Rep. John Mica's (R-Fla.) term as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee might be coming to a close, but he's not spending his last days phoning it in. During the past three weeks, he has held three passenger-rail hearings: A Nov. 28 hearing on Amtrak's reorganization, a Dec. 6 hearing on the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program and a Dec. 13 hearing on the Northeast Corridor. Progressive Railroading reported on the Amtrak reorganization hearing, during which Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman and Amtrak Inspector General Ted Alves offered an update on the railroad's improvement efforts to date. Click here to read all about it.
Mica's focus should be the restoration of the "suspended" Sunset Route between Florida and New Orleans. Amtrak's $1.4 billion subsidy compared with commercial aviation's $2.7 and who knows how much for highways that are not covered by user fees is putting the cart before the horse.
Any Amtrak subsidy should be dependent on running routes that currently are in the Amtrak system.
To not run a train that was suspended because of Katrina , and where the host railroad fixed the damage to permit Amtrak to run and Amtrak decided they didn't want to run it for whatever reason should be addressed .
In a general overview of the political/federal government/Amtrak complex, I see great need for improvement both in operational efficiency and patron satisfaction. As far as operations proceed during 2013 Amtrak should lobby for massive funding to replace old passenger equipment with the very latest in design, maintenance cost and passenger comforts! There are cars being used that actually have the seats falling apart, I know, I recently rode the Empire Builder and had a Superliner seat come apart! More short distance "commuter" style trains should be added, with brand new series of Amfleet classification units. On long distance routes there needs to be a wider separation between coach and so-called sleeper first class travel. In order to make the high cost of a Amtrak sleeper ticket pay off, these top level passengers need their own separate dinner and view lounge with a sophisticated beverage lounge and attendants. Somewhere in Amtrak's 40 odd years of existence they forgot what real first class rail travel in America was. In any "new" Viewliner and Superliner rolling stock passenger rooms need to be larger, not the dimensions of the mini-boxes that one must endure for 2 days and 2 nights at this time. Again; this is just an objective and professional overview of most important challenges for Amtrak during 2013 and the near future. There is no reason why the USA should operate an old-style rail passenger system! Though it will take a mega-amount of money to get this done. The model today to follow is the California cooperation with Amtrak. The "Capital Coridor" passenger system in Cal is arguably the best in the nation! They are clean, efficient, on-time and fun to ride with well maintained equipment. But then, the state of California leads the country in just about everything all the time. At least California is planning a genuine high-speed rail system. They just need to start building it; with no more false-starts as in a highly competitive 100-meter race out of the blocks!
© 2012 Trade Press Media Group, Inc.
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