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 nearly 43 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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tackling the Headlines 72

The news just gets weirder and weirder out of Indiana

Earlier this month, the INDOT canceled its contract with Corridor Capital without any explanation. The second thing that happened was that Corridor Capital responded to the termination by more or less making Indiana look incompetent.Then, INDOT talked to runner up Iowa Pacific about taking over the Hoosier State. Now, a former executive of Corridor Capital says that the contractor was unprepared and didn't receive any support from its investors.

Take: At this point, I just don't know what to think. The fact that Indiana doesn't want added amenities is beyond puzzling. Perhaps, this wouldn't have happened if Iowa Pacific been awarded the contract from the beginning. This should be a lesson for Corridor Capital to be better prepared next time.

Mexican HSR deal is canceled 

While the rail community was caught up over the Hoosier State debacle and the midterm elections, the Mexican government canceled a high speed rail contract with a Chinese consortium when it was discovered that the person leading the group gave the Mexican president a mansion.

Take: Corruption knows no boundaries. Chalk this one as a blown opportunity for reviving passenger rail in Mexico.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rail and the 2014 Midterms

Florida

Part 1

Only in the Sunshine State can up be down. Over the summer, Rachel Dovey and Fred Frailey talked about how backwards the rail picture was in the state--the Tea Party-backed incumbent governor Rick Scott backing the private All Aboard Florida against ex-governor Charlie Crist who clearly prefers the high speed project Scott scuttled.

Other actors in the AAF saga are Treasure Coast residents and politicians who have exhibited a nasty form of NIMBYism. It's like these people have never seen a train before. They chose to live near an area where a major railroad frequently runs trains so it's ridiculous for them to make all of those demands. I can't help but wonder if these residents are actually upset that after 14 years of unfulfilled promises Amtrak is still nowhere close to implementing East Coast service between Jacksonville and Miami. If Treasure Coast residents want someone to blame, they should be pointing the finger at the feds for not funding the route during stimulus mania. These alleged problems would have never come up if Amtrak were already running trains through the area.


Part 2

Now that Scott has been elected to a second term, All Aboard Florida should all but be in the clear to proceed so Treasure Coast residents need to get over themselves. It really is strange that the same governor who relied on a highly biased study to finish off an HSR project that operators like Virgin were ready to run could go down in history as the guy who restored Florida's status as a major passenger rail hub--albeit accidentally. 

As for Crist, it would have been next to impossible for him to have revived the Florida High Speed Rail route just due to the fact that he would've at best dealt with a House of Representatives who has zeroed out federal HSR funding ever since it flipped to the GOP four years ago. His adversarial stance towards AAF demonstrates the overall problem I have with most Democrats. The TC residents' resistance to private sector operators hurts passenger rail (a Metro Jacksonville moderator hit the nail on the head).

The biggest thing missing over the "which train project is better" debate is the fact that neither Crist nor Scott showed any interest in corridor service along existing routes. The way to have a robust system is to work with what you have. The infrastructure is in place so foresight and selecting operators committed to producing world class service are the only things needed.

Midwest

The only way passenger rail is going to advance in the Buckeye State is for communities and advocacy groups to continue taking the lead since John Kasich is guaranteed to leave Columbus in 2019. Given the recent fiasco in Indiana over the operation of the Hoosier State, I hope that All Aboard Ohio and other groups have enough foresight to talk to other operators about the Hoosier Extension and the Columbus-Chicago routes especially if Amtrak's a no-go.

Mark Dayton and Scott Walker won their reelection campaigns as well but by single digits. Dayton's DOT will continue picking up the whole price tab for not only the feasibility studies of a second Chicago-St. Paul frequency but when the trains actually operate. 

When it comes to the new equipment for the Midwestern trains, IL and MI will get their share and give WI leftovers. If anything, the Hiawathas will consist mostly of leftover Horizon Cars. Any Badger State resident hoping for rail service hoping for rail service off of the Chicago-Milwaukee-La Crosse-St. Paul route had better pray that Ed Ellis not only turns the Varsity into a regular route and expands his shortline empire.


North Carolina


In Wake County, Democrats turned a 3-4 disadvantage on the Board of Commissioners into a 7-0 board. These results will make having a referendum on light rail easier. The trick will be convincing the voters to join its northwestern neighbors.


National Outlook


Barring a 2006-like backlash against right wing rule in D.C., HSR won't be getting a dime until 2023 at the earliest. Even though anti-HSR Californians will hold some powerful positions in the House and continue making life miserable for the CAHSR project, the nation's only Express HSR project to be funded with stimulus funds will rely on state and private sector financing until it begins service.

Amtrak will likely see its funding slashed--maybe even significantly--but the real question is whether the new Congress will allow real competition, which would be the national operator's primary threat. With both houses soon to be in the opposition's hands, the Grand Bargain should be front and center as the alternative to the now-myopic national HSR vision President Obama laid out 5 1/2 years ago. 

Noel Braymer's editorial on how Republicans are the only ones who can save the long distance trains may very well be tested now. In order to prove Amtrak's advocates wrong, the GOP should implement any one of the three suggestions Braymer laid out. Second, congressmen and women should talk to their constituents who are starving for more train service as well as advocacy groups who want more trains in their states but aren't relying on "America's Railroad."

TIGER grants will be phased out in all likelihood. The currently negotiated TIGER VII grants will be the last funds the Obama Administration gives out to rail operators of all stripes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tackling the Headlines 71

Latest CAHSR happenings

Opponents decided to shift their focus south after the CA Supreme Court smacked them down.
Take #1: These NIMBYs just need to give up, and besides, the Tehachapi Route is the most important segment of not only the CAHSR route but passenger rail as well.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are getting serious about CAHSR.
Take #2: Where in the world are the Europeans? Where's DB? Where's Renfe? Where are the British operators?

NC & VA's new strategy: Roll SEHSR out slowly

Take: This is probably the only way to do this project because there are no signs of the federal government stepping in to give more money to any passenger rail projects outside of TIGER. The most important thing is restoring that missing link between Norlina and Petersburg.

Speaking of North Carolina and Virginia...

The light rail projects in the Triangle and Norfolk are advancing to the next stages.
Take: At least, there's some type of advancement going on. Now, all eyes are on the southeastern portion of the Triangle.

Englewood Flyover opens

Take: Now, if the the rest of the CREATE project would also take place, Chicago would be a less congested place.






Friday, October 24, 2014

Doug Dawgz Blog: Okc Trains Part 2

Doug Dawgz Blog: Okc Trains Part 2

I do seem to remember that there was some controversy a few years ago over whether Union Station or the Santa Fe Depot should be used for a multimodal transit hub, and as it turns out, the latter won out as tracks that served the former were torn out when I-40 was rerouted.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Addendum: Hoosier Corridor schedule

Short Term


Hoosier State
318
Hoosier State
316
Cardinal
50

Cardinal
51
Hoosier State
315
Hoosier State
317
Daily
Daily
TuThSa
Days of Operation
MoThSa
Daily
Daily
7:45
13:45
17:45
Chicago CT
10:05
13:05
18:05
8:58
14:58
18:58
Dyer
8:27
11:27
17:27
9:49
15:49
19:49
Renesslear
7:38
10:38
16:38
12:00
18:00
22:00
Lafayette ET
7:33
10:33
16:33
12:30
18:30
F22:30
Crawfordsville
F6:58
9:58
15:58
13:50
19:50
23:50
Indianapolis
6:00
9:00
15:00











The current Hoosier State route will be moved to another timeslot, renumbered #315 & #316, and converted to daily status. #317 & #318 will be an added standalone frequency.

F-Flag stop

Long Term


Name of Operator
Train Name

Train Number
CorrCap
Hoosier State
101
CorrCap
Hoosier State
151
CorrCap
Hoosier State
103
CorrCap
Hoosier State
153
Amtrak
Cardinal

50
Days of Operation
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
TuThSa
Chicago-Union Sta. CT




19:15
Chicago-Millennium Sta.
7:15
10:00
13:15
16:00

Dyer
7:50
10:35
13:50
16:35
19:50
Renesslear
8:40
11:25
14:40
17:25
20:40
Lafayette ET
10:40
13:25
16:40
19:25
22:40
Crawfordsville
11:10
13:55
17:10
19:55

Indianapolis
12:00
14:45
18:00
20:45
23:59
12:05
14:50
18:05
20:50
0:20
Louisville

16:45

22:45

Cincinnati
14:40

20:40

2:55


Name of Operator
Train Name

Train Number
Amtrak
Cardinal

51
CorrCap
Hoosier State
152
CorrCap
Hoosier State
102
CorrCap
Hoosier State
154
CorrCap
Hoosier State
104
Days of Operation
MoThSa
Daily
Daily
Daily
Daily
Cincinnati ET
2:50

12:00

18:00
Louisville

8:30

14:30

Indianapolis
5:25
11:35
14:35
17:35
20:35
6:00
11:40
14:40
17:40
20:40
Crawfordsville

12:25
15:25
18:25
21:25
Lafayette
7:15
12:55
15:55
18:55
21:55
Renesslear CT
7:15
12:55
15:55
18:55
21:55
Dyer
8:05
13:45
16:45
19:45
22:45
Chicago-Millennium Sta.

14:25
17:25
20:25
23:25
Chicago-Union Sta.
8:45






The Hoosier Corridor will relocate to Millennium Station since the connecting track is already in place at Harvey Junction.  Once there are more roundtrips, the Hoosier State’s numbers will be changed to reflect Corridor Capital’s operation. Also, the expanded schedule reflects track improvements laid out by All Aboard Ohio and improved Indianapolis-Louisville times.

Stations
·         All stations currently unstaffed will be handled by CorrCap
·         Columbus, IN will be the only stop between Indianapolis and Louisville
·         Joint Amtrak-CorrCap stations will be Lafayette, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati
·         In the future, Amtrak may change its stops to receive/discharge only between Chicago and Indianapolis and skip the CorrCap stations with the exceptions of Dyer and Connersville
·         Also note that the current shelter in Crawfordsville will be replaced by an actual station and that Amtrak will skip it once Corridor Capital expands service