My Bio and This Blog's Purpose

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tackling the Headlines 100: The Finale

NOTE: The Hoosier State situation will be covered in a future article

Sweden and Night Trains
The Scandinavian country is doing something that was endangered just four years ago: Entering the European overnight market. This is an example of the government backing up its green agenda.

The funding portion would be like the government seeking an alternative operator to run a long distance route.

Amtrak's strategy
Over the last three months or so, Amtrak has made it clear that it doesn't really care about its originally mandated mission to provide a national system, and its leaders are emphasizing corridors instead. 

Given that Charlotte-Atlanta is on the railroad's radar, it should be clear that Amtrak is on the defensive since Virgin Trains already announced its plans for the same route six months ago. A few years ago, this route was complexly off the radar of "America's Railroad" and it was little more than a long-term thing planned by NCDOT and GADOT.

The thing is, Amtrak's record with the corridors it currently has is mostly lacking and the railroad has taken next to no initiative so this idea of focusing on corridors is typical of a reactive organization. When Richard Branson took over Brightline and announced its plans to develop corridors and even challenge Amtrak in its backyard, it was reminiscent of Joe Boardman's response to foreign entities submitting their bids to operate high speed rail a decade ago. 

Boardman got a reprieve as the 2010 elections curtailed HSR fever but Richard Anderson is unlikely to be as lucky because of how unpopular he already is among the rail public for his passenger-hostile approach. 

Detroit studies the obvious
A decade after members of the City Council recommended demolishing MCS, the Motor City's leaders are studying restoring passenger service to its crown jewel. However, it doesn't necessarily have to have Amtrak trains stopping there. A Chicago-Toronto HSR route could be set up either privately or like Eurostar.

Toledo may be taking rail into its own hands
A consultant has clearly been paying attention to Florida when he was tasked with tackling the feasibility of a Toledo-Ann Arbor/Detroit route. Linking Toledo with Southeast Michigan will be something that requires innovative thinking because the historical default partners are completely unreliable

The Ohio DOT is likely to continue putting highways above passenger rail even if the new governor isn't as bad on the latter as his predecessor. Meanwhile, Amtrak would give this T-shaped route the same treatment that it gave the 3C Route that it studied a decade ago. Also, any feasibility study done by Amtrak will result in exorbitant costs.

Clearing up the CAHSR mess
Whatever the new governor's motives, at least someone from the Authority clarified what's going on in Sacramento.

The future of UK rail franchising
Great Britain's rail operators want an independent body overseeing the network. If the railroads get their way on commuter routes, then it would be like the German model in a way--and it'd allow them to focus on intercity routes. I mean what's good for the goose (London) is good for the gander (Liverpool, Manchester, etc.), right?

Virgin being forced out in Britain
It looks like Sir Branson may flourish here while unraveling on his side of the Atlantic. His and Stagecoach's joint bid was disqualified over pension issues. Obviously a complex issue and it would be a shame if an innovative operator were driven out of its homeland.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Scaling back

It's time for another overhaul. Last month, Google+ was shuttered four months ahead of schedule due to another bug that was noticed in November. 

What now?
Given that G+ was the social media platform for me, it's a deep loss. Rather than getting lost on Facebook with its politics and the overall echo chamber, I have migrated to Diaspora. If you're so inclined, this is my page over there. I have also decided to take my advocacy over to Diaspora as well. This now means that my Tumblr will become a photos only page.

What about the blog?
I am taking a step back on this forum as blogging itself has lost its buzz and also because I have a lot of things going on in my personal life. My posts will be more like special attractions--for instance, I have reversed course and my next Tackling the Headlines column will be the last.

Passenger rail has moved at a snail's pace over the last few years as states have added the last of stimulus based corridor service and the current administration in D.C. has talked the talk about China having faster trains than us but has taken steps to defund Amtrak and revoke CAHSR money. 

Meanwhile, new Amtrak management is doing more damage than anything that might come out of the White House. Its CEO refuses to talk to the media and alienates just about everybody by continuing Boardman era practices of destaffing stations and also new stuff by eliminating charter service for example. The states are no closer to being innovative and continue with their inside the box thinking while continuing to ignore other operators who could provide better service than Amtrak offers. Also, where are all those new cars?

Virgin Trains USA may be a bright spot but we are now 13 months removed from the Saratoga & North Creek folding, meaning that we still have not had more than one privately operated passenger carrier at the same time since both the Georgia Railroad and the Rio Grande ceased services in April of 1983. Oh, did I mention that the only semblance of direct competition with Amtrak is a commuter route between Springfield, MA and New Haven, CT?