Much is being made in the railroad industry and transportation media about the Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) wildfire sweeping from coast to coast. Proponents of PSR will tell you that it will prove to be the industry’s savior. But it also begs the following question: Just what does the industry need to be saved from?
Advancements in the logistics industry over the past ten years have been vast, especially in over-the-road shipping modes with shippers utilizing 3PLs at record levels for domestic transportation management. The move toward partnering with logistics service providers has allowed shippers to use the power of modern technology to increase visibility and track product movements throughout their supply chains with greater efficiency than ever before. Unfortunately, rail has not seen advancement at the same pace, leaving shippers with the perception that rail carriers are behind the times.
What’s the Good News? At least one large Class I freight railroad has finally codified some meaningful fatigue countermeasure provisions with its train operating employees, in an actual written agreement. And, yes, that is Good News, although it has been very slow in coming.
Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson and his chief deputy, Stephen Gardner, have proposed eliminating the company’s interregional trains in favor of a scattering of discontiguous, higher frequency short corridors connecting nearby city pairs. But this reflects a deep misapprehension of the performance of the company’s three primary business groups, and a surprising emphasis on minimizing the returns on investment of the company’s capital resources.
The original Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project started with a semblance of consensus but ended its 15-year life in controversy. Its replacement, Gateway, was proposed in February 2011, and has been surrounded by controversy for the entire eight years of its life, so far. The politicians and planners who are pushing the program consider it inevitable, just as they considered the now-defunct ARC Project inevitable almost until the day it was killed in 2010.
WATCHING WASHINGTON, APRIL 2019 – Stanley found Livingstone faster than vacancies on the five-member Surface Transportation Board (STB) have been filled, with two remaining more than three years after Congress increased from three the number of Senate-confirmed seats.
PERSPECTIVE: SHORT LINE & REGIONAL, APRIL 2019 – “Once upon a time”: Four words that begin some of the most enduring and beloved stories in Western Literature. They are enduring because they have been read over and over again by every generation, and because the hero overcomes obstacles to end up in a good place, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Railroads are a critical component of America’s transportation infrastructure, and have been making significant investments in advanced networked computer control systems and information technologies. This has enabled the employment of new capabilities such as “Positive Train Control and “Precision Railroading” with increased operational efficiencies and improvements in safety. However, the introduction of these new technologies also results in increased organizational and system vulnerabilities to disruption arising from cyberattacks .
Somewhat buried in history is that today’s railroad map is a product of behind-the-scenes actions by former Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Frederick (Fritz) Hollings (D-S.C.), who died April 6 at age 97. He was Commerce Committee Chairman 1987-1995 and 2001-2003, during years Democrats controlled the Senate. He left office in 2005.
Anyone connected with the series of passenger rail projects in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area known collectively as Gateway will claim that their eventual completion is inevitable, much like former California Gov. Jerry Brown claimed that completion of the virtually defunct California High-Speed Rail Project was inevitable, or how anti-rail activists like Randal O’Toole claim that the impending demise of passenger trains and rail transit is inevitable. Yet, circumstances have changed in recent years, and new discoveries have led some advocates in the region to doubt the cost-effectiveness, and even the feasibility, of building Gateway as currently proposed.