The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has produced this animation of AMTRAK service through the years. What's striking is how much better it once was. Louisville had 5 passenger rail links at one point?! Via Grist.
There has been a lot of confusion about Louisville's official status in the High Speed Rail push. When the President stands in front of a map showing a Louisville to Indy HSR link, people naturally ask why they haven't heard anything about it. CART president Ron Schneider made this post to the CART board, trying to clear up the confusion:
Here are two maps, one from the midwest high speed rail associaton (MHSRA) and the other from the Federal Railroad Administration. They show planned high speed rail corridors in the midwest and federally designated high speed rail corridors, respectively. Both of these include a line from Indianapolis to Louisville, not for bus service, but for high speed rail service. The service may not be as fast as the other lines in the MHSRA grid, but a speed of 90-110 mph cannot legally reached by a bus:
The press release, reproduced in full:
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Gov. Steve Beshear today announced that the Federal Railroad Administration has approved a $250,000 grant to study the feasibility of high-speed passenger service on a rail corridor that includes Louisville.
Gov. Beshear joined with Govs. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee and Sonny Perdue of Georgia in supporting a study of the corridor that runs from Chicago to Atlanta, through Louisville and Nashville, Tenn.
“Our goal, ultimately, is to see the national high-speed rail system revised and enhanced to include this corridor,” Gov. Beshear said. “We believe this would correct an omission in the nationwide network – especially in terms of a continuous passenger rail corridor from Chicago to Florida.”
There is a consensus in the transportation activism community that Amtrak will be back in Louisville. We know how to do it - we did it a decade ago, and gained vital experience doing it. Generally the groupthink is that we'll restore service to Indy and Chicago, because that's what we had last time.
David Hodson turns that idea on its head:
I want to introduce a subject if we could get some momentum going on could be quite feasible to re-establish Amtrak service to Louisville. With the recent stimulus funds and additional funding to Amtrak if we could get Metro Council, State of Kentucky, Nashville TN, State of Tennessee, Birmingham AL and State of Alabama on board I believe we could at least get a demonstration route for at least one year established between Louisville through Nashville TN to Birmingham AL to connect with Amtrak's Crescent service at Birmingham. Such a service would not only connect with The Crescent to New Orleans but a short layover in Birmingham would permit travelers to connect East to Atlanta GA.
"Make no little plans" -Daniel Burnham, by way of Barack Obama
You can read the announcement on the front page of www.whitehouse.gov.
An annual ritual of mooning passing Amtrak trains has started up in California (moonamtrak.org). However, there are concerns that the event is now growing too wild, and measures are being taken. Hat tip to Transit Intelligence.
Passenger Rail did very well in the Stimulus Bill. Typically Amtrack gets $1.3 billion dollars per year. In the stimulus passenger rail gets $8 billion for capital investments on high speed corridors, in addition to an expanded yearly endowment. The struggle now becomes how to spend the money fast enough.
Politico has a must-read piece on how passenger rail became the "signature issue" the Obama administration focused on to the exclusion of other worthy projects like school renovation and modernizing the nation's electric grid.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center writes:
Congress is now considering $825 billion in tax cuts and spending to rebuild our economy. Done correctly, this legislation will create green jobs, build a high-speed rail network, and rebuild our transit systems. Done wrong, it will waste billions on new "bridges to nowhere" and highways that worsen our dependence on foreign oil.
Unfortunately, the proposal now before the U.S. House contains only $1.1 billion for passenger rail, a fraction of the $5 billion recommended by the House Transportation Committee.
Please ask Congress to do it right by sending your representative and senators a letter today.
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The Wall Street Journal: Bush to Sign Bill to Nearly Double Amtrak Funding Next Year, Congress Will Consider Altering the Ratio That Heavily Favors Spending on Highways Over Mass Transit.
Senator McCain voted against the increase, Senator Obama voted for the increase.
The New York Times has a good overview of American passenger rail
"Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues"