Safetee wrote:No question that IP has taken some torpedoes with some of it's endeavors. But, they can't be accused of not trying.
Agreed, but I think a better sense of knowing "when to say when" may have helped. It would certainly be nice if we were saying "Ed gave it his best" without the long line of unpaid creditors and employees to show for it (or better yet, how he found success).
Personally, I think the operation to watch is Brightline in Florida. I have worked in the transportation industry for over 25 years now, and I was told early on that "there is no money in moving people." And in my years, that invariably seems to be the case in all but a few niche operations. Even the largest transit agencies need substantial subsidies even if every seat on every train is filled every rush hour.
What Iowa Pacific has tried is generally a hobbyist/leisure-oriented business model. Brightline is a private operation setting up shop in a densely-populated region providing a necessary/desired/viable transportation option. That's a very fancy way of saying "If this doesn't work, nothing will" as far as private companies seeking to provide for-profit (or at least break even) passenger rail transportation. So, it will be interesting to watch that one. That said, while I don't know the specifics on how the company is set up, I have no idea how much (if any) of the Florida East Coast Railway's freight revenues will "prop up" Brightline. But at a minimum, they are providing a very nice right-of-way through some of the most densely-populated communities in Florida, so this is by no means some company with the wild idea to provide privately-funded passenger rail service across Raton Pass in New Mexico... ;-p
And that's not to say what Iowa Pacific was attempting to do with many of the marginal shortlines they acquired can't work. But the problem I see is the business model was reversed, or the cart was before the horse. You need a thriving freight operation to grow a budding passenger operation; not the other way around. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum here in Chattanooga is a good example, although I will admit the freight did not come first. They have had some handsome grants from NS over the years, too. But at present, they have established a substantial (and still growing) freight business in the Enterprise South business park, which includes switching the Volkswagen assembly plant. As a non-profit, there is not some side organization pocketing the loot-- it all gets invested in preservation and restoration at the museum, which also provides some nice excursions. That's a win-win, as I see it, especially now that the days of mainline steam look to be a distant memory on present-day NS.