Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Holy ground

Like Moses, we are moved to remove our shoes even talking about the most revered of all railroad routes. (Only kidding, Altoona)

On the surface, this one looks like a bad idea for California taxpayers. The Bakersfield Californian has an extensive report, which is highlighted here.

State money may finance part of an $80 million expansion of railroad capacity over the Tehachapi Pass to move more goods from the Port of Oakland to consumers in other parts of the country.

The problem is that, despite 15 miles of new double track, the main loop will continue as a single line. Hence, the bottleneck continues. It may be that there is no actual solution here, and some smarter person may very well correct me on this one. Give it your best shot. I can handle it.

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

Oklahoma transportation forum

At least the Heartland Flyer is getting some lip service from public officials. It is remarkable that this train does so well considering

  • there are no other train connections at Oklahoma City
  • track conditions have not always been the best
  • it is a mere daily service on an important corridor

Forbes carried the Associated Press report.

“We’re settling into strong ridership,” Joe Kyle, head of the rail division at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said during a break in the forum, sponsored by the Oklahoma Good Roads Association.

Kyle said ridership on the Heartland Rider is higher than at any time since Amtrak inaugurated the route in 1999. The cost of the train’s operation is $4 million a year and is now shared by Oklahoma and Texas.

Angela Williams of Pauls Valley, representing the Heartland Flyer Coalition, said the train is having a strong economic impact, not only in Oklahoma City where it originates, but in small Oklahoma towns on the way to major destinations such as Gainesville and Fort Worth in Texas.

She said the train recently passed the half-million mark in ridership. Riders who stay overnight at stops spend an average of $422 per tip and daytime travelers spend close to $122.

“I see the Heartland Flyer as the economic engine for our business and commuter development,” she said. She said it could only be good economic news for the state if passenger travel is expanded north to Kansas and Missouri, a goal of various groups.

She said the Heartland Flyer has contributed to revitalization of downtown Pauls Valley, with over 50,000 train visitors to the town 35 miles south of Oklahoma City. “If they buy just a soda pop, look at what the economic value is,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins played host to the forum.

Askins said she was glad to see all modes of transportation represented at the meeting, from highways, to railways, to airports and other areas.

“There continues to be challenges (in funding) as we put more cars on our highways,” she said. “It increases the stress on our existing roadways.”

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

$700 million for Via Rail Canada

First of all, it is a multi-year deal, but considering the nature of capital expenditures, that is not necessarily a problem. Secondly, it’s a pittance compared to previous massive cuts and desperate need in many isolated communities.

By stark contrast, the Bush administration would not grant a nickel for capital improvements. This is true despite major significant bridge and tunnel deficiencies in the northeast corridor and a deliberate neglect of long distance equipment. has the report.

he funding marks the first significant injection of new money in years for the cash-strapped Crown passenger rail corporation.

The initiative included $516 million earmarked for capital acquisitions and $175.9 million for the refurbishing of locomotives and passenger cars.

Cannon said the train system acted as a binding force and played a steadily expanding social and economical role in Canada.

“The operating funding will help Via to continue providing an affordable and competitive option for intercity travel,” he said.

Via Rail serves 4.1 million passengers over 14,000 kilometres of track each year. It provides service for 450 Canadian cities.

Via receives about $170 million in annual operating subsidies from Ottawa. However, the company has suffered since the former Liberal government halted a $700 million-funding commitment.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Rafi rides the rails

Rafi Guroin  has done a magnificent travel feature for Cox newspapers centered around his cross country adventure on every long distance Amtrak train. Heck, he rode Acela too, so I should be more careful about facts. he makes generous use of video.

It seems to be largely positive, although he does report on the absurd decision to remove sightseer lounge cars from Superliners in favor of a new diner-lounge configuration which seems to be designed by somebody who never rode a train.

Nonetheless, here is the link. Enjoy.

Filed under: Amtrak

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October 2007