Our Approach to Modern Passenger Rail Development

Chicago-based Corridor Rail Development is a passenger rail development, finance and management company

• Has the only available uniform stainless steel bi-level intercity corridor fleet in North America, plus an extensive commuter/regional stainless steel fleet.
• Extensive experience working with public agencies and private companies to develop passenger rail choices.
• Led and staffed by some of the most experienced and respected passenger rail professionals in the country.

James E. Coston, Executive Chairman
Corridor Rail Development Corporation; Chicago, Illinois
Jim Coston

James E. Coston co-founded Corridor Rail Development predecessor Corridor Capital LLC in 2005 with a vision to provide the nation’s passenger train operators with the requisite capital and assets to expand their fleets and fixed facilities, and a team of managers and strategic partners to develop their train routes and frequencies.

In his proven leadership of Corridor, Mr. Coston has succeeded in combining his belief in passenger trains and his experience in operating passenger trains with his professional ability to raise private-sector money for a fleet buildup in the nation’s publicly funded passenger-train industry. In May 2005, the firm concluded its first such transaction when it teamed with Sumitomo Corporation and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to provide $25 million in lease financing for 11 new bi-level gallery commuter cars to be built by Nippon-Sharyo Corporation for Virginia Railway Express.

More recently, Mr. Coston headed a team that acquired control of a fleet of 40+ stainless steel coaches, dining cars and lounge cars built in the 1950s and ’60s for long distance trains operated by the former Santa Fe Railway. The cars, known as the Hi-Levels, were retired by Amtrak in 2002, when it lacked a budget to overhaul them, and later were sold to a series of private collectors. Evidencing the clear vision of an entrepreneur, the working knowledge of passenger train operations, and the acquired legal skills in equipment leasing and finance law, Mr. Coston acted to provide the only alternative to the exploding demand for seating on the short distance daytime corridor trains that have become the fastest growing and most popular passenger rail services in the nation. Mr. Coston’s company, Corridor, acquired the Hi-Levels from the collectors and organized a team of engineers, financiers and passenger railcar designers to overhaul, remanufacture and reconfigure these former overnight long distance cars.

Mr. Coston successfully organized Corridor in respect to his focused career development that pivoted off of the three key elements of professional achievement essential to the rail business: passenger train operations and marketing; state and national transportation policy; and twenty-six years of experience in equipment lease and finance law, a fast-growing professional concentration in which he is a nationally recognized leader.

In 2003, Mr. Coston became the first attorney to be elected president of a nationwide equipment-lease trade association, the National Association of Equipment Leasing.

The genesis of Mr. Coston’s professional development started when he was employed by Amtrak between 1973 through 1977 during college breaks as a relief station agent and reservations/ticketing agent, serving at Chicago Union Station, Joliet, Illinois Union Station and the Kankakee, Illinois station. But even before he drew his first railroad paycheck, and while still a high school student, he founded the Twentieth Century Railroad Club, which was launched along with Amtrak in 1971.

Between 1980 and 1986, this organization planned and operated more than 50 special excursion trains throughout Midwest tourist and sports event destinations. Many trains were chartered from Amtrak, and staffed by dedicated club volunteers. Certain trains utilized privately owned equipment, which enabled the club to provide multi-levels of passenger services, including preparation and serving meals, and operating a full host beverage service.

Mr. Coston’s successful experience in delivering both wholesale and retail rail travel evolved in parallel with his deep concern for the role of passenger train in U.S. transportation policy. As far back as 1969, at the age of fourteen, Mr. Coston appeared as a witness before an Interstate Commerce Commission examiner in connection with the Penn Central Railroad’s petition to eliminate passenger train service between Chicago and the East. Mr. Coston’s passenger train advocacy, and in particular his insistence government has an obligation to fund passenger rail service just as it funds highways and civil aviation, never has waned. Since 1993, he has testified on passenger rail policy before congressional committees and has addressed many public-interest and business groups, while his guest columns and letters on rail policy have appeared in publications including The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The New Republic and the Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy. He has appeared and been interviewed regarding passenger rail subjects on numerous television and radio shows, including Kudlow and Cramer on CNBC.

• In culmination to his commitment to passenger rail transportation, in 2000, President Clinton appointed Mr. Coston to the Amtrak Reform Council, where he served until that body’s expiration in December 2002.

• From 2005 through 2007, Mr. Coston served as advisor to Amtrak Chairman David M. Laney on policy initiatives.

• Mr. Coston is a longtime board member of the Rail Users’ Network.

• A graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; B.A., College of Arts and Sciences, 1977.

• A graduate of DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois; JD, College of Law, 1980.

• Instructor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; Railway Management Programs, 2007-2008.

Understanding a Passenger Rail Development Company