Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

The Texas NARP meeting

The Texas NARP meeting is over and here is what I know. Of course, all of this is according to usually reliable sources.

The idea of a Crescent reroute through Mobile is absurd beyond belief. Amtrak denies. It sounded credible.

The sense that I am hearing is that the Crescent extension to San Antonio is dying under its’ own weight .Too many logistical obstacles stand in the way.

Now, a few opinions.

The chat lists have been buzzing over the rumors generated from another site. Perhaps, when whispers of the Mobile reroute first started spinning, it seemed more possible. Sometimes stories just take on a life of their own. Even for Amtrak, it would have been an amazing stroke of bad public relations to strike out at two small Mississippi cities which have made substantial station investments, not to mention Senator Trent Lott.

Most of us understand that, instead of desperate publicity stunts designed to get corporate management off the hot seat, Amtrak needs some intelligent growth and innovation. Even IF lengthening the Crescent to San Antonio were a good idea, it is impossible due to 1.) a lack of rolling stock and 2.) shamefully inadaquate station faciliites in one of America’s largest cities and best travel destinations.

Amtrak does not need deck chair reshuffling, like the Titanic. The passenger service needs better stations and more equipment. Apparently top management, under a chairman whose only qualification is being a $100,000 Bush contributor, is afraid (or explicitly forbidden) to tell Congress the real needs.

The condition of Amtrak, not necessarily the best run corporation in world history, is a national disgrace and it is being run in the ground by greedy Bushite neo-cons and simple minded politicians.

Amtrak needs a major capital program and inclusion in the national transportation plan (if there is such a thing) along side the Interstate II program. Of course, I am speaking rhetorically about the “national transportation plan.” Today, that is little more than the “whim list” of truckers and airlines.

All this brings us around to Alex Kummant’s letter to Amtrak employees in which he extols the virtues of corridors. As one who has been accused of being a “corridorist,” that is the wave of the future and Amtrak is (for the most part) not a principal player. States and investors will develop some true High Speed Rail. The most Amtrak can hope for is to be the “operator” of services managed by others.

Amtrak is best suited to operate long distance passenger trains, and that is an essential function. For places like Arkadelphia and Poplar Bluff, that is the best form of intercity transportation available. It is not a luxury or a frill, but a practical way to move folks around.

Federal and state governments must stop the destructive neglect of urgent infrastructure problems.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

One Response

  1. Pat,

    You have again hit the nail squarely on the head. Bush owns the Amtrak board, and A. Kummant. When I worked for CSX and before that, Southern, you never approached top management about anything until you knew what they wanted to hear if you wished to remain employed. Problem is, Laney and company don’t need these jobs and we, the people, need a lot more, not any less passenger rail.

    Equipment is the key. Amtrak has around 150 cars sitting in the weeds in various places. Some of these await insurance settlements, litigation, etc. and some are scrap. Every car that can be repaired ought to be repaired and if Amtrak cannot do it quick enough, farm some out. The cars sitting in NewOrleans under FEMA contract can all be refurbished with CO&TS work done for about $100K a car.

    Then Amtrak needs to get some new equipment orders in for all types of service, especially long distance. Right now, the world demand for passenger equipment is such that an order placed today, could probably not be delivered for 2-5 years, so we cannot afford to wait. A transportation crisis in this country is not a future event, it has already started.

    Jerry Sullivan

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