New York City Transit President Andy Byford resigned on Jan. 23. Andy was hired in January 2018 to improve and transform New York City’s 116-year-old subway, North America’s largest, and he was doing just that. But he got fed up with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who thinks he’s in charge of running New York’s railways. Now, someone else will have to carry on—if they’re capable—and that remains to be seen.
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.
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.
“[A]nd a little child shall lead them.” Many of you will recall that this is a Biblical quote from Isaiah read at Christian Sunday Advent services last month just prior to Christmas. And this made me think of the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg (now Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” and recently nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize) and which, per chance, occurred at the same time I received an e-mail from a fellow rail advocate who expressed his rabid climate denial, using such words as “I haven’t drank the climate change Kool Aid.”
2019 will be remembered as the year of Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) and for the great traffic drought in North American railroading. PSR has indeed helped deliver the eye-popping levels of operating ratios (OR) that rail executives could once only dream about, and many of the Class I’s set record ORs throughout the year.
One thing we have learned from Trump City and New York’s Hudson Yards project: There is gold buried in old rail yards. Once combined with advanced technology like AI (artificial intelligence) and automation, you could be seeing the next great infrastructure boom in America. The amazing thing is that “Railways 1.0” has quietly had a huge impact—but a much bigger one is coming.
WATCHING WASHINGTON, RAILWAY AGE JANUARY 2020 ISSUE: When Mexico’s President Porfirio Diaz lamented more than a century ago of his nation being “so far from God and so close to the United States,” he hadn’t contemplated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which demonstrably enhances efficiency, encourages innovation, increases consumer purchasing power, makes a wider assortment of goods available and raises standards of living.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ghost speech writer for his Penn Station South eight-track expansion proposal forgot a lot of things and clearly has no understanding of transit history.
Freight rail traffic has historically been a useful gauge of broader economic activity. The fundamentals of a strong U.S. economy were present in 2019: solid job numbers, strong consumer spending, low interest rates, economic expansion and low inflation. But despite all the bright spots, one thing remained certain last year: trade policy created uncertainty. This uncertainty affected multiple sectors of the economy.
INTERNATIONAL RAILWAY JOURNAL, JANUARY 2020 ISSUE: A stagnant North America freight market is set to continue in 2020. However, technological advances and potential growth in intermodal and heavy-haul offer Class I railroads room for optimism.