Posts Tagged ‘railroads’

Lambert’s Lagniappe, October 2010

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

During one of my recent trips, a “ding” was discovered during the final inspection after everyone had been seated on the plane. After listening to the standard update announcements (which basically stated nothing had changed from the last announcement) someone questioned if the train would have been a better choice. This quickly led to a discussion not only about the “joys” of traveling but also passenger rail service. It was an
interesting discussion, as the week before I had rode the City of New Orleans from Jackson, Mississippi to Hammond, Louisiana.

For several of the Jackson passengers, this was their first train ride. They were clearly excited. (There was one guy who sang the chorus to Arlo Guthrie’s “City Of New Orleans”, but everyone ignored him.) They were abuzz when a train pulled into the station, only to discover it was a Canadian National train. Obviously, they felt disappointed when they realized it was not the Amtrak train.

A few weeks earlier, I participated in a rail panel at the SAHSTO annual meeting.  Both Gene Conti, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Paul Nissenbaum, Federal Railroad Administration, spoke on the need to encourage and fund passenger rail services. I spoke about ensuring rail services should remain a viable transportation option for freight traffic in the region. When in D.C. the following week, I had a long discussion about the future of railroads with several FRA staffers. The same concerns were raised: how do you encourage more passenger rail service over commercial railroad networks?  Passenger rail services do operate well in certain corridors. However, operating freight and passenger services over the same line requires a delicate “touch” (which was strongly highlighted when discussing rail operations in Chicago). Anything we do regarding rail services will be an expensive proposition. We need to educate the public about the associated benefits and challenges, so they are not waiting for the wrong train at the station.

Rail Session at SASHTO

Monday, August 30th, 2010

While at the Southeastern Association of State Highway Transportation Officials annual meeting, I participated in a panel on freight railroads in the Southeast.  The other speakers were Gene Conti, Secretary, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Paul Nissenbaum, Director, Office of Passenger and Freight Programs.  (My speech is posted here.)  When we are discussing the future of freight rail in the U.S., somethings we discuss the rail system as if it is a recent invention.  The U.S. remains the highest user of railroads in the  World, and to put more passenger service on the network must balance not only the line haul capacity, but other related items such as rail grade crossings, alignments, etc.   The comparisons to other regions regarding passenger rail are thus somewhat misleading, but the future economic prosperity of the U.S. will depend upon rail.  The question however is can we do something now that maximizes our rail network to balances  these conflicting goals.

I would be amiss if I don’t thank the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department for their efforts in making this an exceptional conference!

The Erie Canal and the Future of Transportation

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Recently traveling in Upstate New York, we passed by one of the locks of the Erie Canal (No 25).  It is clear people do not understand how the system of locks and dams works.  At the TRB summer conference, someone asked me how much does it cost to sent a boat through the lock. I said it was free, as the fees where paid for at the “gas pump”.   But also, people do not understand how important the Eire Canal was in transforming New York’s, and America’s, early economy.

But this investment did not last for long, as demonstrated in the nearby town of Clyde, where I witnessed a CSX train rattling on the nearby tracks. The Canal, originally conceived as a folly, generated tremendous wealth for New York State, but it was the development of the railroads that lead to the Canal’s role as the premier western gateway fading into a foot note into history books.

Today, the Canal hearkens to simpler times, and the Finger Lakes region continues to struggle with its economic future – one based on water for recreation and agriculture, not commercial navigation.  There is a lesson here: simply depending upon transportation alone does not guarantee economic success.  But the legacy of great men should inspire us to dream great things today – things that will influence our country’s economic  future through competitive transportation.

Railroad Statistics by State

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Recently, the American Assocition of Railroads published “U.S. Freight Railroad Industry Snapshot“, which has summarized information on each state regarding rail movements.  The Rail Facts sheet includes information on rail tonnage, mileage, employment, and commodities movements.  There is also a map of the major rail networks in each region.

To get the report for each of the ITTS member states, just click on the link below:

North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia

You can also see the entire report for each state at here.