STB waiting too long for Godot

Watching Washington, January 2019: Prominently on Harry Truman’s Oval Office desk was a sign, “The buck stops here.” Newly confirmed members of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) may wish to reflect on that acknowledgment of accountability as they wade through a troubling backlog of unfinished rulemakings—some disregarded for years.

White House renames rail nominees

Five nominations for rail transportation federal leadership posts were announced Jan. 16 by President Trump. All are nominees from the previous session of Congress, and were cleared by respective Senate oversight committees for confirmation on the Senate floor—but none advanced for a floor vote prior to the Senate adjourning.

UPDATE: Washington’s Merry-Go-Round on “Stop”

UPDATE: “Knock, knock.” Seriously, if you’re awaiting a “Who’s there?” response from many railroad-important federal agencies, you ain’t gonna get one, because, quite literally, there’s nobody there.

FRA morale tops among rail agencies

Some in the federal work force may say, “Take this job and shove it,” but not so at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), where job satisfaction for 2018 was the highest among the Department of Transportation’s nine modal administrations.

In Congress, it’s Hail Mary time

In the people’s company town of Washington, D.C., the most popular refrain during lame duck sessions of Congress—the fewer than 60 days between congressional elections and adjournment—is the catchphrase from Mariah Carey’s iconic tune, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

STB: Nothing’s the something it does best

Watching Washington, December 2018 Railway Age: New leadership arrives at railroad-focused congressional committees in January, and unless Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Ann Begeman ingests breakfast Wheaties and gains courage to produce decisions, Congress may prescribe more than a potent laxative.

A failure of public enterprise?

From the November 2018 issue of Railway Age: Were Amtrak a business school case study, it would be advertised as “The Failure of Public Enterprise”—users receiving services for which they don’t pay the full cost; taxpayers subsidizing the difference; a failure to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), as if Bernie Madoff were Amtrak’s chief accountant, and conflict of interest collaboration with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to impede entry by more efficient private-sector competitors.

Amtrak’s Anderson not a random choice

Watching Washington, November 2018: When a 1978 labor dispute hobbled Northwest Airlines, North Dakota Gov. Arthur A. Link ventured to Minneapolis with a request of Chief Executive Donald Nyrop. Would Northwest—the lone east-west airline serving the state in the pre-deregulation era—withdraw an objection to competitor North Central temporarily providing the service?

Amtrak reform: Attention must be paid

Watching Washington, October 2018: From operating plans to marketing to pricing, change is relentless in railroading. Where railroaders once every five years looked with suspicion at all aspects of their system, and made substantial changes after 10, scientific advances, new processes and innovative applications propelled by unremitting competition have put the transformation process on steroids.

Why Ian Jefferies?

News item: Ian Jefferies, 42, currently Senior vice President for Government Affairs at the Association of American Railroads (AAR), will succeed Ed Hamberger as President and CEO on Jan. 1, 2019. Most notably, Jefferies will serve as the railroad industry’s chief congressional lobbyist and spokesperson.

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