As I traveled to the capital of Vermont for a recent meeting with officials in charge of our transportation system, I wondered if Vermont really wants a commuter rail system?
At the Montpelier meeting, state officials said they want to see commuter rail here, but I have been hearing this idea expressed for years and still nothing has been done about it to make it a reality-except for an endless outlay of taxpayer money to ascertain the answer to this riddle of the rails.
At the recent public transportation meeting, I give the officials my advice as a member of the Railway Service Corp. (RSC) in Vermont. (Please feel free to check out our firm online at: http://railway-service-corp.com.)
RSC was founded for the purpose of developing rail passenger service to be operated on a "for profit" basis. One of the rail projects in the RSC portfolio is the development of a private sector solution to transform Amtrak into a commercially viable enterprise.
The goal of RSC is to restructure Amtrak in order to achieve long-term growth that results in greater market share and thereby creates greater shareholder value.
Some of the market trends that create this opportunity and the need for rail passenger and express intermodal freight service include chronic air and highway congestion, environmental and financial constraints to build new airports and highways, declining worldwide oil production, increased demand for oil in China and India, the doubling of U.S. freight demand by 2020, chronic truck driver shortages and the doubling of the senior citizen population by 2030.
Getting back to the recent Montpelier transportation meeting-a week passed and I heard nothing from the presiding officials, not even a "thank you" for sharing RSC's ideas and insight.
So here we are again, asking the same old question: Does Vermont really want a commuter rail system? And why are we relying on Amtrak which cannot exist without federal subsidies from tapped-out taxpayers?
Here is my answer to these questions: Given the history of U.S. rail-including the legislative history and attempts at privatization (yes, there have been companies that wanted to acquire passenger routes from Amtrak)-there appears to be no way, whatsoever, in which a rail plan could possibly work, that is, at least not without direct sponsorship and support from the Washington, D.C.
In reality, money has absolutely nothing to do with this privatization effort. The U.S. Government still controls Amtrak and it has appears to have no interest in doing anything about the drain on taxpayers.
So, if we seriously want commuter rail in Vermont, we're going to need public support in order to make it a reality. Our leaders appear unwilling to do anything.
RSC's private sector initiative will transform our nation's rail passenger service into an exciting rail travel experience for passengers with service innovations that include new trains, new amenities and onboard services. To get involved, please call us at 802-989-1117.