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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tackling the Headlines 14

Big news out of Michigan
The Wolverine State will buy 135 miles of track currently owned by Norfolk Southern. This right of way was once owned by New York Central subsidiary Michigan Central, but trackage has deteriorated to the point where Amtrak trains go no faster than 60 mph and travel as slow as 25 mph on some stretches. The move will allow Amtrak to upgrade the entire Wolverine Corridor to 110 mph--Regional HSR.


Take: It is definitely a good start and is a direct contrast to what happened in New Mexico. Norfolk Southern has no interest in keeping the tracks, so someone who actually cares about rail service can restore the tracks to a state of good repair.


2011: A bad year for high speed rail (part 2)
After the trio of rejections of federal HSR funding, the most irksome topic to deal with is the constant NIMBYism going on. California is ground zero for this. In the Peninsula, wealthy residents have used excuse after excuse to oppose the trains. Meanwhile in the less affluent Central Valley, rural residents have also raised objections to where the train should go. Across the pond, residents between London and Birmingham have also jumped on the stop the fast train bandwagon as they want to curb HS2.


Take: If the Peninsula residents had paid attention during the 2008 referendum, they would know that it is totally illegal for the HSR route to be truncated in San Jose. As for the Central Valley, they should realize that the route has to go somewhere, and all HSR critics must remember that the first stretch of the Interstate Highway System was opened in the "middle of nowhere."


Since I 'm not all that familiar about the UK's efforts on HSR, I'll just say that the negative attitude towards fast trains is not restricted to this country but, it should also be noted that neither is the counter-backlash. Take, London Mayor Boris Johnson for instance. After coming out opposing HS2, the mayor was heavily lambasted for his views.

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