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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 25, 2014

Tackling the Headlines 61

FL governor to fund Orlando airport intermodal station


Take: It's a change from his stance three years ago. Of course, he's also funding the terminal because he has taken a lot of beating for being more fixated on roads than rail. Whatever the case, this is nothing but a huge plus.


A couple of news items from Oklahoma 

The OK DOT has reduced the number of bidders for the Oklahoma City-Tulsa rail line from four to two: Watco-owned Stillwater Central Railroad and previous owner BNSF. At the same time, Iowa Pacific has laid down the gambit by providing a concrete plan to operate passenger service in a letter to Governor Mary Fallin even though his company missed the final cut.

Take: The ball is your court, Oklahoma. Neither the governor nor the DOT can now say that "no one will ride the the train" because ample evidence has been provided to the contrary. If that line is uttered, then, it's a clear signal on how anti-rail the state really is.


Hawaii rail project clears final hurdle


Take: The 50th state will soon have regularly scheduled rail service, which is really good news for all.


Group wants return of passenger rail, others have doubts


Take: Given that South Carolina is a "small government" state, it would be in the advocates' best interest to also talk to other passenger operators via a competitive bidding process in order to hold down costs.


About that Germany-UK service...

Delivery delays have now led to Deutsche Bahn to put the Frankfurt-London service on hold while it focuses on providing services to Brussels and Paris instead.

Take: This is a major blow to the EU's plans to open up the rails to international travel.


Nutmeg State's Central Corridor

It's almost TIGER time again, so Eastern Connecticut leaders have made a full-court press by getting Congressman Joe Courtney to lobby the feds to get funding for the Central Corridor this year.

Take: Now, the other pols in the area need to get onboard. After all, the clock is ticking for passengers in Amherst who currently take the Vermonter.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Alternative Hoosier State routing & stations

The state of Indiana is currently accepting bids from private operators to run the Hoosier State once its contract with Amtrak is up in October--even though it could let Amtrak continue running the train until next February. 

It's rumored that IN DOT is pretty unhappy with the way Amtrak is currently operating the Hoosier State. Assuming that the state lets another operator run the train, it's likely that the new operator will have to find a new home in Chicago. This map shows that there are two options: LaSalle Street Station and Millennium Station.

The plan is pretty doable for the likes of First Group, RATP Dev, or anyone who potentially replaces Amtrak since Union Station is overcrowded.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A pivotal moment for Oklahoma

Last week, the state of Oklahoma officially put up the 97.5 miles of rail line it owns for sale and received bids from four companies:

  1. BNSF, from whom the state bought the line in 1998
  2. Watco Companies, which has trackage rights on parts of the route 
  3. Iowa Pacific Holdings, which is jointly operating the Eastern Flyer with Watco-owned Stillwater Central Railroad 
  4. Fortress Incorporated, owner of All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast 

The Eastern Flyer sold out at the end of last year and is scheduled to make two more roundtrips between the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas this month following Sunday's inaugural run. The state would be crazy to jeopardize the possibility of private entities running passenger trains

Some reports quote groups who have suggested that the private effort is somehow an affront to plans of extending the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Wichita via Newton, KS. There is no need for the zero-sum mentality has to stop because there's no reason why the Heartland Flyer couldn't coexist with the Eastern Flyer one bit. How the state is willing to sell the line by April or May yet not be done with a separate feasibility study for Oklahoma City-Tulsa route until mid 2015 is perplexing to me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tackling the Headlines 60

Colorado proposal to extend train route could add $31M to price
Take: Instead of rerouting the Southwest Chief to serve just this one city, Colorado should be trying to form a pact with New Mexico and Kansas to provide a regional rail system that connects to Amtrak as I have laid out here and here.

Rail abandonment disastrous for passenger service in New Brunswick, says rail union
Take: And the news just gets worse north of the border.

A bleak future for New York high-speed rail? 
Take: This is more or less is a failure of leadership in Albany, and it goes all the way to the top with Governor Cuomo.