Sunlighting PRIIA—Which Should Be Sunsetted

When it comes to the news of Jan. 16, 2020 of Amtrak approaching the State of Tennessee to gin-up interest in its latest pitch for the highly questionable PRIIA legislation, it is best to remember what long-ago Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” As this action looks like a maneuver to manipulate Congress to allow Amtrak to disassemble long-distance trains and reallocate their equipment, I intend to ensure sufficient sunlight is evident here when Amtrak touts its newly discovered Nashville-Atlanta route.

Good “Experientials” or Bad?

Ever since he came to Amtrak from the airline industry, President and CEO Richard Anderson has “railed” against so-called “experiential” trains, an expression he often uses in disparaging the roughly 15 long-distance trains in Amtrak’s skeletal national network. Anderson clearly prefers corridors, and many members of the rider advocacy community also like them, but Anderson seems determined to expand those corridors by eliminating long-distance trains in what he and his followers perceive as a zero-sum game. While he often uses the word to describe his company’s long-haul trains, it does not seem clear what he dislikes about them, or whom he believes they serve and with what sort of experience.

Garbage Served, Garbage Generated

In 1837, Hans Christian Anderson published a modernized and revised version of an ancient fable, under the title, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In it, the vain and foolish Emperor is taken in by charlatan weavers who promise him a glorious new wardrobe, magically invisible only to stupid and unworthy people. No one, including the Emperor, is willing to admit that the new costume is invisible to them, until a child cries out, “But the Emperor has no clothes!”

Virginia, CSX, Amtrak Get Serious About Passenger Rail

Amtrak trains will operate almost every hour between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Va., within 10 years under a landmark $3.7 billion agreement involving the Commonwealth of Virginia, CSX and Amtrak that will expand passenger rail service in the region and other parts of the state, improve CSX’s capacity, and cost far less than one-third of an interstate highway expansion, according to a Dec. 19 Richmond Times-Dispatch report.

Amtrak’s Preference Rights Are Not New—Or Reason For Alarm

A recent opinion column [by Railway Age Contributing Editor Jim Blaze] with a Perils of Pauline title—Amtrak vs. Freight Railroads: Shippers, You Are Impacted!–urges freight rail shippers to take up arms against recently introduced federal legislation that would allow Amtrak to bring a legal action to enforce its statutory dispatching preference over freight trains. While there may be things that freight rail shippers have reason to be concerned about, Amtrak’s preference rights are not one of them.

Amtrak Dining Cars as Profit Centers

One of the great hurrahs of Amtrak dining cars came in the late 1990s, when the transcontinental Sunset Limited diner featured 12 entrees on its dinner menu. Traditional white linen tablecloths draped the tables, along with china plates and stainless-steel cutlery. It was not unusual to have flowers on the table and lit candles at the dinner hour.

Amtrak vs. Freight Railroads: Shippers, You Are Impacted!

A headline story says that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has introduced a bill that would allow Amtrak to sue the freight railroads for preventing Amtrak from meeting suitable on-time performance standards. The senator alleges, “By empowering Amtrak to hold the freight railroads accountable … we can improve Amtrak’s on-time performance and save taxpayer dollars. The people of Illinois—and Amtrak riders nationwide—deserve assurance that they can arrive at their destination in a safe and timely manner.”