Sun 17 May, 2015 12:03 pm
The Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia was in the headlines this past week and the news media was all over it.
It so happens that this tragedy occurred while Congress is set to discuss the budget for the next fiscal year.
Amtrak will be, I think, a proxy for the debate between "private wants vs public
So far it looks like their budget will be cut.
Because apparently there's a thought that fixing their infrastructure and making rail safer is accomplished with pixie dust.
I love rail. I can't stand how it's abused in this country. Good rail means less pollution, less interstate traffic, and less dependence on foreign oil.
The broader question of infrastructure, nationwide, seems at play here. I read this morning that Republicans are accused of killing infrastructure rebuilding, because the most expensive projects are in areas that usually vote Democrat. I don't know if that is true. I do think they vote down almost all money except military.
Since this has been posted here I wonder if anyone can tell me how a thrown rock could cause a train to run 100m/h in a 50m/p zone?
I spent some time yesterday wandering around some websites devoted to Amtrak. It appears that there are about 45 routes that they run (covering 47 of the 50 contiguous states).
Of the 45 routes, only the NE corridor one has been making a profit - as measured by revenue minus direct expenses (fuel, wages, routine repairs etc).
Congress must appropriate some $275M to cover the operating losses.
It will take billions more to invest in the infrastructure improvements that Amtrak claims must be made.
There was a chart I saw that showed how much each route lost per passenger. The conclusion I came to is that some routes can never be profitable unless there are hefty fare increases.
An alternative idea is to shut down routes. But Congress, while griping about funding Amtrak, would condemn Amtrak for daring to end service to their states.
As a californian who could have liked more rail lines, and a new mexican who could get to like an actual bus near my house (besides the high speed one that passes it, twice a day when it wouldn't work for my eyes, darkness plus a lot of blocks away), and as a person with urban planning creds, sometimes used in design, I'll venture that our transportation system is a big fat mess.
I'm not interested in high speed much. I'm close to not on that, it takes up all the potential dollars. I'd just like any rail, preferably with local going on, and sometimes 'express'.
The US isn't Japan.
I am sure Californians can use it...and I know places like New Jersey can.
This is one of those things that have got to be tackled.
The kinds of savings obtained by having people use mass transit (like you, I love and frequently use rail) rather than one person using a 3000 pound tank ...is enormous.
More rail...much more mono-rail is what is needed. Funding has to be found.