Blog

Your daily source of fresh takes on news affecting America's passengers. See also the weekly NARP Hotline.

2013: Holding the Line While Building for the Future

Written By Colin Leach For rail advocates, 2013 began under a cloud of uncertainty. However, thanks to the tireless work of NARP members across the country, 2013 witnessed many key victories that will serve as a basis for expansion and growth in 2014. Washington’s perennial fiscal and political woes aside, 2013 was a particularly important year for rail advocates due to the coming into force of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act’s Section 209. Section 209 mandated tha

It's the externalities, stupid!

Written By Colin Leach Amtrak's Pere Marquette stops at Grand Rapids, MI. Photo Credit: Jim Hulsebus While millions of Americans are busy heading home for the holidays, opponents of passenger rail are hard at work rehashing tired attacks. One such attack appeared in this morning’s edition of the Detroit News. Michigan taxpayers, the newspaper contended, “should not be dinged” to keep Amtrak services in the state running. At a time of tight budgets and limited transportation dollars, th

Less convenience=lower ridership

Written By Malcolm Kenton On Wednesday, we warned rail transit advocates not to fall into the trap of always accepting the mantra of “build it and they will come.” Successful transit services require careful planning to make sure they are serving a broad market and will make using them as convenient as possible. But there is plenty of evidence to show that, when planned right, increased transit service does tend to attract higher patronage. And, as we’ve seen in the case of the “Princet

The federal bias towards roads and cars

Written By Ross Capon The pro-highway federal bias is clearly illustrated in these two ways, among others. First, when general funds are transferred into the Highway Trust Fund, they become encumbered with the same restrictions as revenues generated by the gasoline tax and the other ‘normal’ Highway Trust Fund sources. This means they usually cannot be used for intercity passenger rail projects, and have the same restrictions regarding use for transit as those ‘normal’ HTF sources.Int

Building Transit Right, in the Heart of America’s Car Culture

Written By Sean Jeans Gail Smart transportation advocates often find themselves fighting against the “build it, and they will come” trope: the proposition that high ridership and real estate development will always result from the construction of new transit service. It is an idea that masks the hard planning work that underlies all successful transit systems, and is often used by anti-transit groups to paint smart growth advocates as idealists whose notions have little relation to realit

Green groups should join the call for transportation reform

Written By Malcolm Kenton Many of the major national environmental groups are backing a campaign to pressure major institutions—local governments, universities, nonprofits, religious organizations and businesses—to divest their bank accounts, endowments, pension funds, etc. from fossil fuel companies. Some of the green groups are also calling for funds that are divested from fossil fuels to be reinvested into “clean energy and socially responsible alternatives.” Unfortunately, transform

Redefining What is Possible

Written By Colin Leach Since the passage of the High Speed Ground Transportation Act in 1965, the federal government has consistently committed to investment in high speed rail services. So far, however, these attempts have been limited to trains that run on the same track as conventional trains in the Northeast Corridor. Whether the Metroliner in 1969 or the Acela Express in 2000, these trains’ performance has been limited by the constraints of track engineering. A winding right of way, co

Transit Advocates Fight for Cincinnati Streetcar at Crucial Juncture

Written By Sean Jeans Gail With a crucial decision looming for the Cincinnati streetcar project, local advocacy groups are uniting to demonstrate public support for the transformational project. Believe in Cincinnati, in conjunction with the Cincinnati Streetcar, is organizing a city-wide petition campaign to harness the wave of public support for the line: We've been truly inspired this week with the passion and the heart driving people to get signatures. Your dedication has not gone unno

Bricks will Burst Bubbles

Written By Logan McLeod In this week’s The Economist, An article was written on the topic of another foreseeable financial bubble. This time not in the form of bundled low rated mortgage-backed securities, rather this bubble is one of “secular stagnation.” The Economistexplains the term as a time when “appetite to invest is persistently below people’s desire to save.” This suggests a permanent lid on growth. The current practice of “quantitative easing” (printing money to buy b

What the bipartisan budget agreement may mean

Written By Ross Capon The House has passed the new, two-year bipartisan budget agreement. Senate passage is considered likely. It appears that appropriations committees will soon be deciding how much Amtrak and other programs will get for the current fiscal year. The best guess is that Amtrak will end up in the vicinity of $1.4 billion. A slight increase over the $1.3 billion from fiscal 2013 is possible, but still far below the real needs, and still we need to remind legislators of that.