The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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February 2, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 5

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 20th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Supporters Want High-Speed Texas Rail By 2020
Amtrak Board Names Thomas Carper Of Illinois As Chairman
Montana Students Debate Request For Reopened Missoula Rail Line
  Commuter Lines…
Oregon’s First Commuter Rail Line To Open Monday
  Environmental Lines…
Mayor Christens New ‘Green’ Locomotives
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Editorial…
How Infrastructure And Civilized Society Are Linked
Not This Stimulus Bill
  Opinion…
This Is Not What We Voted For!
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

Supporters Want High-Speed Texas Rail By 2020

From The Houston Chronicle On The Internet

Staff Writer Peggy Fikac

AUSTIN, JAN 28 -- Is Texas eyeing California’s high-speed rail plan with a “Let’s not be left out” attitude? Or have some Texans been to France lately and enjoyed the spectacular TGV (train a grand vitesse)?

Or maybe it just seems like a great idea to get from downtown San Antonio to Houston’s city center in 90 minutes without schlepping out to an airport an hour before take-off and enduring the security hassles.

Whatever the reason, Texas high-speed rail backers are back. They hope to have $12 billion to $18 billion high-speed trains running by 2020. This time, they say they have taken care to ensure the idea won’t fall flat the way a bullet-train push did some 15 years ago.

In a Houston Chronicle story, Peggy Fikac reports that backers for the train have formed a consortium of elected leaders, cities, counties and two airlines, among them Southwest Airlines that opposed the first high speed rail proposal, in order to solve the concerns raised by opponents.

“The high-speed trains,” writes Fikac, — “with an average speed of 200 mph — would run to airports, allowing rail to work in conjunction with airlines by ferrying in passengers catching longer flights.”

As for funding, backers emphasize the project would be a public-private partnership including local governments, and they are seeking state help including tax exemptions for companies that would build the project and some $100 million for environmental and market studies.

“In the past, high-speed rail was not completed in Texas primarily because it was a top-down model driven by lobbyists out of Austin,” former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, chairman of the nonprofit Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corp., told lawmakers at a meeting on January 21.”

This time the strategy is to bring opponents and stakeholders to the table to solve the problems raised.

Another proposal is to elevate the train in places to address the concerns of landowners who fear they will be cut off from sections of their property.

Governor Rick Perry is open to the idea, the story continues, but he knows it can’t work without government support. “Currently it isn’t possible without very large government subsidies,” said Allison Castle, the governor’s spokeswoman. “However as our population becomes denser and more populated around the DFW-Houston-San Antonio triangle, it will become a more viable option.”

The rail would run along the so-called “Texas T-Bone” — from Dallas-Fort Worth through Austin to San Antonio, and branching off in Temple to Houston. More than 70 percent of Texans live in the area that would be served.

Lawmakers and those pushing the project said it’s crucial to come up with alternative transportation since the state population is expected to reach 40 to 50 million by 2040.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee chairman, already has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to allow high-speed rail facilities to be exempt from property taxes. It would require a two-thirds vote of lawmakers and voter approval. The Senator already feels there is enough support to pass the amendment, the Chronicle reported.

pfikac@express-news.net


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Amtrak Board Names Thomas Carper
Of Illinois As Chairman

Former Chairman Donna McLean Becomes Vice-Chairman

[ Editor’s note: Tom Carper of Illinois is not to be confused with United States Senator Tom Carper (D) from Delaware.]

At its regularly scheduled meeting yesterday, Amtrak’s Board of Directors unanimously agreed to name Thomas Carper of Illinois as Chairman of the Board. Carper, who has served in various Illinois state and local government positions, including Mayor of the City of Macomb, has been a director on the Amtrak board since March 2008. At the same meeting, former Chairman Donna McLean was named Vice Chairman, replacing Hunter Biden, who remains as a board member.

Carper said, “Everything we have done as a board, we’ve done as a unified body, and this change in our hierarchy is no exception. That this was a unanimous and non-contentious decision is testimony to that fact.

“I look forward to tackling the exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Amtrak is ready to play a growing role in strengthening our transportation system and our economy.”

Carper’s background is closely connected with passenger rail. While Mayor of Macomb, he led the fight to preserve passenger rail service in the region and the state.

In 1991 he was appointed by the Amtrak Board of Directors to the Amtrak Mayors ’ Advisory Council and served as its Chair from 2000 to 2001.

Having served also in the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), he understands the importance of rail to the business community and to the economy overall.

When Carper was first appointed to Amtrak’s Board of Directors, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) was quoted as saying: “Tom Carper has years of experience in bringing together business leaders, labor leaders, community leaders, and elected officials. Given his accomplishments as mayor and regional director for West Central Illinois’ economic development plan, I am confident he will work to keep Amtrak on the right track.”

Illinois expanded its partnership with Amtrak in October of 2007, when it doubled state funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation for the rail line to more than $24 million to pay for increased service on three routes.

The five-member board consists of four voting members, two Democrats, Carper and Biden, and two Republicans, McLean and Nancy Naples. Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman is a non-voting member of the board.

Former Chairman McLean, who was named Vice Chairman, said, “With the change in administration, its best for the company to have Tom as Chairman. I am pleased to be able to work with Tom and the rest of the board as we face the exciting and challenging years ahead.”

As part of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) is expected in 2009 to expand to nine members from its current allotment of seven positions, five of which are currently occupied.

The President nominates and the U.S. Senate confirms Amtrak Board members.


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Amtrak Service Re-Start Sought

 

Montana Students Debate Request
For Reopened Missoula Rail Line

From Internet Sources And The Montana Kaimin, Missoula, MT.

MISSOULA---Students at the University of Montana at Missoula were expected to meet last week to ask Amtrak to reconsider opening its Missoula line, closed since 1979.

The movement to restore Amtrak service in Montana formerly served by the North Coast Hiawatha has been growing, with city council support as well as vocal student demands for restoration of service.

Reporter Josh Potter wrote: “The route, which closed January 1979, would connect Missoula, Bozeman and Billings. Scott Martin, the assistant for the director of the Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) Office of Transportation, said that the route would help the Missoula community so that ‘students who live in the southern part of Montana have other means of travel than bus and individual, single traveler vehicles.’

[Editor’s note: Amtrak’s long distance trains are often the only alternative to long automobile drives in giant swaths of the North American continent, where airline service is non-existent or prohibitively expensive, and where bus service is either sparse or absent altogether. The typical Amtrak long-distance trip is about 800 miles, and is used by workers, students and middle class families traveling within their [large] region, with vacationers in the sleeping cars helping to support that service through high accommodation fares that rival rates charged by Manhattan hotels]

“Since Amtrak is federally funded, local governments need to reinvest in creating the necessary infrastructure to open this route,” wrote Potter, citing Montana Public Interest Research Group member Shayna Price, who stated that ASUM may decide to support the Montana Senate bill that would supply some of those funds by opening up the Montana coal bed trust fund to give loans to local governments.

“Local governments need to do some investment to show the federal government they’re willing to put in a railway,” Price said.

Potter wrote: Martin said that the railway would not only benefit a large part of the student population but would also encourage students to use more energy-efficient means of travel. “A lot of students don’t have cars,” Martin said. “And if they do, gas prices will probably go up.”

On Monday, Price explained to ASUM the importance of supporting state and federal lawmakers in transportation issues, especially now that the Montana State Legislature is primed to discuss a number of transportation bills.

ASUM and MontPIRG are in a unique position, Price said, because Montana Senator Max Baucus is the main author of a future Congressional bill dealing with the issue of infrastructure and maintenance of roads.

Potter reported: Price explained that Baucus will ask that any new highway bill will focus more on investing in local communities “so they can figure out what they need.”

Price also asked that ASUM consider joining the Transportation for America Campaign to show Baucus and other Montana lawmakers their support for transportation reform.

The campaign is a national coalition of local governments and public interest groups aimed at implementing nation-wide transportation reform: “It’s focusing on finding solutions for our transportation issues in America,” Price said. The main goal that Transportation for America is focusing on right now, Price said, is changing the way national and state governments deal with highways.

Coming at an opportune time, the bill discusses the pending economic stimulus package, Price said. She said that the Transportation for America Campaign is hopeful that the package will set aside money for more transportation reforms. “By putting all our energy into building new roads, we’re not focusing on the maintenance or infrastructure of roads,” Price said.

Reporter Josh Potter may be reached at: joshua.potter@umontana.edu.


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Oregon’s First Commuter Rail Line To Open Monday

From TRAINS Magazine And A Report From Trimet Via The Internet

BEAVERTON, Ore., JAN 29 - On Monday, Feb. 2 Oregon’s first commuter rail line, the Westside Express Service, will begin hauling passengers. The 14.7-mile route has five stations in Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, and Wilsonville. The trains will use upgraded freight tracks operated by the Portland & Western Railroad that were once owned by the Oregon Electric Railway.

Trains will run every 30 minutes during weekday morning and evening rush hours. Ridership is expected to be between 3,000 to 4,000 passengers a day on the $166.2 million line. Westside uses four self-propelled Diesel Multiple Unit cars built by the now-defunct Colorado Railcar. The DMUs have swivel seats, handrails attached to every other chair, free Wi-Fi, and bike hooks. Originally scheduled to open in September 2008, the launch of service was delayed several times due to technical and other difficulties, most notably the failure and bankruptcy of Colorado Railcar. TriMet, the transit agency that runs the service was forced to provide bailout funds to the manufacturer until it could take delivery of its cars. TriMet now has an inventory of spare parts for the cars and subcontractors will build major components, such as engines and transmissions as needed.

On Friday, Jan. 30, from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., commuters were able travel one way for free from any Westside station. Each city station along the route hosted a celebration to welcome the commuter service. In regular service, trains will run every 30 minutes weekday mornings from 5:20 a.m. to 9:54 a.m., and weekday evenings from 3:27 a.m. to 8:01 p.m. between Wilsonville and Beaverton. The fare is $2.30 for a two-hour ticket. A one-way trip is anticipated to take 27 minutes at an average speed of 37 mph and a top speed of 60 mph.

Background

In 1996, a feasibility study for a commuter rail line was initiated by Washington County, which includes the cities of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, Wilsonville and Sherwood, TriMet, Metro and the Oregon Dept of Transportation.

The project to establish a new 14.7-mile passenger rail line between Beaverton and Wilsonville received strong support from the public and business community.
It is the first commuter rail line in Oregon and one of the few suburb-to-suburb commuter rail projects in the country.

Because the line uses existing freight tracks in a dedicated corridor, construction impacts would be minimal.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

Mayor Christens New ‘Green’ Locomotives

From First Coast News on the Internet

JACKSONVILLE, FL – Four new energy efficient locomotives introduced by RailAmerica arrived in Jacksonville on January 30 and were christened by Mayor John Peyton, reported Josh Sanchez.

RailAmerica has chosen Jacksonville for its new Corporate Headquarters because of the city’s growing logistics and transportation industry. They moved from Boca Raton in 2008.

The new locomotives, which will now be housed in Florida East Coast Railway’s Bowden Yard,meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s tier-two emissions standards. They are 20% more fuel-efficient than the locomotives they will replace.

Mayor John Peyton does the honors.

Two Photos: First Coast News  

RailAmerica, Inc., owns leading short line and regional railroads providing rail service to customers across North America.  The Company’s 42 affiliated railroads operate in 26 states and 3 Canadian provinces with over 8.000 miles of track.

RailAmerica’s objective is to provide local rail freight customers with services that facilitate the prompt pick-up and delivery of goods.  The railroad hauls major carload commodities such as coal, aggregate, grains, lumber and paper throughout the United States and Canada using Class 1 relationships to extend their customers’ reach to meet market demands.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: www.MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)66.2563.32
Canadian National (CNI)35.0033.69
Canadian Pacific (CP)30.2630.36
CSX (CSX)28.9628.84
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)27.1726.55
Kansas City Southern (KSU)18.1616.90
Norfolk Southern (NSC)38.3634.15
Providence & Worcester (PWX)13.0614.40
Union Pacific (UNP)43.7942.50


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

A Graphic Example Of Things To Come?

 

How Infrastructure And Civilized Society
Are Linked

By Jim Repass

It is impossible to read the following news clipping from Bay City, Michigan’s The Bay City Times by Reporter Tom Gilchrist, and remain silent:

“BAY CITY---A pathologist said a 93-year-old Bay City man froze to death inside his home - his body found days after city workers said they limited electricity flowing to the house. Marvin E. Schur suffered “a slow, painful death” inside his home at 1600 S. Chilson St. on Bay City’s southwest side, said Dr. Kanu Virani, who performed an autopsy on the body.

“Hypothermia shuts the whole system down, slowly,” Virani said. “It’s not easy to die from hypothermia without first realizing your fingers and toes feel like they’re burning.”

Neighbor George Pauwels Jr. said Schur owed almost $1,100 in electricity bills to the city of Bay City, though Pauwels said he noticed money clipped to those bills on Schur’s kitchen table the day he found Schur’s body.

Bay City Manager Robert V. Belleman said a worker with Bay City Electric-Light & Power placed a “limiter” device outside Schur’s home, between Schur’s electricity meter and electrical service, on Jan. 13.

The device restricts the amount of electricity reaching the home and if a homeowner tries to draw more electricity than the limiter allows, “it blows the limiter, just like blowing a fuse, and then you go outside and reset it,” Belleman said.”

And so, a 93 year-old widower with “some dementia” freezes to death in the dark, because of an unpaid utility bill.

It may seem like a sad, random, event --- and it is – but Mr. Schur’s death is more than just that. Any society that allows the old, the sick, or the poor to die because they cannot afford life’s basics – whether it is electricity, or water, or health care, or basic transportation ---- can hardly call itself civilized, and that includes us.

In recent decades America has been governed by an economic philosophy that says the marketplace will cure all ills, and indeed it can cure many. There is little doubt that the prosperity --- until recently --- of America was derived in large part by a stern, almost merciless Capitalism that --- while allowing the devil to cheerfully take the hindmost --- managed to lift almost all boats, to mix a few metaphors.

Almost. Until recently.

For we are learning that when the safety nets are disassembled, whether by the eager Libertarians who have ruled the roost under Bush (II), or the NAFTA free-traders who exported so many jobs under Clinton, and whose damage was masked by a phony run-up in spendable middle class wealth created by super-low interest rates and massive securities fraud --- or anyone else, some people will fall through. And more and more Americans are beginning to find that they slip through the netting, much to their surprise.

Infrastructure, both human and real, is both a precursor and requirement to all economic activity. When it is neglected, or mis-built – and we have done both --- the results are slow but sure decline. America got away with it for so many years because we all had cars, and cars’ infrastructure --- highways – always got funded. But there are more cars than there are miles of highways; there will never be enough lanes of pavement to accommodate them, and we have already built far more miles of road than can be efficiently maintained. We had cars because we had cheap fuel, and subsidized it all with tax policies that were ruinous to wise decision-making. We had cheap electricity, too, until fuel costs soared and, with deregulation, transferred so much wealth out of the middle class to the keepers of that necessity.

The Stimulus Bill now before Congress is a start back, but just a start. Above all, we need to make sure we do not simply dump a trillion dollars into an infrastructure-building system so skewed towards the automobile that we make things worse, not better. Whether it is electricity, or the transportation system, we need to redemocratize, not just rebuild, America: let’s spend what we spend on those things that all can use, not just those who want to cocoon in the cars and their suburbs, and forget to look in on the old man in the neighborhood who can no longer fend for himself. That, and devise a rate system for the poor and elderly that does not literally kill them. We can do better.


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Not This Stimulus Bill

What happened, Mr. President?

The Stimulus Bill HR 1 as passed by the House of Representatives last week contains less than 1 per cent for Intercity Rail, even as we are being surpassed left, right, and center by transportation infrastructure systems in the rest of the world.

The advanced societies on Planet Earth --- and some not-so-advanced economies that want to join those ranks --- long ago realized that intercity rail is BY FAR the most efficient, cost effective --- and fastest --- means of ground transportation for most trips, which are under 500 miles. Indeed, it is so fast that in countries like Spain and France, with well-developed rail networks, short-haul air travel – the very worst, most-polluting, and least cost-effective transportation mode on earth --- has virtually disappeared. Last year, one of NCI’s officers traveling from Paris wound up in Bordeaux (582 km, or 361 miles, from Paris) in time for lunch, by accident – he was heading to a small town South of Bordeaux --- because the train from Paris was so incredibly fast. Yet, it is not France’s fastest --- that would be the Paris-to-Strasbourg line. When are we going to wake up?

Mr. President, one of the causes of this present mess is a transportation system that does not work, because it has been virtually highway-only for so long that we have forgotten how to do anything else. The proof of that is in the present Stimulus Bill, now before Congress, whose House version as passed has a distribution of transportation infrastructure investment that follows the same foolish ratios found in the highway-lobby-written transportation bills of the last 50 years.

There are few politicians who understand this, because the nuts and bolts of transportation infrastructure make a normal person’s eyes glaze over. But there are some politicians who DO understand the mess we are in and why we are in it: Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) is one of those few. For the country’s sake, put aside the conventional wisdom you have gotten from at least some of your staff – from smart people like Larry Summers who, unfortunately, does NOT get it --- and fund the nation’s rail system with at least as much money as the Chinese are spending, right now, on theirs: more than $100 billion

And waive all environmental review for rail projects on existing rail corridors – or give the Governors the power to do that --- so that intercity rail and commuter rail can be rebuilt NOW, along the rights-of-way that largely already exist. Talk about shovel-ready! The freight railroads that own these rights-of-way have had plans on the books for years for a second or third track, because the second and third tracks used to be right there along with the single track that’s left. The freight railroads of course haven’t had the money to build the capacity they need, and that will be absolutely required for any passenger rail system to work, because the return on that investment takes decades, and Wall Street wants quarter-to-quarter results. Only the government can do this kind of capacity-building, while also taking over the maintenance costs of those re-laid track miles, just as governments now maintain the roads and bridges – but with one hopes better skill.

We need a Stimulus Bill to avoid a Depression. Almost everyone is agreed on that. But desperate times call for radical measures. An old-fashioned highway bill dressed up as a new package and tucked into a much larger bill that includes many non-infrastructure items will not work, and will not do. By all means help the states, and help the unemployed, because that will feed people today --- but not in this version of the Stimulus Bill. Split that out, and do it, but infrastructure, and the radical new version of infrastructure your campaign encouraged, will feed people in the long run, not just tomorrow. Shovel ready? We built the Transcontinental Railroad more than a century ago, in three years, with hand tools and blasting powder. Come on, America, rise to the occasion! Budget $100 billion now. Just do it!


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OPINION... Opinion...  

This Is Not What We Voted For!

By David Peter Alan

I do not know anyone in the rail advocacy movement who did not vote for the Obama-Biden ticket. Barack Obama is a Chicagoan who was educated in transit-oriented cities, and Joe Biden commuted on Amtrak for his entire Senate career. Although our organizations are essentially all non-partisan and not allowed to campaign for candidates, I do not know of any rail advocate who voted for the McCain-Palin ticket. We all expected better times for rail transit and intercity rail. Instead, so far, all we have is the old business-as-usual.

Ray LaHood, the new Secretary of Transportation, is no cheerleader for rail. While he voted for Amtrak funding, he has no Amtrak train or rail transit in his district. He does have Caterpillar, a large builder of road construction equipment. He sounds to me like another champion of highways and more highways, just like all of his predecessors. Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), the nation’s strongest rail and transit advocate, has blamed the Administration’s chief economist, Larry Summers, for the deep cuts which the Democratic House leadership made to transit and rail assistance, while keeping highway spending essentially intact. Again, this is business-as-usual.

While we may get some transit funding back, that is not the point. We voted for change, and we still get more highways. The Amtrak funding recommendation has been cut to the Bush-Administration level. Proposed grants to states for intercity rail have been cut by over 90%. That means no money for rail corridors, while state-supported trains like the Adirondack and the Vermonter may soon die. It is possible that the Democrats in Congress and the Administration could change their thinking, but they are off to a terrible start. We did not vote for this.

LaHood and Summers have their apologists in our movement. These people say that Ray LaHood does not need to be a cheerleader for rail and transit to be an effective transportation policy leader. They also say that Larry Summers supports highway construction because he does not understand infrastructure issues. I am skeptical of the former excuse and do not believe the latter. If this nation has a genuine desire to reduce its dependence on imported oil and take effective steps to improve the environment, the Obama Administration and Congress must lead the push away from encouraging automobile use and toward promoting rail transit and intercity trains. Instead, they are marching in the opposite direction; the direction taken by every Administration since Warren Harding’s in the early 1920s.

We all know that the American economy is in deep trouble. In my opinion, the private sector is entering 1930 and the public sector has hit 1931. The country certainly needs some Keynesian-style stimulation. Building more highways and expensive mega-projects like New Jersey Transit’s proposed dead-end, deep cavern commuter tunnel without an intercity rail component, with a terminal far below Manhattan will not improve the economy. As the Japanese learned the hard way, that takes too long. There are plenty of small capital projects that would improve transit and can be built within a year. It will take more than three months to design them, because transit agencies were never encouraged to plan for small improvements; there was never any money for them, so they were not designed, and often not even proposed. Projects like this should be encouraged and built, rather than just building more highways that may be “shovel-ready” but are still bad ideas.

If our elected leaders really cared about economic stimulus, operating support for transit is the answer. We had it in the 1970s but the new (1981) Reagan Administration killed it. Transit service is being slashed all over the country, while fares keep rising, even in New York. Operating support for transit will prevent the spread of this catastrophe. APTA says “transit means business” and they are right. If transit service cuts keep a second-shift worker from getting home after work, no other “stimulus” will help that person remain a gainfully-employed taxpayer. Operating assistance for transit would help improve mobility for everyone, whether or not they own an automobile. A strong operating grant program for transit will also send a clear message that our elected leaders want Americans to use transit, consume less foreign oil and help improve the environment.

With capital grants for small transit projects, Federal operating support for transit and grants to expand intercity rail, Americans will benefit, both economically and environmentally. It is time for our elected leaders to take these steps to benefit the American people. We are sick and tired of government of the automobile, by the automobile and for the automobile. We voted for a change and we want it NOW!

- David Peter Alan is a frequent NCI contributor.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor:

I wholeheartedly agree with the points you make in your editorial “Stimulus? Not Quite”. I admire the effort you at the National Corridors Initiative are putting in to bringing together so many good minds from around the country to address our long overlooked and grossly under-funded transportation needs, especially the necessity to put transit and rail on a level playing field of funding and prioritizing with the other modes. For decades, we have had virtually a highways-only system of transportation investing .....roads and more roads, while rail and transit have received just enough money to die slowly.

The evidence supporting my view appears overwhelming - those who control the purse strings and make the decisions in our country are still ill-prepared to open their eyes, ears, hearts and minds - never mind their wallets - to the realization that the need to invest heavily in rail and transit is long overdue.

Every time I hear President Barack Obama speak about infrastructure, he mentions only ROADS and BRIDGES and MORE FUEL-EFFICIENT CARS. I have never heard him publicly utter one word in favor of any other mode of transportation besides these. I therefore have every reason to suspect that the road-builders have Obama, his staff and members of Congress securely in their pockets.

REAL CHANGE requires that our nation invest heavily in railroads and transit, and greatly expand Amtrak’s reach and effectiveness. It is disheartening that Congress is not paying more heed to this need in the stimulus package. We might as well be standing alone in the wilderness.

The public at large appears to be ready and willing to see their stimulus tax dollars wisely and better spent on rail and transit infrastructure, but their elected officials in the fifty states and halls of Congress are SO beholden to the deeply entrenched vested interests of the Highway Lobby that the chances of getting their attention are about as good as a mosquito’s at getting an elephant to notice or pay attention to it.

President Obama is still far from ready to ACT for REAL CHANGE concerning rail and transit. So where does that leave us transit advocates? How can we effectuate, bring about, real change?

We can of course continue to write, email, fax and phone our elected representatives - and plead our case before them in person. Unfortunately, cash in their pockets from the road builders and their lobbyists holds far more sway than our efforts.

Our country is in deep trouble on many fronts, not the least of which is our outdated and unbalanced infrastructure, and I don’t see any light showing at the end of this very long and dismal tunnel.

On a final, related note: I strongly recommend Thomas Friedman’s new book entitled “Hot, Flat and Crowded.” His message lends great urgency to our worthy efforts to mitigate climate change.

Respectfully submitted,

Eric Talbot
Chicgago, IL
erictal@speakeasy.net


 

Dear Editor:

In your January 26 E-zine, Carl Fowler of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council hits the nail right on the head when explaining that elimination of the Ethan Allen would result in increased difficulty in restoring rail service if the train was cut. The prime example is that seasonal rail service to Cape Cod was cut in the late 1980’s ostensibly because of the state of Massachusetts Budget crisis at the time. When the economy recovered in the early nineties, the rail service resumption proposal “needed more study.” Now that there’s a budget crisis again, the state maintains it has “no money” to support Cape Cod Central Railroad’s Feeder Rail plan between the Cape and the Boston area.

What we have here is a shifting of the proverbial “goal posts.” The state has been able to manufacture these convenient excuses in order to delay the restoration of rail service for whatever reason. Logic says the same thing could happen in Vermont as well, despite the best of intentions. After all, governments and leadership do change, often resulting in the plan being forgotten

Mr. Fowler is also correct in stating that the elimination of rail service will not save money. When the Cape rail service was stopped, the state still sank into debt. It’s just the mentality of this country that singles out rail services for elimination while fostering highway construction. Roads cost more than rail services, and as a result, cause a higher debt load.

In closing, the question must be asked: How many highways and roads have been closed due to recessions?

Albert Pisani
Cape Cod Passenger Rail Coalition
20 Perry Avenue APT#2-A
Buzzards Bay, MA.02532
tel.: 508-759-2984

apisania@hotmail.com


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2009 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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