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Amtrak

Texas Central and Amtrak

Connectivity is good.

Amtrak and Texas Central announced a partnership Friday to link the proposed bullet train from Dallas to Houston to the national passenger rail network.

Passengers will be able to book their bullet train trips through Amtrak. The partnership also commits the high-speed rail operator to transport passengers between Amtrak’s Dallas endpoint, Union Station, to the Texas Central’s multilevel station between South Riverfront Boulevard and South Austin Street.

Texas Central will also provide similar shuttle service between the Amtrak endpoint and the former mall site it has chosen for a terminal in northwest Houston.

[…]

The agreement also makes Amtrak training, marketing and sales capabilities available to Texas Central.

See here for the press release. I don’t know how many people might take advantage of this networking between Amtrak and Texas Central, but being able to plug into Amtrak’s ticketing system instead of having to build their own is a win for TCR. And seriously, all of the connections, from the proposed extension to D/FW Airport to the Uptown BRT and whatever else Metro may build to this, they’re all good and make the overall system better. Keep it coming.

More money for SUPERTRAINS

Good news.

[Thursday], the U.S. House passed its housing and transportation bill, which will provide funds for fiscal year 2010. Approved mostly by members of the majority Democratic party, the bill would allocate $4 billion to high-speed rail programs — if the Senate’s version, likely to be considered after the August recess, includes the same provision. If a planned infrastructure bank is authorized by the Congress later this year, $2 billion of the included funds would be shifted there and could be devoted to non-rail projects, though that prospect appears unlikely at this time.

In the President’s Budget, released earlier this year, Mr. Obama asked the Congress to devote $1 billion for the next five years for high-speed rail, in addition to the $8 billion already marked for the program under the stimulus bill. The House’s decision to increase that number to $4 billion is a direct reaction to the huge response from states and the private sphere for stimulus-based federal rail grants. The FRA revealed that forty states had applied for more than $103 billion.

Excellent. I hope this increases Texas’ chances of getting SUPERTRAIN funds.

Thinking forward to when the Texas T-Bone is up and running, how attractive would it be as a travel option? Right now, a round trip to Austin is a bit more than 300 miles for me, or about a tank of gas. That’s $25-$40 depending on one’s fuel efficiency at $2.50 a gallon gas. There isn’t a direct Amtrak route from Houston to Austin now, but a round trip between Houston and San Antonio would run you about $70. You’ll note those departure and arrival times aren’t exactly convenient, and the train ride is much longer than driving would be, but one presumes the future T-Bone train would run more frequently, with business day trips in mind, and likely at a lower cost. Assuming it has amenities like WiFi and electric outlets, even at cost that’s higher than driving and a comparable trip duration, I’d consider it a win. As long as I could get between the station and my destination in Austin easily enough – Austin’s future light rail line will be of some help, imperfect as it may be – it would be something I’d strongly consider. We’ve a long way to go before we get there, but it’s worth looking forward to. Thanks to Yglesias for the link.