Is The End in Sight for Amtrak’s Western Trains?
There is growing concern about the future of Amtrak’s long distance train service in the western part of the country.
Coast Starlight, running daily between Seattle and Los Angeles;
Empire Builder, running daily between Chicago and Seattle/Portland;
California Zephyr, running daily between Chicago and the Bay Area;
Southwest Chief, running daily between Chicago and Los Angeles;
Texas Eagle, running daily between Chicago and San Antonio;
City of New Orleans, running daily between Chicago and New Orleans; and
Sunset Limited, running three days a week between Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Here’s the reality: These trains serve literally many hundreds of cities and towns scattered across 26 states.
Here’s the problem: Most of the Superliner cars are now about 35 years old. The life expectancy of a passenger rail car is about 50 years, even assuming regular and conscientious maintenance.
Here’s the concern: Amtrak apparently has no plans to order more Superliner equipment. And even if they did, it would be three or four years before a significant number of the new cars would begin entering service.
Here’s the solution: Get the political powers in those states – governors and legislatures, plus senators and representatives in Washington – to provide the money and mandate that Amtrak spend it on new equipment.
Here’s the benefit: Jobs, in the short term; more and better train service for another 50 years.
What’s not to like about that??
CORRECTION/ADDITION: Superliner equipment is also used on two eastern trains: the Capitol Limited (daily between Washington and Chicago) and the Auto Train (daily between Lorton, Virginia, and Sanford, Florida). Obviously these trains would also be affected as Superliners wear out and if there are no new cars to replace them.