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Archive for July, 2013

In his prepared remarks before Congress, FRA Administrator Joe Szabo had this to say about level-platform boarding:

Ensuring all Americans can access rail stations and trains—FRA would like to study the feasibility, including the benefits and costs, of standardizing passenger station platform heights to better enable level-boarding platforms. Access to transportation is a civil right, and FRA is committed to seeing that fulfilled on the nation’s railways.

It is mind boggling that we still build stations without level-platform boarding. Level-platform boarding isn’t just about accommodating the disabled; it reduces dwell time and operating costs. There is nothing here that requires study. So why the talk about studying the issue instead of just doing it? Because the railroads and commuter rail agencies will never agree to go along with modernization. The only way this will ever happen is when Congress forces it upon them, just as it had done with the PTC mandate.

wheelchair_lift

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CBOSS Boss

You gotta love this description of CBOSS as being both “entirely unique” to Caltrain and off-the-shelf:

Now, she [Karen Antion] spends a solid two days a week in South San Francisco with a group of engineers busy designing CBOSS, which will be entirely unique to Caltrain and feature Positive Train Control, a federal mandate after a Metrolink crash in Southern California in 2008 that killed 25.

CBOSS, combined with PTC, will benefit both Caltrain and the High-Speed Rail Authority and is being paid for with a variety of funds from federal, state and local sources at an estimated cost of about $231 million.

Antion said engineers are using proven technology employed by other rail agencies and making it work here.

Karen Antion is described as: “the boss of CBOSS and a highly-experienced and highly-paid consultant.” As far as being highly-experienced I have my doubts, but the highly-paid part — well, here is how her last gig went:

The nonprofit’s most recent IRS filings also show that Karen Antion, board chair, received $377,000 in salary and perks that same year. In addition, the group paid six of its nine board members $100,000 for working just 14 hours a week. “It’s a scandal,” said Richard Brodsky, a former state assemblyman. “The salaries are excessive. It’s the directors’ compensation that makes you nuts.”

Brodksy isn’t the only one complaining. The paper says one person, described as an “efficiency” expert, quit “in disgust” over the agency’s “wasteful” practices. “They were spending money like water,” he said. “It was the most poorly run organization that I’ve ever worked for . . . Executives were basically stealing the company blind.”

Other examples of excessive spending contained in the Post story include: the NYISO board chair and president routinely taking first-class air trips; quarterly meetings for utility executives the group held “at golf courses, complete with lobster and steak lunches,” as well as “boozy Christmas parties with live music and food galore.”

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