By James E. Coston, Executive Chairman, Corridor Rail Development Corporation; December 20, 2022
CHICAGO – Those of us with just a bit of gray hair at the conclusion of 2022 look back half a century to the conclusion of 1972, Amtrak’s first full year of operations, and remember.
Those first years of Amtrak were a fascinating time; for some full of hope and promise for a new way of passenger trains in America, but for others a time of remembrance for what had been lost after over a century of passenger trains in our country. Working summers at Chicago Union Station for Amtrak during college back then, we loaded sold-out Broadway Limited’s and ran second sections of regional corridor trains over peak travel periods with borrowed equipment, and projected robust growth for Amtrak based upon demand. The growth hasn’t come from Amtrak and its trains, however. It’s come from successful efforts at the state and regional level to introduce and expand train routes and services.
Here at the end of 2022 the travel industry as a whole is moving past being in recovery mode after the pandemic and many aspects of travel are back to normal.
Brightline in South Florida has surpassed pre-pandemic ridership levels between MiamiCentral Station and West Palm Beach as the new railroad looks forward to opening service all the way to Orlando International Airport in 2023 as construction winds down on the new line. Brightline West, anticipating new, electrified service between Las Vegas and Southern California has predicted an imminent start of construction.
Further north in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, Caltrain continues to press forward with its full route electrification program, replacing diesel locomotives with new electric engines.
The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority in Montana is resolutely moving forward with an ambitious – and obtainable – goal of reinstating the lost and lamented Vista DomeNorth Coast Limited passenger train service from Chicago to the west coast across the former Northern Pacific/now BNSF southern tier line.
The West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition continues to move forward with its plan to reestablish passenger rail service from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to St. Paul Union Depot, reviving a former Chicago & North Western Railroad route, now on a Union Pacific Railroad line.
After much ado, a new Gulf Coast Limited between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama is in the works, for two round trips a day.
The Amtrak of today has post-pandemic revived all of its daily long distance/inter-regional trains with the reinstatement of the Silver Meteor. Many of the state-sponsored regional routes are back in service.
Fifty years after 1972, passenger rail in the United States is alive and well, with more plans than ever, both in the private and public sector for growth. Congress has come to appreciate the value of passenger trains and has opened the purse strings.
The early days of Amtrak in 1972 and the uncertainty of the future are long gone. As we look to 2023, there is a bright future for passenger trains on all fronts. Planning is underway. Meetings are being scheduled. Budgets are being drawn. A new generation of passenger cars and locomotives is rolling off the assembly lines.
The year 2023 is one to watch. And, Corridor Rail Development will continue to be part of the future of passenger rail in America. We are grateful to be part of a new, dynamic era of passenger trains in the third decade of the 21st Century.
Join us for the ride; it’s going to be fun for everyone.
Thanks for reading our website in 2022.
Happy Holidays to all and best wishes for a bright and prosperous 2023.