The new blogging format has killed participation

I suggested this same thing several years ago when the new format first took hold.  And I will repeat it here.  The new format has literally killed participation!  I found the interface cumbersome to use at first but everntually came around and found a way to make it work.  I participated by commenting on several of the new forum posts but did not find any others participating.  I thought perhaps I would give participants a couple of years to find a way to navigate the new format  and returned today to see if many had returned.  Still almost no participation.

But the impact of the blogging format change is very telling about the industry in general.  The industry does not like change.  It may very well be that the new format is easier to use or navigate but the industry does not like change! I have been in the industry 30 years.  I'll be the first to admit that I did not like the change of the blogging format.  But, perhaps unlike many of my peers in the industry, I recognize the need for the industry to go beyond accepting change.  Our industry needs to seek and embrace change. 

I'm not expecting any rebuttals or replies to this posting. Except, perhaps, from the hosts.

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10 Replies

  • I posted this and then could not find it!  It was filed under the "Rail Forum" I apparently unwittingly created. And the same "Rail Forum" does not apppear in the "Forums" drop down box.

    Talk about frustrating.  

    I would like to propose to create a new "Forum", called "Research and Development".  I would like to use the forum to solicit input from industry stakeholders related to a new porgram that is expected to be launched in the coming months.

    Is this something I may be permitted to do?  And how can I set it up so that the forum appears in the drop down and/or newcomers to the blog can easily locate and access this dialog?

    (I suspect that only I may be reading the current blog so I may have to wait an extended period for any replies!)

  • Hi Blaine -- thanks for posting. And for your comments. As to your point about participation: There are a number of possible explanations, but I will say that there has been a pick-up in engagement on our stories proper, the ones posted at -- with those, participants comment using their Facebook log-in. But we're always looking at ways to improve our information sites and delivery vehicles -- the site included. Feedback like yours definitely helps. Again, thank you.

    Reply to post »

  • In reply to Pat Foran:


    Thanks for your feedback. So, it may very well be that I am out of step.  I don't use Facebook but my wife does.  Will others, not using facebook, be able to view comments posted here by those using facebook logins?  I found this site to be very useful up to about 2012 and then suddenly the participation seemed to stop?

  • In reply to Pat Foran:

    It took me a few minutes to find my name/password because I have not commented on this site since the format change. As an old observer of railroads but not in the industry, I always found the comments wonderfully educating about the industry. My education in business/economics and my life work running organizations made my perspective different from railroad professionals, but when I did comment, I found the interchanges to be polite and informative. Of all times, now is the time for the railroad industry to recognize that great changes are still in store for the sector and great management must be recognized not just by contribution to "shareholder value" or a few point difference in operating ratios! Railroads are the mainline arteries of US commerce and rather than looking at them as individual hot shot pipelines isolated from all other interaction, they must be better integrated into the fabric of today's commerce and not alienated from the general voting public by ignorantly treating emerging passenger rail needs and opportunities. I don't use Facebook either!
  • In reply to oamundsen:

    I think the HSR meltdown contributed a bit to the die-off here; it attracted a certain number of people with more enthusiasm than knowledge., and there are enough divides among the particpants without adding that.

    Good to see both of you here again, BTW, (and Hell take Facebook!!!)

  • In reply to anmccaff:

    Wow!  I am surprised to finally read a reply that isn't my own!  And, to make the surprise even more enjoyable, the latest posts are from familiar handles!  Welcome back!

    I agree it seems much of the "old format" dialogue did center around High Speed and Passenger Rail. And while it has certainly stalled, I'm not convinced it is dead. Frankly, we, as consumers, can't really afford for it to go away.  It will and frankly must come eventually if our urban centers continue to grow.  And while there are discussions today about waiting for "smart" cars to ease intercity and urban congestion, even that approach will likely not preclude the need for efficient mass transportation solutions such as rail.

    Perhaps while this blog is still live, we can engage in a discussion related to the economics associated with launching commuter length passenger rail service.  I continue to read and hear rhetoric that suggests that "passenger rail requires public subsidy".  And while in most (if not all) of today's U.S. and Canadian systems that is the case, perhaps we can look at a clean slate approach to the problem to determine if the economics will ever make sense.

    I'll start it off with this simple question/assertion,

    "If our freights can make money (operating ratios comfortably in the 80s today) collecting total revenue of just $0.05 per ton per mile, why can't an efficient commuter system be expected to break even charging a higher per mile rate to move people?"

    Remember, the slate is clean, we can't drag in examples of existing commuter systems today that, by European and Asian standards, are far from being efficient.

  • In reply to Blaine Peterson:

    Hooray, I think we are on a roll!  Railroads in the US today are so very different from what they were just a few decades ago and so different from those in other countries that a fresh look is just what is called for to see better options for not only passenger rail, intra region and even long distance, but also opportunities for different products/services for carrying by rail.

    One major hang-up for commuter rail in the US is the barrier to lower weight foreign made rail cars and for the lack of US innovative design. Boeing and Airbus build planes used by every nation and are able to build planes on a daily basis which basically allow them to fly even though when they crash, most passengers are killed.  A US passenger rail car is built to withstand massive collision pressures with heavy freight cars to protect passengers from being killed. Airplanes are highly sophisticated systems which attempt to ensure that major crashes do not occur because when the crashes do, it is not good.  Perhaps if we start with the premise that our on-the-ground railroad structure must be greatly improved to ensure better odds of zero collisions by the application of some major investments in separation of freight/passenger rails  we can then move to ramp up speeds, lower rail car costs by less weight and get our passenger equipment out of the 1940's and into the 21 st.century. (I think this standard may also apply to the whole "oil train" situation wherein extremely heavy long trains are overstressing existing physical limits of the basic railroad structure.)

    When I was much younger, I was an active sailboarder on the cold waters of the NE. Since all I wore was a pair of swim trunks, friends would ask if I was not afraid of falling into the cold Atlantic and, of course, the reply was: the object is to not fall into the water!  

    I may have entered into the realm of irrational exuberance in this post?

  • In reply to oamundsen:

    Awesome!  Let's keep it rolling!

    You have eseentially hit on another key part of the much needed discussion here.  Moving our freight (with limited passenger operations today) systems from "crash survival" to "crash avoidance".  And clearly your suggestion to improve the on-the-ground (I do appreciate that pun, intended or otherwise) infrastructure is one way to move in that direction.  But, our freights need some defending here, the costs to replace, upgrade and improve the infrastructure are enormous.  The current success of our freights is derived signficantly from their remarkable abilities to "make the assets sweat".  The longer trains and low maintenance and renenwal cost infrastructure are just two of the tools in their boxes that led to their successes.

    So, how about we consider opportunities to leverage technology to assist in finding the trouble spots before they result in failures?  The railroads are doing this to some extent today.  But what is really needed is a more holistic approach.  Technology that is used in many other industries has the potential to be tailored for rail and play a significant role in moving the industry from "survival" to "avoidance".

    Thanks for prompting that part of the discussion!

    And even before we start looking at more modern rolling stock, let's return to the revenue/expense part of the discussion in my earlier post.

    I will elaborate on the initial assertion with this postulate, "a commuter passenger can be adequately represented by ~2 tons of freight".  

    Anxiously awaiting rebuttals!

  • In reply to Blaine Peterson:

    Wow...a few good friends, a strong cup of coffee and a comfy chair - with myprogressiverailroading filling the "confuser" screen!  What better way to spend a Saturday evening?!

    My sincere best wishes to you all.

    Blaine, you're right (of course) about the format change.  I've found it quite difficult to navigate (much less master) and after attempting to learn a few new tricks, with the kind assistance of Shannon, I gave up.  My most recent blog was posted two-and-a-half YEARS ago!  I'm afraid frustration finally got the best of me.

    Like Pat, I've noticed an up-tick in the number of news item comments, so that may be a good sign.

    Maybe much (ostensibly too much) of the "old format" era stuff was related to the passenger trade, but since I've never thought investment in H.S.R. was more important than work on our conventional dual-purpose system, I'm not accepting any of the blame for declining activity!


    Besides, it's guys like you, anmccaff, that have helped keep me on the strait and narrow!

    I might also add that I never believed the Obama administration had a clue when it came to passenger train service.  I essentially predicted their complete failure on the marketing and communications front, right here on myPR; therefore, had it not been for the various web site issues, a correct prediction or two should have actually encouraged my continued faithful participation!

    And dear oamundsen: "irrational exuberance" is my middle name!  That, combined with a well-honed naivete and a somewhat blind (but sincere) faith, helps keep me sane - even on the worst of days!

    I've got some chores to do, but I definitely plan to return.  I'll try to comment on what's already been said and (hopefully) do my part to keep things going.

    I'm so glad I stumbled upon this activity!

    Take care, my friends.


  • In reply to Garl B. Latham:

    Hi Garl, it looks like the format has changed again...hard to figure. I miss the comments of Larry Kaufman, et al as various points of view were expressed: some reaching into the forbidden political zone, but most policy and technical. For the first time in 12 years, we are not taking the Canadian across Canada and have not done as much "great circle routes" around the country from which I gathered much of my observations about today's railroad operations, fluidity, improvement evidence, etc. But, in two days I will be off on the Lake Shore/Empire Builder to Minneapolis for grandparenting duty. Stay in good health.
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