Blog 2018


Posted On: May 15, 2018
Posted On: March 01, 2018
Posted On: February 22, 2018


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To clothe an Emperor

Posted On: May 15, 2018
Texas Central Partners has been asking for the public's support.

All those who truly care about the future of rail-based intercity passenger service are supposed to rally behind their banner and tell the Federal Railroad Administration to move T.C.P.'s Houston-Dallas high-speed railway project forward, making the current Draft Environmental Impact Statement a full-fledged E.I.S.

A rubber-stamp is all that's really necessary.

Unfortunately, this places me in a pretty severe quandary.  What's a sincere advocate to do when he'd like nothing better than to see "more trains to more places," yet finds so many substantive and potentially fatal errors an inherent part of the published documents?

It breaks my heart to admit it, but any support I might offer Texas Central Partners' plan must be qualified.

This entire project is based upon a real estate development model - which is fine in itself, I suppose, since passenger trains will still play a major role.

Even so, the very idea that the line is being designed to operate as an inter-regional shuttle and nothing else PROFOUNDLY bothers me!

The so-called "Texas Bullet Train" is not planning to call upon ANY intermediate point, save one near the greater College Station area - and that's only because Texas Central Partners was dragged kicking and screaming to the altar.

Their trains will not serve commercial airfields, so we see no reason to hope for true intermodalism or seamless service.

The H.S.R. line will also fail to reach either one of the terminal cities' downtowns!  Yes, Texas Central Partners keeps SAYING it's coming into downtown Dallas, but that's hardly an accurate statement, depending as it does upon the most vague and generalized notions of the term.  Worse yet, T.C.P. knows this to be true - as does the City of Dallas and the North Central Texas Council of Governments and all the other players in the room!

We're not through.  How many have stopped to consider that T.C.P.'s current plan offers no connections with ANY other form of rail-based transport, whatsoever!  NONE!  Let that sink in for a moment: METRORail, DART, T.R.E., Amtrak, streetcar lines - NOT ONE!  Look at the Dallas station plans Matthews Southwest unveiled: a high-speed railway facility (primarily consisting of a train shed) and a shopping mall, surrounded by arterial streets and CAR PARKS!  Oh, we might find a lump of coal in our stocking in the form of shuttle buses to and from the central business district.  Thanks, Santa.

The worst thing of all?  This project's ultimate example of dissimulation, one which has even implicated DART: T.C.P.'s abject failure to bring their new trains into (or at least adjacent to) Dallas Union Terminal!

The former site of ReUnion Arena would be an ideal location for a true H.S.R. facility, offering direct passenger interface with existing railway services (there's one of our previous issues solved) at a downtown location (there's another one) while offering connections to both commercial airfields (partially addressing a third).  The convention centre is practically next door and convenient, climate controlled pedestrian access to several other area attractions would be a given.

The reason Dallas citizens purchased Union Terminal almost 45 years ago was to preserve the facility and make it available for just this sort of future!  To deny our city the proper use of its heritage is an unconscionable thing!

Ladies and gentlemen, I do NOT "support the Texas Bullet Train [sic]"!

I support railroading - the people, technology, service, history and everything else that make our railroad world what it is.

I support alternative (read: non auto-centric) means of passenger transport, faithfully use what's now available and advocate growth.

I support common sense!

I support our elected officials telling folks the truth and standing behind the various promises they make!

I SUPPORT UNION TERMINAL!!  It's my hometown railway depot!  I practically grew up there, wept when it (effectively) closed and rejoiced the day it reopened for public operations!  The men who worked so hard and for so long to protect the station from destruction, with the late Dan Monaghan at the forefront, didn't dedicate their time and efforts so the privileged few could use its interior spaces for corporate meetings and wedding receptions!  D.U.T. was designed and constructed to serve passenger trains and the people who ride them, not party-goers and Wolfgang Puck!

This whole thing makes me sick, down to my very soul.

No, I don't support Texas Central Partners or its "bullet train."  Still, I'm not against the concept, per se.

I only wish they'd do it right.

I also wish the people we depend upon to protect our society from the excesses of others - especially the free press, our elected officials and their assigns, and numerous "leaders" - would be willing to admit, just ONCE, that the emperor has no clothes.

Texas Association of Railroad Passengers

Posted On: March 08, 2018

Press Release

High-Speed Rail project's success will be dramatically limited due to station locations

This morning, the Texas Association of Railroad Passengers (TEX-ARP) sent a letter to Ronald L. Batory, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, voicing its serious concerns regarding Texas Central Partners' Dallas - Houston high-speed railway corridor project.  In this communication, the organization reiterated its basic position: without substantive changes in the proposed station sites, TEX-ARP cannot and will not offer unqualified support for T.C.P.'s project.

The proposed railway passenger service is intended to provide a 200 mile-per-hour, 90-minute trip between Dallas and Houston.  Today, the journey typically requires four hours via Interstate 45 (presuming no traffic delays) and is a trip approximately 50,000 Texans take at least once every week.

Interestingly, over 80 years ago, conventional passenger trains were making this same trip, with intermediate stops, in four hours.  Currently, Amtrak does not offer any direct service between Texas' two largest metropolitan regions.

"Texas Central Partners' planned Dallas - Houston high-speed train line could close a significant gap in the national railway network," said Garl B. Latham, President of the Texas Association of Railroad Passengers (TEX-ARP).  "Instead, by failing to directly serve existing station sites in both Dallas and Houston, convenient connections to numerous intercity, commuter and local transit operations will remain an elusive dream.  A service which might have provided increased connectivity throughout Texas and the great southwest will end up being little more than an inter-regional shuttle."

TEX-ARP strongly supports the concept of intermodalism, available only when shared terminal facilities are created and truly seamless connections are maintained.  This approach requires T.C.P. to bring their trains all the way into both downtown Dallas and downtown Houston, establishing high-speed infrastructure adjacent to tracks and platforms already in use by other operators of rail-based passenger service.

"Here in Dallas, the former site of Reunion Arena would be an ideal location for a high-speed railway facility, offering direct passenger interface with existing DART, Trinity Railway Express and Amtrak services, as well as easy access to Dallas' convention center," Latham said.  "The reason Dallas citizens purchased Union Terminal almost 45 years ago was to make the depot available for just this sort of future!  To deny our city the proper use of its heritage is an unconscionable thing."

Houston also has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before it since the U.S. Postal Service, through the abandonment of its main post office downtown, has once again made the original footprint of Grand Central Depot (Southern Pacific station) available for railroad use.  This site is adjacent to Amtrak's existing stop on Washington Avenue.

Without convenient mass transit and intercity services nearby, Texas Central Partners will be consigning riders to motor vehicle connections at both terminals and, in the process, dramatically reducing the utility of its proposed operation.



CSX as an inevitability

Posted On: March 01, 2018
Among the seven surviving Class I railroad companies operating within these United States today, the one which has long stood out as the most virulently anti-passenger is CSX Transportation.

That road's overt efforts at undermining passenger train services wherever possible eventually came to be expected.  What's surprising is how the company has now turned on itself.

Certainly, the presence of hedge fund managers in CSX's headquarters a year ago clearly indicated what direction the board wished to take their hapless charge.  Worse yet, arriving with the slash-and-burn crowd was one E. Hunter Harrison, well known for using his "Precision Scheduled Railroading" ruse to bleed companies dry.

After Harrison suddenly died last December of a still-undisclosed illness, his hand-picked successor - one James Foote, who just happens to have absolutely no experience running a railroad - declared his intention to continue sailing toward the iceberg.

It's only a clump of frozen water!

Today, at CSX's annual investor and analyst conference in New York City, Foote claimed that "substantial opportunities exist to further optimize the network, leverage excess capital, create savings and grow our franchise."  Scary words, those.

According to Reuters, the leaders of CSX are determined to "outline a path forward" after Harrison's demise.  With that goal in mind, the railroad's management team has provided investors with a "longer-term plan for boosting profitability and streamlining operations."

I wonder.

How can the so-called "leaders" of CSX "outline a path forward" when they long ago lost their own way?

How can anyone have confidence in management's "longer-term plan" when their long term plan to follow the guidance left by E.H.H. has already been disclosed?

How can a railroad expect anyone else to believe in its product when its officials really don't believe in it themselves?!

"Boosting profitability" is just newspeak for operating a business with the singular goal of inflating the corporation's price per share - at least 'til the major players have a chance to make a killing.  "Streamlining operations" means sacking more employees and abandoning more infrastructure.  Is Foote and his "team" really that brain dead, or are they simply convinced everyone else is?!

So far, instead of bringing "significant operational and financial benefits," Precision Scheduled Railroading has done little but alienate once faithful customers and awaken once tranquil regulatory agencies.

In response to problems like these, the Canadian Pacific - another Class I victim of Hunter Harrison - has decided to go on a self-described "charm offensive" in an effort to apologize its way to prosperity.

Sadly, this "charm offensive" is bound to fail, "longer-term."  Fools can be quite charming, but they can't effectively run a railroad.

In Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, we learned Foote's charm plan is to "get on an airplane, go to someone's office with my hat in my hand and say, 'I'm sorry about last year, we screwed up and we didn't do a really good job for you'."

If the shippers subjected to this charade have the best interest of their OWN shareholders in mind, they should respond, "NO, you did a BAD job - and it wasn't a screw up; it was premeditated!  Your sorrow doesn't deliver our freight and your reassurances for the future are absolutely worthless."

If I had an opportunity, I'd also ask Foote about the last time he was out on the property.  Instead of getting on a airplane, why doesn't he get out on his RAILROAD and ride over a few of CSX's subdivisions, talk to the front-line people respectfully AS FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS and actually witness the system's current issues in an up-close-and-personal fashion?!

You know, that's one way a nice business car can come in handy!

Alas, it is not to be.

According to an article in today's New York Times, Foote made another statement to those big city investors.  In eight words, he demanded their attention and loyalty, daring his audience to try and look away.  At once, it's difficult to watch, yet impossible to ignore.  Sort of like the proverbial train wreck.

"What are we here for? To make money!"

What a raison d'etre.

Fooey on Foote.  If the board hasn't taken action yet, then it won't now - and with no offence toward current and retired employees intended, CSX deserves whatever it gets.

Garl B. Latham


Welcome Aboard!

Posted On: February 22, 2018

Today is an auspicious occasion, marking a new beginning for a group of advocates whose shared history can be traced back more than 45 years: The Texas Association of Railroad Passengers.

On May 1st, 1971, the recently formed Amtrak issued its first national timetable. That schedule book included a system map, clearly indicating intercity passenger train service to Dallas was to be restored "as soon as possible."  After several feeble attempts and false starts, the date finally arrived: Thursday, 14 March '74.

During the planning stages, a cadre of citizens teamed with a few politicians to create the Dallas City-County Amtrak Committee.  The late Dr. Dan Monaghan was the de facto leader of this group.  Among his many accomplishments was the purchase and refurbishment of Dallas' Union Terminal building (and associated facilities) by the city in preparation for Amtrak's arrival.

It was this committee that became the nascent Texas Association of Railroad Passengers.

Dr. Dan went on to establish MobilityDallas.  He played an important role in the eventual formation of DART and served two separate terms on its board.

The Texas Association - in cooperation with, but independent of, other advocacy groups (such as the National Association of Railroad Passengers) - continued to stand on the front lines, along the way celebrating a few victories (new routes and new equipment) and bearing the burden of some soul-crushing losses (the death of Amtrak's Lone Star and the bankruptcy of Paradise, Union Terminal's restaurant operation).

It was during the late 1990s that a good friend of the passenger train came forward with some fresh ideas and an abundant source of energy: Tim Geeslin.  The Texas Association of Rail Passengers (as it was known at the time) was officially incorporated as a non-profit group and adopted a new set of goals, generally coincident with the arrival of DART and the Trinity Railway Express.  Around the turn of the century, Texas was blessed with several newly built and refurbished station facilities, as well as a restored interest in rail-based transit services.

Now, with the official launch of our new web site, TEX-ARP enters the modern era!

The second decade of the 21st century has brought with it a whole new set of challenges: Amtrak's effective stagnation; the lack of any substantive progress toward a national transportation policy; talk (and more talk) regarding true, dedicated high-speed services; well-entrenched (and even better funded) opposition to railway initiatives.  It is in this atmosphere that today's Texas Association of Railroad Passengers must operate.  It is during this time in history that TEX-ARP must succeed!

Many have wondered if our group's work is even necessary, given the presence of other associations like Texas Rail Advocates and its well established record of success (including the annual Southwestern Rail Conference).  Certainly, TEX-ARP will continue to work along side T.R.A. as we strive to meet common objectives.

Still, there is a way in which this association can serve Texas and Texans with distinction, providing a unique service to our membership and to all those who benefit from TEX-ARP's efforts:

We have been, are now and will continue to be a unified voice for the railroad passenger.

Those who currently ride trains - and those who wish they had trains to ride - cannot best be served by groups whose primary objectives mesh with existing and would-be train operators.  The companies and agencies which plan, develop and run various rail-based passenger services, along with the many players in today's for-profit railway industry, often do not share the railroad passenger's sincere desire for "more trains to more places."  That fact, in itself, is not good or bad; it simply is.

Yet, given that fact, the solution seems straightforward: an independent voice is not only desirable, but required!

So, who will represent the railway passenger?  Who will stand up for the best interests of those already advocating both multi-modalism and true intermodalism?  Who will be the voice for the people that are simply looking for an alternative to the transport disaster this state, nation and continent has created for itself?!

The Texas Association of Railroad Passengers - TEX-ARP - wants to be that voice!  With your help, we can be!

Won't you join us?

Garl B. Latham