Lott to Chair Hearing on Amtrak's Future | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Lott to Chair Hearing on Amtrak's Future

[statement/verbatim] April 20, 2005—U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, chairman of the U.S. Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee, will conduct a hearing Thursday morning on the future of America's National Railroad Passenger Corporation—Amtrak.

Witnesses will include Jeffrey L. Rosen, General Counsel and Secretary's Representative to the Amtrak Board; Kenneth Mead, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT); David M. Laney, Chairman of the Board, Amtrak, and David L. Gunn, President and CEO, Amtrak.

"I believe today, as I always have, that Americans should be served by a national passenger rail system, and I look forward to hearing testimony from these expert witnesses about how we can preserve national passenger rail service inAmerica," Senator Lott said. "Together, we've got to find a way to make Amtrak self-sufficient without relegating passenger service to just a few large metropolitan areas. Residents of states like Mississippi are not going to subsidize the ride exclusively for folks in the Northeast corridor. If Americans nationwide are going to pay for Amtrak, then it must be preserved as a true nationwide system."

Senator Lott helped write the Amtrak Reform Act of 1997, which will be discussed at length during the hearing, including that act's specific proposals for Amtrak reform. Though the Reform Act expired in 2002, many key components of that plan, including the contracting-out of some costly in-house Amtrak services, have yet to be adopted by Amtrak. Meanwhile Amtrak has devoted vast resources to the development of high-speed rail in the Northeast and has borrowed to fund growing cash losses.

Previous Comments

ID
141167
Comment

Amtrak is an antiquated, overpriced, picture perfect model of corporate welfare gone wrong. They should limit it to the large metro areas on the east and west coast and be done with it. The Feds need to quit breastfeeding this 34 year old baby known as AMTRAK. Where are all the progressives on this issue?

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-04-20T14:47:00-06:00
ID
141168
Comment

I don't see this as a progressive/conservative issue; AMTRAK is a good alternative for folks who don't necessarily want to fly, and it will be essential again--as it was on 9/11--as a backup system in cases where airlines are shut down. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-20T15:09:03-06:00
ID
141169
Comment

Give me a break, we should keep funding this black hole just because its an "alternative to those that don't want to fly". You want an alternative, ride the greyhound or walk.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-04-20T15:11:47-06:00
ID
141170
Comment

bluedog, AMTRAK needs to stick around as long as people are using it. I agree that it needs to be reformed to become more self-sufficient, but there's no good reason to scrap it entirely right now. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-20T15:18:10-06:00
ID
141171
Comment

Senator Lott said: Together, weíve got to find a way to make Amtrak self-sufficient without relegating passenger service to just a few large metropolitan areas. Uh-huh. Congress put through a requirement back in the 1990s for Amtrak to achieve self-sufficiency. Amtrak performed an analysis of what would be needed in order to do this, and found that they would need to expand service in order to become self-sufficient. (More on this below.) Amtrak presented a detailed plan to Congress that included the capital funding Amtrak would require to make the necessary investments to expand service and become operationally self-sufficient. Congress never appropriated the money Amtrak needed to achieve self-sufficiency. Not one single year. So Lott's blather about Amtrak needing to become self-sufficient is exactly that: blather (that's the bowdlerized form). As far as Amtrak expanding service, and as far as Amtrak being a "black hole": For one thing, Amtrak's budget -- which, incidentally, includes railroad retirement system obligations that have nothing at all to do with Amtrak's operations -- is a small fraction of the Department of Transportation's budget, and an infinitesimal fraction of the Federal budget as a whole. For another, there is significant latent demand for Amtrak's services that Amtrak is unable to meet because of car shortages. A big part of Amtrak's plan for self-sufficiency was to lengthen trains, and in some cases add departures, in order to provide more service to meet this demand. The added departures, in particular, would have also stimulated demand in themselves; any form of transportation becomes a more attractive option as the number of available departures increases, providing flexibility in making your travel plans. Local angle: One of the things Amtrak wanted to do was to split the Crescent, which runs New York - Washington - Charlotte - Atlanta - Birmingham - Meridian - Hattiesburg - New Orleans, at Meridian and send part of it west to Dallas via Jackson and Shreveport. That would have given Jackson a direct train connection to Atlanta, Washington and New York. But Amtrak never got the money from Congress that would have enabled them to do this. As for Greyhound being an alternative to Amtrak: Bluedog, what's the longest trip you've ever taken on either one? I regularly (once a year) ride Amtrak round-trip between either Washington or New York and Meridian. No way in hell would I even consider doing that on Greyhound. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-20T15:27:46-06:00
ID
141172
Comment

Amtrak is an antiquated, overpriced, picture perfect model of corporate welfare gone wrong. I think it's more than a bit rich to refer to Amtrak as "corporate welfare" when nobody's ever made a nickel out of Amtrak. It's publicly owned, you know. And if it weren't politically popular -- i.e., popular with the people -- it would have been killed long ago. The reason Congress grudgingly keeps it alive is that their constituents support it. -- Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-20T15:29:38-06:00
ID
141173
Comment

Yeah, I was wondering how blue came up with "corporate welfare," too. I'm not a fan of corporate welfare, either, but I don't see how that applies here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-20T15:31:46-06:00
ID
141174
Comment

Having just paid a whopping $19 for a lovely ride from NOLA to Jackson, I don't really see it as 'overpriced'. Plus, they were showing movies in the 'lounge car' for free. They were serving dinner for those who wanted it (after I disembarked) - choices of T-Bone, Lamb Shank, Salmon and some veggie pasta thing, for $19. I have no idea about the quality of the food, but I'd rather do that any day than ride the bus, especially for longer trips. Plus, it might be a nice way to travel up to memphis. Leaves here at 5:30-ish in the evening, so I'd imagine you could get up there in time to get a late dinner and/or hear some music. Plus, the new train station in downtown Jackson is lovely. Once the King Edward gets re-furbished, the ride into jackson will be very cool. As it stands now, it was good to see the Telecom center as we came into town. Actually, all the towns we stopped in were pretty cool - since the trains go through the 'old sections' you get to see more than gas stations and fast food restaurants, like you do when you're on the freeway.

Author
kate
Date
2005-04-20T15:51:34-06:00
ID
141175
Comment

The Crescent to DC is an experience that everyone should have and is, even given the time and inconvenience of having to go to Meridian to catch it, preferable to flying any day. Sleepers, truly exceptional dining fare, and cards in the club car with a cold whatever-in-hand: extraordinary.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-20T15:52:51-06:00
ID
141176
Comment

Tim -- do you know numbers in terms of the $ that Congress puts into Amtrak? And do you have any links for that Amtrak proposal or leads on where to find it? After 9-11, I think the government bailout to airlines was on the order of $20 billion, and that was for the lost revenues that resulted from the crisis and less flying by the public. But the truth is, most of the major carriers teeter persistently on the edge of bankrupcy...and it's not because plane travel is antiquated (although it is over 100 years old...). One of the things that frustrates me about the argument that Amtrak is over-subsidized is the fact that we put *massive* subsidies into both air and automobile travel without a second thought. The billions in roads, car testing and improvement, oil and gas exploration and research, Chrylser bailouts, etc. It actually sounds like it would be amazing to be able to get all those places on the train and, if they had more than one train out of Jackson per day, that'd be cool.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-20T16:23:52-06:00
ID
141177
Comment

I would like to see more money spent on Amtrak, not less. The "nationwide system" is really just a bare shell. There is not even any direct link from Chicago to Florida via Atlanta, much less from Dallas to Atlanta and points east (through Jackson). And as long as we are talking about "subsidy," it seems to me that the money the government spends on building and maintaining highways is essentially a "subsidy" for Greyhound and freight trucking companies. Funds spent on Amtrak are a drop in the bucket by comparison. European countries generally have far better rail service than in the U.S. and personally I'd much rather ride a train than a bus.

Author
ed inman
Date
2005-04-20T19:33:25-06:00
ID
141178
Comment

Same here. If I traveled more, AMTRAK would probably be the way I'd do it. I've flown before, but it's not something I'd go out of my way to do on a regular basis--yes, yes, I know the statistics, but screw 'em, I'm an eccentric writer and that's the only explanation I need. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-20T20:39:05-06:00
ID
141179
Comment

Todd, I have picked up what I wrote from hanging out in misc.transport.rail.americas on Usenet. Let me get in touch with some people there and see what references they can give me. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T02:07:05-06:00
ID
141180
Comment

Todd, As a starting point, here is a link to a page where Amtrak's annual reports are available. I have just briefly reviewed the 2003 report, and I would recommend reading Notes 1 and 2 to the financial statements; they provide a pretty good overview of Amtrak's situation, including some numbers about requested and actual appropriations, including this: For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004, Congress has approved an appropriation totaling $1.225 billion, subject to a 0.59% partial rescission that nets to $1.218 billion. ... Amtrak has indicated that it will require $1.798 billion in Federal Government funding for fiscal year 2005 to continue operations in its current form, make necessary capital improvements and repay the $100 million FRA loan. The 2005 request is at about the level that Amtrak has been saying it needs annually for several years. Amtrak has never gotten that request, even during the flush times of the 1990s (although, to be fair, the federal government did spend a good bit of money in the mid-1990s for Amtrak to upgrade the Northeast Corridor, including electrification of the line from New Haven, Conn., to Boston, and the purchase of high-speed trainsets). HTH. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T03:26:31-06:00
ID
141181
Comment

Here is a link to a piece by David Gunn, Amtrak's current president and a guy with a long history of success (and some failures), mostly in urban rail transit. (For instance, he is credited with the turnaround of the New York subway in the 1980s, but he did a less-than-stellar job heading up the TTC in Toronto in the 1990s.) Here is an explanation of Amtrak's FY 2005 funding request that I mentioned in my previous post. I'm still looking around for stuff. Can't find anything on the Amtrak site that shows the expansion initiatives Amtrak was looking at in the late 1990s, including splitting the Crescent at Meridian. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T05:28:45-06:00
ID
141182
Comment

Bing! Here is a link to a Usenet posting about a test train on the Meridian-Jackson-Shreveport-Dallas routing, referred to as the "Crescent Star." The posting is dated 13 February 2001 and refers to a test planned for that March. Here is a link to a slightly earlier article quoting a Texas newspaper article, with more non-railfan-friendly ;-) information about the proposed service. The other two Usenet posts I found were posted by me and were not that informative. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T05:36:58-06:00
ID
141183
Comment

Tim: The Gunn piece is very interesting. Obviously he has a vested interest, but I think his POV is probably more on target than not. The government clearly spends a fortune subsidizing other modes of transportation compared to Amtrak's paltry subsidy. And it's interesting that he shoots down the "myth" that Amtrak *could* be profitable; I guess it remains to be seen whether straight talk hurts or helps in this situation. Now, a question -- how does one defend the charge that we should just let passenger rail "go" in this country? Is the only argument a tourism/nostalgia component? (And I mean outside of the Northeast Corridor -- during my time spent in the Northeast I found the trains to be an exceptional way to get around, from New York to Boston to Philly to D.C. I had a ball.) I takes 15 hours to get from Jackson to Chicago, although it costs only $100 for a seat, it would be about $200 per person with a "roomette." Now, honestly, that sounds like a lot of fun (except that the whole thing would pretty much be at night). But is it practicable? Anyway, I'd love to just open up that discussion a bit. Is our option either massive subsidies -- and a potentially huge success -- or smaller subsidies and failure?

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T11:27:10-06:00
ID
141184
Comment

The Gunn piece is very interesting. Obviously he has a vested interest, but I think his POV is probably more on target than not. One consistently good thing about Gunn is that he is very no-BS. He has said repeatedly that if he ever doesn't have enough money to run Amtrak, he will shut it down without blinking. His job, he says, is not to preside over the death of Amtrak; it's to run a railroad. I tend to trust what he says. [i)Now, a question -- how does one defend the charge that we should just let passenger rail "go" in this country? That's the $64 question, bud. :-) Here are some ideas: (1) Amtrak provides mobility to many people in communities that do not have even halfway reasonable access to air service. (2) For short- to medium-distance journeys, Amtrak SHOULD have a role in supplementing, or even supplanting, air service, since the train is time-competitive with the plane for these journeys (given the fact that train stations typically are more centrally located). This, however, would require more frequent departures, as well as higher speeds in some cases, and both would mean infrastructure investment, while more frequent departures would lead to higher operating costs as well. But even with that in mind, rail has a significant role to play in relieving airport congestion and avoiding even larger infrastructure expenditures for new airports (when old ones reach capacity because they're handling entirely too many short- and medium-distance flights). (3) Amtrak provides an important travel alternative for people who, for one reason or another, simply do not wish to fly. I fall into this category; that's why I take the Crescent between the Northeast and Meridian on my visits to Mississippi now. (I frequently use the phrase "the putridity that is air travel in North America now.") Cont'd...

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T11:57:31-06:00
ID
141185
Comment

Cont'd... I takes 15 hours to get from Jackson to Chicago, although it costs only $100 for a seat, it would be about $200 per person with a "roomette." Now, honestly, that sounds like a lot of fun (except that the whole thing would pretty much be at night). But is it practicable? And that's if you're sharing the roomette. I pay for mine myself. Even worse. :-( OTOH, the sleeping accommodation includes all meals in the dining car while you're on the train. And at least on my beloved Crescent, the food is GOOD. (As an aside, my one experience on the City of New Orleans back in 1992 was: wonderful staff, but terrible, dilapidated, dirty equipment. I hope it's improved since then. Kate?) As for whether it's practicable -- that depends on when and why you're traveling. If you're going on business, for example, you can take the train, get a roomette (with your meals included), and work more effectively and privately on the train in your roomette than you could ever do on a plane. If you can arrive in the morning at your destination, you can shower and "groom" yourself on the train, and then go straight off to a morning meeting when you arrive. It can be very cost-effective in the right situation, and part of the problem is that with Amtrak's expansion constrained by its lack of funding, those situations are too few today. For a personal trip, you have to decide whether it's worth the extra expenditure to avoid the air travel hassles and have a more relaxed journey, or whether you'd rather get there faster and have more time at your destination. Ideally, of course, that wouldn't be the choice except for long journeys; for short and medium journeys, the train would be fast enough to be a better alternative than the plane, particularly given the train's greater comfort. Is our option either massive subsidies -- and a potentially huge success -- or smaller subsidies and failure? Well, there's the no-change option of continuing to underfund Amtrak at current levels and letting it hobble along as a crippled excuse for a rail network. That can probably go on indefinitely, I'm afraid, because there is significant popular support for Amtrak in its current form, but there seems to be relatively little support for expanding it significantly, especially in this day and age when probably the majority, or at least a significant minority, of Americans have never ridden a train of any kind. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T12:03:11-06:00
ID
141186
Comment

AMTRAK is a corporation, and it is something we in government refer to as a "direct subsidy." They look, smell, and talk like the regular ole corporations that you guys detest- except the govt bails them out when ends don't meet. AMTRAK, along with other direct subsidies like Foreign Military Financing, Advanced Technology Programs, and Market Access programs for Agriculture companies should all be wiped out. Let them compete like everyone else. I think in this day in age when all other transportation companies are in trouble due to 9/11 its rather unfair to allow AMTRAK to go unscathed. And by the way, in fiscal year 03 it seems like AMTRAK accounted for close to 10% of the Transportations departments total expenditures- thats not such an insignificant number.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-04-21T12:08:36-06:00
ID
141187
Comment

Chien Bleu, Fair enough. Then the airlines will start paying for the air traffic control system, and all the roads in the US will be put into private hands and tolled. Works for me. As for the budget issue, here are the actual figures direct from the DOT's Web site (for 2003, millions of dollars): Federal Highway Administration, 31,805 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 305 Federal Transit Administration, 8,241 Federal Railroad Administration, 1,261 -- NOTE: Amtrak accounts for most of this: 1,043 Federal Aviation Administration, 13,510 Maritime Administration, 233 St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, 14 Office of the Inspector General, 55 Office of the Secretary, 176 Surface Transportation Board, 19 Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 30 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 434 Research and Special Programs Administration, 118 Source Now by my calculator, that adds up to 56,201 million dollars. How, I ask you, is 1,043 "close to 10%" of 56,201? Actually it's 1.8558%, which as I see it is nowhere near 10%. But maybe that's just me. -- Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T12:35:41-06:00
ID
141188
Comment

I stand corrected. I believe I was qouting something from a CATO study, which estimates that approx. 10,000 million of that allocated to the Transportation dept. boils down to corporate welfare, which 10% would be accounted for by AMtrak. I'll see if I can find that report. Thanks for the correction though- but I've never been one to conclude that because its small in comparision to the overall budget that its doesnt matter how much we spend on it. You know pennies aren't worth much to me, but I don't throw em on the sidewalk when I get one either. Now the CATO institute bashing begins...

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-04-21T12:48:29-06:00
ID
141189
Comment

Hey, last time I checked, the govt didn't buy my car, and I don't think they bought Southwest all those jets either- and you know what if you ask Greyhound I doubt those buses were a gift from the Feds either. You No one is suggesting that everything relative to transportation goes private- but I do suggest that AMTRAK should play by the same rules that the other players have to go by.

Author
bluedog
Date
2005-04-21T12:52:36-06:00
ID
141190
Comment

Thanks for the correction though- but I've never been one to conclude that because its small in comparision to the overall budget that its doesnt matter how much we spend on it. Which begs the question: How do you decide what's worth spending money on? Why do you assume that Amtrak isn't worth spending any money at all on? The important consideration, of course, is what we're getting for the tax money that's expended. I think I've already more than adequately explained above what we're getting for the money that's spent on Amtrak, and how we could get significantly higher returns by spending somewhat more money. Hey, last time I checked, the govt didn't buy my car, and I don't think they bought Southwest all those jets either- and you know what if you ask Greyhound I doubt those buses were a gift from the Feds either. But the roads and most of the air infrastructure are exactly that. No one is suggesting that everything relative to transportation goes private- but I do suggest that AMTRAK should play by the same rules that the other players have to go by. It already does, to a considerable extent. In what way do you think it doesn't? All modes are receiving significant subsidies from the federal government, and the road and air modes also receive state and local subsidies. Amtrak suffers under a number of DISadvantages, however, that are not imposed on the other modes. For instance, a significant chunk of its budget (about $350 million a year if I'm not misinformed, although I can't find a source for that number right now) is railroad retirement payments made to former employees of Amtrak's predecessor railroads. None of that money goes to provide rail service at all. The least obvious disadvantage, though, and IMO probably the most significant, is that as your posts basically prove, the extensive effort devoted to concealing the actual levels of subsidy to the road and air modes is not exerted even proportionately to spread Amtrak's subsidy around and make it difficult to locate. It's a single line item in the Federal budget, which makes it easy to attack. -- Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T13:12:02-06:00
ID
141191
Comment

Let them compete like everyone else. I think in this day in age when all other transportation companies are in trouble due to 9/11 its rather unfair to allow AMTRAK to go unscathed. And by the way, in fiscal year 03 it seems like AMTRAK accounted for close to 10% of the Transportations departments total expenditures- thats not such an insignificant number. The goverment bailed out (read: *direct subsidy*) airlines to the tune of $20 billion after 9/11, and a *lot* of those financial were not losses due not to the attacks, but existing cash flow problems exacerbated by the attacks. The airlines operate on extremely thin margins and some of them do it better than others. 10,000 million of that allocated to the Transportation dept. boils down to corporate welfare, which 10% would be accounted for by AMtrak. I'll see if I can find that report. Thanks for the correction though- but I've never been one to conclude that because its small in comparision to the overall budget that its doesnt matter how much we spend on it. You know pennies aren't worth much to me, but I don't throw em on the sidewalk when I get one either. Which would mean that 90% of corporate welfare from the Transportation goes to other transportation companies, right? This according to the yet-to-be-maligned Cato Institute. (You're kinda touchy, eh? :-) No one is suggesting that everything relative to transportation goes private- but I do suggest that AMTRAK should play by the same rules that the other players have to go by. But if I read your numbers correctly, fully 90% of the corporate welfare goes to other transportation entities. I think we should call a spade a spade in this discussion. All of our major transportation is highly subsidized. We build roads all the time that benefit the car manufacturers. We do it because we decide to. Even successful airline models like JetBlue and SouthWest aren't building their own airports or paying for their own air-traffic control system -- they're cleverly offer niche service and taking advantage of the complex public-private network that's already in place. It's about a little more than leasing planes and setting prices. If, as a nation, we *decide* we're going to subsidize air travel and automotive and not rail, then that's what willl be done. But it makes sense to discuss it on those terms. We can decide to cut Amtrak loose, but it's a red herring to say that AMTRAK is "playing by different rules." The rules are the rules that we set. The options here are to say "We, as a people, want nationwide passenger train service, so how should we go about that" or "We, as a people, don't want nationalwide passenger train service, so let's stop paying for it."

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T13:30:43-06:00
ID
141192
Comment

Update from Lott/verbatim: Lott wants Amtrak bill ready for Senate floor action by summer WASHINGTON, D.C. ñ †U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, chairman of the† Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee, scolded the Bush Administration Thursday for its ìstunningî proposal to zero out Amtrakís operating subsidy and said he expects to have a bipartisan Amtrak remedy ready to go to the Senate floor this summer. ††††††††††† Lottís statements came during the Subcommitteeís hearing on the future of Amtrak during which Senators heard from the Administrationís representative to the Amtrak board, the Department of Transportationís Inspector General, and from Amtrakís President and CEO. ††††††††††† Lott argued that the federal government should have the principal lead in supporting a national passenger rail system because the issue is interstate commerce and is vital to the national economy.† ìI care a whole lot about transportation,î Lott said.† ìIf we donít have well-funded proposals for our highways, rails, airports and ports and harbors, weíre not going to be able to grow the economy.† I donít think the Administration is stepping up adequately to that responsibility.î ††††††††††† By zeroing out Amtrakís funding, Lott said Administration officials were ìkicking this ball to the statesî because they canít figure out what to do.† ìIím stunned that such a proposal would be sent up by this Administration,î Lott said.† ìI want to work with the Administration, but I need you genuinely involved and your help to get this done.† We need a little more innovative thinking on the part of the Administration than what weíve already seen.î ††††††††††† ìDo we want a national rail passenger system?î Lott challenged Administration and Amtrak officials.† ìIf so, how do we pay for it?† Through a reauthorization with innovative ideas and new options? By identifying annual appropriations?î †† Lott even suggested a different mechanism, a national transportation bond authority capability as a tool for providing a funding stream for Amtrak.† ìIf weíre going to have a national system, weíve got to figure out a way to pay for it,î he said.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-21T13:34:58-06:00
ID
141193
Comment

Huh. Unless I'm failing to read between the lines, here, I like what Lott is saying :-)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T13:51:17-06:00
ID
141194
Comment

Hey, hell froze over at least once beforeówhen we agreed with Lott about the FCC's media ownership rules. Can again.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-21T13:55:30-06:00
ID
141195
Comment

By zeroing out Amtrakís funding, Lott said Administration officials were ìkicking this ball to the statesî because they canít figure out what to do. The background to this, which isn't clear from that article, is that the Bush administration thinks it would be a great idea to shut down Amtrak and let the states pay for the service they want. (Some states, like California and North Carolina, are already doing this to some extent; they pay Amtrak to provide intrastate service in addition to what Amtrak runs as part of the national network.) The obvious problem with this is that, to use my favorite example, the chances that New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia (which is really Congress anyway), Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana will cooperate to keep the Crescent running are slim at best. And the administration knows that: their proposal is simply a disguised way to shut down the national rail network. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T13:56:18-06:00
ID
141196
Comment

Huh. Unless I'm failing to read between the lines, here, I like what Lott is saying :-) Me too. There must be some kind of rip in the fabric of the universe.... ;-) Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T13:57:36-06:00
ID
141197
Comment

Well, to give Lott some credit, he's not afraid to get the goverment to spend money on small-state issues, and he certainly has a record of preferring to have the Federal goverment pay for things that he'd prefer Mississippi not have to pay for. He's certainly a bring-home-the-bacon-style "conservative" in that sense. I'd have to read up a bit more before calling him a populist (maybe a "bedroom-management populist" something that isn't all that uncommon in the South), but he seems to have that occasional strain when he takes his foot out of his mouth for some reason other than to kiss a behind. (Wow, was that a back-handed compliment or what? :-)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T14:07:40-06:00
ID
141198
Comment

Another point made in an article I just read on Usenet: If airports had to be financed, built, and maintained by the airlines, they'd fail--they simply couldn't raise the immense sums required with their horrendus [sic] credit ratings. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T14:07:46-06:00
ID
141199
Comment

Case-in-point on airlines is the lax security they offered up when they were paying for it and managing it themselves.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T14:09:07-06:00
ID
141200
Comment

Tim: OK, I got curious and expanded on my example. If I'm lucky, I'll convince Donna to go to NYC in June. For that trip, from Meridian to NYC, the fare would be $225 per person each way for about a 26-hour trip in reserved seats. That's $550; if we opt for a bedroom both ways, the total is just under $1000. (Yowza) How good are the meals? And if you stick to reserved seats (as opposed to rooms/bedrooms) what is the experience like on a long trip these days? - Todd

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T14:19:36-06:00
ID
141201
Comment

Hey Todd, How old are y'all? :-) I ask because I did a round trip in coach in December 2002/January 2003, and found that at my age (37 at the time), it was totally exhausting. Yet back in the early 1990s when I was younger and living in DC, I never found it a problem to travel that way. I also have never found it a problem to get meals in the dining car when traveling in coach, although you have to keep an ear out for the meal calls. (Some people have reported, for example on Usenet, that when traveling in coach they couldn't get in for meals in the dining car. I've never had that problem on the Crescent.) To be honest, I find the roomettes smallish when it's just me. I'm not at all sure how well they'd really work for two people, or whether it would then feel like it was worth the extra money. The privacy is nice, though. The dining car is normally positioned between the sleeping cars and the coach cars, so you don't get coach travelers wandering through the sleeping cars, which always helps me feel better about the security of my stuff (the sleeping accommodations don't lock). Another point about traveling coach is that the conductors are generally good about placing travelers who are going a long way so that they get a chance to sleep. I've traveled coach overnight a bunch of times, and have always been able to stretch out (I've always traveled alone). Also, the coach seats are pure luxury compared to airline coach seats; the room you get is closer to business class on a plane. The dining-car food is very good, IMO. If there's anything I haven't covered, you can E-mail me at: tim at kynerd dot nu if you want to. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T14:35:47-06:00
ID
141202
Comment

BTW, I was going to say that a flight *from Jackson* (v. Memphis or NO) is about $700 round trip for the both of us, plus $50-80 in cabs depending on the airport (might as well include them). Aside from the Meridian thing, that puts it closer to the price of the train...

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T14:54:18-06:00
ID
141203
Comment

That's a good point, Todd. (I've also found Jackson expensive to fly in and out of, just like most airports its size in the US.) Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, unless you fly into LaGuardia (and WHY would you do that?), you can get into Manhattan by train much cheaper than $50-80, even for two people. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T15:03:24-06:00
ID
141204
Comment

Yeah, I figured I might get dinged for that. :-) I just *like* taking a cab (or car service) when it comes to that last leg (or first leg) of a trip. I get too nervous about timetables at the airport and I'm too tired after a flight to take a train with bags, etc., particularly from JFK. :-) And my estimate was for both directions ;-) When we lived near Central Park, I loved flying out of LaGuardia, BTW. It was a quick cab/car in the middle of the day -- $25 or so -- and smallish terminals, meaning not much hiking and fuss and bother. And it's a nice drive through the park and Harlem, over the bridge...as long as you don't hit traffic.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T16:05:05-06:00
ID
141205
Comment

Yeah, I figured I might get dinged for that. :-) Oh, I'm not dinging you by any means, just trying to help you keep your costs down. ;-) I get too nervous about timetables at the airport and I'm too tired after a flight to take a train with bags, etc., particularly from JFK. :-) And my estimate was for both directions ;-) The trains at Newark and JFK run frequently enough that you really don't have to worry about timetables. I didn't think about your estimate being for both directions; I guess I was thinking in terms of Newark and JFK, from which a cab to Manhattan one way would run about $50 or so. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T16:32:05-06:00
ID
141206
Comment

Newark *used* to be a massive pain by train, I think...you took the IRT, whatever that thing is called, to downtown Newark, then you had to take a bus to the airport...something like that. Right? (I would almost always get car service to Newark; 777-7777 was a decent deal.) I never really considered it for an airport visit, but I used to fantasize about renting a car in Newark because it's a lot cheaper than renting in the city (for a drive up-state or whatnot) and it seemed, ultimately, that the trip wasn't quite worth it. JFK...by "train" you mean subway, right? Takes a while, I've heard. :-)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T16:39:04-06:00
ID
141207
Comment

Oh, and there used to be a limit on the cab ride from JFK, I think -- $35? Probably higher by now.

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-21T16:39:53-06:00
ID
141208
Comment

Newark *used* to be a massive pain by train, I think...you took the IRT, whatever that thing is called, to downtown Newark, then you had to take a bus to the airport...something like that. Right? PATH. The IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) was the company that built the original subway line in New York that opened in 1904, and the name is still used to refer to the lines that the IRT built, such as the Lexington Avenue line on the East Side. But anyway, yes, that's how it used to work. Now you take a monorail from your terminal at Newark Airport to the Newark International Airport station on the Northeast Corridor and then grab a train to Penn Station (in Manhattan, not the one in Newark). Much faster, easier and more comfortable. JFK...by "train" you mean subway, right? Takes a while, I've heard. :-) Nope, I was referring to the JFK AirTrain, which will take you to either Howard Beach (to get the A) or to Jamaica, where you can either get the subway (the E, if memory serves -- sad, I was just there in January) or the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan. :-D Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-21T23:55:48-06:00
ID
141209
Comment

That's right, PATH. I love the NYC subway system (in all but the height of summer) but I can make an ass of myself trying to talk intelligently about getting to other boroughs and NJ. :-) Well, taking a monorail sounds like fun. I'll look into that if we fly into Newark anytime soon!

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2005-04-22T07:32:08-06:00

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