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By Pat Foran, Editor
This month's cover story serves as yet another example of a U.S. passenger-rail agency grappling with growth, attempting to bring an aging rail system to a state of good repair and finding funding for same. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is in dire need of new rail cars, and station and other infrastructure upgrades. BART also needs to expand service, given ridership projections. The agency's brain trust is forging ahead on both fronts, as Associate Editor Angela Cotey reports. Funding that forging is an ongoing challenge. BART officials will continue to make their funding case, and their best bet might be to make it at the local and/or regional levels.
"Now is not a good time to look to Washington and ask for help," General Manager Grace Crunican told Cotey.
No, it isn't. But D.C. did provide help of another sort late last month when Congress passed, finally, a surface transportation bill. "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century"(MAP-21) provides $105 billion for the nation's surface transportation programs over two years, and continues the current level of funding plus inflation through fiscal-year 2014 (see page 11 for a bit more information). We were still digesting the bill's details as this issue went to press, but the rare (these days) congressional compromise that is MAP-21 provides for "a greater degree of certainty" for transit agencies and private-sector businesses as they plan and implement public transportation projects, as American Public Transportation Association President and CEO Michael Melaniphy noted in a June 29 prepared statement.
Of course, the bill's passage doesn't alter BART's or any other rail-transit agency's "find funding and find it now" focus one iota, but a little certainty certainly doesn't hurt. Transit agencies will take any bit of clarity or resolution they can get, especially in this still-murky economic and political climate.
Canadian Pacific's long-awaited announcement that Hunter Harrison had been appointed president and chief executive officer finally came on June 29, and it triggered a flurry of rhetorical questions, what-if fragments and fleeting thoughts. This one's still with me: Hunter Camp is coming to Calgary.
Five years ago, I observed a group of 20 or so CN employees getting "Hunterized" at Hunter Camp, a two-and-a-half-day session during which CN's then-CEO Harrison imparted a "how we do what we do and why" message to the "campers" who had been identified as leadership candidates. "What we're going through is a culture change," Harrison told the group. "These camps are a way for us to get to the masses quicker."
I'm not sure precisely how Harrison, who retired from CN at 2009's end, will attempt to reach CP's masses, but he'll try to reach them quickly. His relentless pursuit of the "precision railroading" model has changed more than a few minds about how railroads work and why, and one of his charges is to change minds at CP. And he'll do it his way. He wouldn't be there if he couldn't. In the meantime, I'll check to see if there will be any Hunter Camp-Calgary observation slots open to the likes of me in the months ahead.
Our friends with The League of Railway Industry Women (LRIW) are seeking nominations for its 2012 "Outstanding Woman of the Year."
Any woman who works in the North American rail industry — any "unsung hero" who deserves to be recognized for her service," as one LRIW official put it — is eligible to receive the award, which is co-sponsored by Progressive Railroading.
Nomination forms can be downloaded from LRIW's website.
Completed forms should be emailed to Connie Sumara and Doris Scanlon. Nominations will be accepted until Aug. 1.
The winner will be recognized at LRIW's annual luncheon in Chicago during the Railway Supply Institute Inc.'s Annual Convention and Technical Conference of the Coordinated Mechanical Committees, which will be held Sept. 23-25. See you at the luncheon, the RSI exhibits, the mechanical meetings or somewhere in Chi-town during the meetings month that is September.