Monday, February 9, 2009

The Stimulus Bill Saga: Senate Edition

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

UPDATE: MSNBC reports that the cloture vote on Nelson (D-NE) / Collins (R-ME) amendment just passed 61-36 in the Senate. This development suggests that both Sen. Collins and Sen. Snowe (both R-ME) and Sen. Specter (R-PA) have voted in favor and, makes is very likely that the version discussed below will reach cloture and pass on Tuesday. Note that there are multiple numbers describing the dollar volume of the bill, perhaps because of varying estimates of costs related to tax cuts and assistance for the unemployed.

UPDATE 2: As expected, the Senate has passed its version of the stimulus bill with the help of yes votes from Sen. Collins (R-ME), Sen. Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Specter (R-PA). CNN previews the compromises both houses will have now have to make in conference.


The Huffington Post has published a summary of the compromise on the stimulus bill as hammered out by centrist Republicans and Democrats to secure a filibuster-proof majority in the crucial vote expected on Tuesday, Feb 10. With amendments introduced and voted on in record speed, it has been difficult for Senators - never mind the general public - to ascertain the precise status of the bill over the past few days.

For the purposes of this blog, the most relevant section is the one on transportation. All line items are limited to capital projects, the numbers in parentheses refer to the amount in the amended House version as received by the Senate.

- $27.06b for highways (was $30b)
- $8.4b for transit (was $7.5b)
- $5.5b for general-purpose grants (was $2.5b)
- $1.3b for commercial aviation (was $3b)

- $2.0b for high speed rail (was $2b for fixed guideways)

- $250m to states for intercity rail (was $300m)
- $850m for Amtrak (was $800m)
- $160m for small shipyards + ferry services (was $0)
- $830m for roads on public lands (was $750m, but as part of $30b highway grant)

Total: $47.34b or 6% of the entire $780b Senate version (was $46.1b or 5.6% of the entire $819b House version)

Readers of this blog will be pleased to see that the Senate version targets $2b specifically at high speed rail in the corridors designated by DOT, especially since the California project is currently the only one with a completed program EIR/EIS. However, as currently defined by DOT, "high speed" translates to a minimum top speed of just 90mph. Note that the House version permits applications for arbitrary corridors and lower-speed technologies (e.g. commuter rail, subways, light rail, streetcars, guided buses, unmanned people movers, monorail systems, even urban gondolas).

Unfortunately, it's not entirely clear in either version into which funding category e.g. Amtrak California, a joint venture between Amtrak and Caltrans, would fall. California HSR is arguably also intercity rail, but I don't think that's what Senators had in mind. Similarly unclear is the distance at which local transit ends and intercity rail begins or, how it relates to the size of the state(s) requesting funding. In California, consider e.g. the cases of BART, Caltrain, Metrolink, NCTD and SMART. Comparable systems might well be interstate services in parts of New England! A paragraph clarifying these demarcations, if only by reference to existing DOT definitions, would be helpful.

All told, the Senate version actually increases transportation spending by around 3% relative to the House version, in spite of cutting the total bill volume by almost 5%. In particular, some funding has been shifted away from oil-intensive highways and aviation and toward fuel-efficient transit.

Also greatly increased is the level of general-purpose grants that DOT, i.e. the Obama administration, may award to any mode of transportation in an as-yet ill-defined competitive bidding process. The general policy direction of the administration appears to be in favor of weaning the nation off oil, but that may be superseded by a need to spend money as quickly as possible and/or to reward the Republican Senators that are breaking ranks. Both Maine and Pennsylvania have plenty of existing infrastructure, e.g. road bridges, in urgent need of repair. Once the stimulus bill is out of the way, the President may well seek to secure ongoing support from these centrist Republicans by negotiating a formal European-style coalition agreement with them - plus Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi - through end of year 2010.

If the Senate passes this latest version of the stimulus bill as-is, it will still have to be reconciled with the engrossed House version in conference. IMHO, given the razor-thin majority in the Senate, it is likely that House Democrats - after some huffing and puffing - will swallow their pride and make do with relatively minor last-minute adjustments so the President can sign the bill into law as soon as possible.

As a whole, it is arguably very much imperfect, especially in its emphasis on tax cuts over emergency assistance to states whose tax base has collapsed. Unfortunately, politics is the art of the possible. By including generous tax cuts from the outset, the President denied the GOP the opportunity to be seen exercising what little power it has left. It doesn't matter that those cuts were a key campaign promise, since the President had been careful not to specify when it would be kept. Thus, the GOP could have claimed to have forced him to concede them earlier than he might have wanted to and, pretended that this morsel of fake red meat constituted the basis of true bipartisanship. "No drama Obama" simply forgot that for opposition Senators, grandstanding is the point. They need their 15 minutes of C-SPAN fame.

Meanwhile, most state constitutions - including California's - require balanced budgets. This effectively forces Governors to act as Mini-Hoovers, furloughing or letting go state employees, thus reducing their ability to prop up an economy in desperate need of consumer demand. It would be prudent to restore the $40 billion in aid to states that was cut, but with strings attached - especially for the state of California, whose deficit dwarfs that of the other 49. For example, there could be a requirement that balanced state budgets be passed with simple majorities going forward, subject only to a gubernatorial veto. If compliance requires a change to the state constitution, so be it.

Alternatively, the stimulus bill could be amended to authorize the Federal Reserve to buy a certain dollar volume of long-term state bonds at reasonable rates, e.g. those prevailing prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers (i.e. based on a credit rating of A+ rather than A for California). At a recipient state's request, the authorization would waive repayments in 2009 and 2010, with interest accruing in the interim. With regard to capital investments, only the difference between the interest offered by the Federal Reserve and that available on the market would represent a federal contribution.

Fortunately, the above comparison suggests the House will probably not seek to reduce spending on transportation projects, which enjoys broad support from the electorate. Indeed, it is theoretically possible that an amendment co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to add another $25 billion for highway, water and transit infrastructure could be incorporated into the bill in conference, especially if attempts to reverse cuts in general aid to states should fail. The amendment had received 58 votes in the Senate, just two shy of the number needed to overcome a Senate filibuster on the issue.

34 comments:

Jim said...

WEll I'm happy with the numbers. Its about the best we can hope for. I work for amtrak so im glad they kept money in there and I asume this is money in addition to our regular funding. The money for hsr is also just a starting amount, as this won't be the only legislation.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

the rail funding in the stimulus bill would be on top of what has already been approved last year in HR 2095.

Note that the stimulus bill does include $100 million (available through Sept 30, 2010) for securing transit systems, railroads in general and Amtrak in particular to comply with the recommendations of the 9/11 commission (i.e. to prevent sabotage or terrorist attacks). Such systems inevitably require additional staff.

However, it's important to read the fine print. The title XII sections of the stimulus bill mentioned in the post do not provide additional operating subsidies to Amtrak, only money for capital improvements to track and/or rolling stock that is spent on projects in the next 2 years and then only if those projects weren't already in line for funding from other sources.

One of the most useful ways to spend this fresh money would be on FRA-compliant diesel multiple unit (DMU) equipment, which uses substantially less fuel than traditional locomotives towing consists. Diesel may be cheap now, but oil prices are set to rise again in a few years and rolling stock has a life expectancy of decades.

Only one company, Colorado Railcar, has developed such designs to date, but it went out of business just a few weeks ago.

Amtrak ought to acquire the patents and factory for a song, re-hire the workers at reasonable rates and start building its own rolling stock to boost medium-distance passenger rail service frequency in the nation's emerging megaregions as well as selected corridors outside them (e.g. in the Denver area). California provides a model for operating these in a partnership with state DOTs, many of which currently lack planning expertise for railroads. There are, however, many passenger railroads at the county level that may well be interested in purchasing FRA-compliant DMU equipment from a dependable vendor, e.g. Amtrak itself.

Any rolling stock produced should anticipate future upgrades to engine power and in-cab signaling to enable rapid rail service at speeds up to 125mph on level terrain.

Since the diesel engines in DMUs are essentially the same as those used in heavy duty trucks, it would be relatively straightforward to replace them with European units that already feature particulate filters and urea injection to sharply reduce soot and NOx emissions.

Complete subframes with hybrid electric drivetrains are currently in development in Europe to further reduce diesel consumption.

It should also be relatively straightforward to create full EMU and/or bi-modal versions such that combination EMU/DMU trainsets could operate on partially electrified corridors. The target voltage should be 25kV single-phase AC for overhead catenaries and 3kV DC for third rail pick-ups, though support for legacy systems should be an available option for e.g. the NEC.

Once a market for producing, upgrading and servicing FRA-compliant DMUs is established, Amtrak could spin out the division to private investors at a profit. If and when FRA decides to permit non-compliant rolling stock not just in the SF peninsula but more generally, that company could then decide to build that in the US under license.

Clem said...

Enough FRA silly-talk... just go non-compliant. The invasion has begun.

San Diego SPRINTER
NJT River Line
Ottawa O-Train
Austin Capital MetroRail

FRA-compliant DMU is an oxymoron that should never be implemented. It is far more productive, stimulus-wise, to modernize the regulations.

BruceMcF said...

Clem, none of those are medium distance regional transport corridors ... the Sprinter is 22miles, the River is 34 miles, Austin Metrorail is 34 miles. By contrast, the proposed triple-C route is over 200 miles, and the Chicago - Kansas City route is over 400 miles.

Different beasts.

FRA compliant DMU's make plenty of sense for quick roll-out of regional corridors, whether 80mph or 110mph passive tilt ... even if a Rapid Rail grid is established that operated under a different compliance framework, the FRA compliant stock can be pushed out to adding new routes to the system, as well as operating on time-sliced lines during the time periods they are under FRA restrictions.

JP said...

Thanks for breaking these bills down, Rafael. Good work!

Happy to see there is dedicated HSR spending in the Senate bill, but disappointed that the bill is over 40% tax cuts. Tax cuts won't stimulate the economy as much as infrastructure spending will, and tax cuts don't build anything of lasting worth.

Rafael said...

@ Clem -

I suspect that even if FRA is formally tasked with developing a regulatory path to rapid rail, i.e. FRA-compliant freight sharing track with non-compliant passenger trains at speeds up to 125mph according to a timetable with quiet zone grade crossings allowed, bureaucrats there will spend several years covering their backsides with exhaustive testing. In this context, the SF peninsula and other corridors with significant passenger but little or no freight service may well serve as guinea pigs.

On their main lines, freight rail operators will drag their feet and demand public subsidies to implement the modern signaling needed for adequate safeguards against train-on-train collisions. Moreover, other than (hopefully) HSR, passenger heavy rail will always require operating subsidies. The upshot is that many routes connecting relatively small cities (50k-500k inhabitants) to each other and regional metropolises will rely on FRA-compliant equipment for some time to come.

I don't like it either, but that's the reality as I see it. Unless there is a major shift in federal spending priorities, rapid rail is a concept that will take decades to implement in many corridors. Right now, intercity passenger rail is on but still near the bottom of Obama's ambitious agenda.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

Colorado Railcar's designs do not incorporate passive tilt. The only manufacturer who has ever succeeded in making that work reliably at all is Talgo, in its non-compliant Pendular series. In the US, Amtrak used this for the Desert Wind service from LA to Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Thanks to an FRA waiver that grandfathered it in when regulations were tightened, this rolling stock is still in active service in the Pacific Northwest.

The new Talgo XXI is an FRA-compliant version of the popular Talgo BT. As far as I can tell, neither version incorporates passive tilt, which is anyhow limited to just 1-2 degrees.

The Acela Express experience suggests that off-the-shelf active tilt systems can only support the extra weight required to meet FRA crash safety regulations if expensive scheduled maintenance occurs as often as every 20,000 miles.

Robert Cruickshank said...

Thanks for posting this, rafael, as I haven't had a chance to get to it today. Good to see that trains survived the cuts in the stimulus. The next big battle will be over the transportation bill reauthorization and Kerry's own HSR bill.

BruceMcF said...

Regarding, "Moreover, other than (hopefully) HSR, passenger heavy rail will always require operating subsidies." ... that depends upon the size of the travel market and the trip time by train. The Great Lakes have been so so starved of capital subsidies for alternatives to driving that we have a number of routes that might well cover their operating costs with their fare box if bottlenecks to regular intercity Express services were removed ... and Rapid Rail expands the number of effective trip pairs still further.

When you have metro areas of 500K/1m and 1m/1m that are 100 to 120 miles apart, its not necessarily the case that each city pair needs to be connected at 200mph in order to generate a viable patronage base in terms of covering operating costs.

Rather than claiming flat out that all passenger rail other than HSR requires operating subsidy, I would reverse it and argue that just as car and truck and bus and air transport are all provided with operating subsidies, passenger rail should be provided with an operating subsidy.

BruceMcF said...

"Unless there is a major shift in federal spending priorities, rapid rail is a concept that will take decades to implement in many corridors."

Yes, although development of Energy Independent Transport will not require the same intense diversion of resources as the development of Energy Dependent Transport did, since some of the efficiency gains can be harvested in support of the process, still, it will take an awareness of the nation's strategic vulnerability, where people would far rather sidestep the issue in hopes that it will go away on its own.

Rafael said...

@ Robert Cruickshank -

well, the proverbial fat lady hasn't sung yet on the stimulus bill. Btw, I didn't see the Kerry HSR bill among those already submitted for the 111th Congress.

@ BruceMcF -

I have no problem with subsidies for passenger rail, IMHO it is a valuable public service. My intent was simply to point out that it is a financial burden many states have been unwilling to bear.

Btw, "Energy Independent Transport" is a bit of an oxymoron. How about "Zero OPEC Oil Mobility" (ZOOM) instead? ;^)

Jim said...

well, one thing that amtrak needs is new rolling stock. we have have a fairly recent generation of locomotives... i don't keep up this stuff too much as Im not T&E but we use the GE locos on the long distance trains. and the superliner rolling stock is 30 years old. californias corridors - cali buys that "california car" equipment - I think its bombardier.. ? caltrans I guess had most for the input on what they wanted in a car designed specifically for cali. and they will have the say on what we get in the future. but we desperately need long distance coaches lounges diners and sleepers taht for sure. the maintenance workers at amtrak have done an excellent job of keeping them running and dragging out every old piece of equipment weve got and getting it rebuilt and into service but its just not enough to meet growing demand. The DMUs and such are for commuter rail. and wouldn't be good for our state trains. as far as FRA... It will be forever before they budge, and the freight railroads still run the world. They will never allow it. The railroad is steeped in history and tradition and no one is going to be jumping up and down for quick changes. quite frankly, I prefer things not change too quickly . but HSR is a different animal. built from scratch and anything is possible.

Rafael said...

@ Jim -

I wasn't thinking of DMUs for long-distance trains, through Colorado Railcar claims theirs can easily pull a number of unpowered coaches. The notion that such equipment is only useful for commuter rail may be antiquated.

I was thinking of increasing strictly regional service levels in places like the Midwest and Southeast, in joint ventures with the states there. It's not appropriate that Amtrak should only provide service in the NEC plus multi-day treks half-way across the continent.

In California, there may well be a market for dependable Amtrak California sleeper car service between Sacramento and Los Angeles (and/or Oakland to San Diego) since it will be another decade or more before the first HSR trains start running.

The main issue is the frankly atrocious on-time performance record of the Coast Starlight operated by the national organization. I realize that is due to chronic delays north of Sacramento beyond Amtrak's control, plus union rules regarding shift lenghts. The best way to get a handle on that is to operate substantially shorter routes and, to construct short sections of bypass track where appropriate - with the counties served chipping in.

For the first time in a long time, taxpayers are willing to fund Amtrak more generously. They rightfully expect that the organization will jump at the chance to improve the punctuality and frequency of its service.

TomW said...

As I understand it, the FRA rules on rolling stock (which cause so much difficulty with DMUs) were introduced a long time ago, when rolling stock was a lot less crashworthy today. Modern DMUs (as used in Europe and elswhere) are sufficiently crashworthy that they can and do operate on liens with shared with freight trains.

Oddly, the same issue is croppign up in Toronto, where the plan is to use DMUs for the city-centre/airport link. One propsal is to use the old Budd RDCs - not because they are FRA complient, but because they are so old, they pre-date the rules and so have grandfather rights...

TomW said...

(Sorry for double posting)
@ Rafael, 1:56 AM: Did you know that the amount of overtime Amtrak pays to staff on late running trains amounts to one third of its annual operating losses?

Rafael said...

@ TomW -

I didn't know that but it doesn't surprise me. Overtime and unusual expenses really add up.

A relatively modest investment (still billions of dollars, but spread out across the nation) in publicly funded bypass sections in strategic locations would greatly reduce wait states on many single-track lines without any negative impact on freight operations. Better on-time performance and line haul times would attract more ridership, closing the virtuous circle.

BruceMcF said...

TomW, adopting European standards would also involve spending money on upgrades to heavy freight rolling stock and heavy freight lines, since the European standards rely far more heavily on dynamic crash prevention than the FRA heavy freight standards.

Its simple bureaucratic clientelism ... the clients of the FRA are primarily heavy freight railroads who under the current YOYO+tax public:private sharing of capital costs of infrastructure benefit from cost reductions than from speed and reliability improvement, while the clients of the European regulators include a far larger number of public passenger rail operators of one or another sort.

BruceMcF said...

""Energy Independent Transport" is a bit of an oxymoron. How about "Zero OPEC Oil Mobility" (ZOOM) instead?"

In what sense is it an oxymoron? The US has around 24% of oil consumption, 8% of oil production and 2% of oil reserves, and over the past thirty years we have dug ourselves deeply into a structural dependency on energy imports, after centuries of Energy Independence.

And of course, the US has roughly twice the per person biocapacity as the world average, so if our energy economy is not Energy Independent, there's no way for it to be widely adopted without discovery of a second or third Earth to import the resources from.

Unlike "OPEC Free", which in a world market for crude oil is just meaningless populist posturing with no substantial meaning, Energy Independence is a pre-requisite (though of course not sufficient) for an ecologically sustainable economy.

And we obviously can't achieve Energy Independence unless we have Energy Independent Transport, Built Environment, and Agriculture.

BruceMcF said...

Rafeal: "I have no problem with subsidies for passenger rail, IMHO it is a valuable public service. My intent was simply to point out that it is a financial burden many states have been unwilling to bear."

... for the Ohio Hub, its definitely the capital cost that is the hold-up, rather than any concern with a need to subsidize operation ... more than three decades of manufacturing job losses in Ohio has not tended to lead to Governors and Legislatures with the ambition to invest big in capital works.

And AFAIU, Illinois' squeezing of its capital works budget in its perennial budget crises in fights between corrupt Governors and corrupt Legislators is the stuff of legend.

Jim said...

@ rafael who said "The main issue is the frankly atrocious on-time performance record of the Coast Starlight operated by the national organization. I realize that is due to chronic delays north of Sacramento beyond Amtrak's control, plus union rules regarding shift lenghts. The best way to get a handle on that is to operate substantially shorter routes and, to construct short sections of bypass track where appropriate - with the counties served chipping in."
----
WEll just to update you the coast starlight has had amazing on time performance this year. shocking yes. UP has done a lot of trackwork that needed to be done and freight traffic is way down due to the economy. Those two things, ( and minus the mudslide last year) have made all the difference. The fact is, that when we don't have interference from freight, we run on time. As for more crossover and passing tracks, that is up to UP and they have to be willing to up grade their tracks. That is a private company and its up to them as to whether they want to make that investment. BTW the Zephyr has been coming in an hour early everday as well. As for the crew work rules, that is a safety issue and will not be compromised, ever.

For the first time in a long time, taxpayers are willing to fund Amtrak more generously. They rightfully expect that the organization will jump at the chance to improve the punctuality and frequency of its service.

Jim said...

as for the comments on amtraks overtime budget I can tell you it getting hard to make ends meet with the trains running on time. Im glad they are on time, because I have happier clients and it makes the job a lot easier, but Im cutting coupons and bagging my own groceries. I can't speak to eastern trains but in the west the empire builder and the chief have had good on time performance for a long time because they run on bnsf. The coast starlight and zephyr run on UP and WERE notoriously late, but again, thanks to track work cooperation of UP and a drop in freight. these trains are doing very well. I also think and its just a guess, but it is in the interests of the freight railroads to slow things down to the point that amtrak passengers holler for investment, then the freight RRs get their stuff fixed up on the public dime. I think THAT is really goes on. and the FRA is like the FDA - who do they REALLY work for? Also while we all wont better railroads, those of us who work in the undustry are not going to have that done on our backs/livelihoods. So you know, things happen slowly, but progress is being made.

Jim said...

In other news - if anyone saw Obama in Florida today - he did mention high speed rail a couple of times.

Rafael said...

@ BruceMcF -

oxymoron in the sense that no mode of transportation can operate without and energy input. Oil is not the same thing as energy.

@ Jim -

great to hear that my impression of the Coast Starlight is already out of date. Good job Amtrak.

I would love to see you and your coworkers employees receive bonuses for meeting achievable targets for on-time performance and high customer satisfaction as opposed to paid overtime for delays. You should have an incentive to do what's right for customers so you can earn a decent wage. Perhaps that's one to take up with your union negotiators.

Jim said...

rafael,

well it depends on the craft. I mean delays are really t&e 's area. and again. the vast majority of delay issues, have to do with freight and weather. two things we have zero control over. as for bonuses, that won't happen, the company isn't into that sort of thing. When I first started there were suppose to be such bonuses for capitol corridor, never materialized. the only we can do is negotiate better wages and we never get a contract until 4-8 years after the last one expires. they save money that way by dragging out the process. Im just now making what I should have been making four years ago. we just got a contract that expires this year. granted we get the back pay but by the time they do all the deductions it amounts to lunch at subway. Still, its a good job and Im glad to have it. optimism however is always met with disappointment around here. Any suggestions of how to make improvement are generally met with a list of reasons why it can't be done.

BruceMcF said...

"oxymoron in the sense that no mode of transportation can operate without and energy input. Oil is not the same thing as energy."

Ah, the answer to that problem is, "don't read it in such a deliberately obtuse way". "Energy Independence" refers to whether a country is self-sufficient in energy or whether its economy depends on Energy Imports, so Energy Independent Transport is a Transport System that can be powered by reliance on domestic power sources.

Spokker said...

Jim, I heard Amtrak employees get paid well. Is that not the case?

It sounds like you've been living a lifestyle based on overtime due to late trains. I don't think that has been a good strategy. We are all striving to make the trains run on-time and that day will come. You should know that.

It's time to rearrange your lifestyle, my friend.

BruceMcF said...

"I was thinking of increasing strictly regional service levels in places like the Midwest and Southeast, in joint ventures with the states there. It's not appropriate that Amtrak should only provide service in the NEC plus multi-day treks half-way across the continent."

Precisely. Toronto / Buffalo / Cleveland / Columbus / Cincinnati return, connecting to Cincinnati / Indianapolis / Chicago return, Pittsburgh / Youngstown / Warren / Cleveland / Toledo / Fort Wayne / Chicago return, Pittsburgh / Columbus / Lima / Fort Wayne / Chicago, return.

There are a number of Great Lakes corridors that are decent multiple daytime frequency routes with 80mph trains and very good routes with 110mph trains, given the improvements required to provide clear paths.

Jim said...

Jim, I heard Amtrak employees get paid well. Is that not the case?

It sounds like you've been living a lifestyle based on overtime due to late trains. I don't think that has been a good strategy. We are all striving to make the trains run on-time and that day will come. You should know that.

It's time to rearrange your lifestyle, my friend."

HA! that would be funny if it wasnt' so very very wrong. . what should I give up, my glamourous tenderloin studio with mice, my fast pass, and weekly trip to get groceries down at the third world supermarket? the car I don't have. Guess I could shut the cable off or get rid of the metro pcs phone. What world are you living in? lol. The job pays well if you live on omaha or Minot north dakota. you can buy a house there. It does not pay well by bay area standards by the time they do all the deductions taxes pension dues medical, i take home about 550 a week, and 300 hundred of that each week goes for rent. do the math. I love the job though. and Im not suggesting that I don't want the trains to run on time. I do want them to run on time. again, it has nothing to with amtrak 99 percent of the time. as long as we share in adequate right of way owned by freight railroads we will be at their mercy. And there isn't a person alive who can tell the big railroads what to do. they are omnipotent. congress won't mess them, and the public has no say. the only way the freight railroads will make investments is if they can extort public money to pay for it. and again/... my lifestyle? you have got to be kidding with that. really kidding. I mean really. come on over let me show around my world. wow. Im no going to get over that comment till tomorrow morning.

Jim said...

bruce -- to be serious, we are talking about an extra 30 bucks a week of overtime... enough to make the difference in whether I can buy store brand or name brand soup and peanut butter. for real.
who told you we make a lot of money? we make less than most transit agency workers. I have to go my brain is exploding.

Jim said...

er not bruce - I meant spokker.... sorry.

Spokker said...

If the overtime wasn't that important then why mention it? You made it seem like making the trains run on time would impact your ability to get overtime and impact your life.

There's no need to respond with hostility. I only related to you what I have heard in life and I asked about it. That's how you learn, by asking.

Jim said...

oh no I didn't mean to sound hostile at all. sorry bout that. I sometimes come across that way but that wasn't my intention at all. I guess my point - which I didn't make - was that yes when you amek what we make, an extra hour of ot here and there does make a difference, even if its 30 or 50 bucks a week. The big ot comes from working extra days actually when we are short on staff. not hostility intended!

Spokker said...

No problem, Jim. Thanks for keeping our passenger trains running strong.

Matthew Fedder said...

AP is reporting that "In late-stage talks, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pressed for $8 billion to construct high-speed rail lines, quadrupling the amount in the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday."