Nostalgia Not in Amtrak’s Future

WATCHING WASHINGTON, RAILWAY AGE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE: Spending others’ money as if it were one’s own isn’t successful politics. Yet notwithstanding Congress’ current appetite for trillion-dollar annual deficits, there are limits to federal spending—especially on Amtrak, which labors perennially for but a miniscule portion.

USMCA: NAFTA Rebooted, Not All That Different

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), essentially a reboot of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has governed trade among the United States and its North American neighbors since 1994, is now in place. President Donald Trump signed the agreement in a ceremony marked by “great fanfare,” as one news outlet described it, on the South Lawn of the White House on Jan. 29, with about 400 guests, including farmers, corporate executives and workers, members of the Republican party, but not surprisingly, no representatives from the Democratic congressional contingent that supported its ratification.

Is Saving Coal a Fool’s Errand?

There is a great deal of passion about coal as a railroad commodity. Some suggest that the railroads have been in denial about coal’s decline as a business sector. Yet, I bore witness to an awareness of the risks of the coal decline a long time ago.

You Blew It, Andrew Cuomo

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.

Sunlighting Amtrak’s 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.

Sleeper Service: Let’s Follow Europe’s Lead

“[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.”

A New Decade of Post-PSR Service Planning Starts Now

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.

“Railways 2.0”: A Coming Bonanza?

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.

Haverty Factor Fueled Rail Trade Growth

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.

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