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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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tackling the Headlines 52

X-Train news

Here's a report on where in Vegas the train will stop and here's the latest info on when it will launch

Take: It seems that Paul Druce and X-Train rival Pullman Palace were unto something earlier this year because this entity officially known as Las Vegas Railway Express Inc. is setting itself up to be a stillborn project.

Railroads expected to fall short of PTC deadline

Take: This is what happens when Congress passes a measure and expects the railroads to pay for it.

Over in the UK, hardcore Labourites are calling for the revival of British Rail

While the controversy may be over one rail line, the end game is about driving all of the franchises out of business.

Take: This news would probably be joy to the ears of True Believers and other people opposed to Amtrak competition and would supposedly be "proof" that the British experiment failed. However, the problem is that the government's botched privatization has gotten all of the attention rather than the fixes that it made and the franchises that have actually succeeded

Friday, June 21, 2013

Random thoughts #13


  1. Cap'n Transit makes some good points on why long distance trains are still needed. Anyone in the rail community who wants to get rid of the national network at best has no understanding of how connectivity works  and at worst demonstrates elitism. The moment that the overnight routes are eliminated, small-town communities will lose yet another means of travel and will be forced to drive hundreds of miles to their destinations. The fact is, Greyhound continues cutting service to small towns and niche bus operators like Megabus are not picking up the slack because they cater to major cities and universities. As far as air travel, forget it because Congress wants to reduce or eliminate subsidies for service to small airports altogether.
  2. There's a way for Amtrak to completely avoid having to serve any All Aboard Florida stations between West Palm Beach and Miami and this map is a perspective from a southbound Silver Service train. There are some in the rail community who are devising ways for Amtrak to serve stations on the FEC line but the problem is that the national carrier is usually resistant to have two stations in the same town and given that all four cities are on separate lines the entire time, there is the possibility that Amtrak would not staff anyone at the FEC stations, so that whole approach would be counterproductive.
  3. When it comes to the rail station-real estate relationship, it can work for all kinds of passenger rail as the Housatonic Railroad is also devising a plan to make its stations stand out by providing things like coffee shops, newsstands, rental cars and Zipcars. Japan's JR West builds shopping centers and department stores and is Housatonic's likely model.
  4. To answer Eric Jaffe's question, it all comes back to the feds. If someone in D.C. can get the clue that the current way of doing things is broken, then we could see more private involvement in passenger rail.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tackling the Headlines 51

Via strike averted
Take: Really good news for Canadians as the summer season is about to get into full gear.

Brunswick-Rockland line's future to be decided soon
Take #1: This is a bit troubling and unfortunate for Maine Eastern. I hope that the passenger requirement remains in place if another operator runs service between the two cities.

Take #2: Depending on who gets the 59-mile line, the ME DOT should partner the new freight operator (not named Pan Am Railways) with an independent passenger entity. The problem with this model is that it would be better off being done with regional routes or in a large state like Texas (and it's something that Congress may want to consider).

Take #3: This brings me to my final point on this topic, if a shortline holding company like Iowa Pacific or Watco bids, then, there would be no need for the previous scenario to take place since the new railroad would simply take over for Maine Eastern. Otherwise, it just makes sense if the Pan Am-Amtrak partnership is further extended east.

Miami's airport station further delayed
Take: This is what a lack of communication can do to a grand project. Besides costs, All Aboard Florida's plan to build a downtown station may force Central Station to take a backseat--even if corridor service and/or additional Amtrak trains call it home.

All Aboard Florida clears another hurdle
Take: Good to see that the controversy with the Mormon Church is behind AAF. The real final hurdle is finding a way to enter Orlando International Airport.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tackling the Headlines 50

Iowa lawmakers leave Amtrak at Moline station
Take: Regarding the last paragraph by the Quad City Times's editoral board, it's called selective ignorance. The Iowa legislature and Governor Terry Branstad know exactly what they are doing--they either hate trains or they don't want Amtrak running the route (pretty much the former).

Take: From a state that doesn't get it to one that does. Bravo to the Gopher State for stepping up.

Take #1: Advice to Zip Rail: the more frequencies the better! 

Take #2: By the time this thing turns a wheel, hopefully, other routes will be in service.

Take #1: Oh, it's getting serious now! In its own way, Lodging Hospitality Management has decided to get the ball rolling on specialty rail travel. The nationwide push could serve as a template that combines unconventional rail travel with historic stations.

Take#2: Today, charter and excursion services. Tomorrow, Express HSR service and private intercity routes.

Take: This is on the GADOT more than it is on Norfolk Southern because the Peach State talked about commuter rail from the late '90s until the middle of the last decade without any trains operating. Given recent news of Amtrak wanting to remain in north Atlanta once it moves out of its cramped station, a central location is essential for any SEHSR service that will serve Macon and Jacksonville and for a revived Nancy Hanks route that just might be privately operated. In essence, this is a bluffing tactic by the Class I carrier, and it is up to the state of Georgia to get serious about passenger rail before it gets left behind.

Take: The hard part is for the city is actually sticking to that 2028 deadline. There should be no excuses from either the city or Madison Square Garden once the extension runs out. Period.

Take: I feel your pain, Canadian travelers. Via Rail brought this upon itself when its management decided to cut and slash routes in the name of "modernization."