Thursday, June 26, 2008

Or Maybe Nader

Please. Just navigate to this link:

This pretty much says most of it. And we agree that the candidates for all offices should be debating this with just as much concern as they are debating any other issue.

©2008 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Minneapolis to Duluth An HSR Experiment Worth Watching

When contrasted with other High Speed Rail corridors in the Upper Midwest, this is a short one. About 150 miles as opposed to over 200 for the next shortest (Chicago - Detroit). It's also one that has to traverse many fewer miles of urban rail wasteland.

Chicago to Detroit has about 100 miles of such wasteland, Chicago to St. Louis considerably less, although the corridor is almost 300 miles. St. Louis to Kansas City is comparable in wasteland but over 270 miles.

Now that municipalities, both suburban and rural, along the Minneapolis to Duluth routing are being heard, it is possible that this corridor will become the first to accomodate both HSR and Commuter Rail on the same right-of-way. Perhaps - with good signalling - on the same tracks.

The high price of motor fuel demands this kind of experiment, as does the general greening of public policy whether one believes in man-made global warming or not. (We don't.)

If any of you have ever watched the scoots on their three-track speedway west of Chicago on what was once the Burlington Route (CB&Q, then Burlington Northern and now BNSF Railway) with commuter trains run by Chicago's Metra, even with CTC from the 1930s, then you can believe that this can be done with the right number of tracks and the right investment in signals.

And certainly we have come a long, long way from the CTC of seven decades ago as well as with the extra control that can be had on diesel-electric locomotives with microprocessors and computers - and the newest potential: electro-pneumatic braking instead of all pneumatics. (A boon for longer freight traffic, but also allowing longer controllable commuter trains.)

And a 150-mile route is just the right percentage of long-distance for economical HSR versus slow-speed routing for conflicting trains. If a viable system could be developed for this routing, it could be expanded to apply to just about any one where either the HSR or the low-speed rail wasteland percentages are higher.

We would hope the government, developers, researchers, and manufacturers recognize this as a golden opportunity to carpe the diem.

We can always hope.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Amtrak Budget: Is the Glass Half Full, or Just Half Cracked?

If it is the objective of Congress to thumb it's collective snotty nose at the taxpayer in general and at Amtrak in particular, then the pathetic Amtrak appropriation just passed by the House is a measure of success.

$14.9 billion for Amtrak for FIVE fiscal years 2009 thru 2013.

At the very same time, The Associated Press is reporting just about $14 billion in earmarks (called Pork) going to Members' districts in just ONE year. And, if the AP is just half right, that means that about $700 million is going into the pockets of lobbyists for the district and/or organization - read political contributors - that pushed for the earmark. (The AP is guessing about 10%, so conservatively, 5% isn't any stretch at all.)

And supporters of the Amtrak appropriation had to beat back amendments that would have gutted and hamstrung any Amtrak management efforts at improvements.

Let us pray, for remember, with Congress, it's never too late to screw things up.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, June 08, 2008

We Can Say It Now

The primaries are over and it is going to be, by God's grace forbidding any disaster, Barack Obama vs. John McCain.

If we were to vote today and base our vote solely on the political history of the two candidates, we are afraid - very afraid - we would have to vote Democrat!

Mister Trains has always had a habit of voting for the best man, so we are not convinced that Mr. Obama is the best man overall, just the best for Passenger Rail.

If you check out this blog:
You will understand that Mr. Obama has at least a rudimentary understanding of HSR and of why trains are more fuel efficient - greener if you will - than other modes of passenger transport.

Mr. McCain has a history of criticizing Amtrak, and has said at least once that a priority for him would be shutting it down. Does anyone doubt on this date, with oil jumping up $10 in one day and gas prices well over $4 in may parts of the country, that shutting down Amtrak would be a catastrophe from which our domestic transport system would not recover?

Yes, Mr. McCain was in a legislative position in which he had to see the worst of Amtrak's failures, but no, Mr. McCain, that is not the solution to this problem. Only if we follow the current trend and gradually move Passenger Rail back into the private sector will anything like this work. McCain's motto: Millions for highways but not a penny for Amtrak.

We are going to listen hard to both candidates for the next five months. We of course won't be able to avoid it and we will be praying for ear plugs by that time. But somewhere in those words is going to be the only hope of Passenger Rail, and by God if it is Obama then so be it.

© 2008 - C. A. Turek -