Commentary

Bye Bye Joe; Welcome to Wick

Here it is the first of September, 2016, and a new Amtrak era begins at the top of the ladder.  Wick Moorman, 64, until last year the CEO of the Norfolk Southern Railway and a 40 year career there, has taken the reins of the leaderless horse called Amtrak and been given a list of incentives that he can earn.  The Amtrak Board of Directors will pay Moorman $1 a year, and if he accomplishes that list of incentives he can earn up to $500,000.  Isn’t it interesting that as of this date no one has reported what is on that list?  We can only guess, and as everyone reading this knows, rail advocates are quick with lists of their own as to what should be on it. Continue Reading

Commentary

Steel Wheels: July – September 2016

Dear members:
By now you will have received your latest Steel Wheels magazine.  In the rush to meet the deadline for mailing the conference registration a few errors crept in, for which I apologize.  Andy Selden’s excellent account  was spoiled somewhat by missing captions.  Andy took the photos which are in order of appearance Denver Union Station trackside, El Paso depot, and the Huey Long bridge.  I suppose I could have made a competition of that!  Also on the front cover mention is made of the SCRIP project, which story is on the cutting room floor to use local Burbank parlance.  That story will appear in the fourth quarter issue.

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Uncategorized

Important message from the RailPAC Board

Dear Passenger Rail Supporter:

RailPAC has endeavored over the past thirty eight years to advocate investment in and the greater use of passenger in California, Nevada and the west.  The campaign continues with publications, online news briefings, visits to Sacramento and DC, and with local officials.  We believe that we have made a difference, and we continue to do so. Continue Reading

Commentary

Bullet Train will Start in the Bay Area

The Rail Passenger Association of California welcomes the decision of the CHSRA to construct north from Bakersfield to link with an electrified Caltrain at San Jose.  At the same time money will be spent on the long overdue modernization of Los Angeles Union Station, especially permitting through services between the north and south of the region.  Coupled with the removal of the capacity choking bottlenecks that prevent Metrolink and Surfliner from reaching their potential, in effect what will be created is two regional mobility systems which should tie together the planned and existing investments in subway, light rail and BART to create better choices for citizens in the most populated areas of the state.
In an ideal world we would like to see simultaneous construction of the link between the San Fernando Valley and Bakersfield.  This could be a private enterprise project put out to the industry for proposals, perhaps for a “toll” railroad or some other form of joint venture.  Absent that I have no doubt that southern California politicians will soon find a way to fund the missing link once they see how the “northerners” enjoy the benefits of swift, electric powered transportation.
Commentary, Issues

Amtrak Long Distance News in the New Year … the good, some bad, and the expected “ugly”

Let’s start with the ugly status of the Dining car removal from the Silver Star train, since it’s the hottest news.  On January 28, just as this is being written, URPA learned that Amtrak employees were told the day before that the Star’s dining car is PERMANENTLY gone.  As predicted here since this “experiment” was first announced last summer, there was no doubt it was going to be a permanent discontinuance.  Continue Reading

Commentary

Western Long Distance Trains at the End of 2015: A Positive Report

Here we are, Christmastime 2015, and lo and behold the Amtrak long distance trains continue to roll and to some extent thrive despite the negative publicity that they are “money losers.”  In recent posts this writer has talked about the positives that are being accomplished on the Coast Starlight, and the opposite effects that are creating heartburn on other trains like the east coast Silver Star which has lost its dining car.  In this article we will look at the other western routes that operate in and out of Los Angeles headed east, and what the imminent retirement of CEO Joe Boardman can bring to the future. Continue Reading

Commentary, Reports

The Coast Starlight:  Paso Robles to Eugene; not endpoint travel!  What about the food?

Report and Commentary by Russ Jackson with Ralph James

Amtrak likes to tout its end points and the volume of traffic it gets between those departures and destinations on all of its routes, but while some passengers do that it is the intermediate station travel that fills up the trains.  Can you imagine, as RailPAC President Paul Dyson says, if you could only travel between endpoints on the interstate highway system?  Amtrak is usually surprised when someone wants to travel from, say, Paso Robles, CA, to Eugene, OR.  They might not be able to collect as much money from that passenger, but they can still sell that seat on either side of those two locations.  Here is an instance of that exact travel pair as reported to us by RailPAC member Ralph James.  He recommended to a friend that he take the his Thanksgiving trip on the Coast Starlight from Paso Robles to Eugene.  The  friend was dreading the long drive.  “With the necessary tinge of reservation,” Ralph says, “I suggested he look into Amtrak since his origin and destination were right at stops for the Starlight.”  He did so, and sent Ralph a trip report of the first half of his trip, as an “assessment,” giving Amtrak numeric grades for what he experienced with comparisons to airline travel: Continue Reading

Coast Starlight
Issues, Tracking Rail News

Pacific Parlour Car Temporary Withdrawal

Coast StarlightA well-informed source has told RailPAC that Pacific Parlour Car service will be missing from the Coast Starlight in the coming weeks because the FRA has some concerns about the glazing.  Apparently one car has already been fixed and Amtrak is awaiting delivery of material for the rest of the fleet.  Unfortunately we cannot offer a schedule of which dates may be affected but we’ll do our best to keep you informed.

As the Parlour Cars are cycled through the shops they will be temporarily replaced by Superliner lounge cars.  We are assured there is no intent to end the service.