Monthly Archives

January 2009

Issues

RailPAC writes Amtrak re new car needs

16th January, 2009, Mr. Joseph H. Boardman, President and Chief Executive Officer, NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, Re:  Amtrak Rolling Stock Investment Plans.          Dear Mr. Boardman:  As you take up your new duties as President of Amtrak, albeit so far on temporary assignment, we’d like to draw your attention to some distressing tendencies in Amtrak policy over recent years.

We refer in particular to the geographic imbalance of Amtrak investment, and the capital starvation of service west of the Mississippi. It has been the case for some years now that 95%, more or less, of Amtrak’s capital budget has gone to the NEC, and at the same time most of the long distance trains in the west have had almost no new equipment since the 1970s. If this trend is continued, and the current 5-year rolling stock plan indicates that it will be, then trains such as the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder will cease to operate for want of serviceable cars in a few short years. Our Board believes that this will be both politically and economically disastrous for the future of passenger rail in the USA.

We believe that you should quickly review this policy and redress this imbalance as soon as possible. Consider these points:

Even though Amtrak owns the NEC, it is the minority user as far as trains and passengers are concerned. The commuter agencies that share the route need to contribute more to bringing the route up to date and into good order. We do not advocate starving the NEC, or any other market, of appropriate capital resources, but it would be just as foolish to continue to starve productive western routes.

We see no regulatory reason why Amtrak should expect the State of California or other western states to provide the rolling stock and other capital improvements for trains on the existing National network. San Diego to San Luis Obispo for example is part of this network and is every bit as deserving of its share of Amtrak’s capital investment as any other route in the country. Since most journeys, even in the shorter state corridors, are longer than most journeys in the NEC, we believe that the western routes are more productive in revenue and passenger miles, and can generate a better return on investment.

Both the California corridors and the long distance trains need new cars. We believe that these cars can be built using a common hull and many standard components. Indeed the coach car can be common to all these services. We believe that Amtrak should immediately be placing an order for this type of equipment. A long term order with steady state production of say 2,000 cars will give the manufacturer and supplier the opportunity to reduce costs substantially.

We have started to take this message to the California congressional delegation. We are pointing out that California taxpayers are paying twice for Amtrak service, through federal and State taxes, and that this is not acceptable. While most of our elected officials support Amtrak funding as a concept, very few understand the funding mechanisms and the direction in which the money flows. This is changing.

Mr. Boardman, we wish you every success in your new position. We’d be delighted if you could attend our Spring combined members meeting (date to be announced) in Los Angeles. We’d like to discuss these issues with you and give you the opportunity to meet a core group of passenger rail supporters.

Yours faithfully, Paul J. Dyson, President,  Rail Passenger Association of California

Reports

California Corridors December stats

Reported by  Eugene K. Skoropowski, Managing Director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority  After the relatively modest November growth in Capitol Corridor riders (+2.7%), we were expecting to see a significant slowing of ridership growth on the Capitol Corridor in December, reflecting the impacts of both the economic downturn, as well as falling gas prices.  It did not happen.

Rather, ridership and revenue both grew in the +8-9% range on the Capitol Corridor, creating another record high for ridership in the month of December 2008.  The San Joaquins also saw similar ridership and revenue percentage growth.  Only the Pacific Surfliner service saw a substantial loss in riders and downturn in revenue.  This may be a reflection of a more significant economic deterioration in Southern California than in Northern California.

Sustained on-time performance on the Capitol Corridor has helped keep riders, and improved on-time performance of the San Joaquins is also likely helping to sustain growth there.

Capitol Corridor (December 2008)
130,261 passengers   +9.0%  vs. December 2007
This is a new December record, and keeps the Capitol Corridor third busiest route in the country, still by a wide margin.  Passengers for the last 12 months: 1,729,401 , now pushing towards the 1.8 million barrier!

$1,822,259  December 2008 ticket revenue    +8.4%  vs. December 2007

The farebox recovery   revenue-to-cost ratio for December is 43.3% ,
reflecting the increased Amtrak cost base due to labor contracts and fuel adjustments (FY to date: 46%, a bit lower than the 50% target). Traditionally, January through April our farebox recovery rate is lower than May through September, so we still have a ways to go to get ‘on budget’.

On-time performance  for December ‘delivered to the customer’ was:   93.0%  still the best of any corridor service in the country, reflecting sustained Union Pacific performance at 98-99%  and continued good Amtrak operational performance.  (FFY to date: 92.6%)  This is our best year-to-date quarterly report ever for on-time performance. 

These first quarter stats are a good start to the Fiscal Year, and Capitol Corridor on-time performance is now the best in the country, topped only by the once-a-day Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia-Pittsburgh) and still well above the premier Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor (86.1%).

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Pacific Surfliners (December 2008)
195,887 passengers  -8.1%  vs. December 2007, but still the second busiest route in the nation, by a wide margin

$3,551,818 December 2008 revenue: -5.3% vs. December 2007

On-time performance for December 2008: 85.2%   (FFY to date: 80.5%)

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San Joaquins (December 2008)

80,920 passengers  +9.3% vs. December 2007

$2,762,135  December 2008 revenue:  +8.9%  vs. December 2007

On-time performance for December:  87.6%  (FFY to date:  88.0%)

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Total California Intercity Corridor Ridership for December 2008:  407,068
Total Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ ridership for December 2008:    825,191
For December 2008, the California Corridors are 49.33% of Northeast Corridor ‘Spine’ Boston-Washington ridership

Total Northeast Corridor ridership for December 2008
with branches to Springfield, MA; Albany, NY and Harrisburg, PA:  1,034,737
For December 2008, the California Corridors are 40% of the total Northeast Corridor ridership.   Overall NEC ridership declined by -6.0%, but the Keystone service (Philadelphia-Harrisburg) grew by +14.5%.

Reports

San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee report

Reported by Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director

The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee met in Merced Thursday, January 8, 2009.  RailPAC Associate Director George Gaekle, from Modesto, who also is a SJVRC committee member, introduced the new committee member for Stanislaus County, County Supervisor Vito Chiesa.

Ty Holscher from Tulare County reported that “in view of the economic situation that the 99 Corridor effort (to place some trains on the Union Pacific line) would be tabled for now”.

Robin Owen of Caltrans Division of Rail (DoR) reported on the issue of the “Quiet Car”.  The present rolling stock shortage precludes adding a Quiet Car at this time. It is felt that a successful effort would require a 5 car consist.  Also, unlike the Capitol Corridor which has a Quiet Car on early morning and evening trains which are utilized by business and student travelers, the San Joaquins have a much more varied clientele. Stacey Mortensen, Exec Dir. of ACE added that they have problems enforcing the quiet car. Lee Goldenberg (DoR) stated that signage and PA announcements could be the first attempt at achieving semblance of a Quiet Car.

Marguerite Monahan (DoR) informed the committee that “Meal Tray” service will cease due to poor sales.  Only about 13 meals sold per day (about 2 per train). “we are pursuing a combo sandwich (chips or fries & soft drink) which are good sellers, and will redesign the combo  to include salad and drink”.  Meal carts that travel through the trains are seeing brisk business, and burritos and pot roast on onion roll sandwiches selling well.

Ed Steiner of Amtrak reported that labor relations is still in negotiation on “In Route Rest Room Service” and should be implemented in 60 to 90 days. A program for “Conductor Training”  will commence soon to train conductors for improved customer service. On Time Performance (OTP) on host rails was at 85.5% for October, 2008, 90.8% for November. and 80.6% for December for BNSF. Union Pacific OTP, while showing  improvements, was slightly lower.

Jonathan Hutchison of Amtrak indicated that San Joaquin ridership was up 9.5%.  Funding for FY09 for Amtrak is unknown at this time.

Lee Goldenberg (DoR) reporting on DoR Capital Projects, stated that projects are still proceeding for station relocation for Madera, Fresno Station Dropoff, double track at Port Chicago and Hanford,  2 trainsets (12 cars) from New Jersey Transit (NJT) and the Positive Train Control (PTC) Program by 2012 (or sooner).  Regarding funding, Lee stated that “we just don’t know what we’re getting”.

The next  SJVRC meeting is scheduled for April 9, 2009 at Stockton.

It should be noted that this writer “sat-in” for Facilitator Art Lloyd, who had a temporary conflict of simultaneous meetings.  Art (representing Caltrain)  is now on the Transbay Terminal Joint Powers Board, succeeding San Mateo Cnty Supervisor Jerry Hill who was elected to the State Assembly last November.  Art has been Hill’s alternate on the Transbay Board for the past few years.

Editorials

Why cutting passenger trains doesn’t save money

By Noel T. Braymer

The simple fact is most intercity passenger trains make money, on their direct operating costs. The problem at Amtrak is it doesn’t run enough trains to bring in enough money to cover all its overhead costs. Amtrak has some large overhead costs, centered mostly in the Midwest and East Coast. Yet Amtrak usually tries to save money by cutting back on passenger service.

Back in the middle 1960’s the Western Pacific Railroad was losing a lot of money. It looked at cutting back the original California Zephyr to less than daily service. The WP discovered that would not save money because it wouldn’t reduce the train’s fixed cost but would reduce income from the days the train didn’t run. Every time Amtrak has cut back or eliminated routes on long distance trains, Amtrak has lost money not saved money. Back in 1995 Amtrak tried to cut back service west of St. Paul on the Empire Building to four times a day. This resulted in a loss of 100,000 riders and 25 million dollars.

Why does this continue? Amtrak has a very strange accounting system. Amtrak knows how much money it brings in and how much money it spends. What it doesn’t know is what individual trains cost to run. Amtrak arbitrarily assigns costs including system overhead to trains on a train mile basis. The more miles a train runs the more it “costs” Amtrak. Amtrak basically assumes that when a train is standing still it doesn’t cost them money. Where this gets really silly is if you want to add a second train to a route. Amtrak will assume that the second train will cost about as much as the first. It doesn’t matter if no additional equipment or more employees are needed to run additional service. What gets really interesting is Amtrak will charge the same amount of system overhead for both trains. In the real world the overhead should be charged by the route not the train. In other words two trains on a route should be charged the same as only one train for Amtrak’s overhead. The inverse of this is Amtrak assumes that by cutting back service or eliminating a route the overhead assigned to that train magically disappears as service is cut. Of course it doesn’t, the system overhead stays the same, but fewer trains have to cover the overheard so that on paper the remaining trains costs go up and Amtrak doesn’t save money, it loses money.

Back in June 1999 the late Dr. Adrian Herzog wrote in this publication that Amtrak then needed an additional 1800 rail passenger cars in order to carry enough passenger miles to cover its current overhead. He also warned in 1999 that the Acela program would add to Amtrak’s overhead and not greatly increase income. “The bottom line is that they will increase the deficit dramatically between now and 2002.” Adrian was right; Amtrak almost went bankrupt in 2002 and requires much more subsidy now than in 1999.

What did Dr. Herzog suggest Amtrak do with these additional 1800 passenger cars to break even? The key is to increase passenger miles while not increasing system overhead. In other words no new maintenance facilities, major new stations, crew bases etc. The first thing to do is add more cars to existing trains so they can carry more passengers. Adding one sleeping car to a Superliner train requires 7 cars to cover every consist and backup equipment for maintenance. Typical Superliner trains run about 9 cars each. In the past in America, 18 car passenger trains were common.

The second thing that can be done is to add more frequent service on existing trains. As the WP discovered less than daily train service doesn’t save money. Not only should there be daily trains, but Dr. Herzog’s plan for the 1800 cars called for three trains a day on most long distance routes. The reality is when there is more frequent rail service ridership increases more than the level of service. Back in the 1970’s service between Los Angeles to San Diego doubled from 3 to 6 daily trains, but ridership more than tripled from about 300,000 to a million annually. These additional trains will need more cars than the trains of today.

The third part of Dr. Herzog’s plan is to add extensions and improve connections to existing services. A simple example of this would be to extend Coast Starlight trains to Vancouver. Amtrak already has service to Vancouver so there is no increase in overhead costs. Additional Starlights would be able to connect with other San Francisco Zephrys and Sunsets. A service highly recommended by Dr. Herzog was to run a South West Chief train from the Bay Area down the San Joaquin Valley and continue east from Barstow. Using his computer model for ridership, Dr. Herzog found adding the Valley and Bay Area to the Chief raised ridership dramatically. Dr. Herzog also recommended splitting the Chief Trains at Kansas City with a section running to St Louis and then up to Chicago. There is no shortage of good service extensions or routes that were wrongly eliminated that should have passenger trains. What’s needed are more rail cars and locomotives. For that we need the support of congress.

Commentary

AMTRAK CAPITAL INVESTMENT AND THE WESTERN TRAINS

RailPAC President Paul Dyson writes to NARP Chairman George Chilson:

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS, 900 Second Street NE Suite 308, Washington, DC 20002, Via E-Mail, hard copy by US Mail              Dear George:  I am writing on behalf of RailPAC to express our deep concern at the future of Amtrak’s western routes. The trains west of Chicago have been starved of capital investment by Amtrak for many years, and the current 5-year rolling stock plan does nothing to redress this situation. The Superliner fleet is showing its age, now mostly over 30 years, and yet in spite of crowded trains and solid returns on investment from long haul ticket and sleeper revenue Amtrak continues to spend 95% of its capital dollars on the NEC. This should be as unacceptable to NARP as it is to us.

Amtrak has relied for far too long on the “generosity” of the California taxpayer, and the State of California is now broke. We pay twice for our service, as federal and state taxpayers, whereas most of the eastern routes are 100% federally funded. In turn Amtrak charges large sums back to the state to maintain equipment that the state paid for, often far from a “state of good repair”. We believe that San Diego – Los Angeles – San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) and the Capital Corridor are just as much part of the national network as Boston – New York – Washington DC. Amtrak’s capital priorities are deplorable and unacceptable.

We would like to see leadership from NARP on this issue. Based on using the same hull as the “California” cars there are savings to be had from a long term commitment to build a new generation of cars for the long haul trains in tandem with additional cars for the California corridors. Let’s talk about a thousand cars, or more. This investment is at least as important as more new equipment for the NEC, both financially and politically. Without it the Southwest Chief, Empire Builder et al will simply fade away on a glide path to oblivion.

We also need to campaign, as we are here in California, for better coordination amongst taxpayer funded commuter and intercity services to provide more travel options between intermediate points using existing equipment. It is I think always preferable to take the high ground and insist on better value for taxpayers’ money than simply to keep asking for more subsidies. We should have through trains from the Antelope Valley to San Diego. We should have through trains from Philadelphia to Long Island. We should be making much better use of our transportation assets, and then, with a clear conscience, we can ask for more where appropriate.

We have an opportunity now to demand a better passenger rail system. I believe we have passed the stage where we are fighting for recognition of rail as a significant part of our transportation infrastructure. We should be past the days of “Amtrak, right or wrong”. Let’s work together for a more equitable Amtrak capital spending plan focused on the needs of the NATIONAL system.

Yours faithfully,  SIGNED  Paul J. Dyson  President  cc Ross Capon,  President,  NARP,  RailPAC Board

Tracking Rail News

TRACKING THE NEWS . . . and Photos for January

    . . . Photos and Commentary by Russ Jackson…  January, 2009.  Happy New Year, everyone!  Let’s start with some good news from the Capitol Corridor’s holiday message to its riders:  “You have spoken…and we listened.  Back by popular demand is the pot roast sandwich on an onion roll. Visit the Cafe Car today and enjoy a hot sandwich on your ride home.” 

amtrak-menu-march-08-2

But, what about the future?  Well, for rail advocates in California 2009 could be a bleaker year than we hoped for.  The state’s financial woes are reaching deep into every walk of life, and we hope by the time you read this the situation will have improved, but it might not be a positive result.  When the state recently halted the $3.8 billion in public works projects throughout the state, rail and transit were hit hard just at the time when these construction projects were generating good jobs.  The long sought order for new rail cars for the California corridor trains; track, signal, and station improvements at Emeryville and for the Coast Daylight; the Los Angeles Union Station run-through tracks; and the Sacramento Railyards project were all put on indefinite hold, as was the state’s contribution to the newly federal funded Kings Park track and signal improvements for the San Joaquin trains. 

Of that latter project, RailPAC member/contributor Ralph James writes, “CA got $5 million from the new federal money pot for ‘4.5 mile double tracking and switch improvements near Hanford.'”  Mr. James has been following this project for many years. He says, “This is the infamous double track to nowhere that I finally tracked down through (Caltrans Rail Chief) Bill Bronte last year.  And now we learn it will take 2 1/2 more years to implement!  There may be more scope to the overall project (nearly $20 million had better have more scope) than originally planned in the ’90s, but the power switches and signals have been in place for over a decade.  Part of the second track through Kings Park was laid with jointed rail and some incorporated an existing industrial siding so some new rail and ties would be needed for mainline Class IV standards, BUT nothing of significance has prevented using this section as a 40 mph siding!  Everyone speaks of this project as something new and wonderful that just appeared on the horizon when in actuality, significant benefits could have been accruing for years at a very modest cost beyond the already sunk funds.  One aspect that may add to the cost would be additional realignments at East Shirley and West East Hanford where the recently completed double-tracking project created lap sidings instead of true double track.”
 
November was a banner month for improved reliability on Amtrak’s long distance trains, with the Sunset Limited OT 73.1%, Southwest Chief 86.7%, California Zephyr 66.7%, Empire Builder 85.8%, the Coast Starlight 83.8%, and the Texas Eagle 50%.  
christmas-2007-9-flyer-2-eagles1
Two Texas Eagles and the Heartland Flyer are at the Ft. Worth, Texas platforms in January, 2008.
RailPAC member John Blaubach points out that the Starlight’s average was helped by the shorter re-route on some days through the San Joaquin Valley, and by on time departures from Sacramento.  He rode #11/14 in early November, and “did arrive early into Chemult the next day.  On his return trip on #11 it “arrived in plenty of time for me to transfer to #702 instead of waiting for the bus to Stockton.  He notes that on December 1 #11 had four coaches and four sleepers, we actually arrived home in Santa Barbara at 6:12, and would have been there at 5:50 had #774 not been late.”  Meanwhile, Andrew C. Selden reports the Empire Builder “limped into Minneapolis on December 15 just two hours down after slogging through a genuine blizzard overnight in the Dakotas and central Minnesota that had all the roads legally closed and the airports in a mess.”  Railroads are all-weather means of transportation, but sometimes it’s hard going.  The unfortunate news from November, however, is ridership on Amtrak trains declined 5.5% against the same month in the prior year and down 10.7% against what the company expected.  However, the long distance trains were UP 3.9% against a year ago, with the Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle both UP 20%!   Do you think the new Amtrak CEO, Mr. Boardman, noticed that?  The biggest decline was the Acela Express which was DOWN more than 15%.
 railrunner-1
We welcome the New Mexico Railrunner extension to that state’s capitol city Santa Fe, where service started December 17 following an inaugural train that arrived there in a snow storm carrying Governor Bill Richardson and guests.  There were the usual problems on the first day, including one train being halted for about 20 minutes after striking a cow near San Felipe Pueblo, track-signal problems and missed bus connections, but comments from passengers were positive despite the delays.  Photographer Bob Snow (see his other photos in the Christmas photo album on www.railpac.org ) said he will “ride after Christmas, and his friends have plans to make periodic trips for shopping and lunch in Albuquerque.  The park and ride set-up at the second stop south of Santa Fe is excellent.  All-in-all,” says Dr. Snow, it “looks like a great achievement.  The commerce impact is going to be huge over the next decade and more.  They plan to have wireless internet by June.”  There are no fares for riders boarding in Santa Fe for the first 90 days, and a round trip ticket ABQ-Santa Fe is only $8, with travel time one hour 20 minutes.     (Additional Photos of the Railrunner inaugural train can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/intermodal/2008_december_rail_runner_inaugural_run.)  
 
hpim0526
Amtrak-Caltrans Oakland Maintenance shop, April, 2005, with RailPAC Board members Jenkins, Kerby, and Lloyd on tour.
On November 29 an article in the Sacramento Bee revealed that “California officials have accused Amtrak of neglecting and delaying maintenance on state-owned passenger trains while it pockets extra money fixing private rail cars at an Oakland maintenance center largely built with state taxpayer funds.”  The state paid 2/3 of the cost of construction, and Caltrans is now looking at buying it back from Amtrak, which holds the ownership.  According to the Bee, That would take at least $18.2 million.  Amtrak now manages the facility, too, so another operator would be necessary in the event of a takeover.  The state is now paying Amtrak $17 million a year to maintain its fleet of 66 cars.  Back in 2007 the Capitol Corridor slapped Amtrak with penalties for missing its maintenance deadlines, which were up to 48 days late.  Amtrak of course has denied any wrongdoing.  An auditor’s report chastised Caltrans for negotiating terms that “were so weak that California taxpayers’ interests are not properly protected.”  This writer has heard rumors of great unrest among Amtrak, Caltrans, and the Capitol Corridor for some time, and I never have understood why the state acceded to Amtrak’s demand to sign over the facility in the first place.  RailPAC President Paul Dyson says “the problem goes much deeper.  The (former Amtrak President) Kummant philosophy was to shake down the states to boost revenue and grow the business.  Unfortunately for him there weren’t any takers except perhaps Illinois.  Now California is finally waking up to realize that Amtrak is a vehicle to transfer money to the Northeast Corridor.” 
Editorials

First Things First Mr. Boardman

Editorial by Noel T. Braymer
“In my view, a national intercity, interconnected passenger rail service is critically important for the mobility and energy independence of the United States.” Joseph Boardman

The above comments are from a letter to Amtrak Employees shortly after Mr. Boardman took over as Amtrak President back in late November. These are fine words which no Rail Passenger supporter would disagree with. Mr. Boardman is also quoted as saying in Railway Age “I not only want to preserve our coast-to-coast, interconnected system, but also want to see it prosper”. Again these are very reassuring words which this author can’t disagree with. Now from a column by Brian O’Neill in the December 11th Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after an interview with Joseph Boardman “Mr. Boardman sees an electrified American rail system, both for passengers and freight. The passenger side is well-established in the Northeast, and he’d like Amtrak to move south from Washington, D.C., and eventually electrify an East Coast line from Maine to Miami. Next up would be the routes from Chicago to Washington and New York.”

This discussion about rail electrification seems to reflect work done by the Federal Railroad Administration during Mr. Boardman’s tenure. I am not questioning the value of electrification but the issue is that of its priority for Amtrak. Amtrak only has two daily trains south of Washington to Florida. There is the Auto Train out of Virginia and a third train stops short of Florida at Savannah, Georgia. Three or four trains a day is thin justification for electrification. The fact is the majority of the intercity rail service in this country is served at best if at all by one daily train, if the service isn’t disrupted for long periods of time by natural disasters. But most amazing is the fact that the most populous state (California) is connected to the second most populous (Texas) by Amtrak only three times a week! This train, the Sunset is suppose to also go to the fourth most populous state (Florida), but that service has been suspended since 2005 with no sign of being restored even though the tracks have been repaired years ago.

The Sunset needs more than daily service from Los Angeles to Orlando. About 8 hours of running time was added to the train to try to improve on-time operation. This resulted in breaking connections with the Coast Starlight and terrible service times in Arizona. The Sunset is now unable to directly serve Phoenix, the 6th largest city in the county. It also goes past but doesn’t stop at the Riverside/San Bernardino Metropolitan area which is almost as large as the Phoenix Metropolitan area. The Sunset will be a much better service if it has connections with other trains on the West Coast at Los Angeles and the East Coast at Orlando.

There are calls from many states for new and or expanded rail services. Yet at this time Amtrak has less equipment (less than 1500 cars) than at any time in its history. The only new rail equipment ordered since 1992 has been the Acela trainsets delivered in 2000-2003 and the Surfliner trainsets (mostly paid for by the State of California) in 2000-2002. Recently Amtrak has received funding from the FRA to overhaul some 67 railcars in storage so they can be put back in service. This will help, but Amtrak will need more cars than this just to handle current demand.

Back in 1982 Dr. Ronald Sheck then of New Mexico State University wrote the ground breaking paper AMTRAK 90: A ROUTE TO SUCCESS. What Dr. Sheck wrote then still holds true today. Dr. Sheck’s premise was that Amtrak’s problem was that it was too small to generate enough revenue to pay for its overhead and it needed expansion not cut backs to break even. His paper laid out a plan to expand Amtrak with additional frequencies and new connecting services which with growing ridership and revenues rising faster than costs would lead to Amtrak breaking even in 8 years; by 1990. His plan would increase Amtrak’s route miles then from 24,000 to almost 39,000 miles. A major factor in this plan was an extensive expansion of the Long Distance services. Dr. Sheck’s proposal would have increased the 2,000 odd passenger cars in 1982 to over 4,500 in 8 years. These extra cars would have not only have added more services but would have added more cars to existing trains. Just adding more seats and selling them on existing trains is the first thing that can be done to improve Amtrak’s bottom line.

One of the best ways for the Obama Administration to meet its goal of expanding public transportation nationally, creating an economic stimulus and more jobs would be to order 2,000 Superliner type railcars over the next five to ten years. These are rough number, but easily 1,000 railcars based on the successful Surfliner equipment will be needed for corridor service nationwide. Over 100 such cars will be needed in California alone. Economics of scale will be achieved by placing a big order and standardizing equipment so common car shells and parts can be used for corridor and long distance services. Two thousand Superliner type cars in addition to some 150-200 locomotives will create a truly national intercity rail passenger service. This new equipment will bring train service to more places and extra frequencies on the busiest routes. Expanding Amtrak will save the Government money in subsidy payments in the future. With the additional revenue from these new cars Amtrak will be in a good position to order additional equipment with its own resources and keep the production lines open. The priority for Amtrak should be to serve more of the Nation, with more service and using economies of scale reduce or eliminate its’ need for operating subsidy.