Rick Harnish

Learn more at https://www.hsrail.org/
High-speed rail strikes at the core of today’s biggest challenges with our environment, the economy and fragmented communities. The High Speed Rail Alliance is working to bring the game-changing power of fast, frequent and affordable trains to North America. We believe that high-speed trains, integrated with expanding transit networks, will revitalize cities, towns and regions by making visits to family, friends and business partners easier, more productive and more affordable, while dramatically reducing carbon emissions in the process.

Rick Harnish co-founded the High Speed Rail Alliance in 1993 with a passion for revitalizing the region he grew up in, lives in, and loves. The Alliance builds the political will for systemic change by advocating for integrated rail and transit networks connected by 200+ mph high-speed lines. By connecting cities, towns and airports, the high-speed trains will dramatically expand economic opportunities and slash carbon emissions.

A native of the Chicago area, Harnish has been MHSRA’s executive director since 2001. His perspective on trains and transportation policy has appeared in Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, Governing, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Crain’s Chicago and many other publications, in addition to various NPR programs. He has achieved notable successes and progress in MHSRA’s three focus areas: advocacy, education, and research.

Harnish’s work is informed by his strong commitment to researching and learning from global best practices. He has ridden high-speed trains—often in the context of leading small groups—in Belgium, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey, and he draws on a global network of colleagues with expertise in trains and transportation policy.

Memorial Day Message 2021

I must admit that Memorial Day was not a day of deep appreciation for the fallen military that served this country, at least not for me. It was instead a celebration of the unofficial beginning of summer. I feel no guilt for my youthful approach to this once solemn holiday, but as I have grown older, I have a deeper appreciation of the many people who have served.
I do regret deeply that not all those wars were in preservation of our country, but be that as it may, those who served were patriots of a great nation.
This Memorial Day let us not judge the past too harshly as we look around and see the harbingers of spring. The birds and green growth remind us that the world we live in is constantly renewing itself even as it is evolving. Some of what we see is not pleasing to us, but we have the power to change what we see and fear. Just as the earth is fertile and supportive of new life, our minds are fertile with new ideas which in turn guide us through the times of doubt. Let this metaphor of renewal be a comfort to all of us who want to make this world we live in, a better place.
Now that we can safely hug our children, our spouse, our grandchildren and all the other important people in our lives let us do that. Enjoy this day and celebrate.


Ernie Fazio

James Jordan Recap – Change is coming on Maglev

The Biden administration has plans to improve our rail system and I am convinced they will. But because we are a very big country, we need to do better than European rail systems, and we can. Maglev is a system that will be less expensive to build, less expensive to power and faster than anything they have built in Europe. This is exciting technology that the Japanese Rail company copied from our scientists and incorporated into their Maglev version.

It is a brave new world of ground transportation. James Jordan, Maglev advocate and fellow co-author of Maglev America will be our speaker on March 19th. Join us on Zoom for an interesting discussion, and read more about Maglev technology here.

Mr Boomgarten recap

On March 5, St. Joseph’s College President Donald Boomgaarden, Ph.D., spoke at the LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting to discuss the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the educational system. Dr. Boomgaarden said the pandemic has had a significant impact on universities over the past year — not just on students and faculty, but on administrators. During a recent meeting with Catholic university administrators in New York, he learned of the passing of Dr. Dennis DePerro, the president of St. Bonaventure University, from COVID-19.

Around the same time last year, Dr. Boomgarden learned that a COVID case was confirmed at the college’s Brooklyn campus. As a precaution, he ordered both campuses to be shut down during spring break and then made a determination whether to allow students to return to campus. “Soon, it was clear we were not coming back,” he said. “We had to shift to a new modality.”

St. Joseph’s had already offered online learning, with 27 courses being fully offered online. By the start of t he fall semester, 70% of classes were via remote learning, and 30% on campus; those classes were labs and freshman classes to help them get acclimated to the campus. Dr. Boomgaarden taught his American Roots Music class once a week online, which was a different experience for him. It also gave him a chance to see what the students and faculty are experiencing.

“My experience is similar to that of other professors and students,” Dr. Boomgaarden said. “It’s different from teaching from behind the podium.” He also said that hybrid and remote learning will play a greater role in how students are being taught. “Across the U.S., college faculty are being forced to teach remotely,” he said. “Some of them initially resisted the idea, but now they found it easy to work with.”

The biggest challenge, however, was how the medical students could continue their lab work during the pandemic. To solve the problem, Dr. Boomgaarden said, the school reopened the lab rooms and installed partitions at each station. “We’ve continued to teach many labs on the ground, so we haven’t shifted those important classes into remote modalities,” he said.

Unlike other colleges and universities on Long Island, St. Joseph’s does not rely on revenues from dormitories or dining halls, but it had been able to stay financially afloat during the pandemic, with no layoffs or furloughs of its full-time employees. Meanwhile, enrollment numbers started to improve and may be higher than in 2019. 

He recalled being at Loyola New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit; the university administrators were unsure if or when they were able to recover, so, in a panic, they started laying off faculty and staff, but when the city recovered and the campus reopened, the faculty returned “demoralized and unprepared,” he said.

Dr. Boomgaarden said he recognized how the pandemic affected students’ mental health and well-being. He announced that, starting in the Fall 2022 semester, the college will launch a Program in Social Work. The program will prepare students for jobs as mental health consultants and help meet a rising demand in mental health services.

To help students in need, Dr. Boomgaarden announced the formation of a COVID-19 relief fund. This is for students who are having difficulty paying tuition or who are facing food insecurity. He said he has had students telling him that they cannot attend class next week because of their job. A majority of students, mostly those in the Brooklyn campus, are first-generation students. “They don’t come from wealthy families,” he said. 

He said the community has been vey generous, providing students with devices and WiFi connectivity so they can keep up with their online classes. “They didn’t have the problem of how to use the technology,” he said. “They just didn’t have the machines.” 

When asked about the concept of free education for college students, Dr. Boomgaarden said “there’s certainly merit” in that, but issues have to be addressed, such as who will pay for it, how much will it cost and if the students will receive a quality education. He pointed out that, during the pandemic, the private schools seemed to do a better job in educating the students, while the pandemic “showed limitations” of free education. “Education is not cheap,” he said, adding that the concept of free education needs to be “grounded in reality.”

Dr. Boomgaarden said St. Joseph’s is the least expensive private university on Long Island and New York City. The school also offers special discounts on tuition for students, which makes the pricing “comparable” to public city and state universities. He pointed out that the Excelsior scholarship program that Governor Cuomo began only applies to state schools, which he called “a huge mistake” and wondered why the program couldn’t be applied to private schools. “Private schools are a huge generator of financial improvement and a tremendous resource for the state of New York.”

A question was raised about the “deficits” students will face regarding learning. Dr. Boomgaarden said that he has confidence in these students, in that they will have the resilience to overcome the way classes are taught. He added that “one of our primary duties” as instructors is to keep students engaged during the learning process. 

The Significance Of Black History Month

I never thought much about that very specific body of knowledge. This is an important and significant segment of our population.

When programs about Black History started I was curious and began to listen. What I learned is that the black history is very rich and varied. In terms of music, science, art and literature It is at least as rich as any ethnic group that ever set foot on this continent. When you consider that the black presence goes back four hundred years, it stands to reason that their story is so interwoven with the entire American experience.

But that is only half the story. There is an equal benefit to the rest of America. It is incumbent on all of us to know our own heritage as well as the story of the many other ethic contributors. Knowledge of each other is important if we are ever going to respect each other.

We all owe a great debt to each culture that made us the intellectually and culturally powerhouse that is America.

Black history is important to the self image of our black brothers and sisters. It is a story that gives them a firm footing to participate in the politics and economy of this great country
But part of their gift to America accrues to the rest of us. Let us rejoice in recognizing black America and thank them.

Ernie Fazio