Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, says Americans could be paying $5 for a gallon of gasoline by 2012.
In an interview with Platt's Energy Week television, Hofmeister predicted gasoline prices will spike as the global demand for oil increases.
"I'm predicting actually the worst outcome over the next two years which takes us to 2012 with higher gasoline prices," he said.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Oil Price Information Service says Americans will see gasoline prices hit the $5 a gallon mark in the next decade, but not by 2012.
"That wolf is out there and it's going to be at the door...I agree with him that we'll see those numbers at some point this decade but not yet." Kloza said.
"The demand is still sluggish enough in some of the mature economies."
Gasoline prices have been steadily rising. Last week, gas prices crossed the $3 mark for the first time since October 2008. According to AAA figures, prices are up 4% from a month ago and 16% from the $2.585 average a year ago.
A study from the Oil Price Information Service estimates drivers will spend $305 on gasoline in December. According to the study, fuel prices are up 13.6% from last December and 76% higher from December 2008.
Gas prices eased off last week's gains but still remained around the $90-a-barrel mark, settling at $91-a-barrel. Prices were down 51 cents from Thursday's close after China unexpectedly raised interest rates over the holiday weekend for the second time in two months.
Oil prices settled above $90 a barrel for the first time since October of 2008.
Until and unless we build more oil-independent mass transit, the economy is slaved to the ever increasing cost of oil. High speed rail is the most obvious and the flagship means of achieving a deal of oil independence, but it is only one part of what must need to be a cohesive whole; from busses and streetcars on the local level, to electric commuter railways, and high speed electric trains for intercity transport.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Commonwealth of Virginia and Norfolk Southern Railway Company have signed a landmark agreement that is an important step toward bringing daily intercity passenger rail service back to Norfolk for the first time since 1977. The round-trip train will link Norfolk with a single-seat ride to Richmond, Washington, D.C., and cities as far north as Boston.Speaking about the agreement, Governor McDonnell noted, "The new service will bring direct intercity passenger rail service to one of Virginia's largest population centers. The Hampton Roads region is home to over a million Virginians, including thousands of Federal employees and military personnel, who currently have limited transportation choices for travel to Richmond, Washington, D.C., and into the Northeast. This service will provide an alternative to the heavily congested I-64 and I-95 corridors."The agreement provides for the speedy upgrading of Norfolk Southern tracks between Norfolk and Petersburg so that they are suitable for use by passenger trains. Funded by an $87 million Rail Enhancement Fund grant, the projects include upgraded signaling, track extensions and connections, passenger train turning and servicing facilities, and a track and platform near Norfolk's Harbor Park for the passenger train. Also included is construction of a new connection between Norfolk Southern and CSXT tracks near Petersburg. These improvements will enable passenger trains to run on Norfolk Southern's busy Heartland Corridor route."The partnership between the Commonwealth and Norfolk Southern is a perfect example of business and government working creatively, cooperatively, and quickly to meet a challenge," said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman. "We are proud to be part of a timely and forward-looking response to a pressing public issue.""Connecting Norfolk to the Amtrak network and the Northeast is a major step forward for the mobility of the region," said Thelma Drake, Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.Norfolk Southern will work with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to complete the work outlined in the agreement. The project is already being designed, and construction will begin in 2011.The Commonwealth continues to make progress on the necessary agreements for improvements to CSX track and with Amtrak. These agreements must be in place before new intercity passenger rail service can begin.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Could Rick Scott, who's all about getting people back to work, manage to kill the planned Orlando to Tampa high-speed rail line and the 24,000 jobs it would bring Florida?The answer's yes, if, in the end, the governor-elect cares more about partisan politics than an economic opportunity that anyone with his supposed business savvy would be daft to resist.Regrettably, Mr. Scott's sending signals that to him, politics may well be more important than doing what's clearly in the best interests of Florida. How unfortunate for the state, which needs the stimulative, potentially transformative high-speed line.And how ironic for someone who cast himself as a political outsider in his run for governor.Mr. Scott's continued parsing of the project — it's got to show a return on investment; it can't cost taxpayers, he says — is now imperiling it. State Department of Transportation officials who'll depend on Mr. Scott for their paychecks once he's governor have picked up on his dislike of the project and put off plans to solicit companies to prepare the Interstate-4 median for the high-speed trains.Mr. Scott's tack resembles those of Republican governors in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Ohio, who recently leveled criticism at federally-supported rail projects destined for their states — before they ended up telling Washington they didn't want them.But Mr. Scott surely knows Florida's in a far better position to host a new passenger-rail system than those states, unless six weeks after the election he's still ignorant about one of its biggest infrastructure and economic development projects.Florida's $2.6 billion high-speed project would be paid for almost entirely by the feds. Washington has agreed to send Florida all but $280 million of its cost. And some companies vying to run the trains indicate they'd cover the state's share. They're willing to do that because they believe running the Orlando-Tampa route would give them a leg up on operating a second high-speed rail line from Orlando to Miami — and other fast trains outside Florida.New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he feared his state would have to pay for costly rail-project overruns. But meetings last month between Florida transportation officials and companies wanting to operate the trains reportedly revealed the companies' willingness to cover any construction overages.Wisconsin Gov.-elect Scott Walker said his state would have had to pay too much to operate and maintain its rail line. But the company that runs high-speed trains in Florida would have to operate and maintain them for 30 years. The state, Florida DOT's Kevin Thibault told us, wouldn't have to pick up the cost.Florida would need 23,000 people to build the rail line, and to find as many as 1,000 workers to operate it. The train would stimulate businesses along the line and help turn Orlando and Tampa into a single market that attracts entrepreneurs eager to reap the benefits of the nation's most advanced transit system.And it would offer commuters and tourists an alternative to an increasingly gridlocked I-4. It also would prove cheaper than the alternative: Building another lane of Interstate 4 — just from Tampa to Lakeland — would cost $3 billion.Why would Rick Scott oppose such a system? Because President Obama's stimulus program, which he savages, underwrites so much of it? Because it has become a badge of honor among conservative governors to reject federally funded rail projects? Because, even though it would better connect Floridians and deliver all those jobs, Mr. Scott thinks opposition would somehow help him among his conservative constituency?We've tried, but we can't think of another reason
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
“We’ve designed a product for the business travelers’ needs, and we’re trying to reach them at the most relevant points of their travel experience,’’ said David Lim, Amtrak’s chief marketing officer. “The underlying assumption being the airport experience has not been the best in the last couple of years.’’
Acela was launched in late 2000 with the goal of grabbing a larger share of the lucrative business travel market from short-haul air routes between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. By most measures, it has succeeded.
Amtrak now transports 55 percent of passengers in the Boston-New York air-rail market, up from 16 percent in the mid-1990s, according to the New England Transportation Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Vermont. Acela’s ridership has risen nearly 30 percent, from 2.5 million passengers in its first full year of service to 3.2 million passengers in fiscal 2010, which ended in September. Air travel, on the other hand, has declined.
Last year, nearly 30 percent fewer people flew between Logan and the three New York-area airports than in 1999, the year before Amtrak introduced Acela, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Air passenger numbers decreased 35 percent between Boston and Philadelphia and 8 percent between Boston and Washington in the same period.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- CSR Corp., China’s largest maker of rail vehicles, and partner General Electric Co. may bid to build high-speed train lines in California and Florida as U.S. President Barack Obama spurs investment in railways.The companies may also compete for a project on the east coast, CSR Chairman Zhao Xiaogang told reporters in Hong Kong today. They are yet to finalize what form their cooperation will take and will decide which of the lines to bid on over the next three years, he said.The GE-CSR venture may face competition from trainmakers including Bombardier Inc., Alstom SA and East Japan Railway Co. as the U.S. federal government promotes rail to ease congestion and curb pollution. China has also said it may offer financing for a planned California high-speed line costing at least $40 billion to help local trainmakers break into the U.S. market.“Bidding for such projects can help give CSR an international profile and boost its image as a global company,” said Stanley Yan, a Shanghai-based analyst at Masterlink Securities Corp. “The company is seeking new markets.”CSR, based in Beijing, wants overseas sales to account for 20 percent of total revenue by 2015 from about 8 percent now, Shao Renqiang, the company’s secretary, told reporters. It expects total sales to climb to 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) by that year, he said.“Overseas contracts are lucrative and we want to expand such sales,” Zhao said. “We’re actively seeking sales in the U.S., where there are seven or eight contracts in the pipeline.”China RailwaysThe company is also bidding for projects in China, where the nation plans to more than double its high-speed passenger network to about 16,000 kilometer by 2020, Zhao said. China is accelerating the pace of construction to cut travel times and ease transportation bottlenecks, he said.CSR rose 1.9 percent to HK$9.35 at the close of trading in Hong Kong. The stock has risen 64 percent this year, compared with a 6.6 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.CSR and GE, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, are also building a diesel-engine train factory in Changzhou, China. The two last month agreed to form a venture that will make parts for diesel trains.GE, the world’s biggest maker of diesel trains, agreed to cooperate with China on high-speed rail as it doesn’t have its own technology. The partnership may eventually support about 3,500 jobs in U.S., with final assembly taking place in the county, GE said last year.California NetworkCalifornia, the most populous U.S. state, is planning to build a high-speed rail network that will eventually run from Sacramento and San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Diego.China can offer a “complete package” for the project including financing, He Huawu, chief engineer of the nation’s rail ministry, said in a September interview. The same month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rode bullet trains in China, Japan and South Korea as he sought contractors and financing for the project.The California line won $2.3 billion in federal funding in January, as part of an $8 billion stimulus package announced by President Barack Obama. The government awarded a further $2.4 billion of aid for high-speed projects nationwide in October.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Five years ago, at a time of robust economic growth, the board of the Orange County Transportation Authority approved a plan to expand Metrolink commuter rail service.At the time, officials predicted that by 2010, average weekday ridership on the three Metrolink lines that serve Orange County would grow from about 14,000 to more than 30,000.Then came the recession. Ridership levels are back near where they were five years ago, after rising in the intervening years. In October 2010, average weekday ridership on the three lines was 14,818, down 3 percent from a year earlier.Meanwhile, OCTA has delayed plans to add new trains. The agency initially envisioned adding 16 round trips between Fullerton and Laguna Niguel by 2009, but didn’t. It’s now looking at adding at most six round trips in 2011, with more to come later.The expansion, which was approved by voters as part of the renewed Measure M sales tax ballot initiative in 2006, ultimately envisions adding 34 new trains in the county, to bring the daily total to 76. The overall cost, which includes buying new locomotives and passenger cars as well as making improvements to stations, expanding parking lots, and making street crossings safer, is more than $400 million.Will Kempton, OCTA’s CEO, believes that once trains are running more frequently, more people will ride them.The idea is that, with trains running every half hour or so, “people won’t have to worry so much about a schedule,” Kempton said. “They can simply go to the station and know that there will be a train.”That, he says, should result in a “stable and expanding ridership base.”Still, it’s unclear who the new riders will be.“Voters always vote for rail,” said David Brownstone, an economics professor at UC Irvine who studies transportation.Brownstone noted that California voters in 2008 approved a $10 billion bond measure for a high-speed rail system that could one day compete with Metrolink and Amtrak on the Anaheim-to-Los Angeles route.“They think it’s going to cut congestion,” Brownstone said. “Time and time again, people vote for these things and I think they think someone else is going to take (the train). It doesn’t happen.”Yet studies have shown that increasing the frequency of transit service does yield an increase in ridership, said Marlon Boarnet, a professor of planning at UCI.The studies suggest that a 100 percent increase in service will result in a 50 percent growth in ridership, he said.“I think it’s a pretty good idea,” he said, of OCTA’s plan to expand service.One pitfall: while OCTA owns the tracks between Fullerton and South County, the tracks between Fullerton and Los Angeles are owned by freight-hauler BNSF. Metrolink gets a certain number of daily slots and on the Fullerton-to-Los Angeles rails, and those are already filled.That means L.A.-bound riders on new Orange County trains are likely to find there are no additional connections waiting for them once they get to Fullerton.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The Sapsan high-speed train launched by Russian rail monopoly Russian Railways (RZhD) less than twelve months ago has proved to be the monopoly's sole profitable enterprise in the passenger transport sector, with its profit margin hitting 30 percent, RZhD President Vladimir Yakunin said on Tuesday.
"The other types of rail passenger transportation are loss-making," Yakunin said in an interview with Vedomosti business daily, adding that losses amounted to 34 billion rubles ($1.1 billion) from commuter train carriage and 36 billion rubles from long-distance train transportation.
Commuter train tariffs are regulated by regional authorities while rates for economy-class coaches are set by the Federal Tariff Service. These rates are lower than the economically justified level and therefore the government has to compensate the rail monopoly for its losses, an RZhD representative said. Tariffs for Sapsan fast-speed trains, however, are regulated directly by Russian Railways, which offers competitive rapid carriage services compared with other means of transport.
The demand for high-speed rail passenger carriage has proved to be so strong that the company is considering buying another eight Sapsan trains, Yakunin said, without specifying the terms of the expected deal.
The company plans to make a decision on the purchase by the end of 2010, Valentin Gapanovich, RZhD senior vice-president, said on Friday.
Russian Railways currently has eight high-speed Sapsans produced by the German engineering group Siemens. They run between St Petersburg, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. The Sapsan occupancy rate is 84.5 percent, according to RzHD.
The company's revenues from ticket sales may amount to 205 million euros annually at the current ticket price, while profits from the operation of these trains exceed 61 million euros.