Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

New Jersey Senator Menendez backs Amtrak

Menendez is a strong Amtrak supporter and co-sponsor of the authorization bill. Here are a few of his well chosen words, or you can read the entire speech here.

“Every year since 2002 Amtrak has had to continue operations on a yearly basis without adequate funds to maintain the rail system over the long term. It’s almost like a starvation diet – just enough to be temporarily alive, but cutting its funding in such a way that it can neither be successful nor fully survive. Right now the system is at a breaking point. Amtrak’s equipment is aging and no amount of maintenance can keep cars built in the 1950’s on the tracks.

“Amtrak is not just a passenger rail system that serves 25 million people each year. Amtrak is also a program that reduces our greenhouse gas emissions, reduces congestion on our roadways, fights sprawl, creates jobs, and fosters economic activity. I know first hand the benefits of Amtrak because over one hundred thousand New Jersey commuters depend on Amtrak’s infrastructure every day.

“Over the last 35 years we have spent less money on Amtrak than we will on highways in this year alone. We have never committed the same support behind Amtrak that we have for other modes of transportation. This bill will finally give Amtrak a stable amount of authorized funds it needs over the next 6 years to adequately fund its operations and finance capital improvements.”


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

More Senate action on Amtrak due next week

Congressional Quarterly is covering a significant discussion on Amtrak funding. This is a good time to get congress to abolish the foolish requirements requiring Amtrak to become “self-sufficient.”

That might be a good idea for highways.

Here is a portion of the latest report.

The Senate already has turned back several attempts to open Amtrak’s routes to more competition and divest it of routes losing the most money. More amendments along these lines are expected next week.

The Senate also will have to consider a frontal assault on the whole notion of continuing federal subsidies for the passenger railroad. Existing law requires Amtrak to become self-sufficient, a mandate the bill would drop.
Wayne Allard, R-Colo., is challenging that decision with an amendment.

Whether to retain the directive goes straight to the heart of the ideological divide over Amtrak: Is it a public necessity that deserves permanent federal support, or a business that should be driven by a profit motive? The second is the view held by the White House and many, but not all, Republicans.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Associated Press, tisk, tisk

For the love of might! Reporters should not be expected to know everything, but they might try to know something.

So here’s the deal. Amtrak has promised to look things over if the bill authorizing $8.2 billion passes. That is the core of a news story reported by A. P.

In a letter to Idaho Senator Mike Crapo on Wednesday, Amtrak’s Chief Executive Officer Alex Kummant said the rail service would consider the feasibility of all or part of the Tacoma-to-Denver route.

The Pioneer was dumped from Amtrak’s schedule in 1997 after it lost $20 million.

So, they’re going to originate in Tacoma? That’s interesting. Will the Pioneer (or whatever it’s called) deadhead to Tacoma? OK. I am having to much fun, but how would a reporter come to believe that the train ran from Tacoma to Denver?

Little wonder congress and the public are so misinformed.

How did the Pioneer lose all that money? Did somebody toss $30 million off the bar car? Honestly, the way people throw numbers around is simply maddening.

There is a lot to consider on restoring the Pioneer, such as where the equipment might come from.

It might be a good idea to tell your congressional representative about Trains for America. We make lots of mistakes, but usually get the routes right.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

At least USC has a fairly good football team

Out in California, the State Transportation Commission has graciously deemed to disburse $15 million already appropriated for preliminary studies of proposed HSR systems.

The LA Times has a comprehensive and useful report, but the highlight is the absolute undisputed joke of the day. Check out the latest from academicland.

“It’s a complete waste of money,” said James E. Moore II, a professor in USC’s department of industrial and systems engineering. “It’s pork for the engineering firms.”

Although bullet-style trains have been popular for years in Japan and Europe, Moore said high-speed rail is not competitive in the United States, where a deregulated, low-fare airline industry has a lock on short-hop travel and the price of gas is still not high enough to get people out of their automobiles.

Backers, however, estimate that the cost of a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to San Francisco would be about half the price of an airline ticket, or about $55.

Pork for engineering firms? Moore should certainly know. This is his USC web-page and he probably knows every highway planner and lobbyist by first name.

His statement is shocking for a trained academic and certainly brings his objectivity into question. We will not know if HSR is “viable” until a study is done. That is why the money is being spent.Of course, that is what Moore and his asphalt loving owners dread.

Filed under: United States High Speed Rail

Crazy Europeans!

Those darned Frogs! Don’t they know that your fillings will fall out at over 70 mph? Here’s the latest insanity covered by Tribune de Geneve. (The story has a cool graphic)

Paris will be less than three hours away from Geneva by TGV by 2009. After a six-month holdup in securing the financing, work is well under way on the SFr570-million project to improve the French high-speed train link between the two cities. The project, begun in March, involves building a new 65-kilometer rail line between Bellegarde, near the Swiss border, and Bourg-en-Bresse. The new line will reduce by 47 kilometers the length of the current Geneva-Paris route, which jogs south through the mountains via Culoz, cutting travel time by 20 minutes.

Part of the project includes a new SFr39-million train station at Bellegarde, with a new viaduct to be built as part of the infrastructure. The new Haut-Bugey rail link is really an upgrading of the former Carpates railway line, with 10 tunnels running through the mountainous terrain. Financing of the project was dependent on hefty support from the Swiss government, which is kicking in SFr183 million. The financial backing from Switzerland is a fixed sum that will not change if there is a cost overrun. But the contribution, agreed to in 2005, is unusual for a project entirely in France. “It is rare for a foreign country to participate from the outset in a project outside its territory,” noted Olivier Carmelle, an official with SNCF, the French state-owned railway.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

Fast trains for North Carolina

The Winston-Salem Journal posted an excellent editorial that catches the possibilities of sensible ground transportation. Honestly, if it works between Paris and London, if can work between Charlotte and Atlanta.

Fast Trains

Winston-Salem Journal

Friday, October 26, 2007

With the state short $65 billion for transportation needs over coming decades, the next governor and future legislatures should be thinking outside the usual basket of ideas – in short, beyond roads. At a recent statewide rail conference, transportation leaders again discussed a federal-state-private initiative to bring high-speed rail to the Southeast.

Some doubt the future of passenger rail service, saying it can’t survive without tax subsidies. But streets, roads and highways don’t stand on their own, either. Transportation has been subsidized by government in this country for 200 years, and providing transportation infrastructure is a basic role of modern government.

Rail traffic today is low for a simple reason: The product is not very good. If government and private industry were to improve equipment, rail beds and corridors so traffic moved more swiftly and dependably, people would soon see the value and switch. It works in Europe and in our heavily populated Northeast.

The discussion involves service from Washington, through North Carolina cities, and down to Atlanta. This will work, and it will work for Forsyth County if arrangements are made to include Forsyth in the plan. Nancy Dunn, the local representative on the N.C. Board of Transportation and chairwoman of the committee that oversees rail initiatives, is optimistic that improvements are coming.

When trains leave on time, move at 100 mph and get people to and from major cities without the hassle of airports or interstate traffic jams, the passengers will start riding.

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

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October 2007