Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

My insightful Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Column

The headline this week is “Stimulus that works.” It gives a well balanced to the options for auto manufacturers and infrastructure. Of course I give trains a fair shot.

You can read my columns online, but you need a subscription or you need to buy the article. It is an investment in the future of humanity. Here is the link.

And here is a snip of my wise words. Consider them well.

U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Arlen Specter have proposed a bill to provide tax-exempt bonds to improve rail lines on the East Coast and in the Midwest. There is even a proposed route linking Memphis, Little Rock and Fort Worth. State Rep. Steve Harrelson of Texarkana regularly mentions it on his “Under the Dome” blog.

The remarkable thing about this concept is that it is not the expensive European system one might use to connect big cities, but a more modest operation using existing right-of-way and speeds of around 110 mph. It creates a lot of jobs while the roadbeds are improved and many more when the trains start to roll.

This kind of thing also helps the operating freight railroads by drastically increasing their capacity. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has been working it for years and has plenty of good research to back it up. Gil Carmichael, a Mississippi Republican and former federal railroad administrator, has another idea for enhancing the national railroad system for a greater volume of faster freight and passenger trains.


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

Texas T-Bone

Today’s Fort Worth Business Journal carries a fine opinion piece on the future of high speed rail in Texas. I have some opinions about this, and I expressed them in an interview you may be reading online soon. Texas is wa overdue for good ground transportation, and I think they might seriously consider letting Southwest Airlines run the “above the rail” operation. I’ll develop that thought later, but here is the highlight from today’s story.

The Texas T-Bone will provide High Speed Rail connectivity to the state’s international airports with trains traveling in excess of 200 miles per hour. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport would become a multimodal transportation hub for the 21st century, providing one-stop connectivity for air travel, rental cars, DART, DCTA, and The-T, and high-speed rail. Effectively shrinking the state, this system will create thousands of permanent jobs and attract a significant amount of investment, helping to ensure the continued growth of Texas’ economy. I predict that bringing high-speed rail to Texas will create for the Metroplex a sustained economic boom that will ensure the economic vitality of North Texas for many, many years to come. And it will do all of this while using roughly a third of the energy per passenger mile of air travel.

Furthermore, the visionary financing strategies advocated by the THSRTC do not require additional local, state, or federal tax money to make this revolutionary system a reality.  High-speed rail is among the few profitable transportation modes and, therefore, unlike our highways and transit agencies, this system will not require annual operational subsidies to stay afloat. Instead, it will bring enormous financial benefits to the communities it serves by creating jobs, generate new investment and Transit Oriented Development (TOD), and provide to city and regional planners a tool to responsibly orchestrate future development, aiding their efforts to mitigate sprawl and protect our precious rural areas.

Gary Fickes is Tarrant County Commissioner for Precinct 3 as well as secretary of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation (THSRTC). For more information on high-speed rail, visit

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

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November 2008