SUPPORT AMTRAK - INVEST IN AMERICA'S INFRASTRUCTURE
"President Bush is willing to spend billions to send a couple of people to Mars, but not one dime for Amtrak`s 25 million annual travelers who want better rail service to destinations on this planet," said Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Here's a Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento to San Jose in the Berkeley station on May 19, 2013. The train was on time and gleaming but the new logo puzzles me.....just can't figure out what it stands for. Obviously, Capitol Corridor something, but I welcome any definitive info about what they are thinking The good news is that the service is doing well, even running a train over to Sonoma County for some NASCAR racing. Its also great to see a new service from Auburn to Oakland. Hopefully Colfax, Truckee and Reno will follow. Having put up with Bay Area highways for a week (and trying to figure out how to pay tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge with a rental car) something as simple as a train with good food, free wi-fi and clean windows makes a lot of sense. Now that California's economy is clearly on the mend and draconian service cuts have been avoided we can look forward to some good California train dreamin'.
Camera: Olympus E-510 dslr with Oly 14-42 lens.
Friends of Amtrak Features :
- a photo collection
of railroad memorabilia including timetables,
tickets, menus and more.
Generally, children from 2 to 15 are half-fare when traveling with an adult. There is a 15 percent discount for adults over 62.
NEW: Ron Goodenow's Attic - a photo collection of railroad memorabilia including timetables, tickets, menus and more.
||September 9, 2011
House Subcommitee Approves Shutdown Budget for Amtrak! / High-Speed Rail Funding Eliminated - September 9, 2011
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation & Housing proposed slashing funding for Amtrak to $1.1 billion—a reduction of more than $357 million from what Amtrak received in FY2011.
The bill forbids use of the operating grant to fund short corridors, potentially endangering almost 150 weekday state-supported trains and stranding millions of passengers in California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
This really would kill all of Amtrak because of how loss of “state corridors” would cut revenues and increase costs of Northeast Corridor and overnight trains. The NEC and interstate trains would be severely victimized both by assuming much of the shared costs now assigned to the short corridors, and the loss of revenues from connecting passengers disenfranchised by loss of those corridors.
The High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program—a highly oversubscribed program that has seen 39 states apply for funds to improve (and introduce) modern passenger trains for the 135 million Americans that live in a community connected to a rail corridor—was given no funding at all.
This proposed budget is a direct attack on the right of Americans to travel by train, indeed, on the very existence of intercity passenger trains in the U.S. Take a minute and call your Congressperson to ask them to stand up for trains. Or click the Take Action link and write a letter to your Representative.FOLLOW THIS LINK TO TAKE ACTION NOW!
Courtesy of NARP.
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Thanks to changes in technology and demographics — not to mention the
hassles of air travel — the nation’s railroads are drawing a whole
That’s certainly true for Amtrak, which is on track to report its highest ridership in history. On Tuesday, the company announced that it carried almost 27.8 million passengers during the first 11 months of its fiscal year ending in September, up 5.2 percent from the year before.
By comparison, the number of total Amtrak passengers in August was up only 1.2 percent compared to the August 2010 and down 0.4 percent in the popular Northeast Corridor due to flooding and service cancellations. “The weather-related disruptions we’ve had in various markets, including Hurricane Irene, have resulted in cancellations that doubtlessly affected ridership,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.
But extreme weather aside, the longer-term trend has Amtrak officials optimistic
that the year-end ridership total will top 30 million passengers for the first
“Awareness is the key,” said Will Phillipson, co-founder and CIO of SilverRail Technologies, which is developing a global distribution platform for booking rail travel. “People are cottoning on to trains and saying, ‘Gee, this is so much easier and so much better than flying.’ ”
But there’s more to it than awareness and the frustrations of flying. “The economic recovery and rising fuel prices laid the groundwork,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a professor and transportation expert at DePaul University. “But rail is increasingly part of a lifestyle choice.”
Make that “choices” as people opt in for more technology and opt out of other forms of transportation.
“Rail is very tech-friendly,” said Schwieterman. “People are bringing their DVD player, BlackBerry and two other devices. Younger people in particular want to be digitally connected at all times.”
As a result, “Amtrak is doing very well in corridors that serve universities and urban lifestyles,” he told msnbc.com.
Which, in turn, underscores the other choice, what Schwieterman sees as a cultural shift away from driving. In areas with good transit options, forgoing a car is an increasingly attractive option. For some people, “it’s more about what devices you own and what Twitter feeds you follow,” he said, “rather than the kind of wheels you own.”
Whether those trends will accelerate — and boost rail ridership along the way — depends on many factors, including the price of gas, the relative hassle of air travel and whether Amtrak can expand its free Wi-Fi service, currently available on the high-speed Acela and a handful of other trains, to other routes.For now, Amtrak officials will say only that they hope to provide more services, including adding Wi-Fi to more routes, but there are no concrete plans to do so“As Congress wrestles with budget issues, they’ll be talking about us along with everything else the federal government is involved in funding,” said Magliari. “In the meantime, we’re continuing to operate and pressing on.”
Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak are vying for $2.4 billion in federal aid that became available when Florida's Governor canceled a high-speed rail project in his state, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.
The deadline for applications for the funds was Monday. The Transportation Department is reviewing 90 applications seeking a total of $10 billion, LaHood said.
"They know that high-speed rail will deliver tens of thousands of jobs, spur economic development across their communities and create additional options for their citizens as the country's population grows," LaHood said in a statement.
Among the requests was one from Amtrak for $1.3 billion to enhance train service in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington. The proposal includes a $720 million project to replace the more than 100-year-old movable Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River in New Jersey with a new, high-level fixed bridge.
Amtrak's application also includes $188 million for preliminary engineering and environmental analysis for two new tunnels under the Hudson River into Manhattan and $50 million for similar work for the development of a new Penn Station South facility to accommodate more tracks and platforms in downtown New York.
President Barack Obama has sought to make creation a national network of high-speed trains a signature project of his administration. He has said he wants to make fast trains accessible to 80 percent of Americans within 25 years.
However, Obama is receiving strong resistance from Republicans, who say the trains should be rejected unless it can be shown that they will be self-supporting.
Three Republican governors elected in November have canceled high-speed train projects in their states. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker turned down $810 million to build a Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed line. Ohio Gov. John Kasich rejected $400 million for a project to connect Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus with slower-moving trains. Both the Ohio and Wisconsin projects had been approved by the governors' Democratic predecessors.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott canceled a project that would have connected Tampa and Orlando with high-speed trains. The administration had pledged $2.4 billion toward the project.
From "The Huffington Post"
WASHINGTON -- In a bit of political hardball, the Obama administration on Wednesday said it would send $2.4 billion in stimulus money to other states should Florida Gov. Rick Scott not back down on his rejection of the federal government's national high-speed rail project.
Speaking just hours after Scott announced he was abandoning the project due to cost concerns for the state, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney relayed the president's preparedness to simply send the allocated money to other locales rather than, say, use it to lower the federal deficit.
"We think that is an unfortunate decision," Carney said. "This goes right to the essence of what we have been talking about here. There has been a lot of bipartisan support for the need to create the kind of modern infrastructure in this country that will enable us to compete. High speed rail is very much a part of that and we will make sure that that money is used elsewhere to advance the infrastructure and innovation agenda that is essential for economic growth.
"We believe that the money that is allocated for high-speed rail as part of the Recovery Act is essential to the infrastructure agenda that this president has," Carney added later. "Again, it is part of the president's priority and it is essential to us to build an infrastructure that allows us to compete in the 21st Century."
Carney's posture, delivered during his inaugural briefing, isn't the first time that the specter of one state building its own high-speed rail system on another state's dime has been raised. Shortly after Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) took office he declined to accept federal money for Wisconsin's rail system upgrades. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) responded quickly by affirming that New York would gladly take the un-cashed checks.
All of which has caused Democrats in Florida to lash back at their newly elected governor for his conservative braggadocio.
"It's eating our seed corn," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), referencing the colloquialism that when times are tough, and one is hungry, you're supposed to plant seeds for crop, not eat them.
Scott's argument against high-speed rail is that it is prohibitively expensive for the state, with cost overruns potentially forcing Florida to fork over $3 billion in matching funds. But those numbers, supporters of the project say, are drastically overstated if not pure fantasy.
The federal government has already put aside $2.4 billion in stimulus funds for Florida's portion of the national project. In state, supporters have spent $66 million to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa. Nelson's office, meanwhile, has said that the state would only be on the hook for another $280 million and that the senator was in the process of looking at alternative ways to raise the money to alleviate Scott's concerns.
UPDATE: Sure enough, on Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a statement urging the Obama administration to redirect the more than $2 billion in high-speed rail funds from Florida to New York:
Florida's loss should be New York's gain. Other states may not be ready to unlock the potential of high-speed rail, but it is a top priority for upstate New York. We can put these funds to use in a way that gets the best bang for the buck. The administration should redirect these funds to New York as quickly as possible.
Amtrak recently announced that three new board members ó Anthony Coscia, Bert DiClemente and Jeffrey Moreland ó were nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate.
Coscia is chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He also is a partner at Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf L.L.P.
DiClemente recently retired as vice president of CB Richard Ellis Inc., a commercial real estate company.
Moreland most recently was executive vice president for public affairs at BNSF Railway Co.
Now, eight of nine director positions are filled, according to Amtrak.
From Innovation NewsBriefs - by Ken Orski
A series of events during the month of June have kept the spotlight on the Administrationís high-speed rail (HSR) initiative. Noteworthy events included a June 11U.S. DOT announcement of the first round of funding for HSR projects; a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report assessing the prospects for the federal HSR Program ( GAO-10-625, June 17, 2010); a U.S. Conference of Mayors report predicting significant economic benefits from the HSR program; and a policy statement by the HSR Development Council of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) setting forth a set of recommended policy principles for the federal HSR initiative.
Also keeping HSR in the public eye have been various advocacy groups, such as the OneRail Coalition, a group of rail industry stakeholders; the Passenger Rail Coalition, representing state DOTsí rail interests; various regional HSR associations; and two freshly minted lobbying organizations, the American High Speed Rail Alliance and the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. The latter held a High Speed Rail 2010 Conference in Los Angeles on June 17-18.
Adding an element of controversy to the HSR initiative has been the recent Federal Railroad Administration directive setting the terms of the "Stakeholder Agreements" to be negotiated between state DOTs and the Class I railroads participating in the HSR program. The rail industry was reported to be "stunned" by the peremptory tone and burdensome terms of the FRA directive that was reportedly drafted without the partiesí advance knowledge or participation. Despite reassuring statements from U.S. DOT, the threat of some of the Class I railroads walking away from the HSR program and effectively derailing portions of the Administrationís initiative was still considered a real possibility as this is being written. (See our NewsBrief of June 16, "Is the High-Speed Rail Program At Risk?").
Is There A Need for High Speed Rail In America?
The FRA controversy has momentarily diverted media attention, but of greater significance is the more fundamental ongoing debate about the role and future of HSR in America. Some critics are contesting the very need for high speed passenger rail service in the belief that even very fast trains cannot hope to compete with automobile or air transportation. At a June 25 seminar at the Heritage Foundation, the well-known and outspoken rail skeptic Wendell Cox, used the California high-speed rail project as a case in point. Calling it "untimely extravagance," Cox argued that the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high speed rail line is based on unrealistic financial assumptions, highly optimistic ridership projections, understated cost forecasts, exaggerated benefits fromÝgreenhouse gas reductions and unachievable travel times. Also issuing a skeptical verdict on HSR have been several reports and articles, notably a Reason Foundation report, "The California HSR Proposal: A Due Diligence Report" by Wendell Cox and Joseph Vranich; a March 19 Heritage FoundationÝ paper, "Americaís Coming High-Speed Rail Financial Disaster" by Senior Research Fellow, Ronald Utt; an article titled "The Trouble With High Speed Rail," by the Hoover Institutionís Liam Julian (Policy Review No. 160, June 2010); and a commentary by the Progressive Policy Instituteís Mark Reutter ("The Right Track: Improving Obamaís High Speed Rail Program," February 17, 2010). The blogosphere has likewise weighed in with a mix of critical opinions (see, especially the National Journal Transportation Blog of March 23, 2009, "Is High-Speed Rail Worth It?" for a somewhat dated but still relevant collection of both positive and critical views.)
A larger body of critical opinion has centered on the extent to which the Administrationís $8 billion "high speed rail" initiative will, in fact, advance the goal of high-speed rail service in America. According to Administration officials, the program is but a "down payment" toward a true high-speed passenger rail system of the kind that has been deployed in Europe and the Far East. But the Administrationís actions belie its rhetoric, for the federal efforts have been heavily focused on upgrading existing Class I freight rail infrastructure rather than on laying foundations for a true high-speed rail system.
A Policy of Incrementalism
From the very outset, the Administration has evidenced a laudable desire to introduce a more multi-modal approach to national transportation policy, restore more modal balance to the transportation system and elevate the importance of enhancing the nationís freight delivery system. This policy had its first concrete manifestation in the choice of projects under the TIGER program. Of the total $1.5 billion, 62 percent of the dollars went to improvements in freight rail infrastructure. This included $105 million for the Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Rail project (an upgrade of Norfolk Southernís freight rail lines between the Gulf Coast and the Northeast); $100 million for the CREATE Program to relieve congestion in Chicagoís notoriously clogged rail hub; $98 million to finance doubling CSXís freight capacity in the National Gateway Freight Rail corridor between northwest Ohio and Pennsylvania; and $83 million toward construction of a new Penn Station (Moynihan Station) in New York City. By comparison, money for highway and transit projects was parceled out in smaller amounts. The great majority of the 51 TIGER grants were under $30 million.
The allocation of the $8 billion in HSR funds followed a similar pattern: a continuedÝemphasis on incremental improvements in existing rail infrastructure. 76 of the 78 grants the Administration awarded under the Recovery Act ó representing 56 percent of the total dollar amount of the HSR awards ($3.5 billion) went for relatively minor enhancements in existing Class I RR facilities, such as overhauling track and signal systems, improving grade crossings, refurbishing existing stations and implementing positive train control technology. As critics like to point out, while these improvements might allow passenger trains to operate somewhat faster in the HSR-designated corridors, they will not move the country any closer to achieving a true national high-speed rail vision as promised in White House press releases and speeches of federal transportation officials.
That is not to say that the $8 billion HSR program is "a total waste of the taxpayersí money" as alleged by some critics. A plausible case can be made that upgrading the Class I rail facilities is a cost-effective means of enhancing the nationís freight carrying infrastructure. Increasing freight system capacity has been acknowledged by the entire transportation community as a matter of the highest national priority. As rail industry spokesmen like to point out, freight railroads move 40 percent of the nationís freight as measured in ton-miles, and allowing freight railroads to carry more of the weight, will help to reduce future maintenance costs of the nationsí highways and help relieve road congestion. It follows that expanding freight rail capacity should be the goal of any enlightened national transportation plan.
Some observers, however, attribute a more cynical motive to the Administrationís tilt toward incrementalism. Any investments whose purpose is to lay foundations for true high-speed rail technology, they say ó as the Florida and California high-speed projects purport to doó will take years to complete, long after the present generation of political leaders has left office. Most of the "upgrades," on the other hand, could become operational in a relatively short time and become part of the Administrationís record of accomplishment, which the White House could proudly point to during the 2012 presidential election campaign. Indeed, the Administration has pointedly spread its HSR grants far and wide among 27 recipients, scoring political points in all regions of the country (ironically, the Northeast region, with its key Boston-New York-Washington rail corridor and extreme air traffic congestion, has benefitted the least from the Administrationís largesseó much to the consternation of Rep. John Mica (R-FL) ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and former chairman of the House Aviation Subcommitte. See his comments, "We must develop high-speed rails for NE Corridor" in The Hill, June 22, 2011.)
Having listened to all sides in this debate, we believe in striking a middle course. We think a strong case can be made that true high-speed rail will eventually be necessary in the U.S. between major city-pairs separated by less than 300-400 miles, in order to relieve unacceptable levels of airport and air traffic congestion. In Europe, air service between Paris-Brussels [162 miles], Paris-Lyon (246 miles) and Cologne- Frankfurt [94 miles] has already been totally replaced by high-speed rail service. In the United States, there are seven heavily traveled corridors under 400 miles in length that could be logical candidates for high speed service (Source: Congressional Research Service, "High Speed Rail (HSR) in the United States," December 8, 2009.) But building even such a limited number of dedicated high-speed rail lines would require decades of a sustained national commitment spanning many administrations and requiring its own dedicated source of revenue outside the Highway Trust Fund.
Nor is there any assurance that future presidents and future Congresses will share President Obamaís enthusiasm for high-speed rail and will not be distracted by other infrastructure priorities. Hence, only timeÝwill tell if the $8 billion is indeed a "first down payment" on a multi-generational commitment to create a network of high-speed lines, or whether it is simply a commendable one-time initiative that will enhance the nationís freight carrying capacity (and will primarily benefit the Class I railroads) but only marginally improve passenger service in a few rail corridors. Our conversations with colleagues in the transportation community and the railroad industry suggest that the weight of expert opinion is leaning in favor of the latter scenario.
A new department to pursue opportunities in new intercity high-speed rail service has been announced by Amtrak. The new unit will explore high-speed rail in select corridors around the country, including major improvements on the Northeast Corridor. This includes the feasibility of increasing top speeds up to 220 mph.
ìWe intend to be a major player in the development and operation of new corridors,î said President and CEO Joseph Boardman, noting Amtrak is the only railroad in America to operate passenger trains at 150 mph. ìNew high-speed rail services, linked together with conventional intercity passenger rail and local transit, are a key part of a sustainable future for America.î Boardman said the move will better position Amtrak to maximize opportunities in new intercity passenger rail operations.
The new department will focus on the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor. Key goals include: a major reduction in trip-times between Washington, D.C. and New York and New York and Boston; a significant increase in the number of train frequencies and determining the feasibility of increasing top speeds up to 220 mph. ìWe look forward to the day when a network of high-speed, regional and long-distance intercity passenger trains can provide a majority of Americans with a high-quality and environmentally-friendly alternative to driving or flying,î Boardman stated.
In 2009, Amtrak carried 27.2 million passengers, making it the second best year in Amtrakís history.
NEW YORK CITY --- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded $83.3 million to advance the long-running Moynihan Station Project.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program grant will pay for station platform extensions, westward from the current Penn Station platforms at Madison Square Garden, to a new station named for the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
It will be built using the shell of the existing large Beaux-Art Post Office on Eighth Avenue, which used to face, across the street, the magnificent 1910 Pennsylvania Railroad Station designed by McKim Mead & White and torn down in 1964 in an action seen today as one of the worst examples of architectural vandalism in American history. It was replaced by a station with low ceilings and almost no room for passengers, and by Madison Square Garden.
The destruction of the original Pennsylvania station is credited with inspiring the birth of the historic preservation movement in the United States, when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis took up the fight to save the next building on the vandal’s list, Grand Central Terminal. The restoration, completed in 1999, has re-made the station, technically a “terminal” because the lines to it end at that point rather than passing through.
The office of New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the official announcement this past week.
As reported in Progressive Railroading Magazine, the funding grant will go toward the project’s first phase, according to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The work calls for expanding the west end concourse for Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) trains; creating 13 new concourse vertical access points to and from the platforms, and adding six elevators, stairs and escalators; constructing two new above-grade entrances; expanding and renovating the existing 33rd Street connector between Penn Station and the west end concourse; and upgrading Penn Station’s platform ventilation system. Work is slated to begin later this year and conclude in 2015.
The USDOT will award $1.5 billion in federal TIGER stimulus grants to transportation projects deemed to have a “significant impact” on the nation. Mass transit, freight and passenger rail, port, highway and bridge projects are eligible for grants, which are expected to be announced today by the USDOT.
Meanwhile, the town of Riverhead, N.Y., is using $3.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to rehabilitate and upgrade a LIRR spur. Last week, the Long Island town awarded a $3.5 million contract to Railroad Construction Co. Inc. NYSDOT appropriated the ARRA dollars for the project late last year.
The project calls for restoring and reactivating a line connecting the EPCAL Centre business park with a LIRR mainline. The spur — built by Grumman Corp. and abandoned in the 1990s — will be operated by New York & Atlantic Railway, which is under contract with LIRR to provide freight-rail service on Long Island, reported Progressive Railroading.
President Obama and Vice President Biden today announced that the federal government will spend $8 billion developing a nationwide high-speed train system -- an investment the White House says is needed to help spur long-term economic growth while boosting job creation.
The new investment, funded through the government's $862 billion economic stimulus package, will go toward developing or laying the groundwork for 13 new high-speed rail corridors across the country. Overall, projects and planning involving the rail corridors will take place in 31 states.
The projects will help the U.S. build the "infrastructure of the future," Obama said at a town hall event at the University of Tampa today. "There is no reason why other countries can build high-speed rail lines and we can’t." Right now Central Japan Railway Company's Shinkansen "bullet trains" run at 168 mph. Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, the French state railroad company, can run its TGV trains at 200 mph. And Shanghai spent $1.25 billion building the world’s fastest train in commercial operation, a 267 mph magnetic-levitation ride to its main airport.
"Through the Recovery Act, we are making the largest investment in infrastructure
since the interstate highway system was created, putting Americans to work rebuilding
our roads, bridges and waterways for the future," Obama said in a statement
released by the White House. "That investment is how we can break ground
across the country, putting people to work building high-speed rail lines, because
there's no reason why Europe or China should have the fastest trains when we
can build them right here in America."
More than 30 rail manufacturers have agreed to establish or expand U.S. operations if they are hired to work on the high-speed rail network, the administration said. The president first mentioned the program in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night.
Each of the corridors identified by the administration last year are between 100 and 600 miles long. A small portion of the $8 billion will go to improvements in existing rail lines, including $17 million to upgrade Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. tracks in Iowa, according to the White House. The U.S. will give $1.1 billion for a line connecting Chicago and St. Louis, according to a White House. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston will get $112 million. Some of the money will go toward trains with top speeds of 110 mph, while other funds — such as the $400 million allotted to Ohio to connect Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati — will be for trains traveling no faster than 79 mph.
The program is "a long-term venture in which states will need to plan projects, purchase and lay track, build and assemble equipment, and construct or upgrade train stations, tunnels and bridges." In addition to the $8 billion mentioned by Obama, the plan also includes $1 billion a year for five years in the federal budget "as a down payment to jump-start the program," the White House said.
Train corridors in the program include:
-- San Diego-Los Angeles-San Luis Obispo in California
-- Oakland-Sacramento in California
-- Portland-Eugene in Oregon
-- Seattle-Portland in Washington and Oregon
-- Chicago-St. Louis in Illinois and Missouri
-- St. Louis-Kansas City in Missouri
-- Minneapolis/St. Paul-Madison in Minnesota and Wisconsin
-- Madison-Milwaukee in Wisconsin
-- Milwaukee-Chicago in Wisconsin and Illinois
-- Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati in Ohio
-- Detroit/Pontiac-Chicago in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois
-- Tampa-Orlando in Florida
-- Raleigh-Charlotte in North Carolina
-- Washington-Richmond in the District of Columbia and Virginia
-- Raleigh-Richmond in North Carolina and Virginia
-- New York City-Albany-Buffalo in New York
-- New York City-Montreal in New York and Quebec, Canada.
-- Boston-New York-Washington in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia
-- Brunswick-Portland in Maine
-- Philadelphia-Harrisburg-Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania
-- Springfield-East Northfield in Massachusetts
-- New Haven-Springfield in Connecticut and Massachusetts
Among the highlights: California will receive $2.3 billion to begin work on an 800-mile-long, high-speed rail line tying Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego. $1.25 billion will go to Florida to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami. $1.1 billion for Illinois-Missouri to improve a rail line between Chicago and St. Louis so that trains travel up to 110 mph. $810 million to Wisconsin to upgrade and refurbish train stations and install safety equipment on the Madison-to-Milwaukee leg of a line that stretches from Minneapolis to Chicago. The Washington-Oregon project will receive $590 million to upgrade a rail line from Seattle to Portland, Ore. North Carolina will receive $520 million for projects that will increase top speeds to 90 mph on trains between Raleigh and Charlotte and double the number of round trips. Connecticut will receive $40 million in stimulus funding toward constructing a second track along a rail line between New Haven and Springfield, Mass., which will allow trains to travel at speeds up to 110 mph. Vermont will receive more than $50 million to upgrade track stretching from St. Albans to Massachusetts.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) the initial strategic
investments are focused on three key areas that will deliver transportation,
economic recovery and other public benefits:
1. Building new high-speed rail corridors that will fundamentally expand and improve passenger transportation in the geographic regions they serve
2. Upgrading existing intercity passenger rail services
3. Laying the groundwork for future high-speed passenger rail services through smaller projects and planning efforts
For more information see the FRA's high speed rail interactive map at http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/2243
One of the Capitol Hill newspapers estimated that I've taken more than 7,000
round trips on Amtrak over the course of my career. But the one I made on Jan.
17, 2009 was a bit different. When I got there, there were 8,000 people standing
in the freezing cold. And I wasn't racing to reach the 7:46 a.m. Metroliner
(later, the Acela) that I had taken thousands of times before.
I was meeting up with the train that would carry President Obama and me to our inauguration.
That day, Gregg Weaver, a conductor who started riding Amtrak the same year I did--1972--introduced me to the crowd. As Gregg spoke, it struck me that over the years, Amtrak provided me with more than a way to get to Washington to serve the people of Delaware every morning and a way to get home to my family each night. It has provided me another family entirely--a community of dedicated professionals who have shared the milestones in my life, and who have allowed me to share the milestones in theirs.
And it has provided me with one thing more, an understanding of--and a respect for--the role of rail travel in our society and our economy.
Though I don't get to ride the train nearly as much anymore, those were the lessons I brought with me on that final trip to Washington as a United States Senator.
I began making the 110-mile commute shortly after I was sworn in as a Senator. It was the only way that I could have been a Senator at all. I had to be able to get home to spend evenings with my two sons after we lost their mother and sister in an auto accident a month earlier.
Since then, on those many trips down to Washington, I got into a routine. From Wilmington to Baltimore I'd read the papers and make phone calls. At Baltimore, I'd start preparing for that day's hearings, amending my opening statement or going through the list of witnesses. And by the time I arrived in D.C., I'd be ready to jump right in.
Getting home was sometimes a sprint, too. One year, on my birthday, my daughter had planned a party for me. She really wanted to give me a gift and blow out candles. Senator Bob Dole was the Majority Leader at the time, and we were voting that night. I told him that I really had to be home for my daughter, which meant that I needed to catch the 5:54 p.m. train. Senator Dole backed up the votes until 9 p.m. I boarded the train and, in Wilmington, my daughter was standing there on the middle platform. She and my wife sang "Happy Birthday," I blew out the candle, took a piece of cake, opened her gift, gave her a kiss, and caught the 7:23 p.m. going south--and managed to be there for the 9 p.m. vote.
Amtrak doesn't just carry us from one place to another--it makes things possible that otherwise wouldn't be. For 36 years, I was able to make most of those birthday parties, to get home to read bedtime stories, to cheer for my children at their soccer games. Simply put, Amtrak gave me--and countless other Americans--more time with my family. That's worth immeasurably more to me than the fare printed on the ticket.
When I took the train every night--and I still do whenever possible--I always
noticed the lights on in the houses flickering in the passing neighborhoods,
dotting the landscape speeding by my window. Moms and dads were at their kitchen
table, talking after they put their kids to bed. Like Americans everywhere,
they were asking questions as profound as they are ordinary: Should Mom move
in with us now that Dad is gone? How are we going to pay the heating bills?
Did you hear the company may be cutting our health care? Now that we owe more
on the house than it's worth, how are we going to send the kids to college?
How are we going be able to retire?
I would look out the window and hear their questions, feel their pain. And every time I made that trip, it would inspire me to get up the next day, head back down to Washington, and give them the answers they're looking for. Those moments looking out the window and seeing the lights on, they told me things that the briefing folders in front of me never could. They gave color and meaning to the problems I've spent my career trying to solve. They reminded me why I made that trip back and forth 7,000 times.
But my support for rail travel goes beyond the emotional connection. With delays at our airports and congestion on our roads becoming increasingly ubiquitous, volatile fuel prices, increased environmental awareness, and a need for transportation links between growing communities, rail travel is more important to America than ever before.
Support for Amtrak must be strong--not because it is a cherished American
institution, which it is--but because it is a powerful and indispensable way
to carry us all into a leaner, cleaner, greener 21st century.
Consider that if you shut down Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, it is estimated that to compensate for the loss, you'd have to add seven new lanes of highway to Interstate 95. When you consider that it costs an average of $30 million for one linear mile of one lane of highway, you see what a sound investment rail travel is. And that's before you factor in the environmental benefits of keeping millions and millions of cars off the road.
In 1830, the first steam-engine locomotive, the Tom Thumb, graced America's railways. Its first run was a rickety 13-mile trek from Baltimore to Ellicott Mills, Md., but it became much more than that. It marked the beginning of a new journey, heading straight into a better, more imaginative American future.
We are on a similar journey now. We are at the dawn of a new age, where the very best ideas of today will shape our tomorrow, where renewable clean energy and new transportation systems and more efficient technology will revolutionize American life the way the Tom Thumb did some 180 years ago.
On Jan. 20, 2009, pulling out of the Wilmington train station, embarking on that same short trip I made thousands of times before, I thought again about the journey America was about to take as a nation. And I saw our future the same way I always did: looking out Amtrak's windows.
by Bruce Watson, Oct 29th 2009
"On Tuesday, Subsidy Scope, a subsidiary of the Pew Charitable Trust, reported that Amtrak, America's passenger rail company, "lost" an average of $38 per passenger. Citing a new metric for train depreciation, the report suggested that the train line has been less than transparent in its estimation of its own profitability.
"While it is interesting that the government spends an average of $38 on each Amtrak passenger, this isn't really news. Over a year ago, in fact, Amtrak president Alex Kummant stated that each passenger on the train line represents a public capital expenditure of approximately $40, and similar figures have been bandied about for years. In fact, the only truly surprising thing is that some conservative think tanks and advocacy organizations continue to criticize the corporation for its failure to turn a profit. The underlying message seems to be that Amtrak is a financial failure, and that if rail travel were privatized, it would somehow be able to make a profit.
"The truth is that Amtrak is not designed to make money; rather, it is designed to provide a public service. The same could be said of the rest of America's transportation network: none of the country's transportation systems generate profit or pay for themselves. The airlines, for example, rely on a patchwork of municipal, state, and federal funding to finance the cost of airports. Meanwhile, federal funds pay for airport security and taxes pay for the FAA. Many pilots are trained by the military, and much of the avionics used in private aircraft is developed under military contract. If these costs were transferred to airline passengers, the price of a plane ticket would be prohibitive.
"And what about America's roads? The highway trust fund, which is ostensibly funded by gas taxes, still receives money from Congress, while the various agencies that oversee its administration and police its passengers are all funded by taxes. Again, if these costs were transferred to individual travelers, few people could afford to drive.
"Taken on a passenger-by-passenger basis, trains cost taxpayers far less than cars, planes, motorcycles or rickshaws. The big difference, as National Corridor Initiative president and CEO James P. RePass noted in a recent interview, is that "Subsidies for airlines and highways are far less obvious than Amtrak's single line item."
"The Subsidy Scope study also pointed out that some portions of the Amtrak infrastructure are more profitable than others. For example, the Northeast Corridor's Acela Express makes an average profit of $41 per customer, while the Northeast Regional, which is more heavily traveled, costs $5 per passenger. In Subsidy Scope's estimation, the biggest loser in the land is the Sunset Limited, which runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles at an average cost of $462 per customer.
"The Sunset Limited has long been plagued with problems and Amtrak is still working to increase its performance. However, the idea that one can parse a railway system into profitable and unprofitable lines is probably shortsighted. As Kummant noted, "it's an entire network that matters. And if you don't have an entire network, you end up with a ridiculous patchwork of short little lanes of things that make no sense from a national system." To put it another way, while certain portions of an interstate highway may be more popular than others, closing off several less-traveled miles would vastly reduce the overall effectiveness of the system, as some regions would be cut off from the grid and others would face longer, more costly routes.
"RePass addressed this point, stating: "The benefit of a transportation system doesn't accrue to the system itself, but rather to the economy and to the cities and citizens it services. Pew, by looking at the cost of tickets, reinforces the notion that transportation systems have to pay for themselves." As policymakers, pundits and politicians assess the value of America's passenger rail, they need to get past the idea that it must pay for itself. The measure of a rail line's profit is the energy and vitality that it brings to an area and the commerce that it supports."
In a recent article in "The Baltimore Sun" Michael Dresser says that it came as no surprise "that the United States is far behind Japan or Germany or France in high-speed rail. We've known for years that visitors from these highly developed industrial nations have been laughing behind our backs at our woefully antiquated rail system." But Dresser sounds a wake up call when he notes "But it came as a shock to be confronted with the reality of how far behind we are in high-speed intercity rail compared with such countries as China, Turkey, South Korea and Brazil. Even Iran is planning a line from Tehran to Qom that will reach 200 mph - a speed that will make Amtrak's Acela (maximum 135 mph) look as if it were being pulled by Thomas the Tank Engine." And in Spain, "the service is so reliable that the operator will refund a passenger's full fare if the train is more than five minutes late. Riders also get their money back if the air conditioning or toilet malfunctions."
Imagine that in the USA?
Dresser goes on to say that "Much of the opposition to high-speed rail in this country stems from an ideological opposition to a government role in just about anything but fighting wars. But history shows that there has never been a significant advance in U.S. transportation without federal involvement on some level. Many of the same arguments made against high-speed rail could be made about the Erie Canal, transcontinental rail and the interstate highway system."
"This is all information gleaned at the inaugural conference of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association in Washington last week," writes Dresser. The association has a definite point of view. "It's advocating construction of a 17,000-mile high-speed rail network in the United States and parts of Canada - carrying trains at speeds up to 220 mph - by 2030."
How do we fund such a system?
Dresser turns to one authority for a possible answer. "Norman Anderson, chief executive of CG/LA Infrastructure LLC, suggested a way to fund such big projects. He supports the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank - a concept President Barack Obama has embraced and for which he proposed $5 billion in the budget. Anderson said that such a bank could be financed through the sale of federally backed bonds to private citizens, pension funds and other investors. The bank would finance the construction of rail lines - and other capital projects - that would be leased to operating companies. Without the burden of maintaining obsolete infrastructure like Amtrak's, he said, the operating companies could make a decent profit."
So there you have it, folks. Even Iran is surpassing us on creating a first class rail transportation network.
A New York Times article of December 22, 2006 by Matthew L. Wald and Don Phillips
providing some very interesting reading. Here are some highlights from this
" Amtrak could see a ridership growth spurt of 50 percent in the next
five to 10 years, but it would require billions of state and federal dollars
invested in the tracks of other railroads, and millions more of private investment
in passenger rail cars, the new president of the railroad said Thursday in an
" ...Mr. Kummant indicated that Amtrak was backing away from some ideas
that had upset Amtrak supporters, including putting the Washington-to-Boston
corridor under separate ownership. He also said he did not intend to slash the
long-distance network because it was a national asset that, once lost, would
probably never be recovered.
" ...Mr. Kummant, a former freight rail executive, said that the rail
network nationally was overloaded, but that strong growth in freight traffic,
and the interest in rail as a solution to congestion and
energy problems, opened the possibility for government investment in private freight railroad lines that Amtrak used."
Regarding our own concerns about frequent threats to cutback on our nation's
long distance trains, Kummant said: "We're not going to do anything radical
" ...The cost of cross-country trains comes to about a dollar and a half per American per year, he said, and they are irreplaceable. He compared trains like the Empire Builder and the City of New Orleans to assets like national parks. ?I haven?t had the opportunity to go to Glacier National Park since 1976, but I pay taxes every year in the hope that I have the option to go back," Mr. Kummant said.
AMTRAK SLEEPING CAR PLANS AVAILABLE ON FRIENDS OF AMTRAK WEBSITE, August 24, 2000. Friends of Amtrak now has a page that shows in JPG format the layout of Amtrak's sleeping cars. Amtravelers take note! I don't believe that I've seen such a plan anywhere on the net. http://trainweb.org/crocon/sleeperplans.html
NO TRAIN NO GAIN BUMPER STICKER OFFERED FREE -- December 17, 2000. The Railroad Passenger Association of Alabama is offering a free "No Train No Gain" bumper sticker. For information check out the page link by Friends of Amtrak:
FREE with LSSAE, $1.00 for each additional. Black on white, peel and stick variety, sized to fit inside a legal sized envelope. This is a volunteer effort in support of passenger rail. No profits are made. Quantities of 100 available for $34.00 postage paid to organizations and individuals.
For your bumper sticker send to:
THE SIX MYTHS ABOUT AMTRAK
Myth #1 - Amtrak can be profitable. No national rail passenger system in the world is profitable. Without public subsidy, there will be no passenger rail transportation systems in the United States.
Myth #2 - The private sector is dying to take over our services. Remember why we were formed. We are what is left of a once privately run enterprise.
Myth #3 - Long-distance trains are the problem. This is perhaps one of the biggest myths. If you eliminate every long-distance train, your avoidable costs would decrease about $70 million a year-after about a year and a half of making labor protection costs. On a fully allocated basis, after five years, you might save annually about $300 million. Focusing on this problem is not going to save Amtrak. This approach is a red herring.
Myth #4 - Amtrak is a featherbed for labor. Our wage rates are about 90% of the freight industry and are even lower when compared to transit. Wages are not the problem; generating a higher level of productivity, that is the challenge. It is management's duty to seek such improvement.
Myth #5 - The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is profitable. The NEC may cover most of its above-the-rail costs, but it is an extremely costly piece of railroad to maintain. The NEC is not profitable and never will be. Sure, private groups might be interested in having it, but they would take it only with the promise of massive capital infusions.
Myth #6 - There is a quick fix - reform. The word reform is like catnip to those interested in a quick fix to Amtrak. If the answer were quick and easy, we would have solved the problem long ago. What needs to be done is to tightly manage the company and its finances and begin to make incremental but critical improvements to plant and equipment.
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