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Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board Re-Elects Officers

October 20th, 2014
Dart Board Chair Robert Strauss

Robert W. Strauss

The Board of Directors of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) held elections for several board officer positions, re-electing Robert W. Strauss as chair for the coming year.

Strauss was appointed to the DART board by the Dallas city council in 2006. He is a partner at the Dallas-based law firm of Strasburger & Price, LLP. He earned a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from New York University, a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens College, City University of New York.

Faye Moses Wilkins Vice-Chair DART Board

Faye Moses Wilkins

Faye Moses Wilkins was re-elected as vice chair. A Plano and Farmers Branch representative, Wilkins was appointed to the board in 1999. She is president of The Wilkins Group, Inc., a telecommunications and systems integration firm headquartered in the Richardson Telecom Corridor.

Richard Carrizales Secretary  DART board

Richard Carrizales

Richard Carrizales, an attorney in private practice, was re-elected as secretary to the board. He has been a Dallas representative since 2010.

Gary Slagel

Gary Slagel

Gary Slagel was re-elected as assistant secretary. Slagel, who represents Richardson, Addison, Highland Park and University Park, is president and chief executive officer of CapitalSoft, Inc., a software development firm.

Trains Continue Replacing Buses on Philadelphia Area’s SEPTA Weekend Overnight Service

October 20th, 2014

The Philadelphia area Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is extending weekend overnight subway service indefinitely, due to overwhelming popularity of the pilot hours on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines.

The pilot hours, which launched earlier this year on June 15, aimed to accommodate and evaluate rider demand for late night weekend service. On average, 15,000 riders boarded trains between midnight and 5:00 a.m. during these hours, representing a significant increase in the baseline average of 9,000 travelers who previously used the weekend Broad Street and Market-Frankford Lines Nite Owl service operated with buses.

Overnight passenger gains were strongest on the Market-Frankford Line, with an average of 10,000 riders each weekend. An average of 5,000 riders boarded trains on the Broad Street Line during weekend pilot hours.

During holiday weekends, ridership gains peaked more than 100 percent on select days. Over the July 4, weekend, 24,430 riders traveled on both lines during the overnight hours. Ridership peaked again over Labor Day weekend, with 17, 192 passengers choosing overnight subway travel.

Passenger safety was also evaluated during the pilot, and safety issues were minimal with a proactive increase in SEPTA Police presence on overnight trains.

SEPTA said the positive ridership trends are encouraging, but this service is more costly than the bus service previously offered so they are examining areas to reduce costs without compromising safety.

“Late night customers have proven, by riding in record numbers each weekend that this is service they want,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. “SEPTA is proud to be part of Philadelphia’s late night renaissance. That’s why even with the increased costs we have decided to continue overnight service.”

UP Scores Highest Among Railroads on CDP’s S&P 500

October 20th, 2014

Union Pacific Railroad (UP) has been named in the top 10 percent of this year’s CDP S&P 500 Climate Disclosure Leadership Index, achieving its best performance on the CDP and scoring the highest among railroads with a carbon disclosure score of 99 out of a possible 100.

The Index lists companies on the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Index that disclose information on their greenhouse gas emissions and climate-related risks and opportunities.

“Engaging stakeholders, including customers and employees, through our carbon disclosure, we reaffirm Union Pacific’s resolve to continue innovating for environmental progress,” said Bob Grimaila, vice president of safety, security and environment. “Ultimately, this supports our commitment to providing the nation with safe, efficient and sustainable freight solutions.”

UP’s carbon disclosure score is a 1-point improvement over last year, with the company maintaining its B rating, on an A to E scale, in CDP’s performance band. Along with listing technology, training and operational innovations to increase fuel efficiency, the railroad also shared its approaches to responsible water management, completing the CDP’s water questionnaire for the first time.

CSX Formally Opens Central Florida Logistics Center

October 17th, 2014

CSX held a grand opening ceremony for its new Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center (ILC) in Winter Haven. More than 200 people attended the event including federal, state and local officials. The facility began operations earlier this year, providing a centralized hub to the Orlando, Tampa and regional Florida areas.

“The Central Florida ILC is the result of strategic collaboration between the City of Winter Haven, numerous state and local partners and CSX to create jobs and further strengthen Florida’s transportation system,” said Michael Ward, CSX chairman, president and CEO. “CSX is proud to invest in this important development in our home state that will help to drive Florida’s economy and position the state for continued growth in the future.”

CSX Executive Vice President and CCO Clarence Gooden said, “The value of Florida’s transportation system is in the seamless connectivity between its many modes. This terminal is a model for how Florida’s transportation modes work together collectively for the good of customers and the communities we serve.”

The new environmentally friendly facility includes three high-powered electric cranes, solar panels and high mast exterior lighting. It has the capacity to process up to 300,000 containers a year and is designed for expansion as freight volumes grow.

“The Central Florida ILC is a game changer for Winter Haven not only because of the opening of the state-of-the-art terminal, but because of the economic development potential this project represents,” said Winter Haven Mayor Nathaniel Birdsong, who attended the ceremony.  “Winter Haven is now a partner in the freight distribution industry, and is in the position to serve as an inland port for the global entry of goods and merchandise in Florida.”

“We are proud to be the home of such an extensive project, which sets the stage for tremendous growth in the Polk County region,” added Mayor Birdsong.

The ILC terminal is located on 318 acres with 930 acres available for developing up to 7.9 million square feet of warehouse distribution centers and light industrial facilities.  In July, Winter Haven Industrial Investors LLC purchased more than 500 acres of the adjoining property for phase one of this development.

Booths Selling Fast for ASLRRA Orlando Show

October 17th, 2014

Booth sales have been brisk for next year’s American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association Annual Convention in Orlando. Sales began earlier this fall to those companies that had space at the 2014 show in San Diego and about 80 percent of the space is already booked.

ASLRRA Connections 2015 will be held March 28-31 at the Hilton Orlando. The actual open exhibition days are March 29-30. The exhibition will be held in one large ballroom and will feature several food and beverage and seating areas and a casual networking lunch among the exhibits.

In the last seven years, booth space at the short line event has been a hot ticket. The ASLRRA exhibit hall has sold out (and had a long waiting list) as more railroad suppliers have taken advantage of the prime, once-a-year marketing opportunity to reach the growing short line and regional railroad industry. For more information or to reserve your space, please contact exhibit managers Kathy Rogers at krogers@railresource.com or Kathy Keeney at kkeeney@railresource.com.

San Francisco’s BART Funds $2.5 Million for eBART Station

October 16th, 2014
Rendering of Pittsburg Center Station Courtesy of BART.

Rendering of Pittsburg Center Station. Courtesy of BART.

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Board of Directors has approved $2.5 million to help fund a Pittsburg Center Station on the future eBART commuter rail line.

The contribution is contingent on a funding agreement with other area transit agencies and the City of Pittsburg, who need to raise the additional funding for the station’s $11.9 million cost. The station is expected to increase BART ridership by 20 percent.

“This is a unique opportunity to potentially fund a new facility without financial risk to our existing facilities,” said BART Board President Joel Keller. “It’s also an important act of good faith to our project partners, particularly the City of Pittsburg.”

The future eBART Pittsburg Center Station will be located three miles east of the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station. eBART, which is expected to begin service in 2018, is a 10-mile extension from the existing Pittsburg/Bay Point Station to Hillcrest Avenue in Antioch. The $525 million eBART project will use Diesel Multiple-Unit (DMU) trains.

The City of Pittsburg has agreed to provide $3.5 million to fund the station, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Contra Costa Transit Authority are expected to announce similar financial commitments.  If the funding partnership fails, BART’s $2.5 million stays in its operating reserves.

“The City of Pittsburg isn’t just standing on the sidelines,” said Pittsburg Mayor Sal Evola. “We have skin in the game – not only committing funds but also putting a Community Facilities District in place. Business owners and citizens voted to tax themselves to help ensure the eBART extension includes a station in Pittsburg.”

BART is the heavy-rail public transit and subway system that serves the San Francisco Bay Area and the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo.

Association of Mexican Railroads Joins Operation Lifesaver

October 15th, 2014

The Association of Mexican Railroads (AMF) and Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) have signed a cooperative agreement that will  increase attention to safety awareness on and around railroad tracks and highway-rail grade crossings.

“We are delighted to welcome the Association of Mexican Railroads to the Operation Lifesaver program,” said OLI President and CEO Joyce Rose, ”and we look forward to working with them to raise awareness of the need for safe behavior around tracks and trains throughout North America.”

“The main purpose of this collaboration is to implement, in Mexico, highway-rail grade crossing awareness campaigns,” remarked AMF President José Zozaya. “Operation Lifesaver will provide strategies and examples for educational materials, whereas AMF will coordinate Mexican railroads and other stakeholders for implementing such campaigns.”

Operation Lifesaver is a non-profit organization whose mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights of way. OLI is supported by a nationwide network of volunteers who support state programs, developing videos, educational brochures, instructional information and educational programs for audiences of all ages.

The Association of Mexican Railroads is comprised of freight railroads, transit and passenger railways, and rail industry suppliers in Mexico.

Countries that have cooperative agreements with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. for rail safety education programs include Argentina, Canada, and Estonia.

CSX Posts Record Third Quarter Results

October 15th, 2014

CSX Corp. (CSX) has announced record results for the 2014 third quarter in revenue, operating income, net earnings and earnings per share.

Revenue for the 2014 third quarter increased by 8 percent to a total of $3.2 billion when compared to last year’s third quarter. The increase in revenue was due to secular growth trends in the intermodal and energy markets and the continued economic momentum that is driving strength across most markets.

The company produced operating income of $976 million and an operating ratio of 69.7 percent. This is a 16 percent increase over the 2013 third quarter, with operating ratio improving 220 basis points, primarily due to high demand and operations that remained stable.

Net earnings were $509 million, or $0.51 per share, up from net earnings of $455 million, or $0.45 per share, reported in the 2013 third quarter. Growth in net earnings was supported by volume increases of 7 percent, with broad-based growth across nearly all markets.

“As the economy continues to expand, the company’s record third-quarter results are built on the foundation of CSX’s network reach, sustainable growth opportunities, and the efforts of our 31,000 employees,” said Michael J. Ward, CSX president, chairman and CEO. “At the same time, we are focused on the execution of our core strategy. That means enhancing our ability to grow faster than the economy, price above inflation, make strategic investments and produce ever more efficient operations to continue delivering superior shareholder value.”

CSX expects to sustain double-digit earnings growth and margin expansion in 2015, and continues to target a mid-60s operating ratio longer term.

STB Seeks More Service Details from CP

October 15th, 2014

Canadian Pacific Railway is in the spotlight at the Surface Transportation Board over service issues.

The STB has ordered CP to provide by Oct. 24 more specifics about its efforts to resolve service problems and respond to fall peak demand. CP is directed to respond in a verified statement by “an executive-level official with sufficient knowledge to provide complete and accurate answers,” the STB said.

The STB said that CP’s testimony at last month’s rail service hearing in North Dakota and its Sept. 17 fall peak response plan did not have enough detail to allow the board to fully assess CP’s plans for resolving its service problems or responding to the fall service demand.

The STB directed CP to respond to the following:

  • Provide a detailed plan that describes both the short- and long-term steps it is taking or will take to handle increased demand on its U.S. network, particularly in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. This response should include information about, but not limited to, track and infrastructure projects, crew hiring, and equipment purchases.
  • CP’s peak season response letter states that it expects an increase in volumes of grain, automobiles, fertilizer, and intermodal “in amounts that are in line with the seasonal traffic gains that are usually seen at this time of year.” However, with respect to these peak volumes, CP’s response merely states that CP expects to have sufficient resources, locomotives, cars, and crews on hand to accommodate any increased traffic volumes and peaks that may occur, “to the extent of its ability to do so.” Describe in detail the “extent of [CP’s] ability” to meet peak season demand for grain, automobiles, fertilizer, and intermodal.
  • Published reports have indicated that CP has eliminated or plans to eliminate 4,500 to 6,000 jobs by 2016, including jobs on its U.S. network. Similarly, CP’s reports to the board indicate that employment numbers at CP’s U.S. subsidiary, Soo Line Railroad Co., dropped by more than 9% for train and engine employees, and by more than 29% for other employees, between January 2013 and August 2014. At the hearing, CP’s representative estimated that CP would hire 150 to 180 employees across its entire system, net of attrition. CP’s peak season response letter makes no mention of its specific hiring plans. Of the 4,500-6,000 jobs that CP has eliminated or plans to eliminate, as referenced above, how many of these employees are based on CP’s U.S. network? State CP’s planned hiring goal for its U.S. network for 2014 and 2015, sorted by the employment categories, such as maintenance of way and structures, maintenance of equipment and stores. Of CP’s actual hires for 2014, how many employees, by employment category, are or will be based in the Midwest and central Northern region? For 2013 and 2014, through the date of CP’s response to this order, state by month the number of trains on CP’s U.S. network holding for four hours or longer due to crew shortage.
  • Describe in detail CP’s processes for communicating service issues with customers, including a list of any call centers CP uses to ensure customers are able to contact CP by phone.
  • CP has cited congestion caused by a harsh Chicago winter as a significant cause of its service problems. State whether CP is currently a member of the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office (CTCO) and, if not, explain in detail how CP will coordinate its interchange of traffic at Chicago with other railroads, especially if operating conditions deteriorate during the peak season or over the winter.
  • The implementation of CP’s sale of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad line and the establishment of a new interchange between CP and Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad, Inc. (RCP&E) at Tracy, Minn., have been difficult. While there have been positive developments in terms of communication and equipment supply, there are also continuing problems in coordination between the two carriers. CP’s peak season response letter states that CP “has taken a number of additional steps for the benefit of RCP&E and its customers such as supplying additional grain cars, supplying additional locomotives, and running extra trains.” Provide a detailed description of where these issues stand today and what additional steps CP can take to improve the flow of traffic with RCP&E.

AAR Reports Increased Rail Traffic Across All Commodities

October 15th, 2014

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported a 5.6 percent increase in total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending October 4, 2014, when compared to the same week in 2013, with 576,356 carloads and intermodal units reported.

U.S. carloads, with a reported total of 299,674 for the week, increased 7.4 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume increased 3.7 percent for the week, with a total of 276,682 units reported.

All 10 of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2013. Petroleum and petroleum products showed the highest increase, up 26.9 percent, with 16,037 carloads. Forest products increased 10.9 percent, with a total of 11,622 carloads, and coal increased 8.9 percent, with 107,884 carloads.

U.S. railroads reported a 4.5 percent increase in total combined traffic for the first 40 weeks of 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013, with a total volume of 21,976,509 carloads and intermodal units. U.S. carloads increased 3.6 percent, with a reported total of 11,622,497 carloads. U.S. intermodal volume, with a total of 10,354,012 units, increased 5.5 percent.

Canadian railroads reported an increase of 0.4 percent in carloads and a decrease of 2.6 percent in intermodal units for the week ending October 4, 2014, when compared to the same week in 2013. Weekly 2014 totals were 87,873 carloads and 57,996 intermodal units.

For the first 40 weeks of 2014, Canadian railroads reported a cumulative volume of 3,190,125 carloads, an increase of 1.3 percent from last year, and 2,290,364 intermodal units, an increase of 6.8 percent from last year.

For the week ending October 4, 2014, Mexican railroads reported 17,955 carloads, a 22.8 percent increase in carloads when compared to the same week last year. Intermodal units saw a 10.8 percent increase, with 12,663 units reported.

For the first 40 weeks of 2014, cumulative volume on Mexican railroads increased 2.2 percent when compared to the same time period in 2013, with a reported 627,076 carloads. Intermodal units increased 4.4 percent, with 421,175 units reported.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the first 40 weeks of 2014 was 15,439,698 carloads, an increase of 3.1 percent compared with the same time period last year. Intermodal trailers and containers totaled 13,065,551, up 5.7 percent.