Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Guess what? Passenger rail makes sense – even in Texas.

It should not take some sort of major study to fiugre this out, but we should all be grateful to Faith Chatam of ePluribus Media for gathering some information on the “Texas corridor.” In the midst of numbers about trucks and freight cars entering the country from Canada and Mexico, there was some vital coverage of passenger rail infrastructure.

Efficiency in passenger rail in the USA is hampered by host railroads. Host railroads control the tracks. Statistics from 2000-2005 from the US Bureau of Transportation shows that the number of hours of delay for AMTRAK passenger trains rose from 70,396 annually in 2000 to 95,259 annually in 2005. Most of those delays (43,881 hours in 2000 and 64,097 hours in 2005) are attributed to operation delays of host railroads, such as track and signal related delays, power failures, freight and commuter train interference, routing delays, freight train interference, and track repair/condition delays. In 2005 25,549 hours of delay for AMTRAK passenger trains were attributed to AMTRAK’s operating problems on AMTRAK’s own tracks (delays for equipment or engine failure, passenger handling, holding for connections, train servicing and mail/baggage handling when on tracks of a host railroad). Problems caused by the host railroad resulted in 64,097 hours of AMTRAK passenger train delay during 2005. That same year, 5,613 hours of delay for AMTRAK Passenger trains were caused by weather, immigration, law enforcement or waiting for scheduled departure times. [SOURCE: 2000-2005 – AMTRAK, personal communication, November 2006 – U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics – Reported Dec. 2006]

Host railroads have decreased in efficiency. In 2000, 2001 and 2002 about half of the delays were caused by problems with the host railroad. The percentage of hours of delay for AMTRAK passenger trains attributed to host railroad problems escalated by 75% between 2000 and 2005.

In 1995 AMTRAK’s system on-time performance was 76%. Shorter distance routes are more frequently on-time than routes over 400 miles. In 1995 long distance routes (over 400 miles) were only on-time 57% of the time while shorter routes were on-time 81% of the time. Performance has declined. In 2005 AMTRAK’s on-time performance system-wide was 70%. Trains were on-time 74% of the time on routes under 400 miles and were on-time 42% of the time on routes over 400 miles. [SOURCES: 1995-1999 – National Railroad Passenger Corp. (AMTRAK), Amtrak Annual Report (Washington, DC annual issue). 2000-2005- Amtrak, personal communication, November 2006. US Bureau of Transportation Statistics Dec. 2006]

AMTRAK ridership increased about 25% from 1995 to 2005. From 1994 to 2004 the number of passenger miles for all modes of mass transit increased about 20% (from 39,585 passenger miles in 1994 to 49,073 passenger miles in 2004). Passenger rail ridership (all modes – heavy rail, commuter rail and light rail) increased over 25% from 1994 to 2005. In the early 1990ies buses carried more passengers than rail; by 1996 the number of rail passengers had exceeded the number of miles traveled by passengers on buses. Bus and rail ridership continues to grow. Passenger train ridership has grown more rapidly than bus ridership.

When the Texas Senate Transportation Committee meets tomorrow at the DFW Westin at Irvin, it is likely that both the “Texas corridor” and any other matters will be swallowed up by “spontaneous” citizen input “demanding” immediate aattention for any possibly defective bridges.

Texas has much possibility to implement high speed and expand improved conventional rail. There are special clomplications at work here. Surely someone has considered making Southwest Airlines a “player” in any high speed rail development.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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