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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, May 9, 2014

Tackling the Headlines 64

Union Depot opens to trains...at last

Take: After numerous false starts, St. Paul Union Depot finally reopened for its primary function--trains--Wednesday night. The Empire Builder is the first Amtrak train to serve the historic depot. From its birth to 1978, the long-defunct Great Northern Depot next door in Minneapolis was served by the national carrier.


Denver Union Station grand opening

Take #1: The Mile High City's grand jewel "officially" reopened today even though Amtrak trains resumed using the facility two months ago. Other than the issues I raised a couple of years ago, the only bad thing about the reopening is the fact that the commuter trains won't be up and running for another two years.

Take #2: Speaking about the lack of train service, Colorado leaders should be taking this opportunity to provide genuine regional passenger service. I'm not talking about the various pie-in-the-sky high speed rail proposals I have seen in the news over the past four years that will cost billions. 

I am talking about the following:

  1. Salt Lake City service along the Rio Grande route that will complement the California Zephyr
  2. Front Range service to Cheyenne and Ogden 
  3. Core north-south service to Albuquerque with stops in Colorado Springs and Pueblo 
Such services would cost less than HSR and would have frequent ridership that would also feed into Amtrak services. These regional services would also be stopgap measures that would lead to more overnight routes once the people in D.C. get serious about train travel.


North Dakota news

Getting back to all things Empire Builder, Amtrak will detour the westbound Empire Builder #7 between Fargo and Minot for five months with passengers being bused between the affected areas.

Take: The state's oil boom has really taken a toll on passenger service. Schedules have already been lengthened west of St. Paul, so this is yet another whammy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tackling the Headlines 63

Amtrak, companies submit proposals on Hoosier State
Take #1: Whether anyone likes it or not, this is the wave of the future and supporters of the status quo should just get used to it.

Take #2: The ball is now in Indiana's court. Its DOT is the one that wanted to move away from automatically handing things over to Amtrak so now it has to give the mandate to the winner that the Chicago-Indianapolis route be no worse than daily.

Take: I don't see much political will there.

Take: It's the only good thing that X Train has done.

Take: I apologize that The Land of Enchantment doesn't have any imaginative leaders.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Life Under Section 209: Stations

Station Attendants

  • Work at stations where Amtrak doesn't staff anyone
  • Can't sell tickets or check bags
  • Practice is currently in place at select stations in NC, NH, ME, MO, and WA as well as Dodge City, KS

Agent-Attendant Hybrid

  • These employees will work at stations where Amtrak doesn't staff anyone
  • This scenario will apply if Amtrak is the selected operator
  • Can only sell tickets for intrastate or regional trains. Passengers traveling on long distance trains would still have to use the Quik-Trak kiosk where applicable or make advance reservations

Equal Partner

  • State employees will be allowed to sell tickets and check bags 
  • This scenario will apply if the selected operator is anyone other than Amtrak