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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, March 3, 2012

Tackling the Headlines 31

Greenbrier Express gets the green light after all
Take: Good news that the service will get under way, however, the price is too much for me and the fact that the Buckingham Branch is single-tracked with apparently no plans to add more trackage on the old C&O line.

Electrification in the Bay on the way
Take: It only makes sense. Just get it done already! This is reason #1 why CAHSR does not need its own tracks in the Bay Area.


PTC could get a five year extension
Take: In an effort to pass passenger rail reform in the wake of the Chatsworth disaster, the requirement was a bit hasty (after all, the railroads are paying for Positive Train Control out of their own pockets thanks to Congress deciding that megabanks were more important to give money to). Hopefully, by 2021, we will see more passenger trains once the Class Is have gotten their act together.

Take: As bad as things have been in this country with Amtrak throughout the decades, they are worse up north.

Take #1: Boardman may be trying to use reduced FY13 funding as an insurance policy in the event President Obama isn't reelected. Of all of the Republican presidential candidates--all of whom want to END Amtrak subsidies--Mitt Romney is the most vocal Amtrak opponent. So, by hedging his bets, Boardman must have the mindset that the next president will ease his attacks on Amtrak if the operator asks Congress for less money.

Take #2: The problem is that even if that happens, the next president would eventually know that Boardman would only be around for several more months. So as soon as 2014 rolls around, Amtrak will be looking for a new president yet again. The end result is that Romney (or whoever) will only step up his attacks on Amtrak, just in time for FY14 funding. The interim Amtrak president could walk away empty-handed for that year's funding if Romney has a majority in both houses.

Take: If nothing else, the governments in St. Paul and Winnipeg could pave the way in providing North America with its own version of Eurostar--as long as Amtrak, Via Rail, and Canadian Pacific can reach an agreement with the governments and each other. This operator could also serve as the template for a proposed Chicago-Detroit-Toronto HSR that could be run by SNCF.

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