Trains For America

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McCain wants MORE trains (for other countries)

Now, it’s been well established that presidential candidate John McCain is not a fan of Amtrak. In fact, he’s called shutting the service down if he was elected a “non-negotiable issue.” Subsidies for highways? Fine. But not for passenger rail. You might think that this means he’s an anti-train kind of guy. But you’d be quite wrong. Infact, he’s all for making more trains, right here in America!  … Just so long as they get exported to other countries. Here’s an excerpt from this video of John McCain campaigning in Pennsylvania:

“I was with Governor [Tom] Ridge yesterday, and we visited a General Electric plant in Erie that makes — guess what? — locomotives. That’s not viewed as, quote, high tech, is it? But you’d be amazed at the product, of the thousands of workers that are working there and building a locomotive that over half of their business is through exports, because they build the best locomotives in the world in Erie, Pennsylvania.”

For one thing… locomotives? I know it’s a correct term technically, but doesn’t it give off the impression that he was surprised that these engines aren’t run on steam power or something? Maybe it never occurred to Mr. McCain that these high-tech locomotives, rather than being exported, could be put to use on our own railways. We could be making travel more accessible for Americans and saving energy with home-grown technology and workers.

It seems like John McCain has been trying to cast himself back as a moderate again, but it’s hard to take him seriously when his only transportation solution is to build more cars and more roads. All while countries such as the UK, Spain, and China are preparing for a more economically sound, environmentally friendly, and energy efficient future with passenger rail.

A bit hat tip to our friends at Streetsblog for this scoop.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, , ,

4 Responses

  1. NikolasM says:

    Did his mother get run over by a train? His stance on rail is just archaic.

  2. Allan says:

    Amtrak lives and dies by acts of Congress, not acts of the White House and Executive Branch of the federal government. When Senator McCain was Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, he was in a far greater position to cause harm to Amtrak than he will be as president.

    McCain, as president, will in all probability have no substantive impact on the dysfunctional Amtrak status quo — at least as to funding. Amtrak funding has been reduced in presidential budgets and even zeroed out multiple times since the mid-’80s. Congress simply ignores it. The only way McCain (or any president) could “enforce” a reduction or elimination of Amtrak funding would be to veto the entire DOT appropriation … not likely.

    McCain’s stance on Amtrak is probably a reaction to Amtrak poor performance in his home state. Amtrak through the years has constantly allowed the Sunset to be misconstrued and misunderstood. Nobody has taken the time to look at the Sunset and wonder, if it was a real daily train instead of a tri-weekly travesty, would it be as healthy as other long distance trains?

    I think the answer would be yes. But it appears that Amtrak has consciously chosen to keep the Sunset in a poor position, either by continued tri-weekly operation, or lopping off the eastern end, east of New Orleans and into Florida, of the Sunset’s route and refusing to restore it after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The eastern end was where 46% of the train’s revenue was produced.

    So, as Senator McCain continued to look into Amtrak, and especially Amtrak in his home state, all he saw were bad numbers and even worse forecasts. Mr. McCain acted in the same manner any frugal or responsible businessman would, and said, “We’ve go to do something about this problem. If it’s been going on for this many decades, and only getting worse, why are we putting up with this mess?”
    And, based on the only information he had which was from Amtrak itself, he was 100% correct.

  3. Alex says:

    Look, I am a big proponent of passenger rail, but this is a bit silly.

    Firstly: “For one thing… locomotives?….”

    I work for a Canadian National. We call them locomotives (or “power” as in: “where’s the power? Track 9?”. That’s what the are called. To say this is old fashioned is untrue.

    Secondly GE engines are extremely popular in NA, not just for exports. CN (which runs down from Chicago to New Orleans BTW) just took delivery of 100 of their newest model for example.
    BNSF has an order in for something like 700 of them, CSX 500.

    It is just that GE makes locomotives for FREIGHT, not for passenger rail. Their max speed tops out at about 75 MPH, their older Dash-9s top out at about 65. Get a couple of them, and you can pull 16,000 ton 2 mile trains with a HP to weight ratio of about 0.5 hp/ton. This is what GE makes, not zippy locomotives for passenger rail.

    Take a look at the wiki:

    Montreal based Bombardier is one of the top companies world-wide for passenger rail. I think they have facilities in the states. If McCain had been talking like that at a Bombardier facility, you would have had more of a case.

  4. Ricky Rabi says:

    McCain’s power may well be increased even if he loses the presidential election. If McCain is kicked upstairs, he’d probably be able to whine about Amtrak and veto bills, but more likely he’d have to compromise just like Bush did. If Obama and Biden stay in the Senate, they’d be able to do so with a better name and reputation – which can then be put to use. Line-item vetoes were struck down by the Supreme Court a few years ago, because they gave the President too much potential power.

    On the other hand, there’s also the potential that McCain might cause an influx of anti-Amtrak Republicans into Congress in mid-first-term if he proves successful in keeping people satisfied with him. So there are both advantages and risks to voting up McCain. If Obama /Biden lose, there ought to be a focus on keeping them involved in national levels of government.

    Note that I am not anti-McCain, I am just strongly anti-one of his opinions on a policy issue, and that issue is subsidies of long-distance passenger rail.

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