New carpet is nice, but what we really need are new trains

September 13, 2017

Last week Amtrak announced it would be overhauling the seating and other interior details of its original Amfleet coaches. While it’s good to see Amtrak investing in keeping this aging equipment functional and comfortable, this is a reminder of how badly we need new, modern passenger coaches in the Midwest and around the country.

The Amfleet series was built from 1975 to 1977, making each car at least 40 years old today. One of the most important technological advances of the Amfleet was that it would allow Amtrak to finally replace cars that required steam for heating!

New passenger cars today would bring equally big technological advances. Modern designs are lighter yet stronger, allowing faster acceleration while enhancing safety. They have low centers of gravity and sophisticated suspensions that allow them to take curves faster and ride smoother at higher speeds.

Most modern trains are unified sets instead of individual cars. A unified trainset has sealed connections, which eliminates the hazards and nuisance of wind, rain and snow between cars. It also allows for better management of the forces in a collision, increasing passenger safety.

So while we’re looking forward to new carpets and seat cushions on our old Amfleet cars, what we really need are modern trains. We hope to have word soon on what's happening to the pending coach order for the Midwest and California. That order only covers 130 cars, though, and we'll need hundreds more to adequately equip our regional and long-distrance trains around the country. We look forward Amtrak's new CEO, Richard Anderson, working with the Trump administration and Congress to meet this significant need.

This week at Midwest High Speed Rail Association

We traveled to Detroit to attend the latest meeting for the FRA's Midwest Regional Rail Plan. Look forward to an update on that next week, as well as our impressions of Detroit and its new streetcar. The city is buzzing with activity and optimism for its future!

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