Sunday, December 24, 2006

End of Year Report

Several thoughts - not the least of which is we have reached nearly the end of another year and the situation with Amtrak has not really improved.

As always, there are signs of imminent change and signs of imminent disaster. And you wouldn't be able to tell which sign Mister Trains thinks points which way.

Yesterday's TV news brought a video bite of a delayed air passenger in Denver who thought, with flights grounded, that there may be some way to get from Denver to Albuquerque by rail. There should be, but there isn't, and probably won't be for at least a decade. (If it happens sooner than that, we will gladly eat our words.)

The potential rail traveler looking for a train is a bad thing - because the public doesn't know where Amtrak goes - but it is a good sign. That an air passenger would even think of the train tells us that air passengers are becoming fed up with the hassle. If Amtrak put on more routes and lost the "don't take a chance running in the storm" mentality, it would have more riders pretty fast.

The January issue of Trains carried an article about new Amtrak president Alex Kummant. Can Amtrak's new president keep the trains rolling? Anyone who's interested should read it thoroughly and between the lines.

This is a bad sign. Why? Because after reading this article, we don't think he can keep the trains rolling?

Bless him for taking on a thankless job. But Mr. Kummant is too wrapped up in doublespeak and the "committee" way of doing a job. From the direct quotes in the article, we can tell that his version of action is "talking about action." And he doesn't think Passenger Rail is viable in anything but a corridor context. Furthermore, he doesn't think that any drastic forms of initiative can be done quickly. Just how long does he think he will last at this job? As we have reported before, Amtrak presidents come and go with alarming frequency. At least Mr. Kummant is humble enough to acknowledge the employees and the historical problems that Amtrak has faced.

We prefer optimism. So we hope and pray that, at this time next year, we will buy a ticket to travel from Denver to Albuquerque without leaving the ground or using an Interstate. We also hope and pray that Mr. Kummant enjoys his next job.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com

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