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Privately-operated intercity rail services

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With All Aboard Florida coming to fruition and now Iowa-Pacific Holdings expressing a desire to operate 8 round-trips per day between Tulsa and Oklahoma City in 2016 (The Eastern Flyer) on state-owned track, I thought it might be time for a thread on privately-operated intercity rail services:

 

"Since the introduction of Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer in 1999, Oklahomans have once again seen the benefits of passenger rail service as a fast, relaxing mode of transportation. Rather than having to contend with frequent traffic jams and other congestion on Interstate 35, residents of Oklahoma City, Norman, Ardmore, and other towns can comfortably speed to Fort Worth. And, once they arrive at Fort Worth, passengers can then transfer to Amtrak’s Texas Eagle and continue to points east and west on the train’s route between Chicago, San Antonio, and Los Angeles.

 

While the Flyer has proven extremely popular with passengers, the service does not help those Oklahomans living outside of the I-35 corridor....

 

That is, of course, until Ed Ellis entered the picture. As the President of Iowa Pacific Holdings, a major operator of short line railroads throughout the country, Ellis has maximized the potential of lines that have been typically neglected and ignored by larger railroads. Building on this experience, Ellis has offered a bold vision for privately-operated passenger rail in Oklahoma with the Eastern Flyer. By 2016, Iowa Pacific believes that it will be able operate no less than eight trains a day [emphasis added] connecting Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and intermediate communities without any direct state support..."

 

Read more at:

http://narprail.org/news/narp-blog/2510-trains-return-to-tulsa

 

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NARP adds this cautionary note:

 

...What can rail advocates learn from this case? First, we should state that, no matter the success of the Eastern Flyer, or Florida East Coast’s All Aboard Florida between Orlando and Miami, private passenger rail operations are no substitute for a publicly-supported, robust national network. The long-distance trains that are a vital lifeline to hundreds of rural communities throughout the country cannot be operated without substantial federal operating support. NARP has long maintained that continued federal support of Amtrak must be a cornerstone of federal transportation policy, and we will continue to defend the railroad against baseless congressional criticism.

 

But what services like the Eastern Flyer *can* do is expand and complement the national network...

 

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Mayor vetoes council resolution backing passenger rail

 

By JARREL WADE World Staff Writer  |  29 comments 

 

 

The mayor on Monday vetoed a resolution passed by the City Council urging the state not to sell the state-owned rail line connecting the Tulsa area to Oklahoma City, favoring instead the private sector’s ability to bring passenger rail to Tulsa.

 

In a memo to councilors, Mayor Dewey Bartlett explained his decision, saying the resolution reached too far in expressing an opinion for the whole city -- an opinion Bartlett said he does not share.

 

http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/mayor-vetoes-council-resolution-backing-passenger-rail/article_65dcd000-a3dc-11e3-857b-001a4bcf6878.html

 

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All Aboard Florida to start by late 2015:

 

President and Chief Development Officer Mike Reininger spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about his role and when you can expect to ride All Aboard Florida. Read what he had to say here,

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/cfb-talking-with-reininger-20140316,0,6875626.story.

 

 

Took a ride on St 528, the Bee line Toll road and saw a lot of surveyor's stakes on the south side of the right of way. Now for the dirt to fly!

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Just to clarify for those not familiar with this road, it's right of way is the path selected by All Aboard Florida for its route from the Florida East Coast into the Orlando metro area. Note also that this right of way gets FEC RR from its east coast mainline to an intermodal terminal located between the international airport and the former CSX-owned mainline, now owned by Florida DOT for SunRail, Amtrak and CSX to use.

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Opposition to All Aboard Florida planning a May 4 rally at Flagler Park.  Rail opponents are nothing new, but opposing a mostly privately-funded project is complete idiocy:

 

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^Stop Big Choo-choo... Geez what lunacy.  Again the Big Lie: trains will be zipping past property at 110 mph. 

 

Although I do admit: even though I like the Tri-Rail expansion proposal very much, I do believe that tracks should be elevated at a number of intersections, many of which are busy and at the center of commercial districts.  Tunneling is very difficult and expensive due to the sandy soil in S. Florida.

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Texas Central sees 90-minute Dallas-Houston commute at 205 mph

 

A Texas company hopes to create a high-speed rail corridor to move passengers at speeds that would leave Amtrak’s Acela in the dust — all with private funds.

 

Texas Central Railway, a private company working with Japan Railway Co., wants to build a closed high-speed rail corridor served by a bullet train that would get people from Dallas to Houston — the Lone Star State’s two biggest cities — in 90 minutes. The company is eyeing a 2021 date for starting service, and though the exact route isn’t yet pinned down, the company is hoping the rail line will run from downtown to downtown...

 

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/texas-central-sees-90-minute-dallas-houston-commute-at-205-mph-107392.html#ixzz33id2AXXM

 

 

 

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I am sorry to say that a classmate with whom I graduated from High School is one of the movers and shakers in the "Not All Aboard Florida" group.  Her main beef is that the bridge over the waterway in her adopted hometown of Stuart will be closed for such a greater period of time.  The FEC runs about 12 trains a day across it and the AAF trains will add another 32 trains across the bridge.  Add to this the fact that the bridge reportedly takes 20 min. to lower and raise and you have quite an inconvenience to owners of pleasure craft.  They are also not thrilled with trains "blasting" through their town that will be of no benefit to them.

I find it ironic that they hold their rally in Flagler park.  A park named after the railroad baron who, almost single-handedly, opened the east coast of Florida to real estate development with the construction on his Florida East Coast Railroad.

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I am sorry to say that a classmate with whom I graduated from High School is one of the movers and shakers in the "Not All Aboard Florida" group.  Her main beef is that the bridge over the waterway in her adopted hometown of Stuart will be closed for such a greater period of time.  The FEC runs about 12 trains a day across it and the AAF trains will add another 32 trains across the bridge.  Add to this the fact that the bridge reportedly takes 20 min. to lower and raise and you have quite an inconvenience to owners of pleasure craft.  They are also not thrilled with trains "blasting" through their town that will be of no benefit to them.

I find it ironic that they hold their rally in Flagler park.  A park named after the railroad baron who, almost single-handedly, opened the east coast of Florida to real estate development with the construction on his Florida East Coast Railroad.

 

I think I have locked horns with your friend a few times on the "All Aboard Florida" (pro) and "Florida NOT All Aboard" (anti) pages. Most of the opposition is hysterical and irrational, but that said, there are issues which should be addressed. The drawbridge issue is one of them. Funny thing, tho...the FEC ran 25 trains a day before the recession and nobody complained about the drawbridges then!

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I can somewhat sympathize with them re: the drawbridges.  That being said, they are still a bunch of NIMBYs who want the problem to go somewhere else.  They want the trains to travel up the inland route of CSX which happens to have a poorer and blacker population along its route.  I don't think that the Not All Aboard Florida people are going out of their way to be racist and elitist but that is how it comes off.  When I explained to my classmate that FEC doesn't own that route and that it would be akin to asking your neighbor if you could build your new house on his lot instead of the one you already own, free and clear, she came up with the idea that FEC should just lease space on the CSX line.  I further tried to explain that the inland CSX line is mostly single track north of Ft. Lauderdale.  This would require much more excavation and bridgework than the FEC line, much of which used to be double track and has a great many bridges which are already two tracks wide.  Logic is of no use to these people.  I don't think they could be persuaded with a station stop in Stuart.

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I can somewhat sympathize with them re: the drawbridges.  That being said, they are still a bunch of NIMBYs who want the problem to go somewhere else.  They want the trains to travel up the inland route of CSX which happens to have a poorer and blacker population along its route.  I don't think that the Not All Aboard Florida people are going out of their way to be racist and elitist but that is how it comes off.  When I explained to my classmate that FEC doesn't own that route and that it would be akin to asking your neighbor if you could build your new house on his lot instead of the one you already own, free and clear, she came up with the idea that FEC should just lease space on the CSX line.  I further tried to explain that the inland CSX line is mostly single track north of Ft. Lauderdale.  This would require much more excavation and bridgework than the FEC line, much of which used to be double track and has a great many bridges which are already two tracks wide.  Logic is of no use to these people.  I don't think they could be persuaded with a station stop in Stuart.

 

You are right...logic does not get through to these people. I've given up trying to show them that a lot of their fears are unfounded and now merely point out when they are distorting the truth or are just plain wrong. The one good thing is that this is being pushed by a private business and not the government. Otherwise, I fear the NIMBY's would win.

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Why does it take 20 minutes for the Stuart railroad bridge to lower/raise? That's crazy. There's a bridge at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland used by 70+ freight and passenger trains a day. I've never timed it, but the bridge raises and lowers VERY quickly -- something like a minute or two. And this is for a section of river that sees very frequent traffic, from small pleasure boats to 700+ foot long ships carrying mostly aggregates.

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Why does it take 20 minutes for the Stuart railroad bridge to lower/raise? That's crazy. There's a bridge at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland used by 70+ freight and passenger trains a day. I've never timed it, but the bridge raises and lowers VERY quickly -- something like a minute or two. And this is for a section of river that sees very frequent traffic, from small pleasure boats to 700+ foot long ships carrying mostly aggregates.

 

In my opinion, that 20 minute time is suspect. I'd bet it's less than that, unless someone sat there with a stopwatch and timed it. Another person told me he was talking to a friend of his who insisted the freight trains tie up crossings for ten minutes. When it shown that the trains only took four minutes, the reaction was one of disbelief.

 

Not saying 20 minutes isn't happening, I just need proof.

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ODOT completes $75M sale of railroad track

Passengers could go from Tulsa to OKC next year

tracks.jpg

tracks

 

By The Associated Press

 

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation on Monday completed the $75 million sale of nearly 100 miles of railroad track between Sapulpa and Midwest City to Stillwater Central Railroad, which plans to introduce passenger rail service connecting Tulsa to the Oklahoma City...

 

Read more at:

 

http://m.krmg.com/news/news/local/odot-completes-75m-sale-railroad-track/ngtqD/

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Fred Frailey of Trains Magazine calls out the hypocrisy of Florida politicians with there "I was for it before I was against it" stance on All Aboard Florida:

 

 

In 2012, when Florida East Coast Industries announced All Aboard Florida, a private, unsubsidized passenger train service between Miami and Orlando over tracks of the affiliated Florida East Coast Railway, sunshine rained down. Politicians knocked each other over in their rush to voice support, Governor Rick Scott chief among them (he the same one who turned down a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando that the federal government offered to pay for entirely). Newspaper editorialists waxed eloquent. Everybody loved All Aboard Florida.

 

That was then. But you know Florida. They do crazy things in Florida. Now the state appears to be rising up in righteous anger that Big Rail will run its big, loud, noisy, ground-shaking, trespasser-striking passenger trains through the quiet, pristine communities that dot the Atlantic coast of our Sunshine State. The politicians are again knocking each other over, this time in their rush to a microphone to denounce All Aboard Florida....

 

Full article at: 

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2014/09/05/for-it-until-they-were-against-it.aspx

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I'm starting to wonder if Americans are either too ignorant, fearful, hyper-individualistic or simply too irrational to welcome investments that have proven to be beneficial to the general public in the rest of the civilized world.

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Perhaps the name of this thread should be changed to just "Privately Operated Rail Services"

 

Privately-funded US commuter service planned

 

USA: Plans for the USA’s ‘first privately-funded passenger rail service in almost 100 years’ have been announced by Boston Surface Commuter Railroad Co.

 

This would operate over the Providence & Worcester Railroad between the eponymous cities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, offering a reliable alternative to unpredictable road journey times. A launch in 18 months to two years is envisaged.

 

BSRC founder and General Manager Vincent Bono told Railway Gazette International that the plan arose from a consultancy project which examined why passengers use rail. ..

http://www.railwaygazette.com/news/passenger/single-view/view/privately-funded-us-commuter-service-planned.html

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All Aboard Florida will move forward regardless of bond vote, company says

 

All Aboard Florida’s express passenger rail line will move forward regardless of whether it receives $1.75 billion in tax exempt bonds, according to court documents filed Monday.

 

In opposition to Indian River County’s federal lawsuit to stop the issuance of the private activity bonds, All Aboard Florida officials filed a 40-page brief saying that denying the bonds will not prevent the improvement of the rail system for passenger trains...

 

http://realtime.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2015/05/13/all-aboard-florida-will-move-forward-regardless-of-bond-vote-company-says/

 

 

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It has become apparent that the only bullet left in the gun for those opposed to the AAF project is one of legal delay.  I feel that the AAF project has a lot of merit and I hope to ride it someday.  If for no other reason than to slight the clowns on the "Treasure Coast" who are so dead set against it.  Screw them!  I know their ringleader and have blocked her on Facebook because it is all she talks about.  You would think that the prospect of more trains through their precious little corner of the world will instantly turn it into Detroit, the way they talk.  Let's see some action, AAF!  The longer things take, the more skeptical people become of your intentions.

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There is also interest in and opposition to this project from outside Florida. The interest comes from other states and regions and companies hoping to replicate the transportation/real estate business mix of All Aboard Florida. The opposition from outside Florida comes from the recognition that if this project succeeds, it will cause those other states and regions and companies to win financing to move forward. The opposition consists of those who make money from the status quo -- buying cars, tires, accessories, fuel, etc. and building and maintaining roads. It also comes from the usual NIMBYs who fear the unknown that comes from change. And in a few cases, it comes from zealouts who say that trains are too European and not American enough, even though this country was built by railroads.

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All Aboard Florida passes key environmental hurdle and gets tax-free, private activity bonds approved.  There is little to stop the project now:

 

All Aboard Florida gets green light for trip to the future

 

It’s been a momentous week for All Aboard Florida. The controversial, privately owned venture got the blessing of a key environmental impact report and, more important, the OK to issue $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds it needs to proceed.

 

Now it’s up to the company, descended from Florida business and rail pioneer Henry Flagler, to make good on its optimistic vision of high-speed passenger rail service connecting the high-tourist cities of Miami and Orlando in three hours, by way of West Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast.

 

If All Aboard Florida succeeds, it would be a benefit for the most populous part of this still-growing state. It would boost the prospects for high-speed rail elsewhere in the United States. And if it fails, it will be a business failure that is the company’s and its investors’ alone. Neither taxpayers nor the counties and towns along the route will be stuck with the debts.

 

The critics have had their say. Now it’s time for residents of South Florida and the Treasure Coast to begin to learn to live with the reality of this project...

 

full article at:

 

http://opinionzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2015/08/08/all-aboard-florida-gets-green-light-for-trip-to-the-future/

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Passenger rail not coming to Tulsa as soon as hoped

 

The plan to open passenger rail service from Tulsa to Oklahoma City in May has been sidetracked.

 

But train fans don’t need to worry. The service is still coming — just on down the line, rail officials said.

 

The problem, according to Iowa Pacific Holdings president and CEO Ed Ellis, is that the idea got too popular and was received too well...

 

http://www.tulsaworld.com/homepagelatest/passenger-rail-not-coming-to-tulsa-as-soon-as-hoped/article_acf8b9f8-1724-5d3b-8f99-d438ad8fca74.html?_dc=738885555416.3456

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Work is advancing, despite the NIMBY's:

 

 

All Aboard Florida prepares to start double-track work

 

All Aboard Florida prepares to start double-track work :All Aboard Florida is preparing to receive the first set of rail it needs to add a second train track to the Florida East Coast Railway line.

 

http://www.raillynews.com/2015/all-aboard-florida-prepares-to-start-double-track-work/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RaillyNewsAmerica+%28Railly+News+AMERICA%29

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U.S. bullet train proposals shun public funds, favor private cash

 

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-rail-idUSKCN0XW0AY

 

“All the rules relating to public engagement start the day you take public funding,” said Wendy Meadley, chief strategy officer for North American High Speed Rail Group’s project in Minnesota. With private financing, she said, opponents "can’t make thousands of public records requests and run the project over.”

 

Also this article says that in light of this, private funding can be a cheaper option.

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Multi-billion dollar bullet train connecting Houston to Dallas expected to break ground next year

 

Texas Central to break ground in late 2017.  Interesting, how there are still opponents to this privately funded project using arguments normally reserved for public rail projects.  Methinks there is more than just ignorance at work here.  There have always been and will continue to be strong opposition to trains by interests who want to keep us trapped in our cars and/or enduring the cattle-car and low customer service experience of US airlines:

 

"Not everyone is excited for the nation to see the first ever high-speed rail built in Texas. State Rep. Cecil Bell launched the Texas High Speed Rail Calculator. It is a publicly available tool that the state representative claims measures the profit and loss of the proposed high-speed rail. Representative Bell believes that the calculator gives Texans the direct access to determine the train's viability.

 

“I’m not inherently opposed to any private project. I am saying that it does not look economically viable, and if it’s not economically viable, it is only intended to become a subsidized endeavor,” said Representative Bell. “I don’t believe that Texas properties should be taken or private properties should be taken. I don’t believe taxpayers’ dollars should go to fund the endeavor. It’s a big amusement park ride. That’s what it is.”"

 

http://m.yourhoustonnews.com/cypresscreek/news/multi-billion-dollar-bullet-train-connecting-houston-to-dallas-expected/article_9528330e-a559-55de-a4bc-53fac477d3a3.html?mode=jqm

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Opponents of All Aboard Florida, just can't win:  :-D

 

All Aboard Florida Gaining Steam, Opponents Losing It

By Ed Dean

June 20, 2016 - 1:00pm

 

Since the announcement of the high-speed rail train project, All Aboard Florida (AAF) has been outflanked by its opponents when it comes to public relations. But on the legal front, AAF is winning the battle.

 

Earlier this month, a Leon County Circuit Court shot down another lawsuit brought by Indian River and Martin counties on challenging AAF’s financing of their train. The court insisted the counties had no subject matter jurisdiction and had failed to establish standing to challenge the Florida Development Finance Corporation’s decisions to issue Private Activity Bonds for the rail project.

 

Full article at:

 

http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/all-aboard-florida-gaining-opponents-losing-steam

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Texas Central is facing more hurdles now that the Surface Transportation Board has ruled that the project lies entirely within state jurisdiction.  Opponents are now foaming at the mouth over stopping the project:

 

 

Texas Bullet Train Opponents Hope to Block Project Next Year

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/07/26/lawmakers-take-high-speed-rail-next-sesssion/

 

Excerpt:

The state Legislature could put up major road blocks next year for a private firm's plans to build a high-speed rail project connecting Houston and Dallas now that a federal transportation board has decided the project falls under state jurisdiction.

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