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

8 Responses

  1. Ran says:

    Recall that no foreign equipment meets American crashworthiness standards, so we cannot order foreign equipment “off the shelf.” This is at the root of the Acela’s problems. Substantial modifications need to be made to any overseas rolling stock before it can run here legally.

  2. patlynch says:

    Thanks for the reminder. Something that Congress or the FRA must address.

  3. Check out these Pullman-design, Korean built coaches on the Alaska Rail Road. Now if Congress or the states would get with a capital program.

    I’m skeptical of Talgos or other fixed-formation trains, including the Acela Expresses or the remaining British Inter City 125 sets.

  4. rafael says:

    Note that Caltrain (San Francisco peninsula commuter rail) has performed a number of computer simulations of FRA crash tests applied to off-the-shelf European electric multiple unit (EMU) equipment. In spite of its substantially lower weight, it performed as well or better than the FRA-compliant alternative. Caltrain is pursuing a waiver from FRA to realize the higher performance and lower operating/maintenance costs its expensive electrification project is supposed to bring. EMU equipment would also greatly facilitate sharing station platforms with California’s high speed trains, if voters approve that project in November.

    Note that Caltrain is unusual in that it owns the ROW between San Francisco and San Jose. It has a limited mutual trackage agreement with UPRR, so once in a while you’ll still see a freight train in that corridor. Caltrain offers rush hour service down to Gilroy.

  5. Gary Stevens says:

    The money needed for these upgrades could be found by charging drivers directly for the full cost of using the highways and parking lots of our nation. We don’t want to honestly face the cost of private transportation in America. If we charged each driver directly, and eliminated the local, state and federal taxes supporting transportation then there would be plenty of money to bring better passenger rail services.

  6. Jim says:

    Pat, I’m glad I booked my train trip a couple of months ago. I plan to take AmTrak from LR to Chicago (Union Station)(and back) in July to attend the Green Party national Presidential convention. Any Lynchpins of wisdom for the trip? I’ll be riding “coach.” Are there electrical outlets available for use by the unwashed masses for computers, etc.? Any endurance hints?

  7. […] most of you reading this as well) need to be pushing hard for this. Because despite increased Amtrak and public transportation ridership, many just aren’t getting the idea. Nowhere does the New […]

  8. […] be checking around for more updates on this bill as time goes on. We all know that Amtrak’s limited equipment is in high-demand and under high-stress due to increased usage. This seems like a step in right direction to help […]

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June 2008


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