Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Michael Bloomberg, just another wise-guy billionaire

He almost said some of the right words in California over the weekend. Read the AP report here.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says he’s not a candidate for president, chose electoral vote-rich California Saturday from which to deliver a scorching assessment of Washington for failing to keep up with the need for new airports, roads, water systems and bridges across America.

While China and other nations are investing heavily in ports and high-speed trains “Washington doesn’t have a plan” to address crumbling U.S. infrastructure, Bloomberg said.

That is a long way from an actual commitment. Perhaps he will be more specific, but presidents do not pass legislation, but they can do a lot of harm. Case in point, JimmyCarter.

Bloomberg is a Republican stalking horse designed to split the Hillary vote and elect a clone of GWB. That is how it seems to me.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

David Bear: We must act now to save U.S. train transportation from extinction

The Pittsburgh runs a good analysis piece on the deplorable condition of America’s transportation system, and the obvious solution.

Passenger rail has long been dismissed in this country as a transportation dinosaur.

But with oil at $100 a barrel, increasing gridlock at airports and highways, and growing concern about greenhouse gases, rail service deserves new attention.

In the United States, Pittsburgh ranks among the fortunate few cities that have any daily trains at all. We have three. There’s the eastern Capitol Limited to Washington, D.C., via Cumberland, Md., which departs at 5:45 a.m. and arrives at 1:45 p.m., a seven-hour, 45-minute trip; the western Capitol Limited to Chicago via Cleveland, which departs at 11:55 p.m. and arrives at 8:40 a.m., a nine-hour, 45-minute trip; and the Pennsylvanian to Philadelphia via Harrisburg. It departs at 7:20 a.m., and arrives in Philadelphia at 2:50 p.m., a seven-hour, 30-minute trip.

Want to take a train to any other destination or another time of day? Too bad.

Couple this pitiful paucity of convenience and relatively time-consuming trips with a rollicking ride and reputation for unreliability and indifferent service, and it’s no wonder so few travelers think of taking a train, even to Philadelphia, Washington or Chicago, let alone Buffalo, N.Y., Charleston, W.Va., Columbus, Ohio, or Cincinnati.

Besides everybody knows it’s faster to fly and cheaper (and faster) to drive. But the calculations underlying those anti-rail assumptions must be refigured.

Factor in the time to get to and from airports, to comply with 9/11 security procedures, along with the possibility of schedule delays, and it’s clear air travel is not as expeditious as it once was.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Ohio hub news

The best part of high speed passenger train proposals in the Midwest area is that they involve lines that already exist and could be put into service with relative speed.  The Sandusky Register has details on the latest developments concerning the Ohio Hub.

At its most recent meeting, the Sandusky City Commission voted to support U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s federal appropriation request for matching funds for the development of the Ohio Hub Cleveland-Toledo- Detroit passenger rail corridor, which would connect many Ohio cities and in the long run save Midwesterners about 9.4 million gallons of fuel.

Nicholson said if the funding can be secured, some initial passenger trains could be up and running in as soon as two years. To build the entire system, with 6-8 trains running 110 mph on seven different corridors, could take 10-11 years. The rail development commission is now in early talks with Amtrak about a partnership to utilize existing corridors. Sandusky has an Amtrak station on North Depot Street.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Kindred spirits

That Jim Freeman guy has a pretty darned cool blog. Check it out and here is a sample of his sensible opinions.

It’s 200 miles from Washington to New York. A high-speed, Bullet-train, at 200mph, would make the trip, city-center to city-center in something approaching an hour and twenty minutes (figuring the get-up-to-speed and the slow-down times).

But we don’t have Bullet-trains. There’s not only no high-speed rail from New York to Washington, it doesn’t exist Denver to Los Angeles, Chicago-Cleveland or Houston-Tampa either. The distance from Chicago to New York is roughly 900 miles and passes through Cleveland, Pittsburg and Philadelphia—all of which are likely passenger destinations. A Bullet-train, stopping at each city, would reach New York about six hours after having left Chicago.

But there are school-bus crossings and bad track and conflict with slow freight-trains to worry about.

Not so. Not if the already paid-for, already available rights-of-way between the downtowns of America’s major (and minor) cities are used. These are called the Interstate Highway System. Dwight Eisenhower built ’em, back in the fifties. There stands not a single grade-crossing between New York and Los Angeles. Yeah, it’s a big undertaking for either private industry or government.
I happen to prefer government, no matter that I want them out of most of the stuff they’re in, because rail and air and highways are public transportation in the best sense of the word. But they’d probably screw it up.

RichardbransonbookRail will come again to America; light-rail within the cities and high-speed rail for intra-city transport and it won’t come because bleeding-heart liberals think it’s a good choice. It will come when we get tired of taking off our shoes to go someplace and weary of the five hours air-travel requires of a 53-minute flight.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Sooner State Slop

Evan Stair has posted this item on several sites, and I think it is self-explanatory.

Let me add that the language of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation letter on track improvements between Oklahoma City and Tulsa is good evidence of the lack of serious study. The proposal is not for “light rail,” and transportation professionals should know that. “Light rail” refers to streetcars and commuter equipment and infrastructure. Stair has good reason to be disappointed at such misstatements.

It seems that ODOT is now touting a Tulsa expansion of the Heartland Flyer (lengthened stub end) as the least costly despite an ODOT study provided in March of 2001 and again in April of 2005 stating otherwise.  We have come into possession of a letter from David Streb of ODOT to Glen A. Nead on January 16, 2008 where he states:

“As you may know, upgrading and improving the existing trackage between the State’s two largest cities would be the least expensive approach.  While there is more public enthusiasm for high speed light rail, the financial support needed to construct light rail between these two (2) cities illustrates a typical multiplier.  Estimates for improvements necessary for a modest level of traditional passenger service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa are in the range of $110 million according to a 2001 ODOT Rail Division study while costs for a light rail system along the same corridor begin at the $1 billion level.  As rail continues to gain ground in Oklahoma it will be necessary to fortify our local bus and transit systems, as a foundation to undergird higher level investments.”

We consider this the new “Official” ODOT stance on passenger rail that will be provided to the state legislature and media outlets following the pending release of the Oklahoma City to Tulsa Amtrak study next month.  This is unfortunate because it is misleading.

In reality, the 2001 and 2005 Carter Burgess studies Streb referenced in his letter state that track upgrades between Newton, KS and Oklahoma City would be $5 million with a $2.9 million requirement  in Oklahoma and a $2.1 million requirement in Kansas.  Track upgrades on the Tulsa route are obviously at least 20 times as expensive.

We at Passenger Rail Oklahoma are disappointed to report that ODOT is not standing behind their numbers.  It is our belief that ODOT will  use the forthcoming Oklahoma City to Tulsa passenger rail study as prepared by ODOT to make passenger rail solutions seem more costly than reality.  Those who are supporting ODOT in their efforts should understand these facts and question ODOT leadership as to the validity of prior studies.

It is important at this point to understand that other official entities are working within Amtrak to accurately report cost figures between Kansas City and Fort Worth through Wichita.  It is unfortunate that the rail has deteriorated along the Sapupla to Oklahoma City route since its purchase from the BNSF Railway in the late 1990’s to preclude the operation of passenger trains without such a rehabilitation figure.  Obviously there are interests who do not want to see ODOT expand state Amtrak service.  There is a general understanding that the state is not happy with the $2 million expenditure on the Heartland Flyer annually, despite ODOT’s $1.5 billion annual budget.

We invite the Governor’s office, ODOT Director Gary Ridley, or Mr. Streb to retract the statements in this letter and report full and accurate cost figures to the public.  References included in Streb’s letter will be provided upon request.

Evan Stair

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

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January 2008