27.1.14

A TRENCHANT OBSERVATION FOR A CHILLY DAY.

David Peter Alan of Destination: Freedom expresses his frustration with the all-weather mode letting people down.
Joseph M. Clift, former Director of Planning for the LIRR and now Technical Director of the Lackawanna Coalition, expressed his concern about how people would perceive their transit when it cuts service on a snowy day: “This current approach to rail service after a snowfall also adds to the existing negative strategic perception that the Tri-State area is a lousy place to live, if you have a significant commute.” Sevener also noted the irony in the situation: “Ironically, it is precisely in snowy times when public agencies urge people ‘not to drive and to take public transit’!”
It's a long way from "But the railroad always runs.
"Last week, this column discussed the status of rail travel as the “all-weather mode” of transportation, and how Amtrak has not always met that standard lately. The same is true of regional and local rail operations. It is becoming more difficult to go anywhere in severe winter weather, even on rail. An informed source told this writer that transit providers would rather furnish a low level of service rather than promise more service and take a chance on being unable to deliver on that promise.

As was mentioned in this column last week, [link added by the Superintendent] rail travel has its “foul weather friends” as the crews on the old New Haven Railroad called them a half-century ago. Both Amtrak and local rail providers have these riders; people who only take the train on snowy or severely-rainy days. Still, the more people who ride even occasionally, the better a reputation the transit provider has. If a transit agency can operate its railroad at or near full capacity even in the worst weather, everybody can rely on it to take them where they want to go, when they want to go there. Given the recent difficulties that essentially all transit providers have had with getting enough funding during the past several years, it appears to be in their interest to assure all potential riders that they can deliver service in any kind of weather.
"Getting enough funding" is a problem in resource allocation.  You can't efficiently fund for something other than conditions of ordinary demand (in Chicago, the lack of funding for the expressways changes what ordinary ridership on Metra looks like, and the parking charges downtown lead to full trains at weekends) but it's easier to note that the train in the station has sufficient cars to take care of the regular riders, and it's standing room only, but it will leave on time and run close to time.

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