Trains For America

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HSR backgrounder

American Chronicle, an online magazine, has an outstanding analysis fromj Eliza Krigman. She is an Editorial Assistant at the Center for Responsive Politics where she writes for Capital Eye, the organization´s money-in-politics blog. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005.

I It’s comprehensive; giving background, benefits, outlook, and roadblocks. Here is a taste.

Sen. John Kerry introduced the High-Speed Rail for America Act this week. The legislation proposes the creation of a central office to oversee the development of high-speed rail and, over the course of six years, provides $8 billion in tax exempt bonds, $10 billion in tax credit bonds for super high-speed intercity rail facilities, and $5.4 billion in tax credit bonds for rail infrastructure.

Compared to Europe and parts of Asia, the United States is many years behind in its development of high-speed rail (HSR). The Eurostar Rail connects London, Paris, and Brussels at speeds up to 186 mph. Japan´s bullet train travels at 180 mph and they are investing heavily in a train that will exceed 200 mph. Taiwan has trains also capable of reaching 186 mph. The only high-speed passenger train in the United States is the Acela (which operates in the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor), which can travel up to 150 mph but averages less than 86 mph between Washington, D.C. and New York City because of poor infrastructure and track conditions.

Her evaluation of why the United States is so far behind gets it all wrong. She says,

The attempts to move forward with the HSR have been set back by environmental concerns, right-of-way disputes and inconsistent political support. The FRA has designated eleven high-speed corridors across the country, which allows a corridor to receive specially targeted funding for highway-rail grade crossing safety improvements and recognizes that area as a center of HSR activity. Amtrak is willing to operate “Acela Regional” service in other state-sponsored corridors if given the funds for the necessary upgrades.

For somebody who only graduated college in 2005, Krigman has a remarkable grasp on transportation policy, so I am a bit taken back by the seeming “free pass” given to trucking, highway, and airline special interests. 

The other defect here, and it is minimal, is the “Amtrak-centro” tone taken toward future developments. Amtrak will be involved, but states and regional authorities will be calling the shots and that should be a strong selling point. 

Otherwise, a great article.It is important reading for rail advocates.


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

Florida lawmakers optimistic about HSR in state, based on Obama hopes

Though Obama has yet to reveal his economic recovery plan, transportation advocates across the nation are hoping that it will include a provision for rail or even HSR. Pro-Rail US Reps from the state, such as John Mica, are optimistic that a more positive federal outlook towards rail could reverse some of the state’s past misfortunes with high-speed rail. From the Orlando Sun-Sentinel:

While details of the president-elect’s plan remain uncertain, U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and John Mica, R-Winter Park, have renewed calls in recent weeks for a rail line that tentatively would run from Tampa to Orlando and Miami.

And even if that plan doesn’t work out, the two said they have other Florida transportation projects in mind, including a 61-mile commuter rail system running between Volusia and Osceola counties and through downtown Orlando.

“We are ready to go. I’m excited that we have an administration that wants to rebuild America,” said Brown, who is almost certain to keep her post in the next Congress as head of the House subcommittee that oversees railroads.

Well, we’re all hoping and waiting, aren’t we?

Filed under: Uncategorized

How I spent my Thanksgiving holiday

Marie and I took a long drive after lunch today. We ended up in downtown Little Rock where I noticed that there were two freight trains stopped at Union Station waiting to cross over to the massive North Little Rock Union Pacific yards.

The UP TOFC train is on the Amtrak siding, which is very odd. Seems that many trains today are being lined through that track, and I have no idea why.

I am really not the traditional rail fan, but there are a few scenes you just need to save.


Filed under: Uncategorized

UPDATED:Original Japanese “bullet train” heads to retirement

A columnist in, Valeriano Avila, has a column about his trip from the Philippines to Japan. Scroll down into the body and discover a fascinating footnote to history.

For the trip to Hiroshima, we would be taking the Shinkansen a.k.a. the Bullet Train. Three days from now, the original model of the O Series Bullet Train, inaugurated in 1964 at the Tokaido-Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka would be retired. This original bullet nosed train (hence the name) operated 10 times a day between Shin-Osaka and Hakata in Fukuoka on the Sanyo-Shinkansen Line. Hundreds of rail enthusiasts went to the platform to take photos of this historic train. This old bullet train originally runs at the high speed of 200 kilometers per hour. Today’s newer versions of the Shinkansen Trains are hitting speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. What’s remarkable about the Shinkansen Bullet trains is that, since its introduction 44 years ago, there has never been a single death attributed to a train accident or mishap, except a murder incident inside the train a long time ago.

Bullet trains are always exactly on time. In a one-year period, the combined delays of all the bullet trains in Japan railways was only 12 seconds! They are a major contribution to the Japanese economy and a source of pride by the Japanese. I gathered that by next year, bullet trains would have Wi-Fi connection!

OK, the part about 12 seconds just has to be a lie, right?

And the speed, in American speed, is 125 mph. That is about the average speed of an Acela train, which does a little better than the old Metroliner. Nothing in the United States east of Philadelphia goes anywhere near the Japanese equipment that is being set out in retirement. 300 kph is 186 mph, well beyond anything in the States.

’nuff said on that one.

UPDATE: No! There is more. Go read the comments. No!!

I will move the comments up here to the front page. You need to read this stuff.

Alex |

no, the part about the delay is NOT a lie. The Japanese trains are timed to the second.

While the public is obviously only given departure times by the minute (say 13:27 departure time). The engineer timetable may say depart at (13:27:15).

Look at the beginning of this video:

Notice the arrival times announcement at the beginning 7:36am, 8:11am , 8:52. Not round numbers. Why? because they mean 8:11am not 8:10am. They are that accurate.

If you watch the whole video notice how the engineer is always making sure that he is on time.

From UPDATED:Original Japanese “bullet train” heads to retirement, 2008/11/27 at 6:14 PM

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Al Queda planed attack on Penn Station and Amtrak NEC: OPEN THREAD

Not entirely unexpected.

CBS reports.

Your reaction. Consider this an open thread. I have turned moderation controls OFF. It’s all yours. An OPEN THREAD

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

New political realities

From the San Joaquin Valley of California, congressional representatives are looking at a new federal landscape with an uncertain economy and some new more promising realities. McClatchy newspapers takes a close look.

With the new president-elect, it’s going to create an opportunity for federal support for high-speed rail,” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said when asked for his new year’s agenda.

High-speed rail illustrates how the post-election shakeout hits on Capitol Hill and at home. It’s a longstanding love for Costa, buttressed by California voters’ recent approval of a $10 billion bond measure for what’s ultimately foreseen as an 800-mile, $45 billion project.

Congress, with more Democrats coming on board and with Obama’s blessing, will now craft an ambitious economic stimulus package. Costa wants high-speed rail funding included, and Obama sounds like he could be sympathetic.

“Why aren’t we building high speed rail in America … putting people back to work, saving on energy?” Obama said, encouragingly, while campaigning in Michigan in September. “Why aren’t we doing that?”

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

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November 2008