Rail rides a run of good news

The week that ended with a Friday the 13th was filled with rather good news for the transit and train mavens (and Cubs fans) among us.

First, the U.S. House of Representatives on June 11 approved a 5-year, $15 billion funding bill for Amtrak (HR 6003), which the Bush administration promptly threatened to veto because, according to the Associated Press, “the bill doesn’t hold Amtrak accountable for its spending.” That’s chutzpah on such a grand scale that it might find a place alongside the classic definition: killing your parents and then begging the court for mercy because you’re an orphan.

Since the House approved the bill by a veto-proof 311-104 vote, and the Senate approved its version of the bill by a veto-proof 70-22 vote last October, Amtrak’s immediate future seems secure despite the administration’s efforts to the contrary.

On the same day, Thomson Reuters reported that Amtrak’s ridership and revenue spiked in May, compared to May 2007, due in large part to rising gasoline prices. This news came on the heels of reports that transit ridership is booming, most especially on streetcar lines (and least of all along bus lines).

On the 12th, Planetizen’s Newswire reported that Mayor Dave Bieter of Boise, Idaho, is now pushing for a streetcar system a la Little Rock, Ark. The Idaho Statesman reports “Bieter said the advantage of fixing the track - instead of, say, using a rubber-wheeled bus built to look like an old trolley - is that the fixed route will attract businesses and developers. The city can use the route to direct Downtown development.” (Emphasis added.)

The combination of rising gasoline prices and skyrocketing train and transit patronage offers a potent challenge to the next president. Please check out CNU’s candidate comparison to learn how Senators Barack Obama and John McCain will likely handle these issues.

Finally, in a further sign of transit’s strengthening ascendancy over sprawl, the Chicago Cubs swept the Atlanta Braves. Next stop...

(Image courtesy of Trains Magazine.)

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