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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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tackling the Headlines 37

Cost to upgrade the Northeast Corridor? A whole lotta money!
Take: Just imagine what could be done with the National System with $151 billion.

Take: Hopefully, someone from G&W actually has a clue that operating passenger service that connects with  Amtrak and other shortline railroads is a business plan worth having.

Take: After numerous false starts, the Hamburg-Cologne Express began running. Could ventures like the HKX and Italo work in North America? They could in the United States but a lot of strings would have to be pulled. As for Canada, it may have no choice but to rely on such private ventures as long as Via Rail's management is more interested in plotting the railroad's suicide.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

CAHSR survives Assembly scare

Two weeks ago, the California Assembly narrowly gave the green light for construction to start on the HSR route. Like I previously said, this was the real hurdle--not some referendum to repeal CAHSR in 2014. In order to alleviate all controversies surrounding the I-5 vs Tehachapi alignments, the route should be split up in a way that I-5 is preserved to be a future Express route while the Tehachapi can eventually become a 125-220 mph expressway for passenger trains.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reason & Rail: USPS OIG suggests moving back to rail

Reason & Rail: USPS OIG suggests moving back to rail

Quite frankly, this would be a very good idea that's long overdue but I wonder if UPS and Fed Ex would beat them to the punch and make an already (virtually) insolvent USPS's efforts moot. I also agree with Mr. Druce that this should be off limits to Amtrak. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tackling the Headlines 36

Via Rail cuts
Here is the official press release spun by the carrier as "modernization."

Take #1: Canadians are going to find out just how reduced their travel options will be.

Take #2: This should serve as a cautionary tale to anybody who agrees with President Obama's effort to move Amtrak funding from the legislative branch to the executive branch (which was contemplated last year, but never carried out). From Day 1 in Canada, Via Rail has been in the hands of the Prime Minister's Cabinet. So, if a Cabinet member or the PM himself decides that Via Rail needs to whack routes, the agency will do it. After all, Via has never fully returned to pre-1990 levels, and will be significantly below those levels with its pending actions. Think about it, if Obama had moved Amtrak funding (or pursues it during a second term), who's to say that his successor wouldn't move to zero out Amtrak?


Transportation bill highlights and lowlights
As a followup to what I previously published, a compromise was reached after it looked as though extensions would continue until next year when the makeup of Congress and the White House would have settled what direction America's transportation policy would take.

The Good
  • All anti-competitive measures that would have prevented practically all non-Amtrak operators from starting up intercity service in America and would have forced AIPRO operators to essentially give up their contracts were shot down
  • States will continue to have control over where and how their equipment will be used
  • The Alaska Railroad will continue to host passenger service after a Senate proposal went by the wayside
The Bad
Take #1: All of the watering down could have been prevented if Congress had passed a transportation bill in 2009 when the pro-transit forces had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Take #2: Shame on the Senate for attempting to heavily tilt the field in favor of one carrier and for its pettiness towards a railroad that makes money and provides an essential service for Alaskans.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tackling the Headlines 35


The DesertXpress is now XpressWest
Last month, DesertXpress renamed itself XpressWest and announced that the route would be extended from Victorville to Palmdale.

Take: A great start and a way to dispel critics who claim that XpressWest is "a train to nowhere." Now, if they could only extend the route southward to Los Angeles, then everything would be complete

New owners to run landmark
St. Louis Union Station is about to change owners. The station has had mixed results--the Marriott thrives but the mall is hemorrhaging tenants--and the current owner faced lawsuits over a failed effort to expand the hotel.

Take: One can only hope that the new owners will be open to the idea of letting trains stop at St. Louis Union Station once again. STLUS should be a multi-function facility that includes train service. Given all of the changes that have taken place since 1978, the historic landmark should try a different tack in handling passenger service.

Commuter train service is a likely nonstarter since the plan is to use Gateway station for the two planned lines to Alton, IL and Pacific, MO. When Missouri is able to build a separate HSR route between St. Louis and Kansas City, that route should be allowed to connect to Express HSR routes to Chicago at STLUS. Once the politicians in D.C. and the Class I railroads get with the program, the station can provide other types of trains--including short excursions. Trains to Florida, the Northeast, and the West via the Consortium idea as well as specialty trains would complement HSR trains. As far as transfers go, the city and the state would jointly work out a free transfer that would likely result in passengers using Metrolink light rail since the two stations are only a minute away.