Author: David Peter Alan

Texas Transit: Once Frozen, Starts to Thaw (UPDATE)

Most of the rail transit in Texas fell under Old Man Winter’s one-two punch of snow and bitter cold over most of the state, as it was gripped by historically low temperatures. As temperatures warmed up (into the 60s during the week of Feb. 21) and the snow melted, rail transit has returned to full service in Texas and as far north as St. Louis.

Third in a Series: Advocates Uncertain as Politics Comes Into Focus

My two previous reports in this series showed that companies and a union who could benefit directly from various DOT grants made highly favorable statements about Pete Buttigieg. That means little on its face, because the statements came from entities who could say little else. Advocates for the riders on Amtrak and transit are not bound by that constraint, and they have endured other DOT heads who have not been particularly favorable to the riders who are their constituents. I will conclude this series by reporting some comments from those advocates, examining Buttigieg’s political future, and proffering some suggestions about how he can help the riders (assuming that the Senate confirms his nomination).

Second in a Series: Complete Streets, Incomplete Transit

In my last report, I looked at Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation, and what he would bring to the post. I looked at his own concepts as he expressed them in his acceptance speech, how he might serve USDOT’s business constituents, and his background. Part of that background is the time he spent as mayor of South Bend, a post he occupied starting in 2012. As I will describe in this article, he can claim some credit as an urbanist with his “Smart Streets” policy for the city’s downtown area, but local bus service remains limited, and the passenger trains that ostensibly run to South Bend do not go anywhere near downtown.

First in a Series: Does DOT’s New Face Signal New Policies?

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Pete Buttigieg to be the next Secretary of Transportation, as Railway Age reported on Dec. 15. This news report noted his experience, particularly as mayor of South Bend, Ind., and included a number of laudatory statements from industry leaders, including one from labor. Indeed, it would be unwise for any of those industry leaders to appear less enthusiastic than that concerning any such nominee, and risk the ire that could result. The question in my mind is, what will Buttigieg’s appointment mean for Amtrak and rail transit customers, or anyone who represents those constituencies.

Amtrak Cuts Keystone Service (Updated)

Amtrak and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) on Dec. 16 slashed service on the Philadelphia-Harrisburg Keystone Corridor nearly 50%. Thirteen weekday one-way runs were suspended, along with three on weekends. Despite the trains coming out of the system in December, no media advisory was issued until Jan. 4.

MBTA calls its service-reduction plan “Forging Ahead,” which “Reduces service frequency, Preserves more access and hours of operation, and Avoids some service changes that would have required customers switch modes.”

MBTA Board Softens Blow, But Service Cuts Still Coming

Transit riders throughout the country are facing severe service cuts, as ridership and revenue remain low, and state and local governments face severe financial woes. Earlier this month, Railway Age reported that Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, known locally as the “T”) announced a lengthy litany of services to be slashed. The Fiscal & Management Control Board (FMCB), which is acting as the Board for the Boston agency these days, has now finalized and approved the cuts by a 3-2 vote.