Saturday, July 30, 2022

Federal Transit Administration Issues Directives to MBTA / Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to Correct Safety Issues

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

WASHINGTON – To improve safety for the Greater Boston Area's rail transit system, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today issued a series of special directives to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the state agency responsible for safety oversight of the MBTA's rail transit operations.

A special directive is an order from the Federal government that requires an FTA-regulated transit agency or oversight organization to take immediate action on safety issues within a specific period. The special directives being issued today—four of which are being issued to the MBTA and one to the DPU—are a result of the FTA's safety management inspection of the MBTA that began April 14, 2022, following several incidents that resulted in one fatality and several injuries to passengers and employees on MBTA’s transit rail systems. These special directives require the MBTA, the MBTA Board of Directors, and the DPU to work together to remedy safety concerns and improve the MBTA's safety culture.

"Safety is our number one priority and must be the primary focus for the MBTA and the DPU," said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. "Every transit passenger deserves a safe ride. Every transit worker deserves a safe workplace. The MBTA must immediately take action to improve its safety procedures for its passengers and workers."

FTA underscores that transit riders in the Boston area should not interpret the special directives issued today as a reason to avoid the MBTA subway or light rail. Rather, FTA's actions provide system-wide measures to fix longstanding issues with the agency's overall safety program and culture.

The four special directives issued to the MBTA concern:

  • Operating Control Center staffing;
  • General safety operating procedures;
  • Delayed critical maintenance; and
  • Lapses in staff safety certifications.

Each directive includes specific timeframes – ranging from 24 hours to 35 days -- for the MBTA to provide responses and take actions.  

The directive to the DPU affirms the need for the agency to enforce the special directives to the MBTA and address outstanding safety issues from FTA's most recent audit of the DPU. The audit, conducted in October 2019, resulted in sixteen findings, of which seven remain open. Those findings concern:

  • hazard management;
  • accident investigations;
  • corrective action plans;
  • and rules compliance.

FTA will provide technical assistance both to the DPU to enhance its enforcement role, and to the MBTA to help address the agency's safety issues. 

FTA's actions direct the two agencies to adopt system-wide measures to fix longstanding issues with the MBTA’s overall safety program and safety culture, including involvement of the members of the MBTA’s Board of Directors, who are the ultimate decision-makers for the agency, along with leadership of the DPU.  

FTA issued the directives as part of its oversight role and to continue to ensure transit remains the safest mode of surface transportation. FTA's Public Transportation Safety Program regulation lays out the agency's authority and process for overseeing and supporting transit safety, including issuing special directives.

Amtrak Service Restored Between Burlington, Vt. & NYC


After nearly 70 years, Vermont’s most populous community once again has passenger rail service to and from New York City.

The newly-expanded Ethan Allen Express connects downtown Burlington and Penn Station.

Secretary Joe Flynn, who leads the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said restoring service took decades of prep work, and more than $115 million in corridor investments — using mostly federal funds.

"I think it makes Burlington more complete," Flynn said in an interview with NECN & NBC10 Boston. "I really do."

Amtrak’s CEO, Stephen Gardner, said he is seeing interest in rail travel rebound to near pre-pandemic levels.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

CSX Receives Approval from Surface Transportation Board to Acquire Pan Am Railways

Trains SEPO & BFPO, Westford MA 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – April 14, 2022 – CSX Corp. (NASDAQ: CSX) today announced that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) approved CSX’s application to acquire Pan Am Railways, Inc. (Pan Am). CSX will move forward with the acquisition with a planned closing date of June 1, 2022, at which time CSX will acquire control of Pan Am.

“CSX is pleased that the STB approved the proposed acquisition of Pan Am and has recognized the significant benefits this transaction will bring to shippers and other New England stakeholders,” said president and chief executive officer, James M. Foote. “We look forward to integrating Pan Am, their employees and the rail-served industries of the Northeast into CSX and to working in partnership with connecting railroads to provide exceptional supply chain solutions to New England and beyond.”

David A. Fink, president of Pan Am Railways said: “This much anticipated decision paves the way for an exciting new chapter for Pan Am customers and our employees as we begin our transition to the CSX team.”

Adding Pan Am to our network will extend the reach of our service to a wider customer base over an expanded territory, creating new efficiencies and market prospects for customers to capitalize on a robust pipeline of growth opportunities to move freight to, from and within New England.

With this transaction, New England will benefit from CSX’s track record as a leader in environmental performance. CSX will operate Pan Am with a more reliable and more fuel-efficient fleet, significantly reducing fuel consumption and improving rail’s environmental footprint in the region.

Passenger and commuter carriers in New England will benefit as the company is committed to maintaining or improving existing passenger service that operates on Pan Am. CSX has a long-standing history of working cooperatively with Amtrak and other passenger rail partners as evidenced by the significant improvement in contractual on-time performance with Amtrak since CSX has implemented its new operating model.

Headquartered in North Billerica, Massachusetts, Pan Am owns and operates a highly integrated, nearly 1,200-mile rail network and has a partial interest in the more than 600-mile Pan Am Southern system. Pan Am’s network across New England has access to multiple ports and large-scale commodity producers. The transaction will expand CSX’s reach in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts while adding Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to its existing 23-state network.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC acted as financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP acted as legal advisor to CSX in connection with the transaction.

MBTA's Safety Practices Under Federal Review After String of Injuries

 (SOURCE:  NBC 10 Boston)

The Federal Transit Administration is reviewing the MBTA's safety practices after several high profile incidents resulted in the death or injury of its riders.

Just last week, federal investigators determined that a passenger door on a Boston subway car did not function properly when Robinson Lalin got his arm stuck in it and was dragged to his death last month.

The MBTA has come under fire in recent years for several other incidents involving injuries, including a Green Line collision in the summer of 2021 that sent dozens of people to the hospital. An MBTA spokesperson said they fully support the FTA's goal to enhance safety.

 “Sharing the Federal Transit Administration's desire to make public transportation as safe as possible, the MBTA fully supports the FTA's review of the Authority's safety-related processes and practices and welcomes a constructive and collaborative process that focuses on making the T a transit industry leader in safety and reliability," an MBTA spokesperson said.

"This is a process that we are pleased to cooperate with the FTA on," MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak told reporters after an unrelated Fairmount Line event, according to audio provided by a Department of Transportation spokesperson. "I've pledged both externally to the FTA and I've made it clear to everyone at the MBTA that we want to engage and cooperate and collaborate in this process. If we identify any shortcomings related to safety, we will mitigate those immediately."

Officials from the FTA and MBTA held a meeting last month to initiate the process. The MBTA has ramped up infrastructure spending over the past several years in an attempt to make the system safer and more reliable. The MBTA’s major infrastructure spending went from $600 million in 2014 to a record $1.92 billion last year. The goal for the current fiscal year is $2 billion.

"The MBTA has invested over $8 billion in infrastructure improvements over the past five years, including new tracks and revamped stations as well as new buses and trains all to make the system safer and more reliable," a spokesperson said. "Unwavering in its commitment to its riders and employees, the MBTA has strong, well-funded plans for delivering safe, accessible, and reliable services for decades to come.”

A spokesperson pointed to safety projects including the Green Line Anti-Collision Program, upgrades on the Red and Orange Lines and positive train control systems installed on MBTA commuter rail corridors and vehicles.

Pointing to new workers hired since that report's release and an emphasis on capital spending aimed at maintaining, modernizing, and expanding the system, Poftak said the T has made "extensive investments in safety."

"It's not a question of resources, so having subject matter experts come in and take a look at the system -- if they identify gaps, we will solve those gaps, we will mitigate those problems," Poftak said.

"The MBTA is safe," he later added. "We are working every day to make it safer. I take the MBTA every day. My family takes it. The MBTA is safe."

Another federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, is already involved with the MBTA amid an investigation into last month's fatal Red Line incident. NTSB investigators said in a preliminary report last week that they found a "fault in a local door control system that enabled the train to move with the door obstructed" after Lalin became trapped.

"Obviously, the Red Line incident was a tragic incident and we offer our condolences to the family," Poftak said. "We've identified the problem. The problem was an anomaly, it was not in any other vehicle. We have put a mitigation in place so that problem can never happen again. We've also changed our inspection protocols, so we can't rule out everything, but we are doing a tremendous amount of work."

MBTA: All New Orange Line Trains Removed From Service After Braking Issue Found

(SOURCE: Fox Boston)

MEDFORD, Mass. — All new Orange Line trains have been taken out of service after transit officials discovered an issue with one train’s braking unit, the MBTA announced Thursday.

One of the new trains experienced a problem in one its multiple braking units at Wellington Station and it became disabled, transit officials said.

In a statement, the MBTA said, “A proactive decision has been made to keep all of the new trains out of service while the vehicle engineering and technical teams troubleshoot the problem.”

There were no reported injuries.

Officials are now working to determine the exact cause of the failure.

Orange Line service will continue uninterrupted with the use of older model trains.

JD - One has to ask... did the "junky old" PTC trolleys have as many issues???

Friday, February 4, 2022

Athearn / Roundhouse HO Pan Am EMD F7A Locomotives PAR1 & PAR2

Just announced, and due March of 2023, is the Athearn/Roundhouse HO scale Pan Am EMD F7A pair of locomotives, PAR1 and PAR2. 

  • 5-pole motor with precision-machined flywheels and multi-link drive train for trouble-free operation
  • All-wheel drive with precision gears for smooth and quiet operation
  • All-wheel electrical pickup provides reliable current flow
  • Heavy die-cast frame for greater traction and more pulling power
  • Clear plastic cab and/or portal windows
  • Single or dual headlight per prototype
  • Separately-applied horns
  • McHenry® operating scale knuckle couplers
  • DCC Ready 21 pin plug
  • Machined metal wheels with RP25 contours operate on all popular brand of track
  • Fully-assembled and ready-to-run out of the box
  • Painted and printed for realistic decoration
  • Highly-detailed, injection-molded body
  • Minimum radius: 18”
  • Recommended radius: 22”

Monday, January 17, 2022

Maine Potatoes Once Again Moving by Rail

(SOURCE: By Corey Bouchard

Maine potato farmers had a banner year this past fall. They are now reaping the benefits by shipping to western States. Corey Bouchard takes a look at how they overcame a transportation issue to get their crop to market... ” Rail enables us to move a large quantity, although a longer transit time”... The Agricultural Bargaining Council worked with Maine Northern Railway and Union Pacific to bring Refrigerated rail car service to Lajoie Growers to transport the spuds... (READ)