Vol. 6 No. 49
November 28, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items... 
Carrots and sticks for Amtrak
Amtrak has a record year in Iowa
Mineta tries to reassure New York on Amtrak
Eugene newspaper hits Bush administration
Toddler killed at rail crossing accident that residents
   had condemned as unsafe
  Commuter lines… 
Congress set to OK $340M for East Side access
  Financial lines… 
New York’s MTA gets high marks from Fitch Ratings
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
Deutsche Bahn to relocate headquarters to Hamburg
Rail advocates fear the worst from German budget cut
  Editorials… 
Mr. President, re-instate David Gunn.
Grade crossing madness continues
  Opinion… 
Some Thoughts on David Gunn--- and Amtrak’s future
From the Hartford Courant - Rail service Gunn-ed dDown
  End notes… 

NEWS ITEMS...  News items...

Carrots and sticks for Amtrak

WASHINGTON --- Amtrak gets both carrots and sticks in Congress‚ $1.31 billion appropriation passed November 18 and before President Bush for signature, The New York Times reported November 26.

Matt Wald, veteran Washington and transportation writer for The Times, wrote, “Congress was fairly generous with Amtrak in the transportation budget it passed just before it went home for Thanksgiving, but the package has some unusual strings attached.”

Those include money for a private sector freight business that Amtrak’s David Gunn had ordered exited, but which a court ordered it to continue, and a measure allowing the Secretary of Transportation to order increases in the amount Amtrak charges commuter rail lines that operate over the Northeast Corridor.

It also would seek to limit Amtrak’s ability to discount tickets, and reduce usage of the revenue-maximizing, last-seat-sold-costs-most system that airlines have used for years, and, and, says The Times, could threaten Amtrak’s ability to serve meals to passengers.

[ This last item is certain to cause reaction from the traveling public, as a large chunk of Amtrak’s revenue comes from retirees traveling on long distance trains, either by choice or because they cannot fly. --- NCI ]

The legislation orders the DOT Inspector General to track Amtrak spending on a quarterly basis.


Return to index
Amtrak has a record year in Iowa

DES MOINES --- Ridership in Iowa reached an all time high during the federal budget year that ended Sept. 30, The Des Moines Register reported this week.

The Iowa ridership reflects other gains in long distance train use across America yet the Bush Administration wants to eliminate Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

“A total of 61,418 passengers got on and off Amtrak trains at Iowa stations That was an increase of 13 percent, or more than 7,000 passengers from a year earlier and the most in Iowa since Amtrak was created by Congress in 1971,” reported Register Staff Writer William Petroski, quoting Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman in Chicago.

Amtrak operates two daily trains that pass through Iowa between Chicago and the West Coast. The California Zephyr stops in Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Osceola and Creston. The Southwest Chief stops in Fort Madison.

Families visiting relatives, taking vacations, or just going away for a weekend found that with higher gasoline prices, the train was becoming an attractive option, the Register reported.

“If they have to pick an alternative, rail is there, “ said Gary Billmeyer, an agent who specializes in Amtrak trips at the Travel Center in Des Moines. “We’re getting some first timers and some repeat travel,” the Register reported.

Jack Hilmes, a Des Moines lawyer, who has driven between Des Moines and Denver about 30 times, decided to switch to the train next time after he spent $85.10 to fill the tank of his Chevrolet Suburban over Labor Day weekend.

Hilmes and his wife and daughter were delighted with their train trip from Osceola to Denver in early November. “I don’t know if we had a good train or what, but I was just wonderfully surprised. We had a great time. Everybody came off the train with smiles,” Hilmes told the Register.

They rode coach class for the overnight westbound rail trip, and took a first-class sleeper car on the way home that included meals. Their cost: $437.

Betty and Leo Schneider of Ames, both 80, told the Register they have ridden Amtrak since its creation. This past year they traveled west to Colorado and at another time east to Chicago. Their family members have come to visit them from Oregon on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, arriving in Winona, Minn. where the Schnieders pick them up.

“Our whole family likes to take the train. Amtrak has had tough times through the years, but we have stuck with it and we really enjoy it,” Betty Schneider told the paper.

Amtrak, which operates on lines used by freight railroads, still has problems running the long distance trains on time. Preliminary figures show the Southwest Chief arrived on schedule 71 percent of the time in the past year. The California Zephyr was had only a 25 percent on-time rating. Magliari told The Register that sharing the tracks with the freight railroads is one of the problems in on-time service.

A longstanding debate over Amtrak’s future last month led Amtrak’s board to fire David Gunn as president, continued the Register. One of the reason’s mentioned was the Bush administration’s desire to have the railroad become more competitive.

But Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, which supports establishing a nine-state Midwest passenger rail network with a Chicago hub, contends, “Amtrak suffers from 70 years of bad federal policies that have driven people away from passenger trains.

“The key is to get a real federal policy to build passenger trains. People would use it in large numbers and then we could move to the next step of actually getting high-speed rail,” Harnish said. He believes U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will play a key role in the debate.

The paper reported that Grassley said he believes Iowa deserves improved rail service. He noted that $1.3 billion was provided for Amtrak in the year ahead in a Senate transportation spending bill.

U.S Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said that Amtrak is endangered because of the administration’s decision to fire David Gunn. He believes it is important to preserve and maintain the long distance trains and has promised to continue his fight in Congress for good rail service for Iowans.


Return to index
Mineta tries to reassure New York on Amtrak

NEW YORK --- New York City needn’t worry about the Bush Administration’s plans for Amtrak, Norman Y. Mineta, the secretary of transportation, said this past week, according to the New York Times.

Mineta came to New York on November 17 to talk about Amtrak, “and though he certainly did not praise the national railway, he did not shovel much dirt on it, either,” reported The Times’ Patrick McGeehan.

Norman Mineta

Speaking at a breakfast meeting of the Association for a Better New York, Mr. Mineta reassured some in the audience by saying he wanted to improve Amtrak, not destroy it. In the wake of the abrupt dismissal of Amtrak’s chief executive, David L. Gunn, last week, some people were braced for an announcement of radical change, The Times reported.

Instead, Mr. Mineta said he supported federal spending “to improve the tracks, tunnels, bridges and stations along the Northeast Corridor,” which extends from Washington to Boston. He said that control over train service on those tracks should eventually be handed over to a consortium of the eight states they run through, The Times said.

Mineta said he was trying to get Congress’s attention when he recommended this year that the federal government cut off Amtrak’s annual subsidy,

He stated he wants investments made in the Northeast Corridor to bring the infrastructure up to a state of good repair, The Times reported. But he did not detail how much the federal government would invest in the corridor under his plan nor did he say how eight states would jointly manage the sprawling enterprise that tens of thousands of commuters depend on to get to work each day. Commuter railroads, including New Jersey Transit, pay Amtrak to let them run trains on its tracks.

George Warrington, the executive director of New Jersey Transit, said that his agency already paid Amtrak more than $100 million a year in user fees and capital investments, and that he was less concerned about who owned the tracks than about who would control operations along them.

Mr. Mineta said that Amtrak’s critics would get a clear answer about the board’s intentions when a successor to Mr. Gunn was chosen. “They’re looking for a turnaround C.E.O., not a liquidator,” he said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, was not placated by Mineta’s remarks, The Times reported. The Senator warned against accepting the idea that the Bush administration wants to save Amtrak.

“The administration is trying to save Amtrak like the Big Bad Wolf is trying to save Little Red Riding Hood,” Mr. Schumer said. “Don’t be fooled. The administration wants to kill Amtrak, not save it.”


Return to index
Eugene newspaper hits Bush administration

EUGENE, OREGON -- An editorial in the Register-Guard hits hard on the Bush administration for the firing of David Gunn. With high praise for Mr. Gunn---” the president who [has] done a superb job of reducing costs, improving performance and increasing ridership…,” the Guard noted that it wasn’t “ hard to figure out the force behind Gunn’s unwarranted dismissal with a board made up of four Bush appointees and three vacancies.”

The newspaper commended Congress for refusing to dismantle Amtrak when they approved legislation that would increase funding for Amtrak for the next fiscal year a sharp contrast to the White House plan that would “choke off federal subsidies [ and ] break the system into pieces…”

Now Congress has a greater burden, the Guard noted, “to keep Amtrak alive.” While lawmakers allocate billions of dollars annually to subsidize airlines, highways, and ports, it’s time now for Congress to ensure that Americans, who, polls show, do want a national rail system, will have the type of system this country needs.

For the complete editorial, see www.registerguard.com.


Return to index
Toddler killed at rail crossing accident
that residents had condemned as unsafe

SAN JOSE --- For years, residents of the South San Jose neighborhood where a toddler was killed by a train this week have demanded a safe route to get over the railroad tracks near Monterey Highway and Blossom Hill Road, reported the San Jose Mercury News

“There are plans to add two safe crossings, but they won’t be completed for years. So pedestrians continue to routinely dart across illegally to get to schools or stores,” reported the paper’s Kimra McPherson.

“Everybody’s been waiting for this to happen,” resident William Summers told the Mercury. Summers has lived in a mobile home park near the tracks for 12 years. “If you don’t make places where they can go across without getting killed or injured, you’re asking for something to happen,” he said

The Mercury reported that police say Katrina Marie Hatton, 20, was walking Alexander Arriaga, 2, and his brother across the tracks Monday morning to get to the McDonald’s on Monterey Highway. “She walked back over the tracks to get the stroller carrying her own son and Alexander followed her. He was hit by an Amtrak passenger train traveling nearly 80 mph.” reported the paper.

“Alexander’s death highlights the need for a legal pathway across the tracks. Short of walking a half-mile north to Chynoweth, crossing illegally is the only way for pedestrians to get to businesses east of the tracks and schools and a community center to the west,” said the Mercury.

[ For the complete article go to: www.mercurynews.com. Contact Kimra McPherson at kcmpherson@mercurynews.com. or (408) 920-5928. ]


Return to index
COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Congress set to OK $340M for East Side Access

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK, --- It’s been a good couple of weeks for East Side Access, the proposed Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central, reported Long Island’s Newsday.

“More than a week after voters approved a $2.9-billion statewide transportation bond that included $450 million for the project, Congress was poised to approve another $340 million,” reported Newsday writer Joie Tyrrell.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Friday that the House approved the $340 million in a transportation bill and he expected the Senate to do the same. Congress has already approved nearly $600 million for the project.
King said voter approval of the transportation bond has helped with the federal flow of money, the paper reported.

“It gave the project credibility and shows it has staying power,” King told Newsday on Friday.


Return to index
FINANCIAL LINES...  Financial lines...

New York’s MTA Gets High Marks from Fitch Ratings

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE), -- Fitch Ratings assigns an ‘A’ rating to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, NY’s (MTA) $175.3 million transportation revenue refunding bonds, series 2005H, the proceeds of which will be used to refund the MTA’s transportation revenue variable-rate bonds, series 2002C. The series 2005H bonds are expected to sell via negotiation by a JP Morgan led syndicate on or about Nov. 21. In addition, Fitch affirms the ‘A’ rating on $9.1 billion in outstanding transportation revenue bonds. The Rating Outlook is Stable.

For complete article, go to Business Wire, New York, November 18, 2005 04:05 PM US Eastern Timezone


Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)65.4566.66
Canadian National (CNI)80.0677.44
Canadian Pacific (CP)42.1241.65
CSX (CSX)48.9148.63
Florida East Coast (FLA)43.1142.59
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)33.6033.81
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.2324.63
Norfolk Southern (NSC)43.8943.87
Providence & Worcester (PWX)15.0014.15
Union Pacific (UNP)76.8575.00


Return to index
ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Compiled by David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

 

Deutsche Bahn to relocate headquarters to Hamburg

Sources: Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutschland Press and other sources

The mayor of Hamburg confirmed, that Deutsche Bahn AG (DBAG) – German Railways – will relocate its corporate headquarters from Berlin to Hamburg in the next 4 – 5 years. DBAG has had its corporate headquarters at its current Potsdamer Platz location for nearly 10 years. The lease on the gleaming glass and stainless steel building, owned by Sony Entertainment, is reported to expire sometime in 2009. DBAG has approximately 900 employees at its Potsdamer Platz location in the center of Berlin. DBAG with 20,000 employees in the greater Berlin area is the largest non-government employer in the metropolitan area.

It has been reported that DBAG wants to relocate its headquarters to Hamburg in order to be closer to its transport and logistical core businesses. The port city of Hamburg is Germany’s busiest commercial port and among Europe’s largest shipping centers. DB Logistik Railion operates one of the largest rail freight classification yards in Europe just a few dozen kilometres south of Hamburg.

Berlin has not yet materialized into the international transport hub, which many had hoped for 10 – 15 years ago when the city was re-unified and the German government began pouring billions of euros into the region’s transportation infrastructure.


Return to index
Rail Advocates Fear the Worst From German Budget Cuts

Source: Bahn TV

Rail transit advocates, environmentalists and labor unions across Germany voiced dismay and shock over newly developed plans to reduce federal government assistance to Germany’s state governments for local and regional transportation operations. The newly formed grand coalition government between the conservative leaning CDU/CSU party and the left leaning SPD party has decided to cut the annual federal to state transportation subsidy of approximately ¤ 7 billion by 10% in steps over five years, as the federal government struggles to get Germany’s ballooning federal deficit under control. German states use this money along with their own revenue to pay for local and regional mass transit operation.

Passenger rail advocacy group “Pro Schiene”, numerous Green Party members and officials from the rail labor union Transnet, among others, stated that the subsidy cuts will likely mean reduced bus and train operations, especially in suburban and rural areas, with line closures and lay-offs of potentially thousands of transit workers. They vowed to oppose the cuts, which have not yet been finalized into law in future years.


Return to index
EDITORIALS...  Editorials...

by The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

 

Mr. President, re-instate David Gunn.

It is time for this Administration to stop embarrassing itself, or it can count on a place in history somewhere to the South of Warren G. Harding. It doesn’t matter which, if any, political party you are in --- this bunch is an embarrassment to America.

David Gunn’s illegal removal as President of Amtrak had nothing to do with the Administration’s claims that --- after 42 years as a railroad executive --- he suddenly lacked the skills needed to reform Amtrak.

David Gunn was fired because he was spoiling the Bush Administration’s plans to sell off Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor – its only real asset --- to private sector ownership mixed with individual state management. While private sector involvement in transportation corridor development is not in and of itself a bad thing – to the contrary, we need it in many ways to help restore the nation’s badly congested transportation system to health --- removing the best leader Amtrak has ever had is a pretty poor way to prepare for it.

Gunn had shown that with operations-oriented management, even Amtrak, which has been systematically starved of cash for 30 years, can function; with capital, it --- and the freight railroads, which need public infrastructure investment as well --- can flourish, and be of tremendous economic and environmental benefit to all Americans, in scores of transportation corridors. Gunn wants Amtrak to retain control of its assets, and he is right.

We ask for a full-scale Congressional inquiry into the firing of Mr. Gunn, because the Board that fired Gunn was illegally constituted; it, not Mr. Gunn, needs to be replaced.

Of course, the President can and should make that change without the need for a Congressional prod. His plate is full enough with even more serious matters, like war and peace. We don’t need the unnecessary distraction of a leaderless Amtrak, in a time of war, where we need to pay full attention to the dangers facing our country. It is time to re-instate David Gunn, and let him get back to work. And while we’re at it, let’s fund the Amtrak system like the great national asset that it should and can be.


Return to index
Grade crossing madness continues

The tragic death of a toddler at a dangerous rail crossing (San Jose Mercury, November 24) points up once again the madness of allowing at-grade highway crossings on heavily traveled rail corridors.

Recently, the Federal Railroad Administration released its six-month report touting statistical improvements to grade crossing safety, yet the Administration has absolutely no effective national rail policy, and its passenger rail policy is to throw Amtrak into the hands of the states and walk away from the wreck. That is only slightly less irresponsible than the on-going failure to address grade crossing safety in the only way it can be addressed, which is to make plans --- NOW --- to bridge, tunnel, or close them all.

We know full well that it is impractical to do that in one fell swoop, or even over a decade. But we must get the process started, and to do that, Congress has to re-set America‚s transportation priorities so that spending on rail infrastructure --- that’s right, freight as well as passenger --- is brought to bear on curing the massive highway overspending that has led to gridlock throughout America.

There are about a quarter of a million grade crossings in America. Only 60,000 have any protection at all other than a pair of crossbucks. With the 180,000 remaining --- you and your family are on their own! This state of affairs has been allowed to continue for decades because the rail constituency is poverty-stricken, weak, and fragmented. Even the best run freight railroad, BNSF, barely recovers its cost of capital in most years --- and that is with a pretty lean capital spending plan to begin with.

The reason, for those new to this subject, is that Federal and state laws have been carefully written to force highway spending and to actively discourage expenditures on intercity rail or transit. For example, 30 of the 50 states have constitutional amendments, passed in the 1930’s and 1940’s through the efforts of the Highway Lobby, that prohibit the spending of any state gas tax
money on anything but highways --- a completely indefensible act that has made sure that even Governors who want to use state gas taxes as matching funds to spring Federal money for rail can’t do it.

In Washington, Federal gas tax dollars go into a “Highway Trust Fund,” another anachronism that force feeds the nation a diet of asphalt and concrete when what it needs is a transportation system. We need to change the “Highway Fund to a “Transportation Trust Fund.” and reconfigure Congressional committees such as the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee so that it is divided by region instead of by type of transportation modes. Only then can we begin regional, systems-based transportation planning.

All of those things are hard to accomplish, but so was going to the moon --- or building the transcontinental railroad. But for starters, Congress could begin NOW to require the US Department of Transportation to come up with a plan to close, tunnel, or bridge every at-grade highway crossing, and then fund that plan. No, it wouldn’t require immediately spending $240,000 x $1 million (the average cost assumed to close, tunnel, or bridge each crossing). But we can begin by identifying all the grade crossings that intersect passenger train routes or Class I freight railroad, and then finding a way to fix those --- and then categorize the rest, and make plans to deal with them.

It seems like a tall order, and it is. But the situation should never have been allowed to deteriorate to this level: that each year, 400+ people die, and another 1200+ are injured, because they don’t see the train, don’t obey the sign, or go around the gates.

No one in their right mind would propose that a loaded gasoline tanker truck be allowed to cut across the runway when a 747 is taking off --- and yet, 240,000 times a day in America, that’s essentially what we allow. When it comes to rail grade crossings: bridge it, tunnel it, or close it. But don’t keep ignoring the problem, because one day the accident will be with an ammonia or chlorine gas tanker in a populated area, and then, thousands will die. When it does, no one should say it was a surprise, because it won’t be, at least to those who have thought seriously about it.


Return to index
EDITORIAL OP-ED...  Opinion...

Some thoughts on David Gunn
--- and on Amtrak’s future

By Randolph R. Resor

[ The following guest Op Ed was written for D:F by Randy Resor, for many years one of America’s most respected rail consultants, and a participant at many of NCI’s conferences over the past two decades. While we do not agree with all that Randy says about the splitting off of the NEC from Amtrak, we do agree that states had better start stepping up to the plate if they want decent transportation, and we want our readers to be exposed to all points of view. Randy is a principal of Zeta-Tech Corporation) --- Jim RePass, Publisher ]

 

I worked for David Gunn in New York from 1984 – 1987, when he was attempting to turn the New York City transit system around.  I reported to Charles Stanford, whom Gunn had appointed as Chief Engineer. Chuck was fond of saying that he was, as far as he could determine, the first railroad person to hold that job at the New York City Transit Authority since the 1950s.  He backed me up in a number of confrontations with the “old heads” at the organization, and we got a lot accomplished.

My particular responsibility was the planning and scheduling of a major track rehab program that was intended to return the track to a “state of good repair” (something that has been a focus of David Gunn’s for much of his working career).

I retain good memories of those very busy years, and of Mr. Gunn. I was delighted to see him chosen to head Amtrak, and I’m dismayed to see him leaving. At Amtrak, he appeared to have been following his standard formula, familiar to me from New York, of appointing good managers and then standing back and letting them do their jobs. His formula appeared to be producing positive results.

However, as much as David Gunn has done to get Amtrak to a state of good repair, Amtrak needs to do more than that. While the current Administration may not be the right one to lead this effort, I do believe Amtrak needs to re-think its mission .The Government Accountability Office is right – Amtrak needs a mission statement that says more than, “Just do it the way we have for 34 years, but do it a little better”.

For instance, I don’t happen to think that splitting off the Northeast Corridor (NEC) as a separate operation is, per se, such a bad idea.  At present, a significant amount of the capital funding for NEC improvements comes from the states or through the Federal Transit Administration.  Given that a majority of the passengers carried on the NEC ride locally operated commuter trains, not Amtrak trains, there are good reasons for giving the states a larger voice – perhaps through membership on a board of directors for an Amtrak infrastructure company charged with building corridors between city pairs all across America, not just in the Northeast, wherever states or regional transportation agencies help organize and support the effort.

There are also good reasons to look at organizing Amtrak’s operations differently.  They’ve been running a Congressionally-mandated national network for 34 years, with minor changes from time to time.  State-funded initiatives in California (the Capitol Corridor) and in North Carolina suggest that targeted improvements to short-distance service in selected markets can achieve impressive increases in ridership.  We need more of that.  It’s worth noting that more Amtrak passengers board and alight from trains in North Carolina than in Ohio, mostly because all the Amtrak service through Ohio runs between midnight and eight a.m. Where is the corridor service between, say, Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus? Defenders of the status quo will say that Amtrak has never been given money to run such services. Well, it hasn’t been given the money by the Federal government. The states of California, Washington, Oregon, North Carolina, Maine, and to a lesser extent, Oklahoma have provided both capital and operating money for additional short-haul trains, and (at least on the West Coast) these trains have been very successful. I recently saw numbers indicating that the Capitol Corridor trains last year carried ten times as many passengers as Amtrak handled on the route before the state began subsidizing service improvements.

So I’d be glad to see some restructuring of Amtrak.  Done right, it could produce good results.  But will it now be done right?  If I had more confidence in the current Administration in Washington, I’d have more confidence in their “restructuring” plan.
 But we need to continue to think this through, with an open mind.


Return to index
From the Hartford Courant

Rail Service Gunn-ed Down

November 25 -- It is depressing. After 34 years of the Amtrak experiment, Washington still cannot remove its ideological blinders. The Bush administration, like others before it, continues to see Amtrak - the nation’s rail passenger service - as a test of will over free market economics. It’s not. It’s a mode of transportation, a way to move people from Point A to Point B, that is beneficial enough to warrant public investment.

The firing of Amtrak CEO David Gunn by the Amtrak board earlier this month showed the administration’s cards. The board, appointed by the president, gives every indication of wanting to dismantle Amtrak and sell off the pieces. Administration officials have talked of consortiums of states picking up some of the routes. If there’s a state with the money to do that, it’s not in the Northeast.

Mr. Gunn had been doing a very good job. In his three years, he improved Amtrak’s finances, management and physical plant. Ridership rose 8.5 percent, to 25.1 million last year. People want to take the train. But he objected to a plan to split off the Northeast Corridor into a separate subsidiary. Mr. Gunn was trying to operate a railroad, not break it up. So much for him.

Congress, regardless of the party in power, has never gotten this right. Since its founding in 1971, Amtrak was supposed to make a profit. Highways and airports don’t have to make money, nor do railroads in other countries, but for some reason, Amtrak is expected to finish each year in the black. It never has, of course. Congress never gave Amtrak enough of a budget to rebuild the aging infrastructure, so Amtrak has had to make money with outdated equipment and leased roadbeds.

Although it has gotten rid of some of them, Amtrak maintains unprofitable long-distance routes, a subject of continual criticism. But this is done at the behest of powerful members of Congress. Because Amtrak needs political support, it has to keep many of these unprofitable trains running.

Amtrak has gone through $29 billion in federal subsidies since 1971. Last year alone, the federal budget allocation to highways was $30 billion. Is anyone in Washington clamoring to sell I-95?

The country needs something it had 75 years ago - efficient inter-city train service. It doesn’t have to be called Amtrak; it just has to work. The area where the service should be focused is the mid-distance trip, 200 to 400 miles, where, center city to center city, trains can be competitive with other modes. In urban areas, this service should complement rail commuter service.

Trains offer not only a pleasant travel option, they move a lot of people efficiently and take cars off the road, reducing both fuel consumption and air pollution. Trains don’t make money, but neither do schools, parks, landfills and most public utilities. The rest of the world gets the picture.


Return to index
End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, and intermodalism, as well as of current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size and number. Descriptive text which includes location, train name, and something about the content of the image is encouraged. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your e-mail address or web site.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King that have appeared in many past editions of Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee. “True color” Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG or JPG) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in process color (CMYK) or tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch. Please contact Leo King.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.


|| Home Page || Destination: Freedom Past Editions || Contact Us || Article Index || Top of Page

This edition has been read by || || people since date of release.


Copyright © 2005, National Corridors Initiative, Inc.