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March 2012

Rail News: Passenger Rail

Of axioms, culture change and the journey; Progressive Railroading's MOW Virtual Conference & Expo; and the 2012 MOW Spending Report — by Pat Foran (Context March 2012)


— by Pat Foran, Editor

Of axioms, culture change and the journey

As "easy to say but hard to pull off" statements go, pronouncing that you're driving culture change and striving for organizational transparency are right up there on the degree-of-difficulty meter. But given what Metra Executive Director and CEO Alex Clifford walked in on a year ago at the Chicago commuter-rail system, that's precisely his charge and challenge, as Associate Editor Angela Cotey reports in this month's cover story. And Clifford believes Metra is making progress.

Digging out from under 20 years of "autocratic" rule (as characterized in a 2010 report issued by Metra interim inspector general Hillard Heintze L.L.C.) will take a while. So will fostering an inclusive environment at the agency, one in which employees' ideas and input aren't merely encouraged, they're required. For Metra to become "one of the best-run commuter-rail properties" in the United States (a goal Clifford shared with Cotey), every link in the chain will need to buy in.

The same is true, really, for CEOs, management teams and employees at any organization shooting for "best" status. It's about steering clear of from-the-top-down styles and being open to ideas. Being open to change. Embracing it — every day. It's about being accountable. Knowing you're never really quite there but redoubling your efforts to get there, nonetheless. It's about the journey, every leg of it. And it's everybody's charge, everybody's challenge. "Easy to say but hard to pull off" axioms, all. But it doesn't make them any less true.

Here's to the journey Clifford, his management team and Metra's 2,000-plus employees are on. We'll follow the work they're doing in earnest.

MOW Virtual Conference & Expo set for March 28

On March 28, Progressive Railroading will present the Maintenance of Way Virtual Conference & Expo, an online event that'll be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. Attendance is free. To "attend," simply log on to your computer and visit Once you've registered, you'll be able to interact with exhibitors and other attendees. As of March 1, 16 companies had signed on to exhibit.

The event also features five educational conference sessions:

  • 10 a.m. — "2012 MOW Spending: A New Bridge for Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway Co. (CRANDIC)." Speaker: Chad Lambi, manager, track & structures, CRANDIC
  • 11:30 a.m. — "A Railroad's Response to Stormy Weather." Speaker: Frederick Chidester, superintendent of operations, Hudson/West of Hudson, MTA Metro-North Railroad
  • 1 p.m. — "Safety Training and Strategies for the Rail Industry." Speaker: Patsy Crisafi, executive vice president, Roadway Worker Training
  • 2:30 p.m. — "Legislation Update for the Near and Short Term." Speaker: Chuck Baker, president, National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association Inc., and advisory board member, American High Speed Rail Alliance
  • 4 p.m. — "Crosstie Update." Speaker: Jim Gauntt, executive director, Railway Tie Association

For more information, visit:

Pre-order now: MOW Spending Report 2012

How much do North American railroads plan to spend on infrastructure upkeep this year? Is it more than they spent last year? If so, how much more? What will they spend it on? You'll find answers (and more) in "Maintenance of Way Spending Report 2012," which is compiled and written by Progressive Railroading Managing Editor Jeff Stagl.

The report provides detailed information on freight and passenger railroads' rail, tie, ballast, switch and turnout installation plans; rail grinding, welding and surfacing work; bridge construction and repair projects; facility projects, including those involving stations, shops, and MOW administration and storage buildings; MOW equipment lease and purchase plans; PTC work; and other project work. Maintenance of Way Spending Report 2012 also provides MOW budgets for 2012 and 2011, and reasons why a particular budget is higher or lower than the previous year's. And it features brief articles that touch on some of the key focus areas for several Class Is, regionals/short lines and passenger railroads.

To be downloaded in pdf format, the Maintenance of Way Spending Report 2012 will be available in late March for $249. You can order it here:


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