Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Told ya’ so. Amtrak faces critical equipment shortage.

This comes to the core of criticisms frequently leveled against Amtrak. Although I am not always a fan of NRPC management, the corporation has been on a starvation from day one. Airlines and truckers have done everything possible to maintain preferred status and the consequence has been steady cutbacks on a service that should have been intelligently increased. 

The UPI reports.

Amtrak is unable to quickly meet increasing demand for its rail services because it has been scaled back so much in the past, officials say.

We’re starting to bump up against our own capacity constraints, said R. Clifford Black, a spokesman for Amtrak.

The New York Times reported the number of passenger milestraveled on intercity rail has dropped by about two-thirds since 1960, and the companies that build rail cars and locomotives have also shrunk, making it hard to expand.

Amtrak has 632 usable rail cars, and dozens more are worn out or damaged but could be reconditioned and put into service at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars each.

Instead of fiddling around waiting for things to get better, Congress and the states should get moving on several fronts. European equipment,  perhaps of the Talgo design, should be ordered. England buys its trains from Japan. We need an infusion of modern standard equipment right now.

The next step is to give federal preferences to transportation initiative as the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. This is where the states step in an make use of the already existing rail infrastructure. And let us remember that system was originally constructed as a public-private partnership which has made the operating lines wealthy.

Domestic drilling only delays the certain inevitable end of oil supplies. 

This, of course, is only part of the larger solution, but it is the portion relevant to transportation. 

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

Obama speaks up again on high-speed rail

For those who are wondering how each of the major presidential candidates will be addressing our nation’s tranportation problems, the answer is becoming increasingly clear. John McCain has shown himself to be an enemy of Amtrak and a friend to the auto and air industries, while Barack Obama has said that he wants to put high-speed rail lines on the ground.

In a speech in Miami, Obama again showed concern about our transportation problems. He discussed investment in mass transit, city planning, and a number of other issues, but importantly he also equated construction of high-speed rail lines with national pride:

And we’ll also invest in our ports, roads, and high-speed rails – because I don’t want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai, I want to see it built right here in the United States of America.

It’s great rhetoric, and, as one of the commenters on the linked site points out, people like to hear about American ingenuity much more than they like to be scolded for driving their car to work or flying short distances. What does all this talk mean, though? In the speech, he mentions his plan for a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which could support projects such as new rail development, but how do we know all of this won’t go right to the airports and highways? Obama’s website contains a not-so-prominent white paper on transportation issues, which points out his support of Amtrak and even has a paragraph devoted to high-speed rail. It’s not much, but it’s certainly more than McCain has told us about how he would approach passenger train service if elected.

So to Obama: You’re certainly paying lip-service to trains, but what can we really expect from you as President when it comes to catching up with the rest of the world? Does this notion of “Change” apply to our transportation network too? Or will things just be business as usual?

And McCain: Even with rising fuel prices and mounting environmental concerns, are you still intent on tearing Amtrak apart limb-by-limb? High-speed rail is probably something of a non-starter, isn’t it?

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, , , , , ,

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June 2008