Archive for Transit service

Uber as the urban transit market new competition

Adapted from a Bloomberg, Jun 23, 2015 report.

there arevInbelive huge economic implications as the UBER urban transportation model.  That model threatens competition from Limos to Taxis and even buses.

The Bloomberg report talks about the politics of urban transportation in Portland Oregon. But beyond that lies huge implications for urban transit in general.

Uber’s made a name for itself by barging into cities and forcing politicians to respond. It started in 2010, providing swanky rides at the tap of “an app”. A customer pushed a button on their smart phone, and a car showed up

The company has since expanded to take on lower-cost taxi service in more than 300 cities across six continents. The company value of Uber is now an astonishing ~ $40 billion.

uber is an economic ride sharing model with custom features. It is a new class of urban transit provider called “transportation network companies.”

Almost no regulations exist to oversee this exact new transit service model. The state of Colorado passed the first USA “ride-sharing legislation” about a year ago. Bloomberg reports that since then, about 50 U.S. jurisdictions have adopted ordinances recognizing Uber. The regulations try to secure ground rules for these new “transportation network companies.”

Each government, whether municipal or state, goes through its own process to craft rules. The officials generally codify the insurance coverage, background-check policies, and inspection protocols. But often, Uber already has in place rules that reflect a vast international commerce model that they wrote well before local jurisdictions could react.

To protect its membership, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the USA. “With a presence in almost every US statehouse, Uber has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation That is “at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores” have. That doesn’t count municipal lobbyists. City officials in Portland Oregon “say they’d never seen anything on this scale.”

The City of Portland’s has a very progressive transit services mixture. “People can bike in protected lanes, ride the bus or MAX trains (one of the nation’s busiest light-rail systems), or tool around in Smart cars from car-sharing company Car2Go.”

But there are holes, especially for residents living far from downtown, the disabled, and late-night partyers. The city’s taxis have been known to fall short of demand. Portland has fewer cabs per resident than most comparable cities, and drivers take home just $6.22 an hour, according to a 2012 survey.

The taxi companies didn’t hold traditional political power as major campaign donors or lobbying forces, but their furor succeeded in resisting, or at least delaying, change. It took a nasty four-year battle for a group of largely immigrant drivers to get permits in 2012 to start Union Cab, a driver-owned cooperative.”

“Uber first targeted Portland in 2013, when it wanted to introduce its luxury car service, UberBlack. It couldn’t legally operate because a city ordinance required black-car trips to be reserved an hour in advance, the legacy of a 2009 agreement that carved out separate markets for hire cars and taxis.”

The Uber model threatens some part of that Portland structure. Even a segment of the subsidized bus riders can be drawn to an Uber service segment with a much more reliable Phone App call service.

Bloomberg reports the following as some of the market segment descriptions of Uber services. Uber’s policy group has its own team of data scientists. They show: — in San Diego, 30 percent of uberX rides start or end near a transit station. — in Chicago found wait times were consistent across the city, regardless of area income. — Uber drivers make livable wages, as in more than $16 an hour.


Uber is clearly a new competitive force in the urban markets. How will this all “shake out”?

To read the entire article, go to Sent from my iPad

Rail transit agencies and states will have to pay more to maintain the NEC rail infrastructure

Will the federal government pay up also? No one is sure.

But from the small states like DELAWARE and RI to the larger ones like PENN and Mass, the local will have to pay a lot more then they had been used to.

Major points by Paul NUSSBAUM in The Inquirer June 18, 2015 report include these:

Northeast states and transit agencies – including SEPTA and NJ Transit and DELAWARE – are being asked to pay more to maintain the rail corridor between Washington and Boston that they share with Amtrak.

The new cost-sharing plan for the Northeast Corridor is due to take effect Oct. 1

The states had 6 years to get ready for this change.

The state’s actually move more people on commuter trains each day then Amtrak does.

The 457-mile NEC corridor sees 710,000 commuter-rail passengers and only 40,000 Amtrak passengers each day.

The majority of the 2,000 daily trains are local state run commuters.

In 2008, congress ordered the multiple rail corridor users to devise a formula for sharing costs that historically have been divvied up in more than 50 separate contracts. “There hasn’t been any uniformity to how those costs are shared. Some are overpaying and some are underpaying,” says Toby Fauver, a Pennsylvania deputy secretary of transportation who co-chaired the committee that created the new cost-sharing plan.

That committee is part of the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission. The commission is composed of one member from each of the NEC states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland) and the District of Columbia, four members from Amtrak, and five members from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Hard to believe that 18 can agree unanimously on anything!

In December 2014″, the commission voted, 17-1, to approve a new cost-sharing policy, designed to spread the burden for spending $425 million a year over the next three years for maintenance and some limited upgrades on the corridor.

These costs would rise to $530 million a year.

NOTE: The NEC Commission has no way to compel the states to pay more.

Payment disputes might be taken to the federal Surface Transportation Board.

Under the formula, SEPTA payments to Amtrak will increase from $38.4 million this year to $52 million next year.

For NJ Transit, the cost would be more than $100 million a year.

Massachusetts is upset at its bill of $32.6 million for a 38-mile section of the NEC that it, not Amtrak, owns.

Massachusetts is also skeptical that the federal government will uphold its obligation to add $125 million in new funding for the corridor annually for the next three years, then boost its contribution to at least $400 million a year above current levels.

Massachusetts’ fears might be well-founded as the U.S. House approved a proposed budget for Amtrak this month that will cut Amtrak’s funding by 17% (or $242 million).


The corridor’s infrastructure improvement needs are expected to cost about $18 billion over the next five years  Only about $7.5 billion is funded under current plans.

Collectively, the NEC states contend that “it has been the longstanding position that the federal government has primary responsibility for eliminating the backlog of deferred maintenance to restore the infrastructure to a state of good repair”.

Will Senators from Wyoming and Idaho and others states with no direct NEC benefits agree?


Selective comments:

One associate Ted observes that the NEC States tried to roll back this PRIIA provision, assumed they would succeed and then did nothing of consequence reference a strategic plan as to the possible increase in their rates.

Another friend observed that “The crunch time is approaching. Politicians have to face up to the true costs of commuter service, just like they have to face up to true costs of Interstates, bad bridges, and regular highways. Everyone wants something for nothing.

Washington WMATA — FTA cites safety lapses in report today

The FTA conducted a very large safety audit of the Washington transit system.  The results were released today.

The US DOT FTA found serious safety lapses in Metrorail’s Rail Operations Control Center, which schedules and conducts maintenance work, manages abnormal and emergency events, and ensures the safety of trains and personnel on the right-of-way. In key areas,

WMATA is not effectively balancing safety-critical operations and maintenance activities with the demand for passenger service.

“These are serious findings that strongly indicate that, despite gains made since the Fort Totten accident, WMATA’s safety program is inadequate,” said U.S. Secretary DOT Anthony Foxx.

FTA conducted the Safety Management Inspection (SMI) late this winter and into early spring as part of its new safety authority established by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in 2012. The SMI evaluated WMATA’s operations and maintenance programs, safety management capabilities, and organizational structures to assess compliance with its own procedures and rules, existing federal regulations and FTA Safety Advisories…

The SMI report includes 54 safety findings: 44 for Metrorail and 10 for Metrobus.

FTA is issuing a Safety Directive to WMATA identifying required actions for each of the safety findings.

FTA is requesting the WMATA Board to determine what changes to its Fiscal Year 2016 budget may be necessary to effectively implement the corrective actions.

Technically wrong images often tease readers of marketing publications

BEAUTIFUL PICTURES send the wrong message as to what will be delivered.  The writers could change that and send a really powerful “this is possible message” if they focused on the engineering specifications.

Better news reporting can make a difference.  I urge them to improve on an otherwise good publication.

The April 2015 issue of CBTL-WATCH AFRICA is a very well laid out and professionally scoped marketing tool for the ocean carrier. It presents colorful to look at and generally well written subject themes for the various geographic sections of its Africa maritime business.

The authors put the best face forward in describing the announced railway modernization projects in this one April issue. The photo cover of the marketing document is beautiful.

Unfortunately, almost none of the modern railway operation pictured in that cover — or later in a page dedicated to Zambia –DRC modernized service — will occur under the current African rail plans.

A due diligence investigative report would quickly note that the image of the massive and highly efficient doublestacked container trains in the photos CANNOT OPERATE on the currently proposed rail lines in the story. In fact, from an engineering and economics technical view, NOT A SINGLE AFRICAN PROPOSED FREIGHT RAILWAY WILL BE ABLE TO OFFER DOUBLESTACK CONTAINER FREIGHT SERVICE using their current proposed engineering guidelines.


Because the tracks and infrastructure bridges of these new railways WITH DOUBLESTACK CAPABILITIES would have to support 1) 33 to 35 metric ton axle loads, 2) trains lengths of about 2,500 to 3,400 meters, and 3) vertical clearances above the top of the rail head in the 6.1 to 6.2 meter range (if a diesel electric locomotive operation) and in the range of 6.8+meters if an electrified line.

Neither the reporters on these stories or the ministers doing the technical planning are focused on these fundamental yet missing design standards.

The result is sort of like announcing a new international airport plan, but the runways and terminal ramps will not accommodate modern B-777 or A380 aircraft. In aviation, that would get you fired.

I am hoping that a future issue of this otherwise great news magazine will correct these mistakes. Please, at least do not tease the audience with a picture image that technically will not happen. Unless someone changes the engineering design.

If the authors can use this technical rail intelligence in future issues, perhaps they can influence modernization changes to the plans. Such engineering change would truly benefit their African customers. Because doublestack trains are about 35% to 45% more efficient than the current African rail plans will allow.

Commercial rail freight service NOT possible with almost all of current African rail plans

Commercial rail freight service NOT possible with almost all of current African rail plans

TRUCK KILLER RAIL TECHNOLOGY conintues to elude Eruope-Asia planners - Jim Blaze

Can UBER service replace some commuter rail/transit efficiently?

The most popular growing urban transportation people mover service is the taxi alternative called Uber.
Currently operating in over 70 cities in 35 countries, you can simply select your ride by using their mobile app. Uber works like a taxi service — but you pay ahead of time.  Money changes hands only between passenger and driver.  There is little to no capital cost to tax payers and no operating subsidies.
Drivers are entrepreneurs and own their own vehicles.
Uber does a background check on the drivers.  Uber offers an insurance plan.  Uber has created all with out government help (and often government resistance) the grand network in which the drivers do business.  Controversial? — Yes.
But growing like crazy with no subsidy.
Can it replace transit services?  We do not know yet.  A small transit customized uber bus service might play just that role.  How?  By eliminating the bus stop & the  train station “walk to and wait” hassle because it can run pretty much door to door..