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New Departures

New Departures: Rethinking Rail Passenger Policy in the Twenty-First Century

Anthony Perl
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    New Departures
    Book Description:

    North America faces a transportation crisis. Gas-guzzling SUVs clog the highways and air travelers face delays, cancellations, and uncertainty in the wake of unprecedented terrorist attacks.New Departuresclosely examines the options for improving intercity passenger trains' capacity to move North Americans where they want to go. While Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada face intense pressure to transform themselves into successful commercial enterprises, Anthony Perl demonstrates how public policy changes lie behind the triumphs of European and Japanese high-speed rail passenger innovations. Perl goes beyond merely describing these achievements, translating their implications into a North American institutional and political context and diagnosing the obstacles that have made renewing passenger trains so much more difficult in North America than elsewhere. New Departures links the lessons behind rail passenger revitalization abroad with the opportunity to recast the policies that constrain Amtrak and VIA Rail from providing efficient and effective intercity transportation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5661-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Public Policy: The Key to Rail Passenger Renewal
    (pp. 1-41)

    The passenger train occupies a peculiar place among North America’s transportation options. It has gone from being absolutely central to the economic and social life of this continent to being of marginal utility and relevance to most people. Trains were once integral to the emergence of modern life on this continent. Books likePhilosophy of Railroadsconsidered the meaning of this transport mode’s fundamental transformation of life: much the way that today’s gurus of the “new economy” now contemplate how changes in information technology are reshaping contemporary society.¹ But trains now play such a limited role in meeting mobility needs...

  5. Chapter 2 Building on Achievement: A “New Model Railroad” for the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 42-75)

    The rail passenger modernization achievements highlighted in chapter 1, dating from the mid 1960s in Japan, the early 1980s in France, and the early 1990s in Germany, have shown that technological determinists were wrong. In different geographic, economic, and social settings—with different policy communities and political dynamics—passenger trains could be either invented or reinvented to serve a useful purpose and in so doing attain commercial success. The accomplishments of projects like the Shinkansen, TGV, and ICE have raised the bar for all passenger railroads, including the ones pioneering these innovations.

    Skeptics often argue that the geographic, economic, and...

  6. Chapter 3 Sidetrack: How North American Rail Passenger Renewal Got Delayed by the Stalemate Over Public Enterprise Legitimacy
    (pp. 76-133)

    If one were to look at organizational and resource inputs as a guide to industrial renewal, then North American passenger trains’ problems would appear to have been well on their way toward resolution in the 1970s. Even before French and German rail renewal efforts got serious, both American and Canadian governments had launched major fiscal and organizational changes in response to the passenger train’s decline. The United States had reversed a thirteen-year period of regulated exit from the rail passenger business by launching a quasi-public enterprise called Amtrak in 1971. Canada initiated public subsidies for passenger train operations in 1967,...

  7. Chapter 4 False Starts with High Speed: State and Provincial Efforts to Leapfrog Amtrak’s and VIA’s Perennial Problems
    (pp. 134-187)

    Policy, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Until Amtrak’s arrival on the scene, the United States could credibly claim to have been developing a passenger train renewal strategy that would utilize high-speed technology like the Japanese or Europeans to build a new market for intercity travel by rail. Canada was also experimenting with passenger train renewal prior to VIA Rail. But by 1980, these renewal efforts had slowed to a crawl, with rail policy community participants focusing their attention on the political version of trench warfare that beset Amtrak and VIA in light of their murky mandates and contested legitimacy.


  8. Chapter 5 Reinventing Amtrak: The Drive for Commercial Self-Sufficiency by 2003
    (pp. 188-226)

    By the mid 1990s, the time was ripe, some would say overripe, for a major overhaul of the policy stalemate that surrounded, and constrained, North America’s passenger train operations. More and more evidence was piling up to suggest that the results of “business as usual” in public enterprise passenger railroading could not be sustained indefinitely. The United States experienced these effects first, with Amtrak’s commercial performance suffering from the combined effects of deferred maintenance and economic slowdown, accentuated by management’s miscalculation of the degree to which intercity rail passengers would continue to travel in the face of fare increases and...

  9. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  10. Chapter 6 Setting Up the New Model Railroad in North America: Bringing Passenger Trains into a Transportation Policy for the Twenty-First Century
    (pp. 227-261)

    Transportation analysts in general, and rail passenger specialists in particular, have not posted a track record of predicting the future that should inspire much confidence. For at least half a century, visions about travelers taking to the skies in personal flying machines,¹ or coupling their vehicles together to form “personal rapid transit,”² have been presented as being just around the corner. Those futurists whose prognostications made it into the popular media assured people that by the twenty-first century, steel wheels on steel rails would give way to ultra-high-speed vehicles floating along thanks to magnetic levitation³ or giant turbines that would...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 262-266)

    North America’s transportation policies were on the front line when hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In less than an hour, the boundary between civilian and military dimensions of transportation had been breached, with aircraft across Canada and die United States groundeden massedue to concerns over further suicidal attacks from the air. When these planes took off again, it was into the skies of a changed world where new modes of “normal” activity are still far from being established. What does appear likely is that new transportation priorities will...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 267-295)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 296-315)
  14. Index
    (pp. 316-336)