Promoting passenger trains as a transportation alternative in Florida since 1983.  We are citizens who advocate for Amtrak, commuter rail, intercity rail and transit for Florida's future.

The Silver Rail Blog

  • 20 Nov 2009 4:43 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    A special session of the Florida Legislature faces an inconvenient truth.

    Before SunRail could go forward, that nagging problem of a stable source of funding for Southeast Florida's Tri-Rail must be resolved, as well.

    From the Orlando Sentinel:

    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-sunrail-tax-controversy-20091117,0,2565317.story

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 15 Nov 2009 3:33 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    The Coalition has endorsed Florida's request for federal ARRA grant funds for high speed rail.

     

    The endorsement letter was prompted by a request from ConnectUs, a group which is lobbying for high speed rail for Florida, for FCRP's support of the grant request.

     

    Following is the text from a November 14 letter to United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood written by FCRP President Steve Sayles and Secretary Jackson McQuigg.

     

    Dear Secretary LaHood:

     

    The Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers, a citizens rail advocacy organization, urges you to award the Florida Department of Transportation’s application for ARRA funds for high speed rail.

     

    Since 1983, the Coalition and its members throughout Florida have encouraged state, local, and federal leaders to retain, improve, and expand rail services throughout the Sunshine State, including Amtrak services and commuter rail programs like Tri-Rail and SunRail.

     

    Today, we see a high speed rail system linking Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and Jacksonville as a key part of a healthy passenger rail system for the Sunshine State.

     

    I trust that you and the Federal Railroad Administration will give serious consideration to awarding Florida’s request for high speed rail funding. We can assure you that the time is right for more passenger rail in our state.

     

    With sincere thanks, we are,

     

    Cordially yours,

     

    Steve Sayles, President

    Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers

     

    Jackson McQuigg, Secretary

    Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers

  • 13 Nov 2009 4:57 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    It is not just Floridians who miss Amtrak's New Orleans-Florida service (which hasn't run since August 2005).

    This article from the Sun Herald of Biloxi, Mississippi, is a reminder that our desires to see this service returned are shared with some of our neighbors in the Gulf South:

    http://www.sunherald.com/business/story/1731643.html

    Please continue to advocate for the return of this service to your elected officials!

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 29 Oct 2009 1:02 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Recently, a "study" done by the Pew Charitable Trust-funded Subsidyscope did some long division and, ignoring the way Amtrak accounts for depreciation and overhead, came up with a loss-per-passenger figure on each of Amtrak's routes.

    In this scenario, long distance trains (exactly the types of trains which serve Florida) came out on the short end of the stick. Corridors in which trains run frequently come out looking pretty efficient. Why?

    The answer is simple. The more trains Amtrak operates on a given route, the more passengers who share the burden of the fixed costs on a given route.

    The greater the number of trains, the greater number of passengers; the higher the passenger count, the less subsidy per passenger.

    And that depreciation thing? Well, Subsidyscope decided to account for depreciation on equipment. Never mind the fact that depreciation at Amtrak, a government entity, really shouldn't be accounted for in that way.

    Further, according to Amtrak, Subsidyscope failed to accurately take into account some sale/leaseback equipment transactions it has participated in during recent years. 

    As we all know, most of Amtrak's equipment is over 15-20 years old. The dining cars on the Silver Meteor and the Silver Star are even older (they date to the 1950s, in fact). Those dining cars, like most in the Amtrak fleet, were really fully depreciated out a long time ago.

    Despite these flaws, the Subsidyscope arguments were picked up and reported as gospel in publications ranging from The Washington Post to the New York Daily News.

    We found one publication that gets it, though. It's down in Texas, the Longview News-Journal. We like their style.

    http://www.news-journal.com/opin/content/news/opinion/stories/2009/10/28/10282009_amtrak_edit.html

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 29 Oct 2009 10:10 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    The following post is courtesy of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's Emy Louie.

    Both NARP and FCRP were represented at this conference, held last Thursday and Friday at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, DC.

    --Jackson McQuigg

    #  #  #

    Observations from the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's Inaugural Conference

    Amongst an internationally diverse and speculative crowd, national leaders in both the public and private sectors from United States and international leaders of high speed rail systems convened to lead the United States into the era of high speed rail. Financing, building the first high speed rail line, speed and historical government precedents were the highlights of the conference.

    Financing High Speed Rail was one of the hottest topics at the conference. The first most important action to bring high-speed rail to America is to create a national infrastructure bank, said Mayor John Robert Smith from Reconnected America. "Sustained funding" for a "transportation trust fund" is the one thing we need to do. It should not be a once or twice appropriation measure. J D Stokes from SE3 echoed the same sentiment and said that there should be a "one infrastructure bank." In regards to the 8 billion dollars allocated for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell was not satisfied with a meager amount and said it is a "drop in the bucket" and "we got to get serious" and address it at a level to make things happen.

    Further discussion about financing of High Speed Rail started to run in circles, but Rick Harnish from Midwest high Speed Rail said it best and drew a line in the sand in a response to financing high speed rail and said, "It's not worth that discussion until it's being discussed with other modes" of transportation. Rick Harnish responded in a similar way when Jackson McQuigg from National Association for Railroad Passengers, who was in the audience, asked Harnish about how rail passenger advocacy efforts should be conducted. Harnish replied that there were no discussions of costs for federal highway spending in the 1950s implying that there was a successful national effort to build highways regardless of the cost of highways.

    The second most important action item, gleaned from the conference, is to build the first high speed rail line as stated by Jean-Pierre Loubinoux from the International Union of Railways. The first line is the start of a national high-speed rail network.

    Another notable topic was speed, which was set straight by several elected officials. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell said, "There is danger in putting pockets of money into mid speed rail". In addition, U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas said, "Speed up Amtrak...I don't believe in that."

    Despite the history of attempts to bring high-speed rail to the US, U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas seemed hopeful and said, "I think we are very prime for high speed rail!" Further optimism was drawn from successful government projects in the past. They include the Erie Canal as mentioned by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell and U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko from New York. Norman Anderson by CG/LA said NASA is also good example of government efforts.

    This conference was dramatically different from other rail conferences in the United State because of the presence of an international crowd of high-speed rail experts and related companies. During a conference luncheon, U.S. Congresswoman Corrine Brown from Florida was flabbergasted when she asked, "Who in this room have ridden high speed rail?" Almost all arms in the room were raised! Japanese, German, Dutch, Korean, Spanish could be heard amongst attendees as representatives from Spain, United Kingdom, France, Korea and Japan attempted to impress the attendees with their presentations of high speed rail systems already existing in their own countries.

    There was a feeling of hope and speculation in the air as private high-speed rail companies figure out how to do business with United States.

    I asked an exhibition company from the United Kingdom, "Would you exhibit at our next conference?"

    He said, "Yes, if there is a market for high-speed rail in the United States."

    Isn't that the big question? --Emy Louie

  • 28 Oct 2009 10:26 AM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    This editorial from the Miami Herald correctly points out that the Legislature's inaction on Tri-Rail funding could come at a very high cost-- literally-- to Florida's taxpayers.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1301611.html

    It's high time to find a permanent source of funding for Tri-Rail.

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 20 Oct 2009 1:06 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    As the Palm Beach Post reports, various passenger rail projects around the state vying for stiumulus funds, such as the proposed Amtrak service on the Florida East Coast Railway, sets up some intra-state competition for passenger rail dollars.

    Florida cities competing with one another or rail service? We haven't seen that in a long while! 

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2009/10/19/1019train.html

    --Jackson McQuigg

  • 20 Oct 2009 12:59 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

    Recently, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told Florida officials that it could forget about receiving stimulus funds for high-speed rail unless the state funded the SunRail system and found a permanent source of funding for Tri-Rail.

    Did Florida listen? Apparently so, according to the Tampa Tribune. A special session of the Florida Legislature might be on the way:

    http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/oct/20/na-december-session-onrailbid-proposed/

    --Jackson McQuigg

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