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
 

Contribute To NCI

November 7, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 44

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

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

  Special Item …
Good-Bye And Thanks To Leo King, Rail Advocate
   And Friend, 1938-2011
  News Items…
Amtrak Makes Deal With CSX Corp: Leases
   Empire Corridor
  Equipment Lines…
‘Leading Indicator’ Bright Spot: American Railcar
   Backlog At Three-Year High
  Builder’s Lines…
California Transportation Commission Appropriates
   $336.6M For ‘ACE’ Grade Separating Trench Project
  Political Lines…
What’s Happening With The Long-Term
   Transportation Bill?
US Representative Slaughter Leads Effort To Support
   FundingFor Amtrak And High-Speed Rail
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Environmental Lines…
California To Retrofit Amtrak Locomotives; Will Now
   Surpass EPA Emission Standards
  Commentary…
Prisoners Of Transit: Why Public Transportation
   Deserves More Attention
Amtrak At 40: A Rider’s Perspective A Child
   Not Expected To Live
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...  

Good-Bye And Thanks To Leo King

By Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom
With Help From Many Others

Leo King 1938-2011

Leo at South Bay Dispatch

Leo King 1938-2011

Leo King - Memorial Image

 

MIDDLEBURG, FLORIDA --- As readers know from our brief item last week, Destination: Freedom’s founding editor Leo H. King died August 15 from a heart attack suffered while driving his car on Route 17 in Florida, not far from his retirement home in Middleburg.

Leo was stricken while driving, according to the police autopsy, but still managed to steer the car off of the road and shut off the engine, thereby avoiding any other vehicles or pedestrians on the road.

Leo King was an avuncular, cheerful but serious-about-work type, and a railroad man to the core, very happily dispatching trains in Amtrak’s Southampton Yards for more than a decade until “retiring” ten years ago to Florida, where he continued to edit Destination: Freedom for a while, and then worked as a free-lance writer, and more recently blogger, on rail topics.

He was also an avid model railroader, with an HO empire that often threatened to take over the whole house; in his former apartment in Rhode Island, the railroad occupied an entire bedroom, with a lift bridge across the door.

Leo King 1938-2011

Leo and Christy in 2005.

Leo was the impetus behind this newsletter, which he badgered me into starting in the Year 2000, turning out to be a millennial event indeed in all our lives. Until that point we had worked only behind the scenes, aside from national and regional conferences held all over America, as a non-profit rail advocacy group dedicated to changing the way America perceived, and supported, passenger rail; over the years as we came to realize the interdependence of all of the transportation modes, that focus shifted to infrastructure of all kinds, not just passenger rail.

In 2005 Leo surprised us all by announcing that he was going to France, not on vacation, but to marry Christy Waness, whom he had met in internet correspondence and who had visited the United States shortly before. The wedding was a very big deal in the small French town where it took place, making the local newspaper headlines with a feature story.

Leo was a Vietnam veteran (two tours), and is survived by two children from a previous marriage.


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NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Amtrak Makes Deal With CSX Corp:
Leases Empire Corridor

By DF Staff, From Railway Age, And Other Internet Sources

Last month, Amtrak reached an agreement with CSX Corporation to lease 100 miles of the freight company’s track between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady, New York, known as the Empire Corridor. CSX runs five trains a day on this line, which is east of the Hudson River, and Amtrak runs 28 passenger trains a day. “This groundbreaking partnership would give Amtrak control of train tracks from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady, NY,” reported Danielle Green, writer for the “Railroad Network” on line.”

“Officials from Amtrak are ecstatic with the new plans,” the article continues, “because it will allow Amtrak to control maintenance and operations of the tracks, making improvements where they see fit.”

Amtrak Vice President, Policy and Development Stephen Gardner said, “Amtrak is very pleased to be partnering with CSX and New York State to bring about this historic change for the Hudson Line Rail Corridor.” He added, "This arrangement will enable all parties to move forward on implementing almost $200 million in high-speed rail projects along the line which will lead to faster, more frequent and more reliable service. These improvements will help make the rail line an even more valuable transportation asset for all of New York’s citizens.”

Plans to double track the route between Schenectady and Albany/Rennselaer Station, and add a fourth track at Albany/Rennselaer Station, will finally move forward now after two decades of delays and false starts.

For CSX, the agreement is a plus, enabling them to provide vital freight service east of the Hudson. Presently, most CSX traffic between metropolitan New York and upstate moves on CSX’s main line west of the Hudson River.

South of Poughkeepsie, Metro-North controls the right-of-way, dubbed the Hudson Line. Amtrak merges onto the line on the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge between the Bronx and Manhattan where Amtrak runs on the own right-of-way to Penn Station.


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EQUIPMENTLINES... Equipment Lines...  

‘Leading Indicator’ Bright Spot: American

Railcar Backlog At Three-Year High

From Railway Age Magazine

ST. CHARLES, MO --- American Railcar Industries reported this past week that its order backlog swelled to approximately 7,110 cars as of Sept. 30, the largest since June 2008. The backlog includes approximately 1,700 cars for lease. The company had a backlog of approximately 1,050 cars on Dec. 31, 2010. Third-quarter 2011 shipments were approximately 1,340 cars compared with approximately 420 for the same period in 2010.

Total revenue for the third quarter was $125.8 million compared with $64.8 million for the third quarter of 2010. Net earnings per share were $0.19 compared to a net loss per share of $(0.29) for the prior-year period. Gross profit was $15.0 million for the third quarter of 2011 compared with $2.3 million for the same period in 2010.

Adjusted EBITDA was $12.2 million for the third quarter of 2011, compared with $1.5 million for the same period in 2010.

James Cowan, president and CEO of ARI, said in a statement: “Our orders of over 9,100 railcars during the first nine months of 2011 have given us our largest backlog since June 2008. Revenues, railcar shipments, and gross profit have increased in the third quarter of 2011 compared to the second quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2010. We have continued to ramp up production to meet customer demand with approximately 1,340 deliveries for the third quarter. Our railcar services segment also reported strong results, with gross profit margin at 27% on revenues of $17.2 million for the third quarter of 2011.”


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BUILDERS LINES... Builder’s Lines...  

California Transportation Commission Appropriates
$336.6M For ‘ACE’ Grade Separating Trench Project

From Progressive Railroading

SACRAMENTO --- On Wednesday, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) voted to allocate $336.6 million in state goods movement bond funding for the San Gabriel railroad trench project proposed by the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority (ACE), the largest goods movement funding from a transportation bond approved by California voters in November 2006.

ACE plans to construct a 1.4-mile railroad trench within existing Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way through the city of San Gabriel. Bridges over the trench will be built at four congested grade crossings that average 14 UP trains each day and six Amtrak trains each week.

Archaeological excavation in advance of main construction is scheduled to start in November.

The trench is the largest project proposed in ACE’s program calling for grade separations in the San Gabriel Valley along a 70-mile corridor carrying goods to and from San Pedro Bay ports.

“With this allocation of construction funds, we can move ahead with awarding a main construction contract for the San Gabriel trench project in spring 2012,” said ACE Chairman Tim Spohn in a prepared statement.

The CTC also will provide funding for the Port of Long Beach Pier F support yard and Ocean Boulevard track realignment projects that are designed to help make rail operations more efficient.


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

What’s Happening With The
Long-Term Transportation Bill?

From Transportation For America

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 4 -- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has announced plans to mark up its 2-year transportation bill on November 9. The framework of the bill, MAP 21, appears below. The Senate has not made much progress on finding the $12 billion it needs to fully fund its bill.

House Speaker Boehner confirmed last week that “energy revenues” will be central to paying for the House’s six-year transportation bill, which could make it harder to pass a reauthorization through both houses of Congress. The current transportation bill SAFETEA-LU** was extended to March 21, 2012.

**Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

Moving Ahead for Progress in the
21st Century (MAP 21)

Bipartisan Bill Outline

Description:

Century (MAP-21) will modernize and reform our current transportation system to help create jobs, accelerate economic recovery, and build the foundation for long-term prosperity.

Specific highlights from key areas of the legislation:

Funding:

MAP-21 authorizes Federal-aid highway programs for 2-years while maintaining current spending levels. The goal of the Committee is to maintain the optimum achievable authorization depending on the resources available and in a way that does not increase the deficit and can achieve bipartisan support.

In addition, MAP-21 eliminates earmarks

Core Programs:

MAP-21 continues to provide the majority of Federal resources to the States through core programs using funding formulas. However, the core highway programs have been consolidated from seven in SAFETEA-LU to five, as follows:

The National Highway Performance Program

The Transportation Mobility Program

National Freight Program

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

Highway Safety Improvement Program

Consolidation:

MAP-21 consolidates 87 programs under SAFETEA-LU to less than 30 programs. The activities for which dedicated funding has been removed have been consolidated into the very broad core programs, leaving States with the flexibility to fund these activities as they see fit.

America Fast Forward:

MAP-21 builds upon the success of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA)

The TIFIA program is designed to help communities leverage their transportation resources through federal credit assistance. The TIFIA program provides direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to large and nationally or regionally significant transportation projects with a revenue stream at terms that are more favorable than those available in the private sector and that will leverage private and other non-federal investment in transportation improvements.

MAP-21 increases the funding for the TIFIA program from $122 million per year to $1 billion per year. Other modifications include: increasing the maximum share of project costs from 33 percent to 49 percent; allowing TIFIA loans to be used to support a program of projects, and allowing upfront commitments of future TIFIA program dollars through the use of master credit agreements. In addition, MAP-21 sets aside $100 million per year for projects in smaller cities and rural areas under lower interest rates. The Federal Highway Administration has stated that historically every Federal dollar spent through the TIFIA program can mobilize up to $30 in transportation investments.

Performance:

MAP-21 focuses the highway program on key outcomes, such as reducing fatalities, improving bridges, fixing roads, and reducing congestion, in order to ensure that taxpayers are receiving the most for their money. States will set their own targets for improving safety, road and bridge condition, congestion, and freight movement.

Accelerated Project Delivery

MAP-21 includes several provisions designed to reduce project delivery time and costs while protecting the environment. Examples of improvements include: expanding the use of innovative contracting methods; creating dispute resolution procedures; allowing for early right-of-way acquisitions; reducing bureaucratic hurdles for projects with no significant environmental impact; encouraging early coordination between relevant agencies to avoid delays later in the review process; and providing incentives for accelerating project delivery decisions within specified deadlines.

Planning:

MAP-21 improves the Statewide and metropolitan planning processes to incorporate a more comprehensive performance-based approach to decision making. Utilizing performance targets will assist states and metropolitan areas in targeting limited resources on projects that will most improve the condition and performance of highways and bridges.

Other Programs:

Federal Lands and Tribal Transportation Programs

Research and Education

The text of the Senate bill was released late on Friday, November 4 at this link:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=20f89548-8b2e-4498-89f7-c9f4ff22484f


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US Representative Slaughter Leads Effort To Support
Funding For Amtrak And High-Speed Rail

Targeted News Service And Other Internet Sources

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 4 -- US Representative Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y. (28th CD) has been leading the charge for several years to build support for America’s rail future. Last March, Ms Slaughter and several other members of Congress launched the Bi-Cameral High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus in order to strengthen the base of support for Amtrak and High-Speed Rail in America and ensure the long-term viability of passenger rail for all Americans.

Last Friday, Congresswoman Slaughter and her colleagues on the Caucus led a letter with the support of 117 members of congress urging Senate and House Appropriations Committee Leadership to reject proposed House cuts to Amtrak and the high-speed rail grant program and support funding levels in the Senate bill.

“The House Subcommittee bill would have devastating impacts on Amtrak by reducing funding for Amtrak’s operating expenses by 60 percent and eliminating state-supported routes,” the members of Congress wrote. “The legislation would result in at least 1,500 Amtrak employees losing their jobs, and would likely end many of Amtrak’s long distance trains. Additionally, this proposal would eliminate a transportation option for more than 13 million passengers that depend on the State-supported routes, which are some of the busiest and fastest growing routes in the country. It would also undermine the work states have already done with Amtrak to reach agreements on state contributions for state-supported routes. Congress should not impose a unilateral decision that would strip states of their ability to negotiate a fair contribution with Amtrak.”

Caucus co-chairs include: Congress members Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Corrine Brown (FL-3), Zoe Lofgren (CA-16), David Price (NC-4), Tim Walz (MN-1) and John Olver (MA-1) and Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Richard Durbin (D-IL).

The text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Chairman Inouye, Vice Chairman Cochran, Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks:

As you work to finalize the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill, we strongly urge you to maintain the $1.48 billion for Amtrak and the $100 million for high-speed and intercity passenger rail funding included in the Senate Appropriations Committee reported bill. We also urge you to oppose the cuts proposed in the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee reported bill to Amtrak’s operating funds and the elimination of funding for state-supported routes.

Amtrak is the only nationwide intercity passenger rail service. Amtrak recently announced that a record 30.2 million passengers traveled on its trains in FY 11, marking the highest ridership total since Amtrak started operations in 1971. Since 2000, ridership has risen nearly 44 percent. Every day, it serves on average 82,700 passengers in more than 500 communities--150 of them rural--across 46 states on nearly 300 trains. Amtrak is also the nation’s largest provider of contract-commuter service for state and regional authorities and serves more than 900,000 people each weekday.

The House Subcommittee bill would have devastating impacts on Amtrak by reducing funding for Amtrak’s operating expenses by 60 percent and eliminating state-supported routes. The legislation would result in at least 1,500 Amtrak employees losing their jobs, and would likely end many of Amtrak’s long distance trains. Additionally, this proposal would eliminate a transportation option for more than 13 million passengers that depend on the State-supported routes, which are some of the busiest and fastest growing routes in the country. It would also undermine the work states have already done with Amtrak to reach agreements on state contributions for state-supported routes. Congress should not impose a unilateral decision that would strip states of their ability to negotiate a fair contribution with Amtrak.

Additionally, Congress has maintained a commitment to high-speed and intercity rail for over a decade. The Senate bill continues this commitment and ensures that Amtrak has the resources it needs to continue successful operations. The Senate bill also includes $100 million to allow more states and communities to benefit from faster, more reliable passenger rail service. States and communities around the country are eager for federal funds to help advance rail projects.

Last year, the Department of Transportation received nearly 100 applications for high-speed rail funding, but they were only able to fulfill fewer than half of those requests. In the short-term, this funding will provide targeted investments to support state rail programs, aid economic recovery efforts and lay the foundation for the high-speed passenger rail network.

As you continue working on the FY 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill, we urge you to reject the House’s cuts and to maintain the funding provided to Amtrak and high-speed intercity passenger rail in the Senate bill. We appreciate your consistent support of Amtrak and the passenger rail programs and look forward to working with you on this important issue. Thank you for your consideration.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)77.2479.96
Canadian National (CNI)78.6479.76
Canadian Pacific (CP) 61.2168.99
CSX (CSX)21.5723.31
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)60.0761.81
Kansas City Southern (KSU)65.9365.41
Norfolk Southern (NSC)73.5475.00
Providence & Worcester(PWX)12.87 13.05
RailAmerica (RA)13.8513.83
Union Pacific (UNP)101.24101.96
 


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

California To Retrofit Amtrak Locomotives;

Will Now Surpass EPA Emission Standards

From Progressive Railroading

SACRAMENTO---The California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans) intercity passenger-rail program will be the first in the nation to start converting a fleet of locomotives to emission-control standards exceeding current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements, Caltrans officials said in a prepared statement. 

Caltrans will use $190 million in federal stimulus funds to modernize Amtrak locomotives, renovate existing cars and purchase new equipment by 2015, officials said. The retrofitted locomotives will operate on the San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor routes. 

The project calls for retrofitting 3,200-horsepower locomotive engines with emission-control equipment. The new EPA 710 EOC Repower engine upgrade includes an automatic engine start/stop system designed to reduce fuel and oil usage by eliminating idling time and emissions. 

Smog-forming emissions will be reduced by 43 percent, hydrocarbon emissions will be cut by 84 percent and diesel particulate emissions will be trimmed by 78 percent, Caltrans officials said.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Guest Commentary

 

Prisoners Of Transit: Why Public Transportation Deserves More Attention

Posted On The Infrastructurist Thursday October 27th By Ysabel Yates

With the economy being what it is, the United States is heading into a transportation crisis for low and middle income citizens.

Those able to afford cars find themselves spending more and more of their incomes on gasoline, and those without cars have to rely on public transit that is inadequate in many places. With unemployment stuck at 9% and the housing market depressed, finding jobs closer to home or affording the costs of moving are out of the question for many people. Inadequate transportation prevents economic growth, limits educational opportunities, creates a public health issue, and hurts worker productivity. Better transportation options need to be a top priority for federal spending. 

Yet it isn’t. 

Inadequate transportation affects millions of people in all different age groups and residential settings. In Detroit, for example, nearly 30% of households don’t have a vehicle, leaving residents no choice but to take the city’s inefficient bus system that often leaves them waiting for hours to reach destinations. 

And the crisis isn’t limited to cash-strapped cities like Detroit. In Cincinnati, which has a slightly better financial outlook, it’s estimated that 64% of seniors aged 65-79 will have poor transit access by 2015. Providing adequate transportation for the elderly should be a top priority, as this group contains some of the most likely candidates to depend on public transportation. 

Rural communities and suburbia are also hurting. Rural communities deserve our attention on this matter because not only do they contain 21% of the population, they have higher proportions of older and lower-income citizens, the groups who can benefit the most from these services. Suburban areas should be on the radar as well, as they have millions more living below the poverty level than America’s inner cities. Poverty rates are rising faster in suburbia than in any other residential setting.

Nor is this just about getting to and from work.  The poor often live in food deserts, areas where healthy and affordable food is hard to obtain. Fitness deserts, areas with few opportunities for exercise, also pose health problems to millions of people. A full 80% of census blocks do not have a park nearby, negatively affecting both health and quality of life.

How do we know neighborhoods have a direct effect on health? The results of a long-term study conducted by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development show that moving to a neighborhood with less than 10% of people living below the poverty line has a positive effect on health, specifically with obesity and diabetes.

Despite these desperate infrastructure needs, Congress is determined to keep cutting. Easing transportation poverty through improved infrastructure needs to survive.


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Amtrak At 40: A Rider’s Perspective,
A Child Not Expected To Live

Second In A Series

By David Peter Alan

Amtrak was born on May 1, 1971.  Its parents were the freight railroads, who wanted to get rid of their remaining passenger trains. Congress was the midwife, and the Nixon Administration attended the birth.  The vehicle was the Rail Passenger Act of 1970, which called for a six-month moratorium on proceedings filed by the railroads before the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC, later reorganized as the Surface Transportation Board) to discontinue passenger trains.  In return, the railroads were given the opportunity to eliminate most or all of their non-commuter trains at the same time, at the end of the following April.

Most of the railroads did just that.  More than two thirds of the trains that left their points of origin on April 30th never ran again.  Northeast Corridor (NEC) operations continued, and so did a few long-distance trains.  Most long-distance, along with essentially all medium-distance, trains were eliminated.

Amtrak was the result of an effort to terminate as many passenger trains as possible, while still giving the public a few trains, so that the entire discontinuance process would later appear gradual.  Amtrak was an unhealthy and undernourished baby, which was not expected to live beyond the decade of the 1970s, if that long.  Richard Nixon, who was no friend of the public sector during his presidency, allowed passenger trains to be moved nominally under public administration, because this allowed the freight railroads to eliminate the trains which they no longer wanted to run.  It was expected that the surviving trains would only drain the public treasury for a few years before they, too, were gone.

Our colleague Don Phillips has ably chronicled the birth of Amtrak and the death of the other passenger trains, complete with the political machinations behind the change, in his article in the spring issue of Classic Trains magazine.  There is no need to repeat that chronology here.  Suffice it to say that the Nixon Administration and Congress were deeply concerned about the financial health of the railroads and the money they were spending on continuing to operate passenger trains.  Something had to be done, and the Rail Passenger Act of 1970 gave the railroads the opportunity they wanted.

The public seemed to know that the days of the passenger train were numbered.  Still, people kept riding the trains that survived, and the new Amtrak management could not claim declining ridership as a reason to get rid of the few long-distance trains they operated.  There were even a few attempts to add trains to the tiny network.  The Lake Shore Limited came back on June 7, 1971, restoring service between New York and Chicago on the New York Central route through upstate New York, Cleveland and Toledo.  Service on the Pennsylvania route through Philadelphia and Pittsburgh on the Broadway Limited survived the initial pre-Amtrak cuts; a rare instance when Amtrak operated two different routes between a pair of endpoints.  This incarnation of the Lake Shore did not last; the states along the line failed to agree on funding for the train, so it was discontinued again on January 5, 1972.  It came back in 1974 as part of the Amtrak system, and still runs today, although the Broadway made its last run in 1995.  The famed North Coast Limited between Chicago and Seattle via Bismarck, North Dakota and Billings, Montana, came back in 1972, running three days a week under the ungainly name North Coast Hiawatha.  It ran until 1979.  Another tri-weekly train, the Inter-American, ran from Fort Worth through Austin and San Antonio, to Laredo, Texas.  It did not connect with the train from Chicago, but it was scheduled to connect to Mexico City with a Mexican train that originated across the border at Nuevo Laredo.  Passengers had to cross the border on their own.  The experiment did not last long, but the portion of the route from Fort Worth to San Antonio is part of the Texas Eagle route today.

There were also experiments in through-routing.  Trains from St. Louis were sent through Chicago and terminated at Milwaukee.  The Silver Star from Florida and the George Washington from Cincinnati and Chicago through West Virginia (today’s Cardinal) ran through to Boston, rather than terminating at New York.  Riders between Boston and New York could ride a true long-distance train and enjoy food and lounge services normally available only to long-distance riders.  These experiments did not last long, either.  By 1973, Amtrak was standardizing the look of its trains, as well as its food and beverage services.  It appeared that standardization and nationalization heralded a new decline in service.

Before Amtrak, the travel experience varied from train to train.  The Santa Fe kept up its high standards until 1973, two years into the Amtrak era.  The Seaboard Coast Line, the product of a merger between the Seaboard Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line, provided a first-rate travel experience to Florida during the same period.  Snowbirds could continue to ride the extra-fare Florida Special in 1972, and there was even a through train between Montreal and Miami for one winter season.  Montrealers still snowbird in sunny South Florida today, but they do not have a through train to get them there.  Even the medium-haul trains between Chicago and St. Louis offered extraordinary food, comfortable old coaches and a parlor car for luxury daytime travel.

Not every railroad treated its riders that well.  Penn Central, the product of a merger between the once-mighty Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads and itself a monumental failure, ran utilitarian trains across the eastern half of the nation, as well as along the busy Northeast Corridor.  The cars were not particularly comfortable and certainly not luxurious, and the food service was vastly inferior to that offered on the historic Broadway Limited or Lake Shore Limited, but at least the “PC” got riders to their destinations.  The trains on the Southern Pacific were the worst.  The once-mighty Sunset Limited took two days to travel between New Orleans and Los Angeles with no sleeping, dining or lounge cars.  The only food service was an “automat car” with vending machines along the walls.  The SP (a/k/a “Suffering Pacific”) brought the train back to full-service in 1970, through a deal with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC, now reorganized as the Surface Transportation Board), that allowed the railroad to reduce the frequency of operation from daily to three times per week.  Although the Sunset ran four times weekly for a short time in the 1990s, the schedule has changed little in the past four decades.  It was extended along the Gulf Coast and east to Orlando in the 1990s, but since Hurricane Katrina blew through the region in 2005, it has never run east of New Orleans again.

Amtrak’s situation has also changed remarkably little over the years.  In every decade, it has either been threatened with obliteration, or else Amtrak management discontinued a number of trains.  With the recent ascendancy of the TEA Party, especially in the House of Representatives, Amtrak is again under severe threat.  That does not mean that Amtrak is without friends, though.  Most Democrats and some Republicans are willing to spend the money needed to keep it going as a skeletal system; so far, at least.

Amtrak also has friends in the rider advocacy movement but, unfortunately, their power to influence the political decision-makers has been limited.  The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) challenged Amtrak over the elimination of a train in the 1970s; a challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court.  The next article in this series will discuss that case and its consequences.


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

   ‘Misleading Aviation Propaganda’ In Our Last Issue?

To The Editor:

In the issue of 31 October, you reported on the proposed Heathrow - Gatwick high-speed rail link. You quoted Willie Walsh, CEO of the merged BA and Iberia, as saying that with 35 miles of high-speed rail you can go 35 miles: with 2 miles of runway, you can go anywhere in the world.

This is a misleading piece of aviation propaganda which has surfaced before.

My response to it is to say that there are other relevant statistics, too.

As well as the 2 miles of runway, you need taxiways - and there are around 30 miles of taxiways at New York’s JFK airport.

The French will tell you that their original high-speed line, from Paris to Lyon, takes up less land than Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. I was a bit skeptical when I first saw this, but then I read a report on the planned 125 mile high-speed line in Morocco which will take 1200 hectares. I happened to have statistics on Gatwick at the time: that single-runway airport takes up 647 hectares. Then I looked at Hong Kong Airport - 1255 hectares.

Then look at Dallas-Fort Worth airport - larger than Manhattan and the cities of Boston, San Francisco and Miami. And Denver airport occupies 53 square miles - that’s equivalent to a square block of land with each side measuring 7 miles! I believe it’s the fourth largest airport in the world.

Best wishes,

Andrew Sharp
Executive Director
International Air Rail Organization


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END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2011 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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