Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Commuter Rail Musings

Reading a fair bit about commuter rails for work, getting a bit more in-depth than simple curiosity can furnish time for.

First off: The Darwin awards are numerous. The number of people who attempt to drive around lowered railroad gates is staggering. It's a reliable cause of death, as the railroad changes from use by low-speed freight to higher-speed commuter rail. Made worse when some grade crossings aren't signalized, and lack gates. One sad story was of a woman whose car stalled on the tracks, and the sat there, turning the key, until the train hit her.

Second, I find the contracting of commuter rail operations to be a bit obscene. It's like leasing a car--it lowers the up-front and daily cost, but at the end of the day, the purchaser is left with nothing. When talking about a major public investment, this seems a bit....odd. It makes sense in a 'let's try this out' sort of sense, but that implies a possibility of failure. And if leasing the track, it implies that the rolling stock and maintenance facility ought also be leased.

Third, maintaining track is expensive. An off the cuff number for a freight railroad noted that $10,000 per year per track mile was a reasonable estimate. Think of that--60 miles of track implies $600,000 a year, just to maintain to (far lower) freight standards.