How are things Today?
ILLEGAL RADIO USE CAUSES BORDER TOWN CHAOS
Many people who live in Laredo, Texas, say they find it extremely expensive to call phone numbers in buildings they can see out the window -- just across the Rio Grande in Mexico.
The Christian Science Monitor says that for some people in border towns calling Mexico can cost six times what it would cost for a similar-length call to Paris.
o circumvent the phone companies and their rates, some ingenious people are getting their messages through by using radio.
Unfortunately, some of the frequencies they have picked for their walkie-talkie conversations were already in use for other things -- turning street signals on and off, controlling FM radio transmitters and dispatching police units.
Strange things are happening on both sides of the border because the chat is triggering some very unwanted events.
The resulting confusion has forced telephone executives in Laredo and in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to work on a calling plan.
If approved, it would set up a first-of-its-kind, across-the-
border calling area.
Rail Today in the USA
AMTRAK MAKES HISTORY WITH LAUNCH OF ACELA EXPRESS November 16, 2000
Inaugural Run Marked By Gala Celebrations in Northeast Cities
WASHINGTON, D.C. -
Amtrak makes history today with the launch of Acela Express, the first high-speed rail service in North America, zipping across the Northeast at a top speed of 150 mph.
Heralded by a champagne christening, fireworks, light shows, and gatherings of business leaders and dignitaries in three cities, the train will race from Washington to New York to Boston, warming up the tracks for revenue service beginning December 11.
Tickets go on sale to the public November 29.
Setting a North American speed record for scheduled passenger rail service, Acela Express today will make a nonstop run between Washington and New York in just 2 hours and 28 minutes. On the second leg of the trip, the train will travel from New York to Boston in just 3 hours and 15 minutes.
Acela Express is the fastest train in Amtrak's 29-year history.
Amtrak Board Chairman Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson said that with its superior ride quality, world-class amenities, enhanced speed and customer satisfaction guarantee, Acela Express represents a defining moment in American transportation.
"Every generation is marked by breakthroughs that profoundly affect our society," Thompson said."
The launch of Acela Express is one of those moments. It revolutionizes the travel industry and puts Amtrak in the big leagues as a first-rate competitor."
The Acela Express inaugural is a day-long, traveling celebration drawing the participation of major government and business leaders as well as celebrities.
Joining Thompson for the event will be U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater; Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Governor George Pataki of New York; Boston Mayor Thomas Menino; Edward Whitacre Jr., Chairman and CEO of SBC Communications; Jonathan Tisch, Chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable and President and CEO of Loews Hotels and Mitchell B. Modell, President and CEO of Modell's Sporting Goods.
The festivities kick off in Washington's Union Station with the ceremonial christening of a giant Schramsberg Napa Valley champagne bottle over the nose of the train.
The train's first and only stop is in New York City, where a celebrity-studded reception in Penn Station will include Henry Winkler, star of Broadway's The Dinner Party; Keith Hernandez, New York baseball legend and the Broadway cast of Fosse.
The celebration will climax as the train heads into Boston's South Station, arriving to the thunder of fireworks and applause.
Corporate partners for the inaugural festivities include B. Smith's, Loews Hotels, Ritz Carlton and Schramsberg Vineyards.
CAPITAL INVESTMENT NEEDED TO MAKE ACELA A NATIONAL PHENOMENON
Responding to public demand, state and federal officials are working with Amtrak to expand passenger rail service in three dozen states and to pass legislation that would create 10 high-speed corridors in 28 of those states.
A proposal pending in Congress to invest $10 billion over 10 years ($1 billion per year, or half of the projected cost to replace the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington D.C.) reflects a small percentage of the investment that the federal government makes annually to maintain and expand highways and air travel.
Support for rail consistently lags behind support for other modes of transportation.
In FY 2000, for example, when comparing federal support for highways, air travel and rail service, the numbers were, $28.5 billion, $10.1 billion and less than $600 million respectively.
RIDE QUALITY TRANSFORMS TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Acela Express represents a whole new experience in getting from point A to point B.
Oversized windows flood the train with natural light. A barely audible hum replaces the clackety clack of the old railroad due to Amtrak's installation of continuous welded rail replacing the old joint-connected tracks along the Northeast Corridor, and advanced soundproofing features aboard the train.
An advanced tilt technology system developed by the manufacturer Bombardier Transportation Inc., improves ride comfort as the train travels through curves at high speeds.
Station renovations, including enhanced lighting, real-time electronic information displays, directional signage and new waiting areas have been completed at seven stations along the route.
A brand new station at Route 128, south of Boston, opened in January, and new stations are planned at Metropark and Trenton in New Jersey as well as at BWI Airport south of Baltimore. Befitting the modern, revitalized Amtrak brand, employees are wearing new uniforms that present an updated, stylish and consistent professional image.
TRAIN FUNCTIONS AS OFFICE ON WHEELS AND TRAVELING CAFE
Acela Express is equipped with 32 conference-table seating arrangements throughout the train, electrical outlets for each seat for laptop computers and track seating that allows for more than 30 different configurations.
A pub-style café car serves beer on tap and an upscale menu selection, while the First Class car features at-seat meals served on china with linen. Large restrooms are equipped with backlit mirrors, vanities and baby-changing tables.
These features were developed after extensive market research conducted with more than 25,000 Northeast travelers.
"Acela Express is sparking a rail renaissance across America because every traveler wants the kind of speed, superior amenities and world-class service that will quickly become the hallmark of this brand," said Thompson.
"Once Americans experience life on Acela they won't be satisfied with anything less."
MORE ACELA EXPRESS TRAINS COMING IN 2001
Acela Express initially will make one roundtrip a day between Washington and Boston.
Month by month, Amtrak will add more trains, completing the process next summer when the manufacturing consortium of Bombardier and ALSTOM has delivered all 20 trainsets.
When fully operational, Acela Express will make 19 roundtrips from Washington to New York and 10 roundtrips weekdays between New York and Boston while serving 18 stations.
One-way fares for Business Class are $143 between New York and Washington and $120 between Boston and New York, with upgrades available for First Class.
Early next year, Amtrak will add Acela Super Express service that runs non-stop between New York and Washington in under two and a half hours each way.
Travel times between New York and Boston will progressively improve to the three-hour mark as additional infrastructure improvements and mechanical modifications to the trains are completed.
The 20 Acela Express trainsets are part of an $800 million contract with Bombardier and ALSTOM that includes 15 high horsepower locomotives to power existing trains and new maintenance facilities in Boston, New York and Washington.
ACELA ENGINE DRIVING AMTRAK'S COMMERCIAL SUCCESS
The Acela Express launch comes on the heels of Amtrak's most successful fiscal year on record.
Marking its fourth consecutive year of growth, Amtrak closed FY 2000 with ridership of more than 22.5 million customers and ticket revenues of just over $1.103 billion.
Acela Express is just the latest illustration of Amtrak's new competitive positioning in the travel industry.
Last January, the company introduced Acela Regional service, which already has achieved a 77 percent increase in revenue and 45 percent ridership jump over the trains it replaced.
Amtrak projects that the high-speed Acela Express will net $180 million per year when all 20 trains are running.
Amtrak already captures 70 percent of the rail/air travel between Washington and New York.
Now, with the greatly enhanced speed of Acela Express, Amtrak plans to improve its 30 percent market share between New York and Boston.
Contact: : Cecilia Cummings
Karina Van Veen