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The potential power of a picture

I was perusing MSN’s Web site last weekend when I saw a photo of a Charlotte Area Transit System light-rail vehicle next to the headline, “Where’s the best place to live in America?”

Intrigued by why the site might have used an LRV to symbolize the city — and, therefore, imply rail is one of the reasons it's on the list — I clicked on the headline to read the article.

According to the story, Relocate-America put Charlotte, N.C., at the top of its “Best Places to Live in 2008” list for its diversity of housing options and home affordability, and strong economy.

OK, so the article never mentioned CATS’ new LYNX light-rail system, so I’m not quite sure why MSN used the LRV snapshot on its home page. Maybe it was a randomly picked photo. Or maybe — just maybe — people are beginning to realize that cities with public transit options can help provide a better quality of life for their residents.

Posted by: Angela Cotey | Date posted: 5/23/2008

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Posted by Ed Biggs on 5/28/2008 10:34:40 AM

The people know. Its the legislators who have failed to hear the message from the people.

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Posted by Adron on 5/28/2008 6:25:31 PM

The other stupid thing about that exact article, was the list of the worse places in America. In that list Charlotte also is in the top 10. That really makes me wonder about the legitimacy of MSN as a news source or reliable place of research. But really, it doesn't make me wonder too much because I know they do really shotty work when it comes to relative or reliable news. They're all about the headline and the visitor counts.

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Posted by Dave Smith on 5/29/2008 10:41:35 AM

Well, if indeed Charlotte is also listed as one of the 10 worst places to live, can't we also attribute that to their costly and ineffective transit system? After all, high taxes are a major reason for resident dissatisfaction. And we all know a majority of transit users tend to be tax revenue recipients rather than de facto tax payers.

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Posted by Michael on 5/29/2008 11:10:57 AM

Ed is right in stating "..the people know...". The recent trends in the housing industry look bleak but digging into specifics one can learn that housing sales are strong in urban areas and areas with easy access to public transportation - inluding rail transit locations. I am in the Philadelphia suburbs where the reach of SEPTAs rail system for transport into the city is consistently shrinking.

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Posted by Peter Cooper on 5/29/2008 11:33:35 PM

I find it ironic that most of the foreclusers in Charlotte are in the northern subburbs not served by rail transit. I also find it interesting the Californians prefer to spend the wad on new SUVs only to wind up living in them when they lose their homes.

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Posted by James Swidergal on 6/3/2008 2:43:49 PM

And...with all that has been said so far one would think that an educated consumer and homeowner or potential homeowner living in the eje rr corridor in illinois would embrace cn's interest in expanding the rail serrvice if and when the stb allows that to happen. Progressive Railroad and other similar publications need to band together and blitz the regional media here in illinois and raise the positive issues that this eje/cn acquisition is a good thing not only for the cn but for the area,especially now when passenger rail service could be included to link all of the present existing passenger rail links,and loop the entire north-east illinois region with efficient rail service instead of paying higher gasoline prices,eliminates paying for outrageous parking fees downtown,and possibly reduces that many more one person per vehicle commuter type on the expressways and tollways making more efficient use of our highway system for trucking and motorpooling.

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Posted by R.Sieben on 6/4/2008 11:35:30 AM

even here in Illinois where transit is largely recognized as needed, the political hacks still don't get it. The state is broke and we have a totally dysfunctional government in place. The result is a deadlock on getting any new funding to expand transit when it is needed most. I don't think this is unique to Illinois. The political types don't have the guts to impose a tax for something like transit that has an obvious payback, they are more interested in vote getting shenanigans like offering free transit for seniors and the disabled. (not that these are altogether bad ideas, but not now.) Anyone who is reading this and you do not vote, you are at fault! This is what we get for being complacent about getting good elected officials and holding their feet to the fire when they don't perform. my opinion only!

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Posted by Dave Smith on 6/5/2008 6:49:49 PM

Michael and Peter, citations please? C'mon, you two are trying to equate the housing crunch as a function of whether there is public transit available or not? I think James is more correct, in that those who ostensibly support more rail transit are also the most vociferous in opposing CN's takeover of the EJ&E. To R. Sieben I would ask: Why not just raise ticket prices to cover the costs of transit, rather than trying to foist yet another tax increase on working people? Also, isn't Illinois a Democrat state? If so, what politicians other than Dems would you propose that would be more supportive of subsidized transit?

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Posted by James Swidergal on 6/6/2008 3:25:30 PM

As to what kind of state is Illinois,...well it was repulican,now it's democrat,but mostly due to it's delinquent governor (Blago) it's a state of confusion. There is a chance for a massive hand up from the Federal govt all this state of democans need to do is match the funding and it'll open the flood gates of infrastructure repairs,and new and existing transportation improvements to happen. But once again this general assembly (Ill.) are sitting on the fence, for pete's sake already get on with another gambling license,for that matter get twelve more licenses and sell them to the highest bidder, so what if organized crime gets one,it's not like their not already operating in drugs and prostitution,and it seems that the last few governors including this one are a bit shady, my understanding is a felony record is a prereq. for the job,or is it part of the renumeration for serving. But back to railroading, ah what the heck none of those elected morons in Illinois are listening anyway, they're all at the state fair being vote hogs, or may be being hogs.

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Networking opportunity: NS and 10 New York short lines to jointly test market ‘single-line’ moves

Record attendance and an all-time-high number of railroad representatives were hot topics in the exhibit hall, general session ballroom and break-out session salons at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s (ASLRRA) annual meeting held May 4-6 in San Antonio.

The event at the Marriott RiverCenter drew 1,500 people vs. 1,128 registered for last year's Baltimore conference, as well as more than 400 railroad attendees and a record number of supplier representatives. The exhibitors I talked to were ecstatic about the turnout and the exposure for their booth while the short liners I chatted with were more than satisfied with the information and networking opportunities they obtained.

How’s this for a networking opportunity: a Class I and 10 New York short lines sharing their capacity to market short-haul moves as a single-line transportation service to shippers. During his presentation May 5 in San Antonio, Norfolk Southern Corp. Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Don Seale talked about doing just that.

NS and the ASLRRA have developed a pilot project called “Empire Link” under which the Class I and 10 short lines will test the single-line marketing waters between Binghamton and Silver Springs, N.Y. Any short line can market a move — originating or terminating on their line — that involves another short line or two and NS as the bridge carrier.

NS initially would provide all the equipment (the short lines would have the option to use their own) and rates would involve a series of per-car charges based on the commodity, such as salt or paper.

A “commercial approach,” Empire Link grew out of a review by NS and the ASLRRA to “see what we could do with a cluster of short lines” in New York, Seale told me by phone May 13. The Class I and association will conduct the pilot for about a year and “adjust and tweak it as we go,” he said.

“At the end, we’ll see what we got out of it and if there are other applications for it on our system,” said Seale.

What they’ve got is a novel — and I think workable — plan. Seale is fairly certain that no other Class I and group of short lines have attempted this before. Class Is and short lines talk often of developing better, mutually beneficial working relationships and this is a prime example of how to do it.

I’ll write more about Empire Link in our June issue.

Posted by: Jeff Stagl | Date posted: 5/13/2008

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Posted by James C. Sanchez on 5/17/2008 7:13:50 AM

I think this is an excellent idea. There is a huge short haul freight market that the class 1 railroads seldom participate in. It sounds like a win win for everyone involved. Better asset utilization and new revenue for the NS, the potential for less trucks on the roads for the communities, a lower cost shipping option for industries, and of course new business opportunities for New York states short lines. Way to go NS. Imagine something like this in California or Texas, maybe other roads like BNSF or UP that only focus on long hauls could learn from this.

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Posted by Chop Hardenbergh on 5/21/2008 12:20:48 PM

The newly-announced Patriot Corridor in Massachusetts could perform a similar role for New England's many short lines. If NS and the New York short lines can make a success of this over the next year, I nominate the NS-Pam Am Patriot Corridor as the next "test market."

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Posted by James Mattsen on 5/23/2008 2:42:09 PM

This is a really good idea. I wonder if short lines in Pennsylvania could be added to the program after the year pilot.

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The capacity crunch, Japanese style

With ridership on the rise, some U.S. transit agencies are nearing capacity on their peak-period trains. But that’s nothing — a “YouTube” video a friend of mine emailed me yesterday (“Crazy Japanese commuters get pushed into trains”) gives a whole new meaning to the capacity crunch.

What I want to know is, what happens when the doors open? Or if you’re in the middle of the car and need to get off?

You can’t be claustrophobic if you want to hitch a ride to work on one of these trains. Take a look — you really do have to see it to believe it.

Posted by: Angela Cotey | Date posted: 5/7/2008

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Posted by Dave on 5/7/2008 6:42:44 PM

And this is what you envision for the USA to "reduce our carbon footprint"? No thanks.

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Posted by Larry Kaufman on 5/8/2008 10:38:19 AM

Why does the snarky comment by "Dave" appear to be from a "regular" at these blogs; one who opposes just about everything railroads do, doesn't accept that there is such a thing as global warming. Dropping his last name certainly doesn't make his screeds any more palatable than before. If this is the same lovable Dave Smith we all know, his hypocisy is showing, as he used to try to cudgel me for not providing my full identity.

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Posted by Mike Lambert on 5/9/2008 11:29:50 AM

Crush loads that mean Crush! At least they close the doors in Japan. In Mumbai India I witnessed trains running at 80 mph with the doors open and people's arms flapping in the breeze as they barreled past!

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Posted by on 5/9/2008 2:34:33 PM

Define "snarky", as it seems to be missing from my Webster's dictionary! Perhaps Larry spends too much time watching Saturday morning cartoons, and not enough time researching a credible response. What is it about my observation that discredible? The fact is this same blog author promoted transit as the answer to "global warming", then a few weeks later exposes the foilabilities of transit as it relates to basic human comfort standards? Now it seems we've had a VIA train quarantined for causing a mass outbreak of sickness onboard. It's amazing, but neither of these disgraces (a mass crush of bodies nor an outbreak of disease) has happened to me in my private auto! Railroads are designed mostly to haul freight relatively long distances. Transit does none of these.

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Posted by Stephen Montgomery on 5/12/2008 4:58:55 PM

I rode one of these in 1967 while stationed in Yokosuka. For much of the trip I was so tightly compressed my feet weren't even touching the floor. Quite an experience. I hope our transit authorities can come up with better solutions.

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Posted by David Burns on 5/12/2008 10:47:11 PM

In the USA crush load is considered 4 passengers per sq meter of floor space. In Tokyo its 8 and in Bombay, its 16 passengers per sq meter, think about that!

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Posted by Larry Kaufman on 5/13/2008 2:10:40 PM

So it was you, Dave Smoith, although I notice you still are not identifying yourself, something to which you object in others. I think that's called hypocritical. As for "snarky," it's quite regularly used in journalistic and public policy circles, and perhaps you ought to get a better dictionary. Add this blog to the list of those on which I no longer intend to engage you in discourse, civil or otherwise.

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Posted by Dave Smith on 5/14/2008 7:29:59 PM

Third try: Yes, I am Dave Smith. No, I have no explanation for why the PR blog monitors have chosen to delete my name from the responses. I'll hit the "Submit Comment" button and see if the third time is a charm. Or, it could be that Larry's not so subtle threats to the PR staff have had their intended effect. Let's see, here we go......

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Posted by Larry Kaufman on 5/15/2008 10:47:38 AM

What a crock! Dave Smith now accuses me of threatening the PR staff. No threats are necessary to get PR staffers to perform in a professional manner. In fact, Smith tries to insult me, but he succeeds only in insulting the PR staff. Good show, Davey! You have dissembled on just about every blog presented here. Happily, most regular, thinking readers can see you for what you are. I acknowledge that I said I would no longer respond to your snarky posts, but when you get down to the level of personal insults, you have released me from my pledge. Perhaps you can get the Libertarian Cato Institute to provide you with some more material. The stuff you serve up on these comments is getting old and musty - and therefore, smelly.

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Posted by Dave Smith on 5/15/2008 11:45:15 PM

Will Mr. Kaufmann please talk about transit, for crying out loud? Three attacks on me and not one mention of transit issues. All I did was point out the inherent drawbacks of transit in building the case in concurrence with Angela's blog piece, and made the obvious point that no rational person would want to emulate the crushing madness of Japanese transit extremes. Tough times in the railroad press indeed!

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Posted by Larry Kaufman on 5/16/2008 11:35:31 AM

Two points, and then I hope this exchange is ended. First, you have misspelled my name, even though it appears correctly in each reply I post to these blogs. Intentional on your part, or just sloppy on your part, Smith? That's the classic stupidity or cupidity conundrum; which way do you want it? Second, you started the personal insults here, and I am finishing them. I can make that statement because I obviously know more about railroads and transportation than you do, and I'm more articulate than you, and I don't come to these blogs with a predetermined political agenda. As long as you keep your blather to the blogs, though, rest assured, you are not doing the damage to railroads that you obviously hope to do. Bye.

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Posted by Larry Kaufman on 5/16/2008 2:50:15 PM

Dave Smith demands "for crying out loud" that I comment on transit and the blog. OK. First, people do not use public or mass transit to reduce their carbon footprint, as Mr. Smith so snarkily posits in his response. They use mass transit for one primary purpose -- to get from where they are to where they want to be, and to do so with reasonable efficiency and economy. In most communities that provide decent mass transit, whether bus or rail, the public "votes" by using the service provided, and the numbers are growing as the cost of driving private automobiles rapidly outdistances the cost of mass transit. If, along the way, they reduce their carbon footprint, that's a plus for the society, although regular readers of this blog and comments know that Smith rejects the concept of climate change, climate warming, or any human interface with the environment. In India, where they cram the trains to the point where doors cannot be closed, and Japan, where they use pushers to cram a few more bodies into rush-hour trains, there really is little choice. Most people do not have private automobiles, and if they did, they wouldn't be able to afford to drive them and park them in central cities. This also is largely true in Europe, although that was not the subject of this blog. In the U.S., with the exception of old cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, that have had mass transit for generations, the populace must be "trained" to use public transportation. That's alright, OPEC is doing the training. It is right that OPEC do that because the low price of gasoline helped create the American love affair with the automobile. The world is changing, whether the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, or any other ideological group approves or not.

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Posted by Dave Smith on 5/16/2008 7:05:25 PM

Well, this is fun. At least I finally got Larry to state something about transit, albeit after five attempts! As for carbon footprints, go ahead and reduce yours all you want, because I am making a concerted effort to increase mine! "Why" you ask? Because climate fraud is junk science, and folks who ascribe to climate fraud as a way of conning people to use transit is just despicable. As for people "voting" to use transit, sure they'll vote to use it if someone else pays for it! As an economist though, I have to reject the claim that people support transit, for the basic reason that they are not willing to pay more than a fraction of the up-front cost of providing the service. In fact, even the most fiduciarilly responsible transit agencies barely collect a third of the costs of the service via user fees. The rest is usually coerced from those of us who actually work for a living in the private sector.

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Posted by Tom on 5/21/2008 3:40:55 AM

Dave misses the point in his exhortation of the unattractiveness of mass transit. His claims global warming is a sham require little discussion other than to note it is questionable whether he has any understanding of the basic science that underlies global warming. As for his claim to be an economist, well who does he think pays for the roads and motorways - yes, road transport is subsidized. It's not an option to wait until all our roads are gridlocked is it. We need to increase transport capacity now, and the simple fact is rail has a much greater (8x in some studies) capacity than roads. The evidence of greatly increased ridership in the last few years indicates people are not willing to pay extortionate amounts for their petrol.

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Posted by Dave Smith on 5/21/2008 6:41:16 PM

Tom makes several scattered and unrelated points, which confirms my suspicions of the mindset of transit fans. First, a previous blog made the weak claim of reducing the so-called "carbon footprint" by switching from personal auto to transit. I simply pointed out that (A) transit schedules are rigid compared to individual's schedules so in effect forces people to alter their lifestyles in deference to a government overlord (e.g. the "Metropolis" spector), and (B) transit routes have far less coverage than basic city streets, so people must first get from home to rail station and back, often in abject inefficient circuituity. As for the stated need to reduce one's carbon footprint, this is pure psuedo-scientific fraud. CO2 is not a pollutant, never has been, never will be except in the addled minds of socialists and the uneducated. In a recent study it was found that the more people educated themselves about CO2 and climate, the less likely they were to buy into the whole Al Gore "the sky is falling" hyperbolation. If Tom knew anything about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, he'd be able to give a more succint response than his typical ad hominem attack on those who properly question the unscientific claims of climate fraud hucksters. People who believe in AGW are simply zombies with no capacity to think and anylyze for themselves. No wonder our nation's voters are stuck on stupid. Finally, I would like Tom to compare subsidies to user fees for both highways and transit, and then tell us which one is getting the larger share of subsidy above and beyond the user fee reciprocation. If transit riders paid the same porportion of user fee for transit as car and truck drivers do for highway use, the price of the tickets would be so high no one would use it.

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Posted by Dave Smith on 5/25/2008 1:04:37 PM

One other reminder for those who think rail transit is complimentary to our freight rail system. With the current commodity crunch, there is no extra steel rolling capacity to make both light rail and heavier rail. If the transit folks are succesful in engineering a boom in light rail projects, heavy rail for our freight railroads will become scarce. This could lead to a repeat of the disaster our railroads endured during the pre-Staggers era of defered maintenance, where derailments were a daily occurance.

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Posted by Larry Kaufman on 5/27/2008 10:09:27 AM

Is that a crocodile I hear crying? Now we have the spurious claim that if America invests in more light rail the resulting steel rail shortage will harm freight railroad captial spending projects. The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Fortunately, it appears to be falling only over one person who always can find the evil in rail service on these blogs. In the real capitalist world, someone can be counted upon to make an investment in increased productive capacity once that someone is reasonably assured that there is a market for his product. Besides, the straw man of transit rail being complementary to freight rail has only one adherent. Just this morning, there was a report on CNBC that Chinese exports of steel to the U.S. have declined some 20% recently as shipping/transportation costs have increased, while U.S. steel production has increased. Oh darn, there I go again, letting the facts get in the way of a perfectly good preconceived notion. Sorry.

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