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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, February 27, 2016

Winter Magazine Rants and Raves

Iron and Fire: Iowa Pacific's Ed Ellis (4th Quarter 2015)
The Passenger Train Journal article covered a slew of topics with Ellis but largely talked about the Hoosier State.The author of the PTJ article seemed to lament the fact that Iowa Pacific and Amtrak managed to just coexist rather than cooperate when it comes to the Hoosier State and the Cardinal. The testings and cancellations of the Hoosier State were just two things covered. The major thing that I paid attention to was how Amtrak handled itself on November 23. The westbound Cardinal lost more than 5 1/2 hours in Indianapolis due to a locomotive that ran out of fuel. Amtrak said that the loco wasn't properly fueled in D.C. when #51 switched from electric to diesel but rather than loaning an engine from IP, it decided to wait for a CSX engine. Since IP equipment was attached to #51, the Hoosier State for that evening out of Chicago was also affected While Ellis may not see IP as a rival to Amtrak, someone at Amtrak's headquarters in D.C. surely does--even if it isn't the outgoing CEO himself.

Towards the end of the article, the planned Rutland-Burlington service in Vermont was mentioned and Ellis told PTJ that he was keeping a close eye just in case that state puts the operation of the route up for bidding. It would be water cooler material if Vermont contracts trains service to not one but two operators.

Finally, Ellis is right on by saying that the focus on high speed rail "is totally misplaced" and that there should be hourly service.

Maine Eastern Finale (Railfan & Railroad, February)
As it turns out, the circumstances surrounding the demise of the Maine Eastern excursions are even worse than I feared. ME DOT spokesman Ted Talbot told the Portland Press Herald that the state had no interest in subsidizing any new passenger service

So rather than either extending the Downeaster to Rockland or the DOT dropping the ball, the state went out of its way to curtail summer service to an area not served by Amtrak. Paul LePage is even worse than Scott Walker because at least the latter wants to add frequencies between Chicago and Milwaukee. The Pine Tree State's Tea Party executive isn't even interested in expanding the Downeaster by either mileage or frequency. It may very well turn out to be a blown opportunity because if a Democrat succeeds LePage in three years,the new governor may only be focused on extending Downeaster service to Rockland and Augusta and pay no attention what I proposed almost four years ago.

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