eNewsletter for January 27, 2014   January 31st, 2014

Amtrak was in trouble because of growing deficits by 1978 which had grown to $578 million dollars. Based on the then RPS accounting, to save money Amtrak cut 4 long distance trains in 1979. Instead of saving money and reducing the deficit which RPS predicted, Amtrak’s deficit rose to $729 million by 1981. It was shortly after this time that Mr. Claytor took over at Amtrak. To keep the Reagan Administration from eliminating Amtrak , Claytor had to make major progress in reducing its deficit. To do this Claytor ignored RPS and expanded Amtrak’s Long Distance service. Mr. Claytor was quoted about how he was reducing Amtrak’s deficit. “That is one of the ways we hope to reach it and to get additional equipment in order to increase our revenues faster than our costs. That spread is what counts…  We have more people wanting to go than we can carry, because we do not have the capacity . The first priority is to get more capacity on the routes we serve. The second priority will be to start new routes that we think have a good possibility of working.” – Interview with Graham Claytor, Trains magazine, June 1991

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Neil Bjornsen, 1945 – 2014   January 29th, 2014

Neil Bjornsen photo with Dyson
Photo from about 2010 with RailPAC Director Neil Bjornsen on the left with then Chairman of SCRRA (Metrolink) Keith Mullhouse of Moorpark at center and at right RailPAC President Paul Dyson.

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Posted in Commentary

LOSSAN”s Top Priority   January 24th, 2014

By Noel T. Braymer

Increasing ridership and passenger revenues on the LOSSAN Corridor, particularly on the Surfliners should be the priority for LOSSAN. The question is how to do this? What is needed to get passenger growth is a combination of faster running times for trains with better on-time performance for better connections by train more often to more places.

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Posted in Editorials

eNewsletter for January 21, 2014   January 24th, 2014

There is talk that Amtrak is planning to soon eliminate the Pacific Parlour Cars on the Coast Starlight. The rational behind this is to save money by eliminating one attendant on board. That attendant sells alcohol. How Amtrak is able to lose money selling alcohol is a mystery to me. Also on the Coast Starlight the fares for the Sleeping Cars remain high. But at least on some dates this winter there have been vacant sleepers. It seems odd that Amtrak doesn’t lower prices before departure time to insure more of the sleeper space is sold.  As if things couldn’t get worse for the Empire Builder: they are. Seems Amtrak is giving up keeping connections for the Builder in the face of current poor on-time performance. This includes eliminating connecting buses for the passengers on the Builder to make connections when the Builder is late. NB

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by David B. Kutrosky, Managing Director
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Ridership on Capitol Corridor in December 2013 was 111,722, an increase of
three percent over December 2012. This was the first time in FY2014 that for a given month was higher than the ridership of its prior year
month. As a result, revenues for December 2013 were 3.5% above those of December 2012. This ridership boost is attributed to (1) the Thanksgiving
travel week extended into Sunday, December 1, and (2) strong weekend ridership [+4.9% compared to December 2012], especially during the last two
weekends of the holiday season.

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By Noel T. Braymer

A quick check of news stories finds many about local efforts to expand rail passenger service across America. These efforts are not just in the major urban areas on the West or East Coasts either. These include local groups calling for returning service on the Sunset east of New Orleans back to Florida. There are efforts to create a section of the Crescent from Meridian, Mississippi through Shreveport, Louisiana out to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. There are proposals to extend the Heartland Flyer past Oklahoma City to Kansas City. There are also efforts to extend the Heartland Flyer to Tulsa, Oklahoma.There are efforts to save and improve service on the Southwest Chief between New Mexico and Kansas. There are also High Speed Rail proposals in places such as Texas, Colorado, throughout the Midwest and Oregon.

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Posted in Editorials

eNewsletter for January 13, 2014   January 17th, 2014

Despite the often misleading headlines about the court’s rulings, it doesn’t shut down the  (CA-HSR) project or ask for a funding plan for the entire project. Current construction in the San Joaquin Valley is about 6 billion dollars. To build a new right of way between Bakersfield and Palmdale is estimated to cost 10 billion dollars. Four billion of that is expected to come from Prop 1A bonds. With Prop 1A and Federal funding that’s 13 billion dollars that should be available now for High Speed Rail. To finish the entire 300 miles between Merced and Burbank to run electrified HSR will require an additional 18 billion for a total of 31 billion dollars. With the State’s Budget in the black with over 100 billion dollars of spending annually, spreading $18 Billion dollars of additional funding to complete High Rail over 10 years or more is feasible. Once the 300 miles of HSR (some of it “blended” with existing railroads) is built, the CHSRA is on its own according to Prop 1A to finance the rest of the project from its own revenues. NB

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By Andrew Selden, President, Minnesota Rail Passenger Association

The great Amtrak myth is that long distance trains cost a ton of money (one recent report we saw, which loaded them up with shares of every cost imaginable, including NEC costs and all the non-cash ones like depreciation of fully-depreciated Superliners, alleged a net loss last year of more than $600 million).

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Posted in Commentary

Is Shipping Oil by Rail a Good Idea?   January 10th, 2014

By Noel T. Braymer

In the last 6 months of 2013 there were 4 explosive accidents with fires in the US and Canada of unit oil trains carrying unconventional oil made from shale or tar sands. The latest accident in North Dakota on December 30th involved an 104 car train of oil tanker cars. While in this case no one was killed, the nearby town of Casselton was evacuated because of toxic smoke. The heat from the fire was so intense that after almost half of the train was pulled away the fire was left to burn itself out.

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Posted in Editorials

eNewsletter for January 6, 2014   January 10th, 2014

When some people hear about plans to build a major stadium depending on rail transit; the first thing they complain about is people won’t take the trains and there won’t be enough parking. These were the same complaints when PETCO Park was built in San Diego. Parking is limited in this part of San Diego. I have lived in San Diego County for about 25 years. I remember the opposition to  PETCO Park because of its location and limited parking. Parking has never been a problem at PETCO Park. I remember that after the first baseball season at PETCO Park which set attendance records compared to the recent past, it was found that there was in fact surplus parking all baseball season long with Trolley and Coaster ridership higher than expected.

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