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Old April 24th, 2006, 06:49 AM   #61
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Old April 24th, 2006, 06:49 AM   #62
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Putting Rail Back on Track

DLC | Blueprint Magazine | September 10, 2001
By Paul Weinstein Jr.


Thirty years ago, Congress and President Nixon created Amtrak as a way to save national passenger rail service in America. Ever since, Amtrak has struggled to hold together its network with minimal public investment, constant political interference from 535 congressional micromanagers, and an aging infrastructure that hinders improvements in service. But the system is still failing, and it's time for an overhaul.

The good news is that Amtrak succeeded in saving passenger rail in America. But the company's political survival skills have also become its greatest liability. Faced with an aging infrastructure of old cars, bumpy tracks, and rundown stations, Amtrak continues to run trains through as many states (and congressional districts) as possible, supporting a passenger rail system based on the economic and transportation needs of the 1940s -- and the politics of the 1980s and 1990s. If we are truly to have a state-of-the-art passenger rail system, we need to bid farewell to Amtrak and begin the process of modernizing our rail system in densely populated corridors.

Despite many inherent advantages, such as energy efficiency and cleanliness, intercity passenger rail continues to flounder. While some of the problems can be attributed to a relatively small national investment in rail infrastructure, an equal amount of the blame falls to how our nation, through Amtrak, manages our passenger rail network.

Amtrak has a host of problems. Its debt has tripled in the last few years, forcing it to propose mortgaging Penn Station in New York for $30 million. Unlike most airlines, Amtrak lacks a real-time computerized reservation system -- sometimes customers are told a train is booked even when seats are available. And most disturbing of all, since 1990 national rail ridership has remained nearly flat while airline and intercity bus riderships have grown significantly.

In addition, the long-distance trains -- 17 famous "limiteds" or sleepovers that train enthusiasts wax nostalgic about -- are money losers. The Cardinal route between Chicago and Washington, D.C., for instance, incurs $3.29 of cost for every dollar of earned revenue.

High-speed rail is a key to increasing ridership. Presently, the Acela route between Boston and Washington, D.C., is the only high-speed system in the nation. The train can reach a top speed of 150 mph, yet because of infrastructure that in some places is over 100 years old, it rarely runs that fast. The tunnels into Baltimore from the south, for instance, were dug in 1877. As a result, Acela only cuts the regular rail travel time between Washington and New York by about 15 minutes. To get the maximum performance out of Acela, the Northeast Corridor needs $20 billion in improvements over the next 25 years. The 15 miles of tunnels into Penn Station in New York alone need $900 million to meet modern safety requirements, according to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transpor-tation. Meanwhile, Amtrak has identified 11 new high-speed corridors in 33 states for future development. Some of these routes make sense -- Chicago to Detroit, for example -- while others that serve sparsely populated areas such as Mississippi seem to have been chosen for political reasons. (Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott is an enthusiastic supporter of Amtrak.)

Politics and the lack of capital have forced Amtrak to lower the definition of high-speed rail to about 95 mph. This is in contrast to the standard used in Europe and Japan, where only electric-powered trains traveling at an average speed of 125 mph are considered high-speed. While Amtrak has argued that train amenities will compensate for the lack of speed in terms of rider appeal, in the end speed counts when it comes to attracting substantial numbers of new passengers.

Despite Amtrak's problems, ridership is growing on short regional routes and commuter rail routes such as the highly populated Northeast Corridor, areas along the West Coast, and a few other regions. Ridership in the Northeast Corridor grew 5 percent in 2000 and is up 8 percent in 2001. At the same time, there has been a significant expansion of regional commuter rail systems, which are typically more than 15 miles long with stations more than three miles apart. Commuter rail ridership in 2000 grew by 5.2 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Communities ranging from Salt Lake City to Nashville are considering opening new commuter rail systems. And those already in existence, such as the Virginia Rail Express (VRE), have experienced an annual doubling (or more) of passenger levels in recent years. California, with a $4 billion rail plan, may spend more in the next five years on capital improvements than Amtrak spends for the entire country.

Yet Amtrak and Congress continue to prop up an overextended national rail network instead of focusing on regional high-speed corridors and commuter rail. One need only look to Europe to see the failure of this strategy. While some Americans fondly recall crisscrossing Europe by rail as college students, the reality is that the strength of the European rail system is its mesh of high-speed rail corridors through densely populated regions. A Parisian can take a three-hour train ride to Marseille for only $75, but he would probably avoid the 12-hour train journey to Rome and take a plane instead.

A trust fund for high-speed rail. Congress and the White House should follow the lead of countries such as Great Britain, New Zealand, Argentina, and Japan that are experimenting with new ways to manage their rail networks. Creating regional instead of national rail operators, privatizing, and separating rail operations from rail investment are some options to consider. But to meet America's needs, we must take radical action.

First, we should kill Amtrak and split its functions in half. Trains would be operated by a number of entities -- regional, government-sponsored corporations; state and local cooperatives; and, in some cases, private companies. A government corporation would control the remaining functions by managing a trust fund that would finance the modernization -- and regionalization - of our rail network. It would own the rail infrastructure: trains, tracks, and stations.

Like highways and airports, rail needs a trust fund to provide a regular source of capital investment. A rail trust fund (RTF) controlled by the government would make investments based in part on a formula and in part through a competitive process. Funds from the RTF could be made in the form of grants, loans, and bonding authority. Regional or commuter rail systems could be awarded additional capital based on the merit of the project they propose and the amount of matching state, local, and private investment. The non-federal share of the financing would have to reach at least 40 percent before a project could become eligible for financing.

Like the highway and airport trust funds, the RTF would be financed by a variety of user fees, including a minimal tax on all passenger commuter and regional rail tickets (not including transit); a transfer from the Highway Trust Fund of the portion of the gas tax paid by commercial freight and passenger rail systems; and higher fees on freight and commuter trains that operate on the rail tracks owned by the RTF.

To get modernization on to solid financial footing, Congress should appropriate an initial $6 billion to capitalize the RTF -- $2 billion each year over the next three years.

Regional rail corridors. The creation of America's new regional rail network could be modeled on the reform of the Japanese National Railroad (JNR), beginning in 1987. By the early 1980s, the highly regarded JNR had required annual operating subsidies in excess of the combined subsidies of all European railroads. It also carried a debt of $300 billion. In 1982 alone, JNR required an annual net subsidy of $6.3 billion. Yet after restructuring, management, and privatization improvements, government subsidies to JNR fell dramatically.

Similar to reforms in Japan and elsewhere, this new system would allow regional government-sponsored corporations, state and local operators, and private firms to compete for the operating rights for a regional or commuter rail corridor. State government consortia could also apply for contracts. Bidders would then compete to acquire the rights to the franchises or concessions that serve a particular route. Where the service can be expected to operate at a profit, the bidder offering the highest price would acquire the rights to the concession.

And like other countries, we should recognize that even the most highly traveled rail corridors sometimes need operating subsidies. However, the amount of subsidy available from the RTF would be capped, eliminating the operation of financially failing overnight trains.

Once the regional system is in place, the RTF would invest dollars to turn these networks into true high-speed rail systems. Tracks would be modernized and electrified, allowing for speeds of at least 125 mph. Where the tracks are not owned by the federal government -- almost everywhere outside of the Northeast Corridor -- the RTF would either build new tracks or receive equity for any improvements it makes in freight rail lines that improve freight rail transportation.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 09:00 AM   #63
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Old April 24th, 2006, 09:12 AM   #64
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Old April 24th, 2006, 09:26 AM   #65
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Old April 24th, 2006, 09:37 AM   #66
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MODS PLEASE CLOSE THE THREAD!!!! chicagoskyline is now using it as a "chicago commuter rail news update" thread!!!



PLEASE!!!
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Old April 24th, 2006, 11:53 AM   #67
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^
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChicagoSkyline
Which city is it? Provide some proofs that are only relating to commuter rail!
Tokyo and then Chicago
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Old April 24th, 2006, 05:20 PM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChicagoSkyline
^

Tokyo and then Chicago


1)Tokyo
2)London
3)several Japanese cities.
4)Paris
5)New York
6)Madrid
7)Berlin
8)Sydney
etc.

Chicago behind Tokyo? NOT EVEN CLOSE!


Last edited by DonQui; April 24th, 2006 at 05:33 PM.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 06:37 PM   #69
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What is Commuter Rail?

What is Regional Rail ?

What is MRT, Metro, or whatever you want to call it?


Take my city.

There is a very extensive "street-railway" system (fairly confidently, I would say the largest in the English-speaking world. There was only one serious competitor: Chicago!

We call them trams.

Melbourne has an interesting "suburban rail" system: as does our sister city Sydney.

Most of it is above ground, but in Sydney's case, there are long stretches which are not. In Melbourne's case, almost every train travels through 3 or 4 km of underground tunnel which has prompted the site Zen & The City Loop

In Sydney, double- decker trains run through tunnels beneath the city around a loop almost continuously ( 4 am thru noon till 2 am in the morning is the way I remember it). Is there anywhere else in the world where double-decker trains do this?
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Old April 24th, 2006, 06:50 PM   #70
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I don't think that the loop thing is necessarily and advantage.

I would prefer a system like the S-Bahn in German cities, the RER in Paris, or Cercanias in Madrid, where the doubledecker trains (well, Paris and Madrid I know have doubledeckers not sure about Germans) run in underground tunnels but go in more or less straight lines through the city center as opposed to looping around.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 06:57 PM   #71
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its exist german doubledecker trains
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Old April 24th, 2006, 06:58 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by HelloMoto163
its exist german doubledecker trains
Do they go in tunnels as well?

Here we have doubledeckers as well but you have to transfer to them as the tunnels are too low to accomodate them.

u_u
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Old April 24th, 2006, 11:26 PM   #73
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yardmaster
What is Commuter Rail?

What is Regional Rail ?

What is MRT, Metro, or whatever you want to call it?


Take my city.

There is a very extensive "street-railway" system (fairly confidently, I would say the largest in the English-speaking world. There was only one serious competitor: Chicago!

We call them trams.

Melbourne has an interesting "suburban rail" system: as does our sister city Sydney.

Most of it is above ground, but in Sydney's case, there are long stretches which are not. In Melbourne's case, almost every train travels through 3 or 4 km of underground tunnel which has prompted the site Zen & The City Loop

In Sydney, double- decker trains run through tunnels beneath the city around a loop almost continuously ( 4 am thru noon till 2 am in the morning is the way I remember it). Is there anywhere else in the world where double-decker trains do this?
Hey, it is also very nice to know that Melbourne also has some unique commuter rail system!
Yep, here in Chicago, our metro rail just as important as the commuter rail due to both the greater needs in the city and in the suburbs! There is a greater need right now using our commuter rail system due to our suburban sprawl, the high price gas and our limited highway bottleneck during the rush hours. Even though America is consider car and truck driven nation, but rail has never been overlook here in Chicago due to our root in railroad infrastrcutures, extensive freight rail network and the great alternatives by commuter rail! Majority of big city in US just doesn't have the luxury of have the commuter rail as an alternative one of them that I can think of is Houston! As more of our suburban commuters realized that by train can cut down lots of commuting time and while save lots of money, you can see our Metra ridership double or triple within next few years, if the Metra decided to add more Trains, tracks, improve their existing technologies for efficiency. With our suburban cities are getting more populas and bigger, I would say the Metra rail systems very likely to change to compensate the suburb.

Last edited by ChicagoSkyline; April 24th, 2006 at 11:35 PM.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 11:52 PM   #74
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChicagoSkyline
Hey, it is also very nice to know that Melbourne also has some unique commuter rail system!
Yep, here in Chicago, our metro rail just as important as the commuter rail due to both the greater needs in the city and in the suburbs! There is a greater need right now using our commuter rail system due to our suburban sprawl, the high price gas and our limited highway bottleneck during the rush hours. Even though America is consider car and truck driven nation, but rail has never been overlook here in Chicago due to our root in railroad infrastrcutures, extensive freight rail network and the great alternatives by commuter rail! Majority of big city in US just doesn't have the luxury of have the commuter rail as an alternative one of them that I can think of is Houston! As more of our suburban commuters realized that by train can cut down lots of commuting time and while save lots of money, you can see our Metra ridership double or triple within next few years, if the Metra decided to add more Trains, tracks, improve their existing technologies for efficiency. With our suburban cities are getting more populas and bigger, I would say the Metra rail systems very likely to change to compensate the suburb.
That's nice and all, but the low ridership, outdated equipment, and poor unelectrified infrastructure means that several cities have better commuter rail networks.

Good within the US when it comes to rail HARDLY carries any weight internationally.
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Old April 25th, 2006, 02:53 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by OettingerCroat
MODS PLEASE CLOSE THE THREAD!!!! chicagoskyline is now using it as a "chicago commuter rail news update" thread!!!



PLEASE!!!
Updates? Where?

I only see articles from many years ago...\\

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Old April 25th, 2006, 03:35 AM   #76
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That's nice and all, but the low ridership, outdated equipment, and poor unelectrified infrastructure means that several cities have better commuter rail networks.

Good within the US when it comes to rail HARDLY carries any weight internationally.
True!
When it comes to mass transit commuter networks, NYC and Chicago are the only two cities that can reprsent the US internationally!
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Old April 25th, 2006, 03:45 AM   #77
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Updates? Where?

I only see articles from many years ago...\\

lol even worse
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Old April 25th, 2006, 03:48 AM   #78
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Quote:
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Old April 25th, 2006, 03:58 AM   #79
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You guys need to stop !!!
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Old April 25th, 2006, 04:12 AM   #80
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1) Tokyo
2) Osaka
3) London
4) Paris
5) New York

After that, there are a number of cities that can compete.
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