Tag: Amtrak

BS on Amtrak

The motto of the Democrats is that they can never let a good crisis (or tragedy) go to waste. Before the bodies were even cold from the recent Amtrak train crash, the Left Wing was claiming that it was obviously Republicans’ fault. They had “gutted” infrastructure spending and “slashed” Amtrak spending and if they hadn’t, we’d have had a positive control system that would have slowed the train down. My favorite rant is here in which Thom Hartman manages to blame Reagan, work in a Somalia comparison and say our system should be more like Spain’s (which had a far deadlier high-speed train crash just two years ago).

There’s only one problem with all this. It’s bollocks:

In the federal budget, Amtrak is within the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The president estimated that fiscal 2015 outlays on the FRA would be $3.6 billion. Of that, $250 million is for Amtrak operating subsidies, $1.1 billion is for Amtrak capital grants, $1.8 billion is for high-speed rail grants, and the rest is for safety, research, and other rail activities.

The chart shows total FRA outlays from 1990 to 2015 in current dollars (not adjusting for inflation). Outlays have soared in recent years, partly due to rising high-speed rail spending. During 2009 to 2015, high-speed rail grants were $2 million, $16 million, $304 million, $513 million, $768 million, $1.1 billion, and $1.8 billion. But even aside from that spending, FRA outlays were up modestly over the past decade.

The problem with Amtrak is that many of its routes do not make economic sense. Because of politics, the company is forced to run services through low population regions that have few passengers. Passenger rail makes sense in the Northeast corridor, but few other places in America—at least within today’s costly and unionized rail structure. The distance from Boston to Washington, D.C. is less than 500 miles, yet Amtrak operates a 21,000-mile system through nearly all the states. Money that should be used on maintenance and upgrading in the Northeast is being used on services elsewhere in the country that lose hundreds of dollars per passenger.

In short, much of the money that could be going to maintain Amtrak is going to subsidize pointless light rail systems in cities that can’t use them. The Fed is also throwing money at high-speed sinkholes that will never happen.

The lack of a positive control system was instantly cited as the reason for the crash. The problem is that the line already has the system:

The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night was equipped with an automatic speed control system that officials say could have prevented the wreck, which killed eight passengers and injured hundreds. But the system, which was tantalizingly close to being operational, was delayed by budgetary shortfalls, technical hurdles and bureaucratic rules, officials said Thursday.

In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems, which can detect an out-of-control, speeding train and automatically slow it down. But because lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make the system work, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband.

We’ve see this all the time from the supposedly fact-based Left Wing. Every time a tragedy happens — a shooting, a derailment, a hurricane — they can tell you what went wrong before the smoke has even cleared. They can tell you the motivations of people who messed up. And somehow, miraculously, it always comes down to Republican budget cuts.

Japan’s bullet train is often dragged out as the example of what we should be doing on rail. This ignores two things: 1) Japan is a lot smaller and its population more concentrated that the United States; 2) Japan’s rail system is privatized. As far as I can tell, they only get government subsidies to build new track or expand their capabilities. But their bullet trains operate at a profit.

This tragedy wasn’t a result of evil Republican budget cuts or Reaganism. We’re still not sure what happened. But as far as government policy goes, it was a result of a blundering agency and a government that is committed to building rail where it isn’t needed instead of maintaining it in the one place — the Northeast Corridor — where it makes sense.

People Behaving Badly

If you guys want to use this thread to vent about some of your pet peeves, have at it, because I’m about to reveal one of mine, most notably, rude asshats and their inability to incorporate the feelings of others in their daily pursuits.

A woman who was escorted off an Amtrak train by police this weekend after she allegedly refused to stop talking loudly on her cell-phone has the Internet cheering her fate.

Civilians and quiet-car champions are supporting her ejection for violating policy at high volume during the 16-hour journey. It doesn’t help her cause that she became belligerent when confronted about it by one of her fellow passengers.

Some things here just defy reality, such as how can anyone yammer on their cell phone for 16 straight hours? How can anyone camped out in a “quite car” clearly marked as such think it social and permissible to annoy everyone around them with a marathon phone call? and most strangely, what took those people in that quiet car so long to reign that woman in? And would you of waited say more than 15 minutes before a serious intervention transpired?

It would of been nice if someone else in that car could of videod some of the altercation between the “disrespected” offender and the other folks trying to intervene but I think we can determine that she did not take their advice in a friendly manner, which culminated in the cops being called and the lady being hauled off of the train.

Some things you can bank on, this woman has probably been contacted by several dozen attorney’s who would give a limb for the chance to sue Amtrak, and you can bet that Amtrak will give her money to shut her up, regardless of the criminal charges brought against her. I would like to see some of the other passengers sue this woman for emotional trauma inflicted and for delaying their journey (not really, I hate frivolous lawsuit, but more bad stuff should happen to this woman).

My normal response to loud boisterous cell phone yackers is to stare them in plain sight with this obvious quizzical look on my face that just screams ,”Are you an effing idiot? None of us want to hear your phone conversation”. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Other things on my hit list: littering, people that treat waiters/waitresses badly, people that let their kids go berserk in public, oh, and guys that lay their hands on a woman, for any reason.

So, anything bug you?


Are you one of the hundreds – if not thousands – of people who have inadvertently ended up on the no-fly list? Do you really need to travel, and want to take the train instead? Well guess what, dillhole? NO TRAIN FOR YOU. Asshole Senator Chuck Schumer needs to look busy, so he’s doing this now:

A senator on Sunday called for a “no-ride list” for Amtrak trains after intelligence gleaned from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound pointed to potential attacks on the nation’s train system.

Sen. Charles Schumer said he would push as well for added funding for rail security and commuter and passenger train track inspections and more monitoring of stations nationwide.

“Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public,” the New York Democrat said at a news conference.

If you think TSA at an airport is bad, wait’ll you get a load of Amtrak TSA.

Seriously, when are we going to stand up and tell these ruling class nitwits that we’ve had enough security theater? Do morons like Schumer really not see that with every move like this, they guarantee that even dead, bin Laden is still winning the game?