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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

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The New Passenger Paradigm

Railway Age, July

Initial takeaway: Rail activists would be keen to read and reread the first sentence on what really led to the creation of Amtrak so they can stop spewing their defeatist nonsense whenever someone tries to propose out of the box ways to expand passenger travel in this country.

Third paragraph: Herzog was prescient and took notes before anyone on Capitol Hill even drafted PRIIA. Even though the AIPRO is small, it should say something that its members have the bulk of commuter rail contracts when a couple of decades ago, Amtrak had a near monopoly outside of the Northeast and Chicago.

Fourth paragraph: This expert nails it: The status quo cannot be maintained after 45 years when multiple operators have expressed interest in running intercity trains.

Fifth paragraph: The New Passenger Paradigm matches up with the late Gil Carmichael's Interstate II and my rail highway concepts.

Sixth paragraph: Based on what Mr. Chambers is saying, all that's needed is for the feds to actually enforce the laws and end the stasis once and for all. After all, when the time came to enforce the Pilot Program in accordance to PRIIA guidelines, the FRA waited a full two years to do so and by that time, there were too many loose ends that the old program just withered away despite immense interest. Another thing is to make sure that the feds do not play favorites--i.e., rig the process to maintain Amtrak's near monopoly (the 2012 near miss comes to mind).

Second column: Regarding the push for new legislation, somebody has to do it because the resident rent seekers sure won't. When it comes to Section 301 not being enforced, one can only look at the executive branch and ask: What happened, President Obama, USDOT, FRA? Was it in any way retaliation to some states returning stimulus money? Was the lack of enforcement actually stimulus related?

If the feds had followed the German model, we would already have: 1) states having greater flexibility to select operators and set their own standards and 2) Amtrak having a surplus amount of equipment due to it experiencing the same type of contract losses of its intercity routes that it's had with its commuter service. The next president and Congress would be very wise to adopt AIPRO's statutes. The second proposed statute would be an excellent way to make money. JR West does this now and Brightline and Housatonic plan on turning their station areas into prime real estate.

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