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 -
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