Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Virgina Republican caters to transportation special interests, trashes trains

This item arrives from in Lynchburg.

en. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, has started an online forum to point out wasteful spending by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Although VDOT is not paying for the new rail transportation, Obenshain has called the service a “pet project” that reveals misplaced priorities in the state’s transportation funding.

A Lynchburg-area lawmaker and a business leader countered that the new service, which includes another train between Lynchburg and Washington, is necessary to link multiple cities in the state to rail service for less than the cost of building a road.

They said it is the first piece of a statewide rail system that would be vital to the economy of the regions it serves, helping people and companies call Central and Southwest Virginia home.

Rule one in politics: follow the money.

Developing rail is cheaper than building wasteful and redundant highways.

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

AP story highlights HSR battles

Joe Vranich is still alive?

TFA does not hate Mr. Vranich, we only wish journalists would look around for additional sources. For those of you doing research, may we suggest the Midwest High Speed Rail Association (linked on the right)?

The story appeared in today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution and is rather favorable and, unfortunately, realistic. Funds made available so far for HSR are woefully inadequate.

But this country has never built a high-speed “bullet” train rivaling the successful systems of Europe and Asia, where for decades passenger railcars have blurred by at top speeds nearing 200 mph.

Since the 1980s, every state effort to reproduce such service has failed. Yet President Barack Obama, intent on harnessing new technology to rebuild the devastated economy, made a last-minute allocation of $8 billion for high-speed rail in his mammoth stimulus plan.

It sounds good, but that amount isn’t enough to build a single system, or to dramatically increase existing train speeds, transportation experts say.

The fact is that, in making public policy, the government has taken the historic position of the New York Central; “the public be damned.” Taxpayers have little say in national transportation decisions.

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

CSX will aid New York HSR

This comes from the Schenectady Daily Gazette where you can read the enitre story. Obviously, this is big.

A major railroad company has agreed to play an active role in making high-speed rail transportation a reality in New York state, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Wednesday.

Schumer met with Michael Ward, CSX Corp. chief executive officer, on Wednesday in Washington to discuss the state’s new rail master plan and to encourage CSX to be an active partner in the plan.

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

Call for better passenger rail advocacy

Jim Cameron, up in Connecticut, relates his recent experience addressing a gathering of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. I could not agree more with his desire to see a more inclusive broad based representation of this essential transportation segment.

I dearly wish I had the financial capacity to work on this full time because we, as advocates of good ground transportation, have been segregated into the slums of public policy with a bunch of pass riding, sentimental, blowhards that reflect nothing of the people on the trains. Amtrak’s customer base includes students, business people (even in the middle of America), minorities, and women with their families.

NOTE: It was too harsh. I apologize sincerely.

Let me add that the current deplorable situation is not NARP’s fault. They, like all the rest of us, have their hands full. I come from a railroad family (GM&O) and I know the difference between history and nostalgia. I recommend you read “Advocacy” above (and I am sure it could use some improvement).

The other main contributor to this endeavor, Logan Nash, is a college age man who is perfectly tuned in to the culture and issues. He gives us a real”edge.” I think an internet community can more easily reach out to people of different age groups and backgrounds and include them in the national discussion. That is what Trains for America is about.

Here is part of what Jim had to say and a link.

Rail advocates must be taken seriously, not seen as eccentric hobbyists. And NARP should do more to really represent all rail passengers, not just “foamers”.

Filed under: Administration, Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Amtrak equipment repair list: UPDATE complete pdf file

This is a summary of wrecked Amtrak cars that will be returned to service. The remainder are apparently beyond repair (an assumption which will be hard to disprove).

UPDATE: here is the document.

I have read that there are 15 long distance locomotives to be rehabilitated and a new station for Beaumont. If the latter is true, this is a significant commitment to the Sunset route.

Cars to be returned to service for long-distance trains:

Increase capacity and fill-in on long distance service: 1 Superliner
Coach-Bag (31006) @ $1.086m; 2 Superliner I Coach (34040 and 34087) @

Capitol Limited Route (will replace the Diner-Lounge Cars which will go
on the Empire Builder Route): 3 Superliner I Diners (38017, 38026 and
38031)@ $.970m; 1 Superliner II Diner (38049) @ $1.055m.

Auto Train Service: 1 Superliner II Deluxe Sleeper (32501) @ $1.073m.
Expand Empire Builder Route: 5 Superliner I Sleepers (32014, 32040,
32046, 32049 and 32065) @ $1.073m; 1 Superliner II Sleeper (32112) @

Supplement daily shortage on long distance service: 2 Superliner II
Trans Sleepers (39008 and 39023) @ $1.065m.

Lake Shore Limited Route: 1 Viewliner Diner (8400) @ $1.634m.

3 Superliner I Lounges (33003, 33011 and 33016) @ $.378m; 1 Superliner
II Lounge (33036) @ $.512m.

The following Amfleet II Coach Cars will be returned from wreck status
at a total average cost per unit of $.872m: 25007, 25055, 25085 and
25103. These cars will be used in long distance service.

The following Amfleet II Food Service Car will be returned from wreck
status at a cost of $.650m: 28019. This car will be used in single-level
long distance service.

(all other cars being restored are for Northeast/Corridor service)

It has been reported that this inventory represents every item of rolling stock that can be restored. The disappointing news is pretty clear for the Sunset and Pioneer.

This is the result of a deliberate political policy of starvation. Previous administrations have seen Amtrak’s political base and recognize the impossibility of eliminating the service, but refusing to provide any ability to operate has been a very successful strategy. With no equipment, Amtrak is perpetually marginalized, while highway and airline special interests are proteced.

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

Alabama blocks southeast high speed rail

This dispute apparently involves the kingly sum of $120,000 (but, of course it IS the principle of the thing that counts!). The Alabama Highway Department refuses to pay the dues. The Birmingham Business Journal has most of the story for subscribers, but you can read what is public.

Alabama’s Southern neighbors are pointing accusatory fingers at the state, claiming its foot-dragging may derail an Atlanta-to-New Orleans high-speed rail line.

Members of the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission from Louisiana and Mississippi are eager to bid for a piece of the $9.3 billion earmarked in the federal stimulus package for inter-city, high-speed rail projects. But they say they are being held up because Alabama has not completed the necessary studies to request federal funds.

Birmingham is a logical hub for fast conventional trains to Atlanta, Nashville, Mobile, Memphis Jackson, and New Orleans, so this is really important. A story in explains that a conventional train operating from Birmingham to Atlanta at 110 mph. makes the trip in 90 minutes. So that would explain the stiff resistance from highway and trucking special interests.

he study would determine which tracks the train would use, ridership and costs, among other things. It is needed before the commission can tap into about $8 billion in federal stimulus money that has been set aside at the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop high-speed rail through 11 rail commissions nationwide.

“Because the state refuses to put up a couple of hundred thousand dollars, we could lose a couple of hundred million dollars,” Finley said. He faulted the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Shift in priorities:

ALDOT Director Joe McInnes said his department stopped paying the dues when he became director in 2003. “This department, by law, builds roads and bridges,” McInnes said. “We do not build railroads, airports or waterways.”

He said he also was concerned because neither Georgia nor Texas joined the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission.

The story notes that there is an involvement from the Mayor of Atlanta.

Let’s be clear, this is not some kind of wild-eyed 200 mph European style HSR that would require an entire new right-of-way and $10 billion. This is a project that could happen in a matter of years and bring instant economic benefits to everybody concerned (except airlines and truckers, and I don’t know what the Atlanta-Birmingham air travel market is like).

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

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March 2009