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..envelope please...

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..envelope please...
Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 8:07 AM

...and the $8B goes to...

http://www.trains.com/trn/default.aspx?c=a&id=4914

What's your best guess where LaHood will decide where the $8B goes?  Winner gets the usual cat-calls and jeers.

Here's my guess:

1.5B to California for whatever they want it for

1.5B to Ilinios for Chicago to St.Louis plus their piece of Chicago-Detriot and Chicago-Milwaukee

1.0B to Ohio for CCC corridor

2.0B to VA and NC for DC to Charlotte

0.5B to Wisc for Chicago-Milw

1.0B to Michigan for Chicago-Det

0.5B to NY for Albany-Buffalo improvments

I think any solid "red" state gets points off.  States hard hit by auto downturn get extra attention (MI and OH).  "Swing states" (VA and OH) get bounus points.  States with the most solid and active plans get bonus points (WI and NC).  IL gets "favorite son x 2" attention and CA and NY get some because they are big and blue.

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 8:39 AM

What, nothing for catenary upgrades on the NEC?

Dave

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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 9:24 AM

 

Your guess is as good as anyone's.  Ruefully, at the end of the day, the decision regarding the spend of the $8 billion will be driven by unfathomable political variables as opposed to market demand forces. 

In addition to the $8 billion earmarked for high speed rail, whatever that means, the President's budget includes another $5 billion for it.  This is on top of an extra $1.3 billion for Amtrak.  But this is just the down payment.  If high speed rail is built out as proposed by its proponents, it will cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars.  As pointed out in a recent GAO report, it is unlikely that it will generate enough fare box revenues to cover the cost.

If the investment in passenger rail, irrespective of the speed, was driven by market forces, which is how a business would treat the issue, the proponents would perform a needs and risk analysis to determine which project had the greatest potential viability.  The $8 billion would be put in the project with the best potential return. 

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 9:40 AM

Look everyone.  Sam & I agree on something.  The money will be alocated based on who's home political district is involved, rather than where it will do the most good.

Dave

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Posted by oltmannd on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 9:50 AM

No. The $8B excludes Amtrak's budget.  It's for work that Amtrak would have an opportunity to bid on or participate in, however.

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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 12:42 PM

oltmannd

No. The $8B excludes Amtrak's budget.  It's for work that Amtrak would have an opportunity to bid on or participate in, however.

I did not intend to imply that the extra money designated for Amtrak ($1.3 billion) was embedded in the $8 billion that has been authorized for high speed rail.  Likewise, I did not intend to suggest that the $5 billion in the President's proposed budget has been authorized.

If the incremental dollars for Amtrak plus the authorized dollars for high speed rail and the proposed dollars in the President's budget are summed, the incremental spend is $14.3 billion, excluding any DOT spends for commuter and light rail.

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Posted by diningcar on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 3:24 PM

Sam1

 

Your guess is as good as anyone's.  Ruefully, at the end of the day, the decision regarding the spend of the $8 billion will be driven by unfathomable political variables as opposed to market demand forces. 

In addition to the $8 billion earmarked for high speed rail, whatever that means, the President's budget includes another $5 billion for it.  This is on top of an extra $1.3 billion for Amtrak.  But this is just the down payment.  If high speed rail is built out as proposed by its proponents, it will cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars.  As pointed out in a recent GAO report, it his highly unlikely that it will even generate enough fare box revenues to cover the cost.

If the investment in passenger rail, irrespective of the speed, was driven by market forces, which is how a business would treat the issue, the proponents would perform a needs and risk analysis to determine which project had the greatest potential viability.  The $8 billion would be put in project with the best potential return. 

Sam has it right. With the politicians,' bananas ' and 'nimby's' to deal with this could make the infamous Boston tunnel fiasco look like a flea market bargain.
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Posted by cbq9911a on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 4:43 PM

oltmannd

...and the $8B goes to...

http://www.trains.com/trn/default.aspx?c=a&id=4914

What's your best guess where LaHood will decide where the $8B goes?  Winner gets the usual cat-calls and jeers.

Here's my guess:

1.5B to California for whatever they want it for

1.5B to Ilinios for Chicago to St.Louis plus their piece of Chicago-Detriot and Chicago-Milwaukee

1.0B to Ohio for CCC corridor

2.0B to VA and NC for DC to Charlotte

0.5B to Wisc for Chicago-Milw

1.0B to Michigan for Chicago-Det

0.5B to NY for Albany-Buffalo improvments

I think any solid "red" state gets points off.  States hard hit by auto downturn get extra attention (MI and OH).  "Swing states" (VA and OH) get bounus points.  States with the most solid and active plans get bonus points (WI and NC).  IL gets "favorite son x 2" attention and CA and NY get some because they are big and blue.

 

$ 4 billion to radial routes from Chicago (Chi-Stl, Chi-Green Bay, Chi-Det,  Chi-Cincy).

$ 1.5 billion to California.

$ 500 million to New York for Albany - Buffalo.

$ 2 billion TBD.

A couple of long shots:

Detroit - Cleveland: Gives you HSR over most of the Chicago - New York route.

Los Angeles - Las Vegas: The market already exists.

DC - Richmond - Norfolk: Southern extension of the NE corridor.  Turn the old RF&P into a Virginia version of the Burlington Chicago-Aurora sub.

Chicago O'Hare - Chicago Union Station - Chicago Midway (with appropriate connections): Very expensive, but puts the stations where the traffic is.  Also, lots of boodle for Richie Daley.

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 7:20 PM
Phoebe Vet

What, nothing for catenary upgrades on the NEC?

Phoebe V:  After some study of the stimulus package and what AMTRK is going to spend money on. (Transmission lines, transformers, rotary converters, switch gear, rebuilt substations, 50 or more new Electric motors, signal power backups, interlockings, and other ROW upgrades) It appears that it will take about 18 months to get enough additional power available to the CAT to justify CAT upgrades. CAT upgrades mean faster speeds and a higher power drain. Maybe we will see in the next (?) round of AMTRAK investment the necessary CAT upgrades.

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, June 5, 2009 7:17 AM

oltmannd

Here's my guess:

1.5B to California for whatever they want it for

1.5B to Ilinios for Chicago to St.Louis plus their piece of Chicago-Detriot and Chicago-Milwaukee

1.0B to Ohio for CCC corridor

2.0B to VA and NC for DC to Charlotte

0.5B to Wisc for Chicago-Milw

1.0B to Michigan for Chicago-Det

0.5B to NY for Albany-Buffalo improvments

http://www.trains.com/trn/default.aspx?c=a&id=5146

Do I get any points for stating the obvious?Wink

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Posted by Railway Man on Friday, June 5, 2009 9:59 AM
  • Only 20% can be spent within one state.  Max $1.6 billion.
  • The state must have its environmental process well under way or completed.
  • The state must have agreements with the Class 1s if it intends to acquire right-of-way or trackage rights, either in place or well under way.
  • The state must have all its intergovernmental agreements completed, for construction, operation, ownership, liability, etc.  Multi-state systems multiply times ten the number and complexity of agreements that are required.

That may rule out some of these.

RWM

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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Friday, June 5, 2009 10:10 AM

 

VA and NC for DC to Charlotte meets all those criteria.

 

Dave

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, June 5, 2009 10:21 AM

Sam1 is starting to sound a lot like Gov. Quinn of Illinois, who seems to believe that, in order to get good government, we need to get the politics out of politics.  The political process is ALWAYS going to be involved in government spending, it's the price we pay for living in a republic.  One man's essential program is another man's pork.

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, June 5, 2009 11:07 AM

Railway Man
  • Only 20% can be spent within one state.  Max $1.6 billion.
  • The state must have its environmental process well under way or completed.  That rules out several of these.
  • The state must have agreements with the Class 1s if it intends to acquire right-of-way or trackage rights.
  • The state must have all its intergovernmental agreements completed.  Multi-state systems multiply the number and complexity of agreements times ten.

That rules out a bunch of these.

RWM

I was only, ahem, bragging about the ones in bold.  The article mentioned those 3 at $3.4M.  I would think that the Chicago - StL and Chicago - Milw would be least troublesome given their recent history and state involvment.  Chicago - Detroit, I would think, would have issues getting Indiana to play along.  But, on the other hand, NS would like nothing more than to see another track or two plopped down along side the Chicago Line to Porter and the old Michigan Central has been looking for a purpose for quite a while. 

Since all of these are all along existing ROW, I would imagine you'd only need a FONSI not a full-blown EIS to satisfy the environmental requirements.  They're not so hard to do, by comparison.

I would agree with Phoebe Vet on the NC/VA plan. It seems to fit all the criteria. 

What makes me chuckle is the spate of news article lately where various politicians say, "Money for High Speed Rail?  We gotta get us some of that!", and they they suggest some wild plan.

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Posted by Railway Man on Friday, June 5, 2009 11:11 AM

I  think there will be no choice but to do a programmatic EIS for each high-speed rail line.

I think it will be very tough to fund significant HSR in Illinois and CREATE, all at the same time.

RWM

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Friday, June 5, 2009 11:43 AM

cbq9911a

Los Angeles - Las Vegas: The market already exists.

There MIGHT be a market for a true Los Angeles - Las Vegas route.  All you have to do is pry a bunch of car-addicted Californians out from behind the wheel...Laugh

HOWEVER, the present grand scheme calls for Las Vegas - Victorville.Confused

If a Californian has driven across the LA basin and climbed Cajon Pass, is he likely to stop at a park-and-ride and take a train to Sin City?Thumbs Down  Or is he more likely to continue up I-15 on his own rubber wheels and have the use of his own car when he visits the outlying casinos?Thumbs Up

IMHO, as a resident of Clark County, NV, I don't see any huge groundswell of support for HSR, or any other kind of rail, from here to nowhere in particular.  As one of our local newscasters put it, "Who wants to go to Victorville?"Dunce

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, June 5, 2009 12:40 PM

Railway Man

I  think there will be no choice but to do a programmatic EIS for each high-speed rail line.

RWM

Wow.  That'll add a year or two to construction, no?

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Posted by Railway Man on Friday, June 5, 2009 1:05 PM

oltmannd

Railway Man

I  think there will be no choice but to do a programmatic EIS for each high-speed rail line.

RWM

Wow.  That'll add a year or two to construction, no?

 

Yeah.  I love NEPA.  Not.

RWM

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, June 5, 2009 1:38 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

Sam1 is starting to sound a lot like Gov. Quinn of Illinois, who seems to believe that, in order to get good government, we need to get the politics out of politics.  The political process is ALWAYS going to be involved in government spending, it's the price we pay for living in a republic.  One man's essential program is another man's pork.

Politics is present in nearly every human activity including those of private market players.  If the players in a competitive market make decisions for mostly political reasons, as opposed to market driven variables, they will be out of business.  On the other hand, politicians don't have to worry about market restraints as long as they can turn on the tax faucet. 

I don't have a problem with government facilitating the development of transport infrastructure as long as there is a reasonable probability of recovering the cost through user fees.  I do, however, have a problem with the government operating a commercial enterprise, e.g. passenger rail, barge lines, etc., that have little of hope recovering their operating expenses and paying their share of the capital costs.

Amtrak is a prime example of a government enterprise that has cost American taxpayers more than $25 billion since its inception.  Outside of the NEC, it has not come close to covering its operating expenses.  And it has never covered the capital costs associated with its owned facilities.  It carries approximately four per cent of the nation's commercial intercity travelers and an even smaller percentage of all intercity travelers. 

Amtrak was formed for political reasons and it exists for political reasons, which is a bad way to allocate scarce economic resources.  

 

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Posted by Railway Man on Friday, June 5, 2009 3:07 PM

Possibly we have peeled the onion to its final layer.  Is Amtrak a "commercial enterprise"?   Would the majority of American voters so characterize it?  Given that the majority of voters and their elected/appointed representatives that I deal day-to-day have the belief that freight railroading is a social enterprise, I wonder.

RWM

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, June 6, 2009 11:04 AM

Railway Man
Given that the majority of voters and their elected/appointed representatives that I deal day-to-day have the belief that freight railroading is a social enterprise, I wonder.

How true!!!   Once the building of HSR is started all the political entities will want to be on the bandwagon and implement HSR on the backs of freight RRs.. Just listening to our elected reps makes me think that RWM is right about the political belief that freight RRs are a social enterprise but they are not. Because of the ROW and land awards of 150 years ago that will be thrown up alot. That's why the RRs should put forth more advertising suggesting otherwise. 

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Posted by passengerfan on Sunday, June 7, 2009 8:21 AM

Politically California is in great shape with the speaker of the house and two senior Senators. And all three are backing California's HSR proposal. Now if only they can settle the dispute with one or two bay area communities we might actually break ground on this important project.

It is my understanding as late as friday that if Palo Alto continues with there Nimby problems that the HSR project will be built first in the valley and that the Sacramento leg may be built first. This will provide HSR between Sacramento and Bakersfield initially and then on to Los Angeles and Anahiem. This will leave the San Francisco to Modesto up in the air until such time as the Palo Alto and a couple of other cities get on board. 

It is my understanding they are even having new disputes over the San Francisco terminal now that will also have to be resolved. This deals with the size being to small to handle increased commuter traffic projected growth and the HSR at the same time. This could turn out to be the major stumbling block that prevents HSR directly to San Francisco and instead the east bay communities will reap the rewards.

Al - in - Stockton 

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Posted by henry6 on Sunday, June 7, 2009 8:50 AM

Sam1
.

Amtrak is a prime example of a government enterprise that has cost American taxpayers more than $25 billion since its inception.  Outside of the NEC, it has not come close to covering its operating expenses.  And it has never covered the capital costs associated with its owned facilities.  It carries approximately four per cent of the nation's commercial intercity travelers and an even smaller percentage of all intercity travelers. 

Amtrak was formed for political reasons and it exists for political reasons, which is a bad way to allocate scarce economic resources.  

 

So Sam, what's your take on Conrail?  The government took several bankrupt companies, forced them into a government owned and operated railroad.  Later the railroad was sold on the stock market and became a private company and all hail it as a success. (Off topicQuestion can the same happen for Chrysler and GM?).  Was this socialism?  Was this capitalism?  Was this right?  Was this successful?  Was this good for railroads or shippers or stockholders or taxpayers?  And more to the point, should it have been done?

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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, June 7, 2009 9:06 AM

Railway Man

Possibly we have peeled the onion to its final layer.  Is Amtrak a "commercial enterprise"?   Would the majority of American voters so characterize it?  Given that the majority of voters and their elected/appointed representatives that I deal day-to-day have the belief that freight railroading is a social enterprise, I wonder.

RWM

If it looks like a commercial enterprise, walks like a commercial enterprise, and quacks like a commercial enterprise, as is the case for Amtrak, it is probably a commercial enterprise, albeit it one that is run by the federal government.

No transportation economist or business person would argue that an airline, intercity bus company, trucker, etc. is not a commercial enterprise.  Airlines, intercity bus companies, and Amtrak do the same thing.  They rent space on their vehicles to transport fare paying passengers.  All of them have social as well as economic value.

Amtrak is different from the airlines and intercity bus companies.  It cannot make it on its own, so it is propped up by the federal government to the tune of more than $1.4 billion per year. 

Surveys have shown that a significant percentage of Americans, as well as many of their elected representatives, like passenger trains, even though less than five per cent use them.  I wonder if they understand the economics of passenger trains, i.e. who really pays for them. 

I suspect that most of the surveys that have been conducted to determine the public's interest in passenger trains were telephone interviews.  They are notorious for generating superficial results. 

NARP quotes surveys frequently to support the expansion of passenger rail.  I asked NARP for the methodology use by the survey administrators.  I am still waiting for an answer.  

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Posted by creepycrank on Sunday, June 7, 2009 9:23 AM
I think that people answering surveys, like myself, like the idea of rail transit to get everybody off the highway so that I can have it for myself.
Revision 1: Adds this new piece Revision 2: Improves it Revision 3: Makes it just right Revision 4: Removes it.
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Posted by schlimm on Sunday, June 7, 2009 10:41 AM

1.  Clearly using a political process" does not necessarily mean that the routes selected will be foolish pork.  The routes suggested by various authors largely are in areas with fairly dense populations and are short to medium in length, thus meeting important criteria.

2.  Naturally railroads are a social enterprise.  ROW grants were not a fantasy, but only an early example in a long history of government involvement in private enterprise for the greater public good.

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Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, June 7, 2009 12:30 PM

Sam1

Railway Man

Possibly we have peeled the onion to its final layer.  Is Amtrak a "commercial enterprise"?   Would the majority of American voters so characterize it?  Given that the majority of voters and their elected/appointed representatives that I deal day-to-day have the belief that freight railroading is a social enterprise, I wonder.

RWM

If it looks like a commercial enterprise, walks like a commercial enterprise, and quacks like a commercial enterprise, as is the case for Amtrak, it is probably a commercial enterprise, albeit it one that is run by the federal government.

No transportation economist or business person would argue that an airline, intercity bus company, trucker, etc. is not a commercial enterprise.  Airlines, intercity bus companies, and Amtrak do the same thing.  They rent space on their vehicles to transport fare paying passengers.  All of them have social as well as economic value.

Amtrak is different from the airlines and intercity bus companies.  It cannot make it on its own, so it is propped up by the federal government to the tune of more than $1.4 billion per year. 

Surveys have shown that a significant percentage of Americans, as well as many of their elected representatives, like passenger trains, even though less than five per cent use them.  I wonder if they understand the economics of passenger trains, i.e. who really pays for them. 

I suspect that most of the surveys that have been conducted to determine the public's interest in passenger trains were telephone interviews.  They are notorious for generating superficial results. 

NARP quotes surveys frequently to support the expansion of passenger rail.  I asked NARP for the methodology use by the survey administrators.  I am still waiting for an answer.  

 

Let me preface this reply by stating I am not the person who would want or needs to disagree with you, and whether I expect to convince you of anything or I fear that you might convince me of anything is not a worry of mine.

I think we're talking in different frames.  I think you're looking at the subject from a scrupulous point of view, and I am looking it at from my point of view of my experience from dealing with the public and their representatives about passenger rail on a daily basis.  My lessons-learned from the public is that they do not view Amtrak as a commercial enterprise even if on paper or in law or in theory or in academic circles it might in fact be one.  A substantial majority of the public I deal with sees Amtrak as a social enterprise just like the public school system.  I don't see a majority of the public even giving two figs about whether all of this is paid for strictly with user fees or out of the general tax revenue.  Similarly, the public by and large (and many in the state and local governments) see freight railroading as at least a quasi-social enterprise., which means that they think the freight rail system can just be repurposed however they wish to support their HSR whims, and whatever this costs, so what.  I think social perceptions trump law, academic definitions, and theory 100% of the time. I think you would like to instruct the public that they are wrong, and I wish you Godspeed because I have had no success in that field.

I'm not an advocate for or against HSR.  I have no dog in the hunt.  I make some of my living from it, but if it went away tomorrow I'm not worried I couldn't find something else just as interesting and remunerative to do with my rail career. I'm participating in this forum mostly for personal entertainment, and in the hope that sharing my experience might be useful to someone.  I'm an incurable optimist.

RWM

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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, June 7, 2009 1:35 PM

It is entertainment for me too.  I enjoy the give and take.  In my mind, at least, I win a few; I lose a few.  At the end of the day, my cat is not in this hunt; in fact, she is not in any hunt.  We are retired. 

I have never had the power to sway public opinion and, therefore, have not attempted to do so.  I have, however, shared my views regarding Amtrak and competitive markets with my elected representatives.  I have had a little success in doing so; one of my representatives tried to get the Sunset Limited discontinued.  He failed, but he got more votes than I suspect the opposition liked.

We can argue the merits of high speed rail or anything else until the cows come home.  It is not likely to have an impact on the public.  But what will get the public's attention are price points, i.e. what they pay at the ticket window to use high speed rail or any other transport option.  This is why I would eliminate all transport subsidies, thereby pricing the options at their true cost, and let the winners bubble to the surface.  Don't worry!  It won't happen.  Unless the U.S. debt burden becomes unmanageable!  That'll get a lot of attention.

I spent most of my working life in the electric utility industry.  For decades we told our customers that they needed to conserve electric energy.  It fell on deaf ears until the Arab Oil Embargo, along with several other variables, sent the price of electric energy northward.  Amazingly, we had no trouble getting our customers to sign on for a variety of conservation measures.  Price did the trick. 

 

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Posted by henry6 on Sunday, June 7, 2009 1:41 PM

Sam1

If it looks like a commercial enterprise, walks like a commercial enterprise, and quacks like a commercial enterprise, as is the case for Amtrak, it is probably a commercial enterprise, albeit it one that is run by the federal government.

No transportation economist or business person would argue that an airline, intercity bus company, trucker, etc. is not a commercial enterprise......Amtrak is different from the airlines and intercity bus companies.  It cannot make it on its own, so it is propped up by the federal government to the tune of more than $1.4 billion per year. 

Surveys have shown that a significant percentage of Americans, as well as many of their elected representatives, like passenger trains, even though less than five per cent use them.  I wonder if they understand the economics of passenger trains, i.e. who really pays for them. 

Ok Sam. Amtrak is a commercial enterprise just like buses, trucks and airlines but it is owned and operated by the Federal government. as you point out.  But that's not the only difference.  Buses, trucks, and planes are private enterprise using public highways and air space..  Amtrak owns little of its fixed plant and relies laragely on private business (railroads) for a majority of the track and traffic slots.  Governement is expected to do whatever private bus, truck and airline companies need done. Private business is not obligated to do whatever Amtrak needs done. 

As for the $1.4billion you attribute to Amtrak getting from the Feds. Compare all Amtrak has recieved from the Feds from its inception and it does not add up to what either highway or airlines get in one year; its pocket change by comparison.

So the answer is, like I and others have said before: government has to decide what to do with Amtrak, run it or get rid of it.  Dripping pennies into the kettle as has bee done has not produced a passenger rail system but rather a decrepit football for politicians to punt, pass, and kick like any kid with a toy they are not sure of wanting.

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Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, June 7, 2009 4:24 PM

Sam1

I spent most of my working life in the electric utility industry.  For decades we told our customers that they needed to conserve electric energy.  It fell on deaf ears until the Arab Oil Embargo, along with several other variables, sent the price of electric energy northward.  Amazingly, we had no trouble getting our customers to sign on for a variety of conservation measures.  Price did the trick. 

 

Funny how that works, isn't it! 

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