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View Poll Results: Should the US build or improve it's HSR network?
Yes 249 89.57%
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Old June 12th, 2005, 03:20 PM   #61
samsonyuen
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June 12, 2005
Amtrak: Stuck in Its Tracks
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON — Amtrak, it turns out, may be too sick to kill.

The national passenger railroad has never managed to pay its own way, absorbing $29 billion in federal aid over its 34-year history. That has made it a perennial target for budget-cutters and fiscal conservatives, who say that what Congress cobbled together in 1971 from the fading passenger operations of the major freight railroads was not a phoenix but a Frankenstein.

Now, the Bush administration is talking about forcing Amtrak to reorganize itself in bankruptcy. It's a strategy that an ordinary transportation company might employ to address problems like Amtrak's high costs and crushing debt and pension obligations. Several major airlines have tried it in recent years, some more than once.

But for Amtrak, bankruptcy would be poison. It wasn't Amtrak's doing, but the bankruptcy law covering railroads would provide it with hardly any benefits at all. To start with, Amtrak could not renounce its labor contracts unless it liquidates itself. So there is little hope of reducing costs in bankruptcy except by shedding operations.

Doing that won't help much either: unionized workers would still be entitled to severance payments of up to five years' wages, which would probably have to be made up by the federal treasury. Last week, a House committee heard testimony on why Amtrak even loses money selling tuna sandwiches for $4.50. Amtrak may be the only restaurant chain where every busboy has a pension plan, and the railroad says it can't run trains without feeding the people who ride them.

And the most unprofitable Amtrak operations, the long-distance trains, are also the ones that, politically, the railroad cannot live without. In public, the railroad counts how many stations and distant cities those trains serve, but its internal calculus includes how many congressional districts they run through. (Its one profitable train, the Acela, has not run since April because of mechanical problems.)

Amtrak's pension problem has a twist as well. Airlines and other companies have revamped or dumped their pension plans in bankruptcy, but the system for railroad workers is a unique pay-as-you-go retirement fund that resembles Social Security in miniature.

Along with the midcareer employees who transferred to Amtrak when it was created came responsibility for payments to the railroad retirement system to provide their benefits. The freight railroads' fear of that pension burden falling back on them has given them some incentive to support Amtrak's existence.

They also prefer the Amtrak they know to Mr. Bush's concept of competing private passenger operations. "Amtrak is composed of people who know railroads," said Peggy Wilhide, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Railroads.

Amtrak's main asset is the Northeast Corridor, the tracks connecting Washington, New York and Boston. The administration has discussed putting it in the hands of an interstate compact of some kind but the corridor needs so much work that it would be hard to give it away.

Similarly, Mr. Bush wants to give the states control over the long-distance trains outside the corridor by making them pay the operating deficits. The states are not volunteering for the honor.

If Amtrak goes bankrupt anyway, Congress could always step in to rescue, but the railroad says that might fall foul of the constitutional requirement that bankruptcy laws be "uniform."

Even if bankruptcy is unattractive, insolvency remains a concern for some lenders, says Clifford Black, an Amtrak spokesman. That makes projects more difficult to finance.

Lenders and vendors would be reassured by an appropriation for Amtrak, which is included in the current House budget resolution but not in the Senate version.

In a bit of poetic justice, the fate of Amtrak, with its perennial problems keeping to a schedule, is in the hands of Congress, whose on-time record for budgets is even worse.
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Old July 22nd, 2005, 07:51 PM   #62
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Amtrak poised to restore Acela service on limited basis to Boston
Move comes 3 months after brake woes sidelined trains
By Keith Reed, Globe Staff | July 22, 2005

Amtrak plans to restore the beleaguered Acela Express service to Boston tomorrow, more than three months after the last high-speed train pulled out of South Station, but with a fraction of the trips it used to have.

The rail carrier will operate only one daily Acela round trip from Boston, compared with six round trips between New York and Washington since Amtrak began phasing in its flagship service two weeks ago. There were 14 daily round trips from Boston before all 20 Acela trains were sidelined April 15 after cracks were discovered in their brake discs.

The first Acela train will arrive in Boston tomorrow afternoon, with its first departure from South Station at 11 a.m. on Sunday. From Boston, Acela travels to New York and Washington.

Since fewer than half of its Acela fleet is back in operation, Amtrak needed to run the trains where most of its passengers are, said Marcie Golgoski, an Amtrak spokeswoman.

''Right now we're putting the equipment where the largest demand is and where we can best serve the most passengers," she said. ''I have been given no indication that the service we previously had won't be reinstated. We're just trying to get on our feet."

About 78,600 passengers rode Acela between Boston and New York in March, the most recent full month in which the trains ran. That's less than half the ridership than between New York and Washington, where 169,000 people rode Acela, according to Amtrak.

Yesterday some passengers waiting for trains at South Station hailed the return of the high-speed train. Taking Acela was a faster trip to New York than Amtrak's regional trains and was a more convenient option than taking a shuttle flight to LaGuardia Airport in Queens and then taking a cab to Manhattan, said Carla Portelli.

''It's three and a half hours from door to door," she said. ''That's a lot better than getting a cab, going up in the air, coming down and getting in another cab."

Other passengers, though, didn't miss Acela as much. Amtrak passenger Andrea Chace said Acela's speed advantage -- it goes from Boston to New York in about 25 fewer minutes than conventional trains -- was not enough to justify the premium fares that Amtrak charged for the service. A one-way fare to New York on Acela typically costs about $99. A one-way fare on a regional train to New York starts at $69.

''I'm not a big fan," of Acela, Chace said. ''If it was a legitimate time difference, then maybe I would care."

Of the 20 Acela trains, eight have been outfitted with new brake discs and six of those have been deployed for service. Two others are being kept aside to replace other trains in emergencies such as a breakdown or derailment, while five out of the six trains running are being used for New York to Washington runs. One train will cover the entire Boston to Washington line.

Acela had been out of commission since Amtrak found more than 300 cracks in Acela's brake discs. Knorr Brake Corp., the discs' maker, and Bombardier Transportation, which leads the consortium of Acela manufacturers, have yet to determine a cause for the cracks.

To fix the problem, the companies decided to replace the cracked discs with discs of a different design that are supposedly less prone to cracking.

That doesn't convince Julia Cox, a native New Yorker who was riding an Amtrak regional train home from Boston yesterday.

''I am skeptical about the brakes," she said. ''What's next?"
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Old December 5th, 2005, 04:18 AM   #63
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Florida HSR Version 2.0

Copy + Paste from SkyscraperPage Forum.

---

The oft discussed bullet train may be on the fast track to construction again.

Voters repealed an amendment last November that would have funded a rail system in the state. But Bay News 9 has learned the high speed rail could be coming to the state.

State Senator Jim Sebesta, a long-time supporter of the bullet train, said it could be built without a cent from taxpayers.

Traffic jams are nothing new to Floridians, and at a population of about 17 million and growing everyday, some state lawmakers say we need to find a better way to get around.

Sebesta said when voters repealed the high speed rail amendment they didn't say they didn't want a high speed rail in Florida, they said it was too expensive for Florida taxpayers.

So Sebesta's taken a detour. He's been negotiating with four international companies interested in building a high speed rail system in the state entirely with private investment dollars.

"If you had asked me a year ago, I'd have said we had a one in 10
Bullet Train
Link Click here for more stories about the history of trying to fund the high speed rail.
chance of doing it. Now it's more seven in 10," Sebesta said.

Sebesta said the project would be run much like privately-owned railroads. The first leg would start in the Tampa area, then travel east to Orlando and down the southeast coast to Miami. Eventually it would stretch up to Jacksonville and over to Tallahassee.

Sebesta said his long range goal would be to connect Florida to Atlanta.

"I'm not talking about some clunky 100-125 mile per hour train," he said. "I'm talking about a full-fledged bullet train, that would go 350 miles per hour."

Sebesta said he's hopeful the project is on the fast track because it doesn't involve much governmental red tape.

"They don't need the government's help, per se, because they're paying for it," he said.

Travelers, however, would have to pay to ride it.
Voters have repealed the bullet train in the past because they would have had to fund it.

Sebesta said he can't name the four companies he's talking with because negotiations are ongoing. He said there's a good chance a deal could be struck within 18 months.

It's estimated the high speed rail system will cost about $20 billion. According to a study done by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), there are some numbers which could positively affect the public.

Building the first segment from Tampa to Orlando would create about 7,000 new jobs, raise property values by $950 million and create about $8.5 million in sales among Florida businesses.

http://baynews9.com/content/36/2005/11/21/129809.html
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Old December 5th, 2005, 04:28 AM   #64
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That's good news.
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Old December 5th, 2005, 09:58 AM   #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Migman

"I'm not talking about some clunky 100-125 mile per hour train," he said. "I'm talking about a full-fledged bullet train, that would go 350 miles per hour."
I am sure he doesn't mean 350 miles per hour (=560 kilometers per hour), not even Maglev trains can go that fast. He must have meant 350 Kilometers per hour.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Migman
Travelers, however, would have to pay to ride it.
Duh !!


I hope the bullet trains get built, even though Florida doesn't need it.
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Old December 5th, 2005, 10:31 AM   #66
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Haha, local news always cracks me up.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:00 AM   #67
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Philadelphia to Chicago high-speed line

A high-speed line that would take four to five hours from Philadelphia to Chicago is a possibility and should be considered. The Acela from Boston to DC was a sucess, so there should be even greater sucess with a cross-country from Phila to Chicago.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:02 AM   #68
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That is a fantastic idea.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:12 AM   #69
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Why Philly-Chicago and not NYC-Chicago?
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:34 AM   #70
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great idea
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:56 AM   #71
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It would really be nice to see high speed rail in the US, and hopefully this idea may come true.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 05:56 AM   #72
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nomarandlee
Why Philly-Chicago and not NYC-Chicago?
Yeah just have part of the Acela branch off in Philly. You could get on in DC, NYC, or Boston, then go to Philly and from there go through Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and onto Chicago. Then it would branch into the north (onto Milwaukee, Twin Cities), and south (onto St. Louis, Kansas City). But we all know that will never happen. At least not any time soon. It would be really kick-ass though.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 06:27 AM   #73
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that would be coo, be probably wont happen unfortunately
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Old January 10th, 2006, 06:30 AM   #74
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Would be AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old January 10th, 2006, 08:36 AM   #75
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Not going to happen. The cost of flying and the time saved would make this uncompetitive.

I say spend the money developing Chicago as a midwestern hub and New York City as a North Eastern hub. And also to make the ACELA actually high speed!
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Old January 10th, 2006, 02:51 PM   #76
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It's actually one of the many plans. There are also plans for a High Speed rail from Bayarea to LA. At this moment the Acela is already as fast as a plane from NY to DC as you don't have to check in and all that stuff. It's also more comfortable and you can still use your cellphone and laptop onboard.

The main problem is the aged US railnetwork. It's not 'straight' enough to support the full speed. The Acela can't run on maximum speed as the NE-corridor is too bendy compaired to ICE or TGV tracks.

Here you can see the proposed sections for High Speed Rail (2001)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...signations.png

Last edited by LochNESS; January 10th, 2006 at 02:52 PM. Reason: Image to big
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Old January 10th, 2006, 03:53 PM   #77
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The only point I see for high-speed rail in the United States is for inter-city access to the airport. If you need to go further then catch a flight.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 08:23 PM   #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FM 2258
The only point I see for high-speed rail in the United States is for inter-city access to the airport. If you need to go further then catch a flight.
The 30-40 million megalopolis that is the North East would beg to differ. Especially those of us who travel frequently in between DC, NYC, and Boston.

California I see being a viable corridor as well.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 08:36 PM   #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FM 2258
The only point I see for high-speed rail in the United States is for inter-city access to the airport. If you need to go further then catch a flight.

Thats not a real bad point actually. For people to really use high speed rail beyond 500 miles as a reasonable alternative in the states I think high speed would have to push +200mph (at least close to half the speed of air travel for long distances). For this you might almost be better going to Maglev then high speed rail but neither is likely to happen.
Faster airport-downtown rail could be used in almost major U.S. cities though and is probably more feasable.
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Old January 10th, 2006, 11:19 PM   #80
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Yeah, it'd be cool, but I think it's more realistic to make them regional rather than interregional services.
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