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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, March 23, 2014

Addendum: Alternative History

Feasibility: High. Southern held out of Amtrak for almost eight years and was still able to run a top notch train (Crescent). Meanwhile, the Seaboard Coast Line nearly stayed out of Amtrak so it would make sense if the ACL and SAL had merged with other railroads instead of each other, they would still be running trains today.

Feasibility: Moderate to high. If the federal government had reduced the burdens it imposed on the railroads much earlier, then, the U.S. would still have the world's best passenger rail system. Of course, the side effect would be that no one would be talking about high speed rail due to the efficiency of the networked rail system.

Also, the effort to provide a national intercity rail system composed of nine major railroads would have the support of the Bush 43 and Obama Administrations.

Feasibility: High. Both railroads reluctantly joined Amtrak, but they could have easily have gone the other way. If the Santa Fe and the SCL had joined the six holdouts, there's no doubt that those two railroads would have continued operating trains to this day.

Amtrak would be a reduced entity because of NS's push to mandate competition in the intercity passenger sector. Section 214 of PRIIA and Amtrak's losses when it comes to bidding would have likely been a campaign issue in 2016 with Republicans wondering whether if Amtrak needs to exist at all when various host railroads and independent operators are dominating the intercity rail market.

Feasibility: Low. As ideal as it might have been, the Democrats were very firm in their opposition to giving federal money to private railroads, so there wouldn't have been enough votes to do anything but to nationalize the passenger trains. 

Moderate. It comes down to how much willpower the Erie and the DL&W had to serve New York City proper.

Streetcars: High

Subway: High

Other rail modes: Low. Maglev is expensive and would have been excluded from the 30/10 Plan. The Airtram idea may have been scrapped just due to time. There was a limited amount of time for the People Mover to have been built, and if no tracks had been laid down by 1981, then, it just wasn't going to happen. The Monorail may have been built--only if the original subway system had already been in place. The Carveyor was just an idea that was too futuristic. 

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