I have worked in the operating and compliance departments of various short lines for more than 25 years. There have been times that the marketing and sales department has made promises or deals with customers that were unrealistic or even unattainable, but I agree that the need for “Sales Engineers” is vital to the railroad industry.
We hosted rail industry experts in our third Suds with Seidl event. The overall mood was optimistic. The outlook for 2021 was strong, with one participant noting he was surprised to hear just how bullish his customers were this past week. Class I’s may be missing business opportunities, but there is still hope for greater communication via technology initiatives. We remain positive on the rail group.
It has been an honor to serve on the Amtrak Board for the past decade. I am extremely proud of the hardworking employees at Amtrak who keep America moving. Our current circumstances remind us of just how fortunate we are to have their commitment and dedication. It is because of their efforts that Amtrak began 2020 in the strongest position since we were created nearly 50 years ago. Ridership, revenue and financial performance were at record levels. With the support of our state partners, Amtrak was on track to generate revenues exceeding operating expenses for the first time ever. The company began preparing for next-generation Acela trains, and had a bold vision of expanding train service in new and existing corridors across the country.
Smart ticketing is gaining more and more prominence lately, with the launch of innovations such as the open-loop concept, which enables passengers to simply utilize their debit or credit cards or mobile devices with payment functionalities, like wearables, for ticket payments.
As freight transportation providers build up traffic volumes from pandemic-related lows, there remains a strong focus on supply chain visibility among ship operators, railroads and truckers. Additionally, shippers and beneficial cargo owners want better tools to see and track shipments from release to delivery, in the same way consumers track Amazon or UPS shipments. As consumers become more accustomed to better tracking and service standards, these capabilities are needed now at every stage of the transportation and handling process.
FROM THE EDITOR, NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE: 1992 was a watershed year for me. That’s when, at the tender age of 32 years and roughly 8 months, I joined Railway Age as Assistant Editor under Luther S. Miller, who had joined the publication in 1958 and had been, since 1966, in the post I have held for the past 20 years. Luther was five years older (65) than I am now. He was my colleague, mentor and friend until he died at 90 a few years ago. Seems hard to believe (except for the hair). Where has the time gone? (Don’t we all say that at some point in our lives, like when our children are grown? My sons are 21.)
THE FINANCIAL EDGE, RAILWAY AGE, NOVEMBER 2020 ISSUE: The 2020 U.S. Presidential election may be the most unique in modern times. Paper ballots came into use in the early 19th century; the modern lever-pull voting machine in the late 19th century; and push cards (until the infamous “hanging chad”) were used until 2000. Cue the pandemic: In the 2020 election, mail-in ballots were expected to account for at least 80 million votes—more than half the total number of votes expected.
Rail transit rail equipment is among the transportation equipment subsectors most likely to benefit from a potential “Blue Wave” in January following a Joe Biden/Kamala Harris win and the Democrats flipping enough seats in the U.S. Senate in the November Presidential election to take control of that chamber.* As well, a power shift in Washington could drive a public transit service recovery in the U.S.
The six Class I railroads that practice the marketing-term model called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR)—all of the “Big 7” except BNSF—are now reporting third-quarter financial results in the remaining days of October. There is, however, an opportunity for a more holistic quarterly briefing. There is an argument for a new checklist of service metrics that would be of interest mostly to customers and, perhaps, public policy groups. However, instead of a balanced scorecard from the carriers, we are mostly seeing accounting reports that cater exclusively to analysts.
It has now been more than six months since the COVID-19 virus hit the United States and Canada, and also hit transit hard in both nations. The riders disappeared. On some systems, ridership dropped as low as 5% of prior levels. Service plummeted in many places, too. Here at Railway Age and its sibling publications, we kept track of the downward progress of everything on rails: freight and passenger/transit. This writer was on the team that documented rail transit’s decline. Ridership is beginning its slow upward climb; how far up it will eventually go is anybody’s guess. So is service; in some places more than others. This article will present a comprehensive look at how rail transit is returning.