The Texas Department of Transportation has re-posted the position of Rail Division Director on their careers website.
You would think this would have attracted a bunch of well qualified people the first time around who want to make their mark in developing a passenger rail network and working to make a giant freight rail system as efficient as possible. The first job posting was only up for a couple of weeks and closed on April 30, but the new posting is open ended so maybe the time frame was way to short to find a qualified candidate.
With a Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study underway, the Dallas-Houston 150mph Core Express project, the DFW-East Texas-Shreveport study and a slew of freight rail projects underway it's railroading big time in Texas like never before. Throw in the state owned South Orient Railroad and other duties to supervise and this makes it into one of the most prestigious positions you could ask for nowadays.
Here's a story we posted on Texas Rail Advocates website: http://texasrailadvocates.org/viewIt.asp?ati=3&a=1283
Let's see what happens the second time around.
When it comes to passenger rail, this state has one of lowest per capita spend rates (State funds) in the nation. It's not that people don't want that position, it's that the position is not supported by the state government. Texas is far more likely to continue to pour billions and billions of taxpayer money into their highways and roads. They are also looking at expanding the number and costs associated with their Tollways. I'm afraid Texas is still a couple of generations removed from realizing that passenger rail is the sustainable alternative to their congestion problems.
In reply to Blaine Peterson:
Your response was right on spot - and, as a Texan, I say that to our collective shame.
Just for sake of example:
Even now, almost two months after Erik Steavens became the new Director of Tex-DOT's Rail Division, there remains no apparent activity (at least from an outsider's viewpoint) concerning the much-touted "Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study," yet TXDOT's web site still proudly proclaims the "next round of public meetings will be held in the summer of 2013"!
Are things running behind due to a changing of the guard? Surely, that's possible. I've also been told the feds completed their scoping comments only a couple of weeks ago. That might cause a reasonable delay.
So...why not update the information to reflect the project's current status?
The heart of TXDOT's Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study is the "corridor" between Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. With several portions of Interstate 35 now under reconstruction and others in the planning stages for various improvements, doesn't it seem reasonable that alternative transportation issues within that same corridor would be simultaneously addressed?
Your words cut deeply: "When it comes to passenger rail, [Texas] has one of the lowest per capita spend rates"; "far more likely to...pour billions and billions of taxpayer money into...highways and roads"; "looking at expanding the number [of] Tollways"...
I doubt there are many transportation types who honestly believe autocentrism is sustainable. They simply think they'll be safely retired before the chickens come home to roost.
As you said, "Sad really."
P.S. I guess I'll never learn. My final scoping comments for the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study, including maps and attachments, totaled 36 pages! On the one hand, I hate to do that to myself. On the other, I just can't ignore the opportunity to participate! After all, what of the outside chance that SOMEbody in a position of authority is really serious about passenger train service?!
In reply to Garl B. Latham:
Thanks for your support! I'm not sure what may have happened to the rest of the contributors to these blogs but I'm certainly glad to see that I am not completely alone.
And your point related to accommodating alternative transportation modes within the I-35 median/corridor is a great example. I wonder if the anti-tax taxpayers in the state really appreciate the potential savings they could be afforded by a passenger rail line? The capital costs and even the maintenance and operation costs when assessed on per passenger-mile basis, are substantially lower. And, even if many choose to stay in the cars, the need to add vehicle lane capacity is signfificantly reduced with the introduction of a passenger rail line.
I was in Houston last week attending a conference. It took me 15 minutes to drive two miles and I was actually not headed downtown. As I make a living in the railroad industry, I always make a point of using trains of any variety to get between the airport, my hotel and meeting venue. Houston is a very notable exception. As much as I dislike renting a car and contributing to the urban congestion, I am left with very few alternatives in Houston.
The biggest problem in Houston, in my opinion, is the lack of an efficient means to take potential commuters or intercity passengers the so-called "last mile". I see that Houston is starting the develop such a system but I believe it may be decades before they achieve a level of service that has existed in many similar sized cities for decades.
I suppose if there is any good news for all those folks content to participate in those bumper-to-bumper and highly unpredictable commutes, it's that we appear to be in the early stages of an oil boom. A boom that will likely keep gas prices relatively low for the next few decades. Still, I am left wondering how so many people are not bothered by spending so much of their time fighting their ways through traffic. I was only there for three days and that was long enough for me to appreciate that I would never consider making that a regular part of my day-to-day.
For some strange reason Progressive Railroading has changed the format of their system making it much harder to contribute to these blogs. I would like to have them change it back to the way it was last year, and before, to encourage more participation...