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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Feds plan to spend $53 billion on rail

By Ashley Halsey III

[This post will be updated]

PHILADELPHIA -- The Obama administration plans to spend $53 billion on high-speed and intercity rail over the next six years.

Vice President Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the announcement Tuesday morning during an appearance at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. The money will be used to build new high-speed rail networks and to make existing rail networks faster.

President Obama's budget for fiscal year 2012, which is to be unveiled next week includes $8 billion for the plan.The rest of the money will be allocated over five years, officials said.

"As a longtime Amtrak rider and advocate, I understand the need to invest in a modern rail system that will help connect communities, reduce congestion and create quality skilled manufacturing jobs that cannot be outsourced," Biden said.

Biden estimated that, as a longtime senator from Delaware, he made over 7,900 trips between Wilmington and Washington on Amtrak.

"As President Obama said in his State of the Union, there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation -- one of which is infrastructure," Biden said in a statement.

Last fall LaHood announced awards of $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects in 23 states, including $45.4 million for Virginia to help fund studies and preliminary engineering in order to improve service between Richmond and Washington. It was the second round of awards, as the administration previously distributed $8 billion in stimulus money for high-speed rail projects. California has received the bulk of the awards -- about $3 billion total.

House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) both expressed skepticism about the plan.

"This is like giving Bernie Madoff another chance at handling your investment portfolio," Mica said in a statement. "With the first $10.5 billion in administration rail grants, we found that 1) the Federal Railroad Administration is neither a capable grant agency, nor should it be involved in the selection of projects, 2) what the administration touted as high-speed rail ended up as embarrassing snail-speed trains to nowhere, and 3) Amtrak hijacked 76 of the 78 projects, most of them costly and some already rejected by state agencies."

"Amtrak's Soviet-style train system is not the way to provide modern and efficient passenger rail service," Mica added.

On Monday Amtrak proposed a $13.5-billion project that included building two commuter rail tunnels between New York and New Jersey.

The tunnels would connect to an expanded Penn Station in New York with seven additional tracks, increasing intercity and high-speed rail access in the congested Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's plan also calls for replacing a 100-year-old bridge and doubling the number of tracks between Newark, New Jersey, and Penn Station.

Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm called the project "a necessary part of Amtrak's vision for bringing high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor." More than two out of every three travelers through the region passes through New York, he said.

Amtrak recently unveiled a $117 billion, 30-year vision for high-speed rail on the East Coast that would drastically reduce travel times in the Northeast, Amtrak's busiest corridor.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman has said the rail agency envisions a system that would reduce the travel time between Washington and New York City from 162 minutes to 96 minutes and the travel time between New York and Boston from 215 minutes to 84 minutes.

Amtrak also named veteran transportation professional Albrecht "Al" Engel as vice president of a new high-speed rail department.

Reuters contributed to this report.

By Ashley Halsey III  | February 8, 2011; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  Amtrak, Passenger Rail  
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Comments

The Obama administration continues its mad rush to waste money on rail projects that make no sense. Last November Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave a speech in New York touting high speed rail. Read the last paragraphs of the New York Times account of the speech:

"At the rail conference, Mr. LaHood, the transportation secretary, spoke of spending $500 billion over the next 25 years to connect 80 percent of the country with rail. Then, although the conference was in a hotel across the street from Pennsylvania Station, where Amtrak trains leave all day for Washington, Mr. LaHood left for the airport.

"His schedulers had booked him a flight back to Washington."

Posted by: Chippewa | February 8, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama: "... there are key places where we cannot afford to sacrifice as a nation..."
Such as: defense, entitlements, interest on debt, veterans' affairs, and lunatic choo-choo schemes.

Posted by: stuartspeer | February 8, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Great idea........lets borrow the money from China!!!! Bunch of monkeys running the country. Sorry to the monkeys for the insult!!

Posted by: kanman1 | February 8, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Once again Barak Obama is ignoring the wishes of the American people. Only a very few ultra left greenies and some greedy business men want a high speed rail system in this country. We are a nation of cars and pickups. If Obama and the liberal Democrats would allow the people of this country the freedom we are supposed to enjoy so we could drill for AMERICAN oil and natural gas in ANWAR and off of our coasts we would have more freedom from the middle east tyrants and Islamists. It would also create thousands of high paying jobs. This winter should be enough to prove the crazies wrong about "global warming", which they are quickly renaming "climate change" to try to hide the fact they are so wrong and ill informed. We don't want the high speed trains and we can't afford them. Quit spending our tax dollars to buy votes!! Shut down the Dept. of Energy and the Dept. of Education. That would save our tax dollars too. They are worthless departments that just waste our money.

Posted by: good_angel | February 8, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

It has been 1-1/2 months since you took office.
Mr. Boehner Were's the jobs?

Posted by: billysnap | February 8, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"I want the President to create jobs here in America that can't be exported overseas! Unemployment is ridiculously high and it's his fault!"

"If the President spends one red cent on public works projects, he is a throwing money away that needs to be spent elsewhere!"

Both these propositions can not be true at the same time.

Posted by: hcaulfield | February 8, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

What part of "America DOESNT have ANY money" does this idiot of a president not freakin understand?!
Amtrak is, and has been a COLLOSAL financial failure for years! Why the hell would spending more money on "high speed" rail be viewed as a good idea?
LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR do it!! Theres a reason the private sector HASN'T done it.. theres no demand for it!

Posted by: tony63 | February 8, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The blog is Dr. Gridlock. Get it? Increased and improved rail service will help reduce our transportation gridlock. I don't see CSX or Norfolk Southern stepping up to offer passenger rail service. Lincoln's Republican party believed that it was the government's duty to to invest in infrastructure to improve the lives of its citizens. I agree with Lincoln. Apparently, so does the Obama administration.

Posted by: jimbob128 | February 8, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

@Chippewa: Of course he took a plane. Driving would be crazy and trains take too long as well. Maybe once the improvements are made, taking the train will make sense. hmmmmm

Posted by: getjiggly2 | February 8, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I believe what Obama is doing is right, it will create more jobs in this country and improve our rail system, these right winger KKK terrorist wants to drive in pickup trucks with gun racks, we need sophisticated and fast rail system.

Posted by: logic123 | February 8, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, that ship sailed over 100 years ago when we chose the automobile as our transportation of choice. Moving to high-speed or any other kind of rail system will cost several thousand times the proposed budget. $53 Billion is a drop in the bucket to repair and or install new high-speed capable infrastructure on a national basis. Why should we target the east coast? There are people in the west that travel, too. Why not link the major cities with a high-speed project?

Besides, who can afford to travel anymore? Our current economic situation makes vacation travel a luxury and business travel almost arbitrary.

Posted by: Charlie_D | February 8, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Obama and Biden live in eco la la land.

Posted by: FLvet | February 8, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Biden is happy that the rest of Americans have subsidized his trips back and forth to his home in Delaware.

Does the plan entail putting in all new tracks to support the intercity passenger system?? Mixing passenger service and freight service on the same rails is a nightmare. If that's the plan, it will significantly increase the cost of freight service.

Point is, this isn't like mixing semis and cars on an interstate highway. Putting passenger service on existing rail will result in a two way tax; the subsidy for passenger service (all European systems are subsidized) and increased costs of materials that are shipped by rail.

Posted by: eeterrific | February 8, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Why in the name of common sense is anyone in Washington, especially this brain deficient president, even contemplating ANY type of rail service for this nation.

All one must do is view the history of AMTRAK and the subsidies required to keep that entity running to discover that the government cannont run anything at either a profit or a breakeven point.

Not only that but one only has to review any city, including NYC, which operates an 'inner city bus or rail system' to discover that they ALL run a deficit each and every year.

Here in Dallas, TX we have DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit)- a system that has been in the making for 20-25 years and continually runs an enormous deficit. They have just now expanded their 'rail system' north and as I view the trains running at 8 AM (three cars long) there is almost no one on them - an absolute waste of taxpayer money.

It has however kept a certain number of people employed in its construction and an endless number of bus drivers running around the area with almost totally empty buses all day long.

This nation does not 'run' on buses and trains for the population - it functions with automobiles and airplanes and trucks. Railroads haul freight, period.

And please don't tell me that we will be running out of oil - in 1973 when we had the 'oil shortage crunch' all the 'experts' predicted that if we continued to use as much oil in the next 10 years as we had in the past ten years we would deplete our entire national reserve.

40 years later, and with three times as many vehicles on the road, we still have not exhausted these reserves.

And we never will with that imbecile in the WH who has mandated no more drilling in this country for 'environmental' reasons or for 'safety' reasons altho the drilling industry has an exemplary history as a safe industry.

One accident and the nation goes bonkers because of the 'radical left' who would rather save a snail darter than the nation.

A pox on the entire bureaucracy in D.C. and its entire spineless inhabitants. We need to clean the entire group out regardless of party affiliation and send 535 new reps and senators up there and a president with a modicum of common sense.

Posted by: dharper2 | February 8, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Illinois' contribution, alone, to both the wars in the Middle east is currently $10,000,000,000 more than this figure.

Illinois could have built a high speed rail system to, and from, every city therein with that $62,000,000,000. Thereby creating green jobs, modernizing its transportation system, drastically reducing green house gas emissions, and most importantly, achieving energy independence from foreign oil.

But, sadly, the money, instead, was spent securing an extra couple of years supply of a finite resource. Only serving to prolong the inevitable. That being the migration to a modern, more efficient, transporation system.

Posted by: Planecrash | February 8, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Forget that every other civilized nation has high speed rail, we're only the most powerful nation in the world, yet the republicans want to make give us third world status with their draconian governing. BTW, to all you having an orgasm over Ronnie Reagan this weekend--he tripled the deficit with his spending.

Posted by: blarsen1 | February 8, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

FEDS DO NOT SO PLAN.

obama plans to blow 53 billion, not congress.

how misleading, intentionally so?

Posted by: docwhocuts | February 8, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh, swell. The Obama Admin. wants to spend billions we don't have, to build rail systems that will require billions more in operating subsidies.

Private businesses and state governments have decided (correctly) NOT to spend their own transportation monies on expensive rail projects. They recognize that high-speed rail lines are massive money-losers that serve only a handful of travelers.

Why can't the big-spenders in Washington figure that out? Let's hope Cong. Mica and House Republicans succeed in shutting down this latest bad idea for wasteful new spending.

Posted by: jrmil | February 8, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

All of the screamers on this blog are pathetic. Obviously, you don't live in areas well served by trains, in part because we have never unanimously supported them the way other civilized countries have and in part, because some states in between others don't want them. If you're happy riding your covered wagon or your Buick around, go for it. I'm quite happy with the trains and no longer need that darned Buick.

Posted by: sassafrasnewport | February 8, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

As someone who likes trains, thinks they are important and takes them fairly often I fully support the opinions of some of our anti-train friends. privatize amtrak, sell it off and split it up. maybe then we who take the northeast corridor will stop having to subsidize wasteful amtrak spending in texas and enjoy cheaper fares.

spending on high speed rail can be a good thing. i just wish they'd focus the spending on the areas that actually use it and not fill it up with pork for key congressional leaders (on both sides of the aisle).

Posted by: PindarPushkin | February 8, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"Mr. Biden is happy that the rest of Americans have subsidized his trips back and forth to his home in Delaware."

actually mr/s eeterrific the govt has not been subsidizing his trips back and forth to delaware. the northeast corridor is not subsidized (everywhere else is) which is why a ticket from los angeles to seattle costs less than one from washington to new york.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | February 8, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

@sassafrasnewport

Trains are great...when they make sense. They are great when you don't want or need a car at your destination, when you can get to them fairly easily, and when they aren't ridiculously expensive. Most points in this country are so decentralized that they don't fit either criteria.

What I find laughable is that high-speed rail supporters think that these train trips will be cheap too. There was an article in the Post or Express yesterday where a woman was lamenting the lack of high speed rail between Baltimore and DC. She did admit that Acela does exist but that at $35 each leg it costs too much. Well bowl me over. Do people honestly think that a new system will be even cheaper? Not a chance!

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Awesome!! It's about time that the US got back on the cutting-edge transportation technology track. Go Mr. President!! You are fantastic. And the more the GOP cries and whines, the better we know you are doing!!

Posted by: NumeroUnoHombre | February 8, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean extending the phony "high speed" Acela service which averages something like 52 MPH on the Boston-New York run? That cost billions--the equipment as built in Canada--and Amtrak touts it as a great success. They manage to hit 100 MPH for about three seconds between Boston and Providence--and even announce that they have done so!
With legalized "campaign contribution" bribery, this country may now be too corrupt to do anything but build weapons which are worth their weight in solid gold. And funnel trillions to the oligarchy.

Posted by: scientist1 | February 8, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse

High Speed rail is idiotic. Unless petrol is taxed heavily, as it is in Europe and Japan, high speed rail is even a bigger rat hole than AMTRACK. Only the contractors and the labour unions profit from such a boondoggle. The true costs are always several orders of magnitude above what is "projected." Politicians in the States and their relatives and donors profit from selling land for new right of ways to the projects by influencing where the land is purchased. Moreover, this is a gift to GE, which will profit from these projects, but not as much as GE's Chinese Joint venture partner ( the Communist Govt)which misappropriated much of the technology from Japan’s KHI and now is teaming up with GE to screw the United States taxpayers, France's Alstom and Germany's Siemens out of any of the build out. Check out the "up-side breakout" of GE's stock in recent weeks. Is this White House criminality in favouring GE CEO Jeff H. who has the Chairman of Obama's plum economic committee? Congressman Issa’s committee on waste and fraud should immediately get to work on this apparent fraud on the American taxpayers!

Posted by: gorasaab | February 8, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

This year the President wants really fast choo-choo trains. Next year, maybe he'll ask Santa for a Rocking Horse.

It's nice to see the old toys making a comeback. We should, however, remember that these are toys, which will be enjoyed by a few hobbyists, who will be subsidized by the masses.

America already has a GREAT railroad sytyem. It's great at moving freight on a cost efficient basis. Don't mess up a great system with toys.

The President should play with his choo- choo trains in the White House basement like other hobbyists.

Posted by: jfv123 | February 8, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

sassafrasnewport: I'm perfectly happy to let you ride trains. I'll continue to drive my quality Honda Accord, and Toyota Tundra.
I pay my way, and you, along with all the so called metropolitan folks should pay yours.
Don't suck off my tax dollars for these stupid projects. We're already subsidizing Amtrak, which I hope will soon end.

Posted by: LarryG62 | February 8, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Simply amazing!!!! Only two high speed rail systems in the world currently make money. The overwhelming majority require Gov't subsidies! It's obvious this Administration still doesn't get it.

Posted by: Jimbo77 | February 8, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Ha most USA railroad service is run by Canada.
Is this more of the Mexico to Canada plan the Chinese have been building in Mexico for years now?

Posted by: dottydo | February 8, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

We don't need money, we'll get it from your grandchildren.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 8, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

@LarryG62
"I pay my way"

Uh, no you don't. Not even close. Roads are heavily subsidized too - what you pay in tolls and fuel taxes doesn't even come close to covering it.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Once again I would like to point out that the northeast corridor trains make a profit and subsidize the train routes in the parts of the country where people complain about amtrak.

so we have the makings of a wonderful compromise. we on the east coast will agree to stop subsidizing train service everywhere else. and you all from everywhere else will agree to stop complaining and meddling with our trains.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | February 8, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

It's obvious from the posts here that the vast majority of Americans are shortsighted and incapable of planning for the future. The comments here demonstrate that Americans manage by crisis and this nation is only capable sacrificing now to invest in the future when the decisions are forced on us by crisis.

So let's run out the clock on fossil fuels. Let's adhere to the cultural identity of LarryG62's "quality Honda Accord and Toyota Tundra" until the oil runs out and the prices go through the roof. Then you can walk to work on empty highways because you have few if any mass transit options, which take decades to plan and build.

A century of non-existent energy policy and underinvesting in transportation infrastructure will ensure that transition to the next generation of transportation will be a wrenching crisis.

And make sure you all ignore the fact that this nation's transporation and energy infrastructure cannot support the level of economic growth that would allow us to grow out of the current deficits. Decades of decisions to invest in war instead of the nation's infrastructure guarantee that we cannot grow out of these deficits and will not be competitive with the rest of the world.

Part of the President's job is to be forward looking and to plan for the nation's growth. The President is setting priorities for spending whatever money we do have. His priorities are coming from the CEO's of this country who nearly universally say that the government should invest in three areas to position the nation for growth: 1) Education, 2) Infrastructure, 3) Basic R&D.

But the nation of whiners with short attention spans will continue to refuse to plan and invest, effectively positioning the U.S. for third-world status and failure.

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 8, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I hope these idiots remembere their opposition to this high speed rail program the next time they are sitting in traffic on I-95, paying toll after toll. Or whne their flights get cancelled due to bad weather and they are stuck in an airport somewhere. Just remember that when you curse Obama for trying to give America what every other half way industrialized country already has-- a functioning railroad!

Posted by: PepperDr | February 8, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

What happened to "those hard financial cut decisions" the President planned on making. Apparently, that austerity lasted a single day, then slipped his mind.

Just another example of how you need to discount what he says he will do and watch what he actually does.

Posted by: jfsanford | February 8, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

@PepperDr
Sorry, there is no rail system that would eliminate the traffic on I95. Rail exists up and down the east coast. People who can take rail to avoid the traffic already do. The system would become unaffordable long before it makes a dent in road traffic.

I took the train up to NYC last week. It was great - not even a minute of delays despite icy road conditions that kept many people from driving in. It doesn't mean that the train would work for most of us.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The President's family hailed the new rail initiative [boondoggle] as their best hope for ensuring that Vice President Biden (aka "Gaff Machine") spends more time on a train to/from/in Delaware and less time anywhere near the White House.

Posted by: flintston | February 8, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

What we really need is a fleet of regional dirigibles that can shuttle commuters back and forth between the high speed rail stations. To satisfy the environmentalists, these airships will all run on solar powered wind turbines.

Posted by: CubsFan | February 8, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

jfsanford wrote: "What happened to "those hard financial cut decisions" the President planned on making."

He's setting priorities and establishing an initial negotiating position with congress for spending whatever money we do have.

His point is that we need to set priorities and invest in the things that will position this country for the economic growth that will allow us to pay down the deficit. Even with massive budgets cuts, the government will still spend money and he is (wisely) trying to ensure that we invest in future success. That failure to invest in the future and make hard decisions in the past is exactly what caused this problem in the first place. So keep repeating that failed behavior if you like the results of the past decade.

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 8, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Amtrak works from DC to New York and to some extent, on up to Boston, but that's it. Shoot Amtrak in the head...that horse should have been put down eons ago.

Posted by: flintston | February 8, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Well I'm in California and I would really, really like an alternatve to driving the 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco that does NOT involve being groped or leered at by the TSA.

Posted by: shadowmagician | February 8, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"Soviet style" is Rep. Mica's favorite talking point. Never gets old, does it, Congressman?

Posted by: mattintx | February 8, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

@shadowmagician
What are you willing to pay for the privilege? How long are you willing for the trip to take? Personally I think CA would benefit from linking LA and SF by rail but that high speeds must be dropped in order to maintain cost.

Posted by: slar | February 8, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

This could be good news. Every modern nation on the Planet has some form of high-speed rail. For the past five or six years, railroad lines parallel to I-10 have been worked, bringing the lines up to a better grade & quality. The rail lines, when economic times were better, saw a freight train, typically 100 cars, each w/two containers, headed east or west, most likely heading up in Los Angeles. These railroad freight trains have so far been given priority & slow passenger trains less priority. We need to rethink our most efficient use of rail to reduce our dependence on gasoline & diesel to propel our vehicles. The U.S. is heavily congested, now, around thousands of miles of former rail lines that were let go & were built over or around. Even so, where there's openings for high speed rail lines to be built, we should exploit those openings. More traffic on trains means more energy savings. At some point, the flat-earth view of the 21st Century, which is the GOP's default setting for energy saving devices & alternatives, will be overtaken by events, like, more air pollution, more wasteful use of fossil fuels, more regression into 20th Century thoughts. The GOP are flat earthers & should be exposed as such.

Posted by: zennheadd | February 8, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm all in favor of high-speed rail, but couldn't that money be better spent on Metrorail? DC has grown dramatically while its subway system creeks along, underfunded and under-maintained. No significant expansion of the system has been in planning stages for the past decade. Instead, Metrorail has reduced service, raised rates and pushed its rolling stock to the breaking point.

Better to get people to work everyday and off the highways than to get them between cities.

Posted by: AxelDC | February 8, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Nothing is stopping the beknighted private sector from building a viable high speed rail, except that it is economical unviable. The Federal government, on the other hand, has an interest in socio-environmental issues that don't involve profit motives.

There are good reasons for Uncle Sam to want to get people off the roads and onto more efficient, cost effective trains. There is little profit to be made from such a venture, which is why the private sector will NEVER build one.

The technology has been around for 50 years. Why hasn't the private sector built us a rail system? Because it can't!


_______________________________
What part of "America DOESNT have ANY money" does this idiot of a president not freakin understand?!
Amtrak is, and has been a COLLOSAL financial failure for years! Why the hell would spending more money on "high speed" rail be viewed as a good idea?
LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR do it!! Theres a reason the private sector HASN'T done it.. theres no demand for it!


Posted by: tony63

Posted by: AxelDC | February 8, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

This is just like when that well known socialist Eisenhower built those commie roads known as the Interstate Highway System. Who knows if we'll ever recover from that socialist attempt at giving jobs to our citizens and improving our infrastructure!

Get a clue republicans. Remember, the opposite of progressive is regressive.

Posted by: booerns14 | February 8, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Posted by scientist1: "Does this mean extending the phony "high speed" Acela service which averages something like 52 MPH on the Boston-New York run? That cost billions--the equipment as built in Canada--and Amtrak touts it as a great success. They manage to hit 100 MPH for about three seconds between Boston and Providence--and even announce that they have done so!"

Actually Acela hits a top speed of 150 MPH for 36 miles of that run. It also has many stretches at 135 MPH, 125 MPH, and 110 MPH; all of which are faster than 100 MPH.

In fact, the slowest part of the run to Boston is between New Haven and the NY border on tracks owned by the State of CT and not Amtrak.

Oh, by the way, the equipment was built in the US by a Canadian company.

Posted by: ahblid | February 8, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Posted by tony63: "LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR do it!! Theres a reason the private sector HASN'T done it.. theres no demand for it!"

Yes, there is a reason that the private sector hasn't done it, but it's not lack of demand. It's the fact that the private sector is smart enough to know that they cannot hope to compete and make a profit against the heavily subsidized highways and planes.

If there were actually a free market in existence, the private sector would have done it. But there is no free market as long as government subsidizes roads & planes.

Posted by: ahblid | February 8, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

tony63 wrote: "What part of "LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR do it!! Theres a reason the private sector HASN'T done it.. theres no demand for it!"

Yes, you are right Tony. There's no demand for high speed travel between the cave you live in and the nearest town with a bar.

But those of us who have lived in major metropolitan areas and have had to commute between major cities know that there is demand for this option. Millions of people every day commute or travel up and down the west coast, east coast, etc.

So keep representing your narrow parochial interests and fighting yesterday's battles for yesterday's economy. Fortunately, some of us have the sense to look at the future and tomorrow's economy. But don't fret. We'll still be willing to pay for your unemployment checks when the economy and the world passes you by.

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 8, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

High speed rail works well in Germany, Japan, and France, mid sized company with cities that have dense networks of public transportation. So if you are in Germany, take one bus or tram to the Hauptbahnhof, then high speed rail, and commuter rail and a bus to get you to your destination, all with reliable, frequent scheduling.

We don't have that here.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | February 8, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"High speed rail works well in Germany, Japan, and France, mid sized company with cities that have dense networks of public transportation. So if you are in Germany, take one bus or tram to the Hauptbahnhof, then high speed rail, and commuter rail and a bus to get you to your destination, all with reliable, frequent scheduling.

We don't have that here.

Posted by: Nemo24601"

Good point. But this is America and Amerkins don't like to lern nothin from a bunch 'o fereners. They're all communists and socialists like our President, right Tea Party?

Posted by: RufusPlimpton | February 8, 2011 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if any of those who posted negative comments have enjoyed the high speed rail in China, Japan or Europe. Experienced the convenience of in-town to in-town service, no security pat-downs, easy luggage service, and a comfortable ride sitting in wide seats with ample legroom. The automobile may be the current American choice, but if gas prices increase to over $5 a gallon will this still be true? Of course we can always fly, need I say more about this option?

Posted by: edwardatvienna | February 8, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

If it was truly high speed, I'd be for it. But it's not. These are not bullet trains that really move like Japan. So, this is a waste of money.

Posted by: Trout1 | February 8, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Posted by dharper2: "Here in Dallas, TX we have DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit)- a system that has been in the making for 20-25 years and continually runs an enormous deficit. They have just now expanded their 'rail system' north and as I view the trains running at 8 AM (three cars long) there is almost no one on them - an absolute waste of taxpayer money."

And yet some how all those trains DART runs managed to carry 54,000+ riders every weekday in the third quarter of 2010.

Additionally those trains only spend 78 cents to move one person one mile, unlike the more expensive buses that require $1.34 per passenger mile.

You may not like having to subsidize public transit, but since society has determined that you must do so, wouldn't you at least prefer the cheaper trains?

Posted by dharper2: "This nation does not 'run' on buses and trains for the population - it functions with automobiles and airplanes and trucks."

You're right, but that's because we've spent years and more than $600 Billion since 1956 subsidizing those roads. And now we've reached the point where we can no longer continue to lay out those huge subsidies and in many places we no longer have the room to keep building more roads.

Posted by: ahblid | February 8, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

What seems to be overlooked in the vast majority of the posts are and the time and hassel factors.

Pretend... Let's fly to New York Begin by driving to the airport (but to satellite parking).
Now take the bus to the terminal. On to check in, then through security. Now wait half an hour (at least) to board. What is it, an hour and a half from the time the plane leaves the gate until it arrives at the New York gate? Now, cab or bus or car rental to the destination in NY. What is the total time, maybe four hours? Then the same crap to get home.

Much of this time is non-productive overhead. Yes we have to get to the train but we are going from city center to city center. On the train cell phones can be used and business conducted. No lines for security, no taking off shoes and belts and getting dressed again.

Where rail can be used the cost to the individual is going to be less in terms of time spent, jumping through hoops and ultimately dollars.

Rail works when connecting large cities within certain distances of one another. And, if we bring back the little roomette sleeper coach, it isn't a bad way to go larger distances. That's how I got back and forth from western Massachusetts and Chicago when I was in college.

Posted by: billsecure | February 8, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"Mr. Biden is happy that the rest of Americans have subsidized his trips back and forth to his home in Delaware."

actually mr/s eeterrific the govt has not been subsidizing his trips back and forth to delaware. the northeast corridor is not subsidized (everywhere else is) which is why a ticket from los angeles to seattle costs less than one from washington to new york.

Posted by: PindarPushkin
But actually, according to amtrak's very own web page, a trip on a weekday, April 12, from DC to NYC is $49 for regular coach and from LA to Seattle the fare is $104. The Accella ride (a high speed train) is more, but the coach to coach comparison is more appropriate. In Oregon, transportation grant money has been provided to decrease the travel time between Eugene and Portland by about 5 minutes over a 10-year period. Billions for high speed rail (even if we could ever agree about what that is) cannot be justified on a cost basis. At one time, the per passenger subsidy for an Amtrak ride was more than purchasing a coach ticket on a scheuled airline for the Amtrak passenger. It would be interesting to see what the operating subsidy is today.
I love trains, but as a national transportation policy, intercity rail transport is only justifiable in limited circumstances. Passenger rail is subsidized everywhere. The policy question is how much subsidy can we afford. The operational question from WW II is also appropriate, "Is this trip necessary?" Perhpas we should require Amtrak to show the cost of the existing operational subsidy for each ticket on the face of the ticket to help inform the travelling public of the direct costs of each trip.

Posted by: ralphgrutzmacher | February 8, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Folks... we have to. Oil ppb is back up to $100. That is guaranteed $4. a gallon territory and the trend is even higher. Like the rest of the world we need mass transit because the individual chariot thingee is not worth betting on.

Posted by: 5inchtaint | February 8, 2011 5:59 PM | Report abuse

"What are you willing to pay for the privilege? How long are you willing for the trip to take? Personally I think CA would benefit from linking LA and SF by rail but that high speeds must be dropped in order to maintain cost."
-----------------------------------
Hi Star: What am I willing to pay for the privilege? It's no fun driving 6+ hours between those cities - and I5 and the Grapevine are no place to have a car breakdown. Long Term - I am concerned that our oil/gasoline will eventually be scarce; and encouraged that a HSR will most likely run on electricity. I hope the HSR will revive the Central Valley by making an easy commute to either city. That said - I'm one of the 50% who voted in favor of the California HSR bond, and I know full well that 49% voted differently, and would rather not spend the bond money. I am either a visionary or deluded for thinking HSR a better way to travel.

Posted by: shadowmagician | February 8, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

the president is expressing my wishes...

we are stuck in some weird progress time warp that keeps us in stasis. in case no one has been paying attention 13 of the 36 industrialized nation has high speed rail. also, their education systems are superior to ours we are now 18th among the 36 industrialized nations.

too many cooks spoil the meal. let the president run the country. he was elected by the people and we should let him do what we asked him to do. 53b is a lot of money, but are we thinking about the number of jobs this project would generate, the amount in taxes all of those new workers will generate?

this would be new technology, creating brand new jobs for our young people exiting colleges. the opportunities for motivated individuals would be at a high level.

we have one sorry excuse for high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor—from Boston via New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, to Washington, D.C.—at speeds averaging 68 mph or 109km/h. while Japan's Shinkansen lines run at speeds in excess of 260 km/h (160 mph); China as trains that travel in excess of 350 km/h (220 mph) with trains in Shanghai that travel at speeds of 431 km/h (268 mph) and in Germany Karlsruhe and Basel is under construction to allow speeds of 250 km/h (155 mph), and a new line between Frankfurt and Mannheim for speeds of 300 km/h (186 mph) is in advanced planning stages. In the east, a 230 km (143 miles) long line between Nuremberg and Leipzig is under construction for speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph).

as you can clearly see we are being out classed badly. not only would these high speed trains carry passengers they would also carry freight. no longer would we be force to pay those outrageous fairs on airlines for travel to mid-range destinations. the same would go for shipping packages to certain areas that the trains would service. transportation prices would go down dramatically.

the president is working for the people, i am an american and when folks say he is not listening to the american people they have not spoken with me...

fat cats have sold us out. and up until now government has let it happen. tell me if this makes sense; we export the raw materials to S. Korea to make steel because we no longer make it in this country, and then we turn around and buy the steel back from Korea. up until 9-11 i did not know that some of our larger ports were ran by foreign interests. what, we cannot manage our own ports

lastly, you and i as foreigners cannot purchase land or homes in Hong Kong or mainland China. but, China holds, as a matter of course, thousands of our mortgages.

stop selling america short and selling it out. build our infrastructure and get competitive again. if we would just rebuild our infrastructure and update our electrical grid we would create thousands if not millions of jobs. but to do that takes money.

Posted by: yod_22 | February 8, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Hi again Star: Forgot to add - as far as time goes, four hours would be fine. That compares with the best time today by airline, including commuting and waiting in line for TSA. If it beats 6 hours, and I arrive in LA at a reasonable hour, that's great! Other posters brought up there are useful things to accomplish on a train; and again - it has the potential to make that housing built in the Central Valley during the real estate bubble actually valuable.

Posted by: shadowmagician | February 8, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I will use it. I've used these systems in Japan and Europe and was verily impressed. The airlines have been screwing us for years and are now making us pay fuel surcharges instead of charging a market price for the ticket (that's real world free market economy at work). This is on top of baggage fees, overbooking, fighting for seat space with the morbidly obese lady next to me and feedlot style traveler management (moo). I avoid flying for these reasons and I am sure business travelers are happy not to see me.

I am curious why Republicans are so against improving our passenger rail system. Besides the bus or car, it is a great way to travel while packing heat. My brother-in-law does it just so he can have the security of his "sweetness" when he travels to dangerous places (aka most of America). There's room to relax and stretch and you can clean your gun or practice your quick draw in the privacy of your sleeper. If you are not in a hurry, it's a great way to go and you can actually see things go by, including the lovely, depressed city centers where train stations usually inhabit (aka most of America). By moving to HSR, it may eventually become a great way to go even when you are in a hurry.

Posted by: mraymond10 | February 8, 2011 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Posted by ralphgrutzmache: "But actually, according to amtrak's very own web page, a trip on a weekday, April 12, from DC to NYC is $49 for regular coach and from LA to Seattle the fare is $104. The Accella ride (a high speed train) is more, but the coach to coach comparison is more appropriate."

I'm at a loss as to how comparing a 225 mile ride that takes 3 hours even comes close to being equal to a 1,377 mile ride that requires an overnight on the train and 34 hours of travel time.

However, the simple reality is that the NEC in 2010 had $920.7 Million in revenues and $869.2 Million in expenses, resulting in an operating profit of $51.5 Million.

On the other hand, the Coast Starlight lost $50.9 Million.

Posted by: ahblid | February 8, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

good_angel wrote:
This winter should be enough to prove the crazies wrong about "global warming", which they are quickly renaming "climate change" to try to hide the fact they are so wrong and ill informed.

Uh . . . trying to rename global warming "climate change" was a Republican strategy. And the rest of your screed is of similar low quality. I agree we don't need high speed rail from, say, KC to OKC, but it sure would be nice in the high-density areas such as the Northeast.

Posted by: scientist1 | February 8, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

You Dumb A!!es

1.U.S.Workers-Laborers who are without a job will get to work.

2. Amtrak is outdated, a new Rail System must be Implemented.

3. This New System will cut down on [Air Travel.

4. Japan,China,Germany & Other Western Europeans have Advanced Speed Rails, yet we're [Behind As Usual]

Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff-Lyrics To Wake Up Everybody: "Wake Up Everybody, No More Sleeping in Bed, No More Backward Thinking-Time For Thinking Ahead"

Posted by: omaarsblade | February 8, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Actually Acela hits a top speed of 150 MPH for 36 miles of that run. It also has many stretches at 135 MPH, 125 MPH, and 110 MPH; all of which are faster than 100 MPH.


Oh, by the way, the equipment was built in the US by a Canadian company.

Posted by: ahblid

Well, I have been on that train--I think you are right that they make an announcement that have hit 150, but if so it is for a second. It takes 35 minutes to get to Providence--45 miles. It takes 3 and a half hours to get to NYC, about 200 miles. Do the math.

I am not opposed to high-speed rail, but last time we were sold a bill of goods. Acela is not high-speed rail in the same sense that other nations use the term. If we are going to invest in high-speed rail, then it should be the real thing. And I doubt it will be cost effective outside of the NE corridor--maybe SF-LA and just maybe CHI-NYC. My point is that we need to think about these things and get real about what we can afford and what we are building.

I notice nobody has mentioned that we spend trillions of dollars subsidizing oil--by fighting and preparing for wars which we would otherwise have stayed out of.

And yes, you were right that the Bombardier cars were assembled in VT. Sorry.

Posted by: scientist1 | February 8, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

the regular price from DC to NYC is not $49. it is $131 (not acela). and that was my point. $104 from LA to Seattle. $131 from DC to NYC. The DC/NYC train has thousands more passenger and is over a thousand miles shorter. One is subsidized and one is not. In fact one subsidizes the other through higher fares.

The current system of Amtrak funding is a bad deal for the east coast. not only do we have to pay taxes to subsidize everyone else, we have to pay higher fares to further subsidize it and we have to deal with all the complaints about rail from the very people who are getting subsidized rail.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | February 8, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Why would you spend so much on so little, maybe 80% of the country dosen't want to be connected. So what happens to the car companies we just "bailed out" when everyone starts using this stupid train. Or the airlines, and in the stae of the union our "leader" commented that we wouldnt have to deal with the security issues like at the airport with high speed rail, so thats great cause i'd rather be on a train traveling at 100mph with a crazy next to me rather than at 35k feet. Duh.

Posted by: asquith_kelly | February 9, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Why would you spend so much on so little, maybe 80% of the country dosen't want to be connected. So what happens to the car companies we just "bailed out" when everyone starts using this stupid train. Or the airlines, and in the stae of the union our "leader" commented that we wouldnt have to deal with the security issues like at the airport with high speed rail, so thats great cause i'd rather be on a train traveling at 100mph with a crazy next to me rather than at 35k feet. Duh.

Posted by: asquith_kelly | February 9, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

asquith_kelly,

While there may be some people who don't want to be connected, it's definitely not 80%. It's much lower than than and less than 50% in fact. Most polls show that Americans do want rail projects and high speed rail too.

In fact in 2008 American's in 16 states went to the polls and approved 24 out of 32 ballot initiatives for rail projects. That's a 75% approval rating for rail. And one of those projects that got turned down, did get approved in 2010.

In 2010 American's went to the polls and approved 44 out of 57 ballot initiatives for rail. That's a 77% approval rating for rail.

Posted by: ahblid | February 9, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Scientist1,

Again, it's a distance of 36 miles divided up into 3 sections IIRC. So each section goes by quicker, but combined that's like 15 minutes running at 150 MPH and a bit more than a few seconds. Early on the train only hit 150 for about 18 miles so it was a much briefer time at the top speed.

Next, as I pointed out, the slowest section is something that Amtrak can do nothing about. The State of CT owns the tracks from New Haven west to the NY State line.

Finally, while I do agree that we shouldn't just be throwing away the money and that things should be carefully planned, the reality is that the Acela was designed to showcase what might be possible. It was designed to prove that given the money that people would ride the train.

It was never designed to run at 150MPH for the bulk of the run. There was never enough money given to Amtrak to come close to making the needed improvements to see the bulk of the run from DC to Boston at 150 MPH.

In fact, a major goal was simply to electrify east of New Haven to improve overall running times and avoid the engine changes in New Haven. And that was achieved and the Regionals now run faster than any trains between NY & Boston ever did before. And then they threw in some high speed sections to show what Acela could do.

Unfortunately it backfired, since opponents seized upon that much like you're doing here, saying we spent all that and it only runs at 150 MPH for that short of a distance. That's all it was ever intended to do; at least without additional funding.

Posted by: ahblid | February 9, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

There's a pretty finite supply of oil/gas within reach, and I'm guessing that we in the US are one of the biggest consumers of it.
With all the uncertainty in long-term energy market projections, we can't just happily assume that we will be driving around in our SUVs affordably, forever.
if you don't like the idea of trains in mass-commuting areas, what is your solution?
http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/world.html

Posted by: realSellen | February 9, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

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