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Amtrak Must Cede Operations for High-Speed Rail, Mica Says – Bloomberg

Amtrak Must Cede Operations for High-Speed Rail, Mica Says – Bloomberg.

Amtrak will have to give up some rights to operate trains in the Northeast U.S. to attract private investment in high-speed train service, said John Mica, chairman of the House transportation committee.

Amtrak will “never be able” to build a high-speed rail system, the Florida Republican said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s Washington office.

There are layers upon layers of complexity here. The Mica concept would seem to involve a taxpayer gift to unknown private developers. That is also known as a subsidy and it is not necessarily an evil thing. The first obvious sticking point is the tens of billions of dollars necessary to bring the NEC up to even a modest approach to high speed rail. This involves, for example, the Baltimore tunnels and land acquisition.

Mica is playing a shell game with regular people who think that, if Casey Jones hits the throttle a little harder and throws some more coal on the fire, the trains will run faster. Do not, please, read this as a some sort of ringing endorsement for Amtrak, but merely a humble reality check.

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

4 Responses

  1. Since Amtrak refuses to consider additional long distance routes, and will not even restore the minimum ones necessary to create a legitimate national system, they might as well be dissolved as far as I am concerned. I do not give the south end of a northbound rat for the NorthEast Corridor, it can disintegrate and have no effect on Floridians at all. Here in the disenfranchised south, Amtrak is a pitiful joke.

  2. Woody says:

    WTF does Mica mean by ‘Amtrak must give up some rights’ to operate trains on the NEC? Like it would give up the Acelas but keep the Regionals? Sure would be fun to watch them divide up the bills if they do it that way!

    Or not fun: Two sets of ticket agents/kiosks? Who pays how much of the heating and a/c at the stations. And dividing up the track maintenance costs. Well, doable, because Amtrak shares with commuter agencies already, but my hunch is that the more hands in the pot the more difficult to make the soup.

    What about the Keystone Corridor trains NYC-Philly-Lancaster-Harrisburg? Does that stay with Amtrak? I guess as the Keystone ridership continues to increase and it gets ever closer to an operating surplus, the more Mica will want to give the Keystone route away, too.

    What about new trains to run NYC-New Haven-Hartford-Springfield when the double-tracking and other upgrades on the Connecticut Corridor are completed?

    Then if the Keystone, Connecticut, and improved Empire Corridor trains feed additional passengers to trains on the mainline of the NEC, who gets this gravy if the NEC trains have been “privatized”?

    Or does Mica mean Amtrak should give up the slots to run high speed trains between 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., and from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. etc, while keeping other slots, thereby destroying Amtrak’s hourly clockface Acela schedule?

    Well, whatever Mica means by this mouthful of mess, I’m sure it’s intended to steal the Acela operating surplus, especially if they add more cars to each train and generate the forecast $120 million a year. And he intends to subtract the millions of riders from Amtrak’s ever-growing ridership totals and then go around saying that Amtrak has been losing passengers, the usual sort of lie.

    Anything the Repubs propose now is going to be distracting, destructive, and hateful to anything Obama favors. Let’s keep fighting and hope that 2012 brings a new and better majority in Congress.

  3. Woody says:

    Jerry, do you really believe that “Amtrak” decides how many trains to run? Really? Weren’t all sorts of rules laid out by Congress in, iirc, PRIIA 2008?

    Essentially Congress told Amtrak it could start no new long distance trains without expressly approved funding. Any new trains less than a certain distance, like 750 or 900 miles, I forget exactly, could not be operated at an unsubsidized loss in the first years of start up, even if Amtrak expected an eventual operating surplus, and so had to receive state subsidy to begin.

    And how do you think Amtrak is going to operate any more trains, even with state subsidies, when it has severe capacity problems on several current routes. Unless and until Congress lets Amtrak start buying a significant number of new locomotives and cars, new routes ain’t going nowhere.

    In general, I’d say Congress runs Amtrak, and Amtrak does what it is told. It’s silly to blame Amtrak when Congress holds the purse and calls the shots.

    Not that the states have been looking all so smart. Florida, for example, worked for several years to restart conventional service along the Florida East Coast route, making possible a 6-hour trip Jacksonville-Daytona-Canaveral area-Ft Lauderdale-Miami run, instead of the current 9-hours Jacksonville-Central Florida-Miami. Repub Gov Charlie Chris was a big supporter, the FEC freight road was willing, Amtrak was trying to figure out where to get the needed equipment, and then … Gov Scott torpedoed that plan, too, didn’t he? And big-mouth Mica was unable to save it.

    So are you seriously blaming Amtrak for the rail problems in Florida? You must be listening to too much hate talk radio or something.

  4. […] is not perfect, but it suffers from a dirth of Amtrak haters in Congress. While politicians decry subsidizing Amtrak, how many billions are spent on airports, air traffic […]

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July 2011


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