$300M for a couple stairways into an old Post Office: “Once more unto the Moynihan Station morass”

Article: Once more unto the Moynihan Station morass :: Second Ave. Sagas.

I’ve said it before, at least once, and I’ll surely say it again:  It’s incredibly expensive to do anything in NYC, and especially, it seems, if it’s transportation related.

Here, The Powers That Be plan to spend $1,000,000,000 turning the old main post office (adjacent to NYC’s Pennsylvania Station for what should be obvious reasons) into what Mr Kabak (author of the story above) calls a new waiting room for Amtrak.  Like the PATH station at the World Trade Center, this project adds no new capacity to the transportation system.  None.

Streetcar v. Bus


world.nycsubway.org: The PCC Car – Not So Standard.

Great article on how the “standard” PCC streetcar really wasn’t.  I love the PCC car and it’s what comes to mind when someone says “streetcar”, but sadly it was too late to save the industry.

In 1929, what would become the Electric Railway Presidents’ Conference Committee started work on a new car design designed for the new environment of almost-but-not-quite mass motorization.  Private automobiles not only competed with the street railways, but physically got in their way.

Unfortunately, the stock market crash occurred about 20 minutes after they convened (kidding, but the crash was in 1929 after the initial meetings) and that slowed things down and bankrupted more railways.  As a result, the design didn’t get into production form until 1936.  Fortunately, it was a hit (for everyone except Brill, but never mind).  Several different car builders built them licensing ERPCC’s patents – you can read more about that at the link.

Anyway, as popular as these cars were and are — PCCs are still in regular revenue service in Boston and in heritage service on SF Muni’s F-Market line — there weren’t that many of them, some 5000 of them per the list above.

STCUM 24-004
STCUM 24-004, a c.1984 GM New Look

Is there an analogous model in the rubber-tired world?  I would say yes:  GM’s New Look.  This model replaced what was retroactively named the “old look”.  Those older models, seen from a distance resemble a PCC car, which probably wasn’t a coincidence.  The New Looks were in production from 1959 to 1987, far longer than the PCC, and there were more of them built.  Almost 10x more — 44000 and change.

Unlike the PCC car, which was built in several other countries, the New Looks seem to have only been built in the USA and Canada, meaning that the model’s impact on the North American transit industry was even larger.

Of course, the New Look is two decades newer and it was designed by a large industrial enterprise riding a wave of popularity, profit, and volume that they would never see again.  So not the same scenario.

Still, the New Look was very popular and can be seen in the background of just about every urban location shot seen in a TV show from the 1960s to the 1980s.

And then there’s this:

Ahhhhhhh !!!!!!!


Fantasy: “Trial passenger train service to start next year, linking Tulsa and OKC metros”

Story: Trial passenger train service to start next year, linking Tulsa and OKC metros – KJRH.com.

So much fantasy.

I’ll cover the background here and will post a follow-up “soon” with the passenger-related fantasy story.

The “Sooner Sub” — a subdivision being part of a railroad division usually covering a single line — was once the main line of the St Louis-San Francisco Railway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.  The SLSF was better known as the Frisco, of course, though it never made it to one of its namesake towns.  In 1980, the Frisco was merged into the Burlington Northern RR.  The BN merged with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Ry in 1996 to become the  Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Ry (since shortened to “BNSF“, presumably to save on paint).

By 1998, the BNSF no longer had use for the segment of the line from Salpulpa to Midwest City and they sold it to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.  ODOT, in turn, leased it to Watco Transportation Services, a Kansas-based shortline holding company with over 30 railroads.  One of those railroads is the Stillwater Central which operated the line from the time it was sold.  ODOT owns many rail lines in the state that would otherwise have been abandoned as traffic patterns and corporations changed.  ODOT ownership preserves the lines which has preserved rail access for many farmers in the state.

I have no idea of the specifics, but at some point ODOT  decided to sell the line.  My guess is that BNSF made it known that they’d like to have the line back.  “Why”, you ask, “would they want it back?”

The price of most crude oil in the US is set at Cushing, Oklahoma, of all places. When you hear a price quote for a barrel of oil it is usually the price that a producer gets when that oil is delivered to the tank and pipeline wonderland known as Cushing.

Cushing hasn’t had direct rail service in decades but Stroud, Oklahoma, is pretty close by and the Sooner Sub runs through town along what used to be Route 66.  There is a small railroad oil terminal there with a pipeline to Cushing.  Oil has been delivered to Stroud to move to the terminal for many years.

Once oil hit $100/bbl a few years back, and it became profitable to use unconventional techniques to extract oil (think hydraulic fracturing), there was a lot of oil moving to Cushing.  Since the Bakken Formation in and near North Dakota has no pipelines, BNSF, the major railway in the area, has been awash in oil.  The railway has been running crude oil unit trains from there to various points as fast as it can for the last several years.

To get back to the story, a year or so back, ODOT invited bids to buy the line.  Both WATCO and BNSF submitted bids.  I’ll continue this in Part Deux, but, spoiler alert, BNSF didn’t win.

This was post number 100, by the way.

People are stupid: “Traffic Light Study Reveals Serious Hacking”


Article: Traffic Light Study Reveals Serious Hacking Risk | MIT Technology Review.

“First and foremost, traffic-system administrators should not use default usernames and passwords.”

Unlike traffic signals in my local area, which are networked with fiber (!), these were networked over WiFi.  If details — 5.8 GHz — in a different article are to be  believed, then this is either IEEE 802.11a or 802.11n which are common consumer WiFi specs.

Encrypted or not, leaving credentials at the default is stupid.  In the field of traffic signaling, it probably ought to be a firing offense.  Anyway, change those and risk would be reduced by, oh, let’s say 99%.

Another quote:

“They continue doing the same mistakes that software vendors did 10 years ago.”

No, that’s been going on for a long time. The default credentials for Digital’s VMS OS were SYSMAINT / SERVICE and that’s got to be from 30 years ago.

If you leave the doors unlocked and open, people will walk through them