Trains For America

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UPDATED THRICE: The Sunset may go daily coast-to-coast

UPDATE: My “usually reliable source” tells me “the plan” is for real and is being negotiated with UP. A daily train would create a nice rythm of operation for dispatchers. Amtrak would like to implement in October.

SECOND UPDATE: Also of note on Sunset improvements. Improved running time – perhaps by as much as eight hours. New Orleans arrival time from the west is hoped to be in the 9:30 range. Schedule for the new New Orleans- Florida departure not discussed. Might leave the door open for an early morning departure and day run to Jacksonville. Just speculation. Through sleeper NO-LA possible as repaired equipment rolls out.l Amtrak wants a new plan of operation for Phoenix (no surprise there). Connections with Coast Starlite will be reestablished.

THIRD UPDATE: Gene Poon, one of the professional followers of rail activity, updates this story on another source. Let me summarize.

  • proposals are tentative; not approved by Amtrak board or operating railroads
  • east of New Orleans proposal not completed
  • westbound N. O. departure around 10:30 Am. M. arrive San Antonio around 11:30, connects to departing Eagle.
  • thru NO-LA sleeper may come on as equipment is available
  • more traditional eastbound departure from LA, after 10 P. M. arrive N. O. around 10 P. M.
  • through Chi-LA daily Eagle with diner and sleepers
  • no sleepers east of San Antonio at this time
  • daily service is expected to generate 100,000 new passengers

I sincerely hope I have these details correct. This would insinuate a direct connection in N. O. both directions with less that desirable times at Mobile, but daylight service throughout Florida. It is an overnight train. It has to stop at night somewhere.

Final note on the third update. This is what can happen in Amtrak is not working full-time just to stay in business. Amtrak is to be congratulated.  This is the kind of progressive (imperfect) activity which airlines and truckers have fought (and will continue to fight) at all costs.

Should Republicans gain control of Congress (which I doubt) in 2 years, a lot more than Amtrak will be lost.

We now return to our regular programming ….

With Logan and I held hostage by the dark powers of academia, you have missed a few developments. I am honestly embarrassed to be so slow on an important story concerning a matter covered here for sometime. There seem to be conclusive developments on the Sunset, Amtrak’s Los Angeles to Orlando route which has been “suspended” east of New Orleans since Katrian.

If this report proves to be true, something which must always be taken into account in railroad circles, I think Amtrak management is to be congratulated for providing DAILY service along the entire corridor. Even with a coach only train New Orleans to Florida, this is an amazing accomplishment. This will be well received and patronized.  Although some will not be pleased, this is an outstanding start.

Let me reconstruct some of the email.

First a question.

Did anyone attend the RailPAC/NARP meeting yesterday in Los Angeles?  Mr. Boardman was guest speaker and Brian Rosenwald was rumored to be unveiling the new plans for the Sunset Limited.

The answer.

Mr. Rosenwald announced that they are pushing for daily service on the Texas Eagle between LAX and CHI.  There would also be a daily stub train from — to NOL each day.  The Texas Eagle would be full service – coaches, sleepers, lounge and dining car.  The new Sunset Limited stub would be coach only with a Cross Country Cafe.  The train may be rebranded with a new name when that happens.

This sounds pretty much like what Amtrak didn’t tell us at the SHSRC meeting in Birmingham on 23 Apr.  At that meeting Amtrak explained they were discussing only the  New Orleans to Orlando service.  However, there was general agreement from those who  were informed that the Texas Eagle would be full-service daily LAX to CHI.  There would be a  “new” train San Antonio to New Orleans, but a “stub” not full – service, but daily.  What Amtrak did talk at length about was that there would be a “coordinated connector train between New Orleans and Orlando, not full service, but daily.

So with both these meetings we have a pretty clear picture as to what is happening.  RailPac got the briefing on the Sunset west of NOLA and SHSRC got the briefing on the Sunset east of NOLA.

What was the Sunset route will be the Eagle LAX to San Antonio, a stub Sunset (or new name) San Antonio to NOLA, and another stub train from NOLA to Orlando with a new name.

This is not the absolute best everyone had hoped for, but at least it’s a restoration of service to Florida, and daily service the entire route.  Those are the two main goals of all the groups supporting the Sunset.  It’s a great start, and we just need to monitor it to see it happens, and support it when it does.  We can always push for improvements later, and well-supported trains hopefully won’t be ignored for improvements.


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

PBS’ BLUEPRINT AMERICA highlights infrastructure decline

Road to the Future: Video: Preview

Road to the Future: Video: Preview

Wednesday, May 20, 8 pm (EST) on PBS
Blueprint America: Road to the Future, the latest program in the PBS multi-platform initiative on America’s aging infrastructure, examines the growth and development of the American city, and how the country will continue to grow and develop in the future.

The documentary goes to three American cities – Denver, Portland, and New York – to see the road each took to their present-day landscapes.

Host Miles O’Brien examines the steps our country must take to keep our nation competitive in a global economy, while addressing the realities of climate change, diminishing natural resources and population growth.

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

Cato clashes with high speed rail

Logan and I are both being held hostage by the academic forces of darkness, but I thought I would grab an item out of the Cleveland Plain Dealer penned by a Cato operative. This supposedly libertarian think tank perfectly parrots the clock stopping opinions of truckers and airlines.

Even if we take Cato seriously, which is difficult on matters of transportation, most of the arguments are the same old stuff. Cato’s position is entirely anti-government. At least, that is the Readers’ Digest version. The author is well rewarded for his opposition to modern transportation.

In 1900 Randal O’Toole would have been against automobiles and paved roads, except that blacksmiths and buggy whip makers were generally small businessmen who would not be able to lay out big bucks for fancy academic mouthpieces to back up our outdated industry. He has even found time to write a book for his greedy corporate masters.

O’Toole unwittingly makes the case for HSR as it is working out. America will, quickly and for reasonable fiscal outlays, receive much faster and better rail passenger service. Americans will ahve a choice (something airlines desperately resist).

Here is the astounding conclusion to O’Toole’s essay. Sit down.

Interstates paid for themselves out of gas taxes, and most Americans use them almost every day. Moderate or high-speed rail would require everyone to subsidize trains that would serve only a small elite. Which symbolizes the America that Obama wants to rebuild better?

So the interstate highways paid for themselves? Since when? What exactly are those gas taxes for and (help me out now) which special interest group is it that tears the roads and bridges to shreds with vastly over-sized cargo loads? Was it one of those paid for interstate highways that just collapsed in the middle of downtown Minneapolis?

O’Toole’s retreat into class warfare is especially entertaining especially from the likes of an east coast ivory-tower “intellectual.” Sorry, Randal, but your mask is off. If elites ride good trains, I will see you on board. I’ll look for you in the bar car.

What kind of America will we live in? Will we have an alternative to driving for the increasing number of older Americans? Will the United States pave over every last blade of grass for the high way special interest lobby? Make no mistake about it, airlines and highway interest groups have a bottomless pit of money to influence bad government policy. They have been hard at work for decades.

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

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May 2009