Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

From Ohio, Obama on high-speed rail (again)

I don’t care if you all are getting tired of hearing that Obama is the rail candidate. I won’t go on again about what it all means.. this quote from a speech he gave yesterday in Youngstown, OH says its all:

At one point, asked about his support for high-speed rail, Obama lapsed into what was almost a comedy routine. All he needed was a fake brick wall behind him and a two-drink minimum.

“If you think about the Midwest, think about right here, what we’ve got is all kind of towns that we could connect,” Obama said. “All of these cities are, they basically take in the air about 45 minutes to an hour to fly.”

“But by the time you get to the airport,” Obama continued, “take off your shoes, get to the terminal, realize that your flight’s been delayed two hours, go pay $10 for a cup of coffee, and a sandwich for another $10, come back, you get on the plane, you’re sitting on the tarmac for another 25 minutes, you finally take off, you’re circling above the city for another half hour, when you land they can’t find your luggage, and then you get to where you’re going — by the time it’s all done it’s a five-hour trip! …So the time is right now for us to start thinking about high-speed rail as an alternative to air transportation, connecting all these cities and think about what a great project that would be in terms of rebuilding America.”

Yep.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Obama speaks up again on high-speed rail

For those who are wondering how each of the major presidential candidates will be addressing our nation’s tranportation problems, the answer is becoming increasingly clear. John McCain has shown himself to be an enemy of Amtrak and a friend to the auto and air industries, while Barack Obama has said that he wants to put high-speed rail lines on the ground.

In a speech in Miami, Obama again showed concern about our transportation problems. He discussed investment in mass transit, city planning, and a number of other issues, but importantly he also equated construction of high-speed rail lines with national pride:

And we’ll also invest in our ports, roads, and high-speed rails – because I don’t want to see the fastest train in the world built halfway around the world in Shanghai, I want to see it built right here in the United States of America.

It’s great rhetoric, and, as one of the commenters on the linked site points out, people like to hear about American ingenuity much more than they like to be scolded for driving their car to work or flying short distances. What does all this talk mean, though? In the speech, he mentions his plan for a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which could support projects such as new rail development, but how do we know all of this won’t go right to the airports and highways? Obama’s website contains a not-so-prominent white paper on transportation issues, which points out his support of Amtrak and even has a paragraph devoted to high-speed rail. It’s not much, but it’s certainly more than McCain has told us about how he would approach passenger train service if elected.

So to Obama: You’re certainly paying lip-service to trains, but what can we really expect from you as President when it comes to catching up with the rest of the world? Does this notion of “Change” apply to our transportation network too? Or will things just be business as usual?

And McCain: Even with rising fuel prices and mounting environmental concerns, are you still intent on tearing Amtrak apart limb-by-limb? High-speed rail is probably something of a non-starter, isn’t it?

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, , , , , ,

Gas tax holiday reaction signals good news for rail transit

This past week has seen quite a political hubbub arise over proposals by presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton to suspend the federal gasoline tax during the summer period from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That such a short sighted idea could arise from a hotly contested election race shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but what is shocking (and refreshing) is the cool reception this vote-pandering policy is receiving from the public, politicians, and experts.

Hopefully this signals that the country as a whole is looking beyond cheap gas and endless pavement to a more varied transit future. People realize that one summer of tax breaks isn’t going to dampen the energy crunch in the long-term, and that the $30 they save may not be much to them, but the $10 billion it contributes to the federal budget could help build these more efficient alternatives. And fortunately, this has gotten people talking about passenger rail. This not only includes Barack Obama, the only major candidate not supporting the tax holiday, but also Delaware senator Thomas Carper. McCain has even had to awkwardly backpeddle on the issue, clarifying that this is not a permanent fix but only “a little bit of a break.”

Perhaps this will get lawmakers thinking about putting that money to a better use than simply building more highways. Just a sliver of that $10 billion could double Amtrak’s budget and, in doing so, provide a service to taxpayers that could actually help remedy the escalating cost of travel. Is that going to happen? Probably not, but anything that gets voters (and candidates) thinking about rail travel as a sustainble alternative is a step in the right direction.

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

Obama talks up high speed rail, Amtrak

Some interesting news for those who are wondering how passenger rail transit will be playing into this year’s presidential race. During a lunch/political event with a family in Beech Grove, Indiana Obama lamented America’s lack of high-speed rail in comparison to other industrialized countries. Further, he supported the idea of implementing high-speed rail between the major Midwestern cities… “Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis.” To my chagrin, he forgot Minneapolis/St. Paul, but I’m willing to overlook that. If you can set aside the cynicism generally necessary when hearing campaign promises such as this, it’s a pretty encouraging read.

On HSR in the Midwest:

“The irony is with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service. One of the things I have been talking bout for awhile is high speed rail connecting all of these Midwest cities – Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis. They are not that far away from each other. Because of how big of a hassle airlines are now. There are a lot of people if they had the choice, it takes you just about as much time if you had high speed rail to go the airport, park, take your shoes off.”

On the advantages of rail and America’s lag in HSR implementation:

“This is something that we should be talking about a lot more,” Obama said. “We are going to be having a lot of conversations this summer about gas prices. And it is a perfect time to start talk about why we don’t’ have better rail service. We are the only advanced country in the world that doesn’t have high speed rail. We just don’t’ have it. And it works on the Northeast corridor. They would rather go from New York to Washington by train than they would by plane. It is a lot more reliable and it is a good way for us to start reducing how much gas we are using. It is a good story to tell.”

And of course, Obama’s policy compares very favorably to McCain’s staunch anti-rail position.

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

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