My Bio and This Blog's Purpose

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I'm here to spread my ideas on how passenger rail can be improved in America without telling the same stories most people in the rail community have told for 44 years. I offer a different perspective on passenger rail because things need to change in a hurry given divided government in Washington and an interest from outsiders to operate intercity service.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tackling the Headlines 79

Return of Vancouver Island service
Take: Even though service is likely a year away from being restored, this is a bit of good news for residents who have had nothing for a few years.

Beef up Via Rail or build HSR in Canada?
Take: Givne that political winds have shifted in Ottawa, it's definitely a good discussion to be had.

NM finds out that it can't dump the Rail Runner
Take: Good. Now, opponents should just deal with it.

Another Amshack bites the dust
Take: There's a reason why people call these stations Amshacks in the first place: It's not a complimentary term. As passenger rail travel continues to add ridership, the Amshacks all of a sudden point to a forgettable, bygone era. Good riddance to such atrocities as the new Rochester station will open in 2017.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Tackling the Headlines 78

XpressWest teams up with China
Take #1: Congratulations, I guess. No one on this side of the Pacific was willing to step up--Buy America rules, no funding for any type of HSR--so XpressWest had to do what it did.

Take #2: I'm pretty sure that once the line gets built that it'll only be an inevitability that CAHSR grants XpressWest trackage rights to Los Angeles.

Take: So much for letting local governments decide. If anybody is taking a step backwards, it's the General Assembly. Now that he's no longer Governor Pat McCrory's budget adviser, I seriously wonder if Art Pope is actually writing transportation policy for NC's legislative branch. After all, his John Locke Foundation has never had a kind word to say about any rail-related transit.

Take: At this point, a scaled-back approach is the only way to go because the money for 110 mph service isn't coming anytime soon. Just getting two or four trains at 79 mph to use the S-Line would do wonders for anyone who's had to use the Carolinian or the Silver Star along the congested A-Line.

Take #1: It's good to see that advocates in the area haven't given up on reviving service.

Take #2: Once again, it looks as though Minnesota will be doing the heavy lifting--until Scott Walker and his cronies leave office.

Take #3: Hopefully, implementation of this route will lead to a true rail system for the Badger State.

Take #4: Speaking of possible private operation: Somebody get Ed Ellis on Line 2...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tackling the Headlines 77

The future of Brunswick-Rockland service
Last week, the state of Maine decided to award the Brunswick-Rockland line to Central Maine & Quebec, and the new operator has no plans to operate passenger service. The two railroads were the only bidders on the state-owned line.

Upon losing the route, MERR owner Morristown & Erie put out a press release announcing that Halloween will be the last day for its excursions (Maine Eastern actually has it as October 25). Afterwards, M&E will receive the passenger equipment back in New Jersey to be used for excursions in that state.

Take: There has to be some kind of endgame here or the ME DOT really dropped the ball here. As some posters on have suggested, perhaps the move to dump Maine Eastern may very well coincide with extended Downeaster service to Rockland. 

I don't find it coincidental at all that Amtrak did a test run along the route last fall and all of a sudden, a number of railfans brought up the possibility of a Downeaster extension. For the last three-plus years, I have recommended that the state of Maine consult the Class II and Class III railroads and pay them to operate passenger service on the METRA model. Furthermore, if a Tea Party governor is relying on Amtrak to expand service in the Pine Tree State, then, it's very unlikely that a Democratic governor in 2019--given the typical political patterns--will think outside of the box by utilizing my suggestion, let alone inviting AIPRO members to run expanded service in Maine in lieu of Amtrak.

L.A. Metro rebranding
The people behind the Los Angeles mass transit system will dump colors in favor of letters by 2024.

Take: I don't know about this because it screams West Coast knockoff of New York's MTA subway lines.

NEC extension?
I stumbled onto this under the radar story a couple of days ago.

Take: When rail advocates talk about extending the Northeast Corridor south to Richmond, what Mr. Wilner mentioned is not what they have in mind.  It looks like the only thing the Senate has learned from its 2012 debacle is to make sure that absolutely no one say anything that could be seen as granting Amtrak special favors. Why does the Senate believe that Amtrak can manage extra trackage when most of the NEC is wear and tear from decades of neglect by the former Pennsylvania and Penn Central Railroads and Amtrak is constantly begging Congress for cash? So Donald Trump can build a hotel and casino next to an expanded Union Station? If this is more about a power play to get back at Keolis for winning the VRE contract as some suggest, then the U.S. Senate would be doing a disservice to Virginia riders.

Marks, MS station to open
Back in 2000, the buzz was about the City of New Orleans stopping between Memphis and Greenwood, MS. For whatever reason, it looked as though the Marks stop was as dead as then-Amtrak president George Warrington's expansion plan but that was until this news item.

Take: Spring 2016, huh? In any case, it's about time.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Resolved: The Hoosier State

On Friday, the neverending Hoosier State saga finally came to a conclusion when it was announced that Iowa Pacific would take over Trains #850 and 851 effective August 2, and it has a two-year contract with the Indiana DOT that could be extended to 2021.

I could never get why Amtrak was trying so hard to keep a train that they had no concrete plan to improve, no did I get why the feds wanted to impose hurdle after hurdle for IP.

Now, it's up to other states to start thinking outside of the box and not rely so heavily on just one operator.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Over the last few months, I've wondered about where I should take the direction of this blog amid stories that blogging in general was obsolete due to advances in social media.

After a lot of reflection, I have decided to do a serious restructuring.

Here's a list of what's staying

  • Tackling the Headlines 
  • State and national news with intercity routes 
  • Maps 
  • Schedules 
  • Reactions to magazine articles

What's gone (i.e. what's shifted to social networks)

  • Random thoughts (Google+)
  • Specific news items (Google+)
  • Detailed analysis on a major topic as it relates to passenger rail (Tumblr)
  • Personal advocacy (Tumblr)
  • Interesting links and stories (Tumblr)

I have been posting entries on this blog for the last 66 months straight and I've been proud to do so but at the same time, if there's the chance that I'm not keeping up, then I won't be afraid to change things up. I will take some time off in the summer depending on how the Hoosier State situation plays itself out. 

Nothing new on this blog will appear on Tumblr and vice versa. Speaking of Tumblr, here's my new page.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Tower 55 reroute

The Texas Eagle's Tower 55 reroute from its current Union Pacific tracks to Trinity Railway Express tracks has been in the news recently

Reasons for the reroute
  • It saves time
  • No more backing move at Fort Worth
  • The projected TEX Rail could transform the Dallas-Fort Worth area into a rail hub

Reasons against the reroute
  • The effort to reroute Amtrak trains onto TRE tracks was purely political
  • Amtrak delays north of Dallas or south of Fort Worth thanks to Sunset Route misadventures could adversely affect TRE trains
  • Removing the Eagle from the UPRR tracks could permanently result in the loss of access for future intra-Texas rail service

My personal thoughts
Although I do favor the separation of passenger and freight rights of way, I generally tend to support it in wide open rural areas as opposed to the Dallas-Fort Worth megaplex, which has sprawling suburbs.

The liability issue is doubly tricky since the T will be picking up the tab without any support from its TRE partner DART after the Fort Worth agency agreed to assume liability for accidents that involve the Eagle along its tracks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Some front office news from Indiana

Last Friday, the INDOT commissioner resigned. This was the guy that put the kibosh on Corridor Capital's efforts to be the vendor of the Hoosier State after the person who was responsible for awarding CorrCap the original contract fell ill.

I smell a possible scandal with Browning. In any case, his presence will not be missed since he was cool to the idea of even keeping the Hoosier around.