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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 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.


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