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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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Random thoughts #9

  1. While it might serve as a contrarian viewpoint, I just couldn't agree with the writer that a Romney Administration plus a Republican Capitol Hill would have resulted in a logical transit solution. Three words: the Tea Party. That's right, had Mr. Lewyn's scenario played out, these anti-transit, anti-rail nutjobs would have run the show in D.C., not the more levelheaded folks.
  2. A public-private alternative to the current Washington-Hampton Roads service: Is it a joke or just practical? If Mr. Metcalf ever pulls it off, it'd be one of the biggest coups in the passenger rail industry. It would also provide Amtrak some competition in its own backyard--after all, the D.C.-Richmond-Hampton Roads is currently a southern extension of the Northeast Corridor. The likely route would result in Metcalf and Company contacting the route to a Virgin, a First Group, or even one of the European or Asian Express operators.
  3. In the event that a state or pact of states decides to replace Amtrak as the operator of corridor service, Congress should extend PRIIA Section 209. The first reason is the equipment issue. For states that use Amtrak equipment, an extension would be better than playing tag with Amtrak. For example, if Veolia wins the contract for the Blue Water and the Pere Marquette routes, Amtrak would continue to operate the routes until Veolia and the state of Michigan worked out a deal to get brand new rolling stock. Second, the terms of passenger rail bidding and competition should be made clearer by extension/new legislation. Bidding should be handled by a new task force or the FRA with fair terms for every operator.

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