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Not bad for an Ohio boy! (born in Amherst, first job was on the USS Steel railroad at the Lorain plant).


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

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Counterpoint to the Wall Street Journal editorial:

 

Editorial Comment: The Wall Street Journal missed the train

 

With gas prices at $4.00 a gallon and airlines imploding under soaring costs and long delays that make flying a generally unpleasant experience, American travelers are returning to passenger trains in volumes not seen in years. Yet, here’s The Wall Street Journal with yet another misinformed, wrong-headed editorial criticizing Amtrak for operating slow, “money-losing service.” This particular editorial, “The Need for Speed,” which was posted July 7 on the WSJ’s website, takes aim at Amtrak’s Acela Express service in the Northeast Corridor.

 

 

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

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http://www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/hotline/more/hotline_561/

 

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $1.65 billion in passenger rail funding for Fiscal 2009 on Thursday, including a record $1 billion in capital and debt service funds for Amtrak, $550 million for Amtrak operations and retroactive wages (for a total of $1.55 billion for Amtrak), and $100 million for state matching capital grants. 

 

The committee said that $550 million in operating assistance “will keep all Amtrak routes operational and ensure the availability of funds for the retroactive wage payments called for under Amtrak’s newly-ratified labor contracts.” This back pay was also called for by Presidential Emergency Board 242.  However, if the back pay comes to the $114 million frequently cited, and assumed by the House subcommittee, the Senate’s $550 million represents a $39 million de facto operating grant reduction from the current year, and raises the specter of Amtrak continuing to cut corners on service in order to survive.  The subcommittee doubtless recognized that, while operating grants are “scored” at a 100% first-year spend-out rate, capital funds are not and thus are easier to secure.

 

The numbers were initially approved at the Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development markup on Wednesday.  Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) highlighted the work the subcommittee has been doing to improve mass transit.  She noted that the $1 billion in Amtrak capital would be the highest level ever appropriated.

 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) applauded Murray’s work as Chair, especially on mass transit.  She made the case for rail’s necessity for her constituents in Maryland, saying “we can’t make it without MARC [commuter rail].” She also said that, with Maryland as a Northeast Corridor state, “the robust funding is appreciated, and an acknowledgment of the employees.” She also supported the goal of true high-speed rail.

 

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) also called for more investment in rail, citing the shift in travel patterns taking place among the American public, brought about by a high fuel prices and congestion on our highways.  Labeling New Jersey the crossroads of America, Lautenberg argued that “there is a desperate need to increase capacity on the Northeast Corridor and its trains… including tunnels under the Hudson River.” He also cast the NEC as an important part of the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core, Trans-Hudson tunnel) program.  He again touted S. 294, the reauthorization bill that is waiting for reconciliation with House version H.R. 6003,

 

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) said Amtrak won’t be viable in “the wide-open West” which lacks the “critical mass.” But, he conceded, “we obviously have to recognize the value of Amtrak in the Northeast Corridor… as a solution to congestion.” Lautenberg responded that creating a viable rail system by definition means creating a fully-developed national system.  He noted that S. 294 is a bill “that’s interested in corridors around the country.” He also mentioned the great success of rail transit in Utah, alluding to TRAX light rail and FrontRunner commuter rail.

 

In a July 7 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, Sen. Lautenberg had urged the committee to fund passenger rail programs at the $2.218 billion level that would be authorized under S. 294, including $1.07 billion for Amtrak capital, $600 million for Amtrak operations, $302 million for Amtrak debt service, and $246 million for state capital grants.

 

Please urge your Senators and Representatives to approve at least the $1.65 billion for passenger trains that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed. Go to our Action Alert center for full details.

 

Further action on appropriations is unclear.  The process stalled in the House before the transportation bill reached the full appropriations committee, because of Republican plans to attach domestic oil drilling provisions to any and all appropriations bills.  Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate will consider at most two FY 2009 appropriations bills—presumably defense and military construction—before passing a continuing resolution, although Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) said he would “continue to urge that we complete our work,” that is, pass individual appropriations bills. 

 

Continuing resolutions, as the name implies, normally mean that spending continues at current levels—bad news for programs that might other get an increase.

 

Byrd also said he plans to mark up a second supplemental spending bill on July 22 and that infrastructure projects will be included.  House leaders likewise are talking about a second supplemental or stimulus bill

 

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The Wall Street Journal knows mostly how to talk about dollars and cents, not dollars and sense—the cost of everything, and the value of nothing.

 

Wow.  What a great closer!

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July 14, 2008

Editorial

New York Times

Give Amtrak a Fighting Chance

 

It started out as a real victory for passenger rail: the House and the Senate voted to give significantly more money to Amtrak to improve service and upgrade tired cars, tracks and other equipment.

 

Full editorial at:

 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14mon2.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

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Sometimes I feel that if we have to wait on the politicians in this country, then we might as well start dreaming of the flying car.  They NEED to get on the ball with this and as a past hard core republican, I can tell you that if none of these clowns see the urgency for rail RIGHT NOW, well then I won't find the urgency to give them my vote come Nov. :shoot:

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OK slightly off topic here but CNN or FoxNews, can't remember who, had a video showing thousands in California mooning amtrack trains as they go by.  Aparantly it is an anual event.  What is this all about, anyone know?  I was thinking when I first saw it was a political protest against Amtrack.

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No protest... just a bunch of fun-loving Californians exposing their bottoms.  But this is, as you say, off topic.  So, let's get back to it.

 

oakiehigh.... I agree with you.  I've already told my State Rep. and at least one candidate for Congress that if they want my vote... get me a train.

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There is also a video available at:

 

http://www.newsweek.com/id/145869

 

PROJECT GREEN

All Eyes on Amtrak

July 14 2008

By Daniel Stone | NEWSWEEK

 

All Eyes on Amtrak Soaring gas prices and higher airfares are causing Americans to take a closer look at their rail system.

 

Daniel Stone NEWSWEEK Updated: 2:21 PM ET Jul 12, 2008

 

The storybook plight of the Little Engine That Could, struggling to make it up a mountain, is a pretty apt metaphor for America`s rail system. Limited access, outdated equipment and high ticket prices have been the sorry story of Amtrak, the nation`s principal rail carrier, from its beginning—pushing most would-be riders to other ways of getting around. But $4-a-gallon gas and chaotic airways are working in Amtrak`s favor. In an era when green is hip and mileage matters, trains can`t be beat. A diesel locomotive at its most efficient can move a ton of weight 436 miles on a single gallon of fuel, according to the Association of American Railroads, making a full train about 10 times thriftier than your new hybrid. ``Hands down, traveling by rail is the most fuel-efficient and least-carbon-intensive way you can go,`` says Nancy Kete, director of the World Resource Institute Center for Sustainable Transport.

 

 


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

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Editorial Comment: The New York Times got it right

Bill Vantuomo

Editor/ Railway Age

 

The New York Times is about the only newspaper more influential than The Wall Street Journal. We are encouraged by an editorial that appeared in today’s Times that forcefully puts passenger rail in a context based on its real value, rather than ideology.

 

 

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

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Please look a couple of posts farther up.  :wink:


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

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http://www.timesrecordnews.com/news/2008/jul/14/all-aboard/

 

Our opinion: All aboard

Government funding of Amtrak important as gas prices rise

Monday, July 14, 2008

 

On a recent trip to Chicago, a Wichita Falls husband turned to his wife in the seat next to him, tapped his beer bottle to her tea glass and said, "This is the way to go."

For the family of four, this was the only way to go.

 

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Or a few Florida votes four years before...


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

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I don't know about that. I seem to recall supportive statements from Kerry during the campaign. For sure, either Kerry or Gore would have been light years ahead of that Great Amerikan, George "Shrub" Bush.

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I don't know about that. I seem to recall supportive statements from Kerry during the campaign. For sure, either Kerry or Gore would have been light years ahead of that Great Amerikan, George "Shrub" Bush.

 

I don't think it breaks on party lines necessarily.  The Democrats had the White House for 8 years in the 90s and I don't recall any major rail pushes during that time period.  A major economic change centered around oil has made rail spending more popular.  Chalk another one up to the free market.

 

 

^^ Doubtful, on both counts. $4+ gasoline is the driving force behind this.

 

$4+ gasoline is why it might survive a veto.

 

Yes, that's probably more accurate.

 

 

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I think this is a masterful way of taking the wind out of Rep. Mica's sails.  His amendment is nothing more than a straw dog that aims to kill and not promote high speed rail, as he knows full well the following...

 

One.... that no private entity is about to step up and build a new HSR corridor on the East Coast largely because of...

 

Two.... the astronomical costs of land acquisition and eminent domain to build an entirely new corridor in the most densly populated and developed part of the nation.  I doubt Sen. Kerry's bill will make it as a stand-alone piece if legislation, but perhaps as an counter-amendment to Mica's.  The concern I've heard from my DC sources is that allowing Mica's amendment in the first place was a way to ensure the veto-proof majority for S-294/HR-6003 (The Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act).  Kerry's move could possibly help maintain that margin and allow a compromise.

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I don't know about that. I seem to recall supportive statements from Kerry during the campaign. For sure, either Kerry or Gore would have been light years ahead of that Great Amerikan, George "Shrub" Bush.

 

I don't think it breaks on party lines necessarily.  The Democrats had the White House for 8 years in the 90s and I don't recall any major rail pushes during that time period.  A major economic change centered around oil has made rail spending more popular.  Chalk another one up to the free market.

 

 

I'm only referring to the last two Democratic candidates. It's very true there is more than enough blame to go around. Carter tried to kill Amtrak and Clinton's tenure was one benign neglect. Other Republicans might have been better than Bush on Amtrak, but I don't know who they might have been.

 

Meanwhile we have an election coming up and it's no secret what McCain would do with Amtrak: He'd kill it.

 

 

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-tue-amtrak-chicago-service-0jul15,0,3619762.story

 

Amtrak rides high as price of fuel soars

By Rick Popely

 

Chicago Tribune reporter

 

July 15, 2008

 

Soaring fuel prices are filling seats on Amtrak trains and prompting fare increases at the national passenger railroad.

 

Amtrak raised fares 5 percent last week on routes between Chicago's Union Station and Milwaukee and on three Chicago- Michigan routes, citing the higher cost of the diesel fuel that powers locomotives and other operating costs. Amtrak also raised fares on some routes in the Northeast.

 

 

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I don't know about that. I seem to recall supportive statements from Kerry during the campaign. For sure, either Kerry or Gore would have been light years ahead of that Great Amerikan, George "Shrub" Bush.

I don't think it breaks on party lines necessarily.  The Democrats had the White House for 8 years in the 90s and I don't recall any major rail pushes during that time period.  A major economic change centered around oil has made rail spending more popular.  Chalk another one up to the free market.

 

 

I'm only referring to the last two Democratic candidates. It's very true there is more than enough blame to go around. Carter tried to kill Amtrak and Clinton's tenure was one benign neglect. Other Republicans might have been better than Bush on Amtrak, but I don't know who they might have been.

 

Meanwhile we have an election coming up and it's no secret what McCain would do with Amtrak: He'd kill it.

 

True.  I agree that both parties are to blame up until now.  The Democrats and some Republicans have certainly done an about face on the issue recently though, which is great to see. 

 

I'd still like to hear John McCain discuss his current beliefs on rail transit (local, regional, and national) in a general sense.  I've already gone into this once in this thread, so I'll spare everyone the rehash of it, but opposing Amtrak doesn't necessarily equate to opposing rail.  It's also possible that he could change his stance on Amtrak based on the economic realities of the future, as what seemed superfluous to him with $1 gas might appear to be a necessary evil with $4+ gas, so I'd be happy to see him address this in an interview or debate.  He's fairly liberal and open-minded (as far as Republicans go), so I wouldn't be surprised to see him support the expansion of rail in the US, even if it is Amtrak.

 

 

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McCain makes no mention of passenger rail on his website. 

 

In 2002, he proposed a bill to abolish Amtrak altogether, saying passenger rail should be privatized. Link: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,45743,00.html

 

Given that he is one who believes that government should not be involved in passenger rail development at any level, it seems to be a safe bet that he won't be supportive of legislation like the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act...which would assist states in advancing their own plans.

 

On this issue, he is every bit as much of an idealogue as the President. I'd better not see him campaigning from the back of a train, because that would be the ultimate hypocrisy.

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I don't have any problem with Amtrak being privatized.... as long as all the rights of way they use are sold by the private railroads to states or the federal government, or to publicly owned port authorities that don't pay property taxes, and all are financed by tax-exempt bonds retired by a federally held, interest-bearing trust fund with an initial capitalization of $100 billion from the U.S. Treasury.

 

That would put passenger rail on equal policy footing with its competition and likely allow passenger service providers to earn a profit on their operations. Any mode of transportation can make a profit when enough of its direct costs are externalized among other balance sheets.

 

But the chances of having public right of way for passenger rail in this country will happen only if the federal government builds it. They won't be buying the right of way. The freight railroads will likely never trust the feds to own and operate their rights of way.


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

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McCain makes no mention of passenger rail on his website. 

 

In 2002, he proposed a bill to abolish Amtrak altogether, saying passenger rail should be privatized. Link: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,45743,00.html

 

Given that he is one who believes that government should not be involved in passenger rail development at any level, it seems to be a safe bet that he won't be supportive of legislation like the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act...which would assist states in advancing their own plans.

 

On this issue, he is every bit as much of an idealogue as the President. I'd better not see him campaigning from the back of a train, because that would be the ultimate hypocrisy.

 

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 don't have any problem with Amtrak being privatized.... as long as all the rights of way they use are sold by the private railroads to states or the federal government, or to publicly owned port authorities that don't pay property taxes, and all are financed by tax-exempt bonds retired by a federally held, interest-bearing trust fund with an initial capitalization of $100 billion from the U.S. Treasury.

 

That would put passenger rail on equal policy footing with its competition and likely allow passenger service providers to earn a profit on their operations. Any mode of transportation can make a profit when enough of its direct costs are externalized among other balance sheets.

 

But the chances of having public right of way for passenger rail in this country will happen only if the federal government builds it. They won't be buying the right of way. The freight railroads will likely never trust the feds to own and operate their rights of way.

 

I'm someone who ideally would like to see EVERYTHING privatized, but what I'm most interested in is "what will actually work".  If the gov't is going to spend money on something, there'd better be results and accountability.  That doesn't mean transit has to be profitable, just that it needs to be efficient and the taxpayers need to see service in return for their money.  If Amtrak can deliver that, so be it.  I think your assessment of privatization and the attitudes/tendacies of freight rail companies is spot on.

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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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