Friday, February 20, 2009
New Amtrak President Declares War on Dead End Bureaucrats in His Midst
- Amtrak as being "in worse shape than I thought" and full of hopeless clock-watchers.
- There are a lot of dead enders at Amtrak. Boardman refers to them as "people who don't believe."
- Their heads will roll: "he says [any] Amtrak managers… who cannot make the transition from a survival mode to a growth mode will have to find another job."
- The previous management, despite the fact that traffic was up 12 percent last year, apparently didn't order any regular passenger cars as part of their five year plan. For some reason they just asked for odds and ends like "baggage dormitory cars."
- This lack of passenger cars leaves Amtrak in "horrible" shape for America's new golden era of passenger rail.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Amtrak cuts Acela fares in Northeast Corridor
Why Amtrak Can’t—and Never Will—Make Money
Recently the tone toward funding Amtrak with higher amounts of government dollars has become more palatable and governments insistence that Amtrak be profitable has lessened. Achieving profitability is definitely a goal to strive for and some Amtrak services do indeed make money. But the benefits of a modern and efficient rail infrastructure to minimize congestion on roads and airways and to promote business by facilitating transportation are worth funding with tax payer dollars. Exactly what the proper public funding level is I don't know but it needs to be more than it has been and the new stimulus bill provides a good boost to make rail service better and more efficient which will ultimately benefit the economy.
Some points from the article:
"The entire history of Amtrak is replete with examples of CEOs who have tried to get government to commit long-term funding for the company, only to be ignored. Unfortunately, all but David Gunn made a fatal mistake: They never told Congress Amtrak couldn't ever make money."
"None the wiser, Congress has always expected a profitable company, and over the decades Amtrak's chief executives dutifully have talked of putting Amtrak into the black."
"Amtrak cannot ever make enough to attract the capital it will need for new equipment. Even if load factors are increased and the trains make a profit, operating and maintenance costs will prohibit Amtrak from earning enough to attract investors and lenders and finance new equipment or expand services."
"When David Gunn succeeded Warrington in 2002, he wasted no time telling Congress it had no clothes. 'Amtrak will never be profitable,' Gunn told a Senate hearing five weeks after taking office. Congress' mandate that Amtrak be in the black was, he dubbed, 'an impossible goal.'"
"Some politicians, doctrinaire conservatives in particular, insist that passenger trains should be run with private capital, and government has no business subsidizing them. It's a strange concept since government helped the early railroads develop, providing land and even capital .... government has subsidized transportation, building lighthouses and roads, dredging rivers, and so on. Amtrak's critics ignore the hard fact that regularly scheduled passenger trains might have made money 100 years ago but can't today -- not just here, but almost anywhere in the world. The incredible passenger networks of Europe are government-subsidized."
"The sooner Washington accepts Gunn's warning, the quicker America will have better transportation."
Lawmakers: 'Up To' $1.5B for Rail Tunnel in Stimulus
I'm happy to see this kind of funding in the bill, this will make noticeable improvements along the NEC ultimately benefiting the economy and commuters alike.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Details of the Stimulus Package - Money Appropriated for High-Speed Trains and Amtrak Improvement
This is good news, I'm happy to see spending for high speed rail made the cut in the final bill. Spending for rail provides a short term job creation boost with long term benefits to the economy as improved rail service helps commuters and business alike.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Centrists in Senate Push to Cut Billions From Stimulus, $850 million for Amtrak targeted
The final Senate vote on the stimulus package was expected sometime Thursday. This would hurt any near term Amtrak/NEC improvements but the bill is not yet final.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
"High-Speed Rail Key to Infrastructure Renewal"
Couple of facts/numbers I think worth noting:
- Amtrak’s Acela train averages only 79 mph between New York and Washington, while the EuroStar between London and Paris averages 136 mph
- Currently China invests 9 percent of its gross national product in infrastructure, European nations lay out 5 percent, but the U.S. gives only 2.4 percent