

Passenger rail presents one of the best transportation alternatives for relieving congestion on some of the nation’s most crowded highways and in our busy airspace. However, the rail system and Amtrak – the country’s intercity passenger rail provider – must be reformed and improved. For years, Amtrak has operated under unrealistic fiscal expectations and without a sufficient level of transparency. Profits from Amtrak’s most profitable route – the Northeast Corridor (NEC) – currently are not invested back into the corridor. And although significant ridership increases are occurring on Amtrak’s state-supported routes, its inconsistent financial structure and “black box” accounting system hamper states’ ability to help manage the routes and understand what exactly it is they’re paying Amtrak for.

In addition, rail infrastructure projects are unnecessarily delayed by unwieldy review processes that cost time and money, and current law that limits the ability to partner with the private sector holds back the development of the system.

During the legislation markup, the Committee also approved 12 General Services Administration Capital Investment and Leasing Program resolutions that will result in $111 million in taxpayer savings, and the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Views and Estimates of the Committee.

NARP calls on Congress to support passenger-rail

As the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee prepares a markup on rail reauthorization legislation, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) is urging Congress to embrace a national vision for intercity passenger trains.

NARP is concerned that committee leaders may be moving toward ‘shrinking rather than strengthening the nation’s already-limited passenger train network,” NARP officials said yesterday in a press release.

NARP makes the case that Americans want more trains, citing Amtrak’s ridership growth. The national intercity passenger railroad carried 31.6 million riders in fiscal-year 2013, setting the tenth ridership record in 11 years. However, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has questioned the continued funding of some Amtrak long-distance routes.

“What happens to the people that are stranded if Congress kills the long distance trains?” said NARP President Ross Capon. “Because make no mistake: if Congress eliminates operating support for these interstate routes that is what will happen. For many of these communities, it’s their only connection to cities in other states.”

NARP drafted several goals and recommendations for Congress to consider in drafting rail reauthorization legislation. Long-term goals include:

  • expanding service to put 80 percent of Americans within 25 miles of a railroad station within 25 years;
  • constructing at least one dedicated 200 mph high-speed line with operations commencing by 2025;
  • initiating a federal program to strengthen intermodal connections; and
  • improving safety.

Policy recommendations call for including a high-performance rail network in the next surface transportation reauthorization bill and creating a high-performance railroad network account in the Transportation Trust Fund (renamed from the Highway Trust Fund).