Reported by Robert Manning with comments by Paul Dyson, RailPAC President.
Wednesday June 10, 2009
I have just arrived home after attending the Sunset Marketing and Revitalization Team meeting which was held June 6, 2009 in New Orleans, LA. I should remind everyone that this SMART (not to be confused with the Sonoma-Marin project) came into existence for the following reasons:
- To insure the survival of Amtrak’s oldest named train the SUNSET LIMITED.
- To move the Sunset Limited to a daily train.
- To restore Sunset Limited service from New Orleans back to Florida.
A detailed report of the meeting was reported by SMART member Richard Wright (NOTE: this report is repeated at the end of this post on www.railpac.org), who wrote an excellent report on what the speakers said at the meeting but, I would like to add two comments.
First: Numerous people asked what Mr. Richard Phelps (Amtrak Vice President of Transportation) actually said regarding the ordering of Superliner equipment. Mr. Phelps simply identified the need for ordering a large quantity of bi-level Superliner style equipment as that type of equipment is preferable for the west coast long distance type of service.
My second comment is service restoration from New Orleans to Florida. The SMART group as a resolution went on record demanding daily service only from New Orleans, back to Florida. Several proposals were offered including thrice weekly service, extending the City of New Orleans to Orlando and maybe adding new service.
The “attention getter” was the three day a week service. Three days a week service disenfranchises the passenger, is fiscally irresponsible and does not make logical sense. If we are attempting to make the Sunset Limited a daily train for all of the right reasons, why even consider three day a week service back to Florida.
Robert Manning, President, Southwest Rail Passenger Association
Further comment from Paul Dyson, RailPAC President:
We all need to listen carefully and report what was said, not what we want to hear. (Good work, Bob). While Amtrak may (and should be) reviewing the need for additional Superliners there has been no decision made to place an order. RailPAC’s call for an immediate large order for Superliner style equipment for California and other corridor service as well as the overnight trains still stands and it is vital that we keep up the pressure until this happens.
While there are as many opinions about how to reconfigure the Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans as there are RailPAC members, Bob and I agree that the priority is to establish daily service as quickly as possible based on the plan Brian Rosenwald and the Amtrak team put together. That’s not to say that we give them unqualified support. It’s simply that now is the moment to make something happen and we cannot delay the process with further debate. And back to the rolling stock issue, the options that we really want, daily through service on all routes including to Florida, are not available because of the lack of cars. We will watch to see how the service operates and make suggestions for fine tuning in the months ahead, but first we must get the operation started.
RailPAC will be putting together a resolution which we and you, our members and supporters, will be taking to counties, cities, chambers of commerce and other interest groups supporting daily service. We need you to get involved in this issue, including individual letters to Mr. Boardman, to make it happen.