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The Rise and Fall of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor
United Rail Passenger Alliance ^ | 16 & 18 August 2011 | Editors of “This Week at Amtrak”

Posted on 08/20/2011 8:38:40 AM PDT by Publius

In the Beginning

“While the mighty Pennsylvania boasted of having pushed its steel tentacles into some of the nation’s most populous cities, it could not make that claim with regard to New York City. Throughout the last years of the nineteenth century, the PRR struggled in vain to conquer the great natural barrier – the Hudson River – which lay between it and America’s largest metropolis.” – Michael Bezilla, Electric Traction on the Pennsylvania Railroad 1895-1968, Pennsylvania State University Press

To understand the United States, one must contemplate the challenges of those earliest days of the Republic. The two largest cities on the East Coast, New York and Philadelphia, were a six-day journey by horse and boat for the Founding Fathers. Yet as early as 1811, Colonel John Stevens, the father of American railroading, petitioned the New Jersey Legislature to charter a railroad between Trenton and New Brunswick. His request was denied. His sons would build the storied Camden & Amboy Railroad in 1834 from a ferry connection in Philadelphia to a boat dock on the Raritan River in South Amboy, New Jersey. The Philadelphia & Trenton Railroad was built and fully operational in 1835. The Camden & Amboy completed a branch between Trenton and New Brunswick in 1839. That same year, the New Jersey Railroad completed its line between Jersey City and a connection with the C&A at New Brunswick, and initiated through service from the New York City area to Philadelphia. A journey that had taken six days a quarter-century before could now be completed in a matter of hours.

A similar story can be told south of Philadelphia. In 1832, the New Castle & Frenchtown Railroad commenced operation in Delaware. After numerous charters and a few false starts, numerous smaller roads were consolidated into the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad in 1836. Through service between Philadelphia and Baltimore began in 1838. By 1851, it was possible to travel from New York to Washington, DC in 12 hours via a connection with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

Following the American Civil War, railroads began their transformation from local concerns to national institutions. By and large it was these ideals that were at the heart of the war itself. The Pennsylvania Railroad acquired control of the C&A, P&T and NJRR roads in 1871. After a battle for control with the B&O, the Pennsylvania Railroad gained control of the PW&B in 1881. As a result, the B&O would build its own line from Baltimore to Philadelphia.

What followed is a lesson in corporate overreach. There had been a proposal in the 1860s to build a “National Air Line” railroad between New York and Washington. It was supported by the then-upstart PRR, and opposed by the established B&O, which already had a line between Baltimore and Washington. After the B&O successfully fought off the “Air Line” repeatedly, it then found that the PRR was buying up the other railroads with which the B&O had been connecting for traffic between New York and Washington – the Baltimore and Potomac was the last piece, and then the B&O would be cut out. So the B&O built its own line to Philadelphia, at a time when the original B&O, and particularly the West End, were still unimproved and badly in need of investment, thus perpetuating its slide from the first-place East-West trunk line to third-place behind the PRR and NYC.

The story of the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad is somewhat more colorful. Originally chartered as a regional road to connect the farms of southern Maryland to the ports in Baltimore, it was purchased by a group of associates of the PRR in 1866. A “branch” was built in 1872 between Bowie, Maryland, and Washington, DC. In 1873, tunnels were completed in Baltimore, allowing connection between the PRR-owned B&P and the PRR-friendly PW&B. Within a decade, the PRR would control its own railroad in what was considered the most valuable stretch of real estate in the country.

North of New York the tale is equally as complex and historic. The first link was the Boston & Providence Railroad, which began operation between its namesake cities in 1835. The New York, Providence & Boston Railroad began through operation in 1837 between Providence and Stonington, Connecticut. In 1848 the New York & New Haven Railroad completed its line between New Haven, Connecticut and a connection with the Harlem Railroad to access New York. In 1858 the New Haven, New London & Stonington Railroad completed the last link, and by 1859 an all-rail route with two ferry crossings was possible between Boston and New York via four railroads. The NYP&B purchased the NHNL&S in 1864.

In 1872, the New York & New Haven combined with the Hartford & New Haven Railroad to become the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad; thus began an insatiable quest for consolidation in southern New England. Germane to the Northeast Corridor, the NYNH&H, better known simply as the New Haven, acquired the NYP&B in 1892. The Old Colony, which had leased the B&P in 1888, was itself leased in its entirety by the New Haven in 1893. With all of its acquisitions, the New Haven controlled all rail traffic in southern New England and in so doing then possessed three separate routes between New Haven and Boston: The Inland route via Hartford, the “Air Line” which avoided all major cities as well as the state of Rhode Island, and the Shore Line route which hugs the northern banks of Long Island Sound. Sometimes holding all the cards means control of one’s destiny, and sometimes it means too much of a good thing.

Let There be Light

The New Haven was a pioneer of electric traction utilizing low-voltage direct-current applications as far back as 1895 on many branch lines. The New Haven connection to New York was then part of the New York Central System, and as a result of a horrific accident on the NYC in 1902, steam locomotives were banned by city ordinance after 1908. The New Haven would use the NYC third-rail system into the city, but had much more ambitious plans for the rest of its main line. In April 1907, the first high-voltage overhead catenary was energized between the end of third-rail territory and the power plant at Cos Cob, Connecticut. By the end of that year, wires had been extended east to Stamford. In 1914, electrification had reached New Haven. Numerous branch lines for freight and passenger service were also electrified. Had economic conditions not worsened, the electrification program would have continued, possibly to Boston.

For the PRR, of course, owning the premier transportation system in the country had its own responsibilities. As the final years of the 19th Century wound down, traffic on the PRR continued to grow. Even so, terminating at Harsimus Cove, like so many other roads on the Hudson River, did not meet the expectations of the “Standard Railroad of the World.” After much consideration, a plan of attack was reached in 1901 wherein the PRR would access New York and beyond. Tunneling beneath the solid rock of New Jersey’s Bergen Hill and then slogging through the muck that is the river bottom, the PRR would not just enter Manhattan, but would make the grandest statement in passenger railroading travel: Pennsylvania Station New York. It would not stop there. Working in conjunction with the New Haven and PRR subsidiary Long Island Railroad, four tunnels would connect Manhattan to the Borough of Queens and then a spectacular connection to New England via a bridge over the East River at Hell Gate.

Upon its completion in 1910, the new electric division from Manhattan Transfer, New Jersey to Sunnyside Yard in the Borough of Queens was powered by low-voltage third-rail DC electricity as the result of the city ordinance banning steam locomotives. Even then the PRR was contemplating electrification of the railroad in a manner without the restrictions of low-voltage DC: high-voltage overhead catenary. In 1915, it electrified the Main Line between Philadelphia and Paoli. This was followed by extensions north to Trenton and south to Wilmington. In 1928, the PRR announced its intention to electrify north to New York, replacing the original third-rail system except for what was needed by the LIRR; the New Haven had extended its overhead electrification to Sunnyside Yard in 1917. Despite the Stock Market crash of 1929 and Great Depression of the 1930s, the expansion continued with plans to electrify to Washington and Harrisburg. Service to New York began in 1933, to Washington in 1935, and to Harrisburg in 1938. Much of this was underwritten by Federal loans of some $107.5 million.

It should be noted that the improvement to what would later be called the Northeast Corridor was not the only PRR plan for massive improvement. In 1905, the PRR incorporated the Pennsylvania & Newark Railroad, to build a parallel freight route from the yard at Morrisville, just south of Trenton, north; connecting to a freight yard in Newark. Work was suspended in 1916 due to wartime scarcities and never restarted. The PRR had also planned building an entirely new mainline to the Midwest running west from Lewistown, Pennsylvania, across Ohio and well into Indiana. This new low-grade line would have given the PRR the shortest and fastest link between New York and Chicago. For reasons left to speculation, the PRR decided to improve its line between Washington and New York. This would unwittingly set the stage for passenger railroading in the later decades of the 20th Century.

The Darkest Hour

By the mid 1960s, America’s railroads were in trouble. Not only was the once-mighty PRR not exempt from this pain, but in many ways was its full embodiment. The radical improvement of the 1930s which made the PRR the paragon of transportation now weighed like a millstone around its neck. Overly burdensome regulation from early in the 20th Century had ended the PRR program of continuous self improvement. This was followed by the post-war largess manifested in the Interstate Highway program; an open-access network of asphalt and concrete, underwritten and maintained at the expense of the American taxpayer. Passenger trains had always been guaranteed enough cross revenue from freight through the rates set by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Now with freight, especially the premium carloads, leaving for the subsidized highways, there was no longer enough to go around.

For the New Haven, things were even worse. Having a dense regional railroad in a small industrial area of the country made sense before the age of subsidized roadways. With the coming of the Connecticut Turnpike and New England Thruway, the New Haven did not stand a chance.

Sowing the Seeds of Socialized Rail Transportation

In the decade of the 1960s, the economy of the country was running like a well-oiled machine. Every corner of business was garnering its share of the national largess with one notable exception: The railroads. Increase in business revenue correlated with an increase in internal revenue, and much of this went to the railroads’ new competition: Socialized transportation in the form of interstate highways and airports. Meanwhile, Japan was continuing to rebuild its infrastructure. As it did not enjoy national largess, it was imperative to make the most of what it did have by rebuilding and improving on existing technology. Thus, after rebuilding its railroads, Japan took the next logical technological step of speeding up its railroads. Its 125 mph “Bullet Trains” captured the imagination of the world, and the imagination of at least one person in the US Senate. After all, that money in the US Treasury was not going to spend itself.

Claiborne de Borda Pell served in the US Senate representing the people of Rhode Island for six terms starting in 1961. He will always be best known as the father of the Pell Grant, which offers tuition aid for college students. Immediately following his election, he turned his attention to the possibility of high-speed trains in the Northeast. He aroused then-President Kennedy’s enthusiasm for the idea, and this led to the initiation of feasibility reports by the Commerce Department. But how to pay for it?

“Where will the money come from to build a high-speed rail line in the northeast corridor? A federal subsidy only as a last resort, said the Senator. What he favors is the creation of a public authority which could guarantee bond issues. But there are other possibilities, too: ‘I am by no means exclusively wedded to the public authority approach…one alternative which has been discussed is the formation of a public corporation…’” – “Railway Age”, October 12, 1964

Apparently, all the other possible options were discarded rather quickly. Following the release of the Commerce Department corridor studies in 1964, Senator Pell introduced, and Congress passed, the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965. Signed into law by President Johnson, the Act authorized in 1965 an expenditure of $20 million, and $35 million the next year. These funds went to upgrades to the railroad right-of-way between New York and Washington, DC, as well as to the purchase of the now famous Metroliners; 50 multiple-unit cars capable of 120 mph speeds, from the Budd Company.

This was the era of “The Great Society” where all the nation’s woes could be cured with copious quantities of public money. Sadly, such was the mindset of the age of avarice; throwing money at problems was much easier than solving problems. All around the country, the railroads were losing traffic to government-subsidized competition. This atrophy of traffic led to the mistaken notion that parallel railroad mergers would equate to survival, thus leading the PRR to merge with its long time rival, the New York Central, in 1968. Part of the PRR’s agreement to allow its property between New York and Washington to become a guinea pig for an imperious immediacy of political interest was the hope of a favorable decision to grant its merger. Unfortunately, in less than two years this misbegotten union called Penn Central became the single largest corporate bankruptcy in history up to that time.

Instead of addressing the continuing failing fortunes of the nation’s railroads, elected leaders of the day concentrated on one symptom: Passenger rail losses. It has been said that Americans operate in only the two modes of complacency and panic. Complacency was no longer an option. Millions of public dollars invested in the NEC faced the possibility of liquidation in bankruptcy court. Politically, this was untenable. A key reason for the 1971 formation of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, or Amtrak, was to protect America’s investment. America’s passenger trains were now in the hands of Senator Pell’s suggested “public corporation.”

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

“It will remain for the future to show how that institution can be preserved, and the way provided for its continued progress in usefulness and effectiveness for the public, for its employees, and for its owners.” – Martin W. Clement, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, forward to Centennial History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company 1846-1946

The first six years of Amtrak operations on the NEC could be described as “business as usual.” From coast to coast, Amtrak was taking responsibility for all remaining passenger services; thus the NEC was just another piece of railroad. Operating crews, conductors and engineers were still provided by the host railroads. Federal monies were made available to prop up the failing railroad infrastructure of the Northeast, including the NEC, until a permanent fix could be agreed upon. For more than five years between May 1, 1971 and sometime in 1976 Amtrak itself governed all of its local and long distance trains in the NEC as a tenant of Penn Central. (This is still the case almost everywhere else in the US on other host railroad properties.) PC was still responsible for the dispatching of its freight trains and the many, many commuter trains that PC continued to operate over the NEC facility. It was during this brief but bright moment that the 1973 oil embargo hit the country, and suddenly the population began to take notice that there were still passenger trains running.

The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4R Act),signed into law on February 5, 1976, would forever change the NEC and domestic passenger railroading. In the fire sale that was the end of Penn Central, the NEC south of New Rochelle, New York and between New Haven, Connecticut and the Rhode Island/Massachusetts state line was ceded from the newly formed ConRail to Amtrak as per the 4R Act on April 1, 1976; the remainder went to state agencies. Transfer of ownership of the NEC to Amtrak in 1976 was orchestrated by the United States Railway Association not because of the magic of Amtrak owning its own railroad, but in order to get the financial albatross of NEC ownership off the back of the brand new ConRail and onto Amtrak’s books, where the presumed continuing flow of free public money to sustain it would be more appropriate. Also, with the 4R Act came the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP) and $1.75 billion in Federal funds, with the goals of achieving New York-Washington running times of two hours forty minutes, and Boston-New York running times of three hours forty minutes. The pitfalls and temptations of government money were all too soon apparent:

“A highlight of the first year of the NECIP was a three-inch-thick Environmental Impact Statement, which came to the startling conclusion that there would be no environmental damage from continuing to run trains where trains had been running for over a hundred years.” – Tom Nelligan and Scott Hartley, Trains of the Northeast Corridor, Quadrant Press, Inc, 1982

At one point, the FBI was summoned to investigate a $16 million discrepancy between material purchased and material on hand. By 1979 Congress knew what to do: Increase the NECIP budget to $2.4 billion and extend the deadline for completion from 1981 to 1985. In 1981, the Reagan Administration cut $600 million from the NECIP, and the plan to extend electrification to Boston would have to wait.

The wait ended January 31, 2000, when regular electrified service commenced to Boston’s South Station. The four-year $2.4 billion project had its own drama, with FBI raids of contractors’ offices. But the biggest fraud would be the Acela Express trainsets; an untested, one-of-a-kind fleet of heavy energy users, dubiously procured and never to be repeated.

Today, the maintenance needs of the NEC are about a half billion dollars per year. Yet, due to its nature, the bulk of patronage was not, nor would ever be, Amtrak ticket-paying customers. Even so, prior to direct state assumption of commuter rail services in 1983, Amtrak would be called upon to subsidize those local needs. New amendments to Amtrak’s governing laws in the early 1980s assured that the “formulas” contained therein would never allow Amtrak to recover the huge costs of subsidizing massive commuter rail operations. Unfortunately, that situation still has not changed:

“We are paying a lot of money not needed to operate rail passenger service. We are also cross-subsidizing some of the commuter operations in the Northeast Corridor. That’s a matter of policy, and we are not urging that be changed. But the fact is, it’s not an operating cost of intercity rail passenger travel service. [Cross subsidization] is about $47 million a year.” – Interview with Graham Claytor, “Trains”, June 1991

Asking those states which utilize the corridor to ante up would bring Amtrak closer to solvency. Doing so, however, would mean ceding some degree of control to those states. Repeal of the commuter subsidy “formulas” was attempted in the original version of what became the 1997 Amtrak reform law, but the political clout of the NEC states on both sides of the aisle proved too strong. As of this writing, ceding any jurisdiction of the NEC to anyone other than itself is anathema to Amtrak. Emboldened by shear ownership, the NEC has taken on a life of itself; it is no longer a part of the Amtrak network but rather the core of Amtrak, to which all other lines of service must cede.

Amtrak is a political animal, and as such, political expediency will always come before business acumen. Amtrak currently touts its “market share” in the Northeast as 52% between Boston and New York, and 65% between New York and Washington. These numbers, however, are strictly a modal split, as between Amtrak and the air shuttle carriers. Using USDOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics data for intercity travel (non-commuter trips over 100 miles), you get a true “market share” value for rail of somewhere under 2%, and Amtrak itself reports its own paltry load factors. Mobility in the Northeast is just as important as anywhere else in the country, but are these results of a thus-far $30 billion investment worth it?

Breaking the Cycle of [Federal] Dependency

Whereas the 2008 economic downturn was characterized as a failure of business, the 2011 economic malaise has been defined as a failure of government. The populous will spend the rest of the decade, if not longer, asking and answering some very deep and basic questions regarding who pays for what and how much.

To this end, US Representative John L. Mica of Florida, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and US Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, presented a new initiative called the “Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act.” The press release of June 15, 2011 reads in part:

“After 40 years of costly and wasteful Soviet-style operations under Amtrak, this proposal encourages private sector competition, investment and operations in US passenger rail service,” Mica said. “Competition in high-speed and intercity passenger rail will cut taxpayer subsidies, improve service, and bring our nation into the 21st Century of passenger rail transportation.

“Amtrak has repeatedly bungled development and operations in the Northeast Corridor, and their new long-term, expensive plan to try to improve the corridor is simply unacceptable,” Mica continued. “The nation cannot afford to continue throwing money away on this highly subsidized, ineffective disaster.

“It is time for a new direction. Around the world, other nations and the private sector have successfully competed to develop high-speed and passenger rail service,” Mica said. “There is no reason we cannot do the same in our most densely populated and congested region. By giving the private sector the opportunity to bring its resources and expertise to the table, we can lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail service across the country.”

The intent is to transfer title of the NEC from Amtrak to the USDOT or some other organization to allow for more flexibility in operations and investment. It should be noted that relieving Amtrak of the NEC property, and its attendant endless capital needs, is something that has been recommended by members of the United Rail Passenger Alliance for over a quarter century:

“But Amtrak need not own the NEC. It can be sold and its costs of ownership eliminated without adverse effect on train operations…

“Shared ownership is not unprecedented. It simply treats the NEC as a large terminal district; many hotly competitive railroads jointly and profitably own feeder lines, terminal districts, and union stations…

“Structuring the buyer of the NEC as a limited partnership, the customary means of syndicating large real estate projects, would enable Amtrak to be the general partner, retaining needed day-to-day operational control. The limited partners would be allocated the tax and other financial benefits of ownership.” – Andrew C. Selden (URPA Vice President Law and Policy), “How to Get Amtrak Out of the Woods”, “Trains”, January 1986

On the international railroad scene, this is already a reality. In Great Britain, the national network of track is owned by Network Rail, a government-created “not for dividend” company. Network Rail’s customers are separate and for the most part private sector “train operating companies” (passenger) and “freight operating companies” who operate under periodically-renewed franchise contracts. An interesting exception to the private-sector passenger operations is the East Coast Main Line: London-York-Edinburgh. The through trains are currently being operated by another government-created company, Directly Operated Railways, because the last for-profit franchise holder, National Express, bailed out in dramatic fashion after discovering it was losing its shirt running trains even over subsidized tracks. Numerous companies, fast passenger and slower freight, operate over Network Rail and have learned how to play well together over somebody else’s infrastructure. The British experience did not come without its fair share of unpleasantries, but in the end the nationalized British Railways were successfully weaned off the public dole and succeeded by multiple entities: private where profitable, public where warranted. This was not just to keep the trains running, but to grow and continuously improve national rail transportation. Its progeny now have a chance to learn from this experience.

The Mica-Shuster initiative was immediately castigated as total “privatization” and declared dead-on-arrival by those who may be on the losing end of this potential transaction. One amusing erudition emanating from this fracas involves invoking the final phrase of the Fifth Amendment, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The NEC was “private property” which was ceded by Penn Central to public ownership upon its exodus from the transportation business. Amtrak, a “quasi-public corporation,” does have preferred and common stockholders. All of the preferred stock is held by the USDOT. The common stock is held by the successors of the original Amtrak-participating railroads who accepted stock in lieu of tax credits that would not aid their fiscal malaise. Today this class includes a financial group and three Class I railroads. The Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 “required Amtrak to redeem at fair market value the shares of common stock outstanding as of December 2, 1997, by the end of fiscal year 2002.” Despite this being law, it has not come to pass. If indeed the NEC is property of Amtrak and therefore property of the stockholders, then that stock may be worth more than wallpaper after all.

The other side of the “taking” coin, however, is that Amtrak received the NEC in 1976 subject to a 999-year balloon mortgage, held by USDOT, who holds the mortgage on the NEC property as security on billions of dollars of debt owed back to USDOT by Amtrak, which they cannot repay. All of this is laid out in Amtrak’s annual report. Thus, it is not a question of a “taking,” but one of foreclosure on a lien that has existed for 35 years, is in default, and is callable whenever USDOT chooses. That is a matter of political and commercial will, not constitutional rights. Extinguishing the mortgage in return for a title transfer to USDOT could also eliminate the constitutional objection. Moreover, current law [49 U.S.C. 24907(c)] already immunizes and indemnifies Amtrak and its board of directors from liability regarding any transaction “related to” the mortgage.

Also, a foreclosure would not necessarily directly impact Amtrak’s operating rights, except to the extent that USDOT or its successor might choose to price access to the infrastructure at levels closer to actual cost recovery. Even that would not change anything, except to make the actual accounting losses of the NEC, especially Acela, a lot more visible.

Separating the NEC from Amtrak with all its legal gyrations will take a few years. Even then it is highly unlikely the property will be in the hands of one or more private companies. More likely is a compact of those Northeast states that will hold and become responsible for the whole corridor; Congress pre-approved such interstate compacts for passenger rail service in the 1997 Amtrak reform law. Today there are five state commuter agencies operating under the wire of the NEC. Add to this Amtrak and limited freight operations. Yet, once upon a time this was all under the banner of one railroad. Will we ever make it back to one operator?

The Baltimore & Ohio’s overreach of the late 19th Century bears out a pertinent object lesson for us today. The B&O concentrated its resources on a short-haul piece of railroad due to its location in what was believed to be the most valuable stretch of real estate in the country. As a result of neglecting their long-haul routes to the west, however, the railroad would become an “also ran.” The B&O would be controlled at various times by various railroads including the PRR. Ultimately the B&O found security as a lesser partner of the Chesapeake & Ohio. Today there are no major railroads headquartered in Baltimore. This is the purposeful outcome of the free market.

Today Amtrak, self-described as “America’s Railroad,” pours the lion’s share of its meager resources into the NEC to the detriment of the national network. Unfortunately, as a public entity, the laws of the free market are not allowed to be applied. Amtrak points to sheer passenger counts, opposed to passenger-miles, as justification for this aberration. With government deficits growing and public patience waning, this dichotomy cannot continue indefinitely. The longer the decision is forestalled, the fewer resources will be left available to enact said decision. Inaction is an expensive option which is no longer plausible.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: amtrak; rail; trains
This article is the joining of two parts. Part 1 may be found here, and Part 2 may be found here.

I should note that the United Rail Passenger Alliance (URPA) is the conservative voice of the passenger rail community. The liberal voice is the National Association of Rail Passengers (NARP).

1 posted on 08/20/2011 8:38:50 AM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius

Nice read. Personally I love traveling by train.

2 posted on 08/20/2011 8:41:12 AM PDT by svcw
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To: svcw

Have a ball as long as I don’t have to subsidize your train ride, enjoy.

3 posted on 08/20/2011 8:55:25 AM PDT by Recon Dad ("Don't shoot fast, unless you also shoot good..")
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To: Recon Dad


4 posted on 08/20/2011 9:00:12 AM PDT by svcw
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To: Publius
From coast to coast, Amtrak was taking responsibility for all remaining passenger services;

That's not correct. Both Southern and Denver & Rio Grande Western opted out and continued to operate passenger service for many years. Southern operated the Southern Crescent from DC to New Orleans through Atlanta.

Now that I think of it, the Georgia Railroad continued to operate VERY limited in-state service, as well (Atlanta to Augusta and one other route) for tax reasons.

5 posted on 08/20/2011 9:06:32 AM PDT by PAR35
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To: PAR35

Very good. I remember the once-daily Atlanta to Augusta train, which was one elderly coach pulled by a freight locomotive.

6 posted on 08/20/2011 9:08:52 AM PDT by Publius
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To: Publius
Good rerad..thanks...

The Northeast corridor, from DC up to Boston, is ideal (in theory) for HS rail service. Going from NYC to DC, for I used to do about once a month in the 90' had t0 schelp put to La Guardia, then fight the was a joy to get in a cab in Midtown, to Penn Station, and get off at Union Station...

The problem was, when they first proposed the high speed trains..Metroliner, then Acela, no one would state the ovious..the rail network wouldn't support can hav a train that does 300 MPH..but the existing roadbeds are so old, so many obstacles...that there was no way it could ever work...they share the same tracks as commuter now we have 250mph capable trains maybe hitting 60mph on a few stretchs of track..

7 posted on 08/20/2011 9:42:42 AM PDT by ken5050 (Should Christie RUN in 2012? NO!!! But he should WALK 3 miles every day.)
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To: Publius

I’d like to see train passenger service grow, but not at the cost of public subsidies. Provide a service that people value, and maybe it will catch on. If not, sorry to say, it’s got to die. That’s how the system works, or is supposed to...

Still a nice history. I didn’t know there was actually a station called “Manhattan Transfer”...must have been quite an era to have lived in.

8 posted on 08/20/2011 9:43:51 AM PDT by bigbob
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: bigbob
From 1910 to 1933, Manhattan Transfer was a place in the New Jersey swamp Meadowlands where the steam locomotive was replaced by a box-electric locomotive utilizing third-rail DC technology to go through the tunnel into Pennsylvania Station.
10 posted on 08/20/2011 9:58:51 AM PDT by Publius
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To: ken5050
We have a fairly frequent need to travel between NYC and Virginia. When the price is right, we travel by rail. Flying has all the drawbacks you mention; therefore, when the price is close, we will take to the rails. There are numerous stretches in NJ and after Philadelphia where the train (the regular train, not Acela) reaches 100+ mph.

The Acela train is never a bargain or even close to the cost of air travel. The advantage of Acela over the regional train is that the operators seem to give preference to the Acela trains. If you have to be in DC at a particular time, Acela is the best choice even compared to air travel.

Even with the subsidies mentioned in the article, how an Acela trip from NYC to DC can be more than air travel astounds us every time we shop for tickets. Fortunately, the regional trains are only about 30 minutes slower to DC (when the regional train is on-time).

Of late private companies have introduced long distance bus service direct from mid-town NYC to Union Station and surrounds in DC. The most expensive bus will go round trip with free Wi-Fi and comfortable if small seats for $60 — and way cheaper if you book weeks in advance. You can take a similar bus ride to Boston from NYC for $15. The buses will finally kill the passenger rail on the NEC if they haven't already.

11 posted on 08/20/2011 10:18:41 AM PDT by sefarkas (Why vote Democrat Lite?)
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To: Publius; Willie Green

Willie - is that you? ;^)

Good article, showing all of the disparate pieces of the rail transportation pie. Thanks.

12 posted on 08/20/2011 10:19:02 AM PDT by brityank (The more I learn about the Constitution, the more I realise this Government is UNconstitutional !!)
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To: Publius

“A highlight of the first year of the NECIP was a three-inch-thick Environmental Impact Statement, which came to the startling conclusion that there would be no environmental damage from continuing to run trains where trains had been running for over a hundred years.” – Tom Nelligan and Scott Hartley, Trains of the Northeast Corridor, Quadrant Press, Inc, 1982

That says all that needs be said about any government involvement with business. Folks, people go into politics because 1) there is nothing else they can do, 2) they are not very intelligent, and 3) to a large extent, they have no morals.

13 posted on 08/20/2011 10:38:03 AM PDT by Da Coyote
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To: Publius
This was followed by the post-war largess manifested in the Interstate Highway program; an open-access network of asphalt and concrete, underwritten and maintained at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Not true. The entire Interstate Highway System was built using revenue from the gasoline tax. In other words, the motorists paid for it. That was in the days before gas tax revenues were siphoned off for rail boondoggles as this writer seems to support.

The railroads died because the automobile was cheaper and more convenient and the airlines were faster. It's true that railroads were saddled with crushing union work rules and wages, but I doubt they could have competed even absent those.

14 posted on 08/20/2011 10:55:01 AM PDT by BfloGuy (Workers and consumers are, of course, identical.)
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To: sefarkas
Good points...I couldn't see myself on a bus..ever..

Most of travel in the NE corridor isn't price's convenience...fro me, to go to DC from midown NYC..for a day.,,in and out..the train was the best..hands could get some work done..aside from the hassle of getting to and from well as the TSA delays..LAG is often delayed itslf..

15 posted on 08/20/2011 10:56:00 AM PDT by ken5050 (Should Christie RUN in 2012? NO!!! But he should WALK 3 miles every day.)
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To: Publius

The last few decades, it was a scam to keep a bank free of state taxes, as I recall. With statewide banking, the bank got rid of the railroad and merged into someone else - had to look this up - First Union (1987, although GRB had started buying small banks itself in 1985), and started paying taxes. First Union took over Wachovia (including the name), and got eaten by Wells Fargo in the latest crisis.

Looked up this part as well - Seaboard Coast Line purchased the Railroad from the bank in 1983. Various lines that became part of SCL had leasehold interest in the railroad before SCL bought the fee interest and rationalized the various components.

16 posted on 08/20/2011 10:57:36 AM PDT by PAR35
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To: Publius
One other thing. Though we are told incessantly that the Europeans have rail, so we should, too. It's never, ever mentioned that rail travel also died out all through the Americas. As, country by country, cars became affordable for the masses and air travel became cheaper, virtually no one outside a handful of large cities travelled by rail.

It's not just an American phenomenon, it's an Americas thing. Ditto Australia. Long distance passenger train travel is as obsolete as stage coaches. I'm waiting for the Dems to want to bring those back, too.

17 posted on 08/20/2011 10:59:13 AM PDT by BfloGuy (Workers and consumers are, of course, identical.)
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To: Publius

All that said, I love trains and their history.

18 posted on 08/20/2011 11:00:06 AM PDT by BfloGuy (Workers and consumers are, of course, identical.)
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To: Publius

ping for later read

19 posted on 08/20/2011 11:12:25 AM PDT by mick (Central Banker Capitalism is NOT Free Enterprise)
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To: All
I work for a global company and here are my observations...

When I was in the UK I had someone tell me that we have a very lovely highway system.

A co - worker told me a lot of people in the UK do drive not take the train like the train pushers claim.
I talked to someone from the Netherlands told me that the train have delays and all sorts of problems...

Something tells me that we should let passenger rail die.
20 posted on 08/26/2011 5:38:40 PM PDT by KevinDavis (What has Ron Paul done in Congress??)
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