Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Screw the NEC, look to the Pacific Northwest for progressive rails

It seems like whenever anyone from the mainstream press talks about Amtrak, they bring up the Northeast Corridor as a ray of light for our favorite troubled railroad. “The density is right! (it’s always right when the station is in a city) It can fund itself! (debatable) It has high-speed rail! (even more debatable)”

Well, British national and Guardian writer Michael Tomasky is doing what Americans seem hesitant to do.. looking to our fellow citizens in the Northwest for an example of good rail road policy.

Now this is more like it. After days of airplane flights, I ditched the nightmare of security lines and uncomfortable seats for a lovely, state-underwritten, socialistic-type ride aboard the rails from Portland to Seattle.

East coasters will be stunned to learn, as I was, that a business-class seat for this trip — duration three-and-a-half hours — is…ready…$42! And that comes with a coupon that gives you $3 off any purchase in the cafe car.

How can they possibly make money on this? They don’t. They make their money on schmucks like me, riding between Boston and Washington. A business-class ticket from Boston to New York, a ride of similar duration, is north of $300 most days. I support Amtrak wholeheartedly, but I have to say I don’t mind taking advantage of the super-discount fare this once, since I have in essence subsidized my own trip a hundred times over down the years by using Amtrak exclusively on the east coast.

The Amtrak Cascades route is jointly funded by the states of Oregon and Washington as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia. Is it socialism, as Tomaski suggests? Perhaps. But I find it hard to disapprove when government is able to transcend territorial and international borders in order to bring safe, convenient, and efficient transportation to its citizens.


Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail, , , , ,

Rail associations call on Congress to include transportation funds in economic stimulus package

This report comes through from Progressive Railroading. Included here is $250 million for intercity rail.

Yesterday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure, and House Ways and Means committees held a congressional hearing to review pending and delayed transportation projects that could be quickly expedited to boost the economy. Committee members are considering whether to add a transportation element to a second economic stimulus bill. 

Investing in transportation infrastructure projects would be a double bonus, transportation officials say. Not only would it create new jobs (35,000 for every $1 billion of federal investment), but an infusion of federal dollars also would foster new and improved infrastructure to meet the rapidly growing demand for transportation services. 

Several transportation groups weighed in on the hearing, including the American Public Transportation Association, which has identified 559 ready-to-go public transit projects from 170 transit agencies. Worth a total of $8 billion, the projects could start within 90 days after federal funds are made available. 

Meanwhile, the States for Passenger Rail Coalition called on Congress to set aside $250 million in an economic stimulus bill for intercity passenger-rail improvement projects. 

In addition, the Railroad Cooperation and Education Trust, in partnership with the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, proposed the economic stimulus package include $100 million in general funds over a two-year period for transit, short line and regional railroads to complete projects that could begin within 180 days and be “substantially completed” in 2009. 

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

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October 2008