Passenger Transport - February 1, 2010
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Obama, Biden Announce Recipients of $7.9 Billion in ARRA Funds for High-Speed Rail

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced the recipients of $7.9 billion of the $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for the creation of high-speed intercity passenger rail service during a Jan. 28 town hall meeting in Tampa, FL.

Under the program, high-speed rail projects in the West Region will receive almost $3 billion, of which $2.25 billion will go to California high-speed rail; Midwest Region, $2.6 billion, led by $1.1 billion for the Chicago-St. Louis route; Southeast Region, $1.9 billion, of which $1.25 billion will go to the Tampa-Orlando corridor; Northeast Region, $485 million, including $112 million for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington; and $26.7 million in additional awards for Iowa and Fort Worth, TX.

“Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and waterways for the future,” Obama said. “That investment is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America.”

“By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time,” Biden added. “We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term; we’re spurring economic development in the future; we’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world.”

Obama’s State of the Union Speech: High-Speed Rail Creates Jobs

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

“We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete,” said President Barack Obama Jan. 27 during his first State of the Union Address.

With that introduction, the president announced that his focus for the year ahead would be job creation, and he then highlighted high-speed rail as one of two primary sources of jobs for Americans.

Through $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, the president embarked on the largest investment in the nation’s infrastructure since President Dwight Eisenhower called for the creation of the national highway system over half a century ago. This funding, said the president, is just a “down payment” on a new nationwide high-speed rail system.

Obama also called for the Senate to pass a Jobs bill.  The House passed its bill late last year, which contains measures supported by the administration to facilitate small business growth, green jobs, and infrastructure—including investment in public transit.  The current Senate bill is under development, with no details released publicly.  Some Democratic leaders, however, have indicated that transportation infrastructure funding—including transit—will likely be included. 

The day after the speech, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Tampa, FL, where workers will soon begin work on a new high-speed railroad funded in part by ARRA.  In a White House press release, Obama said that the $8 billion investment “is how we can break ground across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because there’s no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we can build them right here in America.”

“By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time,” said Biden.  “We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term; we’re spurring economic development in the future; we’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world,” he said.”

“There are projects like [Tampa] all across this country,” Obama said in his speech, “that will create jobs and help move our nation’s goods, services, and information.” Several cabinet members and senior administration officials were slated to make similar announcements in other cities; APTA President William Millar participated in the Philadelphia event with Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

“On behalf of the 1,500 member organizations of the American Public Transportation Association, I applaud President Obama for addressing the very important issue of creating American jobs in his State of the Union Address,” said APTA President William Millar. “I am especially pleased that President Obama recognizes that investment in transportation infrastructure is one of the key ways that Americans can get back to work … I also praise the president for taking the historic step of bringing the vision of high-speed passenger rail to fruition in the United States. Both public transit and high-speed rail will create hundreds of thousands of long-term, good, “green” American jobs,” he added.  

“China’s not waiting to revamp its economy; Germany’s not waiting; India’s not waiting,” Obama noted in his address. “These nations, they’re not standing still. These nations aren’t playing for second place. …. They’re rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs. Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America,” he said.

Also in his speech, the president proposed a three-year, non-security discretionary spending freeze, and also called for a bipartisan Fiscal Commission to identify policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run. It is Congress that determines the budget; therefore it will be up to Congress to accept or reject the president’s proposal. This freeze could have an impact on public transportation short-term funding, but there are so many unknown variables—including the budget that will be submitted to Congress this week—that it is not possible at press time to state specifically how transit funding might be affected.

White House photo by Pete Souza

A Conversation with FRA Administrator Szabo

Note: The editors of Passenger Transport interviewed Administrator Joseph C. Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration last week. What follows are his thoughtful and candid responses.

Q. What would you say are the top goals of the high-speed rail program?

A. Our goals are to: transform the nation’s transportation landscape by creating an interconnected network of high-speed intercity passenger corridors of 100-600 miles in length. It’s about finding the sweet spot of investment that achieves trip times that are competitive with air and auto. This will undoubtedly improve the quality of life in local communities by providing an affordable, sustainable, and energy-efficient transportation option. To be sure, this will be a long-term effort. Our end goal is to supplement our existing highway and aviation systems in order to relieve congestion caused by our nation’s ever-increasing mobility demands.

Q. Implementing a series of high-speed rail corridors in the United States will clearly have an impact on the economy in general, on jobs in particular, and on train riders. Could you provide a few specifics on the precise impact you think high-speed rail will have? Can the growth in high-speed rail and the jobs it will generate also be part of America’s long-term economic transformation?

A. The program endeavors to offer real transportation alternatives to air travel as well as cars and buses. They must be competitive in terms of price and on-time performance.

Along the way, we expect many jobs will be created that help reinvigorate the economy in places that have been hit hard for some time now. American businesses across numerous sectors will benefit from this effort, including energy, manufacturing, information technology, hospitality, and tourism, to name a few. Long-term partnerships are at the heart of this transformative program, including opportunities for foreign companies to help create good jobs in America through the design, engineering, construction, and operation of the advanced train systems of the future. Recently, more than 30 manufacturers pledged to create jobs here in the U.S. if they are picked by states to help them construct and run these new high-speed rail corridors and services. We expect that expansion and improvement of the nation’s passenger rail system will create jobs and help the American economy recover while simultaneously modernizing our nation’s infrastructure. It can be done.

Q. What kind of outreach efforts did you engage in with the states, both before and during the application process?

A. We have been engaging with the states throughout the entire process. Before the Interim Guidance detailing the program was developed, we informed the states about the president’s goals contained in our Strategic Plan—A Vision for High-Speed Rail in America; and we held seven workshops to seek input from key stakeholders. We also conducted a series of conference calls to inform the states of our expectations during the application process and established a pre-application process, allowing us to work with the various state departments of transportation to make sure that folks understood what we were looking for in the applications.

Q. Could you briefly discuss the National Rail Plan?

A. The Preliminary National Rail Plan lays the initial groundwork for developing policies to improve the U.S. transportation system by addressing the rail needs of the nation, both for passengers and freight. This is the first time that FRA or DOT has created a document that outlines our long-term goals and objectives for the greater inclusion of rail in the national transportation system. We will continue to reach out to stakeholders and seek their input on the plan.

Q. What kind of impact will the plan have on the implementation of high-speed rail development in America?

A. Since the National Rail Plan also requires the creation of state rail plans, states now have an opportunity and the authority to make passenger rail a significant part of their plans. States that receive [American] Recovery [and Reinvestment] Act funding will certainly include selected projects or programs as a major part in the implementation of their State Rail Plans.

Q. APTA, in conjunction with FRA, is hosting three high-speed rail practicums and inviting experts from around the world to participate. How important is it for the U.S. to focus on the issues/challenges/problems they have already addressed?

A. We will certainly be drawing upon the experiences of other countries in developing high-speed rail as we lay the groundwork for our own system. Both [Transportation] Secretary [Ray] LaHood and I have traveled abroad to learn about others’ systems. We want to learn from their successes as well as mistakes.

We are funding a number of different high-speed rail projects throughout the country in an attempt to lay a solid foundation for a long-term comprehensive passenger rail program. This integrated, nationwide system will take decades to build, just like in Europe and Asia.

Q. Livability and sustainability are important issues of the Obama administration. Connecting local transit systems at each end of a high-speed rail line are important elements of these sustainability goals. How does the implementation of high-speed rail fit into the connectivity issue?

A. Anticipating future growth in demand for transportation requires that we design a system that promotes livability. Part of sustainability is connecting regions by leveraging the strengths of individual communities.

Q. APTA has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AASHTO and the States for Passenger Rail Coalition. FRA and APTA have always worked together with commuter rail—do you see a similar partnership with high-speed rail?

A. APTA has and will continue to play an important role in all matters affecting rail safety and development. We were pleased to hear of the MOU and the promise it holds of keeping everyone informed of ongoing efforts for high-speed intercity rail in America.

LaHood: High-Speed Rail Will Jump Start U.S. Economy

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

The imminent introduction of high-speed rail in several regional U.S. corridors will jump start the nation’s economy while creating thousands of jobs for Americans, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told a standing-room-only crowd at a Jan. 21 symposium on high-speed rail issues presented by the Japan International Transport Institute (JITI) and several agencies of the Japanese government.

Announcing that DOT has received nearly 260 applications for the $8 billion in high-speed rail funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), LaHood noted that the technology will “lessen dependence on fossil fuels and support livable communities.” He added: “By building high-speed rail, we’ll be rebuilding America. Isn’t it time we brought good, steady manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.?”

Joining LaHood at the event were three strong supporters of high-speed rail from the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee: James Oberstar (D-MN), chair; John Mica (R-FL), ranking member; and Corrine Brown (D-FL).

Oberstar called the $8 billion in ARRA funds “a down payment” for a move into the future of intercity transportation. While widespread automobile use meant less interest in U.S. passenger rail in the past, he said, “now it changes,” noting that Democrats and Republicans alike continued to fund Amtrak even when the last administration wanted to stop doing so.

“We’ve rediscovered passenger rail, but we need to do more,” he emphasized.

Mica described his experiences with high-speed rail during a visit to Japan and stressed the importance of what he called “true high-speed rail” that operates at 150 to 200 miles per hour rather than comparatively slower service at 110 mph.

“Rep. Oberstar and I are both firmly committed to bringing true high-speed rail to the U.S.,” Mica added. “We want to make sure that conditions along future high-speed routes are conducive to livability.”

Brown noted that the transportation authorization bill introduced by Oberstar and passed last year by T&I includes $50 billion for high-speed rail. “We’re getting real support from the Obama administration on this issue, but we wanted to make sure it’s long-term; the $50 billion is for the six-year life of the legislation,” she explained.

She pointed to Florida’s recent support for a new commuter rail line in the Orlando area, saying: “The state legislature passed authorization for Sun Rail and put its money where its mouth is.”

The sponsoring organizations—Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and Institute for Transportation Policy Studies (ITPS), along with JITI and with support from The Nippon Foundation—shared their nation’s 45-year history with Shinkansen high-speed rail and discussed how the lessons Japan has learned would apply to U.S. operations.

Sumio Mabuchi, Japan’s senior vice minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, reported that Shinkansen—launched by a government rail agency, later divested into private companies—has demonstrated both safety and profitability in its history.  ITPS President Jiro Hanyu agreed, calling high-speed rail the safest mode of transportation and offering to share Japan’s “extensive experience in planning, building, and operating high-speed rail” with U.S. agencies and rail operators.

Dr. Lee Schipper of the University of California at Berkeley and Yuki Tanaka of JITI presented a study showing how the 10 high-speed rail corridors proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration, as well as the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, provide service to the most heavily populated areas of the nation.

Other speakers included Eugene A. Conti Jr., secretary of North Carolina DOT and chairman of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Standing Committee on Rail Transportation; Manmohan Parkash, principal transport specialist, Asian Development Bank; JITI President Makoto Washizu; and APTA Vice President-Policy Arthur Guzzetti.

Florida Agencies, FTA Provide Aid to Haiti

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Florida has one of the largest Haitian communities in the U.S., so—after the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake in that country leveled much of the island nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince—Florida Gov. Charlie Crist mobilized an array of emergency responses, and public transportation agencies in Orlando and Miami added their resources to the multi-dimensional effort to meet the needs of evacuees.

In Orlando
For example, LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Orlando, helped as Orlando Sanford International Airport became a hub for evacuation planning. LYNX Chief Executive Officer Linda Watson noted that the agency was able to join efforts at the federal, state, and local levels from the first day by adapting its existing emergency preparedness plans, originally created for hurricane evacuations, and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will ultimately provide reimbursement for the agency’s costs in this effort.

As of Jan. 25, the Orlando region welcomed 80 flights carrying 4,539 U.S. citizens and 1,752 foreign nationals evacuated from Haiti, as well as 59 people transported for medical reasons. The Sanford airport—the region’s second airport, used mostly for charter flights from Europe—has become the hub of evacuation efforts by the National Guard, American Red Cross, Florida Department of Children and Families, and numerous other agencies.

Many of LYNX’s bus operators are natives of Haiti and can communicate with passengers in Creole. “After the first couple of days when other organizations saw they were having translation problems, specifically with information about transportation options, they asked if we could have our Haitian operators help,” Watson said.

The primary role of LYNX in this effort is to transport evacuees from the Sanford facility to Orlando International Airport and the Amtrak and Greyhound facilities in Orlando. “If we’re asked to, we’ll add service” to help the evacuees, she said, noting that supervisors with vans are available to provide specific trips.

Watson said the foreign nationals who have arrived in Sanford have passports and most have family in the U.S.; they include both Haitians and visitors from other countries. Among the evacuees are more than 100 orphans meeting adoptive parents; other minors going to temporary foster homes in the Orlando area; and many people with physical and/or mental health concerns.

“It’s a pretty amazing operation, with hundreds if not thousands of people helping,” she said, adding: “It’s a massive coordination effort.”
 
In Miami-Dade County
As of Jan. 26 in Miami-Dade County, meanwhile, Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) transported more than 2,000 people to Homestead Air Force Base, located approximately 25 miles southwest of Miami. The agency continues to provide round-the-clock service with four buses, eight bus operators, and three supervisors to help Haitian evacuees, missionary workers, and others travel to the base, a central site for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Haitian evacuees receive transportation to designated areas where they can reunite with local family members, while aid providers travel to Miami International Airport or local hotels.

MDT’s support efforts are being coordinated through the Miami-Dade County Department of Emergency Management, along with staff from the base and the county’s Aviation Department.

“We are proud to be able to help mobilize so many relief workers who are providing aid to the people of Haiti, as well as those in Haiti that come to Miami to be reunited with their families,” said MDT Director Harpal S. Kapoor.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also is participating in the rescue efforts in Haiti by making transit ferry Cayo Largo from San Juan, PR, available. FTA deployed the ferry immediately, carrying search and rescue teams, vehicles, and medicine from San Juan to the port of Baraona, Dominican Republic. Two other ferries—the Alakai and the Huakai, both retired from service in Hawaii—earlier joined the effort as part of a six-vessel Merchant Marine force.


 

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, center, greets an evacuee from Haiti at Orlando Sanford International Airport. LYNX is providing buses, including the one at rear, for emergency transportation.

 

EESI Speakers Highlight Infrastructure Benefits

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Marcy Lowe, a senior research analyst with Duke University’s Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness, described the role of public transportation suppliers in high-value manufacturing supply chains, as well as practical experience in using transit to spur regional economic revitalization, at a packed Jan. 14 briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI).

Lowe defined the “value chain” as beginning with the supply chain—from raw materials to distribution and sales of the final product—but also taking into account research and development, design, production, logistics, and marketing, which she called “value-added activities.” In the case of bus manufacturing, the value chain incorporates major component producers (engine, axles, tires, fuel systems, brakes, etc.); system builders who use the components to create the chassis, electric/electronic components, and bus body and interior; and ultimately the original equipment manufacturer and others that make the finished buses available to public transit agencies.

While only five bus manufacturers dominate the North American industry, she said, the value chain disseminates the financial and labor benefits more widely. She showed how this process makes jobs available, many of them in the states hardest-hit by the recession, but stressed that predictable investment is necessary if these suppliers are to create and maintain jobs.

Representatives of railcar, transit vehicle seating, and technology suppliers and a local government partnership providers also contributed to the discussion, Michael Pracht, president of U.S. Railcar LLC in Columbus, OH, reported on the role of his company’s self-propelled Diesel Multiple Unit to the transit rail industry, noting that his firm is the only U.S.-owned and operated railcar manufacturer.

David McLaughlin, vice president of American Seating Company in Grand Rapids, MI, showed the effects of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding on its operations. Each incremental $1 million in revenue adds three to six full-time employees for a year, he explained.

In 2009, McLaughlin said, the company’s revenue included $2.9 million in ARRA funds; during that year, the company added 11 full-time employees and an estimated additional 64 employees through the purchase of goods and services. American Seating anticipates adding 11 to 14 new jobs through ARRA-related activity this year, as well as between 64 and 82 new employees in the supply chain.

Tom Webb, director, business development, for BAE Systems, laid out his company’s work with hybrid propulsion systems worldwide, including partnerships with bus manufacturers. He reported that the U.S. leads the world in development and adoption of hybrid bus technology, creating high-tech green jobs and helping to support the nation’s energy security, adding: “It’s a good-news story for manufacturers today.”

Carol Caruso, senior vice president of advocacy for the Greater Cleveland Partnership—which comprises both the Chamber of Commerce and the economic development organization for northeast Ohio—presented a study that illustrated the economic effects resulting from the operation of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit service. The line, which opened in 2008, has helped to revitalize the Euclid Avenue corridor between downtown Cleveland and the medical complex, spurring increased ridership and widespread private-sector investment.

EESI noted that H.R. 2847, The Jobs for Main Street Act, contains targeted investments to stimulate job creation and lay a foundation for long-term productivity gains. The legislation passed the House in December 2009, but the Senate has not yet taken it up.

The texts of the speakers’ presentations are available at the EESI web site.

DOT Prohibits Texting by Bus and Truck Drivers

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced federal guidance Jan. 26 that prohibits texting by drivers of such commercial vehicles as buses and large trucks. This prohibition, effective immediately, is the latest in a series of actions taken by DOT to combat distracted driving since the secretary convened a national summit on the issue in September 2009.

“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” said LaHood. “This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”

Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

Anne Ferro, administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), said: “We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.”

FMCSA research found that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this is the equivalent of a driver traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road. In addition, drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to become involved in accidents than are non-distracted drivers.

The measure generally does not apply to transit bus operators who do not drive across state boundaries or to most operators of passenger cars. In response, while applauding LaHood’s actions, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), along with several other legislators, cited the need to extend the ban to mass transit and cars.

To follow DOT’s progress in working to combat distracted driving, click here.

Kutrosky to Lead Capitol Corridor Intercity Rail

David Kutrosky has been named managing director of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) in Oakland, CA, which manages the Capitol Corridor intercity passenger rail service. He succeeds Eugene (Gene) Skoropowski, who retired in 2009 after 10 years in the post.

The CCJPA board also voted unanimously to extend the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s (BART) managing contract for the service to February 2015.

Kutrosky, who previously served as deputy managing director of CCJPA, oversees operating and capital budgets totaling $70 million a year; a management team of 16 employees; and a transport service comprising 300 Amtrak employees, 170 miles of track, and 16 stations from Auburn to San Jose, CA. He called Skoropowski “a great mentor, a great friend, and a great colleague.”

Before joining the authority, Kutrosky worked in the Planning Department at BART and earlier was a consultant in traffic engineering, transit operations planning, and airport planning and design. His career of multi-modal transportation engineering, planning, and financing spans more than 20 years.

Nippes Joins Kustom Seating as President

Keith N. Nippes has joined Kustom Seating Unlimited Inc. in Bellwood, IL, as its newly appointed president. Company founder Joseph Lazzara will continue in his role as chief executive officer.

Nippes comes to Kustom Seating after serving as president of Vapor Bus International, vice president of sales and marketing for Ricon Corporation and, most recently, president and chief operating officer of Ultimate North America Transportation Equipment LLC.

Neuburger Is New President, CEO of TransitCenter

Daniel M. Neuburger has been named president and chief executive officer of TransitCenter, a nonprofit that promotes mass transit use in order to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, and a provider of tax-free commuter benefits through its TransitChek® programs.

Neuburger has more than 25 years experience as a business leader, most recently as chief executive officer of Infinity Network LLC. During a 14-year career at American Express, he held many positions including senior vice president and general manager of the Eastern Regional Corporate Services and senior vice president of service delivery and information management. He also has worked for Cendant Corporation and Today’s Staffing, a division of CDI Corporation.

He succeeds Larry Filler, founder, who served as TransitCenter’s president and chief executive officer since 2001. Filler served the company for 23 years.

FTA Reaches 99 Percent Level in ARRA Grants

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced that it has awarded 695 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants totaling $7.2 billion, or 86.4 percent of available funds. Another 224 grants valued at $1.06 billion (12.8 percent) are undergoing review and pending award.

Including flex funds transferred to FTA from the Federal Highway Administration, the potential total number of grants is 963, with a value of $8.27 billion. Less than 1 percent of funds remain to be awarded.

APTA Strategic Plan Available

In 2009, APTA launched a comprehensive effort to develop a new five-year strategic plan. A final draft has now been released that delineates APTA’s key goals and action plans for 2010-2014.

The plan is based on the quality input received since January 2009 from APTA members at events and committee meetings as well as through online surveys.

In October, members were presented with the opportunity to discuss the plan’s draft outline; the resulting detailed final draft, now being presented to the APTA membership for feedback, can be found online.

Please send all comments here by Feb. 12. The final strategic plan will be presented to the APTA Board of Directors for adoption in March 2010.

 

U.S. High-Speed Rail Reaches a Critical Juncture

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

If there was ever a pivotal moment in high-speed rail in America, it would be April 16, 2009, when President Barack Obama announced his vision for transforming the nation’s transportation network.

“Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation and ending up just blocks from your destination,” he said. “It’s happening right now. It’s been happening for decades. The problem is it’s been happening elsewhere, not here.”

That day was made possible by another key moment on Feb. 17, 2009, when the president signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), making available $8 billion in high-speed rail funding.

With the administration’s support, the nation is embarking on an ambitious plan \to build a connected high-speed rail system throughout the country.

“It’s not that this is the first administration that has talked about regionalism, but rather it’s that it’s talking about the tie-in to the mass transit systems and making networks that interconnect regionally,” said Joe Giulietti, executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Pompano Beach and APTA vice chair-commuter and intercity rail. “I think that’s fantastic. How will we make those connectors work? That’s where I think it’s a tremendous opportunity—to connect those regions.”

Since February 2009, the $8 billion appropriated through ARRA has been supplemented by an additional $2.5 billion from the Fiscal Year 2010 transportation appropriations bill—for a total of $10.5 billion.

Once the opportunity arrived to submit applications, the response from states was quick and eye-opening, with at least 34 states submitting proposals valued at $57 billion!

High-Speed Rail Benefits
The benefits of environmentally friendly, energy-efficient high-speed rail networks are numerous. These projects will create highly skilled jobs in the transportation industry, ramping up capacity within state DOTs that must plan their oversight, and will also provide the opportunity to build a vibrant rail manufacturing sector, revitalizing domestic industries supplying transportation products and services, and spurring business productivity along all corridors.

They will reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil while keeping billions of dollars in the U.S. economy; decrease greenhouse gas emissions; help meet national and international climate change goals; and improve air quality.

And they will mitigate congestion, improve connectivity, and provide travel choices to a U.S. population that is expected to grow by 50 percent between 2000 and 2050. At the same time, rural and small urban communities will benefit from the increased number of transfer points and the feeder services connecting with new high-speed rail corridors.

What’s Required for Success
To implement such an ambitious undertaking, however, will require a new level of innovation and expertise.

Careful planning of a national network of high-speed rail corridors will maximize the capacity and efficiency of the nation’s transportation infrastructure (rail, highway, aviation, and other modes) and unify regions of the nation. But developing such a network will require a sizable financial commitment from federal and state governments along with creative financing solutions that include private sector resources—all of which will go well beyond the traditional public transportation funding sources.

Two factors that set the U.S. apart from many other nations with high-speed rail—multi-use rail lines and private ownership of many lines—compel the need for negotiated partnerships with freight rail operators as well as state, local, and regional governments.

Standards
No new system of such magnitude can operate without concomitant sets of standards. So safety and operational standards need to be developed, adopted, or updated to reflect the particular geography, operational characteristics, and intermodal realities of America’s transportation network.

Specific areas that must be addressed include positive train control, sealed corridors, interoperability, equipment specifications, joint procurement program possibilities, and shared corridor operations.

Advocacy and Information Sharing
While the federal government is a critically key partner, successful high-speed rail corridors must also must have effective advocates on the ground: at city halls; in local chambers of commerce; and in statehouses as well as in Congress.

The focus on this important initiative notwithstanding, the fact remains, as the president said, that high-speed rail—with all its attendant technologies—does not yet exist in America. This is the time, therefore, to seek out information and lessons learned from our international allies and partners, to build upon their experiences.

When high-speed rail experts in the U.S. can understand both the successes and challenges of implementing and operating systems elsewhere in the world, they will expand their ability to advance such systems quickly and successfully in America’s corridors.

Implementation of a vibrant, national high-speed rail program will require the identification of solutions to an interconnected set of issues, including an appropriate regulatory environment, uses of right-of-way, reasonable limits on liability, and additional issues that will facilitate the growth of rail. The experience of APTA and others in advocacy and negotiation will help new corridors tackle these issues effectively and efficiently. [See sidebar on APTA’s role in developing high-speed rail in the U.S.]

“On a personal note,” said Giulietti, “I am actually thrilled that I’m involved in this as vice chair, because I get to represent both the high-speed rail and commuter rail communities in this as we move forward.”

Building on the rail renaissance currently underway in America, the U.S. is poised to advance new express high-speed corridors, develop existing and emerging regional high-speed corridors, and upgrade reliability and service on conventional intercity and commuter rail services. The goal is to produce results that will move this country forward—literally and figuratively—putting it on track for high-speed corridor development in the decades to come.

APTA and HSGTA: A Legacy Comes to the Fore

APTA draws on the legacy members of the former High-Speed Ground Transportation Association (HSGTA) and their institutional memory to lead its advocacy efforts for high-speed rail. HSGTA, founded in 1983, merged with APTA during the 2006 Rail Conference in New York City and became part of the High Speed and Intercity Rail Committee, earlier known as the Intercity Corridor Development Committee.

This merger allowed HSGTA to bring together its expertise and reputation with APTA’s resources and legislative capacity to work toward making U.S. high-speed rail a reality.

The committee’s vision statement describes its purpose as “realiz[ing] the development of a robust national transportation network that institutionalizes and integrates national and regional intercity passenger rail services with existing commuter rail, rail transit, and bus transit services to provide a seamless network of transportation options for the traveling public.”

HSGTA, an advocacy organization for high-speed rail, entered into a management services contract with APTA in 2004. At that time, the organization represented nearly 800 members from a wide array of public and private business interests including the financial community; engineering and design firms; labor unions; rail equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers; construction companies; railroads; service providers; universities; federal, state, and local government agencies and officials; and private consultants.

Current Partnership Efforts
APTA is reaching beyond its membership to support the introduction of high-speed rail on U.S. corridors, working closely with such organizations as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and States for Passenger Rail Coalition. For research and standard-setting efforts, APTA partners with DOT, the National Academies, as well as other nonprofit organizations.

In the arena of planning, APTA and other industry associations are working with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to develop a National Rail Plan as called for by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.

APTA is also playing an important role in hosting national conferences and workshops with sessions dedicated to high-speed rail issues. Working with the International Union of Railways (UIC), the association is presenting three International Practicums on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States: Feb. 8-9 in Washington, DC; Feb. 9-11 in Chicago; and Feb. 11-13 in Los Angeles. FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo and Deputy Administrator Karen Rae will headline the events.

New Web Site
To bring together current information and resources focused on making high-speed rail a reality in the U.S., APTA recently launched its newest web site. From presenting timely news stories to the FRA National Rail Plan, APTA continues its daily advocacy for the implementation of high-speed rail.

Winners and Future Winners in High-Speed Rail

BY JOHN HORSLEY, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

A world-class system of high-speed and intercity passenger rail in America is no longer just a hope. It is real. It is here. Its success is critical to transforming transportation in our lifetime.

As Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA) Joe Szabo has said, the upcoming announcement of the grant awards of some $8 billion in economic recovery funding is only a “down payment” on a permanent program for investment in passenger rail. Regardless of which routes are first to get awards, there will not be winners and losers.

There will be winners and future winners.

We are on the verge of establishing a passenger rail program similar to the interstate highway program. What happens this year is the beginning, not the end, of the trip that all of those who support the best possible transportation for Americans will be making over the coming decades.

State DOTs have spearheaded the effort to develop and fund a national intercity passenger rail system for the past decade. They have planned, financed, and delivered successful intercity passenger rail service.

A few great examples include:
* Nearly 750,000 passengers ride the seven daily round trips between Milwaukee and Chicago on the Hiawatha service operated by Amtrak and sponsored by the Wisconsin and Illinois DOTs;
* In Southern California, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service—operating between San Diego and San Luis Obispo—carried more than 2.89 million passengers in 2008;
* In Northern California, more than 1.69 million passengers rode the Capitol Corridor service, Auburn to San Jose;
* In the Pacific Northwest, ridership on the Amtrak Cascades service from Eugene, OR, to Vancouver, BC, equaled 760,323 passengers;
* Amtrak’s Keystone Service, which operates among Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia; and New York City, surpassed one million passengers in 2008; and
* Collectively, the North Carolina state-supported Carolinian and Piedmont services carried 361,368 passengers.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the States for Passenger Rail Coalition have also urged the federal government to support the creation of an integrated, fully funded intercity passenger rail system as an essential element of the nation’s surface transportation system.

Congress and the executive branch are developing a new and solid consensus in support of an intercity passenger rail system to meet the mobility needs of the 21st century. The most important activities include:
> The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, which authorized $1.9 billion over five years for grants to states for intercity passenger rail capital grants, including $1.5 billion for high-speed rail corridor development and $325 million for rail congestion grants. The legislation also required states to develop a comprehensive rail plan for both passengers and freight and required FRA to develop a long-range national rail plan based on the state plans;
> The provision of $8 billion for high speed and intercity passenger rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Action of 2009. Thirty-eight states—the eligible applicants—submitted proposals totaling $57 billion for these funds;
> The Obama administration’s Vision for High-Speed Rail in America, which provides a broad, long-term view of how to provide passenger rail service to American travelers; and
> Enactment of a Fiscal Year 2010 appropriation of $2.5 billion for intercity passenger rail capital grants.

AASHTO is pleased that Congress designated the states to be the recipients of these high-speed and intercity passenger rail funds. These actions put the states at the forefront of the effort to forge the future of high-speed and intercity passenger rail service in the U.S.

AASHTO believes it is “…time for the United States to provide a robust intercity passenger rail network that provides competitive, reliable, and frequent passenger service, comparable to world-class systems in other countries.”

As part of the surface transportation authorization bill recommendations to Congress, the states have called for creation of an Intercity Passenger Rail Account—funded at $50 billion over six years from a diversified portfolio of new revenue—to provide dedicated, guaranteed funding to states to meet their needs for capital improvements.

With the greatly increased responsibility that states are assuming for passenger rail, AASHTO is developing an AASHTO Rail Resource Center to deliver technical and functional support to states for both passenger and freight planning.

The long-sought vision of a world-class high-speed and intercity passenger rail network is dawning. State transportation officials are working to make it a reality.

Working to Ensure Connectivity Between Intercity Passenger and High-Speed Rail

BY DAVID KUTROSKY, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Oakland, CA

California’s Capitol Corridor rail service, which connects the Sierra foothills to Silicon Valley, began operations in December 1991 with six daily trains between San Jose and Sacramento. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) assumed management responsibility for the service in October 1998.

Since then, the Capitol Corridor has grown into the third busiest intercity passenger rail service in the nation. During the past 11 years, ridership has trended upward by increasing service and by providing residents of northern California with a high-quality passenger rail service that is competitive in terms of frequency, travel time, reliability, and price.

The popularity of Capitol Corridor can be attributed to the diverse travel market within the communities we serve. Daily, our ridership includes university students, shoppers, business travelers, and those traveling to visit family, friends, and vacation destinations.

When it comes to the anticipated high-speed rail market, the CCJPA does not want to be caught “flat-footed”; we want to be ready. By preparing a Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to develop and enhance the connections with the state’s planned high-speed trains at the San Jose (a major high-speed train terminal) and, eventually, the Sacramento intermodal stations, the CCJPA is well “ahead of the curve.”

High-Speed Rail Support
In November 2008, California voters passed Proposition 1A (California High Speed Train System), which created bonds to help fund a high-speed rail system in the state. Of the $9.95 billion allotted for high-speed rail, $190 million is designated for the state’s intercity rail corridors to connect with high-speed trains: $47.5 million for each of the three existing corridors and the same amount available to the three corridors on a competitive basis.

The California Transportation Commission has developed guidelines to allocate Proposition 1A bond funds to connecting intercity rail and public transit services. Because the CCJPA is optimally positioned to be a distributor and connecting service to the high-speed trains, it has identified a list of track infrastructure projects to add Capitol Corridor trains to and from San Jose and east to Placer County, connecting to a future high-speed intermodal terminal at Sacramento.

Connecting the Funding Dots
Last year, the Obama administration gave a huge boost to California’s intercity passenger rail network and the planned high-speed rail effort with the creation of the five-year High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) capital grant program, administered by the Federal Railroad Administration, which was launched with an initial $8 billion “down payment.” For Fiscal Year 2010, an additional $2.5 billion in HSIPR capital grants, to become available soon, supplements passenger rail support. These grants now require a non-federal match of at least 20 percent.

On a long-term basis, the emergence of a federally supported rail program is a positive sign for intercity passenger rail improvement—not only for CCJPA, but throughout California and across the nation. With that said, it is imperative to keep in mind that state funds must be identified to match HSIPR capital grant funds, so CCJPA is more concerned than ever to identify a reliable state source for long-term capital and operating funds.

Resolving reliability at the state level takes on new importance now that federal funding sources are in play and require matching sources of funds—dollars CCJPA needs to implement its plans to connect with California’s high-speed rail system.

In California, state funding bonds authorized by the voters, as well as a state Supreme Court decision to retain support for transportation through the Public Transportation Account, mean that state funds (including bonds) are expected to become timely funding matches to the HSIPR program.

When this funding is released for expenditure as the voters intended, it would become an excellent match for the HSIPR federal funding program to allow the CCJPA to advance and complete many elements of its CIP, including added rolling stock/rail vehicles, service expansion, and Positive Train Control-related safety improvements.

The short-term success of the HSIPR program will dictate the long-term federal program of support beyond the initial five years. Presuming a continuing non-federal match requirement, which is consistent with the highway and transit programs, considerable emphasis falls on establishing a steady and reliable state capital and operating program for intercity passenger rail.

CCJPA will continue to advocate within the state for the necessity of a steady, reliable annual funding program as opposed to a capital program punctuated by on-time infusions of bond funds and a cyclic program of rising and falling state resources.

Blueprint for a Seamless Connection
After CCJPA connected the funding dots, its next step was to create a blueprint of what it needs to do to physically connect its service to high-speed rail. To use high-speed rail networks in Europe and Asia as a model, the CCJPA must prepare the Capitol Corridor service to serve an entirely new ridership market when high-speed trains begin operations.

The CCJPA is moving forward with its CIP, assembling the applications and financial plans to complete the numerous projects that will help it reach the short-term objectives of increasing service to San Jose from 14 to 22 daily trains. The authority is also positioning the service to add trains east to Placer County to accommodate the untapped market east of Sacramento.

CCJPA is also collaborating with San Jose and Sacramento as they do their part to ensure integration between high-speed and intercity passenger rail. Both cities are using city resources to modernize their rail stations and create land use plans with intercity rail in mind.

Designated federal dollars, consistent annual state funding, local community and governmental support, and the CCJPA’s commitment to be ahead of the curve are the necessary components to ensure a seamless connection between intercity and high-speed passenger rail in northern California. 

The ‘Win Strategy’ for High-Speed Rail in America

BY JOLENE M. MOLITORIS, Director, Ohio Department of Transportation

For our nation, it took a new president, elected with a resounding call for change, to create the “win strategy” for high-speed and intercity rail. On April 16, 2009, President Barack Obama shared a future image of vibrant city centers interconnected by passenger trains “whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour … and ending up just blocks from your destination.”

“Imagine what a great project that would be to rebuild America,” the president envisioned from the White House.

For Ohio, it took a governor from a rural background to produce a “win strategy” for linking Ohio’s largest cities by passenger rail for the first time in 40 years with a system that “connects neighborhoods within a city, and cities within our state.”

“A modern transportation system that includes passenger rail service enhances the quality of life for those in its proximity, revitalizes our cities, and boosts the economic development and growth potential of a region,” Gov. Ted Strickland affirmed.

Their courage and commitment to invest historic new resources is built upon a 30-year history of visionaries who stood for high-speed and intercity rail when there were not many standing with them.

Among those early leading voices—and a mentor of mine—was Bob Casey. Known for his national voice as executive director of the High Speed Rail Association (which became the High Speed Ground Transportation Association that is now merged into APTA), he served as head of the Ohio Rail Transportation Authority—a role I assumed when Bob went to Washington. Bob understood the rail investment connection between the needs of passengers and the needs of industry.

I have been honored to serve in many roles championing the importance of rail, transit, and multi-modal transportation, both at the state and federal levels and in the private sector. For nearly eight years as the nation’s Federal Railroad Administrator and now as director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, I have had an exceptional opportunity to meet and listen to citizens and business leaders all over the United States. They always talk about how our transportation modes must work together because only together will our transportation system meet our collective needs.

The foundation for our readiness to respond to President Obama’s clarion call for a U.S. high-speed rail “win strategy” was built by many. So much credit should go to the never failing commitment over many decades of a coalition in Congress who always stood fast for Amtrak funding, Amtrak itself and its employees who were committed to their enterprise even when times were very difficult. Credit should also go to FRA’s high-speed rail planning, high-speed rail corridor designations, and the partnership with Amtrak to create Acela, and most of all the courageous investment of hundreds of millions of state dollars to create successful state-sponsored passenger corridors.

These critical building blocks readied our country for an overwhelming confluence of events to bring us to where we are today: truly ready to create a national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network. The “win strategy” is in place. Consider these recent achievements:
* The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission Report called for a strategy for funding a balanced passenger and freight rail system that is now a guidepost for future federal transportation policy.
* PRIIA: The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 not only provided long-overdue reauthorization for the funding of Amtrak but also created a new capital grants program for states and eligible authorities to provide intercity and high-speed passenger rail.
* ARRA: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $1.3 billion to Amtrak for capital investment and $8 billion in new stimulus funds for state investment in high-speed and intercity passenger rail, described by President Obama as a down payment on the future of a nation passenger rail system. Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations for U.S. DOT include an additional $2.5 billion for investment in high-speed and intercity rail programs.
* OneRail Coalition: includes APTA, Amtrak, Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, States for Passenger Rail Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Railway Supply Institute, National Association of Railroad Passengers, labor organizations, and others championing the needed partnerships for 21st Century transportation success.

Because of the leadership of President Obama and the Congress, states know they now have a strong federal partner! All those state investments in passenger rail are now showing what a strong impact they have had on national policy. And because of the public support of governors like Ohio’s Ted Strickland, seven other Midwest governors, and the mayor of Chicago who last July signed a landmark agreement supporting high speed rail—the supporters of high-speed and intercity rail are feeling the strength of increasing long-term public support.

The hunger for safer and greener transportation choice in the U.S. grows each day. As a nation, we have learned and will continue to learn from successful high-speed and intercity systems worldwide. But we know that America’s system will be unique because it must reflect our distinct American character and 21st century needs. The time for an increase in domestic manufacturing is now! The success of high-speed and intercity rail in the U.S. will happen at this time and in this place because intercity rail is an investment with a business case the country needs and wants. Supportive voices—including APTA’s membership—are growing in strength and harmony and must continue to advocate for adequate funding each year to build the high speed and intercity system our nation deserves. 

Because our president and congressional leaders have made a commitment to high-speed and intercity rail, our state and local champions have federal partners they can count on. With APTA, AASHTO, OneRail, and a burgeoning number of advocates, the “win strategy” for high-speed and intercity rail will indeed be a true “winner” for the United States and its people.

Assembling an Optimal U.S. Rail Transit System: Appropriate, Connected, and Funded for the Long Term

BY PETER GERTLER, High-Speed Rail Services Chair, HNTB

As a nation, we are entering the most exciting era in transportation we have seen in half a century.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is poised to announce its first grants for our nation’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The grants, to be awarded in multiple rounds, ultimately will total $8 billion.

These grants will help move America toward a multi-modal, state-of-the-art transportation network. Working in combination with our vital local transit systems, as well as the Interstate Highway System and our air travel network, high-speed rail will enable us to relieve congested highways and airports, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and help in the battle against global warming.

At the same time, the FRA continues to develop and refine a National Rail Plan, which will serve as the blueprint for something on par with the interstate highways or our space program. To turn that blueprint into reality, we must understand all the moving parts and how they can and should work together.

Support for high-speed rail has grown significantly in recent years, but the discussion occasionally diverges into a debate that pits a program for incremental high-speed rail (in the range of 110 mph) against one for transformative high-speed rail (180-plus mph). The truth is, high-speed rail, as we define it in this country, constitutes a family of rail programs. Different programs work more effectively in different markets and require different levels of investment.

In reality, we should not view it as a choice of one high-speed rail program over another. Rather, we should focus on building the best and most appropriate passenger rail system we can, with incremental and transformative programs serving as the building blocks. To make this happen, a dedicated and sustainable commitment and funding source—not only a one-time, crisis-based stimulus package—is necessary for the ultimate development of both high-speed rail programs.

Certainly, our approach must be tailored for the U.S. rail system and its unique features. In contrast to its passenger rail system, America has one of the world’s most sophisticated, comprehensive freight rail networks, which has helped us attain the status of a global economic superpower.

However, unlike the high-speed rail pioneer nations in Europe and Asia, most intercity rail lines in the U.S. are owned and maintained by the freight railroads. That ownership impacts the time it takes for us to make dramatic changes to our passenger rail system.

But even the Europeans and Asians did not develop highly advanced rail systems overnight. They had to deal with challenges posed by older rail lines, and they used both incremental and transformative rail programs appropriately in their advancement toward the world-class passenger rail systems they have today.

In the U.S., transformative high-speed rail is best suited to regions with significant travel densities to provide frequent express service between population centers 200 to 600 miles apart, generally located in the “mega” regions of our country.

Because transformative high-speed rail systems need dedicated rights-of-way, must be fully grade-separated, and must use state-of-the-art technology not currently available in the U.S., transformative high-speed rail lends itself to a widespread national effort such as the ones that spawned our interstate highways and our exploration of space. The states that have applied for grants to fund transformative high-speed rail are California, Florida, Texas, and the Midwest (between Chicago and St. Louis), and they are to be commended for their vision.

The states that applied for grants to fund incremental high-speed rail should be commended for their vision and efforts as well. Incremental programs, which generally will upgrade existing freight corridors with more conventional intercity technologies, are more suited to state-by-state competition for funding.

These states want to develop the kinds of rail systems that, while not transformative in technology, will certainly transform travel as we know it today. Incremental offers the best and most effective option to fit those states’ needs and potential.

The reality is that our nation has only one national high-speed rail program now: the one the FRA grants are funding, which has different states and programs competing against each other for funding. But it doesn’t have to be this way. High-speed rail needs a dedicated source of funding in a program where incremental and transformative programs do not compete against each other, but are valued for their own merits and prudently nurtured.

As an industry, we need to insert the idea of a dedicated funding source for all high-speed rail into the discussion of the new transportation authorization bill. We must not let this opportunity to “set the rules” for funding of the nation’s transportation system slip away.

Let us not forget that, when it comes to maximizing the nation’s transportation system, high-speed rail in and of itself is no panacea. To fulfill its purpose, high-speed rail must be connected to local transit systems—including bus and light rail options—to build a truly successful transportation system. These systems solve the issue of the “last mile.” In other words, what good is it to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two and a half hours if you can’t get from the station to your business or home conveniently?

Clearly there must be a critical melding within our transportation system and the plan for its funding. For example, we could take a portion of federal high-speed rail funding—hypothetically, let’s assume 1 percent—and dedicate it to local transit connections to high-speed rail facilities and services. The result would be a win-win-win for high-speed rail, local transit systems, and the traveling public.

Let’s pool our knowledge, experience, resources and enthusiasm, and work together to make it happen.

High-Speed Rail Presents Challenges, Great Opportunity

BY KATHERINE LEWIS, Special to Passenger Transport

The development of high-speed rail in America will require unprecedented mobilization of the transportation industry, panelists told a recent session during the Transportation Research Board’s 89th Annual Meeting in Washington.

“We’re in a time that is remarkably historic for so many reasons,” said Jolene Molitoris, director of Ohio DOT and former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. “We have got to get people involved in a way, to a level, at a breadth and a depth that we really never have done before. … Partnerships not only are possible but are essential.”

High-speed rail holds the potential to safely carry more passengers and freight across America while revitalizing urban downtowns, stimulating economic development, and protecting the environment. It could be the key ingredient in a multi-modal, national transportation system that drives mobility, economic growth, and green choices, Molitoris said.

However, the challenges to implementation of high-speed rail are also monumental, revolving around cost and public opposition, said Ben Strumwasser, principal at Circle Point, a San Francisco communications and environmental planning firm working on California’s high-speed rail project.

“You’re all familiar with the issues that people raise” around rail projects, such as noise, vibration, visual impact, and financial feasibility, Strumwasser said. “They get raised at a louder level than you could ever imagine when you’re dealing with a high-speed rail program, when you’re talking about trains going through communities at 120 miles per hour.”

Nonetheless, forces are aligning to make this an opportune time for high-speed rail in America, beginning with the enthusiasm of President Barack Obama and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Rod Diridon, chair of APTA’s Intercity and High Speed Rail Committee and member/chair emeritus of the California High Speed Rail Authority Board.

Considering the already-developed high-speed rail networks in Asia and Europe, the U.S. must catch up or be left behind economically. “The gauntlet is down, folks. America had better pick it up,” Diridon said.

High-speed rail is safer, quicker, and costs less per passenger than automobiles or air travel, the only mode of public transportation that actually generates profits rather than requiring a subsidy, he said.

California’s planned 790-mile system already involves 120 consultants and nine separate design-build projects to go out for bid. The system would more than accommodate the doubling of the state’s population expected by 2050, transporting passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just two hours and 38 minutes. It would generate 160,000 construction-related jobs and 450,000 permanent positions.

"This is the largest construction project in the nation’s history,” Diridon said. “It will use all of the high-grade steel in the world for three years.”

High- and higher-speed rail projects could revitalize American manufacturing, Molitoris said, noting that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has met with more than 30 rail suppliers committed to establishing or expanding their U.S. facilities. Ohio’s proposed system would connect 60 percent of the state’s population and 220,000 college students, making urban areas on the line more appealing to companies and their workforces.

When facing public opposition or lack of awareness, panelists advised communicating honestly and openly with all stakeholders. “This is not just one-way communication,” Strumwasser said, noting that it’s not enough to tell people an idea is impossible; you have to show why the logistics don’t work.

It’s also important to plan for connectivity to other modes of transportation, such as traditional rail, bus, airports, and commuter rail. “We’re not going to be able to build trains that go nowhere,” Diridon said.

In response to a question about the capacity of the U.S. transportation workforce to implement high-speed rail, Diridon said university programs must focus more on the technical training necessary. “We don’t have people in the United States, with rare exception, that have ever built or operated a high-speed rail system,” he said. “The step between 125 mph and 225 mph is like going into an airplane .… It’s not railroading any more, it’s electronics.”

Many American engineers have experience on systems at high speeds that fall short of bullet trains, Molitoris noted. “Not everybody’s building a 220-mph system,” she said. “Identify the difference and celebrate the difference.”

As he stepped to the podium at the evening session, Diridon asked the audience to raise their fists in the air. “It’s the end of a big day and I want you to believe,” he said. “We’re America!”

“We’re America!” attendees responded.

“What are we going to build?” he asked.

"High-speed rail,” came the answer.

“It’s going to be the best in the world,” Diridon said, to shouts of “Yeah!” 

“And it’s going to happen now,” he concluded.

“Now!” people cheered. 

At TRB Meeting, Experts Share International High-Speed Rail Experience

BY JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager-Communications

Experts who presented studies of high-speed rail (HSR) systems in China, Japan, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom described contrasts in how their countries plan, fund, and operate their systems—as well as similarities in the resulting benefits to their respective nations—at the recent session during the Transportation Research Board’s 89th Annual Meeting in Washington. They offered their papers at a session titled “Worldwide Advances in Intercity Passenger Rail.”

Building a New System: Private vs. Public
Tsung-Chung Kao, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at National Taiwan University, compared Taiwan’s HSR—the first in the world funded primarily through private sources—with the publicly funded system developed in South Korea around the same time.

The comparison showed that privately funded HSR has a better chance of meeting project management goals of time, cost, and quality—largely due to less public and political interference or interruption, he said. However, a government-sponsored system has more potential to promote the HSR industry and may increase ridership faster.

Kao and his colleagues compared the two projects by evaluating each system on its time to completion, cost, quality, and whether the owners’ goals and the users’ needs were met.

For example, the publicly funded and operated Korean system demonstrated quicker increases in ridership: the system began with approximately 70,000 trips per day and gradually increased to about 100,000 daily trips after 30 months. Taiwan started with about 40,000 trips/day and doubled to 80,000 trips/day at 30 months. This is because the public is more ready to use public works in Korea, compared to the private system in Taiwan, according to Kao.

Chinese, U.S. Experiences Offer Lessons for Each Other
Xueming (Jimmy) Chen of Virginia Commonwealth University reported on a study he conducted with Ming Zhang of the University of Texas at Austin. It compared the projected impact of the U.S.’ planning and governmental processes on the development of the California High-Speed Rail (CHSR) system to link San Francisco and Los Angeles, with the Beijing-Shanghai Express Railway Project (BSERP).

The report noted that CHSR faces a funding gap of up to $24.75 billion, whereas BSERP has no such shortfall. In addition, the BSERP took 18 years from completion of the initial planning paper to the beginning of construction. CHSR began its initial studies in 1997, and construction has yet to begin.

These differences likely stem from inherent contrasts between the U.S. and Chinese systems of government, Chen said. BSERP benefited from receiving full funding from the national government, and may be more efficient because it avoids service duplication frequently found in the U.S. system’s checks and balances and consensus approach.  On the other hand, he added, the Chinese system of centralized and complete authority means that greater efficiency comes at a price of less stability and regional equality than the U.S. system.

Valuable Lessons from Japan Rail’s Shinkansen Expansion
Yuki Tanaka of the Japan International Transport Institute presented a post-analysis of an extension of Japan’s Shinkansen high-speed rail system on the island of Kyushu, in western Japan, completed five years ago. The project resulted in economic expansion, a reduction in carbon emissions, and an increase in rail travel in the region—results that she noted bode well for U.S. high-speed rail.

The new 79-mile Shinkansen segment, completed in 2004, reduced travel times between the northernmost and southernmost major cities by 90 minutes and takes 10 minutes less than the same trip by airplane. The public reacted with enthusiasm: in 2007, ridership reached 9,400 per day on this one section of premium-priced rail service.

Local businesses saw benefits as well. In a survey conducted by Japan Rail, 72 percent of businesses in one prefecture on the extension line reported that they saw positive effects from the rail service. “A large economic benefit has come from a large reduction in travel times,” Tanaka said.

The new Shinkansen service also brought an 80 percent reduction in total carbon dioxide emissions in the prefectures on the new line, she added.

High-speed rail in the United States could maximize its ridership, Tanaka noted, by adopting practices undertaken by Japan Rail to minimize the inconvenience of transferring from limited-express trains to Shinkansen—particularly by using the same platform for passengers transferring to or from conventional rail. Her co-author on the paper was Maskazu Monji of the Japan Railway Construction Transport and Technology Agency.

Increasing Capacity Is British ‘Ticket to Ride’
Prof. Stephen Ison of Loughboro University in Leicestershire, England (United Kingdom), discussed how the U.K. rail system is coping with an increase in demand that has strained the capacity of the current system while undertaking plans and construction for high-speed rail.

He cited a confluence of factors contributing to the boost in ridership, such as economic growth, road congestion, an increase in number of train miles, a decrease in fare price in relation to inflation, and performance improvements. The current rail network is only 30 percent of the size it was in the 1960s, and yet it carries more passengers, he noted.

According to Ison, the U.K. rail system has worked at enlarging capacity through a combination of methods: increasing service frequency, redesigning timetables to reduce the time trains spend in stations, and reconfiguring some railcars to provide additional capacity—for example, changing seating or removing seats and lavatories, and lengthening some trains with additional cars.

The most cost- and labor-intensive method of reform has been eliminating pinch points via new lines and enhancements, Ison said.  This includes removing line junctions that cause lengthy delays and widening some sections of track.

The U.K. plans to greatly expand its high-speed rail network beginning in 2017.

APTA’s High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee: Ready, Willing, and Able!

BY ROD DIRIDON SR., Chair, APTA High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee and National Corridors Coalition

What a pleasure it is to provide a perspective to this very special edition of Passenger Transport!

Though all of the world’s other industrialized nations have high-speed rail, that obvious step has been very difficult for the U.S.! But, after more than 30 years of preparation, thanks to APTA and our many supporters, high-speed rail is on a roll!!

California’s High Speed Rail Authority—of which I am a past chair and a governor’s appointee—will sign contracts in late 2011 for the state’s $42 billion starter line, the single largest public works project in U.S. history. Leading that effort, in November of 2008, California’s voters approved Proposition 1A’s $9.95 billion in high-speed rail bonds, the nation’s first. Then President Obama and Congress gave the cause a terrific national jump start by providing $8 billion for high-speed rail in the February 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $2.5 billion additional in the December Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriation legislation.

We applaud James. L. Oberstar (D-MN), chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, for his addition of $50 billion for high-speed and intercity rail in the House version of the surface transportation authorization act for the next six years. This is our nation’s next logical step toward modern, sustainable mobility following the early canal and toll road networks, then the railroads, then the national highway system, and now the new mobility and a new industry that will be catalyzed by a comprehensive national high-speed rail system.

APTA Takes Lead
With characteristic foresight, APTA has taken a leading role in creating this opportunity by assimilating the venerated, old High Speed Ground Transportation Association into the larger, comprehensive, and well staffed High Speed and Intercity Rail Committee (HS&IC) and National Corridors’ Coalition.

That 150-plus organizational member group is the spearhead for the needed high-speed rail “coalition advocacy” with other transportation modes and national organizations.

In recent months our HS&IC Rail Committee has taken on a number of significant tasks. We participated in a task force created by the APTA Executive Committee to unite APTA’s membership around key principles that could offer guidance to DOT as programs and policies were shaped in the critical weeks following the announcement of the federal funds available for high-speed rail. The overarching goal was to frame a program that would have strong and ongoing Congressional support for all modes of mass transportation. That “coalition advocacy” includes high-speed rail grants for projects that are a) ready-to-go, b) in the corridor development phase, and c) in the planning phase.

We also endorsed a program that would accommodate the types of projects being advanced in different regions of the country. This includes high-speed rail express (150+ mph), high-speed rail regional (110-150 mph), emerging high-speed rail (90-110 mph), and conventional rail (79-90 mph).

The HS&IC Committee and Corridors Coalition has worked closely with the APTA Legislative and Commuter Rail committees on several policy papers that outline a policy agenda for the many railroad issues pending before Congress.

At the request of the HS&IC Rail Committee at the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting, APTA adopted two very significant resolutions. The first affirmed APTA’s support for a $50 billion high-speed rail title in the next surface transportation authorization; the second called for adequate federal funding to support the implementation of positive train control. These and related policies will continue to be a central part of the Committee’s coalition advocacy focus in cooperation with APTA’s broader legislative mission.

Developing Partnerships
There has been an extensive outreach to key partnering organizations. Most notable has been the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), requested by the HS&IC Rail Committee, among APTA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the States for Passenger Rail Coalition (S4PR). This MOU identified a number of specific actions to be taken in joint advocacy for high-speed rail.

We are working very closely with FRA Administrator Joe Szabo, Deputy Administrator Karen Rae, and the fine FRA team as they develop their National Rail Plan, scheduled for Sept. 15, 2010. The plan will focus on the many issues necessary to accommodate the projected growth for rail passenger and freight service to achieve full potential. Included are workforce, manufacturing, shared-corridor, economic development, connectivity, livability, equipment, regulatory, funding program delivery, and many other issues. This is a great opportunity to help high-speed rail to thrive.

Members Take Action
The pages that follow cover the many issues high-speed rail will confront. The High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee and Corridors Coalition (with representatives of the 11 federally designated corridors) are addressing those issues. The committee’s Steering Committee consists of the 11 corridor representatives, the committee’s elected officers, and subcommittee chairs. The officers: Ohio Director of Transportation Jolene Molitoris (former long-serving Federal Railroad Administrator) as vice chair (and Work-plan Subcommittee Chair as well); Chuck Wochele of ALSTOM Transportation, Inc. as secretary, and Ray Lanman of Herzog Corp. as past chair. Subcommittee Chairs: rail consultant Stan Feinsod and Rick Bacigalupo of the Orange County Transportation Authority; Membership/Outreach Subcommittee Chairs Robert Dietz of Gannett Fleming and George Dorshimer of LTK Engineers; Nominating and Bylaws Subcommittee Chair Al Engel of AECOM; Program Subcommittee Chair Peter Gertler of HNTB Corporation; Shared Corridors Subcommittee Chair Will Kempton of the Orange County Transportation Authority; and Research Subcommittee Chair Charley Quandel of Quandel Consulting. That remarkable team deserves your recognition.

Exciting Times Ahead
We are living in exciting times, times of challenge and opportunity. We are excited that APTA is providing the coalition advocacy leadership that allows APTA’s High Speed and Intercity Rail Committee and Corridor Coalition to convert challenges to success for the U.S. high-speed rail network.

Enjoy this edition of Passenger Transport, and please contact APTA’s KellyAnne Gallagher to become involved in APTA’s High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee.