Earlier today, Secretary LaHood announced an additional $336 million in Federal funding for the purchase of new intercity locomotives and rail cars. This brings the total of such awards to $782 million for a total of 33 locomotives and 120 passenger cars. This is, quite frankly, an absurd amount of money. At an average of five million for each vehicle, the utility of continuing to purchase individual locomotives and cars rather pales. Diesel or electric multiple unit train sets, even FRA compliant USRailcar models, become a far better value for the money as they offer increased performance over traditional locomotive and car consists. Their relative novelty to American passenger railroading may also offer a useful public relations boost with a "futuristic look."
Consider, for instance, that NCTD in San Diego County was able to purchase twelve Siemens Desiro DMUs at a total price of 52.2 million when they set up the Sprinter rail service, a price of 4.35 million per unit. For this price, instead of receiving 6 locomotives and 42 rail cars, California could have purchased 48 such multiple units. Four unit consists would enable 478 coach seats and 24 business class seats, using Desiro Classic specifications and assuming each end car contains business class seats. These twelve trains would be capable of taking over, in part or in full, for any of Amtrak California's routes and providing increased service in the process, perhaps allowing even for an authentic Surfliner Express rather than the paltry 15 minute savings currently offered.
As a further note, it is outrageous that California is the only state to spend substantial sums of it's own money on increasing capacity through this measure. 42 million, 20% of the total funding, came from California's own funds. Only Illinois paid as well and their funding amounted to a paltry 11.6 million, barely 5% of the purchase that was made for and about 2.5% of the total projects Illinois is involved in. Further Federal funds should require a state match similar to that of California's.