November 22, 2011 • 7:43 am 1
July 24, 2009 • 9:01 pm 0
This note from Paul up north of the border has been moved to the front page because of its urgency. I apologize for not getting on this story quicker, but I have been a student today.
VIA rail engineers on strike – started today. Effectively, all passenger rail shut down in Canada.
“We’re sincerely sorry about what’s going on for the passengers, but we didn’t have any other choice,” said Stephane Lacroix, spokesman for the Teamsters Canada union.
“VIA Rail forced us to go on strike,” he told public broadcaster CBC.
Here are the dramatic effects of ending passenger trains!
Sorry, no cars left
“Well, to rent a car one way from Montreal to Toronto, it’s like $700 in extra fees,” Simoneau said.
March 4, 2009 • 8:16 am 2
Just about the same thing happened yesterday morning, except with numerous head end power failures tossed into the mix. Those were, if I understand the situation correctly, New Jersey Transit locomotives. Today, there is a bridge failure. All of this points to the almost desperate decline of American infrastructure. We are trying to operate a world class economy on second-world utilities and transportation.
You can follow today’s soap opera here. And this is the head.
Service in and out of New York Penn Station from New Jersey has been restored, but delays are expected after a temporary suspension earlier this morning, according to NJ Transit.
Spokeswoman Penny Bassett Hackett said the problem began when Amtrak was unable to close the portal bridge in Kearny.
January 23, 2009 • 7:58 am 0
Matthew Harwood over at the Huffington Post points out what seems to be a hiccup on inauguration day that everyone ignored. Obama’s final ball of the evening, the Eastern States Inaugural Ball, was held in the grand hall of Washington’s Union Station. It’s a beautiful place. That makes sense. Except that this was one of the busiest travel events Washington has ever seen and people need to use the station for such frivolous things as, you know, catching a train. From the Huffington Post:
In the end, average rail travelers using Union Station got the same treatment they always do when their interests cross those of our nation’s elite: They were told to be patient and calm and to wait in line.
“And for what,” asked the New York businessman, “so someone could have champagne tonight?”
If you were lucky enough to get into the Eastern States Inaugural Ball, according to the Boston Herald, you could see a few Kennedys, Congressman Barney Frank, and the Senator John Kerry’s brother and sister, before the Obamas made their entrance.
Enthusiasts and critics of Obama are right: maybe this is the new Camelot.
January 22, 2009 • 8:05 am 9
I drew it out for everyone.
Conde Nast’s Joe Brancatelli has a few suggestions to Obama about transportation. One of them involves building a high-speed rail network (yep), but he gets something wrong.
What the nation needs is a titanic investment in high-speed, short-haul rail service between heavily populated major cities. What we need is inter-modal solutions that create express rail links between major airports, nearby suburbs and city centers. Recreating the 20th Century Limited between New York and Chicago isn’t the answer. Creating a 21st Century Amtrak that links Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to tens of millions of travelers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana is.
Okay, I realize that lately some airlines in Europe have actually been supporting HSR and even getting into the biz themselves, like Air France. This is great. What we can’t do, however, is make the mistake of seeing high-speed rail as merely some replacement for short-haul connection flights. Trains [probably] won’t ever be as fast as planes, so it’s critical that we don’t remove from them one of their best advantages over flying: being able to leave and arrive right from the city.
For one thing, this makes things easier for travelers. Airports are generally located in the far-flung fringes of an urban area. The trip to and from the airport after the plane has landed can be long, expensive, and cumbersome for travelers. This is true for drivers and doubly true for users of mass transit. If you’re lucky, the city has a rail transit connection to its airport. If you’re not, get ready to put up with a more confusing bus ride or a pricey cab fare. Even if there is a connection, like the CTA’s Blue Line at O’Hare, those trains are usually neither suited for luggage nor the long suburban distances. It’s much more practical to have our trains arriving and leaving in the cities themselves, where they are well served by local transportation and close to urban amenities and destinations. The UK is looking at having Heathrow be the hub for a national HSR scheme, but Heathrow already has an express rail connection to London, and as part of the plan will be getting an even faster one. I don’t envision the political will ever materializing for something like that in the United States. Transit connections will always be “good enough.”
This also dips into the realm of urban policy. Focusing our tax money on airports will encourage more development in those far-flung suburbs. Conference centers and hotels will thrive out there while struggling in the cities. More subsidized sprawl is the least thing we need when we should be weaning ourselves off of oil and heading towards a greener economy. Missing the forest for the trees is part of what got us into our current transportation mess. We can’t afford to let that happen again.
And the right-of-ways for bringing trains into the city have existed for a long time. Improving these existing links and giving Amtrak the improved capacity is desperately needs should be our first priority. Refocusing our rail system onto the airports is a foolhardy waste of money. A better suggestion for Obama would be to get to work on improving the extensive infrastructure we already have and making it look at least a little bit like it might be the rail system of a first-world country. The Midwest HSR project would, as always, be a very very good place to start.
December 1, 2008 • 11:07 am 1
Via Ellis Simon over at the Riding My Train blog comes these haunting pictures from Joe Braun’s thorough exploration into Detroit’s abandoned Michigan Central Station. The creepy photos are a sad reminder of the wholesale destruction of rail transportation on all levels in this country… a phenomenon that was particularly acute in the heart of the storm – Detroit.
As Braun points out, the station was perhaps doomed from the start. The builders purposefully constructed the depot in a far flung corner of the city, hoping to anchor economic development in the area. When the streetcar service to the station shut down, a lack of adequate parking and access to transit and density unsurpringinly signed MCS’s death warrant.
Photo credit: Joe Braun