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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

Friday, April 19, 2013

Random thoughts #11

1. Rosenberg (population 31,754) and Seguin (25,943) are the only two towns capable of supporting train service between Houston and San Antonio. Both were flag stops when Southern Pacific operated the Sunset and could support small stations since their populations have grown, and it's also a plus that Rosenberg is a suburb of Houston. These stops would be more for TXDOT service since Amtrak's westbound Sunset Limited passes by these two towns in the evening and may not even be the operator of a future Texas Triangle system. The other thing is that the private company that is proposing its own vision for the Texas Triangle would detour between Houston and San Antonio via Hempstead and Austin (pg. 22).

2. In the March issue of Trains Magazine, Don Phillips covered Pullman Palace Car Company's efforts to relaunch Southern California-Las Vegas train service. The following quote was very interesting: 

The refrigerator car service is to begin first, coordinated with the opening of a terminal for handling it: Railport Las Vegas, which is to have the capacity to handle sixty refrigerator cars daily, to capture a large part of the food and beverage needs of the city, now on trucks. The passenger service is to begin later, if...and here is the kicker...other planned operators cannot reach a financial deal on their services. Thus far two private proposals are the only "active" ones. 

This tells me that the PPCC people know something that we the public don't, and frankly, it would make sense given recent developments in the L.A.-L.V. market. First, Virgin Trains has been rather quiet on this route--and the whole U.S. market for that matter--in recent months. Second, the longshot Desert Lightning's website no longer works. Third, Amtrak only proposed--not committing to--restoring the Desert Wind in its 2010 PRIIA report (pg. 21). The major problems for the national carrier are equipment and money--or lack thereof.  

Therefore, this leaves the two other active operators: the Las Vegas Railway Express Inc. (aka, the X-Train) and Xpresswest. Both of these companies have run into their own problems in the last couple of months. Paul Druce covered the Vegas X-Train's major issues (the owners have to raise a lot of money by year's end; unrealistic expectations [I am being kind since Druce calls the X-Train "fraudulent"]) over a month ago.

When it comes to XpressWest, the feds have taken forever to decide whether the operator should even receive an FRA loan. Failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Senator Jeff Sessions played the "it costs too much" card last month when it urged outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to turn down the request.

Therefore, out of the six potential Los Angeles area-Las Vegas operators, PPCC has the brightest future and may be the only one operating five years from now.

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