First Increase in Arizona Intercity Rail Service In Decades February 21st, 1998
On February 8th, Amtrak will begin the fourth weekly Texas Eagle, with through service from Los Angeles to Chicago via Yuma, Tucson, and San Antonio. The inaugural train, which leaves Chicago on the 6th, will carry two “VIP sleepers” in addition to an already lengthened consist. Rail passenger supporters from throughout the Midwest have purchased much of the available space on this train.
ARPA members are encouraged to meet this train and the many rail advocates it will carry as it passes through Benson and Tucson the evening of the 8th, and through Yuma the following morning.
The fourth Eagle marks the first increase in intercity passenger rail frequency in Arizona since before the start of Amtrak in 1971. With the Grand Canyon Railway, the Verde Canyon, and the San Pedro & Southwestern carrying tourists within our State, upcoming extensions to the Old Pueblo Trolley in Tucson, the possibility of a fifth Eagle later this year, the prospects of Tucson-Phoenix high-speed rail, and ongoing studies of regional and light rail in metropolitan Phoenix, we are in the midst of a renaissance of Arizona Rail.
[The fourth frequency only lasted a year or two before being withdrawn. -- Ed.]
Big Story, Little Press? February 21st, 1998
The repeal of the Amtrak monopoly strangely continues to generate little press. Just like lifting of the long-distance telephone monopoly, or deregulation of the airline and freight railroads, repealing the Amtrak monopoly changes everything. While there other laws might seem to provide some disincentives, no potential operator need now seek Amtrak’s approval before initiating new rail services.
Already the Florida Fun Train operates regular intercity passenger rail service in that state; its operator, First American Railways Inc., who also operates the Durango & Silverton, has issued stock as capital to implement its business plan, which calls for further passenger rail operations.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Railway Service Corp., under the name Diamond Railway, wants to take over Amtrak’s Keystone Harrisburg-Philadelphia service, with hourly trains and food service. Diamond would utilize the Harrisburg line’s electrification instead of the diesel trains Amtrak now runs, and restore service to downtown Philadelphia. After the downtown terminus was dropped in the late 1980s, ridership dropped sharply. According to Scott Spencer, “What we’ve offered is a way to cut their operating costsâ€¦ We’re trying to create a win-win situation for Amtrak.”
I welcome an expanded role for private enterprise in our nations’ passenger rail future.