Report and Photos by Russ Jackson, RailPAC Associate Director

Tower 55 Ft. Worth TX. No BNSF trains waiting to cross, no UP traffic moving across it? No problem? Astounding. But, what happens when a westbound UP freight has a disabled car and blocks access to the Ft. Worth Intermodal Center for the southbound Texas Eagle, and it is not a dispatch situation? Passengers wait on the platform where they can see their train so close but they must wait and wait for it to back in to be loaded. On Wednesday, April 2, 2014, the wait was only about 30 minutes, but still frustrating. After efficiently loading passengers we were off and settled into car 32011 behind locomotive 170 for the overnight journey to San Antonio and on to Tucson.

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Posted in Commentary

On March 27th, Paul Dyson represented RailPAC and NARP while testifying before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.
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Posted in Commentary, Issues

On March 19th, Paul Dyson represented RailPAC and NARP while testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Passenger Rail.

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Posted in Commentary, Issues

Report and Commentary by Russ Jackson and Andrew C. Selden, URPA

Amtrak published its budget request for the year beginning October, 2014, on March 18. To read the full document, go to this site: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/412/537/Amtrak-FY2015-Federal-Budget-Request-ATK-14-028,0.pdf In summary, here is what Amtrak has in store for the western Long Distance Business Line, which includes the Coast Starlight, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, and Sunset Limited that all serve the west coast.

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Commentary by Russ Jackson, RailPAC Associate Director

On February 1, 2014, Amtrak’s General Manager Long Distance Services, Mark Murphy, spoke to the RailPAC-NARP meeting in Los Angeles. While this writer was unable to attend the meeting I have viewed the video of his presentation. In it, Mr. Murphy spoke of the future of the long distance trains, and that subject is important to California because four of them serve the state, providing mobility options for those who want to travel beyond the state’s borders by train. Accompanying him were Mike Dwyer, the route director for the Coast Starlight and the Southwest Chief, and Joy Smith, Business Liaison Director of Service Excellence, long distance services. Mr. Dwyer’s contribution was the good news that the Pacific Parlour car will be continued on the Coast Starlight. Ms Smith was not heard from and that is unfortunate, as her presentation to a TXARP meeting when she was General Manaager in Texas was excellent and very well received. Mr. Murphy spoke of Amtrak’s need for more revenue and that they are “going after every dime we can get; we can’t cut our way to success.” Rail advocates in attendance loudly applauded this and the fact he stated that Amtrak earns 89-90 cents for each operating cost dollar. He proudly spoke of the “new equipment” on order, while not mentioning that those cars are the new low-levels that will be used only on the eastern trains. As for new equipment for the western trains, he only said “nothing today, but if we can show value…” meaning that the western trains still have to show their worth to the company? He wants to add capacity to “grow our revenue,” but did not say how that would be accomplished. We all know that the way to do that is to add Superliner cars as well as the new Viewliners to current consists.

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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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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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Story and Photos by RailPAC member Alexander Friedman

I love traveling cross-country by train and I have done so every year for over a decade. For this Thanksgiving holidays I decided to take, for the first time the Sunset Limited. Then after visiting New Orleans for a day, I planned to transfer onto the Crescent for a trip straight to Washington D.C. I was also going to visit my father who lives just west of our nation’s capital, for a nice Thanksgiving celebration. I was truly excited about riding these two routes, the few that I haven’t traveled yet.

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Amtrak Monthly Performance Report   December 16th, 2013

Reported by Anthony Lee, RailPAC Associate Director
Each month Amtrak compiles a Performance Report, covering many financial and financial items. Their full (unaudited) report can be found on www.amtrak.com by going to the list of items at the bottom of the home page and selecting “News & Media” then select “Reports & Documents” and then look at the items at the bottom of the page. In this report we have selected certain items that highlight what is on that 61 page report for the month of October, 2013.

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Commentary by Russ Jackson, URPA/RailPAC

On October 24, 2013, Amtrak rolled out the new low-level Viewliner cars at the manufacturer CAF’s plant in Elmira, New York. The order is for 130 cars: 25 sleeper cars, 25 dining cars, 25 baggage/dormitory cars and 55 baggage cars, and Amtrak is excited. They should be. This is the first order for the passenger fleet since the Superliner II cars were purchased in the 1990s. That’s a long time. In a blog report, Amtrak was enthusiastic about “how cool” these new cars are. They will all be painted in “Phase III” red and blue stripes, which was Amtrak’s most popular design, and will have the heritage “pointless arrow” on the first cars to be released. See http://blog.amtrak.com/2013/10/coming-soon-new-long-distance-cars for pictures of the exterior and interior of these new cars. Will they increase capacity for the routes where they will run? Not much, because current plans call for all the older Viewliners to be withdrawn from service for upgrade to Viewliner II standards, and there is no funding for that yet. Remember, too, Amtrak is also buying new electric locomotives for use on the Northeast Corridor. It’s nice they are being built in Sacramento, though.

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