Looks Like the X Train Is Dead

Nov 15th, 2013 | Posted by

Bad news for people who wanted to get their party on before they crossed the Nevada state line: the proposed X Train appears to be dead:

A group hoping to start running an adults-only “party train” between Southern California and the Las Vegas area said the deal has gone off the tracks.

Las Vegas Railway Express had planned to shuttle partiers from an Amtrak station in Fullerton, Calif., to the heart of Sin City in a club on wheels called the X Train.

A year-old agreement with Union Pacific allowed the company to use a rail line that’s currently limited to freight trains and hasn’t served a passenger line since Amtrak discontinued its Desert Wind service in 1997 due to low ridership.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Tuesday, Railway Express officials disclosed that the Union Pacific deal had fallen apart, and Union Pacific would be keeping the company’s $600,000 deposit.

The company painted a grim picture in its filing, though it insisted the project remains viable.

Railway Express said it still needs to raise $1 million for the California-Vegas route and added, “there is no assurance such funding will be available on terms acceptable to the company, or at all.”

The article doesn’t explain why exactly the deal with UP fell apart, but if their goal was to raise $1 million to begin service, losing the $600,000 deposit is a big blow. It’s hard to see how the X Train will find the funding it needs to begin service, especially without a deal with UP.

I doubt that many readers of this site will lament the X Train’s demise. Yonah Freemark of The Transport Politic explained this news as Nonsense party train from CA to Las Vegas collapses on the weight of its own absurdity. Few will argue that a party train from Fullerton to Las Vegas is a high priority for passenger rail in America.

I’ve always been more open to the idea. Anything that builds public support for more passenger trains is a good thing, and LA-Vegas is a strong candidate for passenger rail given the convenience of trains and the inconvenience of driving. The X Train might have attracted a lot of riders who don’t normally take trains and who would have evangelized the benefits of passenger rail to their friends. Of course, it could just as easily have been a bust.

Of greater significance is the fact that this is another example of just how difficult it is for the private sector to fund passenger rail. Government has to take the lead in order to make it happen, just as government has done with every other form of transportation in this country. There’s no way that a party train to Vegas counts as a priority for any government. But a high speed rail link from LA to Vegas, as part of a national HSR network, is still a very good idea.

  1. Mattie F.
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 00:33

    How the hell do you lose a $600,000 deposit on a sub-$2-million deal? And what morons would agree to terms where such a loss would be possible in the first place?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    $600,000 deposit on the agreement which required them to pay $56 million for track improvements, they lost it when they failed to raise and pay $26 million back in March. They also needed a total of $150 million by the end of the year in order to launch service.

    This isn’t an example of “how difficult it is for the private sector to find passenger rail.” This is a case of “obvious fraud is obvious” and the fact that Robert was supportive of them, simply because they went LOL TRAIN” is a bad reflection on him. Due diligence is a necessary thing in supporting projects lest one lose all credibility.

    Donk Reply:

    I agree that the project was a joke, but why was it a fraud? Fraud implies that they were trying to rip somebody off.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:


    Paul Druce Reply:

    Defraud the investors.

    joe Reply:

    Pretty strong statement. What if you’re comments are ever taken seriously?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    I’ve made those comments for quite some time. They do have the defense of “We are the world’s most incompetent businessmen” available to them though. Not sure how much they’d like to go for it though.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    The X Train was probably an attempt by the Union Pacific to undercut ridership projections for Desert Xpress and hinder the use of the ROW between Victorville and Las Vegas.

    These “sham” business plans are really just counter-feints between the bigger power brokers.

    jonathan Reply:

    Ted., that conspiracy-theory is … worthy of Synon!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    There’s a basic principle that you don’t seem to understand:

    In economics, the number of firms that can preserve competition is usually about three or four. In the case of the Class I Railroad’s there are four major ones and each of them has a different attitude toward HSR. The UP, which is the most hostile, would be willing to undercut their main rival, BNSF, which is owned by Warren Buffett and pro-HSR.

    The thing people realize is that government only gets into rail when it’s no longer profitable to do so. If a project, Desert Xpress, CAHSR, etc, appears to tip the balance toward one company or another, that is when firms will step in and try to kill it.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It is difficult to picture the class ones as terribly conspiratorial in these times, especially put up against, say the highway lobby. Maybe in the 19th century glory days of monopoly, but that is long past.

    Would the government oppose further merger of the current big four? Probably, but then it all depends in the end on economics. Big difference between hard times and flush times. If money got really tight for capital improvements and maintenance I could see the emergence of regional rr’s. The government might not like it and it flies in the face of competition and anti-trust but operationally it might be rational.

    In other words BNSF gets the northern tier and the UP the southern tier. UP gets the Transcon in return for BNSF getting a chunk of the east, say the old NYC. Pretty wild, but I doubt things will remain totally static over the long run. Maybe 4 will become 2.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    None of the class Is or IIs carry passengers. They may contract operations for third parties but they don’t run passenger trains. Saying that they care about passenger traffic is like saying UPS and FedEx care about what Delta and United are up to.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    New track opens the door to that track being used for something other than passengers. That’s what you are missing. The minute that someone figures out what cargo is viable to be shipped by HSR, there’s going to be a huge upheaval in the freight business.

    The Class I’s are effectively regionalized without having a true monopoly because of the problems that would create. But what could happen, indeed what I think does happen is regional air travel monopolies that merge with HSR and other businesses that mimic the sort of footprint SP had a 120 years ago.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a zaibatsu type firm that owns subsidiaries across the service sector: banking, travel, grocery, telecom within a particular region of the country. It might seem ridiculous now, I think it’s the future.

    synonymouse Reply:

    If a whole lot of container traffic moved to the Gulf ports with the Panama Canal upgrade that could affect the rr’s quite a bit. I suspect there are a number of shippers who would love to tell the ILWU in Long Beach and San Pedro where to get off. The Pacific coast ports would be reduced to the cargo destined for the west.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The minute that someone figures out what cargo is viable to be shipped by HSR, there’s going to be a huge upheaval in the freight business.

    No there won’t, they figured that out when the DC3 became common. The USPS, FedEx UPS etc have it down to a fine art.

    jonathan Reply:


    There’s a basic principle that you don’t seem to understand:

    You really should get over yourself. Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean they fail to understand something.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Obviously, I have been posting here too long.

    Given all the megalomania and condescending comments from critics and supporters, I guess now I sound like one of them too….

    joe Reply:

    And your defense would be…?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    That it is an honest and valid opinion covered under First Amendment rights.

  2. 202_cyclist
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 06:37

    This seemed like a scam since the beginning. This shouldn’t surprise anyone,

  3. jimsf
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 07:40

    All the private attempts at rail service seem to fail. What happened to american orient express?

    Charters do well. The reno fun/snow trains have been running for like 50 years successfully.

  4. trentbridge
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 08:09

    If you read the press release from XTRN and not the article, you’d see that XTRN has adopted a far superior, more viable business plan than the original Desert Express idea. Instead of financing track/station improvements on the OC to LV line, they’ve decided to add their refurbished rail cars – as PRIVATE rail cars to existing Amtrak commuter trains. This will bring in revenue far faster than developing an entire new train.

    How well would a first-class private rail car do attached to a Capitol Corridor train?

    I am happy that the management of XTRN realized that the financing for the original idea wasn’t there and switched to a more feasible venture.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    that might be viable. Amtrak doesn’t go to Las Vegas so that sorta puts a damper on their plans

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Trentbridge, what is an “Amtrak commuter train?” Amtrak is prohibited by law from running commuter trains, except as a contract operator for another agency.
    Others have tried to make a business out of scheduled private cars on Amtrak services. It has usually ended in tears before bed time. I would think that a private first class car on a Capitol Corridor train would have to be push-pull compatible, and there are limited facilities for switching cars on and off trains. This company won’t last, they’re clutching at straws.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Maybe they are clutching at “lets make this look good before our investors look at our books and see that our real purpose was to grift investors” ? Or “lets see how much longer we can grift investors”?

    joe Reply:

    “Amtrak commuter train?”

    The extension of the Capital Corridor from San Jose to Salinas would be an example of commuter service. They even call it that and I also consider the service between oakland/sanjose and Sacramento commuter service.


    Presently there is a Bus, the 55 by MST which accepts riders not using Amtrak.

    Since August 2006, Monterey-Salinas Transit has operated express bus service (Route 55) from Monterey to San Jose. The bus service is part of the Amtrak Thruway system (although it can accept riders won’t be transferring to Amtrak) and has timed connections with the Capitol Corridor.

    jonathan Reply:

    Joe, that’s the pot calling the kettle black.

    Adirondacker is no more erroneous your claim to have “Blue Shield/Blue Cross” insurance. In California, Blue Sheild and Blue Cross are separate entitles (the latter is Anthem).

    And at least Adirondacker has the excuse of being in a different state (if rather parochial about the fact).

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    You and others may call it “commuter” service. Commuter is one of those words that has (or at least had) a specific and even legal definition. It is often used by the ignorant and lazy when passenger or traveler would be more appropriate. True, some people “commute” on Amtrak trains, but said trains are defined as “intercity”, and this has implications for the way they are funded. So a passenger on a midday train from Oakland to Salinas is not a commuter, and they will be riding an intercity train.

    Joe Reply:

    Two trains in the AM north and two trains in the PM south.

    5am and 6AM birth from salinas are the proposed times.

    It’s not commuter even if they say it is and it runs at commute times.

    Almost exactly the time as Caltrain .

    Michael Reply:

    If I get on the road between 6 and 9 in the am to start a vacation, what difference does it make if I am a “commuter” or a “traveler”? I’m still on the road at a peak period. Should be the same on trains. You cannot tell me with a straight face that the 3-5 x/week passengers on the Capitols aren’t commuters.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I’m not saying they are not commuters. Read above carefully. “some people ‘commute’ on Amtrak trains” quoth I. I’m talking about legal definitions, and about lazy people using the term commuter for anyone that travels. The legal definitions are still important as there is a direct relationship between the type of service and the funds that are available from the feds, also how the class 1 railroads relate.

    Joe Reply:

    Monterey and Santa Clara county and Amtrak call the salinas extension “commuter service”.

    Joey Reply:

    Which is rather unfortunate, because running trains only in the peak direction is never going to get Michael ridership.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    really Joe? I’m reading the flyer Monterey produced.. “proposes to extend passenger service”, “extension of existing…intercity passenger rail service”…
    See Page 7 of July/August “Steel Wheels”.
    If Santa Clara County used the term they are quite wrong in doing so.

    joe Reply:

    Passenger service isn’t a contradiction – unless commuters are not passengers.


    Title of the PDF is?

    And we can find this…
    “If the Capitol Corridor were to operate the extension of service to Salinas, the time slots would be oriented to commuters coming from. Monterey County into the ….”

    Walks like a duck and quacks like a duck

    AM trains into San Jose and Pm trains back to Salinas.

    Joey Reply:

    AM trains into San Jose and Pm trains back to Salinas.

    And which train when your kid has a medical emergency and you need to come home from work early?

    joe Reply:

    You don’t.

    That’s the same for ACE and Caltrain south county and VTA express bus service — all operate during commute times.

    Joey Reply:

    Yes, and the lack of off peak service is a big reason why all of those services fail to get much ridership.

    joe Reply:

    Depends on what you mean by off peak. There off peak regular buses. I’d expand peak service first.
    A sudden sick kid is a problem but for us it’s rare – we make arrangements with friends.

    Adding express service at 8:15 would help. Grade school bell is 8:05.
    Last Caltrain leaves Gilroy at 7AM.
    VTA runs a bus which leaves less than 10 minutes after Caltrain’s 7 AM train and expresses to the san jose station. The last bus is 7:45

    An 8:15 departure means parents can send kids off to school at 8:00 and get a ride into work.

    Add a train that gets in at 5 and you can have a reliable pick up by the other parent.

    I’d push it back and run the last bus at 8:15, not 7:45, for the above reasons if caltrain didn’t.

    So spread out the service so one can get into work early and back early for pickup. The other parent can leave later and get home later.

    Joey Reply:

    My point was more general than just people with children – there are a very large number of reasons why any person might need to go into work late or leave early without knowing before hand. If you don’t have off-peak service you’re pushing away a lot of riders. Now, if there’s only money for two round trips per day then I guess there’s not much to do – ridership and seat occupancy are both going to suck.

    blankslate Reply:

    Any train that runs between Point A and Point B with one or more arrivals between about 7 to 10 am, and then runs between Point B and Point A with one or more departures between 3pm and 6 pm, and where Point A and Point B are closer than 2 hours apart, will end up primarily serving commuters at those times whether Congress wants it to or not.

  5. trentbridge
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 08:11

    “The Company has also identified several routes, currently served by Amtrak trains, which originate from a metropolitan area and have a segment of the route, which passes through another metropolitan area. The Company will construct its Club X cars for each route, which it will couple up to the Amtrak trains and will serve as a First Class option for current Amtrak travelers. The Company will pay a fee to Amtrak to haul the cars and to couple and uncouple them at the destinations. This is a common practice with Amtrak through its Private Car Group and requires no master agreement or agreements with railroad companies. The origination and destination stations along the various routes already exist, so the Company will not need to construct any station facilities in order to operate these routes. Operations on the first scheduled route, is planned to commence December 2, 2013. Subsequent routes will follow with a similar deployment format. We have acquired a series of 16 passenger railcars owned outright by the Company as well as two leased cars acquired through an agreement with Mid America leasing Company. These cars are planned for use in the deployment of cars on our routes.”

  6. synonymouse
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 11:09

    X Train is just another one of Sin City’s volatile fantasies. Vegas’ only brick and mortar transport accomplishment is the Monorail, an ongoing disappointment.

    Every city is putting up a casino – Boston the latest. The Vegas business model is superannuated and eventually they are going to run out of water.

    The really big story right now is the incredible incompetence of BART and its management model. It seems the more they pay their honchos the stupider they are. Guess they will try to pin their botch on the highly compensated outside negotiator. What a joke. On the public.

    PalmdaleRale will suffer from the same government owned and operated model, shafted with the same politicized management and board of directors and the same militant, coddled, spoiled brat but thoroughly connected unions. Abject recipe for failure under the provisos of Prop 1A and forever subsidies.

    They need to get back to a viable barebones starter that could be privately operated. Tejon for sure.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    yep, no reason to go to Macy*s when Walmart has the same stuff at lower prices. Or no reason to go to the mall when Kmart has the same stuff at lower prices. Or no reason to see a Broadway show when there’s Off Broadway. And no reason to go see Off Broadway since there is Off Off Broadway and no reason to see Off Off Broadway because the community theater is going to be doing West Side Story next season.
    And no reason to go to Las Vegas from Boston since the casino in Boston is going to have the same food, the same shows and lounging poolside in Massachusetts in January is just like lounging poolside in Las Vegas in January.
    No reason to go to Branson when the same shows are available locally. Branson doesn’t even have gambling.
    No reason to go to the chain restaurant that microwaves frozen food for you when you could just microwave it yourself at home.
    Those silly silly people who are making gobs of money at Macy*s, in Branson, with chain restaurants and Broadway should have asked you to tell them what a big failure it would be.

    flowmotion Reply:

    Syn still has a point — have you been to Reno lately? CA Indian casinos are killing the second-rate places in Nevada.

    The issue on the strip is more that the “whales” have started going to Macau instead.

  7. synonymouse
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 13:13

    The Vegas business model was predicated on gambling subventing amenities and and bankrolling bargains. The Nevada model similarly on gambling revenues keeping taxes artificially low. That era is past.

    The new casinos are signature and when there are enough together you have your new regional Vegas. Plus the locals will come to appreciate their money is staying in the area and paying for essentials they would otherwise have to tax for.

    What Nevada has that is harder to recreate is a real gaming commission and slot machines everywhere. Generally those machines in drugstores are tight but in-between you have the genuine local comfortable casino – like the Nugget in Carson, Cal-Neva in Reno or in a sortof way Montbleu in Tahoe. Loose machines, decent reasonable lunch, friendly atmosphere, walking distance. That’s gonna take a while in California because the tribes won’t like it.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Like Atlantic City made Las Vegas’ business from the Northeast dry up? Or opening the casinos in Connecticut made Atlantic City obsolete?

    synonymouse Reply:

    Las Vegas will hardly disappear, but its monopoly on gambling is over and with it the explosive growth that was catalyzed by very lucrative and ever-increasing gambling revenue.

    The hsr market in California is the Bay Area(Sac included) to the LA Basin-San Diego. If you deploy the most direct, the fastest route the travel times between some parts of both areas away from major airports will be faster than air. That is a plus that can be exploited. But you need private management to make it work. Forget detours and commute ops.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Climate change will do Las Vegas in-the snide techno libertarian optimism of the commentariat here notwithstanding.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    They have water and electricity on their doorstep, they just need an army to protect it. New role for mafia “soldiers”?

    Joe Reply:

    Rain much lately?

    We in CA have had the driest calendar year in recorded history. Between sea level rise and drought, we are just as vulnerable.

    Ted Judah Reply:


    You DO realize that San Jose gets less annual rainfall than Los Angeles and only a tad more than Las Vegas? You realize that the public agency fighting the hardest for the Peripheral Tunnel bond next year is the Santa Clara Valley Water District, not LADWP or San Diego’s water board?

    You realize that either way the commentariat here that lives in the South Bay is going to be paying very high rates for water, one way or the other in the near future?

    Las Vegas, on the other hand, has a huge lake to tap, they just don’t have the legal rights to do so. California has 40 million souls, but only we have two Senators. And no matter how much water we steal from Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, British Columbia…Alaska…etc… for the most part we rely on our own internal sources to do so….

    Admittedly, you must be wealthy enough to survive this dystopian future given that you can afford a glass house in Silicon Valley. I couldn’t even afford a garage there.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    If by “only a tad more than Las Vegas” you mean San Jose gets 400 mm a year and Las Vegas 100, then yes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Everything in California is special. Rain there is wetter than it is anyplace else.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Stop using metric units to trivialize the point:

    Las Vegas averages five inches of a year, San Jose and San Diego are like ten. East of the Mississippi, a dry year is anything below thirty.

    Dallas is going to run out of water before Las Vegas…

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Yeah, Alon should stop using the unit of measure common in the rest of the entire civilized world.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    According to WIkipedia Dallas averages 37.57 inches/954 mm a year. Three months of the year average more than San Jose gets in a year. Things grow in Dallas and they don’t need to be irrigated. The Red River, which forms the border between Texas and Oklahoma dumps more water into the Mississippi than the Colorado would if it wasn’t sucked dry by far away cities. Dallas isn’t going to have problems getting water.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    In inches, Vegas averages 4.2 per year and San Jose 15.8.

    Also, I’m not sure how much it matters for agriculture, but for natural tree growth, seasonality of precipitation matters. It’s better to have rain in winter and a drought in summer than to have drought in winter and rain in summer that would immediately evaporate. In the Köppen classification, relative to a dry-summer baseline, even precipitation incurs a 140 mm/year penalty and dry-winter precipitation incurs a 280 mm/year penalty when deciding if an area is arid or not. California and the Mediterranean have forests in areas with the same average temperature and rainfall as semi-arid areas in China.

    Jon Reply:

    Jesus fucking Christ, the rainfall value for San Jose is four times the value for Las Vegas regardless of whether you look at it in inches or mm.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I’m not sure where that measurement is taken. Rainfall is parts of the city are as low as 8 inches a year.

    None of this changes the fact that the Silicon Valley faction on this blog look absolutely ridiculous asserting they have less problems with water supply than typical whipping boy cities of Las Vegas and Phoenix.

    If you think the hysteria is bad now, just wait until the ads start for the 2014 Peripheral Canal bond….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The measurements for both cities are taken at the airport.

    And San Jose is cherrypicked to be in a local rain shadow. Oakland gets 600 mm, so about 6 times as much as Vegas. Santa Cruz gets 800 mm.

  8. trentbridge
    Nov 16th, 2013 at 18:18

    The best scams require large quantities of OPM – other people’s money – usually City, State or Federal funding/loans on a massive scale. America’s Cup, anyone? So a billionaire can race his yacht in the Bay? In the near universal condemnation of this LA-LV train, everyone forgets that this venture consumed zero tax-payers dollars. Focus on the folks spending your tax dollars not on the dreamers spending their own money.

    synonymouse Reply:

    That would be Harry Reid’s Deserted Xprss.

    Can’t we just all get along? SF-LA via Tejon.

  9. Donk
    Nov 17th, 2013 at 00:23

    Boltbus will now be serving the LAUS to Downtown San Diego route. This is in addition to Megabus.

    They have basically duplicated the service on the Surfliner, except that the intermediate stops are not made. Not sure how much this undercuts the Surfliner since most trips are not end to end. I don’t get why the heck they can’t have this service to Westwood or somewhere else in West LA, which you basically can’t get to if you don’t drive.


    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Most trips may not be end to end but its still a large percentage. This could take a meaningful slice out of Surfliner revenue. 50 minutes faster and half the price!

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Probably not.

    The only people who would pick this service are business travelers who need to hop down to SD for a business meeting/deposition/conference and come back. (Okay, well maybe not the only people…)

    But given traffic patterns and the Surfliner’s popularity during weekends and other times in which SD to LA can be a six hour drive…I think it’s much more possible that the fare structure of the buses could pose some problems for Surfliner’s attempt to charge more for certain times and dates, but revenue tied to ridership might not suffer at all.

    Kenny Reply:

    I’d have to look into it, but I can tell you that it’s unlikely that I’d switch from Amtrak to one of the buses for my San Diego travel. $37 is already pretty cheap, and it’s a whole lot more comfortable to sit in those spacious train seats than in the bus seats. That’s particularly important if I plan to get any work done, which I’d like to do on either a 2 hour or a 3 hour trip. I *might* switch if there’s a particularly convenient time of departure and arrival, but I think even a 2 hour trip is already going to count as a big enough disruption to my day that I’d focus on trying to make the trip productive rather than shortening the trip a bit.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I don’t get why the heck they can’t have this service to Westwood or somewhere else in West LA, which you basically can’t get to if you don’t drive.

    There would be a lawsuit.

  10. Amanda in the South Bay
    Nov 17th, 2013 at 07:52

    I can’t imagine anyone would want to be on a train for a couple of hours with a bunch of drunks-its like being on a Caltrain pre/post Giants game, except probably a lot worse. And probably with lots and lots of other illegal activities going on as well.

    EJ Reply:

    You should replace “anyone” with “I” – don’t worry, it’s a common mistake.

  11. Bill
    Nov 17th, 2013 at 15:11

    They should come up with a better name than “X Train” or “Desert Xpress”. It’s a potentially good idea that doesn’t even get far enough past the shitty title to be taken too seriously. “Yeah! Let’s take the X Train to Vegas this weekend!” Say that seriously five times…IMHO.

    Eric Reply:

    And nobody would ever use websites like Google or Yahoo or Bing. Their names are too silly.

    Bill Reply:

    Well in Google’s defense, nobody uses Yahoo or Bing. :p

  12. Derek
    Nov 17th, 2013 at 17:36

    Bill would eliminate federal transportation funding
    By Keith Laing, The Hill, 2013-11-15

    The measure, which has been dubbed the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA), would lower the gas tax that currently pays for most federal transportation projects from 18.4 cents-per-gallon to 3.7 cents in five years.

    During the same time period, the bill would transfer authority over federal highways and transit programs to states and replace current congressional appropriations with block grants.

    “Under the Transportation Empowerment Act, Americans would no longer have to send significant gas-tax revenue to Washington, where sticky-fingered politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists take their cut before sending it back with strings attached,” Lee said.

    “Instead, states and cities could plan, finance, and build better-designed and more affordable projects,” he continued. “Local communities should finally have the flexibility to develop the kind of transportation system they want, for less money, without politicians and special interests from other parts of the country telling them how, when, what, and where they should build.”

    Donk Reply:

    Sounds good to me. This is great if you are in a Blue state. Screw the Red states. As long as they maintain their highways and we maintain our National Park funding then I can keep on visiting their parks. That is the only thing Red states are good for.

    That and maybe decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.

    jimsf Reply:

    this actually sounds good.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    During the same time period, the bill would transfer authority over federal highways and transit programs to states and replace current congressional appropriations with block grants.

    No doubt allocated by route mile and not lane mile or population. Just another way to suck money from blue states and send it to red states.

    without politicians and special interests from other parts of the country telling them how, when, what, and where they should build.

    Code for “give us money for roads” without your pesky interference.

    jimsf Reply:

    Oh so in other words its not so much a benefit for blue states to avoid paying for red states road welfare programs, its really more of a way for red states to get around complying with federal mandates on things like environment etc.

    well. I guess if red states want to make themselves even more unattractive than they already are, go ahead and let them build whatever crap all willy nilly they want to.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It works until their pollution blows over to blue states. Sort of like how Singapore has strict pollution laws but they don’t mean shit if Singaporean magnates burn Indonesian forests whose smoke then blows over to Singapore and creates health hazards.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    During the Whitman Administration in New Jersey there was a big brouhaha over stricter testing for automobile exhaust emissions. One of the arguments against making them more stringent was that the machines were $10,000 and most repair shops wouldn’t be able to afford them. And if everyone in New Jersey stopping burning everything the air quality would still be bad. It drifts in from Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania starts off with low air quality because it drifts in from Ohio and on and on. The Whitman who said, months after she said the air was okay in Downtown Manhattan and was found out explained the air was good. It was the stuff floating in it that was bad.

    It’s gotten much better but lakes in Ontario and Quebec were dying, from acid rain, from coal burning power plants in the Midwest.

    Ten years of so ago I kept smelling burning wood. And the air was a bit hazy, like there was a house fire three blocks away. There was a forest fire. In Quebec.

    .. then there’s the Great Maple Syrup mystery. People in Manhattan and Queens were smelling maple syrup. It was a spice and herb processing plant in Teaneck processing fenugreek, which closely resembles maple.

    … Chernobyl was made public because workers at a nuclear plant in Sweden were setting off alarms as they entered the plant.

    It’s not just air. They can detect Scotchguard in animals in Greenland…..

    Derek Reply:

    The problem is that Republicans don’t believe in externalities.

    jimsf Reply:

    scotchguard in animals doesn’t sound too bad though. If I scothgaurded my pet would it be easier to clean? or would it leave less hair on the sofa?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    in animals not on animals. The only time it might help cleaning your pet is if you planned on scrubbing their kidney fat. Or washing their brains.

    joe Reply:

    They get handed federal transportation infrastructure and still get our money – a block grant – but no strings attached on how to spend it.

    I prefer cost sharing – States have to pay some fraction to get matching federal funds. They’re doing this with Amtrak. States are forced to pay 15% of Amtrak’s costs to keep their regional service.

    Red State IN is struggling to pay because they habitually complain about Amtrak losing money and now have to commit States funds to keep IN’s witin state service. CA and IL pay in it easily.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    States are forced to pay Amtrak’s costs on routes that are less than 750 miles long.
    Ridership in Virginia is much higher than expected and Virginia makes money on Amtrak service. Some say that is because of funky accounting but with the accounting Amtrak and the state agreed to Virginia makes money. The Keystones are close to breaking even and every once in a while the Chicago-St Louis route breaks even or makes money. Once they finish the current upgrades on Chicago-Detroit that will probably start making money. And the Northeast Corridor makes money. Again some say that’s because of funky accounting but by the accounting they use NEC services make money.

    TomA Reply:

    HOw very confederate (in case you didn’t know, the CSA Constitution differed from the US Constitution in a few key ways – one of which was forbidding federal funds for internal improvements except a few port related enhancements.)

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It also differed in having a single 6-year presidential term without the possibility of reelection. Does that make term limits Confederate?

    Eric M Reply:

    Or…..The gas tax collected in each state stays in each state and not sent to the federal government!!

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Then the stalwart Real Americans in the big empty spaces in red states would whine that gas is five bucks a gallon in their states but it’s only 3.25 in blue states.

  13. morris brown
    Nov 17th, 2013 at 17:56

    Amtrak Serving Free Wine to Steak Loses Millions on Food



    Of note:

    Rice Pilaf

    The latest audit shows Amtrak’s reported improvements in food and beverage finances are the result of transferring a portion of increased ticket revenue to food service accounts, Mica said in a statement.

    “The Amtrak Inspector General has confirmed that Amtrak cooked the books to cover up food service losses that now approach $1 billion,” Mica said.

    Michael Reply:

    See what the Swiss have…

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Yeah, I give them about two years, and then this will disappear. Point 1 is that the prices are way too high, considering that the Swiss travellers are not that much interested in huge fancy coffees (a simple “café crême” will now cost close to 6 dollars), and the fancy ones are beyond that. Also, there are opinions that the Espresso served in the regular restaurant cars is superior to the Starbucks brew, which means that they will avoid these cars (and maybe wait 30 minutes for the next train, having a good Espresso in the station or its vincinity, for half the price).

    BTW, another about 2-years stint happened about 20 years ago, when they had two restaurant cars for McDonalds…

    swing hanger Reply:

    Indeed. Starbucks is one of the last places a serious coffee drinker goes to for a simple cup of coffee, black. Here in Japan, airline company ANA offered inflight Starbucks coffee (at extra charge) for about a year. They switched back to complementary non-brand coffee, likely due to customer complaints.

    EJ Reply:

    Isn’t it just a promo? Nothing I’ve seen indicates this a long-term proposition. Starbucks is investing a lot to expand their European marketshare, since, by European standards, their coffee is garbage.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you are used to drinking instant, Starbucks is a revelation.

    EJ Reply:

    They don’t drink instant in Europe.

    swing hanger Reply:

    Which is a stark example of how once a cup of coffee either meant brown colored dishwater or a sour-tasting day-old concoction in most places. I admit Starbucks is a nice place to hang out due to its nice furniture, and is one of the few places that offer decaf in my corner of the world.

    jimsf Reply:

    Screw Mica. his little ideological rampage is so tired.

    Joey Reply:

    The quality of food on Amtrak is meh anyway. They should contract it out.

    jimsf Reply:

    joey, (R) Santa Barbara

    from NARP
    John Mica’s Circus Sideshow, Part ∞

    Details Published Date Written By Malcolm Kenton Category: Blog Print Email
    Rep. John Mica (R-FL) held yet another hearing this morning focusing on the financials of Amtrak’s food and beverage (F&B) service. NARP has never been shy to point out places where Amtrak could improve. But it’s time to restore a modicum of perspective to this whole process; Mica’s intense focus on this one aspect of Amtrak’s business is completely misdirected.

    Dining car on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief

    Asking Amtrak to treat its F&B—a mere 1.8% of all the costs Amtrak incurs, after factoring in a 65% cost-recovery rate—is like trying to balance the $1 trillion budget by focusing on Amtrak’s $1.4 billion annual grant—something Representative Mica is earnestly attempting to do, if you look at how much time he’s devoted to the subject.

    But even looking just at the balance sheet, Amtrak reduced its F&B loss by over 30% from 2006 to 2012.

    Here’s a fact: Amtrak would lose $93 million in ticket revenue if F&B were eliminated. Amtrak’s Chief of Customer Services Tom Hall testified that when the company switched from hot meals to a sandwich basket in Acela Express First Class, so many passengers switched to Business Class that the cost in reduced ticket revenues outweighed the food and beverage savings.

    It’s not as if Amtrak’s F&B cost structure is out of line with the rest of the travel industry. Airlines spent an average of $5.45 to $6.46 per passenger on F&B since 2008, during which time Amtrak spent an average of $6.95 per passenger, while providing a generally much higher-quality product. And the airlines’ figures don’t even include labor costs, which Amtrak’s figure does include.

    Mica suggests that Amtrak follow the example of the Alaska Railroad and Rocky Mountaineer, both tourist-oriented trains whose trips last 10 hours or fewer and don’t run overnight. Amtrak F&B employee Dwayne Bateman, who testified at today’s hearing on behalf of his union, said this makes no sense—F&B is a much more vital, yet more costly, part of overnight trips that can take as much as three days. Long-distance trains’ F&B employees work 16-hour days at minimum, or up to 46 hours in a 68-hour window. Even on the Northeast Corridor, a single café car employee’s shift lasts between 12 and 18 hours (two round-trips from Washington to Boston). Maine’s Downeaster, one of only two routes not to use Amtrak employees in the café car (the other, North Carolina’s Piedmonts, use vending machines) operates the café cars at a loss, and employees of F&B vendor Epicurean Feast make less and have poorer benefits than Amtrak employees in the same positions.

    Congressman Mica has belabored the point about Amtrak’s F&B service enough. He’s already won: the railroad has introduced a plan to eliminate food & beverage losses in the next five years. It’s time to stop trying to slice off pieces of America’s rail network, and start working to grow the network to meet surging passenger demand. After all, even Amtrak Inspector General Ted Alves, who’s report initially helped spark this tempest in a tea pot, was quick to point out that much of this positive trend arose from increased volume

    jimsf Reply:

    It’s not as if Amtrak’s F&B cost structure is out of line with the rest of the travel industry. Airlines spent an average of $5.45 to $6.46 per passenger on F&B since 2008, during which time Amtrak spent an average of $6.95 per passenger, while providing a generally much higher-quality product. And the airlines’ figures don’t even include labor costs, which Amtrak’s figure does include

    Joey Reply:

    You would label me a republican while knowing my (admittedly extreme) views on car travel, highway expansion, housing density, etc etc?

    Anyway, my point is that there’s no reason Amtrak should loose money on concessions, particularly given that they’re not handing things out for free like airlines. If they can improve the cost recovery on concessions themselves, then great (we’ll discuss quality of food another time), but if not then why does Amtrak need to be operating the dining car?

    jimsf Reply:

    Here’s a fact: Amtrak would lose $93 million in ticket revenue if F&B were eliminated. Amtrak’s Chief of Customer Services Tom Hall testified that when the company switched from hot meals to a sandwich basket in Acela Express First Class, so many passengers switched to Business Class that the cost in reduced ticket revenues outweighed the food and beverage savings

    Joey Reply:

    Remind me where in this conversation we discussed eliminating F&B?

    jimsf Reply:

    contracting it out didn’t work they tried that already. It did however temporarily take good paying jobs away from americans and replace them with crappy ones, which, is high on the republican to do list. And the truth is, that is all this is about. They don’t care one hoot about food cost one way or the other. This is about nothing more than trying to rid the country of organized labor in order to defund the democratic party so the republicans can win something. It has nothing to do with food or food cost its just a big fat pile of republican horse shit.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Uh, when did they try contracting it out? New York replaced nonexistent F&B service with contracted Subway.

    jimsf Reply:

    and thats when it didnt work.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Because of illegal union intimidation including threats of personal violence and the end result was no jobs for anyone since the F&B service had already been ended several months earlier.

    jimsf Reply:

    right. so some americans didn’t like it and it wound up not working.

    like i said. it didn’t work.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Just to make things explicitly clear: Are you actually supporting illegal actions by union members, including the threat of violence against Subway employees?

    joe Reply:

    Are you supporting illegal actions, including the threat of violence against union workers and riders of Amtrak?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Joe, while I appreciate your efforts to make yourself look like an idiot, they really aren’t necessary or appropriate here. The problem with the Subway vendors on the Empire Service were illegal acts by members of Amtrak unions including threats of personal violence delivered to Subway employees. There was nothing done by Subway or Amtrak to their riders or to the union workers.

    jimsf Reply:

    just to make things explicitly clear. I think you are full of. it.

    EJ Reply:

    So, if I read the article correctly, when meals are included in the ticket price (ie long distance sleepers), that counts as a loss for food service? Same thing when you get free wine in first or business class on regional trains? Then it’s meaningless to say whether food service makes a profit or a loss. Seems to me if anyone were really interested in getting to the bottom of this, vs just making a bullshit ideological point, it would be perfectly simple to credit the purchase value of anything given “free” to food service profits instead of ticket revenue.

  14. BMF of San Diego
    Nov 17th, 2013 at 18:13

    Not gonna happen? Wow. No surprise here.

  15. synonymouse
    Nov 18th, 2013 at 13:00

    Amalgamated calls BART incompetent:


    And indeed it is and, more importantly, it always will be to a lesser or greater degree because that is inherent in a politicized government owned and run operation. Ditto for Muni. Sadly Jerry is fully intending to impose the same management model on CAHSR with the same pathetic results inevitable.

    Real question of the day is whether the Judge in Kopp’s lawsuit will bend over for Jerry or somehow move to constrain the PB-Tutor juggernaut. It could come fairly soon if he wanted to get it out of the way before the Thanksgiving holiday. But in truth and reality the only way the CHSRA could be meaningfully reformed would be for the current heads and PB to go. Ain’t gonna happen.

    But I wonder if the Feds have any idea of what a nowhere to nowhere turkey they are getting for their money. They would have been better off with an hsr starter or demo in Fla. or Texas. California is just too corrupt, and that is saying something when you are comparing to those two.

    Reedman Reply:

    A reminder that AC Transit is operating without a contract, in the middle of a Brown-mandated 60 day cooling off period. AC Transit workers have already rejected proposed contracts.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The Federal Government wanted to build a line in Florida. Florida turned it down.

    synonymouse Reply:

    En revanche, the Feds should have turned down the non-viable Tehachapi detour and sent PB back to the drawing board.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I mean the Feds turned down Deserted Xprss; why are they so blind as to the DogLeg. When the only professional on board at ChSRA blew the whistle and got fired for it? Does anybody ever audit DOT?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Getting difficult to keep track of the conspiracy theories is it?
    To turn down a project they have to be asked to fund it. They haven’t been asked to fund south of Bakersfield yet.

  16. joe
    Nov 18th, 2013 at 18:44

    Free Maglev.

    To interest lawmakers and investors in the United States in the Japanese technology, Japan has offered to cover several billion dollars in costs. The commitment of Japanese taxpayer money is a sign of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to do whatever it takes to prime the Japanese economy and to restore Japan’s fading reputation for technological prowess.

    To get the American line off the ground, Japan has come up with a method of financing that is similarly novel. In a meeting with President Obama last winter, Mr. Abe offered to provide the maglev guideway and propulsion system free for the first portion of the line, linking Washington and Baltimore via Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a distance of about 40 miles.

  17. jimsf
    Nov 19th, 2013 at 09:58

    really pleasant trip on the san Joaquin this morning. I don’t ride the train much but compared to my current daily 184 mile Rt commute..this sure beats driving the 99. we just need more departures

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