At present, trains on Amtrak and NJ Transit are running on schedule, but commuters are wary (and weary) after yesterday's power outage along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor that stopped service for both train system between Queens and Washington DC. This was the biggest transit power failure since, oh, the blackout of 2003 (and, yes, we heard words like "cascading" and "tripping circuitbreakers" on the news last night and cringed, too). Officials are unsure of what caused the power outage, but there was some speculation that a feeder wasn't supplying enough electricity, causing a circuitbreaker to trip - which means that would be the worst circuitbreaker to trip because that caused the entire system to go down. Eek. Thousands people were stranded for three hours, and conditions on the trains weren't that great, as there was no air-conditioning, or, as put in our favorite quote, from Jeff Oppenheim, NYC actor and director, who was on an Acela: "When you lose the power, you lose all the flushes, too." Blegh!! Another awesome quote from a five-month pregnant woman: "I was in the World Trade Center. I was in the blackout. This is nothing."

While actors on one train taught lawyers how to improve their courtroom demeanor, the bigger question is what the hell to do with Amtrak. There's talk of suspending government subsidies (which have already been dwindling with the Republican-controlled Congress) to Amtrak until the problem is fixed, but if Amtrak is already in the red, isn't it going to be hard for them to fix the problem? As some of our commenters noted, perhaps the key is in the profitable Northeast Corridor: Privatize it or get rid of the rest of the money-losing routes. And this power outage is all the more fuel NJ and NY politicians need to get a NJ-NY tunnel separate from the Amtrak ones.

Here are some articles questioning Amtrak: Time magazine 2001, the Guardian 2002, and the 2002 NY Times magazine article "Amtrak Must Die." For kicks, check out the Department of Energy's Blackout Investigation report.

Photograph from Mark Lennihan/AP