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David Lubic

Some people don't even want private trains:

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/2015/04/bill_that_could_kill_houston-dallas_bullet_train_moves_to_senate.php

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/business/all-aboard-florida-opponents-see-victory-in-board-/nkp2m/

I could be wrong, but I'm not sure we will see this resolved in five years.

David Lubic

Looks like we still have a long way to go:

http://www.dailyfreeman.com/general-news/20150407/nyc-rules-out-train-operations-on-northern-edge-of-ashokan-reservoir-in-ulster-county

Some background:

This is a railroad leased to a tourist or heritage rail operator. It has potential for revival as a connection with New York City, but has been embattled by people who want to take the tracks out for bicycles. This is in spite of having something like 50 miles of rail trails in the area.

This is becoming a point of serious concern. Trail advocates are claiming the railroads are outdated and should be ripped out. It's not just abandoned lines anymore, but railroads that are in limited service or inactive, many of which are not formally abandoned in a legal sense.

There are even advocates who have suggested active main line railroads should become trails, or at least have trails added to them. This is on the rights of way of private, profitable freight railroads.

I have to say, it still seems that railroad advocates are still outcasts.

William Draves

Thanks for the great comments, observations and data David.

This debate will be played out for awhile, but with cities building more light rail and states building more trains, transit is definitely gaining traction. No one would be defending cars if transit wasn't growing.

Keep up the helpful information and perspective David. Thanks for your many years of contributing here.

David Lubic

Just some things to read:

http://blog.heartland.org/2015/03/behind-the-driving-increase/

http://www.ocregister.com/articles/transit-639699-angeles-percent.html?page=1

A few comments:

This increase has indeed come after a long bout with a poor economy, but in truth, it started earlier than the recession, and apparently even Cox couldn't ignore that transit ridership still went up. I would not be so quick to toot the horn for this. Heck, I remember being skeptical when Amtrak's ridership first started going up 12 or 13 years ago--thought it great, but didn't expect to see it continue as it has. Cox's celebration may, or may not, be premature.

Cox also commented that gas prices have had a nice downward trend. That's true, but how long will it last? Ironically, low oil prices are already causing reductions in drilling activity. The oil won't come out of the ground if it doesn't pay to pull it out. If it doesn't come out, then there eventually won't be enough to go around, and the price will go up again. I think he's incredibly stupid to think the oil problems are over.

Having said all that, I'm still worried about this. My concern is we are taking too long to bring things back to where they should be. People won't and can't wait forever for the changes we need. I'm worried that we will still be stuck with no alternatives until everything just comes crashing down.

David Lubic

Another proposal, again privately financed. This one looks to be in your territory!

Unfortunately, it also seems to have local critics, too.

http://www.postbulletin.com/news/politics/privately-funded-plan-for-zip-rail-emerges/article_0289cceb-9963-5c19-9903-fca521658071.html

David Lubic

A case can be made for either public or private ownership and operation.

Private ownership supposedly has the "virtues" of being market driven, and thus is more "efficient." However, if you've had a long history of a service not being profitable, you won't get it, even if it's needed.

Public ownership relieves the operation of that burden, but also makes the operation vulnerable to politicians and their backers who don't like it--and there are plenty of fairly powerful and influential people who don't like trains, period!

This includes railroad executives who don't want passenger trains because they see no profit there.

Truth is, a big part of the problem--in my opinion most of it--is that the game has been rigged against rail services for almost forever. It's been that way so long almost nobody points it out or argues against it. This is unfortunate, because rail is undoubtedly the most efficient form of land transportation. The only reason the rail business went into such a long decline is that we hid, with subsidies, the inefficiencies of air service and of roads.

Of course, now those inefficiencies are getting harder to hide (and that's a big part of the reason for revived railroads in America, including passenger service). The question is, how do we accelerate this change? Do we support rail service with more public money (Amtrak is on its way to self-sufficiency, but it's an agonizingly slow process), or do we start charging the motorist how much it really costs to drive? Do we do both? Do we do nothing and let the market work things out, for however long it takes? Or do we do what we seem to be doing now--continue to prop up passenger rail with minimal money, and work MUCH harder to prop up the car culture?

This is not a new problem for the railroads:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElyERLwsV0c

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