It's almost been two weeks since it was revealed which states would get the stimulus funds for high speed rail service. Now that I've had a chance to reflect on President Obama's allocation of the $8 billion of HSR money, the funding is a good start that must be continued on an at least yearly basis. Based on the allocation of funds, it looks like every funded incremental HSR route like the 3-C route will be operated by Amtrak.
For those people who thought that I was being too harsh on the Sunshine State, it was for good reason. Florida deserved stimulus money for restored East Coast service via Daytona Beach and the central Florida SunRail commuter project--but not high speed rail! Everyone in the rail community--ranging from the keep everything public camp to those who want passenger rail to be run like a business--has pointed out the HSR route's flaws.
There is little to no connectivity along the Tampa-Orlando leg. I've already pointed out the flaws between Tampa and Lakeland. When it comes to the Orlando situation, I don't know if anyone wants to do a lot of transferring. As for locals, the airport might as well be in another city when it comes to its proximity from the Amtrak station and also downtown Orlando.
The state doesn't have good conventional service. Two routes in the entire state (because at this point, we can easily dismiss any idea of Amtrak wanting to resume Sunset Limited service east of New Orleans)? How can anyone justify the nonsensical routing to and from Tampa? This brings me to rail advocates in the state. How on Earth did most of these advocates just sit on their hands and watch their once-proud train service dwindle to just two measly routes? Did most of these people just put their eggs in the HSR basket back in 2004 while ex-Amtrak president David Gunn was busy eliminating S-Line service? Why did so few people in Florida push for better Amtrak service in their state? Complementing frequent service would have alleviated any overcrowding on the Silver Service trains.
There's a right way to advance frequent rail service, and there's a wrong way. Ideally, the long distance network would be used to produce more frequencies between two major cities. The practice would continue until the route becomes saturated. At that time, regional service would be implemented with more stops being added along the line for the regional routes. Once the regionals become saturated, then high speed rail would be implemented.
There has been a lot of bandwagon jumping by states that have little to no Amtrak service. Seriously, how can the Gulf Coast even be considered as a corridor when the Houston-New Orleans doesn't even have daily service? These states should have focused on more long-distance routes and starting up regional routes.
As a matter of fact, I would have cut off how many corridors were designated if I were in charge of the FRA. If a corridor walked away empty handed from the stimulus funds, it would have lost its designation. Based on this news, the Gulf Coast, South Central, and the Texas T-Bone routes would have gone back to the drawing boards.