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I see the word "laissez-faire economics" in the same message as "interstate highways and commercial aviation expanded with taxpayer money."

 

Hmmm...what free-market economy? :?

 

"the parcel express services like UPS, Fed Ex and DHL were able to cherry-pick that profitable freight business without having to pay the higher insurance, capital, and operating costs for vehicles and terminals associated with passenger transportation."

 

True, true....

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I see the word "laissez-faire economics" in the same message as "interstate highways and commercial aviation expanded with taxpayer money."

 

Hmmm...what free-market economy? :?

 

Well .... yeah. I mean, that's what some people claim we have, or at least what they claim to want. I was using the term as defined by self-professed "Conservatives."

 

Name-calling would start a political brawl, though, and I don't have time right now to finish it. I'm setting up my shrine to the gods of transportation in hopes that they will let my train run not more than four hours late.

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Obama to arrive for inaugural via train - will pick up Joe in Delaware

By David Cook | 12.15.08

Christian Science Monitor

 

Barack Obama plans a leisurely train trip to Washington before starting a new job that ensures he will be whisked from place to place in the fastest possible way,

 

Full story at:

 

http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2008/12/15/obama-to-arrive-for-inaugural-via-train-will-pick-up-joe-in-delaware/

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EXCLUSIVE: Amtrak to seek high-speed train

Tom Ramstack (Contact)

UPDATED EXCLUSIVE:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/15/exclusive-amtrak-seek-high-speed-train-ne-corridor/

 

Congressional transportation leaders plan to announce today that the federal government is seeking contractors to build a new $30 billion to $40 billion high-speed rail line between Washington and New York that would be used exclusively by passenger trains.

 

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That's great news. Once the high-speed line is built from DC->NY, people will realize the potential of those types of lines. This definitely is on the right track (no pun intended). I can't wait until we have high-speed lines zipping all across the US. Specifically in Ohio.

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Before we get to excited about the above announcement from USDOT, keep in mind that this is coming from the outgoing USDOT Secretary, who has never been much of a friend to passenger rail, much less true high-speed rail.  There is much she left unsaid that needed to be stated clearly.

 

As Amtrak's own spokesman acknowledges, there are huge geographic and environmental issues connected to a totally new "Northeast Corridor"... not the least of which is land acquisition in the most heavily urbanized part of the U.S. (Boston to DC).

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Per Thomasbw's request, here is the route that the Cardinal runs through Cincinnati.  It runs on the C&O mainline to Washington, DC on the Kentucky side of the river.  En route to Chicago it runs up whatever the line is that diverges from the B&O in Ivorydale and runs through Elmwood Place & Glendale.  It runs through Hamilton and does apparently have a stop there.  For those unfamiliar with Cincinnati's topography, yes the line to Chicago drifts northeast before turning northwest about 10 miles north of Union Terminal.     

 

amtrak1.jpg

 

 

 

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It runs through Hamilton and does apparently have a stop there. For those unfamiliar with Cincinnati's topography, yes the line to Chicago drifts northeast before turning northwest about 10 miles north of Union Terminal.  

 

Quick note:  Hamilton no longer has an Amtrak stop.  That was ended a couple years ago.  The station has been abandoned.

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I think a far better stop would be at Oxford.  With a large student population at Miami U. and a good regional population around Oxford, there should be a good ridership base.

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2009 Outlook A new political paradigm

By Donald M. Itzkoff, for Railway Age

 

A month before the November election, then-candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden wrote to a Southeast rail conference convened by former Governor Michael Dukakis and Meridian Mississippi Mayor John Robert Smith:

 

“Amtrak, freight rail, and commuter rail are absolutely vital to America’s transportation systems, and we need to strengthen them now, not starve them. Metro Chicago is a central rail hub for North America, and Joe has been riding Amtrak to work throughout his career, so we know how important rail is to our country. That’s why we support substantial investment—investment in infrastructure and investment in the rail workforce. . . . We cannot afford to wait on funding for updated infrastructure and technology to meet increasing passenger and freight demand. . . . We must invest in rail projects for economic and environmental reasons.”

 

Full story at link below:

 

Donald M. Itzkoff is a partner with Nossaman LLP/O’Connor & Hannan in Washington, D.C. He was Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration during the Clinton Administration and also previously served as Senior Counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee.

 

http://www.railwayage.com/B/feature3.html

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Rep. Joe Knollenberg, ranking member of the House Transportation/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, lost his re-election bid. 

 

I didn't know that! Hooray!!!

 

club.gif


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

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I'm quite familiar with that flap; I've read about it on some railfan blogs.

 

I was surprised how freely I was able to photograph in Chicago's Union Station on this trip. The last time I came through there (three years ago), I grabbed a couple of shots walking up the platform and was intercepted by security before I got through the gate from the platform into the concourse. One guy headed me off, and another came up from behind, and they told me that taking photos of trains was illegal.

 

This time I wandered all over the place taking photos both upon arrival and before departure, in plain view of station and railroad personnel, and nobody challenged me. At one point two uniformed Amtrak cops walked by. I smiled and nodded, and one of them said, "How ya' doin'?" as they passed.

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Gee, maybe it wasn't illegal after all. I love how some security officers think that are also lawmakers.


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

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Gee, maybe it wasn't illegal after all. I love how some security officers think that are also lawmakers.

 

The same is true for Chicago's CTA.  There is no rule that says you can't photograph the tracks, stations, or other infrastructure, but I've even been stopped once for taking shots in the O'Hare Blue Line station.  I've gotten away with much more though.

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and I was griping about an hour delay outside Union Station on Monday morning.

 

This sounds like a situation that calls for somebody being fired and CSX getting some heavy fines. According to the article, CSX refused to let local officials help the passengers.

 

Whoever runs the crews had to have realized that crew would outlaw before they got far, and sat back and let it happen. It would have been better to hold the train at Holland and waited for a relief crew to have been brought there. Or annulled the train at Holland and either put passengers in a motel/hotel/shelter or brought buses to take them to their destinations. This crap sounds intentional on the part of someone at CSX.

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Really poor response all around by CSX and Amtrak.  A similar thing happened last year in Illinois when a snow and ice storm left downed trees and wires across tracks between Chicago and St. Louis.  Not only did it stop Amtrak trains, but Amtrak kept sending more trains into the area despite the blocked tracks and had trains stacked up almost on top of each other.  A Chicago friend tells me it took almost two months to get service back to normal because locomotives and rolling stock on the system were thrown so out of synch.

 

I'm told that some Amtrak employees are so scared for their jobs that they will not take what would seem to be obvious actions to help passengers in such situations.  That is no way to run a railroad...or any business.

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Don't forget to include the union in the blame.  The negotiated this.  I've been on planes where the flight is delay because the crew is nearing overtime, so we have to wait for a new crew.

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Don't forget to include the union in the blame.  The negotiated this.  I've been on planes where the flight is delay because the crew is nearing overtime, so we have to wait for a new crew.

 

Actually, they didn't.  It's a recently updated federal law.  The hours of service were reduced to 12 because of several years of data that documented problems with crew fatigue, some of them serious.  Granted, it's worse on the freight railroads because most freight trains are unscheduled, but it's still not an easy job.  My dad worked on the railroad for 40 years.  You're schedule is rarely the same two days in a row. 

 

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want the locomotive crew working longer than 12 hours at a stretch.  I want them awake and alert enough to catch the signals and operate the train safely. 

 

I do wonder if Amtrak could have anticipated better that the crew would outlaw given the situation that was unfolding and had a new crew on standby, but I don't know enough about how such things work.

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Don't forget to include the union in the blame.  The negotiated this.  I've been on planes where the flight is delay because the crew is nearing overtime, so we have to wait for a new crew.

 

Actually, they didn't.  It's a recently updated federal law.  The hours of service were reduced to 12 because of several years of data that documented problems with crew fatigue, some of them serious.  Granted, it's worse on the freight railroads because most freight trains are unscheduled, but it's still not an easy job.  My dad worked on the railroad for 40 years.  You're schedule is rarely the same two days in a row. 

 

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want the locomotive crew working longer than 12 hours at a stretch.  I want them awake and alert enough to catch the signals and operate the train safely. 

 

I do wonder if Amtrak could have anticipated better that the crew would outlaw given the situation that was unfolding and had a new crew on standby, but I don't know enough about how such things work.

 

There are several parties to blame.  Then the NTSB is to blame for these "crew" no common sense issues.  However, Amtrak is what the customer/consumer knows. 

 

Common sense.  This is just as bad as the JFK Valentines day debacle.

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There is a good reason trains used to have cabooses. Obviously, it isn't the car that matters, but if a train has any chance of 'blowing up' - Amtrak speak for going over 12 hours, then a second crew should be aboard to take over.

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The reason trains used to have cabooses was because there weren't motels practically everywhere and easily accessible like today.  Therefore, you needed to keep a crew in reserve on the train.  However, cabooses were expensive and they were the most dangerous place on a train.  Talk to an old time railroader who worked during the caboose era and they will tell you a lot of injuries occurred on them. 

 

Another reason they needed cabooses was because in the era before "hot box detectors" and the like, the railroads needed to have a rear brakeman to help keep an eye on the train. 

 

Keeping an extra crew on board an Amtrak train would raise their labor costs in no insignificant way.  There is no disputing that Amtrak handled this poorly.  However, if the problem began with a freight crew that outlawed and Amtrak couldn't be dispatched around the freight, followed by switch problems due to the cold weather (this probably means switches freezing), then it really boils down to piss poor investment in our rail system.  For better passenger service in an out of Chicago to the east, the former NYC line through Porter Indiana needs to be rebuilt so that Amtrak can have its own access to Chicago and not suffer freight interference.  Also, investment needs to be made in things like switch heaters.  This all costs $$$$, which congress has been unwilling to spend. 

 

Mytwosense:  I don't get what you mean by: "Then the NTSB is to blame for these "crew" no common sense issues"  Are you saying it makes no sense to limit a crew's hours to 12?  If so, then I repeat, crew fatigue problems are very real and very common and they were much worse before this rule change that actually did improve safety.  Otherwise go get a job on a railroad and tell me how easy it is to work even 12 hours. If this isn't what you mean, please clarify. 

 

dmerkow:  I think Amtrak could have anticipated better that the crew was going to outlaw and had one on call.  Instead, it seems that they waited until the crew actually did outlaw to do anything about it.  At some point, it should have been more than obvious that the crew wasn't going to make it. 

 

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Operating rules are operating rules, and the crew-hours rule is for safety. Make an exception, and you create a precedent that will come back to bite you in the butt. If the CSX management refused to permit local law enforcement officials onto the property to render humanitarian assistance to stranded passengers, though, they should be prosecuted, and being convicted would likely cost them their jobs if not their careers. Even being charged would hinder their career advancement with CSX. Best case, they'd end up sweeping snow out of switches on a short line for non-union wages.

 

It would be interesting to hear any radio communications between crew and dispatchers as the crew neared its time limit. Most likely that stuff is recorded nowadays, and there's probably at least one railfan in the area who was listening with a scanner; the railroads communicate in the public service band, and railfans and news media listen selectively to various channels.

 

They used to switch over to another channel that wasn't supposed to be common knowledge, but with a decent scanner you could always find it if there was something going on. I haven't listened for few years, but things were getting to where, when they didn't want news media and railfans poking around, the dispatcher would just instruct a conductor or other crew member to call him with his cell phone.

 

One night when I was driving home from out of town I had my scanner on (mobile scanning public service bands is illegal, I know) and picked up a conversation about a crew member's car being broken into in the parking lot at the yards. Among other things his radio was stolen. A few minutes later the thief came on the air with the radio, babbling trucker CB jargon and trying to see who he could raise. A Conrail detective chased everybody else over to a different channel and engaged the guy in negotiations to buy the radio from him, and arranged to meet him at a notorious thugs-'n-drugs gathering spot not far from the yards. That was before the police went to the 800mhz channel-switching stuff, and I got to listen to the whole bust going down.

 

Funny as hell. Stupid thief.

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Mytwosense:  I don't get what you mean by: "Then the NTSB is to blame for these "crew" no common sense issues"  Are you saying it makes no sense to limit a crew's hours to 12?  If so, then I repeat, crew fatigue problems are very real and very common and they were much worse before this rule change that actually did improve safety.  Otherwise go get a job on a railroad and tell me how easy it is to work even 12 hours. If this isn't what you mean, please clarify. 

 

I mean that these rules are antiquated and to have people stuck for 12 hours is inhumane.  Common sense and human safety should come into play.

 

The rules need to be reviewed buy whoever set them.

 

On airplanes, the block out extra seats for TATL/TPAC flight crews, so why can't Amtrack do the same?

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^Antiquated in what way?  I agree that it's inhumane to have people stuck for 12 hours.  There are people at Amtrak who should lose their job over this.  It's also inhumane and quite unsafe to have a crew work obscenely long hours.  The old rule was 14 hours. 

 

In the case of a Chicago-Detroit train, it's well out of the routine that a crew will outlaw.  As I said, given the way in which events were unfolding on this particular run, Amtrak should have anticipated that this would have happened.  Instead it seemed that they waited until the crew actually outlawed to call in another one.  I can't believe there wouldn't have been a pretty clear "point of no return" that would have been obvious to the dispatchers and managers that this crew wasn't going to make it.  It would have been better to err on the side of caution and risk having the current crew work only 10 hours (or whatever, pick a number) than to wait until the crew actually outlaws to do anything about it. 

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My main experience with this was on regional rail just outside of Richmond. We were four miles from the end of the line and the staff was just moments from having to stop the train. It seemed like if there was a risk then Amtrak should have at least a couple people who could have taken control had the train crew gone outlaw.

 

Interesting stuff on cabooses. Thanks. It would seem that if we are hoping to use rail investment as a economic stimulus/works program then expanding the labor force would be a good way to start.

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It seemed like if there was a risk then Amtrak should have at least a couple people who could have taken control had the train crew gone outlaw.

 

I guess we're actually saying a similar thing, then.  I would guess that Amtrak's crew points for CHI-DET are Chicago and Detroit.  After sitting for several hours in Indiana, then waiting again because of a frozen switch, it should have dawned on the dispatchers and managers that the crew was in risk of not making it.  As I said, it would have been better to call a relief crew and risk replacing the operating crew at 10 hours (or whatever) rather than wait until they actually outlawed. 

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AMTRAK SERVICE ALERT

 

Just got this weather alert from Amtrak....

 

Chicago Hub and Other Services

December 23, 2008

12:30 p.m. CT

Amtrak Media Relations, Chicago: 312 880.5390; email: mediarelationschicago@amtrak.com

After hours, weekends & holidays: 800 562.1904

 

Severe weather from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest has caused rail infrastructure and railcar issues, affecting deployment cycles for equipment and train crews. Several trains to and from Chicago are being cancelled in order to prepare to properly re-deploy equipment and crews.

 

Illinois Service

Lincoln Service Train 305 will be combined with Lincoln Service Train 307 to originate in Chicago on December 23.

 

Illini Train 393, the afternoon departure from Chicago to Carbondale on December 23, and Saluki Train 390, the morning departure from Carbondale to Chicago on December 24, are both cancelled, with alternate transportation provided by chartered motorcoaches.

 

Michigan Service

Wolverine Service Train 355, the evening departure from Pontiac-Detroit to Chicago on December 23 is cancelled, with alternate transportation provided by chartered motorcoaches. Blue Water Train 364, the afternoon departure from Chicago to East Lansing-Port Huron on December 23 is cancelled, with alternate transportation provided by chartered motorcoaches.

 

Lake Shore Limited

Train 48 scheduled to originate in Chicago on December 23 is cancelled. Train 49 scheduled to originate in New York on December 24 is cancelled west of Buffalo.

 

Empire Builder

Trains 7 & 27 scheduled to originate in Chicago on December 23 will depart behind schedule and operate only as far as St. Paul. No alternate transportation is available.

 

Amtrak regrets any inconvenience. This information is correct as of the above time and date. Information is subject to change as conditions warrant. Passengers are encouraged to call 800-USA-RAIL or visit Amtrak.com for schedule information and train status updates.

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If this is largely due to weather-related events screwing up Amtrak's equipment utilization, then is it safe to assume that Amtrak doesn't have enough sets of "protect" equipment so they can keep to the schedules?  If so, they should be getting some mileage out of this by saying:  "Amtrak regrets the inconvenience, but we don't have enough spare equipment to handle such service disruptions.  We have requested funding from Congress for 354 new passenger cars to modernize our fleet and help minimize such problems in the future.  Affected passengers are encouraged to contact their representatives in Congress and tell them how important Amtrak service is to you"

 

Or something like that...

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... and the many cars and locomotives already in existence that could help alleviate the equipment shortages if the money were available to make needed repairs.

 

Regarding the delayed Chicago-Grand Rapids train, it's only about 25 miles from Holland where the train was halted to Grand Rapids, the destination of the passengers on board. If the roads were at all passable and buses could be chartered, that's what should have been done. Of course, I still call for a public flogging for CSX officials who refused local law enforcement access to the passengers in the yard at Holland.

 

Twice I was on trains from San Francisco to Chicago that were delayed 14 hours. One occasion was in 1978, because of a detour via the Rio Grande to get past a freight derailment at on the UP at Green River, Wyoming. The other was in 1984 because of a series of weather-related problems from a blizzard that had swept the western plains.

 

On both occasions Amtrak provided complimentary meals after the time the train should have arrived, and put connecting passengers up in a good hotel in Chicago and provided vouchers for cab fare to and from the hotel and meals until the next day's eastbound trains. The outdoor temperature during my 1984 layover never rose above minus 8; that slowed but didn't stop my sightseeing and taking photos.

 

The delays are often very rough on the on-board service crews (car attendants, dining car workers, bartenders, etc.). They have to work additional hours on top of an already-demanding schedule, and if they're working on a same-train turnaround, they get little or no time to rest before they start it all over again. On the 1984 trip I talked with the attendant in my sleeper. He said they were allowed four hours sleep out of every 24 hours on the road, and those were never four consecutive hours because of late-night detrainings and boardings.

 

The train was very late arriving in Oakland from Chicago, and he had worked sixty hours with fewer than 8 hours' sleep, and they got 4 hours to go to a hotel, shower, change clothes, and "rest" while the train was turned and prepared for the return trip to Chicago, which subsequently ran 14 hours behind schedule. Some passengers couldn't understand why some of the car attendants were a little snippy with their bratty kids. Had I been in their situation, I might have chucked the little bastards out a vestibule door while nobody was looking.

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State asks Amtrak to explain delays; Michigan trains late nearly 75 percent of the time

Posted by knagenga December 23, 2008 16:01PM

 

GRAND RAPIDS -- The state has asked Amtrak to explain how a four-hour train trip from Chicago to Grand Rapids turned into a 16-hour ordeal and to make plans to prevent such long delays.

 

Read more at:

 

http://www.mlive.com/grpress/news/index.ssf/2008/12/state_asks_amtrak_to_explain_d.html

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I don't really get why this is news.  I ride the Amtrak down to Bloomington/Normal fairly regularly (about once every month and a half) and I have NEVER had a train be less than two hours late.  Maybe it's just bad luck, but those are some pretty bad odds. 

 

Actually I was riding back from Normal yesterday and 3 trains arrived at the station at the same time.  My train was first, but it was on the wrong set of tracks.  They had us all go outside and wait, staring at the train for about 10 minutes.  After ten minutes, half of the people had gone back inside.  Then the southbound train came through and dropped off and picked up people BUT THERE WERE NO AMTRAK EMPLOYEES OUT THERE TELLING US WHAT TRAIN IT WAS OR WHO SHOULD BE GETTING ON. 

Then, after the southbound one had left, the second northbound train came through (while my train sat 10 feet away on the next set of tracks.)  We started to get on the train because we were supposed to be on the first northbound train BUT in the middle of us boarding the Amtrak people decided to show up and finally tell us what was going on.  So apparently the people from the later northbound train to stay with that train so that the number of seats stayed even.  So we had to let the other people go in front of us and board.  Finally, after the later northbound train had left, our train had to back up and switch tracks which took another 10 minutes. 

 

All in all, I had to wait about 45-50 minutes outside, in the cold, with no instruction, with our train 10 feet away. 

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I don't really get why this is news.

 

If we're happy with this situation and willing to allow it to continue then it is not news.

 

But I would hope this is a better country than some third world, banana republic so as not to accept such crappy service. And it's up to everyone who has a mouth connected to their brain to say so.


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

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