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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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Tackling the Headlines 77

The future of Brunswick-Rockland service
Last week, the state of Maine decided to award the Brunswick-Rockland line to Central Maine & Quebec, and the new operator has no plans to operate passenger service. The two railroads were the only bidders on the state-owned line.

Upon losing the route, MERR owner Morristown & Erie put out a press release announcing that Halloween will be the last day for its excursions (Maine Eastern actually has it as October 25). Afterwards, M&E will receive the passenger equipment back in New Jersey to be used for excursions in that state.

Take: There has to be some kind of endgame here or the ME DOT really dropped the ball here. As some posters on Railroad.net have suggested, perhaps the move to dump Maine Eastern may very well coincide with extended Downeaster service to Rockland. 

I don't find it coincidental at all that Amtrak did a test run along the route last fall and all of a sudden, a number of railfans brought up the possibility of a Downeaster extension. For the last three-plus years, I have recommended that the state of Maine consult the Class II and Class III railroads and pay them to operate passenger service on the METRA model. Furthermore, if a Tea Party governor is relying on Amtrak to expand service in the Pine Tree State, then, it's very unlikely that a Democratic governor in 2019--given the typical political patterns--will think outside of the box by utilizing my suggestion, let alone inviting AIPRO members to run expanded service in Maine in lieu of Amtrak.

L.A. Metro rebranding
The people behind the Los Angeles mass transit system will dump colors in favor of letters by 2024.

Take: I don't know about this because it screams West Coast knockoff of New York's MTA subway lines.

NEC extension?
I stumbled onto this under the radar story a couple of days ago.

Take: When rail advocates talk about extending the Northeast Corridor south to Richmond, what Mr. Wilner mentioned is not what they have in mind.  It looks like the only thing the Senate has learned from its 2012 debacle is to make sure that absolutely no one say anything that could be seen as granting Amtrak special favors. Why does the Senate believe that Amtrak can manage extra trackage when most of the NEC is wear and tear from decades of neglect by the former Pennsylvania and Penn Central Railroads and Amtrak is constantly begging Congress for cash? So Donald Trump can build a hotel and casino next to an expanded Union Station? If this is more about a power play to get back at Keolis for winning the VRE contract as some suggest, then the U.S. Senate would be doing a disservice to Virginia riders.

Marks, MS station to open
Back in 2000, the buzz was about the City of New Orleans stopping between Memphis and Greenwood, MS. For whatever reason, it looked as though the Marks stop was as dead as then-Amtrak president George Warrington's expansion plan but that was until this news item.

Take: Spring 2016, huh? In any case, it's about time.

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