Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Wondering about Wyoming?

The Gillette News-Record has a major story on transportation alternatives in the region. It is a rather complete report, although one must wonder how Wyoming has spent the $23 million it gets by having no Amtrak service.


– What we have: BNSF Railway and Union Pacific recently completed a 100-mile joint line that added a third track to rails coming serving Campbell County.

– What we’re missing: That new rail is all for freight — mainly Powder River Basin coal. Wyoming hasn’t had a major passenger line since 1997 when Amtrak closed the Pioneer route through the southern part of the state, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. Like other states without Amtrak service, Wyoming received $23 million in 1998 and 1999 under a taxpayer relief act. States like Oklahoma and Maine used the money to start their own railroads that were still operated by Amtrak, but it wasn’t clear how Wyoming used it’s share of the money. Gillette, though, hasn’t had passenger service at least since Amtrak started operations in 1971, and all the coal traffic means there probably wouldn’t be room for passenger trains without laying new tracks.

– What’s happening now: The Senate has passed a bill that will require Amtrak to study restoring all or part of routes it closed, including the Pioneer route, Magliari said. The bill, which could become law in 2008, includes matching money so state and local governments can partner with the federal government on projects the entities couldn’t do alone.

– Cost to you: Without details about the line, it’s hard to say how train tickets would compare to plane flights. But round-trip train tickets between Boston and New York on Friday were running about half the price of equivalent plane tickets. Of course, any train line would first have to have a substantial investment that taxpayers probably would have to pay.

– Moving forward: Wyoming would first need to ask Amtrak to study how much it would cost to bring rail service to Gillette. Soaring demand for these studies means it would be about a year before Amtrak would have an answer. If the idea appeared feasible and the Amtrak bill becomes law, the groups could then partner together to pay for any infrastructure — tracks, stations and trains — that the project would need.


Filed under: Amtrak

Connecticut energy conference raises concerns

The Day has an item that is guaranteed to scare daylights out of you. Promise.

It is in inarguable that the United States, more than any other nation, has built a society based on cheap energy. Most people live in suburbs or rural locations that require the automobile to do most any task — get to work, participate in social activities, go shopping, even grab a gallon of milk and loaf of bread.

Our food largely comes from faraway places. Fossil-fuel based fertilizers and pesticides are used to produce the food. It is then trucked or shipped hundreds and often thousands of miles to reach local markets. Many of the material goods we buy are dependent on shipping supply lines stretching overseas to Asia and other lands.

When the price of oil goes up the price of all these things go up. If the cost of oil continues to rise, and gas shortages develop, our very way of life would be challenged. People would have trouble heating their ever-larger homes or finding gas to get to work. Food shortages could develop.

And while Europe, which has been dealing with high gas prices for decades, has maintained and expanded its mass transit systems, the U.S. passenger rail and trolley systems were largely dismantled after the automobile and cheap gas arrived on the scene early in the 20th century.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Speeding through the Alps

Just in case anybody needs a reminder of how woefully far behind the United States has fallen, this should be a wake-up call. This comes from Swissinfo.

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New Lötschberg rail tunnel opens to passengers

One of the first passenger trains passes the tunnel near Visp in southwestern Switzerland

Image caption: One of the first passenger trains passes the tunnel near Visp in southwestern

Switzerland (Keystone)

The opening of the 34.6km tunnel and the introduction of a new timetable will reduce journey times considerably from many parts of the country to the southwest.

Former cabinet minister Adolf Ogi, the driving force behind the New Railway Links through the Alps (NRLA) project that also includes the Gotthard base tunnel, was among the guests who travelled south from Bern to Visp on Sunday.

Filed under: International High Speed Rail

VIA Rail Canada on the move

Attention News/Assignment/Photo/Business/Transportation/Environment Editors:

Media Advisory – VIA Rail Canada, the National Passenger Rail Service, and Minister Cannon to Announce First Major Contract of VIA’s New Capital Investment Plan

    MONTREAL, Dec. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - VIA Rail Canada invites the news media
to attend an important announcement impacting the future operations of
VIA Rail Canada and the Montreal manufacturing industry. The Honourable
Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and
Mr. Paul Côté, President and Chief Executive Office of VIA Rail Canada Inc.,
among others, will be present at the announcement which will be made at the
manufacturing site.
    A photo op and facility tour will take place after the announcement has
been made.

    What:  Announcement by VIA Rail on first major contract following Capital

    Who:   The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport,
           Infrastructure and Communities

           Mr. Paul Côté, President and Chief Executive Officer, VIA Rail
           Canada Inc.

           Others to be announced

    When:  December 11, 2007, 9:00 AM sharp

    Where: VIA will be making arrangements for a van to transport media to
           the manufacturing site from a downtown location. Details to
           follow, as well as optional drive-direct map.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Wayports, ho-hum

Here is an idea that is going around, and it’s not completely bad. You can read the entire column in USA Today.

We need a solution for the nation’s airways like the interstate highway system did for the roads. We need an “interstate aviation system”: a new network of nationally planned air routes and facilities to supplement the existing overburdened hub and spoke airline system and relieve pressure and congestion from the country’s busiest airports and airways. One proposal for this interstate aviation system is a concept called “Wayports” and it is the best solution I have heard to date to solve the country’s growing air traffic problem.

The concept is simple: Relieve the pressure on overutilized hub airports by shifting connecting traffic to other regional facilities. Most hub airports play a dual role handling connecting traffic and passengers originating/terminating in that city. In large hubs like Atlanta Hartsfield, Chicago O’Hare or Dallas-Fort Worth, connecting traffic may comprise as much as 80% of the total flight activity at that airport. As hub operations grow and airlines schedule too many flights too close together chronic flight delays result. But imagine one of those major airports with primarily local origin/destination traffic and little or no connecting passengers. Flight delays would vanish overnight and sanity would return.

Two aspects of the Wayports argumetn stand out. The major hubs are a mess and almost any meansures to divert connecting traffic should be welcomed. Further, there are political selfish motives even working against reform of the air traffic system. It’s refreshing when an air advocate sees it too.

The actual solution is high speed trains between smaller cities and regional air hubs. It is part of the European system and it could work here too.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

Streetsblog in NYC speaks up

It’s one of the great blogs and tough to beat any day. Here is a link that takes you directly to an excellent piece, “Is America finally getting interested in passenger rail?”

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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December 2007