I’m going to have to stop doing this–too many to keep track of.
This is just painful to read:
Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues â€” all the more remarkable because May is not usually a strong travel month.
But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.
Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrakâ€™s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket…
The problem is that rail has shriveled. The number of â€œpassenger milesâ€ traveled on intercity rail has dropped by about two-thirds since 1960, and the companies that build rail cars and locomotives have also shrunk, making it hard to expand.
In 1970, the year that Congress voted to create Amtrak by consolidating the passenger operations of freight railroads, the airlines were about 17 times larger than the railroads, measured by passenger miles traveled; now they are more than 100 times larger. Highway travel was then about 330 times larger; now it is more than 900 times larger.
And then there’s this:
Higher fuel prices are forcing cities across the country to cut public services, limit driving by employees and expand public transportation in what has become a sprawling movement to conserve energy.
A survey of 132 cities, released Friday here at a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, found that 90 percent were altering operations because of fuel costs. Republicans and Democrats from New Jersey to Hawaii are essentially becoming energy-pinching nags…
Coinciding with a real estate meltdown, rising energy costs have wreaked havoc because many city budgets were passed months ago with the assumption that gasoline would cost $2 a gallon. Now mayors are finding themselves squeezed by rising costs, declining revenues and increased demands for public transportation.
In the survey, 88 percent of mayors said their cities had experienced growth in the use of public transit, with nearly half of those reporting that the increases were significant or very significant. Some studies have documented growth of 10 percent to 15 percent over the last year in parts of the South and West.
â€œPublic transportation is the way everyone is going,â€ said Mufi Hannemann, mayor of Honolulu. â€œRight now in my city, itâ€™s all about the public bus.â€
And this–it’s amazing the extent to which we’re unprepared for high gas prices:
With skyrocketing gas prices, many customers are bumping up against pay-at-the-pump credit card limits — often $75. Rules limiting these transactions are nothing new, but with gas prices exceeding $4 per gallon, it’s increasingly easy to exceed the limit, leaving many customers to face the hassle of dealing with two-transaction purchases.
Now either we can pretend that these prices will soon go away, and the days of cheap gas will return. Or we can act like there’s at least some probability that price will remain this high or move higher, in which case we might want to begin fixing a transportation network seriously out of whack with economic reality.