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The New York Times | Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises

WASHINGTON -- Record prices for gasoline and jet fuel should be good news for Amtrak, as travelers look for alternatives to cut the cost of driving and flying.

And they are good news, up to a point.

Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues -- all the more remarkable because May is not usually a strong travel month.

But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.

Amtrak, as the article notes, has a grand total of 632 usable cars for the entire country.  That compares with 1070 for the DC Metro and 6400 for the New York Subway.

Pretty pathetic.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jun 21st, 2008 at 10:49:12 AM EST
Peak Amtrak?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 21st, 2008 at 01:27:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Amtrak also has about 100 cars that are inoperable due to insufficient funding for repairs.

But the real problem is the lack of track. The current freight system is essentially at capacity, and the last thing that the major railroads want is an increase in irritating passenger traffic. To have a good passenger system in the U.S. will require a tremendous investment in new rights of way, new stations and support infrastructure, new employees (where do you get, say, 1000 qualified locomotive engineers?), etc.

This development will have to be fought yard by yard across the whole country. For example:

"Railroad boom hits environmental, 'not in my backyard' snags

As US railroads try to meet demand and reduce reliance on trucks, landowners and environmentalists worry about pollution.

PICACHO, ARIZ. -
From his ostrich ranch, Rooster Cogburn looks out over a broad mesa covered with cactuses, pecan groves, and alfalfa. In the distance, the granite summit of Picacho Peak towers over the Sonoran desert.
"It's beautiful. It's tranquil. No one lives out there," he says.

But, the view could be changing.

Across the interstate from his ranch, the Union Pacific (UP) railroad wants to build a six-mile switching yard, part of an effort to improve its national freight service. And, this month, local officials rezoned some 10,000 acres from development sensitive to heavy industrial. They envision businesses springing up around the new yard.

Burgeoning business is pushing railroads into the middle of sticky environmental disputes. On one side are environmental groups, ranchers, and landowners concerned about potential chemical spills and air pollution. On the other side are rail companies stretched to the limit - barely able to provide communities with goods. Their strategy - with national implications for reducing oil usage - is to carry more of the containers now moved by long haul truckers. But, to do this they need to build more rail yards in places such as Picacho..."
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1221/p01s02-ussc.html

by asdf on Sat Jun 21st, 2008 at 01:58:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose they want to locate it at Picacho because it is the highest point on the track between Phoenix and Tucson.  I know the location and love much of that desert.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jun 21st, 2008 at 05:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of which, this would also be the time to think seriously about electrification of mainlines again. (Could be tricky for freightlines with their doublestack containers.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 21st, 2008 at 05:48:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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