Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wish List 2

Please, Mr. Obama, while you are printing more money, please fund the following:

1. All-rail passenger service from Chicago to Green Bay.
2. More than one train each day out of Chicago to each and every route end, including the long ones.
3. Buy up enough nearby real estate to increase the capacity of Chicago stations for Amtrak. As fantasies go, this is a big one. It would require one or all of a) increasing the number of available tracks in Union Station; b) spreading out Amtrak among the several stations (only Union Pacific has northbound tracks), which would also require; c) improved light rail (non-CTA) between Randolph, LaSalle, Union Pacific (all Metra) and Union (maybe a light rail circulator on dedicated elevated right of way?).
4. While we're fantasizing feeders, new ones from O'Hare and Midway right to Amtrak! Now there's a transportation concept. As it is right now, you can't do this via rail alone.

More next time

© 2009 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wish List 1

Don't get me wrong. I am dead against the way our politicians are hustling every pet project they can think of in order to get them in front of Mr. Obama for a piece of the "economic stimulus" pie.

But I am attracted by the fantasy of having some favorate Passenger Rail-related projects funded, so I am going to start on my wish list.

Dear Mr. Obama:
Please print money for the following projects to stimulate the economy.
1. Passenger Rail service along the front-range corridor from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to El Paso, Texas.
2. At least two daily trains each way on this corridor.
3. Passenger Rail service that would get me from Albuquerque to Phoenix in under 24 hours, without going part way by bus.
4. A short intra-state local running Las Cruces to Las Vegas, NM.
5. Passenger Rail from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Next time: Wish lists for other areas.

©2009 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Winter and Amtrak

Now that the early-winter holidays are past, it is worth noting that Winter has been upon much of the country with a vengeance since well before the holidays came and went. And what has Amtrak been able to do about it? Not much.

I have opined on this blog in past winters that Amtrak should focus more on keeping its equipment winter-operable and on getting new equipment that is more weatherproof. Nonetheless, the norm seems to be to shrug when weather sidelines equipment or makes it inoperable enroute, and to make the poor passenger endure the hell that results.

Several winters ago, I experienced what happens to Superliner sleepers when snow and ice get up between the cars and into the high-voltage house power connections. The resulting explosion and showers of sparks are certainly memorable, but sitting for hours on the track while crews use every imaginable spit-and-baling-wire fix to try to get things working again, all the while freezing in a train with no heat or light, is not the makings of a pleasant trip. There should have been spare parts on board. And it wouldn't hurt to have at least one crewmember who is also trained as a car mechanic, at least on paper.

But that winter has been repeated many times this year, according to reports, in lower Michigan and the Northeast. There are horror stories of a four-hour trip taking 16 hours with no available toilet facilities and no adequate communication from Amtrak. The intertia that this represents in Amtrak's approach to such things is staggering.

We, the sheep . . . er, taxpayer . . . shouldn't stand for this kind of management in Our Passenger Rail System! I'm imagining that all Amtrak trains that have a longer than 2-hour run should have a passenger representative appointed by random draw of ticket stubs to be empowered to summarily fire any employee of Amtrak that lets this kind of thing happen. Nice fantasy, but it won't happen. Too many bureaucrats (with really heavy ass inertia) standing in the way.

Amtrak needs to get it's crap together or be modified out of existence into some new form, with a new charter and a new commitment to passenger service. It could happen. Change should be forthcoming. Let's hope it's real.

©2009 - C. A. Turek -