Sunday, August 23, 2009

Where's The Cash?

Too many advocates of new Passenger Rail projects appear to be hanging their hats on stimulus money alone. And, lo and behold, we are 6 months post stimulus and there are reports that over 80% of the cash remains unspent. At the same time, there is some indication that the economy could be - God Bless Us - in a turnaround.

So what happens to all those dependent on stimulus if we also get a turnaround in government attitude? Not so likely with Progressives at the helm you say? What happens to all those new rail projects that expect to get the money? It's possible that the economy will turn around by itself and the government won't need to print all that money.

Well, old bills work just as well as the one's hot off the presses. We can work a little harder to get the money in place, but the plans should still be made. Passenger Rail is a great public work and should never have been given the short shrift while highway and air got all the bucks.

Just don't hang you hat on getting any stimulus money.

©2009 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Railroads and The Economy

It's been awhile. I just noticed that my last post was on July 5, and here it is August 9. With the crappy economy, I have less time to write anything, and that includes blog posts. Having to work harder and take less time off to make ends meet (or to keep a job) has kept me away from the keyboard too long.

It got me thinking first about Passenger Rail and the economy. How does it change things?

Economic stimulus has been unleashed for Amtrak, for HSR, and for urban Passenger Rail in general. Is this good? I think so. Capitalizing rail transport in any form is a good idea. It's a job creator that won't go away, because the new rails and routes created won't go away. It's good for economic growth. People able to move from one place to another, economically and without damaging the enviroment, for business or pleasure, can only be good for the economy.

In the short term, with the economy slow, sluggish, or just in the crapper, Amtrak revenue and ridership in most lanes will be down. It's a good time to plan for the future. But people are saving money by using public transportation, and this includes light rail, commuter rail, and rail transit. That should be good in the short term, as heavily subsidized rail in the long term will be needing tax dollars, and more riders will make for more voters willing to open their wallets and purses.

Amtrak is in disarray and needs good leadership right now. I see signs that this is occurring with the Amtrak board, but don't hold your breath. With lots of money to spend, it is going to have to be spent right. The long lead time for new equipment is a bummer, but we have to resist spending it where it won't make a permanent good impression on the rail traveler. And Amtrak has a history of finding more ways to trip over its own rails than the average quasi-government agency. (The Postal Service is next in line.) Finally unfettered by Congress and administrations that had it chained to a post and flogged it every afternoon, Amtrak may just dance around for awhile like the Tin Woodman looking for oil before it finds its balance.

Those of you who have read this blog since the start know that I am a political conservative, but one who believes that there are certain things that government should subsidize. Passenger Rail is one of those things. Let's hope Passenger Rail can come out of this recession looking stronger and better than ever. With the right leadership at all levels, and cooperation from private enterprises that should recognize its importance to a vital economy, it will.

©2009 - C. A. Turek -