Friday, August 08, 2008

All Aboard: Too Many for Amtrak

The Wall Street Journal has an article today stating that the number of people riding Amtrak is up 13.9% in July 2008 from a year earlier. More proof that high gas prices caused more commuters to rely on intercity rail.

Highlights from the article:
  • Northeast Corridor passenger counts are up by nearly 8% over last year. Overall, Amtrak is on pace to serve a record 28 million passengers in its current fiscal year, up from the previous high of 25.8 million last year.
  • Many Amtrak trains are getting overcrowded and a backlog of infrastructure problems stands in the way of expanded service.
  • The House and Senate have passed by veto-proof margins legislation that could increase Amtrak funding by 33% or more in the new fiscal year beginning October.
  • The railway often doesn't have enough cars in stock to expand train capacity or increase service frequencies. "We're literally beginning to bump up against some of the capacity limits on Acela," Mr. Kummant said. "We have basically no equipment left to start new services." In the Northeast Corridor alone, he said, it will take upwards of a decade and $3 billion to replace Amtrak's rolling stock, including its 20 Acela train sets.
  • Amtrak estimates it needs to do nearly $5 billion of work along the Northeast Corridor to bring things to a state of good repair.
  • More people take the train than fly between New York and Washington, Amtrak claims
  • A trip from Wall Street to the nation's capital currently takes two hours and 45 minutes on the Acela. Mr. Kummant told Congress last year that with $625 million in additional investment, the trip could be shaved to 2½ hours. But he said the 227-mile route needs billions of dollars more to replace aging critical components such as bridges and tunnels.
  • A provision in the House's Amtrak bill would have the Transportation Department study the possibility of high-speed service between Washington and New York, with trains running as fast as 200 miles an hour and a trip time of two hours or less. Mr. Kummant scoffs at the idea of European-style high-speed service in the congested Northeast, which could require a dedicated corridor established through years of eminent-domain proceedings. He said it would be better to focus on improving the connectivity and performance of the current system, and establish 100-miles-per-hour regional corridors.


Post a Comment

<< Home