Sunday, February 24, 2008

Intermodal Includes Passengers

At least in some places on the planet. Why can't KCS invest this kind of cash in the US?

First there would be the NIMBYs, although they are getting weaker as we talk. More and more people are realizing that good Passenger Rail service is a necessity, not a tourist attraction or a luxury.

Then there is the problem that our freight railroads are overloaded and none of them want to add the burden of Passenger Rail. In Panama, granted, it is for tourism, but they can squeeze it in even on the overburdened rail system. Why? Because the dollars are there.

Bottom line is that the railroad wants to make money for its stockholders. In fact, it must. We tend to forget that a corporation has a contractual and common law duty, called a fiduciary duty, to use any means possible to make money and not to squander the investments already in there.

But we get just a little worried when we hear of all the advancement in Passenger Rail systems worldwide, even in what we would consider Third World. Doesn't it make anyone just a little bit uncomfortable that, while the United States fritters away dollars and political capital on fruitless economic stimulus, much of the rest of the world has seen the light?

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, February 17, 2008


We have been reading much in recent days about successful Passenger Rail projects. The most recent newsletter from NARP (see link at right) has a list of completed projects and future projects.

We are proud of and thank God for the completions. We are happy with the number of projects in the works for completion in the next five to seven years. But we are frustrated by two things.

The first is that many of the projects in the works will be stalled, cancelled or downgraded because of the current lack of federal funding and the downturn in the economy. The politicians think they can do a whole lot about the latter, but they can't. They could fix the former, but won't in any election year.

The second thing that frustrates us is the low percentage of future projects that are for intercity rail. Yes, Passenger Rail is just as important to the urban network. But intercity Passenger Rail is and has to be the wave of the future if we are to wean ourselves from expensive oil and from overcrowded overreliance on the highway and air transport system.

Only two frustrations? you ask. More actually. Some of which involve the way our overblown, self-important bureaucracy tends to feed on its young. Such as the FRA taking the tightest, most literal construction for ADA compliance of all Passenger Rail station platforms. (Very well reported in the March 2008 Trains.)

There is no reason for some of it, and some of it comes from the abject fear of being sued, which is fostered by our system of torts. Most judges never met a lawsuit they didn't like.

We hope that next February, NARP's list of future projects is longer and has more intercity rail on it.

©2008 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Time for Passenger Rail

We are linking you to this article by Arthur Frommer on the Lakeland, FL, Ledger's Web site:

The reason? We agree with everything Mr. Frommer has to say about the future of Passenger Rail in these United States. We also agree that one of the best things we who want Passenger Rail in this nation's future can do is urge all who will listen not to vote for incumbents who do not support subsidizing Passenger Rail. That sounds like too many negatives. What we are saying is, "Throw the bums out."

The Task is the creation of a modern Passenger Rail system that serves all of the population centers of this great nation.

We are still unwilling to agree with those who think the entity called Amtrak must survive and carry on The Task. Whatever form it takes, Pasenger Rail must be more market sensitive and less strapped for cash than Amtrak has been in all of its history. Whether Amtrak can evolve enough to accomplish this remains to be seen. Whether our Congress can evolve enough to accomplish The Task is doubtful, given the full court press we have seen from some of our senators and representatives to altogether dump the "anachronism" that they see as Passenger Rail.

So we are also unwilling to agree that any incumbent can survive and change enough to carry on The Task. With the presidential contestants almost in the bag -- it will be Hillarobama v. John "I was a prisoner of war - support the War" McCain -- the best thing we can do for now is build up a groundswell against all who vote regularly against subsidizing a national passenger rail system. (Alternately: "for" all those who support the subsidy. But throwing out the bastards will be oh so much more satisfying, won't it? And incumbents already carry more baggage than an Amtrak Superliner.)

Remember, the President is an administrator, while the Congress legislates. If we can get a majority "for" Passenger Rail in both the Senate and House, we don't need no stinking President.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Global Warming?

Forgive our cynicism when two of Amtrak's premier (if there is such a thing) trains have been plagued by weather in recent days. On top of which, on the surface anyway, it would appear that the weather is not what one would expect from global warming.

Let Mister Trains warn any readers of this blog who are tempted to comment extensively on the Church of Global Warming, this writer is a scientist by education. We understand that this could be extremely wet weather fueled by climate change. We also understand the data does not support the theory - yes theory - that climate change is caused by the activities of man.

But isn't it ironic that one of the few modes of motor-driven transport that would meet all the criteria for those concerned with GW is not able to match wits with it? If, and we say if, GW is a reality and if, and we say if, we can reverse it by changing our ways, it is too bad that our Passenger Rail system is so pared to the bone that it can't cope with route blockages. (Granted, in the case of the trains stalled on the Donner Pass route, it wasn't really the weather but a man-caused mistake that cut the route.)

Those of us who support an expanded Passenger Rail system, and who are not members of the Church of GW, need to curb our skepticism and see this as a grand opportunity to use public opinion, however misguided, to get what we have always said is our goal: Better Passenger Rail in the United States.

Some of the many dollars in gross product that will be spent on curbing GW can be spent on Passenger Rail.

Amen to that.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -