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Rail News Home Passenger Rail

May 2007

Rail News: Passenger Rail

The Capacity Chronicles - Context by Pat Foran (May 2007)

For the past few years now, this magazine has functioned as a chronicler of capacity — who’s struggling to find it, why it’s so difficult to fund it, how the lack of it can do a number on customer service, customer relationships and, as a result, longer-term growth prospects. This month’s capacity subject? Greater Toronto Transit Authority (aka GO Transit).

Attracting ridership isn’t the issue for this bus/commuter-rail agency, which last year served 48 million people, 80 percent of which were rail commuters. The real challenge is “getting service out to the people,” as GO Transit Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Gary McNeil tells Progressive Railroading’s Jeff Stagl in this month’s cover story. And it’s only going to get more difficult as metropolitan Toronto continues its break-neck growth pace.

To deliver, GO Transit will continue making operational tweaks and adjusting schedules to boost on-time performance, which will produce some additional capacity. But the agency needs a lot more than “some.” To get it, GO Transit is implementing an eight-year, $1 billion infrastructure program funded in part by federal and provincial governments, and Toronto-area municipalities — even though GO Transit execs aren’t sure if that billion will be enough. The adjective
McNeil uses to describe the plan is “bare bones.”

That “$1 billion” and “bare bones” even are used in the same sentence is a bit spooky. Spookier still, perhaps, is that we’re getting used to seeing billion-dollar figures associated with fundamental infrastructure needs.

Execs at other North American transit agencies and freight railroads have shared similar tales in recent months, each story reinforcing the moral of the one told before it: that capacity — finding it, financing it — is this industry’s biggest challenge, and will be for the foreseeable future.

For rail strategists, a parallel challenge is finding ways to focus on the longer term, in general — and then keep that focused fixed.

How can railroads better serve customers? What could “better serve” mean as rail plays what is likely to be a more prevalent transport role in the years ahead? What can all stakeholders do to help ensure that they continue to be part of the rail-industry evolution? We’ll keep the dialogue — and the chronicling — going in next month’s cover story (“The Quest for Constructive Dialogue: The Railroad-Shipper Dynamic”).

Webinar: ‘Rail Car Counts 2007’ set for May 30
On Wednesday, May 30, at 11 a.m. EDT, Progressive Railroading will host a Web seminar (Webinar) titled “Rail Car Counts 2007.” The presenter: Toby Kolstad, president of Rail Theory Forecasts L.L.C. and a Progressive Railroading columnist.

Rail-car deliveries will drop-off this year — by about 18 percent compared with 2006’s total, Rail Theory Forecasts projects. Freight-rail traffic is down, but that’s not the only factor driving the drop-off.

In this one-hour Webinar, Kolstad will explain his (as of last month) forecast of 62,000 rail cars and how a variety of factors are affecting the major car types.

For example, Kolstad will talk about how the ethanol boom will continue to drive tank-car orders, as well as identify a few potential marketplace pitfalls. He’ll offer his take on what the current coal-car surplus might mean for orders in 2008. He’ll also share his thoughts on the near-term prospects for the three types of covered hopper cars, and conclude by offering up 2008 delivery-count projections for each car type.

The cost to attend/participate is $249; all you need is a phone and an Internet connection. If you can’t make it on the 30th, you can purchase a post-event DVD for $289. The price to both attend the Webinar and buy the DVD is $349.

You can register online.

For more information, contact Online Events Manager James Pease via email or by phone at 800-727-7995.




Browse articles on rail capacity GO Transit Greater Toronto Transit Authority rail car market freight car market Toby Kolstad

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