Let Policymakers Know about these Pro Rail Strategies

Our friends at Climate Rail Alliance have coordinated a Letter Campaign to policymakers in DC, and Solutionary Rail is an enthusiastic supporter! Will YOU help Congressmembers see how rail is a solution for so many of the 21st Century crises facing us? 

Please take 3 minutes and use the Action Network Tool to take action for rail advocacy by communicating with your representatives.  The text of the letter is below the link.

Quickly send a letter to your Senators and Representative by clicking here: 

https://actionnetwork.org/letters/pro-rail-strategies-for-federal-action?source=email&

TEXT OF LETTER:

Thank you for your advocacy for infrastructure and policy that fights climate change! I am contacting you to encourage you to put rail development at the top of your list for transportation, energy, and climate solutions. Rail transportation must be an essential part of an effective climate strategy.

Our nation is on the threshold of a paradigm shift in how we transform industry while reducing climate emissions. Development of a modern, accessible, efficient rail network must provide a crucial missing link by upgrading our current corridors for near-future benefit as well as building new corridors for longer-term benefit. The following are some basic facts about the importance of rail transportation:

Energy efficiency: Conventional rail uses much less energy than cars and trucks, whatever the source of energy; data show trains use one-third or less of the fuel needed by cars and trucks. This is due to the simple physics of steel wheels making contact the size of a dime on steel rails. https://theconversation.com/rail-travel-is-cleaner-than-driving-or-flying-but-will-americans-buy-in-112128

Climate change: A mode shift of freight and passenger traffic from road to rail will reduce climate emissions by at least two thirds for every person or ton of goods moved, even while continuing to use diesel power, helping us meet our goal of 45% emissions reduction by 2030 - the critical tipping point for reversing climate change. https://www.ipcc.ch/

Less reliance on roads and EVs: Clearly we must shift from gas engines to electric vehicles and EVs will be essential for first and last mile and short-distance travel, but rail transportation offers several advantages over proliferation of EV trucks and cars: It reduces congestion and wear and tear on our overburdened roads and highways. Workers, families, and shippers will have time-saving options to being stuck in highway traffic. There will be less tire wear releasing particulate matter that poisons salmon and groundwater and contributes to the existence of oceanic plastic polymers found as far away as the Arctic, which affect marine animal health. https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/when-rubber-hits-the-road-and-washes-away/

https://www.washington.edu/news/2020/12/03/tire-related-chemical-largely-responsible-for-adult-coho-salmon-deaths-in-urban-streams/

Train travel is many times safer than highway travel (http://www.tinyurl.com/Railroad-GND - see pages 11 and 29). Double tracking can move as many people and goods as a 4-lane highway using a fraction of the land. Rail means less reliance on batteries.

Electrification: Unlike cars and trucks, trains can be electrified via power lines above the track, minimizing our reliance on resource-intensive lithium batteries. Lithium, cobalt, and other rare earths are needed for many modern devices, and mining and disposal comes with a cost to human communities and natural resources. To avoid over-extraction we will need to electrify wherever possible. We do not have to electrify all of our national rail network at once; we can do so incrementally and while in operation. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/business/lithium-mining-race.html 

https://dotcms.fra.dot.gov/sites/fra.dot.gov/files/inline-images/STB_2018_PublicMap_022620.png

Public Health, Worker Health: Electrified rail corridors and electrification of station and trainyard machinery will greatly improve health outcomes for rail workers and for communities living near busy ports, hubs, and corridors.

Mobility justice is served by an integrated rail system that connects rural and urban communities via rail and transit, with on-demand or last mile EV service and station hub housing development that supports bicycle use and walkable communities.

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As we shift to a zero carbon emissions transportation infrastructure regionally and nationally, expanding and making full use of our existing rail system is essential. To that end, we call on you to support:

1. Robust funding for Amtrak: Amtrak’s proposal of $59 billion will leave us short of our goal of a modern, optimized railroad system. As the transportation infrastructure package makes its way through Congress, public rights and public ownership must be a guiding principle, and Amtrak needs to be funded at a minimum of $80 billion as designated in President Biden’s original proposal. Washington State alone needs $10 billion for implementation of the 300-mile Cascades corridor Long Range Plan and another $10 billion for our long-neglected East-West corridor.

2. Pro-Amtrak legislation: We strongly support SB 1500 enabling Amtrak to sue through district courts for railroad companies to follow their legal agreement to privilege Amtrak passage on the shared corridors.

3. Assessment of the true cost of freight: USDOT and EPA need to develop a “True Cost” or External Cost Calculator to assess the overall cost of freight. https://www.solutionaryrail.org/extcostcalc

4. Accessible, transparent information about the benefits of rail: We need a US version of European Shift2Rail Internalizing Handbook. https://www.solutionaryrail.org/shift2rail

5. Precision Scheduled Railroad: Implement the request submitted on May 12, 2021, by the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee to the General Accounting Office, for a study of the impact of the Class I rail industry’s “Precision Scheduled Railroad” business model. We are concerned specifically about the rail industry’s massive staffing cuts and trend toward single-person crews on ever-longer unit trains that have contributed to a decline in safety rather than an increase in efficiency.

6. Railroad’s Common Carrier obligations: Common Carrier is a fundamental principle of common law and the cornerstone for protecting public goods related to the conveyance of people and goods. It is time for Congress to clarify and modernize the Common Carrier Obligations (CCO) of US interstate railroads to serve 21st Century public interests. This critical national infrastructure must be harmonized with national transportation policy and provide service that is equitable, accessible, and reliable for all shippers large and small. Since 1976, deregulation of the railroads, specifically through the application of commodity and service exemptions, has systematically eroded and perverted the very meaning of Common Carrier as applied to railroads and rendered the derived Obligations nugatory. See specific recommendations related to CCO, Congress and the Surface Transportation Board at: http://SolutionaryRail.org/cco

As the nation builds back better with an emphasis on energy efficiency, climate justice, and a swift reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, utilizing our existing rail network is a solution hiding in plain sight. For more information, please contact [email protected] to further discuss rail as an essential part of a sustainable, 21st century transportation system.

Thank you for your attention.

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Thank you, Solutionary Rail friends, for taking action and sharing these points with your elected officials and other policymakers at the federal level.

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  • Amy Morrison
    published this page in Take Action 2021-08-04 13:59:58 -0700
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