Trains For America

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California HSR Authority weights in

KPIX TV5 in the San Francisco Bay area files an update on the state budget allocati

A reduced allocation of $20.7 million in the state budget towards the construction of a 700-mile high-speed train linking San Diego and the Bay Area will not derail the project, the California High-Speed Rail Authority said Saturday.

The 2007-08 allocation is less than the $103 million requested by CHSRA and will restrict much of the engineering and design work that was slated to begin within the next year, CHSRA said in a statement.

“Despite the reduced funding for high-speed rail, I am very optimistic about our ability to sustain progress on this vital solution to California’s transportation crisis,” said Quentin Kopp, chairman of the board of the authority.

Kopp says high-speed 220 mph trains would alleviate gridlock and allow for quick and easy movement from one part of the state to another.

“The proposed $20.7 million budget will keep some essential activities funded,” said Mehdi Morshed, HSRA executive director.

Morshed said the budget allows for an environmental analysis and preferred route in the Bay Area.

With the anticipated $3.5 million contribution from Orange County, the budget will keep engineering and environmental work going in the LA-Anaheim corridor, Morshed said.

“And we will also continue the vital engineering and design work needed to receive the regulatory approvals to build the system,” he said.

“This project has great momentum and we will move the project forward responsibly and quickly so that voters can confidently approve the $9.95 billion bond next year,” Morshed said.


Filed under: United States High Speed Rail

More editorial nonsense, this time from Waterbury, Conn.

And, frankly, TFA expects more logical and informed opinions from up in Connecticut.

The Waterbury Republican-American has an op-ed piece which is not entirely bad. It praises Amtrak for the excellent improvements in Acela ridership. However, it then drifts off into the shallow arguments against long-haul passenger trains. They, of course, have to get a few good licks in on the Sunset. It makes one wonder who ghost writes this drivel. It is hard to imagine that intelligent editorialists come up with such moronic clatter that does nothing but mimic the truckers and airlines.

The Bush administration, meanwhile, continues to press its vision for Amtrak, though in a somewhat desultory manner. The president essentially wants to take the money-losing long-distance routes out of the hands of Congress and let more pragmatic state leaders decide their fate. The worst of them would be shut down, freeing Amtrak to develop its high-ridership routes in pursuit of fiscal stability, or even profit. Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train, which passes through southern Connecticut on its route linking Boston with Washington, D.C., has seen ridership increase 20 percent over the past 10 months, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Acela’s June on-time rate was 90 percent, compared with about 70 percent for commercial airline flights at LaGuardia Airport in New York between June and Aug. 15.

It would cost Amtrak $625 million to improve its Northeast Corridor system enough to reduce travel times between Washington and New York 15 minutes, to two and a half hours. It would cost billions to deliver European-style high-speed service. David Gunn, former Amtrak president, said, “If you really want a super-zippy train from Washington to New York, you have to build another railroad.”

Such goals might not be quite as daunting if Amtrak were not weighed down with slow, little-used, unreliable intercity routes such as the coast-to-coast Sunset Limited, which requires a taxpayer subsidy of $400 per passenger. Congress tried and failed in 2005 to cut the Sunset Limited and 17 other long-distance routes that doom Amtrak to deep deficits year after year.

This disingenuous load of hot steaming horse droppings insinuates that the Acela trains of the northeast corridor are not subsidized. Such an outright lie, would demand a very strong answer. Let us presume that the writers of this item are merely misinformed and have no concept of the billions which have been poured into the roadbed, signalization, stations and Acela trainsets. We are talking BILLIONS of dollars which no private business operator would ever recoup in a fare box.

Acela runs 10 (maybe 11 by now) round-trips daily between Washington and Boston. That is in addition to other conventional Amtrak trains, and several long distance services which operate on the corridor. The Sunset operates THREE TIMES A WEEK in each direction from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Several stops hardly have what even would pass for a station. (I have Beaumont and the suburban Phoenix stops in mind, but there are others.) Northeast corridor cities have up to 30 trains a day.

Amtrak owns and operates the northeast corridor. Taxpayers completely fund (subsidize?) that function, a little fact our editorial writer neglected. Union Pacific owns and operates the route of the Sunset and dispatches that train through two of the worst rail bottle necks on earth and what is possibly the busiest freight corridor in North America. Amtrak pays to operate its’ trains over UP, and they are frequently late by as much as 10 hours of more. Acela has an excellent on-time reputation. After spending billions building and maintaining the northeast corridor, I think passengers up there are getting what they pay for.

It is a fallacy bordering on fraud to suggest that long-distance trains are dragging Amtrak down. I wrote an item last month, “Amtrak’s Capital Requirements,” which might prove an informative read. I took a moment to list EIGHT important regional rail corridors for which the Sunset provides the ONLY Amtrak train service on that segment.

Los Angeles – Phoenix
El Paso San-Antonio
San Antonio – Houston
Houston – New Orleans
New Orleans – Mobile
Pensacola – Tallahassee
Tallahassee – Jacksonville
Jacksonville – Orlando

ADDENDUM: An attentive reader notes what I already knew and should have stated more clearly. Jacksonville and Orlando have other train service besides the Sunset.

Ah, yes. I forgot to mention that the evil Sunset, which is dragging Amtrak down the fiscal drain, is “suspended” east of New Orleans. Four Three of those corridors along the Sunset route have NO AMTRAK SERVICE AT ALL.

The Republican American never asked the good folks of Connecticut what they would pay for the northeast corridor. It Texas and Alabama, and New Mexico are being asked to belly up for basic transportation, why not Connecticut?

This is the sad old “divide and conquer” tactic. Let me tell you now that it just won’t work any more. As a citizen of Arkansas, I am perfectly happy to pay for good transportation services that benefit interstate commerce, which is a legitimate federal interest. The northeast corridor is an essential piece of infrastructure, just as much as good conventional trans which often provide the only year-round reliable service in some small towns.

The hysterical “us versus them” theme of the Waterbury newspaper is a keen disappointment here.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Amtrak ticketing and reservation computer struck by lightning

Amtrak just can’t catch a break.

First of all, everything is apparently OK now, but….

The Austin Statesman has been reporting the news. It started SATURDAY.

Amtrak riders have been having a heck of a time making reservations and picking up tickets today, as the nation’s passenger rail carrier’s ARROW ticketing system came to a halt at about 1:30 PM EDT.

When calling Amtrak’s reservation number, customers are greeted with the following recording:

“At the present time, we are experiencing technical problems with our computer systems. We are unable to make or modify reservations. If you are not traveling today, please call us back tomorrow.”

Gene Poon, the professional and reliable transportation reporter, has a post updating the situation on

No reservations, no ticketing, no Train Status, no Quik-Trak machines. Nothing.

A major power supply outage at the vendor to whom Amtrak has outsourced its data center is blamed. Amtrak anticipated that the system would resume operation at approx. 1200N EDT on Sunday August 26…45 minutes ago.

Amtrak outsourced ARROW’s data operations to a vendor a few years ago. The hardware is good, contemporary stuff but apparently a system power outage occurred and there was no backup for that failure.

Welcome back, Julie!

Filed under: Amtrak

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