Monday, February 2, 2009

The Democrat Train to Nowhere

On Friday I had a post about Rep. Kraig Paulsen wanting the state to disappropriate some $300k for an Amtrak station in Dubuque, Murphy’s home town which doesn’t even have Amtrak service. Then today the trusty Krusty research staff reminded me that some Iowa Dems think that the economic stimulus plan currently being considered by Congress provides an “incredible opportunity to build a modern regional passenger rail network.” Their words, not mine.

I seriously doubt we are going to see the revival of train travel in this country.

Lets say that I’m a big Steelers fan and want to go to Pittsburgh to celebrate their 6th championship. I could travel there one way for $142.00. Below is my itinerary:

Osceola to Chicago - Board at 8:40 a.m. Arrive in Chicago at 3:50 p.m. (7 hours 10 minutes)
Chicago to Pittsburgh – Board at 7:05 p.m. Arrive in Pittsburgh at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow. (9 hours, 25 minutes)

That’s almost 24 hours to get to Pittsburgh. Or I could fly for $400 bucks round trip and get their in five hours. Now I know some liberal is going to come on here and tell me that $116 is a lot of money in this economy. But one also needs to consider how much longer you would need to miss work if you opted for the train.

Our society is never going to embrace something as slow as train travel. Our society values freedom, and instant gratification, meaning if I was going to take that trip, I’d fly, probably rent a car so I didn’t need to depend on public transportation, and most likely drive through a McDonalds for a meal.

Train travel reached its height in 1916, but with the invention of the automobile on the 20s and 30s ridership declined. In the 40s the railroads saw its highest ridership as our soldiers were headed out to fight World War II. After the war however, ridership declines. It gets worse for the railroads in the 50s and 60s as the first passenger planes take to the skies. In the late 60 the two major railroads merge, but just two short years later it too files bankruptcy.

What’s left for passenger rail service is Amtrak, a government owned entity. Amtrak employs 19,000 workers, and had an operating loss of $381.1 million in FY 2008. Yet our federal government wants to throw more and more money into it and Iowa Democrats are leading the way.

News Release
January 30, 2009

Contacts: Senator Daryl Beall, 515-573-7889 (Home); 515-570-0779 (Cell)
Senator Jack Kibbie, 712-852-4140 (Home); 712-260-2345 (Cell)
Representative Paul Bell,
Laura Kliewer, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, 630.925.1922


DES MOINES – Three members of the Iowa General Assembly joined colleagues throughout the Midwest today to urge federal lawmakers to invest significantly in intercity passenger rail in the economic stimulus plan working its way through the U.S. Congress.

State Senators Jack Kibbie and Daryl Beall and State Representative Paul Bell are Iowa’s legislatively-appointed members to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC), a 10-state coalition that advocates at the local, state and federal levels for passenger rail development. The MIPRC commissioners urged the public to contact their members of the U.S. House and Senate, urging support for an increase in funding for passenger rail.

"The economic stimulus plan currently being considered by Congress provides an incredible opportunity to build a modern regional passenger rail network that makes America and Iowa more energy-efficient, sustainable and prosperous, while at the same time putting more Iowans and Americans to work," said Sen. Beall (D-Ft. Dodge), who serves as MIPRC’s financial officer.

Unfortunately, the first drafts of the federal stimulus plan miss the mark, the lawmakers said.
Wednesday night the U.S. House passed its stimulus plan, the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. The bill allocates only $1.1 billion to rail – $800 million to Amtrak and $300 million to state projects to improve intercity rail outside of Amtrak's capital needs. While investing in state projects is the best way to build up the Midwest’s intercity passenger rail network, $300 million is not nearly enough to build up intercity rail.

A much better proposal came from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which recommended a $5 billion total investment in rail: $3.4 billion for state passenger rail projects, $1.5 billion for Amtrak and $100 million for short line railroads.

"The best way to make sure our transportation investments meet our energy policy goals is to invest in intercity rail, said Senate President Jack Kibbie (D-Emmetsburg). "We cannot afford to miss this opportunity to create jobs that lead to long-term prosperity through better intercity rail that connects the Midwest."

Passenger rail is the most energy-efficient means to move people over medium distances (100–600 miles). Increased funding for states to plan, design and construct these interconnected passenger rail systems would bring tangible benefits to the Midwest, not only creating short- and long-term jobs, but building a new, efficient passenger rail system across the region.

Investing taxpayer money into the railroads is just ridiculous. I would suggest the next time Speaker Murphy, President Kibbie, or Sen. Beall or Bell need to travel to D.C. they hope on the train instead of that airplane. Maybe then they will stop wasting our money on foolish projects.


  1. Krusty, Krusty, Krusty.

    You're thinking in the past. High-speed is the future of rail travel in this country. Taking the high speed Acela train (which tilts, in order to run up to 150mph on existing track) one can leave Washington D.C. at 9:00 am and be in New York by noon. By some measures it's captured over half the market share of Northeast travelers.

    Build high speed from Chicago to Cleveland to Pittsburg (and on to Philadelphia and NYC) and you'd cut your travel time by half or more.

  2. hey nick err krusty

    why did you takek down all the research on rastetter/nick ryan/rants/kochel/shlinger/aff/iff/ipp/rastetters cozy business releationship with senator jack hatch in one of his tax funded real estate projecs/funding of democrats/and pro gay agenda?

    gee nick, why did you do that?

    rastetter has issues. he ain't gonna be gov.

  3. why did rastetter give chet $25,000? is he for us or against us? didn't you write a column about that?

    he gave money to harkin, amanda ragen, the democrat party and gov gronstal.

    is he for or against us, nick?

  4. The Democrats sure are scared. That's always a great sign for us!

  5. Just for fun I checked Greyhound's website and it would be a 19 hour trip from DSM to Pittsburgh, which I would consider shorter than the train especially when you take into account the hour it would take to drive from DSM to Osceola in the first place. It would also cost you $258 round trip, so it is cheaper as well. Sounds like a better option to me...

  6. So yesterday while I was trying to enjoy lead up to the Super Bowl I noticed my stat counter was out of whack for a weekend. It showed lots of hits, many more than a normal Saturday, but only a handful of unique visitors meaning my blog was getting spammed by someone.

    I tell you this is the one thing that I just cannot stand. If you want to go on a crusade against someone go start your own blog, don’t use mine. I realize the reason some people opt to attack people on my site is because of the attention they can create. If you have an idea for a story please send it to me. Don’t anonymously hijack something I spent time writing to slander a few people you don’t like.

    I know that some people disagree with some of my posts that I write. That’s fine and I expect that to happen. I ask fair questions, sure they can be tough but I believe they are also appropriate. For the most part things have been going pretty well here lately, but once again a few people have to ruin a good thing.

  7. WOW! You posted info on a Amtrak trip from Osceola to Pittsburgh. I've actually taken that trip myself.

    Fall of '05, when the ISU football team played Army at West Point, I drove my motorcycle out to watch the game. Unfortunately, I threw a rod just outside State College, PA, and had to finish the trip with a rental car. The bike broke down late Thursday night, and the rental car had to be back to the State College airport by Saturday night, so I was screwed on how to get home, since an airline ticket from State College to Des Moines was somewhere around $900 on Travelocity.

    I finally McGuyvered together a plan where I would get a one-way rental from State College to Pittsburgh Saturday night, then see if I could get a reasonable ticket for a flight to Des Moines or Chicago from Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, when I got to the airport early Sunday morning, I was SOL on flights. I had a cabbie take me downtown to the Amtrak Station. My choices at this point were to take the train, which left Pittsburgh at around midnight on Sunday, was supposed to get into Chicago Monday at 10am, and then transfer to the California Zephyr which would arrive at Osceola by 8pm Monday night - OR take a Greyhound leaving Pittsburgh at 3pm on Sunday and arriving in Des Moines around 5pm on Monday. The two tickets were within $20 of each other (I think the train ended up costing me about $225 or something like that), BUT the thought of sitting on a bus for 26 hours convinced me that Russ would kill someone by the time Russ got to DSM.

    I rather enjoyed the train trip, with one big reservation - NEVER count on Amtrak being on time. We were 2 hours late leaving Pittsburgh, and we ended up sitting on sidings for hours in Indiana waiting for freight trains to go by. This was the weekend that Hurricane Rita hit the Houston area, and all the rail traffic had re-routed to the northern lines to avoid getting stranded in the storm. Big problem, since Amtrak doesn't own any of the rail lines, and they HAVE to yield the right-of-way to freight traffic. We were so late getting into Chicago that I damn near missed the train going West, and if you miss the Westbound Amtrak out of Chicago, you're screwed for 24 hours, since the train only runs once a day. I just barely had time to get my bags and make it to the Zephyr in time to leave.

    To make a long story short: Traveling by rail is not a bad option, if you've got plenty of time to make the trip. For most people, who can't afford to take that much time off work, the cost savings on the tickets will more than be offset by additional time it takes to make the trip.