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Amtrak growth, ridership reaching record highs

by Benjamin Kabak

As Amtrak pushes forward on its absurdly expensive high-speed rail plan, the rail carrier is enjoying some record high ridership. Amtrak announced yesterday 11 consecutive months of record ridership, and they anticipate that, when September ends, the national rail carrier will top its previous fiscal year record of 30.2 million passengers, set in 2011. “All across America the demand to travel by Amtrak is strong, growing and undeniable,” President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement. “Amtrak continues to deliver on its mission to fulfill a vital national transportation need and does so with improved management and financial health.”

Since the early part of the 2000s, Amtrak has seen its usage soar. Ridership has increased by 44 percent over 2002 with a lot of growth centering around the Northeast Corridor. Still, the agency is in a political fight for funding and an economic fight for high-speed rail dollars. On the one hand, I don’t blame politicians for eying Amtrak’s finances as they’ve never been too robust or cost-effective. On the other, Amtrak has suffered from years of underinvestment, and the nation’s rail network lags far behind those of our economic competitors.

A serious discussion on rail investment has so far eluded federal politicians. Some states have given up high-speed rail dollars and plans while others are clamoring for them. Without a comprehensive plan with costs that make sense, we’ll be left spinning our proverbial wheels. Meanwhile, the demand for Amtrak is there and growing. It’s time to capitalize.

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Bolwerk September 11, 2012 - 3:50 pm

I wonder how much of the demand is because of desperation. With highways and airports clogged (and more expensive than ever to use), Amtrak is often about the only mode left with some excess capacity.

Not to say I don’t think there isn’t room for more/better long-distance rail in the USA, but Amtrak hasn’t improved that much over the past decade even as its ridership has.

Anon256 September 11, 2012 - 5:46 pm

Intercity bus services (Megabus, Boltbus, chinatown buses etc) are cheaper than ever to use, and only marginally slower than Amtrak Northeast Regionals (and faster than Amtrak in most other corridors).

Bolwerk September 11, 2012 - 6:31 pm

Well, true to an extent – the buses are fine if traffic is good. That’s not a very reliable assumption for anyone who values their own time.

Phantom September 11, 2012 - 9:40 pm

For service on say a quiet Saturday morning, the bus might be a no brainer, unless you prefer to spend three times the fare for the train.

Bolwerk September 12, 2012 - 9:06 am

I’d agree, except sometimes even Saturday mornings aren’t predictably quiet either. I take the train to DC mainly because it saves me a minimum of an hour on a good day, and much more on a bad day. And I don’t always know what days will be bad.

You really have to not give too much of a shit if you arrive hours late to take the bus, which is an option for some people. But it’s probably not an option for the hordes of professionals and business people who make the trip daily.

Matthias September 12, 2012 - 2:09 pm

Everyone has their priorities. I place a high value on speed and comfort, on both of which trains have an inherent advantage (for most of my trips). On routes where Amtrak is at the mercy of freight railroads, speed suffers greatly, but that is an issue that needs to be dealt with on a policy level. As Anon256 mentions, this is not an inherent weakness.

tp September 12, 2012 - 12:24 am

Amtrak is pretty transparent about serving people who value their time in the Northeast Corridor, and serving pleasure riders, railbuffs, people who are afraid of flying, people who have no other options in most of their other routes the way they’re scheduled. Amtrak schedules are designed to maximize the number of daylight hours wasted on the train because they want to serve podunk towns along the way with negligible ridership.

Let’s say I want to go to Toronto or Montreal? Megabus, Greyhound, and Trailways run buses with frequent service overnight, so you can sleep on the bus and wake up at your destination. Amtrak only runs one train per day, and it leaves in the morning and arrives at night, wasting an entire day each direction. And it takes longer than the bus, even given potential traffic backups at the border.

Ed September 12, 2012 - 1:03 am

It depends on what you want to go to Montreal for. I’ve gone for vacations, and to me the all day long train ride was the point. The train goes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. The bus, which I’ve taken, doesn’t (its remarkable how the interstates avoid going past anything interesting).

Now if you are going for business purposes and have to get there fast, probably you should fly. If its to visit family, I guess it depends on how much time you have and whether you are travelling with children. I wouldn’t travel with kids on most of these cheap bus services.

Woody September 14, 2012 - 10:17 am

Montreal service should greatly improve. Sen Schumer has been pressing Immigration to get real, and work is underway to do processing in the station at Montreal.

Meanwhile work is going on preparing to extend the state-supported Vermonter train back to Montreal in a few years. (They say three, so I’d guess four.) That train starts in D.C., leaves NYC before noon, arrives Springfield mid-afternoon, and serves Burlington before finishing at St Albans by 9:30 p.m.

When this second route opens all the way, travelers from NYC can take the Vermonter one way and ride the Adirondacker back, or vice versa.

Here’s another example where a dab or two or stimulus funding starts to add up.

Those 130 new cars to speed up conventional trains on the NEC could squeeze a couple of minutes out of the schedule. We can hope. And in Queens, a new connection being built in the Sunnyside yard to avoid crossing tracks with the LIRR may shave off a minute or three.

North of Springfield, a shorter line now called “the Knowledge Corridor” is being rebuilt, with hopes to knock a full 30 minutes out of the schedule.

Funds from the stimulus and the Conn Lege will then double-track the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line to save another 30 minutes.

Cutting an hour and more out of a schedule D.C.-Burlington-Montreal is no HSR story. But on a cold, snowy night in Vermont, when you’re driving to pick up friends or relatives coming up on the train, that earlier arrival will mean that Amtrak is getting much better.

Bolwerk September 12, 2012 - 9:12 am

Well, my followup comment to Anon256 mostly concerned the Northeast Corridor.

For the rest of the country, Amtrak probably isn’t preferable to driving or flying. It might be more affordable or more available for myriad reasons, which is kind of where that “desperation” part comes in. The point is this is true moreso now than in, say, 2000 when gas prices were still occasionally measured in change. Buses are probably to be preferred on many corridors, but not the Northeast Corridor.

But travel between major cities in the northeast is also likely more desirable in 2012 than it was in 2002.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 1:42 am

“For the rest of the country, Amtrak probably isn’t preferable to driving or flying.”

Several of the Chicago-to-nearby-places trains are exceptions. And important ones. (Probably due to Chicago-area traffic.)

I suspect, based on the ridership and the prices people are willing to pay for it, that the “Virginia extensions” of the Northeast Regional are another exception. (Probably due to DC-area traffic.) And the Harrisburg-Philadelphia train. (Probably due to Philly-area traffic.)

Possibly the Surfliner and Cascades and San Joaquins and Capitol Corridor too…

The long-distance trains are really for people who have a strong desire not to drive or fly for reasons of comfort. There’s a lot of such people.

The Empire Corridor (NY-Albany-Utica-Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo-Niagara Falls) suffers from underinvestment, but could become like those other corridors, simply because of the traffic nightmare at the NY end.

Bolwerk September 15, 2012 - 12:41 pm

Yeah, fair enough. I should have said “in general.”

A rule of thumb is rail trips of four hours or less are pretty unambiguously competitive with or even preferable to flying. Between lag time getting to/from the airport, security check in, etc., even short flights end up consuming about three hours of time minimum.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 1:36 am

Amtrak is slow on crossing the border because Customs and Immigration (both US and Canadian!) hates trains, and is unwilling to process them the way they have always been processed, i.e. onboard.

This means that the border-crossing trains won’t be reasonably fast until this is fixed.

As for running a ‘day train’ versus an overnight train… there are two considerations. #1, the day train can serve points in between, and the overnight train provides terrible service to points in between. This is particularly relevant for the Toronto-NY train, which has a lot more people travelling within NY or within Canada than people crossing the border.

The second point: it’s been found that if you run an overnight train, the richer passengers start asking for sleeping cars. Which is great, because sleeping cars are profitable. But Amtrak doesn’t have any extra sleeping cars.

The third point: the Adirondack (NY-Montreal) is specified by the NYS Legislature. They could have specified an overnight train. They specified a day train. *shrug*.

In the Philadelphia-Harrisburg corridor, Amtrak is faster than the alternatives, and the same is true in a number of the corridors running into Chicago (mainly due to massive traffic jams which start 20 miles outside Chicago).

Farro September 11, 2012 - 10:06 pm

Intercity bus services will also never be able to serve certain corridors cheaply or at all. And lots of stops on a bus is inefficient–each stop grows the travel time by a lot, since the bus has to leave the highway and go to its downtown stop (assuming a non-highway side stop, as those have their own issues). An extra stop on a train has low penalty.

Anon256 September 12, 2012 - 3:17 am

Oh, I agree that in principle rail has many benefits and is overall better as a technology, but for most of the corridors/passengers that Amtrak currently serves, intercity buses are in practise a very viable (or even superior) alternative.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 1:43 am

The passengers don’t agree, based on how much they’re willing to pay. :shrug:

Douglas John Bowen September 12, 2012 - 9:15 am

Until Megabus gets stuck on the Lincoln Tunnel helix. In the afternoon. On a Saturday. (Buzzer sound.) I’m sorry, buses don’t really threaten Amtrak NEC services seriously. An option, yes indeed. A threat? Hardly.

Woody September 12, 2012 - 6:43 pm

Along the NEC, Amtrak says it is severely capacity constrained. As a result, it charges fairly high prices, because it can. That is what the market will bear. And it has an obligation to avoid losses, after all.

Boardman has been pushing a plan to add capacity on the NEC, while everyone else has been chattering only about faster speeds. Of course, the faster speeds will cost tens of billions, while the plan to add more seats on the Acelas will cost only a FEW 😉 billions.

The plan is first, take apart the six-passenger-car, two-power-car Acela trainsets and insert two more passenger cars, changing the 1-6-1 to a 1-8-1 configuration. Adding 40 more cars to the fleet will almost magically increase capacity by 40%.

That doesn’t come cheap or easy, because maintenance facilities in D.C., Boston, and NYC will need to be extended for the longer trains as well.

This expansion was forecast to start in 2015, but with the Repubs controlling Congress this year, delay that estimated arrival by at least one year.

Meanwhile Amtrak wants to work on upgrading the right of way.

The second step would be to buy new high-speed Acela trainsets, NextGeneration sets for use when the upgraded infrastructure will allow faster running.

The larger number of Acela trainsets, both the added newish ones and NextGen, would allow departures every half hour instead of the hourly schedules we have now, doubling capacity.

Adding substantial capacity should allow some cheaper fares, especially out of peak time periods. But there will still be plenty of business for the bargain buses.

Ben Fried September 11, 2012 - 4:36 pm

Isn’t the main reason that Amtrak loses money all the money-losing routes it has to run in less-populated, red-leaning states?

Alex C September 11, 2012 - 4:44 pm

Pretty much. It has to run a few Congress-mandated cross-country routes, because nothing says economic solvency like running an FRA-compliant ultra-heavy long diesel-powered train cross country at average speeds below highway speed limits.

Bolwerk September 11, 2012 - 6:32 pm

Maybe partly, but I think Amtrak also is responsible for paying for railroad pension benefits for failed railroads on top of that. Basically, they have to pay for people who never even worked for Amtrak.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 1:45 am

Yes, this is correct.

And let’s see:
1 – the routes over the freight railroads have to pay the freight railroads….
2 – but the freight railroads violate the law and dispatch Amtrak late…
3 – making it even less popular…

Um, yeah. Not a great situation. On corridors where the track is owned by state governments and prioritized for passenger rail, Amtrak consistently does better.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 1:47 am

Oh, and a George W. Bush appointed panel awarded Amtrak’s unions more than they’d actually asked for during negotations, so Amtrak is stuck with a high cost structure, too.

Given that this was *Bush*, who wasn’t known for being union-friendly, I think this was Amtrak sabotage.

JohnS September 11, 2012 - 6:44 pm

The long-distance service has its challenges, yes. Amtrak’s also been constrained from buying enough sleeper cars (which turn a profit) until they got funding in the ARRA to do so. Not to say that by itself will make them profitable – but then again, why do we insist that passenger rail should be profitable? The roads certainly aren’t.

SubwayNut September 11, 2012 - 11:56 pm

Amtrak has 3 distinctive operations and it seems like this discussion could be be better informed knowing about all of them:

1) The Northeast Corridor

2) The National System — These are the long distance, federally mandated routes that provide the US with some resemblance of a national rail system and non-bus ground transportation options. I personally have just taken a gap year traveling the country on it, traveling on mostly quite crowded trains in coach. The national network not only connects major cities for those wanting to see the country from see-level but also stops in numerous small towns that are too far away from interstates (or too small, especially with Greyhound cuts in the past ten years to focus on point to point service) to have bus service and have no or limited air service, this air service is often already subsided by federal tax payers under the EAS program (which serves many fewer passengers than Amtrak at a much higher per passenger cost). The most successful route is the Chicago-Twin Cities-Spokane-Portland/Seattle Empire Builder. This train stops in no large cities between St Paul and Spokane, WA but provides a life line to the small towns in Montana/North Dakota (including booming Williston) as well as serving Glacier National Park.

3) State Supported Routes — 15 States subsidize Amtrak to run local intercity routes in their states, ridership on these corridors is included in the national figure. New York State subsidizes service on the Adirondack, and soon (under a new federal law) we’ll have to start subsidizing the Empire Service upstate to Albany and Buffalo as well. The biggest supporters are California (the Pacific Surfliner is third and Capital Corridor forth in ridership only to the Regional and Acela), Illinois and the Washington State (Cascades) Corridors. Some red states even support them with the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth. The expanding Northeast Regional service to Virgina (don’t know if its counted under State Supported or NEC) is all subsidized by Virgina, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is a big supporter.

John September 12, 2012 - 9:57 am

Come on, Fargo’s a fairly large city between St. Paul and Spokane! But in all seriousness, the Empire Builder is great. I rode it from here in Fargo to Seattle, and I want to do the other branch to Portland at some point too.

petey September 12, 2012 - 12:48 pm

Empire Builder stops at Wishram WA, which isn’t even a town.

Douglas John Bowen September 12, 2012 - 9:18 am

Quick point: Depending on a given year, Amtrak’s revenue-to-cost operating ratio drifts in and out of the same ballpark as Swiss Federal Railways. SBB isn’t often categorized as being an organization with finances that “never been too robust or cost-effective.”

Woody September 12, 2012 - 6:00 pm

As SubwayNut points out above, Amtrak is composed of three different kinds of operations. The NEC — Acelas, Regionals, the Keystone to Harrisburg — basically break even on operations.

The state corridors, like the DownEaster Boston-Portland, ME, or the “Lynchburger” and similar services that extend Regional trains NYC-D.C. down to Lynchburg or Richmond (or starting in Dec. to Norfolk) are supposed to be net zero cost to Amtrak’s bottom line.

The states cover the modest losses on these corridor trains rather than build another couple of lanes of interstate over hundreds of miles.

btw Experience has shown that adding service on corridors can dramatically cut the operating losses. When the state of Illinois agreed to pay for two more trains St Louis-Chicago, increasing from three daily departures to five, in other words, a 67% increase in capacity/convenience, ridership increased by over 90% the first year, and continues to grow. But Amtrak cannot add more trains, because it’s using every coach, sleeper, diner, baggage car, crew dorm, and locomotive it has. And it can’t go down to the Buick dealer and grab a couple of new passenger cars off the lot.

By elimination, it would seem the Long Distance trains are the problem. But wait. Overall, Amtrak revenues cover about 85% of its operating costs. As you suggests, this is a good record compared with operations of conventional (not HSR) services around the world. And there are very positive ‘network’ effects where long distance trains overlap corridor trains.

But there is more stuff in the Amtrak budget. Complicated. Let’s attempt a flashlight tour beneath Penn Station. A huge item has been the debt, and payments thereupon, which feed into the operating budget. Where did the debt come from?

A large part of the debt was run up when a party took the White House committed to killing Amtrak, while Congress, including members of that same party, wanted to keep the trains running, at least thru their own districts. The Administration proposed to end, and Congress did actually cut, Amtrak’s subsidy, almost forcing its collapse.

About the same time, an exceedingly overoptimistic management apparently believed that the Acelas soon to come on track would throw off huge operating surpluses to cover losses elsewhere. But you may remember that the Acelas came on late, and then were taken out of service for months while repairs were made. Launch fail. Today Acelas and Regionals have 75% of the air/train intercity market, but back in 2002 or so it just weren’t so. And even today, an Acela surplus is there, but no biggie.

To keep Amtrak going after the subsidy cuts, and hoping that the Acelas would serve deus ex machina to save it, Amtrak mortgaged everything it had: Penn Station in NYC, Union Station in D.C., railcars and locomotives it owned, etc. Some of these deals turned out to be at high interest costs, especially in today’s very low interest-rate conditions. So one thing the Obama-Biden-LaHood-Szabo-Boardman rail team has done is to use Treasury money to pay off debts where by law it can, and to opt out of lease agreements when the escape period arrive. Amtrak’s total debt has been cut by hundreds of billions of dollars by the financial restructurings.

Meanwhile, Amtrak used stimulus funds to rebuild about 95 wrecked cars that he been in a junk yard heap because it had no money no money, none, to repair them. This allowed a modest expansion of Amtrak’s fleet, just in time to help handle the growth of an additional one million passengers a year since fiscal 2009.

Amtrak was also allowed to order 130 additional sleepers, diners, crew dorms, and baggage cars for its single-level long distance trains out of NYC, where low tunnel clearances cannot accommodate Amtrak’s bilevel cars used out West. The added cars for passengers paying the top prices should generate enuff revenue to pay for themselves. And replacing cars that were in service before Amtrak was created in 1971, will speed up the long distance trains that use the NEC and now slow down the faster trains behind them.

When the new cars start arriving, perhaps late next year, Amtrak will finally have enuff cars to make the three-times a week Cardinal NYC-CD-Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago into a daily train. This case illustrates the Amtrak dilemma: Operating three days a week is not only inconvenient to would-be riders. It is hugely wasteful because crews spend a night in NYC earning away-pay before they make the return trip. If they were working the next day instead of collecting away-pay, that would greatly increase their productivity. And daily service would add an estimated 100,000 or so more riders each year.

But the Cardinal route would still lose money. Because it would be running seven days a week instead of three, the train would lose a bit more each week, despite being more efficient and losing less money per run and less per passenger. There’s all kinds of good reasons to think that carrying an added 100,000 or so riders is a good thing, but it will increase Amtrak’s total loss. Whaddayathink?

Meanwhile, Amtrak also ordered 70 new, very energy-efficient electric locomotives. The new models will replace others famed for their unreliability. And they will use so much less juice, by recapturing braking energy etc., that the energy and maintenance savings will cover the new debt payments.

Amtrak also got stimulus funds for a $100 million+ project to replace a century-old lift bridge over the Niantic on the NYC-Boston route, to help rebuild the busy station in Wilmington, and to upgrade ADA compliance at dozens of smaller stations.

Without using any stimulus money, Amtrak has added wi-fi to its NEC and corridor routes, so that more than half of all its passengers can now get online. In addition, it has begun electronic ticketing. It has moved to credit-card and debit-card billing for food and beverages, freeing up crew time formerly wasted counting nickels and pennies, and upgraded the supply system. The electronic reservation system is also getting an overhaul.

The Obama Administration got lots of criticism for lumping together true HSR with better-Amtrak projects. Nobody had good plans ready for the Northeast Corridor, so the only true HSR project getting funds is in California. Other hyped routes like St Louis-Chicago and (not getting the hype it deserves) Detroit-Chicago, are only going to top out at speeds up to 110 mph. Another 130 order for new cars and 30 or so quick-accelerating diesel locomotives for these routes got Recovery Act funds, too. But those cars will not be available until 2014.

Meanwhile, it turns out — a coincidence? — that virtually every long distance and most medium distance Amtrak train route is getting at least some little improvement.

For example, North Carolina got half a billion or so to doubletrack the route between Greensboro and Charlotte. the work will take 20 minutes out of the schedule of the Piedmont trains that run Raleigh-Grennsboro-Charlotte, and speed up the Carolinian NYC-DC-Richmond-Raleigh-Charlotte, and even Amtrak’s Crescent, which is essentially NYC-DC-Atlanta, tho it extends all the way to New Orleans.

The Cascades route will get new tilting train sets made by Talgo, to run Eugene-Portland-Seattle. This will add two daily departures each way to the two Eugene-Portland and the four Portland-Seattle. (When they start their runs, the Cascades will be carrying over one million passengers a year.) A refurbished (and seismic-reinforced) King Street Station will serve them, as well as serving the long distance trains, the Empire Builder from Chicago-St Paul and the Coast Starlight from L.A.- Sacramento-Portland. An enlarged and enclosed maintenance center in Seattle will improve the maintenance of the long distance and Cascades trains. Improvements to the right of way between Portland and Seattle will greatly reduce the shameful lateness record currently barely 70% on time, benefitting both Cascades and Starlight trains.

The 110-mph stretch St Louis-Chicago coming on in 2014 will cut 40 minutes from the schedules of the Lincoln trains on this corridor, and on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle Chi-St L-Little Rock-Dallas-Fort Worth-Austin-San Antonio.

The Englewood flyover in ChicagoLand will untangle a mess of freight and commuter rail, to speed up four Amtrak corridor trains to Michigan (with more to come), while helping Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited Chi-Cleveland-Buffalo-NYC/Boston and its Capitol Limited Chi-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-D.C.

Back to that network effects thing. The Cascades route has been built on top of the Coast Starlight. At the other end, the Starlight runs with the Surfliner into L.A. Those Lincoln corridor trains St L-Chi count the Texas Eagle as part of the corridor schedule. The Lake Shore Limited shares tracks and station with the Empire Corridor trains NYC-Albany-Buffalo — and with the Maple Leaf to Toronto, and up the Hudson for part of the way with the Adirondacker, and the Ethan Alan that Vermont pays for.

As everybody but Mitt Romney seems to grasp, most businesses grow their way into prosperity, they don’t shrink into profitability. Trying to cut, nip and tuck, or chop Amtrak into better performance ain’t gonna work. Investing in, improving, and growing our passenger railroad system has not even been tried before the most recent four years. But it just could work.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 2:22 am

Amtrak was hobbled by other earlier problems. When it started, a number of the railroads had already shut down their downtown stations and moved operations to badly located, unpopular places in the suburbs; others had left their downtown stations existing, but in shambles. These downtown stations were very expensive to maintain, so Amtrak also moved out of several of them. Amtrak has spent much of its time since the 1980s moving back into refurbished downtown stations, which are now generally funded by localities — but some have had to be funded by Amtrak.

This helps ridership a lot.

Likewise, Amtrak inherited mostly completely clapped-out equipment from the predecessor railroads. The main project of new cars took place from 1973-1980; this didn’t replace the single-level sleepers or diners or baggage cars, and Amtrak didn’t get money to do so.

There were small orders (the Horizons and then the Viewliners) in 1989-1991, but Amtrak is only replacing the last of the “Heritage” cars *NOW* (with the 130-car ‘long-distance’ car order), so this problem of clapped-out equipment is still hampering Amtrak — and by now the cars ordered in the 1970s are beginning to need replacement!

Let alone the need for new cars, to expand!

So Amtrak had a hell of a lot of capital costs just to get its system up to where a startup system would have been; and it hasn’t even finished with that, because it’s never been given the budget.

petey September 12, 2012 - 12:44 pm

south of DC the tracks are owned by CSX and their trains take priority. i know this because i had a NIGHTMARE traveling from Durham to NYC, and will never go that way on amtrak again.

that is all.

Woody September 12, 2012 - 4:08 pm

When did u make the unhappy trip, recently? Or was it unforgettable no matter how long ago?

The PRIIA Act of 2006 increased carrier payments for on-time performance and added penalties for lateness, to give the freights better incentives to get Amtrak trains to the stations on time. Since then, on-time performance has been improving nicely, was about 79% last fiscal year, will come in around 84% this year.

Of course, lots can go wrong — overcrowded routes, floods and landslides, fools stalling their trucks on the tracks after going around the crossing arms, even track work including some projects paid for by the stimulus, and railroads ignoring the PRIIA thing ** and what choo gonna do about it? ** So if you are in the 16% that are late trains, you have my sympathy.

Nathanael September 14, 2012 - 1:51 am

It is true — after PRIIA put some teeth into the “dispatch passenger trains ahead of freights” law (which has *always* been the law, FYI) on-time performance on freight tracks has been better. (The Empire Builder has been hit with a *lot* of natural disasters lately, however.)

Ed SI October 12, 2012 - 2:42 am

Amtrak needs to be cost effective before it can begin to develop any semblance of a 21st century rail system.
1) Get rid of the Federal Railroad Admin. 1800s era regulations and costly giveaways to unions.
2) Keep only the NE Regional network. Its the only route that makes money. Others can be funded by states or privately controlled.
3) We need to spend billions on rail to make it competitive with the billions we spend on roads and air travel. Rail has had little change in past century while road and air travel have sped up greatly.

If HSR fails maybe its because Americans just don’t like rail travel. 4 or 5 generations now have seen trains as slow, inefficient and uncompetitive. Trains do not allow the freedom of autos which Americans value far more than Europeans. Also many Americans fear development in general. Maybe WE are the problem and not our gov’t or its Amtrak.


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