Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

About

acela_train1.jpg

This is a rational conversation about good transportation. Much of the public policy discussion centers on the emotions of hard-core “railfans” and greedy corporate interests. The great trains of the 1940’s are dead and gone forever, but America still needs passenger trains for business and personal travel. So far, airlines, highways, and trucking special interests have monopolized the debate. Interstate highways are an essential part of our transportation system, but that’s obvious. Air travel is convenient and cheap. Reliable trains ought to be an option for intermediate length trips and under-served rural areas. Americans should enjoy the same travel options other nations take for granted.

I am Pat Lynch, an Arkansas broadcaster and freelance columnist in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I have been in broadcasting for 38 years, the last 24 spent in Little Rock. My “other” blog, Lynch at Large, is devoted to Arkansas news and politics of all sorts. Your comments and reactions to the posts are valuable, so do feel free to take an active role. You may always send me a news tip or comment.

 

My name is Logan Nash, I’m a college student from Knoxville, TN. I spent my entire childhood living in Knoxville, where the car is king and trains are a fantasy. So as I child, when my family visited London, I was blown away when I discovered that we were able to travel the whole city, and indeed, country, without ever having to step inside an automobile. Ever since then I’ve been interested in transportation alternatives, especially rail transportation. I’m currently attending Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and am possibly considering a career in transportation or urban planning. Feel free to send me an e-mail; I try and keep up with rail developments in both Minnesota and Tennessee, and would be happy to talk.

28 Responses

  1. Damon Poole says:

    This is an excellent blog about a much maligned and ignored form of valuable transportation. Keep telling it like it is! Amtrak may have its problems, but as energy costs continue to spike, and people eventually re-discover mass transit, trains will once again regain their rightful place.

    Highball, White Light!

    DCP2

  2. Nikolas says:

    I too enjoy reading this blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. Paul says:

    Being from Arkansas, would you have info on Huckabee’s stance on Amtrak and rail? I haven’t found much by using Google.

    Thanks – love reading your blog!

  4. Kevin says:

    Pat,
    I noticed you posted a press release from Illinois senate candidate Andy Martin. I wanted to make sure you knew that Andy is pretty far from the mainstream. The Chicago Tribune’s profile of him (www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0602100246feb10,1,3826076.story?coll=chi-newslocal-hed) speaks for itself.

    Best wishes,
    Kevin

  5. mdesiderio says:

    I just wanted to know if you could add my website to your blogroll. I am starting to write about different transportation issues and will probably write a lot about rail (either freight or passengers).

    Thanks you in advance if you could do that, I will add yours to my links.

    Regards,

    M. Desiderio

  6. Samantha says:

    Pat-Why haven’t I found you before now? I’m so excited at the possibility of higher gas prices! Now, we can have the trains we’ve needed all along. Can you imagine commuting on a high-speed train from Austin to Dallas? or Columbia, Missouri to St. Louis? We could live anywhere!

    This, plus our crumbling infrastructure should be national priorities!

    Samantha

  7. Gary K. says:

    I love trains almost as much as I do bicycles, and would love to see rail expansion across the United States. I just found this blog recently and enjoy having another source for the scoop on trains.

    Although I have to say I disagree with the statement above in the about section, ” Air travel is convenient and cheap”. Air travel is increasingly more and more expensive while unreliable service delays and route cutting are making it less convenient and more stressful. I just flew from LA to Chicago and had my flight delayed with no warning, I even had a confirmation of on time 20 minutes before leaving for the airport. It was delayed from 10:00pm to 6:00AM the next morning with no explanation, and dealing with customer service people who would lie to get my partner and I to talk to someone else was rampant. We finally got a hotel voucher after hours of hassling on the phone and in person, but most people on our flight were content to sleep on the terminal floor or chairs. This is so common people just expect it as a normal part of traveling now. All this stress and hassle to travel while we shovel subsidies into these airlines who can’t even run a business properly. We need viable alternatives. Go high speed rail!!!

  8. chris says:

    agree with gary k — those airlines are as just as much in cahoots with the other interests that keep well-developed passenger rail a pipe dream in the u.s. AND considering air travel has no substantive industry competition for u.s. travel dollars they will continue to offer shoddy service. i’m so glad i found this blog — we are the only industrialized country without well-developed passenger rail and this is a timely issue that deserves to be getting far more press than it has. the time is now.

  9. NEWS
    OHIO RAIL
    DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
    50 W. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215
    (614) 644-0306 telephone or fax (614) 728-4520
    http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Date: October 10, 2008
    CONTACT: Stu Nicholson
    stuart.nicholson@dot.state.oh.us
    614-644-0513

    Ohio Can Benefit From Just-Passed Rail Bill
    HR-2095 Boosts Both Rail Safety & Passenger Rail

    Passage of a major rail safety and passenger rail bill is a very important and positive first-step toward moving people and freight in Ohio better, faster and safer. HR-2095, a comprehensive railroad safety and passenger rail bill was passed by a veto-proof 74-24 margin in the U.S. Senate last week and awaits President George W. Bush’s signature.

    “At a time when Ohioans most need relief from high gas prices, the passage of this bill has the potential to create critically-needed transportation options for individuals and business in Ohio”, says Governor Ted Strickland.“ Further developing passenger rail can help Ohio families save money while at the same time addressing crucial issues such as climate change and the need to reduce our dependence on oil.”

    Ohio Rail Development Commission Executive Director Matt Dietrich calls the bill “a major boost for rail safety and the advancement of passenger rail and right in line with the collaborative efforts of both ORDC and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to better balance Ohio’s transportation system.”

    The ORDC is currently working on two passenger rail initiatives:
    • The Ohio Hub: the State of Ohio’s long-range, high-performance passenger rail plan that calls for 110 mph trains in seven corridors. The plan carries a potential economic impact of over $17-billion dollars to Ohio and the region, as well as the creation of over 16,700 new jobs when fully implemented.
    • Amtrak 3-C Corridor: ORDC is also working with Amtrak on Governor Strickland’s request to explore establishing conventional passenger rail service in the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati corridor. Amtrak’s planning staff is preparing to survey the corridor and develop a ridership and revenue report.

    Provisions of HR-2095

    The bill provides $13.1-billion over five-years for Amtrak and development of high-performance passenger rail corridors by the states. It marks the first time Amtrak has been funded on a multi-year basis in its 37 year history. This can allow Amtrak to plan for new and better services. Ohio is currently served by three Amtrak long-distance routes.

    Included in the $13.1-billion authorization is a first-ever, $1.9-billion federal matching grant program for states to develop innovative new services, increase capacity on heavily used rail lines, and attract new riders. ORDC’s Ohio Hub Plan would be an eligible project under this program. Under the program, the state would have to match an 80-percent federal funding with 20-percent of state and local dollars.

    Other passenger rail provisions include:

    • High-Speed Rail Corridors: Grants are provided to plan and develop 11 federally-designated high-speed rail corridors. The Federal Railroad Administration has previously designated the 3-C Corridor as well as the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland and Chicago-Cincinnati corridors as future high-speed rail corridors. Also included is an extension of Pennsylvania’s “Keystone Corridor” from Pittsburgh to Cleveland.
    • On-Time Performance: DOT and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) must investigate Amtrak delays and determine if they are the fault of the host railroad. If so, host rail carrier may be ordered to pay Amtrak monetary damages.

    HR-2095 would also require installation of positive train control (PTC) by Dec. 31, 2015, on all main-line tracks where intercity passenger and commuter railroads operate, and where toxic-by-inhalation hazmat is transported. This provision follows the recent, tragic and fatal collision of a commuter and freight train in California. PTC would automatically stop trains from entering on to a track with another on-coming train.

    Quick Ohio Rail Facts:

    Ohio ranks 5th in total railroad miles (5,275 miles) in the United States and is served by 36 railroads including three Class-1 carriers. In 2006, almost 67-million tons of rail freight originated in Ohio and over 100-million tons of rail freight terminated here.

    Amtrak serves Ohio with three long-distance trains:

    • The Capitol Limited (daily Chicago-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Washington, D.C.)
    • The Cardinal (tri-weekly Chicago-Cincinnati-Washington, D.C.-New York)
    • The Lake Shore Limited (daily Chicago-Cleveland-Buffalo-Boston/New York)

    In 2007, over 110-thousand boardings and alightings were made at Ohio Amtrak stops.
    The last train to serve Columbus was Amtrak’s National Limited on October 1, 1979.

    (The Ohio Rail Development Commission is an independent agency operating within the Ohio Department of Transportation. ORDC is responsible for economic development through the improvement and expansion of passenger and freight rail services and railroad grade crossing safety. For more information about what ORDC does for Ohio, visit our website at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/)

  10. JeffConn says:

    here’s some articles about a new Amtrak station in the small city of Picayune, Mississippi. They have daily service from Amtrak and are attempting to make their new station intermodal, by asking Greyhound to return. Also, they have plans to put in a airline ticket broker and a small railroad museum in Picayune Station.
    This first story contains video of the ribbon cutting:
    http://www.wlox.com/Global/story.asp?S=9191294
    http://www.picayuneitem.com/local/local_story_291101047.html

    Here’s pics of the old station, which was a picnic shelter, honest!:
    http://www.trainweb.org/usarail/picayune.htm

  11. Wil says:

    please put both of your emails up so i can forward u stuff that i find on passenger rail or better yet email me. wskelto1@harding.edu and ill promptly respond

  12. John C. says:

    You asked about Amtrak having “Rail Passes” in the past available for Amtericans. The answer is, yes they did. My memory is somewhat hazy on the details. If I remember it was stopped sometime in the late 1990’s or early 2000-2001. I do not know why it was stopped then, nor do I know the thinking beyond re-instituting it again, except that multi-ride passes are common on many rail-transit systems. I personally look forward to it.

  13. Tom Boynton says:

    I’d like to encourage readers here to go to “CHANGEdotGOV” and express yourselves on this and other matters.

    As far as the trucking and airline interests are concerned, it is my hope that they can see the benefit of collaborating with rail, instead of viewing rail as competition. Boeing used to make transit cars, still in use in many cities. Instead of laying off people, they should be rethinking and retooling, and participate in planning a nationwide network of rail service, ultralight, light, and high speed passenger services, according to context.

    I am among those who are pleased that the President-elect sees the need and the possibilities in replacing our outmoded infrastructures with first class, “first world” services.

  14. Paul says:

    Great site. It has become my go to for train info!

    Separately, as we see quotes about AMTRAK setting records has anyone calculated/published the actual records being set now since the system is SO MUCH SMALLER than in the 70’s. Is there a passenger to track mile metric or something? I would bet it is off the charts!!!

  15. Michael Lowenthal/Architecture Grad Student/University of Texas at Arlington says:

    This is Fantastic. Now is the time for America to recognize the reality and necessity of a High Speed Rail infrastructure across the nation. Not only would it be a great help for moving America forward and moving us out of this economic doldrums.

    I will post this on my face book and send it out to my friends.

  16. Hi,
    How about a new posting? The latest is December 27.
    Rick

  17. robbie says:

    yea guys what’s the deal??

  18. logannash says:

    Sorry about the lack of posting earlier this month, guys.

    Both Pat and I have been pretty tied up recently with work. I’m currently studying abroad in London right now, which doesn’t help. Don’t worry, we’re making an effort to stay on top of things.

  19. Devon P says:

    Logan,

    I must say, this site is spectacular and a great compilation of modern rail issues. I’m a student down in Gainesville at the University of Florida and have been interested in trains since I can remember. It’s great to see a fellow college student so interested in the industry and its possibilities.

    And congrats on studying abroad, I’m looking to do so in France next year to experience SNCF and all the rail services over there. Hopefully we see such a system in America by the end of our lifetimes.

    Feel free to drop me a line, I’d love to talk sometime.

    -Devon

  20. Paul says:

    My inner foamer video was just found on youtube-

    I find it interesting that there are grade crossings at about 8:00 and 9:00

  21. DanCar2009 says:

    Here is an interesting artilce about Washington State and it’s goal to get some of the Federal rail stimulus money.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/travel/2009270655_highspeed28m.html

    The state hopes that it can get $800 million, with which it can improve service between Seattle and Portland from four round trips a day to 8. One thing not mentioned is that the quality of service would improve from about 60% on time to over 90% on time.

    Dan
    Seattle, WA

  22. Paul says:

    US legislation would give up to $4,500 for owners to scrap old vehicle, buy new efficient one

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/sns-ap-us-cash-for-clunkers,0,289076.story

    of all modes of transportation, only trains are subsidized, right???

    Here’s another beauty-

    Highway Trust Fund Going Broke…Again

    http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/06/02/highway-fund-broke/

    And let’s not forget the airlines-

    “The Department of Transportation (DOT) pays a few small airlines $110 million a year total so they can profitably carry as few as four passengers per day to nearby hubs, often for rock-bottom fares. For example, a round-trip in Montana from Miles City to Billings — a two-hour drive away — costs passengers just $88 with a 30-day advance purchase on Big Sky Airlines because the government kicks in $779.”

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-12-30-cheap-flights_N.htm

    And this-

    http://www.murtha.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=705&Itemid=1

    so now we can finally put this myth to bed for good, right?

  23. Hey guys, Christopher Parker here from the Vermont Rail Action Network. I can’t figure out how to contact you. I might be interested in occasional guest posts.

  24. Diane Jones says:

    Hi there. This is Diane Jones from the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA). I would like to share some information with you but don’t know how to contact you. Please let me know the best way to get in contact.

    Thanks!

  25. Ahmed Kozanoglu says:

    The entire Stimulus Bill money could have been spent on building high speed train webs around the country and it would have served the purpose the best by stimulating the economy, jerking it to high speed growth.People in the DC are shortsighted…

    Great blog, thank you.

  26. Jessica says:

    We’d love to hear your thoughts on Zócalo’s latest piece on California’s proposed high-speed rail system, “Why Not Blow $9 Billion on a Cool Train?”

    http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/09/19/why-not-blow-9-billion-on-a-cool-train/read/nexus/

  27. Steve says:

    Hi there.

    I am a representative of Only The Best Books in New York City. We are an independent publisher focused purely on the creation and publication of books on rail history.

    I am delighted to be writing to you today to inform you of the publication of Making All Stops, which is a photohistory of the NYC transit system through the period of 1970 – 1976. The book is printed almost entirely in colour and contains many previously unpublished photographs of the NYC system through this period.

    We would really love it if you would be kind enough to mention it on your blog. Please find a review attached.

    The photographs in Making All Stops were taken by transit workers and rail enthusiasts and chosen with the greatest care, to ensure that the book presents the most accurate portrayal of the NYC system through this period which is possible. All photographs contain explanatory text which is clear, concise and which ensures that Making All Stops is an essential coffee table book for rail enthusiasts around the world.

    We at Only The Best Books view Making All Stops as the most important photohistory of the NYC transit system produced to date, and are happy to announce that due to the enthusiastic reception we’re already receiving, a second book in the series is already being printed.

    We would like to ensure that rail enthusiasts who visit your institution have the fullest opportunity to purchase this important history. As we are an independent publisher, specialising in only rail books, Making All Stops will only be sold in a limited number of specialist outlets, either directly from our website, or through appropriate, rail-friendly outlets.

    We are certain that the quality of our product will speak for itself and take its rightful place as an essential part of the book collection of any real rail enthusiast.

    You will also find us very happy to discuss any aspect of the publication if you would like to make further enquiries.

    We can be contacted at: Makingallstops@yahoo.com

    Thanks and Kind regards,

    Only The Best Books
    New York City/Australia

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