Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Union Pacific Blocks California HSR Project

Many obvious questions arise from this apparent setback for high speed rail in the Golden State. I will leave that for your comments and discussion. The Los Angeles Times reports the latest developments in detail. Here is the highlight.

Officials at Union Pacific railroad recently told the California High Speed Rail Authority that they have safety and operational concerns about running a bullet train close to lumbering freight trains.

“Just look at what happened in L.A. a few years ago,” said Scott Moore, a Union Pacific vice president, citing the 2005 crash of a Metrolink passenger train that killed 11 and hampered rail operations.

Of course, the big question is: what is one of those fancy new trains ran off the end of the earth?

Turning HSR Development over to the State Department of Transportation is the same as handing it over to trucking interests. Truckers and airlines are in a life-or-death struggle to maintain the old way of doing things, even if gas hits $6 a gallon. Their representatives in state legislatures are bought and paid for.

Union Pacific’s argument should be taken seriously, and it should be taken for what it is: an argument.

The railroad, first, wants to be absolved from liability in case of an accident. This is a legitimate concern and something lawmakers and proponents need to face. High speed trains operate around other transportation and population all over the world without incident, so everybody needs to take a deep breath and move on.

Taxpayers will be called on to make improvements to railroad property, and that is noting more than the cost of doing business. It may be that California will have to buy some rail lines. 

It is a question of individual freedom. Will we continue to be held hostage by industrial special interests and foreign oil barons? 

Finally, let us all remember that the nation’s rail system was built by a public-private partnership in which rail carriers got subsidies in the form of land and other valuable considerations. In return, we get a transportation system which should be available for public use.

Comments, anybody?


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

Great modern train stations

Some really great stuff shows up in my mailbox, and for this item, I am truly grateful.

The Municipal Art Society just posted a video from a recent panel discussion about train station design. Major themes of the discussion included the concept of “civicness” in station architecture, sustainable design, retail, political and financial challenges, and other issues related to building Moynihan Station. I think it might be a good fit for your blog.

Alex Washburn, chief urban designer, New York City Department of City Planning, and a former aid to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan moderated the discussion. Christopher Brown, author of Still Standing: A Century of Urban Train Stations traced the development of the urban train station from its beginnings in the 1820s to the end of the 1950s using his visual survey of stations from St. Louis to Istanbul. Architect Andrew Whalley, partner at Grimshaw Architects, drew on his experience as partner-in-charge of Paddington station and Waterloo’s Eurostar terminal in London to discuss the design of today’s train stations worldwide. 

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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June 2008