Saturday, March 28, 2009

Good News - Can Amtrak Take It?

AMTRAK to spend $47.5 million in stimulus funds on Chicago projects and CSX willing to help spur high-speed rail on Empire Corridor, Schumer says are just two of the articles of "good news" about Passenger Rail. The questions I have is this: Can Amtrak take all this good news?

For one thing, is Amtrak going to spend every bit of that stimulus money while looking over its shoulder and wondering when it will be taken away? I hope not.

In my humble opinion, the best way to spend the stimulus money, whatever it can get either through direct subsidy or through partnership with the states, is to not listen to Congress or to politicians in general. Argument: It is widely known that the Amtrak Board and much of Amtrak financial management is burned out with trying to keep the whole shebang running on a showstring. It is also widely known that Amtrak employees, from operating personnel on down, are generally more enthusiastic about what Amtrak can and should do. So ask the employees.

There have to be thousands of cheap problem fixes out there; fixes that when all done at the same time will make drastic improvements in service and on-time performance. Some of the corridor fixes highlighted in this month's Trains Magazine are a good example of this. Other things would be station repairs, security upgrades, quick fix amenities like new bedding and pillows in sleepers, and appearance upgrades (paint, soap and water). And I bet you wouldn't even spend half of the money on these.

Dear Amtrak: While you are thinking about making the big plans, solve all the small problems that you can solve right NOW. Thank you.

©2009 - C. A. Turek -

Monday, March 23, 2009

Worthy Effort

Please consider this link as direction to a worthy effort to save an historic piece of passenger railroading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

R U Stimulated Yet?

Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that Amtrak and other Passenger Rail projects are getting stimulus money. I also love the fact that the prospect of following that money has gotten state and local governments and their politicians to pay attention. (I doubt they would pay so much attention if it didn't involve gobs of cash.)

Here in the great state of confusion we call New Mexico, our Passenger Rail project is completed for the time being. (See Rail Runner Express.) Any stimulus money that goes to transportation here is likely only to assist in the perpetuation of that franchise rather than starting anything new. Follow my link (in the header) to Passenger Rail news, however, and you will find news on any of a hundred new projects.

But stimulus money, by law, must be spent on - I hate this term - "shovel ready" projects. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that means ready to start a foundation or ready to bury the dead. But few rail projects are going to be shovel ready. Nor will few meet the test of job creation that is attached to the transportation funds. The money being thrown at Amtrak appears to be an exception, and I hope the masters of make-do at Amtrak catch all of it and use it wisely.

I also hope that Amtrak can find a domestic rail car builder before they are all bankrupt, but that's another story.

My point is that much more of the stimulus money is going to wind up in building or repairing more and better roads, some airport runways or terminals, airway infrastructure, and - gasp - bailing out the auto industry, than will ever be put into Passenger Rail. As we sell out more of our grandkids' future, perhaps the trend towards thoughtful, intermodally integrated and environmentally sound transportation policy will change that. Who's going to pay for it? I don't know.

So just sit back and get ready to watch those passengers shovel.

© 2009 - C. A. Turek -

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Three Weeks is Too Much Without a Post

My apologies to those of you who navigate to this blog regularly. The number is growing and I appreciate the traffic. But I haven't been in the mood to blog lately.

There are a number of reasons, but the biggest one is just spending too much time on other things. Among these things, the one that looms largest is working to make a living and keep the job that has become just as precarious as others in these hard times. Maybe a little mental depression goes along with that. Another thing I've been up to is spending a little more time working the Internet to market a completed manuscript.

If you think it's about Passenger Rail, you would be wrong. It is a historical novel about another form of rail tranportation. Although I've kept links to my other interests out of this blog so far, I'm breaking with that policy. You can read a little about my novel at, where you will find that its period is the start of the Great Depression and much of it is set in the tunnel system under the streets of Chicago and in and around the railroad infrastructure of that period.

A third reason for not blogging Passenger Rail is the speed at which things are moving. Passenger Rail as a transportation mode has caught on, and even the collective heads of our federal politicians have come out of their butts long enough to realize this. I will write more on what's real and what's not in the speed of this transition as soon as possible. But bottom line: I see so much good planning and prospective new rail projects out there that it's hard to decide on which one to focus my attention.

Write me at my regular email address ( ) if you check out A Tunnel Too Far and like what you see. I would prefer this to a comment on this blog, but I think I have opened the door to that, haven't I?

©2009 - C. A. Turek -