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Dan Monaghan Rail Advocacy  
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                                 Dan Monaghan Passenger Rail Advocate

Mr. Dan Monaghan rail advocate joins our Save Amtrak team. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject of trains.  I asked Dan to Tell it like it is!  Hold nothing back!   Be honest and truthful! The viewpoints on this page are the view points of Mr.Dan Monaghan.  Mr Monaghan is very well respected in the rail community and I respect his integrity and honesty to present the facts as he see's it.
                        Let's all get down to business to Save Amtrak and our long distance trains. It's important!

About Mr.Dan Monaghan
Full name:  Marvin Daniel Monaghan -- go by "Dan" 
Age:  76 mileposts.
Discovered America:  Wichita Falls, TX in 1926 Lived there until 1942 then moved to Amarillo. Later Sulphur Springs, TX,for two years, with a final move to Garland, TX (suburban Dallas) in 1952. 

Pedigree:  Came from a railroad family.  Father started as a lowly file clerk in 1918 in Childress, TX, with the Fort Worth & Denver Ry,the Texas subsidiary of the Burlington Railroad (CB&Q).   Moved to Wichita Falls as a clerk in the  superintendent's office about 1921.  With the start of WW II more officials were needed so he was sent to Amarillo as trainmaster.  From there he rose  thru asst. superintendent and superintendent until 1957 at which time he was sent to the general office in Fort Worth as general manager of all the Burlington's Texas Lines.  He retired in 1963 and passed away in
1972.  I spent many an hour in his office and out on the line with him.  My mother was first a school teacher and housewife
thereafter.  She became deceased in  1973.  I grew up with the "Texas Zephyr."

Education:  Grade school, Jr. High and High School in Wichita Falls.College at Amarillo Jr. College and UT-Austin with degree in physics.  Optometry  school in Chicago when the passenger trains were in full bloom.  Graduated 1950.
Occupation:  Private practice of optometry 2 years with cousin in Sulphur Springs with a  move to Garland in 1952.  Almost retired now after 50 years. 

Avocational activities:  About everything involving railroads and transit.Served on the NARP Board for 6 years in the 1970's and early 1980's.  No longer  a member.  Served on the Dallas City-County Amtrak Committee which helped bring Amtrak to Dallas in 1974.  Served on a city rail freight committee in the early 1990's when the Union Pacific made it clear that they intended to abandon all former MKT service in the northeast Dallas/Garland area.  Succeeded in bringing in the RailTex shortline, Dallas Garland & Northeastern to continue service to industries.  Appointed by the Garland City Council to  the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Board of Directors in 1990, served until 1993, returned in 2000 and still serving.

Other hobbies include model railroading in O and HO scale and antique tinplate collecting, amateur radio, and antique automobiles  Am co-manager of a 15 piece big band (The Millennium Music Makers) made up of seniors playing the great swing music of the 1930's and 1940's. Play mostly for dances at the senior centers.Instruments are alto sax and clarinet.           Tinkering with computers and a few other things.

Added 6/24/02:
The best solution for Amtrak is to hold fast to their threat to shut down the system until they receive their $200 million interim loan.

        Then they should systematically begin to reduce Amtrak's role in rail operation by setting up a division which would, as rapidly as possible, begin to contract out all commuter operations including the Northeast Corridor to outside contractors such as Herzog who is well respected in the industry, or their counterparts, and cease competing with these private sector contractors by bidding for commuter contracts themselves.  This will address the concerns of those who are convinced that privatization should
be a major component of Amtrak reform.  Transfer of the infrastructure cost of the Northeast Corridor to DOT would be a high priority

        A second division of the agency would be an operating division which would concentrate on the maintenance and operation of the long-distance interstate system which would never lend itself to privatization due to complexities of maintaining and furnishing rolling stock and infrastructure over a far-flung national system in a uniform manner.  States should not be involved as it long ago proved impractical and futile to achieve cooperation among states involving interstate routes.

        Such an approach addresses several diverse opinions regarding the future of Amtrak, with distributed benefits, and with an opportunity to monitor more closely revenues and expenses along with any necessary subsidies.

M.D. Monaghan, member
DART Board of Directors

Added 3/30/02
A clear picture of what each mode can contribute to a  good mix of public and private transportation.

While increasing numbers of public officials are coming around to the support of rail it is evident that some do not have a clear picture of what each mode can contribute to a  good mix of public and private transportation.  Perhaps the following discussion based on actual experience during the past five years operation of light and commuter rail at DART in Dallas will be enlightening:
        Some say that rail is the best for large numbers of travelers going to a single destination, buses are better at serving several stops, and cars,including car pools do the best job in serving many locations.

        The reality is, as has been proven with DART in Dallas, that buses are good at serving several stops very close together but are slow and do not appeal to the middle class who do not wish to stand on street corners where routes are not clearly defined.  One of the best uses of buses is feeding rail stations.  Light rail is very efficient in serving several stops spaced one to three miles apart, traveling at speeds up to 65 mph in between, in addition to accessing central business district destinations. Commuter rail serves the same purpose with stations wider apart.  Cars and car pools serve best where there is no opportunity to build rail or traffic volume is not adequate.  The reality is that rail creates a multiplicity of origins and destinations with a frequency that does not compromise fast schedules; it does not serve merely a single destination.  In many cases the speed of rail can erase job imbalances in cities where the jobs are in one area and the working class lives in another too remote to access with slow buses.  This is happening in Dallas where many entry level workers live in the southern sector but with the job opportunities being in the
north--and at many destinations--not just one.

        Anyone needing proof of this can visit Dallas and ride any of the light rail lines which speed thru neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood with a smooth, gliding ride, swift acceleration, and at high speed on a dedicated clearly identifiable right-of-way accessed from stations equipped for park & ride and with trains operating on dependable schedules.  Labor is efficient with one operator handling several hundred riders as opposed to fifty on a bus and maintenance of electrical equipment on rail cars is inexpensive compared to a diesel engine in every bus.  Ride quality of buses is poor in comparison to rail.

        Bus transportation serves mainly the transit dependent in most cities except for single destination point to point express buses which the middle class will accept.   When rail is added to the mix it gives the more discretionary middle class an option they will accept enthusiastically and a return on the sales tax they pay to support the transit system.  They simply want to drive their cars to a secure park & ride station and step aboard a train on a fast dependable schedule, not wait on a street corner
for an unpredictable bus.

        The proof lies in Dallas.  On the buses you see overalls and blue jeans. On the trains you see business suits and skirts with brief cases AND overalls and blue jeans in a mix of riders that represents the full spectrum of citizens who pay the taxes and fares to support the system.

Dan Monaghan, member
Board of Directors
Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Station and baggage handling reductions  March 7,2002
The predatory nature of Amtrak's decision to reduce station hours, baggage handling facilities, and station personnel should reaffirm the fact that their objective has been to discontinue the long-haul trains from the very begining in 1971 when Amtrak was created, as ex-Amtrak president Tom Downs testified in the Senate Surface Transportation subcommittee hearing on
March 13, 1997.

 Warrington has given Congress a ransom note for millions of dollars stating that most of it will be needed to further gold-plate the Northeast Corridor--but it is not the Northeast Corridor he is holding for ransom--which should be the logical hostage since it is clearly the culprit in Amtrak's financial difficulties as revealed by the Amtrak Reform Council.  It is the long-distance trains in the national system that could earn modest profits if properly operated that are being plundered and cut back.  These cutbacks will further discourage ridership, reduce revenue, and lead to further accusations by Amtrak that they lose money.

 He knows how unlikely it is that Congress will fork over the amount demanded so he will be another step forward in his long-haul slash and burn policy that started with the decimation of the long-haul car fleet, beginning with the divestment of the Heritage cars and the refusal to repair damaged Superliners that have been stacking up in Beech Grove.

 He knows he has found the perfect formula for sacking the national system where previous tactics of attempting to discontinue trains failed due to reprisals on the part of  members of Congress.  They are too disorganized to know how to cope with these unscrupulous tactics. 

 It is unfortunate that so many rail supporters have misinterpreted the report of the Reform Council, the leadership of which has known this all  along.  This is exactly why they insisted that the NEC infrastructure, with its huge costs, be severed from the agency proper.  As long as Congress makes undesignated appropriations to Amtrak they will be seized and  diverted to the NEC, and the status quo will prevail.

 All corridor operations which serve circumscribed areas with primarily commuter type services must be transferred to regional ownership and operation, funded primarily by local taxes of choice, the same as light rail systems around over the country.  Federal support can still be available but as discretionary funds awarded on a competitive basis with overmatch incentives to encourage local support.  Only interstate trains should receive direct federal appropriations.  For too long people in Idaho
have been subsidizing trains in Delaware.  It is one of the most blatant examples of inquitable distribution of federal funds in history.

 Too many rail advocates have been mesmerized by Amtrak's Lorelei whine for more and more money with no commitment as to what it will be used for.  The answer is to break up the agency along with its corruption ensuring that the destination for the money will be prescribed when it comes from Congress.  This does not necessarily mean privatization as profits will not
likely be great enough to attract private investors.  The Northeast Corridor is and has been from the start the rotten apple that spoiled the entire barrel and must be dealt with as such.  Let the people in the Northeast pay for their transit system the same way people in Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Salt Lake, Denver and other regions that have rail pay
for theirs.  It can connect with the national system the same as the others do.

Thoughts regarding the nation's rail network: Feb 10, 2002

The past---

        A resource that must be kept intact for its inherent ability to move freight and passengers affordably, efficiently, and at reasonable speeds. It once served both purposes well for the day and time but never fully promoted passenger service because the revenue derived was always inferior to freight and the investment in freight equipment paid a greater return. They provided it nevertheless because they felt that they had to provide the necessary transportation for their freight shippers.  When the shippers completed their move to the air as the jets came on line about 1958, the railroads lost interest and wanted out.  One important reason was that they wanted to eliminate timetable operation, which was necessary before radio and CTC, in order to achieve more flexible on-the-spot dispatching and get rid of cabooses and labor.

        Amtrak was legislated in 1970 and implemented in 1971as a joint effort of people in Congress and in the population, who felt that abandoning passenger trains was a mistake, and by a conspiracy who saw it as a positive step toward a desired elimination of the trains due to extreme right wing principles, railroads that wanted rid of them, interests who subscribed to the gospel promoted by the railroads that people would not ride trains except in the heavily populated cities of the East, and highway and other vested interests such as the Northeast political establishment who were afraid tax money would be diverted from their domains.  The conspirators expected the national system to be shut down within two to three years as Tom Downs testified in the Senate Surface Transportation Subcommittee Amtrak hearing on March 13 of 1997 chaired by Senator Kay
Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

        I had the privilege of being a close friend of Dallas resident Charles Luna, founder of the UTU, who served on the Amtrak Board for 22 years from the beginning to his death in 1992.  During that time I had access to all the board minutes and agendas and it was apparent that the board had no intention of making any long term investment in the national system. During a portion of his tenure he had the good fortune of having support of two other board members, Joseph MacDonald and Ed Ullman, a situation not enjoyed since.  Their diligent efforts and the energy crisis thwarted the efforts of the conspirators and led to a new lease on life including the Superliner orders and the ascension of Graham Claytor to the presidency, who did not agree with the conspirators.  Following the death of Luna in 1992 and the retirement and death shortly after of Claytor, Tom Downs began
aggressive efforts to dismantle the national system and, after he was deposed, Warrington followed suit.  These efforts were temporarily slowed by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas who was furious over the threat to the Texas Eagle which had experienced outstanding ridership and community support before the Downs assault. 

        Warrington, however, devised a clever way to resume the assault,  The politicians regularly rose up to defend train discontinuances, but they did not know how to deal with Warrington's strategy of allowing the rolling stock and service to deteriorate and not repair or replace it and not dealing aggressively with the railroads for better performance.  At the
same time he pursued a course that backfired thinking he could blackmail Congress into vast increases in subsidies by holding the national system hostage, whining for money and thinking he could dazzle the nation with the Acelas, causing their mouths to water for fast corridor service which would not work in the vast number of instances outside the NEC and not very well
there for that matter on an antique railroad.  He clearly does not understand or have any use for long-distance trains or the purposes they serve.  This gross mismanagement has led to the crisis that prevails today and the formation of the Reform Council to make recommendations for corrections.

The future---

        If rail passenger service is to survive it is clear that the imbalance in distribution of resources that exists around over the nation and the dissension that has resulted has to be resolved with equity governing the appropriations and uses of the available funding.  People basically should get the facilities they are willing to pay for with supplements available that represent the inter uses of the facilities.  This principle already applies to rail transit systems.  Local tax funds provide the basic resources and the providers of these funds will be the principal users. Supplemental funds from Congressional appropriations should be available
which represent the use of a system by a visitor from another area who happens to make use of it.         These supplemental funds, however, should be awarded on a competitive discretionary basis to encourage, through competition, as much local
support as possible.  Overmatches would assure more prompt access to the funds. ****    Full federal funding via the appropriations process should be used only for an interstate rail system which would be well distributed and paid for people all over the nation  that will have access to it.  Compensation to railroads should be in the form of right-of-way improvements rather than lease charges which will be of perpetual value to them for added freight capacity and profit in addition to room for passener services.

        I am not convinced of the future of corridor routes unless paid for according to the above as they will prove expensive without substantial freight revenue which will be constrained to provide fast, frequent passenger service.  This will lead to attempts to expropriate funds rightfully belonging to other areas of the nation and there will be a repeat performance of the acrimony that surrounds the excesses of the NEC. Small jets will increasingly penetrate this market as they become availale.

        All of this depends upon adequate funding and it will never be possible for the rail advocates to go to Congress with a uniform, dedicated front as long as one or a few areas are trying to steal the shirts off the other's backs.  An area with a tri-weekly train can't be expected to march in lock step with an area that has a train every 30 minutes.  This is greed pure
and simple.  Unanimity is absolutely essential.

        If this principle of equity is adopted and adhered to there should be no need to wind down the national system and have to deal with labor issues. There will be more labor opportunities than ever before.  If it is not, strife and dissension will continue to stall progress.  The present Amtrak management and board must go.  They have not demonstrated competence having led the agency into the present tar pit. 

        The Reform Council has come close to the answer in several respects. Above all the NEC infrastructure must be carved out of the remainder of the system so that the huge cost identified by the ARC can be made transparent, and the fact established that the long-haul trains are not the losers that the conspiracy has represented.  Once that is done things can move forward.

        I have noted with interest a report posted on our Mobility Dallas website authored by experienced rate and tariff statistician, Dave Randall of Alton, IL, who stated that a Superliner train made up of four coaches, three sleepers, a diner and lounge operating at 75% capacity can pay its operating costs and generate a modest profit to apply to system overhead.
Any freight revenue would be additional income.  Dave has challenged anyone to refute this and, to my knowledge, no one has.  This is about what the Texas Eagle was doing in the Claytor Administration before Downs proceeded to downgrade it.

        For those of us who are not particularly religious, the above can be justified with logic and an understanding of human nature.  For those of us that are religious, there is a rule that can be found in the book that preceded the railroad rulebooks by thousands of years known as the "Golden Rule."  Either route will lead us to a junction point marked by success in preserving and improving our rail passenger system.  Take your choice.  The alternatives lead to a derail.
Dan Monaghan

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