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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, June 25, 2016

Tackling the Headlines 82

Long distance competition at last?
On Wednesday, the FRA finally complied with Section 205 of the FAST Act and set the standards for bidding on long distance routes

TL;DR analysis: For once, the FRA is following the law on time. I want to see what the Ed Ellises and the AIPROs of the world do with overnight routes. 

Full analysis: Go to Tumblr.

More destaffings
Recently, Amtrak has been turning staffed stations into unstaffed stations. Now, Homewood, IL and Wolf Point, MT have been added.  

Take #1: I seriously wonder if Joe Boardman has enacted some kind of a scorched earth policy on his way out. The rash of destaffings and stripping the Silver Star of its dining cars come to mind as possible ways the lame duck Amtrak president is getting back at a lot of people. The latter act is also justification for the FRA's actions a couple of days ago.

Take #2: I am also getting tired of know it all railfans justifying small towns and suburban locations losing agents. Not everybody has access to technology and not everyone wants to handle computers. That mentality is exactly why so-called "flyover country" is in open rebellion against city folks. Instead of reducing staffed stations, a responsible company would be adding staffed stations.

Alabama rising?
Earlier this month, news broke that Corridor Capital was planning a regional rail system for Alabama and two other states and headquarters in Montgomery. As it turned out, Alabama media ran with this story big time. However, last Friday's NARP's newsletter poured cold water on exactly who was backing Corridor Capital's efforts. The Southern Rail Commission not only denied supporting CorrCap but also decided to stress how it was working with Amtrak among others.

Take #1: I had to reread the stories from the Alabama press and not once did I ever get any idea that CorrCap was even mentioned as an operator.

Take #2: A comment on the Trains Magazine page on the SRC's disavowal of CorrCap says it all: "So I guess if you are a private sector entity seeking improved passenger rail service the politicians don't want you." When I said that advocacy groups needed to adapt to a post-monopoly era rather than going all in with Amtrak, I didn't think that I'd have to also apply this to the states but given this development and Minnesota picking Amtrak to run the Northern Lights Express even though the planned second Chicago-Twin Cities frequency won't serve Minneapolis, I guess I have to.

Take #3: I wonder if NARP got into the SRC's ear and told them to distance themselves from Corridor Capital given how attached to Amtrak NARP really is.


Take #4: There is no excuse for the New Orleans-Orlando route to still be "suspended" after 10 1/2 years! If someone else can come along and get something going, that group should be commended not ridiculed the way CorrCap is now.

Take #5: Going back to Mr. Norton's comments in the Trains article, he's right on. The Floridian (1971-79), Gulf Breeze (1990-95), and the Gulf Coast Limited (1984-85 & 96-97) have all come and gone. If an entrepreneur is trying to provide a service that is absent and the only thing the current operator is doing is subjecting states to endless feasibility studies, sooner or later, the public will have to go with the person who is thinking outside of the box.

St. Louis Union Station excursions
Links can be found here, here, and here.

Take: Until non-Amtrak operators are allowed to run overnight trains and America gets serious about European-style high speed rail, this might be as good as it gets. But at least, Union Station is finally being used for its original purpose 38 years after Amtrak left.

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