Rail happy!

House Resolution 6003 “To reauthorize Amtrak, and for other purposes” has passed the House. Since the Senate already passed an Amtrak resolution, does this mean it’s bound for conference? I’m too zonked to think straight, but I know I want this to be made law. (The President threatens a veto, but I don’t think he has the votes.)

An amendment would grant $1.5 billion to the cash-strapped Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which has to be good news after three crippling occurrences on the Orange line in two weeks.

While all the nay votes were Republicans, quite a few Republicans did vote for the measure, which is rather encouraging. More when I’ve had some sleep and more news on the subject happens.

General Assembly by rail

I know I don’t need to recap the situation about gasoline or air travel. Just groan among yourselves.

But I did notice that the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this year and for the next three years are in cities with Amtrak service.

  • 2008 Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • 2009 Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2010 Minneapolis, MN
  • 2011 Charlotte, NC

I’m already thinking of going to GA next year.

Of course, from Washington, D.C., the train to Salt Lake City would take 55 hours each way and with a roomette the trip would be very expensive. But expensive travel is part of our future and delays, too, I suspect.

But putting a better face on it, say, even if a couple hundred GA attendees made the trip — coming from east and west — there would be a noticeable presence on the train and might-could extend the GA experience for the passengers. And it would be a lovely way to make the trip.

A vision for U.S. passenger rail

With gasoline within sneezing distance of a United States average of $4 a gallon and continuing airline cutbacks and failures, let me return to domestic passenger rail.

I was looking at a list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas — this is what led me to the Micropolitan areas I mentioned last week — because the National Association of Railroad Passengers has a vision plan to bring passenger rail to many, many more Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical areas (and state capitols that don’t fit that category) than Amtrak currently serves. (The rest are reasonably close to lines to allow for bus connections.)

A lasting solution means, of course, more than adding new cars or even new lines. The national rail infrastructure has been undersupported for years and freight pressures on the current rail system are likely to be more pressing than the wildest possible increases in passenger service. And there’s no reason one should lose to the other.

Even though I’m a confirmed Eastern Time Zoner, I’ve added Midwest High Speed Rail, Improving Amtrak Incrementally to my Google Reader news feed list. (Some of the most interesting movements in passenger rail are found in the Midwestern states.)

Dan Johnson-Weinberger, its author, advocates rail supporters contact their federal representatives in support of HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which would increase “the amount of federal money to match state capital investments.”

I agree. See if your member is on the co-sponsor list (more about that next time) and if not call his or her office, ask of the legislative aide for rail or transportation affairs, and make your opinion known.

We can plan and prepare now, or suffer later.