Amtrak needs to make St Louis a passenger rail hub

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Unfortunately Amtrak and many others still have all eggs in one basket mentality. Amazingly Amtrak, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Midwest High Speed Rail Association, National Association of Railroad Passengers ( NARP ) and many others – don’t seem to get logic in bringing St. Louis back to it’s passenger rail roots.

St. Louis as a true Amtrak passenger rail hub would reduce congestion. Just like adding more highway lanes does NOT reduce gridlock – adding more tracks is not a long term solution to rail clog in Chicago. Over next few years Amtrak hopes to have new routes going through Union Station. This will only put more pressure on already strained and overworked system. Common sense dictates that a new hub needs to be put in play. I’m aware – easier said than done. But even when all current track upgrade projects have been completed in Chicago area – this will not resolve problems over long haul.

Reality is – routes need moved to a new hub. This means moving some existing routes to new homes ( in some cases their old original home ). St Louis is an ideal location for such a project for many reasons. City is located in middle of United States. Weather at times can be friendlier than Chicago. Many problems during Winter months that decimate equipment ( rolling stock ) – could be avoided by using St Louis as a regional / national hub. Not having all your rolling stock in one location also reduces chances of equipment failures creating havoc system wide. Just basic common sense. Equipment all in one location also creates security situations – easy targets and in event of an emergency where it’s needed – may not be able to mobilize to all regions easily.

St Louis passenger rail hub would also help to reduce overly stressed ground crews in Chicago. I’m sure Union wouldn’t mind adding more workers to it’s rolls. With newer rolling stock in future – some maintenance may be reduced – but spreading that work out allows for higher quality work to be done – less rush jobs. Workers with less stress in theory should have higher level of efficiency.

I can state that a man I think was Joseph Shacter director of public and intermodal transportation for IDOT inside Chicago Crowne Plaza hotel bar – does not agree with my assessment. Left bar just a bit after I got done discussing my reasoning behind my thought process. Right now everything in Midwest is Chicago and Illinois specific. Illinois rail partner Missouri basically gets our scraps. Once again it’s common sense – this is NOT how you treat a long term partner. Anyone involved in passenger rail promotion – knows how hard it is to get States to embrace Amtrak or other providers. Examples of this are right on Illinois borders – Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and Wisconsin are States that aren’t considered by most people as passenger rail friendly.

Illinois and Missouri seem to have a similar mindset that passenger rail should be a priority. Finding like minded political partners with this agenda doesn’t seem to be an easy task. Isn’t it wise to make sure those partners get an equal share of the funding pie? Yes Missouri will benefit once higher speed rail 110 MPH upgrades between Chicago and St Louis are completed. Missouri is part of group of States getting new rolling stock hopefully coming out of Rochelle Illinois in next few years. That is where benefits end. Almost all other regional rail funding is focused on Illinois – specifically Chicago area. There is no debate that work in that region is long overdue. But shortchanging our partners in that process is not smart business.

If Missouri voters don’t see an overall benefit to them – they very well could vote out passenger rail friendly politicians – making it even harder to obtain financing and support for rail projects. One of the quickest ways to show value to voters is through jobs. Unemployed that get retrained and put back to work are grateful voters. St Louis as a passenger rail hub reduces Chicago congestion while creating regional jobs. These jobs help to insure that passenger rail friendly politicians have a greater chance of staying in office. Upcoming elections could easily destroy small amount of progress that has taken place past few years.

Even if this idea is never implemented – St Louis Amtrak Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center is not going to be able to handle increased ridership numbers that should be achieved when track work is completed and new rolling stock comes online. Anyone who spends sometime there can easily see this. Whoever claimed this station was built to handle future growth must have been highly intoxicated. It’s past time to look at how that problem can be resolved.

United States mentality has always been more reactive than proactive – then everyone complains about why no one did anything to stop problem from happening. Forgetting that they voted against tax increases, funding or implementation of projects. For some reason politicians and voters seem to only want to deal with things after they become a problem. Preventative measures aren’t big sellers in our part of the world. With passenger rail this scenario constantly plays out time and again.

Many Amtrak passengers are extremely tired of having to travel North to Chicago to be able to reach a southern destination. St Louis with it’s centralized location makes this less likely to be a problem.

When new rolling stock goes live – Amtrak Lincoln Service would be perfect route to keep passengers connected to Chicago and St Louis hubs. So Illinois would not lose out on ridership numbers. It’s also more efficient to have northern passengers heading south – inefficient use of time and resources to send passengers up just to have them come back down again to reach their final destination.

Everyone always talks about Midwest high speed rail or passenger services. What I always see with every project is all roads lead to Chicago. Example – never seen a proposed route from Indianapolis over to St Louis ( that changed on March 2, 2015 – Illinois General Assembly takes step towards high-speed rail – with that routing ). All routing leads to Chicago. This is a close minded – outdated mindset. A true Midwest embracing system needs a change in mentality – not an all roads lead to Illinois approach.

I’m far from the first person to promote St Louis as a solution to passenger rail clog and drama in Chicago. Unfortunately many of us have been shouted down, criticized and / or belittled as not understanding why it’s a ridiculous approach. To many people have thought process of why it can’t be done. Instead of Silicon Valley mentality – of how can we get this done.

Space has been an argument I have heard several times. Track orientation is something I recall hearing mentioned a lot. Interesting how decades ago St Louis was a passenger rail hub and their Union Station was a bustling hive of activity. I figure if they could do it then – someone should be smart enough now to figure how we can do it again. There are also plenty of decaying buildings ripe for redevelopment or sadly the wrecking ball. Space can be made.

A revitalized St Louis is good for regions economy. Key part of this revitalization could be creation of a passenger rail hub. You do NOT build a strong nation by only empowering one city.

Yes I’m aware that many in Chicago feel anyone living past Bloomington-Normal is a complete idiot and their opinions don’t matter. That is a problem in itself. Just heard someone on Lincoln Service state this mentality. Springfield isn’t really seen as State Capitol of Illinois – is considered by many a figurehead and a nuisance. Many of those people consider James R. Thompson Center in Chicago the real Capitol.

Fighting political machine and good ole boy politics is just treading water and a key reason nothing of real progress or value gets done. Thinking outside the box or beyond their own selfish needs is not in these peoples character.

If upcoming elections create an administration change – TIGER grants and other passenger rail funding could easily dry up. This would completely derail momentum of current and future projects.

Airlines have multiple hubs and maintenance facilities – is it really extreme to have Amtrak add a logical spoke to wheel?

One last rant – Amtrak if I wanted to take a bus I wouldn’t have purchased a ticket to ride a train!!

“St. Louis is the nation’s third-largest freight rail hub”

Book your next rail vacation or business trip

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Illinois High Speed Rail track upgrades Watch the work being done

Illinois high speed rail track upgrades outside Auburn Illinois

TRT-909 Track Renewal Train High Speed Rail construction Chatham IL May 20 2012

Joseph Shacter director of public and intermodal transportation for IDOT Midwest High Speed Rail Association 2014 Spring Meeting

Rev. Jesse Jackson Midwest High Speed Rail Association 2014 Spring Meeting

Rick Harnish Midwest High Speed Rail Association Executive Director Ray Lang Amtrak

University of Illinois High-Speed Rail Study Midwest High Speed Rail Association 2013 Fall Meeting

Looking out the back window Amtrak Lincoln Service

Socks on seat Business Class Amtrak Lincoln Service

Amtrak employees must think this is safe Lincoln Service 305

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Chicago St Louis high speed rail project location map

Federal Railroad Administration Rail Car DOTX 221 Amtrak Texas Eagle Normal Illinois

Midwest High Speed Rail Association

National Association of Railroad Passengers ( NARP )

Passenger Rail Myths & Facts National Association of Railroad Passengers

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

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Midwest High Speed Rail Association Wikipedia

National Association of Railroad Passengers – Wikipedia

IDOT Illinois High Speed Rail Chicago to St. Louis

Official Website of Midwest High Speed Rail

Amtrak begins using Gateway Center in St. Louis Amtrak Rail Discussion

St Louis Amtrak Gateway Multimodal Transportation Center

Amtrak: Delays up, ridership down in Illinois

Freight excuse given – which is valid to a point. More of a problem is continued bustitution of Lincoln Service passengers do to ongoing track upgrades – fake SOLD OUT messages on Amtrak website – when they are unsure if they will be providing buses or trains for passengers – customer service quality and no consistent experience – great one day absolutely horrible next. On-time performance causing connection delays – fed up customers find other ways to travel.

Union Station (St. Louis) – Wikipedia

St. Louis Union Station, a National Historic Landmark, was a passenger train terminal in St. Louis, Missouri. Once the world’s largest and busiest train station.

St. Louis Railroad service Wikipedia

St. Louis is the nation’s third-largest freight rail hub

St. Louis Terminal Railroad Association Historical & Technical Society

St. Louis Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society

What should the top priorities be for train advocates? Amtrak Rail Discussion

Amtrak Seeks Solutions To Chicago Rail Congestion

“Amtrak is setting up a panel of experts to find solutions to Chicago’s rail gridlock.”

Which is exactly the problem – they keep going back to same experts – same railfans – political hacks and butt kissers who will not tell them it is time to change and evolve – from what they have been in past. Amtrak doesn’t have courage or intelligence to make or produce radical change that is needed to resolve their problems.

Amtrak touts ridership growth as Congress weighs budget

Illinois General Assembly takes step towards high-speed rail


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