Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Was Supertrain ahead of schedule?

Mark Stencel, quoted here previously from CQ Weekly, writes an excellent blog, Assignment: Future, dealing with future trends. You must read his entire entry concerning HSR and this blog. I am humbled and complimented to be so kindly treated by such an excellent source and highly qualified commentator.

We have had quite a bit of fun with the super-flop of NBC TV so many years ago, Super Train. Mark has links to the first episode and a proposal that it has become a parody of our national transportation policy discussion.

In the opening scene, a blustery, gray-bearded executive — played by character actor Keenan Wynn — explains that he has the backing of the federal Transportation Department to quickly build a new “atom-powered, steam-turbine” train “capable of crossing this country in 36 hours.”

The executive’s cigar-chomping board of directors is skeptical, if not hostile. “I think you are letting your psychotic fascination with railroads lead you into a suicidal gamble with the future of this company,” one board member says.

Funny enough, this opening exchange pretty well sums up most of the public policy arguments about high-speed rail in this country, both before and since Supertrain’s short, nine-episode run on network TV.

Stencel mixes in a quote from the “About” section of this blog and confers as fine a compliment as I could have ever asked.

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

High-Speed Rail Projects

How could we use high speed rail projects to improve our economy? What routes should we construct?

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Filed under: Uncategorized

Financial study of High Speed Rail stocks (and what that means to the rest of us)

This is not exactly light reading. Charles Morand has written an expansive and challenging report on AltEnergyStocks. It’s full of charts, maps, and informative detail necessary for constructing a viable argument.

Don’t bet on the USA being the next hotspot of HSR development. Keep your eyes on China for that.

The good news is, after one dose ot “sticker shock” after another, is that the incremental approach of raising speeds to the 90-110 mph range is so much more affordable and, it seems to me politically feasible.

I know a lot of you know you way around this kind of challenging material, so I invite your reactions and commentary.

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

Iowa sees rail as part of its new green economy

Shame on anyone who thinks the Heartland isn’t a suitable place for passenger rail. Iowa has utilized its wind and biofuel resources to make it a green leader, and the state seems on track to recognize rail’s importance in that effort. The Des Moines Register calls it “high-speed rail,” but apparently the line would only travel to Chicago at a max of around 80mph, or a travel time of 5 hours. Nothing revolutionary, but that’s competitive with driving, and true (or even incremental) HSR doesn’t happen overnight. From Des Moines’s KCCI:

President Barack Obama pitched his green energy plan in Iowa on Wednesday and draw raves for his proposal to build a high-speed rail network that with a line connecting Des Moines to Chicago.

“We could be on a train to Chicago in the next three years,” said Andrew Snow of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a group pushing the high-speed rail plan. “It’s going to bring people to downtown Des Moines. It also offers the opportunity to make the quality of life better here.”

Obama said mass transit is green transit.

“My budget is also making unprecedented investments in mass transit, high-speed rail and in our highway system to reduce the congestion that wastes money and time and energy,” Obama said.

The project is expected to cost about $30 million to connect the rail from Des Moines to the Quad Cities. Illinois has already started construction on the rest of the leg.

Apparently most of that cost would be covered by the federal stimulus (thankfully, it seems, not the HSR money). The Iowa Legislature only needs to pony up $3 million. For a decent passenger rail line? That’s a bargain, and it’s expected to pass.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Arkansas state lawmaker Steve Harrelson rides Acela today

Steve is state rep. from Texarkana and a lawyer by profession. His Boston Marathon Time was 3:47:21. Today, he travels to D. C. on Acela and is posting on his Under the Dome blog with pics. Link here.

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

Are state DOT’s capable of handling Obama’s high-speed rail plan?

Pat pointed to Mark Stencel’s Congressional Quarterly article this past weekend about the political hurdles Obama’s federal HSR plan faces. One of these issues is well, federalism itself. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a good piece about how woefully unprepared the state’s Department of Transportation is for implementing any sort of passenger rail improvements. This is despite the fact that Altanta is supposed to be a regional HSR hub under the plan. Here’s what one metropolitan Atlanta policymaker said:

“Let’s face it, our Department of Transportation has for years been primarily a department of highways,” said Chick Krautler, director of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

That’s hardly surprising; this is the same DOT that allowed metro Atlanta to become the hellish asphalt sprawl we know today. When endless freeway widening and traffic engineering cause issues in my hometown of Knoxville, TN, people say “Gee, this place is becoming just like Atlanta.”

And the article rightly frets about what this backwardness means for Atlanta’s position as the cultural and economic capital of the South. North Carolina and Virginia, as we’ve seen here at TFA, are taking the initiative when it comes to rail, and it’s helping them to stay vibrant and enticing in a tumultuous national economy. But hey, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams isn’t worried. At least they’re not as backwards as South Carolina!

On the other hand, he said: “Virginia and North Carolina are way, way ahead of us, probably by 20 years. I have been very disappointed that GDOT has not gotten onto this thing a lot sooner. But South Carolina’s worse off than we are. I think this is a great shot in the arm to rejuvenate Georgia and South Carolina.”

Well, I suppose. Whatever helps them sleep at night. And we’ve known for a while that GDOT isn’t the only one in trouble. But there’s no time like the present to start retooling your state’s rickety and traditional DOT for a more sustainable transportation future.

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

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April 2009