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KStreetProjector and Atrios have both pointed to one of the things liberals should really be cheering about Joe Biden being on the Democratic ticket: The man is one of Amtrak's biggest supporters.

That support comes in several forms:

Biden commutes to work each day on Amtrak and has been a strong supporter of the beleaguered rail service.  He is an original co-sponsor of the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill (National Defense Rail Act), S.104, introduced on January 7, 2003.   Introducing an earlier version of the bill with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) on March 6, 2002, Biden stated, "For 30 years, I have witnessed Congress dangling a carrot in front of Amtrak's eyes, funding it just enough for it to limp along.  And I'll tell you, this has to stop.  Now is the time to commit politically and financially to a strong, safe, and efficient passenger rail system."   Biden has been particularly concerned with rail passenger security, and has, in the words of communications director Norm Kurz "worked furiously" to secure funding for Amtrak to upgrade its tunnels, hire more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs, build more fences, and add lighting to terminals.

Amtrak president George Warrington presented Biden with a "Champion of the Rails" award in June 2001 and the American Passenger Rail Coalition (APRC), a national association of railroad equipment suppliers and rail businesses, presented him its "Rail Leadership Award" in March 2002.

Moreover, his younger son is on the Amtrak board, and in that capacity is a major advocate for the railroad.

Especially in this moment when rising gas prices have set Amtrak ridership records, having one of the rail service's supporters handed a bigger soapbox creates a real moment of potential. This country needs more public transit -- more miles of service, funding to repair and upgrade equipment (train tracks in particular need work, but Amtrak's cars also need refurbishing or replacing in many cases -- and can you even imagine how many people would opt for Amtrak over the New York to DC shuttle if Amtrak had wifi?), and, as Atrios tirelessly points out, we need public transit to become an organizing principle of new development of residential and commercial areas. This is one of the most important components of improved energy policy. (And, like Atrios, I think it's a path to improved quality of life as well.)

Let's hope Biden is able to move things forward on this one.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:03 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Contrast (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beancounter

      Obviously, there are many points of contrast between Biden and Cheney. But it'll be nice to have a vice president who actively supports rail travel instead of a vice president who makes energy policy in private with energy company execs.

      "You can't talk to the ignorant about lies, since they have no criteria." --Ezra Pound

      by machopicasso on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 07:58:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  trains! trains! (38+ / 0-)

    If he can give a boost to Amtrak, to light rail, and to making America smart about commuting via trains, as Europe is, it would be extraordinary.  Setting up a commuter rail system from the exurbs would be enormously helpful in a myriad of ways.  And it would create useful jobs that couldn't be exported.  Go Joe!

    •  And prioritizing rail would encourage us to (17+ / 0-)

      start designing our communities in more sensible, pedestrian-friendly, and environmentally sustainable ways. We know the current patterns of development are less safe, gobble up land and oil, and may ultimately implode upon themselves. I'd love to see a VP lead a national conversation about transit - put it on the front burner.

      "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner

      by Mother Mags on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:12:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I rode the Acela from Baltimore to NYC last year (10+ / 0-)

        It was REALLY nice to be on a fast rail service in the United States.  In Europe where gas has been expensive for years and the taxes have gone to build modern rapid rail service.  Time we taxed the oil companies here and do the same.

        "The question isn't 'Is America ready for Barack Obama;' the question is, 'Is America ready for a smart President." John Lovitz

        by Kdoug on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:15:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, I was in Europe for about 2 years (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NoMoreLies, Kdoug, amRadioHed

          back in the 70s, never needed a car. Like a lot of other things there transit is a more sociable experience. Since the beginning of PR here, cars have been marketed as a tool to realize one's individualism - out on the road, by yourself, the happy driver and family, nobody crowding your space, no slave to train time tables or other socialistic programs, freedom, democracy, see the USA in your Chevrolet. No wonder the American Dream was to have two.

          "One cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is the native land of hope." Wallace Stegner

          by Mother Mags on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:41:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I would give my left one to take a 200mph (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Odysseus

          bullet train between Detroit, Chicago, and Toronto, instead of driving 5- to 8-hour trips at 70mph.

          Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. -Barack Obama

          by klizard on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:06:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Vital part of an energy plan (15+ / 0-)

      Getting people out of cars and into mass transit wherever possible is incredibly important if we're ever going to be energy independent.  Even battery powered cars will take a lot of electricity.

      The current nexus of energy crisis, jobs crisis and real estate crisis creates an opportunity to begin to fundamentally redesign urban and suburban development.  Funding mass transit projects, using domestic companies and labor to build them, and creating mortgage programs that encourage increased-density, energy-efficient developments more appropriate to rail lines are solutions that reinforce each other.  

      It's time America entered the 21st century.  And in this century, a lot more of us ought to be riding rails.

      I can't expect to live in a democracy if I'm not prepared to do the work of being a citizen.

      by Dallasdoc on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:12:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  this is absolutely true. (7+ / 0-)

        It's time America entered the 21st century.

        If I had to characterize the Bush crowd, and McCain, I would say they are using their considerable power and energy to push back against the 21st century.  They want to keep things as they were, stick to what they know, keep themselves and those like them in power, keep out the immigrants, push down women and blacks, prop up big corporations, push American power, ignore the rising tide of China and India, close their eyes to global warming, stoke Christian fundamentalism, keep their power through hyper-partisanship, ignore the netroots, etc.  They are scared to death of a change that will make them, their worldview and their policies irrelevant.

        Obama represents a 21st century vision.  He is young, comes from a mixed cultural background, is part of the world beyond simply America, owes much of his rise to the internet, and understands that America has to rejoin the world community to save the planet from extremism and global warming.  

        You can't stop the march of time.  Bush and his cohorts have tried, and the pre-boomer McCain is trying also.  But we are living in the millennium crisis everyone was so worried about as the year 2000 approached.  It'll take a new kind of leader to solve it.

        •  21st century? More like the 19th... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PeterHug

          Even with TGV, etc.

          Trains work really well in some places.  Heck, I rode the trains for years going into Chicago for school and work.

          They're great in places like Europe and Japan where you've got lots of people going between large population centers.  Even in the US, Boston - New York does pretty well.

          The problem with trains is track, and the problem with track is land -- not to mention cost.

          It's why air traffic has leapfrogged rail in much of the world.  Even in subsidized Europe, low cost airlines often outcompete the trains.

          And, of course, trains don't eliminate cars unless you regulate where people live.  When I took the trains to Chicago, I could bike to the station in good weather, but the biggest problem was :: parking!! Most people got in their cars and drove to the station so they could hope the train downtown.

          Trains will have a role in the future, but so will airplanes and automobiles.  Hey -- wasn't that a Steve Martin movie?

          Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

          by dinotrac on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:38:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yup (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PeterHug, dinotrac

            wasn't that a Steve Martin movie

            It had one of the funniest scenes I've even seen in a movie.  He and John Candy have to sleep together in one bed one night on their long, impossible journey, and during the night they end up unwittingly snuggling up to one another.  When they awake and see themselves in that position, they immediately sit up on opposite sides of the bed, and start talking about sports!  Hilarious.

          •  Low cost air travel will (6+ / 0-)

            be one of the first casualties of peak oil. Pay no attention to the temporary, election-fueled, end of the summer driving season-fueled price drop of oil and gas, it will rebound sometime in late winter 2009 and resume the march towards $200 a barrel. Cheap air travel is now unsustainable at $125 a barrel, especially short hop (<700 mile) flights. Just because air travel (which is subsidized by government at a much higher support level than rail) outcompeted rail at prices below $100 a barrel doesn't mean it will at $150 or $200 a barrel. The fuel surcharges, baggage surcharges, and slashed flight schedules of late have been evidence enough that cheap air (and eventually) car travel are numbered. As for train track, we have plenty of old lines and right of ways that can be revitalized, and as we continue down the backslope of peak oil, road beds can be re-tooled for rail, eliminating the need for land acquisition for tracks.</p>

            "Without our playstations, we are a third world nation"-Ani DiFranco

            by NoMoreLies on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:26:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, right. (0+ / 0-)

              >we have plenty of old lines

              We have old lines that went to the places old trains used to go.

              We don't have lines that go anywhere near the places that cars go now, or that can sustain 21st century passenger loads if trains were to be a hot ticket.

              Trains are a classic technology that still has a place in this world.  They are not the answer to all that ails us.

              Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

              by dinotrac on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:34:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  no (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                tidalwave1

                tains arent the answer to all that ail us, but killing the vast majority of the cars on the road by mashing it in a compactor and then altering life styles to lessen the need to spend 2-4 or more hours a day in said individual commuting devices very well might be.

                Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment. --Solomon Short

                by potty p on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 07:00:51 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  No. (0+ / 0-)

                  Unless, of course, people make a massive change in where they prefer to live and work -- which is possible.  After all, most people used to live on farms 100 years or so ago.

                  If you actually took a look around the world, you would see that people are buying more cars everywhere.  Poor people leaving that status tend to value the freedom and mobility that comes with cars.  

                  Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

                  by dinotrac on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 08:04:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  in europe, high speed rail's killing the airlines (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Gravedugger, lemming22

            and in fact much of europe is about the same population density as america. spain in particular is nearly identical to california, and their HSR system has more or less put short hail flights out of business.

            surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

            by wu ming on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:40:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Excuse me? Fact check, please. (0+ / 0-)

              It certainly is true that the TGV is doing bumper business on INTERNAL French Traffic, and I presume the same to be true of internal German traffic.

              Of course, the heaviest hitter in Europe, Ryanair, really doesn't even compete for that business.  They've only just started flying the routes and shorter runs don't offer a natural advantage.

              On short runs (less than 500 miles (or 800 km) the flight-time speed gain of an airplane can easily be lost in time to and from the airport.

              Still, recent oil-related difficulties notwithstanding, RyanAir and EasyJet have been growing and taking more business, not shrinking and taking less.

              If that's being killed, I'd like to volunteer.

              Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

              by dinotrac on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 05:44:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  london/paris paris/brussels ... etc. regional tru (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Gravedugger

                I can't give you scads of data, I don't really follow travel in europe and I know that if you are wedded to your current feeling of convenience-oriented travel being a natural right, then there is no evidence that will convince, but there are plenty of stories that show a shift to rail over air travel in Europe (particularly on the mid-travel range). You are correct that most of that falls in the same country realm, but not all. Still the news is encouraging.  
                135 minutes london to paris isn't too shabby

                June 25, 2008

                Rail's city-center-to-city-centre service is also becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to flying.

                Research has shown that business travelers are now willing to travel up to four hours on rail because of the increased productivity versus the airlines. Leisure travelers are prepared to go further, using trains on journeys of up to six hours.

                its not just about the time, but how you spend it and which is more productive. Coast to Coast rail travel in the States is not feasible, but regional hubs are more doable.

                Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment. --Solomon Short

                by potty p on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 07:13:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Self-serving weasel words do not an argument (0+ / 0-)

                  make.

                  It's always convenient to say the other person is wedded to their position when you haven't got the evidence.

                  However, the position I'm wedded to is that rail is not a be-all, end-all solution, which is what I said in my post.  

                  Some places will do well by it -- those places with clusters of population and rails already in place -- like, ahem, Europe -- would seem to do well, and yet -- for all of that subsidized rail, the low-frills carriers were still doing quite well until oil went through the roof.

                  A new, much more efficient generation of airliners is coming out over the next few years, and low-cost airlines will continue to prosper.  Where trains make sense, people will take them.  Where they don't, only subsidies will keep them alive.

                  Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

                  by dinotrac on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 08:01:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  dino's right (0+ / 0-)

              'killing' is extreme to the point of being false, although I'd love to be proven wrong (please oh please!) creating an situation that allows rail to become more viable alternative that will nearly double ridership in the next few years is probably more accurate.

              Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment. --Solomon Short

              by potty p on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 07:16:46 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  land use of railroad (0+ / 0-)

            The railroads were originally build with checkerboard land grants from the government.    Before that, there was only about 32 miles of railroad.  The government deeded something like 1 mile wide section of land (alternating sides of the track every mile) to the railroads.     Actual width of the strips varied.  The Pacific Railway act deeded 10 mile wide strips. Thus the railroads benefited from the real estate values of the land that they made valuable in the first place.   The value of the government's land went up, too.

            --
            -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

            by whitis on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 06:25:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Rail travel (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dinotrac

              Is a good idea, the big BUT is that many passenger rail lines use the same track as commercial rail which impacts the timeliness of rail travel.

              Where I live, thousands of people take the train from Albany, NY and points south to NYC.  It's about a 2 1/2 hour trip.   On the other hand, practically no one takes the train from Albany to Boston, even though mileage-wise it's slightly shorter than Albany to NYC.  

              The reason?  There's only one train each way each day, and the eastbound train comes from Chicago, so it's never on time.  The westbound train doesn't do much better coming from Boston.  The trains share the track with CSX and get stuck behind freight trains.

              When talking about rail travel, one also has to consider track maintenance -- rails are costly to maintain.   I live by a stretch of the CSX track the Chicago-Boston train takes; they've replaced the track 3 times in the 10 years I've lived here.  On the plus side, it's work that can't be outsourced to India, but it does add to the overall expense (i.e. government subsidies) of rail travel.

              Even with the disadvantages, more accessible rail travel will lessen our reliance on oil and makes sense as one of many long term commitments to increased energy independence.

              •  Yup again. (0+ / 0-)

                When I get downtown assignements, I take the Metra West Line from Geneva.  That has two unfortunate problems:

                1.  Only two tracks instead of three, so fewer switching options for dealing with freight trains in either direction and Metra trains going the other way.
                1.  It is run by Union Pacific, who makes oodles of money on freight traffic.

                On-time performance is **cough** not exemplary.

                My understanding, however, is that other Metra lines do better.

                Free speech? Yeah, I've heard of that. Have you?

                by dinotrac on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 09:49:55 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Can we stop calling Obama young? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BachFan, chutry, lemming22, HylasBrook

          He's 45. Same as me. I'm not young. The arthritis in my knees tells me that, the broken vertabrae in my back tells me that, my long list of adventures, mishaps, failures and achievements tell me that. I don't have the experience to be president, but I have lots of experiences. Experiences that took all of those long 45 years to get. 23 is young. 45 is completely, totally, unequivacably adult. And on the long side of it at that.

          Obama isn't young. McCain is old. Not that that is a bad thing. I hope to be old. Very, very old.

          But let's stop calling Obama young.

          It's an insult to him, and me, too.

          •  I can't agree with this (0+ / 0-)

            But let's stop calling Obama young.
            It's an insult to him, and me, too.

            In the context of my comment, young is a matter of outlook.  Young means not yet cynical.  Young means forward thinking.  Young means hungry for the challenge.   I can't agree that young and adult are opposites.  And I can't see how his relative youth
            --in terms of presidential candidates--is an insult to you.  

            As for McCain being old (which I did not say), old in the context of my comment means stuck on 20th century ideas and beliefs, which have become increasingly dangerous as the globe calls out for new approaches to the way we live our lives.  The "old" part of the people I describe here--which includes Bush--is their desire to "get theirs" at the expense of moving forward.

      •  also a vital part of rebuilding US infrastructure (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dallasdoc, Gravedugger, indres, pixxer

        and getting people back to work (maybe on a "service to country" basis

        You could kill at least 3 birds with 1 stone.  

        Fired up! Ready to go!

        by kacemo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:35:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Amtrak needs a shot in the arm (8+ / 0-)

    The delays have become even worse.

    Lincoln was overrated...

    by ThePrometheusMan on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:06:38 PM PDT

    •  It takes 6-1/2 hours to drive (11+ / 0-)

      from San Antonio to Oklahoma City.  It takes over 13 hours to ride the train, including a 2-1/2 hour layover with a train change in Ft. Worth, and it's always late.  The freight lines own the tracks, and their trains take priority over passenger trains, so you sit around for long periods on side tracks waiting for freight trains to pass by.

      Amtrak needs a lot of help, which means a lot of money, and I'm not sure even a VP can arrange the kind of financing that's needed to make the train a viable form of travel outside the NE corridor.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:19:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fares from New Haven are ridiculous.... (6+ / 0-)

      $128 for a round-trip to Boston.
      $206 for a round-trip to D.C.

      If a friend and I wanted to go to Boston to catch a Red Sox game, why on Earth wouldn't we drive?

      Even in my gas guzzler, it'd be $60 worth of gas, as opposed to $256 via train.

      Obama/Biden, no Namby-Pamby!

      by Anderson Scooper on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:21:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  exactly (5+ / 0-)

        it's a big flaw in the amtrak system now. Either driving must become A LOT more expensive (north of $8 a gallon) or train travel must be made cheaper. Amtrak...even in the NE corridor doesn't always make economic sense even with $4 gas.

        "People place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don't put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible." --J.R.

        by michael1104 on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:24:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Reagan, I believe, de-subsidized the trains, (9+ / 0-)

          on the mistaken (I think most intentionally so) belief that if trains were worth it to people, they would be financially successful.  

          The idea that some things are of benefit to the country (and the planet) way out of proportion to their potential profitability is anathema to repubs, but demos do manage to 'get it' quite often.  Maybe there is hope that Amtrak can become a protected national treasure with subsizided fares that make train travel highly competitive and easily affordable.

          And remember... if you don't like the news, go out and make some own.
          - Scoop Nisker

          by pixxer on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:40:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They are partially desubsidized (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pixxer

            Congress basically covers their losses every year...

            "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

            by skywaker9 on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:45:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Desubsidizing the trains would be fine-- (11+ / 0-)

            if they'd also desubsidize road and air travel.  If everyone has to pay all their expenses, I think trains come out ahead--by a long shot.

            As it is, it's hardly a fair contest.

            •  Exactly, lolbertarians arguing against trains (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              PeterHug, NancyK, pixxer

              always seem to miss (or the journalists interviewing them don't bring up) that roads and air travel are subsidized nine ways from Sunday.

              Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. -Barack Obama

              by klizard on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:20:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Libertarians don't forget (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Odysseus, PeterHug, pixxer

                Ask them about it, and you'll start hearing about their dream of every road being a toll road. It's funny how the best arguments against Libertarian policies tend to be simply an accurate description of what those policies are.

                •  Except for the ones (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  PeterHug, Goldfish, pixxer

                  they drive on.

                  And only if the roads and tolls are privately owned. Can't pay tolls to the government, of course.  

                  CoB, who has way too many lolbertarians in his life

                  Bruce is still God, but Michael Phelps is moving up the rankings.

                  by ChurchofBruce on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 06:04:16 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Oh yea, for got to specify (0+ / 0-)

                    the privately owned part, which I should have, since that's really key to their thinking.

                    It's funny how for people who base their ideology around economics, free-market libertarians can't understand that the laws of economics sometimes make it cheaper and more efficient to have the government do something at cost, rather than have it operated by the private sector.

                    But then, people who base their ideology on economics don't usually have a very realistic grasp of it... Just ask Lenin.

                    •  And they're doing a damn good job of it, (0+ / 0-)

                      There seems to be a huge push to privatize portions of heavily traveled public roads and turn them into toll roads.  Big doin's down here in Texas on that front - lots of screaming by citizens about how we pay highway taxes to keep the roads "free," but unless a lot more Democrats are elected to the state legislature, there will be toll roads (owned mostly by foreign entities) all over the state and even inside some of the largest cities.

                      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

                      by SueDe on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 07:45:18 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  It's about time (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Goldfish

                      that we all sat down and forced these jokers to realize that their silly schemes (although superficially really nice and attractive) are so far from any reasonable depiction of reality, and any actual calculation of what actual costs and expenses are, as to be less factual than a Norman Rockwell painting (sorry, all you Rockwell fans...).

                      They're living in a dreamworld, and the sad part is, they probably are smart enough to know that, if they only get called on it.

            •  Not really... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              pixxer

              The expenses of operating passenger trains almost always outstrip the revenue they bring in -just the same as road, and as we now see, air.

              The economy of transporting people is such that it's very, very hard to make money off it. Even in the heyday of intercity passenger rail, pre-expressway and pre-air travel, most trains still ran in the red.

              This is the reason the idea of Amtrak every turning a profit is such a joke. The kind of capital expenditures they would have to make to build the capacity to turn a profit would still leave them with more money going out than coming in.

              I'm not sure which mode of transport would come out a head of you desubsidized all of them. My guess is they would all suck more or less equally, but trains would fall behind because there would by fewer travel options. Transportation, whatever the mode, requires subsidization.

              •  Transportation of people may require subsidy. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                sngmama

                Fine, no problem--I think that's a social good that justifies subsidy.

                I think I'm going to ask you for a reference for your statement that passenger trains (particularly intercity) were money-losing propositions even in the heyday of passenger rail--and the reason I'm going to ask for that is that most of these services were being provided by relativley small, local, private companies, and they stayed in business for many decades.  This wouldn't have been the case if they were losing money.

                (i) I DON'T agree with your statement that all modes of transportation need to be subsidized;
                and
                (ii) I DON'T agree with your statement that trains will come out last.

                If you're going to make those claims, I think you need some substantiation.

          •  It will take a generation to overcome (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pixxer

            the damage Reagan did.

          •  Reagan tried (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pixxer

            Congress stopped him, but Reagan made sure things didn't get any better. It isn't really until the Bush sr/Clinton years Amtrak starts to really get its act together.

      •  Wow, that's crazy (0+ / 0-)

        My ticket for NY-Pittsburgh for an upcoming trip is just $66 -- 10% less with the AAA discount.

    •  they have service alerts galore; for example (0+ / 0-)

      Please be advised that heavy freight interference, speed restrictions and other operating conditions may cause delays on the Texas Eagle route, as described below. Passengers should be mindful of the possibility of a delay and visit Amtrak.com or call 1-800-USA-RAIL for the most up-to-date arrival and departure times.

      "The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws." Edward Abbey

      by timbuck on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:57:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hope not! (0+ / 0-)

      I'm taking my first ever Amtrak trip in a week and a half, from New York to Pittsburgh.  It's advertised as being about the same travel time as it would take to drive it (including bathroom/refueling breaks), maybe a little more.  Delays won't be enjoyable with a toddler in tow, heh.

  •  YES WE CAN rebuilt mass transit (11+ / 0-)

    With Biden and Gore having influence in the Obama administration, the potential for modernizing this crucial part of our infrastructure is great.

  •  Please! Let this become an issue... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jkb246, tidalwave1, marykk, indres, pixxer

    ...it has Senate race ramifications as well.

    From October 2007:

    Lawmakers defeated, 28-66, an amendment by Sen. John E. Sununu, R-N.H., that would have decreased funding for any Amtrak route requiring a federal subsidy of $200 per passenger or more.

    ...Sununu's amendment was in keeping with the administration's position on Amtrak. The White House would prefer to see Amtrak, which it considers inefficient and mismanaged, broken up and its money-losing long distance routes privatized.

  •  Train + WiFi = (14+ / 0-)

    Guaranteed money maker.

    The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

    by easong on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:08:53 PM PDT

  •  If we could copy Europe's rail system... (5+ / 0-)

    ...but a 21st technology, high-speed, version of it. That'd be so awesome.

    Central Florida especially needs a mostly elevated, electric light-rail, monorail system.  Like Disney's but scaled up.

    •  Britain is spending $30 billion right now on (7+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, Carbon, hhex65, NoMoreLies, 4km, indres, pixxer

      adding lines and upgrading. France spent a ton on upgrades years ago and are now making profits over a billion a year.

      All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. -- Thomas Jefferson

      by DWKING on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:15:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Europe's is a 21st century high speed version! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Carbon, Tennessee Dave, pixxer

      The Eurostar system now allows you to travel between London and Paris in less time than it takes to fly. In fact, I can leave work in London a bit early on a Friday, take the 3:30 train to Paris and then be on the Mediterranean coast in time for dinner!

      "True peace is not merely the absence of tension -- it is the presence of justice." MLK

      by dhaemeon on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:40:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Our rail system is actually better (0+ / 0-)

      For building a passenger network on, since unlike in Europe where the cities were their long before the trains, a huge number of American towns and cities were established because the railroad was there.

      The problem is a lot of the system we once had has been abandoned or gone to seed. The Congresses of the 50s and 60s, the automotive and airline industries, and the railroads themselves are mostly to blame.

      With enough money, and the political will to take back abandoned right of ways (always a contentious and politically dicey process) we would have a rail system that would be far more convenient and efficient than anything in Europe, or probably anywhere in the world.

  •  great thread, diary, issue, and topic (12+ / 0-)

    Rail is so much more efficient and clean compared to jet or car travel, that the failure of the candidates to discuss it has been embarrassing. Of course RRs aren't sexy, not even on a Monopoly board. But absolutely necessary to America's future.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:08:57 PM PDT

  •  If I had my way, we'd have passenger (15+ / 0-)

    trains that serve ever corner of this country.

    Biden's appreciation of Amtrak has always been a plus in his column.

    The Republicans have been tried to kill it for years.

    Maybe now we'll get investment better than the crumbs that the Dems were able to defend in the past eight years.

  •  Trains are an easy and safe way to solve (8+ / 0-)

    some of our energy issues.  Fat-speed and communter trains need to be added to our set of goals to help cut our dependence on oil.  Look at Europe.  So many train communters...yet here in the US we are letting it die away much like our home-owned shipping industry.

    Maybe areas of the country could benefit and also more oil could be saved by using more train transport rather than diesel 16 wheelers...Let accidents, let impact on the existing highways and less traffic.  Overall a win win for us.

  •  This has me so excited as I love trains and rode (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jkb246, marykk, Youffraita, indres, pixxer

    Amtrak for years from Baltimore. When I live in UK it was so great to not need a car. I have always believed that if merica woul invest in trains like they have in Europe and Asia, Americans would learn to relax. Already with gas prices skyrocketing we in NC are seeing an increase in ridership on mass transit and people aren't so harried. You can read the paper and work on your computer while you ride. And with air travel so intolerable, imagine how many would love a mag lev train ride cross country as opposed to getting stuck in airports and dealing with delayed flights, etc.

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. -- Thomas Jefferson

    by DWKING on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:09:46 PM PDT

    •  I could never understand (6+ / 0-)

      flying relatively short distances--like NYC to DC--because it takes almost as long (esp. since 9/11) what with getting to the airport, going through security, etc.  Plus, on the train you can get up and walk around--you aren't stuck the whole time.

      Our economy is a house of cards. Don't breathe.

      by Youffraita on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:12:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lots of people watch movies or TVs (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beancounter, indres, pixxer

        or listen to music. And you can bring your own food. The Acela lines are really nice with good food service. But in Japan, Europe and China the service is incredible. China has the new mag levs that are super fast.

        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. -- Thomas Jefferson

        by DWKING on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:18:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Because, unfortunately, it's cheaper. (0+ / 0-)

        Boston to Baltimore is $156 round trip by plane.  By train it's about that each way.

        I wish it were otherwise, the train's much more comfortable than flying cattle-class.

    •  Relaxation (0+ / 0-)

      is one of the main reasons I take the train. I've traveled between Memphis and Chicago many, many times on Amtrak after driving this trip for years. On the train, the trip is overnight each way, so all I do is park my car (for free) at the station, get on board, go to sleep, get up the next morning and have a good breakfast, then get off the train in Chicago relaxed and refreshed. On the return trip, I get aboard, have a delicious dinner (ordered from an actual menu), sleep and get off the train in Memphis and get right into my car and drive home. And the fare has always seemed comparable to airline fares. My most recent round trip was $320. The relaxation part is priceless.

  •  hopefully, not only for Amtrak (12+ / 0-)

    Rail is by far the most efficient means of metropolitan mass transit, at least in operating-cost.  It takes significant capital outlay to build the infrastructure, but once it's there the return on investment is great.  Particularly when fossil fuel prices are high.

    Cheers for Amtrak, and cheers for mass transit.

    The way to win is not to move to the right wing; the way to win is to move to the right policy. -- Nameless Soldier

    by N in Seattle on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:10:07 PM PDT

  •  Right on (8+ / 0-)

    A revitalized rail system on a national scale is pretty much the only way we will be able to survive the end of oil. Electrify the country['s rails], restore service to those states and cities that don't have it right now, and make the service reliable enough to compete with air travel.

    The above are not options. They are absolute necessities for our nation's survival. For this reason, and this reason alone, Biden was the best possible choice for VP.

    (-7.25,-5.95) "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." -Edward R. Murrow

    by adamschloss on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:10:14 PM PDT

    •  Electrifying US rail system not the answer (0+ / 0-)

      The capital outlay is too great and their are serious reliability issues with full-scale electrification.

      A much better answer, and one at least one US class 1 railroad is actively pursuing is powering trains with hydrogen fuel cell locomotives. Due to various factors, a lot of the problems with hydrogen fuel cells for automobiles don't apply to trains, and the transition from diesel to fuel cells locomotives could be done much less painlessly and at a lower coast than electrification.

      1. The only capital expenditure would be on new locomotives, a cost already factored into the railroad's balance sheets. In contrast, full scale mainline electrification would cost tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars up front. Additionally, the cost of maintaining the electrical infrastructure would add a huge regular expense to each railroad's balance sheet. There would be no significant extra annual expense associated with fuel cell engines.
      1. Unlike with electricity, where you would (to my understanding) have to only run electric engines or diesel engines on a train. They could not work together. Considering that most US freight trains require the horsepower of two or more high horsepower engines, electrification would require a huge up front purchase of new engines, rather than simply buying fuel cell locomotives during the regular motive power replacement cycle.
      1. Because of capital costs, freight mainline electrification will require a huge government investment. This is money that we could otherwise use to upgrade the passenger system, build new routes, get existing routs off of freight lines and on to their own rails, and generally spend in a better way than subsidizing private industry.

      BNSF Railway has been working with an independent locomotive manufacturer to build a fuel cell switch engine. It's set to go operational sometime next year. If it performs successfully BNSF will place an order for more, and other railroads probably will quickly follow. If all goes well, a fuel-cell road engine with the horse power for mainline freight service will probably become a reality in the first few years of the coming decade.

      Electrification is simply an uneconomic and technically iffy, and ultimately unnecessary solution to the problem of oil dependence in the rail sector of the transportation network.

      •  nonsense (0+ / 0-)

        The cost of rail electrification is only about 12% of the cost of building the power plants - which you would need anyway for hydrogen - except that direct nuke to rail is much more efficient than producing hydrogen so it costs much less to electrify.   See my post below where I discuss the economics.

        And diesel locomotives are ALL diesel-electric.   You just need a trolley pole and possibly some voltage conversion to bypass the diesel.

        --
        -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

        by whitis on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 06:58:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How do you figure? (0+ / 0-)

          During the 70's fuel crisis, the Burlington Northern Railroad did a feasibility study on electrification. I can't seem to find the source for this right now, but my recollection of their findings was that the up front capital cost of electrifying the BN system would be around $50 billion -in 1970s dollars! The cost of electryfing every mile of class 1 mainline in the US would easily reaching into the hundreds of billions.

          This is not withstanding the technically and engineering difficulties of adapting current US freight rail operations to run electric. Double stack container trains were not made to run on electric, mile-long unit coal trains were not made to run on electric. And while I don't think any of those difficulties would be insurmountable, they would all add millions, if not billions to the cost.
          And do you have any what a harsh great plains winter will do to over-head cantary wire? One good storm, and you're back to burning fossil fuels until the section department can get things fixed. The idea of full-scale main line electrification shows zero understanding of the realities of American railroading.

          Such an expensive and harebrained scheme makes absolutely no sense, when a fuel-cell locomotive is literally a year away.

          •  The Russians... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            brein

            Have electrified the trans-Siberian.

            They have electrified trains all over Europe.  The problems you cite have all been solved.

            •  Run a lot of double stacks (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Gravedugger

              Over The trans-Siberian do they? And what do you suppose the Russians do when they lose part of the cantary?

              The issues I discuss have not been solved, and talking about electric trains all over Europe an an irrelevant statement in the context we were talking about. Western Europe is a good place for electrification because you can set it up along dense corridors, but you're ignoring that

              A) Plenty of Europe is not electrified, and it tends to be freight rail as opposed to passenger that is still diesel powered.

              B) European freight operations are no at all comparable to US freight operations in terms of technology or scale. The only country that comes close to running trains with as many tons or as many cars as us is Australia, and they rely on diesel power same as us.

              Saying that Europe has electric trains means we can fully electrify the US freight rail system is worse than apples to oranges, it's a total non sequitur.

              So, no, actually, none of the problems I cited have been solved. You just seem to think because something sort of similar on the surface worked elsewhere, than there's no reason it shouldn't work everywhere, and no one's going to tell you otherwise.

              •  For those that don't know: (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Goldfish

                Goldfish is right, electrification has some problems:

                FIRST:

                Double stacks are well cars that carry two stacked shipping containers. Pacer's stacktrans were amongst the first.

                These cars are significantly high than the standard loading gauge, necessitating a much high and less stable catenary system.

                If you think it is a small portion of US track, take a look at main CSX corridor that follows I-95, or any of the routes out of LA, Norfolk, New Jersey or Miami. Any major US port is originating or recieving dozens of stacktrains a day. NS and CSX are both in the midst of major expansions from southeast ports to the midwest, dropping and daylighting tunnels, and installing new bridges to handle stacktrains.

                SECOND:

                Right now, railroads pay property taxes on their ROW and the rail built on that ROW. Even if diesel goes up another 30%, it is still cheaper to pay the fuel costs then pay the extra property taxes on the electrification improvement.

                What congress critter wants to tell their local governments that they have to suck it up and not charge taxes on electrification improvements? Some counties in the US recieve in excess of 15% of their yearly budget from rail property taxes. They don't want to see ANY of that taken away, and frankly, neither do the schools in those districts, which need the money.

                Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

                by Gravedugger on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 09:48:05 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  double stacks and property taxes (0+ / 0-)

                  "much high and less stable catenary system?"   The second container is only 8 feet high.    And there is a reason the cars that carry double stack containers are called well cars.
                  Thus the height of the train only increases by five foot 1 inches.   The north east corridor catenary is 21'6".  Increasing this by five feet is hardly a travesty.   And it gives you better clearance for street vehicles at grade level crossings.   I would run it all at the higher level.

                  As for property taxes, you aren't taking any money away from the counties that they are already receiving.  If taxing it prevents the improvements from being made, then they don't get the money either way.    In some states, railroad rights of way are exempt from property taxes.

                  --
                  -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

                  by whitis on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 11:38:05 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Your points are correct (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Gravedugger

                    but they don't change my over-all point that the whole thing raises the costs of electrification.

                  •  There is more... (0+ / 0-)

                    First, standard ISO container height is 8'6", not 8' flat. Second, containers are growing. The new height of reckoning is 9.2 feet for a container.

                    Since APL started introducing 53 foot slots on their container ships a few years ago, containerization has been shifting away from the 40x8x8.6 to 53'x102"x110". This benefits Euro pallet sizes, and syncs better with the US truck fleet.

                    The Gunderson Maxi well cars are intended to handle the larger containers, which means another bump in loading gauge height. We are having to move far beyond Plate C, and are looking at 20'4" trains, even when using the deep wells of a Greenbriar/Gunderson AP53. Sure, the numbers add up, but ask how many engineers want a container top within a foot of a high voltage line, especially when it is raining.

                    Anyway, in short, yes, we can increase catenary height, but it means using taller pantographs on the locomotives, and that means a much high cost with a lower stability system. This lowers speed. The bottom line is that we need separate tracks for passenger rail.

                    You are right on property taxes, but if you even touch state/county/city-based tax structures on a federal level, people start screaming their heads off. It is a political, rather than economic issue.

                    Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

                    by Gravedugger on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 01:08:24 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  double stack clearances (0+ / 0-)

                      Well, your 20'4" is 6 feet or so below the height I was suggesting for the catenary.

                      As far as potential future increases in height, maybe the poles should be taller and have holes at intervals so the truss height can be adjusted.     Generally much less of a problem than bridges.

                      I agree that having a container top within a foot of a high voltage line is not good and I was thinking about that when considering running the lines under an insulator under a bridge and decided it was better to have a power outage.
                      Some system is needed to automatically lower the pantograph when approaching low flying obstacles.   I was also thinking about the possibility of replacing the catenary section that would otherwise run under a bridge with an insulated rope like ultra high molecular weight polyethylene so an errant pantograph would be pushed down rather than colliding.

                      As for stability, I was thinking along the lines of mounting the pantograph on a rigid but adjustable platform.   That can servo to a position in which the pantograph is highly stable.    Standard fast servo/slow servo combo where the pantograph replaces the fast servo.

                      If we don't solve the energy problems, there won't be a railroad to tax - or much of anything else.   Given the magnitude of the crisis, we are going to have to approach it a lot like a war where petty politics like this get swept aside.   That can be dangerous in the wrong hands, of course.    But there is considerable precedent for federal interference at the state and local level - federal highway funds.   And, in WW I, we actually nationalized the railroads.

                      --
                      -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

                      by whitis on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 08:21:00 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

              •  catenary (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                adamschloss

                It is catenary, as in catenary curve, not cantary.   That is the second time you did that.

                --
                -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

                by whitis on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 11:12:25 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  see below (0+ / 0-)

            I told you to look at my message below.  It has links to the calculations.   Cost of electrification is around 200K per mile in the US and much lower in europe.   As I explained below, that doesn't include power generation - which you need whether you run hydrogen or electric only you need a whole lot more for hydrogen.    

            There is absolutely no reason double stack trains can't run electric.   You make the catenary higher and use a longer trolley poll.   Not much difference in cost.   And there is no reason mile long coal trains can't, either.   I see a lot of both on the section of double track main line that runs by my house.

            Harsh weather should not be a problem as long as you keep trees away from the tracks - which you need to do anyway.
            Besides, if you are "back to burning fossil fuels" until it is fixed, so what?    You locomotive runs on diesel or electric.   You just have to keep the diesel in good repair.  Your total fossil fuel use still goes down much more than an order of magnitude.   And the northeast corridor is exposed to winter weather.

            A fuel-cell locomotive is the harebrained scheme.    Very poor efficiency from power plant to rail.    And it is vaporware technology unlike electric which has about eight decades of actual use.

            Your two to three locomotives that have to be diesel or electric and can't be both?  Nope.     Frequently, they are a multiple of 2.    Every other locomotive is a "slug" with traction motors but no generator - because the problem isn't power it is traction.   The idea is to put more weight over wheels.    The wheels are all electric on all the locomotives and it really doesn't matter where the power comes from.   Railroads typically buy either electric or diesel models, though some electro-diesel models are used in certain areas to avoid switching locomotives between electric and non-electric track but there is no reason you can't retrofit a diesel to electric.    If you need some extra room for switching power supply inductors, you can even make a really short pantograph unit that couples between the main locomotive (mother) and the slug and turns the main locomotive into a slug as well.   This also could be more or less plug and play with a variety of different locomotives.  But if the catenary is going to be high enough for double stack, then you have room on top of the locomotive as well.  You may also have room in the existing slugs.    You turn the old slugs into electrics and use the old mothers into slugs.    Power for an old mother locomotive tends to run around two megawatts so to power two old  mothers and two slugs (what looks like 4 locomotives) takes around 4 megawatts, ball park.   The AC4400CW is a 3.2MW machine and the ES44 series would be similar. The AEM-7 electric locomotive used on the north east corridor is a 5.2MW locomotive.    Four large mothers could consume about 20MW.

            Zero understanding of railroading?    Gee, my drinking buddy for ten years was a railroad historian - I have been "briefed" on a wide variety of railroad topics in excruciating detail for hundreds of hours.  And I have designed electronic motor control systems - including for locomotives.

            Savings in fuel costs will pay for the entire system.   It requires a large capital expenditure, i.e. loans, the amortization of which will replace fuel expenses.

            --
            -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

            by whitis on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 10:58:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  My mistake (0+ / 0-)

              Maybe if you're written such a detailed response to my post before instead of simply dismissing it because "Europe has electric trains" I wouldn't have assumed you didn't know the subject.

              But in any case, you make some good points in your post, but you gloss over some problems I've been trying to bring your attention to -first and foremost the enormous cost of electrification. 200K per mile? You want to add that up for us! If that's the cost you have, then I suspect my recollection of the BN study from the 70's was right on. There is no railroad in America that can afford that without government assistance.

              As far as adversarial weather, it's not just a matter of keeping trees clear. Ice storms can take down wire without the aid of trees, and their also worse on electric locomotives than diesels (even though electrics are generally more reliable).  

              You also gloss over the difficulty of maintaining a duel fleet of locomotives, or of operating duel-mode units. Also, I'd like to see the rail industry use zero fossil fuels in 12 years, so the idea of having to fall back on diesels anytime their's a problem with the electric plant doesn't appeal to me.

              You call fuel-cells a "harebrained scheme" with poor energy savings, but when you consider all the inputs that go into building and maintaining full-scale electrification, suddenly electric doesn't do so well in the energy department. You seem pretty up on the energy stuff here, so I'm kind of surprised that you keep not factoring in those additional inputs.

              I'm not sure why you'd call fuel-cells vaporware. That would certainly be true as far as cars go, but they were never that good an idea for cars. However, the many of the issues that make fuel cells a less than stellar idea for autos don't apply to railroads . And the technology isn't some pie in the sky promise, it's moved into the field testing phase and I haven't seen anything to say that it's not going according to plan.

              And if you think one little switch engine running on an exotic power source doesn't say anything about its applications on a larger scale, ask you drinking buddy about how diesel first came to the railroad.

              •  more on rail electrification - #1 (0+ / 0-)

                I never even mentioned that europe had electric trains.  That was someone else.

                Naturally, the first prototype locomotives would be smaller scale rather than larger scale ones.    But it does not imply that fuel cell technology will be ready for production use when we need it.   And without substantial technological improvements, about the only way to substantially scale that locomotive appears to be to chain a bunch of them together - it is packed to the gills.   Looking at the production costs (which probably don't scale all that much), not the engineering or research costs, this locomotive costs as much as a typical diesel-electric and delivers as little as one tenth the sustained tractive effort.

                Do I "want to add up [200K per mile] for us"?   I have, many times. The US reporedly has 226,706km or 140869 miles of rail network.   That apparently is just mainline, not branch lines.   It comes out to $28.3 billion dollars.   To put it another way, cover the top of one rail with $20 bills.     By comparison, cost of double track light rail construction in the US averages $35 million per mile.  Link to source has been deleted due to dailykos bugs - look up light rail on wikipedia.  So, electrification of all 141K miles (not counting power plant cost) costs as much as constructing 805 miles of light rail.   You get 175 miles of electrification for the cost of one mile of light rail construction.
                I agree that railroads probably can't afford it by themselves.  But they can't afford not to.  They need capital.   And there is capital out there, so desperate for borrowers that it created the subprime fiasco (though some of that has been consumed creating ghost towns as monuments to stupidity).   And it should be a solid investment - if the US economy survives.     China has a lot of money in US currency to invest, due to our massive trade deficit, and a vested interest in keeping our rail infrastructure operating.  

                Fuel prices have been going up 30% per year (oil drum, Jerome), on average, for about 8 years.    If it continues at that rate, gasoline (and diesel) would be $42 per gallon.
                It can't continue at that rate because our economy would collapse (unless we are using something approaching an order of magnitude less which would also cut the rate of increase).    

                Falling back to diesel on occasions isn't a big deal.  It is a backup system that is already in place.  If the rail industry cuts its fossil fuels by 99% instead of 100% it doesn't make much difference.   Even if it is 95%, you have cut fuel use and carbon emissions for this sector by 20:1.  
                The locomotives essentially become trolley pole hybrids - an improvement on plug in hybrids.

                Sure, there are some extra energy inputs in construction.  Metals produce several times their weight in CO2 emissions if you use fossil fuel sources.   Nuclear power plants have a very short energy payback time.  And melting and forming metal for catenary wires and their supports could probably be done using nuclear power plants as a heat source.  And if you are dying to make hydrogen, using it to boost the temperature to the melting point of steel is an easy application.  You can electrify outward from the nuclear smelter allowing you to use electric to transport the materials, though electrifying the heaviest traffic routes first probably gives a better payoff.   Mining equipment is electric.   If you think the catenary system will use a lot of energy, look down at the rail itself - much of which is being replaced with continuous rail (presumably recycled).

                Except for a subset of conservation measures, major changes in our energy consumption tends to involve significant energy inputs.    Part of planning such undertakings involves provisions for using carbon free energy sources.
                Ultimately, a roadmap for our energy future needs to graph out capital expenditures and recovery as well as energy expenditures and recovery over time.

                It seems the railroads probably use about 15 billion gallons of diesel per year.    If the price were to stabilize at $4 per gallon, that is $60 billion a year.    If we round my estimates of $28 billion for rail electrification plus 5 billion for locomotive conversion up to 60 billion, that is one year of fuel costs.   The nuclear power plants would take an additional 4 years of fuel costs.  IIRC, the capital costs of a nuclear plant were 70% of the final cost of the product.    So, five years of fuel cost will give you 70% of 50 years worth of operating fuel or basically 35 years of operating fuel for the price of 5 plus maintenance and finance costs.    And fuel prices won't stabilize at $4/gallon or even close unless we take major steps like I am describing here to replace our energy infrastructure.

                The lower efficiency of your fuel cell locomotive would require $700billion in power plants which would be 70% of the cost of "fuel" or $1trillion plus finance charges and miscellaneous costs to provide the same 50 years of operation.

                If the diesel offends you, you could replace the diesel back up power with fuel cell when the locomotives come up for replacement - you weren't going to do it before then anyway.
                The power plant operating costs in that scenario aren't so bad because they are a small portion of the total fuel.  But the amortized cost of the fuel cell might be pretty substantial.

                And there is potentially a use for your yard bird/road fuel cell locomotives now - shuttling cars down branch lines and in switch yards.   Cost per mile will be much higher but it is a small portion of total miles.    The fuel cell loco doesn't make economic sense for main lines but it might make sense on branch lines.  It probably wouldn't be competitive with biofuels but we need those elsewhere.  

                Electrification of branch lines is probably below the point of diminishing returns.  

                Railroads and finance companies need some assurance that fuel costs will not drop and that we are going to do what it takes to keep the economy afloat.    Once you have that, then businesses will start making the decisions they should have been making but avoided making due to artificially cheap petroleum and being beholden solely to shareholders and not to society.

                Railroad electrification would require about 1 nuclear power plant per state.   To cut carbon emissions of other sectors, we will need an average of more than ten per state.   So rather than running all the trains in one state (you wouldn't necessarily follow state boundaries) on one plant, you could use 10% of the capacity of each plant and ship the power less distance.   Railroads probably don't want to run the power plants directly, anyway.

                For reference, here is the technical info on the green goat fuel cell locomotive:
                http://www.fuelcellpropulsion.org/...

                Class I railroad statistics:
                http://www.aar.org/...
                Lists 70,212 miles of high density track which carries at least 20 million gross ton-miles per track mile per year.
                IIRC, it was 700 gross ton-miles per gallon which gives 28571 gallons (minimum) for each of these tracks and at $4/gallon gives $114285 per mile per year or more than half (minimum) of the electrificiation cost.  Multiplying 70212 miles by 20 million gross ton-miles  gives 1.4 trillion ton miles carried by the high density track which is approximately 80% of the freight (assuming the number is gross not net, otherwise the half of track which is high density carries half the freight which doesn't make it high density).   I wish I had data on % of traffic carried per mile of track by percentile.

                Another way to look at the $28.3 billion figure is that it is around $100 per capita.

                "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money".     Oh, we are definitely talking about real money any way you count it.    But the cost of electrification is low compared to the cost of the energy delivered over that infrastructure.  Restructuring our energy usage is going to be extremely expensive; not doing so will be even more expensive.   Our economy is going to be radically restructured - the question is, do we want to be in control when that happens?

                --
                -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

                by whitis on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 07:12:25 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I really have enjoyed your exchange with Goldfish (0+ / 0-)

                  and am reading this on Monday... so don't know if either of you return to this topic.  I also would be the first to admidt that both of you appear to have far more knowledge about rail than I... but I wanted to chime in with a historical footnote.

                  The long gone Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (known as the Milwaukee Road)was the third transcontintal line in Washington State.  In 1914 they began to eletrify the Rocky Mountain Division main line between Tacoma and the continental Divide.  By 1916, the electic line was more than 430 miles.  With regenerative braking, the line was very efficent.  

                  In 1917, the board approved the construction of a separate electrified district between Othello, Washington and Tacoma, Washington, extended to Seattle in 1927. The two electrified districts were never connected, but a total of 656 route-miles (1,056 km) of railroad were electrified, making it the largest electrified railroad in the US.

                  The Milwaukee Road ran electric service until its last bankrupcy in 1973 -- being electric actually  kept them around far longer than they would have been had they been a steam / diesel only railroad.

                  Just a side bar that it has been done before...
                  http://www.oldmilwaukeeroad.com/...

                  •  thanks for the electric railroad history (0+ / 0-)

                    That was interesting reading.

                    As I have said before, a lot of "new" technologies, such as electric and hybrid vehicles and biofuels are really a century old - they were just undercut by artificially cheap petroleum and nefarious dealings such as buying up and scrapping the trolley lines.   New technologies can improve them, however.

                    --
                    -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

                    by whitis on Wed Aug 27, 2008 at 10:56:11 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Just to be precise, I did the math (0+ / 0-)

              By your numbers, it would cost 48 billion to electrify the BNSF. Okay, that's based on doing every mile, and probably some branch lines wouldn't get wired (which leaves the question of how to provide motive power for those areas), but we're still talking tens of billions of dollars just for one railroad!

              I know this is a cliche in policy circles, but a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.

              •  Check your math (0+ / 0-)

                wikipedia says:

                Not including second, third and fourth main-line trackage, yard trackage, and siding trackage, BNSF directly owns and operates over 24,000 miles (38,624 kilometers) of track. When these additional tracks are counted, the length of track which the railway directly controls rises to more than 50,000 miles (80,467 kilometers).

                http://en.wikipedia.org/...

                BNSF says in an old SEC filing:

                BNSF Railway operates over a railroad system consisting of, at December 31, 1997, approximately 34,000 route miles of track (excluding, among other things, second main track), approximately 25,400 miles of which are owned route miles, including easements, through 28 states and two Canadian provinces. Approximately 7,800 route miles of BNSF Railway's system consist of trackage rights which permit BNSF Railway to operate its trains with its crews over another railroad's tracks.

                As of December 31, 1997, the total BNSF Railway system--including first, second, third and fourth main tracks, yard tracks, and sidings--consisted of approximately 51,000 operated miles of track, all of which were owned by or held under easement by BNSF Railway except for approximately 8,600 miles operated under trackage rights agreements with other parties. At December 31, 1997, approximately 28,000 miles of BNSF Railway's track consisted of 112- pound per yard or heavier rail, including approximately 18,700 track miles of 131-pound per yard or heavier rail.

                http://sec.edgar-online.com/...

                From their 2007 filing:

                BNSF Railway operates over a railroad system consisting of approximately 32,000 route miles of track, excluding multiple main tracks,
                yard tracks and sidings, approximately 23,000 miles of which are owned route miles, including easements, in 28 states and two Canadian
                provinces as of December 31, 2007. Approximately 9,000 route miles of BNSF Railway’s system consist of trackage rights that permit BNSF
                Railway to operate its trains with its crews over other railroads’ tracks.
                As of December 31, 2007, the total BNSF Railway system, including single and multiple main tracks, yard tracks and sidings, consisted of
                approximately 50,000 operated miles of track, all of which are owned by or held under easement by BNSF Railway except for approximately
                10,000 route miles operated under trackage rights. At December 31, 2007, approximately 26,000 miles of BNSF Railway’s track consisted
                of 112-pound per yard or heavier rail, including approximately 20,000 track miles of 131-pound per yard or heavier rail.

                http://www.bnsf.com/...

                So, the figure is 50000 miles or 40000 miles since 10000 miles are owned by another railroad.    At 200K/mile, this is $8 to $10 billion.    BNSF spent $24 billion on improvements over the last decade.   $8 billion divided by 657.572billion revenue ton-miles per year for 10 years gives $0.0012 per ton-mile.   Revenue per ton-mile industry wide is $0.02990 so track upgrades would be around 4% of revenue over 10 years.   BNSF gives its revenue a bit lower at 0.02334 which would make track upgrades 5% of revenue.   Revenue per ton-mile has increased by $0.00249 between 2005 and 2007.   Thus we are talking about a one time increase comparable to the current rate of annual increase (which may be driven by fuel costs) if it is financed directly from freight charges.   The companies fuel cost was $3.197 billion in 2007 when they paid $2.22/gallon.

                --
                -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

                by whitis on Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 02:24:45 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Here also is (0+ / 0-)

          A short report from the BNSF Railway explaining the problems with electrification of just a small corridor.
          (Warning: PDF)
          www.rtd-fastracks.com/media/uploads/nw/2007-0823_FAQs_BNSF_letter.pdf

          That's just a small taste of the engineering nightmare that would be full scale electrification.

          •  BNSF report (0+ / 0-)

            That report appears to have been written by those who simply want to avoid changes (or are looking for a bargaining chip).   It is like the difference between asking your lawyer "can I?" vs. "How can I?".  

            You don't actually have to run the catenary under bridges; the pantograph can be lowered and the train can coast and in the very rare instances when it stops under a bridge (similar to "draping a train" on a hill) and can't get power from a different pantograph and your locomotive doesn't have a battery for regenerative braking, you still have diesel.   Complaints about not being able to squeeze three tracks in where there are currently two because of catenary poles are not compelling as you have to upgrade the catenary system anyway and it can be designed to facilitate pole movement.    And the complaint about track maintenance equipment, the kind of equipment they are talking about is used when the track is out of service and thus the catenary can be powered down at which point electrical clearance requirements are not required and the catenary wire is higher than the bridges - surely this equipment operates under their own bridges.  Third rail issues aren't relevant to a catenary system.

            --
            -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

            by whitis on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 12:12:39 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I stipulated from the start (0+ / 0-)

              that none of these problems are insurmountable... it will just take a massive amount of money that, in light of the fact that hydrogen fuel cell locomotives would make any large scale electrification project a white elephants, could be better spent building a decent passenger network.

              No class 1 railroad has the money to pay the up front ticket price of electrification with out billions in government aid. I'd rather spend that money on getting Amtrak trains subject to the worst delays onto their own rails, expanding service, and building high speed (and yes, electric) routs along high traffic corridors. There is not going to be enough money or political capital left to do those things if we blow it all doubling down on an electric system that will in all likelihood be superfluous in a few years anyway.

      •  Hydrogen?? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        brein

        Yeah, that's a fantasy for the future.  We need something here and now.

        They may build one as an engineering prototype, but the costs for fuel cells basically make it cost prohibitive to use for much of anything.  Plus there is the question of where do you get the hydrogen?  If you make it by splitting water, you lose a good fraction of the energy as the process is not 100% efficient.

        •  Fantasy for the future? (0+ / 0-)

          It's field testing in Kansas right now!

          Fuel cells are not cheap, but compared to the staggering of electrification, it's nothing.

          As far as the issue of where you get the hydrogen, that's a question worthy of discussion, but any answer to it is once again going to be cheaper and more economically efficient than electrification. Also, because we're talking about trains here, the hydrogen can be separated at a central location, then shipped out compressed by rail to the fueling point, so that's a major advantage in terms of fuel cell for trains over what you may be familiar with in terms of fuel cell cars.

          No process is 100% energy efficient, it's absurd to state that as a reason something is a bad idea. But we're not talking about simply the terms of the power source here, we're also talking about all the other inputs that go into the system that uses it. Electrification requires a gigantic infrastructure that needs to be built from scratch and then maintained in perpetuity (not to mention the huge up front coats of reconfiguring the freight system to handle it, which if you bothered to read the report I linked to, will require major rebuilding of many rail lines).

          Fuel cells on the other hand will require about the same level of infrastructure that already exists for diesel operations (a hydrogen fuel station in every locomotive service facility that now has a diesel fuel station) and it will require no substantial change in how railroads operate.

          Total mainline electrification for freight in the US  just does not make sense. For passenger trains on specific corridors and some special freight applications it's a good idea, but for the bigger freight picture it's just cost prohibitive, particulerly in the light of more appealing options.

          •  fuel cell locomotive inefficiency (0+ / 0-)

            No process is 100% energy efficient, it's absurd to state that as a reason something is a bad idea.

            The efficiency isn't low, its abysmal.  You are the one who is being absurd.

            Your fuel cell locomotive is a toy at 500KW.   It would take 4 to 10 times as many toys to pull one of your mile long trains you use as an argument against electrification.  And that is the "road" version, the prototype is probably the yard bird version which has half that power.    Efficiency?  Well, apparently they are too embarassed to say.    Lets be generous and give them a 50% efficiency for the fuel cell.   Add that to the 70% efficiency of electrolysis and you are down to 35% efficient, not considering the cost of compressing the hydrogen which reduces it to 31.5%.  And that is just the hydrogen system.    Unlike a internal combustion engine, you have already suffered the carnot efficiency losses before that loss comes into play.  Distribution losses will be worse than electric.   Other loses would be about comparable.    A battery operated vehicle has a grid to motor efficiency of around 86% (and a trolley based car would be higher), but a typical hydrogen car has a grid to motor efficiency of 25%.   Using the 31.5% number, and a power plant that is 30% efficient, you have a power plant thermal to tractive effort efficiency of well under 10%.

            With the lower efficiency, you would need around $700 billion in capital investment in nuclear power plants as opposed to $232 billion.   The cost of electrifying the rail is minor in comparison - even if you spent a million dollars per mile instead of 200K.  I am not squandering our capital resources, as you suggest, you are.   The $232 billion supplies power to run the trains for the next 50 years at current usage levels (assume less coal and more intermodal containers).  

            I would upgrade our existing locomotives now while it buys us some time to solve our energy problems while providing a fairly permanent solution for one sector.   So we can keep our money here rather than squandering it on petroleum.  You want to wait till the locomotives are retired, which could be decades - too little, too late.   There are 20,000 locomotives in the US fleet.  Even if it optimistically takes only two of your fuel cell locomotives to replace a real one (thanks to the onboard batteries) at $4 million a pair, that is 80 billion dollars vs upgrading existing locomotives at something like $250,000 each for a total of $5 billion.   Plus, we would no longer have to retire diesel locomotives for emissions reasons - even if they did operate in diesel mode intermittently their average emissions would be low.   Even if one were to consider fuel cell vehicles to be viable, you want to build enough fuel cells to potentially squander the worlds supply of platinum, which many have concerns may be inadequate for road vehicles, to provide liquid fuel for vehicles that can run perfectly well without liquid fuel.    And you think upgrading passenger rail will be more productive. even though amtrack consumes 66% as much fuel (or equivalent) per passenger mile as your average single occupancy vehicle (39MPG vs 26MPG) and more fuel than two people carpooled or one person in a hybrid.       And bringing rail to where passengers need it is a lot harder than bringing electricity to where trains need it.   And it is easier to shift freight onto trains than passengers.   Freight moved onto rail saves 75% of fuel or equivalent.   Don't get me wrong, I am for (100% electric) passenger rail improvements; it cuts liquid fuel demand.

            Electrifying rail involves a substantial capital investment but it gives us a big bang for the buck.    We need to do the things that give us a good bang for the buck first, and choose alternatives that make sense economically or we won't have the money or the energy to get the job done.

            Moving coal to nuclear (plus some renewables), for example, needs to be done to cut carbon emissions but it is an expenditure not an investment, financially speaking.    Electrifying rail cuts our carbon emissions and saves us money in the long run.

            --
            -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

            by whitis on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 10:45:18 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I always loved commuter rail travel... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, jkb246, timbuck, pixxer

    ...to the point of imagining being a conductor as a kid.  

    Always wanted to take a cross country rail trip, but haven't gotten around to that.  

    I would definitely be interested in high speed rail.  

    Fired up! Ready to go!

    by kacemo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:10:31 PM PDT

  •  Real mass transit would be great. (5+ / 0-)

    You'd think it would be a no-brainer for members of Congress.  How do they think their staff gets to work every day?  Metro, Metro, Metro.

    •  How do you think the metro exists? (0+ / 0-)

      DC has always been run by Congress, either explicitly or by fiat. The fact that DC has one of the better (best?) transit systems in the U.S. ironically stems from congressional influence.

  •  Biden Takes Amtrak - (8+ / 0-)

    In the Northeast Corridor -
    Where it works.

    I was just talking with friends who have a son at college in Spokane.  Even though there is Amtrak service between Spokane and Portland, and then on to Albany, the trains are often horribly late, you can never be sure you will make your connections, and it takes forever.

    If broad new funding can make other Amtrak routes even remotely close to the Northeast Corridor, then we have a chance at a real alternative in transportation.

    •  it's sad, but i think much of amtrak service is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pixxer

      now provided by buses.

      "The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws." Edward Abbey

      by timbuck on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:13:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  GOP is a big part of that problem (10+ / 0-)

      Amtrak often has to run over old, outmoded rails that are owned by freight companies, and the freight companies don't invest in infrastructure improvements.

      What's worse, Amtrak often gets stuck holding the bag for accidents caused by the freight companies' negligence.  NYT did a whole series on this sometime back...I'll see whether I can find the link.

      Our economy is a house of cards. Don't breathe.

      by Youffraita on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:16:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Republican way has always been to make (10+ / 0-)

        anything the government runs ineffective so they can argue for privatization. Thus they privatized parts of the military and look where that got us. Subpar food for the troops and electrocutions via the showers.

        They are systematically taking apart Amtrak, FEMA, the Postal Service, and even Social Security in hopes of putting them in the hands of private contractors. And then we are sunk.

        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. -- Thomas Jefferson

        by DWKING on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:22:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes - (7+ / 0-)

        The reason that Amtrak has been successful in the Northeast Corridor is that it owns its own trackage - whereas everywhere else in the country it runs over the tracks of freight railroads.  And only four mega railroads remain after multiple mergers - with Union Pacific the worst offender.

        When Amtrak assumed passenger rail operations in 1971 - relieving private railroads of their LEGAL obligation to provide passenger service, the private railroads were supposed to maintain track for passenger speeds and to give passenger trains priority.  Ha-ha.

        Thus the arguments by folks at Energize America basically to expand the current arrangement between private railroads and a public rail passenger entity is unlikely to succeed.

        For passenger rail to have any chance of success, the passenger rail entity must have either dedicated trackage or coequal ownership with private carriers of dual tracks.

        •  Legal obligations... (0+ / 0-)

          Under the reconstruction-era land grants, the government gave railroads massive amounts of land with the understanding that freight and passenger service would be provided in perpetuity.

          Since the railroads have reneged on half their promise by virtually eliminating passenger rail, I want half the land back, or an equivalent value. That should be plenty to get Amtrak expended to a necessary level...

          Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

          by Gravedugger on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 09:52:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Found it! (11+ / 0-)

      I think they did more than one story on this; but this is the one I was looking for:

      It is no mystery why, one spring day two years ago, an Amtrak passenger train jumped the tracks near Crescent City, Fla., and skidded to a stop on its side, killing 4 people and injuring 142.

      Investigators concluded that the track, owned by the big freight railroad CSX, had not been properly stabilized and that management's oversight of maintenance had been lax. But when millions of dollars in damage claims arose from the crash, it was not CSX, a multibillion-dollar corporation, that paid them. It was Amtrak, the perennial money loser that survives only with regular infusions of cash from American taxpayers.[...]

      For three decades, Amtrak has been paying these liability claims, regardless of fault, as a condition for using the freight lines' tracks. Not only do these payments shift the burden of paying for negligence from profitable corporations to taxpayers, they remove an incentive for railroads to keep their tracks safe.

      http://query.nytimes.com/...

      Our economy is a house of cards. Don't breathe.

      by Youffraita on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:21:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have taken the train from NYC to Richmond, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnnygunn, DemocraticLuntz, brein, pixxer

      Virginia. Once it gets past DC, there are always delays because Amtrak shares the lines with freight trains and the freight trains take precedence. That's why so many trains outside the NE corridor are so horribly late.

  •  This ticket keeps getting better & better. n/t (5+ / 0-)

    "Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." ML King

    by TheWesternSun on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:12:46 PM PDT

  •  NJ Rep. Rush Holt takes the 6:50 a.m. (8+ / 0-)

    Amtrak train from Trenton to DC every day, too.  He takes appointments for the rides down and back, so he can get home at a decent hour.  Smart use of an underutilized resource.  

    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:13:16 PM PDT

  •  Biden great, McCain TERRIBLE (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, Neon Vincent, pixxer

    a goddamn disaster for passenger rail and transit.  The contrast could not be wider.  And a president living in a rail corridor in Southside Chicago, the 4th biggest hub in the country, cannot hurt either.

  •  awesome (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pixxer

    I hope he says that over and over again on the campaign trail.

  •  I'm not so happy about the security issue, but (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    patrikr, Gravedugger, Neon Vincent, pixxer

    otherwise I'm ecstatic. One of the very nice things about Amtrak is the lack of those obnoxious and overbearing TSA agents on the Amtrak system. They contribute next to nothing in the way of actual security, but are very effective at instilling a sense of fear.  I could use a lot less of them.  Keeping them away is a big plus for Amtrak.

  •  Amtrak: Beyond Life Support (5+ / 0-)

    Amtrak has been on life support for at least 20 years.  Biden as VP raises the prospect that even in a very tough budget environment that Amtrak can receive new investment and fulfill a bit of it's promise.

    John McCain on Iraq: "McCain in NH: Would Be 'Fine' To Keep Troops in Iraq for 'A Hundred Years' "

    by howardpark on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:15:54 PM PDT

    •  People are demanding it now that ridership (6+ / 0-)

      is at all time highs.

      All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. -- Thomas Jefferson

      by DWKING on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:23:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  July was an all-time record... (0+ / 0-)

        July was an all-time ridership record. The 4 highest ridership years so far have been 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004, in that order. 2008 is setting up to be a new record.

        The only thing limiting expansion is system capacity. There is a SEVERE shortage of rolling stock, and Amtrak always gets screwed on track capacity.

        Time to fix it.

        Comments Signature: This will get attached to your comments.

        by Gravedugger on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 09:55:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brein

      Since its inception the problem for Amtrak has been that it has never received the funding necessary to operate successfully. From the beginning it has faced powerful enemies hostile to existence. Politicians like McCain constantly demand that Amtrak do more with less every year, only to turn around and cite that Amtrak is "failing" when it inevitably can't do more with less. That's why it operates in such an inefficient fashion.

  •  High Speed Rail Cooridors (11+ / 0-)

    Our infrastructure is deteriorating and one aspect of that is our lack of a nationwide system of high-speed rail corridors. France has the TGV, Japan has a bullet train what do we have? Accela? - it's more of a glorified traditional train.

    We have sufficient population density in California, the central-Midwest (Chicago/StL/KC/Mlps/Indlps/Cincy/Lville), Texas and the NE corridor to justify the building of such networks - we simply need the political will. Hopefully Biden can help energize that debate - as transportation falls within having a smart energy policy reducing our use of fossil fuels.

  •  In 20 years, many boomers can't drive (6+ / 0-)

    the oldest boomers will be in their eighties.

    We need to have a plan for those millions of drivers.

    Fortunately, a lot of cities are developing high speed rail.

    But there's no coherent integration between federal, state, and local rail systems.

  •  If we get nothing but a viable (6+ / 0-)

    nationwide train service out of an Obama-Biden administration, it would be a great administration. Low-polution (especially per passenger) trains can take us a long way in the struggle to free us from oil's grip.

  •  Holy crap, an ISSUE! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gravedugger, Youffraita, brein, pixxer, kacemo

    Transit -- healthcare -- Iraq -- inner cities -- education -- economic justice --

    I dimly remember there were important things to talk about, issues that impacted Americans,  before political campaigns became one long soap opera.  Please, God, let it happen again ...  

    "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." (Frederick Douglass, 1857)

    by dotalbon on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:21:00 PM PDT

  •  If you're ever in New Mexico (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, dotalbon, pixxer

    ride the Railrunner, only two-years old, but is going strong. The line from Albuquerque to Santa Fe will be complete by Christmas.

    Great initiative by Bill Richardson.

    •  I look forward to it (0+ / 0-)

      but the problem is still the "last mile".  We need to address that with a decent bus system too.  And then there's the east-west issues.  I go to Crownpoint, Ramah and Gallup.  I wish I didn't have to drive.

  •  I agree that this is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pixxer

    good news.

    An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.

    by rini6 on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:24:06 PM PDT

  •  I'm on Board with Amtrak.... (6+ / 0-)

    I live in an Amtrak town in upstate NY, between the Big Apple and Montreal.  It's great having the train pass thru here, and it's a major economic factor for our community.

  •  the more i have learned today about Biden (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    trinite, marykk, dhaemeon, brein, wtxdem, Earl3, pixxer

    the more pleased i am and hopeful with the choice.  I have just listened to Senator Salazar, Governor Ritter, and the Mayor of Denver, all from the critical state of Colorado, extoll his praises on both the foreign policy arena and the judicial, saying as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee he has done more for America's domestic security, law enforcement, cops and firemen and women's rights through his landmark legislation on domestic violence than anyone else in the Senate. That's a whole brace of birds with one stone.

    All this crap about his foot in mouth propensity, which could also be construed as telling it as he sees it and not being phonily politically correct, plus the disinformation about being a Washington 'insider' without clarifying his personal ethics, is demeaning, shallow and misleading.

    If you want to change Washington you have to understand Washington. As Biden said about Obama durign the primaries, the presidency does not have time for on the job training. In Biden he has the best personal tutor availabbel, and probably the most agressive and honest man in the government today.  He has also shown that he is a big man who does not hold a grudge. He is a political pragmatist, and that will be a very good thing for the nation.

    So quit your bellyaching those who squawk that this does not represent change.  This is a winning team. Let's go WIN.

  •  A shot in the arm for Amtrak? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, Youffraita, Neon Vincent, pixxer

    Yes, yes, yes, again yes.

    For the working people of America?  Yes.  For our cities?  Yes.  I see all sorts of possibilities here providing when we win.  

    All because one person chose to ride the train.

    National Immunization Awareness Month. I need s tetanus shot. What do you need?

    by Powered Grace on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:28:08 PM PDT

  •  Former train commuter here. (8+ / 0-)

    Took Caltrain into San Francisco for about two years.  Although I had my pet peeves, it was infinitely better than sitting on the freeway.  
     In fact, the worst problem was the connecting bus lines (S.F. Muni) that weren't scheduled to coincide with arriving/departing trains, or that didn't show up on time even if they were scheduled to.  
     That's a similar problem with Los Angeles' system - the various transit agencies don't coordinate properly with each other, then commuters suffer the consequences.  And then there's the stupid anti-bike rule on the L.A. light rail (no bikes allowed on board during prime commute times.)  How can you get people out of their cars if you prevent them from using alternative transportation to/from the light rail stations?

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:29:56 PM PDT

    •  Caltrain needs electrification and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brein

      extension to downtown San Francisco. Because of the high fuel prices, Caltrain is planning a fare increase next year. As a Caltrain rider and advocate myself, I am pleased with Obama's choice of picking a train rider to be his running mate.

  •  A longish time ago (5+ / 0-)

    when I was working for the 1984 George McGovern for president campaign, one of his major planks was to build a new national rail system in the US. He'd got great information from some rail engineering experts who conributed the data about how many jobs would be provided, how much money would be generated by the infrastuctural improvement, etc.  It was really impressive.

    This is something worth developing. Instead of starving rail systems, provid all the resources necessary to make intercity rail travel comfortable, fast, convenient, seamlessly integrated with municipal mass transit. It's perfectly suited to the US economy -- the marriage of high tech and big industry.  In fact it's just what we need to regenerate our industrial base.

    "True peace is not merely the absence of tension -- it is the presence of justice." MLK

    by dhaemeon on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:30:55 PM PDT

  •  New Coast-to-Coast Passenger Rail (9+ / 0-)

    Here's an interesting diary on "Passenger Trains, Coast to Coast", posted a couple weeks ago. Complete with links to maps of a renovated national rail system.

    It mainly ties together Amtrak lines in the East, and rolls out some new ones across the West. It gives this country a start on competing with the rest of the world that has at least adequate mass transit.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:32:34 PM PDT

  •  Car Trains (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, Gravedugger, Neon Vincent, pixxer

    One major improvement America's transit needs is more intermodal transit: direct links between different modes. "Take the train to the plane" should be the default standard, not the exception, at every airport. And "Take the train to the expressway" should be the rule at every rail station.

    These trains should carry cars. Practically all of those rail routes, existing and proposed, are heavy car traffic routes. Let people drive their cars directly onto a railcar; charge them the same as the regular passenger fee, or maybe even a little more for the driver.

    The overall ridership will increase, making capacity planning easier - especially as car passengers will more often reserve in advance. Trains carrying cars are more efficient in every way than cars moving themselves. And even the lesser pollution is also made in more concentrated engines, which are easier to clean up than car exhaust (especially when trains get hybrid regenerative braking). The relief of the highway system by using the rail capacity at much higher rates also acts like adding more highway reducing congestion (and even more reduced waste from idling cars). Even medical costs will go down, as safer rail reduces highway crashes, injuries and deaths - which is also like adding more emergency services.

    Car trains. The sooner the better.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:33:40 PM PDT

    •  There's Autotrain (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gravedugger

      that Amtrak runs from the suburbs of Washington to Florida.

      I doubt that would be a serious alternative for commute trips, because of the time needed to load and unload vehicles.

      •  Token Disney Subsidy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gravedugger, brein

        All that train does is spend some more taxpayer dollars to send more East Coasters to Disneyworld.

        We need to make car trains as easy and common as subways are in NYC. Drive on/off in a minute, along every commuter corridor in the country. Then if Disney gets some free rides, we won't notice in all the fun everyone else is having, too.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 06:41:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It depends (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brein
      on how extensive you are talking about. If you just mean that this system would remove some highway congestion for the holiday traveler, then sure, I could see how that would work, although you could accomplish the same goal by having rental car agencies near the main station in each city.

      Otherwise, if you are talking about doing this system on a wide scale, all you are doing is, in effect, creating a "high-speed highway". The problem with our dramatic over-reliance on cars as the lynchpin of our transportation system is that efforts to relieve congestion (through additional lanes, for example)only push the bottleneck to another point in the system. The common scenario goes like this: an existing highway experiences congestion, so additional lanes are added. These additional lanes, with their additional vehicles, now push the congestion to off/on ramps and high intersections. Once those are upgraded, the congestion is only pushed off the highway, and  street intersections have to be upgraded. But wait...there's more! The congestion is only pushed further, as then the streets themselves are upgraded into virtual boulevards. The process continues on until finally, the congestion is pushed into neighborhood streets and store parking lots. It's a losing proposition; inevitably doomed from the start.

      Part of the power of rail, in all of its forms, is that congestion can be relatively easy to relieve (add additional rail cars to an existing trainset), and sometimes that relief can even lead to better quality of service (adding additional trainsets themselves means not only less congestion for passengers, but that the wait times between each train is reduced).

      But the real power is that, when combined with smart zoning, rail is ideal for controlling and channeling capacity to specific neighborhoods, and via specific feeder systems (bus, tram) that are designed precisely to handle that capacity. Cars and roads do not.

      That's why more and more planners are using the phrase "Our job is to move people, not cars". It provides a whole different outlook...

      •  More Efficient Capacity (0+ / 0-)

        Car trains can fill the rail lines, if the hubs have fast on/off transfers. That means that the rights of way of the highways can carry lots more cars. One because they can pack tightly. Another because they will reduce "turbulence" by smoothly routing the cars without any lane changes, passing or other waste of road capacity.

        I live in NYC, lived in SF and New Orleans. I've driven cross country a few times. It's completely clear that the bottlenecks are commuter highway capacity, especially across bridges and tunnels. Once those bottlenecks are more efficient, then yes, somewhere else will be by definition a bottleneck - someplace must be. But the overall capacity will increase.

        And the other benefits, in fuel and pollution efficiency, predictability of transit schedules, safer and healthier movement of all those people, all make this a big win.

        Another big win will be to get a lot of people "over the hump" of using rail. They'll start with taking their cars over the rail, then see that they don't need their cars if that multimodal transfer I mentioned is available. Then the multimodal system, like subways and other rail including commuter rail, as well as buses and just walking, will all get more capacity used. The cars will be left at home as they get used to the convenience and economy of the other systems.

        We're starting with a lot of cars. We can leave the highways packed inefficiently while rails are largely empty. Or we can start moving those cars along rails, and use that change to kickstart momentum away from the "car with one passenger end to end" model that is not sustainable.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 07:14:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But my point (0+ / 0-)
          is that, by centering your system around the transporting of cars, instead of people, you are merely dumping more cars (and at a faster rate) into the city, yes at the station, but more importantly, everywhere. It doesn't solve the underlying problem, only perpetuates.

          I'm not saying that we should ban car trains, LOL. I'm just pointing out that if over-relied upon, they have the same fundamental flaws as road and cars.

          I agree with you that our interstate highways are certainly congested! I'm amazed at how some highways in even remote areas of the country-that 20 years ago were largely the domain of truckers-are now packed with a steady, at times almost bumper-to bumper stream of traffic.

          •  Weaning Us (0+ / 0-)

            But the whole point of car trains is that we're already centered on cars. Car trains transition us from willy-nilly cars to mass transit, even for cars. Car trains reverse the momentum of wasted "independence" for cars that all travel so many miles on routes that might as well be rails. Channeling transit demand from the SUVs navigating deserted canyons featured in most car commercials into an efficient version of the reality, most people crowding together along sub/urban corridors.

            A lot of our congestion comes from simply sharing the same urban hubs for local and "passing through" traffic. Even during "rush hour" (which someone responsible should firmly rename "clogged hour"). Shifting lots of car traffic into manageable and predictable rail will also free up those urban road interchanges that are rarely even designed to carry "through" traffic (instead, they were designed to capture traffic in the local economy). Rail's vast efficiency superiority at these switchpoint bottlenecks upgrades their worst weakness, which transforms the capacity of the rest of the systems. And once people are riding the rails more, without giving up their cars, many more of them will start to see the cars themselves as the bottleneck, and leave them behind on their way.

            Which is why I mentioned intermodal infrastructure in that first post. Car trains are essential intermodal by definition. But they also need parking at intermodal hubs, both outside the city and right there for urban mass transit. And also a relatively tiny amount of new interconnections to fragmented systems and stations that have operated in competition, rather than syneristically.

            I come from computer network engineering. Our transit infrastructure is even more singlemindedly designed and executed for the shortest term goals than its old contemporary power grids and telephone circuits. But the Internet model has proven reliability, capacity, flexibility and survivability lessons, especially in linking together different "transit" technologies. When our transit systems get smarter and more interconnected, they'll get more productive. Down the road a ways, we'll be able to get "packet switched" among both mass and personal transit through the "best route", according to the complex calculus of energy, time, pollution and privacy. By traveling smarter, we'll eliminate the waste in each category that our segregated systems have cursed us with. But first we've got to get them to "talk to each other". Car trains are an immediate optimization, a "spark" jumping the very close gap between those parallel systems. When that current is really flowing, a lot of the old resistance will burn away, as people find their best path through a unified network.

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Sun Aug 24, 2008 at 08:36:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  A friend of mine is an assistant (9+ / 0-)
    conductor on Amtrak, NE corridor, and Obama wasn't lying when he said that Biden knows all the guys' names. They all look forward to seeing him on their train. He(my friend) was talking about Biden just last night - and this from a guy who has zero interest in following politics.
  •  If Europe can have high speed trains, (5+ / 0-)

    so can we.  In the Northeast, trains are old, slow, and disgusting.  It's beyond the time when improved, modern, and fast train service has been needed.  I suppose some of the GOP don't want trains unless they're privatized and expensive.  If that's the case, let them ride in their limos.  I'll take the train anyday if it's safer, faster, and cleaner.  Most trains from Connecticut to New York are disgusting.  You can't even use the bathrooms.  We should have trains that take us from Connecticut to New York in thirty or forty minutes instead of almost two hours.

  •  I am theoreticlaly in favor of trains, but (4+ / 0-)

    Penn Station in NYC is a horrible experience. I went through there last week on the way from Long Island to DC, having looked forward to the trip for a long time. Once at Penn 1) I had a spinach roll that was remarkably tasty and not too expensive (and I am a California foodie, not easily pleased) and 2) I stood around for the train cattle call and learned to hate the experience really fast.  

    Biden, reasonably enough, rides the Acela, the high-priced, low-stops train which has (at Penn), if I interpret the area correctly, its own waiting room with seats, and a pre-ordained track.  Not so for us regular people.  Wait and wait and wait... till 5 minutes... maybe 3 minutes... before the train is scheduled to depart, and..... Pow! up comes the track assignment, and masses of people move as quickly as they can to crowd through the entrance, in hopes that they can get desirable seats.

    Peoples, if you want me to look forward to taking the train, don't make it such a demeaning and stressful experience! I was thinking of writing to Michael Dukakis about this - isn't he the head of Amtrak now? - but haven't yet done so. How hard would it be to give the track 15 minutes in advance?  I mean, really - be competitive in the human sense, Amtrak. I want to love you, I really, really do. Oh and cleaning the windows would make the trip more fun, but that is not the most important part.

    And remember... if you don't like the news, go out and make some own.
    - Scoop Nisker

    by pixxer on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:36:25 PM PDT

  •  On this, my hats off to Joe Biden. Thankyou. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, brein, wtxdem, pixxer

    Amtrak is a vital component of this country's infrastructure.  It is, and should be, a part of the commons under control of the people.  It must not be thrown to the privatization wolves to become part of some private for profit scam.   Many people depend upon it and it is a clear, efficient, affordable alternative to car/bus and even air travel, depending on ones needs.  

    I am a little wary of Biden for his connections to banking, but this is something I am glad to hear about!  

    You don't negotiate with fascists, you defeat them in the name of democracy. --Ambr. Joe Wilson

    by FightTheFuture on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:37:52 PM PDT

    •  It was Bill Clinton who deregulating banking. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wtxdem, pixxer

      He signed a bill proposed by Phil Gramm, McCain's economic guru, shortly before leaving office.  It was a huge mistake and we're paying for it now.  How much did they give Bear Stearns?  Was it $27 billion?  Clinton also signed another Gramm bill at that time.  It deregulated trading in commodities, and we all know what that did to the price of oil.  I guess Bill Clinton had no use of what was left of the New Deal.

      •  credit where credit is due (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FightTheFuture

        bill clinton also supported amtrak but was thwarted by the republicans in congress in the 90s as i recall

      •  Remember the S+L scandals? Banking deregulation (0+ / 0-)

        has been in the works, as a key plan of these modern day fascists (aka the neo-cons and their backers) for a long time.  I don't hold Clinton or Biden to that, per se.  

        Clinton was/is a DLC dem so what could you really expect?  Also, you think he was savaged for Health Care?  Just imagine if he really tried to act like a populist Democrat!

        Even if he wanted to reverse course, the meme from the "owners" and the plans of the takeover of this country had already been launched and pushed hard under Reagan.  Media deregulation, dismantling social programs, creeping privatization, "think" tanks,  deregulation, the rise of corporatism and the DLC, etc.  Most, even Dems, would not have understood those actions. The framework to do so was being pushed to the background.

        I am concerned with Biden's banking connections, and Obama's obvious centerism, DLC-lite is what I see.     I hope things will change, that both can step up to what is needed, which is not more mollycoddling of mega-corporations and the rich and powerful.  we shall see.

        You don't negotiate with fascists, you defeat them in the name of democracy. --Ambr. Joe Wilson

        by FightTheFuture on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 05:18:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Rail system (5+ / 0-)

    I'd like to see a major passenger rail system that encompasses all of the U.S., not just the major urban corridors.  I'm pleased, though, that serious consideration of national mass transit would occur under an Obama/Biden administration.  This issue isn't even on the radar screen with the Repubs.

  •  A Great Tragedy. (6+ / 0-)

    Los Angeles used to have "The Red Car" which went all over L.A., to Pasadena, to Santa Monica an incredible network.  All electric.  In the 40's  G.M., Goodyear Tire and the oil companies convinced the local government that L.A. was perfect for cars and automobiles should receive top priority.  They closed "The Red Car" line and bought up the right of ways (so it would be permanent).  A true crime.  My Dad used to ride "The Red Car" from Pasadena to L.A. and back for .50 cents.

    "The question isn't 'Is America ready for Barack Obama;' the question is, 'Is America ready for a smart President." John Lovitz

    by Kdoug on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:43:00 PM PDT

    •  Happened everywhere (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Magnifico

      Old pictures of Portland, OR, for example, show how many trolley lines used to exist...

      "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

      by skywaker9 on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:55:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  First National City, a holding company in 1930's (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, Kdoug, Gravedugger, brein

      designed to raid every city and suburban electric line and replace them with gasoline or diesel buses. Banks betting on huge payback from backing GM and other auto companies to destroy mass transit and replace it with millions of autos...succeeded.

      Not economics. Politics and the clout of the auto.rubber.oil manufacturers and industries.

      The regulations handicapping express service supported by the auto industry forbade the various rail lines from having a single transcontinental passenger service with pooled cars. In 1938:

      You could go in less than 16 hours from NYC to Chicago, but you couldn't continue on to LA unless you changed trains and companies. Same to go South. Strange how that was never relaxed to improve service.

      Why have Joe citizen ride for 10 cents or 25 cents when it was possible to force them to ride for 10 or 20 times that? Paying for everything, and being forced to replace that equipment every couple of years. Nice work and bucks if you canmake it happen.

      McCain: Unlike Republicans, (most)he HAS dropped bombs on a people and country that did not attack America. It fits: Warmonger

      by Pete Rock on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:38:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I had an electric train when I was a kid (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    Now I want another one. A really big one.

    "...and the fool on the hill ...sees the world spinning round." Beatles

    by bob zimway on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:46:02 PM PDT

    •  Wiki on electric locomotives (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      epcraig, Gravedugger

      One of the major reasons for electrification is the lack of pollution, at least from the locomotives themselves. Other reasons are higher performance, lower maintenance costs, and lower energy cost for electric locomotives.

      Power plants, even if they burn fossil fuels, are far cleaner than mobile sources such as locomotive engines. Also the power for electric locomotives can come from clean and renewable sources, including hydroelectric power, solar power, and wind turbines. Electric locomotives are also quiet compared to diesel locomotives since there is no engine and exhaust noise and less mechanical noise. The lack of reciprocating parts means that electric locomotives are easier on the track, reducing track maintenance.

      Power plant capacity is far greater than what any individual locomotive uses, so electric locomotives can have higher power output than diesel locomotives and they can produce even higher short-term surge power for fast acceleration. Electric locomotives are ideal for commuter rail service with frequent stops. Electric locomotives are used on all high-speed lines, such as Acela in the US, Shinkansen in Japan and TGV in France. Electric locomotives are also used on freight routes that have a consistently high traffic volume, or in areas with advanced rail networks.

      Electric locomotives benefit from the high efficiency of electric motors, often above 90%. Additional efficiency can be gained from regenerative braking, which allows kinetic energy to be recovered during braking to put some power back on the line. Newer electric locomotives use AC motor-inverter drive systems that provide for regenerative braking.

      The chief disadvantage of electrification is the cost for infrastructure (overhead power lines or electrified third rail, substations, control systems). Public policy in the US currently interferes with electrification---higher property taxes are imposed on privately owned rail facilities if they have electrification facilities. Also, US regulations on diesel locomotives are very weak compared to regulations on automobile emissions or power plant emissions.

      "...and the fool on the hill ...sees the world spinning round." Beatles

      by bob zimway on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:56:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  forget electric (0+ / 0-)

      I want one of these... or a lot of them.

  •  Wooing that key commuter demographic! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    It sounds a bit like that Onion spoof (the key 430 demographics in this election!), but when you consider the number of people living in suburubs - I don't have numbers - who take this kind of public transit, it might actually do something for Obama. Half a point in the polls, maybe. If people here about it.
    Still, as a commuter, it's about time.

  •  This Will Be Biden's Lead Issue (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    epcraig, randomcharacters123

    Just like Gore spent his eight years as VP pushing the Internet with his full force, I can see Biden doing the same with rail service. Sure, he's got expertise in many other fields- and Obama will tap that to its full potential- but I can see upgrading the train service to be the issue that Biden handles more or less by himself.

  •  Amtrak questionable. Trains not the answer. (0+ / 0-)

    Acela Boston-DC round trip 12 hours travel for $338.

    Delta Shuttle round trip 3 hours travel for $185.

    Even with much larger Federal subsidy, trains are just not competitive financially or in terms of productive use of time.

    If Biden's pushing trains because his kid makes $100K a year with nepotism job on Amtrak board, that's exactly the kind of insider DC stuff Obama was supposed to be fixing.

    SuperBus round trip 8 hours for $85 (includes Wifi)

    High speed express lanes for buses would cut travel time to 6 hours for bus and there's less prep time needed, buses much more direct.

    Get fancy with computer controlled, high speed hydrogen powered buses you get low cost, non-polluting fast travel direct travel.

    Much more adaptable to change also vs. tracks and airports.

  •  If Obama wins (0+ / 0-)

    I hope he takes Oregon's Earl Blumenauer as Transportation Secretary (He represents OR-3 in the House, a very safe D District).  Earl is a big believer in mass transit and building bike lanes/other modes of alternate transportation, besides being a total policy wonk.

    "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

    by skywaker9 on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:49:21 PM PDT

  •  Anyone else... (0+ / 0-)

    ... have the Simpson's "Monorail" song stuck in their heads?

    That being said, I am so ready for a public transit revolution in this country.

  •  Fuel $ means airlines cut routes 5-10% each year (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, tidalwave1, NoMoreLies, brein

    Air service to mid size airports will be seriously cut back and small airports will face no service at all. Look at how passenger trains were cut back in the 60's and expect airlines to do the same. Even with improved air traffic control, more efficient planes, and all the surcharges they can think of, airlines can't go on as they are with fuel prices like they've been.

    Passenger trains become necessary again after all these years in these areas.

    •  Besides the fact (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      That if you say did high-speed rail between Portland and Seattle, you'd free up a lot of airspace and takeoff/landing slots so the airports wouldn't need to be expanded as quickly...

      "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

      by skywaker9 on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 03:56:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That would be really (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9

    if Biden could get more exposure (and momentum) for this issue.

  •  I hope that Obama's comprehensive energy plan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tidalwave1, marykk

    includes a commitment to funding, improving, and enhancing rail travel in the U.S.

    Energy and infrastructure are related. A truly comprehensive approach directed at energy independence and affordability will recognize that basic fact.

    "The world is a mess and I just need to rule it." -- Dr. Horrible

    by BobzCat on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:02:03 PM PDT

    •  It was a pretty good bet (0+ / 0-)

      Obama's energy plan would include something for rail (since you don't live in Chicago for any serious period of time without gaining an appreciation for it), but Biden as VP means its going to be there for sure.

      Now we just need a solid pro-rail (both passenger and freight) transportation secretary.

  •  cool (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Goldfish

    And by the way, the "John McCain Weekly Gaffe Report" is Up!
     title=

    The Low Road Express: So low, an ant would be too big for it.

    by sluggahjells on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:04:52 PM PDT

  •  This is the #1 reason why I oppose McCain (7+ / 0-)

    McCain is extremely hostile to Amtrak, passenger rail, public transportation, light-rail, and streetcars. He's extremely hostile to any form of rail-based transportation. McCain will dismantle Amtrak if he wins the election.

  •  I increased my MPG from 30 to 39 by driving 55mph (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tidalwave1, marykk

    on the freeway with about 80% overall freeway driving vs driving 80mph or more (as conditions permitted).  

    And I still made great time.  It feels like you're moving like a turtle, but, amazingly, it really doesn't take much more time.

    ...on a related note I thought...  

    just to mention another way to save gas and money, to conserve fuel to help bring down the price and to try to be less abrasive on the environment.

    Fired up! Ready to go!

    by kacemo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:07:58 PM PDT

  •  Japan (0+ / 0-)

    I have lived in Japan for 11 years.  I haven't driven a car once in all that time.

    Nuff said.

  •  Trains for the Future (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kanuk, brein, kacemo

    Since I couldn't find a group about trains on BarackObama.com yesterday, I created one.  Please join if you are a rail-rider or interested in the future of transportation via train.

  •  I'd like to see Obama and Biden (0+ / 0-)

    travel to some campaign event via rail, and whenever they campaign in a town with rail, encourage people to travel by rail to attend the event.  I bet the run from Chicago to Springfield was the biggest rolling campaign party ever!

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:16:33 PM PDT

  •  They need to create an interestate highway (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tidalwave1, NoMoreLies, brein, klizard

    system for trains. They need to embark on a wide-scale project to finally provide better passenger rail service in this country. It's a shame that the US has allowed its infrastructure to decay and for Amtrak to be so neglected.

  •  Makes you wonder if McCain was ever on a train in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Kyman

    his life.  

    He probably wonders too: "My staff will get back to you on that."

    Fired up! Ready to go!

    by kacemo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:29:07 PM PDT

  •  I hope someone in the campaign (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo

    picks up on the excitement on this issue.  TRAINS make SENSE.  Whether communter, high-speed, intercontinental, shipping/transport...they just make sense.

    THIS one issue will get some voters "on board" if it was presented as a platform for the election.

  •  I saw a story on the Olympics coverage (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Odysseus

    about the trains in Beijing.  The teams used the trains to get to the soccer venues.  That train goes over 250km/hr.  If there were trains like that in North America, people could cut their commuting time drastically and alleviate congestion on the roads.

    •  In China (0+ / 0-)

      rail transportation is a national agenda. China is spending a lot of money on improving the railways and speed up trips. Railroad is still the mainstream form of intercity transportation for a lot of factory workers, in which they can't afford to fly.

  •  Bombardier trains a Canadian company (0+ / 0-)

    builds trains for Asia and Europe.  Why not here in North America?  Their Swedish Train is clocked at 183miles per hour, and uses 20-30% less fuel.  We need some of these trains here in North America.  You will see record bankruptcies coming in the aviation industry, rail will be necessary to cope with the demand.

    http://www.treehugger.com/...

  •  Not just Amtrak. HIGH SPEED RAIL is NEEDED (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, tidalwave1, NoMoreLies

    High speed rail is what this country desperately needs instead of continuing to prop up the airlines. There should be NO short airline routes at all. That people actually fly routes such as Milwaukee to Chicago is shameful. Going downtown to downtown between nearby cities would be far faster and cheaper by high speed rail and weather delays would be almost unheard of, unlike with planes.

    Nothing uses more unnecessary fuel and spews more crap into the atmosphere than planes. Our current policy could not be more ass backwards.

    I hope President Obama will appreciate this need, especially since Chicago would almost certainly be the hub of a national high speed rail system....

    "We are the ones we have been waiting for" --Barack Obama reminding us we have to hold him accountable.

    by Jim in Chicago on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:43:55 PM PDT

  •  for those of you who love in CA (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Odysseus

    bookmark eugene's california high speed rail blog, where he's blogging about prop 1 in the upcoming CA november general election. not sure why he's not in this thread yet, but it's well worth a look.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:58:25 PM PDT

  •  The bigger picture: freight rail electrification (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    Currently, amtrack's gas mileage is only 39MPG
    (surprisingly low considering the efficiency of rail) so moving someone onto a non-electric train saves less fuel than putting them in a prius.

    The bigger picture is to electrify our entire rail network for $28.3 billion dollars and power that using safe 99% carbon free nuclear energy.   Even though freight rail is highly efficient, at 400 net ton-miles per gallon, rail still uses 1/6 of our oil/energy for the transportation sector.    The locomotives are already diesel-electric and can easily be upgraded to run off a trolley pole.  

    McCain wants to give the oil industry $39 billion in subsidies over the next five years.  $28 billion is what it would cost to replace around 1% of our automobiles with hybrids.  

    The cost of constructing the nuclear power plants to provide 52 gigawatts of power would be substantially higher than the cost of electrification.  I would estimate around $232 billion - but that is more than offset by the fuel savings   That is based on converting 1/6 of the BTUs from the transportation sector to watts and applying a cost of $4.4 billion/gigawatt.    However, those are likely the thermal BTUs of the diesel fuel, not the electric power that results so the result was reduced by 2/3.    That would be about one nuclear power plant per state.    Amtrak alone spent $132 million on 63 million gallons of diesel fuel in 2006 - when it was cheaper than today.

    This will result in a massive change in the ratio of diesel fuel to gasoline consumption so refineries will have to crack the diesel to make gasoline.

    Transportation is 29.10 percent of our total energy consumption and rail is about 1/6th of that.   Petroleum imports are 28.7 percent and domestic crude is 10.8 percent.
    Thus, electrification of rail would eliminate 12% of our petroleum consumption.

    Further savings can be had by moving all long haul freight from trucks onto trains (75% reduction in fuel use).  70% of the trucks on I-81 were on long haul trips (over 500 miles).

    Previous comment on rail electrification.  

    --
    -6.25, -6.36 Worst. President. Dictator. Ever.

    by whitis on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 05:24:15 PM PDT

    •  Excuse me? (0+ / 0-)

      $28.3 billion? Where did you get that number? The Burlington Northern Railroad did a feasibility study on electrification once, and their number was much higher. Oh, and that number was in 1970's dollars.

      Electrification works okay for passenger trains on short corridors, but the US freight system would be insanely expensive to electrify and operate. Not to mention that building the nuclear infrastructure for your plan would take a decade to build, at the least.

      Meanwhile, the rail power industry is actively perusing a number of alternative power low emission engines, most promisingly a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive that, if successful, could lead to the end of diesel power within a decade.

      Electrification is a complicated, technically tricky, pricey, and soon to be obsolete option for freight rail in the US. It's a non starter and needs to be put to rest, permanently.

  •  Key Issue: McCain has sought to destroy Amtrak (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Goldfish

    In states all over the nation intercity and computer rail is being inundated with new riders due to high fuel prices.  Traditional and new rail commuters represent a potentially strong voting block.  Many of these people are moderate Republicans.

    They need to know that intercity and commuter rail is historically a major McCain target.  He has repeatedly tried to savage Amtrak funding using everything from name calling and distortions, to privatization schemes to cut Amtrak and Urban Mass Transit funding.

    Obama/Biden should hit hard on this in targeted areas.  This could be a big help in Pennsylvania which has  the Northeast corridor, Philly area commuter lines, and the Phila - Harrisburg - Pittsburgh and on to Chicago link.  

  •  I saw that diary from KStreet (0+ / 0-)

    and I hope he uses that business card to tell Joe that transportation funds should be lopped in to one budget bucket, i.e. there should be no funding discrimination between modes of transportation, between highway, lite rail, commuter rail, tram, or bus.

    All of these transportation options should be fed by the same revenue source, with monies meted out along common performance criteria (that largely already exists) of planning & design, financing plan, projected capacity and operating cost, community support for, etc.

    The current system: By having one funding bucket for transportation option "A" (in this case: highways), that is grossly larger than the much smaller bucket for transportation option "B" (in this case: rail), it reasonable to assume that high performance projects classified under option B will not gain funding, as there is little funding to be had to begin with. Conversely, even mediocre projects that could be classified under option A have easy access to funding, because there is such a large revenue amount to begin with.

    Combining transportation revenues in to one bucket would immediately make staggering amounts of federal money available to high performing rail proposals, even in the absence of increased overall budget (how many times have you heard your Democratic Senator or rep simply dismiss ideas out of hand "because we don't have the money"). And again, since all modes are subject to the same criterion, you have a better use of those same taxpayer dollars. Lastly, the current system ensures that highways are forever; under the new system, rail might replace an older highway, as there would be no distorted incentive to modernize the highway, just because it is a highway.

  •  Less Cars, More Trains (0+ / 0-)

    More mass transit, in fact.

    I have a personal beef with cars. They have killed off and injured some people very dear to me. If 50,000 people were killed by, say, a dirty little war in southeast Asia, everyone would be up in arms about it. There'd be protests in the streets, riots and students would take over Berkeley's admin building, or something. But every year nearly that many people are killed in traffic accidents in the U.S. alone, and not a pin drops.

    If electing Biden will get even a slight funding increase in public transit, then it's a victory for sanity.

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