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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 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.

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