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Obama Unveils Plan to Fund High-Speed Passenger Rail

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Kangaroo, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123989461947625407.html

    Obama Unveils Plan to Fund High-Speed Passenger Rail

    By CHRISTOPHER CONKEY and ALEX ROTH
    President Barack Obama on Thursday set U.S. transportation policy on a new course, announcing at least $13 billion to enhance passenger rail service as an alternative to clogged highways and overcrowded airports.

    "Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already overburdened aviation system, and everybody stands to benefit," Mr. Obama said, speaking at an event in Washington before leaving for Mexico.

    Mr. Obama was flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time Amtrak rider who looked visibly moved, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who submitted a strategic plan to Congress on how the administration plans to carry out its vision. The plan, which includes an $8 billion grant program in the economic-stimulus bill and an additional $5 billion that Mr. Obama wants to allocate over the next five years, is particularly good news for states struggling to maintain existing rail corridors. It also holds out hope that states like California, which has a $30 billion plan with trains capable of traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco in two hours, will receive grants to accelerate their programs. Manufacturers of rail cars and locomotives also stand to benefit from bolstered passenger rail service.


    Associated Press
    Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express service, shown here arriving in Boston, got a big boost in ridership following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but transportation officials say the train service and air shuttles are now competing neck-and-neck.
    Many other regions are hoping to draw on the funds to set up fast rail corridors. Midwestern states want funding for a plan that would place Chicago at the center of a network of high-speed rail service that extends to St. Louis, Detroit and Madison, Wis. Advocates in the Northeast want money to upgrade Amtrak's Acela service between Washington and Boston, the route that currently comes the closest to the high-speed service common in Europe. Florida officials want up to $1.5 billion to build a passenger line between Tampa and Orlando.

    Persistent highway congestion and the desire to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and imports of foreign oil have prompted a shift in federal policy, and renewed interest at the state and local levels in developing speedy trains and dedicated rail corridors.

    Lawmakers representing California have been pressing the Transportation Department for money to fund its plan for a bullet train. In a letter to Mr. LaHood last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others urged him to keep in mind "the potential for 'true' high-speed rail with dedicated corridor segments for trains traveling at speeds of 150 mph or more, no grade crossings, and no mixed traffic." The state also is seeking about $690 million in stimulus funding for a project to upgrade rail service between Sacramento and the Bay area.

    More
    Environment: Green Pitch for High-Speed TrainsList of proposed high-speed corridors100 Days: News and analysis from WSJ's blogsEven with stimulus funding, it will likely be a decade or more before the California bullet-train service is running. Rail advocates in other states say money spent on existing passenger-rail routes could show benefits sooner.

    For example, Amtrak trains take about five hours and 30 minutes to go between St. Louis and Chicago, longer than it takes to drive between them. But Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, a group of individuals, businesses and towns hoping to improve rail service in the area, said service along the route could be reduced to four hours -- faster than it can be driven in a car -- with $400 million in stimulus funding. Mr. Harnish said the money could fund new tracks, signals and flyovers that let passenger tracks pass over freight tracks, and that some of these projects could get under way in a matter of months.


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    The Chicago-St. Louis rail line is one candidate for stimulus money promised by the Obama administration. The Journal's Christopher Conkey reports.
    Among the route's current limitations are that passenger trains going in opposite directions must share a single track and deal with outdated signaling technology that repeatedly slows their progress.

    Those obstacles were evident in the experience of Chicago-bound Amtrak train 302 on Wednesday. The train had to detour onto a short waiting track to allow a southbound train to pass, causing a 15-minute delay. Later, the train's engineer, John Lotspeich, scoffed at a signaling error that forced him to halt the train even though the track ahead was clear for miles. "This close to being on time," he said. "This is terrible." The train ended up taking six hours and 20 minutes to complete the route.

    Mr. Harnish also hopes that a separate line between the cities will win funding to launch service with trains traveling faster than 200 mph. "This line could become the test for what high-speed rail looks like in this country," Mr. Harnish said this week.
  2. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    My question is are people going to even use them much like the light rail we built in Houston it has not helped on traffic in fact it has made it worse.

    Will people even use them is my question ?

    Is this a big waste of money ? Americains are more spread out and love the freedoom a car/truck gives them.

    Just curious what people think about throwning money at an industry over regualted and has been in decline for years in the US
  3. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    In theory it should work, it has helped a great deal in europe but as you stated, most people like their cars so who knows. So I guess the problem is getting people to use them.
  4. Vintage

    Vintage The Cult of Jib

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    I don't know enough about it to comment one way or another with any sort of expertise.

    However, my initial reaction to this is that its a waste of money.
  5. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    When you only build 6.5 miles that runs from downtown to the stadium, of course there isn't going to be much use for it. It's not hitting any of the neighborhoods who could benefit from rail transport.

    And when the representatives in Washington fight funding against additional rails at every turn, it'll take even longer for Houston to upgrade their mass transit system. It sucks.

    I'd love for Houston to build high-speed passenger commuter rail from the suburbs.
  6. DFWJC

    DFWJC Well-Known Member Zone Supporter

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    If the economics and locations work, I'm all for more passenger rail systems in this country.
  7. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    I am very familiar with this topic. It has been a battle in Kansas city for a few years now. The latest plan which was shot down in the last election was for a 13 mile long light rail system in the inner city of Kansas City. Cost was well over a billion dollars. Some estimates were as high a 4 billion.

    So Obama, at best, can build a 169 mile long rail system. Way to go Team Obama.
  8. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    Which is why I asked the question I am no expert I knew a little about the railroad knowing some people that have worked in it and some of other stuff but overall I can only go by experience and what i understand.

    I know the rails have done great in Europe they have for a very long time. Is that because overall Europe has less cars and highways than America ?

    Also when you get to a place like Houston the city is all spread out you need a car to get to anywhere it is not a friendly city for walking.

    A lot of European cities have friendly ground transport and it is easy to walk around in.

    The US is layed out in that manner and makes it difficult to see the same results. Does not mean I am correct in my assumption.

    I mean we have buses people do not take; heck people at work do not even want to take a bus shuttle so pay hundreds of extra dollars a month to park closer for convience and to save 10-15 minutes. My work also pays for park ride and vans but a lot of peopel do not use these services even though it say litteraly thousands a year it is a pay raise. It is all about freedom for some and the ability to come and go as they please.

    That is why I am asking the question ?

    A big part of me says biggest waste of money yet at the same time I think maybe ? Call me skepticial at this point on it's impact !
  9. Kangaroo

    Kangaroo Active Member

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    I used the train a few times but I work in the medicial center and acctually do the park and ride now and sometimes I have met family downtown and gotten a ride home that way so I take the train to downtown.
  10. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Shut up and play! Staff Member

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    I'm not saying it doesn't get used. I used to work downtown...I know how many people jump on/off regularly.

    Just saying that in a city the size of Houston, you need more than 6.5 miles of rail.

    I also used to ride the bus when I first moved here. It's how I learned the city. But the bus doesn't go every where...and I think rail could be used to supplement.

    I guess I'm more of a proponent when i see how rail can be integrated into a big city, like Chicago, and still have an adequate bus system.

    Chicago has the regular train system, but they also have a commuter train system and they've got a bus system.

    No reason why Houston can't attempt to do the same. We're too beholden to our cars. If my car breaks down, no way I can get to work without jumping through a whole bunch of hoops.
  11. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    If people are interested in details and costs just google Kansas City light rail. You will find many links both pro and con.

    We have so many problems in Kansas City it should not have even been on the table. Our scools have failed and been taken over by the state. We need 4 billion worth of sewer work and our goofball major and city council wanted a new tax for light rail in a place almost no one could use it. Dumb idea all the way around.
  12. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    When comparing large cities keep in mind Bloomberg has closed nearly half the mass transit system in NYC because of costs.
  13. sbark

    sbark Well-Known Member Zone Supporter

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    If it was needed, and could be profitable.....private investment would have done it..........Name one industry where Govt Operates efficiently: Postal? SS? Medicare? ..........

    Amtrak another example....Amtrak's revenue per passenger mile is higher than that of either airlines or intercity buses. That means that if Amtrak's costs were competitive with airlines and buses, it would need no subsidy whatsoever....Amtrak has just announced that, unless it gets another $1.2 billion in federal subsidies, it will discontinue its long-distance train network and lay off hundreds of employees.

    total of Amtrak "bailouts" over the years......44 billion.......

    http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-cox020502.shtml
  14. ethiostar

    ethiostar Well-Known Member

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    I will use it if its available in my area, no question.

    I like having a car and the independence and flexiblity it brings, but i don't have the need to drive it everywhere and all the time.
  15. iceberg

    iceberg detoxed...part 2 Zone Supporter

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    from my point of view i'm going to have to drive to a place to get to the railway, then take that to where i'm going and hope the stopping point is close by. if it's destination is miles away from where i need to go, i won't consider it.

    the only thing i can think of now that i would use it for is if i went to the AAC because it stops right by it and is convenient.
  16. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    h don't worry, they have a plan for that too. Tax the living crap out of fuel, and tax you by the mileage and you will be riding the rail.
  17. JBond

    JBond Well-Known Member

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    When I lived in NJ, I like thousands of others took the train into the city. It was very convenient. But NY is unique. It has very limited access in and out and it costs a fortune to park in the city. Even with all that in its favor along with an extremely high population density it still is failing. It simply costs to much.
  18. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Bad Santa Staff Member

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    FIRE FIRE BURN BURN.

    Go get you a tube of preparation H for those roids you got going.:p:
  19. WarC

    WarC Active Member

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    The idea strikes me as stupid, unless it's some kind of serious revamping of Amtrak's existing lines and trains.

    It just don't make sense...The automakers are hurting and we're going to stimulate the economy by upgrading public transportation that people don't use anyway?? And a project thats a direct competitor to the struggling automotive industry??

    Doesn't make sense and I don't like it.
  20. Jarv

    Jarv Loud pipes saves lives. Zone Supporter

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    I live in the country, but I'm very lucky to live 1/4 mile from my local train station (We call it Petticoat Junction). It's a sub-line off the main Metro North line from CT to NYC. It was real convenient when I was working for IBM as a jobber and the train actually had a stop at the complex I was working at, I could get used to that real easy.

    CT was pushing this line as an alternative, which was cool by me. The problem was the schedule. In IT if I had to stay 5 minutes late one night sometime I had to wait 1 1/2 hours for the next train...and my drive was only 20 minutes.

    So it could be a real good thing, if it was convenient enough.

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