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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, December 4, 2013

Alternative History #4

Scenario
Congress reluctantly decides to pay the 26 Class I railroads still running passenger trains rather than setting up Amtrak

Point of Departure
1970

Storyline
The funded routes get added frequencies over time--mostly after the Staggers Rail Act . That same 1980 law included a special provision that transferred corridors from the railroads to the states. Four years earlier, the Ford Administration ordered the USDOT to own the Northeast Corridor.

Today’s Likely Outcome
The only corridors anyone talks about are the long distance routes with multiple frequencies as the short distance routes are essentially nothing more than enhanced commuter rail routes that have been extended. There would have been little need for PRIIA because recent profits and enhancements to passenger service have drastically reduced the amount of subsidies Congress gives the Class I railroads.

Federal ownership results in the 457-mile Boston-to-Washington route means that improvements are done much faster. Tunnels, bridges, and tracks are rehabilitated and electrification are indications of what government can do.

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