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I think that's probably a fair assessment, but I don't think that McCain is beyond hope on this.  He's always seemed to be the type of politician who's position is based on the facts as they exist currently, meaning that his stance on rail could change as the oil based economy continues to sputter.  I suppose that could be defined as reactionary.  I don't know if I'd go so far as to call McCain an anti-rail ideologue, though.  I think that until recently A LOT of people in this country, citizens and politicians alike, viewed passenger rail as completely unnecessary because gasoline was so cheap.  And to be honest, that cheap gas gave them a strong argument to that effect.  Now those days are over, and an increasing number of people are opening their minds to rail.

I give no quarter to politicians who, through ignorance or ideology, obstruct public policy that could ensure the conservation of natural resources.  John McCain does not have the judgement to run my country.

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^I don't want this to turn into a discussion of who we're all voting for and why, as there's already a thread for that in the politics section.  The purpose of my last few posts, rather, is to point out that this isn't a black & white issue where the democrats are always right and the republicans are always wrong, and that it isn't even correct to say that one party is always pro- or anti-rail.  What's more valuable for rail proponents is to recognize why certain people or parties have supported or opposed rail in the past, so that we can use that knowledge to frame a variety of arguments that are persuasive, not to people who already love rail, but to those who currently don't.  Because that's who we have to win over if we're going to see things like Amtrak really take off in the foreseeable future, today's skeptics.  HR 6003 was an excellent start, but it's really just a small step in the right direction.  Amtrak is going to need a lot more, and for that to happen, positive attitudes toward rail need to keep growing.

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^This need not be a purely political thread, but you can hardly view Amtrak's shabby condition in isolation.  And I agree w/ Boreal, I don't want to hear apologizing for McCain's sorry record on rail.  There's no excuse.  And yes, his record mirrors that of most Republicans who have attempted to starve Amtrak, break it up and sell only the most profitiable pieces: Northeast Corridor, a route or 2 around Chicago and a few in Cali, for private ownership, which failed mightily a half century ago!  While there are some good Republicans on transit issues -- our own local cong Steve La Tourette and PA Sen. Arlen Specter, from rail heavy Philly, Republicans generally have been terrible for Amtrak and transit.  You simply can't deny that ... well you could, but you'd be screaming w/ your fingers in your ears.

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Business bigwigs all aboard with Kerry’s Acela plan

By Hillary Chabot  |  Wednesday, July 16, 2008  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Coverage

 

 

Hub business leaders are embracing U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry’s plan to improve infrastructure along the high-speed Acela train’s northeast route allowing the bullet train to run full throttle.

 

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1107347

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[/edit] Deleted response to clvlndr as it was not worth it and we're getting off topic.  We need to be ready with cogent pro-rail arguments no matter who gets elected.

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EDITORIAL

Congress looks more favorably on Amtrak

Bill would give nation's passenger railroad funding to improve operations

Saturday, July 19, 2008

 

With gasoline bumping $4 a gallon and airline travel fraught with inconvenience at best and chaos at worst, the minds of American travelers understandably turn to some alternative — any alternative — to get from place to place across a country defined by its long distances.

 

 

Find this article at:

http://www.statesman.com/hp/content/editorial/stories/07/19/0719amtrak_edit.html

 

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Discussion of Amtrak long-distance trains on NPR's "Talk of the Nation"  Link to the audio:

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92556073

 

America's Romance With Rails May Rise

 

Talk of the Nation, July 15, 2008 · As gas prices rise and airlines cut flights, destinations and services — as well as raise ticket prices, it's not surprising that more and more Americans are choosing to travel by train. Last year in fact, Amtrak says it carried some 25 million passengers, and they're even busier this year.

 

Catherine Watson often rode the rails when she was travel editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune,, but she rarely did it while she was in the United States. Recently, she decided to try Amtrak on a trip from Minnesota to New Mexico. She explains why there's reason to fall back in love with the rails.

 

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/06/TR1C11GC4S.DTL

 

 

 

 

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Hopefully, this is a good place for this...

 

Top 10 reasons to travel by train

Riding the rails allows travelers to forget air-travel headaches

 

By Sarah Schlichter

Independent Traveler

updated 12:26 p.m. ET, Fri., July. 25, 2008

 

Fed up with airlines charging you for everything from checked bags to a pack of pretzels? Reconsidering your road trip due to skyrocketing prices at the pump? Vexed vacationers, take heart — and consider taking the train.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25834942/

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Good article! Two small critiques....

 

Except on long-haul or infrequently traveled routes, trains tend to offer travelers a great deal of flexibility. Missed the 10 a.m. train? Just catch the 10:30 or 11 a.m. train instead.

 

A tad bit East Coast-centric, there. Where else but on the Northeast Corridor is such flexibility available from Amtrak?

 

“Each ticketed passenger may check up to three pieces of luggage at no charge. ... Each checked bag may weigh no more than 50 lbs.”

 

In total, Amtrak allows you to bring 250 pounds of luggage — plus personal items — for free. Try bringing that on an airline!

 

My math isn't the greatest in the world, but that sounds like 150 pounds of luggage to me, not 250.

 

Otherwise a nice article!


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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I guess...


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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On Saturday (July 26) Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) objected to Senate Majority Reid’s request for unanimous consent to name conferees to Senate bill 294. As a result, conferees were not named, putting the bill in serious jeopardy. It was threatened to be vetoed by President Bush, but the bills were approved by veto-proof majorities in Congress.

 

This bill would have provided anywhere from $11 billion to $15 billion to Amtrak over the next five years for more modern and efficient train equipment, expanded rail services and rebuilt infrastructure to allow for faster trains.

 

Now, thanks to the actions of this one senator, it is looking like the bill will not see any action until after the recess, if at all. The 34 states represented by the States for Passenger Rail Coalition, plus many others, are absolutely outraged at Senator Coburn.

 

Anyone know anything about Senator Coburn? Why would he do this? I checked his website and I have a suspicion........

 

He has the "Golden Driller" statue in Tulsa on his home page (at http://coburn.senate.gov/public/). I also see he is big on domestic drilling and all about the supply side of the oil equation.

 

Sounds like the guy is a shill for the oil lobby. Thanks, asshat.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Here's how some of his constituents are responding.....note the contact info for Sen. Coburn's offices.

 

ACTION ALERT: US SENATOR COBURN (R-OK) BLOCK S.294 CONFEREES

 

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has effectively blocked the naming of conferees for S-294. For those of you who might not be aware of the importance of this bill, Heartland Flyer expansion to Kansas City teeters on the passage of this 80-20 federal matching bill. The bill would bring millions to passenger rail expansion capital projects nationwide.

 

The Northern Flyer Alliance (NFA) was counting on this legislation. S-294 is indeed a popular bi-partisan bill that will bring Amtrak out of its current slump and allow it to flourish for the first time in its 37 year history. S.249 and HB.6003 were passed in veto-proof fashion in both chambers of Congress within the last eight months. The combined bills were to be heard this summer prior to final passage.

 

Again, this could make or break the Heartland Flyer expansion effort between Oklahoma City and Kansas City. The bill will likely not see action or be heard until Senator Coburn's blockage is removed.

 

I would encourage all to contact Senator Coburn and protest his actions. In an era of $4.00 a gallon gasoline, growing world economic competition, recession, and environmental concern, we cannot stand for this type of irresponsible action from those elected to serve. Please call each of Senator Coburn's offices to protest his actions. Follow up with a fax relating your anger at his antics.

 

Washington

Office

Main: 202-224-5754

Fax: 202-224-6008

 

Tulsa

Office

Main: 918-581-7651

Fax: 918-581-7195

 

Oklahoma City

Office

Main: 405-231-4941

Fax: 405-231-5051

 

Sincerely,

Evan Stair

 

Oklahoma Director

Northern Flyer Alliance

 

Executive Director

PassengerRailOK.org

 

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The irony is that he has reportedly done this to several important bills as a way of trying to get what Republicans want for an energy bill.  The irony being that he is holding up a bill in S-294 that would actually SAVE energy.  The word moronic comes to mind.

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Remember if you contact him to be firm yet polite.  We can be as harsh as we want here, but when we actually contact a rep, we'll always get better results if we make solid arguments and check the emotion at the door.  When contacting a conservative like Coburn, always make the argument about dollars and cents and when possible, national security.  $4.00 gasoline, job creation via new rail construction, economic development along new lines, and reduced dependence on foreign oil are going to be more persuasive arguments to a conservative ear than pollution, global warming, energy conservation (ironically), etc.

 

All of that said, I'm extremely PO'd that he did this.

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The irony is that he has reportedly done this to several important bills as a way of trying to get what Republicans want for an energy bill.

 

Maybe it's time for some compromise.  Democrats want rail and research into energy alternatives, and Republicans want the individual states to be able to decide on off-shore drilling in their respective waters.  Shouldn't the two major parties both allow the other side to get something they want, so that we can actually make some progress on this?

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Neither party will utter the words peak oil, though.  If you're not even willing to acknowledge the problem, you're not going to be able to effectively solve it. 

 

I just read an article about Cong. Roscoe Bartlett, R-MD, the lone crusader in Congress on peak oil.  No one in Congress attends his speeches anymore because no one wants to hear with or deal with the bad news...

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All Aboard: Too Many for Amtrak

Surge in Ridership Leads to Crowding On Intercity Trains

By CHRISTOPHER CONKEY

August 8, 2008; Page A2

 

Video link:http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid452319854/bctid1717862661

 

WASHINGTON -- The number of people riding Amtrak surged 13.9% in July from a year earlier, as high gas prices caused more commuters to rely on intercity rail.

 

Despite record ridership, Amtrak's most popular trains suffer from delays and out of date equipment. WSJ's Matt Rivera reports. (Aug. 7)

But many Amtrak trains are getting overcrowded, and a backlog of infrastructure problems stands in the way of expanded service.

 

 

  URL for this article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121815170729322339.html

 

 

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Amtrak July ridership sets single-month record

Railway Age Magazine

 

Amtrak Thursday trumpeted its continued ridership gains, noting its July patronage of 2,750,278 was the most for any single month in the company's beleagured 37-year existence, and up 14% compared with its July 2007 ridership. Ticket revenue for July was $168 million, up 18.6% from the year-ago month.

 

 

http://www.railwayage.com/breaking_news.shtml

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National Association of Railroad Passengers www.narprail.org 

900 Second St., N.E., Suite 308

Washington, DC 20002-3557

Telephone 202-408-8362

 

For Immediate Release (#08-17)

August 15, 2008

 

Railroad Passengers: Increased Amtrak Energy Efficiency Strengthens Case for More Trains

 

The National Association of Railroad Passengers today lauded the latest federal figures on transportation energy consumption which showed a 2.2% increase in Amtrak's energy efficiency, making Amtrak 17.9% more efficient than airlines.

 

Edition 27 of the annual Transportation Energy Data Book - compiled by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy - says Amtrak consumed 2,650 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per passenger-mile in 2006, versus 2,709 in 2005 - a 2.2% improvement.

 

"Passenger trains have always been a highly energy efficient mode of travel," said NARP Executive Director Ross B. Capon. "These figures and the public's increased desire to park their cars and ride trains underscore the importance of immediately increasing investments in our national passenger train system as a key component of any rational energy policy. 

 

"Analysts consistently identify passenger trains as energy efficient, but federal policy still encourages investing most resources in the least efficient forms of transportation. That is not the road to energy independence."

 

Certificated air carriers (domestic service) also improved--to 3,228 BTUs per passenger-mile in 2006 from 3,264 in 2005--but the change in ratio was in Amtrak's favor. Amtrak used 17.9% less energy per passenger-mile than airlines in 2006 vs. 17.0% less in 2005. Conversely, airlines used 21.8% more energy than Amtrak in 2006 vs. 20.5% in 2005. The data are in table 2.14, "Energy Intensities of Nonhighway Passenger Modes, 1970-2006."

 

Meanwhile, Amtrak last month set an all-time record for monthly ridership, carrying 2,750,278 passengers, up 14% from July 2007. Individual routes reported increases as high as 43%. 

 

"The traveling public is voting with their feet and with their dollars," noted Capon. "Unfortunately, a big part of the driving reduction means travel foregone rather than transferred to rail. With Amtrak in its sixth straight year of ridership growth, and nearing capacity of its existing fleet, it is long past time for Washington to balance public investments in transportation with our current and future energy needs - and obvious market demands."

 

Americans drove 4.7% fewer miles in June than a year earlier (U.S. DOT's August 13 release). June, 2008, was the eighth straight month of declining vehicle-miles traveled (VMT). DOT's July 28 release showed a decline of 29.8 billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on U.S. roads from January to May.

 

Transportation Energy Data Book: http://cta.ornl.gov/data/Index.shtml

Table 2.14 is at computer page 2-16 (computer page 16) at http://cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb27/Edition27_Chapter02.pdf

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I'm very excited.  I'll be riding the Megabus to Chicago, and taking a round trip Lake Shore train to Erie, PA. 

 

It beats wondering if you'll be *lucky* enough to get an inconvenient red-eye train out of Cincinnati.

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What increased Amtrak's energy efficiency? Is it something they did, or is it just because of other factors (higher fuel prices, etc) that have made them more fuel efficient by default?

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Its probably a combination of more efficient locomotives and more usage of biodiesel.

 

Next spring break, the girlfriend and I are taking a train from Cincinnati to either NY or Chicago.. we haven't decided yet. But we know we are taking a train so we don't have to worry about gas or parking.

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My only complaint about Amtrak is that they have such FRIGGIN ridiculous arrival times in Cleveland. If it wasn't for that, Amtrak would be a huuuge second option for me.

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Then let your Congressman/Congresswoman know you want better funding for passenger rail.  Amtrak's schedule is, at least in part, a function of the fact it has historically been underfunded.  Two trains a day through Cleveland is better than any city in Ohio south of Cleveland or Toledo....but it is still grossly inadequate for the times.

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What increased Amtrak's energy efficiency? Is it something they did, or is it just because of other factors (higher fuel prices, etc) that have made them more fuel efficient by default?

 

Probably it's increased ridership. The weight of passengers is almost insignificant compared with the weight of cars and locomotives, so if you add, say, 25 passengers to a train that was averaging 250 passengers on each run, you're most likely doing it without having to add a car and you hardly increase energy consumption at all but you increase the passenger-miles per btu significantly.

 

The same concept applies to any form of transit, but especially to rail; if the system is operating below capacity, increased utilization increases efficiency when measured on a per-capita basis. When you have to add capacity in the form of new cars and perhaps additional employees to operate or attend to them, the calculation changes. When you have to add infrastructure (new routes, double-track a formerly single-tracked route, add substation capacity for electrified systems), the calculation changes again. It's all in identifying fixed vs. variable costs and the effect that ridership has on each of those.

 

The notion of saving money on urban mass transit by cutting service to offset increased fuel costs assumes that the same people will just wait longer and ride the reduced number of buses, increasing per-capita efficiency, but it seldom works out that way. More often, ridership declines sharply and revenues decline more than costs.

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^I read once that cutting transit service scares people away far more than increasing fares.  It would be nice if just once, states would pony up and help increase mass transit funding.  But as long as we maintain this Us-versus-them, rural-versus-urban mentality, I don't see that happening.  Look at what Chicago's CTA's going thru now...

 

... At least with Amtrak, maybe here in Ohio, plans like Ohio Hub can serve enough small town areas so that folks will buy in; much like I know Norhtern Indiana folks -- urban AND rural, LOVE the famed South Shore interurban line.  It can be done; there are just too many naysayers and, then, too many right-thinking people that don't have the stamina to battle the naysayers...

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[ ... ]

 

... At least with Amtrak, maybe here in Ohio, plans like Ohio Hub can serve enough small town areas so that folks will buy in; much like I know Northern Indiana folks -- urban AND rural, LOVE the famed South Shore interurban line.  It can be done; there are just too many naysayers and, then, too many right-thinking people that don't have the stamina to battle the naysayers...

 

True about the South Shore. Most trains are standing-room-only on the western end of the line, even off-peak. They're popular because they offer frequent, on-time service, even though the on-board amenities are spartan. In the late seventies the service nearly was discontinued, but a general public uprising saved it, made it a public agency and ever since, has spurred continuous investment to maintain and upgrade the equipment and infrastructure.

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How long has it been since Youngstown had Amtrak service?

 

I photographed this sign there last week.

 

20080821-186.jpg

 

The sign designating Amtrak parking is still on the fence along part of the parking lot at the B&O station, and the wooden stairway to trackside is dangerously deteriorated and not blocked off.

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It was 2005. But the B&O station is still standing, so the sign is correct. If it said "Amtrak" the sign would be out of date.

 

Not sure what to tell you about the stairwell. I don't know if the city owns the depot or a private operator or who has the contractual responsibility for maintenance.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Quick observation I made yesterday while I was at Cincy's Union Terminal to see the Bodies Exhibit.    While in line for 45 min. to see the Omnimax show, we were stuck right next to the Amtrak entrance.    They had Amtrak literature all over the terminal, but something that kinda surprised me was that the Amtrak area doesn't open until 11pm everynight.  Now I know the Cardinal comes through at 3ish in the morning, but I was sort of disappointed because I immediately went up to the door when we got there and realized it was closed after pulling on the locked door.  While we waited the 45 min to get in to watch the movie, I watched 14 other people walk up and do the same thing I did. 

 

While this is more of a rant, I just can't help but wonder about the thousands of people that have filed by that entrance for the past 6 months (with Bodies breaking every attendance record), and everyone seeing those doors locked like it was some sort of private museum or something.  It was kinda disheartening because just one Amtrak representative there, could really make a difference in helping to change peoples stigma about rail in a town where the  automobile has thrived to the point of......well you all know,  like the rest of Ohio!!      The people I was with discussed this the entire time we were standing there!

 

I hope this 3-C plan moves ahead!!!!!    I'm done now.

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In the short term, it would be nice to see the "Cardinal" (Chicago-New York) become a daily train to better serve Cincinnati and the surrounding area.  If 3-C service is to prosper, one thing it will need to do is connect at relatively convenient times to the Amtrak national system at both ends; Cincinnait and Cleveland.  A daily "Cardinal" would help make that possible.

 

At the other end:  I am hearing that Amtrak is analyzing the "Lake Shore Ltd" to see if it can further improve running times and provide better station stop times.

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Excellent piece on Sen. Joe Biden and how he has taken Amtrak every day to work from his home in Delaware to DC.  It is  avery well done story and provides some interesting insights into the value of train travel.  Be sure to watch it to the very end, because the reporter ends it with one of the best closing lines I've ever heard about passenger rail.

 

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/26420801#26420801

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And another reason why Obama and Biden is the sweet ticket,

"All you need, is a seat on a train that takes you home every night."

 

Amtrak will be soaring under the duo!

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http://www.railwayage.com/breaking_news.shtml#Feature6-8-28

 

August 27, 2008

Amtrak's Kummant: Acela is "out of capacity"

 

Amtrak's Acela Express high speed Northeast Corridor trains have become so crowded, especially during peak travel periods, that the passenger railroad says it needs to add coaches to the trainsets, which thus far have been fixed at five coaches, a cafe car, and two power cars (one on each end of each consist).

 


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Question for you train experts: if Amtrak is selling out so many Acela runs, why isn't it jacking up prices to increase revenue?  Is there any affordability component to its official mission, do they fear political fall-out or am I overlooking some basic element of pricing economics?

 

Don't get me wrong, as a sometime Acela customer (though it's still cheaper and faster to rend a car and drive from NYC to Providence or Boston), I don't want to see prices hiked, but I am curious.

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I suspect because raising fares doesn't promote good will among customers while adding trains does.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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Suit against Amtrak spinning wheels, awaiting ruling

Railroad seeks arbitration in American Financial case

http://cincinnati.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2008/09/08/story7.html

 

American Financial Group Inc.’s lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for its Amtrak common stock is awaiting a federal judge’s decision on the railroad’s request that the dispute first be submitted to arbitration.

 

 

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As late as 1971 (just before Amtrak started), there were seven daily trains each way between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. That won't return

 

I hate when people state their opinion as fact. And if you're going to state your opinion on matters that are more complicated than "I like the color red," then you really should say what information caused you to form your opinion.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

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As late as 1971 (just before Amtrak started), there were seven daily trains each way between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. That won't return

 

I hate when people state their opinion as fact. And if you're going to state your opinion on matters that are more complicated than "I like the color red," then you really should say what information caused you to form your opinion.

 

I think you should call him and ask him what gives.

 

Brian O'Neill can be reached at boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.

First published on September 7, 2008 at 12:00 am

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Let's look at the overall tone of the article. The reporter hits the nail on the head and tells it like it is. Aside from that one clinker, I'd compliment the guy.

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