Monday, September 26, 2005

Can. You Beat That?

Business Edge, a Canadian business news magazine publishing online reports in their September 15, 2005, issue that Bert Titcomb is the national manager for a Canadian advocacy group called Transport 2000. Seems they may have been around since before the millennium rolled over, but in any case, they advocate environmentally responsible transportation policy and bemoan the lack of train service to some small Canadian cities and towns.

Please read Bert’s comments at this link. Then tell me if you believe that there can be someone like Bert in another country on the face of this planet that thinks Amtrak is getting any real support from the U.S. Government.

That’s a laugh. Even when Congress or the DOT appear to be supportive, they are just using Amtrak support as a political football and will yank it away like Lucy Brown when Amtrak Charlie (read: Amtrak management) comes running up to score the field goal.

Canadians tend to see the United States in a more objective light than Americans, so there is something to be worried about here. There are too many citizens that think Amtrak and passenger rail in general is getting a good deal from the government. Amtrak has to do something to disabuse everyone of this opinion. Amtrak needs to show the public what could be done with adequate funding, and let the public know that it is there – and not just there when there happens to be a heavy truck or a suicidal motorist on the tracks in front of it.

© C. A. Turek –

Friday, September 23, 2005

Example of Adequate Funding

Railway Age is reporting that Trinity Railway Express has proven that passenger rail works by carrying evacuees out of Houston. This is what we advocate. Our passenger rail system, including Amtrak and all so-called commuter routes have enough redundancy that they can spare equipment to use in the case of emergency, as we have here.

That's all for today.

© 2005 C. A. Turek -

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Passenger Rail Strikes Again

Once again, a grade crossing accident delays the train. This time, at the grade crossing at Osuna Road in Albuquerque, which is north of the Amtrak station on the Raton Pass route of the old Santa Fe.

This just happened. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to note that this is a lightly traveled line and that the Southwest Chief is probably the fastest thing on it. People don't expect that zooming streamliner because more than half the people in Albuquerque probably don't know they have train service. Amtrak doesn't do its advertising job.

And New Mexico's Railrunner appears to be stalled in the starting gate. But it will be using the same line. A few grade crossing accidents with the new and sparse equipment, almost as sparse as Amtrak, will be fatal to the budget.

Passenger rail needs to be funded realistically by any government concerned. And there needs to be enough equipment to account for accidents (and maybe even to assist in major evacuations such as that going on as we write this in the Galveston and Houston areas.)

© 2005 C. A. Turek -

Friday, September 09, 2005

Has Anyone Heard About Amtrak?

Has Anyone Heard About Amtrak?

Amtrak, as the self-appointed national representative of passenger rail services, and through mouthpiece David Gunn, speaks out of both sides of its mouth.

At the end of last week, Amtrak was announcing fare increases of as much as 50% to cover fuel costs.  Yesterday, Mr. Gunn advised that now was the time to act on making Amtrak a viable alternative to using all those gas-guzzling SUVs.  I have just done the math.  With an SUV that gets only 15 mpg on the highway, it is still cheaper to take the SUV from Chicago to Albuquerque (1,350 miles) than to take Amtrak.

I have done a little creative accounting like the railroads have been doing with passenger rail for years.  I have called the cost of owning the SUV a fixed cost, because if you already own it you have to pay for all the things like repairs and insurance anyway.  So the trip is an incremental cost that exists only if you run the vehicle.  This is just like the railroad calling maintenance of way a fixed cost while fuel for the locomotive is an incremental cost.

So it costs $265.50 in gas for the SUV to take 5 passengers in relative comfort at today’s $2.95/gal for regular.  The latest fare from Amtrak for the same 5 passengers in coach seats is $645.00.  

But you can sleep on the train, you say?  Not well in a coach seat.  But let’s say that you spring for a hotel instead of driving the old SUV for 20 to 25 hours.  Even then, there are rates in decent hotels that get all 5 people in for under $100 plus tax.  (The train figures don’t include tax either.)

Mr. Gunn, you have a long way to go on this one.

And has anybody heard of Amtrak moving out refugees (evacuees) by rail from New Orleans or anywhere else on the Gulf of Mexico?  We would like to know.

©2005 C. A. Turek –

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Getting The Darned Thing Right

This is it! This is exactly what I'm talking about! We are now in the midst of a disaster of national proportions, and passenger rail could not be there to help.

I got so p----- o-- at Amtrak management, that I figured I would never use this blog again. Just quietly let the server strike it from the records whenever it got around to noticing that I wasn't active.

But now is the time to speak. Being a compassionate conservative, I cannot help but point out that if national passenger rail had been funded to a level adequate for national interest, there would have been a pool of passenger railroad equipment that could have been rolled into New Orleans and/or the rest of the expected strike area for Katrina and the inherent efficiencies of rail would have gotten a lot of people out of the area faster, cleaner, and at less cost than any other form of transportation for evacuation.

Heck, we moved hundreds of thousands of soldiers by rail during WWII and did it fast! And there is no reason we couldn't do the same for civilian evacuations. That is, unless it is because passenger rail in this country has been truncated to the point of being useless by a simple minded Congress and a President that fails to see the value of a truly national system over a state-by-state piecemeal system.

Sure railroads want to get their equipment out of the storm's way, but we had a lot of warning with this one. So write and tell the President and his ineffective Secretary of Transportation that they should get in line to take some of the blame through this channel, too.

©2005 by C. A. Turek -