Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Oct. 19

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the library’s blog.


Ridership on the upswing but Amtrak still can’t cut its losses. So what’s the problem? (Wall Street Journal)

Amtrak announced last week that it carried a record 30 million passengers last year. A banner year on its 40th anniversary of government ownership, right? Maybe not. It lost a near-record amount of money in fiscal 2011, with some $560 million from the feds required to cover its operating deficit. Why?

The next mass transit? (Wired Autopia)

Although it’s a promotional ad, this cool video of Virgin Galactic shows what it looks like as it continues to take steps toward launching customers into sub-orbital space. Flights may begin as early as next year.

Are American commutes more difficult than commutes in other parts of the world? (The Atlantic/Cities)

A new international survey on well-being finds that commute times in the U.S. are quite low compared with those around the world … half as long as travel time in worst-ranked South Africa and shorter than the work rides in all but three developed countries. But why does it make us feel so bad? The story offers a few ideas.

3 replies

  1. I have no comments for first two articles but I have a comment for the last.

    The commuter in america is not diffcult is your driving a car but when you take mass transit then yes.

    Taking bus and train during rush hour for busiest routes are never recommended because it’s just cuases a mess which why I always use a car.

    My car can get me to my destination on time compared to mass transit.

  2. It seems like Amtrak has many more personnel per head than the airlines. That is in part a function of the slower speed of the train in going from A to B, but also it has a luxury culture that is part of its appeal.

    An important and unrecognized contributor to Amtrak’s costs is that it has to pay for track use, track maintenance, track polie, etc., where it is the only user or one of only a few users, whereas airlines all use the sky. They dump their pollution there – no fees. There are many more airlines to contribute to FAA and airport fees, making the per-head contribution to infrastructure necessarily much lower than Amtrak’s.

  3. I think Amtrak’s losses are mainly from trying to subsidize the longer routes that don’t make sense these day and age where planes does the job better.

    Sure, Amtrak has it’s use in the shorter intercity routes like the NEC, Chicago-St. Louis, Seattle-Portland or the Santa Barbara-LA-San Diego routes, but do we really need to have an Amtrak Coast Starlight LA to Seattle? Do we really need Emeryville (San Francisco) to Chicago service? Couldn’t that be scrapped and use the train set for more frequencies for short intercity service?

    We have things the other way around here in the US. Planes are meant efficiently travelling longer distances like LA to Seattle and trains are meant for shorter intercity distances like LA to San Francisco. Yet we use planes for LA to San Francisco, and trains for LA to Seattle.