Comments on: Yes, there is a better way to run a railroad Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:47:54 +0000 hourly 1 By: QuietThinker Mon, 31 Dec 2012 21:44:34 +0000 I will leave the debate over privatization to others. However, many of the problems AMTRAK faces seems to be independent of whether it is public or private:
1) AMTRAK lacks critical mass. The system is incomplete and runs most routes with too sparse a schedule for a large enough customer base to develop.
2) Unions in quasi-public subsidized entities like AMTRAK and the Post Office are a guarantee of high costs, inefficiency, and total abuse of the customers.
3) AMTRAK subsidies are out in the open – the much larger government subsidies to alternate forms of transportation are much less transparent to the public.
4) Many in government WANT AMTRAK TO FAIL on ideological grounds and do everything they can to make that happen.
5) Freight railroads continue to refuse to work with AMTRAK.

By: explorer08 Mon, 31 Dec 2012 17:38:22 +0000 I was going to comment at length but “upstater” said it all perfectly. Privatization of what should be a nationwide infrastructure issue is idiotic in the extreme. We’ve got to overcome the influence of the road building lobby and do what is best for a country that is continuing to grow exponentially in terms of population.

By: act1 Mon, 31 Dec 2012 15:30:23 +0000 My experience years ago with the “Friendly Southern Pacific” rail line soured my commuting experience from Redwood City to San Francisco. Just a 26-mile trip, but fraught with delayed trains, early evening closing, and often a cattle car crowding. It prompted my move into the city. The railroads have so declined in service and its offerings that I despair that this country will ever put together a system that could rival the European rails. Too much politics, too little concern for the American traveler.

By: bcrawf Mon, 31 Dec 2012 15:12:05 +0000 Wapshot says: “Business built the railroads [….]” Doesn’t he know about the government’s role in obtaining the land for right-of-way? Here is the typical blindness–or is it a con–of the privatization boys, advocating transferring public resources and publicly-created properties at little or no cost to private ownership, which then can strip out the profitable components and sell-off or dump the rest. It is essentially more vulture capitalism applied to publicly-owned holdings.

By: christrain1 Mon, 31 Dec 2012 01:38:58 +0000 Make the MTA Commuter Railroads More Efficent.

The MTA seems only to implement small changes. They have not made more aggressive changes in order to get more support of all modes of public transportation. The public transport must be accessible, convenient, reliable and frequent. Public transport must also be simple and direct so that a person can get to their final destination. Here on Long Island, the LIRR however seems to have two classes service for their commuters. One type service is at electrified stations. These stations in most cases offer the criteria of convenient, reliable and frequent service. This type also offers simple and direct so that a person can get to their final destination. The second type is train service from non- electrified stations. This train service from these maybe reliable, but is sometimes not convenient because it is not frequent as electrified stations.
To bring better train service to non- electrified rail lines access to Penn Station for the LIRR. Better access to Penn Station means the start of train service from Metro-North Upper Hudson Division to Penn Station and continues onto the Long Island Railroads Upper Port Jefferson Branch after a change of crews. This type of train service is similar to Amtrak Baseball Special which operated between Albany and Shea Stadium Station, on the LIRR Port Washington Branch.
This would give the Long Island Railroads Upper Port Jefferson Branch more direct through train service to a Manhattan Railroad Terminal. At present the LIRR Upper Port Jefferson Branch, only offers two peak round trips and some holiday service through service to Penn Station. This year they have modified their direct train service to Penn by offering one round trip on a modified weekend schedule during bad weather on Monday –Friday.
All commuters have to remember that the Eastside Access to Grand Central is for electric trains; the Long Island Railroads’ non-electric lines commuters who live near the Upper Port Jefferson Branch, would have to ether drive and park their car at an electrified station or change trains probably at Jamaica to get the same destination. This defeats the purpose of having fewer cars on the road and not making the MTA’s two commuter railroads more efficient.

If you want more detailed information please read about proposal by Metro-North, to operate beach trains to Long Island using dual mode train sets. See New York Times Articles 1991-1993. One such article is entitled “‘back To the Beach”. Metro-North did not go through with this at the time, because they said it not generate enough passengers to cover the fare. Also See Newsday July 1991 article for more info on Albany and Port Jefferson Station train.
This interstate train service between Metro-North and the LIRR, would give Long Islands sport fans better access to trains to Yankee Stadium at Metro-North’s Yonkers Station.
Let’s find and spend public dollars wisely for all commuters who use our railroads and improve service.

By: TheNewWorld Sun, 30 Dec 2012 01:54:29 +0000 Perhaps instead of privatizing AmTrak the government should raise the prices of it to reflect the actual costs. Perhaps the people that use the service should be paying for the service instead of people hundreds, or even thousands of miles away.

Or maybe we should think even further outside the box and push for more telecommuting so the wasteful, polluting, travel is no longer needed. I live two miles from where I work, I drive a fuel efficient car. If you live 2 hours from where you work, perhaps you should move closer to your job, or find a job closer to where you live. I would be all for a program that helps incentivise employers to allow for telecommuting when feasable.

Passenger rail = wasteful spending.

By: matthewslyman Sat, 29 Dec 2012 08:59:13 +0000 > “The main argument in favor of privatization is to improve the service to passengers.”

> “Transferring ownership and control of the railroads to the private sector would instantly increase private investment while diminishing public debt.”

— MOST British commuters recognise that the re-privatisation of the railways was the worst managed decision Thatcher’s or Major’s government ever made.

> “It’s time for ingenious businesses to step in and save the railroads from oblivion.”

It’s an ingenious way for cronies to make a killing on an inherently valuable asset (or, a cherry-picked portion of such an asset — the NE corridor). And an ingenious way for shareholders to make fortunes while the profit-making machine:
• Cuts corners or maintenance (corporate manslaughter) il_crash railment
• Ignores thousands of passenger complaints over decades, cramming undersized rush-hour trains to 2× passenger capacity so as to avoid paying for surplus rolling stock to move around at other times of day. 83986

Several times, I’ve been amongst over 400 (sometimes over 800) people waiting on the platform at Leeds City Station for the West-bound Transpennine Express between 5pm and 6pm, waiting for train after train that only has two carriages (max. capacity 180 people) and remaining on the platform as others packed in vertically, standing like sardines; because it would have been extremely unsafe for me to board the train. But try sending a complaint to the current or previous operator of that line, on issues like these. Good luck getting an answer! They just pretend never to have received your letter, and then there’s no punishment for that.

> “They have also betrayed those who argue that a publicly owned and administered utility need not be run on Soviet lines, deaf to complaints and contemptuous of its users.”

In Britain, the rail companies are still contemptuous of their passengers. They know that the roads are so congested on some routes that the rail passengers have almost no alternative to rail. So they carry on forcing the passengers to risk their lives standing shoulder-to-shoulder, chest-to-chest whilst paying for a seat. When trains are five minutes late, they are counted as “on time”. They announce the approach of a train to the station, when the system already knows that the train won’t arrive for another ten or fifteen minutes — you’re standing on the edge of the platform ready — an then the display boards start “updating” at the very moment when the train was supposed to arrive. They dodge the reliability monitoring system completely, when they pretend that there are “the wrong sort of leaves on the line”, or “the wrong kind of snowflakes” etc. — so that those schedule slots are simply not counted toward missing reliability targets (I can’t even count on all my fingers and toes, the number of times trains have been cancelled,e when the REAL reason for this — as I’ve been informed by the staff at the station — is because the train driver couldn’t be bothered to get up on time for the first train of the day! But the train companies don’t solve this mess by training enough new drivers — instead they all prefer to poach “experienced” drivers from each other, leaving the system with a chronic shortage that is never fixed. So the existing train drivers effectively know that they cannot be fired.)

I have a strong suspicion that in the largely Anglo-Saxon free-market North Eastern USA (New England etc.); you would end up with the same results as we are getting in the old England from the same experiment…

If the main argument in favour of privatisation is to improve customer service, then I’m sorry, but that’s a tired old argument that has been proven to be a lie.

By: K.MacKenzie Sat, 29 Dec 2012 06:03:39 +0000 “…by looking at the British example, the result of Margaret Thatcher’s program of mass privatization.”
Thought it was worth pointing out that although you could say that the privatisation of the UK railroads was done as an extension of the Thatcher privatisation programs, the railroads were actually privatised by her successor, John Major. Margaret Thatcher herself, as you mentioned someone who was already privatising large swathes of British industry, was actually against privatising the railways and felt it was going too far.

By: blueberryhound Sat, 29 Dec 2012 04:27:38 +0000 Turn Amtrak into an employee-owned cooperative. Employees earn shares of the company, and their wages depend on profits. (But the problem of sharing rail lines with freight carriers must also be resolved.)

By: Art_In_Seattle Sat, 29 Dec 2012 04:15:47 +0000 Mr. Wapshott’s lamentation of the “horrors” faced by Amtrak’s customers would seem to indicate that he hasn’t recently been subject to the indignities of air travel–at least by most of us who aren’t important enough to enjoy flashing their million-mile cards, going past the lines and sitting “up front”…or perhaps being schlepped around in the private jets of the corporations whose virtues he proclaims.