Saturday, August 27, 2016

WATCH: Amtrak debuts new Acela trains

Courtesy of Alstom.
Amtrak announced a few weeks ago that it would replace its 20-year-old Acela trains - which first debuted in 1999 - with newer, faster models. This week we got a first look at those trains, in a video Amtrak posted to its YouTube page:

For those who don't know, Acela Express is the higher-speed service that runs from Washington, DC to Boston, passing through Philadelphia, New York City, and several other major Northeastern cities along the way. The Northeast Corridor is in fact Amtrak's only profitable rail line and is frequently used by current and former Members of Congress, including Vice President (once-Senator) Joe Biden.

It was Biden who announced a $2.5 billion loan to pay for the trains from the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program, which will be repaid from growth in revenue.

The new trains, built by French company Alstom but 95% made in America - can travel up to 220mph, though with current rail regulations and infrastructure it will only be able to go 160mph. That's still 10mph above the current trains' top speed. They'll also be able to carry one-third more passengers than the current trains.

Usually when I travel along the Northeast Corridor, I use Amtrak's Northeast Regional service; it's half the price and about an hour longer than Acela. But once these trains are running in 2021, I will definitely give them a try.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: August 13, 2016

Photo courtesy of Transportation Secretary Foxx's office.
This week in transportation, a new survey found Americans are down on their transportation infrastructure, the California High-Speed Rail Authority chipped in to improve commuter train service in the state, and Amtrak announced faster trains for the Northeast Corridor. Here are the most interesting and important transportation stories from the past week:

The Hill: Poll: most voters say US infrastructure getting worse
A new poll from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers finds that nearly half of Americans think our transportation infrastructure has deteriorated in the past five years - and 70 percent believe investing in its repair will help stimulate the economy.

Business Insider: This animated map shows how radically a high-speed train system would improve travel in the US
The US High-Speed Rail Association is proposing 17,000 miles of high-speed rail track in America, connecting the country's major cities like never before. Click to watch a video showing where these rail lines would be and how much faster commuters and travelers could move between cities.

Silicon Valley Business Journal: High-speed rail chips in $713M for Caltrain electrification that could double ridership
Caltrain electrification took a step forward this week as the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved $713 million for its share of funding for a $2 billion project to electrify 50 miles of track between San Jose and San Francisco. Construction will begin next year after the Federal Railroad Administration has reviewed funding commitments from the Authority and other entities, with the first electric Caltrains scheduled to begin running in five years.

USA Today: Amtrak's Acela to run faster new trains on Washington to Boston route
Amtrak announced plans to replace aging Acela Express trains with new ones that can go up to 10mph faster than the current trains - to 160 mph in some sections of the journey from Boston to DC. The replacement project will cost $2.5 billion and the trains are expected to come online in three years.

Environment News Service: USA, Australia cooperate to advance smart transport
From ENS: "U.S. and Australian officials have signed a new agreement aimed at strengthening collaboration on key transportation priorities in technology and innovation between the two countries... The Memorandum of Cooperation will enable the two nations to exchange information, data and best practices on the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to support infrastructure development, intelligent transportation systems and unmanned aircraft systems."

Happy reading, and happy weekend!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Transportation News Round-Up: August 6, 2016

Photo by John Sonderman.
This week in transportation, Massachusetts got new ride-sharing service regulations, a DC metro train derailed, and Connecticut debated over various high-speed rail proposals. Here are the most important and interesting transportation stories of the past week:

The Hill: Kaine primed for driver's seat on transportation issues as VP
The Hill writer Melanie Zanona explains why Tim Kaine, recently named Hillary Clinton's vice presidential nominee, was known as the "infrastructure governor" during his time in the Virginia governor's mansion: "He has fought to repair the deteriorating Arlington Memorial Bridge, pushed for greater federal oversight of Washington's Metrorail system and championed tax and fee increases for infrastructure projects throughout Virginia.

MassLive: Gov. Charlie Baker signs law regulating Uber and Lyft in Massachusetts
Massachusetts' new ride-sharing service regulations, signed this week by Gov. Baker, represents a compromise between companies like Uber and Lyft and the state's taxi industry: Shira Schoenberg writes, "The regulations impose a new fee on ride-sharing services and establish requirements for background checks, inspections and insurance, but still subject the services to less onerous regulations than taxi drivers face."

CT Mirror: CT split on rail overhaul; Malloy says repairs should come first
The Federal Railroad Administration is currently considering three proposals to improve rail service in the Northeast Corridor. While CT Gov. Dan Malloy has asked the FRA to prioritize making improvements to existing rail lines before building high-speed rail lines through the state, you can probably guess which proposal is my personal favorite: "Amtrak supports the most ambitious plan, one that would establish new lines from New Haven to Hartford and from Hartford to Providence and add a new rail route from New York to Boston through Danbury... At a cost of about $300 billion, Alternative 3 would be the only one that would establish high speed rail with trains traveling at 220 miles an hour and faster."

Improvement Alternative 3.
Graphic courtesy of the Federal Railroad Administration.
DCist: Metro: Deteriorated infrastructure likely caused derailment
Metro continues to investigate the cause of a derailment last week, and thinks it has the answer: "A Metro derailment last week that sent two railcars off the tracks and one passenger to the hospital on Friday was likely caused by failing track infrastructure in the area. Rail ties near the East Falls Church station had deteriorated, causing the rails to be too far apart... A wide gauge issue was also behind a derailment near the Smithsonian stop last summer, though no passengers were involved that time."

Wall Street Journal: Rio: A city transformed
For an international item, check out before-and-after photos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as it prepared to host the 2016 Summer Olympic games. New infrastructure includes the Line 4 subway expansion to connect its beaches to Olympic park, and the VLT light rail connecting Rio's domestic airport to a bus terminal.

Happy reading, and happy weekend!