Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Cincinnati Union Station Diamond Anniversary

We at TFA  despise nostalgia.

It must have been those too few occasions when I arrived aboard the Pan American that provoked me to add this festive note. Yes, the grandest of all rail passenger terminals – a living work of art is having a special birthday.

In the spirit of modern rail transportation, which includes both “corridor” service and overnight trains, it is worthwhile to remember that portion of our American birthright which has been stolen by greedy highway and airport special interests.

A Cincinnati rail passenger hub would occupy the center of a vibrant region with service extending to the Midwest, east coast and southern cities. Check out links at your right for The Ohio Hub and the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

Here is a calendar of events and the entire report runs in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

March 29-30: Diamond Jubilee Kick-Off Weekend includes performances by the Singing Trainmen, High Steel tours into the rafters above the rotunda, opening of an exhibit on the terminal and its history, collection of oral histories, screenings of the 1981 WCET documentary “Died Young,” activities for kids and the time capsule opening ceremony (March 30).

April 14: Organist Gerre Hancock and the May Festival Chorus perform.

May 23: Free Friday gets you into all museums 4-8 p.m. except for the Omnimax and “Bodies” exhibit.

June 6: Union Terminal in the 1940s recreates the heyday with a comprehensive tour that includes a visit to the outdoor train platforms, ornate offices of the terminal’s president, a look at the USO and other amenities that would have been offered soldiers, an interpreted visit to the World War II exhibit, presentations in Newsreel Theater and a 1940s style lunch from a ’40s menu.

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

Advocates gather to promote Sunset route

Progressive Railroading carries a report on efforts to revitalize the Sunset route. It is probably the first priority for improving the national Amtrak system. In fact, it is not too much to suggest that there is no national system without the Sunset. Nonetheless, the Bush administration works behind the scene to eliminate this essential piece of the grid.

Yesterday, the Sunset Marketing and Revitalization Team (SMART) held its first formal meeting at New Orleans’ Union Passenger Rail Terminal. Formed last year, the grassroots passenger-rail advocacy group aims to improve and expand passenger-rail service along the Gulf Coast. The organization is patterned after the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization, which was formed a decade ago to restore and improve Amtrak’s Texas Eagle service.

SMART’s first mission: to get Amtrak to reinstate Sunset Limited service from New Orleans to Orlando. In 2005, Amtrak truncated the route, which originally ran from Los Angeles to Orlando, at New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The railroad didn’t resume service to Orlando after the lines were restored by CSX Transportation.

“Today’s trackage is superior to what existed pre-Katrina, and demand [is] high, yet Amtrak has not restored the service,” said Matthew Melzer, communications associate for SMART founding member the National Association of Railroad Passengers, in a prepared statement.

In fiscal-year 2007, Sunset Limited ridership was up 22.1 percent. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans-to-Orlando segment accounted for 28 percent of the route’s miles, but 39 percent of ridership and 41 percent of revenue.

A few random thoughts:

  • Equipment is the most urgent need. This has several consequences, among which are that congress and Amtrak must also believe that improving the Sunset is item one.
  • One reason equipment is such an urgent requirement is that daily service is an absolute necessity. The Sunset must be brought up to the same capacity as other long-distance trains without stealing from existing consists.
  • Amtrak faces severe equipment shortages, of which congress seems somehow to be unaware.  A month or two of the Iraq war would provide enough rolling stock to operate current routes and operate new service.
  • The above items mean that full restoration is years away. This is both a disappointment and an opportunity. Advocates will have plenty of time to develop relationships with community leaders, lawmakers, Amtrak, and Union Pacific.
  • Public-private partnerships to upgrade infrastructure can benefit both the operating lines and Amtrak.
  • UP must be encouraged to improve time keeping. (Any brilliant ideas?)
  • Amtrak is losing crucial supporters in Mississippi and Texas, both Sunset states. Advocates must develoop intelligent and courteous presentations to federal legislative candidates.
  • Running straight through Los Angeles – Orlando is an operational nightmare. Equipment should turn in New Orleans for both directions. There should be a same-day connection, however.

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

When all else fails, lie

But what would you expect from the Bush Administration. They do not hesitate to falsify information that leads us into a bloody war in Iraq, so it is nothing to misrepresent a federal commission report favorable to transit. The National Corridors Initiative site has it all, including the parts that the grown-ups don’t want Congress and the people to read.

WASHINGTON —The back-room editors of the Bush Administration, who apparently take their cue from Soviet-style air-brushing, are it again, and this time the target is one of the giants of the conservative movement in America.
While the media focus was on the Bush Administration’s use of Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to denounce the bipartisan outcome of the Congressionally-mandated Surface Transportation Commission — which she officially chaired — the National Corridors Initiative has learned that an important pro-light-rail section of the report, written by Commission member Paul Weyrich and adopted by a 9-3 majority vote of the commission, has disappeared from the Commission’s final report.

If true, these actions could lead to Contempt of Congress charges against the Bush Administration employees found responsible for falsely editing — in effect, lying about — the content of the final report of the commission.

Weyrich, who founded the Heritage Foundation and also founded and is chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, has been a leader of the American conservative movement since the days of the Reagan Administration. He is also one of the most knowledgeable and sought after supporters of public transportation especially light rail, in America.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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