My Bio and This Blog's Purpose

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A tale of two countries

JR West apologizes for a train leaving a central Japan station 25 seconds early.

VIA Rail apologizes for a train arriving into Vancouver 45 hours late.

Says it all, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Addendum: Amtrak's Hostility to Its Partners and Passengers

Here are some more links that relate to the previous article:
Boardman's letter to Railway Age
Amtrak vs Metra, Chicago Union Station
Amtrak station destaffings: 1 2 3
Anderson's stance on long distance trains: 1 2
M.E. Singer on Amtrak's treatment of state supported routes: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Amtrak's cutback on food on certain routes

Rescuing the Passenger Train From Amtrak

Consequently, it has become the greatest of ironies that the passenger train, which was purported to be saved by Amtrak, now has to be saved from Amtrak. Daniel Carleton, This Week at Amtrak 9/8/11

It is clear that Amtrak is no longer the tool to keep passenger trains going in the United States. Over the last several months, "America's Railroad" has made the passenger experience more and more unpleasant. M.E. Singer lays out why Amtrak's woes are institutional rather than financial. 

Boardman's rebuttal to Anderson's cuts

So, the former CEO has issues with what the current one is doing and even a onetime Boardman critic has backed him.The problem with all of the Boardman praise is that he's the one who started the cutbacks at Amtrak in the first place. In 2015, the first series of station destaffings occurred when nobody was even talking about the idea of Boardman retiring. On top of that, he imposed airline-like baggage policies and began the process for shutting down Quik-Trak ticket machines--a process that has been delayed to 2019. The worst part of the Boardman Era was the fact that he squandered a golden opportunity to make passenger trains thrive in this country.

It didn't have to be this way

It is ironic and perverse, that our greatest hope for high speed rail is to not destroy or eliminate, but to force Amtrak to competitively bid on services with other prospective providers. Transit Sleuth responding to me, 11/8/11
Never mind high speed rail, we can't even get Congress or the President to force Amtrak to bid for long distance or state-supported routes as not one but two rail re-authorizations mandate the organization to.

Let's face it, Sections 209 and 214 of PRIIA and the FAST Act should have been enforced by Congress. If that had happened, then Brightline's amenities would have been the norm rather than the exception.

European countries are introducing competition with little resistance outside of France and Finland and yet it's a dirty word here. The status quo cannot be allowed to continue because after 47 years, the pendulum has swung back in favor of expanded passenger service. It's Amtrak management that has resisted expansion outside of the Northeast.

The bulk of the rail community: Just as bad as the Amtrak Board

I would take the status quo compared to the damage the Republicans are about to inflict.
That is a paraphrase of a quote that I saw on a transit forum after the Tea Party fused 2010 midterm wave. That quote is exactly the attitude the bulk of railfans have exhibited over the last seven years. By acting as though Amtrak is the be all end all to U.S. passenger passenger rail and ignoring others who want to shake up the industry, this batch of rent seekers in the railfan community has done everyone a grave disservice.

By going all in with Amtrak, here are the ways that most in the rail community are worse than useless:

  • These advocates were silent on the Senate's failed power grab six springs ago. 
  • They added nothing of substance when states were ironing out Section 209 requirements and they were just as silent as 18 of the 19 state agencies (the Capitol Corridor split from Caltrans earlier this decade) who never even explored the idea of selecting another operator
  • I saw with my very eyes as these rent seekers and True Believers threw a major hissy fit at the one state agency that did pick someone else (Corridor Capital in mid-2014) as a contractor, were gleeful when that bid fell apart (fall '14), threw another fit when another entity (Iowa Pacific) was selected as the contractor, and finally celebrated the day the Hoosier State reverted back to full Amtrak control after the private contractor pointed out that the raw deal it got

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Goodbye TIGER, hello BUILD

The grant program that aided many passenger rail projects and helped to build train stations is being replaced by a program that is tilted towards rural projects.

The only thing that is shocking is that it took this long for the TIGER name to disappear.