News & Commentary

The Little Train That Did

A Record Breaking Year for the Downeaster

by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator “Well I'm on the Downeaster Alexa” - Billy Joel Wrong type of transportation, Piano Man. Okay. I promise this won’t be the pop culture romp that last week’s blog was. Last Friday, council member Wayne Davis and TrainRiders/Northeast held their 30th Annual Meeting in Portland, Maine to celebrate the 17th Birthday of the famed Downeaster service. I joined Bruce Becker, Vice Chair Tom Girsch, council members Steve Musen, Andy Cabal &


by Carolyn Cokley, Director Customer Programs Synergy is defined as the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something neither one could have achieved on its own. It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In the spirit of the year end, RPA staff took some well-deserved time this week to share a meal together and enjoy each other’s company outside of the office. The conversation started with the events of the day and general Washin

Contemporary Dining

Does Amtrak Deliver What It Advertises?

By Bruce Becker, Rail Passengers Association The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘contemporary’ as: ‘marked by characteristics of the present period’. So how does Amtrak’s use of the words ‘contemporary’ and ‘dining’ stand up to this definition? This past weekend I rode the Lake Shore Limited from Boston to Buffalo in a roomette and had the opportunity to see for myself. Lunch was served to the sleeping car passengers about 45 minutes after leaving Boston, with the availa

Why Rural America Needs Passenger Trains

What the Brookings Institute's recent report "Why Rural America Needs Cities" means for passenger trains

Abe Zumwalt, Rail Passengers Riding the train clear across the American countryside is very distinct from driving across on the interstates. On the highways, the same national chains hinging off of massive cloverleafs all over the country make for town centers, strip mining money away from local economies. “Town centers,” that have in turn effectively replaced the hundreds of now derelict local main streets one sees if you were to choose the state routes instead. In contrast, taking the tr

What's 58 Years of Amtrak Funding Worth?

by Sean Jeans-Gail In a disappointingly predictable move, the Congressional Budget Office has released a report on options for reducing the budget over the next ten years that identifies the elimination of Amtrak and the Federal Transit Administration. Clearly, this document was drafted as a mental exercise in deficit-trimming and will have no real impact on Congressional decision-making. Still, it’s an impressively tone-deaf recommendation, coming as it does when the average American’s com

“If You Build It, They Will Come”

"Shoeless" Joe Takes The Train

by Joe Aiello | Northeast Field Coordinator “Hey… Dad? Wanna have a catch?” Who doesn’t love Field of Dreams? That scene gets me every time. I can just THINK of that scene and I get misty eyed. …….. Sorry. We are here to talk about trains and not emotional Kevin Costner movies from the 1990s (we can save that for a later blog). Back in October, Abe & I had the opportunity to head to New Haven, CT and take a tour of the new Hartford Line and to see some of the development

A Little Recognition Goes a Long Way

By Carolyn Cokley, Rail Passengers Association Employee recognition is defined as the timely, informal or formal acknowledgement of a person’s or team’s behavior, effort or business result that supports the organization’s goals and values, and which has clearly been beyond normal expectations. When employees and their work are valued, their satisfaction and productivity rises, and they are motivated to maintain or improve their good work. I hear from members all the time offering feedbac

Dear MassDOT: What Are You Waiting For?

by Jim Mathews, President & CEO, Rail Passengers Association My week began with a plea for some action – finally! – on the vitally important North-South Rail Link project in Boston. On Monday night, I joined former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in Boston to testify at a MassDOT public-comment session, and added Rail Passengers’ voice to others who questioned the latest, $17 billion, estimate for the project offered by MassDOT and its consultants, ARUP. The biggest flaw, in my

BNSF Tells-All!

How Wall Street is making passenger trains late, what private railroads like about Amtrak, and more from BNSF CEO Matt Rose

Abe Zumwalt, Rail Passengers Association Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is defined as a class I railroad, operating around 32,000 miles of track across the American West. If you’ve ridden the Empire Builder, Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, or any number of services in Washington State, clear across to Illinois or Texas, you’ve ridden on BNSF tracks. Though they bear resemblance to the other four Class I railroads operating in the United States, there is one crucial difference: BNSF w

A Soul-Crushing Vision for American Commuters

by Sean Jeans-Gail, Rail Passengers I had the opportunity to speak at a meeting held by All Aboard Arizona this weekend, updating them on the work Rail Passengers is doing to prepare for next years’ surface transportation reauthorization in Congress. It’s a tough subject matter to give a presentation on, frankly—dense with policy jargon, discussions of the structure of federal agencies and programs, and scores of acronyms. But it’s an important topic to educate advocates on, because th