Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Jeb Bush’s plan to kill passenger rail in Florida

The Bush family is just full of colorful characters. The Tampa Tribune tells the story of how special interests sold out the people of an entire state and region. They tell it better than me, so you need to see for yourself, but here is a tidbit.

The event highlighted the 61-mile passenger system that would take hundreds of cars off of crowded Orlando roads. But no one mentioned the larger plan behind the deal – a plan that could prevent the creation of passenger rail for the rest of Florida. It puts freight rail companies in control of where passenger lines will go and how much they will cost the taxpayers.

CSX is the winner in its deal with the state, critics say.

“Jeb set this thing up,” said Gus Demott, of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, who has been looking at the deal to assess how it will affect the union’s members. One thing he believes: “Once this deal is done, it’s going to be a windfall for CSX.”

The likely loser is the Tampa Bay area, particularly Lakeland.

Under the state’s new plan, commuter rail isn’t likely to come to Tampa for decades – if ever – because of CSX’s plans for unlimited freight increases in the area. That freight traffic will be routed through downtown Lakeland, where local officials fear years of expensive redevelopment efforts will be ruined.

Bush has defended the CSX deal as a strong public-private partnership. It would help both the people of Florida and the freight companies, which he said were vital to the state’s economy.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Joe Vranich is still alive?

It came as a surprise to me too. Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder.

Vranich has been around the block for more than 20 years, on both sides of the Amtrak equation. This time, he is in the “black hat” crowd. Here is the link for the breathless news release from an outfit called Reason Magazine. It is your typical bunch of neo-con crybabies.

The headline reads “Kill Amtrak Now!” The sub head might as well go something like, “Before they horn in on the aviation and highway funding.”

He’s selling a book, so let’s not promote it. Cox will get most of the press attention anyway.

Let’s not sugar coat things on Amtrak. A good housecleaning would surely do a world of good, but where would one find transportation professionals willing to subject themselves to the level of political second guessing and media murder that goes with that territory.

Amtrak is, in fact, taking a secondary role to regional consortiums and state operations. The diversity of passenger rail management is undoubtedly going to breathe life into a dying industry. Amtrak will live on because if has the labor agreements and trackage right, but it will not be the only player.

Vranich has nothing to fear from Amtrak.

Real philosophical conservatives live in the real world and understand that the modern world demands good transportation and government has a role along with the private sector.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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September 2007