My Bio and This Blog's Purpose

Friday, March 13, 2015

It's a draw

The Supreme Court delivered its ruling on Monday...just not on the Section 207 metrics. Instead, the high court ruled that Amtrak is a public organization.

I agree with those who say that SCOTUS punted and is setting up a much bigger battle later on. All of the buildup ends in a whimper. One would hope Congress will clarify the metrics in the upcoming rail bill but we'll see.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Is the end really near for the Hoosier State?

I'm still trying to rack my head over yesterday's jaw-breaking announcement that the Hoosier State will be discontinued after April 1. At first glance, the story seems straightforward, but upon another review, it becomes clearer that a cancellation isn't the issue but rather, an unnecessary power play from Washington.

I will dissect how the FRA's classification of states as rail carriers impacts the following organizations:

While the state has badly botched the contract of the Hoosier State--see the Corridor Capital situation--I hesitate to blame the INDOT on this one. How in the world can Indiana be labeled as a rail carrier when the 196-mile stretch of the Hoosier is in the hands of multiple railroads with crappy tracks along the way?

Iowa Pacific

A quote from IP's Ed Ellis on Train Orders:

INDOT is working very hard to preserve this service, and I can assure you a lot of lawyer time has been spent trying to get FRA to back down from this. 
And there is no FRA guideline. There was no "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking." There was no comment period. There was no record of decision on the question of whether FRA can require a state to be a railroad. 

It's a shame that yet another contractor is getting the shaft. Just when a route is about to be covered by a vendor who really wants to improve the service, the rug is pulled from under them by the feds.


There's this gem from the Amtrak head honcho:

Daily Amtrak service to Indianapolis does not have to end in April. Amtrak has offered to continue to operate the train on a month-to-month basis.
Amtrak is ready, willing and able to continue to provide safe and reliable service using one of the proven models we’ve used in other states.
We have shown how the quality of the passenger experience can be improved by demonstrating modern Wi-Fi and business class seating. We have the expertise in working with the host railroads and have repeatedly offered to be the state’s and the communities’ partner in advancing plans to improve the travel time and the reliability of the service. 

He's really acting like the superhero here when in reality, his company has been desperate since June. Hello, that free stuff was done in an effort to keep the Hoosier State from going to Corridor Capital--and it worked. It looks like Amtrak is trying to preserve the Hoosier State status quo rather than improving the route, and it can't stand the idea of Trains #850 & #851 being Amtrak trains in name only.

The agency's blindsiding of Indiana was even more proof of what I said over three years ago: the FRA is the #1 barrier to innovation (want more examples? Then, go here). So, to tell me that the same agency that couldn't be bothered to enforce the Pilot Program requirement of PRIIA (aka Section 214) for other operators to operate an existing Amtrak route is now taking it upon itself enforce new regulations on any state that wants to replace Amtrak!

This looks like the folks in D.C. are determined to preserve the Amtrak monopoly because the real target is not Indiana, the real targets are Washington state and Oregon because there's a better chance that those two states could dump Amtrak in favor of another operator. If that happens, then California will look at it and wonder if that extra $19 million to "America's Railroad" was really worth it when it could have gone with an independent operator almost a year and a half ago. Since most people see the Golden State as the trendsetter, the dominoes would start falling for Amtrak if two of the three corridors--likely the Capitols and San Joaquins since the Surfliner Cars are primarily Amtrak-owned--were to go to other passenger operators.

There truly is something rotten in the state of Denmark when the states are not allowed to freely select other operators in an effort to improve their services. As a matter of fact, this overbearing by the Federal Railroad Administration is just the latest in recent memory. I have a list of their other idiotic actions here. And if what's happening to Indiana spreads to other states, then, it needs to be smacked down by Congress and the Supreme Court.