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The idiosyncrasies that swirl within the world of Windy City transportation notwithstanding, the big challenge facing the strategists that be at the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is one that all U.S. transit agency officials contend with: convincing the riding public and the pols they elect to pony up for system upkeep and expansion capital, as Associate Editor Angela Cotey notes in this month’s cover story. It won’t get any easier as they navigate the murkiness of this as-yet-unlabeled economic era. But a little stimulus could go a long way. Or at least part of it.
On Oct. 29, a cross-section of rail association reps told members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure/Ways and Means committees that adding a transportation element to a second economic stimulus bill would create jobs (35,000 for every $1 billion of federal investment). The American Public Transportation Association identified $8 billion worth of transit projects (559 in all) from 170 agencies that could start within 90 days after funds are released. The States for Passenger Rail Coalition suggested $250 million for intercity passenger-rail improvement projects. The Railroad Cooperation and Education Trust and National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association proposed $100 million over two years for transit, short line and regional railroads to complete projects that could begin within 180 days and be “substantially completed” in 2009.
Whether lawmakers factor infrastructure into the next stimulus mix (if there is one) could depend on who’s in office come January (this issue went to press a few days before the election), the depths to which this recession ... well, recedes ... and which voices resonate during said receding. With respect to the latter, so far so good. Keep testifying, rail realmers.
The future of Mexico’s primary rail industry association was anything but certain this summer after two of the country’s three largest freight roads left the fold. But the four-year-old organization is back on track, boasting a broader membership base, a new name and, perhaps, a brighter future.
“Things are looking a lot better than they did a few months ago,” says Emilio Sacristán Roy, general director of the more concisely named Asociación Mexicana de Ferrocariles A.C., formerly known as Asociación Mexicana de Empresas Ferrocarrileras A.C. (AMF)
In June, Ferrocarril Mexicano S.A. de C.V. (Ferromex) and Ferrosur S.A. de C.V. pulled out of the association, citing differences with Mexico’s other big freight railroad, Kansas City Southern de México S.A. de C.V. (KCSM). Sacristán, who’s headed AMF since its 2004 inception, suggested dividing the group into three chapters: freight roads, passenger roads and suppliers. The four remaining freight roads — KCSM, short line Linea Coahuila Durango S.A. de C.V., terminal railroad Ferrocarril y Terminal del Valle de Mexico and government-owned Ferrocarril del Istmo de Tehuantepec S.A. de C.V. — recently approved the plan.
Now, “Chapter I” members include the aforementioned freight roads plus one: Carrizo Gorge Railway Inc., which is based in El Cajon, Calif., and operates Mexico’s former Tijuana-Tecate line. A “Committee of Foreign Railroads” also has been established. Chapter II members comprise passenger railroads, including Ferrocarril Suburbano de la Zona Metropolitana de México, Mexico City’s commuter train, and the Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey metro systems. And Chapter III members, the suppliers, now have full voting rights. As for Ferromex and Ferrosur? The door’s always open, says Sacristán.
“It may take a while, but I’m convinced that when they sort out their issues with KCS, and things are not so stressed, they will come back,” he says.
An update from the rail economic indicator front: During the third quarter, rail-car deliveries increased 11 percent compared with Q2 deliveries — the first time since second-quarter 2006 that deliveries didn’t decline from the previous quarter, reports Rail Theory Forecasts L.L.C. The economic stimulus package Congress passed in February gave fleet owners a “great incentive to acquire rail cars in 2008,” particularly coal and grain cars, says Rail Theory Forecasts President and Progressive Railroading columnist Toby Kolstad. As a result, deliveries that had been forecast to total 48,000 units this year might reach 60,000, he says.
But car orders are dropping off. In Q3, orders totaled 7,696 units, down 37 percent compared with 2Q’s 12,142, according to the Railway Supply Institute’s American Railway Car Institute Committee. What’s in store order/delivery wise in 2009? Kolstad will share his reasoned insights in our December “outlook” coverage.
Pat Foran, Editor