Author Topic: So what do you think of taking the train?  (Read 1137 times)

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Offline Sal Atticum

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So what do you think of taking the train?
« on: October 27, 2008, 11:08:59 am »
Recent federal legislation could lead to more high-speed regional transportation lines.  If this happens, would you take the train more often?  Do you take the train now?  Is it a good or bad experience?  What would you improve?

Student blogger j5mc also tends to blog about these things.

Grand Forks Herald
Quote
VIEWPOINT: Prioritize high-speed rail service in Minnesota
Conrad deFiebre,
Published Sunday, October 26, 2008
ST. PAUL — Young generations of Minnesotans have grown up with an odd, historically anomalous view of passenger trains: plodding, outmoded, sparsely scheduled Amtrak service with all the charm, but none of the economic efficiency, of a dusty coal train.

Folks, get ready to adjust this picture. Fast, modern, safe, comfortable and sustainable intercity passenger rail is coming to America — and to Minnesota, too, if our state leaders gather the foresight to invest in it.

Decades after much of Europe and Asia began building high-speed rail systems — a trend still accelerating abroad — veto-proof, bipartisan majorities of the U.S. Congress this month passed the first multiyear funding authorization since 1997 for Amtrak and 21st century passenger train initiatives.

With high fuel prices and road and airport congestion driving Amtrak’s ridership to record levels, President Bush now is expected to sign the $13 billion, five-year measure, which authorizes $3.4 billion in grants to states to develop high-speed passenger rail initiatives. Best of all, it comes with the same funding formula as for major highways: 80 percent from the feds, 20 percent from the states.

This will usher in a new era of intercity transportation, especially on corridors of 100 to 500 miles where 110 mph trains can beat both private cars and jetliners for downtown-to-downtown travel time, convenience and efficiency. Minnesota is fortunate to have two such routes on the drawing board and in good position for federal grants — Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul to Chicago.

These high-speed trains would whisk Twin City residents to Duluth in two hours and to Chicago in 5½, big improvements on the four-hour Amtrak trip to Duluth that was discontinued in 1985 and the current eight-hour crawl to Chicago on Amtrak’s once-daily Empire Builder. Plans call for up to 16 Northern Lights Express trains a day between Duluth and Minneapolis, 12 between St. Paul and Chicago, with additional Minnesota stops in Red Wing and Winona.

The latter route is part of the proposed nine-state, 3,000-mile Midwest Regional Rail System, which would give Minnesotans fast connections through Chicago to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit and other cities.

Projected fares are competitive with other modes, but enough to produce profits for private-sector operators, much as Amtrak’s Acela high-speed service from Boston to Washington, D.C., has done. Minnesota’s economy would profit as well. Studies show our state would gain 15,000 jobs, $648 million in annual personal income, nearly $2 billion in enhanced property values and up to $2.3 billion in savings from reductions in travel time, pollution and freeway and airport congestion if both lines are developed.

What’s more, success of these initiatives would add long-term momentum to passenger rail plans in early stages of development in Minnesota cities such as Albert Lea, Rochester and Willmar.

The Duluth and Chicago proposals are further ahead in planning and engineering, thanks to more than $8 million in early investments from local, state and federal government sources. Also involved are private partners such as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, whose Grand Casino Hinckley’s 3.5 million annual visitors could ride the Northern Lights Express.

Counties and cities along the Duluth route have stepped up their commitment to the project, while state government, unfortunately, has stepped back. Gov. Tim Pawlenty this year vetoed $5.5 million in state borrowing for work on the Duluth and Chicago lines. Compare that with the $80 million in passenger rail bonding Wisconsin authorized under former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

That money is available to match federal grants for Wisconsin’s portion of the Chicago-to-St. Paul route as soon as they become available.

Minnesota leaders will be asked to provide about $150 million toward the combined capital costs of $750 million in rolling stock and track and signal improvements for more than 300 miles of high-speed passenger rail lines — a total outlay comparable to what the state has spent lately on a few miles of Interstate 35W in Minneapolis.

A similar investment in rail is a bargain our leaders shouldn’t pass up.

DeFiebre is a transportation fellow at Minnesota 2020, a progressive, nonpartisan think tank.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2008, 11:10:57 am by Sal Atticum »
JUST EXTRA POLISH. I DO SOME WORK WITH EXCELL SO I KEEP THE CAPS LOCK ON :-P

 

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