Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keystone West High Speed Rail Study

Here is the outline for a recent (5/22/12) briefing by PennDOT as to the status for the Keystone West High Speed Rail Study:

Initial Work Order (1) and study initiated late Spring 2011.
     *  Initial work included prepartion of Worplan for FRA and approval.

Following Workplan approval, began development of Legislative Briefing Packet, website, and
Prior Studies Report.
     *  Legislative briefing packet distributed June 2011, a copy has been sent to Brent Sullivan.
     *  Developed link on "Plan the Keystone" website to update public on KWHSR efforts    
     *  Prior Studies effort included assessment of more than a dozen studies completed over last
         20 years to gather useful data.

Reached out to Amtrak and NS with initial meetings in 2011: April 25th and June 30th.

Drawing in large part on data drawn from Prior Stuies Report, updated with  current census data, etc., 
prepared "Project Purpose, Needs and Goals Report." Report concluded:
     *  Improved corridor mobility and access is supportable goal.
     *  Service and travel time disparities between Keystone West and Keystone East corridors merit
         attention and long term gap closure.
     *  Corridor has an extensive array of travel generators that bode well for market development.
     *  Phased improvements are necessary to support rail network connectivity (PA and beyond).
     *  Community and economic development can be bolstered through improved corridor access
         and travel alternatives.
     *  Transportation system redundancy is strategically important for the corridor and the Common-
     *  Pennsylvania's socio-demographics underscore need for a more multimodal approach to
         transportation planning and system development.
     *  Envionmental benefits of rail passenger transportation justify reasonable efforts to promote
         this mode.
     * A focus on improving existing  transportation assets is a pragmatic approach in an era of
        severe fiscal constraint.
     *  Freight-passenger challenges demand innovative methods and institutional cooperation.
     *  Pennsylvania must be prepared and be able to adapt to change (Marcellus Shale, technology,

Overall goals for the study include:
     *  Increase passenger train speeds and reduce travel times.
     *  Incrementally increase service frequency with ultimate goal of 8 round trips daily.
     *  Improve access and connectivity.
     *  Improve passenger rail amenities to complement other improvements.
     *  Establish effective institutional partnerships.

Based on identified needs and goals, began an analysis of alternative concepts to increase frequency and improve travel times along the corridor. Resulted in 4 alternative concepts described in Conceptual Alternative Paper:
     * Concept 1 - Operational improvements along the existing corridor and between Amtrak and NS
         and minimal infrastructures improvements generally within existing ROW. (Cost $0.5B).
     *  Concept 2 - Operational improvements with modest infrastructure improvements at key loca-
         tions along the corridor - includes new track and curve straightening at key locations.
         (Cost $1.0B).
     *  Concept 3 - Operational improvement along with major infrastructure improvements including
         an additional track the entire length of the corridor to provide for separated passenger service.
         ( Cost $1.5B).
     *  Concept 4 - New passenger only high speed rail line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh,
         generally following the Pennsylvania Turnpike or other major transportation corridor. (Cost

Report recommended further evaluation and assessment of Concepts 2 and 3 based on cost and potential for service improvement along corridor.

Initial work also included development of GIS base-mapping oc corridor showing key resources and constraints based on available secondary source data and a preliminary operations model to help support evaluation of alternative concepts.

Work Order 2 initiated November 2011 - primary focus is the Preliminary Service Development Plan (PSDP) and further exploration of Alternative Concepts 2 and 3 to build the "Menu of Options" for the final feasibility study.

Not unlike the Department's "Decade of Investment," our goal is to identify  decade (or some other timeframe to be determined) of improvements that can be implemented over time along the corridor that individually and collectively lead to meeting the goals discussed above.

Work Order 2 tasks expected to be completed in 3 - 4 months - includes update to legislative briefing packet and distribution, update to Plan the Keystone website, advancing  the PSDP through refinement of conceptual engineering, operational analysis and demand estimating, meeting with business and community leader in Altoona and initial efforts to outline the final Feasibility Report.

Work Order 3 (anticipated late Spring / Summer 2012) will provide for final assessment of alternatives, further enhancements to the PSDP, development of feasibility Report and outreach to legislative and community / public interests.

Current Issues of Concern:
NS resistance to any increase in passenger service along the corridor.

Potential loss of funding for Pennsylvania due to PRIIA 209 cost allocations.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


In the Spring 1999 of a periodical called THE KEYSTONE published by the Pennsylvania Railroad Historical and Technical Society an article appeared describing the "Samuel Rea Line." Samuel Rea retired from being the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1925. His most famous engineering achievement was the construction of the Penn Station and tunnels at New York City completed in 1910. The article indicated that preliminary surveys for a railroad capable of 90 mph were supervised by Samuel Rea for the PRR Board in 1926. The dedicated passenger line was to leave the existing 90 mph mainline at Fort Wayne, Indiana and be built across Ohio and Pennsylvania connecting with the PRR mainline at Lewistown, Pennsylvania. It would have lessened the PRR distance from Chicago to New York City by 100 miles.

In an attempt to learn more about the basis for the article, an attempt was made to contact its author without success. Contact with the Hagley Museum at Wilmington, Delaware, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, Pennsylvania; major repositories for Pennsylvania Railroad archives, came up empty. The absence of more information about the basis for the article is probably due to a a fire at Philadelphia's Broad Street Station in 1943. Substantial volumes of PRR records stored there were destroyed in the fire.

The route across Pennsylvania would have required 22 tunnels. The longest tunnel would have been north of Altoona and south of Tyrone. That west to east tunnel would have been 29,400 feet or 5.57 miles long. Steam locomotives would have had their fires banked and the passenger trains hauled through the long tunnel by electric locomotives. It would have taken a civil engineer of the caliber of the Samuel Rea to have have supervised such a preliminary survey.

The yellow line represents the proposed Samuel Rea Line noted as SRL. The PRR mainline is shown in blue. The Conemaugh line from the Northside of Pittsburgh to Bolivar, Pennsylvania is shown in dark red / brown. Northwest of Pittsburgh, near Rochester, Pennsylvania a dotted line shows a new connection from the mainline to a place called Ogle for a connection with the Samuel Rea Line. Northeast of Pittsburgh near Kiski Junction across the Allegheny River from Freeport a dotted line shows where a proposed connection with the Connemaugh Division would have been made at a place called Godfrey, Pennsylvania. All tunnel locations have their length in feet indicated.

Was the equipment operated by the PRR in 1926 capable of 90 mph operation? Yes. Was their larger passenger locomotive, the K4 type, capable of sustained 90 mph operation? Yes. Was the smaller PRR passenger locomotive, the E6 type, capable of faster operation? Yes - 115 mph.

The Samuel Rea Line is shown in yellow.  The Allegheny summit would have been attained to the west of a large 14,750 foot tunnel that would have been built between Alburn and St. Lawrence, Pennsylvania. The mainline is in blue. The Conemaugh division is in dark red / brown.
The west portal of the 5.57 mile tunnel proposed for the Samuel Rea Line in yellow would have been near Frugality, Pennsylvania. Connection with the PRR mainline would have been made at the west portal of the 9200 foot tunnel through Brush mountain between Tyrone to the north and Altoona to the south. Other connections to the PRR mainline would have been made in the vicinity of Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania.

Had the Samuel Rea Line been built, it would not have had a grade exceeding 0.6 per cent. It would likely have been easily upgraded for 125 mph operation either by diesel locomotives or electric locomotives. 

The proposed Samuel Rea line demonstrates that an actual High Speed Rail HSR across the Alleghenies would and require a substantial number of tunnels.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coal Carloadings and Railroad Industry

As has been mentioned, one cost of coal is the amount of time in which a heavy, low powered train occupies a right of way. The slow speed affects operations for faster trains.

The railroad industry has been affected this year by reduced coal carloadings due to a mild winter. See May Issue 2012 of RAILWAY AGE Magazine, page one at: and data at Carloadings are off 16 per cent year to year.

Where will the coal business be in the future? A strategic long term discussion was made by Gilbert and Perl in "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil."

There is a future probability for significantly less coal carloadings. It is peak coal which has arrived.

They noted, "Coal's availability is often assumed to be limitless or at least sufficient to allow expanded use for decades. For example, a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that consumption of coal in energy terms could rise by 348 per cent between 2000 and 2050 (i.e. 3 per cent per year). The IEA suggests that proven reserves of coal could allow for 164 years of consumption at current rates, compared with 64 years or natural gas and 42 years for oil.'

"Other sources suggest that mineable global coal resources are much smaller. These include a recent report by Germany's  Energy Watch Group that points to the unreliability of data on proven reserves of coal. The most extreme example given was that Germany itself, reported as having downgraded her proven hard coal reserves in 2004 by 99 per cent from 23 billion tons to 0.183 billion tons. Botswana and the UK have also downgraded reserves by more than 90 per cent during the last two decades. Only Australia - the major coal exporter  - and India have reported growing reserves. China - by far the major producers and user (39 per cent of the world consumption in 2006) - has reported exactly the same reserves of coal each year since 1992, even though subsequent consumption and loss through uncontrollable fires amount to a quarter of this total. The report suggests that China's coal production will peak in about 2015.'

'The U.S. is the second major consumer of coal and has by far the largest proven reserves (about 27 per cent of the world total). It uses less than 0.5 per cent of its reserves each year, but production of high quality hard coal (anthracite and bituminous coal) has already peaked - but the growth had been in less energy dense sub-bituminous and lignite coals. Production in energy terms reached a peak in 1998 and has since fallen by about 4 per cent. The report's authors suggest that U.S. production volumes could be further increased, but only until about 2025, when they will inevitably decline. Production in energy terms could  begin to increase again but would reach a maximum - before the volumetric peak - that would be no more than about 20 per cent above the current value . World volumetric production of coal would also peak in about 2025, with an earlier peak in energy terms." (See pages 138 and 139  of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil.")

A major source of railroad industry revenue faces a decline. The nature of the transportation services provided by the railroad industry without coal carloadings would likely be well served by electrification. Electrification would enable faster operations and denser utilization of the scarce line haul railroad infrastructure.

Feds to California: Start HSR action by June


Maybe the TRA Transportation Redevelopment AGency would be a better idea for getting the high speed railroad project underway?

Feds to California: Start HSR action by June

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Paying for National Infrastructure on National Level

Mr. Stephen Stofka,  a Philadelphian, at his blog addressed "Paying for National Infrastructure on National Level. His comprehensive thoughts are at

Mr Stofka recently graduated from Temple University with a Bachelors in Geography and Urban Studies. He notes on his blog the ability to undertake urban, site, environmental, and transportation planning, and is an expert in ArcGIS, Microsoft Office, PCs, and Macs, and am intermediate in Adobe Creative Suite. He has experience in web content development, most notably with His studies focused upon urban and transportation planning.

Looking at his analysis together with Gilbert's and Perl's recommendation to create a US "Transportation Redevelopment Agency" argues for a new way to approach land transportation in the country.

PT Equals TRA

As Gilbert and Perl explain, if a Federal "Transportation Redevelopment Agency" (TRA) were created to create a new non-oil based transportation system; the key is to plan for "policy termination." (PT).

An example of policy termination gone awry was the minting of Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. The simple goal to eliminate the cost of the dollar bill by conversion to a coin was a logical government cost savings. There were no plans for terminating the paper dollar other than creating the coin. Absent a policy termination plan, the coins were unused.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Building a Non - Oil Based Transportation System

The basis for the proposal in the 2008 "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil" by Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl for an electrically powered transportation system is oil scarcity and peak oil.

Electricity can be created without relying upon oil.

For persons who doubt the arguments for peak oil; competition for the scarce resource of oil has caused and is causing warfare and turmoil.

A non - oil based transportation system would make troublesome countries and their people not troublesome. They would no longer be important. Making the oil in a troublesome territory unimportant should be a national goal.

While the emphasis of this blog has been to electrify and rebuild the existing railroad infrastructure from semi - speed to higher speed capability; Gilbert and Perl advocate for a non - oil based transportation for the highway mode as well. That would be accomplished with electrical grid connected vehicles (GCV) in one or another of various configurations.

Gilbert and Perl suggest that to launch the revolution for a complete non - oil based transportation requires the termination of all highway and airport expansion plans and programmes.  (The spelling of "programmes" is the English practice Gilbert and Perl adopted.)

As they explain, "The skill and effort needed to remove existing policies and dismantle established programmes is far from trivial.  Lack of focus on policy termination has undermined many efforts by leaders - across the spectrum of political orientation - to change the direction of U.S. policy. These efforts include, for example, the Carter administration's agenda of government leadership in energy conservation of the late 1970s and the Reagan administration's goal of replacing Social Security pensions with private alternatives in the 1980s. Failures to terminate existing policies have undermined the key priorities of more than these presidents. One analyst noted that the political dynamics of terminating established public policies differ fundamentally from those involved in creating new policies because '...distinctive coalitions generally form on both sides... and that termination contests are usually more bitter and harder to win than most policy adoption contests.'"

"Policy termination." What a useful phrase. It describes in two words the current conflict in the political process. Improved and / or new policy and/ or adjusted policy often requires "policy termination." Gilbert and Perl provide ideas as to how to engage in "policy termination" specific to creating a transport revolution as follows:

" A clear principle would thus be useful for justifying the end of programmes that support oil-powered mobility in the U.S. The logic is that of no loner digging once the determination to get out  of a hole has been reached. Many of the previous efforts in the U.S. to cultivate energy-efficient transport alternatives - including local public  transport  and intercity rail passenger improvements - have been undermined by simultaneous additions to road and airport capacity, usually paid for with earmarked trust funds from fuel and other taxes. Such an approach to transport development, which some portray as 'balanced' spending, is analogous to applying a car's accelerator and brake at the same time. The result undermines the performance of both systems and eventually destroys the engine. The onset of the next transport revolutions should be most noticeable for what stops happening, namely the expansion of highways and airports. A scan of the U.S. federal budget suggests the magnitude of resources that could then become available following such redeployment."

"US DOT's budget proposal anticipates spending $37 billion in 2008 to reduce the congestion of America's roads, rails and airways. Such funding would build upon decades of similar spending aimed at adding more air and road infrastructure to move ever-expanding volumes of cars and planes. Once oil depletion is recognized as a constraint on future growth of driving and flying, spending such large amounts on expanding capacity could be seen as wasteful and counterproductive, even amid the pleas against termination by those who gain great benefits from continuing such efforts."

" could expect at least $50 billion a year to be reallocated to developing  the infrastructure and accelerating the diffusion of electric traction in America's road and rail network. This could include conversion of many airports into 'travelports' (multimodal transprt hubs) that connect the remaining international and long-distance flights to electric road and rail feeders... Other airports and sections of urban highway infrastructure could be decommissioned, as much as military installations are still being decommissioned after the Cold War."

"This spending transition would create fierce opposition from interests that see themselves as economic loses from such changes. Government will have to anticipate such opposition, defusing it with incentives for change and compensation for losses. The incentives will be generated by the $50 billion in annual spending that will go into electrification and expansion of rail corridors, major road networks in metropolitan areas and massive expansion of traditional and 'advanced' public transit systems. Existing producers of electric-powered transport will reap a windfall from this bonanza, as will firms that rush to join this sector by adding traction and related technology to their product lines." (See pages 281 and 282 of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil")

Funding as recommended by  Gilbert and Perl together with a temporary, small tariff and specific investment incentives could achieve building a non - oil transportation system in record time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rebuilding the Railroad System for Higher Speed -TRANSPORTATION REDEVLOPMENT AUTHORITY

Land transport in the US faces severe capacity constraints by 2030, both highway and rail.

Land transport in the US is based upon oil.

Land transport in the US is imbalanced toward the highway mode.

Anthony Gilbert and Anthony Perl in their book, "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil," advocate for the electrification of the railroad system. They characterize the need to overcome a transport system that relies upon oil, facing capacity constraints and imbalanced towards highways as requiring a revolution in applying established technology to accomplish.

They recommend that to launch the rebuilding of the railroad system for higher speed requires a transport redevelopment agency.  They note that "no good candidate for such a role among the myriad government agencies and private firms that contribute to America's current transport planning. They include industyr associations and several government departments, not only those concerned mostly with transport but also, for example, the armed forces, which have often been concerned with the capacity and technology of America's civilian transport and have recently focused on oil depletion as a strtegic challenge. This will all need to be involved in developing the plan for a redesigned transport syste. However, this restructuring will best be facilitated by a new entity that leaves aside much of the baggage of existing in and approaches to moving people and freight in the U.S. The new agency should be constituted as a transparent, inclusive and fair enabler of the considerable efforts that lie ahead.'

'The mandate for an agency to guide the redesign will need to come from the top, meaning the U.S. president. We propose a name such as the 'Transportation Redevelopment Administration' (TRA),  which signals what the organization will be about and provides a relevant and unambiguous acronym. TRA would have a board charied by the U.S. vice-president whose emebers include the secretaaries of Defense, Energy, Treasury and Transportation. As well, state, county and city governments sshould be represented on TRA's board TRA should draw upon the expertise associated with the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and affiliate of the NAtional Academy of Sciences that assembles America's analytical and technological expertise in over 200 standing committies involved in every aspect of mobility.'

'TRA would draw on past U.S. experience in creating public agencies to develop innovative solutions to serious challenges. Earlier organizations overseeing considerable social and economic redesign efforts include the Reconstruction Finance Corporation established by President Hoover in 1932, the Tennessee Valley Authority inaugarated by President Roosevelt in 1933, the United States Railway Association created by President Nixon in 1973, and the Air Stabilization Board signed into law by Presidnet G.W. Bush on 22 September 2001. The last organization had the job of using loan guarantees to sustain the U.S. airline industry, hurt by terrorist attacks 11 days earlier and their aftermath. TRA would combine elements of each of these agencies' structure to serve four key functions.'

'First, TRA would provide a forum for consultation with industry, organized labour and interested citizens on changes that would create considerable new benefits, as well as impose real burdens.. Second, TRA would become a repository of manageral and technical expertise in enerrgy-efficieient transport redesign.
Third, TRA would serve as a banker and broker  for financing deployment of the technology and infrastructure needed to make electric traction the prime mover in the U.S. *
Fourth, TRA would become an assessor and evaluator of the work in progress to redesign American mobility. TRA could thus be seen as a 'superagency' along the lines of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which grew quickly and assumed wide-ranging responsibilities in its mission to keep AMericans secure on the home front.'

'DHS grew through the rapid transfer and adaptation of pre-existing government programmes, from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. So could TRA gain momentum rapidly through staff and resource transfers from agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT), which has some 55,000 employees and has proposed a $67-billion budget for 2008. Among agencies wothin the US DOT umbrella are the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Higway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration. Many employees of US DOT and its agencies, and many from among the tens of thousands working on transport issues in state and local governments, could quickly migrate to TRA's planning, design and finance departments..." ( See pages 279 and 280 of "Transport Revolutions - Moving People and Freight Without Oil.")

* The major source of funding for rebuilding railroads and electrification:

"Countries facing balance of payment difficulty may apply import restrictions under provisions in the GATT 1994 agreement and under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)." SEE World Trade Organization website for details :

Alan Drake in "A Citizen's Guide to an Oil Free Economy," notes the following:
"World Trade Organization (WTO) rules allow a nation with a long term structural trade deficit (And the USA certainly qualifies!) to place a unilateral tariff on all "non-essential" imports so long as the proceeds from the tariff are used exclusively to reduce the structural trade deficit and there is no preferential treatment in the application of the tariff."

"Oil imports are a major part of the "long term structural trade deficit" of the United States of America. This plan (electrification) will reduce US oil imports by substantial amounts. Therefore, a substantial fraction of the governmental costs to implement this plan could be financed by a 1% to 2% tariff on a broad range of imports."

"The initial reaction from foreign governments may not be positive, but our diplomats can assure them that this new tariff:

1.) is according to WTO rules. In fact, this is precisely why this exemption exists.

2.) will be effective in reducing US competition for available oil exports, which is very much in the self interest of oil importers and even oil exporters.
3.) will be effective in reducing US carbon emissions, which is in everyone's interest."

And furthermore, it is the only politically possible way that the US will do anything meaningful about either oil consumption or Climate Change. Thus, it is in their enlightened self interest to not object to the US financing part of the program with a broad but small tariff on imports. And, if the tariff is implemented according to WTO rules, they have no other recourse under international law."

See Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas - USA, Alan S. Drake:

International HSR at Philadelphia July 10 to 13, 2012 - WWBFD

 WWBFD - What would Benjamin Franklin do?

RAILWAY AGE comments by Anthony Perl concerning the 8th World Congress on High Speed Rail to be held in Philadelphia July 10 to 13, 2012:
International aid for North American HSR

The link for the website reporting upon the Congress: 

Monday, May 7, 2012

RIsk and Reward

The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line is owned by the Norfolk Southern Railroad Company.

What might be the risks to a private railroad company in having a higher speed dedicated passenger track added to its freight right of way?

1. If the planning process to add a dedicated higher speed track is done by a public entity, then the resulting plan document will be part of the public domain. That could create an unintended breech to private corporate business planning. While the document might not on its face create a competitive information problem; it could be the link in assembling the links of information that reveals confidential data.

2. If the confidentiality concerns were overcome, planning might actually proceed. But as the planning will require diversion of engineering and managerial talent from the actual task of providing freight transportation services; there will be a cost placed upon the private corporation.

3. If the cost to the private corporation caused by the planning process is overcome, then the actual plan should address he following: Why should a dedicated higher speed track be built? How and where will the dedicated track be built? Who will build it? Who will own it? Who will operate trains over the higher speed dedicated track? When will the dedicated track be completed? How will the dedicated track be funded? How should the private owner of the right of way be paid for the use of its real estate?  How should liabilities for interfering with operations on the dedicated higher speed track be defined and compensated? What liability might the private company have for harm to passengers harmed by an accident on the higher speed rack?

In every railroad company boardroom there is the specter of government policy that has hurt the railroad industry. It is a historic concern.  The Interstate Commerce Commission's policies after World War II set the stage for the bankruptcy of many of the railroad companies in the Northeast United States by 1972. Even before that, the effects of government ownership and operation of the railroad companies during World War One cast a shadow over the industry for decades! Arguably the passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is an example of government policy creating unanticipated costs. The 2008 Act mandated application of Positive Train Control to be part of railroad signal system that controlled operation of freight and passenger trains on the same track. Positive Train Control would have prevented the loss of life at Chadderton, California when a commuter passenger was operated past a stop signal colliding with a freight rain on September 12, 2008. The implementing legislation mandating Positive Train Control was signed into law by President Bush on October 16, 2008. It provided for funding to develop the Positive Train Control signal system design. It did not, however, provide funding for purchase, engineering design and construction for Positive Train Control by the railroad companies. The estimated cost to accomplish compliance with the law is $10 billion.

Some years ago while investigating a logistics concept to be operated by the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad, it was discovered that the railroad in places along its right of way from the port on Lake Erie at Conneaut, Ohio to the vicinity of Pittsburgh in places was as wide as 600 feet. The railroad management indicated they had no interest whatsoever in selling any of the wide right of way. That conservative approach to ownership may pay dividends given the potential for mineral rights income as the line is over the marcellus gas formation.

The private ownership of  right of way for transportation is unique to among the transportation modes. It is that private ownership and the flexibility allowed to the private corporation to competitively exploit its basic and fundamental resource, the right of way, that a railroad board of directors will jealously and zealously protect. Fiduciary responsibility requires this.

What might the rewards be to a private railroad company having a dedicated higher speed track added to its right of way?

1. Assuming that the dedicated track is built by a third party and right of way rental fees are negotiated by the third party owner; the private railroad company would have a new,  predictable flow of real estate rental income from the owner of the dedicated higher speed track.

2. Assuming that the dedicated track is owned by a third party and the private right of way owner controls and operates the signal system for the dedicated track; the private right of way owner may generate management and maintenance fees for dispatching trains and maintaining the signal system.

3. Assuming that fees for operating over the dedicated higher speed track built and funded by a third party are negotiated, the freight railroad would have added capacity and new business opportunities provided by higher speed track capacity.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cost of Coal

One other cost of coal seldom considered is its disproportionate percentage of railroad tonnage versus revenue. Coal is important to railroad company earnings. To make earnings from moving mountains of coal, barely adequate locomotive power is assigned to move loaded trains from origin to destination within the permissible hour of service rules.

Slow moving coal freight trains are profitable because they use fewer btu's of energy to get the job done.

Estimates of btu's per ton mile for rail overall is 1720.  Containerized / trailer on flatcar operations require 2,040 btu's per ton mile. A unit coal train requires 890 btu's per ton mile. ( "Energy Use In Transportation" Richard Mudge, Febrauary 1982, Congressional Budget Office for House Committee on Energy and Commerce.")

Slow moving coal trains impede the fluidity of a mainline. That is a cost of coal seldom considered. More often the external costs to air and water quality caused by coal are what is discussed.

Coal is a major impediment to increasing speed over the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line.

Suppose that the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Line were electrified? Electrification will likely exchange about 2.5 to 3 btu's of refined oil for 1 btu of electricity.  So an electrified railroad would appear to be able to move coal at containerized / trailer on flatcar speeds using fewer btu's than an oil based railroad operation.

Assuming 2.75 btu's divided by btu's required to move containerized / trailer on flatcar trains, 2040, equals 742. (See draft, "An American Citizen’s Guide to an Oil-Free EconomyA How-To Manual for Ending Oil Dependency With valuable bonus information on Saving Our Economy, Our Planet and Strengthening Our National Security" by Alan S. Drake, for btu estimate for electrification.)

The Long Last Mile

Even if semi-speed let alone higher speed rail passenger service became an alternative, the Long Last Mile must be part of being competitive.

Suppose line haul speed Pittsburgh to Harrisburg has been improved. For those destinations, the last mile as ultimate destination from the station can be the worst part of the trip. Fortunately, the concentration of activity near the stations makes the last mile largely a pedestrian decision. Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle is concentrated. Virtually 95% of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's offices are within a mile of the Harrisburg station.

But, the ultimate destination is not within a mile of a station.

Nor is the weather always accommodating. A sunny spring or fall day walk is what we want to experience. Harrisburg memories of finding the dollar rain poncho in the forgotten corner of a briefcase in a doorway alcove while lightning is hitting the Susquehanna River are haunting. Pittsburgh memories of accumulations of wet slushy snow falling fast enough to provoke the thought, "Could one suffocate under falling snow?" are also haunting.

So, taxi service is an important part of the last mile.

When there is good government regulating a public service, cab service works.

Suppose though that government disappears? What kind of exploitation and manipulation might happen to the disembarked passenger at the passenger station. Would it be an orderly acceptance of the rules for the benefit of the traveler? Or would it be near third world bedlam and exploitation of the traveler?

Well, watching the "free" market work in a description of conditions facing the late night passenger arriving at Washington Union Station indicates how "exceptional" America is.

The whole story is at:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Curvature and Elevation

Here is a link to a brief discussion about railroad curvature and superelevation of outside rails for various operating speeds:

The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line can be adjusted to increase speed. Determining how to do so requires engineering studies.

The comments posted indicate that there is a possibility to increase the operating speed. Until an engineering study is made, the practicality of doing so requires engineering skill. Many of the suggestions made would entail large earth moving projects.

The question becomes, how and why should the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg line be improved?