You know, I get where Amtrak is coming from as far as sets of miscellaneous equipment...but 35 cars is easily
7-8 LD trains' worth of coaches, and on a longer Regional-style consist you're still looking at 4-5 trains' worth of equipment which matches
. That's actually more than you can say for Talgo sets, and it doesn't help Talgo's case that those are (if I am recalling correctly) semi-articulated sets which have little to no flexibility in car deployment (so you can't, for example, add some cars to service for a few weeks at a peak season...again, correct me if I'm wrong here).
I'm going to grant that the main issue on a lot of routes is sold-out sleepers, but right now the old saying of "beggars can't be choosers" comes to mind: Amtrak may not want
to run older cars, but given the choice between hitting an unclimbable capacity wall on a lot of routes (and they are
getting there pretty steadily, almost across the board) and using the cars to meet increasing demand (perhaps in conjunction with some above-grade fare hikes...use the equipment situation to justify the fare move, but also use the fare move to cover the equipment situation), I'd readily choose the latter as a matter of policy. With that said, I have no problem with passing some or all of the added cost onto the state(s) and/or the riders, but I'd rather see the equipment being used than not used...and I do
think that Amtrak owning equipment is a better policy than the states owning it in many cases, if simply because the potential for wild mood swings causing trouble at the state level seems higher.
I also suspect that there are projects that you might be able to "lock in" in some cases, and not having to go through a multi-year dance having new equipment built (which is increasingly becoming route-specific...it seems that more and more, you throw in a set of this here and set of that there) would be a good way to be able to move while there's political will (existing services, particularly those with solid ridership, tend to be much
harder to get rid of than "in-process" routes).
To take a stab, I think Amtrak was trying to get old equipment off the books in the face of more or less stagnant ridership. Based on where ridership numbers had gone from 1980-2000, I can't blame them, and though in retrospect the move seems to have been an ill-timed blunder of sorts...I suspect that it was the right decision at the time. Also, that equipment dump occurred right after the Surfliner purchases, did it not?
Edited by Anderson, 16 June 2011 - 05:28 AM.