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Railroad Fuel Efficiency

From an article on Seeking Alpha I found this particular bit of information remarkable:

According to the Association of American Railroads, U.S. freight railroads averaged 484 ton-miles per gallon in 2010, a 106% improvement over the industry average of 235 ton-miles per gallon in 1980.

106% more efficient in 30 years. That’s outstanding! If only we could capture that kind of development in automobiles.

“Moving Things”

Another transportation blog I recently discovered, Cap’n Transit, has started an interesting series of articles on “moving things,” ie. freight hauling. You should read these little snippets. I especially appreciate some of the information and data he links to in these articles.

One quote caught my attention:

Reducing highway and fuel subsidies is one way to make the cost of trucking more apparent.

This is touching on a solution to one of our problems, the True Costs are Hidden. Fuel taxes (with generous help from the general federal budget) fund our highway infrastructure and therefore hide some of the costs associated with shipping freight or transporting people by car.

We need to reduce the subsidies to the highways and at the same time require shipping companies (and motorists perhaps) to directly fund the infrastructure they are using. This will put the different modes of “moving things” on more equal footing.

Amtrak’s $100-Million Trains

Fred Frailey did some digging and found some stupefying numbers for the yearly operations of select Amtrak passenger trains.

I’m old enough to not be frightened by big numbers. But I have to admit catching my breath when I saw what it costs Amtrak to operate three of its most popular and endearing trains. We’re talking nine digits.

via Trains Magazine.

I’ve had the opportunity to ride one of these trains, the Southwest Chief. For a nostalgic railfan like myself it was a great time. However, it took over 9 hours to travel from Chicago to Kansas City. This is not the model of efficient transportation. I suppose that’s further exemplified in the numbers Fred dug up… $103-million in costs, $62-million in revenue. There’s a reason the private railroads started dumping passenger service throughout the 1960′s… it was not tenable. Apparently it still isn’t.


Many of the photos I post here will also be available at this Flickr link. Enjoy!


The first post. Mainly a means to put a placeholder on the front page. This weblog will be a place to discuss issues regarding transportation development and policy. We’ll look at the current news, we’ll examine the issues, we’ll wrestle with policy. Enjoy!