‘Maybe So Sir, But Not Today’

I spent about a half-decade of my railway career working with several intermodal freight logistics luminaries: Marvin Manheim of Northwestern University’s Transportation Center, Penn State Professor of Logistics Kant Rao and Bryan Stone of Intercontainer, with contributions from Rick Hill and Dick Andino, pioneers of ship-to-rail intermodal at APL. These folks and others helped shape my view of moving containers along complex links and nodes among different modes and terminals.

Reciprocal Switching: Complex, Expensive, Time-Consuming (i.e. Mostly a Bad Idea)

Here are a few observations about the often operationally complex competitive rail carload service that many shippers and public advocates would like federal regulators to shove down the throats of the railroads: “reciprocal switching,” or as the Association of American Railroads calls it, “forced access,” a “misguided” method that could, ultimately, undermine the railroads’ ability to reliably serve customers.

It’s Now an STB Moment

The Class I railroads have responded to the Surface Transportation Board’s strategic question: “Are You Prepared?” Shippers should look for certain signals.

Is Amtrak Really Coming Home to Alabama?

Is this New Orleans-to-Mobile Amtrak commuter-like train proposal “a rather complex story,” like the meaning behind the lyrics of the 1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd hit, Sweet Home Alabama?

What’s Really Going On in Memphis?

In a somewhat-unexpected action, Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Martin Oberman recently suggested some ideas and offered borderline critique about pending public railroad issues. During my long railroad career, such displays of opinion were restricted normally to written official procedural decisions text. A lot of this is geographically following congestion and related intermodal rail service issues around Memphis. Here is my strategic view.

Amtrak proposes a federal investment of $75 billion over 15 years “to develop and expand intercity passenger rail corridors around the nation in collaboration with our existing and new state partners.”

Can You Spare $75B?

Amtrak released its Corridor Vision on May 27. This rail economist recommends that readers balance the public relations statement with the rest of the missing story.

Takeaways From FTR’s Deep Freight Rail Dive

FTR Transportation Intelligence Chairman and CEO Eric Starks and Vice President Rail and Intermodal Todd Tranausky recently hosted a webinar to examine the rail freight market in terms of volume and recovery pace, as well as their professional outlook for North American freight car manufacturing. As an invited media journalist and commentator, here are my takeaways for Railway Age readers.

Chess Game for Railroad Real Estate (UPDATED)

A bidding war has broken out for the Kansas City Southern, but it’s actually more like a chess game. Here are some observations about what it all could mean, especially in terms of railroad “real estate,” from my economist observation post.

What Do Shippers Seek From Railroads?

Resiliency is among the key takeaways from Sergio Rebelo, who kicked off the recent 2021 Rail Equipment Finance (REF) Virtual Conference. He is the MUFG Bank Distinguished Professor of International Finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

CPKC: Tri-National Considerations

After a thorough review of my mergers and acquisitions career work, I have reached the conclusion that the Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern (“CPKC”) combination has several less-than-optimal locations where overall system performance affecting three nations—the U.S., Mexico and Canada—could be addressed and improved during Surface Transportation Board review.