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The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and public policy in the built environment. This will be achieved through its member and public education, in concert with allied community and professional groups. Join us!

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A new way of running Amtrak?

  • 1.  A new way of running Amtrak?

    Posted 07-29-2019 11:20


    The usual discussion is binary: trains or planes, trains or cars, rail or Maglev etc. In Congress Democrats usually want to prop up Amtrak and Republicans side on anything but rail. This configuration hasn't helped Amtrak to become a healthy passenger rail service. Some say, the quest to beef up Amtrak is a fools errand anyway after US  passenger rail was essentially abandoned nearly 50  years ago when Amtrak was created as a consolidated successor of the by the ailing remaining 26 private passenger rail companies. Back then railroads transferring passenger service to Amtrak were required to only pay one-half of the railroads' financial losses from intercity passenger operations in 1969. In addition, the the federal railroad act authorized $40 million federal money and a $100 million loan guarantee program to assist Amtrak's start-up. Ever since Amtrak has remained underfunded, even though it increased ridership and revenue.
    Amtrak: 50 year old coaches, antiquated stations: Quaint but
    ill equipped for the future (photo: Amtrak)

    Relentless car-centric policies and the transfer of all rolling stock and tracks to freight railroads lie at the root of the fact that passenger rail in the US is just a pale shadow compared to its robust brethren in Japan, Europe or China. The usual conclusion: America is too big for railroads and Amtrak is a lost cause. End of story.

    Two more recent events begin to change this narrative. First the opening of the first private passenger line in 30 years from Miami to Orlando in 2014,  and now a new Amtrak leader who isn't just in the defensive against those who want to take starve Amtrak to be self sustaining, but who counters the swan song with a vision for the future.

    His new vision sounds convincing to some, but also has quickly garnered concerns, criticism and opposition. Some deride the CEO's plans as "airline thinking" because Amtrak President Anderson used to be a the executive of Delta Airlines.

    What is is his plan? The Wall Street's Journal illustrates the different positions in a video in which Amtrak's chief of operations Gardner explains the new approach. As the New York Times described the current situation in its magazine in March of this year:
    there are either 61 or 960 immediate reasons not to travel by Amtrak trains from New York City to Los Angeles. Those are the extra hours and dollars, respectively, that you might reasonably expect to forfeit if you forgo a six-hour $129 nonstop flight and opt instead for an Amtrak sleeper car. Covering the interjacent 2,448.8 miles can easily consume some 67 hours for a mind-boggling $1,089. (New York Times, 03-22-19)
    The Wall Street Journal had already reported as early as February that Amtrak is considering to eliminate long distance routes across the country in favor of shorter and faster intercity connections that mimic Amtrak's only success corridor, the so called Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington DC, the only Amtrak line that is .....

    Read full article HERE

    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD

  • 2.  RE: A new way of running Amtrak?

    Posted 07-30-2019 18:24

    Further to Philip's article on Amtrak, I have recently published a book on cities and climate change, which includes issues of transportation, as well as architecture. If it's of interest, you can get a 20% discount at this website. 

     Use "SOC19" at checkout. 


    Kelbaugh, D. (2019). The Urban Fix. New York: Routledge,



    Cities are one of the most significant contributors to global climate change. The rapid speed at which urban centers use large amounts of resources adds to the global crisis and can lead to extreme local heat. The Urban Fix addresses how urban design, planning and policies can counter the threats of climate change, urban heat islands and overpopulation, helping cities take full advantage of their inherent advantages and new technologies to catalyze social, cultural and physical solutions to combat the epic, unprecedented challenges humanity faces.

    The book fills a conspicuous void in the international dialogue on climate change and heat islands by examining both the environmental benefits in developed countries and the population benefit in developing countries. Urban heat islands can be addressed in incremental, manageable steps, such as planting trees and painting roofs white, which provide a more concrete and proactive sense of progress for policymakers and practitioners. This book is invaluable to anyone searching for a better understanding of the impact of resilient cities in the monumental and urgent fight against climate change, and provides the tools to do so.


    Chapter 1. Connecting The Dots, Climate Change, Heat Islands, Overpopulation And Cities 

    Chapter 2. Triple Threat: UHIs, CC and Overpopulation 

    Chapter 3. Urban Albedo And Morphology 

    Chapter 4. Waste Heat 

    Chapter 5. Cool Micro-climates And Urban Trees 

    Chapter 6. Policies and Case Studies 

    Chapter 7. The Sharing Cosmopolis, Prosperity Without Growth 

    Chapter 8. Cities: Our Last, Best Hope 

    Chapter 9. Time To Act


    Doug Kelbaugh FAIA