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GojiMet86

M.T.A. Struggles to Deliver New Subway Cars and Signals

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Posted (edited)

The issue with American railcar manufacturers wasn’t that they made bad products. It’s that they took big risks at times when they had virtually no other customer base to fall back on. Let me remind you that when the R44/46 debacle was playing out, the national passenger train industry was imploding into Amtrak, a company whose only substantial orders in its first twenty years were for Superliners and Amfleets. The subway car market was never the focus of any of these builders — it was the larger passenger car market. And sure, if those orders hadn’t gone so badly, they may have survived a few years longer, but the reality at that time was that regardless of product quality, they either had to play the export game, or go. 

Now, yes, the export game. Since the ‘50s, Europe has been ahead of us in railway tech. Part of the post WW2 rebuild was making their rail network stellar and extremely interconnected, which of course generated a market for new rail products. American railroads were disinvesting in their passenger fleets at the time, giving American builders little monetary scope to research/build models for this market (especially considering nationalism in Europe would favor domestic car construction). So, we lost the export game. This isn’t to say American companies make inferior rail products — GE, EMD, ALCO supplied a massive chunk of the international locomotive market for a few decades, and the former two still do to some extent — it’s just the capital and therefore technology required to compete did not exist in the passenger car sector. 

Edited by RR503
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, bobtehpanda said:

The problem is there used to be a lot of American railcar companies, they just made shit products. It's interesting to note that European companies always managed to sell their products to foreigners, yet American companies had no track record of doing so - it's not as if Europe is making trains on the cheap.

The American subway market is also very, very, small - by length, New York's subway is already more than half of the subway track in the country! Given that trains have a shelf life of forty years, its no wonder that no American company has survived.

Yes, and that's another problem.  The issue that I think is overlooked is the jobs here in New York are increasingly concentrated Downstate.  Upstate has fewer job opportunities and so you need some sort of manufacturing because otherwise, what's your tax base there? Some farms here and there?  It becomes almost nothing. Add to it the never ending increasing taxes, and it isn't surprising to see people fleeing the state as they have been. The only growth has been Downstate and that's only because of the higher paying jobs, but we have no real manufacturing base anymore Downstate.  Years ago, the powers that be decided to move manufacturing out for the most part though we have a little in places like Brooklyn with the Navy Yard. The economy is centered around finance, tech, the film sector, tourism and health care/research.  Those are the main generators of jobs.  With no tax base Upstate, you think the State's budget is a mess now. We'd have billions of dollars leaving the state and nothing to show for it.  

The solution in my opinion to lure more manufacturers is the following:

-Tax incentives to build factories Upstate, similar to what we see in the South.  The South also has an advantage in that there are far fewer unions there, which makes doing business cheaper (lower overhead in terms of paying workers) AND MUCH lower taxes overall.

-If some vendor wants to set up shop Downstate, find a way to make it happen, though that is more complicated given how expensive land has become here, but Cuomo is well aware of the challenges facing our state.  Our taxes are too damn high, and it's very expensive to do business here.  Decrease the amount of regulations which further exacerbate costs, provide more tax incentives (or better yet decrease taxes), and maybe there's a chance.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8

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3 hours ago, RR503 said:

The issue with American railcar manufacturers wasn’t that they made bad products.

They weren't bad per-say, but they were definitely inferior to Japanese/European trains.

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44 minutes ago, kosciusko said:

They weren't bad per-say, but they were definitely inferior to Japanese/European trains.

But like someone above said, when the rest of the world invested in rail, we tore ours up to build interstates.

So Budd and ACF never stood a chance.

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On 5/7/2018 at 8:21 PM, Deucey said:

Dunno, but I think America was better governed when the states at both ends of Interstate 80 had the largest congressional delegations - since even when they were purple, they moderated the excesses of the radicals in the Confederacy in Congress.

New Jersey had one of the two largest Congressional delegations? When?

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2 hours ago, T to Dyre Avenue said:

New Jersey had one of the two largest Congressional delegations? When?

Sigh. 80 is close enough to the GWB...

And the exit and mile markers from 80 to the GWB on 95 continue from 80 - a legal anomaly but still.

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On 5/8/2018 at 12:37 PM, Deucey said:

But like someone above said, when the rest of the world invested in rail, we tore ours up to build interstates.

So Budd and ACF never stood a chance.

Didn't the car companies buy up rail lines and street car lines to eliminate them?

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1 hour ago, N6 Limited said:

Didn't the car companies buy up rail lines and street car lines to eliminate them?

Partially. But once someone in Detroit figured out they could sell more cars and earn more money by offering financing, transit was doomed.

But ACF and Budd weren't building streetcars as much as passenger trainsets, and the jet age made the Long haul passenger and mail train go away, hence the Penn and Penn Central bankruptcies.

So the American railcar industry either went cargo, out of business or got bought by foreigners.

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4 hours ago, N6 Limited said:

Didn't the car companies buy up rail lines and street car lines to eliminate them?

This did happen, but plenty of places were doing it without the help of the auto companies. You have to keep in mind that with streetcars, maintenance of the track, and often the lane or the street the track was on, was the responsibility of the transit company in many areas. Abandoning these systems meant you dropped a lot of overhead.

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Pretty interesting this has come up, because I'm currently reading a book that describes how mass motorization and transit have played out in the US.

While some car companies did convince systems to turn over to buses in the 40s and 50s, almost all the streetcar systems in the US had been in decline after the Great Depression, before the big emphasis on highways had begun. They had peaks around the late '20s, and because of WWI, the Depression, and bad credits, they were already doomed.

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On 5/17/2018 at 7:32 AM, GojiMet86 said:

Pretty interesting this has come up, because I'm currently reading a book that describes how mass motorization and transit have played out in the US.

While some car companies did convince systems to turn over to buses in the 40s and 50s, almost all the streetcar systems in the US had been in decline after the Great Depression, before the big emphasis on highways had begun. They had peaks around the late '20s, and because of WWI, the Depression, and bad credits, they were already doomed.

Keep in mind that you didn't necessarily need highways to make streetcars crap. Streetcars did not have dedicated lanes, and it only takes a few bad drivers to completely muck up a streetcar line.

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Posted (edited)

Cars were not the root cause of the demise of the streetcar in the USA. In the late '20s and '30s, cars weren't as ubiquitous to make cause traffic. They were certainly a huge and visible factor in its extinction and demise, along with highways and buses, especially in the '50s, but the nail in the coffin had already been hammered.

Bad investments, credit problems with banks, crappy upkeep in maintenance, fares that were fixed (and sometimes using discounts during the rush hours instead at off-peak) when workers became unionized, a refusal to turn over the systems to city ownership, all that stuff was going on for years. The decision to fund the construction of highways, the changing behaviors and patterns of passengers, and increasing traffic only exacerbated the problem.

Edited by GojiMet86

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