What About Expansion of Intercity Trains? January 21st, 1999
Gary Anderson of Marshfield, Wisconsin writes:
“I attended the Wisconsin ARP meeting [October 31] at which Mr. Donavan Pepper of Amtrak Intercity SBU was a speaker. During the Q & A session I asked him if there were any discussions, proposals or plans at Intercity to start up the Superliner production line. The answer was NO. He said Intercity does expect to get some equipment from the NEC and the West as they put new train sets into operation on the corridors.
“I also asked Mr. Pepper if Intercity had any plans for route expansion. Again the answer was NO, but that there was a comprehensive study being conducted. When advised that I had seen information on the internet about a new route in Oklahoma, he apologized for neglecting to mention that and emphasized that this new service largely was a result of funding which the State of Oklahoma was providing…
“So, as many of us had already deduced from Amtrak’s business plan, there doesn’t appear to be any emphasis on, or even interest in, expanding the national system. Corridors seems to be the current buzz word at Amtrak.”
Amtrak names Warrington, CEO January 21st, 1999
see also: “Warrington Named Amtrak President” Washington Post, 22 December 1998; Page A21
On 21 December 1998, the Amtrak Board named George Warrington, former head of the Northeast Corridor, as Amtrak’s new CEO.
Warrington’s outlook is upbeat; in accepting the position, Warrington said that 1998′s improved performance bodes well for a thriving Amtrak.
He was referring to the recent annoucement that, in Fiscal Year 1998, Amtrak’s ridership rose 4.5%, the biggest increase in a decade; and that passenger revenue topped the $1 billion mark for the first time.
The Associated Press quoted Warrington: “We can no longer exist only with a survivor mentality, focused on cost-cutting and being apologists for mediocrity. Instead, our future depends upon growth – identifying and attracting new customers.”
Yet critics wonder how much can be accomplished, especially in light of the recently released Business Plan. Amtrak must be self-sufficient by 2003.
The Amtrak Reform Council, a separate body, is already considering restructuring plans should Amtrak fail to meet its financial goals. Its acting chairman, Paul Weyrich, said Amtrak’s finances do show “positive signs.”
CEO candidate Andy Selden wrote to the All-Aboard e-mail list, “Like all supporters of passenger rail service, I wish Mr. Warrington wellâ€¦ But I think it would be wise for all rail advocates, including especially those who opposed my own candidacy, to ponder the implications of the fact that Mr. Warrington’s strategic plan to save Amtrak from oblivion (which I have read) bets the survival of the company on a plan that (1) has never worked anywhere in the world; (2) has failed repeatedly in the United States; and, (3) treats the national network of interegional long distance trains as a costly burden and obstacle to the achievement of financial self-sufficiency. In the entire strategic plan, except for a single passing reference to the potential importance of the growth of express business in the context of dismissing the long hauls as hopeless losers, there is not one sentence about the long haul trains or their role in the future of Amtrak.
“When I interviewed with the Board, I made clear my view that the Warrington plan was doomed to failure, and that if what the Board was seeking was simply a CEO to carry out that plan, I would not be interested in the job. The long delay in offering Mr. Warrington this position on a full-time basis suggests that the Board may have had some second thoughts itself. Certainly the parallel conclusion expressed by the DOT Inspector General cannot give much comfort.
“In my analysis and that of my colleagues, Amtrak cannot achieve financial breakeven, including the infrastructure costs of the NEC, until it achieves a level of output measured by revenue passenger miles of approximately three times its current level. Increases of that scale cannot be achieved in the NEC or in any combination of short corridors anywhere in North America. Even in the wildly improbable event that the semi-high speed effort in the NEC achieves exactly what its advocates predict for it, it will still leave Amtrak with more than $100 million a year in unrecovered infrastructure and administrative costs in the northeast. Any of us is free to predict what Congress will do three years hence when and if that is the position in which Amtrak finds itself.”
Road building a dead end for congestion January 21st, 1999
“Road building a dead end for congestion” — that was the headline in the San Jose Mercury News on November 14. A report by the Texas Transportation Institute says that Silicon Valley would need to add 84 miles of freeways every year just to keep traffic jams from getting worse. The report concludes that adding more highways won’t ease gridlock and that a national approach is needed to ease the country’s worsening traffic.
In the study’s traffic analysis, “Los Angeles again took dubious honors for the 16th straight year as the region with the worst traffic…”
“If you want to add lanes and add lanes, that’s like loosening your belt to cure obesity,” said James Corless of the Surface Transportation Policy Project in San Francisco. “And if you really want to look at the end of that road, it’s called Los Angeles.” (Read the The Texas Transportation Institute report) In response, the Surface Transportation Policy Project issued an analysis of the TTI data that shows that roadbuilding is an ineffective congestion relief strategy. The STPP study compares metro areas that have added extensive new road capacity with those that have not, and finds no difference between the two groups in the rise in traffic congestion.
Describing STPP’s findings on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Roy Kienitz, Executive Director of STPP, said, “We looked at the cities that added a lot of highway capacity and those that did not, and the only difference between the two was that those in the first group spent a lot of money.”
TALGO Demonstration, LA-Las Vegas Service Both Delayed January 21st, 1999
According to the TRAINS Newswire, “Amtrak West, which has been diligently working toward a daily Los Angeles-Las Vegas Talgo service that originally was projected to start in February 1999, now is aiming at a November 1999 startup.”
All-Aboard correspondent Steve Grande of California notes, “There is a strong possibility that the Talgo set that was built for the Las Vegas run will be used on the new Bakersfield – Sacramento train on the San Joaquin route.”
In any case, due to a variety of delays in procuring the lightweight TALGO trains and arranging for their Arizona tour, it appears that a planned January demonstration in Phoenix and Tucson is on hold.
Phoenix West Line
A special train, apparently carrying Union Pacific Chairman Dick Davidson among others, passed through Phoenix and over the Phoenix West Line on November 14-15. There have been numerous reports of maintenance work along the line in the past few months. No word yet what all this might mean for the future of this vital rail link.
Light-rail plan revived for Mesa-Glendale route January 14th, 1999
By Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic 14 January 1999.
QUOTE: “…plans are chugging along on a 35-mile light rail network that would connect Glendale and Metrocenter with downtown Mesa, passing through central Phoenix. The rail system would run mostly along existing roads, at street level. The first link could be operating by 2004…”