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Light Rail Now! NewsLog

Produced by the Light Rail Now! Publication Team

This news feature provides an ongoing Weblog of particularly significant developments in public transportation and rail transit.

31 March 2006

Boosted by 33% rise on light rail, transit ridership jumps 7% in 2005

Strong gains in ridership on Minneapolis's new light rail system have helped boost total transit system ridership by a hefty 7% in 2005, according to recept reports.

The developments are summarized in a recent article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (14 Feb. 2006), which relates that "Dramatically higher fuel prices and a mild winter trumped fare increases and bus service cuts as more people jumped on Metro Transit's buses and light-rail trains in 2005 than the year before."

At a mid-February meeting, Metro Transit officials told a Metropolitan Council committee that the number of rides in 2005 had jumped 4.7 million to just under 70 million – a 7.2 percent increase. "What's more," said the paper, "last month [January 2006] continued the trend, with Twin Cities residents taking a half-million more rides than they did the previous January, a nearly 10 percent increase."

"We have a very favorable story to tell,'' said Julie Johanson, Metro Transit's Assistant General Manager. "When the fuel prices were spiking … it helped our ridership. The mild winter brought a few people out to ride the bus and the rail.''

As the article emphasizes, citing Metro Transit data, "The Hiawatha Light Rail line was the percentage increase superstar, going from an average of 19,245 weekday riders in December 2004 to 25,629 last December, or a 33 percent gain...." This helped drive up total system ridership significantly, according to the data. "From August through December, with only one exception," noted the Pioneer Press, average weekday ridership outpaced the previous year. In December, there were 196,084 weekday rides on average, compared with 189,203 in 2004."

Efforts to persuade more Twin Cities urban travellers to leave their cars at home and ride the rail and bus system apparently are gaining some headway. A recent Metro Transit survey of metro-area residents found "a large portion are willing to look at alternatives'' to the car, according to a Metro marketing officlal.

More on Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities) Public Transport Developments

More on Transit industry Ridership issues...

30 March 2006

NET light rail tramway ridership growing at "a phenomenal rate"

Nottingham Express Transit (NET) – the agency running Nottingham, England's new light rail tramway system – reports that, after two years of operation, ridership is growing "at a phenomenal rate".

Thursday, 9 March 2006 marked two years of operations for NET, and the agency released figures for the total number of trips carried in its second year. "This time last year," noted the media release, "we announced that 8.4 million trips had been made in the first 12 months of operation – significantly above the prediction of between 7.5 to 8 million. And in this second year, we hoped for 9 million trips – there have been 9.7 million. This is a 15.5% increase year on year and is well ahead of even our most optimistic of predictions."

Furthermore says NET, "passengers are pleased with the service – the recent passenger survey showed overall satisfaction with the service is 94%, with 98% of those questioned stating they would recommend using the tram to friends and family."

According to the NET release, particular areas of growth have included weekend trips, and the system's timetable was improved this past October [2005] to take account of that. Growth has also been experienced in Trent Barton Hucknall connecting bus services and the Wilkinson Street Park & Ride facility. "Indeed," says NET, "Park and Ride now makes up 25% of tram passengers and overall, within the tram corridor, public transport trips are up 20% in the peak, compared with before the tram."

Colin Lea, marketing manager for NET was enthusiastic: "These results are outstanding and are a testament to the efforts our hard-working staff and our track record for reliability and top quality service. A big thank you to all our loyal passengers, many of whom have swapped their cars to use the tram."

NET can be contacted at their UK phone number:
0115 942 7777 ...
or via their website at

Thanks to David Cockle for providing this information.

More on United Kingdom Public Transport Developments

More on Transit industry Ridership issues...

30 March 2006

Dr. Dan Monaghan, renowned advocate of DART and Amtrak, "in the final chapter of an extraordinary life"

Sad news: Longtime Dallas-area public transport Dr. Dan Monaghan, who has been struggling with a serious medical condition, appears to have taken a turn for the worse. Dan, a retired optometrist, is known to many in the US public transport industry as an intrepid expert and advocate of Amtrak's rail passenger service and DART's rail transit. Dan served on the board of directors of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) from 1990-93 and 2002-02. He also served on the North Central Task Force, which assisted in the design of the road and rail alignments through North Dallas.

The following report on Dan's circumstances was provided on 22 March 2006 by John Weeks, Dan's close friend and also a Dallas-area rail passenger and rail ttransit supporter.

As some of you already know, Dan's doctors have determined after exhaustive examination over the past week at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas that his recent rapid cognitive and physical decline cannot be reversed. He has been unresponsive while receiving dialysis there, and CT scans, MRi, EEG and other diagnostic tests failed to identify any treatable cause of his deteriorating condition. Therefore, in keeping with his long-standing Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates asking that life-sustaining treatment not continue if his medical condition is determined to be irreversible, a decision has been made and reluctantly accepted by those who care about him to discontinue dialysis. He is being transferred today to Doctors Healthcare Center, 9009 White Rock Trail in the Lake Highlands area of North Dallas, for continuing hospice care that will fully provide for his needs, keeping him comfortable and pain-free.

Dan has not been himself now for several weeks. His bad fall face-down on a concrete walkway 10 days ago climaxed a series of falls and other recent problems marking a precipitous decline. He may not recognize or acknowledge your presence if you elect to visit him, but you're welcome to do so. Dan has had a rough year since his pulmonary arrest early in 2005, but he fought back through long hospitalization, endured regular dialysis and re-established a "home" in the assisted living center Chambrel and even resumed driving for awhile to some of his favorite shopping destinations.

Now, a few days after turning 80, he is in the final chapter of an extraordinary life.

Please feel free to forward this message to any lists or individuals who should have this information.

More on Dallas Area Public Transport Developments

30 March 2006

Wikipedia takes more critical look

For years, Gadgetbahn zealots of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) have spread their anti-rail, anti- transit message via the Wikipedia Personal Rapid Transit entry webpage which has ranked quite high on Google searches of PRT issues.

No longer. Now, writes Ken Avidor, a Minneapolis cartoonist and creator of the PRT is a Joke website, "A Wikipedia 'administrator' is shaking things up on the Wikipedia PRT page." Avidor cites the newly revised Wikipedia PRT entry at the following URL:

The administrator specifically requested and has posted Avidor's PRT Roadkill Bill comic:

"Gone are the blatant promotion and 'weasel words'" notes Avidor, adding, "....what are weasel words?" See:

And, he observes, "The Gadgetbahners are furious." See:

More on PRT, Monorail, AGT, and "Gadget Transit" Analyses

21 March 2006

Orange County:
Rail transit gets green light

The ambitious CenterLine semi-metro light rail transit (LRT) project may be "dead" in Orange County, California ... but that doesn't signal the demise of rail transit there. On the contrary, Orange County transportation, county, and municipal officials are pursuing measures designed to "enhance" Southern California's regional passenger rail MetroLink service in the county, including facilitating public access to the rail stations.

In an article titled "O.C. Cities Explore Transit Options" and dated 28 February (2006), the Los Angeles Times notes that "Orange County residents who live a long way from a Metrolink station may soon be able to ride a bus to and from the nearest one. And train riders without a car may get help going to Orange County's beaches, theme parks and major shopping centers."

"Orange County transportation officials," reports the paper, "looking for transit ideas, turned over the search to the county's 34 cities, giving them each $100,000 to develop ideas that would enhance Metrolink service." The following plans and projects are reported by the Times:

In Buena Park, which is building a Metrolink station, the city may join Cypress and La Palma, cities that lack commuter rail service, and plan bus shuttles and park-and-ride locations to the station.

In Newport Beach, a shuttle from the nearby irvine Metrolink station could run twice a day, looping to Newport Center, where there are hundreds of workers.

In Orange, the city could provide buses to carry workers from the downtown Metrolink station to UCI Medical Center, the Block and Children's Hospital of Orange.

The Times points out that while these rail-oriented ideas have not gone before city councils, they were "mentioned in interviews" after action was taken by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). The paper further notes that the transit authority has $30 million allocated for improvements to Metrolink service in the county, according to Carolyn Cavecche, "an Orange councilwoman on the county transit board."

"For Orange, it's possible to have bus transportation from our Metrolink station to the two hospital areas and also the Block" Cavecche told the Times reporter. "However, I wouldn't propose a transportation idea without first securing consistent funding, more than just for one year."

OCTA Chairman Arthur Brown, who allso serves as Buena Park's mayor, "said he would like several nearby cities to join Buena Park on Metrolink ideas" according to the Times. Instead of building parking structures, Brown argued, it's cheaper to increase bus service to major employers in nearby cities or to major attractions like Knott's Berry Farm.

The Times also reported that Newport Beach officials have discussed a joint project with irvine, "such as a bus connector that would loop twice a day from the rail station to Newport Center, where thousands are employed."

According to Richard Edmonston, a Newport Beach traffic engineer quoted by the paper, "Because many people work long hours and don't always leave their offices at 5 p.m., we would need a service that offers flexibility, and maybe a Metrolink tie might work."

Meanwhile, "Light-Rail Plan May Be Back on Track in irvine", as another recent article in the Los Angeles Times (31 January) was headlined. "Back on track"? Well, maybe.

As the article explains, the city of irvine is eyeing a plan for a 5.5-mile "fixed guideway" line of some kind to facilitate a connection among the future Orange County Great Park, irvine's Metrolink station, and the Spectrum shopping center. According to the proposal, which won an initial endorsement from the irvine City Council in mid-January, the project would divert millions of dollars in state money that the city had earmarked for now-defunct CenterLine semi-metro project into the short "connector" line instead, estimated at $210 million.

And it might not actually be light rail. As the article relates, "Still to be determined is the technology the rail system would employ – light rail, monorail or a trolley-like system." According to the Times, city officials emphasize that any system designed "would probably be elevated to keep it clear of road and pedestrian traffic...."

Whether the "trolley-like" system means streetcar technology – another form of light rail – is not yet clear. For the CenterLine project, consultants had compared a monorail alternative but found the original LRT technology superior and preferable, in both performance and cost.

In the January meeting mentioned above, according to the Times, the irvine City Council okayed "a $5.6-million initial study that will include engineering design, environmental impact and ridership forecasts, among other things."

As the Times reported, "...irvine officials hope that, if their project is built and proves successful, it will serve as a model for other cities to follow and eventually link with irvine's tracks."

To fund this new proposal, the city wants to use $125 million in state money it was allocated from a bond issue, approved by voters in 1990, that was previously targeted to be spent on the CenterLine project. However, to access the bond money, the city must match those funds.

According to irvine officials cited by the Times, matching funds could come from either private or public sources, "including an extension of Measure M, the county's half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax for transportation projects that is set to expire in 2011."

"Meanwhile," the Times points out, "the clock is ticking: The city agreed to spend its state mass-transit money by July 1, 2010, or lose it." Furthermore, says the paper, irvine council members have ben told that the demise of the CenterLine plan has prompted several other California cities to ask for irvine's unused money.

Opponents of rail transit – veterans of the anti-CenterLine campaign who are rallying around road transportation alternatives – have begun to re-emerge in opposition to irvine's new rail proposal, disparaging it as "a train to nowhere, just like CenterLine" and a "Field of Dreams" approach. As the Times relates, "critics of mass-transit rail systems say that in Southern California, where communities and job centers are spread out and people depend on their cars, it makes more sense to widen roads and to invest in rapid bus lines."

But supporters of irvine's plan believe it's a winner. "This is part of building a more balanced transportation system that includes freeways, tollways, light rail, heavy rail…." said irvine Councilman Larry Agran. "In a major metropolitan area you need all those modes of transportation."

As the Times notes, irvine's project must still win OCTA's approval. One OCTA board member, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, said he welcomed irvine's plans.

More on Orange County Public Transport Developments

More on Rail Transit Development...

20 March 2006

Salt Lake City:
Snowstorm snarls traffic, but TRAX light rail keeps going strong

The value of well-prepared and well-run rail mass transit was emphasized during the recent snowstorm that hit Salt Lake City on 15 March, when TRAX light rail transit (LRT) operations were maintained although much of the rest of the city's transportation system was disrupted. "Despite the storm's fury," reports local station KSL-TV (15 March), "TRAX commuters arrived on time today, many waiting in empty offices while their colleagues in cars crawled to work at a snail's pace."

The report goes on to note that "Though it didn't blast everything along the Wasatch Front, where the storm hit, it hit hard! Early morning, heavily loaded TRAX trains sliced into the fury at about 33rd South, but hardly skipped a beat as they continued moving downtown."

"So how do the trains always manage to make it?" Ed Yeates, the reporter, asks, in a story headlined "TRAX Trains Not Slowed by Storms". The report then enumerates several measures taken by Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to keep their trains running.

· Snowplows on cars: "Let's start with the most obvious, something you would expect on every train – a little snowplow attached right to the bottom of each leading car" explains the KSL reporter..

· ice-breaking pantographs: Another device was a special pantograph, designed mainly to clear the power contact wire of ice, described by Yeates as "a spare arm called an ice-breaker." According to Paul O'Brien, General Manager, UTA Rail Services, "We were the first property in the country to actually make a heated pantograph standard on our fleet."

As the reporter explains,

Pantographs, as they're called, make contact with overhead electrical lines powering the trains. But TRAX installed a powerless spare at the front of some trains, designed only to send heat up the lines and melt ice buildup.

Yeates notes that "in one freak ice storm, Portland had to shut down its light rail for four days because of frozen overhead lines and rail switches." But TRAX managed to avoid that problem with the special pantographs and the next device...

· Automatic switch heaters: According to O'Brien, "We have sensors in special track heaters that come on automatically with a combination of moisture and temperature."

Yeates describes the result: "If you could walk down the middle of the tracks, you'd see lots of snow, but when you get to the switch – the critical switch – it's all dry. ice-free switches and ice-free overhead lines."

· Continuous operation: "And" reports Yeates, "in worst-case scenarios, when snow falls all night..." TRAX keeps extra trains running continuously to clear snow and ice.

According to O'Brien, "We will actually keep trains out running al night, just to keep the tracks clear."

· Planning ahead: And UTA is even taking measures in anticipation of possible future problems, not experienced so far. As Yeates reports, "TRAX is also about to install heaters in the bottom of door stairwells to keep them ice-free as well."

More on Salt Lake City Public Transport Developments

More on Transit industry Safety issues...

16 March 2006

Northern Virginia:
Washington-area Virginia Railway Express regional rail ridership jumps 6.8%

In a major success for regional passenger rail transit in northern Virginia and the Washington, DC metro area, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) has just chalked up some impressive achievements. According to Ed Tennyson, PE, a technical consultant to the Light Rail Now Project, VRE's Fiscal Year 2005 Annual Report (for the agency's 13th year of operation) indicates that weekday passenger-trips totalled 15,000, or 3.8 million for the year – an increase of 6.8%.

Initially launched in 1992, today VRE serves travellers – predominantly work commuters – in northern Virginia and the Washington, DC region with an 83-mile system consisting of two lines and 18 stations. Rolling stock consists mainly of bilevel railway coaches hauled by conventional "heavy" railroad diesel-electric locomotives.

Ed cites the following additional facts from the VRE report:

· Passenger-miles were estimated at 114.4 million, 30 miles per passenger.
· Fare revenue was $19.6 million, up 14.3% over 2004 at 17 cents per passenger-mile.
· Operating costs were $41 million, up 9.4% at 35.8 cents per passenger-mile.

Ed notes that "The revenue-to-cost ratio was 48% by FTA accounting, but 60 percent by political reporting, which does not count payments to Amtrak, CSX, and NS [Norfolk Southern Railroad] for capital faclities used. if VRE owned the track, these costs would vanish."

According to Ed, car-miles per car hour came to 33.3. Cost per car-hour was $750, "up very high for lack of all-day service over which to spread labor costs." in contrast, Ed points out, "The electric Northern indiana Commuter Transportation District with similar route mileage and patronage cost only $350 per car hour in 2003" – illustrating the efficiency of all-day service as well as electric propulsion.

Success motivates expansion: Ed also notes that VRE has been directed by the Virginia Legislature to study a ten-mile extension to Haymarket on the NS "B" line.

More on Washington, DC-area Public Transport Developments

More on Transit industry Ridership issues...

16 March 2006

New York City:
Even without legal policy, cops cracking down on subway photography

As we recently reported, despite New Jersey Transit's decision to stop trying to criminalize photography, thus giving a policy thumbs-up to the important practice of public photographic documentation of transit operations and features, NJT law enforcement personnel in some cases are carrying out their own de facto photo bans outside legal policy (see New Jersey Transit: Despite policy change, cops continue de facto ban on railway photography). Now, it seems, some New York City cops are doing the same.

"When the [New York City] MTA tried to ban picture taking in the subway last year, that plan quickly died in the face of widespread opposition" reports independent cable TV news channel NY1 News [23 February 2006]. "But that hasn't necessarily stopped police from enforcing the non-existent rule" says the station, in a report titled "Some Police Still Enforcing Non-Existent Ban On Photography in The Subways".

Filed by veteran transit reporter Bobby Cuza, the report points out that "Taking pictures or video is perfectly legal anywhere in the subway or commuter rail system, and not grounds for a DisCon, or Disorderly Conduct, summons. And yet, scenes like this one are not uncommon; police trying to block the practice, as they did when NY1 visited the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn with newspaper photographer Todd Maisel, Vice President of the New York Press Photographers Association."

Maisel, according to the reporter, "says police are routinely enforcing a rule that doesn't exist."

And because it's an armed cop who's in charge, it becomes de facto law. "Most people will not do something that a police officer does not want them to do, because they don't want to be arrested. They don't want to go through the system. They don't want to deal with the courts" Maisel told NY1.

Cuza's report relates some background to the situation:

On the subways, New York City Transit's own rules of conduct are clear: Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted. That means everyone – not just news people, but anyone with a camera.

Citing security concerns, the MTA proposed tightening the rules back in 2004. But the opposition proved so fierce, the idea was quietly dropped.

"The rule against photography was never adopted, and therefore can't be enforced. There's no rule!" says Harry Diorio of the National Press Photographers Association.

That means if you have a camera of any kind, you can use it without asking permission.

As for the news media, MTA spokesman Tom Kelly says it's longstanding policy that they let the agency know if they plan to take pictures or video. He says that's only to maintain orderly operations and as a courtesy to passengers who may not want their pictures in the newspaper or on TV.

"But" notes Cuza, "critics point out that policy's not written anywhere, leaving it up to individual police officers or transit workers to make their own rules."

"We're very concerned that police officers, without any legal authority, are telling people they cannot videotape, they cannot photograph" said Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). "And people, because they respect the police, or they fear the police, are complying with that, even though that's a completely unlawful order."

Maisel told the reporter that "he's contacted several attorneys, but no legal action has been taken against the MTA, at least for now."

More on New York City Public Transport Developments

More on security issues and the controversy over efforts to criminalize railway and transit photography...

9 March 2006

New Orleans:
St. Charles streetcar line reopening now targeted for "late 2007"

New Orleans transit activist and streetcar enthusiast Earl W. Hampton, Jr. provides news on the rebuilding of the New Orleans streetcar system, particularly the venerable, historic St. Charles line.

Earl recently communicated with Elmer Von Dullen, Superintendent of Streetcar Construction for the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority, and the driving force behind the rehabilitation and renewal of the system's rolling stock. Asked about a timeframe for replacing the overhead power wires on St. Charles and repairing the RTA-Brookville "red cars" (PT-2000 high-performance streetcars, ruined in the post-Katrina flood), and where the work on these cars will be done, Elmer responded as follows:

The wires are down on the downtown loop on Saint Charles but we will not be running on the loop until late 2006. We are working to get the Canal [line] up and running some time in March using the old cars. We have started some work on the new cars but it could be 2 years to finish all of the cars.

Elmer related that the entire St. Charles line rebuild would probably be completed in late 2007.

"I was shocked to hear that it will be another year and 1/2 before St. Charles is back to normal" writes Earl Hampton. "My guess is labor and material problems" he notes.

Referring to the 80-year-old Perley Thomas heritage streetcars which traditionally have run on the St. Charles line, Earl writes, "I thought by this fall we would able to smell the ozone and feel the autumn breezes riding the Perleys again." However, with the regular Canal cars – the PT-2000s – out of service for nearly two more years, the antique, olive-green St. Charles cars will undoubtedly continue to operate as substitutes for the PT-2000s on Canal in the interim. Thus, Earl emphasizes, "Now is the time to photograph this event."

"It's like déjà vu," Earl adds, "seeing the [antique] green cars on Canal again. It may never happen again!"

More on New Orleans Public Transport Developments

9 March 2006

Petroleum consumption comparison – USA, European Union, Australia

A number of transportation and energy analysts have noted the huge disparity between the USA's dependency on petroleum and the more diversified energy profile of other advanced idustrial countries, which promote public transport and electrification of transportation systems to a far greater extent. Jim Gagnepain highlights "some interesting facts from the CIA Factbook." Jim has confined his comparison to the USA, Europe Union (EU), and Australia.

Population (2005)
· USA: 296 million
· EU: 457 million
· Australia: 20 million

Daily Oil Consumption
· USA: 19.6 Million BBLs
· EU: 14.5 Million BBLs
· Australia: 796,000 BBLs

· USA: $11.75 trillion
· EU: $11.65 trillion
· Australia: $612 billion

Jim then performs "a little math on these figures", as shown below:

Yearly Oil Consumption per Person
· USA: 24.09 BBL/person
· EU: 11.68 BBL/person
· Australia: 14.6 BBL/person

GDP/BBL of Oil
· USA: $1,644/BBL
· EU: $2,192/BBL
· Australia: $2,107/BBL

More on Transit industry Environmental and Energy issues...

1 March 2006 (Rev. 5 March 2006)

Bergen (Norway):
Light rail project gets final approval

The light rail transit (LRT) project being proposed for Bergen (Norway) received its very final approval on 28 February (2006) by the Norwegian parliament, according to Roy Budmiger of Oslo, in a report posted to online transit discussion lists. The project has progressed through several stages of approval, by the Bergen city council, by the parliament transport committee, and at other levels. This latest action – the final approval – focused on the financing scheme.

The total cost of the 10-km (6-mile) light rail line, including vehicles and maintenance facilities, is NOK 1.64 billion, with an upper limit of 1.8 billion or €225 million (about US$293 million). According to Roy's report, forty percent of the cost will be granted by the Norwegian state, with the remainder financed by extending the now 20-year-old road toll system by another four years. Roy also notes that the LRT project is "part of an extensive transport plan that will also include road construction."

The 10-km line will be routed from Kaigaten in central Bergen, through Danmarks plass, Minde, Sletten, Fantoft and end at Nesttun. A map can be viewed at the following URL:

According to Roy, bus services now running between Nesttun and the city center "will be converted to feeder routes." The first 4 km (2.5 miles) of the line will be installed mainly as segregated street-running;. this section will also parallel a long portion of the former tram line 1 that was abandoned in 1965. The rest of the line will include four tunnels with a total length of approximately 2.5 km (1.6 miles).

While construction work will officially commence next autumn, reports Roy, "in fact work has already begun." This past autumn, he notes, "a street in Nesttun was converted to a pedestrian area, including a concrete track bed and traction poles with brackets for the overhead. A photo is available at the following URL:

Roy recounts that "This section really belongs to phase 2, a planned extension to Lagunen, but may now be included in phase 1. Phase 3 is yet another planned extension to the Flesland airport. Future plans include new lines to Åsane and Fyllingsdalen/Loddefjord."

Although there is a general political agreement to build the LRT line, including from all political parties but one (the rightwing "Progress Party"), the project unfortunately seems to be lagging in terms of general public support. According to Roy, several polls and surveys indicate a 60-70% majority against the project. Some of this opposition may be explained by the lack of information, says Roy, and the fact that the finance method – more than half of it road taxation – "is already very unpopular." Roy notes that a recent campaign collected 20,000 signatures demanding a separate referendum over the light rail issue.

"This was however rejected," reports Roy, "partly because referendums are never being held over details only," and in addition the LRT project "is part of a transport plan that has been (or maybe should have been) commonly known to the public for the three last political elections." [in a followup comment, dated 2 March, Roy explains further that "referendums have been used only six times in Norway, on principal national issues, like dissolution of the union with Sweden, maintaining the monarchy, alcohol prohibition, and of course the EU. The light rail project is really nothing but a detail in a local transport plan, and it would be unthinkable to arrange a referendum on just yes or no to light rail."]

In any case, he emphasizes, "The final and formal approval was made today [Tuesday]." More information on the project can be found at the following URL:

27 February 2006

Bush administration rapped for slashing energy-efficiency programs

US President George W. Bush's recent State-of-the-Union speech commitment to reducing the United States' dependency on petroleum is called into question by actions of his administration. In a statement released in Washington, DC on 7 February (2006) the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) expressed "disappointment" in the US Department of Energy's (DOE) funding cuts for energy efficiency in its fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request.

The ACEEE describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting both economic prosperity and environmental protection."

According to the ACEEE, federal energy-efficiency core funding fell by over $100 million, or about 18 percent, compared to the FY 2006 level. According to the group, "This budget proposal accelerates a six-year decline in efficiency spending. Since FY 2002, DOE research and design spending on core efficiency programs has fallen by $157 million; this represents a 32% after-inflation drop in federal support for energy efficiency."

"The DOE budget slashes the energy efficiency programs that are the first step toward the President's State of the Union goal of curing America's oil addiction" said ACEEE Policy Director Bill Prindle. "While exploring clean energy sources is important, we must moderate energy demand through energy efficiency; otherwise, no energy supply system, no matter how clean, will be able to keep up with runaway demand."

The ACEEE pointed out that the budget of the US Environmental Protection Agency, recently released, also included proposed cuts in energy-efficiency funding. "For example, funding for programs to reduce greenhouse gas intensity is reduced, including cuts of more than $3 million in the very successful ENERGY STAR® program" said the group's media release. The statement continued:

Energy efficiency has demonstrated that it can provide America's fastest and least expensive remedy for the high oil and natural gas prices that continue to cut jobs and sap our economic strength. Higher fuel prices have added over $300 billion to Americans' annual energy bills since 2003. ACEEE research shows that modest, cost-effective energy savings can have a major softening effect on these prices. For example, a study on natural gas price impacts shows that over the next five years, a 4 to 5% savings in gas usage would cut wholesale prices by 25% and would return over $100 billion in savings to the economy.

The energy bill passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2005 calls for a 50% increase in energy efficiency funding over the next five years. To honor this commitment, ACEEE urges Congress to increase spending for key efficiency programs, including DOE's appliance standards programs, ENERGY S0TAR programs at DOE and EPA, industrial technical assistance, distributed energy technologies like combined heat and power, and heavy vehicle research, among others in the transportation, industry, buildings, and intergovernmental programs.

While proposed funding for DOE's appliance standards program has been increased by about 15%, most priority programs face steep cuts. For example, DOE's industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program helps small manufacturers save energy while training university engineering students. By cutting the number of universities in the IAC program by more than half, with indications of a plan to eliminate the program by 2009, DOE is ignoring President Bush's State of the Union call for increased science and technical education.

For further information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, the organization can be contacted at:

1001 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Suite 801
Washington, D.C. 20036-5525

Specific organization contacts are:

Bill Prindle, 202.429-8873, x710
Steven Nadel, 202.429-8873, x709

The ACEEE's media contact is Glee Murray, 202.429-0063.

More on Transit industry Environmental and Energy issues...

21 February 2006

Upgraded Glenelg tramway opened with new trams

At last, on 9 January (2006), Adelaide's totally refurbished, 10.8-km (6.7-mile) suburban electric tramway to Glenelg opened with nine brand-new trams (light railcars). As we reported in last year's article Adelaide: Light Rail Tramway Development Moves to Forefront, the project is a major upgrade of a venerable, world-famous heritage tramway which had been running cars dating from the 1920s.

Despite opening glitches (mainly problems with the air-conditioning in some cars), and complaints about fewer seats than in the older cars, public reaction seemed very positive.

According to the Adelaide Advertiser (9 Jan. 2006), the new rolling stock is "smoother, quieter and cooler". Trevor Triplow, a passenger riding the refurbished line together with his two grandsons, described the new trams as "a great thing". "I've been into trams all my life and I would have liked to see more than 64 seats, but it is very accessible for the disabled" he noted.

The upgrading of the existing tramway, including the new trams, plus a 0.75-mile (1.2-km) extension into the city center, has a total budget of about A$93 million (US$71 million).

Success of the tramway modernization project has fueled interest in a far more ambitious project to extend a totally new tram line to Port Adelaide, a northwest suburb. In this proposal, an existing Port Adelaide railway (current used for light commuter traffic) would be re-gauged to carry trams, at a cost of about A$190 million (US$145 million). "If the Glenelg tramway were to be extended to North Tce, the Port Adelaide line could link with it and enable trains to travel through to Outer Harbor and Semaphore. An additional A$70 million option is envisioned to include an additional branch extending from Woodville to West Lakes, passing AAMI Stadium, and connecting Albert Park to Grange.

Local council members assert such a new tramway would provide economic, social, and environmental benefits, including:shorter travel times, less road congestion, and a 9 percent decrease in annual greenhouse gases

A more detailed report released in mid-February by the Port Adelaide Enfield Council concludes that converting most of the existing Outer Harbor railway line to a light rail tramway would deliver significant economic and environmental benefits, including reducing traffic congestion. According to the report, this would include reducing the number of travellers commuting to work by car from the northwest by almost 3000 daily by 2011, or from 83 percent now to 75 percent.

The plan proposes running a tram line through the heart of Port Adelaide, over the Jervois Bridge through to North Haven, "with a spur line down Semaphore Rd to the foreshore", according to the Adelaide Advertiser (15 Feb. 2006). Projected to cost A$187.14 million (about US$143 million), the plan includes $52.6 million for 10 new trams similar to those put in service on the Glenelg line. Extensions to Grange and West Lakes, including a new spur line to AAMI Stadium and the West Lakes shopping center, would raise the total cost to A$258.13 million (about $197 million).

Local council leaders are currently pursuing approval of funding for the project with state officials.

More on Public Transport Developments in Australia

21 February 2006

Urban transport energy efficiency comparison

How green is your transport? British transit advocate Steve Barber provides the following comparison of electric light rail transit (tramways) and "heavy" rail (rail rapid transit) vs. petroleum- fueled modes and bicycles. The comparison is taken from "Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction Strategies", TDM Encyclopaedia and cited in the forthcoming publication, Ticket to the Future: Three Stops to Sustainable Mobility by the international Union of Public Transport (UITP). "Interestingly, they include the vehicle production energy, which for a car is very high" Steve notes.

Energy Use by Urban Mode
(Million joules/passenger-km)

Mode Vehicle
Fuel Total


0.3 0.8
Light Rail


1.4 2.1


2.1 2.8
Heavy rail


1.9 2.8
Car, Petrol


3.0 4.4
Car, Diesel


3.3 4.7

"In an urban environment" Steve points out, "diesel cars come out worst", using 2.2 times as much energy as trams (light rail transit) and almost 6 times as much as bicycle transportation. Cars running on gasoline (petrol) use about 2.1 times as much energy as electric light rail.

More on Transit industry Environmental and Energy issues...

20 February 2006

US transit:
Paul Weyrich appointed to surface transport panel

Lou Rugani reports that national US rail transit advocate Paul Weyrich was just appointed this past Monday (13 February) to the US National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (along with Patrick E. Quinn of Tennessee). US Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will be the chairman.

Offering his congratulations to Paul, Kenosha-area transit advocate and radio personality Lou Rugani notes that Paul Weyrich is the longtime leader of the Free Congress Foundation, and a former resident of Kenosha, Wisconsin now living in the Washington, DC area.

"The cause of better rail transit in America has taken a major leap forward this week", Lou emphasizes.

More on Transit industry Policy & Political issues...

16 February 2006

River Line light railway weekday ridership leaps 23% higher in a year

Ridership has been growing relentlessly on New Jersey Transit's River Line fuel-powered light railway in southern New Jersey. As our article Camden-Trenton: River Line Light Railway Gains Riders, Spurs Economic Development indicates, the River Line provides a pleasant, speedy, high-quality, reliable rail connection along the eastern shore of the Delaware River – running 34 miles between Camden (in the Philadelphia metro area) and Trenton, and serving an array of small communities in between.

And passengers have been flocking to the new rail service. According to data recently released by NJ Transit, average weekday ridership in October 2005 rose to 7,370 compared with 5,968 in the same period a year before – a leap of about 23.5 percent.

"Weekend ridership is also up from last year, though not as significantly" reports the Associated Press (26 Nov. 2005), noting that the River Line's average Saturday ridership in October was 4,613, compared with 4,368 a year previously. The average number of Sunday rider-trips rose to 3,809 from 3,535, according to NJ Transit. In terms of overall ridership (averaging weekday with weekend data), in the first quarter of the new fiscal year (July through September) the average number of trips on the light railway was 16.8 percent higher compared with the year before.

The 23.5% surge in weekday ridership is especially encouraging, according to the Camden Courier-Post (15 Dec. 2005), because that suggests "significant growth in the number of commuters who regularly use the line."

"The River Line is always going to have a considerable leisure component" observed NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel, noting various waterfront attractions in Camden, the athletic arenas in Trenton, and historical attractions such as those in Burlington and Bordentown cities along the line. "But what we are encouraged by is the fact that more customers seem to be using the River Line for their daily commute and that we haven't seen a significant dropoff in those numbers with the colder weather" he emphasized.

Stessel also noted that River Line ridership has grown despite a July 1st fare increase, from $1.10 to $1.25. "It's still relatively new, so more and more customers are trying it out and when they do, they're committing to it" he added.

NJ Transit officials attribute the line's increasing popularity to growing awareness of the rail service and the higher cost of motor fuel. Service quality is fairly high for what is basically a regional or intercity service – trains run every 15 minutes during peak hours, and a new NJ Transit policy allows customers with monthly or weekly commuter rail passes to ride the River Line at no extra charge, according to the AP report.

Also, interconnection with other public transport is good. "The line has connecting services to Philadelphia and the Northeast Corridor in New Jersey, and has improved connections with Capital Connection buses in Trenton" notes the AP.

In a Philadelphia inquirer commentary (27 Oct. 2005) titled "Light rail's success defies the doubters", Donald Nigro, vice-president of the Philadelphia-based Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers (, underscored the River Line's ongoing "increase in popularity" and pointed out that "Unsupported fears of the River Line during the 1990s have proved wrong: it is clear that trains are not running over children, tying up traffic, or providing transportation for burglars."

On the contrary, Nigro noted, the River Line light railway "is spurring the revitalization of communities, increasing property values, and combating automobile congestion. This is no surprise for those aware of the capabilities of passenger rail service."

Another River Line success appears to be registered in fare collection. The system relies on a European-style passenger-proof-of-purchase ticket system, whereby riders buy tickets from ticket vending machines (TVMs) at stations, validate their tickets in a validating machine before boarding, and then are subject to random checks by enforcement officers. Tickets are valid for two hours. Monthly passes do not require validation.

Enforcement officers randomly check tickets and issue summonses for those without them. So far, the River Line's fare evasion rate has been just 1.52 percent – one of the lowest in the USA. According to NJ Transit spokesman Stessel, that means that, "for every 100 people asked to produce a ticket, fewer than two are in violation."

More on New Jersey Public Transport Developments

More on Transit industry Ridership issues...

16 February 2006

APTA raps Bush administration for slashing transit funding

In a public media release issued on 15 February (2006), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) admonished the US Bush administration for a $100 million cut in federal funding for public transport. Here's the text of the APTA statement:

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is disappointed that the Administration's FY 2007 budget proposes to fund federal transit investment at $100 million below the level approved just last summer by near unanimous votes in Congress and signed into law by the President.

Under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Congress set guaranteed transit funding at $8.97 billion in FY 2007. While transit funding would increase by 4.3%, from $8.50 billion in FY 2006 to $8.87 billion in FY 2007, funding transit below the authorized and guaranteed level means that needed improvements to the transit infrastructure will occur at a slower rate, thus prolonging what the President correctly described in his State of the Union Address as America's addiction to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

While the budget proposal adheres to the SAFETEA-LU transit program in most respects, it proposes funding only $100 million of the $200 million authorized in FY 2007 for a new program meant to assist the development and construction of smaller fixed guideway projects such as streetcars, trolleys, commuter rail, and certain bus rapid transit systems. With 322 new starts projects in construction or authorized for final design or preliminary engineering in SAFETEA-LU, a cut in this program is indefensible.

In addition, the budget assumes the imposition of $59 million in fees on commuter railroads in the Northeast Corridor in each of FY 2006 and 2007 to support Amtrak spending, even though the open and transparent process which Congress called for to establish those fees has not yet been completed. These fees if imposed will force commuter railroads to raise fares and reduce service to their customers, thus pushing many back into their cars at a time when the President has identified America's need to wean itself from imported oil.

With recent U.S. Department of Transportation annual needs assessments of more than $20.6 billion for public transportation, APTA believes that the federal government should be [investing] no less than the level authorized and guaranteed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. APTA will work with the Congress to ensure that transit capital investment is fully funded. Transit investment benefits every community and the nation. It helps to reduce our dependence on imported oil, improve air quality, and reduce congestion.

More on Transit industry Cost, Budget, & Financial issues...

15 February 2006

St. Louis:
Soaring light rail ridership boosts entire transit system

Achievements of St. Louis's MetroLink light rail transit (LRT) system are highlighted in an article in the current issue of Railway Age (Feb. 2006) – achievements that are all the more impressive in view of the escalating ferocity of attacks which rail opponents have mounted against MetroLink in recent years (e.g., see Why St. Louis's MetroLink Light Railway is a Mobility Bargain).

MetroLink's current weekday ridership averages 51,000 to 55,000 rider-trips per day, depending upon the season – totalling some 16 million per year and 133 million annual passenger-miles That represents a sizable increase. According to Edson L. Tennyson, PE (a veteran transit industry engineer and manager, and technical consultant to the Light Rail Now Project), in 2003, MetroLink's weekday ridership averaged 50,000 for a total of 15 million annually and 124,972,600 passenger-miles.

Ed points out that MetroLink's figures stand in stark contrast to those of St. Louis Metro's entire 101-route bus system, which in 2003 accounted for only 122,165,700 passenger-miles but at far greater cost. In other words, Metro's single LRT line accounts for more passenger-miles than all of the 101 bus routes also operated by the transit agency.

The accomplishments of MetroLink are particularly impressive if one goes further into the past, says Ed. In FY 1993, without MetroLink, St. Louis's buses moved only 173,582,057 passenger-miles – compared with a total bus and rail figure of about 247 million in 2003. Thus, over approximately a decade, MetroLink has boosted transit use more than 42 percent with just a single, long line. "That is a tremendous change for the better, and at lower cost per passenger-mile at the same time" Ed emphasizes.

More on St. Louis Public Transport

More on Transit Ridership issues ...

15 February 2006

New Jersey Transit:
Despite policy change, cops continue de facto ban on railway photography

On 11 January, we reported that, based on new directives from New Jersey Transit Executive Director George Warrington, "...New Jersey Transit evidently has reversed its policy of attempting to outlaw photography of its system operations, infrastructure, and rolling stock...." However, recent incidents suggest that this new policy either has not been communicated to law enforcement personnel, or these personnel are simply choosing to ignore it.

Two cases have come to our attention. The first is reported by renowned transit researcher Leroy Demery, Jr.:

Despite the widely-publicized "cancellation" of New Jersey Transit's photo ban by George Warrington in December, the following occurred evidently in early February. According to an e-mail from a friend, an individual "with industry credentials" was apprehended and "treated roughly" by NJT police for photographing the waiting room of Penn Station, Newark.

"Their attitude was that, even if the photo ban had been lifted, they would continue to hound and arrest all rail photographers for, in their opinion, all such people must be regarded as possible terrorists, and it is the right and duty of law enforcement personnel to make their own judgements on such matters."

The second incident is reported by Frank Miklos, a transit industry professional and current president of the Electric Railroaders Association:

It snowed today [12 February] in New Jersey and I received a cell phone call from a friend who is a professor at Rutgers University. He wanted to photograph some scenes of NJ Transit trains and light rail cars in the snow and was told by an NJ Transit cop that this was not allowed. My friend explained to him that the photo ban had been lifted and was told by the cop that they are still under orders to enforce the "rules." He took down the officers's badge number and will file a formal complaint against the cop. He already filed a complaint with the customer service representative in Newark's Pennsylvania Station.

These incidents suggest that, even in the face of policies permitting photography, important civil liberties continue to be abused. Apparently, the current climate of "anti-terror" hysteria and national "state of siege" mentality continue to encourage law enforcement authorities to create laws and rules at their own convenience and to continue to practice the de facto criminalization of transit photography .

The Light Rail Now Project warns that public security is not served by the abuse of the law and the persecution of the innocent. Whether within or outside the law, such assaults on the critically important practice of public photographic documentation of transit operations and features constitute an outrage and must be stopped.

More on New Jersey Public Transport Developments

More on security issues and the controversy over efforts to criminalize railway and transit photography...

13 February 2006

Huge $750 million transit-oriented development plan unveiled for light rail station area

One of the largest single transit-oriented development (TOD) plans yet proposed in connection with a light rail transit (LRT) project has been unveiled in the Denver area. On 24 January (2006), Westfield Development, the development arm of the Frederick Ross Co., and the lead firm in a consortium backing the project, presented the plan for a $750 million TOD project next to the southernmost LRT station along Denver's T-REX corridor – the alignment of an extensive new 19-mile LRT line plus massive highway expansion project along interstates 25 and 225 in the southeast Denver metro area. Westfield's partner in the development is the Bradbury family, longtime owner of the property, and Gary Woods, a real estate attorney associated with the Bradbury family for several years.

The mixed-use commercial and residential development, called Lincoln Station, is zoned for 3 million square feet of commercial space and 1,500 residential units, according to a report in the Rocky Mountain News (25 January). However, apparently the giant project will not initially be built out to its maximum density.

Rich McClintock, president of Westfield, McClintock said the development, at interstate 25 between Lincoln Avenue and C-470, near Park Meadows Mall and Sky Ridge Medical Center, will "adjust to market conditions." McClintock told the newspaper that his best guess is that Lincoln Station will include 800,000 to one million square feet of commercial space and 800 to 1,000 residential units.

Westfield has concocted the term "goburb" to describe Lincoln Station, located "at the intersection of an urban development and a suburban setting", according to the news article. Westfield believes the term "goburb" captures "the energy of an urban area with the laid-back lifestyle of suburbia." Construction of the first phase of the project – including a 150,000-square-foot office building, a 30,000-square-foot office building, 30,000 square feet of retail space, and 80 residential units priced from about $200 to $450 per square foot – will begin next October, McClintock said.

The Lincoln Station site is "a pretty prime location" according to John Lay, president and CEO of the Southeast Business Partnership. "We're going to be seeing a lot of transit-oriented development opportunities along T-REX" Lay predicted, adding, "Each stop is going to be unique."

More on Denver Public Transport

More on Urban Development and TOD...

9 February 2006

Salt Lake City:
"Wildly successful" TRAX light rail system hailed for "surpassing ridership estimates"

The phenomenal performance of Salt Lake City's TRAX light rail transit (LRT) system continues to receive accolades from the local community.

The latest come in a Salt Lake Tribune article (8 Feb. 2006), focused mainly on federal support for the regional passenger rail ("commuter") system planned by Utah Transit Authority (UTA), which will interconnect with the TRAX LRT system (mentioned incidentally). "TRAX, which some critics feared at first would be underused, has turned out to be wildly successful, surpassing ridership estimates" reports the Tribune.

The paper notes UTA's tally of an average daily ridership of 55,700 on TRAX, "more than double what was projected by 2020." in other words, the TRAX LRT system is today carrying over twice the ridership forecast for 14 years in the future!

More on Salt Lake City Public Transport

6 February 2006

Summary of Portland voters' resounding support for light rail

In an effort to disparage new light rail transit (LRT) systems, rail transit critics claim that these systems and proposals to extend them have consistently been rejected by the voting public. Portland's MAX LRT system (installed and managed by TriMet, the regional transit authority) is a favorite target.

For example, national anti-transit hired gun Randal O'Toole has been disseminating his claim that Portland voters have "turned down" rail transit "three times". On the other hand, rail supporters contend that there is strong public support for LRT.

What's the real story?

Our correspondents in Portland provide the following summary of public referenda relating to the LRT system:

Westside corridor

· 1990 – Metro area voters approved regional funding for the Westside MAX LRT extension by a 3-1 margin.

South-North corridor

Between 1994 and 1998, there were three Oregon votes and one Washington vote on the financing of LRT in the South-North Corridor:

· 1994 – Voters in the TriMet service district approved measure 26-13 (a $475 million bond measure) to build a 26-mile LRT line from Clackamas County into Clark County (Washington State).

· 1995 – Clark County (Washington) voters rejected (2 to 1) a ballot measure that would have raised $237 million for the Washington State portion of the South-North LRT line.

· 1996 – Staewide Oregon voters rejected a legislative package that included $375 million in lottery-backed bonds for the South-North Light Rail project and $375 million for rural transportation projects around the state. While the measure failed statewide, it was approved by a majority of the voters within the TriMet service territory.

· 1998 – TriMet Service District voters rejected a new measure on the South-North Light Rail line funding. In its original form in 1998, the total proposed South-North Rail project was divided into three phases. Measure 26-74 would have provided funding toward Phases 1 and 2 (Phase 1: Rose Quarter to Milwaukie; Phase 2: Milwaukie to Clackamas Town Center and Rose Quarter to Kenton). Funding for Phase 3, Kenton to Vancouver/Clark College, was not included in the measure. The measure failed in Clackamas and Washington Counties and passed in Multnomah County (Portland is the county seat of Multnomah County).

After the 1998 regional measure lost in Clackamas and Washington counties, but passed in Multnomah (including Portland), Metro (regional planning agency), TriMet, and City of Portland staff and political leaders re-assessed the Rose Quarter-Kenton section of the proposed South-North project, and moved the alignment from I-5 to the less-costly and more passenger-friendly alignment on North interstate Avenue to define an affordable and useful project to serve an area that had voted heavily in favor and clearly wanted LRT. That became the interstate MAX (Yellow) Line that opened in 2004. Today it's serving the community and neighborhoods of the corridor, and can be extended into Clark County, Washington whenever the voters there want to finance their local share.

Thus, in summary, one can conclude that in the City of Portland itself, it appears that all four light rail referenda have passed, and none has failed; and that, in most of the overall metropolitan area (TriMet service area), three of four have passed.

Preparation of this story has included material posted on the Light Rail Progress Professional online discussion list.

More on Portland Public Transport

More on Popular Support for Public Transport...

6 February 2006

Another rail photographer victimized in security hysteria frenzy

Despite the recent commendable action by New Jersey Transit to back off its effort to criminalize railway photography (see New Jersey: Major victory in effort to resist criminalization of railway photography), the "terrorism" hysteria engulfing the USA continues to prompt transit and law-enforcement authorities to target and harass innocent railway and transit photographers – the leading edge of a national and even worldwide drive to criminalize such "unauthorized" photography.

Virtually every segment of public transportation is being affected, with examples continuing to come to our attention. One would think that Amtrak's intercity rail passenger service – carrying a relatively high proportion of photo-snapping tourists – would be immune from the hysteria infection. But, alas, as the following incident from last August (2005) suggests, such is not the case. James Craig Bourgeois of Houston, Texas provides this description of his (almost "worst-case-scenario") experience:

My biggest fear, in recounting what happened to me August 19, 2005 in New Orleans, is that people will have a very difficult time believing me. I am sure some folks will be sure I am embellishing the facts, exaggerating, or outright lying. None of this is the case. Everything I state here happened as I say it.

I am a 60-year-old, recently retired pharmaceutical rep, with three grown sons. I have a particular fondness for trains, and riding on Amtrak. Friday morning, August 19, I departed Houston on the Sunset Limited, bound for Pensacola, Florida for a short vacation. The train had a layover of several hours in New Orleans, so I thought I would kill some time taking photographs of the terminal and Amtrak facilities. I had taken a lot of photographs along the way, and I have started a photographic album intended to document the Sunset Limited all the way across Louisiana. There is no way to know how much longer Amtrak will run this train.

It is important to know that there are no signs on the platform forbidding passengers from walking down the platform into the area beyond where the lead engine would be, and no signs that prohibit passengers from taking photographs. There are "No Trespassing" signs on the gate to the Amtrak maintenance facility, on Earhart, but they are not visible on the platform.

Two female Amtrak employees drove by and asked me what I was doing. I said I was taking photographs, and that rail photography was a hobby of mine. They admonished me to "watch out for the Amtrak police." I did not take that warning seriously, because I was not doing anything wrong. I joked that maybe "they would beat me up, so I could file a multi-million dollar lawsuit." That, being an idea so ridiculous, anyone would know it was meant in a humorous vein.

I walked a little further down where I encountered a young guy, who was also an Amtrak employee. He inquired as to why I was photographing the switcher, and I explained to him that I was just a railfan, and I wanted photos of the Amtrak equipment. I asked if I could walk further down the platform to take a couple more photographs. He said he preferred I wait until he could get someone to accompany me down there. I said "fine", and I waited.

By then the two female employees had returned and we were all standing around talking and waiting for whoever was supposed to come to see about my request. After a while an Amtrak policeman arrived. I figured he would say I could, or I could not go further down the platform.

When he got out of his car, I could see he was already in a highly excited and agitated state. He was not in the mood to dialogue. He explained I was trespassing on private property (remember, no signs), and was not supposed to be taking photos. I was not about to argue with him, or be the least bit confrontational, knowing the reputation of New Orleans police, but this was an Amtrak policeman, and I was an Amtrak passenger. I merely inquired if this was not public property, since Amtrak is a publicly supported entity. At that he told me to turn around, and he handcuffed me.

I naturally protested that I had done nothing wrong. But he was determined to handle things the way he had, I believe, decided to handle them before he ever showed up. He took me up to his office, and contacted someone, who i assume was his superior. He gave the person an embellished, and almost completely false account of what happened. For instance, he stated I had said, "This is public property, and I can be here if I want to be."

I begged the policeman not to take me off the train, but he continued to repeat that I was "going to jail." I really got upset at this point and insisted he let me talk to someone in the Amtrak office. After asking him over and over to let me speak with someone, he finally put an agent on the phone. I told the agent at the terminal I had done nothing wrong, and to please come get me out of this mess. The agent said he could not override the policeman, and generally conveyed the attitude that he did not give a damn what my predicament was.

The policeman ran my ID, and, of course, it came back that I had never been arrested, and that I had no criminal record. He was unfazed by that information, and instructed the agent to remove my bag from the sleeper room I had occupied. in the stress of the moment I forgot about my large hanging bag that was in the lower level rack. it made it to Orlando, and I will get it back this week.

As we were driving out of the terminal area, on the way to the Orleans Parish Prison, he pointed out the "No Trespassing" sign on the chain link gate, which is not visible to any passenger on the platform of the terminal. Upon arrival at the jail, I was processed in, and at that point the Amtrak officer committed a gross violation of procedure, by keeping my wallet, camera, and a pocket knife that the jailer had taken out of my pocket. This was to have major ramifications, later, when I finally had the opportunity to bail myself out of the facility.

He had also erased certain photographs in my digital camera, while up in his office, a violation of my civil liberties. While waiting for him to show up I had photographed two A-10's that were flying over. He wanted to know why I had photographed the A-10's. I responded, "Because I'm a pilot." I do hold a private pilot's license, but my response seemed to stun him slightly, and he moved on.

The Orleans Parish Prison is one of the worst jails in the country. The jailers there treat all inmates with contempt [and] disdain, and do everything they can to make you feel there is no light at the end of tunnel. My charge, incidentally, was criminal trespass.

You cannot bond out until you are "processed." For hours I watched other inmates come and go, while my name was never called. Earlier, in an odd difference in procedure, the watch captain said, "O.K. Bourgeois, go to that window." I thought I had it made, but when I got there, the first thing they wanted was a photo i.D. Too bad, it was in my bag at the Amtrak police office. So, I had to be put through a nationwide fingerprint search, which added more time to my stay.

I went in the jail at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, slept (what little I could) on the concrete jail floor, instead of the viewliner bed I had on the Sunset Limited, and at four o'clock Saturday afternoon I was still in jail. i could have been out at 11 a.m. of the same day, but with no money, or debit card (remember, they were taken from me) I could not bond out. So, along with about 60 other inmates, I was put in the orange suit and moved to the big prison, with the big cell block, just like you see in the movies.

By the grace of God I had done one thing right. I had managed to get a phone book and write down the number of my cousin, who lives in New Orleans. All phone calls out had to be collect, and you had to have the number. i can remember exactly two phone numbers in my head, one being [that of] my brother who lives in Lake Charles. I was finally able to get in touch with my sister-in-law, and she made numerous phone calls for me; most importantly to my friends in Pensacola, who by now, were frantic. Not to mention my youngest son, who lives here in Houston, who was sent into a tailspin. My cousin, who had been gone when I first called, was home now, and around 6 p.m., she came down and paid my bond. in the manner of doing things at the Orleans Parish Prison, I walked out of the jail at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning. I recovered my belongings the next day at the terminal.

My vacation I had looked forward to was destroyed. My friends and family had been traumatized, as [you only] can be when you cannot account for the whereabouts of someone.

The lasting psychological effect of this is hard to predict. I have been quite depressed since I came home. The overwhelming fact is, I committed no crime. You cannot arrest someone for trespassing, when there is not even a sign saying "no trespassing," and you cannot arrest someone for taking photographs.

The entire amount of time that the officer spent with me on the platform could not have been over one minute. What motivated him to arrest me, when he could have easily said, "You cannot be here – go back to the train," I cannot say. What really bothers me is he obviously felt he could get away with this gross example of false arrest, and deprivation of civil liberties.

That points to something rotten in the system, itself. Combine that with the total disregard of my welfare by the Amtrak agent, and there is ample room for an investigation, and action to be taken. The officer should be terminated, for sure, and following him out the door should be the agent. The officer's superior who allowed him to perpetrate this outrage, should also have to answer.

There is no stone I will leave unturned to get justice for this. As I sat in jail my most consistent thought, after "I have to get out of here," was "I have to make this count for something." This should never happen to anyone, again.

More on security issues and the controversy over efforts to criminalize railway and transit photography...

More on Amtrak and intercity public transport ...

3 February 2006

Southeast light rail line due to open ahead of schedule

Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD) plans to start carrying passengers on its new southeast corridor light rail transit (LRT) line this coming November, according to an article in the Denver Post (29 Nov. 2005). The tentative target date is 17 November 2006 – "about a month earlier than originally planned", the paper notes.

As the Post recounts, the southeast LRT line is being installed as part of the $1.67 billion Transportation Expansion Project, known as T-REX, in the corridors of interstate 25 and interstate 225 in the southeast Denver metro area. The T-REX project includes 19 miles of LRT routed along I-25 and I-225, plus 17 miles of highway expansion in the same corridors.

According to the article, "All the highway and rail construction is scheduled for completion by Sept. 1 and RTD plans to spend about two and a half months testing the southeast rail line and training operators of light-rail cars."

T-REX project director Larry Warner told the reporter that it's difficult enough to finish a transportation "megaproject" on-time and on-budget, so "to complete and open [the southeast LRT line] ahead of schedule is fantastic."

Opening of the southeast line, the Post notes, "will more than double the size of RTD's rail system. Currently, the agency has 16 miles of light rail."

More on Denver Public Transport Developments

2 February 2006

Light rail benefits attracting businesses to locate along route

More and more Phoenix businesses are anticipating the benefits the region's light rail transit (LRT) project can bring them, according to a recent article in the Arizona Republic (24 Jan. 2006). That's materializing not only in support for the project, but locational decisions.

"Funny thing about 'knowledge workers': They don't like to drive" observes Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl, citing that as "one of the reasons Thomas Gorny decided on a site along the future light-rail line when he relocated his Web-hosting business to Phoenix from Santa Monica, Calif., late last year."

"I found that a lot of developers and IT people don't like to drive" Gorny, chief executive officer of IPowerWeb Inc., told the reporter. The fifth-largest Web-hosting site in the United States, the article notes, with 400,000 sites, IPowerWeb has 120 employees in Phoenix and 44 in California.

According to Pitzl, Gorny "hasn't plumbed his employees' psyches to understand why, but he estimates 20 percent of his 120 workers carpool, take the bus or bike to work, anything to avoid the car commute." The reporter adds that "When rail opens in late 2008, Gorny figures he'll be perfectly positioned at 919 E. Jefferson St. to use the rail as a perk for his transit-loving staff."

The article also recounts that "Light rail has appeal to economic-development officials, who are banking on the electric-powered train to transform central Phoenix."

According to the report, Bo Martinez, program manager for transit-oriented development for Phoenix's Downtown Development Office, expects some $600 million in private and public investment to materialize along the 20-mile rail line in the next few years. "That includes such big projects as the downtown campus of Arizona State University, such housing developments as the Portland Place condominiums and relatively modest office projects such as IPowerWeb."

Gorny emphasized that rail wasn't only the reason he chose Phoenix as a relocation site – for example, "he was impressed by the local talent pool". But, reports Pitzl, "It sweetened the deal."

The article also notes that, from their site on East Jefferson, IPowerWeb employees "have easy access into the downtown core as well as to Sky Harbor international Airport." The new LRT line will serve both those locations, as well as "popular destinations" in the suburban city of Tempe, Pitzl writes.

This is important to businesses like IPowerWeb to help accommodate growth. According to the article, "Gorny anticipates doubling his staff this year and said mass transit will help with parking issues."

"We have too many people for the parking spaces" he told the reporter.

Another locational decision involving the new LRT system, cited in the article, involves the Portland Place condominium project near Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street. A $120 million project, Portland Place will provide 230 condominium units on once-vacant land when completed.

According to the report, access to light rail was "a key reason" that Feliciano Vera and his development partners decided to pursue their project at that location on the line. "Specifically, access to a rail station was the vital point."

As the article relates, "The Roosevelt Street station will be located almost literally outside the project's front door." Vera told the reporter that having a rail stop so close allows future residents to live by what he called the "five-minute rule."

"You're five minutes away from most major downtown employment centers" Vera emphasized. He also pointed out that arts and culture sites, sports arenas, and "other destination spots" will be just "a few stops away on the train". For example, US Airways Center, Chase Field, the Sun Devil Stadium at Arizona State University (ASU), and various museums are also along located the route.

"There's a huge convenience to living along light rail" he told the reporter.

Pitzl also relates that "Other cities that have built light rail have touted the transformative power of a train. They point to sidewalk cafes and coffee shops, retail centers and service businesses that have cropped up to cater to the passengers that rail regularly carries."

Martinez, the Downtown Development Office official, underscored that ASU officials wanted ready access to the rail line as they planned their downtown Phoenix campus. "That's why the university is setting down roots at Central and Van Buren, which not only is along the rail line but also a stone's throw from the city's transit hub, where buses converge" writes Pitzl.

According to Martinez, "it's a 10- to 15-minute ride between campuses, and you don't have to worry about parking. And it's good for students."

Martinez also pointed out that city officials are endeavoring to encourage multi-use projects along the rail line. As Pitzl relates,

For example, city officials pushed for a retail component to a residential project being discussed for West Camelback Road, near 17th Avenue. They argued that ground-floor retail would serve not only the residents of the 175-unit project but also the foot traffic that will come to the area.

As a result, Pitzl reports, "A station will be located at 19th Avenue and Camelback, as well as a major park-and-ride lot."

More on Phoenix Public Transport Developments

More on urban impact and transit-oriented development ...

1 February 2006

Transit ridership hits highest level in 3 years, as light rail soars by 9.4%

Apparently reaping the results of soaring motor fuel prices, Pittsburgh's public transit ridership has surged by an average increase of over 7,000 more transit users every weekday; hitting its highest totals in three years.

Average weekday ridership last year jumped 3.2 percent, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC, the area's transit agency) said high fuel prices were in part responsible. According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (21 January 2006), overall, with weekends included, the transit agency provided nearly 70 million rides in 2005 on its buses, light rail trolleys, Monongahela incline, and ACCESS paratransit system – "its highest number in three years".

In terms of average weekday ridership by mode last year (2005), the PAAC's results were as follows:
· Motor bus – 203,713
· LRT trolley – 25,187
· Mon incline – 1,724
· ACCESS (paratransit) – 5,979.

The higher ridership amounted to a comprehensive 2.2 percent multi-modal ridership increase over 2004. "We're traveling in the right direction and we're pushing to continue the trend in the new year" said Steve Banta, PAAC's operations manager.

Some of the most spectacular ridership growth was seen on PAAC's light rail transit (LRT) system, branded locally as the "T", which grew 9.4 percent for the year – most of it since mid-2005, according to the newspaper report.

"While the efficiency of our three busways continues to attract riders," said PAAC Chief Executive Officer Dennis Veraldi in a statement, "2005 marked our first full year with T service on the time-saving Overbrook Line and expanded park-and-ride opportunities. Both played a critical role in achieving the significant ridership increases" he added.

The ridership increases "are consistent with transit growth nationally and in the rest of the state" noted the Post-Gazette, pointing out that, for the third quarter of 2005, national transit ridership grew by 3.3 percent. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the paper noted, the Johnstown-based Cambria County Transit Authority posted a 7.1 percent gain, while the transit system serving State College and Centre County notched up "a nominal 1.7 percent."

And in Philadelphia, regional passenger rail ("commuter rail") was another star performer, with ridership growth of 7.6 percent.

Impressive ridership gains and local public enthusiasm for Pittsburgh's LRT system seem to have been major factors behind the PAAC's program of stronger emphasis on LRT improvements and expansion. In its most ambitious project in many years, PAAC is undertaking the North Shore Connector project, a $393 million plan to extend the LRT system 1.2 miles from a totally new Gateway Center station downtown in new twin tunnels beneath the Allegheny River to the river's north shore, linking up with several sports stadiums, a community college, the Carnegie Science Center, and new corporate offices there. The LRT system would then be positioned for further expansion to serve that section of the urban area.

More on Pittsburgh Public Transport Developments

1 February 2006

Historical Note:
illinois Terminal electric interurban didn't "fold" – it was euthanized, says transit industry veteran

Rail transit industry veteran Edson L. Tennyson – a professional transportation engineer and consultant to the Light Rail Now Project – takes issue with a statement in a Minneapolis Star Tribune article of 25 January, quoted in our story relating the death of Minneapolis light rail advocate George isaacs (see Minneapolis: Light Rail Advocate George isaacs Passes Away After Lifetime of Public Service).

According to the article, George would "ride the illinois Terminal Railroad before it folded in 1956." But, insists Ed,

the illinois Terminal interurban did not "fold" in 1956. Interurban passenger service stopped then, but PCC cars continued to operate on the south end and freight service continued until the freight railroads bought it up to stop the competition. It still did not fold right away, but was graduallly merged into the competing systems. Finally Norfolk & Western bought what was left and gradually shut it down. It did not go out of business; it was taken over. The IT was a very successful Class I railroad so long as it was electric, and it continued for several more years as a diesel operation as it faded away.

Ed argues emphatically that it was the conversion of electric operation to diesel which hampered operations, reduced cost-effective operation, and led to the demise of the illinois Terminal Railroad – not the fact that it was an electric interurban. In effect, Ed seems to be saying, the illinois Terminal Railroad did not perish from its own inadequacies; instead, it was euthanized by the large carriers that absorbed it.

More on transit industry historical issues...

16 January 2006

Docklands Light Railway extension to City Airport opens

London's light metro system – the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) – continues to grow. On 6 December 2005 another 4.4 km (2.7 miles) and 4 new stations of the system, featuring a station at London City Airport, were officially opened, expanding the total length of the system to 31.4 km (19.5 miles) with 38 stations.

Originally opened in 1987, the DLR (despite its name) is a totally automated light metro, with third-rail power distribution and high-platform stations, rather than a light rail transit system – although it uses more than 90 specially equipped light rail transit cars which can be (and in some cases have been) fitted with pantographs, converted to overhead contact system power, and operated on high-platform light railways elsewhere. The system has demonstrated impressive success, steadily gaining ridership and being expanded since its inception.

As of March 2005, according to Tramways & Urban Transit (Dec. 2005) the DLR was carrying some 50.1 million passenger-trips annually, amounting to some 245 million passenger-km (152 million passenger-miles). The DLR interconnects with London's extensive public transport network, including its famous 415-km/259-mile Underground (Tube) metro system as well as the urban area's vast bus and regional passenger railway services.

The DLR's London City Airport extension stretches from Canning Town to King George V station at North Woolwich via London City Airport and, according to a DLR media release, "will play an important part in London's transport plans for the 2012 Olympic Games." The line's four new stations now connect local and airport passengers direct into the Tube system at Canning Town.

Approximately 8,000 residents currently live along the route, and they now have three new stations at West Silvertown, Pontoon Dock, and King George V "providing better access to jobs and leisure facilities as well as generating more custom for local businesses" according to DLR. The agency points out that "Passengers flying in and out of London City Airport will also enjoy faster, easier and cheaper journeys into Canary Wharf, the City and central London."

Mayor Ken Livingstone, speaking at the opening celebration, noted that "The Docklands Light Railway City Airport extension is a vital new transport link which has been delivered on time and on budget. We are now starting to see the benefits of Transport for London's £10-billion five-year investment programme. ... The Docklands Light Railway extension will open up access to jobs and housing in the local area."

London City Airport (LCA) officials also expressed enthusiasm over the DLR extension. An official statement said the airport "would like to congratulate the Docklands Light Railway team ... on the early opening of the extension, which has now put the Airport firmly on the public transport map."

"The Airport's basic proposition is to save people time" noted the LCA statement. "The DLR extension now provides Airport passengers and staff a much-improved service with the certainty that they can get to and from the Airport without disruption."

Expansion of the DLR was one of the key elements in London's successful application to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and this point was emphasized by officials at the opening. Jonathan Fox, DLR Director, underscored that "This extension is tremendously significant for the Southern Royal Docks area. It provides London City Airport with a dedicated rail link into the heart of the City, and will be instrumental in the ongoing regeneration of the local community and the preparations and support for the London 2012 Olympic Games".

The next stage of DLR expansion is a planned 2.5-km (1.6-mile) extension from King George V under the Thames River to Woolwich Arsenal. Targeted for opening in early 2009, according to DLR, this extension "will provide businesses and local communities with another major boost ...."

British Transport Minister Karen Buck, also speaking at the 6 December opening, pointed out that "People who live and travel in London continue to benefit from the investments in its transport system. This is the fourth extension since the DLR opened, improving things still further. It will keep on growing: we are already looking forward to the extension to Woolwich. One of the reasons behind our successful bid for the 2012 Games was that much of what is needed already exists, or is being built right now."

More on Public Transport Developments in United Kingdom

16 January 2006

Orange County:
Regional rail and "rapid bus", perhaps streetcars, may replace defunct CenterLine light rail plan

Apparently what remained of the CenterLine semi-metro light rail transit (LRT) proposed for Orange County (OC), California – after a series of route truncations, political vacillations, and hostility from anti-rail Congressional representatives – is now officially defunct. "CenterLine is now dead" declared Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell, chairman of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) board, in mid-October. Quoted in the Los Angeles Times of 15 October 2005, Campbell warned that "we have to use the money for other transportation options or lose it."

Abandonment of the project essentially trashes about $63 million invested in studies.

In place of the CenterLine LRT project, however, local leaders and planners are redirecting energy and resources into improvements of Orange County's Metrolink regional passenger rail (RPR) services, establishment of so-called "rapid bus" ("BRT"-like) routes, and exploration of possible other transit options such as LRT trolleys (streetcars) or monorails (although an earlier study concluded that LRT was superior in performance and cost to a monorail alternative). Also in mid-October, the OCTA board allocated $30 million to study those kinds of options.

It appears that the CenterLine project basically was knifed by several of Orange County's truculently pro-highway, anti-transit Congressional representatives, who failed to champion the rail project at the federal level – thus ensuring the project would be starved of crucial federal funding (a maneuver somewhat reminiscent of the DeLay-Culberson ambush of Houston's LRT expansion plan – see Houston: Metro dumps MetroRail expansion plan, substitutes "BRT").

But even before that betrayal, the CenterLine project was dying the death of a thousand cuts. Local political pressure (responding to rampant "Not-in-My-Backyard" or NIMBY opposition) had forced the LRT route into a phenomenally expensive elevated-subway alignment (with a stretches of at-grade running); and furthermore – to constrain the costs of such an expensive plan – had truncated its length from nearly 30 miles to about 9 (the most recent truncation following a rather murky, confusing vote in irvine which was interpreted as a rejection of the line in that small city). The end result was a short, rather capital-intensive line from Santa Ana to the John Wayne Airport. Nevertheless, if it had been installed, CenterLine might have served as the basis for a more extensive and plausible expanded system.

Bob McMillan, a transit activist and local resident, provides some insight into the background of the CenterLine demise:

As an Orange County resident, and a transit booster, I don't think this project was defeated because of opposition to rail. instead, it lacked public support from some crucial players right from the get-go, and ultimately the alignment selected was a poor set of compromises. The best hope was that after the intial starter line, other cities would want in on the deal and support it. The line originally was intended to run from Fullerton via Disneyland and end at the SNA [John Wayne] airport. This was a no brainer, and would have been highly successful.

Darrell Clarke, co-chairman of the Los Angeles-area Friends 4 Expo Transit organization, and a former OCTA employee, makes the following observations about the CenterLine project and its fate:

The final CenterLine route included rails in dedicated lanes east-west across downtown Santa Ana; at-grade in the median of a widened Bristol Street; aerial for bit over a mile above Bristol Street farther south; a short single-track tunnel detour around South Coast Plaza; more median tracks on a widened Main Street; and an aerial terminus in front of John Wayne Airport. It was quite expensive, at $1 billion for 9.3 miles.

Despite this high cost, Darrell noted that the now-defunct CenterLine alignment had "limited usefulness unless extended, and extensions are problematic."

North through Orange, Anaheim, and Fullerton would be slow boulevard medians or expensive aerial structures, closely paralleling existing Metrolink commuter service. The OCTA-owned north-westerly Pacific Electric right-of-way [proceeds diagonally] through single-family neighborhoods with a little retail, not providing much ridership base and raising grade-crossing noise issues. A south-eastern extension would be elevated through affluent suburbs in irvine and re-open NIMBY political issues there.

Furthermore, Darrell emphasizes, there was "no likely funding for the initial segment, let alone extensions." The CenterLine project's budget would have required a 50% federal New Starts share, "but the local Republican members of Congress oppose the project."

As for alternatives to CenterLine, Darrell notes that "Even conservatives in OC like Metrolink ... and capital upgrades to reduce headways to 30 minutes were to be studied."

I see the most plausible outcome as upgraded Metrolink service combined with 'Rapid Bus' service on OC's main boulevards.

How would CenterLine be done as BRT? Across downtown Santa Ana could just be buses in traffic lanes. Dedicated lanes on a widened Bristol would give the city of Santa Ana the widened boulevard they've wanted.

In their mid-October vote, the OCTA board also approved rapid-bus services, which will cover 69 miles, according to the Los Angeles Times (15 October). The paper reports that "$30 million will fund a bus rapid transit system using alternative-fuel buses with stops every mile rather than half-mile." The article elaborates:

There will be two routes: a 69-mile route on Harbor Boulevard and Westminster Boulevard/17th Street and a 28-mile route from the Brea Mall to the irvine Transportation Center. The buses will run on existing streets and have traffic-signal priority. Bus-mounted GPS technology will provide real-time arrival information at bus shelters.

Responding to what many in the public might perceive as a joke of "bus rapid transit" running on Orange County's absurdly congested streets, in a 2 November statement OCTA tried to address this issue, asking "Why is OCTA considering mixed flow service?" One major reason, says the agency: "street widening is cost-prohibitive."

Also, there would be potential adverse traffic capacity issues if dedicated lanes were substituted for mixed flow service. At first glance, mixed flow service may appear the least desirable BRT alignment. However, with appropriate amenities like Transit Signal Priority (TSP), intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), and Limited Stop one mile spacing, mixed flow service remains attractive. it provides alternative choices for riders who will save travel time when compared to fixed- route service.

This emphasis on buses, unfortunately, as a substitute for CenterLine, basically means that Orange County residents apparently will be mainly consigned for many more years to a familiar "option": experiencing the delights of skyrocketing motor fuel costs along with their gridlocking roadways, with no short-term prospect of a high-quality, attractive public transport system for relief. Nevertheless, a focus on lower-investment, modestly upgraded "Rapid Bus" – as a precursor to some form of LRT – would probably represent the most prudent planning strategem at present. In contrast, a heavy alternative investment in a busway or similar major "BRT" infrastructure almost surely would commit the transit agency to a far less cost-effective and less publicly attractive bus-based system – in contrast to a future rail alternative – for the next several decades.

And in the meantime, as the study of other alternatives proceeds, perhaps the advantages of streetcar operations, as a less-obtrusive LRT mode operating both on reservations and in mixed traffic where appropriate – and without the need for massive elevated or subway infrastructure – will capture the interest of local transit supporters, planners, and officials. Time will tell.

More on Orange County Public Transport Developments

15 January 2006

New Folsom light rail extension "more popular than anyone anticipated"

As Light Rail Now has previously reported, Sacramento's newly completed 7.4-mile (11.9-km) light rail transit (LRT) extension to the suburb of Folsom has been attracting "a healthy level of ridership" (see Philadelphia, San Jose, Sacramento: More new light rail lines open). The phenomenal attractiveness of the new electric rail line continues to command the attention of planners, decisionmakers, and community leaders.

While noting it was "way too early to declare anything like success", editors of the Sacramento Bee acknowledged that "Still, the light rail line to Folsom has been more popular than anyone anticipated." [29 October 2005] "Riders in an affluent suburban community are doing what many have said they would never do – abandoning their cars for daily commutes on mass transit" they noted.

"Rail riders fill Folsom extension" proclaimed the headline of another Bee article on October 18th, reporting on the first day (Oct. 17th) of full revenue service. While a passenger count wasn't available, the paper noted that "from the nearly 500 personal vehicles parked in the four new station lots by mid-morning, the rail line clearly has taken a step toward enticing commuters out of their cars."

The paper further related a passenger's observation that "There were more people wearing suits and ties, an early indication that the line may draw more professionals aboard."

The clealrly impressive popularity of the new extension prompted the Bee editors, in their Oct. 29th editorial, to clamor for an upgrading of the line to facilitate more capacity to handle the growing rider demand. Noting that the transit agency "can't run trains more frequently because light rail has only a single track between Sunrise and Folsom", the editors contended that "it's not too soon for the city to consider making an additional investment in double tracking."

"With gas prices and parking rates rising and freeways clogged, transit is likely to become more appealing to Folsom commuters than ever before. They deserve and need better service" concluded the Bee.

More on Sacramento Public Transport Developments

11 January 2006

Northwest light rail tramway extension planned, as system builds on success

The phenomenal success of Grenoble's relatively new light rail tramway system is driving a vigorous program of upgrading and expansion – and serving as an inspiration to other cities in France and elsewhere. The success of the electric tramway also illustrates the potential of light rail to transform even a small city: Grenoble, nestled in the French Alps, has an urbanized population of less than 400,000, with about 150,000 in the core city.

Originally opened in 1987, the standard-gauge (1435-mm), 750-vDC LRT system is now carrying a weekday average ridership of nearly 115,000 person-trips on just two lines (see map). Both lines have steadily been extended, and the addition of new lines is currently under way.

Line A extends 12.9 km (8.0 mi) and has 29 stops. As of 2003, annual vehicle-km amounted to 1.55 million (961,000 veh-mi). Ridership averaged 69,700 per weekday, about 17.4 million per year. The line's commercial speed (including layovers) of 17.9 kph (11.1 mph) may sound low by North American standards, but one must bear in mind that the average travel distance (ATD) on the system is just 2.8 km (1.7 mi) – thus, a higher commercial speed is neither justified nor needed (as it probably would be in a typical US corridor).

Line B extends 7.9 km (4.9 mi) and has 8 stops. Also as of 2003, annual veh-km was 0.95 million (589,000 veh-mi). Ridership averaged 45,000 per weekday, about 11.1 million per year. Again, the low commercial speed of 16.8 kph (10.4 mph) is adequate for the low ATD characteristic.

A totally new line, Line C, is in the final stages of installation and getting ready for imminent opening. This 13.5-km (8.4-mile) line, with 21 station-stops, will link Seyssins, Seysinnet, St Martin d'Hères, and the SNCF (French state railway) station at Gières , the site of a planned stop on the future Lyon-Turin highspeed rail line. Planners expect this new line to help relieve roadway traffic on the city's southern bypass arterial, currently used by 60,000 private motor vehicles a day.

One of the best illustrations of the tramway system's success is the fact that, while the tramway provides 30% of annual seat-miles of the total public transport system, it actually carries 45% of the city's urban public transport passengers. In addition, the tramway has contributed significantly to efforts to revitalize the city and bolster historic areas and environmental treasures.

As noted, these achievements have prompted an enthusiastic program of improvement and expansion. Last year (2005), according to Tramways & Urban Transit (April 2005), Grenoble transit officials announced plans to construct a new line northwest from the terminus of Line B to suburban Moirans. Targeted to open by 2009, this new 18.5-km (11.5-mile) line is projected to cost €420 (about US$526 million) – a unit cost of about $29.5 million/km ($47.6 million/mile).

information in this report has been adapted from material provided by Leroy Demery, Jr., and reports in Grizzli Beat, Railway Technology and Tramways & Urban Transit.

More on Public Transport Developments in France

11 January 2006

New Jersey:
Major victory in effort to resist criminalization of railway photography

In an apparent major victory for transit and railway professionals, advocates, and hobbyists, New Jersey Transit evidently has reversed its policy of attempting to outlaw photography of its system operations, infrastructure, and rolling stock, which had resulted in numerous cases of harassment and intimidation of photographers.

In late December (2005), individuals who had submitted statements of protest began receiving a letter from NJT Executive Director George Warrington, thanking them for their letters "regarding NJ Transit's proposed amendments to NJAC 16:83, Conduct and Safety of the Public in the Use of NJ Transit Equipment and Facilities, published in the New Jersey Register as PRN 2005-156." The following is the text of Warrington's letter:

We received an unusual number of public comments, almost all of them regarding the proposed changes to the non-commercial photography policy. Your input was taken into careful consideration by senior management.

In fact, I personally reviewed the public comments and concluded that the proposed rule changes are impractical. I have, therefore, directed that the proposed rule amendments be withdrawn. Like the majority of Transit Systems around the country, we will not require permits for non-commercial photography at this time.

Effective immediately, we will return to our historic practice, which enables hobbyists and other non- commercial photographers to take pictures in public areas throughout the NJ Transit system without obtaining permission or providing prior notice. There will also continue to be no restrictions on journalists in public areas of the system.

While you are on our system, I encourage you to support our police department by calling the hotline – 1-888-TIPS-NJT if you see any suspicious behavior. Also, be advised that our police, as well as local law enforcement, have a responsibility to provide for the safety and security of our customers, employees, and assets. if an officer receives a complaint or observes circumstances that warrant further investigation, he or she may approach you. I ask that you cooperate fully with the officer, understanding that he or she is concerned both for your safety and the security of 800,000 commuters who ride the system every day.

The Light Rail Now Project strongly applauds this important step by NJT's senior management in upholding key civil liberties, facilitating the critically important practice of public photographic documentation of transit operations and features, and returning to common sense.

More on New Jersey Public Transport Developments

More on security issues and the controversy over efforts to criminalize railway and transit photography...

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