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Guest Post: Getting On The Train - The Rail Resurrection Gets Underway

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Gregor McDonald, a contributing editor

Getting On The Train

Given emerging data in 2012, it's becoming increasingly clear that the post-war automobile era in the United States is now in well-articulated decline. Accordingly, it makes sense to note the beginning of a long-term supertrend that is just getting started: the resurrection of America’s rail system.

At Seattle’s historic King Street Station (a classic example of early 20th Century railroad architecture), a nasty looking dropped-tile ceiling – which hung above travellers for decades – was removed late last year to reveal ornate plasterwork as the building undergoes extensive renovation. These cosmetic (and structural) alterations are part of a wide-ranging upgrade to the entire Cascades passenger rail service that runs from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon.

In Tacoma, for example, a new station will either be built or renovated, and part of the Cascades line will be re-routed from its current shoreline path more directly through that city. Elsewhere, bridges are being rebuilt, track is being upgraded, and other infrastructure improvements are underway as part of the $500 million program to resurrect more efficient, faster inter-city rail in the 466-mile Amtrak route through this part of the Pacific Northwest.

These changes will not bring European-style high-speed rail to the United States. Indeed, in many similar projects across the country, top speeds of 125 mph will characterize new system capability, rather than the average speed actually maintained from city to city. However, the incremental improvements now underway will become the platform for the next phase of investment, as Americans are increasingly persuaded to limit their car ownership and make rail transport part of their lives once again.

What America Lost

Up until World War II, rail transport of all kinds – intercity, light rail, and commuter rail – dominated transportation in America. Los Angeles had the largest light-rail system in the entire world, connecting the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, and San Bernardino County to central L.A. and the northern reaches of Orange County. As the old saying goes, however, the car killed America. And the following 40 years from 1945-1985 saw a relentless decline of all forms of rail in the United States.

To get a sense of what the country lost as it eagerly built out a vast highway infrastructure and foolishly stopped investing in rail, let's look at two historical maps showing a veritable collapse of passenger route miles over just a ten year period. The first map shows that in 1962 intercity passenger rail network still covered 88,710 route miles.

Just ten years later, however, with intrusive highways bisecting American cities and ruining the integrity of their downtowns, the number of passenger route miles had collapsed by over 75%(!), to just 19,366 miles.

Laughing at Amtrak

Most people born after World War II have regarded Amtrak as a kind of joke, with its routine dysfunction and massive annual operating losses. The economics of national rail transport, however, deem that your railway system will only be as efficient as the proper mix of investment and operational fitness allows. If you starve your railways of upgrades, make them share tracks with freight rail, and divert national infrastructure spending to other modes of transport, the results will be quite predictable.

One of the great misunderstandings of public rail transport is the mistaken belief that it should run at an operating profit. Not so. The purpose of commuter rail, light-rail, or intercity rail is to harvest economy-wide efficiencies and to ensure that wasteful expenditures spent collectively on transportation can be directed elsewhere. These "savings" were not an issue and were harder to determine during the cheap oil era, when much of the national highway system was built during the era of $14/bbl oil. Now, however, the impact on household budgets and monthly cash flow from much higher oil prices is pushing U.S. transportation demand rather dramatically away from roads and highways – and instead to rail.

In Los Angeles, for example, where the aggressive Measure R has been restoring L.A.'s lost light-rail system, annual ridership has made extraordinary gains. A recent piece from LA Observed reports that "[a]verage weekday ridership on Metro's rail lines in September soared to 357,096, up nearly 12 percent over the same time last year and 16 percent over 2010." Similar restorations of commuter rail in cities like Boston and improvements in either infrastructure or rolling stock in the NY Metro region have emerged in the past decade. Indeed, some U.S. regions took the signal of oil's price revolution early and began work on local rail systems long before federal spending began to shift, ever so slightly, to rail transport.

Meanwhile, on the national level, Amtrak just announced that ridership hit an all-time high and has climbed nearly 50% in the past decade. From its October 2012 press release:

Amtrak carried more than 31.2 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2012 ending September 30, marking the highest annual ridership total since America's Railroad started operations in 1971 and the ninth ridership record during the last ten years. A year-over-year comparison of FY 2012 to FY 2011 shows ridership grew 3.5 percent to a new record of 31,240,565 passengers and ticket revenue jumped 6.8 percent to a best ever $2.02 billion. In addition, Amtrak system-wide on-time performance increased to 83 percent, up from 78.1 percent and its highest level in 12 years. During FY 2012, ridership on the Northeast Corridor is up 4.8 percent to a record 11.4 million, state-supported and other short distance routes is up 2.1 percent to a record 15.1 million and long-distance services is up 4.7 percent to their best showing in 19 years at 4.7 million. Also, FY 2012 produced other ridership achievements including new records for 25 of 44 Amtrak services, and 12 consecutive monthly records with July being the single best month in the history of Amtrak.  Since FY 2000, Amtrak ridership is up 49 percent.

Rationalizing the Rail System

Many will decry the fact that Amtrak and the United States as a whole are still not in a position to offer European- or Asian-style high-speed-rail, where sustained traveling speeds routinely average above 150 mph. However, five to six decades of neglect necessitate that the U.S. undertake its resurrection of rail in phases. Two of the many projects around the country (The Vermonter & The Cascade Line) demonstrate exactly the type of initial heavy-lifting that must be done, in which fundamental changes are made in route selection and in the separation of tracks between freight and passenger rail.

The Vermonter: New York City to Burlington

Three states, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, are currently in partnership with Amtrak to upgrade tracks, bridges, and stations along the route between Burlington and New York City. The state of Vermont has just completed its part by upgrading track with new, very long, continuously-welded rail, which will increase speeds. Work in Connecticut and Massachusetts is now underway, but one of the more significant transformations occurs in the switching of 60 miles of track from Palmer and Amherst back to the other side of the Connecticut River. This is actually a restoration of the original route between Vermont and New York, and means that trains from Springfield, MA will now travel north to Holyoke, Northampton, and then Greenfield before joining up again with the current route through Brattleboro in southern Vermont. Below is one of the new train stations, located in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

In bringing The Vermonter back to the west side of the Connecticut River, Amtrak is rationalizing the route in several ways, but most importantly it is reducing the passenger train's exposure to freight traffic. Shared tracks, in which passenger service and freight traffic run on the same routes, is actually an enormous problem in the United States and accounts for a tremendous amount of the dysfunction that many users of Amtrak services experience. The biggest change in the Vermont-New York City trip, therefore, will come via on-time reliability as the transfer away from Palmer, MA will greatly reduce overlap with freight rail. Completion of this project is currently set for 2014.

The Cascades Line

The twin ports of Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon – straddling each side of the Columbia River – have seen very strong growth the past few years as increasing volumes of lumber, potash, and wheat are shipped to Asia. Accordingly, on the north side of the river at the Port of Vancouver (Washington), a large freight rail project has been underway to help increase loadings.

But one of the little-noticed initiatives is the construction of new track to alleviate congestion for passenger trains as they head out of Portland toward Seattle. Finally, these trains will be able to steer clear of freight traffic at the Vancouver, Washington side of the river.

As usual, these are not the types of splashy, high-profile infrastructure improvements that garner headlines. But the Portland to Seattle route typically has had very poor on-time reliability, which invariably reduces ridership. As mentioned in the start of this essay, Cascades Line improvements are quite wide-ranging, with the Federal Government having awarded over $800 million to multiple projects. The upgrades will continue for several years, with noticeable differences in on-time reliability already in force.

Aiming for the Virtuous Circle: Reliability and Ridership

Amtrak's 50% increase in ridership the past decade certainly began as a result of rising oil prices, and not because of any notable service improvements. However in the latter part of the decade and especially in the past 3-4 years, Amtrak (and other rail networks) have started to deliver substantial improvements to riders as the upgrade cycle gains momentum.

Deep skepticism has greeted just about every major rail project in the country over the past twenty years. But a virtuous circle, in which riders are persuaded to reduce car-miles driven, has started to unfold as heavier demand comes online for rail services. This has been especially true in cities such as Los Angeles which started its light-rail project twenty years ago, greeted initially greeted by a fearful public. Now however, L.A. is laying track down along many of the same routes from its pre-war light-rail system. It is finally becoming possible to live in Los Angeles without a car.

Continuing the Virtuous Circle

Various trends are already coming together that will support the resurrection of rail and possibly strengthen it as we move out towards 2025. In Part II, Reducing Your Exposure to Oil, we explore ways to take part in the U.S. rail renaissance. I also offer a case study how much savings a household can capture by moving to a city that is served by extensive rail transport. Finally, I give a brief update on energy transition, as the developed world continues to move away from high-priced oil and pursues economic development along the contours of the powergrid.

Click here to read Part II of this report (free executive summary; paid enrollment required for full access).


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Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:49 | 2939197 francis_sawyer
francis_sawyer's picture

Cornelius Vanderbilt would like to approve this message... But as the "Commodore" found out, there is no profit in moving "people"... The profit is in moving what people need, to them...

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:49 | 2939212 CPL
CPL's picture

Look!  It's a return to states rights!

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:58 | 2939223 francis_sawyer
francis_sawyer's picture

The whole idea will be dead & buried the minute the TSA perverts decide to start shaking down train stations...

People don't fucking buy 90' TV screens so they can go hop on a train along with other cattle to go visit their grandmothers that they stuffed into retirement facilities...

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:07 | 2939261 CPL
CPL's picture

How do you think the states exerted so much power during foundation?


Rail.  They even had a name for them in Washington.  The fourty thieves.  It's huge piece of Pac NW history, great stuff to read, good stories in there.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:17 | 2939285 Manthong
Manthong's picture

Yes indeedy do..

A return to the rails is in store for everyone.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:42 | 2939346 Doubleguns
Doubleguns's picture

Not going to happen until the rails can commute everyone to work. No I am not moving to the city. Just look at NY and Jersey and 60 million suffering. So essentually IT AINT HAPPENING!!

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:54 | 2939369 SafelyGraze
SafelyGraze's picture

OT: watch and puke with me

The Economy and the Election panel with Yale President Richard C. Levin

The final panel on the economic issues relevant to the presidential election will be held on campus November 1 from 7:30--9:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live online on Yale's YouTube channel.

The discussion, moderated by President Richard C. Levin '74 Ph.D. and focused on macroeconomy, the recession and recovery, will feature
Michael Woodford '80, The John Bates Clark Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University;
John Geanakoplos, the James Tobin Professor of Economics at Yale, and a leader in the study of financial crises and leverage cycles;
William Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale, president-elect of the American Economic Association, and one of the nation's most influential macroeconomists;
Robert Shiller, the Arthur M. Okun Professor of Economics at Yale, and a world-renowned behavioral macroeconomist;
Aleh Tsivinski, Professor of economics at Yale, and an authority at the intersection of macroeconomics and public economics.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:32 | 2939979 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Attractive as it may seem at first blush (LaRouche would agree whole-heartedly), the time for Rail transport is far gone.

Too much instability (literal, earthquakes are known to devestate rial systems, and they are on the rise), too easily disruptable (just like their eminent domain pipeline cousins).

Got to be find a new way folks. New thinking. Going back to the old is recidivist, short-sighted and downright stupid.


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:42 | 2940010 boogerbently
boogerbently's picture

Wanna bet the "six times a day" Washington to NY/Conneticutt circuit is "subsidized"!!

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 00:44 | 2940072 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

I point out that the NY to DC part of that trip is one of only a couple of Amtrak runs that turns a profit.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:17 | 2939424 disabledvet
disabledvet's picture

moving people by rail is VERY needs an already large "economy of people" in order to make it so (New York City.) Obviously there is a substantial banking interest in projects like this because they are so capital intensive and in need of massive borrowing authorities in order to effect....and yield massive amounts of borrowings forever after. What happens once the borrowing authority is effected of course matters a lot. If there is a massive scandal involving public transportation in say...(insert Every City here)...then we shall see just how much support rail actually has. (cough, cough...Federal Government cover-up...cough cough.) Obviously "you want to own real estate in an around wherever there is passenger node." But still...there simply is no more efficient mode of transportation for moving people than the plain old automobile. The fact that a railroad locomotive is STILL more advanced (direct drive engines) than any decades of backward cars from the entire Planet is of course very frustrating. There is no more fuel efficient manner of moving cargo over long distances than rail..not even a ship comes close to rail...because of that drive technology. Hopefully we will do better with what we already have tho and simply make a car/truck/commercial vehicle/ship that only needs fuel to power a battery "just in case"...and for nothing more. And i wish to continue my protest at not having a solar powered I-phone as well. I DEMAND AN END TO BATTERY WASTE AND WORTHLESS RECHARGING CABLES THAT ARE ONLY USED TO CAUSE SEIZURES. thank you very much for letting me waste you time on this "we are made to have mind fail" comment.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:18 | 2939592 Ned Zeppelin
Ned Zeppelin's picture


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:54 | 2941382 Matt
Matt's picture

Don't be afraid to use paragraphs.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:44 | 2939484 boooyaaaah
boooyaaaah's picture

UN Agenda 21 requires that all but the elite luve near rsil hubc.
The UN is monitoring or election.
They are the planners
We are the planees

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:41 | 2939343 Larry Dallas
Larry Dallas's picture

Agree with Francis_Sawyer.

We are a nation of consumers fueled unequivocally by our lust for materialism (myself included).

Even worse we are trying to look good and distinguish ourselves from everyone else. Just look at the back window of every car in CA. All of them are Tapout, Vivid wannabe's. With rims too!

Even back in the 50s it was the size of your car. In the 70s it was the muscle in your car.

We Americans are hardwired for consumption and any country that hands out iBamaPhones is not going to have a communal rail system. No 47%'er is going to use the rails. They will wait for a gov't handout Chevy Volt first.


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:04 | 2939392 Imminent Crucible
Imminent Crucible's picture

I get the feeling you don't spend much time in our larger cities. People ride the buses, trains and subways by the millions every day. I live in the mountains outside Asheville, NC but I recently took a flight into Los Angeles (via Ontario Airport) and was pleasantly surprised by the Foothills transit system. For $4.50 I bought a ticket that allowed me to ride the trains and buses all day long, the entire length and breadth of the system. Los Angelenos were extremely friendly and helpful at getting me pointed in the right direction and on the right buses and trains. Had a great time.

I've wished for a return to an efficient passenger train system for a many years. Anyone who's ever bought a Swiss Rail pass knows how much more pleasant a train ride can be than the grueling, 80 mph bumper-to-bumper ordeal the eastern interstates have become. I can't sleep and drive at the same time (well, I shouldn't any way) but the train can keep doing 65 all night long while I snooze. Airplanes and airports absolutely suck; I don't care if I never do that again.

Bring on the bullet trains. Or at least bring back the smoke-belching, coal-burning steam locomotives. We can shoot the Washington Redskins out the windows. There's no danger of them shooting back.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:30 | 2939455 disabledvet
disabledvet's picture

Lived in DC for a couple of years...rode the subway there almost everyday. LOVED it. Still...i don't know what "choked highways" you are speaking of...other than the one's caused by "Rail Fail." If New York City banned all cars after the Hurricane and only allowed City buses/taxi cabs and livery drivers in Manhattan would New York City be in the Dire Straits it is in right now? I say no. Clearly we can be a slave to GOVERNMENT consumption too can we not? Anywho nothing beats travelling the highways these days because basically "they're empty." that seems like a very valuable asset that is being under-utilized to me. But hey..."if i'm the only guy driving on this Interstate Thingy you built why can't i do 190 miles per hour?"

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:33 | 2939625 Don Draper
Don Draper's picture

I guess Interstates are like politics - it's all local.   I travel extensively and I can tell you that our interstates are NOT empty.  There is extreme over-crowding, delays, idiot drivers and now with everyone with a smartphone - many pay attention to the road while they text.   NYC is a unique animal - not like most if any other US city.  Public transportation is a must - but that's not the case in today's world in most cities. 



Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:54 | 2939692 Larry Dallas
Larry Dallas's picture

I spent 20 years in Manhattan and still have a place there. Right now I'm in the southwest most of the time and it sucks.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:05 | 2939397 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture



TSA Expands Invasion To CA Train Stations & Bus Terminals

Union Station TSA Agents: Journalist Recording Their Activity Accused Of 'Terrorism' (VIDEO)

TSA screenings aren't just for airports anymore Roving security teams increasingly visit train stations, subways and other mass transit sites to deter terrorism. Critics say it's largely political theater.
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:29 | 2939450 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

I was boarding an Amtrak train and the TSA was there on the platform as observers only.  I gave them the finger and boarded,

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:24 | 2939596 nofluer
nofluer's picture

The non-airport TSA units are known as "Viper Teams". They have invaded bus stations and worked their magic, and occasionally held highway blockades in cooperation with State HWY Patrols and local police - but I understand the Railroads told the TSA where to get off when they wanted (demanded?) to roam around at will in rail yards. Part of the reason was that rail yards are DANGEROUS places, and not just because of the rolling stock. Rail yards have their own specially trained police. So for now, I'm thinking that railroads are somewhat immune... for now...

Another aspect of this is the extremely tight scheduling that railroads require. Since the laws of physics require that only one train may be on a given piece of track at one time, each individual train is part of a huge and complex network of interlocking routes and access timing. Train movement is controlled from computerized control centers - and a slight delay in one place mushrooms into a HUGE and expensive "fustercluck" throughout the system.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 10:02 | 2940915 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Unlike flying, taking Amtrak is somewhat discretionary.  Introducing a TSA-style regimen would crush Amtrak's economic model.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 16:36 | 2942674 Imminent Crucible
Imminent Crucible's picture

Well, that would be a terrible thing, if Amtrak actually had an economic model. I don't think "Burn through whatever Congress will appropriate for us" is really a model.

Works for Amtrak, though.

Sat, 11/03/2012 - 08:41 | 2943882 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

From Orville Wright up to the present day the airline industry has never made a dime.  Railroads at least can point to profitability at some point in their history.  Remove all subsidies and let the chips fall where they may.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:59 | 2941400 glenlloyd
glenlloyd's picture

That's be my biggest concern as well. As rail use increases TSA would begin to assert their 'authority' over checking passengers before boarding. It could become a nightmare unless the states put a stop to it...which in turn would make access to the all mighty federal subsidy an issue. We all know how high states will jump to get the carrot.

My father always believed that the loss of the comprehensive US rail system was the biggest mistake we could have ever made. He and I always agreed that the interstate highway system was nothing more than putting all your eggs in one basket.

Although we've only heard a little about states abandoning highways and reverting to crushed surfaces we will hear more about this in the future as the funds needed to maintain the huge infrastructure just aren't there. As people abandon the vehicle as no longer affordable the dollars via registrations / fuel taxes will continue to shrink. Suggestions of increasing fuel taxes to compensate will only fail miserably as consumers alter their behavior in response.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:31 | 2939319 Urban Redneck
Urban Redneck's picture

It's time to pull a dirty chavez on uncle Warren and the rest of the railroad robber barrons.

Commuter rail is a localized solution (urban, suburban, exurban), the long-haul issue revolves around the movement of materials and goods not people, and the very existence of an entire long-haul trucking industry (in addition to FedEx and UPS) is a testament to the breakdown of integrated logistics in US and the failure of the privately owned rail networks.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:15 | 2939740 Pool Shark
Pool Shark's picture



Roundtrip airfare from LAX to Seattle (SeaTac): $175.00

Total ellapsed travel time: 5 hours and 15 minutes


Roundtrip Amtrak ticket from Los Angeles (Union Station) to Seattle: $212.00

Total ellapsed travel time: 63 hours and 35 minutes


Resurrection indeed...


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:00 | 2939386 Gully Foyle
Gully Foyle's picture

Trains equate with hipster steam punk romanticism.

Trains equate with contry wild west romanticism.

Trains equate with Woody Guthrie and Jack Kerouac and a romantic poetic fellaheen past.

Trains equate with criminals that hop off to rape/rob/kill then hop on to repeat the act down the line.

Arlo Guthrie /City of New Orleans

The City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman Riding on the City of New Orleans, Illinois Central Monday morning rail Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders, Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail. All along the southbound odyssey The train pulls out at Kankakee Rolls along past houses, farms and fields. Passin' trains that have no names, Freight yards full of old black men And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles. CHORUS: Good morning America how are you? Don't you know me I'm your native son, I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans, I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done. Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car. Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score. Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor. And the sons of pullman porters And the sons of engineers Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel. Mothers with their babes asleep, Are rockin' to the gentle beat And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel. CHORUS Nighttime on The City of New Orleans, Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee. Half way home, we'll be there by morning Through the Mississippi darkness Rolling down to the sea. And all the towns and people seem To fade into a bad dream And the steel rails still ain't heard the news. The conductor sings his song again, The passengers will please refrain This train's got the disappearing railroad blues. Good night, America, how are you? Don't you know me I'm your native son, I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans, I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:30 | 2939459 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

There is no comparison between Amtrak and any airline.  Amtrak beats the stuffing out of them.  It's not close.  Bravo, Amtrak.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:30 | 2939802 DollarMenu
DollarMenu's picture

I like the personal space you can get on a train.

It's really great to be able to walk around, go get something to eat, talk with other people.

Rather than fighting for your piece of a rain soaked freeway, you can have dinner and a snooze.

Yeah, you might take a bit longer, but it's all the rushing to nothing that's got us in this mess.

Decades of air travel, and I rarely spoke to the person(s) next to me.

Can't help but chat on a train.


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:32 | 2939810 Pool Shark
Pool Shark's picture




See above post.

Two years ago, took the family to Seattle/Vancouver from Los Angeles. I wanted; really WANTED to travel by train. My daughter had never been on one, and I thought it would be really fun to 'see the coast' on our trip.

Tried to book a private car on Amtrak (knowing that I didn't want my family sleeping on bench seats for the entire 25-35 hour trip). Cost? a mere $1,600.00 for the three of us. While plain old seats would have been only $600.00. And we still would have lost nearly three full days of vacation time just getting to/from Seattle. 

So, I looked into plane tickets. Non-stop flight from Burbank to SeaTac: $550.00 for all three of us. Travel time: 2 hours 45 minutes each way.

A real no-brainer.


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 10:05 | 2940928 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

I ride in the Northeast corridor where the trains have a long history and make the most sense economically.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:36 | 2939825 hairball48
hairball48's picture

Great song!!! I like Willie Nelson's rendition the best :)

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:49 | 2939206 JPM Hater001
JPM Hater001's picture

This will all be made obsolete shortly as the government finally discloses levitation technology and (I'm only guessing here at the correction description) and dark matter energy.

This is Kookie stuff but just read this little bit on Project Serpo.  Part way through they describe a machine that draws energy from null-space (the vacuum that hides behind matter) which has been scientifically proven to exist.

God bless the Ebens...

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:52 | 2939362 rtalcott
rtalcott's picture

Part way through they describe a machine that draws energy from null-space (the vacuum that hides behind matter) which has been scientifically proven to exist.


Casimir Effect?

I think this is not just around the corner...whole lot of bullshit flying around about this stuff.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:47 | 2939489 Ident 7777 economy
Ident 7777 economy's picture



"... as the government finally discloses levitation technology ..."


Right. The 'government'.


Presently they are holding off on releasing a 'balanced' budget', or any budget whatsoever.


Therefore, I won't hold my breath on 'levitation technology'.


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:05 | 2939208 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

Amtrak> The U.S.P.S.s', 'redheaded stepchild'...   Both co-dependants of each other, and endless Federal Bailouts.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:32 | 2939461 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Of course the airlines receive no subsidies what-so-ever.  Baloney.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:58 | 2939530 Offthebeach
Offthebeach's picture

Jet engine way more efficient then train diesel. Track maintenance vs what, air molecules? Amtrak Boston to W. Palm Beach,days and double the cost vs hours for air.
End all subsidies and discover price.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:12 | 2939550 akak
akak's picture


Jet engine way more efficient then train diesel.

What the Hell are you smoking?

Do trains have to climb several miles into the sky before making their cross-country runs?  And the cargo on a large train can be a substantial fraction (>80%) of the total weight of the vehicle(s) hauling it, whereas for an aircraft it is never even 50% of the total weight of the aircraft itself. 

A jet engine may be theoretically more efficient than a diesel locomotive, but that says nothing about the total relative costs between the two modes of transport --- there is a reason why here in Alaska we call it "air fright".  You have obviously never had to price cargo costs for long-distance air freight vs. rail.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:35 | 2939817 TBT or not TBT
TBT or not TBT's picture

Freight doesn't have to eat, drink, pee, poo, breath, maintain homeostasis, occupy its neurons, look out windows, listen to stewardess' directions, etc.   You can stack it up, a lot of it, with zero space in between.    Advantage(for freight):  Trains.    People on the other hand cannot be packed densely for long rides.   The longer the ride the more space and amenities they need.   Shorter ride means higher density of passengers and less amenities are both possible.   Airplanes are much faster than trains, so for long distance trips the density of people on them can be higher.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 04:11 | 2940272 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

JKC, one could wonder how 'americans' managed to put their slaves transportation up if you cant pack up people like that.

There's something more to it, probably.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 12:32 | 2941549 Matt
Matt's picture

So, what you are saying is, someone would make a great deal of money if they perfected a means of quickly and safely putting human beings into stasis and then bring them back again. Once we can load people up in little boxes like freight, we can transport humans at land freight rates ... and since the people will be in stasis, they won't notice that it took them 3 days to get where they were going.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:11 | 2939566 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 Jet engine runs off cheap diesel @ 40K' , "criss cross" Amerika!

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:39 | 2939836 hairball48
hairball48's picture

If jet engines are so efficient, why do the airlines loose so much money?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:09 | 2939917 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

If jet engines are so efficient  " lack of respect".  Lack of good "fuel hedging" traders. I could make any Airline profitable, with Insulation, and ex/reserves.

   Running an Airline, requires forward thinking on costs.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 00:51 | 2940082 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

You owe the traveling public to take on that responsibility. Since no major airline stock has been a money maker over its history, you could be the first intelligent CEO at an airline. This would be a boon to all of us.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:56 | 2939874 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

Benefits of the train

1) You don't have to leave your house 3 hours ahead of departure to catch a train.  

2)You aren't forced to breathe an oxygen-starved, dehydrated atmosphere while sitting on top of thousands of gallons of kerosene.  

3)No landings, no wind shear, weather not much of a factor

4)Your efficiency arguement does not take into account that per unit of energy, a train can move more people far more cheaply than can an airliner. As the volume of rail passengers increase, so will the cost/benefit of trains.

You want to end subsidies?  Who do you think paid for all those airports and freeways?  That's right, the gubmint did it.


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 00:52 | 2940083 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

5) In the unlikely event of a crash, there will probably be enough of you to actually identify without DNA testing.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:07 | 2939560 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

Bicycle Repairman     Do you see any mention of "Fan Jets" in this post?

  Airlines are a whole can of worms unto themselves.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 10:09 | 2940940 Bicycle Repairman
Bicycle Repairman's picture

Did the government provide all of the R&D money and effort for the development of "Fan Jets"?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:49 | 2939210 Marco
Marco's picture

This won't end well.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:49 | 2939211 Shizzmoney
Shizzmoney's picture

Of course Americans are favoring trains, less hassle, environmentally better, and of course, the fact that the majority of us "own" cars which are actually owned by banks (who give out loans.....that are traded in subprime securities.....sound familiar?).

It's pretty funny when I go outside and see a 20-sopmething dude about to go on a date with a girl in a Lexus......and she'll thin kof that as "independent", when he's probably paying car patyemtns (with interest) out the wazoo.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:58 | 2939529 Tijuana Donkey Show
Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

He's making blowjob payments. The car is free.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:18 | 2939549 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

How are trains being "favoured" and "less hassle" ?

Trains are a minority transport system by a loooooong way compared to cars. People do not want them, as soon as they earn a wage they want a car, not a train ticket. You're delusional

They're not only minority because they're inflexible, inconvenient, impersonal and haven't moved forward in 100 years but because they can't keep up with a modern lifestyle such as visiting 3 shops in an hour in different locals.

They've been subsidised for 100 years, that's because they're a bankrupt biz model. They cannot stand on their own 2 feet. Like Nuclear energy only politicians are stupid enough and corrupt enough to keep this junk going

Yes the guy picking up his date in a Lexus is "independent". Try picking up your date in a mass transit train or bus and go to a restaurant and then onto a club.

Cars Rule bloody miles

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:43 | 2939844 nofluer
nofluer's picture

Funny... People lived within a few miles of their work places. Everyone knew their neighbors. Everyone knew that if they needed help, it was right next door.

Then GM wanted to sell busses in SoCal. GM bought up the highly efficient, well used and cheap intercity electric rail systems and closed it down. Sold lots of busses. Then sold lots of cars. Urban sprawl happened. Smog took over the atmosphere.

People moved to suburbia. I've lived in a few places and in most of them had no idea what the mnames of the people living on the other side of the apartment wall were. In the 'burbs, people peeked out of their windows at neighbors they didn't know. Something funny going on across the street, you don't go over and see what's up and can you help. You call the law...

America changed.

I think we were better off and happier in the old America.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 12:39 | 2941576 Matt
Matt's picture

How much of this is due to increased population and increased population density? Not the Red Car Line part, but the rest of it?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:22 | 2939952 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

"Trains are a minority transport system by a loooooong way compared to cars. People do not want them, as soon as they earn a wage they want a car, not a train ticket. You're delusional"

People won't want a fucking car when gas is $15 a gallon... what part of planning ahead don't you understand? Urban light rail and bus systems can be just as efficient as a car, and were, until the automobile came along, which totally changed urban culture and planning.

Maybe if people got accustomed to public transportation again, instead of riding around in their little metal and glass fortresses, it would have some positive cultural effects.


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 02:12 | 2940185 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Lord Koos  -  if people "don't want a f'ing car at $15 a gallon" why hasn't there been mass automotive selling and everyone hopping onto trains in total delerium?

$140 a barrel and no car users budged an inch. 

That's with cars legistlated to fuck, not only carrying the huge expenses of State mandated safety (notice bankrupt trains and buses travel as fast but have no safety whatsoever, hypocracy for public transport, surely not) and motorists carry the extra burden of non-stop thieving taxation which subsidises trains, buses and tubes

strip the Govt legal clowns off a car and the Govt thieves out of motorists pockets and cars are even more brillaint and further ahead of antiquated bankrupt trains and buses  

And cars have big positive cultural effects already can visit 10 shops and cafes and meet 10 friends in different places, all in the same day a train or bus network would take 4 days to get around.Cars are fast, immediate, flexible, convenient and you have total control, not some Govt arsewipe with a clipboard working out a rota for comrade citizens

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:20 | 2940361 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

Cars are poisoning the world as well as supporting a criminal cartel...Millions of innocents are killed over oil wars, just so that America can keep its cheap fix. Just like any hard-core addict, we will kill anyone who gets between us and our supplier.  I guess your idea of "culture" is different than mine. 

Oil went up but gas prices have not yet come anywhere near $15, perhaps you didn't notice... but when it does, unless cars get a helluva lot more efficient, it's gonna be goodby to daily driving for the average person. 

If you don't think the auto industry isn't heavily subsidized, you need to go back to history class.  You think GM and Ford built all those highways?


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:29 | 2941287 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

the "criminal cartel" you're referring to is the thug railway lawyer, Abe Lincoln, and the slave Chinese labour that built the rail network yes?

I'd agree with you on the thug oil cartels, they're kept on the throne by your favourite rail bankruptcy avoidance subsidiser, Govt. No thieving State, no oil cartels, no rail ....let's go for it

my idea of "culture" is fast convenient instant travel with as much luxury as you can pack into 4 wheels, especially a good sound system. Have you noticed the difference between car culture and mass transit train culture, one is vibrant, the other doesn't exist because it's so f'n dull

cars are already massively more efficient than trains BTW. You wouldn't be able to ram so many luxuries in a car AND pay so much tax that you prop up 3 other bankrupt dreary mass transport systems if it wasn't uber productive and efficient

not only more efficient but as New York shows, a massively more secure and flexible means of individual transport not State dependent in every way and totally bankrupt and inept come a crisis

Cars are NOT subsidised, all money in roads are paid for from road taxes and fuel duties etc. Cars are self sustaining and make so much money they can even prop up the unsustainable antiquated bankrupt public transport systems

roll on the free market and an end to the economic morons of the planet, politicians, subsidising total losers 100 years past their sell-by-dates

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:50 | 2939215 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

"All Aboard!"

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:50 | 2939216 Hedgetard55
Hedgetard55's picture

There will be plenty of need for rail to move Americans to the FEMA camps.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:57 | 2939239 francis_sawyer
francis_sawyer's picture

No need to even haul them to FEMA camps... The boxcars themselves are equipped with guillotines...


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:53 | 2939230 Bunga Bunga
Bunga Bunga's picture

Buffet saw this coming.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:49 | 2940023 e-man
e-man's picture

...or he's encouraging it along.  There's a very fine line between being a great visionary and a great manipulator.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:54 | 2939231 bank guy in Brussels
bank guy in Brussels's picture

Trains and 'light rail' - such as trams in cities - are indeed cool. They are a big part of what makes life in Europe so wonderful.

It was a real tragedy that America let what was once the world's greatest rail network, go mostly to rot.

But it is going to be a long haul in America with that 'suburban sprawl' and cities that are often crime-ridden ghettos, where people have car-tied lives virtually out of necessity.

Jim Kunstler and his 'Clusterf*ck Nation' blog have been on this theme for some years - suburbia has to die and is going to die, and the American railways need to be restored for when that happens.

In Belgium we can travel anywhere on Belgium on a train for under 8 euros. And the Brussels max unlimited transport pass - only 52 euros per month! - lets us ride all forms of public transport in Brussels totally free, as much as we want unlimited, including the regional buses from outside Brussels, and even national trains as they cross through the 31 stations in Brussels on the national railway network.

Yes, bring on the trains!

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:08 | 2939266 cossack55
cossack55's picture

I would think the recent superstorm would be enough evidence why you can take your Agenda 21 shit and shove it up your ass. Warsaw gheto anyone?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:25 | 2939439 Ident 7777 economy
Ident 7777 economy's picture

At least with a car, one can 'bug out' and bug back in at one's own schedule ... 

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:35 | 2939819 DollarMenu
DollarMenu's picture

Yeah, I see the gas lines and the minimum 3 persons to cross the bridge.

Lots of movement goin' on.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 00:00 | 2940054 Ident 7777 economy
Ident 7777 economy's picture


" Yeah, I see the gas lines and the ... "




Why don't you READ what is posted and then THINK about what was written?


What? You expect to be TOLD what to think too?




Moron ...





Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:26 | 2939304 MrPalladium
MrPalladium's picture

The only way passenger rail will work is if the negative aspects of multiculturalism are reigned in. Boom boxes, threatening stares, casual beatings and occasional rapes will keep most euro-americans in their cars.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:49 | 2939496 Ident 7777 economy
Ident 7777 economy's picture



Paging Bernhard Goetz ...

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 02:12 | 2940194 Cathartes Aura
Cathartes Aura's picture

y'know, those boys with their

Boom boxes, threatening stares, casual beatings and occasional rapes

are a massive cost to society, and it's a shame those who run the game need them to terrorise peoples, and then they can be sent off to kill and terrorise people in other'd nations, on behalf of the banking class. . .

I remember "women only" cars on the trains in Britain, they were always full.

and before you get testy about this post, think about it.  really.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:22 | 2940364 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

Really, then how do you xenophobes explain the popularity of NYC subways?  Oh wait, you can't.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 14:21 | 2942042 Panafrican Funk...
Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

"explain the popularity of NYC subways?  Oh wait, you can't."

How popular are they late at night, going to certain neighborhoods?  NYC is full of white people who refuse to publically acknowledge their rational racism, but it is very much present and accounted for.  

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:30 | 2939456 unrulian
unrulian's picture

They are a big part of what makes life in Europe so wonderful.

stopped reading rigghht there

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:24 | 2940365 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

Yeah, cuz America is the best, man...

The car used to mean freedom.  In today's city traffic I feel more free when I don't have to drive one.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:41 | 2939479 optimator
optimator's picture

60 years ago freight moved by rail.  In  the Northeast corridor it was not unusal to see 100+ freight car trains.  The Teamster's Union is what killed that.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:30 | 2940369 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

The subsized interstate system and cheap deisel fuel are what killed rail freight, which is less costly and better for the environment that truck freight.  

The Teamsters have represented both truck drivers and rail workers...

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:16 | 2939585 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Bank Guy in Brussels  -  i'm surprised at you to say the very least regards your Pro public transport stance. Your mention of "travelling anywhere" in Belgium is no advantage over a car which can stop anywahere any time night or day. Cars pay their way while Pub'Trans' is another reason Belgium is bankrupt, your €8 subsidised (by motorists) fare is Unicorn pricing

there is no tragedy America lost rail, people might accept being herded like cattle to cross the Atlantic but they don't want to live that way, they prefer private flexible immediate freedoms which the car provides

wanna travel long distance (5hrs plus) then aeroplanes are much, much faster and better equipped 

Rail is bankrupt and 100 years past its sell-by-date, Brunel knew it when he sold off to Govt.. end of story

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:46 | 2939668 willwork4food
willwork4food's picture

Rail is 100 yr past its sell by date? Bullshit.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:11 | 2939743 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

the bullshit (subsidies for bankrupt transport systems) is entirely and massively with the train, tram and bus advocates

non-stop bullshit from ear to ear

not only past their sell-by-date (some British trains/tubes are 50 years old, compare that to car stock) but they're on countdown to collapse. When Govt hits the skids they're going down as well, about bloody time too

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 00:56 | 2940089 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

Fortunately, no government money has gone into the highway system or the airports. Thank dog those are free of the taint of taxpayer subsidies.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 02:20 | 2940201 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

er, precisely what do you mean by "Govt money" ?

You mean motorists money yes?

Motorists pay nearly 8x more than Govt re-invests in roads in the Uk and it's pretty much the same everywhere. Another £1 of MOTORISTS MONEY propos up bankrupt buses. Another £1 of MOTORISTS MONEY props up trains

the other £4 goes into the corrupt scum at Treasury and disappears

trains contrinute zero ($0.000). buses contribute zero ($0.000) and trams and tubes also contribute zero ($0.000) to the transport system. They are negative sum games entirely propped up by MOTORISTS MONEY

hope we're crystal clear who does all the work, who pays for everything, which losers are propped up and who gets pissed on for being the most productive (best transport by far) ...believe backing losers and robbing the top dog is called socialism yes?

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:50 | 2940385 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

Here in Washington State, our General Fund keeps paying to add new runways to the airports. The General Fund comes from sales tax, business and occupation tax and myriad other taxes that keeps us from having an income tax.

That is NOT MOTORISTS MONEY. Also, the Feds pay an even bigger chunk of that crap in some cases. That comes from the fed general fund, which means money that was conjured out of thin air, and also therefore not MOTORIST MONEY.

You can bark all you want, but you still can't come in.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:30 | 2940370 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture


Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:40 | 2941328 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

anytime you 2 economic wizzos want a free market with no transport subsidies, because we all KNOW politicians are economic retards and everytime fail to pick winners, let's have it

I'm all for these transport turkeys not building roads, trains and airports to nowehere. Look at bubble Ben Bernnake, he's putting all his eggs in one basket, piling all his chips on the sector, banking, that's created the most carnage in the economy in the past 5 years and is so indebted they've no chance of giving him the recovery he dribbles about. He's a loser backing losers

well 'hello' that's what politicians have been doing for over 100 years with trams, trains, tubes and buses

epic wasteful stupid rolling non-stop failure

let's have Govt out and a free market in ..the economic truth will hit you shortly after right on your noses you can't see past

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:35 | 2939632 disabledvet
disabledvet's picture

Here's a Disabledvet "Crazy Idea number 83028a": Florida...that would be an entire State...exists on a massive piece of coral. which would be idea for something that doesn't mean having to dig up the this: . So the HQ for this "disabledvet boondoggle" is this place:,_Florida which was destroyed by some guy named Andrew...but has seen quite the Renaisance of late. (no thanks to Bernie Madoff of course). I would name the "VacuRail terminal" the "Claiborne Pell "I bought that education of yours now get to work phukcer" Vacutrain Complex" and it would be SUBSTANTIAL indeed. (an entire Underground Relief Center as it were...complete with no humidity and an endless supply of vanilla smoothies and...for a slight fee...a complimentary Mohito "for our out of town guests.") You would then board "The Bush Vacuum Tube Express" for a 3000 mph ride to...well, you name it! bet. Disney World? Sure thing. Wanna see the Devil Rays game? Gotcha covered. Then return in 12 minutes and 30 seconds to see the Dolphins? Sure thing, bro! Catch the Jimmy Buffet concert in Jacksonville later that same evening? Don't forget your anit-gravity suit! And to think people still are struggling with how to create "a destination." Really? C'mon folks. All aboard the Recovery Express!

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 22:45 | 2939849 TBT or not TBT
TBT or not TBT's picture

European rail lines are nationalised behemoths full of unfirable gold plated pensioned pro statist card carrying leftists.    Famously so.

Air and car and truck are FAR more strike proof, which has made our polity more immune to socialist central planning liberty killing stagnation.

Europe is fucking depressing, when you take in more than just the city centers tourists and business people on expense statements typically stay and visit.   Living there is a grimy grind, rigid, limited, ridden by property crime, packed like sardines in tiny expensive houses and cars.   Most anything you need to do takes more time and trouble and money there, but you have less money.   You may have more time because of the labor laws, but you are poorer and goods and services cost more, so you lose that time with all the DIY stuff you do instead of hiring help, and don't even start me about the store opening hours.   You need to go the store at the same time as everyone else in the country, so the stores are mobbed.   They are also SMALL, or when they are "HYPER" markets they are narrow.   Pretty much no such place as Costco or Sam's in most of those countries.   20% tax on your purchases.   Your government guarnteed pension and free health care?   Not mathematically possible that it will happen if you are not already close to retirement.   The demographics of the place will crush pension and health care entitlements horribly.   DECLINE bitchez.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:49 | 2940011 GoinFawr
GoinFawr's picture

Heh, somebody didn't have any fun 'over there'. Have you ever actually been on any of those 'yerapeein'  railways, I wonder?

No Costco!!!! Oh, the shame! The terror! The toilet  bowls in Hungary are shallow, but you are expected to pass 4 course meals! The beefsteaks in Croatia whinny! Parisians can't smoke in Church anymore!  The crisps are all cheese flavoured! And it's like they have a different word for simply everything! Aaaaaigh!

If you're gonna paint in such broad stripes.... why even bother?

But please, yes, do them all a favour: stay home.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:34 | 2940374 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

Low crime rates, especially murder, when you get sick the hospital is free, you don't have to own a car in many cases, which is a blessing IMO... but no "Sam's Club"?  Oh, the horror...

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 04:16 | 2940273 Tango in the Blight
Tango in the Blight's picture

You can't travel to Brussels airport by train at night. Had to take a taxi instead. Belgian railways sucks for not having a night express to the nation's busiest airport.



Thu, 11/01/2012 - 18:57 | 2939236 JuliaS
JuliaS's picture

Long Rearden Steel.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:03 | 2939251 WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot
WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot's picture

Beat me to it.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:04 | 2939395 gaoptimize
gaoptimize's picture

Like the opening intro news/monologue to the movie Atlas Shrugged Part 1.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:10 | 2939271 Cdad
Cdad's picture

How many times has this idea been floated in my lifetime?  I have lost count.  Americans are distinctly different that our Euro brethren.  Mass transit commuter trains may well work one day...that is if the false US economy continues to be supported by central banks and the criminal syndicate known as Wall the economy will simply be a smoking hulk...and the people will then waddle on to trains.  But until shit really breaks...Americans drive CARS!

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 00:59 | 2940095 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

The wind has already broken, can the shit break be far behind? When it does, we won't be able to plant a few magic beans and have working railways appear.

It takes planning and it takes resources that will be much harder to acquire once said shit has, as you say, broken.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:13 | 2939277 Maos Dog
Maos Dog's picture

Stopped reading here:


"One of the great misunderstandings of public rail transport is the mistaken belief that it should run at an operating profit. Not so."



Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:25 | 2939302 Hedgetard55
Hedgetard55's picture

I didn't even make it that far.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:33 | 2939441 GoinFawr
GoinFawr's picture

Not sure about the passenger service angle, but I know the two major Cdn railways are making ends meet carrying freight.

Eg. the Cdn. tar sands co.'s are increasingly using the railways to ship as much of their product as they can to the coast, because there they receive actual market prices (akin to Brent) for their trouble, rather than the good ol' WCS captive seller NAFTA enforced pittance they get for what they send down the pipes.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:55 | 2939622 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

"One of the great misunderstandings of public rail transport is the mistaken belief that it should run at an operating profit. Not so."

Worth repeating that, sorry, just had to.

Just so everyone understands train advocates live in a non-market based LaLa Land ...reality has left the building ....funny farm here we come. Choo Choo 

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:29 | 2939915 GoinFawr
GoinFawr's picture

Gotcher Phat Controller, running at a loss would only cause consternation and dismay.

And yeah, 'train advocates' are a squirrely lot; we've all seen what happened to the beta in "Singles" right?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:51 | 2940026 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

you've offended squirrels now, they have to stand on their own two feet/paws, something trains, trams, tubes and buses all haven't done in 100 dependent years

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 01:00 | 2940097 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

If trains had the same level of subsidies that highways and airports get, I'd have my own personal light rail station here on the cul-de sac.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 02:54 | 2940228 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Dr Sandi  -  i'm going to take a wild guess here that you're a socialist simply because you have no concept of this topic, don't know where the money comes from and what is and isn't productive and because you've grasped the idealism of mass transit rather than have the first clue about what consumers (individuals) want 

first you don't need a "personal light rail station on your cul-de-sac". You have an individually specified (colour, leather seats, hi-fi surround-sound etc) already available not at the end of your road or only arriving every 2 hours but on your drive ready to go whenever you choose no waiting in pissing rain for it. It's called the car.

Fancy that!

Secondly regards taking away "subsidy" it is no such thing if the motorists whose money is stolen in tax is spent on that transport system without subsidy from any other sector. The Govt returns far, far less to motorists in investment than they thieve out. Motoring pays for itself many times over, that's because it is productive, it can stand on its own two feet

so much so motor taxes prop up (subsidise) buses, trains, trams and tubes all of which are bankrupt biz models and need external funding in addition to whatever sub-par, sub-standard revenue they generate on their own.  

Take awat subsidy from these diseased turkeys and they all collapse... stone cold stupid bankrupt. They cannot compete with fit as a fiddle cars (or airlines for that matter) public transpor are walking cripples requiring constant sucking on the Nanny States teet 

Take away 'subsidy' from cars and cars have even more money to spend on car infrastructure to progress even further even faster not not propping up the losers of public transport

The car, and aeroplane, despite being sucked on by public transport, already run rings around them from any angle. Get a level playing field and Govt red tape and extortion rackets (fuel taxes, mandated safety equipment and insurance etc) off cars backs and it'll leave the public sector garbage even further in the dust

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:40 | 2940377 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

Christ, you're right. I'm a complete fucking moron.

Thank you for setting me straight.

Could you do my taxes for me too?

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:46 | 2941354 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

no Dr Sandi, I'm not going to work out the car is amazingly convenient and the mass transit system a folly for you and do your taxes

train advocates must stop demanding being propped up throughout their lives and to stand on their own 2 feet like adults. Socialism (subsidies) are for babies, let's grow up eh

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 07:30 | 2940426 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

So i guess you're not keen on the US Postal service either... you prefer sending letters via FEDEX for $13 a pop.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 11:54 | 2941370 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

I'm for whatever transport system (or postal service) the free market can sustain without any handouts, subsidie or legislative protection rackets

stand on your own two feet without subsidy, prove your worth to consumers by winning market share, or piss off and die. Consumers choosing and enterprises being productive in a free market, no economic retards (politicos) needed pretending they know what's best when they know jack-shit.

That's the free market sorting the wheat (best) from the chaff (garbage). No better system available ..ever

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:20 | 2939290 Jason T
Jason T's picture

you're giving me more China envy : (  ..they'll complete their high speed rail network by 2020.


By 2020, we'll be bankrupt way they can print that long without interest rates going and the whole thing blowing up in our face.



Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:25 | 2939301 guinea
guinea's picture

All the upper middle class Chinese in China drive.  You haven't experienced China until you have your arse kicked into a sardine-packed train by an attendant on a daily basis, and have your wife groped by some migrant worker on the subway.  

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:01 | 2939536 Tijuana Donkey Show
Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

And it will crash in 2021. If their trains are twice as good as the best built chinese product I've seen, their fucked. 

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:30 | 2939313 guinea
guinea's picture

Our car culture allows white collars from Philadelphia suburbs to work in Campbell Soup's headquarters in Camden NJ, driving through some of the biggest ghettos in the country in the comforts of ones car.  If we depend on public transit, there will be whole swaths completely off limits.  Think South Side Chicago where the red line runs.  No one who isn't a hipster is going to sit through 40 blocks of urine-smelling schizophrenics cursing you out on a daily basis. 

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:37 | 2939470 Yes_Questions
Yes_Questions's picture



On the other hand, maybe the urine smelling schizo's will simply be outnumbered enough to just yell at the trains full of workers going by instead.  

But I get your point.



Fri, 11/02/2012 - 01:02 | 2940099 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture


 No one who isn't a hipster is going to sit through 40 blocks of urine-smelling schizophrenics cursing you out on a daily basis. 

I always used to save THAT pleasure for when I actually got to work.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:30 | 2939314 sangell
sangell's picture

If you travel in a sleeper car rail travel isn't bad at all. It also costs a helluva lot more. Coach is dreadful owing to the clientele and the surly idiots AMTRAK uses for staff. One wonders if these passenger train advocates have ever had to travel more than 500 miles in coach, especially if there is no dining car? Reduced to eating overpriced snack food and surrounded by the dregs of society. You only hope the guy they seat you next to isn't a freshly released inmate from some prison because AMTRAK serves most of the towns our prisons are located in.

If its under 500 miles I'll drive. Nothing beats the comfort and convenience of your own auto. Coast to coast, if I've got the time I'll get a roomette and  take AMTRAK. A 20 hour coach train trip to go 1000 miles. Are you nuts!

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:42 | 2939348 jusman
jusman's picture

I do find it sad that so many are against any sort of "evolution" to mmore efficient modes of transportation.  Sure, the infrastructure for cars is far better than what currently exists for rail, however, the price of gas is NOT going to go down, and for most of us, our salaries are NOT going to go up.  So yes, it would be nice to return to the good old days (and at 56 years old, I recall the 1980s and my favorite car - 1979 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe - with cruise control set to 160 km/hr going Toronto to Montreal).  Those days are over.

So let us evolve, ever so slowly, to a more sustainable society.  Perhaps better than the "bring it on - destroy it all" comments I see from some posters on this site no?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:02 | 2939387 Oldwood
Oldwood's picture

why does progress mean going back to stuff we abandoned fifty or more years ago. are we going to steam power as well?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:13 | 2939414 jusman
jusman's picture

Perhaps we will develop high-efficiency electric vehicles with associated infrastructure and computer/GPS controlled cars to allow packing them in on overloaded freeways? (And hope all that computer control doesn't fail)? And think WHY it was abandoned 50 years ago?  Perhaps because governments did not wish to invest in infrastructure?  Cheaper to let everyone buy their own vehicle?  Less cost in developing suburbs with white picket fences?  I do agree some initiatives are a little misplaced (for example building bike lanes all over Montreal when winter kind of discourages their use 6 months of the year).  But can you not accept that the days of cheap fuel are over?  And if that is the case, then should there not be a gradual evolution to more efficient modes of transport?


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:31 | 2939458 Ident 7777 economy
Ident 7777 economy's picture


" Perhaps because governments did not wish to invest in infrastructure?  "


Total fail; what's the cost of two to four-lane (each direction) limited-access 'super' highway again (compare that to simple railroad roadbed)?


There was a paradigm shift, dontcha know ...

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:55 | 2939520 jusman
jusman's picture

OK so they perhaps did not invest in the right kind of infrastructure?  It made sense (as the article states) with the distances and cheap gas.  Less sense today in certain densely populated parts of the country.  Yes, there was a paradigm shift...and it continues to shift.  

Besides, do keep in mind that the TGV rail beds are NOT so cheap given all the bridges/underpasses that need to be constructed to deal with 200 MPH trains, plus electrification of the lines.  So I am not so sure that the rail lines, if they are designed for high speed, are really that much cheaper.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 06:52 | 2940388 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

Back before the banks owned the government, General Motors had their hands on the wheel.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:53 | 2939509 Oldwood
Oldwood's picture

And who's money is it that the government is spending on these rail projects? And when was it that they decided they didn't want to spend it? And how is rail less of a centralized government controlled industry? The road to hell is paved with supposed government efficiency. Sorry to be so cynical but I don't trust this government to fill a pot hole without robbing me in the proccess.


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 23:35 | 2939989 thomasincincy
thomasincincy's picture

you're right, they haven't done shit right for a looong time. who thinks any of this will change with this fucked up government...not me. pisses me off, but am wasting my breath. turn off the tv and forget about it

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:53 | 2939691 DaveA
DaveA's picture

In the old days, socialists promised prosperity for the working man. Today they promise "sustainability", which is another word for poverty. If you can't deliver the goods, deliver something bad and call it a good.

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 01:05 | 2940102 Dr. Sandi
Dr. Sandi's picture

From what I'm watching here in the catbird seat to the End of Empire, I'm guessing that a LOT of us will be dreaming of good old steam power 20 years from now.

But don't let me throw stinky old reality into those final pleasure trips down de Nile.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:23 | 2939437 guinea
guinea's picture

Any money you save in fuel costs will be wiped out in increased real estate costs in urban housing with mass transit access and decent schools. 

I know market forces are a foreign concept to socialists and their pet trains. 

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:43 | 2939352 DaveA
DaveA's picture

Socialists never tire of predicting that we'll all have to give up our cars, abandon the suburbs, move into urban high-rises served by buses and light rail, and pay high taxes for public schools that we wouldn't dare send our own kids to. It's not going to happen. To quote P. J. O'Rourke:

"But cars didn't shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We're way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies, corrupt political machines, rampant criminality and the pointy-headed busybodies. Cars gave us our dragoons and hussars, lent us speed and mobility, let us scout the terrain and probe the enemy's lines. And thanks to our cars, when we lost the cities we weren't forced to surrender, we were able to retreat."

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:05 | 2939396 patb
patb's picture

well the war has been mostly won.  


School are getting fixed, and the Suburbs determined they needed rules, to prevent people from being jerks.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:28 | 2939440 guinea
guinea's picture

Exactly...  the urban highrises with convenient mass transit access and decent schools will skyrocket in price (offsetting any fuel savings), benefiting only a group of rent seekers.  Everyone else, including the renters who make up the majority of our urbans cities, is still screwed.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:33 | 2939463 Ident 7777 economy
Ident 7777 economy's picture


"But cars didn't shape our existence; cars let us escape with our lives. We're way the heck out here in Valley Bottom Heights and Trout Antler Estates because we were at war with the cities. We fought rotten public schools, idiot municipal bureaucracies ... "



Fri, 11/02/2012 - 04:06 | 2940267 Ghordius
Ghordius's picture

"...because we were at war with the cities..." Bingo! That's the juice in most comments here. Those who have a good experience with cities seem to favour public transport and those who have a bad experience with cities seem to favour cars and planes.

It has a lot to do with population densities and their effects.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 19:54 | 2939372 Invisible Hand
Invisible Hand's picture

Something that is never mentioned in the loving references to the European rail system: it is good at moving people but terrible at moving freight.

Which makes more sense, to move a people on your railroads or to move bulk goods on your railroads?  As noted in this article, it is difficult (or impossible) to do both.

In Europe, virtually all frieght is moved by truck.  Not very efficient, nein?

Combine that with the distances in Europe being so much less (large countries in Europe are the size of medium US states) and trains don't work as well here except between large urban centers on the east and west coasts.

Except...trains can't break even on their operating costs, much less pay back the investment.  For example, one pundit calculated that to pay for itself the high speed rail line in California would require two trains each way every day that were filled to capacity and 200 miles long (the trains, not the tracks).

Trains are an excellent idea for frieght and I would support higher road taxes for 18 wheelers to get more frieght off the roads and onto trains (especially since almost all the damage done to roads by traffic is from these trucks) leaving smoother and safer roads to cars.

Maybe the Europeans should come to the US and see how efficiently freight can be moved...on trains.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:06 | 2939554 Tijuana Donkey Show
Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

Yes, but Europe is 1/2 the size of the USA, so the math on frieght savings via train make more sense in the US vs Europe. Most of the larger US states are bigger than entire nations in Europe, so rail makes more sense. Second, the US has the space to create rail facilites, where anything in Europe is trying to build around 1000+ years of history. 

Fri, 11/02/2012 - 03:12 | 2939662 Zero Govt
Zero Govt's picture

Invisible,  "I would support higher road taxes for 18 wheelers to get more frieght off the roads and onto trains ...leaving smoother and safer roads to cars."

You're kidding about wanting more road taxes right?

Out of every £8 thieved by UK Govt in car duties/taxes just over £1 (only) is reinvested in roads. We're paying nearly 8x too much road tax already, in fact the name 'road tax' is a criminal fraud in itself.

Part of the rest is pissed away propping up bankrupt rail and bus transport, because they cannot stand on their own 2 feet. They are both minority transport systems, compared to cars the numbers are pitiful

If you ever get a business understand you back productivity and success, sectors that pay their way, and you drop losers. That way you strengthen what is growing and don't waste time money and effort on losers (chasing losses)

That's what Govt does, that's what trains, tubes, trams and buses are, a total waste of everyones time, malinvestment writ large, and sucking resources from backing the winners (cars and aeroplanes).

Our roads are in shit state because the village idiots (politicos) have wasted £$€Billions o crap elsewhere. You'll get massively better roads when these morons get out of meddling and fucking up our transport

the free market (enterprise and consumers) always make better decisions than Govt ...see teh East German car market under Communism compared to the Western European car market ...a sorry backward joke versus explosive creativity and progress ...consumers forced to swallow a piece of junk versus consumers enjoying the pleasure of choosing between a range of modern cars on offer with an options list as long as a Richie Blackmore guitar solo

get the f'ing Govt out of meddling in every sector, not just transport which they've made a pigs ear of as always ...the Free Market beats any other system tried by miles

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:03 | 2939390 Manny
Manny's picture

So many negative reviews and yet the number of people carried have gone up 49% over the last decade!

Go figure!


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:03 | 2939541 Oldwood
Oldwood's picture

With your mastery of statistics, you should also be trumpeting the massive increase in new home sales or improvement of unemployment numbers. Who knows, maybe if we get everybody to drop out of the labor market we can get that unemployment number down to 4%. Passenger rail loses tons of money even with government support. It shouldn't be too tough improving those numbers. I live in Texas and there isn't enough trains or tracks in the world to get everyone from their home to their work, at least not in an eight hour day. And I'm not going to live in a chicken coupe just to satisfy my government's desire to keep me firmly under their thumb.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:03 | 2939393 ThisIsBob
ThisIsBob's picture

That part of the country, once you get off the train you're going to need a car.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:10 | 2939409 Herodotus
Herodotus's picture

Union Pacific highballing it across the country.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:18 | 2939427 Bobportlandor
Bobportlandor's picture

It would make much more sense to promote smaller cities (where people work and live) connected by rail to each other.

With home to work of one or two miles all sorts of problems could be solved.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:19 | 2939429 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture

Transport oil use UK Y2011 MTO (final consumption)

Total : 53,698

Road : 38,646

Air :     12,802

national nav. : 1,597

Rail : 652 +349 elec MTOE : total 1012 MTOE



Between 1970 and 2011 rail was the only transport type in the UK to reduce its energy use despite the fact it carries more passengers then ever in its history including the troop movements of the Great , second & Suez war (although it carries less freight ,now mainly coal.)

Air transport energy use has more then tripled (so much for those new frugal turboprops) from a 3,869 MTO base in 1970.

Road transport energy use has increased 86% from a 21,409 MTO base in 1970

Rail transport energy use has declined 37 % from a 1,611 MTO base in 1970.

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:30 | 2939444 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

What exactly are you implying THE DORK OF CORK  ?

 If rail is so profitable,then where are the [procedes/revenue] flowing?  tips to porters & conductors?

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 20:40 | 2939465 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture

The point of the article was that it redirects capital / oil so that it can be wasted somewhere else.

 A half full train with high ticket prices showing a profit is worse then a full train with cheap ticket prices showing a paper loss as trains need to be full to save fuel / capital.


However if you want private trains to show paper profits you can do the UK model where the private companies only spend capital money on rail coaches and the fiscal authority spends money on the rail track bed ,signals etc.....


I prefer the French model where gasoline consumption is tanking but diesel consumption is kept high via the act of building new rail / tram lines.

The current french rail capital spend is something like their Nuclear capital spend of the 70s ,80s..........

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:03 | 2939542 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 So your chart, gross tonnage means that it's more efficent to ship "goods & services" via rail transport?

 [ I'm not messing with ya. I'm trying to prove a point.]

Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:21 | 2939588 THE DORK OF CORK
THE DORK OF CORK's picture


That charts merely show simple oil use by transport type.

Rail Passenger numbers are well past all records although rail freight has collapsed since 2008 , although they have picked up again recently as the UK grid has switched back to coal from gas this past year.

I can give you the numbers later but they require some digging in my files.


PS ....the Brit rail model is not something to aim for - it is reaching capacity limits on many lines because of a lack of fiscal investment in rail lines.

“The proposal to reinstate the line is considered in the Draft Lancashire and Cumbria Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) from Network Rail. The RUS contains a number of statements recognising the potential value of services which could be run on the reinstated line and calls for the alignment to be protected.[5]
Network Rail has, however, stated that it will not be able to fund the construction work[6] which in 2008 was stated to cost £43 million for a single-track line or £81 million for a double-track line,[7] even though it supports the plans.[6] SELRAP are hoping to raise money from other sources, including the Regional Growth Fund”

Direct from ORR

“Government subsidy towards the railway industry in 2011-12 was £3,901 million (£3.9 billion), this is £59 million lower than the previous year.

2). Government support reached its peak in 2006-07 with £6,308 million; government support has declined every year since.”

The lines to the south are now reaching capacity limits because of a lack of fiscal money as passenger numbers keep increasing.

Don’t believe the spin.
This is not the greatest investment in the rail system since the victorian era – not in real terms at least.

Much more real British resourses go into high powered 4 wheel drives.

To compare british private investment in rail capital during Y2011 /12 was £503 million of which £369 million was rolling stock.

So £2.4 Billion ~ less spending then in the peak of 2007.
Thats 55~ of the above projects.


Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:27 | 2939613 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

 Based on your timeline explanation.

We are probably on the same " Monopoly", Reading Rail-Road into "Rod Serlings" Twilight Zone.  { English Style. }

     I'll look forward to those #'s, "for the fun of it" :-)

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