House Panel Considers Privatizing Rail

by , 03/13/11

high-speed rail, ray lahood, florida high speed rail, john mica, private funding rail, rail, transit, green transit, house committee on transportation, transportation secretary john mica, trains

After a third Republican governor said no to federal high-speed rail money citing potential cost overruns, a House committee is looking into building railways without federal involvement. House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica’s (R-Fla.) office said on Friday that the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials is trying to find ways to “encourage and increase private-sector participation in passenger rail service.”

high-speed rail, ray lahood, florida high speed rail, john mica, private funding rail, rail, transit, green transit, house committee on transportation, transportation secretary john mica, trains

Mica has always been a fan of increasing private funding in rail and had even suggested it as a solution against cost overruns to Florida governor Rick Scott, before Scott cancelled high-speed rail in the state.

“Friday’s hearing will focus primarily on how to strengthen intercity passenger rail while making it less expensive to run,” the committee said in a statement.

Speakers in the meeting will include Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner, North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Director Pat Simmons, Association of Independent Passenger Rail Operators Stan Feinsod and AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward Wytind.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has asked the Obama administration to increase spending on transportation to $556 billion, and has said that demand is still high for high-speed rail. “There is a line outside of my door of governors, senators and congressmen,” LaHood said. “There is no shortage of interest in the $2.4 billion we’re going to reallocate from Florida.”

Via The Hill

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  1. caeman March 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

    My life is made more miserable by this gross use of Federal tax dollars, that could more effectively be used for public health, or repaying debt. I will never benefit from any of this passenger rail development, but I sure as heck will suffer as railroad union wages ever swamp any money made from fares. Maintenance costs will bury local budgets. If the passenger rail was such a great idea, fund it privately.

  2. lazyreader March 14, 2011 at 6:57 am


    Making money?……

    The United States makes extensive use of its rail system for “freight”. American freight railroads are the busiest on earth, moving more freight than any rail system in any other country moving more than four times as much freight than all of Western Europe’s freight railroads put together. Nearly all railroad corridors (not including local transit systems) are owned by private business that provide freight service. Amtrak simply pays these companies for the right to use the tracks for passenger service. Because most freight operators who share track with passenger trains, don’t even want trains going that fast. If they want trains zipping along at 150+ miles per hour, they’re gonna have to build rail entirely from scratch at enormous cost’s. Only Union Pacific ever commented on 110 mile per hour trains co-existing with their lines. Nearly all the others want less than 90 mph or less than that. I’ve read articles that said, private companies have backed out of these investment plans or their simply not interested at all. I’m wondering what my incentive to take HSR is when I could probably take the bus for far less money. While it may take longer overall compared to a train, you save a lot of dollars per hour. Over a dozen existing private bus companies [Megabus, Greyhound] exist to take people from city to city. Their not demanding billions of dollars to buy fancy new gold plated buses. Greyhound may be more pricey than the others but offers the services such as internet, electric power plug-in, ample legroom. If for instance I wanted to go from Baltimore to Boston, it would cost me 3-6 dollars on Megabus, 55-66 dollars on Greyhound, and 157-379 dollars on Amtraks “Acela”. It would only cost 90-154 dollars on the slower moving [normal train] the “Northeast Regional”. Amtrak offers incentives for trips costing 49 dollars by planning ahead, true but I can get a Megabus seat for 1.50 dollars by planning ahead. The bus only takes 2 hours longer but I’m saving over 25 dollars per hour not riding the train.

    There’s actually two types of high-speed rail. From existing or from scratch. One is you take the existing rail usually owned by freight services to which they share and upgrade it so trains can go faster, up to 110 miles per hour at a cost of 5 to10 million dollars per mile. However many freight companies have said they don’t even want trains going that fast. Companies like CSX and Santa Fe said they don’t want trains going anymore than 90 miles per hour. Norfolk Southern said they don’t trains going any more than 79 milers per hour. Only Union Pacific commented they’re willing to have 110 mile per hour trains co-existing with their freight trains. If you want anything faster than that you have to build entirely from scratch. In flatland it costs minimum of 30 million dollars per mile and as much as 100 million dollars per mile or more in the mountains; not to mention the costs building bridges or tunnels.

    Acela is one of the few profitable Amtrak routes. And despite the billions they’ve already spent and millions in operating subsidies, they only managed to capture less than six percent of the travel market in the Northeast. That’s the best they could do anywhere. In other places it may be no more than 1 percent or half a percent. Still they wanna build high-speed rail everywhere! If Amtrak is gonna have trains zipping along the rails at 150 mph or more, they are gonna have to build brand new tracks….from scratch at an enormous cost. And the energy their supposed to save is marginal to the enormous amount of energy spent building new infrastructure. Even before it pays off, they forget the rails are gonna need constant maintenance and further energy spent rebuilding every 10 years or so to keep it moving so fast. Buses are far far more flexible. Bus routes can be re-routed to accommodate where people live and work. Trains can’t, there built as extremely rigid models; declines only adapt by raising fares and their not going to skip a station even if it has no passengers. Your just better off as a community or town not building trains by not having to spend millions or billions of dollars and going heavily into debt when you only have to spend millions of dollar or couple of hundred-thousand dollars on buses. Counting only scheduled intercity bus service, buses move about 2.5 times as many passenger miles as Amtrak. I’ve checked Amtrak fares; the lowest price I managed to find while looking was 68 dollars [for the ”Northeast Regional”; a non high-speed rail route]. The Acela’s price was typically always 90 dollars or more for one ticket. 60 bucks will get me ten Megabus seats. So you’d pay 90-300 dollars on Amtrak tickets, when you could buy busfare with pocket change? If time was really your priority, you’d probably just fly there. Amtrak has only 24 departures per day where as individual bus companies have over a hundred. Overall the Acela really doesn’t go that fast and has to slow down often due to noise complaints in neighborhoods or gradients to deal with or quality of rail track. The ”Northeast Regional” may be slower but its cheaper, has more stops and is more widely used than Acela.

    A majority of Americans agree that high-speed rail is something they want, AS LONG AS SOMEBODY ELSE PAYS FOR IT. Basically your subsidizing a rail system for the wealthy to ride, cause their the ones who benefit most as they tend to live or work in downtown areas where High-speed rail connects to.

    On average, a typical resident of France rides the high-speed rail only about 400 miles per year. So what? They drive twenty times as much as they ride high speed rail. They fly 3 times as many miles as they ride the rail just to get around France (that doesn’t include international travel).

    And when the system is worn out after years of minimal use. The few that still use it are gonna form a lobby to keep on subsidizing it and ultimately rebuild it. Theirs an old saying. “Politicians like to cut ribbons but hate to sweep brooms”. They prefer to spend on capital intensive transit projects as opposed to maintenance. And an increasing trend of spending peoples gas taxes and highway user fees on those projects. Transit which is poorly used (and in just as bad shape) and often never generate significant revenue to even cover operating costs and the highways we willingly use are made to suffer for it.

  3. JimLoomis March 12, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Absolutely stupid! In fact, it raises serious questions about the fundamental veracity of those privatization bozos. Here is a FACT that is beyond dispute, but which they all ignore: No national passenger rail system anywhere in the world operates without some government subsidy. Further, Amtrak is among the most “profitable” of all such systems, generating some 80% of its operating costs from fares. Still these anti-subsidy idealogues keep blathering on, undaunted by history or the proven success of other systems in countries around the world. Pathetic!

  4. shocked March 12, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Why are the republicans so hellbent on making all Americans lives so miserable? I’ve have been on high speed rails in China and it’s a great alternative to flying. Perhaps it’s the thought of using less oil that makes these republicans this way. I understand most republicans get huge monetary support from big oil but people need to realize these republicans really don’t want to see a less oil dependent America!

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