ASLRRA PERSPECTIVE, RAILWAY AGE, AUGUST 2021: The New Jersey School of Architecture offers a master’s degree in infrastructure planning. In preparing for his course on infrastructure, Professor Alex Marshall used Google’s Ngram Viewer, which can search millions of books and publications to determine when a word was first used. He found that the word “infrastructure” made its first appearance in French publications in the 1880s in conjunction with railroad engineering.
Author: Chuck Baker
ASLRRA PERSPECTIVE, RAILWAY AGE, JUNE 2021: In May, I was one of four witnesses fortunate enough to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Surface Transportation as it began work on surface transportation legislation. In another hopeful sign, the hearing was held face-to-face in the Committee room, and I am taking it as a good omen that my first in-person appearance in Congress in more than a year was to present the short line industry’s case for a robust infrastructure package with beneficial policies.
Already the leader in fuel-efficient surface transportation, the railroad industry is now making every effort to be a part of the solution to improving the environment, and the short line industry is all in on a variety of fronts.
Perseverance is a virtue, and 2020 required all the perseverance one could muster. The pandemic, the disruption of the workplace and of ordinary commerce, trade disputes, our unsettled politics—all contributed to a year that affected every American citizen and business.
ASLRRA PERSPECTIVE, RAILWAY AGE OCTOBER 2020 ISSUE: This month marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the 1980 Staggers Rail Act. It is an anniversary well worth emphasizing to the growing number of people who were not then in the industry and have little connection to that history. This landmark legislation literally saved the nation’s railroads from near total collapse. By the mid-1970s, many Class I railroads were in or near bankruptcy. Deferred maintenance was growing exponentially, and the “standing derailment” phenomenon had come to symbolize the sad state of the industry.
Congress is one of the American public’s least favorite entities. Recent polling data puts the approval rating of Congress at 25%. Gallup’s long-standing “Confidence in U.S. Institutions” polling shows that Congress has maintained the lowest confidence rating of the 15 institutions listed since 2010.
ASLRRA PERSPECTIVE, RAILWAY AGE, JUNE 2020 ISSUE: National survey data indicate that 70% of Americans have not left their homes to visit family or friends, more than 50% have not gone into work, 20% do not leave their home to shop for the essentials of life, and 33% have someone in their household that has either lost a job or took a pay cut because of the coronavirus outbreak. A stunning 39 million Americans have filed for unemployment since early March.
ASLRRA PERSPECTIVE, RAILWAY AGE APRIL 2020 ISSUE: As with every other business in the country, short line freight railroad operations are increasingly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, and it will get worse before it gets better. Those that can in our workforce are working remotely. Operations, dispatching and maintenance workers are heroically doing what they can to make the trains run on time. Many of our customers are under severe duress that affects our train schedules, loadings and unloadings, and ultimately our revenue. As of this writing on March 30, about 15% of our short lines report they have employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are in self-quarantine.
In 1907, Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell, an English soldier, devised the Scout motto—Be Prepared. He published it in Scouting for Boys in 1908. Upon publishing the Scout motto, Baden-Powell was asked the inevitable follow-up question: Be prepared for what? “Why, for any old thing,” he answered.
PERSPECTIVE: SHORT LINE & REGIONAL, APRIL 2019 – “Once upon a time”: Four words that begin some of the most enduring and beloved stories in Western Literature. They are enduring because they have been read over and over again by every generation, and because the hero overcomes obstacles to end up in a good place, and everybody lives happily ever after.