Posts Tagged ‘Joe Biden’

‘Amtrak Joe’ Offers a Reality Check

January 17, 2021

President-elect Joseph Biden has yet to take office and already has disappointed some rail passenger advocates.

His $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic relief plan released last week contains not a dime for additional Amtrak funding or, for that matter, airlines or intercity bus companies.

All of those modes of transportation received some funding from a pandemic relief bill adopted by Congress in late December.

At the time, the incoming Biden administration had said it considered that package to be a prelude to another round of pandemic relief in the spring.

We’ve now seen what that next aid package will involve. The Biden proposal does contain $20 billion in assistance for what the president-elect has described as the hardest-hit public transit agencies.

Although those were not named, they are likely to include systems based in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

The plan noted that these systems have been devastated by lost ridership and revenue.

Of course a similar scenario has played out with intercity rail, air travel and intercity bus travel.

The Rail Passengers Association issued a statement in response to the Biden plan praising it for proposing aid to public transit.

However, RPA stopped short of criticizing the proposal for ignoring Amtrak.

Instead RPA called for amending it to including funding to enable the intercity rail passenger carrier to resume operating its long-distance trains on daily schedules by next summer.

The Biden proposal is just that, a proposal and not a guarantee. It will be up to Congress to approve the plan, which is subject to change as it makes its way through the House and Senate.

There is no guarantee that Congress will adopt another pandemic relief plan at all. Biden’s Democratic Party controls both house of Congress by thin margins.

There will Republican opposition and not all Democrats will necessarily be on board with everything the new administration is proposing.

Biden, who is known by some as “Amtrak Joe” because of how he used to commute to Washington by train has just given rail passenger advocates a reality check.

Some advocates, including RPA, have hailed the possibilities of what might happen with a president who supports passenger rail.

A letter I received from RPA last week claims Biden has a vision for a “second rail revolution” and “will be looking far beyond just paving roads to secure our transportation future.”

That was last week. This week RPA was writing on its website that the Biden plan falls far short of the “resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis.”

By that RPA means a billion dollars to restore long-distance trains to daily service.

The Biden administration has signaled that it will release another plan a few months from now that will propose infrastructure improvements.

Presumably, that proposal will benefit rail passenger service by providing capital dollars for such things as new equipment and route development.

In the meantime, Amtrak and the rest of the transportation network looks to remain much as it has been of late with fewer flights, fewer intercity bus services and less-than-daily Amtrak service in many places.

Airline industry observers have been writing for months that they expect it will take up to four years for the air service network to return to the level it was in early 2019 before the pandemic took hold and the travel market all but collapsed.

Rail passengers may not like it, but the Biden pandemic relief plan has shown them that restoration of suspended Amtrak services may be following a similar track.

Less-than-daily trains and fewer corridor services are likely to be with us for a while longer and maybe quite a while.

The Biden administration might be thinking that public transit has higher priority because it enables people to get to work. For some workers, it is their only option to get to work.

Much of the Biden aid package is oriented toward bolstering state and local governments. The thinking appears to be to take care of that first and as the economy recovers and the pandemic is tamed then travel will recover as business travel resumes and pent-up demand for leisure travel explodes.

Only then will we be seeing more flights, more bus service and more daily Amtrak trains.

Biden Campaign Train Rolls in Ohio, Pennsylvania

October 1, 2020

Democratic presidental candidate Joe Biden rode the rails in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania on Wednesday on a train dubbed the Build Back Better Express.

Todd Dillon caught the campaign train in Hudson and reported that the consist included Amtrak P42DC Nos. 100 and 114; conference car 9800; Amfleet I coaches 82810 and 82985; Amfleet I food service car 43394; Viewliner II dining car 68012 (Harrisburg);  Amfleet I coach 82546; and theater car 10004 (American View).

The train departed Cleveland Wednesday morning where Biden had spent the night after his Tuesday debate with President Donald Trump, his Republican opponent.

An online report said the train arrived shortly before noon. Security was tight with the Secret Service, Alliance Police, Stark County Sheriff’s Department, Amtrak Police and Norfolk Southern Police on the scene.

The report said the train arrived under cloudy skies and operated as symbol P098.

During the Alliance stop, Biden disembarked and answered a few questions.

Another online report said the train arrived at the Amtrak station in Pittsburgh at 2:49 p.m., 29 minutes late.

A camera mounted on the American View provided live video scenes of passing trains and other scenery.

The train ended its journey in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Biden Campaign Train has Amtrak Consist

September 30, 2020

Democratic president candidate Job Biden will be riding an all-Amtrak consist as he tours Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania today (Sept. 30) by train.

An online report indicated that Biden’s campaign train left Chicago Tuesday night following the eastbound Lake Shore Limited with two P42DCs, conference car 9800, two Amfleet coaches, an Amfleet dinette, a Viewliner diner, another Amfleet coach and executive car American View.

The train was reported to have passed Chesterton, Indiana, at 1:03 a.m. (CDT) and Elkhart, Indiana, at 3:35 a.m. EDT.

The train is to leave Cleveland this morning and make a stop in Alliance late this morning en route to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, via Pittsburgh.

Biden Train to Stop in Alliance

September 29, 2020

Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign train will stop in Alliance on Wednesday as well as make as many as five appearances in Pennsylvania.

It appears the train is using Norfolk Southern tracks used by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited and Pennsylvanian.

News reports indicate the campaign train will depart Cleveland and reach Alliance about 11:45 a.m.

It is not clear how many of the Pennsylvania stops are campaign appearances versus the train is just going to roll through.

One news report said the train is expected to reach the Pennsylvania appearances on the following schedule: Pittsburgh, 2:20 p.m. (train stop); Greenburg, 3:45 p.m. (train stop); New Alexandria, 4:30 p.m. (expected to be a roll by); Latrobe, 5:20 p.m. (might be a train stop); and Johnstown,, 7:30 p.m. (drive-in event.)

Boiden, a Democrat, is running for president against Republican and incumbent president Donald Trump.

The two of them are to appear at a debate in Cleveland Tuesday night.

Biden Plans Campaign Train Tour in Ohio, Pa.

September 28, 2020

Although details are sketchy, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden plans to tour Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania by train this week.

The Biden campaign said the tour is expected to begin on Sept. 30 following the debate with Republican nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday night in Cleveland.

The Biden campaign has not yet released an exact itinerary that includes what route the campaign train will take.

Biden Visits Cleveland to Plug Transportation Bill

May 20, 2014

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s shops facility served as the backdrop for a visit by Vice President Joe Biden last week to make a pitch for transit rail and the need to bolster the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Biden spoke at the RTA’s central rail complex and called for Congress to pass the Obama administration’s $302 billion transportation bill.

The current law, known as MAP-21, expires Sept. 30, but the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for highway and transit projects across the nation, is expected to run out of money before that.

“If our Congress doesn’t act soon, the funding that pays for our transportation projects will run out,” Biden said. “The Department of Transportation won’t have a dime to go toward more than 112,000 projects happening around the country. Nearly 700,000 good jobs would be at risk. And some states are already slowing down projects because they’re anticipating this inaction.”

Biden also highlighted federal investment in the improvement and renewal of transit-rail infrastructure in RTA facilities.

This includes $12.5 million in federal funding for a new RTA station for the Red Line in Little Italy-University Circle and $10.5 million to rebuild the Red Line and bus transfer facility at the University-Cedar station, which RTA said is its busiest east side bus terminal.

A $20 million federal grant was also awarded for the construction of a bus transfer facility in Kent and $98 million in federal funding has helped CSX upgrade its tracks through Ohio and other states as part of the development of the railroad’s National Gateway project.

Federal funding has also been used to launch construction of a streetcar line under development in Cincinnati.

Supporting Biden was Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Richard Harnish.

“Investment in upgrading railroads is a huge generator of jobs and revenue — so it’s a linchpin of economic recovery in Ohio and all across the region,” Harnish said. Harnish called for daylight Amtrak service from Cleveland to Chicago and New York City.

Currently, Amtrak offers only only late-night service at Cleveland, which he said limits its usefulness for business and recreational travel.

“The fact is, the Midwest urgently needs daylight trains to connect local economies and bring people together,” he said. “Midwestern cities depend on fast, convenient and affordable rail service to drive business.”