Archive for March, 2013

Mar. 22, 2013

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Amtrak officials have agreed to a new funding plan that will maintain passenger-rail service between Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, the governor announced yesterday.

Under the revised agreement, Pennsylvania will contribute $3.8 million a year to maintain the “Pennsylvanian” service, which operates one train daily in each direction between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The service continues to and from Philadelphia and New York City.

“I applaud Amtrak for its willingness to work with my administration on a funding plan that makes sense for Pennsylvania in these difficult economic times and maintains this passenger rail service that provides important connections for many towns in western Pennsylvania,” said Corbett in a prepared statement.

The agreement will require Amtrak to recover more costs for the service than it has in the past. Initial funding estimates totaled $6.5 million a year, according to Corbett’s press release.

Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said in a prepared statement that the pact will preserve the Pennsylvanian service.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hailed the agreement.

“This is an example of how partnerships between states and Amtrak can produce savings while maintaining service,” he said in a prepared statement.–35603


Mar. 27, 2013

Employment levels at the U.S. Class Is increased a skosh last month. As of mid-February, the large roads employed 162,228 people, up 0.1 percent from January’s level and 0.9 percent from February 2012’s mark, according to Surface Transportation Board data.

Only two employment categories registered month-over-month declines: maintenance of equipment and stores, down 0.4 percent to 30,046, and executives, officials sand staff assistants, down 0.1 percent to 9,838. The size of U.S. Class Is’ professional and administrative staff was relatively flat at 14,143, while their maintenance of way and structures force rose 0.6 percent to 36,268, transportation (train and engine) ranks inched up 0.1 percent to 65,135 and transportation (other than train and engine) workforce ratcheted up 0.1 percent to 6,798.

On a year-over-year basis, only the transportation (T&E) sector shrunk, decreasing 0.4 percent. The other categories posted the following gains: executives, officials and staff assistants, 3.5 percent; professional and administrative staff, 2.4 percent; maintenance of way and structures, 1.5 percent; maintenance of equipment and stores, 1.5 percent; and transportation (other than T&E), 1.3 percent.–35633

Mar. 22, 2013

Southwest Airlines is generating $1 million a day in extra revenue from its network connections with AirTrain Airways, according to a report.

The airline, which acquired AirTran in May 2011, has been phasing in the network connectivity, which allows flights on both airlines to be booked together as part of a connecting itinerary, Aviation Week reports.

Code-share bookings with both carriers began for five cities Jan. 26 and for 34 more on Feb. 25.

Mar. 26, 2013

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently served notice that it’s issuing a final rule to amend track and passenger equipment safety standards in order to promote the safe interaction of rail vehicles and track under a variety of conditions at speeds up to 220 mph.

To take effect July 11, the final rule revises standards for track geometry and safety limits for a vehicle’s response to track conditions, enhances vehicle/track qualification procedures and adds flexibility for permitting high cant deficiency train operations through curves at conventional speeds, FRA officials said in a notice published in the Federal Register.

In addition, the rule institutes more cost-effective equipment qualification and in-service monitoring requirements, and clarifies that individuals qualified to inspect track need only understand the portions of the regulation relevant to the inspections they conduct and the work they perform.

“The rule accounts for a range of vehicle types that are currently in operation, as well as vehicle types that may likely be used in future high-speed or high cant deficiency rail operations, or both,” FRA officials said. “The rule is based on the results of simulation studies designed to identify track geometry irregularities associated with unsafe wheel/rail forces and accelerations, thorough reviews of vehicle qualification and revenue service test data, and consideration of international practices.”

An FRA analysis of the rule’s economic impacts found it wouldn’t adversely impact an existing operation or induce any net costs. The anticipated benefits relate to equipment procurement for passenger trains at speeds exceeding 90 mph; operations at high cant deficiency for passenger trains at speeds up to 90 mph; and streamlined testing requirements.

Petitions for reconsideration of the final rule must be received by the FRA on or before May 13. Comments in response to petitions for reconsideration must be received on or before June 26.–35625

Mar. 22, 2013

BROOKLYN – Thousands of yellow school bus drivers and matrons who went on strike earlier this year may be back to work, but they’re now facing major pay cuts.

Members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 say they received letters notifying them that starting next Friday, they will receive a 7.5 percent drop in pay and benefits. They also won’t receive accrual checks normally doled out this time of year.

On top of the pay cuts, drivers that work for Logan Transportation say they were also told in a letter that the company plans to lay off its entire workforce of 57 drivers and matrons by June 30, and that the layoffs are expected to be permanent.

Mar. 25, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The union representing SEPTA’s bus drivers, train operators, mechanics and support staff wants to start contract talks early with the transit agency.

Transport Workers Union Local 234 President John Johnson says the contract doesn’t expire until mid-March, 2014, but the union wants to start talks now.

“For far too long, historically, contract demands are not exchanged until possibly December,” he says. “Our goal is to address non-economic issues right now.”

Johnson says among the key issues are addressing passenger assaults on transit drivers and the permitted uses of the video from surveillance cameras installed on the trains and buses.

SEPTA’s Jere Williams says opening talks early is okay with management.

“We’re definitely willing to start the process early,” says Williams. “We would love to be able to get an agreement prior to the March 15, 2014 deadline.”

Both sides say they want to avoid a repeat of November, 2009 six-day transit strike.

Mar. 20, 2013

TOPEKA — Kansas legislators have given final approval to a bill barring public employee unions from deducting money from members’ paychecks to help finance political activities.

A 68-54 vote Tuesday in the House sends the measure to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, who’s expected to sign it. The Senate approved the measure last week.

Proponents said the bill would protect members of public employee unions from having part of their pay funneled to candidates or causes they oppose. Supporters also said state and local government agencies processing payrolls shouldn’t be entangled in such transactions.

But critics see the measure as an attempt to hinder fundraising by public employee unions, which generally are strong supporters of Democrats.

Opponents also note that union members typically sign off on any deductions from their paychecks.