Populist movements don't build themselves ...

... It doesn't matter what the "horse race" outcome of the campaign is, if we fight the campaign. Fighting it, we learn how to fight. Learning how to fight political battles, we become citizens again. Becoming citizens again, we reclaim the Republic that lies dormant beneath the bread and circuses of modern American society.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Train: Putting Steel into the Amtrak Long Distance Backbone

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Express HSR is sexy. Indeed, its sexy enough that when Big Oil propagandizes against it, they have to paint it as too expensive or something that America is too incompetent to handle, since the idea of sitting in an actually comfortable rail seat, watching a movie on a laptop or snacking on a sandwich while flying along at two to three times highway speeds, "just like in France or Japan or Spain", that's too appealing to convince a big majority of people that it would be anything but nice to have. So they have to con people into thinking of it as an unrealistic pipe dream that the US can do what Spain has been doing for a decade, France for three decades, and Japan for half a century.

Rapid Rail is not as sexy as Express HSR, but at least it is as fast as driving for most drivers on most corridors, and appreciably faster than driving on the corridor with the "best bones", like either Cleveland / Columbus or Davenport / Des Moines / Iowa wold be at 110mph top passenger speed. And it is much cheaper than Express HSR, with lots of potential corridors that local residents will start lobbying for once the first of the Rapid Passenger Rail services come into service.

But conventional long haul rail? Surely plodding along at 50mph to as slow as 30mph on heavy freight rail corridors is an obsolete holdover from an earlier time?

Well, no. Conventional long haul rail has a 21st century role to play, if the United States should declare Economic Independence and start working to regain the economic freedom that we surrendered to the Big Oil and the oil exporting regions in the 70's and 80's.

And so, in this evening's Sunday Train, we look at the "PRIIA Section 210" plans that Amtrak has developed for the five weakest of its fifteen long distance corridors: the California Zephyr, the Capitol Limited, the Cardinal, the Sunset Limited, and the Texas Eagle.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm banned from DailyKos (for premature anti-Obamabotism) so I'll comment here.

The daily Sunset Limited plan is on ice indefinitely because Union Pacific is demanding half a billion dollars to allow it. Amtrak has agreed not to even suggest it again until 2014. On the upside, the Sunset Limited has been rescheduled for better connections with the Texas Eagle and the Coast Starlight.

The daily Cardinal plan has no proposed date, and may have trouble with getting CSX permissions as well. The Cardinal is also in big trouble due to the deteriorating state of the Buckingham Branch Railroad section. The Hoosier State is probably going to be cancelled outright in 2014 when PRIIA section 209 goes into effect.

The Pennsylvanian/Capitol Limited plan is apparently a go, with rumors being that it is approved and funded. The rescheduling of the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited is also apparently a go. Apparently the reschedule will happen sometime after September when CSX's tunnel undercutting program on the Capitol Limited route is finished. The timing of the start of Pennsylvanian/Capitol through cars is not clear, but with Viewliner deliveries delayed until at least March (due to minor and now-solved technical problems), and diners coming before sleepers, the through cars may start without a sleeper and have a sleeper added when one is ready.

Empire Corridor improvements, Keystone corridor improvements, ADA improvements to stations in Ohio, South-of-the-Lake corridor improvements near Chicago including Englewood Flyover, and even MBTA improvements from Worcester to Boston, should squeeze some running time out of the LSL, Capitol Limited, and Pennsylvanian, while the new Viewliners should help add some capacity and reliability. I hope that the "East Coast-Chicago services" start experiencing a true boom as they seem close to a tipping point.