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Passenger Trains > Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab


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Date: 01/23/13 11:05
Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: GenePoon

States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Wall St. Journal
by MARK PETERS

> Amtrak is shifting costs for some of its shorter passenger-train
> routes to the states, forcing them to decide between paying more or
> cutting back on rail services that many have been trying to expand.
>
> States from California to Vermont are just now starting to tackle the
> cost increases, which kick in later this year. New York Gov. Andrew
> Cuomo proposed Tuesday setting aside $44 million to ensure service on
> a variety of routes...States such as Pennsylvania and Indiana are
> considering cutting service...
>
> "We are put in the position of either paying for the Amtrak services
> or having no Amtrak services," said Tim Hoeffner, director of the
> office of rail for the Michigan Department of Transportation.
>
> In 2008, Congress approved shifting to states the costs Amtrak pays
> for routes under 750 miles, while exempting the heavily traveled
> corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The requirement starts
> this fall...
>
> Amtrak officials say the decision to increase the contribution of
> several states reduces its costs, while making Amtrak's support of
> rail service more uniform nationally. Amtrak traditionally has
> subsidized some local routes, while leaving others up to the states
> to support.
>
> Pennsylvania transportation officials expect state costs for Amtrak
> service to more than double to $19.2 million a year for two major
> lines. While the state likely will pick up some of the new costs to
> keep the same service, it will be a challenge to do so for all the
> routes, said Toby Fauver, deputy secretary for local and area
> transportation for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
>
> He said, for example, the route between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh is
> slower than driving and would need considerable updates to become
> competitive. "It is a struggle for me to want to pay for that
> service," Mr. Fauver said.
>
> ...Maine added service between Portland and Boston a decade ago,
> recently extending the line farther north to Brunswick. The state
> supports the service itself, hiring Amtrak to run the trains, while
> handling marketing and food service on its own, said
>
> (Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail
> Authority) expects the cost shift over the next year will make states become
> more involved in their train service and look for ways to become more
> efficient. They also are likely to push Amtrak to become more
> efficient and could look elsewhere for certain services.

======================================================================

The above is excerpted from a Wall Street Journal article that is available from their website
only to subscribers.

Non-subscribers: do a Google search for "States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab" and select the
desired WSJ article from what is displayed. It should be readable without subscription. I would
post a live link; but it's browser-specific (in my case for Firefox on Windows).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/13 11:05 by GenePoon.



Date: 01/23/13 11:38
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: Ptolemy

I would be happy to support this when states are asked to pick up the full cost of highways within their borders. Otherwise, I see it for what it is: another attempt to destroy Amtrak.



Date: 01/23/13 11:48
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: railcity

They better not cut my homebase train of Amtrak 42&43 my State of Pa, better keep my train. WE need that train in are State. Them clown in Harrisburg are already closing 2 State Prisons and opening a New Prisons 50 miles away and also state is sale are Lottery to UK Company, and now this problem keeping Amtrak service to Pittsburgh. Amtrak Better get them Sleeping Cars on Amtrak 42&43 making them LD trains.



Date: 01/23/13 11:55
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: goneon66

Ptolemy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I would be happy to support this when states are
> asked to pick up the full cost of highways within
> their borders. Otherwise, I see it for what it
> is: another attempt to destroy Amtrak.

i have no problem with my tax dollars supporting amtrak BUT i can't even contemplate comparing amtrak with America's highways.

without America's highways, our economy comes to a grinding halt and the safety of everybody is in jeopardy. seems like money well spent to me.......

66



Date: 01/23/13 11:56
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: reindeerflame

Ptolemy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I would be happy to support this when states are
> asked to pick up the full cost of highways within
> their borders. Otherwise, I see it for what it
> is: another attempt to destroy Amtrak.


The states do tend to pay virtually the entire cost of operating the highways, with federal funds typically available for capital improvements only.

There's nothing to support or oppose here, as it's already been decided as a matter of federal policy. That was several years ago.



Date: 01/23/13 11:56
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: GenePoon

Ptolemy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I would be happy to support this when states are
> asked to pick up the full cost of highways within
> their borders. Otherwise, I see it for what it
> is: another attempt to destroy Amtrak.

==========================================================

No, it isn't.

Who pushed this through Congress? AMTRAK.

This allows Amtrak to escape financing the shorthaul services while putting that money into the
Northeast Corridor. It's something they have been wanting to do for decades. In California they
wanted to kill the San Joaquins starting in the late 1970s and got the state to sponsor them. In
the mid-1990s Amtrak wanted to kill the Capitols, too, for the same reason. Less money spent elsewhere,
more for the NEC.

Boardman's "State Partners" propaganda was just that. And SO MANY foolishly and gullibly fell for it.

If this destroys Amtrak, they did it to themselves.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/13 12:01 by GenePoon.



Date: 01/23/13 12:24
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: DavidP

I favor setting up a Federal fund separate from Amtrak to provide matching funds to supplement state efforts. If a state is willing to put significant skin in the game, the feds would match. The ratio could be determined, but something in the area of 50% each seems right. Keep it outside of Amtrak, although Amtrak could be the operator.

Dave



Date: 01/23/13 12:41
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: shoretower

This shift of financial responsibility is the result of Section 209 of the PRIIA Act of 2008, which requires states to cover the operating deficits of all short-distance trains. This is not something Amtrak, Joe Boardman, or FRA have any word in. It's a statute.

This is a good time to remind T/O participants that Congress makes laws and authorizes the spending of money. The President and his staff (that would include all of us Federal employees) are responsible for enforcing the laws and spending the money. Neither the President, nor any of us, gets to pick and choose which laws we want to enforce.

There was a comment here earlier about the President "silencing" train horns on Inauguration Day. He doesn't have that power.

So let's understand what separation of powers means in practice. Congress writes the laws. We (in the executive branch) get to write the implementing regs and guidence, but we have to follow the statute. Congress appropriates money, and we spend it as they direct.



Date: 01/23/13 12:45
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: Ptolemy

>
> There was a comment here earlier about the
> President "silencing" train horns on Inauguration
> Day. He doesn't have that power.
>
> Actually, one could hear train horns during the ceremonies.



Date: 01/23/13 13:25
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: chs7-321

goneon66 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ptolemy Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I would be happy to support this when states
> are
> > asked to pick up the full cost of highways
> within
> > their borders. Otherwise, I see it for what
> it
> > is: another attempt to destroy Amtrak.
>
> i have no problem with my tax dollars supporting
> amtrak BUT i can't even contemplate comparing
> amtrak with America's highways.
>
> without America's highways, our economy comes to
> a grinding halt and the safety of everybody is in
> jeopardy. seems like money well spent to
> me.......
>
> 66

Conceptually, there is no difference between highways, railways, waterways, and the air traffic control system. All four are used for both intra- and inter-state commerce, and should be treated equally when it comes to funding and who pays for what.



Date: 01/23/13 13:29
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: reindeerflame

chs7-321 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> goneon66 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Ptolemy Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > I would be happy to support this when states
> > are
> > > asked to pick up the full cost of highways
> > within
> > > their borders. Otherwise, I see it for what
> > it
> > > is: another attempt to destroy Amtrak.
> >
> > i have no problem with my tax dollars
> supporting
> > amtrak BUT i can't even contemplate comparing
> > amtrak with America's highways.
> >
> > without America's highways, our economy comes
> to
> > a grinding halt and the safety of everybody is
> in
> > jeopardy. seems like money well spent to
> > me.......
> >
> > 66
>
> Conceptually, there is no difference between
> highways, railways, waterways, and the air traffic
> control system. All four are used for both intra-
> and inter-state commerce, and should be treated
> equally when it comes to funding and who pays for
> what.


In this world, some are more equal than others.

We need to keep stagecoaches in mind.



Date: 01/23/13 13:44
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: floridajoe2001

Shortower:

Thanks for your common sense comments. Don't let the naysayers bother you. Some people try to blame Amtrak for everything. It's their usual old worn out mantra; repeated at every opportunity.

Anyway, most of the States mentioned in the Journal have been funding state-supported trains for years (Va., and N.Carolina being newcomers).

I can't tell from the article if this represents a large increase in State expense; or if this is just another "less than flattering" article the Journal likes to run on occasion.

Joe



Date: 01/23/13 14:04
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: knotch8

North Carolina isn't a newcomer to state-supported Amtrak services by any stretch of the imagination. It funded Trains 79/80, The Carolinian (back then it 889/890, a section of Trains 89/90, The Palmetto) in 1984-1985, operating between Petersburg, VA, and Raleigh, NC, on the CSX/former Seaboard Air Line trackage through Norlina and Henderson. North Carolina's funding dried up for a while and the trains were discontinued, and then they returned in 1990, I think. The ex-SAL had been abandoned, so the new version operated on the former ACL through Weldon, Rocky Mount, Wilson and Selma, and it operates on the NS between Selma and Raleigh, as it continues to do today, adding about an hour to the trip because of the roundabout routing.

Trains 73/74, the original Piedmont between Raleigh and Charlotte, with state-owned locomotives and cars, began service in 1995 and was followed by a second round-trip in the late 2000s, I forget exactly which year.



Date: 01/23/13 14:26
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: reindeerflame

knotch8 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> North Carolina isn't a newcomer to state-supported
> Amtrak services by any stretch of the imagination.
> It funded Trains 79/80, The Carolinian (back then
> it 889/890, a section of Trains 89/90, The
> Palmetto) in 1984-1985, operating between
> Petersburg, VA, and Raleigh, NC, on the CSX/former
> Seaboard Air Line trackage through Norlina and
> Henderson. North Carolina's funding dried up for
> a while and the trains were discontinued, and then
> they returned in 1990, I think. The ex-SAL had
> been abandoned, so the new version operated on the
> former ACL through Weldon, Rocky Mount, Wilson and
> Selma, and it operates on the NS between Selma and
> Raleigh, as it continues to do today, adding about
> an hour to the trip because of the roundabout
> routing.
>
> Trains 73/74, the original Piedmont between
> Raleigh and Charlotte, with state-owned
> locomotives and cars, began service in 1995 and
> was followed by a second round-trip in the late
> 2000s, I forget exactly which year.


California has plenty of money to cover any associated costs. There are unlikely to be any added costs for the Capitols or San Joaquins, as the state is essentially paying for everything right now. The Surfliners are a bit different, as there were 3 original federal trains, compared with 12 today, and the SBA and SLO extensions.



Date: 01/23/13 14:44
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: ctillnc

> North Carolina isn't a newcomer to state-supported
> Amtrak services by any stretch of the imagination.

Yes, but no one really knows what the new Governor and General Assembly will do to the state's passenger rail program.



Date: 01/23/13 14:48
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: Lackawanna484

shoretower Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This shift of financial responsibility is the
> result of Section 209 of the PRIIA Act of 2008,
> which requires states to cover the operating
> deficits of all short-distance trains. This is
> not something Amtrak, Joe Boardman, or FRA have
> any word in. It's a statute.
> (snip)

was there any specific reason that caused Congress to make this law?

I'm wondering, since a year later the President and Congress announced plans to plant short high speed corridors all around the country. Many of these would seem to fall well under the 750 mile rule. Although the feds were loaded with funding to build the lines, several governors declined funds on the basis they couldn't afford to maintain the operations going forward.



Date: 01/23/13 14:57
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: GenePoon

shoretower Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This shift of financial responsibility is the
> result of Section 209 of the PRIIA Act of 2008,
> which requires states to cover the operating
> deficits of all short-distance trains. This is
> not something Amtrak, Joe Boardman, or FRA have
> any word in. It's a statute.


floridajoe2001 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Shortower (SIC):
>
> Thanks for your common sense comments. Don't let
> the naysayers bother you. Some people try to
> blame Amtrak for everything. It's their usual old
> worn out mantra; repeated at every opportunity.

=====================================================================

Think back to 2007 and 2008 when PRIIA was being worked on. Amtrak's friends in Congress were the ones
working it through and there was considerable input from Amtrak as to how it all came out in the end,
including the states taking over the subsidy of trains operating under 750 miles, with SPECIFIC exclusion,
as desired by Amtrak, of the Northeast Corridor.

One thing Amtrak did not reckon with was that states and other governmental entities such as Joint Powers
Boards which want to provide rail passenger service would not be required to have Amtrak operate those trains.
They could contract with other operators, as Pat Quinn in Maine notes in the Wall Street Journal article.
Amtrak tried to legislatively close this loophole by having its friends in Congress introduce an amendment
to last year's Transportation Bill that would have required licensing of all passenger rail operators other
than the railroads themselves on their own track, AND EXCLUDING AMTRAK; and another amendment that would
have given full control over use and assignment of corridor rail passenger equipment purchased under the
current multi-state procurement agreement, to Amtrak...even if that equipment were purchased entirely with
non-Amtrak funding. Cooler, wiser heads prevailed and these Amtrak-supported provisions were thrown out
before the Transportation Bill passed.

So go ahead and believe that PRIIA passed without substantial Amtrak input and influence, if you wish.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/23/13 14:58 by GenePoon.



Date: 01/23/13 15:38
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: robj

Looking at the last post it makes perfect cents. Amtrak would gain revenue, ie cost of operation plus a markup but not get dinged for the subsidy. Not sure of the accountability but there is lots of ways to pad the costs.

Bob



Date: 01/23/13 16:56
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: palmland

Who decides if a train is long distance? I understand the mileage cut off, but isn't the Portland section of the Empire Builder considered long distance (mileage from Spokane is around 380)? And, Amtrak has expressed an interest in running through cars to/from the Capitol on the Pennsylvanian. If so, why not consider the Pennsylvanian to New York as a section of the Capitol - a long distance train.

Of course this presumes Amtrak really has an interest or the ability in maintaining a healthy long distance network with its cost implications. At any rate this might be a plausible reason to make an exception and keep the status quo on state funding for the Pennsylvanian.



Date: 01/23/13 17:24
Re: Wall St. Journal: States Weigh Picking Up Train Tab
Author: stone23

> So let's understand what separation of powers
> means in practice. Congress writes the laws. We
> (in the executive branch) get to write the
> implementing regs and guidance, but we have to
> follow the statute. Congress appropriates money,
> and we spend it as they direct.

Why are there regs and guidance? Can't our idiot congressmen write a law they want and that is all?
No wonder everyone is hating their congressmen who work three days a week and even then do little work. To have a whole staff crossing the T's and dotting the I's is what wastes our tax dollars!!!!



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